12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Markets and. Transport been drawn to the recent increases in freights from Australia to Hong Kong and other ports in China and Japan. Although such increases are said to be due to the exchange position, is it not a fact that the exchange between Australia and the Ear East is very favorable at the present time ? Is there not a shortage of outward freights from Asiatic countries to the Commonwealth? Is the Minister taking any steps to obtain a reduction of the existing high rates, which are imposed at a time when freights generally are falling throughout the world?
– Representations on this subject were made to me last week by the Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures. Prior to that my department had discussed the matter with the shipping companies. It is true that six of the eight companies trading to the East have been adding exchange to the freights, but they have informed my officers that this increase does not apply to refrigerated cargoes, wheat, or live-stock and, of course, not to wool, because that freight is paid at the port of destination. I am informed, also, that on several important commodities, including flour, the rates have beenreduced by from £1 12s. 6d. to £1 5s. Further investigations are being made to check this information. The Government realizes the seriousness of an increase in freights at this juncture, and everything possible is being done to prevent advances, and even to got a reduction of the existing charges.
– Has the Prime Minister received from Western Australia, or another State, representations that to the State Parliaments should be conserved certain rights and authority beyond what is provided for in the proposed Statute of Westminster, as passed by this Parliament? If so, will any proposed amendment of the resolution be submitted to this House ?
– The Parliament of Western Australia passed a resolution in regard to the. proposed Statute of Westminster and, I understand, forwarded it to the British Government. A copy of it was sent to the Commonwealth Government. I discussed the matter with the State Premiers at the recent conference. A document was prepared and distributed to the State Governments with a view to ascertaining their views, and I am now awaiting their replies. The resolution of this Parliament cannot be amended without a further submission to it.
– In the United States of America petrol for export to London is quoted f.o.b. at from 33/8 cents to 43/8 cents, or less than 2½d. a gallon. As freight from America to Australia cannot be mere than1d. per gallon, will the Government take drastic action to force the importing companies to reduce the price of petrol in the Commonwealth?
– The action suggested by the honorable member is full of difficulty. The Government is, however, taking steps to ascertain, through the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, all the facts relating to the price of petrol.
– Having regard to the fact that on the 17 th September members of the Nationalist and Country parties supported a proposal for a reduction of the prices of iron products, and that on the same date Australian butter was sold in London at 112s. per cwt., as compared with 168s. in Brisbane, 147s. 2d. in Sydney, and 144s. 8d. in Melbourne, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the advisability of fixing the wholesale selling price for butter in the capital cities of the Commonwealth at the current rate in Melbourne, namely, 144s. 8d. per cwt.?
– I am aware that Australian butter is dearer within the Commonwealth than in London.
– And fresher.
– That is so. I have pointed out repeatedly the benefit that producers of butter, dried fruits, sugar and other primary products derive from the local market. The Government, when framing its policy for building up hoth primary and secondary industries, had in mind the advantages that would accrue from an increased local demand. In regard to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, constitutional limitations prevent the Commonwealth Parliament from attempting to fix prices.
Tariff Board’s Report
– I ask the Prime Minister, having regard to the very serious view of the Government’s fiscal policy taken by the Tariff Board, as expressed in its report presented to the House last week, what steps the Government proposes to take to examine the report, and whether it will appoint a special committee to report to Parliament on those aspects of the Government’s tariff policy emphasized in the report.
– The Government is considering the Tariff Board’s report, as it endeavours to consider all other reports presented to it ; I do not see, at this juncture, what advantage would be gained by obtaining a report upon the report.
– In view of the fact that Great Britain has abolished the gold standard, will the Government consider the elimination of the untruth printed upon all Commonwealth notes, namely, that they are payable, on demand, in gold ?
– If untruths are being printed on the authority of the Government that should cease; but I am not aware that that is happening.
– Can the Minister inform the House whether anything is being done by the British Government to curtail, or seriously interfere with, the activities of the Empire Marketing Board, and if so, will he make representations to the Imperial authorities about it ?
– The subject . mentioned by the honorable member was brought under my notice some time ago, when it was suggested that the Empire Marketing Board was to be abolished. I immediately got into touch with the authorities in Great Britain, and my information does not lend colourto the suggestion.
Position of Life Insurance policy-holders.
– Has the Government yet reached a decision as to what action canbe taken to assist life insurancepolicyholders, who, through unemployment, have fallen into arrears with premium payments?
– No definite decision has been arrived at yet. Under existing legislation the Government has no power to interfere.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs, as early as possible, table the report of the Tariff Board with regard to refrigerators, so that honorable members, when discussing that item in the tariff, may be in possession of the information obtained by the board ?
– I have not yet had time to study the board’s report on refrigerators, but I hope to be able to lay it on the table within a few days.
– Before we discuss that item in the schedule?
Brisbane Pick-up Site.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), I ask the Attorney-General - (1) Is he aware that the weather conditions prevailing in Brisbane recently have shown the urgent need for achange of site for the pick-up of waterside workers, who have to stand about in the rain from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.? (2) Is it a fact that when in Brisbane recently, he expressed the opinion that the union premises, which are used as a pick-up site, were inadequate? (3) Has he received a communication from Mr. A. McAllister on behalf of returned soldier waterside workers, reading as follows: -
Protest waterside pick-up altered; raining two days; conditions scandalous; licensing officer asserts he is powerless. Returned soldiers request consideration your promise to move pick-up.
If so, will he advise the House what action is being taken in the matter?
– I have received a message in the terms mentioned by the honorable member in the latter portion of his question. The accommodation at the present pick-up site is, in my view, not very satisfactory. It is unfortunate that regulations dealing with the waterside workers have been, from time to time, disallowed. This action by another place has made it very difficult for the Government adequately to administer the Transport Workers Act; but as a result of my visit to Brisbane and consultations with ship-owners and members of the union, as well as returned soldiers, I am hopeful that a better spirit may prevail, and that the regulations will not be tampered with in future. If this is so, I think there will be no objection to a return to the original pick-up site.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral been advised by officials of the Waterside Workers Union in Brisbane that they are prepared to remove any difficulties with regard to the pick-up site and make it suitable, provided it will not be shifted?
– I have every reason to believe that if a fair and open pick-up is permitted in the premises of the shipowners at Brisbane, and if the licensing officer, who is the servant of the Government, anda representative of the union are allowed to enter that pick-up place in a perfectly orderly way, there will be no objection on the part of the union or anybody else to the pick-up site remaining there.
– In view of the statement of the Prime Minister that the Department of Markets was in communication with the Victorian Department of Agriculture concerning its refusal to allow the importation of Tasmanian potatoes into Victoria, I should like to know if the Minister for Markets has any statement to make. If not, will he, having regard to the serious loss which will be caused to both Victoria and Tasmania if such action is persisted in, and in view, also, of the constitutional provision to ensure free trade between the States, treat this matter as urgent, and again approach the Victorian Government ?
– We are in communication with the Victorian Department of Agriculture, and otherwise endeavouring to ascertain the exact position. The matter is being treated as urgent.
– In the Commonwealth Gazette of the 10th instant there appears an advertisement foroffice cleaners in the Department of the PostmasterGeneral at Melbourne. As a dozen or more returned soldier cleaners were recently given notice of dismissal, and that notice was only countermanded following strong representations, will the Minister explain why the department is advertising the vacancies.
– I shall have inquiries made, and inform the honorable member as soon as possible.
– If vacancies occur in any branch of the Postal Department, will the Minister take steps to ensure that those who are engaged in a temporary capacity are transferred to the vacant positions, and thus save further dismissals ?
– I shall have inquiries made, and see what can be done.
Sale of Pineapples
– When the Minister for Markets was discussing the reciprocal trade agreement between the Commonwealth and Canada, he stated that a con tract for the supply of 150,000 cases of pineapples had been signed, conditionally upon the ratification of the agreement. Is it a fact that this contract has now been cancelled by the Canadian interests, and that the shipments now on the water ure going forward on consignment only? If so, has the Minister any information us to the probability of the consignments being sold at satisfactory prices ?
– It was reported to me by those concerned in the pineapple industry in Queensland that if a Canadian trade treaty were negotiated on the terms outlined, they would be able to dispose of large quantities of pineapples to Canada, and that 150,000 rases could be disposed of if the treaty were ratified. After the treaty had been made, contracts were entered into for the sale of the fruit. Some disagreement has now arisen between the parties to .the contract, but it has nothing whatever to do with the trade agreement. Efforts are being made to adjust the matter, and the department is keeping in touch with the interests concerned.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow :- 1 and 2. The importations of chassis and bodies of motor cars are separately recorded whether imported as complete cars or separately. The figures ure as follow: -
Thu- figures for the year muled 30th June, 1931, ure “advance” and subject to revision.
– The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) has asked questions regarding the amounts ‘received in beer duty and excise. The information is being obtained.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has asked a series of questions regarding the wine industry. The information is being obtained.
Benefit to Producers
– On the ]7ch September, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) asked me the following questions, upon notice :-
I am now in a position to furnish the following answers- to the honorable member’s questions: - 1 and 2. (a) Inquiries made by my department show that ho actual arrangement exists whereby the prices paid locally for tin and skins for shipment overseas are varied according to the exchange rate ruling at the time, but changes in the rate of exchange certainly bringabout a variation of prices obtained in Australia for goods exported.
– On the 16th September, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked, without notice, that a statement be made of the exact position in regard to the arrears of interest payments due by the New South Wales Government. The amount due by the Government of New South Wales to the Commonwealth is £4,483,961, plus interest to the dateof settlement. The particulars of the amount are as follows: -
The Government of New South Wales has agreed to accept responsibility for these payments which have been covered by treasury-bills, issued in the name of the Commonwealth. The Loan Council, at its last meeting, approved the issue of new treasury-bills in the name of New South Wales to yield £4,483,961, plus interest on the daily balances outstanding to the date of settlement, the proceeds of the new bills to be used to retire the bills previously issued in the name of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth
Government is now in communication with the Government of New South Wales, with a view to effecting a final settlement in respect of these payments.
– On the 18th September, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What would be the amount of annual saving to Australia in (a) interest; and (6) interest and exchange at present rate, if the interest on all overseas governmental securities bearing interest of more than 4 per cent., were reduced to 4 per cent.?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
– On the 17th September, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked, without notice, that a statement be made regarding the offer of the Commonwealth Bank Board to assist in the re-opening of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank, and that the documents setting out the exact terms of the board’s offer be laid on the table of the library.
The documents referred to have to-day been laid on the table of the library and, as the full facts are set out therein, no statement in the matter is considered necessary.
– On the 16th September, the honorable member for Werriwa. (Mr. Lazzarini), asked a question, without notice, as to whether any portion of the £93,000 made available for the assistance of the shale oil industry has been spent in buying an interest in any shale oil company in New South Wales.
I have made investigations into this matter, and desire to inform the honorable member that the reply is in the negative.
Nationalization of Supplies in Federal Capital Territory.
– On the adjournment on the 17th September, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) referred to the question of medical services andchemists’ supplies in the Federal Capital Territory, and I promised to have inquiries made into the matter brought under notice by him.
I have ascertained that certain representative bodies were invited by the Minister for Health to discuss the possibility of a contributory scheme which would assist in the stabilization of the finances of the Canberra Hospital. The scope of the scheme, as contemplated, was not such as to affect the position of the practising pharmacists, and so far, as the discussions have proceeded at present, no development has occurred which would be likely to have this effect.
– On the 7th July, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The following reply to the honorable member’s question was furnished by the Commonwealth Bank : -
The bank issues weekly statements of its position, which embody all the information it is deemed necessary to disclose. Particulars of its transactions with the trading banks, or any other of its customers, are confidential, and, in accordance with ordinary banking practice, cannot be made public. Incidentally, the Commonwealth Bank has power to acquire any gold in Australia, whether held by banks or by the public.
On the 16th July the honorable member for Corangamite directed attention to this reply and compared it with the replies given to certain questions asked in the Senate on the 27th May.
The matter was referred to the Commonwealth Bank, which advisedthat the bank had no desire to discriminate in its replies regarding the affairs of the bank, either in respect of members in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, or in respect of members of different political parties.
At the same time, the Bank Board submitted the following answers as an addition to the previous answers: -
For convenience of reference, the questions asked in the Senate on the 27th May, and the replies thereto, are set out hereunder -
Senator Sir Hal Colebatch asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice
1 ) What amount of gold has been acquired by the Commonwealth Bank from the private banking institutions since the passing of the amending Commonwealth Bank Act 1929?
To what extent have the private banks been paid for that gold in notes ? (3)Is the Commonwealth Bank under obligation to issue notes to the private banks for the remainder, if required to do so by the private banks?
4 ) If these notes were issued, what would be the percentage of gold held by the Commonwealth Bank to the total amount of notes issued?
Senator BARNES. The following replies have been received from the Commonwealth Bank : -
1 ) The amount of gold acquired by the Commonwealth Bank since December, 1929, is ?12,650,000 by compulsory acquisition; ?4,000,000 by voluntary arrangement.
The banks receivedfor the gold: ?2,150,000 in Australian notes: ?10,500,000 was credited tothe banks’ accounts with the Commonwealth Bank; ?4,000,000 London exchange sold to the banks.
The Commonwealth Bank is under obligation to pay over to the tradingsbanks any amounts lying to the credit of the trading banks.
The position of the Commonwealth Bank in relation to meeting its obligations as a central bank is relative to that of any other bank, i.e., that no banking institution can possibly operate on the basis that it could meet the whole of its obligations at call, simultaneously, and the Commonwealth Bank,so conducts its business as to keep itself in the position that it can, at any time, meet any probable call upon its liquid resources. Should any call in excess of reasonable anticipations be made upon a central bank which had the effect of forcing the hank to issue currency in excess of its statutory power, this would necessitate special temporary power by parliamentary authority to meet such an exigency.
Consideration resumed from the 18th September (vide page 153), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff be a mended -
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.: and general, 172s.”
Upon which Mr. Stewart had moved, by way of amendment -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after the 24th September, 193 1.
(1) Wire of No. 15 or finer 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 by-laws, per ton, British. free; intermediate, 100s.; general, 120s.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [3.24].- I am glad that this item dealing with fencing wire was not disposed of on Friday, either by way of agreeing to the proposed duties, or accepting the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), because, over the week-end, the report of the Tariff Board has been made available, and contains much that is relevant to the subject under discussion.I trust that, before definite action is taken, members of the Government will study the report of the board, and pay heed to its advice. The fencing wire manufacturing industry is not exactly a back-yard affair, but it is, nevertheless, battening on those interests upon which Australia has to rely to pull her out of the present economic depression. Fencing wire is a necessary commodity to the primary producers, particularly to sheep graziers, and it is not right that at this time, when the great need of the country is to reduce the costs of production, an increased duty should be placed on an article which practically every farmer uses. I do not believe that the imposition of exorbitant duties, such as these, will assist Australia; rather will such action make it more difficult for the country to recover from its economic ills. This is borne out by the report of the Tariff Board, which supports in a striking maimer the statements of the honorable member for Wimmera, and others who have opposed this increase.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who spoke in support of the proposed duties, has been a consistent supporter of high duties on all com modities, provided the Australian manufacturers concerned have not applied to the Arbitration Court for a general reduction of wages. “While we were discussing the duties on clothing, the honorable member for Hunter, and others in the corner, stressed the point that, because the manufacturers had applied for a reduction of wages, the protective duties on the goods in which they dealt should be reduced. With that I am in entire agreement. This is a time when sacrifices are demanded of all sections of the community, but the manufacturers have not up to date made any sacrifice, except that, by keeping up the prices of their commodities, they have not been able to sell as much as if they had brought those prices down. That, however, is a sacrifice not intended by them. Nevertheless, they have been squealing ever since the depression started. Honorable members,I am sure, must be sick and tired of listening to the representations of the crowd of tariff touts who have flocked to Canberra during the discussion of various tariff items. The manufacturing interests have cried out continuously against being required to make any sacrifices whatever, but they have been quite willing, by means of higher duties on necessary commodities, to force still further sacrifices on the primary producers. In this case, apparently, farmers and graziers are to pay more for the wire they need in order to preserve intact the present wages and working conditions of a few hundred men engaged in the manufacture of wire. I cannot agree that an industry should be bolstered up at the expense of the community as a whole, and particularly of the primary producers who use fencing wire. Of course, the attitude of the honorable member for Hunter is understandable when one remembers that he described as “ scabs “ the farmers of Queensland who, during a strike of the union-ridden waterside workers, came down to the seaport and loaded on the ships their own perishable goods, which would have been destroyed if loading had been delayed. On that occasion, the primary producers were compelled to undertake the work, because the boss-ridden unionists would not do the job. Those who handled their own goods on the wharfs were termed “ scabs “. in such circumstances I should regard it as a mark of approbation to be termed a “scab”.
Mr.R. GREEN.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), who was a union boss before he became a member of this Parliament, is conversant with the conditions which exist in such circumstances. I support the actions of those who handle their own goods, particularly those of a perishable nature, when the shipment of those goods is interrupted by industrial disturbances. If the primary producers cannot have their produce expeditiously handled at the proper time, they should be at liberty to handle it themselves, and, if necessary to use force. The point raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) appears to be in the mind of the Minister, even though he has not openly expressed his approval. This afternoon, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), the Minister said that if more persons were engaged in secondary industries there would be a better home market for the producers of butter, dried fruits, and other primary products. I remind the Minister that even an increase in the number at present engaged in secondary industries would not justify the added burdens which are being placed upon the primary producers in the form of higher customs duties. In this instance, the Government proposes substantially to increase the duty on fencing wire - a commodity absolutely essential to those engaged in primary production. The number of manufacturers who use wire as their raw materials is small. Since fencing wire is essential to those engaged in primary production, it is absurd to increase the duty by 52s. a ton. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), as I contend that the existing duty should beconsiderably reduced.
.- AlthoughI do not desire to delay the committee, I feel that, as a representative of a country constituency, I should not record a silent vote on this important item. The price of fencing wire is of vital importance to the man on the land, and if this duty is adopted, an added burden will, be placed upon those engaged in rural industries. It is time that honorable members on. both sides of the chamber realized that the primary producers, who have so many difficulties with which to contend, have already reached breaking point. It was truly said at one period that Australia was being carried on the sheep’s back; but, unfortunately, not only for the wool producer, but for Australia generally, the burden has become so great that the sheep’s back is now broken. To show the enormous extent to which the price of fencing wire, which is indispensable to the primary producers’, has increased in recent years, I may state that’ on the 20th February, 1914, the price was approximately £7 5s. a ton, whereas, to-day, it ranges from £17 to £18 a ton. In order to determine whether we are justified in. placing an additional burden upon the man on the land, we have not only to take into consideration the extra cost which will have to be borne by the primary producers if this duty is agreed to, but also to compare the prices of primary and secondary products. An article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of yesterday gave some interesting facts with respect to the variation in the prices of secondary and primary products. Taking the 1911 prices as 100, we find that from the years 1925 to 1928 the prices of secondary and primary products ranged from 174 to 179; but in April, 3.931, the prices of primary products had declined from 173 to 119._ Since that date they have decreased still further. “While the prices of primary products decreased from 173 to 119, secondary production prices increased during the same period to 180, 184, and 193. Notwithstanding this disparity, between primary and secondary prices the Minister is asking the committee to place additional burdens upon primary producers. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) with respect to wages. On this item alone it can clearly be shown that there has not been equality of sacrifice. Ry supporting these duties we would be assisting to bolster up those employed in one or two. industries at the expense of those engaged in .others. After listening to the speeches of honorable members on both sides of the chamber, I am firmly convinced that it is useless to impose heavy duties in order to assist one industry if at the same time we are damaging others, particularly those which we expect to assist in the rehabilitation of this country. A study of the industrial position in New South Wales discloses many discrepancies in the matter of wages and working conditions. In some instances a basic wage of £3 3s. is paid for a 4S-hour week, and in others £4 2s. 6d. is paid for a 44-hour week. There are also other anomalies in the matter of overlapping arbitration awards. All these things tend to cripple industry in Australia. The imposition of this duty will severely affect those industries upon which we depend to assist Australia to return to a state of prosperity. If we do not make export production possible, we shall rob ourselves of our only possible hope of extricating Australia from the tangle in which she is to-day. This is generally recognized by people everywhere. I know that it is the opinion of thoughtful men outside of this House, and I hope that it will soon become the opinion of honorable members of all parties in the House. The placing of our primary industries upon such a footing as will enable them to export their production at a profit is absolutely essential to the welfare of Australia. But we shall not make that possible by imposing extra duties on wire and wire netting.
Our big cities were built up in times of industrial prosperity, brought about by artificial conditions; but’ it has now become abundantly apparent that those circumstances cannot be maintained in times when the prices of primary products have fallen so disastrously. It is futile to hope to holster up existing conditions by the imposition of high duties on the necessaries of life. The humblest student of political economy realizes this to-day, and it is to be hoped that honorable members will acf accordingly.
There is now a tendency for the people to leave the cities for the country, and we should make such an exodus possible. There is work to be done in the country districts, but an increase in the duties on the raw materials necessary to enable the work to be done will have a most unfortunate effect. The government proposal in regard to galvanized iron was carried a few days ago by_ a small majority. I hope that since that vote was taken, a few more honorable members may have seen the light, and will not agree to the proposed additional duties on wire and wire netting, which will have the effect of heaping extra burdens upon the big and small man on the land. We talk about the big men, but I doubt whether there are any big men to-day. Bank overdrafts, added costs of production and reduced selling prices have made it difficult for any of the people on the land to pay their way.
By increasing the duties on wire and wire netting, we shall strike a blow at the dairy farmer, the wheat farmer, the grazier, and practically all primary producers. A good many country people would be able to find a certain measure of work for the unemployed of the cities if present conditions in regard to work were brought more into harmony with market conditions in regard to primary products. The farmers realize that today they must apply scientific methods to their industry. The improvement of pastures involves the construction of additional divisional fences, yet we will make such work more difficult than ever if we increase the duty on wire and wire notting. A great deal -of work still remains to be done with the object of resisting vermin and eradicating pests. All this involves the use of wire netting. It is difficult to understand why the Government refuses to acknowledge the. facts of the situation. Nevertheless, I hope that some honorable members who voted with the Government in regard to galvanized iron, will vote with us on this item. If they do so, they will make possible a reduction of cost’s to some extent, and so assist in the rehabilitation of the Commonwealth, and the restoration of prosperous times, by helping the men on the land, who alone can bring salvation to this country.
.-I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) upon having shown such great sympathy with the exploiters, the monopolists, and the combines. It has been amusing and interesting to read about the brief which was prepared for the Minister for Trade and Customs, with the object of enabling him to give still more assistance to these big interests. But why the Government should allow a firm to draw profits on £500,000 of share capital, allotted to itself, and for which it paid nothing, is a mystery to me. The Minister did not regard the report of the Tariff Board as sufficiently convincing to justify him in asking assistance for the firm to which I have referred, to the degree to which he wished to assist it, so he obtained additional information from an officer of the Trade and Customs Department and some outside interests, in order to enable him to make a stronger case. No such consideration has been shown to the farmers, the producers generally, or the thousands of unemployed people in the community.
– The farmers are the only ones who have had any help.
– The honorable member should not talk such nonsense. Apparently, he is willing to destroy the only people who can save Australia from ruin. Why is help being given to these big companies ? Does any one believe that this is being done in the interests of the country? It is marvellous that so much information is forthcoming to enable the Minister for Trade and Customs to help the importers and manufacturers. It is extraordinary that, although increased duties are granted on so many of the items contained in this division of the tariff with which we are now dealing, these people have such influence that their galvanized iron has been carried on. the New South Wales railways for manyyears at a lower rate than any other makes of galvanized iron. Those engaged in this and kindred industries are continually concession hunting. But what about t the people whocannot come to Canberra to apply for concessions? It is high time that weclosed this Parliament for a while, and appointed a board of directors and gaveit the job of getting Australia out of her difficulties. Some honorable members saya groat deal about building up local industries. I have a ticket in my hand’ which reads, “ Waratah Clothes Line, 10O feet, made in Australia “. But it also contains these words, “ Printed in Dennison, United States of America “. Even when a little bit of printing is required, it is done outside of Australia. So these great protectionists help their own country !
Recently I have travelled long distances through the country districts of Western Australia, where the great majority of the people are farmers opening up new country under the most difficult conditions. These men have been operating since 1920, and they have had to pay prices three times and four times as great as those which prevailed in the old days.
– If the honorable member intends to quote prices, will he give the dates, so that I may check the figures?
– The following table shows the price of certain commodities in 1913 and 1930:-
The people paying these greatly increased prices are opening up new country, but they are being squeezed to their last penny. The Government is concentrating all its attention upon helping the manufacturers, and is totally disregarding the primary producers.Why is it doing so? The. price of plain galvanized wire, No. 8 gauge, was £7 10s. per ton in Germany in 1913, and in April last it was £6 5s. per ton. I have quoted the f.o.b. prices at Antwerp or Bremen. The cost in Melbourne would be about £19 per ton, and in Perth £21 per ton, although in Germany the price is £1 3s. per ton less than in pre-war days. Are the primary producers to be compelled, not only to make the great sacrifice due to the fall in world prices, but also to bear the burden of having to provide good conditions for the employees in sheltered industries, when hundreds of thousands of the best of our manhood are looking for work? Galvanized barbed wire, No. 12 gauge, was selling at £10 per ton in Germany in 1913, and in April last the price there was down to £8 12s. 6d. per ton. I suppose that the cost of this commodity in Western Australia ranged from £24 to £28 per ton. Mr. Champ, in giving evidence before the Tariff Board on behalf of Lysaght Limited, in support of the duties on wire, remarked -
He was not opposing any increase on rods, which is his company’s chief raw material: but, if it should be granted, he asked that a similar increase be granted in the case of the commodities the subject of the present investigation. . . . His company is quite satisfied with the rods produced by the Broken Hill Pro prietary Limited, and he did not wish it to be thought that the application for increased duty on wire rods is out of the way or not needed. The figures submitted in this case indicate that such increase is necessary - British rods have fallen £2 10s. per ton in twelve months.
Apparently, the witness did not mind whether the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited charged an increased price for wire rods, so long as his company could get an increased duty on wire, and pass it on to the farmer and the pastoralist. The public should realize that there is no reason why iron and steel should not be manufactured in Australia in competition with the world. When the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited began its operations at Newcastle, it declared that it required neither duty nor bounty. It pointed out that 2.8 tons of the iron ore available in Germany were required to produce the same smelting results as 1 ton of the iron ore used by the company. Australia has coal of excellent quality. The company boasts that it possesses the finest machinery in the world, and can obtain the services of capable employees, but, owing to the legislation passed by various governments, the prices of the products of the company have greatly increased. Under our navigation laws, particularly favorable conditions have been conferred upon the working sections on the coast, and a monopoly has been created for the companies, with the result that all hope of building up a maritime trade has been destroyed.
In going through the back country in my electorate, I ascertained that there was a feeling among the men on the land, who are generally most law-abiding, that they ought to combine, and sweep the Customs House at Fremantle into the sea. The demands made upon the primary producers, as a result of the influence exercised over governments by a few trade unions and manufacturers, amount to legalized robbery. In travelling through the country districts, one is impressed by the need for closer settlement and increased production. In many parts of several States, increased numbers of families could be profitably settled on the land. The great possibilities of Australia may be realized by reflection upon what has been achieved by Denmark and Holland, where land has even been reclaimed from the sea, and where the encroachments of the ocean have had to be resisted. If areas of from 50 to 80 acres were allocated to industrious settlers, to enable them to engage in such industries as dairying, &c, many thousands would be producing real wealth and an increased demand would arise for fertilizers and fencing material ; but progress is impossible if the present high costs of production are maintained. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) hae pointed out that foxes, dingoes, and rabbits are rapidly increasing throughout the country; therefore, wire and wire netting should be made available at as low a price as possible. The back country is not likely to be settled unless there is a reasonable chance of making a living there.
When every section of the community has been asked to make a sacrifice, why should an exception be made in the case of the iron and steel industry ? The value of. our exports having become exceedinglylow, it has been suggested that our secondary industries should be induced to export their products-. Before high protective duties on machinery were imposed, Thompson and Company were able to compete successfully with the rest of the world in the manufacture of mining machinery. The late Mr. Hoskins of Lithgow was able to meet competition successfully under practically free-trade conditions, even before he installed modem plant. He died a millionaire. Unfortunately, things are different today, because we are trying to benefit a small section of the community at the expense of the whole nation. Although I admit that our difficulties have been increased by the low prices obtaining for our primary products in the markets of the world, there is” no justification for these extremely high duties, which show an absolute disregard for the welfare of this country.
There is a general impression that many honorable members sitting behind the Government are ashamed of these duties; but the whip has been cracked, and we have not heard from them any condemnation of the Government’s fiscal policy. Although it may be said that in fiscal matters I am biased, I maintain that on this question I am speaking in the national interest. With the exception df one or two secondary industries for which this country is peculiarly adapted, Australia is a primary producing country. We have natural advantages which should enable us to compete satisfactorily with the iron and steel products of other countries. We could compete against the rest of the world Were it not that we artificially bolster up our industries. Why should not Australian manufacturers be called upon to accept their share of the bad times through which the country is passing? We have reached the stage at which the people of Australia are practically compelled to purchase only goods of Australian manufacture..
On many occasions in. this chamber, I have referred to the danger of combines being created in this country, because of the excessive protection afforded to certain industries. These combines, having a monopoly, refuse to sell their goods to people outside certain associations which fix both the wholesale and the retail selling prices. I have supplied to the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Minister for Trade and Customs’ (Mr. Forde), a number of letters from persons in Western Australia regarding the refusal of some manufacturers to supply goods to firms other than “those connected with these associations. Those letters should have been submitted to the Tariff Board, so that it could examine the company in relation to the charges contained in them. The Government, which claims to represent the masses, is bolstering up these monopolistic combines by means of the tariff, and one may well ask why.
:- Before such extravagant duties as those now under consideration were imposed on the primary producers of this country, a scientific investigation of their effect should have been made. The position of the men on the land, who are the chief users of fencing wire, is one of the gravest concern, not only to themselves as individuals, but also to the community as a whole. In the efforts which have been made to maintain the solvency of governments, there has been a tendency to withdraw money from industry, and to place restrictions upon our primary producers, with the result that those engaged in primary production are indeed in sore straits. Even though the budgets of governments be balanced by the means which have been adopted, the withdrawal «of capital from industry will have serious consequences. The tariff has been increased beyond reasonable requirements. As it is impossible to dissociate the fiscal policy of the country from any rehabilitation plan, I consider that an essential part of any such plan was the appointment of a committee to make a scientific investigation into our primary industries.
– Did not the honorable member support the plan?
– I suggested that there should be a revision of the tariff. At present those who ordinarily are the biggest purchasers of wire and wire netting are unable to purchase those materials. The falling off in the demand is not. due to there being no further need for the material, but to the inability of those requiring it to pay for it.
– Thousands of tons of wire are wanted immediately.
– That is so; but, unfortunately, those requiring it cannot place orders for it, because of their inability to pay for the material. It is useless for us to attempt to build up an industry if by so doing we make it impossible for those who require its product to buy if. “While secondary industries have been assisted, the wo’ol-growing and wheat-growing industries have received no assistance whatever from this Government. The reduction of interest and of wages has directly benefited manufacturers, but the primary producers have not gained any advantage from that reduction. Now they are asked to pay more for their requirements in order that an industry already in receipt of assistance may be still further bolstered up. I shall vote for the amendment, because the primary producers are no longer able to grant assistance to this secondary industry. The future development of this country does not depend on bolstering up industries in the cities. Any fiscal action which has as its object the maintenance of population in metropolitan centres, to the detriment of the development of our country areas, must prove fatal to the nation. These duty increases will retain in the metropolis people who should be in the country using this fencing wire. The solution of part of Australia’s financial difficulties lies in the encouragement of people to leave our congested areas and settle in the country. This action of the Government militates against the achievement of that desirable object. I speak with some warmth on the matter because recently, in the capacity of valuer, I made a careful investigation of the conditions of the men on the land. The productive value of land in Australians such that, if it were generally realized, it would cause concern to the people of this nation generally. It is imperative that an effort should be made to re-establish the credit of those who are endeavouring .to wrest from the soil the products that could be the financial salvation of Australia. This proposal of the Government merely hampers their efforts. I have seen miles of country on which there were subdivisional fence posts, but no wiring, simply because the landholder could not afford to purchase it. I know of many cases in which persons took up country before the depression became manifest, and now cannot buy the wire to fence their holdings. Many are unable even to maintain the fences already erected on established holdings. If the rehabilitation plan is to succeed, the whole of the fiscal arrangements of the country must be reviewed scientifically, and the position of our primary producers brought into conformity with that of other sections. Otherwise, we shall destroy the credit of those who are operating on the land, and nullify the good effects that will result from the plan.
It has been claimed that the imposition of these duties will provide additional work in the factories. I quite appreciate that. At the same time, I realize that there are 36,000 occupants of land in our country areas, half of whom require wire, but cannot afford to purchase it. Many others are dependent upon those men for employment, and their combined interests are just as worthy of consideration as are those of the people in the cities. The conditions which apply to our primary industries do not justify even a moderate addition to this duty; certainly not the large increase that is proposed.
– What does the honorable member mean by a “ large increase “ ? It merely represents the imposition of a duty equivalent to the bounty that has ‘been withdrawn.
– If the additional duty equals the bounty that was previously paid to the industry, it would pay the whole of the wages of those who are engaged in it. I contend that that is not necessary, particularly when it means an additional burden upon primary producers, many of whom are in receipt of incomes that are less than an old-age pension,
– I share the opinion that there is a hollow mockery behind the suggestion that this tariff has been framed on the basis of equality of sacrifice. I can find nothing to substantiate that claim of the Government. Everything points the other way. The duties that are to be imposed upon the primary producer under this item are extremely oppressive. I feel like congratulating the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) for having the courage, under the crack of the party whip, to say what he has said. I extend to the honorable member an apology, for I criticized him, in common with other honorable members opposite, in some of the remarks that I made last week in connexion with galvanized iron. The proposal of the Government is to .impose on this commodity a British preferential duty of 52s. a ton, and a general tariff of 172s. a ton. On No. 8 fencing wire that is equivalent to a British preferential duty of 25 per cent., and a foreign duty of 140 per cent. That would involve consumers in a cost of approximately 50 per cent, more than would apply if the proposed duties were not operative. I submit that the suggested rates are altogether too high, particularly as the commodity is used principally by the man on the land. The proposed foreign rate is absurd. The Government seems bent on pursuing its vendetta against the primary producers of Australia. Nothing supports that contention better than a survey of the duties contained in this division of the schedule.
One of the arguments propounded by the Minister, when introducing this item, was that a coil of wire is primary produce as much as is a pound of butter. I grant the premises, but’ I contest the conclusion. A coil of wire is as much a matter of primary production as is a pound of butter, but with this essential and fundamental difference - that while the latter is exported, and is thus adding definitely to the wealth of Australia, the former is not exported, and is definitely operating against the /wealth of Australia under the conditions now obtaining. When, therefore, the Minister makes such a claim as that, I think it is the duty of every one knowing the facts to challenge it. The Minister’s further claim in support of these duties - that they are substantially the same as was recommended by the Tariff Board - should also not go unchallenged. It is true that the duties are the same as were recommended by the Tariff Board, but the Minister forgot to mention that the recommendation of the Tariff Board is five years old. I submit, therefore, that the two contentions urged by the Minister are entirely without substance. But I suppose that the party whip has been cracked, and when a vote is taken we shall see another of those docile and servile submissions to ministerial direction to which honorable members opposite have treated us since this schedule has been introduced. Contrary to all established precedents in this, as well as in other Parliaments where tariff schedules are discussed, this schedule is being forced through on an entirely party basis, and it is useless to appeal to honorable members opposite. The arguments used from this side, apparently without avail, when we were discussing the duties on galvanized iron apply with multiple force to the duties on wire. Important as galvanized iron is to the primary producer, it does not actually occupy the important position in primary production that wire does ; it is. probablynot more used by the primary producer than it is by building constructors in the city. But fencing wire is almost exclusively used by the primary producers. By insisting that these duties should go through, the Governmentis apparently pursuing a policy against the primary producers, for which I hope, in the very near future, it will pay very heavily.
.- I wish, briefly, to reply to one or two statements made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), in connexion with some remarks of mine concerning wages paid in the industry to which protection is afforded by these duties.[Quorum formed.] I am not concerned with the reasons which actuate honorable members opposite in voting against these duties,particularly when I recall that on many occasions when they were in power the tariff schedule was increased. My desire is to repeat the argument I have already put forward in connexion with other items, that no Labour Government should bring down a tariff except to maintain the standard of living of the workers, and that it is not acting in accordance with the principles of Labour, nor giving effect to the Labour platform if it imposes duties which enable manufacturers to increase their profits unduly. A Labour Government that increases the protective duties for any other purpose than to maintain the standard of living ofthe workers is not acting in accordance with Labour policy or ideals.
– To enable that to be done, the Government must secure the continued existence of the industry.
– I am quite aware of that, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) was not in the chamber when the honorable member for Richmond made the remarks to which I am replying. I wish to be quite frank about my attitude towards the tariff. If it does not secure the maintenance of the standard of living of the workers it will not have my vote. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) claimed that I did not produce evidence in support of my condemnation of the manufacturers. Surely it was unnecessary for me to do so. Every one is well aware of the attitude taken up. for instance, by the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited towards its workers. It allowed them to remain on strike for decent conditions of labour for as much as 20 months on one occasion. Its record is well known, particularly to those who have had anything to do with industrial organizations. The coolie standard is not too low for that corporation to impose on its workers if it could have its way. In regard to the primary producers, the fact remains that the primary industries of Australia cannot stand these duties; and if there be any reason for the maintenance of this galvanized wire industry in Australia, in all fairness the burden should be spread over the whole community by the payment of a bounty. At any rate, under present conditions of production, the primary producers should not be expected to shoulder the whole of the burden. So far as I am concerned, my vote will not be given on this or any other item to organizations of employers who are endeavouring to slash the wages of the workers. It may be true that it would pay this country to let the workers in this particular industry sit down and do nothing rather than impose such a heavy burden on the primary producers.
In reply to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), let me say that I make no apology for my attitude on the tariff, and this item in particular, respecting its effect on the wage earner.
– Does the honorable member intend to vote on this item?
– I shall have to apologize to my conscience for voting with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse).
– Does the honorable member intend to apologize to the party on this side of the chamber ?
– The honorable member’s party is not worthy of an apology. I have given my reasons for opposing this item. If the industry must have some protection it should take the form of a bounty, and not a duty. I am prepared to give consideration to the reimposition of a bounty for the next six or twelve mouths, but under no circumstances shall I vote for this item.
.- J. should not have spoken a second time on this item had it not been for one or two statements made during the general discussion to-day. The Government has been attacked on the ground that this tariff imposes a further heavy burden upon the primary producer. Surely the Government can, without being egotistical, claim, that it has tried to be fair to the primary producers-
– And failed miserably in its efforts to assist them.
– Surely it is preferable to have a protectionist policy under which the worker will’ have the choice of two jobs, than a freetrade policy under which two men will be offering for one job. Honorable members who opposed the bounty system when it was first applied to this industry, are now supporting it as an alternative to thi,s duty; but they cannot have it both ways. They also assert that the purchasers of wire and wire netting - who belong practically to one section of the community - will have to bear the burden of the tariff; but that does not always follow, because, in some instances, and particularly in respect of this item, the tariff has been the means of enabling the price of the local product to be reduced. Let me say that the people of this country have been fleeced more by the importers than by the Australian manufacturers, lt is well known that throughout the history of this country, the importers have used every effort to ruin those who have invested their capital in Australian manufactories.
– What about the manufacturers who, according to th£ report of the Tariff Board, are making a profit of 100 per cent.?
– There is no such profit in this industry. Many industries which have been given tariff protection have increased the price of their commodities, but this industry has continually reduced the price of its product. In 1918, the price was £20 a ton, and to-day it is £14 a ton.
– There was a war then.
– In 1922, after the war, the price of this product was re duced from £18 to £14 10s. a ton. I quote those figures to show that there has been no attempt on the part qf the Australian manufacturer of iron and steel products to take advantage of the tariff by exploiting the people. To the contrary, he has consistently reduced his price. The Tariff Board reported that in this industry a duty should replace the bounty.
– There has been no report on this industry since 1926.
– I am coming to that. There was, at one time, an inquiry iii to the ramifications of this industry. It lasted many months, and cost this country £10,000. If I had my way the Tariff Board would go out of existence. Parliament never receives the board’s reports until the duties to which they relate are under consideration. It would be well if we left the framing of a tariff policy to this Parliament.
– To be decided on a party vote.
– There has been no cracking of the party whip on this side of the chamber; but that cannot be said of members of the Opposition. A resolution of the Opposition parties on the 17th of this month bound all their members but one to support a reduction of the duties on iron. The duty on wire is only 25 per cent., whilst duties on primary products are as high as 400 per cent.
– On which primary products do the duties amount to 400 per cent. ?
– Onions, and they are never imported except during a drought. When they are £2 a ton in Melbourne they are £4 in New South Wales. It cannot be said that the producers of iron and steel increase their charges by twice the amount of the protective duty.- Some honorable members opposite have acknowledged that iron and steel production is an industry that is natural to Australia, yet they do not seem to realize that the manufacture of galvanized iron and the drawing of wire, which use 30 per cent, of the output of the major industry, are likewise natural industries.
– Does the honorable member think that, the proposed duty is sufficient ?
– It is what the Tariff Board recommended as a fair substitute for the bounty. Of course, the works are not operating full time; but that is due to the general depression. If the protective duty be removed this industry will be at the mercy of overseas competitors, over whom this Parliament has no control. We were told on Friday last that the adverse exchange gave a sufficient protection, but within a few hours the exchange rate had been reduced, and we have no idea what it may be to-morrow as a result of the financial crisis in England. The manufacturers of wire have not profiteered, and they have charged the same price at every port of the Commonwealth; thus the distant States are at no disadvantage. I support the duty as I support every item in the schedule. * Because I am loyal to Australian production I have always supported every proposal to help the primary producers also.
.- I intend to support the duty. This industry migrated from Victoria to New South Wales in order to be near the principal source of coal. Unfortunately, by the transfer it was placed in the hotbed of industrial extremism. I have every sympathy with enterprises that are afflicted by the blight of “ Langism “. Production costs have risen because of the industrial and economic system prevailing in New South Wales. No further burden is being placed on the primary producer by the imposition of this duty, because no wire is being imported. The Government is unable to continue to pay a bounty.
– Therefore, the farmers, instead of the whole community, must bear the burden.
– As no wire has been imported for some considerable time, the primary producer is not paying more under the duty system than he would have paid had the bounty continued. It is unfortunate that the costs in secondary production are high whilst the prices of primary products are low. That is because we have indulged in foolish dreams. ‘ We have an inflexible wage system which will break down unless measures are taken by all sections of the community to restore economic equilibrium. The manufacturers of wire give good conditions to their employees, and they find that they cannot continue their operations unless they are protected by - a duty equivalent to the former bounty.
– The whole objection is to the change from a bounty to a duty,
– No wire was imported under the bounty system, and none will be imported now. Does the duty cost the user more?
– Of course it does. The burden is transferred from the Treasury to the farmer.
– The farmers will pay the same price for their wire as they paid under the bounty system; if the bounty was fair, the duty is fair. The Tariff Board has declared that the duty is a fair substitute for the bounty. We accepted the board’s report on galvanized iron, and if we are to be .consistent we should be guided by its recommendations with regard to wire.
– The report on wise if five years old.
– I admit that a further inquiry is due; meanwhile, we should not jeopardize the existence of an Australian company which has successfully developed an important industry, and has noi attempted to exploit the public. One honorable member said that the price of wire was £7 before the war, whereas it is £14 now. Unfortunately, the costs of secondary production are on stilts, and primary costs in the mire. We must bring about economic equilibrium by forcing down production costs, including wages, overhead, and transportation. Every railway system in Australia is operating at a loss, and while that continues we cannot have economic equilibrium. The time is fast approaching when our inflexible wage system must be abandoned. In the meantime, I support this measure of . protection to a deserving company;
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) began by pointing out that the industrial conditions in New South Wales made it impossible for the manufacturers to carry on without substantial assistance by means of a duty or bounty.
By supporting this duty, the honorable member is declaring that all the other States should be penalized to make possible the continuance of the industrial conditions which he has condemned.
– I sympathize with the company, and I am supporting it.
– Does not the honorable member see that by -supporting a duty which is necessitated by the extreme conditions in New South Wales, he is assisting to maintain those conditions? He has argued that as this protection merely takes the place of the bounty formerly provided, there is really no difference so far as the people of Australia are concerned. I admit that the change makes no difference to the manufacturer, but it makes a world of difference to users of the wire.
– I argued that if the industry were not protected by a duty it should be supported by a bounty.
– If the Government will agree to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera, I am quite prepared to support the reimposition of the bounty.
– That will suit me too.
– It should be made quite clear that the bounty has gone definitely, and that it is not permissible, in the discussion of a tariff schedule to consider an amendment for the payment of a bounty.
– The Minister has declared that, because of the burden upon the general taxpayers, it is impossible to further assist this industry by means of a bounty, and yet this Government proposes, by means of the tariff, to throw the cost upon our primary producers. Every member who votes for this tariff item must take full responsibility for placing on the backs of our impoverished wheatgrowers and wool-growers, who have to accept prices well below pre-war rates, a burden which they really cannot afford to carry.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has endeavoured to persuade the committee that I favour the industrial conditions prevailing in New South Wales. I think I made it clear in the debate on the item dealing with galvanized iron that the policy of Langism in New South Wales had been fraught with most disastrous consequences to that State.
– What are the conditions in New South Wales? ‘
– The voluble and noisy honorable member is well aware of the conditions to which 1 refer. He and four other honorable members in this House, who constitute the so-called Lang group, are preventing the Commonwealth from getting back to a sane policy. They supply the Government with its majority, and prevent honorable members on this side from scraping the Ministry off the treasury bench. I am sorry if I was misunderstood by the honorable member for Gippsland. I stand where I have always stood in my attitude to our primary producers, for whose welfare I am just as much concerned as is any member of the Country party. Under this proposal they will pay no more than under the bounty.
– They will pay 52s. more a ton.
– When speaking earlier. I was not aware that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) had submitted an amendment favouring the retention of the bounty.
– That is not the purpose of the amendment.
– The amendment is to make the item duty free from Great Britain.
– A bounty is necessary for the maintenance of the industry. ] deny that it has been exploiting our primary producers. The increase in prices over pre-war levels is no greater in respect of this item than most other products of our secondary industries. Therefore, although I have the greatest sympathy for our farmers, I feel that, in the absence of a bounty, I must vote for the item.
– And the primary producer must bear the burden.
– It has been suggested that the Government should give this item further consideration, with a view to the re-imposition of a bounty instead of a duty of £2 12s. per ton. No honorable member has more sympathy than I have for our primary producers. I realize fully the difficulties with which they are confronted, and in view of the representations that have been made I am prepared to take this matter to Cabinet again to have it further considered. I, therefore, suggest that consideration of the item be postponed.
Item further postponed.
Postponed item 161 a -
Agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural machinery and implements, n.e.i. ; cane loaders, cane unloaders, and cane harvesters : channelmaking graders; garden and field spraying machines, not including spray pumps’ operated by hand or foot; garden and field rollers; garden hose reels; horse road rollers and machines; lawn sweepers; road scoops and scrapers; scoops; stump extractors; fibre scutching machines; milking machines; potato raisers or diggers ; potato sorters ; root cutters, pulpers and graters: straw stackers, subsurface packers, ad val. - British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.
– Consideration of this sub-item, was postponed at the suggestion of the honorable mem ber for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who raised certain points which I promised to consider. I would now point out that the only amendment to this sub-item is the deletion from its provisions of garden syringes, lawn mowers, and spray pumps operated by hand or foot. These are now provided for under sub-items b and c, which have been passed, so there is really nothing contentious in it.
.- I move -
That the letters “ n.e.i.” be omitted.
If this is agreed to all agricultural machinery will come under this sub-item and be dutiable at 20 per cent. British, 25 per cent, intermediate and 30 per cent, general. As there has not been a general revision of the tariff, we have no other means of dealing with agricultural machinery, and I wish honorable members now to have an opportunity to express their opinion upon these high imposts. The Tariff Board refers to some unnamed manufacturer who, Under the existing duties, is showing a profit of 100 per cent. If honorable members will peruse some of the Board’s earlier reports they will discover that manufac.turers of wire, steel, and agricultural machinery were also making the same huge profits. There is no justification for this exploitation of our primary producers. Iri nearly every country agricultural machinery is admitted duty free. For example, in the United States of America reapers and binders, horse rakes, mowers, grain fertilizers, drills, stump-jump ploughs, and duplicate parts of agricultural machinery are admitted duty free. This Government imposes an enormous duty upon duplicate parts. When speaking earlier in this debate 1 expressed the view that our manufacturers of agricultural machinery ought to be able to produce in competition with manufacturers in other countries if they could obtain their requirements in iron and steel at anything like reasonable prices. The information which I have concerning wages paid in the iron and steel industry in other countries is, unfortunately, not” up to date, the latest figures being for 1925. Nevertheless, these are informative, and are as follow: -
According to the last official figures which 1 have received from Canada, the average wages paid to artisans in that dominion range from five dollars to seven dollars a day, or from £1 to 30s. I have not made a comparison with wages in the United States of America, but I have obtained some figures regarding the comparative prices of various agricultural implements in the United States of America, Canada and Australia. A sixfoot reaper and binder, with sheaf carrier, sells at £45 15s. in the United States of America, while in Canada, after paying freight over 1,000 miles, the cost is £52 3s. 9d. In Melbourne, the same implement costs £69 19s. 3d. I have no doubt that it would cost £74 or £75 by the time it reached Western Australia. A 4^-foot medium mower costs £17 8s. 4d. in the United States of America, and £19 5s. 5d. in Canada; while a mower of practically the same size in Victoria costs £34 4s. The Victorian article enjoys protection, natural and artificial, amounting to 107 per cent. The duty payable on the reaper and binder is 61.75 per cent., making a total protection of 98.93 per cent. The price of a 9-foot hay rake in the United States of America is £10 14s. 4d., in Canada £11 13s. 4d., and in Australia £17 10s. There is no reason why we should not produce more cheaply in Australia than it is possible to do in Canada, where the manufacturers have to import iron and coal. It is obvious that thereis something wrong with our methods of manufacture. I have great faith in the workmen of Australia, provided they are not influenced by union agitators. If they were as keen on the building up of industry as they are on observing union rules, costs of production would be reduced.
– The honorable member’s amendment is that the letters “ n.e.i.” be deleted from the item. I ask the Minister whether the amendment, if carried, will cover items not already covered by this tariff schedule.
– It will.
– Then I rule the amendment out of order.
– I move-
That the Temporary Chairman’s rulingbe dissented from.
– I am very loth to take any action which may suggest disrespect to the Chair, but I feel that the importance of the matter involved makes it necessary for me to support the motion of dissent. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has moved that the letters “ n.e.i. “ be deleted. Those letters are at present included in the item under discussion, and they were put there for a specific purpose. The object of the amendment’ is to delete them from the schedule, and it is intended to achieve a definite object by their deletion. The effect of the amendment would be to include all those items specifically dealt with in the schedule, that is, those items set down subsequent to “ horticultural, agricultural and viticultural machinery “. An absolute embargo has been placed on the importation of such implements, and no opportunity is afforded for the discussion of that embargo, or of the duty on those implements, except by means of the amendment moved by the honorable mem ber for Swan. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) announced the imposition of the embargo, he said that a guarantee had been given by the implements maker that a reduction of 5 per cent. would be made in the price of their machines. Since then, however, the price of such implements has been greatly reduced all over the world. In Canada, the United States of America, and Great Britain, prices have fallen by as much as 30 per cent. and 40 per cent. In justice to the committee, and to the users of agricultural implements, we should be afforded an opportunity of discussing this matter.
– I trust that you will see the wisdom, Mr. Temporary Chairman, of reversing your ruling on this point. In my opinion, the Government was very high-handed when it placed an embargo upon the importation of agricultural machinery. This committee has had no opportunity of discussing the Government’s action in that regard, nor its action in entering into an unholy alliance with the Australian manufacturers of agricultural machinery.
– The honorable member is wandering from the point before the Chair.
– I am sure that I could connect my remarks with the motion before the Chair. If the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) were admitted, it would be in order to discuss the duties on agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural machinery, and the committee would be able to determine by it’s vote what amount of duty would apply to such implements. The Government, by executive action, placed an embargo upon the importation of certain machinery, and now Parliament is, by your ruling, to be denied an opportunity of discussing the Government’s action. On that ground, I am compelled to express my dissent from your ruling.
– I regret that I have to express my disagreement with your ruling, but I feel that I have no option. The amendment which the Minister himself moved to the original item as drafted is one of a similar character to that moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Before the item was changed to its present form, the words “ not including spray pumps operated by hand or foot “ were not present in the item. By inserting that limitation, the Minister . deliberately restricted the scope of the item. Neither the Minister nor the honorable member for Swan sought to alter the amount of the duty, which stands at 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 30 per cent.; but the Minister’s amendment restricted the application of those duties to a smaller number of implements. The amendment of the honorable member for Swan seeks to remove some of the restrictions which the Minister imposed. Surely it is only logical, if the Minister is able to move an amendment to restrict the application of a duty, that any other honorable member should have the right to move an amendment to extend its application.
– The analogy which the honorable member seeks to establish does not, iu fact, exist, because the articles which, on my amendment, were removed from item 161 a, namely, “garden syringes, lawn mowers, and spray pumps operated by hand or foot “, are included in another place in the same schedule, and the committee has already discussed and passed them. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that an opportunity should be afforded members of the Country party to discuss the duties on farm implements. I remind him, however, that it is not proposed to increase the duty on farm implements; those duties are the same as when he was in office. The honorable member held a portfolio in the last Government for five and a half years, but he evinced no desire to review the duties on agricultural implements. As a matter of fact, he avoided the subject.
– The Minister is wandering from the point before the Chair. /
– It is true that a prohibition was imposed on the importation of certain farm implements, upon an assurance being received from the Australian manufacturers that the price would be reduced by 5 per cent. I remind the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who is anxious to reduce the duties on all kinds of agricultural machinery and implements, that the deletion of the letters “ n.e.i.” would not affect the duties on agricultural machinery and implements covered by other items in the tariff, which are not included in the schedule now before the committee. The duties on other articles under item 161 a would still apply. The effect of the amendment would be to allow discussion on goods covered by items 161, 162, 165, 160 and 171 which are not included in this schedule. I, therefore, support the ruling of the Chair that the amendment of the honorable member for Swan is not in order.
– Shall I be in order in moving that “ cane loaders, cane unloaders and cane harvesters “ be omitted from the schedule ?
– I shall answer that point when the motion before the Chair has been disposed of.
– In the consideration of tariff schedules items have been deleted on the motion of an honorable member, and I. should like to know if I shall be in order in moving for the deletion of the items I have mentioned. If the deletion of the letters “ n.e.i.” were agreed to, it would show that the committee is in favour of reduced duties on agricultural machinery.
– If the honorable member for Swan succeeded in deleting the words “ cane loaders,, cane unloaders, and cane harvesters “ they would not be removed from the item, as they would be covered by the letters “ n.e.i. “, and subject to the same duty.
– As I contend that I am in order in moving the amendment, I suggest, sir, that you reconsider your ruling. If you will not. consent to do so, I shall discuss the items now before the committee.
– A cursory examination of the point under consideration shows that an important principle is involved. Is the Minister in charge of the schedule entitled ,to greater privileges than are enjoyed by another honorable member ? I submit that the Minister has no more right- in the matter of moving amendments than another honorable member. The Minister has been playing with this schedule for 22 months.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– According to your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, an honorable member is not permitted to move for the deletion of the letters “ n.e.i. “ which are used in this item. If the Minister was in order in moving for the insertion of certain words, surely an honorable member has the right to move for the deletion of certain letters!
Question - That the Temporary Chairman’s ruling (Mr. Keane’s) be dissented from - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Under the ruling of the Temporary Chairman (Mr. Keane), which was supported by a majority of the committee, I am not permitted to move for the deletion of the letters “ n.e.i.”, in connexion with which I was giving details of the prices of certain agricultural implements in differentcountries; but I should like to know why in this instance increased duties are considered necessary, when similar machinery is admitted into practically every other country free of duty. I have read a number of articles in the Age newspaper recently about the price of machinery.
Mr.Forde. - No additional duties are being imposed.
– I am aware of that. What I want to secure is a general reduction of the duties on machinery. Although the Minister can remain quite placid while an act of Parliament is being abused by the imposition of embargoes on imports, which affect three parts of the commercial trade of Australia, I consider it proper that I should venture a few words on the subject, particularly as Parliament has had no opportunity of discussing it. I am not reflecting upon the Minister for having imposed the embargoes, because power has been given to him to do so ; but it was never intended that such action should be taken by a Minister. The sooner the Customs Act is amended in that connexion, the better it willbe for Australia.
I wish to know why Australia is unable to compete with other countries in the manufacture of machinery. The Age newspaper articles to which Ihave referred, contain figures which show that South Africans could buy certain machinery at a very much lower price than Australians. How is it that the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) has not taken steps to develop an Australian export trade in agricultural machinery? There was a time when we exported certain machinery to New Zealand, but the business was not followed up. Years ago we also had a wonderful trade with the Argentine, and it has disappeared. I should like the Government to furnish us with some information in regard to the large number of reaper-threshers sent to Canada, and the prices charged in that dominion for them, compared with the prices charged for similar machines in Australia. The various reports of the Tariff Board have shown that the Australian primary producers are being robbed by certain manufacturing concerns, which, for many years, have made big profits. We all know that the McKay agricultural implementmaking industry has been remarkably successful. This was shown definitely when Mr. McKay died. I always looked upon that gentleman as a great captain of industry, and I have a high regard for men who build up big industries; but surely the time should come when such industries would be able to stand on their own feet, particularly in a country which has such wonderful resources as Australia. Our people should be able to buy agricultural implements, at any rate, as cheaply as the people of other countries.
I realize that it is of no use to move a further amendment. I do not desire to discuss any further the ruling of the Temporary Chairman (Mr. Keane), but I know that time after time Ministers for Trade and Customs have been able to alter figures in schedules, and I consider that I should have had the right to move for the striking out of certain words with the object of inserting certain other words, in this most preposterous schedule.
Sub-item agreed to.
Postponed item 168 -
By omitting the whole of sub-item (b) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: - “ (b) Sewing Machines, Treadle or Hand, of the type ordinarily used in the household -
1 ) Cabinets, Covers, Tables, Stands including Transmission Gear, whether imported separately or forming part of the complete machine, to be dutiable according to material;
Machine Heads, whether imported separately or forming part of the complete machine, including accessories except wrenches and oil cans, each British, 10s. ; intermediate, 15s.; general, 20s. and on and after 20th April, 1931.
Machine Heads, whether imported separately or forming part of the complete machine, including accessories except wrenches and oil cans, each, British, £2 10s.; intermediate. £3: general. £3 10s.”
– The item which is now before us is probably the most preposterous item in this iniquitous schedule. It proposes to increase the price of sewing’ machines purchased by housewives and seamstresses, irrespective of their station in life, by £6 each. The sewing machines at present being imported cost about £9 and £10 each ; but it is now suggested that we should increase these prices to the extent that I have mentioned. In submitting this proposal, the Government is flying directly in the face of the report of the Tariff Board. That body made a careful investigation into this industry, and reported, not only that it, was definitely opposed to the imposition of this duty, but that it favoured the removal from the tariff of the deferred duty agreed to years ago. Sewing machines are an absolute necessity to many people in poor circumstances. The Tariff Board report, which is a lucid statement of the conditions of the industry, indicates clearly that if this duty is agreed to, considerable hardship will be imposed upon the community generally. If it could be shown that any advantage would accrue from the imposition of the duty, I could understand the Government proposing it; but the reverse is the case. The deferred duty which I have mentioned was agreed to in 1921 when the Massy-Greene tariff was under consideration; but the Minister at that time made the definite statement that “ the duty will not be imposed unless the industry is definitely established to such an extent that it will be reasonably able to supply the Australian requirements “. The industry is not in that position. It has not been established.
– That is not right, and the honorable member knows it.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Nothing like the number of sewingmachine heads required in Australia are being produced here. This is shown very clearly in the report of the Tariff Board. I refer honorable members to the following reference in the report to the evidence given by Mr. R. M. MacDougall who is closely connected with the industry : -
Mr. MacDougall stated that the present financial position in Australia made it quite impossible for his company to commence manufacture immediately, but, so soon as conditions improve, it would be prepared to install and operate a plant with an output capacity of 10,000 sewing-machine heads per annum.
It must be apparent to honorable members therefore that the company with which Mr. MacDougall is connected has no intention of commencing operations in the near future. Mr. J. Jeffrey, managing director of the Emu Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited, also approached the board and stated that -
I hold in my hand a cutting from a Bendigo newspaper in which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) is reported as having said that the Government would permit the required machinery to be imported duty free. I do not know what authority the honorable member had for making that statement.
Mr. Jeffrey also stated that
On account of the uncertainty of the demand, the company could not bind itself to supply any given number of machine heads within a given time to other makers of stands or cabinets. It wouldbe anxious to supply as many as possible and would equip its factory to cope with any demand as far as the management considered justifiable. He did not amend the quotation of ?6 previously given.
The board stated-
Having regard to all the circumstances, the Tariff Board finds itself unable to recommend the granting of the request for the immediate imposition of the fixed rates of duty already provided for in the customs tariffas deferred duties, and which are the same as the rates asked for by the applicants. In arriving at this decision the board has been influenced not only by the fact that the present local output is practically negligible in comparison with the requirements, but also because the evidence available indicates that there is little prospect of the industry developing to any appreciable extent in the reasonably near future, even if the duties sought were imposed.
Nothing could be more definite or clear than that statement. The board, at a later stage, remarked -
The board, therefore, recommends that the deferred duty provision in respect of sewing machine heads be deleted from the customs tariff.
Those two definite statements ought to be accepted by this committee, the members of which are not possessed of all the detailed information submitted to the Tariff Board. The last thing I would wish to do is to depreciate Australian workmanship, or Australian industry, but it must be pointed out, in fairness to the general public, that the machine proposed to be manufactured in this country is of an old-fashioned type, and would not command a ready sale. As a matter of fact, it is proposed to make a shuttle machine, whereas the more up-to-date machine is either electrically-driven or is constructed on the bobbin principle. Samples of the Australian machine have been exhibited in the windows of Sutton Limited, Melbourne. After great labour, the Australian company has reached the stage at which its machine has been exhibited to the public; but, in general workmanship, it compares most unfavorably with the other makes of machines available to-day, which are, admittedly, of a high quality. I suggest that the company has been ill-advised in offering to the public machines of an unfinished and primitive character.
I have referred to this duty as a most preposterous one, and I do not know any words that more accurately describe it. Sewing machines are purchased, mainly, by persons of small or modest means. They go into the homes of working and middle-class families. Those homes are incomplete to-day without sewing machines, and surely some justification should be advanced for the increased duty before the cost of this necessary convenience is increased to the mother of a family of seven or eight children, to the seamstress who has to work hard,often into the early hours of the morning, or to many gentle folk who are compelled, in the stress of the present economic circumstances, to workprivately with sewing machines. Surely a Labour government should not impose on such persons an additional cost of ?6 for each machine. All the evidence given before the Tariff Board, including that of the manufacturers of the Australian product, was to the effect that the extra duty would involve such an increase. Since there is not the slightest justification for this impost,. I shall oppose it as strongly as possible.
.- I am not impressed by the opposition of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) to this duty. On this occasion, obviously, he has been handed a brief by the Sydney importers of sewing machines ; as a layman he could not possibly have absorbed the quantity of mixed up data that he has furnished the committee with to-day. His opening statement showed that he is not fully acquainted with the history of the Australian industry.
– Is the honorable member himself an expert?
– No; but I propose to state, briefly my views concerning the claims of this deserving industry. Five or six years ago the Sew Easy Company was formed in Bendigo, and “the BrucePage Government promised it a duty, but this was not granted. The company manufactured a machine which, I admit, was not as finished an article as the
Singer “. That company has passed out of existence, and a new concern, known as the Emu Sewing Machine Company, has been formed, with a nominal capital of £50,000. Over £20,000 has already been expended, and a sample of the machine being produced may be seen in Melbourne at the show rooms of Sutton Limited. This machine is being advertised on certain picture theatre screens, and it has gained popularity. Owing to the limited plant at the company’s disposal, it has been unable to supply all the machines required. The industry gives employment to 60 persons in Bendigo. The Australian product is equal to the “ Singer “ machine, and it is from £5 to £7 cheaper than the imported article. The local company is not manufacturing a machine of a cheap and nasty type, but one which can compete with the best class of machine from overseas. I support this duty, not because I am the representative in this chamber of the district in which this company is established, but because I am a believer in protection, and also because I maintain that, wherever possible, we should encourage the establishment of secondary industries in rural districts. In Sydney and Melbourne, secondary industries have almost reached saturation point, and for that reason, every encouragement should be given to provide the means by which country boys and girls may find employment in their home towns.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that these industriesshould be encouraged irrespective of theprice of the articles produced?
– An inspection of the price-sheets of the Emu Sewing Machine Company, will show honorable membersthat the Bendigo factory is making a machine which compares favorably with the best “ Singer “ machine, and is selling it for from £4 to £6 less than the price of the imported article. I do not ask that the deferred duty be made operative at this stage; I ask only that the schedule asprinted remain unaltered. The Australian demand for sewing machines is about 16,000 machines per annum, and until that output has been reached by the Australian factory it would be unreasonable to bring the deferred duty into operation. I emphasize that this company is well organized, and has in its employ skilled workmen. Its head engineer has been brought out especially from the Old Country where he has had many years of experience in designing and manufacturing sewing machines. He is acquainted with mass production methods, and is a master of his trade. He is at present in Europe for the purpose of obtaining three or four large machines which are made neither in Great Britain, nor in, Australia, and which, therefore”, will probably be allowed to enter this country under by-law. The installation of these machines will enable the Bendigo works to cope with any orders which it may receive. The factory is receiving orders from almost every part of Australia, because it is recognized that its product, which is lower in price than that of imported machines of similar quality, is made by Australians to suit Australian conditions. I admit that sewing machines can be purchased for less thar the price charged by the Emu Sewing Machine Company; but that company has set out to compete, not with machines of low quality, but with high-grade machines such as the “ Singer “.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) spoke of an inquiry by the Tariff Board into the manufacture of sewing machines in Australia. I understand from representatives of the company that the members of the Tariff Board were Very favorably impressed with the Bendigo establishment. It is strange that, in connexion with this industry undertakings have been sought which have not been asked for in other cases. The Bendigo company have been asked to say at what price it would be prepared to make sewing machine heads for Sydney importing firms, so that they might compete with the Australian-made article. Certain figures which were given have not been revised, because the Tariff Board’s report was published before they could be checked. I have not heard of a similar request having been made in connexion with any other industry, and I regard it as a presumptuous act on the part of the board. If that is the way in which the Tariff Board does its work, I say, unhesitatingly, that it would be better to let customs officers undertake these inquiries than that they should be entrusted to the Tariff Board. I say that, not because the present members of the Tariff Board were appointed by a previous government; I would say the same of any hoard which acted as the present Tariff Board has done in this case. I ask honorable members not to condemn these Australian-made machines until they have examined them. The honorable member for Warringah said that the Emu Sewing Machine Company makes only one class of machine. That is not so; the works are producing every type of machine, and provision has been made for the manufacture of electrically driven machines.
– Does the company propose to produce immediately every type of sewing machine?
– Yes. At present the company is concentrating chiefly on three types of machines; but when the new machinery, which is to arrive next month, has been installed, it will produce all types of sewing machines in larger quantities. As I have already stated, the output of the Bendigo factory is not yet sufficient to justify making operative the deferred duty. I ask only that the present small duty be not interfered with, and that the deferred duty be further postponed until the company is better able to meet the Australian demand for sewing machines.
– The deferred duty was postponed until the 20th April, 1931 - about five months ago.
– It has been further postponed until the 1st December, 1931; I suggest that, before the deferred duty is made operative, the company should be required to prove that it can make machines to satisfy the requirements of the Australian public.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– I have already made it clear that the only Australian sewing machine factory at present operating is the Emu Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited, at Bendigo. At no time did the firm of MacDougall, New South Wales, enter intoany manufacture of sewing machines. It merely undertook that, provided a high deferred duty were granted, it would begin operations. 1 therefore dismiss the MacDougall concern from my mind, and confine myself to the Bendigo company, which is a going concern. In its report upon the subject, the Tariff Board stated -
The board visited the factory of the Emu Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited, at Bendigo, and such inspection, together with evidence tendered at the inquiry, has convinced it that very serviceable sewing machine heads not only can be, but actually are, being made in Australia.
These machine heads are comparable with the best overseas products, and are on view at Buttons Limited, Bourkestreet, Melbourne. The firm is inundated with orders, which it is temporarily unable to fill, because of the obscure position that has arisen in connexion with the tariff. More machinery is being obtained from overseas. Unfortunately, it could not be made in Australia, nor could it be purchased in Great Britain. I point out to every representative of a rural constituency who favours decentralization that here is an opportunity to give expression to his belief, for this is decentralization in its truest sense. If this request is granted, it will enable the industry to be established in a rural centre, and will provide employment for some of the youth of that district as skilled work which ordinarily is available only in metropolitan centres. All that is asked is that the existing duties shall remain as they are, and that the deferred duty shall not be interfered with. The intention is that the duty shall be deferred until it is proved that the industry can supply Australian! requirements, at present estimated to be 11,000 machines per annum.
– Can the honorable member say at what price the Emu sewing machine will be disposed of to those who are now ordering?
– The highest priced imported machines cost £28 cash, and £34 terms. The Emu sewing machine will be from £4 to £5 lower than those prices. I emphasize the fact that this industry has been asked to give an assurance to the Tariff Board that it will supply sewing machine heads at rates cheaper than they can be purchased from overseas, in order to allow a Sydney firm to outbuy those in the Bendigo business. No such request has been submitted to any other industry by the board.
– How many hands does the Emu factory employ?
– At present 35. That number will be increased to 70, and ultimately’ to 180, when the new machinery is working, and the company is able to supply Australia’s requirements. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) stated that the product of this company was crude, he disclosed his- absolute ignorance in the matter. Evidently he has not seen an Emu sewing machine. I invite him to inspect one. when, if he is impartial, he will admit that there is a master mind behind its manufacture. Actually, that is so, for the designer was practically kora in the trade, and was brought to Australia especially to supervise the construction of Emu sewing machines. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has again proved that “ Fools rush in where angels fear to tread “.
Certain literature has been issued by a Sydney firm, designed to act detrimentally to the Emu concern. I attended the hearing of the Tariff Board on the subject in Sydney, and heard the representa-; fives of Bebarfalds Limited give evidence that was nothing short of outrageous. He intimated to the genii on the board that the Emu Company was actually the old “ So Easy “ concern, which has been out of existence for at least four or five years. I admit that the product of that company was crude.
Honorable members appear to have forgotten the result of the Tariff Board’? inquiry into the sewing machine industry in 1925, in which it recommended the payment of a bounty. The duty sought is one of the most moderate in the schedule; all that it urged is that it should be left as it is. We do not want the deferred duty to apply until the company has proved that it can supply Australian requirements. In the interim, Emu sewing machines are being made. They are an exceptionally fine product, made in Australia by Australians. My .attitude in connexion with this tariff schedule has been that I refuse to support any action of this Government that will throw even one man 0U of employment. If these duties are interfered with, 35 men will be thrown out of work.
– What percentage of the Emu sewing machine is Australian made?
– It was disclosed at the inquiry that the percentage is 93. This recommendation by the Tariff Board is beyond my comprehension. If the Emu concern were a snyde show, lacking money, organization, and genius, I could understand it. As I have demonstrated, that is not the case. The company’s rivals are doing their utmost to wreck a good Australian industry with the old stereotyped arguments, carefully prepared, but clumsily presented. I urge honorable members to assist the establishment of this industry in a rural area, one that provides employment and will be able to supply the whole of Australia’s sewing machine requirements.
.- Is it the intention of the Minister to make a statement with regard to the request that these deferred duties be still further deferred ?
– The deferred duties have been further deferred, until the 1st December next. When that time arrives, the Government will consider the desirability of still further - deferring them. Incidentally, I point out the duties were introduced by a past, and not by this, Government.
– The “Member for Sewing Machines “ declared that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) knew nothing about the
Emu Sewing Machine, and he made a similar allegation against the Tariff Board. No doubt I am in the same category. That trinity, we are told, knows nothing on the subject. They have however, used their common sense, and do not desire to have another backyard industry foisted on the community, merely to boost up prices. So essential a household article is the sewing machine that the Bankruptcy Act excludes it from the list of leviable assets. We must therefore be careful to safeguard the interests of the community in this matter. The Emu Company operates in the Bendigo electorate, the representative for which should know all about its activities. Apparently he does not. Mr. Jeffrey, the managing director of the Emu Sewing Machine Manufacturing Proprietary Limited, in giving evidence before the Tariff Board, stated that the Singer Sewing Machine Company was at that time doing one-half, of the business available in Australia. It is just as well to have the facts as set out in the report of the Tariff Board. The report says-
The representative of the Emu Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited, stated that he did not anticipate that His company would secure any appreciable proportion of the business done in the Singer machines, ashe realized that this company had a very firm hold on a certain class of the trade. He stressed the point that the business the company hoped to win was that done in machines other than the Singer.
I hold no brief for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. It is a world-wide organization, and the exigencies of its business require it to keep abreast of the times in order to beat its competitors, not only in Australia, but also in those countries where it has a very much larger market to supply. Its success shows that it is at least abreast, if not ahead, of the times, and the price of its machines is such that apparently the Emu Sewing Machine Company cannotcompete with them. The Tariff Board report also says -
It is certain that several well-established machines are being offered to the public at prices ranging from £10 15s. to £15, the difference in price within the range given being governed principally by the type of stand. These machines are sold under guarantees covering periods varying with different vendors from one year to ten years. Substituting for the duty actually paid on the machines the duties of £3 10s. per head,65 per cent. on wooden parts and 60 per cent. on metal parts (other than heads), the additional cost of landing, including profit on the duty, would bring the retail prices up to a range from £16 to £20 10s. each.
– They are mad !
– On questions of fact, I prefer to believe the Tariff Board rather than the honorable member. The price mentioned is considerably below that quoted by the honorable member. The board continues -
When reputable guaranteed machines are available at this figure, the board is forced to the conclusion that the prospects of securing any extensive market for the untried Australian machine at prices ranging from £22 to £26, is by no means encouraging.
– The company is inundated with orders.
– How many machines is it turning out?
– According to the report of the Tariff Board,it was estimated by the managing director of the Emu Company, that the consumption of sewing machines per annum in Australia is roughly 10,000. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) says that the annual requirement is 11,000. In any case, it is not a very great quantity. The managing director of the Emu Company told the Tariff Board that 50 per cent. of the number sold would be Singer machines, leaving only 5,000 for the Australian company to supply, or, if we accept the estimate given by the honorable member for Bendigo, and admit that the annual requirement of Australia in sewing machines is 11,000, not more than 5,500. The honorable member, therefore, stretches my credulity when he says that the company is inundated with orders running to thousands. The Tariff Board says that there is no justification in any shape or form for this duty.
– In 1925 the Tariff Board, recommended it.
– Not a duty of £2 10s.
– It recommended a bounty of £210s.
– If the honorable member were not so keenly interested, would he put these duties on an article of such common use, which is mainly bought, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has pointed out, by people who are not particularly well-to-do ? Would he, for the benefit’ of t5 men, impose an additional burden of £6 on each sewing machine sold in Australia? The managing director of the Emu Company at first asked for £6 10s., but he reduced his application to £6 per dewing machine head. A duty of £6 per head on an output of 5,000 machines, produced by 35 men, would represent a subsidy of £30,000 per annum to a company with a nominal paid-up capital of only £50,000. I shall not be a party to that kind of job. It would mean a subsidy of nearly £1,000 per employee.
– The number of employees has been given as 35, rising to 180.
– The Minister suggests that the deferred duty should commence in December; I suggest that he should cut it out altogether. The Tariff Board’s recommendation is- -
That the deferred duty provision in respect of sewing machine heads be deleted from the tariff schedule:
The Tariff Board, after due consideration of all the facts, having made that recommendation, if the Minister is not prepared to accept the board’s advice, I give notice that, after I have heard what he has to say, I shall move to apply the recommendation. In no circumstances will I be a party to allowing 35 employees to overcharge on a very necessary article for the Australian people to the extent of nearly £1,000 per employee.
.- The story of the attempt to establish the sewingmachine industry in Australia is a very long- and variegated one. I cannot give my support to this latest proposal of the Minister. The first evidence I can find of any attempt to protect and encourage the industry was prior to 1925, when sewing-machine heads were .listed, British, free ; foreign, 10 per cent., with a deferred ad valorem duty of British, £2 10s.; foreign, £3 10s. In 1925 the merits of the case went before the Tariff Board on a definite application for a bounty of £2 10s. per sewing-machine head, and in December of that year the board recommended a bounty on a sliding scale - £2 10s. for each machine on an output of from one machine to 2,000 per annum; £2 for each machine on an output of from 2,000 to 4,000 per annum, and £1 10s. per machine on an output exceeding 4,000. Costs were substantially higher in those days than they are now, and the Tariff Board, as then constituted, was very generous towards protected industries; yet the most it would recommend for quantity production was a bounty of £1 10s. per sewing-machin, head. Its recommendation was very fully considered by the Bruce-Page Administration, and particularly by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). The Government came to the conclusion that it would not be justified in acceding to the request of the manufacturers until they really were engaged in something approaching true mass production, and it was laid down that an adequate protection would be granted to the industry when the output of machines reached 20,000 a year, which was slightly less than half of the sale of machines in Australia at that time. Under those conditions the industry was not continued I think the Bendigo enterprise at that time reached a total output of. 500 machines, and the company then collapsed. We then come down “to tintime of the present Minister (Mr. Forde). It is only a few months since he submitted to the chamber a proposal for 8 straight-out bounty of -£2 per sewingmachine head manufactured in Australia, and an import duty of British, 10s. ; general, £1 - not as a measure of protection to the manufacturer of the machines, but in order to provide money for th,payment of the bounty. As honorable members recall, the Bounty Bill was defeated in this Parliament, but there ha* since been retained, and wrongly retained I maintain, this impost of British. 10s.; general, £1. That is to say. for many months past, every purchaser of a new Sewing machine in Australia has been obliged to pay an additional 10s. because of a duty put on in aid of a bounty which was never granted I scarcely like saying it, but I do not think that either the Minister or th, honorable member for Bendigo (Mr Keane) is playing quite fairly with the committee over this proposal. As I see it, this is an attempt to sneak protection through for this industry. The proposed duties are sheer humbug. We know that the industry cannot carry on with the amount of protection afforded. If it manages to carry on for six months, it will lose heavily on each machine turned out. The true aim of this proposal is to get this Parliament so committed that there will be built up in Victoria, or elsewhere in Australia, vested interests in this protected industry, and then we shall have a heart-breaking story told to Parliament of how the capital in the industry is being endangered and how 35 men are threatened with the loss of their employment unless we increase the duties to British, £2 10s., and foreign, £3 10s. per sewing-machine head. It is not a fair proposition. In a political sense, it is not quite honest. It is one which should not come before the chamber in this form. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) does not even state a date for the imposition of this deferred duty, but I think that the Minister suggests that it be somewhere about the 1st of December. What I wish to impress upon the committee is that we are being asked to impose a duty, not of 10s., but of £2 10s. British, and £3 10s. foreign, upon every sewing machine head imported into Australia. Previous speakers have made it perfectly clear that this impost will fall upon the already heavily burdened shoulders of the householders of Australia. Never before has the sewing machine used in the private home meant so much to our Australian women, or been of such economic significance as it is to-day. Not since the evil days of the nineties has the home making of clothes been practised to the extent that it is being practised at present. All of us have personal knowledge of that. The sewing machine to-day is more vitally necessary than it has been in the lifetime of any honorable member. Is this the time for the Minister, who is a representative of Labour, to increase the cost of the machines that are to be used in scores of thousands of homes in this country? Is it reasonable or proper for the Minister to ask, at this time, that the price of every sewing machine coming into use in the Commonwealth, shall be increased from £3 to £5 ? It is a most brutal and contemptible request, and is being put forward in the interests of a company the capital of which has not yet been anything like fully subscribed, and which knew the risk that it was taking at the hands of this Parliament when it invested even £1 in resuscitating the old company. The honorable member for Bendigo, speaking in this chamber on the 5th May last, boasted that this industry in Bendigo, without any assistance at all, was already a going concern. He said -
The sewing machine industry, despite the fact that it was refused a bounty, to which I think it was entitled, is nowa going concern and producing machines which are cheaper than the imported article.
– That is true.
– If that is true, why should there be this demand for an increased duty? If these capitalistic friends of the honorable member are already producing at Bendigo machines at a profit, why does he want the workers of this country to pay an additional £2 10s.. for these machines ? The honorable member cannot have it both ways. If the company at Bendigo is producing a good machine and selling it profitably at a price lower than that of the imported article, why should we take up the time of this chamber in discussing this extortionate proposal which is aimed at the poorest people in the community ? The honorable member for Bendigo, as a Labour member, should show his sympathy for the workers in a more practical and demonstrative way. This is the most shameful proposal in the tariff. To give point to my remarks I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after the 24th September, 1931 -
Sewing machines, treadle or hand, of the type ordinarily used in the household
Cabinets, covers, tables, stands, including transmission gear, whether imported separately or forming part of the complete machine, to be dutiable according to material.
Machine heads,whether imported separately or forming part of the complete machine, including accessories except wrenches and oil cans, each - British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general. 10 per cent.”.
That amendment is in accordance with the most recent recommendation of the Tariff Board, and I make no apology for moving it. The sewing machine is a highly technical device. No honorable member knows whether the Australian machine is efficient. Opinions differ on this point. I have been told by some people that it is a good machine, but others, including experts, have informed me that it is quite inferior. I believe the Tariff Board to be a competent body. It took evidence with respect to this industry, and its recommendation was against the imposition of this new duty and the proposed bounty.
. - I opposed this impost when the subject of sewing machines was previously before honorable members, and I still oppose it. I appeal to the Government and honorable members generally to recognize the real position in which Australia finds itself to-day. Can we proceed with costly experiments of this kind? The Tariff Board has, in its report, asked us to call a halt in increasing tariffs. It has drawn attention to the reduced purchasing power of the community and the futility of bolstering up a few industries at the expense of other more important industries. It has been clearly pointed out that sewing machines are used in nearly every household in Australia. This duty will raise the price of a machine which previously could be bought at say, £10 to approximately double that amount at a time when the financial position of Australia has never been worse. We have bolstered up quite enough manufacturing industries in this country. The exporting industries, which previously carried those industries, cannot continue to do so, and if our primary industries fail, secondary industries must also fail. The Minister now unblushingly asks for greater assistance to this industry, but it would be most stupid on the part of honorable members to place this additional burden upon the community in the interests of 30 odd persons, and at a cost representing £1,000 per man employed in the industry.
. -These deferred duties of £2 10s., £3, and £3 10s., which have been referred to by several honorable members, were imposed, not by the present Government, but by the Hughes Government in 1921. Under the Tariff Board Act, before a deferred duty is made operative, it is incumbent upon the Minister to refer it to the Tariff
Board for report and recommendation as to whether the industry has developed to a stage that justifies the Government or the Minister making the duty operative. If is not my intention to make this deferred duty, which I have further deferred until the 1st of December this year, operative until such time as the Tariff Board recommends that the industry is able to supply, if not Australian requirements, then at least a substantial proportion, of sewing machines of a satisfactory quality.
– The Tariff Board now recommends that the deferred duty be deleted.
– This subject was referred to the Tariff Board some time in May, 1930, and it submitted a report, dated the 10th of April, 1931. A lot of water has since run under the bridge. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) has pointed out to-night that this industry is being developed month by month. I have seen the last recommendation of the Tariff Board, which, in the light of the information then at its disposal, was against this duty;butI feel sure that, if the Tariff Board considered that the progress of the industry warranted the operation of the deferred duty, it would have no hesitation in making a recommendation to that effect The Tariff Board is absolutely free to make its recommendations on the facts presented to it. The importation figures for sewing machines are certainly high. Those for the household type are not recorded separately, but are included with the figures for other sewing machines, stitching machines, darning machines, garment drafting machines, button hole punching machines, and straw envelope making machines,the total value of which in 1929-30 amounted to £429,555, including £236,370 United Kingdom, £135,807 United States of America, £54,270 Germany, and £3,108 other countries. The imposition of these duties of 10s. and 20s., together with the high exchange rate, will afford to the industry some small measure of protection, much smaller than the Hughes Government considered was necessary in 1921, when it imposed a deferred duty of £2 10s. and £3 10s., which we have not permitted to become operative.
– At that time the company went out of business. This industry is now being developed by a new company.
– And a very efficient company. The duties of 10s. and 20s. were imposed by this Government about the same time as it introduced the bill providing for a bounty on sewing machine heads. It is estimated that those duties will bring in a revenue of approximately £20,000 a year. The bounty bill was rejected by another chamber, but it is proposed ‘to maintain this modest protection of 10s. and 20s., which, together with the exchange, will enable this1 industry to get on its feet. I am satisfied that, after making a comparison of the landed duty-paid costs of sewing machines and the retail selling prices, the margin existing between them, is more than sufficient to absorb the proposed revenue duty without increasing the cost to the purchaser. First-class machines can be landed in Australia at approximately £9 each, yet the retail selling price is almost treble that amount. Is the consumer likely to get the benefit of the 10s. duty if it is removed?
– Why is the duty necessary when there is such a margin between the cost price and the selling price?
– The cost of distribution is very high. These machines are landed for £9 and sold for £27, and it is unlikely that the 10s. duty on heads from the United Kingdom would he passed on to the consumer. The Government has decided to retain the duties of 10s. and 20s., and I have promised that the deferred rates will not become operative until the Tariff Board reports that the industry has developed to such an extent as to justify the additional impost. Honorable members will observe that cabinets, covers, tables, &c. are now dutiable according to the material of which they are made. Previously, the duties were 30 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent., but this was .anomalous, because manufactures .of metal were dutiable at 35 per cent., 40 per cent., and 45 per cent., woodware at 30 per cent., 40 per cent., and 45 per cent., and furniture at 35 per cent.., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent. The Tariff Board’s report sup ports the action which has been taken in regard to these parts. I hope that the committee will agree to this modest protection of a very promising industry.
.- The Minister has suggested that the circumstances of this industry have altered considerably since the Tariff Board made its report.
– The report is dated the 10th April, 1931.
– I said that the matter was referred to the board in May, 1930, and that the industry has developed considerably since.
– It would be difficult to keep pace with the Minister, even if the Tariff Board reported weekly. Sometimes he defends his action by a report made six years ago, and on other occasions he ignores a report that is right up to date. He has stated that he will’ not, impose the deferred rates until he is advised so to do by the Tariff Board.
– The committee can accept my assurance.
– The Minister is guided’ by the board only when he want’s to be.’ The Tariff Board said-
As to the deferred “5-ates, (he existence of such rates in Hie tariff has apparently been a factor in the starting of the local industry, and their retention might act as an incentive to thu present manufacturers to expend further capital and increase their efforts in what the board regards as a futile endeavour to secure a substantial share of the market. It might also induce other local concerns to embark upon manufacture (the Sydney applicant is already considering such action). In the case now under review, the conclusion of the board is that, taking into consideration the extent of the market likely to become available to the local products, it i3 not in the best interests of the Commonwealth at this stage of its industrial life to encourage the industry by any governmental assistance. The board, therefore, recommends that the deferred duty provision in respect of sewing-machine heads be deleted from the customs tariff.
The Minister said that he would be guided by the Tariff Board in regard to the deferred duty. I ask him to show similar confidence in the board’s recommendations that the duties on sewing-machine heads be completely deleted. I shall vote against the item for the reasons stated by the Tariff Board-
A selling price of £6 for the locallyproduced head, as given by the last-named company, represents approximately 250 per cent, of the f.o.h. price of a comparable machine and would be almost double - the landed cost under duties of free (British preferential tariff) and 10 per cent., (general tariff). This added cost would represent a serious burden on the Australian concerns which purchase heads, manufacture the stands and cabinets and sell the complete machines.
I shall not support any duties which will increase the price of the protected article by nearly 100 per cent. We have had too much of that policy, and, as the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said, we cannot support the burdens which we have placed upon ourselves. Henceforth, I shall not support any duty exceeding about 40 per cent.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) quoted me as having said that 35 men were employed in the Bendigo factory. Seventy-five men were employed in the industry, but because of the need to purchase further machinery from abroad, some of them were put off temporarily. If the output which we say is possible is achieved as a result of the introduction of new machinery under expert organization, 180 men will be employed in the industry within the next twelve months. The deferred duty is not now under consideration. I am asking the committee to support a very moderate amount of protection for a young industry. The attitude of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) is amazing. He considers it wrong to help the sewing machine industry, but although he is a teetotaller, he is always ready, for electioneering reasons, to support a bounty on the export of wine.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL (Warringah) f8.53]. - The discussion on this item has not produced any facts that are not contained in the report of the Tariff Board. Every argument advanced by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) has been effectively countered by members of the Opposition. The honorable member now says that if the local company is able to attain the output at which it is aiming, it will be entitled to further consideration. Yet it is clear from the evidence of Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. MacDougall before the Tariff Board that there is not the slightest possibility of the local production reaching anything like the quantity mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo. The Davis Company, and other American organizations with more capital and better prospects than the Bendigo company, have engaged in. the manufacture of sewing machines in Australia, and the history of the industry is littered with their wreckage. No honorable member has been able torefute the contention that the proposed duties will increase the price of sewing machines by £6 each, thus placing an additional burden upon seamstresses and housewives in every walk of life.
– That is not so.
– This is what the Tariff Board says after an independent inquiry -
The hoard is aware that other machine* which land duty paid at approximately £9 and upward are sold at a figure much higher than those just quoted. This phase of the matter will be dealt with later. In the meantime, it is certain that several well-established machines are being offered to the public at prices ranging from £10 15s. to £15, the difference in price within the range given being governed principally by the type of stand. These machines are sold under guarantees covering periods varying with different, vendors from one year to ten years. Substituting for the duty actually paid on the machines, the duties of £3 10s. per head, 66 per cent, on wooden parts and 60 per cent, on metal parts (other than head), the additional cost of landing, including profit on the duty, would bring the retail prices up to n range from £1.6 “to £20 10s. each. When reputable guaranteed machines are available at this figure, the board is forced to the conclusion that the prospects of securing any extensive market for the untried Australian machine at prices ranging from £22 to £2fl is by no means encouraging.
– That is wrong. .
– On the evidence of Mr. Jeffrey, the company will charge from £22 to £26, and to permit that to be done, the price of machines which are now selling at £10 15s. and £11 will be increased to from £22 to £26. The Singer Company controls most of the manufacture of sewing machines in Australia.
– Is that company briefing the honorable member?
– I am not briefed by anybody ; such a suggestion could only emanate from a man who is in the habit of being briefed. The Tariff Board said -
The representative of the Emu Sewin Machine Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited stated that he did not anticipate thai his company would secure any appreciable proportion of the business done in the “ Singer “ machines, as he realized that this company had a very firm hold on a certain class of the trade. He stressed the point that the business the company hoped to win was that done in machines other than the “ Singer”. As already shown, the trade outside that done by “ Singer “ machines is supplied, to a large extent, by machines that are now sold retail at from £10to £15 each and which, even with thehigher duties sought, would undersell the Australian machine by something like £6 per machine. The increased duty and profit thereon would, without doubt, be added to the price of the machines now sold at the lower range of prices, even if no addition were made to the selling price of the machines now being marketed at the higher figure.
I repeat that there is not the slightest justification for these duties, either in the speech of the Minister or the supporters of the Government. On the contrary, the proposal has been strongly condemned by the Tariff Board. No good reason has been shown why this additional burden should be placed upon the poorer and middle-class people in this coun try.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Gullett’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Postponed item 152 c -
By omitting the whole of sub-item (c) and inserting in its stead the following subitem: - “ (c) Wrought iron and malleable cast iron fittings for pipes, and cast iron fittings for pipes of less than 2 inches internal diameter -
Upon which Mr. Paterson had moved by way of amendment -
That the item be amended by adding the following to sub-item (c) : - “ And on and after the 24th September, 1931 - Fittings (wrought iron, malleable cast iron and cast iron) for pipes of less than 2 inches internal diameter, ad val. - British, 35 per cent.; intermediate, 45 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.”
– During the debate on this sub-item five or six weeks ago, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) made a number of statements with regard to certain aspects of the duties at present operating. Briefly, his statements were to the effect - (1) That the Australian manufacturers had increased their prices on two occasions since the increased duties had been in operation; (2) that all prices of locally-made fittings had been increased from 20 to 50 per cent.; (3) that there were 5,000 different varieties and sizes carried in stock in Australia, while the range manufactured in Australia comprised only 261 lines; (4) that an alteration had been made in the punctuation of the item, by which the interpretation of the item had been amended; (5) that a farmer installing pumps, windmills, &c., to irrigate his land wag a particularly heavy loser by these duties. The principal complaint of the honorable member related to the selling prices, and as I presume that he is chiefly concerned with the cost of these pipe fittings to consumers, I shall deal with the subject on this basis. In the first place, it is true that the local manufacturers promised the Tariff Board in 1927 not to increase the prices of water and gas fittings. It is also true that this promise has been honoured and, where possible, reductions have been effected.
The price movement of the locallymanufactured fittings complained of was occasioned by the dumping activities of overseas’ manufacturers. In an endeavour to maintain their trade, local manufacturers were compelled to sell their products quite regardless of profit or production costs. The object of the overseas manufacturers was to eliminate local manufacture, which at this time was assuming substantial proportions. So acute and unfair had this competition become that, acting on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, the previous
Government applied the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act.x Somewhat later the present Govern”ment introduced its first tariff schedule, and granted the duties which are at present operating. The manufacturers, therefore, restored their prices to the same level as that which formed the basis of the promises made to the Tariff Board in 1927.
A remarkable fact which emerges from the consideration of these price movements is that the consumer did not benefit in the slightest degree by the lower prices established by the dumping policy of overseas manufacturers. The only effect was to increase the profits made by indentors and merchants handling both the imported and locally-manufactured goods. During the period I refer to, fittings were actually sold to consumers at higher prices than those relating to-day. The subsequent increase in price by local manufacturers was due entirely to the imposition of the sales tax.
The honorable member’s statement that all prices of the locally-made fittings have been increased from 20 per cent, to 50 per cent, is so inaccurate as to suggest’ that he had not taken the. trouble, or perhaps did not have the time, to verify any of the particulars furnished to him. As a matter of fact, the Australian malleable cast iron fittings are selling to consumers in Queensland and New South Wales at prices 10 per cent, lower than those obtaining prior to the introduction of the present duties. That the prices to consumers in the other States are not the same as those obtaining in New South Wales and Queensland is the fault of not the local manufacturers, but the merchant members of the pipe association. This association fixes the prices in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia against the expressed desires of the local manufacturers. These merchants buy off the Australian manufacturers’ list, and very ingenuously sell off the imported price-list, which averages about 30 per cent: higher on the net price. The following are the prices operating in four States of a f-in. galvanized tee, which is regarded as a basis for prices of all fittings 2 inches and under : - -
For government contracts the discounts in New South Wales are 40 per cent, off list, and in Queensland 42^ per cent. Higher prices in the southern States are due to the price-fixation methods adopted by the merchants comprising the pipe association. It is, of course, well known that the pipes on which these fittings are used are not manufactured in Australia, and the merchants referred to fix the prices of the fittings by virtue of the powers conferred on them as importers of the pipes.
The figures just quoted refer to fittings up to and including 2 inches. The figures relating to fittings over 2 inches are even more illuminating. In November, 1928, when malleable fittings were only made locally up to 2 inches, importers allowed a discount of per cent, off list prices for fittings 2 inches and under, whereas on fittings over 3 inches which were not made in Australia the discount was only 30 per cent.
– Is this the Minister’s own statement, or one supplied by the manufacturers?
– I think that any reasonable honorable member will realize that it is practically impossible for me to go from one item to another - such as from sewing machines to malleable fittings - quote prices and percentages, and reply to statements made several weeks ago without quoting from prepared matter. It would be impossible for me to carry all this information in my head without making a mistake. It has been found necessary to carefully compile this statement, and the views I am expressing are my own. I have not seen any of the manufacturers. - Mr. Latham. - Were the prices quoted by the Minister gross or net prices?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is facetious. The variation in these discount rates furnishes sufficient evidence that importers were definitely exploiting the Australian users of the types of fittings not manufactured here, and also strengthens my statement that the operation of the local manufacturers very effectively reduced selling prices. A typical instance of price reduction of fittings over 2 inches is that of a 4-inch galvanized tee. In November, 1928, and in November, 1929, the imported tee sold at 19s. 3d. To-day the Australian tee sells at 16s. fid. In addition to the price reductions already effected, local manufacturers have also advised that on and from the 1st October next, a further price reduction to the extent of 16£ per cent, on malleable galvanized fittings over 2 inches in diameter and a further 10 per cent, on malleable black fittings over 2 inches will be effected. With normal trade restored, and the subsequent increased output the local manufacturers of these fittings will be able to reduce their prices still further. Honorable members should hesitate to plead the cause of the importer of these fittings in the southern States as immediately the increased duties were imposed in November, 1929, they not only increased the price of all their stocks which had been imported under the lower duties; but also increased the price of their stocks of the locally manufactured fittings. I now turn to the prices of wrought iron pipe fittings. Prior to the imposition of the present duties these were not manufactured in Australia ; but the action of the Government was responsible for a local company engaging in this trade. In all, £20,000 has been invested in this section of the industry whilst the number of employees engaged since the duties were imposed amounts to 360. All the plant for the manufacture of these fittings was manufactured in Australia.
Very interesting information can be obtained from a study of the price list of the imported wrought-iron fittings since 1921. In that year, the manufacture of malleable fittings was commenced. Immediately the imported list price of wrought-iron fittings was reduced by an additional 25 per cent, discount. By 1924, the local manufacturers of malleable fittings began to make their presence felt in the market, and the price of the imported wrought-iron fitting was further reduced by the granting of additional discount’ to the extent of 20 per cent. Immediately prior to the increased duties being imposed, the discounts off list price for the imported fittings were - black, 30 per cent., galvanized 20 per cent., steam 20 per cent. To-day the prices of Australian wrought-iron fittings are list price less 35 per cent., 25 per cent., 25 per cent., or almost 10 per cent, lower than the prices operating for imported fittings before any duty was imposed.
The company manufacturing these fittings has guaranteed that if the present duties are passed, discounts of 40 per cent., 30 per cent., 30 per cent, off list price will be granted, and later on hopes to increase these discounts to 55 per cent., 46 per cent., 45 per cent. If this is accomplished, prices will be in the vicinity of pre-war prices. Judging from the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) this afternoon, when he said the 1913 and 1914 prices were satisfactory, even he should be pleased with the prices of these fittings.
I have had comparisons made of the prices in New Zealand and in Australia. These prices are in respect of i-in., f-in., 1-in. galvanized tees, and i-in., f-in., 1-in. round galvanized elbows. The demand for these fittings represents approximately 45 per cent, of the total requirements, and they can therefore be regarded as representative. The prices quoted are those which the consumers have to pay in each country. The New Zealand prices have been obtained from the Farmers Trading Company of New Zealand, one of the largest distributing companies in New Zealand, and are as follows: -
– What do they pay for sugar ?
– There is a time and place for everything.
– Who supplied those figures ?
– The investigating officer was able to obtain them from the Farmers Trading Company of New Zealand. I feel sure that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who is a good Country party man, will not challenge the figures obtained from such a source, and will be in favour of giving Australian users an opportunity of obtaining Australian fittings from those who have them to sell. The table continues -
It will be seen from the figures which I have quoted, that only in one or two instances are the prices of Australian fittings higher than those charged for similar fittings in New Zealand, and then to only a fractional extent, in all other cases the prices of Australian fittings are lower than those charged for British fittings in New Zealand. The establishment pf a local industry will not mean any increase in prices, but rates lower than those obtaining in New Zea-‘ land, where users have to depend upon the imported article. The fittings are admitted into New Zealand free of all duty, including primage duty, yet they are sold at prices considerably higher than those charged for Australian fittings.
– What is the Minister’s authority for that assertion?
– I have already said that my authority is the Farmers Trading Company of New Zealand, which is one of the largest trading companies in that dominion. The investigating officers of my department obtained the prices ruling in New Zealand, and also those charged by Australian manufacturers. If a majority of honorable members oppose the increased duties it will be tantamount to increasing the cost of every fitting sold to users in Australia. If the Australian manufacturers are deprived of this protection it will mean throwing additional men out of employment, and placing users in the hands of the importers as is the case in New Zealand, where there is no competition, and1 where higher prices are charged than are ruling in Australia where importers have to meet the competition of local manufacture.
Against the reduced prices obtaining: for the fittings manufactured in Australia ‘the price of the pipes which are not manufactured in Australia has advanced 70 per cent, since 1927. This in itself is sufficient justification for the present duties.
The statement made that Australian requirements are estimated at 5,000 different sizes and patterns is most misleading. Fully 45 per cent, of the total trade done is confined to six lines. Australian manufacturers are catering for 99 per cent, of requirements, and the other 1 per cent, can be met by the use of reducing bushes. The Standards Association is at present considering the sizes and patterns required for the local market, and the local manufacturers have given an undertaking to manufacture according to the decision arrived at.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) raised the question of the punctuation of this item. I assure him that it has not been altered since it was first incorporated in the tariff in 1926. which was before this Government came into office.
– I am not blaming the present Government.
– The honorable member for Gippsland also stated that these duties are an intolerable burden on the primary producer. In view of the price details which I have quoted, I am sure that he will realize that the establishment, of this industry has safeguarded the interests of the farmer as well as other consumers, and that their interests lie in the direction of supporting the local industry. If further details are required by the honorable member I will furnish him with them.
– Prices are 300 per cent, above what they would be if imported duty free.
– I quoted the prices in New Zealand, where it will be found that excluding ordinary duty and primage duty, in nine cases out of ten, the New Zealand prices are higher than those in Australia, where the goods are of local manufacture.
Before concluding, I wish to inform the committee that if these duties are passed the manufacture of pipes will be undertaken at an early date. The manufacture of these pipes in Australia will mean the employment of 2,300 more men, as well as creating an additional demand for coal to the extent of 3,000 tons per week.
That will be a good thing for the coalminers of Australia. The manufacturers will be able to manufacture these pipes under the deferred duties provided in the 1921-28 tariff, and will be in actual .production within four months from the date of the passing of the duties on fittings. The company will not manufacture the pipes unless it has the local market for the fittings. In view of the details which I have furnished, I suggest that the honorable member for Gippsland should withdraw hi3 amendment as the ‘ potential possibilities of future employment and development are so great that it is not fair to the industry that the present duties should be opposed by the party which he represents. The farmers on whose behalf he speaks are receiving, as a result of the establishment of the local industry, a better deal than are the farmers in New Zealand. Another important aspect of the matter is that an outlet will be provided for some of the products of the iron and steel industry at Port Kembla. Instead of importing pipes from abroad, iron ore obtained from Iron Knob in South Australia, and coal from New South Wales could be utilized in their manufacture here. The iron will be produced at the iron and steel works at Port Kembla, conveyed to the pipe works, and users of pipes will be able to obtain supplies at a cheaper rate than they can be purchased in New Zealand: There users have to deal with the importers, who are making large profits, and thereby exploiting the people of that dominion.
.- I listened with much interest to the speech of the Minister (Mr. Forde), but I did not hear the early portion of it and it may be that he has dealt with certain points upon which I desire some information before finally making up my mind on this matter. It is very desirable that these fittings should be made in Australia, if that can be done commercially, and I quite realize that a duty may be necessary. I’ do not propose to contest the Minister’s opinion on that; but I ask some specific questions. In the first place, these duties are absolutely prohibitive. Does the Minister agree that this is the case? The duties run from, per lb.,1s. British, to 1s. 6d. general. It is obvious that such duties are very heavy indeed.
– Especially on the larger sizes.
– Many of which are not made here.
– I am informed that in respect of some sizes the duties rise to between 600 per cent. and 700 per cent. If it is intended absolutely to prohibit the importation of these goods by a permanent tariff item, it is obvious that the object in view is not merely to deal with the exchange position or the balance of trade in a period of temporary emergency, but to confer on the local manufacturers an absolute monopoly behind a completely excluding tariff wall. Before I will agree to duties which amount to an embargo, I want to know something more on this aspect of the subject than the Minister has heretofore said, and I ask him to deal with the specific question whether these duties are absolutely prohibitive in nearly all cases.
Secondly, I ask for someinformation as to the number of sizes and varieties of pipe fittings. I am told that there are some 5,000 different types and sizes, and that lees than 300 of these are being manufactured in Australia. It must be fairly obvious, even to those who are not familiar with the details of our building, water, and gas industries, our irrigation enterprises and the like, that there is only a limited consumption in Australia for many sizes and types of pipe fittings. What has the Minister to say on this aspect of the subject? Is it a fact that some thousands of varieties of pipe fittings are required to be kept in stock for use from time totime, and that only about 300 of them, that is the more ordinary varieties and sizes, are being manufactured in Australia?
– Forty-five per cent. of the trade is confined to six lines, and 90 per cent. of our requirements can be made in Australia. The requirements in regard to the other 1 per cent. can be met by the use of reducing bushes.
– It is easy to say that; but the use of such bushes increases costs to local users. It is probable that a case could be made but for the protection of the 45 per cent. of our requirements which are confined to the six lines mentioned by the Minister ; but the heavy duties of from1s. to1s. 6d. per lb. are to be applied to the whole 100 per cent.
– I have said that 99 per cent. of our requirements can be made here, which leaves only 1 per cent. not provided for. The Standards Association is now working on that 1 per cent., and we hope that it will soon be possible for us to make the whole 100 per cent.
– I should like to know how far the Standards Association has worked on this subject. It is obviously a matter for that association. There is no doubt that many of these varieties and sizes would be quite unnecessary if we could agree upon a set of standards for Australia. But we have to deal with things as they are. Of course, while fittings exist in all these sizes,the only thing for us to do is to provide for them.Ifa fitting of a particular size bursts it is necessary to have a fitting of a similar size for repair purposes. Any one who has the misfortune to require a spare part for it motor car of a kind not available in Australia, knows the tremendous difference in the cost of a part which has to be made specially and a part which is in stock. The Minister suggests that such difficulties in respect to pipes have been reduced to 1 per cent.; but the matter requires some further examination. It would appear to be wise for us to specialize in those sizes most commonly used, and to protect the manufacturers of them. I suggest that the. subject be considered from that point of view. I hope that the Minister will answer my question as to whether these duties are intended to be absolutely prohibitive.
.- On the last day on which this committee met before the recess I moved the following amendment: -
That the item be amended by adding the following to sub-item (c) : - “And on and after 7th August, 1931 - Fittings ( wrought iron, malleable cast iron and cast iron) for pipes of less than 2 inches internal diameter . ..”
It will be observed that, so far, the amendment is inerely a re-arrangement of the wording, so that any doubt as to the effect of the comma after the words “ fittings for pipes “ in the item as printed in the schedule is removed. There is a certain amount of ambiguity in the wording of the item as it appears at present. The presence of the comma after the words “ fittings for pipes “, and the use of the words “and cast-iron fittings for pipes of less than 2 inches internal diameter “ after the comma, may cause the item to be read as though the condition in relation to the 2 inches internal diameter applies only to cast-iron fittings, and not to wrought-iron - and malleable cast-iron fittings. The re-arrangement of the words in the way that I have proposed makes it clear that ‘it is intended that the condition is intended to apply to the whole of the fittings, whether of wrought iron, and malleable cast iron, or Cast iron. The Minister has not yet made it quite clear whether that is his intention. All he said about the comma was that it had been put in its present, place by a previous administration. I am not concerned about who put the comma where it is, but about the effect of it. If my amendment is agreed to, there will be no doubt about the. effect of it.
My amendment also provides that the per lb. rate of duty on these fittings should be removed, and the duty should* be “ad valorem, British preferential, 35 per cent..; intermediate, 45 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.” The Minister has said a good deal to-night about the desirableness of having these fittings manufactured locally, and the effect that local manufacture has upon prices. He said that the cost of goods manufactured locally is sometimes lower than the cost of imported goods when there is no competition with local manufactured goods of a similar nature. The honorable gentleman quoted prices to show that reductions have occurred in some cases, when locally-manufactured goods have entered into competition with imported goods. I do not. join issue with the honorable gentleman on this aspect of the subject. I am very glad that these malleable castiron fittings and wrought-iron fittings for pipes are being made in Australia, because it is not only a good thing to have competition with imported goods; it is also a good thing to have internal competition. The point of difference between myself and the Minister is as to the extent of protection necessary to enable this industry to carry on its operations -in Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has pointed out that these fixed duties, which run from ls. to ls. 6d. per lb. for galvanized fittings, and from 9d. to ls. per lb. for fittings other than galvanized, represent, in some cases, , several hundreds per cent. The duties which are still in operation in connexion with the goods mentioned in sub-clause 2 of the paragraph are 35 per cent., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent., and these are substantial. There was a time when we would have regarded such duties as high ; but we have become accustomed, particularly since the regime of the present Government began, to duties which run into three figures, so possibly the Minister may be excused for regarding duties of 35 per cent., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent., as low. I wish to point out the effect that such duties have on the’ f.o.b. invoice prices in. Great Britain. Taking the 35 per cent, duty in the British preferential column, and applying it to £100 worth of goods leaving Great Britain, we find that £20 must be added to cover natural protection in the shape of freight, handling charges, packing, marine insurance, wharfage charges and the like. I have verified these figures in consultation with those connected, not with the importing of these goods, but with the manufacture of them in Australia, so it cannot be said that my figures are biased unfavorably. To the addition I have already made to my £100, we must add duty at the rate of 35 per cent. This is not merely £35 in’ £100, but £38 10s., because these duties are imposed, not on the original £100, but after the Customs Department has added 10 per cent, to it. So the primage duty of 10 per cent, is really 11 per cent., being 10 per cent, on £110. On top of that, there is the exchange, which up to now, at any rate, has been £30 10s. When to the original f.o.b. cost of £100 we add £20 for freight, packing, handling charges, marine insurance and wharfage, £11. for primage, £38 10s. for duty and £30 10s. for exchange, the total is brought to exactly £200. Some honorable members opposite will say that the exchange may fall, but even if it fell to half the present rate, the £100 would be increased to £185 ; that is to say, the total protection would amount to 85 per cent. The only argument against the alleged adequacy of a total protection of 85 per cent. is that some of the big firms overseas might seize the opportunity, if the fixed rates were taken off, to dump their goods here ; that the European cartels would endeavour to crush out Australian industry by dumping. Surely the answer to that is that, under the Industries Preservation Act, the Minister has sufficient power to-day, and would not scruple to use it. If any dumping of pipe fittings from overseas occurred the Minister could quickly impose a dumping duty to the extent of the difference between the price in the domestic market of the country of origin and that at which they were being dumped in Australia. In the circumstances, I see no reason to withdraw my amendment, although I am most anxious to see these goods produced in Australia. I have been shown some of the wrought iron fittings, tees and elbows, which have been produced only recently in this country, and although I have no great technical knowledge of the industry, it seemed to me that they were excellently finished, possibly because the dies were new. There was hardly a dent or mark on them ; they were almost as smooth as if they had been polished. The duty provided in the ad valorem column is ample. It gives a total protection of 100 per cent., or in the event of the exchange falling to half the present rate, 85 per cent., including freight, primage and other charges.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), the effect of which is to treat wrought iron and malleable cast iron fittings in the same way as cast iron fittings. I intend to furnish the committee with some figures supplied to me by an importer who is engaged in a secondary industry, and it cannot be said that these particulars have been prepared by the so-called Pipemerchants Association. They will show that primary producers, and others, are being penalized to the extent of from 200 per cent. to 300 per cent. in connexion with these fittings, compared with similar fittings that are imported from overseas duty free. So far as I can ascertain, fittings over 2inches internal diameter are, practically, not made in Australia. I desire proof that Australian firms are attempting to meet the demand for such fittings.. The price lists of Australian firms show that fittings over 2 inches in internal diameter are not quoted, and, therefore, I strongly support the amendment. If such fittings are not being manufactured in Australia, why should we penalize, to the extent of 200 per cent. to 300 per cent., those who desire to use them? This matter was brought under my notice nearlytwo years ago, when I was attending an agricultural show at Uraidla, in South Australia. Two market gardeners directed my attention to a pumping plant, and I was assured by the manufacturer’s representative that on a malleable fitting between 1 foot and 2 feet in length, and 3 inches in internal diameter, a duty of 10s. 6d. had been charged. On inquiry, I found that this piece of piping had been manufactured in Sweden ; it weighed 7 lb., and the duty charged was1s. 6d. per lb., being more than twice the actual cost of the article. Charges of that description bring our protectionist policy into disrepute. Iamexpecting some honorable member to tell me that these fittings are made in Australia, but I shall require to see price lists. Market gardeners comprise a section of the primary producers who are being hit hard to-day as a result of tariff imposts. In the vicinity of Adelaide, large numbers of the unemployed are growing their own vegetables, schemes having been launched for the employment of youths in thiswork, and altogether the plight of the regular market gardeners is most unenviable. It is deplorable that a man on the land should be compelled to pay a duty of 10s. 6d. on a small fitting required for a pump. I have received a letter dated the 4th April, 1930, from the firm of Thos. J. Bromley, of Hurtle-square, Adelaide, manufacturers of pumps and other irrigation machinery. This firm believes that fittings of an internal diameter over 2 inches are not made in Australia. Reverting to my interview at the Uraidla show, to which I have referred, this firm states-
Since then my firm has been unfortunate in having another batch of fittings arrive which were first shipped to New Zealand through error, but they are now in bond at Port Adelaide. The invoice value ofthis shipment and the consignment Ialready mentioned to you amounts to £95, on which there is £234 to pay for duty. It seems a great pity that fittings which are needed for immediate requirements and arc not made in Australia (1 refer to sizes over 2 inches ; should bc subject to such a high rate of duty, which in turn must be passed on to the consumer, which in my case is the man on the land. The ultimate effect will be a restriction on the sale of Australian-made pumps.
In answer to your telephone message, I hand you herewith original invoices for fittings which 1 imported from Sweden through Messrs, Ewer Auld and Co. Ltd., Adelade
The discounts on black fittings you will notice arc 85 per cent., c.i.f. Port Adelaide, and the same discount’ plus 30 per cent, for galvanized fittings. I am also enclosing Thomson and Scougall’s price-list for Australianmade fittings; they only made fittings from i inch to 2 inches, and their discounts are 624 per cent, black and 50 per cent, galvanized, c.i.f. Port Adelaide.
Ed. Weir Ltd., Sydney (now controlled I understand by Best & Gee), also quote the same discounts for fittings up to 2 inches. The price list used by Thomson and Scougall and Weirs is a different’ list, which makes matters rather confusing. Weirs are also quoting some fittings over 2 inches, and the price-list is the same as the overseas list. The discounts are -
I point out that this firm, which is engaged in a secondary industry, has to suffer because of the protection afforded to another secondary industry.
– I suggest that the honorable member should not accept without question all that he is told.
– I am not in the habit of doing so; I do not accept as gospel all that the Minister tells me. When I first entered Parliament I made a practice of reading the circulars which I received from manufacturers and importers, but it was not long before I concluded that they were both closely related to Ananias.
– I hare here some samples of fittings over 2 inches in diameter which have been made in Australia.
– I am glad to see that they are now made in this country. By whom were they made?
– They were made by Tulloch’s Phoenix Iron Works, Sydney.
– I have not previously heard of that firm as a manufacturer of fittings. How long have they been manufacturing them?
– This is one of the new industries which has sprung up as a result of the tariff.
– Perhaps they have been manufactured since last August, when I had a conversation with one of the manufacturers’ touts who is frequently to be seen in this building - I think his name is Sullivan - in the course of which I told him that I intended to oppose the duty on fittings over 2 inches in diameter because they were not manufactured in Australia.
– The honorable member’s letter was dated April, 1930. This firm has been manufacturing these fittings for eight or nine months.
– I accept the Minister’s statement; but I point out that Australian fittings of 2 inches and over cannot be obtained in South Australia. The letter continues -
To make matters clear, I have set out the actual net c.i.f. ‘ prices. Port Adelaide, for Australian and overseas fittings, from which you will notice that the Australian price is 250 to 300 per cent, greater than the imported articles.
As far as I can ascertain, Weirs have not delivered any fittings over 2 inches on thi* market; they do not stock them, and will only quote for certain lines.
– What is the date of the letter ?
– It is dated 6th May, 1.931, and proceeds -
Considering that this tariff has been on for seventeen months, there has been ample time to flood the market with Weir fittings, but the fact remains that we have to pay this exorbitant rate of duty just to penalize industry, which has had the effect of hampering other allied industries, such as pump manufacture and general irrigation requisites. Weirs are reputed to be the only people attempting to make fittings over 2 inches in Australia, and they are not delivering. Apparently, they do not intend going for the market over 2 inches, and for this reason I think the duty should be removed. [Quorum formed.] I wish to place on record in Hansard two tables supplied by the proprietor of a secondary industry who imported fittings from Sweden and also obtained prices from Australian merchants and manufacturers. May I have the permission of the committee to incorporate them in Hansard? [Leave granted.] They are as follow: -
It will be seen that 8s. is the net c.i.f. price, Port Adelaide, of a 3-in. tee manufactured in Australia, whereas that of an imported 3-inch tee is 2s. 5d. Our market gardeners are saddled with the difference.
– By whom were those figures supplied?
– By the firm of Thomas J. Bromley, Hurtle-square, Adelaide. The invoices are here for the inspection of the honorable gentleman. It will be noted that a 3-inch Australian-made black bend costs 10s. 6d. c.i.f. Port Adelaide, and the imported article 3s. 2d., plus duty. I could give other examples. Possibly a few of these tees are now being made in Australia, but could the firm concerned supply 1,000 if they were needed to-morrow?
– What does the honorable member know about it?
– The factory is in his electorate.
– Now that the firm has made one, it could probably make more, butnot in quantity with any promptness. The important point is that the article can be obtained from overseas for onethird the price, or even less, that is charged for the Australian product. The primary producers are being penalized to an undue extent so. that these tees and bends may be manufactured here. I also have here the price lists of Andrew Thomson and Scougall Limited and Harris Scarfe Limited, which do not mention any Australian fitting that is over 2 inches in size, indicating that the Phoenix Company must be alone in its manufacture of the larger product. The biggest ironmongery business of this class in Adelaide does not stock any Australian-made fitting above 2 inches. I advise the Minister to let these firms know what the Phoenix Company is doing.
– Frequently, one firm manufactures one size, and a different firm another size..
– This list is dated the 1st November, 1930, and at that date Australian fittings over 2 inches were not procurable in Adelaide.
– Are the discount rates to which the honorable member has referred uniform to all consumers, or do they vary ?
– This firm was importing the articles that I have mentioned, and, apparently, received the rate that is general for all importers. I do not know what firms handling Australian-made articles have received in the way of dis-, count, other than the rates that I have mentioned. The firm to which I have referred is in touch with the market and was unable to obtain Australianmade products over 2 inches in diameter. I want to know why South Australian market gardeners have to pay from 200 per cent, to 300 per cent, more than is necessary for these commodities.’ Even if they are now being made in Australia, how many men are employed in their production? At the most, I suggest, two or three.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The further this debate has gone, the more interesting it has become. The differences of opinion among honorable members regarding the prices of these fittings, and the possibility of supplying the consumers, particularly the primary producers, are remarkable. Most of the argument has centered round the sizes of the fitting procurable in Australia. I do not propose to go over the ground already covered by the Minister (Mr. Forde), but for the information of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), I wish to say that the prices quoted for local fittings show that there has been a considerable saving to the users. It is a saving that can be maintained only by insuring that the market is fully protected for the local manufacturer. Indeed, the industry is prepared to say definitely that if the duties on wroughtiron and malleable fittings are extended to cover all sizes, the greater output obtainable will permit pf substantial reductions in prices. The honorable member has produced a price list, and has said that it makes no provision for fittings over 2 inches in size. I have the price list of .E. W. Fittings Limited. The firm was formerly Edward “Weir Limited, but all previous lists were cancelled on the 1st July, 1931. The firm says that it can supply the following articles up to 6 inches in size : -
Socket unions; two different kinds of elbows ; tees, crosses, sockets, plain and beaded; sockets reduced, flanges, backnuts hexagon nipples, bushes, and three different kinds of bends.
I have been informed by this firm that of fittings of 2 inches and over, it has in stock at present over £5,000 worth, and can supply all orders for articles exceeding 200 in number on six weeks’ notice. I am sure that will be cheering news to the honorable member for Angas.
– I am glad to know that those people have wakened up.
– If Australian industries were always condemned to the adverse criticism of honorable members opposite, and subjected to the policy they advocate, Australia would be nothing more than a producer of raw materials for other countries, whereas the desire of the present Government is to use the tariff as far as possible under present conditions to develop all sorts of secondary industries in order to create employment for the unfortunates who are out of work. That is one of the main purposes to be kept in view. I quote the following prices from the price list of E. W. Fillings Limited for 6-inch fittings: -
The above prices are all subject to 40 per cent. discount for galvanized and 50 per cent. for black.
– What is the idea of having such extraordinary discount rates? Why not quote a considerably reduced price?
– The firm will answer that. Two firms in Sydney hold in stock £22,000 worth of fittings of 2 inches and under, and can supply requirements almost immediately. I have already explained that in regard to fittings over 2 inches in size, the stocks on hand are worth £5,000, and that on six weeks’ notice an order for 200 articles or more can be supplied.
– Stocks valued at £5,000 would not go very far to supply Australia’s requirements.
– If some honorable members had their way, Australian stocks would go no distance at all. The honorable member is greatly concerned about the primary producers. So am I ; but I am just as much concerned about the unfortunate unemployed who have no prospect of getting work. Beyond the reasons already advanced by honorable members for opposing this schedule, there are others. I quote the following from the Statist of the 7th February, 1931, page 228:-
A further reasonable adjustment of the tariff cm galvanized sheets, tinned plates, iron and steel pipes, agricultural implements and machinery, electrical apparatus and cutlery, might, it is suggested, mean additional imports from Great Britain worth £10,000,000.
This might be regard as significant. Why should we import any of these when we have everything here needed for their manufacture? No one having any acquaintance with the overseas forces that control the output and distribution of pipes and pipe fittings could fail to recognize the significance of their price policy. These same forces are largely interested in, and control. the gas and water pipe industry. The price of pipe to the consumer in Australia, with no duty, has risen by 70 per cent. since 1927. Against this, the f.o.b. priceof fittings has decreased by 10 per cent. There are no local manufacturers of pipes or tubes. It is not difficult in the light of this fact to realize what prices in Australia would be for fittings were it not for the existence of local industry. The overseas tube and fitting cartel would supply the answer.
In regard to variety and size,I definitely challenge the statement that “ 5,000 different varieties and sizes of malleable fittings are carried in stock by importers and merchants in Australia, and that the range made locally only comprises 261 lines “. The actual range produced in Australia in black and galvanized malleable fittings covers not less than 763 lines. These provide for fully 99 per cent. of all trade requirements. The remaining 1 per cent. would represent a few odd lines of no material value, and which could be provided for by local manufacturers by the use of reducing bushes. To disprove the assertion that there are 5,000 varieties and sizes imported, let me state that at the close of 1929 the Australian agents for the well-known German B.S.I.G. fittings held stocks of a value of approximately £60,000. On being asked to submit a range of samples covering all sizes and types up to 2 inches only 119 lines were submitted. The agents for the Swiss G.F. fittings were also asked on the 9th May, 1930, for a complete list of all their fittings. This was furnished, and was found to comprise not more than 523 items, including 84 rail fittings. To show the value of this statement that 5,000 lines are required by the trade, let me state that½-in.,¾-in., and 1-in. tees and elbows - six lines only - represent 45 per cent. of the total sales of fittings up to and including 2 inches. Withregard to fittings over 2 inches in size, local firms are now not only meeting all demands, but are prepared to manufacture any additional lines that may he required, and to deliver them within a period of two months, provided that orders are placed for not less than 200 of any new
Size required. Such orders need not be from one merchant, but can be aggregated from all over Australia. It is claimed that no merchant will bother importing any single line of fittings if he cannot sell 200, spread over the whole of Australia. The Standards Association of Australia is arranging to decide on the patterns and sizes required tocater for the requirements of the trade in Australia, and the firms engaged in this industry undertake to conform fully to the schedule, as and when decided upon by this association. The extra patterns which they will be required to make, if any, will be negligible. Even as far back as 1927, the Tariff Board, in its report, expressed itself as satisfied that the local range of patterns was wide enough to meet all practical requirements. The position has vastly improved sincethen, and various testimonials are available from responsible firms showing that the local range is adequate for all requirements.
It is significantthat in almost every reference to the tariff certain honorable members allege that grave injury is being inflicted on the farmer by the local manufacturer. More often than not this is merely the concealed propaganda of importing interests. In the present instance the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) stated that the farmer installing pumps, windmills, &c., and irrigating his land, is a particularly heavy loser by these duties. The honorable member forWarringah (Mr. Parkhill), in his speech on the 6th August stated that these duties imposed an almost intolerable burden on the primary producer.
The plain truth is that the farmer, as a direct result of the protective policy, is buying his fittings at a lower price to-day than ever he has done in the past.
The statements by these same critics that the ad valorem equivalent of the specific duties imposed on fittings ranges from 200 per cent. to 700 per cent., represent a highly original system of mathematics entirely their own. As a matter of fact, the duties imposed, with the exception of certain odd fittings, would not average more than 100 per cent, ad valorem. For the most part the odd lines referred to would consist of heavy cast-iron fittings. These would represent not more than 1 per cent. of total sales, and their weight is such that even under the old duties they were imported and sold. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) quoted complaints from certain merchants.
– The complaint that I quoted was from a secondary industry proprietor - a pump-maker.
– He is also an importer.
– He imports only fittings for his own machines.
– Let me quote one short letter which is typical of more than a dozen which I have received, showing how these merchants have been approached by the manufacturers, and other responsible persons, regarding the quality of the Australian article, and its suitability for their trade. The letter reads - 161 Clarence-street, Sydney, 31st August, 1931.
In reply to your inquiry as to our estimate of the comparison in sales of fittings½-in., ¾-in. and1 -in with the balance of sizes, we are of opinion that the sales for½-in.,¾-in. and 1-in represent60 per cent.
Yours faithfully, scruttonslimited,
I have similar letters from Swans Limited, Thomas McPherson and Son, Briscoe and Company Limited, Thomas H. Harvey and Sons. The following letter deals, with one or two different aspects : - 493 Kent-street, Sydney, 31st August, 1931,
In reply to your inquiry as to the ratio of sales of½-in.,¾ -in. and 1-in tees and elbows, compared to the sale of all other fittings up to 2 inches, we would say that in our business the above-mentioned fittings would represent about 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. of our total fitting sales. Our business is largely an engineering one: we would think that in a business dealing mostly with the plumbing trade that the proportion would be considerably higher than the above, probably up to 80 per cent.
Thomas McPherson and Son,
Per H. V. McPherson.
One is entitled to compare the conditions in Australia with those obtaining elsewhere. The iron and steel industry claims that its real difficulties arise from overseas competition in respect of working conditions, hours and wages, but in addition to the. difference of approximately 100 per cent. between British and Australian wages, the local industry further asserts that continental iron and steel are being poured in to England, and later enter Australia under the British preferential duties. We have reason to believe that that is happening, and that it causes unemployment first to British workers, and then to Australians. Those of us who look, not without hope, I trust, to the efforts of the International Labour Bureau to bring about a universal improvement of conditions in respect of hours and wages, must in the meantime declare emphatically that the low wages and long hours still being worked in Europe, as well as the sliding scale system of fixing wages adopted generally throughout England, in which there is no provision for a minimum wage, do not appeal to Australians. I have spent a lifetime in the iron and steel industry, and I know that the men employed in the malleable steel works at Marrickville are highly efficient and give loyal service to the firm and through it to the Commonwealth. Representatives of country constituencies are continually asserting that the primary producers are entitled to consideration and protection. I agree with them, and I ask them to extend the same consideration to the workmen who have lost their employment in other industries, and are looking to the production of malleable steel fittings to provide work for them. Serious though the plight of the farmer may be he is not suffering nearly so much as are men in the secondary industries who have lost their all.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -
Churns other than hand churns.
Crude Petroleum, Enriched Crude Petroleum, once-run Distillate, and Petrol.
Gas Cooking and Heating Appliances.
Incandescent Electric Lamps.
Manufactures of Paper, Manufactured Stationery and Books.
Porcelainware, including Insulators, for Electrical purposes.
Refrigerators and Refrigerator Parts.
Timber used in the manufacture of containers for canned and fresh fruits for export.
Wall and Ceiling Parts and Decorations.
Wrapping Paper and Paper Bags.
Ordered to be printed.
Commonwealth Bank Act- Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1931, and Statement of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department at 30th June, 1931 ; together with the AuditorGeneral’s Reports thereon.
Aircraft LoveBird - Report by the Air Accidents Investigation Committee on the accident to the Aircraft Love Bird.
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules . 1931, No. 115.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 114.
Gold Bounty Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 116.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court - Dated 8th September,1931.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1931 -
No. 4 - Navigation.
No. 5 - Wireless Telegraphy.
No. 6 - Customs (Export) Tariff.
No. 7 - Customs (General Import. Duty).
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1931 -
No. 16 - Trading Hours.
No. 17 - Fish Protection (No. 2).
No. 18- Public Baths (No. 2).
Public Baths Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Trading Hours Ordinance - Regulations.
Readmission of Mr. J. A. Alexander to Press Gallery - Unbranded Galvanized Iron: Distribution of Lysaght’s Product in Queensland : Brett and Company : Shares Held in the Company by Hon. E. G. Theodore, M.P. - Timber Imports by Vanikoro Timber Company.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have been requested to reconsider the position of Mr. J. A. Alexander with a view to his re-admission to the precincts of the House of Representatives , and the press gallery. Having received from that gentleman a satisfactory letter, I have issued instructions that he be again admitted to the precincts of the House and the press gallery from to-morrow.
– On Friday last, on the adjournment of the House, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) made a statement in reply to the remarks I had made concerning Lysaght Limited during the discussion of the duties on galvanized iron. The honorable gentleman did not extend to me the courtesy of an intimation that he proposed to speak on the subject, and consequently, I had not time on Friday, in the hurry of the adjournment, to state the full facts. Since then, however, I have made further inquiries into the matter.
Speaking on the tariff schedule, I said -
The mills at Newcastle manufacture a certain quantity of sheets which are classed as “ defective “, and the better quality of those are classified as “ unbranded “. Soon after the embargo was imposed upon the importation of ganvanized iron, arrangements were made that all defective sheets, and 24-gauge unbranded sheets for the Queensland market should first be offered to Brett and Company. Of course, all distributors would like to obtain a proportion of these, which are quite suitable for various types of work. They are sold at very much lower prices than good sheets, and at a fair profit to the distributors. Since the arrangement was made, Queensland distributing houses have not had an opportunity to purchase any of these sheets until Messrs. Brett and Company have made whatever purchases they desire, and I understand they have invariably taken the lot. This one firm, therefore, has a monopoly of the sale of this particular class of galvanized iron, which is the cheapest available.
That statement the Minister contradicted. I repeat that Brett and Company receive from Lysaght Limited the first offer of all unbranded corrugated iron that is sent to Queensland.
– Order ! I cannot permit the honorable member to revive a discussion on any matter that has already been decided by the House, or to anticipate the discussion on any matter yet to come before theHouse.
– I do not intend to do so in either way. The Minister’s statement on Friday, and the supporting telegrams which he quoted, wade no reference to my assertion that the unbranded galvanized iron sent to Queensland is first offered to Brett and
Company. The telegrams stated that certain other firms in Queensland had purchased this iron. The facts are that Lysaght Limited have an arrangement to offer first to Brett and Company any defective or slightly defective sheets. Brett and Company can “ pick the eyes “ out of what is available, and the remainder is sold to anybody who willbuy it. It is therefore quite positive that other firms were offered, and bought, that which Brett and Company refused to take. It is interesting to note that the sale of over 60 tons of unbranded 26-gauge corrugated iron made to Brett and Company in May last was the first sale of a large quantity of this material out ofNew South Wales. Any one of several Sydney firms would have purchased it.
– How does the honorable member know this?
-I have taken the trouble to ascertain the facts. I was therefore justified in stating that Brett and Company have a virtual monopoly of the sale of this class of galvanized iron.
The Minister for Trade and Customs mentioned a Mr. H. R. Rich, who, he suggested, was a trading rival of Lysaght Limited.
– I quoted a telegram which I had received.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The telegram was from Brett and Company and referred to Mr. Rich as “Rich and Company”. This man is not a company. He is a private indi- . vidual who is one of the smaller mercantile brokers of Sydney.
– The honorable member must have engaged a policeman to uncover all these particulars.
– I have been my own policeman in this case. These are the facts so far as Mr. Rich is concerned. He is merely a private individual broker, and prior to this particular sale had not handled these unbranded galvanized iron sheetsbut only those classified as defective. He has only been brought into the business, I suggest, so that Lysaght’s might have a reply to make to Sydney firms which, for a long time, have wanted to buy the materials sold to Brett and Company. Messrs. Fox Brothers, of Sydney, were also mentioned by the Minister, as a firm which purchases Lysaght’s products.” As a matter of fact, Fox Brothers have a contract with Lysaght’s for the total output of their 24-gauge corrugated unbranded sheets. They also manufacture downpipes and guttering in competition with other firms, which hitherto have had an opportunity to buy imported sheet’s should they be cheaper than those manufactured locally. It is considered that this competition by Fox Brothers is unfair, because, according to the share register, the majority of the shares in this company are held by members of the English firm of Guest, Keen and Nettlefold, who, in turn, have a large share in. the control of Lysaght’s. The facts are clearly as stated by me, despite all the Minister’s telegrams and denials. I mentioned that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) had a large holding of shares in Brett and Company, Brisbane. This was denied by the honorable gentleman.
– I denied that I held 12,000 shares in that company.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Then the point at issue now is merely the number of shares held by the honorable member. I have a letter from Brett and Company in which they say, referring to the Treasurer, that individual shareholders know nothing about the internal organization of the company. That, therefore, definitely establishes the Treasurer as a shareholder in Brett’s companies. These are the facts: The firm of B. C. Brett and Company, Brisbane, has interests in three subsidiary companies, namely, Brett’s Wharfsand Stevedoring, the Manumbar Timber Company, and the Brisbane Saw Mills. The shareholders of all these companies are practically the same, and all these concerns are administered from the same office. I had the latest share list examined on Saturday morning last, and the information disclosed fully bears out my statement in the House on Friday afternoon. The share returns in the share registerat the Supreme Court, Brisbane, on the 19th September, show that Mr. Theodore holds 3,500 shares in Brett’s Wharfs and Stevedoring; 3,447 in B. C. Brett and Company, Brisbane; 930 in Manumbar Timber Company, and 4,877 shares in Brisbane Saw Mills Limited, total 12,754. There can be no disputing of these facts. What justification was there, in the circumstances, for the Treasurer to persist in bellowing, as he did on Friday last, that my statements were untrue? I had then copies of the lists of shareholders up till the end of last year, and I have since fortified myself by obtaining the latest particulars from the certified share register. As for. the inference to be drawn from the facts as disclosed, I left that to the House.
– Shame on you !
– Order !
– I only add in that regard thatI subscribe to the view expressed by the late Viscount Asquith who, in 1912, formulated what he described as “Rules of Positive Obligation” with respect to the conduct of Ministers of the Crown. The Annual Register for 1913 summarizes the code in these words -
A Minister ought not to enter into any transaction involving, even conceivably, a conflict of private interests and public duty; or use official information for his own or his friends’ private profit; or put himself under temptation to use his official influence in support of schemes or contracts in which he had undisclosed private interests; or accept any kind of favour from persons in negotiation with or seeking to enter into contractual or pecuniary relations with the Government; and Ministers should scrupulously avoid speculative investments as to which they have an advantage over others in anticipating market changes.
What is good enough for Great Britain should, I hope, be good enough for Australia, or, at least, for all members of this Parliament, irrespective of what may be the rule in Queensland. These are the facts which I wish to bring before the House, and, in view of their substantiation, I consider that I was most unfairly charged by the Treasurer with scandalmongering.
– So it is.
– I have not been scandal-mongering in this matter.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will recall that, on Friday last, I required the Treasurer to with- draw that statement ; the honorable member, therefore, will not be in order now in referring to it.
– I understood your ruling, sir, on Friday last, to relate to the Treasurer’s interjection that what I said was a lie.
– And to the other statement as well.
– As a member of His Majesty’s Opposition, I see no reason why I should not refer to these matters. Let me also remind the House that it is only lately that members of the Labour party have become so nervous and thin-skinned. They did not hesitate to attack the previous Government in connexion with the Kidman land tax case, the Kidman-Mayoh shipping contract, the payment of £300,000 to the wool-growers, or the dropping of the Abrahams’ prosecution. In connexion with all these matters all sorts of personal motives were imputed to Ministers. Now these “ Simon pures “, including even the Prime Minister himself, hold up their hands in holy horror because I have produced certain facts relating to a virtual monopoly that was given to a certain Brisbane firm in which, with its subsidiary companies, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth has a holding of nearly 13,000 shares.
– I take this opportunity to reply to the innuendoes of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), and to correct certain statements made by him on Friday last and reiterated this evening. When he was speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday I endeavoured to correct, in the most courteous way possible, his statement that I held 12,000 shares in Brett and Company, a hardware company distributing galvanized iron in Queensland. I interjected that I did not hold 12,000 shares, as he alleged, in that company. It is true that I hold some 3,000 shares.
Mr.Nairn. - The Treasurer did not mention that fact on Friday last.
– I did not have the opportunity to do so. It was surely not necessary for me to mention how many shares I held in Brett and Company. The honorable member said he had the number of shares held by me as disclosed in the register of the company for last year, and now he says he has a more recent list.
– But last Friday the honorable gentleman characterized my statement as a lie.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Warringah to restrain himself.
– The honorable member need have gone no further than to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to obtain precise information as to how many shares I held. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had also busied himself in finding out how many shares I held in the company.
– I had not. I ascertained from the press the fact that the honorable member was a shareholder.
– Is that the only way in which the honorable member ascertained the information?
– No; I was also informed of it from Queensland after I had read of it in the press. Every one in Australia knew it.
– The honorable member for Warringah need not have made any mysteryof the number of shares I held in the company; he could have learned from the Deputy Leader of his own party the number of shares I held in these companies over a number of years, since that honorable gentleman had been informed from Queensland as to the number.
– I saw the statement in the press, and was reminded of it by a telegram from Queensland.
– Will the Deputy Leader of the Opposition be good enough to say who reminded him ?
– Oh !
– I shall tell the honorable member why it is significant. I happen to know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did make inquiries. I have the telegram which was sent to him.
-i made no inquiries about the matter.
– Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition remember this telegram which was addressed to him, as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, by Mr. Moore, the Premier of Queensland
– I received a telegram from Mr. Moore ; that is the only one I have received.
– I do not say that the honorable gentleman has received any other on the subject. Let us see whether or not this telegram does not confirm my statement that the honorable member for “Warringah could have obtained this information without making any mystery of it. The telegram was sent to the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the 17th August, 1929, on the eve of the election held in that year, and about the time that. the information was broadcast from political platforms throughout Australia. It reads -
Pound shares held by Theodore, Queensland, timber companies up to 12th September, 1928, Brett and Company Limited, three thousand forty-seven; Brisbane Sawmills Limited, four thousand eight hundred seventyseven; Manumbar Timber Company Limited, eight hundred eighty-five.
The telegram is signed “ Moore, Premier.” I suppose Mr. Moore busies himself with finding out what shares in public companies are held by prominent members of the Federal Labour Party, and then wires to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Is that what we are expected to believe, or are we to believe that this telegram was in answer to an inquiry from the honorable member for Kooyong, to be used for political purposes? Are honorable members on this side of the House not to have investments in public companies? Is there something immoral ‘in honorable members on this side of the chamber holding shares in public companies? The honorable member for “Warringah quoted a statement of the late Viscount Asquith as to what should be required of Ministers of the Crown with respect to speculations and investments, and the rule therein laid down is no doubt a sound one. But does the honorable member suggest that I recently acquired interests in companies like these in some secret, undisclosed manner, for the purpose of private gain arising out of my special knowledge as a Minister?
– My interests in these companies were acquired before I became a member of the Federal Parliament and, therefore, of course, before I became a member of the Ministry. The point on which I sought to correct the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) when he was speaking on Friday had regard to the number of shares I held in Brett and Company, a hardware firm. Surely the number of shares I hold in the Brisbane Sawmilling Company, or the Manumbar Timber Company, neither of which has anything to do with galvanized iron or any other hardware, could not be apposite to the matter he was raising.
– The shareholders are practically the same and the work of the two companies is conducted in the same office.
– They are not, nor are they dealing with the same business. They are separate, incorporated companies, but certain persons may be shareholders in each of them. There are approximately 50,000 shares in Brett and Company, of which I hold 3,000, some odd hundred, or about a one-sixteenth interest. The honorable member for Warringah alleged that I held about a one-fourth interest.
– I did not allege anything of the sort.
– The honorable member at least implied that, since he said that I held 12,000 of the 50,000 shares in the company. I attempted to correct the honorable member, but he would not allow himself to be’ corrected when I interjected. Even if I had held the interest he alleges, what is it that he imputes against me? That because I am a shareholder in Brett and Company I have used some sinister influence with the Minister for Trade and Customs to get a specially high protective duty placed upon galvanized iron, so that out of some indirect benefit that Brett and Company might win from that duty, I would obtain some pecuniary gain? The quantity of galvanized iron manufactured or imported and distributed in Australia is over 100,000 tons. I think that the quantity manufactured locally has been about 60,000 tons a year, but the quantity normally used in Australia is over 100,000 tons. The infantile suggestion made by the honorable member for Warringah is that I have endeavoured to increase the price of galvanized iron, by securing an increase in the duty, because Brett and
Company which, he alleges, has some monopolistic rights in the matter of the distribution in Queensland of an inferior grade of iron, unbranded, would make a higher profit, so that I, as a shareholder in the company, would get some pecuniary advantage. The suggestion is too puerile and preposterous for commonsense men to consider for a moment. The Minister adequately replied to that point in the communication which he read to the House, showing that Brett and Company have not a monopoly of the distribution of unbranded galvanized iron in Queensland. To-night the honorable member says that Brett and Company, during one month in this year, had 60 tons of unbranded iron out of a total production of 60,000 tons manufactured in Australia.
– There is not a production of 60,000 tons of unbranded iron.
– I did not say that, but the duty would apply to the total output of 60,000 tons, and that is the charge which the honorable member is making.
– This is not the only activity with which the Treasurer is associated.
– The honorable member is so ungenerous that, when an adequate explanation is made in reply to the unwarranted conclusions of his peculiar mind, he will not accept that explanation.
– Not in the way the Treasurer gives it.
– He said to-night that he had received a letter from Brett and Company, and made some allusion to a paragraph stating that I am a shareholder in the company.
– I did.
– He did not read the letter.
– It was too puerile.
– I received a copy of that letter yesterday; the original was sent to the honorable member. It is dated 19th September, 1931, and reads -
The writer noticed in the pressyour reference to Mr. Theodore and this company. I respectfully wish to say that both state ments are incorrect. I am sure my company would feel very proud to hold Lysaght’s sole distributing agency for the material you mention. We are ordinary distributers, the same as so many other hardware firms here. Mr. J. G. Bayley, the member for Oxley, can vouch for that. The reflection you cast was very unfortunate,”and I do say in all sincerity that Mr. Theodore should be cleared in the matter. A shareholder knows nothing about the internal organization, and that is naturally obvious to you. If you are satisfied with my denial, it will be gracious on your part to do the right thing.
– The letter indicates that the honorable member is reckless in his statements. His only concern, apparently, is to attempt to blacken the character of his political opponents. That seems to me what actuated the honorable member. If his statement were an attempt to expose an irregularity or an improper action, the position would be different; it is undoubtedly the right of any member to expose such things. If the honorable member were convinced that something required explanation he should have been only too anxious to have the explanation, and if it we’re satisfactory to accept it. He has not dealt with this matter in that generous way. I tried to make an explanation on Friday.
– The honorable member said my statement was a lie.
– The honorable member said that I held 12,000 odd shares in Brett and Company, and in spite of my denial, he continued to assert it.
– And I still assert it.
– I then called attention to the honorable member’s inaccurate statement in a pointed way. The honorable member has been most ungenerous; he has shown no chivalry whatever, but has displayed himself as a mere muck-raker in this House.
.- It is unfortunate that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth (Mr. Theodore) has to make so many explanations, but on this occasion, at least, we may regard ourselves as lucky that an explanation has been given. The substance of the statement made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) was that the Treasurer was largely interested in a certain company. Everybody who was in the House when the honorable member made that statement heard the Treasurer say, “ It is a lie “. Now, the Treasurer comes along with an explanation. He says that his holding of shares was not 12,754, but 3,447. If that statement satisfies the mind of any honorable member of the House, all I can say is that he is easily satisfied indeed.
However, I did not rise for the purpose of canvassing this matter, and, indeed, would not have risen at all had not the Treasurer made reference to the fact that on the date which he mentioned, and which I assume is correct, namely, August, 1929, I was informed of his share holdings by telegram by the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Moore. That is so. According to my recollection, that telegram was sent at the time when the timber strike was under discussion.
– At the time of the general election.
– I found out at the time of the general election, if the Treasurer desires to know.
– The election was held on the 12th October. I have forgotten just when the House rose. It is true that the telegram was sent some weeks before the general election. My recollection is that it was conceived by Mr. Moore that it might have some bearing on the timber strike. I had no communication with Mr. Moore on this subject before that time, nor have I had any since. I merely received the telegram, which was unsolicited by me. My impression at the time was that it was sent in connexion with the timber strike. I did not act on it. I did not use it. I did not refer, to it. I was not interested in it. Later, during the general election, the Treasurer, in a public speech, which was reported in the press, made the charge that I was making some inquiry into his private affairs. He has now produced a copy of the telegram. I wonder how he became aware of its existence during the election campaign? According to my recollection, I showed ii. at the time only to the Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce. I certainly did not show it to any honorable member of the House.
– The honorable gentleman’s recollection is at fault in the matter.
– I should like to know how the Treasurer obtained information about this telegram.
– It was a telegram addressed to the Attorney-General and was in the department.
– I am interested to know how the Treasurer obtained information about it during the election campaign. I evidently left it behind me in the department, because it was addressed to me as Attorney-General. If I had been asked off-hand, I would not have known whether it was addressed to “ J. G. Latham “, or to the Attorney-General. I had no recollection of how it was addressed, but because it was addressed to the Attorney-General I presume that I naturally left it behind in the department. But how did the Treasurer become aware of it about election time, before he became associated with any government department, so that he could use it as the basis for the suggestion that I had been making inquiries into his private affairs? As a matter of fact, I have not at any time, directly or indirectly, made any inquiries into the private affairs of the Treasurer.
– I have proof that the honorable member has done so.
– I have no interest in the matter at all.
– The honorable member was one of those responsible for an officer of the Queensland Taxation Department investigating my taxation account.
– I have no knowledge of what has been done by the taxation officers. They are sworn to secrecy, and so far as I am concerned, they have always honoured that obligation. I have never sought to make them break it. Of course, it would be a perfectly reasonable thing for the Taxation Department to inquire whether any person supposed to have received profits from Mungana had paid income tax on such profits. I wonder whether they have done so. 1 should like to know whether Reid, Goddard or MacCormack or others have paid income tax on profits received from Mungana; but I have no means of knowing. This suggestion of the Treasurer is apparently designed to throw a smoke screen across the matter raised by the honorable member for “Warringah. The suggestion that I have made some secret or private inquiries about the Treasurer is entirely unfounded. There is not even the shadow of a beginning of a foundation for it. If there were anything private or secret about that telegram - I say that there ‘was not and that it was an unsolicited telegram addressed to me as Attorney-General - I would not have left it on the file in the AttorneyGeneral’s office, which is the source from which the Treasurer says he obtained his information.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), in the course of a debate on galvanized iron last Thursday evening, made certain statements which caused people who read them in the press to be astounded that such insinuations should be made by a public man. No doubt they lend strength to the opinion that a lot of decent men will not enter public life, because some members descend to this kind of thing. The honorable mem.ber for Warringah has made a statement to-night that Fox Brothers have a monopoly in Sydney of the distribution of Lysaght’s unbranded galvanized iron.
– I said 24- gauge iron.
– There is a representative of Lysaght Limited in the vicinity of this House. As soon as the honorable member made his statement about Fox Brothers, it was given an absolute’ denial. Furthermore, some one has been in touch with the New South Wales manager of Lysaght (Australia) Limited, and I have bi’en furnished with facts which com pletely contradict the statements made by the honorable member. These are as follows : -
That statement has been confirmed by Mr. Davies, manager for New South Wales of John Lysaght (Australia) Limited.
I have also received the following telegram from Mr. Herbert Lysaght, Chairman of Directors of John Lysaght (Australia) Limited : -
Have nothing further to add to statement already furnished re Brett and Company. We have given them no preference, and no member of our company had at any time knowledge as to who Bretts’ shareholders were, nor would it have influenced our policy in any way.
That message was addressed to me as Minister for Trade and Customs. I have also received the following telegrams : -
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.
I have received the following telegram from the managing director of John Lysaght (Australia) Limited :-
We have supplied during the past twelve months twenty-six gauge unbranded galvanized roofing iron to the following Brisbane buyers: - Brett, Baldwins, Blane, Campbell, Horsburgh, Jeays, Podmore, Sachs, Watson, Wilson, Tait. Sachs have purchased 30 tons of unbranded sheets in addition to the quantities of these sheets they purchased through Baldwins. We have also supplied during the last twelve months other gauges and descriptions of unbranded galvanized iron to the above-mentioned houses. Whenever we had any unbranded iron available for the Queensla,nd market we have always offered a quote to Sachs 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 20-gauge galvanized corrugated iron we have ever sold
Bretts consisted of 3-feet lengths which are extremely difficult tofinda market for. We have actually sold to Sachs more 26-gauge unbranded galvanized corrugated iron this year than to Brett.
Brett and Company, of Brisbane, Laving read the statements by the honorable member for Warringah, telegraphed me as follows: -
Reference press reports concerningParkhill’s statement regarding Lysaght’sand ourselves. Allegation that we are Lysaght’s sole agents absolutely incorrect. Our requirements unbranded could not be met by Lysaght’s therefore had to purchase considerable quantities from Rich and Company and Fox Brothers both of Sydney. Other firms here have received as much or more direct from Lysaghts as we have.
Those telegrams speak for themselves. If I. ever misrepresent an honorable member, when proved to be wrong, I shall be prepared to accept his explanation, and not try to perpetuate a wrong. I leave it to honorable members to say whether the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has acted in a manly way.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has invited us to bring matters under the notice of the House, if we think that there are any suspicious circumstances connected with them. I draw attention to the case of the Vanikoro Kauri Timber Company. This is a Victorian company operating in the Solomon Islands. It imports Kauri logs into Australia, and they are landed mostly at Sydney and Melbourne. In June, last year, the duty was increased to 30 per cent. against that company, yet a company operating in British North Borneo, and importing similar timber, has to pay only a 10 per cent. duty.
– Is that Charley Marr’s outfit?
– Perhaps it is the sandalwood concern of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green).
– I do not know; I make no insinuation. Since this company has repeatedly approached honorable members, having sent a representative to Canberra repeatedly, and since its secretary resides in my electorate, and has brought the matter under my notice, I again direct the attention of the “Go vernment to it. The company was formerly permitted to bring the logs to Melbourne, and saw them into planks in bond, but even that concession has now been withdrawn. This company has to land its, timber in planks, and pay a duty of 30 per cent. ad valorem, whereas a company operating nearer Queensland is allowed to land its goods at 10 per cent.
– Is the Vanikoro Company an Australian concern?
– Entirely ; the whole of its capital has been found in Australia. Burns, Philp and Company are paid a subsidy of £9,000 a year by the Commonwealth Government to trade to the Solomon Islands, but its ships are getting very little cargo there, because the Vanikoro Company’s logs are shut out. I raised this subject on the Estimates, when the subsidy to Burns, Philp and Company was under consideration, but no explanation has been given why discrimination has been shown in the treatment extended to these two companies.
– Do the two duties apply to the same class of timber?
– I believe so. Let me read the following quotation relating to the operations of the company: -
Vanikoro kauri docs not compete to any extent with Australian limbers, as it is a softwood, and practically identical with New Zealand kauri ; and, though New Zealand might benefit should Vanikoro kauri cease to come to Australia, there would be little or any benefit gained by the local saw-milling industry. . . . Logs from British Borneo are allowed into Australia at the rate of 10 per cent. ad valorem, and whilst it is claimed that there is no justification for the imposition of any duty on Vanikoro logs, the rate should certainly not be in excess of the preferential rate allowed on timbers imported from British Borneo.
In the last letter I received from the company it was stated that, as the result of the Government’s withdrawal of the permission to saw the logs in bond, about 50 persons had lost their employment in Melbourne and Sydney. On more than one occasion I have drawn the attention of the Minister to this matter, and he has promised to bring it under the notice of the Government. I now ask him why this discrimination has been shown, and whether the tariff will be satisfactorily adjusted?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310923_reps_12_132/>.