12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Yesterday the Treasurer informed the House that if the interest on the external loans of the Commonwealth were reduced to 4 per cent., a saving of about £5,000,000 would be effected in respect of interest, and of £6,500,000 in respect of interest, plus exchange.Has the Government commenced negotiations for the reduction of the interest rates on the overseas debt?
– The possibility of obtaining relief in respect of the external public debt of the Commonwealth has been discussed by the Loan Council, and is at present under the consideration of the Government. No definite proposal has yet been made, nor am I in a position at the presenttime to make any further statement on the subject.
Cancellation of £34,000,000 Agreement
– Are negotiations in progress between the British Government and the Government of the Commonwealth for the cancellation of the £34,000,000 agreement?
– Yes. The matter was discussed at the Premiers Conference, which unanimously agreed that the Commonwealth should negotiate with the Government of the United Kingdom for the cancellation of the agreement.
– I ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether the Government has yet arrived at a decision regarding the redistribution of seats, and whether any proposed alterations will take effect before the next election ?
– I hope to be able to make a statement on that subject in the near future.
– Having regard to the present difficulties connected with international finance and Great Britain’s departure from the gold standard, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of appointing a committee to investigate the possibility of the remonetization of silver ?
– The matter is one to which consideration can be given.
– Has the Minister for Health seen the statement published in the Queanbeyan Age of the loth September -
In fact, in replying to a deputation from the Queanbeyan Hospital Board lately, a Minister informed them thatthey (the federal authorities) have no desire to see interlopers from beyond the frontier coming into the Territory on business, and that this was not his individual opinion, it is the view of the Cabinet.
Bad as the Chief Commissioner was, he never spoke of the boundary of the Territory as the frontier.
As federation made the citizens of a State citizens of the whole Commonwealth, is there any basis for the statement I have quoted, or any desire on the part of the Commonwealth Government to keep citizens of New South “Wales out of the Federal Capital Territory ?
– The paragraph quoted by the honorable member had not previously come under my notice. I made no such statement as is there reported. Cabinet does not regard the boundary of the Federal Capital Territory as restricting the movements of non-residents. The people of Queanbeyan, or of any other part of Australia, are as free as the birds of the air to enter the Federal Capital Territory.
– Because of the decline in property values and the difficulty experienced by the owners of war service homes in’ meeting instalments of principal and interest, will the Minister in charge of War Service Homes urge Cabinet to agree that Government bonds shall be accepted in payment of amounts due to the commission in the same way as they are accepted in payment of probate dues?
– Various requests have been made that bonds should be accepted in payment of war service homes instalments, and also income tax; but the Treasurer has indicated that such a practice would be tantamount to the creation of a new form of currency, and I understand that honorable members opposite are not at all in favour of inflation of any kind.
– Has the Treasurer seen a reference in newspaper cablegrams to the fact that paper currency is to take the place of gold coin in the United Kingdom, and that America is endeavouring to export its surplus gold, realizing that a large quantity of stagnant bullion lying in vaults is a delusion and a snare? Will the Treasurer take steps to insure that no gold is allowed to lie idle inthe vaults of the Commonwealth Bank?
– Great Britain’s departure from the gold standard, and the possibility of other countries following her example, may lead to the conclusion that gold will have less utility for monetary purposes in future than it has had in the past.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Last Thursday I directed a question to the Prime Minister concerning a broadcast speech delivered in Perth on the18th August last by Senator the right honorable Sir George Pearce. Later on that day the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) read a telegram to the House in which Senator Pearce denied having introduced controversial matters ‘into the speech to which I referred, which was broadcast by 6WF, an A class transmitting station. The Prime Minister intimated that he would cause inquiries to be made into the matter. On the 17th September last I wrote to the Postmaster-General on the subject, and, in fairness to Senator Pearce, I shall read to the House the reply that was forwarded to me by the Minister. In the course of my letter I asked certain specific questions. The first was -
Who arranged for the broadcasting of this speech delivered by Sir George Pearce?
The Postmaster-General’s answer was -
Approval was given by the department to the manager of the broadcasting station.
The remaining questions and answers were as follows : -
The honorable gentleman amplified his reply by stating-
The reports indicate that the speech whieb was broadcast was delivered at a meeting in the Town Hall convened by the Lord Mayor, upon petition from the ratepayers on the federal rehabilitation plan, and the steps to be taken to ensure success of the conversion loan. The application was made to the manager of the broadcasting station, who, in turn, referred it to the responsible officials of this department in Perth. Only very short notice was given and, after preliminary inquiries, permission for the broadcasting was given, regard being paid to the fact that Sir George Pearce had been brought into consultation with the Prime Minister in connexion with the loan conversion. An undertaking was given that the address would be non-political, and responsible officers of this department in Perth, who heard the speech broadcast, expressed the view that it was non-political in character.
I based my question upon information supplied to me by Mr. Barker, the General Secretary of the Australian
Labour Party, in Perth. If any construction that may be placed upon my question does injustice to SenatorPearce, I unreservedly withdraw it. I had no firsthand information on the subject, and acted entirely on that supplied to me. I have but to add that last Monday I received a telegram from Mr. O. P. Fry, the editor of the Perth Sunday Times, who, apparently, had had his attention drawn to the matter by press statements of what occurred in this House last Thursday. It reads -
Listened in whole Pearce conversion speech. Was amazed at political colouring. Your complaint justified.
I have no means of personally determining the issue, and I feel that 1 can do nothing more than accept the statement contained in the reply furnished by the Postmaster-General to my question. However much that may conflict with the opinion of the editor of the Perth Sunday Times, I regret that I should have placed Senator Pearce in an invidious position. I acted upon information supplied to me, not only by the editor of the Perth Sunday Times, but also bya number of other quite responsible citizens who are of the opinion that the text of the speech that was broadcast was highly political in character.
– Yesterday, I had the following question placed on the noticepaper, directed to the Minister for Home Affairs: -
Whether he has yet completed the consideration of the reports of the commissioners on the proposed re-distribution of electoral boundaries, if so, will the next Commonwealth general elections be conducted on the present or amended boundaries?
The reply was the one word, “ Deferred Will the Minister explain precisely what the word “ Deferred “ is intended to convey ?
– It intimates that the answer to the question is deferred, and will be supplied later.
– In view of the questions which have been asked by honorable members regarding the gold standard, will the Prime Minister cause inquiries to be made, and inform the House who was really responsible for the manifesto on the subject that appeared inthe Sydney Morning Herald recently?
– I do not know what manifesto the honorable member refers to.
– I have received from the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The necessity for securing at the earliest possible moment an Australian Government controlling a majority in both Houses of the Federal Parliament which will be able to handle with confidence, certainty, and swiftness, in concert with the National Government of Great Britain, the constantly changing emergencies of their common crisis.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I do not think it necessary to apologize for breaking in upon the tariff debate, which is at present concerned with the establishing of a manufacture of sewing machines and other Australian industries, with a motion which will compel the attention of this Parliament for a short time to the world-wide significance of recent political and financial events. At the moment the British Empire as a whole, and the individual units comprising the British Commonwealth of Nations, are passing through a financial and commercial crisis of unparalleled severity, a crisis which menaces the very existence and progress of our Empire as much as did the. military crisis of the Great War. England, which for some 250 years has been the centre of world finance, has been forced off the gold standard, largely as the result of its post-war efforts to effect the reconstruction of Europe and the permanent peace of the world generally. I believe that history will record that, great as were the achievements of Great Britain during the war, her post-war achievements must rank even higher.
During the past twelve years, Britain has been willing to forgo payment of the amounts due to her by her allies in the Great War, and . at the same time she has made desperate efforts to pay the debts she has incurred .both on her own behalf and on their behalf. She has, too, been generous in giving both gold and credit to the ex-enemy countries ‘of Germany and Austria, as well as to other Central European powers. Her present position is due to her having granted long-term loans to other countries to such an extent that she has been forced to borrow on short terms for her own needs. Britain may be likened to a millionaire who, although possessing enormous assets, is almost unable to find the ready cash to pay for a tram ride. The President of the Board of Trade, speaking in London recently, said that the external foreign investments of Great Britain totalled £3,438,000,000; but notwithstanding those huge investments abroad, Britain to-day finds difficulty in laying her hand on a few million pounds in gold.
The position of Australia is inextricably intertwined with that of Britain. Australia owes to the Mother Country about £550,000,000 on long terms, and another £40,000,000 on short terms. The serious financial position of Britain may make the British financiers look to Australia for an earlier redemption of her short-term indebtedness than otherwise would have been necessary. We have already in this, country an army of 300,000 unemployed. Whether that number will be increased or decreased depends largely on the position which will develop in Great Britain - the country which for many years has been Australia’s best customer. It is true that the depreciation of sterling, with a consequent increase in prices in Great Britain, may improve our position as a seller in the English market; but, on the other hand, it is possible that the economies which the exigencies of the situation may force on the people of Britain, will counteract that advantage. The loss of the income which Britain derives from her position as an international centre of exchange - an income which the Macmillan report values at £60,000,000 per annum - may be sufficient to prevent chat rise in prices which would have compensated the exporters of Australia for the altered exchange position. Whatever the position, it is clear that Australia must be involved in the financial whirlpool which is menacing Britain at the present time. The circumstances ‘are such as to call for decisive and confident leadership in Australia. In a time of national crisis, that confidence can exist only when a government can be sure that parliament will, without delay, pass the legislation upon which the cabinet has determined, possibly in consultation with the Government of Great Britain, and which it might not be advisable or feasible to explain fully to the public at the time.
During the past twelve months, the position of the Government in Australia has changed. Previously it had a majority in this chamber; but to-day it has to turn to different parties or groups for support in order that its legislative programme may be given effect. The division lists show that, even in this chamber, the Government cannot act with that confidence and expedition which the times demand. In the second chamber of our legislature, its position is even less satisfactory. It will be conceded by all that the difficulties confronting the Government in this Parliament are much greater than they ought to be if it is successfully to surmount the troubles confronting the country. This matter is of greater importance than merely its effect on the legislation of the country, and the executive actions of governments. At this time, there is as great necessity for constant and intimate consultation between the governments of Australia and Britain, and, indeed, between all the governments of the British dominions, as during the war crisis, when the then Prime Minister of Australia found it necessary to be absent from Australia for a long period in order that he might the more readily consult with the Government of Britain. Honorable members will realize that it is possible for two governments, starting from the same point, to arrive at exactly opposite conclusions merely because of a slight initial divergence of opinion that is not corrected. In this peace crisis, which may be- more fruitful in its consequences, either for good or evil, to the British Empire than the crisis occasioned by the war, there must be a greater measure of consultation between the various governments than is now possible. In my opinion, in such crises the Australian Cabinet should be definitely represented in England by a person who knows the views and aspirations of that Cabinet, and has its complete confidence. Before decisions are arrived at, such a person should be able to discuss matters frankly with the authorities in Britain in a way not possible to a government official. During the war period it was found that the arrangements then existing for consultations by means of the GovernorGeneral and direct communications between Prime Ministers between the governments of the Empire were not sufficient. The method has since been changed, and now there is not even as good a measure of consultation as that which existed previously. It is obvious that if the Government of the Commonwealth has not a majority in even one House, it cannot afford to allow a senior Minister to be absent from Australia at a critical time. For that reason, and because of our experience in previous crises, I am convinced that it is essential to the well-being of Australia that the Government in office shall know where it stands, and be certain’ that its decisions will be honored by the Parliament and embodied in the legislation of the country. Although the fortunes of the British Empire, in which Australia is inextricably involved, are to-day at a low ebb, I am convinced that they will again come to the flood tide. With proper consultation and co-operation between the various dominions and the Motherland, we shall be able so to mobilize the resources of the Empire that in days to come we, or those who have succeeded us, will look back to this depression -as a time of blessing. During the war crisis the seed of Empire trade preference was sown. I believe that the existing commercial and financial depression, if met in the right spirit by a government which can go ahead confidently, knowing that it has the support of the great bulk of the people, not merely that of the members of one political party, can be successfully overcome. A government which has the support of the. great majority of the people of Aus tralia could inspire confidence in GreaBritain, in the other dominions, and in outside countries, and in that way do immense good.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) may say that he is unwilling to co-operate as the leader of one party with the leaders of other parties, and that in his opinion the right thing to do i6 to ensure that one party shall have control of the affairs of Australia. So keenly do I feel on this subject, so keenly do I feel that the hour of our destiny has really struck; so keenly do I appreciate the fact that any ill-considered action now taken may mar our future ns one of the great economic units of the world, and prevent the British Empire’ from doing the same great i service to humanity and peace in this century as it did in the last, that I urge the Prime Minister, if he will not, in any circumstances, act in concert with other parties in giving effect to this proposal, to agree to have a short, sharp, decisive election, say, in three weeks’ time, to give the people of Australia an opportunity to decide whether this Government should have a complete mandate or not. In the event of this Government being re-elected, it would then be able to carry out its policy, and we should know where we stand. That is the only way in which we shall be able to bring about the conditions which I am satisfied are necessary for the restoration of Australia. There is, in Australia,, sufficient capital to enable many more men to be employed. The wheels of industry are not being set in motion, because of the great lack of confidence and uncertainty in the future. For those reasons, I appeal to the Prime Minister and the members of every party in this House to consider .seriously whether the time has not arrived for us to secure a. national government which will have the support of the majority of the members of both Houses, and if that is not possible, to take action to enable such a government to take office ‘ at the earliest moment.
– I second the motion.
.- The proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is far-reaching and important, and I desire to associate with it the members of the United Australia party. I trust that honorable members, “whatever attitude they may adopt to this motion, will at least refrain from treating it with levity. It is entirely too serious for that, and we shall not go far in restoring confidence in the people if they know that this proposal, which has been made in the national interests, has been received with laughter and derision by a fairly large section of the members of this Parliament. At this time of crisis, it. is essential that we should get together, whether as parties or individual representatives of the people, in the interests of the nation as a whole. If ever there was a time in our history when it was essential that we should firmly safeguard the interests of Australia, it is now. We are experiencing difficult times; industry is depressed and unemployment is growing.
– Because of the stupid policy of .the party to which the honorable member belongs.
– Unfortunately for the people generally, no policy is at present being put into operation. Party interests, when they conflict with the interests of the country, must be subordinated. If we visited a primary school, say, to-morrow, and asked the students who were old enough to understand, which was the greater sin, one against the party or one against the country, their unanimous answer would be “ the sin against the country “.
– It took the honorable member 25 years to find that out.
– I have taken the stand dictated by my conscience. I am not bringing party feeling into this discussion. But it does not augur very well for the prospects of the passing of this motion, when we find that party feeling is being introduced. The attitude of the members of the United Australia party is perfectly clear. Some considerable time ago the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made a proposal for cooperation between the parties in this Parliament. He and his colleagues could perhaps see a little further into the future than some honorable members, and because they were anxious that the parties should get together in the interests of the people, they put that proposal to the Government. Unfortunately, it was rejected.
– Did the Leader of the Opposition talk co-operation at the conference which was held last week?
– When the Government and its supporters rejected that proposal, every effort was made by the honorable member for Kooyong and his colleagues to secure unity among the other parties in this Parliament. That is their attitude still. I hope that the Prime Minister will accept this proposal in the spirit in which it .has been made. j know that the organization with which his Government and his party are associated, is against anything in the nature of coalition; but I trust that, in view of the seriousness of our national difficulties, we shall not allow party influence to obscure our vision by preventing us from getting together, and doing something for the benefit of the people of this country. The difficulty which confronts us is being experienced by most of the nations of the world. There is need for unity throughout the Empire, and it is essential that we . should co-operate with Great Britain and the other dominions. But if our difficulties are to be overcome we must go further than that. There should be a proper understanding between the nations of the world, and the first step towardsthat would be the bringing about of 8 proper understanding and co-operation between the various members of the Empire itself. Unless we stand together, there is a grave danger that we shall fall together. The other parts of the Empire are realizing the necessity for some such action as. is now proposed. That is demonstrated by the action of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and his colleagues, and of the members of the Government and Parliament of New Zealand. Other parts of the Empire are at present discussing this subject. I trust that we shall not be affected by past prejudices in considering this proposal, but that we shall look at it fairly and squarely in the interests of the country. I believe that the people of this country, excepting only those who blindly follow one party or another on all occasions, are looking to us, not as parties, but as a Parliament representing the whole community, to serve the whole community by coming together at this time in the interests of the nation. I appeal to the Prime. Minister to recognize that to-day there is practically a stalemate in politics in this Parliament. This will not help Australia out of her troubles, nor get her people back to work. We should look at this proposal apart altogether from party considerations.
– Let the honorable gentleman appeal to himself.
– I appeal to all honorable members. I assure the Prime Minister that if he will give consideration to this proposal, and make any proposition to the opposition parties, it will receive the fullest consideration. We will approach any proposals that he may make from the standpoint of what is best in the interests of the country as a whole.
– No one will deny that we are passing through very serious times. We nave been doing so for two years, and it will probably be some time before we shall come out of the valley of trouble through which the countries of the world are at present passing. Australia is not alone in her suffering. As the head of the National Government, I would not, in these critical times, treat any proposal lightly; every suggestion is entitled to full consideration. But a proposal for the formation of a coalition government is not new. Such a proposal has already been fully considered by all the members of my Cabinet and the party. As an individual, I have given consideration to the subject for more than a quarter of a century, and during that time I have had only one view, which is that coalition governments are a mistake. They cannot succeed and they cannot restore confidence. They actually destroy the confidence and faith of the very people into whom it is desired to put confidence. I have never had any belief in coalitions.
The motion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) proposes that a national government representative of all parties shall be formed to act in concert with the Government of Great Britain in the con stantly changing emergencies of this crisis. The wording of the motion is delightfully vague. What could any such government do that the present, or any other government, cannot do if it has the support of the party, and can control a majority of the House on every issue?
– Does this Government control a majority?
– At the very moment when I am unable to control a majority of the members of this House I will cease to be a Prime Minister. I have made that statement often, and I repeat it now.
– The right honorable gentleman would have no option but to resign if he could not control a majority.
– Quite so. It has been said that the Government does not control a majority. We were told some months ago by the honorable member for Henty’ (Mr. Gullett) in a speech which he delivered in Sydney, that three days after Parliament reassembled, this Government would cease to exist. Similar predictions have been made a score of times, and there have been many tests of strength. In the circumstances, it is useless to say that the Government does not control a majority.
The mover of the motion reminded us that Britain had gone off the gold standard. In my judgment she should never have returned to it. Much suffering has been caused by her doingso.
– The right honorable gentleman is wise after the event.
– I made a similar statement at the time Britain returned to the gold standard, and I have expressed the same opinion frequently during the last twelve months. Many newspapers, which criticized me for expressing this opinion, are now applauding the British Government for its very courageous action. The question I ask myself - and I do not desire to criticize any other Government in any other part of the world - is, why could not the Labour Government of Great Britain have abandoned the gold standard, which was restored in 1925 by another government ? Why was it necessary for members of that Government to change their political colour to secure a majority of the House of Commons in favour of such action?
– It has only secured a majority by changing its political colour.
– That is what gave it its majority.
– We ‘ are facing a crisis, and if honorable members opposite will submit any proposition to the Government with the object of increasing the co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the governments in other parts of the world, or if they will express any constructive ideas on this subject, the Government will consider them. If the suggestions are good, the Government will adopt them. Why should it be necessary for honorable members to forswear their principles and to sink their party, and form a coalition before such proposals can be made and acted upon? When honorable members opposite talk about sinking party, they mean sinking the Labour party. It has been suggested that there should be intimate consultations with the Government of the United Kingdom. I agree with that view, and’ this Government is in intimate consultation with the British Government. It matters not to us what political colour that Government may have,, we shall continue to consult intimately with it. The representatives of this Government sat round the Imperial Conference table, quite regardless of party. We are in intimate consultation, with every government of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We have sat round the Premiers Conference table, at which every shade of political thought was represented, and we represented Australia. We all worked together to do what we could in the best interests of Australia, and we can do this on national questions without sacrificing the principles and political associations of a lifetime. Why should it be necessary for us to abandon principles which some of us have espoused for more than a quarter of a century? Honorable members opposite say that that would inspire confidence. In. my opinion, it would destroy confidence. Who would have confidence in us if we abandoned our principles in that Way?
The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) made the naive suggestion that if the Government would not- accept the proposal to issue invita tions to honorable members opposite to join in the formation of a national cabinet - that if I, as Prime Minister, would not throw overboard my colleagues who, with -me, were elected by the people to govern this country - I should precipitate a general election. Let up go to the country, he said, in three weeks, and give the people b chance. His proposal, therefore, amounts to this: “Bring the Opposition in or get out yourselves “. Honorable members opposite have made many attempts to place a different government on the treasury bench. It is still open for them to try to obtain a majority in support of their views.
My attitude in regard to the formation of coalition governments is the result of lifelong convictions, and those convictions have been strengthened by the experience that I have had as Prime Minister. I do not want to rake over the cold ashes, of the past. I have only to go back two days to discover the spirit in which this proposal is offered. I have only to read the reports of the speeches made at the recent conference of the National Federation to find the spirit of the Opposition. It was declared at that conference that there was no’ virtue in this Government. It was there said that the Government had not a principle; that it had not a policy ;. that it had brought nothing but ruin and degradation upon the country. That was the tenor of the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). That is the spirit of his co-operation ! If the Opposition has all the virtues, and the Government has all the vices, the mixing of the virtues with the vices” will not result in the formation of a government that will restore confidence. After the Deputy Leader of th«Opposition (Mr. Latham) had said that this Government had not a principle, and had not a policy, the Leader of the Opposition declared that we had taken the Opposition’s policy. It is not tru,that we adopted the policy of the Oppostion, although ‘some of our unfair critic? say that we did. We adopted a course that we did not like having to take; but we did that owing to the force of circumstances. While we did reluctantly things that the Opposition would have done cheerfully, we insisted on the ob- servance of certain conditions to which the Opposition, had it been given a free hand, would never have agreed: I refer principally to the reduction of interest rates.
Only two days ago, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition called upon the representatives of the Nationalist Federation, aye, he called upon the world, as it were, to applaud the Leader of the Opposition for having broken away from his political associations of a quarter of a century. The Leader of the Opposition left the Government only a few months, and now he wants to get back. There would have been no need to talk about a come-together movement, or to say that the Labour party had not the numbers which it formerly had in this House if the honorable gentleman had stuck to the people by whom he was elected. This party has never commanded a majority in another place. I tell the members of this House that I, as Leader of this Government, have always been willing to consult with anybody in this Parliament, or in this country.
– We have not noticed it.
– Because there are none so blind as those who will not see. Has the honorable member not noticed that I have spent weary weeks, indeed, months, sitting at conference tables with the representatives of all shades of political opinion, and that I invited the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader, and the Nationalist Leader in another place to come into the conference? Have honorable members opposite not noticed that I have been lashed with the whips and scorpions of criticism because I have acted in the interests of Australia?
– What is the right honorable gentleman abusing the Opposition for now?
– I am not doing that. The difference between honorable gentlemen opposite and me’ is that I am willing to take part in conferences, while they want a coalition. When I was iu opposition, I did not ask to be brought into the Ministry, but I did urge conferences to stop the financial drift. Only a few weeks ago I invited honorable gentlemen opposite to come into this Parliament in conference, to let all other business stand aside, and, in a spirit of co-operation, to have a frank discussion on a serious position with which the country was faced. I heard the objection raised that the proceedings should not be open to the public, but I would not agree to their being conducted inany other way.
– It was a farcical suggestion, impossible and hopeless.
– A similar proposal was eventually agreed to at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
– Were representatives of the press in attendance?
– Full records of the proceedings have been printed and published to the world.
– Were 75 members present?
– I suggested that the 75 members of this House should discuss the position, and that they should be divided into groups to deal with special subjects. In that way we could have done everything that it is suggested a coalition government could do. Is there one thing that the mover of this motion, the Leader of the Opposition who supported it, or any other honorable member might suggest could be done by a coalition government that ought not to be supported by the Opposition if the suggestion were put forward by the present Government? This Ministry has grappled with every problem that has confronted it. It has had to deal with difficulties caused by its predecessors’. It had to take drastic action to save Australia from insolvency by stopping the flood of imports that had been encouraged by the previous Government. My Government found it’ necessary to correct the trade balance in order to avert national insolvency, which was threatened because of the policy of the composite Government that landed Australia where it is to-day.
I know what is in the minds of honorable members opposite. I have read the speeches delivered at various times by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other members of his party. The Deputy Leader said, two days ago, that it was necessary to examine the tariff, arbitration, and wages. He remarked that, if
Australia had adopted the policy put forward at the last election by the Nationalist party, it would have been better off to-day. Is that the object of the proposed’ coalition ? Is it desired to destroy arbitration and the workers’ standards of living in this country? This Government is safeguarding those standards to-day. If our arbitration tribunals were abolished, we should soon see the result.
– “Who advocates that they should be wiped out?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition^ has slated that, if we had adopted the policy put forward by the Nationalist party at the last election, the present position of this country would be better than it now is. In answer to the honorable member for Henty, I say that the party of which he is a member advocates that the present arbitration system be abolished; that there should be freetrade, or a low tariff, and no arbitration. There would then be practically no effective protection for industry, and none for the workers. That is the policy which this Government is invited to accept, and it is well that the position should be stated plainly. In every national crisis, propositions of this kind are put forward. I admit that a great movement and party like that of Labour runs the risk of having breakaways. We always have had them; but I have determined not to move from the position that I took up at the beginning of my political career. I may be forced by circumstances to do certain things; but I shall never break away from the party and the movement to which I belong.
– You have been ruining the movement while masquerading as its
– Order! The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is out of order.
– I have only said what is true.
– Order !
– I name the honorable member for Hunter.
– I ask the honorable member for Hunter to withdraw.
– I do not know what I have to withdraw.
– The honorablemember knows full well that he hae* repeatedly disregarded my calls to order. 1 ask him to remember that it is incumbent on him to obey he direction of the Chair. When I called the honorablemember to order he disregarded my warning; and he is well aware that that is distinctly out of order.
– I withdraw what I said.
– Whatever trials the great Labour movement has to past5 through in times of crisis, its effectiveness must be kept as far as possible unimpaired if there is to be any hope for the great mass of the people of this countryThe present critical period through which we have been passing has afforded striking proof of the utter failure of the economic system under which we are at present working. I trust that when we have ridden out this economic storm we shall have a Labour movement that will bring about a reconstruction which wilt enable us to meet any similar crisis in the future.
.- ‘ The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has, I consider done a service in bringing before this Parliament the question of the possible formation of a national- government representing all political parties, because his action has induced the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to make his position perfectly plain. The right honorable gentleman has rejected the proposal on purely party grounds - which he is perfectly entitled to do. He has said that he has belonged to one party during the whole of his political career, and that he proposes to continue his adherence to that party during the remainder of his career. That is a perfectly intelligible and clear attitude to adopt. His pronouncement has placed beyond misunderstanding the attitude of the Labour party towards the proposal.
I agree that only very special circumstances could justify the consideration of such a proposal as this. “ All of us are sent to this Parliament to represent our constituents in accordance with principles to which we have pledged our adherence on the public platform and elsewhere. But there are times of national emergency when new methods must be adopted in the interests ‘ of the people. I personally have never suggested such a coalition as that which is now proposed. I have made suggestions for the co-operation of political parties along new lines, in order to deal adequately with new problems. But the present times are so urgent, and the emergency so great, that a departure from .recognized principles might well be carefully considered. There is a large volume of feeling outside this House in favour of the formation of a national government. That feeling has found expression in pronouncements by the people, as well as in the public press. Speaking at the annual conference of the National Federation in Victoria the day before yesterday, I examined this proposal. I referred to what had happened in Great Britain and New Zealand, and pointed out that in both of those countries certain conditions were satisfied before a national government was formed. I then said, and I say now, that before, it is possible to form a government representing various parties, there must be agreement upon the choice of a leader, the natureof the programme to be brought forward, and the policy to be adopted. It is useless to discuss this question irrespective of the conditions under which alone any real result could follow. I said then, and I say now, that in the absence of some consultation and discussion resulting in the general adoption of a policy to meet the present emergency, the mere formation of a government representing all parties would not be of service to the country. I have no high opinion of the virtues of this Government. I ‘have said in this House, and outside, that I consider its record to be one of indecision, vacillation, and drift. I repeat that today. But as ive all know, we are living in times of crisis; and in such times it is worth while trying to discover whether we are not able to agree upon a common policy that will operate in the interests of the people. The Prime Minister has said that he is aware of what is in the minds of the Opposition.. If he looks into my mind he will find that there is in it no great enthusiasm or desire for any coalition or coalescence. I say that frankly. But he will find a very grave anxiety, due to the present position of our own people, as well as of the British people generally, and the world as a whole. He will also find a willingness to subordinate in these times considerations which at’ other times I would not for a moment think of abandoning. It is for that reason that I am able, while adhering to everything that I said the day before yesterday, to express regret at the reception of the proposal that has been put forward this afternoon, at the purely party spirit that has been displayed by the Prime Minister, which was so abundantly evident in the speech to which honorable members have just listened.
– The first thing that strikes one is, that this motion has not been moved by the leader of what is called in this Housethe United Australia Party. Generally any movements of this character are made by what is regarded in the Parliaments of the country as the official Opposition. In this case, however, themove has come from another corner of” the House; and that fact must be analysed. We are all entitled to our individual opinions as to the reason for themove having been made. I hold the view that the Leader of the Opposition could! hardly have moved in this direction, because the policy that rs now being applied in this country is his own, and, consequently, from his standpoint, there is no need for any change in regard to the administration of it. When that policy was being determined at a conference of Premiers in Melbourne, the Country party was not invited to express an opinion upon it. I am unable to assign any reason for that. But the result is that, in a measure, that party has been left free to take the.course that has been adopted this afternoon. Probably, it would not have been wise tactics for the official Opposition to take the initiative in this matter. The policy that is being pursued by this Parliament at the present time is not the policy of the Labour party ; that is unquestionable. A number of conferences’, of those who comprise the real Labour party have declared emphatically that it is not their policy. If we go back to what took place in this House when that policy was being finally determined, we find that only eighteen members of the so-called Labour party, including ten members of the Cabinet, voted for it. Who, then, carried ft through.? It was not the party that sits on this side of the House, but that which sits on the opposite benches. Therefore, it must be their policy, and we must assume that they are satisfied with it.
– The Prime Minister to-day calls all of you over there his supporters.
– He controls them.
– I shall deal with t.hat matter.
– You are the joint in the tail.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is out of order.
– Without a shadow of doubt, this policy is really the policy of the life-long political enemies of Labour; the party against which we have fought at every election, State or Federal, since the establishment of the Labour party. Consequently, I can readily understand why the Leader of the United Australia party, the official Opposition in this chamber, did not take the initiative this afternoon. It appears to me- and I am not saying this in any personal spirit - that members of the Country party now wish to share in the application of this policy by administrative methods; that they wish to occupy positions in the suggested new ministry. They desire to be a part and parcel of the executive in the application of this policy. I suggest therefore that there was a sinister motive behind the motion submitted by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) this afternoon. That right honorable gentleman remarked that the circumstances in which the Commonwealth finds itself demand certain -action. By that I assume he meant action similar to that taken a day or i wo ago in the House-of Commons, which, at one sitting, passed a measure similar in many respects to the Defence of the Realm Act, under which the executive is empowered to apply virtually warrime measures to meet all emergencies. We know what that will mean; that the mass of the people will be called upon to shoulder the burden, and make great sacrifices in the fulfilment of this socalled reconstruction scheme. From the Stand-point of those constituting the executive, this proposal would have cer tain distinct advantages, in that the general public would not know what was being done. It is true, as Mr. Winston Churchill observed the other day, that the fight is not over in Great Britain. Referring to a certain measure which has been passed through the House of Commons, the right honorable gentleman emphasized what he described as its electoral appeal. He meant, of course, that although the mass of the people did not now know the inside story of the policies that are being pursued in Great Britain - which is what is intended also in this country - the opinions expressed by those in opposition would have their effect on the electors. When later the people of Great Britain have the opportunity to express their views on what has been done, they will reject it unreservedly. We may assume that it is the desire of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to secure the co-operation of the various political forces in this country in support of executive action, in order that the people may not be able to fix responsibility for what is done upon those who should bear it. Obviously, the sponsors of this movement fear the electoral value of criticism by an opposition. They know and fear what will be the effect of the opinions that have been expressed from this corner of the House, when next an appeal is made to the people upon these important issues.
I come now to the attitude of the Prime Minister. He said just now that, as Leader of the Government, he controlled the votes of a majority in this chamber. What he meant by that I leave him to explain, but I wish to make it clear that he does not control the opinions or votes of the four honorable members who are associated with me in this House. 1 wish to make it clear to honorable members and the outside public that he does not control our opinions or our votes. Nor does the Leader of the United Australia party, or the leader of any other section in this chamber. We exercise complete freedom in determining our course of action upon every subject that comes up for discussion. Our opinions and votes are governed entirely by our views of the effect of any proposed policy upon the objective of the real Labour party in this country.” The Prime Minister may think that he controls our votes, but be does not. The right honorable gentleman may lull himself to sleep with the thought that he controls a majority in this chamber, but it is obvious that he is unable to control even the members of his own party in the caucus room, because, as I have stated, he could secure only eighteen votes, including those of ten Ministers, in support of the financial emergency proposals.
Although the Prime Minister assured us just now that he had never departed from the political principles of a lifetime, in the next breath he admitted that, because of certain circumstances, he had been forced to do so. I remind the right honorable gentleman that certain action which he proposed, and which was taken by this House, has cut right across the principles of the Labour party, and that if he arid his supporters had been prepared ‘to stand up to their expressed convictions, certain expedients in the way of legislation would not have been parsed. No member of this House can claim to. have stood staunchly by the principles of a lifetime if he is prepared to prove a traitor to the movement when the consideration of issues ihat vitally affect the party has to be undertaken. Those members of the Labour party who have supported the Premiers’ plan are in the same category as honorable members opposite, because the plan which the Opposition wished to see consummated has now been accepted by the Government. Therefore, there can be no suggestion that those who were members of the Labour party, and have since gone over to the Opposition, are “ rats “ or traitors. I remind the Prime Minister, however, that if life-long political principles are worth anything, it is times such as “those through which we are now passing that, test the sincerity of those who hold them. Recently, I read an article written by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), and published in the West Australian, which deals with this point. Summed up, the honorable member’s statement was that the logical interpretation of this Government’s policy is, in effect, that the policy of the Labour party is impracticable of application at the most important period in the history of the working-class movement. That, I think, aptly describes the position of the Government in this crisis, when the real test is being applied to the life-long convictions of the Labour party. This is a time when those who really have political convictions should stand to them, instead of surrendering to the policy espoused by orthodox capitalism, against which we have been waging a determined conflict ever since the conception of the Labour movement.
.- I much regret the party note that has been struck during this debate. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) suggested that the motion was submitted by the Leader of the Country party in collusion with members of the United Australia party; that, in effect, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) had been “ put up “ to move it. I wish to say plainly, and I am sure all the members of the United Australia party will agree with me, that the position is not as stated by the honorable member for West Sydney. There has’ been no understanding between the two parties with regard to this matter. The decision to initiate this discussion was arrived at independently by the Country, party, which subsequently, as an act of courtesy to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), and the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), intimated that it intended to proceed with the motion this afternoon. I much regret the speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister. He stated, as the honorable member for West Sydney has remarked, that he objected to the proposal for a national government, because it meant the abandonment of the principles of a lifetime. I hesitate to gibe the Prime Minister, but. I remind him that, not so long ago, he stated in this House that, in the interests of this country, he had deliberately abandoned and violated the principles of a lifetime. The right honorable gentleman will recall the statement he made regarding the proposal to reduce pensions, salaries, &c. .
– I did not say that the course I then proposed was a violation of my principles. I said that I was endeavouring to keep those principles intact by preserving for old-age pensioners and others as much as was possible. If the Government had not taken the action it did, those persons would have received less than under our proposal.
– The stand which the right honorable gentleman took at that time won my respect and admiration, but I suggest that for him to adopt a different attitude at the present time, when he is asked to take another necessary step in the interests of the country, savours of inconsistency. The Prime Minister asked those who sponsored the proposal for a coalition government to suggest anything which a coalition, government might do that the present Government is not doing. I remind him, however, that he has entirely missed the point. ‘ Australia’s great trouble today is lack of confidence among the people in the parliamentary governments of the day, not necessarily the Labour governments, or in the Prime Minister as the leader of the Labour Government, but in the whole system as it is operating at the moment. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) stated that there was a deadlock in the political machine. If there be any virtue at all in the party system, it is that the Government of the day can, with the help of the party which supports it, put its policy into immediate effect; that the Executive ch ti make decisions, and promptly carry them out. The Prime Minister to-day is not in that happy position. His government is politically hamstrung by the fact that, though he commands a majority in this chamber, the Opposition has an absolute majority in the other. The right honorable gentleman is not, of course, responsible for that; it is the decision of the people.
– It is not the decision of the people.
– It was the people who put us all here, including the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). The fact is that the people were appealed to, and in response to the appeal, gave a certain decision, with the. result that the present position has arisen. The proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was, in my opinion, a genuine and sincere offer made without any ulterior motive. I have for long been a critic of the party system, and have had on the notice-paper for a considerable time a motion, the object of which is to abolish that system., and substitute for it something which I believe would be better. The party system can get a country into a crisis, but never out of one. In Great Britain certain swift and momentous decisions have been made during the last few days by a national government representing the best brains in the various parties in the House of Commons. That national government has been able to make decisions, and put into effect a policy, such as a party government could never have done, and it is because those things were done by a national government that they have been accepted in such a splendid spirit by the people of Great Britain.
I do not wish to be for ever obtruding the difficulties of the wheat-growers, but I cannot help pointing out that at the present time there is on the statute-book an act passed by both Houses of Parliament providing for the payment of. certain moneys to the wheat-growers. The act was assented to, and is now the law of the land, but it has never been put into operation. The Prime Minister stated that this had not been done because the Governments had no money, and the banks would not advance any. That is an admission that there is a higher authority in the land than Parliament.
– That is a fact.
– What kind of a political party is it which professes to believe in government of the people for the people by the people, and yet accepts a situation in which it is not able to enforce its own legislation because some other authority will not allow it to do so?
– How would the difficulty be overcome by a coalition government?
– I do not know just what the position is regarding the banks ; I have never heard their case. If, however, the banks say that one of the reasons why they will not advance money to governments is that under the present party system the various parties bid for votes on the floor of the House, and advance proposals designed to curry favour with the electors, even though those proposals are not in the interests of the country, they certainly have sound reasons for declining to advance money which may be used for such purposes. I believe, however, that if at this time of emergency we had a government composed of the best brains in Parliament, a government purely national in spirit which would, after examining the position thoroughly, lay down a definite policy for the rehabilitation of the country, then no section of the community, be it the banks or any other, would dare to oppose its will to such a government.
.- The Prime Minister asked what was being left undone by this Government which a coalition government could do. That was a simple question, and one might reasonably expect honorable members opposite to furnish a simple reply to it; but none has been forthcoming. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) satisfied himself with making a vituperative attack upon the Government, similar to that which he made at a public meeting- recently. His. speech was not in. the least conciliatory, and consisted merely of abuse of the party with which, apparently, he is anxious to coalesce. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), in his speech, did not suggest anything tangible which a coalition government might do that would be more effective than what is now being done. He was not very happy in that illustration. He complained that, although a bill had been passed providing for the payment of a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel to wheat-farmers, no payments had been made under its provisions, and he suggested that had a coalition government been in power, money for this- purpose would have been forthcoming.
– I did not say that, nor even suggest it.
– It was the duty of the honorable member before he concluded his speech to show just how a coalition government could have found the money. What are the facts in regard to the matter? The Government passed a bill providing for the payment of a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel to the wheat-growers; but the Commonwealth Bank said that it could not provide the necessary money.
– That it did not have the money to lend to the Government.
– As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) failed to show in what way the Government has refused to assist the wheat-growing industry, will the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) explain how a coalition government could have influenced the bank to alter its decision ?
– I said at the time that it was unwise legislation.
– That supports my contention that the illustration of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) was an unfortunate one. If effect had been given to his wishes to have a coalition government, he would immediately have encountered trouble from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for Wimmera is the only one who has spoken who has endeavoured to show what could be done by a coalition government that could not be done now; but it is apparent from the attitude of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the party with which he was associated would not have assisted the honorable member. So far, we have not heard of anything that has not been done that could be undertaken if the proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) were adopted. I wonder if the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) would work more amicably with the present Leader of the Country party than he did some time ago when supporting a coalition government of which the right honorable member for Cowper was the Treasurer. I do not think that the honorable member for Henty would support the present policy of the right honorable member for Cowper with any more enthusiasm than he did that of several years ago. Since this Government came into office near);* two years ago, most of its tirohas been occupied in trying to rectify the mistakes of a coalition government. On£ of the first acts of this Government was to endeavour to correct our adverse overseas trade balance, which, at that time, was approximately £60,000,000; and which had increased as a result of i be operations of a coalition government over a period of six years. The experience we have had of coalition governments in the past should guide u3 in the future. If the right honorable member for Cowper were able to show that the coalition government of which he was a member, and which was in office for six years, had been a huge success, we could understand his attitude to-day.
– The Government of which I was a member passed the legislation which is holding Australia together to-day, and the Minister opposed it. ‘ “
– The unsatisfactory results of six years’ administration by the Bruce-Page coalition Government disclose the weaknesses of such a system, and are sufficient to justify honorable members in opposing such a proposal to-day.
I was not surprised to hear the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) endeavour to twist the words of the right honorable the Prime Minister when he said that he would not depart from his lifelong principles. The right honorable the Prime Minister, in giving his reasons for agreeing to the financial plan that was eventually adopted, definitely stated ‘that he was compelled to do certain things which were distasteful to him, but that if they were not done the position would be worse.
– How does the, honorable member know?
– The Government of New South Wales delayed in giving effect to the rehabilitation plan which was promptly adopted by the Federal Government, and, as a result, the State Government experienced not only n “Black Thursday”, but something worse. It was said by the Prime Minister and the members of his Cabinet, that the financial position of the Commonwealth was a simple matter of arithmetic. All the cards were placed on the table, expenditure was compared with revenue, and it was found that if the Government did not adopt the financial plan which necessitated the reduction of invalid and oldage pensions to 17 s. 6d. a week, it would be impossible to pay pensioners more than 12s. a week.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
.- When they have read the speech of the Minister for Markets (Mr. ParkerMoloney), the public should be convinced that some method should be devised whereby a coalition government, representative of the best brains of all parties, should be formed to work in the interests of the country. The Minister’s speech was simply an apology for the Government’s inactivity. He appeared to be endeavouring merely to occupy the time of the House until the time allowed under the Standing Orders to a debate of this kind should lapse. The Minister, in reply to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who showed what, in his opinion, a coalition government could do to assist, thewheat growing industry, asked why the Opposition did not submit proposals.. The answer is that the members of this party have shown the Government on more than one occasion how money could be raised to assist those engaged in whealproduction. But, the Government has refused to adopt our suggestions. TheCommonwealth Bank refused, probablyfor very good reasons, to guarantee 8s.. a bushel for wheat. It may have been that the bank had not the necessary money. But this party showed that thepractical way in which to obtain money to pay a guaranteed price was to imposea sales tax on flour, as was suggested by those engaged in the wheat-growing industry. The Minister also said that during the last two years the Government ha.» been fully occupied in - adjusting our adverse trade balance, for Which, he contends, the previous administration wasresponsible. It is not the action of this Government which has assisted in adjusting the trade balance; the adjustment has come about chiefly because of the inability of the people to purchasegoods overseas.
– If the Government had not done anything in the matter, the result would have been the same.
– The Minister for Markets should know that, in view of the reduced spending power of the people, the trade balance would have adjusted. itself, irrespective of any action on the part of the Government. He also knows that the Government’s attempt to rectify the trade balance, while it proved ineffective, aroused the antipathy of many of Australia’s best customers. We have recently noticed in the press that Japan is now proposing to buy its wool elsewhere than in Australia. There was no reason whatever for the drastic steps taken by the Government. The poverty of the people of Australia prevented them from buying the articles whose importation was prohibited. Our over-trading as a nation while the Bruce-Page Government held office was due to the heavy borrowing of the State governments, principally Labour governments. Labour administration, therefore, is mainly responsible for the adverse trade balance which the Prime Minister says his Government had to face on assuming office. His ‘Government can ‘take credit for nothing except arousing a feeling of antipathy towards Australia among its best customers. During this debate a great deal has been said about coalition. 1 do not think that there has been in any one’s mind a proposal for a fusion of parties. While we may be united in regard to the desirability of instituting methods forrighting the position of the country, it is certain that we all have our own ideas as to how that should be done, and differences of opinion must arise from the fact, that we belong to different parties. But it, may be possible for definite party opinions to be kept, in the background for a certain period, for a definite truce to be called for two or three yen rs in regard to what may be described as extreme party views, and for all parties to get together to formulate a policy to right the position of the country. -
The Prime Minister asks why we do not bring forward our proposals in the chamber; but every one knows that, it is the responsibility of Cabinet to formulate proposals for submission to Parliament. T have never seen or heard of a perfect government. It is impossible for a cabinet chosen from only one side of the House to have the very best brains of the whole of the House. It is possible to get the services of the best men in all parties without having a coalition government in the strict sense of the term, or one of the type with which we are familiar. We may call it a committee representative of the different parties, which could meet, together and formulate a policy for presentation to the House. The government of the day is merely a committee of the House; but it represents one section only. It is better, I think, to have a committee of the whole House, and that is exactly what is suggested by the Leader of the Country party. In reply to the speech delivered by that right’ honorable gentleman, the House heard a great deal from the Prime Minister and others about portfolios, as if those who are anxious to set things right in Australia by having a better system of government are anxious to ‘ occupy ministerial seats which are rightly in possession of those who won them at the last election. As a matter of fact, the only answer we have had to the suggestion put forward is set out, in effect, in these words : “ We won the last election. These seats, with all the emoluments of office, must belong to the Labour party until the next election. It is useless for the Opposition to bring forward any proposal that would have the effect of depriving the party which’ was successful at the last election of one ministerial portfolio.” In other words, our suggestion has been met with the declaration that party and office are everything; that the party now in power must retain all ministerial seats and salaries, and that it is Useless for any member of the Opposition to expect a portfolio. If that is the Government’s opinion, Ministers are welcome to their emoluments, and the Government can pension off the surplus Ministers with the money, for there are many men iti the Opposition ranks to-day who would offer their services without remuneration, their only recompense being their ‘satisfaction that they had done something of service to their country.
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) represented Ministers as standing to a policy of preservation of their portfolios, regardless of the national interest. But there was nothing in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) or in thai of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), nor will there be anything in the few remarks which I have to offer, to justify in the slightest degree observations of that cheap and somewhat nasty character. It is perfectly true, and freely acknowledged from this side of the chamber, that we are living in very serious trying, and difficult times. This Government carries on with a very deep sense of responsibility to the people who invested it with the power which it exercises, and that responsibility it will continue to discharge with the same lively sense of duty that has characterized it up to the present, until a vote of this House, or a general election, discharges us from our responsiblities. I hardly understand why this proposition was suddenly sprung upon us.
– I think it is a feeler.
– There is something in the suggestion emanating from the recalcitrant corner where the honorable member sits, that this Government is now carrying out a policy in the interests of the nation which in its main outlines and principles has the support of the Opposition. Ministers imagined that the Opposition had been converted, but suddenly, it has sprung upon us a proposal,’ not that the Opposition should continue to support us loyally in the interest of the nation a3 a whole, but that it should be permitted to join in a coalition with members of a Labour government. The policy of the Opposition was at first incontinently to oust the Government. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) gave us. only three days to live after the meeting of Parliament. The Opposition could not quickly enough get together to destroy us. But we still live, and we still continue to give effect to our policy. Then, there came a change over the Opposition. No longer, apparently, hoping to oust us, it proceeded to support lis. Finally its latest proposal is to join us and become members of a coalition government. [Quorum formed.’]
A little time ago the State Premiers sat in conference to grapple with problems of fundamental and far-reaching importance, and in order that the pensions payable to the old and invalid should not be lost, that the wage standards should not collapse in chaos, that industrial tribunals might be retained, and that the structure of Australian society generally might be preserved, the Labour Government, through the Prime Minister, agreed to the policy which is now colloquially known as “The Plan”. What the Government has done in that regard is a monumental achievement. No other government in the history of this country was faced with such great difficulties. Not only has it been harassed by the Opposition, but it has been weakened by the defection of those who were afraid to continue to support it.
– Who felt that they could not honorably support it.
– I was not referring to the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). The Government never wasted much confidence in him. We felt no surprise, and I express none now, that he took an early opportunity of locating himself where in his view he would best serve his own interests. I was speaking, however, of those who have not had the courage to transfer to the opposition side of the House, but, remaining on this side, have still proved unfaithful to the Government.
– The Government is a gang of traitors of the basest character!
– A motion of ‘this kind provides specially attractive opportunities for the gentlemen in the ministerial corner, for it enables them to speak without responsibility. This is a high holiday for them. On other occasions when divisions are taken, anxiety is manifested by those honorable gentlemen. When the bells ring they retire, sometimes to the cellars and at other times to the. roof. They are accustomed to count heads before they make up their minds that they can vote against the Government with the comforting assurance that it is bound to win. This is their record of service to the Labour Government which they were returned to support, and to which they have lent no support whatever ! Recent months have been a testing time for the Labour movement, and only men of courage have remained true to its principles. Therefore, the numbers supporting the Government have diminished ; but, in spite of straight-out desertion, and without the assistance of those who have sniped us from within our own ranks, we have proceeded with our policy. We have been entitled to look for the support of the Opposition, and we hope that we shall continue to get it, in. giving effect to that .national plan to which the Parliament has given its approval.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The proposal that a national ministry should be formed transcends all party issues. The people outside are disgusted with party political quarrels, and believe that it is high time that Parliament effectively managed the affairs of the country. I am disappointed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has not considered seriously the proposal of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). I would support it, regardless of the party, from which it emanated. The Prime Minister said that after 25 years of parliamentary experience he has no faith in coalition governments. It is a pity that that is the scale by which he measures the national welfare. Economic disequilibrium prevails throughout the world, and if honorable members continue to maintain party divisions, and to treat flippantly even the most solemn proposals, I shall be inclined to join the people outside in saying, “ A plague o’ both your houses !”. The management of the affairs of the Commonwealth and the States has been unbusinesslike, there has been overgovernment and extravagance, and drastic action must be taken before it is too late, to put the finances and industries of the nation on a. sound basis. Throughout the world, the present monetary system is under review, and some variations of it may be necessary; possibly bimetallism may be adopted. Australia, no less than other countries, has problems that urgently demand solution. To a large extent, we are in a mire of our own creation. We have to restore fin an- cia 1 and economic equilibrium, and that, means a re-adjustment of not only wages, but also overhead transportation, valuation.?, p.nd all other costs in primary and secondary production. Only by bringing together in a coalition ministry the best elements of all parties shall we be able to effectuate the necessary re-adjustment. We are all aware of the difficulties and misery confronting hundreds of thousands of people in Australia, and in other parts of the world. The coalition government under Mr. Lloyd George saved Great Britain during the darkest years of the Great War. Now the Old Country is experiencing a financial crisis, and again the best brains in the Imperial Parliament have been brought together in a composite administration to mobilize the resources of the nation. Unless we, in this Parliament, also put aside party considerations, and act in co-operation, the present distressful conditions may develop in such a way as to menace parliamentary institutions. If all parties march together hand in hand, we shall be able to revive industry, absorb the unemployed, and restore prosperity. I heartily support the proposal of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) will reconsider his attitude towards it.
.- The Opposition is staging another sham fight for the purpose of deluding the people into the belief that there is still hostility between the government forces and the party sitting opposite. Possibly, also, the motion is designed to allow honorable members to discharge a little hot air for electioneering purposes. We know that an appeal to the people is imminent; the stage outside is being set, and the principal actors in the farce are rehearsing their parts. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) ran true to his usual form; his statements were characteristically unsound and unreliable. He talked of “ Black Thursday “ in New South Wales, when the Lang Government would .not operate the plan adopted by the Premiers Conference. Every intelligent member of the community knows that the New South Wales Government, was placed in an embarrassing position by the deliberate action of Sir Robert Gibson whom the present Commonwealth Government had re-appointed chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, notwithstanding that the Prime Minister had declared that he would never do so.. The treasury-bills of New South Wales were the Only ones which the associated banks would not discount, and the sole reason for that was that » the
Government of that State alone had been game to stand up to the bankers. The other governments sagged at the knees when the bankers issued their ultimatum.. The Minister for Markets admitted the dictation of the banks. “When in opposition, members of the Ministry attacked the Bruce-Page Government for appointing Sir Robert Gibson .chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and swore that they would never re-appoint him. Yet they did so; the appointee of the Government became its master, and being a politician first, and a banker secondly, he refused the request of the Commonwealth Government that funds should be made available for the assistance of the farmers. On. a couple of occasions, the New South Wales Government was unable to meet its commitment’s, but all governments at times have to get temporary accommodation from the banks. Even in the most prosperous times, the public treasuries have little money on hand in the months of July and August, because the revenue for the year has notthen commenced to come in. .Because of the present system of capitalistic finance which is being bolstered by the present Commonwealth Ministry more than by anybody else, treasurers are obliged to give their promissory notes to the bankers in order to get money to tide over a temporary shortage. The associated banks refused to come to the assistance of t’he Government of New South Wales.
– There were several “ hand-outs “ to New South Wales.
– There was no “ hand-out “ from the Commonwealth Government. The Attorney-General would not hand out anything to even a blind man. The Government of which he is a member has even taken the pennies from the poor.
-. - The New South Wales Government locked up the pennies of the poor.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) did as much as any other twenty men to close the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. The Sydney Sun published a statement by the Treasurer that “ the economic cave man Lang” was getting ready to lay predatory hands on the savings bank. On the following Thursday the bank closed. For his attitude the Treasurer should have been put in gaol. The Prime Minister resorted to emotionalism, and declared, “ I stand for the principles of a lifetime, from which I shall never depart “. Unfortunately, the right honorable gentleman is not now in the chamber, but I ask his henchman, the Attorney-General, does the Prime Minister stand to-day for the supreme economic council which he has so frequently asserted must take the place of Parliament? Has he abandoned his lifetime principles, his championship of the council of action; the red objective? He is the same gentleman who, as the supreme “red” of Victoria, sat upon the door-step of a dying man, the then Leader of the Labour party, the late Mr. Frank Tudor, awaiting selection for his constituency.
– That is a shameful, cowardly statement. You dirty, lying . crawler.
– The honorable gentleman is a greater liar and crawler than ever I could be.
– Order! I ask honorable members to restrain themselves. I did not catch precisely the words of the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), but I heard those of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and- ask him to withdraw them.
– I do so. I was goaded into a retort the nature of which I have not been previously guilty in this chamber, but it is not the first time that the Attorney-General has used such objectionable terms, and I ask that he withdraw them.
– I withdraw the words. May I add that the honorable member for Werriwa uttered the vilest statement that I have ever heard made in this House.
– The Prime Minister declared that he stands for the principles of a lifetime. He reduced wages ! The right honorable gentleman protested that he stands for the maintenance of arbitration. He has done his utmost to co-operate with the enemies of the system, so that it might be destroyed ! The right honorable member’s Government has reduced the rates of wages -that were promulgated by the duly constituted Arbitration Courts of the Commonwealth, so using Parliament to do what no National government has ever done. Yet the right honorable gentleman has the audacity to declare that, but for the efforts Ot himself and his Government, the principle of arbitration would have been destroyed. He and his Government have given an open invitation to every employer in the community to approach the Arbitration Courts of the Commonwealth and assist in the destruction of the system. Is that what the Prime Minister terms standing for the principles of a lifetime? He pleads that his actions have been the result of circumstances; that he hopes that when Australia gets out of this economic slough of despond, his Government will be able to go forward to its objective and do something to destroy what he termed the existing “ rotten economic system “.
If ever a Labour government had an opportunity to give effect to the principles and platform of the party, it is this one. It deliberately neglected to take action that would have lifted the country out of it3 economic embarrassment. The Prime Minister claimed that the present troubles are common to all nations. They are, because the world has persisted in adhering to what the right honorable ‘ gentleman has declared as a “ rotten economic system “. Other countries have never had the opportunity that was presented to Australia, under this Labour Government. For over eighteen months, in caucus and on the floor of this chamber, honorable members who gave their allegiance to the Labour party drew attention to the points that were recently enunciated in the Macmillan report, and urged that Australia, should take the action that Great Britain has been forced to take within the last week. Tt is said that Great Britain was compelled to abandon the gold standard. Of course she was. The mover of this motion and the Prime Minister expect Groat Britain to rehabilitate itself, and Australia to become revitalized, by the operation of principles that the Government has adopted, and which really emanate from honorable members opposite
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is claimed that the motion before the House seeks to bring about a condition of affairs that will restore confidence in Australia. Many big problems have been dealt with in this chamber during the past two or three years which were prevented from reaching a succesful issue through the action of honorable members of another place, who have consistently opposed any proposal coming from a Labour government, notwithstanding the fact that it would have conferred great benefit on the nation. I submit that if honorable members of another place would not agree to the proposals of this Labour Government, they certainly would not agree to any emanating from a coalition government in this House.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) declared that the Prime Minister waited upon the door-step of a dying man, the then Leader of the Labour party, the late Mr. Frank Tudor, seeking his seat in the Federal Parliament. If the honorable member will make that statement outside I shall make him swallow his words. It is the most cowardly utterance that has ever been made in this chamber, and the honorable member knows it. There is no’ straighter or more honorable man in the political life of Australia than the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin).
– He has forsaken all Labour principles.
– The honorable member for Werriwa has jettisoned every Labour principle and abandoned his party when there was hard fighting ‘to be done. If the Labour party is. not fit to rule the destinies of Australia in troublous times, when the nation is facing a crisis, it is not fit to do so when times are good. I believe that a coalition government would be futile, and that it would not operate successfully for 24 hours. I am, therefore, absolutely opposed to the proposal of the right honorable the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page).
.- The spectacle that we have witnessed this afternoon of the lack of co-operation on the Government side makes manifest the necessity for every party in this chamber to unite in an endeavour to assist Australia to emerge successfully from its present troubles.
In replying to my speech, the Prime Minister stated that he controlled his party, and a majority in this House. The debate has conclusively shown that the party opposite is divided into conflicting factions. The object of my motion is to induce honorable members, and the people of Australia generally, to unite and pull the nation out of its difficulties as quickly as possible; to lead the Commonwealth with confidence and certainty in every proposal that is advanced, and co-operate with the British people in their hour of crisis. That which has taken place here to-day has conclusively proved that such confidence and certainty is absent on the Government side. I therefore trust that, despite the assertions of the Prime Minister, the Government will still give consideration to my suggestion. It has been put forward in all sincerity, prompted by the desire to help Australia out of its present position.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) has asked a question regarding the establishment of an aerial service to Flinders Island. A reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Destruction bt Postal Department.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice-
Is it a fact that on the 28th August last, some thousands of copies of a paper called the
Rerf Leader were destroyed by the Postal Department in Sydney; if so, will he state the reasons for such action ?
– The information is being obtained.
The following paper was presented : -
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Third Annual Report of the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, for the year ended 30th June1931, together with a statement hy the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Consideration resumed from the 23rd
September (vide page 204), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff be amended -
Postponed item 152 c -
By omitting the whole of sub-item (c) and inserting in its stead the following sub- item: - “ (c) Wrought iron and malleable cast iron fittings for pipes, and cast iron fittings for pipes of less than 2 incites internal diameter -
Galvanized, per lb., British 1s.; intermediate, ls. 3d.; general, ls. 6d.
Other, per lb., British, 9d.: intermediate,10d. ; general, ls.; or as to the goods covered by paragraphs ( 1 ) and (2) of sub-item (3). ad val., British, 35 per cent. ; intermediate, 45per cent. ; general, 50 per cent.. whichever rate returns thr higher duty.”
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 25th September, 1931 - Fittings (wrought iron, malleable east 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.”
.-At the conclusion of its annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1931, the Tariff Board declared -
The foregoing review of the board’s work for the year emphasizes the necessity for public inquiry before any request for amendment of the Customs Tariff is acceded to, in order to safeguard against the grantingof assistance to one industry at the expense of another, or at too high a cost to the community generally. It also points to the urgent need for a systematic investigation of the existing tariff in order to ascertain what duties, if any, are imposing undue burdens upon industry generally and ultimately on the consumers.
The board pointed out the necessity for an inquiry, and for action to be taken by this Parliament. It must be patent to all that these increases are not justified. I do not think that honorable members realize that the proposal of the Government means that the British preferential duty on these iron fittings will be £112 a ton, and on foreign fittings £168 a ton. It is preposterous that we should be asked to agree to duties of that description although, no doubt, the Government, with its majority, will be able to force them through. I submit’ that there should be an inquiry into the matter, and that we should not have forced upon us a brief prepared by the manufacturers and read by the Minister, allegedly proving that the duties will confer a benefit upon the community. The Minister spoke of the wonderful resources of Australia - its magnificent iron ore deposits, its valuable coal mines - and yet he claimed that the people engaged in the iron and steel and allied industries should be given special concessions. He claimed that these duties will mean the employment of additional workers. I ask at what price, and at whose cost, will they be employed? These high duties will make it more difficult for those who produce the wealth of this country to carry on. The Minister also told us that the action of the Government had resulted in reduced prices; and in the same breath he complained about the control of prices by various associations or combines. ‘ I remind him that one of the duties of the Tariff Board is to deal with complaints regarding restraint of trade. The Minister practically boasted that in this industry there is restraint of trade, because prices are controlled by certain associations. I have here a letter from a business man who states that he could not get supplies until he had joined one of these price-controlling associations, and that, after his admission as a member, he found that he could make 30 per cent, more profit than previously when he imported goods from Great Britain. The control of prices adversely affects the man on the land, who is doing his best to develop this country. The Minister also claimed that the prices of these goods are lower in Australia than in New Zealand where there is no tariff. Similar statements have been made from time to time regarding agricultural machinery which are entirely false. The Minister did not tell us that sugar in New Zealand costs only 3d. per lb., as against 3d. per lb. in Australia.
In the .agricultural areas of “Western Australia, nature has come to the aid of man. In country in which it would be difficult to conserve water in the ordinary way, there are huge outcrops of granite, some of them 500 acres or more in extent. The Government of Western Australia has erected concrete gutters around the rocks, and constructed large dams, some of which contain as much as 40,000,000 gallons of water. That water is pumped to a higher elevation, from which it is reticulated for 10, 15, or even IS miles, thus giving a magnificent supply of water to the farmers in the district. The Minister for Works in Western Australia told me that, whereas prior to the imposition of these heavy duties on piping and fittings, it was possible to reticulate an area at a cost of £57 per mile, the cost is’ now £156 per mile. That extra cost falls upon the farmers. That is the way in which the Government is attempting to develop Australia, and to create a favorable trade balance!
– When was the last water conservation scheme put in hand in Western Australia?
– The Government of that State has just completed a big scheme.
– Then the contract must have been entered into before these higher duties were imposed?
– The honorable member has made a stupid interjection. The work referred to was carried out by day labour. I remind the honorable member that the farmers concerned with these water conservation schemes, who received only ls. 8d. per bushel for their last wheat crop, have to pay interest,, sinking fund, and other charges in connexion with these schemes. [Quorum formed.] The Government of Western Australia has done magnificent work in providing water for farms. It has not only made farming more attractive, but it has also added to the national wealth. The Commonwealth Government, however, has done its best to destroy the good work done by the State. I have here a newspaper extract showing that li-in. galvanized elbows, the English cost of which is 5s. a dozen, bear a duty of lis. 3d. a dozen, or 225 per cent.; li-in. tees, costing 5s. 7-Jd. a dozen, are subject to a duty of 15s., or 2C74 Per cent.; nipples, the English cost of which is 7Jd. a dozen, are subject to an impost of ls. 6d., or 245 per cent. The English price of H-iii. sockets is 3s. 9d. a dozen. This schedule imposes a duty of Us. 3d. on them. Can the Minister justify a 300 per cent, duty on those articles? The Government has gone too far. with its policy of protection. I could supply further figures to the same effect, but L shall not. weary the committee with them now.
The schedule sets out that the duty on these articles shall be ls. per lb., or 35 per cent, ad valorem, if imported from Britain. I wonder whether the ad valorem duty has been included in order to deceive honorable members and the public generally. If duties were imposed only on an ad valorem basis, the people would more readily understand them, lt is difficult to say what influences have been at work to cause the Government to impose these high duties. One is tempted to inquire whether Australian manufacturers are meeting certain election expenses.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the insinuation that Australian manufacturers are paying the Government’s election costs.
– I withdraw the statement; but I should be glad, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if you could inform me what has influenced the Government to impose these excessive duties. When we see in the schedule duties of ls. per lb., or 35 per cent, ad valorem, we are tempted to conclude that there is some agreement between the two classes of duty, whereas, in fact, it is not so. It is a disgrace to this Parliament that those who are .striving to develop Australia should be exploited in this manner. It is well that the country should know that, in addition to these excessive duties) there is a primage duty and also heavy exchange rates. The manufacturers of Australia are not justified in asking Parliament for these concessions, because these duties will throw hundreds of farmers out of production. It will be a disgrace to this Parliament if these duties are passed. 1 ahull support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland ( Mr. Paterson).
– I also intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). The Minister has indulged in a considerable amount of special pleading, in the’ course of which he made statements’ “the correctness of which is open to question. He said that these articles are being sold in Australia at a price lower than that charged in New Zealand, where there is no tariff. In these matters it is so easy to deceive and to be deceived. As stated by the. honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), the starting prices of the Australian and the imported goods may be the same, but there is a discount of only 50 per cent, in one case as against 80 per cent, in the other. If the Minister was correct when he said that these article.” are cheaper than they would have been but for the tariff, why is it that the Australian industry needs over 200 per cent. protection ? In reply to a question which I asked in order to ascertain whether it is a fact that a certain type of plug which, prior to the imposition of these duties, costs ls. now costs 5s. 3d., the Minister admitted that that was so. The only consolation that the purchaser of that plug receives is that in October next the price will be reduced from 5s. 3d. to 3s. 6d. Australia is suffering that sort of thing at a period when the price of goods should be commensurate with thi* purchasing power of the community. If the price of piping were reasonable, farmers would be able to convey water to their houses and gardens, and thus save tremendous labour and expense in carting. It is in the interests of Australia generally that the primary producers should be allowed to purchase alt their requirements at a reasonable price.
– What assurance has the the honorable member that the price of the article referred to by him will be 3s. 6d. in October next?
– I have no assurance at all. The Minister is so obsessed with the protectionist policy that he has no hesitation in making all sorts of wild statements, and I wish the people, generally, to know that his statements, particularly in respect of the tariff, have little or no foundation. If the industries to which this Government has given protection had developed to the extent promised by the Minister, there would be no unemployment in Australia at all, yet despite the heavy protection given to those industries, unemployment is rapidly growing. As a matter of fact, the .protection policy has failed. The goods that are to-day being manufactured in Australia are too costly for the people to purchase, and, as a result, the development of Australia is being seriously retarded. The imposition of increased duties on this and the other items which we have been discussing since the recess, is absurd, particularly in view of the i&ci that the incomes of our people have dropped by 50 per cent, or 75 per cent. Our primary producers should be given every encouragement, because om their success depends the well-being of the rest of the community, but. unfortunately, additional burdens are being persistently placed upon them. The Tariff Board was established at a fairly heavy cost to Australia, so that its members, consisting of four experts, could examine dispassionately and uninterestedly the conditions of various industries, and ascertain, how much protection was needed to enable them to develop. The board had also to consider in what way the protection given to one industry would affect another. The Tariff Board in its report of this year has recommended that a halt be called in. tariff increases. Yet in the face of that deliberate recommendation, the Government is imposing this additional duty. If the Government is to flout the recommendations of the Tariff Board, that body should be dispensed with, and thus save this country an expenditure of £14,000 a year. But I contend that we should save infinitely more than that if we carried out the recommendations of the board. No other body has a better knowledge of the condition’s of industry, because in the course of its inquiries, it takes evidence from both sides in industry. “When it deliberately recommends a halt in tariff increases, surely we are entitled to give consideration to that recommendation. Yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister whether the Government would appoint a select committee of this Parliament to examine the report of the Tariff Board, but he set aside my question, saying that we do not want a report on a report. Australia is not likely to develop while the Government persists in piling up the tariff so that exotic industries may shelter behind it.
.- It is not often that I speak twice on a tariff item, but the duty imposed under this item bears so heavily upon the market gardeners and dairymen in my district that T. feel compelled to make further reference to it. I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Minister the fact, as 1 stated yesterday, that certain Australian fittings are not obtainable in Adelaide. I telegraphed to an Adelaide firm to ascertain the position with regard to these fittings, and its reply was that’ it is impossible to buy Australian 3-inch pipe fittings in Adelaide at the present time. Yet the Minister took great pride yesterday in producing a 3-inch, tee which he said was made by the Phoenix factory in New South Wales. That is a small establishment, and it is questionable whether it could supply the requirements of Australia in respect of pipe fittings over 2 inches in size.
– This establishment covers 16 acres of ground.
– Surely the Minister does not pretend that the whole of that establishment, is devoted to the production of pipe fittings? He has already admitted that it has been doing this class of work for only eight months, and I have no doubt that long before that these 16 acres were occupied. The Minister cannot put over that argument.
– This factory was previously manufacturing railway trucks, and, when that class of work ceased, it turned to the manufacture of these fittings.
– Surely the Minister does not contend that the whole of the staff previously engaged in manufacturing railway trucks is now manufacturing Australian pipe fittings in sizes of 2 inches and over ! If he does, he gives me credit for having very little intelligence. When the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) was speaking yesterday, he quoted from Weir’s price-list in respect of fittings over 2 inches in size. The price-list is quite recent, because it is dated the 1st July, .1931. That firm boasts about having a stock of fittings valued at £5,000. It is ridiculous to contend that such a stock would meet Australian requirements. The very fact’ that this firm has boasted of such a small stock shows that it has only recently undertaken this class of manufacture. Yesterday, when my time expired, I was quoting a letter from a South Australian firm regarding pipe fittings and the heavy duties placed upon them. That letter, which is dated the 9th May, 1931, continues -
With normal rate of exchange and duty free, 3-in. tees could bc sold retail at 4s. each, whereas to-day 3-in. Australian tees would be quoted retail (if procurable) at about 10s. or lis., and the primary producer throughout the Commonwealth has to pay the difference just to keep one factory going in New South Wales. To buy one 3-in. tee to-day, a market gardener has to produce 5 dozen first-class cabbages, or 2 cwt. of potatoes!
This is the reason why our primary producer is in trouble, and in turn the secondary industry is at a stand-still because the market gardener cannot buy the necessary fittings he requires.
– How many does he require?
– Some of these gardeners require a large number of pipe fittings, because they have extensive gardens to irrigate. It is certainly not to their advantage to have to pay for their requirements three times the price that is charged in other countries. A market gardener, in order to purchase a black iron tee weighing 4J lb., has to produce 224 lb. of potatoes, or 5 dozen cabbages. Perhaps, if I speak in terms of potatoes and cabbages, the injustice of this duty will become apparent to honorable members. On the 15th May, 1931, the firm of Thos. J. Bromley wrote to me as follows: -
Yours of the 11th instant to hand; many thanks. 1 am pleased with the keen interest you take in matters. Three-inch bends might be made in Australia by Weir’s, New South Wales, but as far as 1 can gather no Weir fitting Over 2 inches are stocked in South Australia; but one merchant informed me that they will take orders, but he would not quote time for delivery. With regard to my statement re cabbages and potatoes, I am not surprised that you think 1 am “stretching it”; but to state a case I enclose a reply from Messrs. Silbert, Sharp and Bishop, in answer to my inquiry asking quotation for cabbages and potatoes. I also hand you Messrs. Harris Scarfe’s price-lists for Australian and imported fittings. The list price of a 3-in. galvanized tee is 10s., discount 5 per cent. - 15s. 2 1/2d. net; 3-in. black tee 10s., discount 20 per cent. - 12s. 94d. net. Silbert, Sharp and Bishop’s quotation for choicest cabbages is 2s. per .dozen, and hawker’s cabbages, ls. a dozen. Potatoes are quoted at £4 per ton, delivered storeroom door, Adelaide. Thus you will see my statement is very close to-day’s market quotations for produce. In conversation with Mr. Bishop, he informed me that he consigned “ choicest cabbages “ yesterday, weighing lj cwt. to the dozen, for which the grower got 2s. From the foregoing it should not be a difficult matter for any sane government to see that they are not helping the man on the land, whom they boast of doing or endeavouring to do so much for; hence exorbitant duties and high prices are not beneficial to the community. In conclusion, I say that Australian fittings over 2 inches are not procurable, and have never been seen on this market.
It is plain from that letter that, at thai time, fittings in sizes of over 2 inches were hot obtainable in Adelaide. The Minister yesterday suggested that I was prepared to swallow anything. I wrote to this firm for information, and, when I received it, it seemed so extraordinary - that I wrote for confirmation. I did not think that it would sell me a pup, and, in the light of subsequent information. I consider that it has not done so. The firm of Thos. Bromley, to prove to me that its information was correct, forwarded to me the following letter from Silbert, Sharp and Bishop Limited, dated the 16th May, 1931:-
To Whom It May Concern, - The price of potatoes offered our firm on Monday, 11th May, was £4 a ton for A grade, delivered into our store. Also, at that figure the bags are found and all charges paid. Regarding cabbages. The very choicest large “ packing “ cabbages have been bought by us for months past at 2s. per dozen, and good “ hawkers’ “ cabbages are worth ls. per dozen. These had to be irrigated in their early glowing. These statements are put in black and white by us in reply to Mr. Baker’s inquiry, and as the biggest buyers in the markets of South Australia in fruit and vegetables we are prepared to substantiate them anywhere.
I come now to the position as it is in Adelaide. I have given a good deal of thought to a statement the Minister made yesterday in regard to the 3-in. tee which he laid on the table when this item was under consideration. I thought he doubted my veracity so I came over to the House very early and sent the following telegram to Adelaide: -
Can Australian 3-in. pipe fittings be purchased in Adelaide to-day?
Before lunch time I had received the following reply :-
Have inquired from following leading hardware linns who cannot offer 3-in. Australian fittings ox stock: - Gollins, Scarfes, Coltons, Crooks.. Brooker, Muir, Auld, Thomas, Wall.
If the Minister knows anything at all about Adelaide commercial houses, he will know that Scarfes means Harris Searle Limited; Coltons means Colton, Palmer and Preston, and Crooks means Crooks and Brooker, which are all wellknown Adelaide hardware firms. [Quorum formed.] In the light of this telegram, I feel that, in spite of what the Minister said yesterday about what was being done at the Phoenix foundry in Sydney, it is very unlikely that Australian-made 3-in. pipe fittings are obtainable in a general way from the hardware merchants of any capital city in Australia, except Sydney. 1 question whether even the warehouses of Sydney have yet obtained stocks of these fittings. The fitting on the table was doubtless produced in order to substantiate the Minister’s arguments in this debate.
But I wish to hammer this point home still harder. If it requires 10 doz. cabbages to purchase one 3-in tee, bow much labour is involved in the making of the tee, compared with that involved in the growing of the cabbages? The production of 10 doz. cabbages requires a large amount of labour, particularly in the early stages of growth, when the crop has to be irrigated. Yet the prohibitive protectionists who sit on the Government side of the chamber are prepared to sacrifice the interests of the primary producers in order to help, to an infinitesimal extent, the men who make or who are supposed to be making, these 3-in. tees ! It is entirely unfair that the heavy burden of these duties shall be inflicted upon our primary producers. Why should they have to pay three times as much for these fitting3 as the primary producers in other parts of the world pay for them ?
I wish to ask the Minister a question about his statement yesterday in regard to the percentage of Australian pipe fittings being manufactured locally, as I do not desire to misrepresent him in any way. I understand him to say that 45 per cent, of the Australian requirements in pipe fittings were in the smaller sizes, and that 99 per cent, of that 45 per cent, were being made locally. Will the Minister tell me whether that is a correct interpretation of his remarks? He does not answer me. I will ask him another question. If my understanding of his statement is correct, what about the other 55 per cent, of the pipe fittings which are required in Australia ? ‘ Why should these heavy duties be imposed upon them? Surely the Minister will give me an explanation.
– What did the honorable member say was the price of the 3-in. tees?
– The retail price, according to the list of Harris, Scarfe Limited, Adelaide, is 16s., less 20 per cent, for black, and 5 per cent, for galvanized.
– Is that the price for imported or the Australian fitting?
– Harris, Scarfe Limited only quote for imported fittings in the grades over 2 inches.
– I have reason to believe that that price is arrived at by adding to the price of fittings, imported before these duties were imposed, the amount which the duties represented, but I have asked the question in order that I may have the figures checked.
– I am surprised at a responsible Minister making such a statement. The price of Australian and imported fittings duty paid is always about the same, for the reason that the Australian manufacturers always increase their price to par or to just below the selling price of the ink ported article; but in regard to wholesale prices there is a marked difference in discounts. The discount allowed on imported black tees is S5 per cent., and on Australian, 50 per cent. The actual list quotations .are the same, but there is this important variation in the discounts.
I wish now to deal with another phase of the subject. I hold in my hand a letter which was addressed by Rinne, Harris, Proprietary Limited, of Melbourne to the Minister, so that he cannot say he has not had an opportunity to answer the statements contained in it. I believe that copies of it have been forwarded to other honorable members. It refers to malleable fittings. The first extract to which I direct attention is as follows : -
We are obviously not in a position to even estimate the output of fittings by Edward Weir Limited in 1.920, and subsequent years, but from inquiries wc have made of the main sellers of these lines it would seem reasonably certain that even under present trading conditions, say over the last twelve months, Weirs have actually sold as many, if not more, fittings than they sold in .1927. As a matter of fact, the opinions expressed are that they would have sold considerably more fittings since the tariff was changed in 1929 than they were selling at the date of the inquiry made by the Tariff Board in .1.927. The same remarks apply also in the case of A. Thomson and Scougall Limited.
Seeing, therefore, that Weir’s raised their prices of standard lines by 42J per cent, subsequent to the introduction of the tariff proposals in November, 1929, and in view of the fact that their output increased, it would certainly appear that they have taken advantage of the tariff duties.
It seems to us that’ this aspect of the question is particularly important and we would, therefore, suggest that if there be any doubt concerning our statement you might cause departmental inquiries to be made with a view to ascertaining definitely the volume of production in actual malleable iron pipe fittings manufactured by Weir’s during the years !92fi, 1927, 1928. .1929 and 1930.
We are, however, quite certain of our facts and feel, therefore, that as the Tariff Board in 1927 considered that there was sufficient protection to enable the Australian manufacturer to compete, we feel that there is no justification for raising the rates set out in the original tariff item, viz., 35 per cent. United Kingdom; 50 per cent, general. These rates with natural protection of c.i.f. charges added must be admitted constitute a big advantage to the local manufacturers.
I know that the Minister will attempt to answer this statement by saying that the firm was selling at too low a price before the duty was imposed; but the plain fact is that it has increased its prices by 42-J per cent.
– Because of the dumping that was going on, some of the firms were selling at less than cost prices.
– I thought the Minister would make some statement of that kind But the case that has been made out is, in my opinion, unanswerable. The letter proceeds as follows : -
It has already been pointed out. and no one has denied it, that the local manufacturer makes only a small percentage of the total number of lines required on the market. It can be correctly stated that there are some 5,000 lines manufactured, but this number may include quite a considerable number of lines which are very seldom used. In order to give you actual facts in connexion with this matter, we would advise that we have had a check made of the stock of one of the largest retailers in Melbourne and find that the position is as follows: -
COO varieties which are not manufactured locally which are called for daily.
The actual number of varieties carried in stock is 750.
It is clear, therefore, that 500 of the 750 varieties of fittings carried in stock are, not being manufactured locally. Why should the users of these fittings be penalized by the imposition of these heavy duties? The letter continues as follows : -
From this it will be seen that the Australian manufacturer does not in any sense cater for the regular requirements of the trade, and has obviously in determining the lines to be manufactured selected only those where considerable volume is involved.
It will be seen, therefore, that a terrific penalty is imposed on all people who happen to require any of the lines which Australian manufacturers do not make. It was only as recently as a week ago that the the local agent in Victoria for E. W. Malleable Fittings Limited made the admission that his company did not intend to extend the range of lines at present being manufactured.
Since certain pipe fittings are not being manufactured in Australia to-day, it is wrong to penalize the primary producers and others who require them. The benches opposite, which ought to be occupied by supporters of the Government, are practically empty. Honorable members who sit behind the Government blindly support any measure of protection, even though it penalize the growers of wheat, wool, fruit, grapes, sugar, and vegetables. The representatives of metropolitan electorates absent themselves from the chamber when duties are under discussion, but troop in when the time arrives for them to vote. Apparently, they do not wish to be informed of the facts regarding the effects of the duties under consideration. They should be prepared to do justice to the primary producers, who are trying to help Australia out of its difficulties.
– It was interesting to hear the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) telling the committee how many cabbages had to be grown by a market gardener to enable him to purchase a certain pipe fitting. That line of argument might have been applied to boots, hats, and many other commodities. The industry affected by the item under consideration, like all others, has to meet the competition of imported fittings. The honorable member has spoken from an importer’s point of view. Before the Australian firms had a chance to manufacture these fittings, the prices were 10 per cent. higher than those now charged. Australian manufacturers are not responsible for unreasonable increases in prices made by wholesalers.
Mr.Gabb. - I quoted a manufacturer’s price to a merchant.
– Through not manufacturing its own pipe fittings of certain sizes, Australia has to pay through the nose for imported fittings. Local manufacture would bring about competition, and a consequent reduction in prices.
– The honorable member would destroy competition.
– No ; the Government is endeavouring to prevent dumping. I have inspected the fittings turned out by Weir’s, and they are a credit to that factory.
Mr.Gabb. - The quality of the Australian fittings has not been questioned.
– The honorable member believes in low prices. If I put money into a manufacturing business, I have a right to protection against foreign competition. I shall vote on all occasions for the establishment and protection of Australian industries.
Mr.Gullett. - Irrespective of the burden that may be entailed ?
– Irrespective of prices. If this Parliament had sufficient power, it could regulate prices.
.- I appeal to the Minister to postpone this item for further consideration by the Tariff Board on the vital aspect of prices. There is a prospect of the establishment of a big Australian industry, which I think ought to be encouraged, but I am not prepared to pay the price that these duties involve, according to the facts disclosed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and others. Undoubtedly, the prices of pipe fittings have increased enormously since these duties were imposed. That is not the fault of the manufacturer, but of the Minister.
These prohibitive duties were introduced at a time when very few pipe fittings were made in this country; nor, apparently, was there any immediate prospect of their manufacture here on a large scale. The prospective manufacturers, owing to the outcry that attended the increase in prices due to the duties, have been fearful of the duties being agreed to by Parliament. Consequently, they have not pressed on with the manufacture of these goods in Australia. When the duties were put on, large stocks were held, owing to the great number of types of fittings required. The duties are equivalent to from 100 per cent. to 600 per cent. They afforded, a golden opportunity to the importers to make the best of a market which they were bound to lose if the duties were passed. One importer, who represented agreat hardware firm, and waited on me as a member of a deputation in Melbourne, told me that the duties would automatically increase the selling value of the stocks he had on hand by £20,000, unless the local manufacturers immediately got busy. The present Minister and the Government have been most culpable in bringing about such a situation. It is a case of clearing the market before the local manufacturer invests his money. Prohibitive duties have been operative in regard to sheet glass for a year or more, and the plant for the manufacture of this product in Australia has never been put into operation. This item furnishes another glaring instance of a deliberate attempt “to clear the field for one class.
– The policy of the Government is to grease the fat pig.
– To do the right thing by Australia.
– The Minister for Health (Mr. McNeill) represents a great rural constituency, in which large quantities of pipe fittings are required. Has he no consideration for the farmers in his electorate? I see no reason why these fittings should not be manufactured here on an extensive scale, and I appeal to the Minister to give those members who are sympathetic towards the local industry an opportunity to vote for adequate protection in the manufacture of pipe fittings in Australia. Since this schedule has been before honorable members I have made it a practice to vote against anything in the nature of a prohibitive duty, on the principle that I would not be a party - and I do not think this committee should be - to setting up a monopolistic . class in this country, deliberately, by law. It is fundamentally wrong to do so. I must confess that there are some items of manufacture which it is difficult to protect except by specific duties of a prohibitive, or almost prohibitive character. I am informed, and I believe that my information is sound, that the overseas cartel covering these pipe fittings embraces practically the whole manufacture of them, and that the story of the prices charged by it in recent years is not a savoury one. To some extent, therefore, our choice lies between leaving ourselves at the mercy of the overseas cartel, and setting up what amounts -to a monopoly within the Commonwealth. Four prospective manufacturers, who have signed a communication which has come to me, declare that there would be competition in Australia if this industry were set up, and the reputation of these insofar as their .manufacture goes, is not an unsatisfactory one in regard to prices: but I fear that the outcome of these prohibitive duties will, sooner or later - sooner rather than later - lead to a local monopoly. If the Minister will let us have the advice of the Tariff Board upon the matter, following a reasonably early inquiry, I shall be prepared to support its’ recommendation, whatever it may be. I regret that, owing to the imposition of these duties before there was any manufacture in Australia leading to the dreadful exploitation of the users .of these pipe fittings during the past 21 or 22 months. I cannot do anything but give my vote against this item.
.- With regard to the suggestion that the item should be postponed and referred to the Tariff Board, I wish to point out that six or eight months ago I referred quite a number of items to the Tariff Board and have not yet received its reports upon them. A little time ago the board had between 200 and 300 requests for duties awaiting its consideration, and if this item were referred to the board, as the honorable member has suggested, I should not get the report upon it in time to deal with it, and have the whole schedule sent up to the Senate ‘bef ore the 1st November next, in accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister.
– It is a simple issue.
– Not if evidence has to be taken in several States. Even if the board did not visit Western Australia, its inquiry would take a considerable time. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) struck the nail on the head when he said that he understood that a number of importers had big stocks in hand before the duty was imposed; These importers had these stocks in hand, and they fixed a price, inclusive of the duty that would be paid on future importations, although they had not paid duty. From my point of view, that is dishonest business. No reputable merchant would do that kind of thing. At any rate there are many merchants whom I know who would not stoop to do it. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) declares that pipe fittings over 2 inches cannot be supplied by Adelaide merchants. If the honorable member will let me know the quantities these merchants in Adelaide require, I guarantee that the Australian manufacturer will supply them within a reasonable time.
– What is a reasonable time ?
– Within six weeks. It takes so long to get an order supplied from overseas. If merchants import from England or Germany have they not to give some notice? What is wrong, therefore, in giving the Australian manufacturer a little notice? Goods which are imported are supplied on order, and the. merchant in Australia has to wait at least six weeks, if not longer, until the articles come out by a tramp steamer. But an Australian manufacturer must fill an order next week ! As a matter of fact, the local manufacturers already carry stocks of many of these fittings, and an order can be filled immediately. In any case, it can be filled in from four to six weeks. Honorable members opposite want one law- for the importer and another law for the Australian manufac turer. They will not give the latter a chance. They allow the German manufacturer three months in which to supply an order, but an Australian manufacturer is expected to supply the goods required within a week or two.
The honorable member for Angas described Tulloch’s Phoenix Limited in New South Wales as “ some tin-pot show “. As a matter of fact, its works cover approximately 20 acres. Thefirm has been established for about 50 years. It was previously engaged in the manufacture of rolling-stock for the railways; but, because of the slump in railway activities it has been obliged to go in for some other line of business in order to keep its staff employed. It’ has now a large staff engaged in making these fittings. I should like the honorable member for Angas to know that Tulloch’s Phoenix Limited has booked orders for £30,000 worth of fittings for the South Australian market.
– I am very pleased to hear it.
– The honorable member expressed his anxiety for the poor unfortunate market gardener, overlooking the burden imposed on him by the price he has to pay for imported pipes. It is a much greater burden than the cost of pipe fittings. The Australian market gardener is at the* mercy of the importer, because the pipes are not made in Australia, and they are sold at a fabulous profit.
– There is a duty on them.
– There is a deferred duty; it has not yet become operative. The price of pipes to-day is 70 per cent, higher than the 1927 price level, whereas the price of fittings, which are made in Australia, is 10 per cent, less than the 1927 level. The Australian manufacturers’ price for 3-in. tees is 9s. 7d. for galvanized and 8s. for black. I think that, in the course of my speech last night, 1 explained why in South Australia the retail’ prices are higher than in Queensland and New South Wales. Australian malleable cast-iron fittings are sold in Queensland and New South Wales at a price which is 10 per cent, lower than the price which obtained prior to the introduction of the present duties. There has been no reduction in the other States, because of the action of the merchants who are members of the Pipe Association.
– What has the Minister to say in regard to the statement in the letter forwarded to him by the firm of Rinne Harris ?
– I do not remember having seen it. The Pipe Association, which is controlled by one of the largest overseas pipe-makers, fixes the prices for Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia against the expressed desires of the local manufacturers, who are often blamed by purchasers not acquainted with the facts. These merchants buy on Australian manufacturers’ lists and very ingeniously sell on the importers’ lists at prices which average 30 per cent, higher than the net cost. The following table shows the prices which consumers have to pay in New Zealand, where there is no local industry, compared with those ruling in Australia : -
– I challenge the accuracy of those figures. In what part of Australia can round galvanized elbows be bought at 5£d. ?
– These prices have been obtained after careful inquiry by my investigation officers.
– I deny that that price rules in South Australia. The Minister’s officers have misled him.
– The honorable member probably knows Mr. Harris, who is the head of the combine which fixes prices in South Australia. He will tell the honorable member of the history of the Pipe Association. The industry protected by these duties presents no great difficulties. I have already shown that, outside the States in which the Pipe Association has been fixing prices against the wishes of the Australian manufacturers, there has been a reduction of 10 per cent, in comparison with the prices that ruled before these duties were imposed. I hope that the committee will pass the item, because it will mean the employment of a considerable number of Austral inn workmen.
.- I have the greatest sympathy with the proposal to establish this industry in Australia. We have all the raw materials, and its development by methods of mass production should be comparatively’ easy of accomplishment. I arn entirely opposed to the principle enunciated by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), who said that he would support the imposition of duties to establish any industry in Australia regardless of the prices charged for its products to Australian citizens.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) declared himself in similar terms yesterday.
– I differ very strongly, and by the whole diameter of the political earth, from such a proposition, because, in my view, the price at which goods can be sold is a most important element in the consideration of questions such as this. I was amazed at the state-‘ ments made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) concerning the prices charged in South Australia for these fittings, and I find it hard to believe that 3-inch tees cost more than 12s. It is freely admitted that this is not a fair price. It is clue to the fact that the duties were imposed before the goods could be manufactured here, and large stocks have been sold at the higher prices. Those who held such stocks, as the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has said, are in a difficult position, because, if the duties are reduced, they are threatened with sudden death, and are certain of early extinction. I have an instinctive revulsion against monopoly and privilege in all forms, and I think it can be fairly said that I have fought every monopoly wherever it has appeared. It has appeared in this tariff in the interests of manufacturers, and it has appeared in the Government’s industrial activities in the direction of preference to unionists. These privileges and monopolies which are being encouraged by this Ministry have been contested for centuries by our forefathers. As a result of these duties, high prices have been charged for existing stocks, and when the Australian industry is in full production, it will be absolutely sheltered from all competition.
– There will be internal competition.
– But that would not justify the imposition of this tariff, which is equivalent to -prohibition. On the general proposal, I would like to do anything which this Parliament properly can do to assist in the establishment of this industry, but I find that these prohibitive duties have already been responsible for tremendous increases of prices to Australian consumers for existing stocks, and that there is every probability that even higher prices will be charged in future. If the position were otherwise, there would be no need for these duties. In 1927, the Tariff Board, reporting upon this subject, stated -
The Tariff Board recommends that Tariff Item 152 c, wrought iron and malleable cast iron fittings for pipes, and cast iron fittings for pipes not more than 2 inches in diameter be not altered.
That is the latest advice which we have received from an independent and external source on this subject, and yet, without any further inquiry or report, the Government imposed these higher duties. The British duty is 35 per cent. ad valorem. In addition, there is the further protection given by the adverse exchange rate of over 30 per cent., and primage duty of 10 per cent., to say nothing of freight which, in respect of heavy articles of this description, is in very considerable ratio to their value. I say, therefore, that some very special circumstances must be indicated before anything approaching these prohibitive duties can be justified. Despite the Minister’s appeal, I cannot help feeling impressed by the definite statement of the honorable member, for Angas, supported by ample evidence, as to the impossibility, after these duties have been in operation for two years, of obtaining certain fittings in Adelaide, and the tremendous increase in prices charged to consumers in that State. It appears to me, therefore, that we have been asked to go too far in these measures to protect this industry. I am prepared to give it reasonable protection, because, as I have said, we have in Australia all the necessary raw material, our artisans are able to do the work, and there is a big market for the product. But I am not satisfied that the degree of protection represented in this item is necessary, and, unless the Minister reconsiders the matter, and brings down an amended proposal, I shall have to vote against the item.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- I have listened to this debate with considerable interest, and was particularly struck by the pertinacity of my friend, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), in dealing with a subject of which be knows so little. No doubt, he has been well primed by the importing interests, and, aided by the material with which they supplied them, he was able to waste a good deal of the time of the committee. He was returned to Parliament on a policy of protection for local industries, but he seems to have deserted that policy.
– I was returned to support the. policy of the new protection ; this is the old protection.
– The honorable member made some reference to 3-in. piping which he saw on exhibition at the show ground, and said that farmers who wanted a tee piece’ or elbow for this sort of piping would have to pay so much more for it because of the high duties. I wonder how much malleable cast-iron piping of 3-in. diameter is used on the farms in South Australia. Very little, I imagine. It is extremely unlikely that any farmer would be using tee pieces similar to the sample on the table before us. Even when we imported all the pipes and fittings we needed, we did not have such a wonderfully large selection to choose from. Although the manufacturers’ catalogue showed an infinite variety of types and sizes, the importers in this country stocked only a limited number of castings suitable for any particular work. Certainly one could import anything one wanted; but it was necessary to wait three or four months for it. That was the position when there were no Australian manufacturers of such articles, but honorable members opposite seem to. expect a great deal more of the local manufacturers than ever they demanded of the importers. It would be of no use for the Australian manufacturers to make tees of the out-sizes mentioned, because there would be very little demand for them, and the stock would simply lie on their hands. The result would” be that they would have to charge more for those sizes that the public wanted in order to reimburse them for the outlay on the articles for which there was no demand. For 40 years I was connected with a business which stocked malleable iron and fittings, and I know that the firms- which stock these articles keep only a very limited range. In .the building trade, it was not possible to get larger than 1-in. ferrules in any casting because there was so little, demand for the larger sizes. If we wanted anything bigger we had to indent it specially…. I have known of merchants in (Sydney who have had to dump parts of their stock because they were foolish enough to import a lot of. castings and fittings for which there was no demand. It is only reasonable to allow the Australian manufacturers a little time in which to supply any outside or abnormal demand. For ordinary irrigation purposes farmers never use pipes of greater size than 1 inch, or even f inch. Even for reticulation purposes in the towns, the -in. pipe is the standard size. So far as I know, pipes of larger size than 1 inch are usually wrought iron or cast iron. If they are as large as 3 inches, they are even made of wood. Before castiron and malleable castings were made in Australia, farmers who relied upon imported goodna were frequently put to great expense. Many of them used imported American buggies. Frequently, before a man had his vehicle very long, an axle box -would break. A new box might cost only 2s. or 3s. in America, but because he would have to wait two or three months to get the part from there, the farmer was compelled to fit a new axle costing as much as £5. The last Government, supported by honorable members opposite, took no steps to discourage the importation “ of American motor cars, although the Australian farmer was compelled to pay for *hem two or three times as much as the American farmer could huy them for. It often happened that before a man had his American car very long, the manufacturers went out of business, and his car became what is called an “ orphan “. When parts of the car were broken or worn out, it was impossible to get replacements, because they were no longer manufactured. The broken part might be worth only a few shillings, but it would cost the motorist several pounds to have one made, because the pattern would have to be made first. In this way the farmers have been imposed upon for years, but honorable members opposite have not felt called upon to enter a protest. Not long ago, a meeting of farmers was held in a country town, and when they were about to go home, they discovered that some mischievous urchin had one round and taken all the ignitioneys from the cars,, with the result that the farmers were put to the expense of paying for lodgings in the town for the night. That is the sort of thing that happens when one has to rely on American importations. The other day I heard of a farmer who had to pay £5 car hire to take him home because he burnt out a fuse in his American car, and did not know how to repair it. As an agent for American farming machinery, I have had a good deal to do with the farming community, and I know that they were often put to trouble and expense through being unable to get parts for the implements they bought. Twelve months after a farmer bought an American plough, for instance, the manufacturer might go out of business, and the farmer would be unable to get new shares for his plough, with the result that it became a dead loss. Now that the farmers are using Australianmade machinery they never have any difficulty in replacing broken parts.
It may be that the duty proposed in this schedule is somewhat high, but it is necessary to protect local industry. I. remember in the old days we used to buy very fine malleable iron fittings from Eberhardt, one of the best known American manufacturers, and at that time the price was very low. I have not had anything to do with the Australian manufacturers of these goods, because I have given up the business since importations ceased, but I know that we used to buy malleable iron by the pound. It is easy to learn the weight of the article one is buying, and one can then work out the cost per lb. This industry in Australia is subject to internal competition. Both Melbourne and Sydney are producing castings, so that no one manufacturer is enjoying a monopoly. Therefore, the tariff will not be used as a means for exploiting the public. The quality of the locallymanufactured article is fairly good, though I do not think the Australian factories can produce anything better than, or even as good as, we used to import. Before we can reach the highest standard, it is necessary that our workmen should become thoroughly skilled.
I should be surprised to learn that there is any great demand for 3-in. malleable fittings, either in South Australia or in any other State. Pipes of that size are generally made of cast iron, and they are not screwed together, but are just butted together and the joints sealed with. lead. Malleable pipes of that diameter would not stand the pressure of an ordinary town water supply. I do not suppose that there is one town in New South Wales which uses malleable fittings, and castings over 2 inches in diameter. It would be absurd to require any Australian firm to manufacture or stock fittings for which there was no demand. Such suggestions come only from the agents of the importers, and do them little credit. Honorable members opposite complain because the price of the Australian manufactured article is higher than the pre-war prices, but we ought to remember that even the importers raised the price of many articles by 200 per cent., and as much as 300 per cent. It is no argument in favour of abolishing protection that the Australian manufacturer has found it necessary to increase prices. The farmer will not be affected very much by this duty, because the quantity of malleable iron which any farmer is likely to buy, especially in these times of financial stringency, is negligible. Those who profess to be so concerned over the farmers’ interests in regard to these matters never raised their voices to protest when the farmers had to pay 3s. a gallon for benzine that was selling in the United States of America for 9d. a gallon. Honorable members opposite do not seem to object to the farmers being fleeced by overseas interests, but immediately become alarmed when the local manufacturers are afforded an opportunity of obtaining a reasonable return on their capital. I support the proposed duty
.- In replying to the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and the admirable speech of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), the Minister (Mr. Forde) quoted the prices of pipe fittings manufactured in Australia and those of imported fittings used in New Zealand. As he read the figures very rapidly, and refused to repeat them when asked to do so, I was unable to determine whether the prices he quoted were accurate or otherwise; but in some instances the prices of the fittings manufactured in Australia were definitely higher than those of imported fittings sold in New Zealand. I have no doubt that the figures supplied to the Minister were hand-picked in order to support his case ; yet some of them showed that imported fittings in New Zealand cost, in certain cases, less than those manufactured in Australia.
– In five cases out of six the prices of the fittings manufactured in Australia are lower than those of the imported fittings sold in New Zealand.
– The Minister quoted 5£d. for one type of fitting, when the price is ls.
– The prices of the particular sizes quoted by the Minister suited his argument. They referred probably to the sizes more generally used - stock lines, for which there may be a fair demand in Australia, thus enabling them to be produced at a reasonable cost. But it is absolutely unfair to impose high customs duties on fittings of all sizes merely because the manufacture of certain sizes is undertaken in Australia. I have been supplied with some of the duties actually paid on imported fittings during the last eighteen months. On one shipment of fittings valued at £59 17s. 9d., the duty amounted to £121 4s. 9d., or over 200 per cent, of the value of the whole consignment. The lowest duty paid on one consignment was 45 per cent.; but there are dozens of consignments, on very few of which the duty was under 100 per cent. In one instance a duty equal to 320 per cent, of the total value of the fittings before they were brought into Australia was imposed. To place such high duties on every type of fitting, in order to protect the manufacturers of a few sizes, such as the Minister quoted, is verging on fiscal lunacy, if not sheer malevolence and bungling. It is a mischievous, if not, a destructive, policy. There is hardly any country in which water conservation is of greater importance than it is in Australia. At least one-third of this continent is bone dry, and another one-third consists of arid land, the development of which depends upon water supplies. In a considerable area of that territory the underground water supply is brackish or salty. There are large areas in the Murray basin, and on the river Darling, in the western division of New South Wales and extending across South Australia into Western Australia, in which a large proportion of the underground water supply is unsuitable for live-stock. But all through that large ‘ area there are underground sources of supplies which provide stock water. The successful development of large portions of that country depends upon finding suitable underground water supplies which can be reticulated for stock purposes. On the basis of population, the reticulation undertaken in South Australia is greater than in any other country. In Western Australia the wort of reticulation is rapidly increasing, and in time will be greater than that in South Australia. Similar conditions exist in the northern part of Victoria, in a portion of the western division of New South Wales, and probably in other parts of Australia with which I am nol so familiar. In these circumstances I cannot understand why the Government should hinder the development of these large tracts of country, as will inevitably be the case, if these duties remain operative. It is the responsibility of the Government to assist development by reducing the cost of production. Probably many of these pipe fittings can. be manufactured in Australia at fair prices if the industrial conditions are reasonable. As the Minister stated, we have unparalleled iron resources, and an excellent supply of good quality coal in Australia, and the iron ore can be transported to the source of power at a relatively low cost. But notwithstanding all these natural advantages, costs are unnecessarily high, and the industrial conditions generally most unsatisfactory. I am not so much concerned with the position of those in the capital cities using pipe fittings where water reticulation is extensively undertaken, because they are usually required by those whose incomes are adjusted to high costs, and consequently are not handicapped as are the primary producers. It is only fair that such users of fittings should pay for the services they receive. But the prosperity of the cities depends upon the production of the country, and the cost of water, the lifeblood of production, will be increased by this Government’s destructive fiscal policy. In dealing with the prices of these fittings the Minister did not take into consideration the exchange position, nor did he deal with the quality of the local article as compared with imported fittings. In order to protect the manufacturers of certain types of fitting it is unreasonable to increase the cost of all other fittings. The quality of the sample submitted by the Minister is not representative of the quality of all fittings produced in Australia.
Mr.Forde. - It is to-day.
– It has not always been so. Some time ago I had the misfortune to have a number of pipes and pipe fittings burst by frosts, and in replacing them with Australian-made fittings I found that while some of the fittings were of excellent quality, others had casting flaws, and wereotherwise defective. Casting is one of the most difficult branches of engineering, and it is not to be expected that the quality of the fittings supplied by recently established industries will be of a uniformly high standard. I donot suggest that perfection can be expected at once. That can be obtained only as a result of experience, but it is unfair -to compel the users of such fittings to purchase only those made in Australia in order to increase the activities of the iron and steel industry. The cost of establishing or supporting such industries as that now under consideration should be borne by the whole community by the payment of a bounty instead of placing the whole of theburden upon a section of the community which is already carrying more than a fair share of responsibility. The primary producers are having the hardest struggle of all. We have not been supplied with a copy of the Tariff Board’s report on wrought iron fittings, although its report on malleable iron fittings is available. We have not been circularized in connexion with these fittings, as we were in regard to galvanized iron, and, therefore, have to depend largely upon the hand-picked figures supplied by the Minister. It is unfair to ask the committee to agree to the imposition of such high duties until honorable members have been supplied with the report of the Tariff Board, the members of which, although they may be biased in favour of protection, are fair-minded men. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Paterson’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. McGrath. )
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
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 (Imperialstandard wire gauge), ad val. British, 30 per cent. ; intermediate, 45 per cent. ; general, 55 per cent.
Upon which Mr. Stewart had moved, by way of amendment -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 25th September, 1931 (e) (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 onlyas 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.FORDE (Capricornia - Minister for Trade and Customs) . [8.36].- The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) moved last night an amendment to this item having for its object the removal of the duty of 52s. on British fencing wire. I then promised to discuss the matter with the Government, with a view to considering the proposal for the payment of a bounty instead of the im position of a duty. The Government has gone into the matter carefully, and would like to be able to pay the bounty. In normal times that action would be taken; but, unfortunately, the present are abnormal times, and the national finances are in such a condition that the Government would not be able to find the necessary money to pay the bounty. For the year 1929-30 payments by way of bounty totalled £114,000. For 1928-29 they amounted to £120,000, and for 1927-28 to £104,000, making a total of £338,000 in the last three years.
.- I hope that those who last night were in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) will take this lesson to heart. When the question was put for the postponement of the item I called against it as we had the members to defeat the heavy duty, but, unfortunately, could not get any other honorable member to call with me and endeavour to secure a division on the matter. Surely honorable members must realize that the Minister had his tongue in his cheek when he sought permission to take the matter back to Cabinet. I do not say that he has not done so; but be knows that this Cabinet is representative of metropolitan rather than of primary producing interests.
– It is nothing of the kind.
– The honorable gentleman knows very well that if there is a clash of interests it throws its weight behind heavy protective duties. Its history teaches us that that is so. It is regrettable that when they had the numbers to carry the amendment, those who are in favour of it were not sufficiently adept in political tactics to push the matter to a vote. I hope that they will not be side-tracked again in what is, after all, merely the A B C of political tactics. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) smiles at the success of the move.He will not smile when he faces his farmer constituents. Formerly, when the bounty was paid, it was subscribed to by the whole of the taxpayers. Now it is proposed that only the users of fencing wire shall contribute to the cost of maintaining this secondary industry. With all his bravery and boldness, the Minister for Trade and Customs would not attempt to “put over” on this item what he “ put over “ in regard to galvanized iron - that only 25 percent. of the wire produced is used by the primary producers. Therefore, the primary producers will have to meet the cost of this duty. I say to the Minister, that when he took the matter back to Cabinet he knew, as well as I did, that he did so with his tongue in his cheek. I know from my experience in the party that any one who dares to propose a reduction of duty is looked down on and smiled at in a condescending manner. I congratulate the Minister upon having succeeded in fooling honorable members who sit on this side. I hope that they will not allow him to do so again.
– The honorable member misrepresents me when he says that.
– I marvel at the speech that we have just heard from the Minister. The honorable gentleman shed crocodile tears at having to impose on the farmer the very definite increase of £2 12s. a ton in the cost of all his fencing wire. Listening to the honorable gentleman, one would think that this was the first punishment that he had inflicted upon the farmers at the bidding of the metropolitan trades halls. But this is only another example of the callousness that is continually being shown towards the primary producers by the honorable gentleman, as well as by the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) and every other honorable member opposite. That callousness has been evident even within the last few hours in connexion with galvanized iron and pipe fittings. The tariff teems with evidences of the indifference of the Government to the claims of the primary producers of this country. If the consideration in this case was truly for the manufacturers in the big industrial areas, or if there were a real desire for the establishment of important industries in this country, the case against the Government would not be so bad; but we know that in this case the Government is merely obeying the dictates of its Labour masters; that the political Labour leagues and the trade unions have demanded these prohibitive duties so that they might establish control of the markets in the hands of the manufacturerswith a view to their being exploited by the workers. That is the real motive behind this tariff. The Minister for Trade and Customs - this alleged representative of a great rural constituency which is a considerable user of fencing wire - says that it hurts him very much toimpose these duties; but there have been increases on practically every item that he has brought forward, which is a proof of his utter indifference to the interests of the primary producer. It is a miserable, wretched, kotowing to the people behind him who have the votes. This industry was established as a national asset, the extra cost of which was to be borne by the Consolidated Revenue.. Now, when money runs short, the Minister has the impudence to declare that the nation as a whole cannot afford the maintenance of the industry, and that, therefore, the burden should be loaded on to that section ofthe community which is. least able to bear it. I am not surprised that the metropolitan . members on the ministerial side should support the item, but I am amazed that those who profess to represent rural constituencies should have the audacity to do so. The honor- able member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), for instance, is supporting an item which increases by £2 12s. 6d. per ton the price of the fencing wire used by the farmers in his constituency. He is a farmer, and a representative of rural co-operative interests; but, at the dictation of caucus, he betrays the people who sent him to this Parliament.
– On a point of order. The statement that I vote in accordance with the dictates of caucus is utterly false, and objectionable to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable member for Henty to withdraw the statement to which exception has been taken.
– If the statement is offensive to the honorable member for Franklin, I withdraw it. But I say that his support of this item is shameful.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) is supposed to represent a rural constituency; yet he is proposing a duty which is the worst of the many anomalies perpetrated in this schedule at the expense of the primary producer. He is being supported by other honorable members who misrepresent country electorates, and who vote with the Minister without any knowledge of the matter at issue. Many of them remain out of the chamber for the greater part of the discussion, and, when the division bells ring, they look to see on which side the Minister is sitting, and vote accordingly.
– Why not say something on the item?
– The honorable member for Herbert, in supporting a heavy impost on people living on the rural areas in order to keep in employment a few men at Newcastle, cannot claim to be safeguarding the interests of country residents in North Queensland. Because Cabinet cannot see its way to pay a bounty, the burden of helping the manufacturers of wire is to be placed wholly on one section of the community. On the plea that it is a national asset, the iron and steel industry is battening on the Australian consumers. Monopolies are being deliberately created by the Government, and profiteering is taking place. Rather than continue this suicidal policy, it would pay the Commonwealth to scrap the various plants and pension the workers engaged in them. The iron and steel industry is a veritable old man of the sea. It is a burden about the necks of the Australianpeople, who are required to pay exorbitant rates for iron and steel products. Closely linked up with it is the coal industry, which also is battening on the people. The item before the committee is connected with the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited,. Lysaght Limited, and the coal industry; from this Newcastle group the people are not getting a fair deal. I feel bound to congratulate the honorable members for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and Hunter (Mr. James) - the one representing steel; and the other coal - on having been ableto induce caucus to consent to these Newcastle industries further exploiting the Australian people. I protest strongly against this disgraceful item, which I know will be carried by the votes of the dumb-driven cattle on the Government side.
.- I regret that the Government has decided to oppose my amendment. But, apparently, we must be thankful for the Minister’s assurance that his heart still beats for the primary producer. I am reminded of a stage couple in whose relations assault and battery by the husband was a regular feature. Yet the beaten and bruised wife sang sentimentally -
He is gentle as a dove,
And’is ‘eart is full of luv,
But its a funny little wayhehas of showing it.
The Minister, in the very act of committing assault and battery upon the primary producers, assures us that he is still their staunch friend. The wheat and wool industries, upon which Australia is mainly dependent for relief from its present difficulties, have to sell their produce in Australia and overseas at world parity rates. Yet at this time, when the prices of these commodities are lower than ever before in history, the Government transfers from the whole community the burden of subsidizing the manufacturers of fencing wire and places it entirely on the shoulders of those engaged in the production of wool and wheat.
The adverse trade balance is a national issue, and when these two staple industries, which are the most capable of correcting it, are struggling as never before, the Government places an additional handicap upon them. Owing to the fall in the price of wheat, many producers in all States are contemplating the raising of fat lambs, for which the land in wheat districts is eminently suited. To-day they must subdivide their properties and sheep-proof their fences. At the moment, thousands of tons of wire are urgently needed by men who are financially unable to pay the exorbitant rates that are demanded for the commodity. This action of the Government’ will make it even more difficult for them to extend their activities.
If the purpose of debate in this chamber is to consider and vote upon questions upon their merits, there was never a more glaring example of the overwhelming victory of the opponents of the practice than that which we are witnessing. Here we have a case in which the arguments from every point of view are against the action of the Government. Yet the Government persists in pushing this amendment to a vote. I hope that it will be an unsuccessful one for the Government. I strongly protest against the duties that are proposed under this item. I feel very keenly upon the subject, as the proposal of the Government at this juncture in our history is most unfair to the primary producer. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
.- The speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) this afternoon showed very clearly that he puts party before nation. I wish that, in this matter, we could strike out the word “ iron “ and make it merely “ steal “ duties. The whole procedure of the Government is “ steal, steal, steal “, and primary producers are the victims.
I indicated last night that the price of galvanized wire, No. 8 gauge, was £6c5s. a ton in Germany, whereas the Melbourne quotation for the Australian article is £19 a ton ! I, in common with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), represent very large areas of country, a great portion of which has been taken up recently both by pastoralists and farmers. I have seen instance after instance where men have put in their crops, erected fencing posts, but have not been able to afford to wire their areas, let alone enclose them with netting. As a result, the crops have beer ravaged by rabbits, as far as 100 yards inside the line of fencing posts. Those men have had the courage to go out into our country areas and put up a fight for themselves and their country. They decline to remain in our cities, sponging upon the concessions that might be extended to them by Parliament. They have built homes for themselves and their families, and have valiantly endeavoured to wrest from the soil some of its potential wealth. I noted to-night that when the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) was speaking, the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) gibed at him, laughed when the honorable member referred to the difficulties against which farmers have to contend, and crowed over the tactical victory gained by the Minister for Trade and Custom.* when he tricked the Opposition into refraining from pushing the amendment to a vote last night.
As the honorable member for Wimmera pointed out, there is a desire on the pari of our primary producers to cut up areas into smaller blocks, and engage in additional avenues of production. There if no better way of helping Australia out of it’s difficulties than by encouraging men to go on the land by offering them cheap holdings, cheap fertilizers, and facilitating the development of the country. Such a policy would make for better conditions for the people as a whole, and provide additional employment in our cities. Our primary industries keep our cities in existence. If they were destroyed, the cities would collapse like a house of cards. Already the metropolitan areas are feeling the pinch, because we have not been able to export commodities to pay our indebtedness overseas.
I cannot understand the attitude of the Government. I protest against the stupidity of giving extreme protection on item after item, and imposing additional burdens upon the people. It is scandalous that the Government should penalize the people who are endeavouring to open up new country and develop that which they are already holding. However, it appears to be useless to debate these items. No reasons are advanced for the action of the Government other than those set out in the special briefs prepared for the Minister by outside interested persons.
– No outside persons have interviewed me in connexion with this item.
– That may be true, but does the honorable gentleman dare to tell me that outside interested bodies have not supplied him with the voluminous facts and figures which he has read to the committee in connexion with other items? His attitude is preposterous. The Minister has his official advisers, upon whom he should rely for his information. Every day, during the debate on the tariff, one finds lobbyists cluttering the King’s Hall. Representatives of those who seek concessions at the expense of the people are always about, but those who have to pay the piper are represented only by a few honorable members on this side.
The Government should consider the future of Australia, and realize that it must rest upon production. There is not one item in this tariff that will help towards that end. Each is designed only to put additional penalties upon the people, and particularly upon those in the country. From beginning to end, the tariff is a special tax on those who are producing the wealth of the nation. It is useless to protest. It would be far better to let the schedule go through promptly to another place, where something will probably be done to restrain this indulgence by the Government in class taxation.
-Because of the policy they are pursuing with regard to duties on this and many other items that have come before the committee for consideration, the Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Government are making it very, difficult, not only for members on this side of the chamber, but for many of their own followers. Honorable members of the Opposition are placed in a false position in the matter. The demands of the Minister and of the Government are so impossible that we are compelled willy nilly to oppose them. The Government will not accept any suggestions from us that there should be a half-way, or even a three-quarter-way house. So we are compelled either to go the whole hog, or totally oppose the duties.
– There is a Senate.
– Fortunately for the country, there is. But it is unfair to this chamber, which is the people’s House, that so large a proportion of its members should be denied an opportunity to give expression to their opinions. We on this side of the House are protectionists, with the exception, perhaps, of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) ; and even the latter unbends occasionally in his freetrade attitude. Yet we are not allowed even to suggest a sane course with regard to the tariff proposals of the Government. Take the item under discussion. As the Minister well knows, the bounty on this item was £2 12s. a ton, an amount equal to the duty now proposed. When the bonus was withdrawn the price of wire in Australia immediately increased by £2 8s. 6d. a ton, which closely approximates the’ amount of the bonus. If the price lists of that time were examined, it would probably be found that there had been a reduction in the overseas price of the commodity; otherwise the local manufacturers would no doubt have increased their prices by an amount equal to the bonus.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and almost every other honorable member on this side who has spoken to the item, has pointed out that it is one question as to whether the country can afford to pay a bonus to manufacturers in order to permit a given industry to become established in Australia, and an entirely different question to demand of one section of the community that it should bear, the whole cost of duties such as these. The bonus would not have been granted in the first instance had this chamber not been convinced thai it was in the national interest that the industry should be established in Australia. I still hope that the iron and steel industry will prosper as it is a basic one. I shall never cease to support the granting to our basic industries of such assistance as the country can afford. But it is useless to support those industries if we are not prepared also to support those closely allied with them. The industry which manufactures the item under discussion comes within that category. If the iron and steel industry is to prosper in Australia, it is essential that the makers of wire for fencing purposes also shall prosper.
The honorable member for Wimmera said that many farmers have been driven out of the production of wheat and forced to go in for raising fat lambs, which necessitates the sub-division of their holdings into small paddocks. I believe that very little new fencing is being done at the present time, but 1 know that there are thousands of miles of fences throughout Australia that need repairing, and are not being repaired because of the high cost of wire.
– There are thousands of acres of land that urgently require fencing, but their unfortunate owners cannot afford to have the work done.
– I admit that, but the proportion is small compared with the total quantity of fencing wire that is required throughout Australia. As we all know there was a great increase in the price of wool and pastoral lands, but the number of new buildings was infinitesimal. The increase in pastoral land values arose from the transferring of these properties from one person to another at greatly enhanced prices. In the main those holdings were taken up many years ago, and fenced and subdivided when wire was very cheap. To-day, when fencing repairs need to be effected, the owners of the properties find themselves unable to afford to carry them out.
I am not one-sided. I can see the side of the manufacturer as well as that of the man on the land. I do not claim for a moment that, if be is to continue under existing conditions and pay prevailing rates of wages, the manufacturer can succeed with a duty lower than that suggested by the Minister. But we cannot have two sets of wages obtaining, side by side. We cannot say to “ A “, “ Because you are working in the city and are employed in the secondary industries your wages shall be so much per week and to B, his brother, who is just as good a man as A, and works as hard or harder than he does, “Because you work in the country, producing goods which cannot be sold overseas at a profit, you must accept a low wage.” The country cannot succeed if we attempt to have two sets of wages working side by side - high wages in the cities and low wages in the country. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) pointed out that our salvation lies in increasing the area of our markets, so that we may increase our output. We cannot hope to increase the area of our markets by increasing the prices of our goods to consumers. Like other honorable members, I know of many men who would fence their properties and carry out necessary repairs if the materials they require for the purpose were cheaper; but because they cannot afford to buy the materials, the work is not done, and consequently more men are being thrown out of employment every year. This subject should not be approached solely from the stand-point of the primary producer or that of the manufacturer. We must have regard to the effect of these duties on the general community; we must decide what is a fair price to expect the man on the land to pay. He, as well as the city dweller, must be prepared to accept his share of the burden. Only in that way can we hope to make some progress in this country; but so long as the Minister brings forward impossible proposals, the only thing to do is to oppose them, noi because we are antagonistic to the workers in the cities, or to those who have placed their capital in these ventures, but because we realize that the men who are the backbone of the country cannot afford to pay the prices which result from thesehigh duties. For these reasons, I am compelled, much against my will, to vote against the Government’s proposal.
– I do not approach this subject as a freetrader. No member of this committee can rightly accuse me of ever having expressed sentiments opposed to the development of Australian industries : but I do say that the position of Australia is such that we must have regard primarily to the success of our great export industries. If, in our consideration of the tariff, we can do anything to assist the men who are struggling in primary industries to-day, particularly those industries on which Australia depends for her export trade - we should do so. I have nothing to say against the Australian manufacturers of galvanized iron and wire, but I do say that it is the duty of every honorable member, irrespective of party, to have regard first to the preservation of our primary industries, which are our greatest national asset. Immediately the bounty on the manufacture of wire was removed, the primary producers, who were already suffering because of the low price obtained for their products, were called upon to pay a further 48s. 6d. a ton for fencing wire.
– There has been no increase; the price of wire is lower to-day than ever before.
– It is true that there has recently been a fall in the price; but I remind the honorable member that world prices have dropped much more. The reduced price in Australia would have come about even had the bounty been continued.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) referred to the price of sugar, and inferred that Queensland members are inconsistent in that they support a policy of protection for the sugar industry but are not prepared to grant to secondary industries similar protection. The sugar industry is not competing with white men in any other country in the world, whereas, in the case of wire, the duty of 52s. a ton is directed against wire made in other countries by white people.
– Including Germans, with whom we were recently at war.
– German wire could be landed at £6 5s. a ton, whereas producers are asked to pay £19 a ton. The protection afforded the sugar industry is a protection against the competition of the product of black labour. In that respect, sugar is not different from tobacco, maize, broom millet, rice, peanuts, cotton, &c, the duties on which have the support of Country party members because .of the necessity for protection against importations of these articles from black-labour countries. In the case of wire, the Government seeks to protect the local industry at the direct cost of the user. I support the development of secondary industries in this country, and will not seek to abolish the system of arbitration under which workers in secondary industries labour. I will, however, oppose the imposition of such duties for the development of secondary industries as will be detrimental to our wheatgrowing, wool-growing, pastoral, and dairying industries. I shall not support anything which will be against the- interests of those who go out to clear the forests and cultivate the cleared land, because I hold that these men should be able to obtain their requirements at prices which will enable their products to compete in the markets of the world with the products of other countries.
– Honorable members who support these duties talk a good deal about the good Australians employed in Australian secondary industries. I am concerned with the welfare of the good Australians engaged in primary industries.
– There are no better Australians than those who are seeking to develop our primary industries. Our first concern should be for them. The wheat-growers of Australia received practically the equivalent of ls. a bushel British price for their last wheat crop, less the price of bags,, yet the Government has done nothing to assist them. On the contrary, it has. increased the price of wire by 4Ss. 6d. a ton. The dairymen of Australia, who also are suffering from low prices, have not received from the Government assistance to the extent of 48s. 6d. a ton for their butter.. Nor have the woolgrowersof Australia, who are receiving 6£d. a lb. for wool which costs them ls. a lb. toproduce, been offered a bounty of 48s. 6d. a ton for their wool. I realize that the representatives of the primary producers, in this country can do no more than utter their protest against these duties; but we shall continue to oppose the development of secondary industries at theexpense of those primary industries without which Australia cannot prosper. Thehonorable member for Newcastle (Mr.. Watkins), who has excelled himself in. making the be3t of a bad case, must know- that it is not fair to ask our primary people to pay such high prices for wire. In Queensland, £300,000 is required for the ringbarking of the forests. When this work has been done, wire will be required to fence it. Are we to ask the settlers there to suffer hardship in order that a secondary industry at Newcastle might reap the advantage of increased prices for wire?
– There has been no increase in the price of wire.
– That is a ridiculous interjection. I assure honorable members who support these duties in the interests of the workers at Newcastle that, if they gave as much attention to the interests of the primary producers as they do to those of the workers in secondary industries, they would find that the success of the former would lead to the success of the latter. Large quantities of wire of from 8 to 15 gauge are used in country districts for telephonic communications. The country settler has not a telephone with a double circuit of copper wire maintained by the Government, yet on the wire which he himself supplies he has to pay exorbitant prices to a monopoly owing to this huge duty.
– He does not pay exorbitant duties.
– He does. To those settlers who are making a start in new districts, wire is second only to galvanized iron as a necessity. The high prices charged for these articles places a heavy burden on settlers in this country. L am prepared to support the fullest measure of protection to our secondary industries provided that it does not affect the cost of production to our primary producers, particularly those who produce for export. But I cannot support this item because the protection given to the industry manufacturing fencing wire will be at the expense of those who have to use that product and will make it harder for them to produce the commodity which Australia wants, and has .to export in order to bring about a more equal trade balance. On all occasions I shall strive to amend the tariff so that the primary producers may purchase their requirements at a reasonable cost.
– Last evening, when it appeared that the arguments used by honorable members on this side regarding the need to relieve primary producers of some of the heavy tariff protection afforded to iron and steel manufacturers, were likely to have some effect, the Minister said that he was prepared to refer the suggestion to re-introduce the bounty system to Cabinet for consideration; but to-night, when he is quite confident that the numbers are behind the Government, instead of agreeing to the re-introduction of the bounty system, which would spread the burden over every section of the community, he is insisting on this increased tariff protection, which will fall solely upon the primary producers, who are the principal users of fencing wire. It is clearly evident that the Minister has received his instructions from caucus. It is, therefore, absolutely futile for us to bring forward any arguments, because no matter how convincing they may be, they must fall on the deaf ears of the Government supporters. Although there are present in this chamber only two Ministers and three or four Labour members, directly a division is called for the Government supporters will flock in and record their vote at the dictation of the caucus.
– It is a tariff ultimatum.
– For that reason it is futile for honorable members on this side, while the present Government remains in power, to do anything except to register a protest against the unjust attitude which it is adopting towards the primary producers. The duties which we have discussed during the last few days bear heavily indeed upon the primary producer. The duty on fencing wire has to be borne entirely by him, because no matter what class of production he is engaged in, he is compelled to use this commodity. How can we increase production under such conditions? If our production falls as a result of these heavy imposts, the Government and its supporters will, at the next election, tell their constituents that the primary producers, although appealed to by the Government to increase production, have let Australia down; but they will scrupu- lously refrain from divulging the fact that the increased tariff burdens which this Government placed upon the producers were responsible for the serious decline in production. The protests of honorable members on this side against these heavy duties have no effect upon the Government, which is simply acting at the dictation of caucus. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) represents a constituency which is vitally concerned with the iron and steel manufacturing industry, and it is said that he represents it very well. It is, therefore, quite natural that he should support the Government in protecting that industry. Labour members in this chamber representing country electorates contend that the wages and conditions of the worker? in the steel industry are sacrosanct, and must not be interfered with, but they overlook the fact that the great majority of the primary producers are not receiving even the equivalent of wages. Yet this added, tariff burden is to be imposed upon them. This policy of heavy protection must inevitably break down of its own weight, because so soon as the primary producer cannot purchase the iron and steel products which he requires, because of the exorbitant prices charged for them, the manufacturer will go out of business.
.- I wish to protest against the decision of the Minister “to impose this duty instead of re-introducing the bounty system. I admit that I was deceived last night by the Minister’s promise to refer this item to Cabinet for consideration, despite the fact that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) said that it was a trap. That honorable member, no doubt because of his long experience with the members of the Government, knew what to expect from them. I fail to understand why this Government should inflict this heavy burden upon the primary producers, a section of the community which, it has admitted, is practically down and out. Surely it would be preferable to reintroduce the bounty system under which the burden of protection afforded to this industry would be borne by all sections of the community. In March of last year, the Prime Minister broadcast an appeal to the farmers, especially to wheatfarmers, which contained the following promise : -
We must grow more wheat, and we must export more wheat, but if the wheat-growers of Australia are prepared to heed appeals to increase the area under cultivation they are entitled to some guarantee in the matter of price and to assurances that their wheat will be marketed in a businesslike way . . . The Commonwealth Government is offering to the wheat-growers a charter. We appeal to them to take it with the. price guarantee and the assurance of businesslike marketing that go with it. We also appeal to them earnestly to increase the acreage under production.
The way in which the wheat-growers responded to the call for increased production was magnificent. Aided by a good season, Australia produced a record wheat crop, and the growers? accumulated a record debt in the effort. Every impost in this tariff schedule adds to the burden of that section of the community to which the Prime Minister made his devout promise. He has failed miserably to carry out that promise. The Government has admitted that the whole nation cannot stand this impost, yet it is placing the whole of it on the shoulders of the primary producers. In Western Australia, which is only in the developmental stage, the low prices ruling for wheat and wool have compelled the producers to turn to other avenues of business. As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has stated, they are turning to the development of the fat lamb trade, which requires the provision of additional fences. This iti turn provides work for many people who would otherwise be unemployed. If we hamper this industry in order to bolster up the iron and steel industry at Newcastle, both industries will stagnate, because one will not be able to afford to buy the products of the other or employ labour. The primary industries are in need of assistance far more than the iron and steel industry is in need of a greater measure of protection. The Government is adopting a stupid policy. The Prime Minister to-day stated that he put the party before the nation.
– He did not say that.
– The honorable member should be fair.
– I am being fair. The Prime Minister said that he held to his party against all comers, and that his party had said that there could be no fusion with any other party. I should have thought that those engaged in this industry, recognizing the serious position of the producers who buy their manufactured products, would have requested the Minister not to impose this increased duty, particularly in view of the fact that wages have come down in many quarters; that 300,000 people are out of work, and that there has been a magnificent conversion of bonds at a lower rate of interest. Every other section of the community has had to bear its share in the general sacrifice, and I fail to understand why this Government should shelter the iron and steel industry at the expense of the primary producers who are admittedly the backbone of this country, and upon whom the credit of this country depends. The imposition of this duty is a most idiotic action on the part of the Government.
.- Every moment that this debate continues it becomes more apparent that this is no longer a deliberative* chamber, but is simply a place where the dictates of outside organizations are registered and given legal effect. One of the duties imposed upon us is to assist manufacturing industries in this country, but in my opinion, and, I think, in the opinion of those who have put us here, we have also to watch the interests of the consuming public of Australia. We have to see that the manufacturers do not use the tariff protection which is accorded them to exploit other industries which are subsidiary to their own, and for which they provide the raw material. During my previous speech on this item I gave several definite instances of what is happening in connexion with barbed wire. Barbed wire cannot at present be imported into Australia, but is the subject of an embargo placed upon it by this Government. The basic material of barbed wire is the wire referred to in the item now before the committee. The allegation that I made in my previous speech, and in respect of which. I have had evidence from several sources, one of which was a letter from which I quoted, was that on three separate occasions when barbed wire factories have been established in Australia, Lysaght Limited and Rylands Brothers, the monopolists in the production of the class of wire with which we are dealing, have, by steps, reduced the price of their barbed wire by no less than £4 5s. a ton, while they have kept the price of the wire, which is the raw material of the manufacturer of barbed wire, at practically the same price al which they had sold the completely manufactured barbed wire. That is a scandal which should not be permitted in this country, and which calls for an answer from the Minister. But the Minister has satisfied himself with reading from a statement, evidently prepared from outside sources, on the position in respect of wire in other countries. He has also quoted from an interstate commission report on this industry, made in 1916, and from statements made in a report of the Tariff Board five or six years old. But he has not justified his actions. What we want to find out is why this industry, which has been given such great protection, should be permitted to carry on in this way? This question demands an answer,, and the answer should be given. .
I also ask why, particularly in this time in Australia’s history, the people who use this wire, and who find themselves almost penniless and practically without any income at all, should be made to pay these additional duties? Only to-day an instance was given to me of a man with 700 acres of wheat land who, last year, harvested 300 acres altogether, and received as the gross return for his* wheat only £327. His interest indebtedness amounted to £160, and his other expenses in connexion with the production of his crop absorbed so much of the balance of the £327 that he only had £20 left .to live upon. He had to go out and work on the roads in order to pay his shire rates. He was able to induce the Shire Council to permit him to pay his rates in that way.
This Government, which says it is trying to represent the primary producers of this country, and to give a fair deal to every class in the community - this. Government which, last year, ex- horted these men to grow more wheat, aud made promises that if they did so it would do certain things for them - this Government, and particularly; the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), will have erected to their memory on the grave of the ruined wheat industry of this country, a monument composed of the heavy iron and steel duties which have been agreed to during the last few days in this chamber.
We have been told that the whole community of Australia cannot afford to pay the £114,000 per annum necessary to continue the bounty to this industry, and that the people who must carry the burden are those who are down and out, but who must have wire ; those who have been so grossly deceived by this Government; those who alone can restore prosperity to us I Is it possible that, in a country like this, which has a reputation for fair play and honest, dealing, there will be found a government and a party so lost to all sense of decency and fair play that it will agree to such a proposal?
– Order ! The honorable member should not go as far as that.
– Is the Government so lost to all sense of fair dealing that it will call upon the farmers of this country - the men whose produce, according to the reports of the Statistician, has dropped SO per cent, in price, and whose costs of production have increased compared with three years ago - to carry the whole of this burden? I am astonished that any honorable members who say that they represent the producers of this country–
– This Government would have paid the farmers 4s. a bushel for their wheat, but the Opposition prevented it from doing so.
– Here is an orchardist who is trying now to play “the old game of drawing a red herring across the trail. He is ashamed of his present action, and is trying to find some excuses for doing this foul thing. He excuses his own attitude on the ground that, because someone else has done certain things in regard to the wheat-farmers,, he may do this. What ‘ has been done was not done by the members of my party. The
Country party has supported every proposal that this Government has made for helping the man on the land. We have stood alongside the Government on every occasion when it has tried to do something in the interests of the farmers. I intend to give reasons why every representative of a rural constituency, including such representatives who sit on the opposite side of the chamber, as well as honorable members who represent industrial constituencies, should support the proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera for a reduction of this duty. The ratification of this high .duty must fail to achieve the purpose which is said to be behind it, for the people who need this wire will not be able to buy it, because of the increased price that must follow the imposition of these duties. This will mean that they will not be able to provide fencing work. The Tariff Board report which was issued the other day dealt with the cognate galvanized iron industry in the following words : -
In the opinion of the board the high price charged lias been a material factor in reducing consumption. Galvanized iron can be regarded as a necessity, but makeshifts and cheaper substitutes will be used while prices are kept at a high level. The board is convinced that there will be no appreciable increase in demand until prices are more in conformity with the reduced purchasing power of the consumer.
The policy of this precious Government, which is being supported by honorable members opposite, will have; the result, first, of putting a load on the back of the producers of this country which they cannot bear, and, secondly, of forcing out of work many men engaged in this secondary industry, because, the demand for galvanized iron will be reduced on account of the high price that will be charged for it.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green), who represents a huge wheatgrowing area, in which fencing wire must be used, is surely interested in this subject. Why does he not give his reasons for supporting this iniquitous proposal to take’ £114,000 from the farmers of this country?
– The right honorable member was a protectionist when . his party was in power; but he has since become a freetrader.
– The honorable member cannot get away with that sort of thing. “When the Bruce-Page Government was in office it placed the burden f supporting this industry upon the backs of the whole community by adopting the bounty system. This Government is reversing the policy which has hitherto been in operation in this country for the encouragement of the iron and steel industry. It says that the burden must no longer be carried by the whole community, but must be laid upon the backs of the farmers in this iniquitous way. The adoption of this policy will destroy whatever chance Australia has of making any real recovery. .
Only the other day I received the report of a special governmental committee on the dairying industry, in which there was set out what was said to be the only way of increasing production in that industry in Australia. A more intensive use of the laud was advocated, including the subdivision of paddocks into 5 and 10 acre blocks. This, of course, would require the use of additional fencing material. That committee, which was appointed by this Government, made it clear that one of the great obstacles to the adoption of the policy which it advocated was the high cost of fencing wire. On the one hand, the Government says that we must encourage production; but on the other hand it makes an increased production impossible by adding to the cost of materials. We cannot stand for that policy for one second.
If the Government had said that it would accept the proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera while the exchange rate remained at 30 per cent., it would have given some evidence of having really considered the situation. As a matter of fact, an exchange rate of 30 per cent., combined with the primage duty, represents a practical protection of this industry of 40 per cent. Surely that should be enough for the industry if a bounty of £2 12s. per ton has proved to be adequate to enable it to progress year after year over a long period. The action which the Government has taken in connexion with this industry shows its strong determination to do nothing which may even seem to be in opposition to the industrial interests; but actually the Government is acting detrimentally to the industrialists, because this policy will have the effect’ of putting more men out of employment and putting more men on the dole. It will prevent us from getting out of the trough into which we have fallen ; it will prevent any extension of agricultural development; and it will hinder the farmers from engaging labour for repairing their fences. In my previous speech on this subject I pointed out that the pastoralists and farmers in the northwestern districts of New South Wales were being prevented from giving contracts for fencing work because of the extra expense of the necessary wire. 1 am astounded that any honorable member of this Parliament should give support to such an iniquitous proposal.
– I enter my protest against the failure of the Government to justify these proposed duties. The speeches which the Minister (Mr. Forde) has delivered on this subject have been prepared for him from departmental information, arid have dealt only with certain aspects of the industry. No honorable member opposite except the Minister has attempted to answer the arguments which we have advanced in support of the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and against the proposals of the Government. The attendance of Government supporters in the chamber at this moment - there are only nine present - shows clearly the deep interest which “they have in the welfare of the primary producers! I call attention to the fact that, in spite of the constantly repeated statements of Government supporters that they are the friends of the farmers, they are not sufficiently interested in this debate to be present in the chamber. The subject which we are discussing is of the deepest concern to the primary producers. It is probably the most worn-out saying in politics to-day, except for the utterances of the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), who has just interjected, that the cost of production must be reduced. Immediately it is suggested that the costs of production should be reduced, honorable members opposite exclaim that that would mean a reduction of wages; but in dealing with the item before the committee the party opposite has an opportunity to reduce the costs of the primary producers without touching wages at all. I do not know how the Labour partycan attempt to justify these duties. The bounty has been paid by the general public, but the Minister says that times are now too hard for the whole of the people to pay it, and he proposes as an alternative that the burden should fall on the farmers. Of course, nobody else must go short. The price of coal, for instance, must not be reduced. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. AVatkins) told us the other day that the mine-owners and the representatives of the employees had met on two occasions, and irrespective of the interests of the general public, had raised the price of coal. These duties are based on the increased price. Apparently, nobody must go short except the farmer. The men engaged in the coal industry must receive the same wages as before, and the manufacturers must be protected to the same extent as previously; but this must be done at the expense of the consumers, who, in this case, happen to be the primary producers. I draw public attention to the fact that the present Ministry has behaved in an extraordinary way in endeavouring to put the tariff through Parliament. Every Minister for Trade and Customs, except the present Minister, has made a practice of replying to the arguments advanced by the Opposition, but this Minister simply reads statements supplied to him by his officers, and ignores the arguments of those who disagree with certain duties. It is useless to appeal to the present Ministry.
– Hear, hear !
– The Attorney-General(Mr. Brennan) rarely enters the chamber during a tariff debate. He comes in occasionally for relaxation, and indulges in inane interjections. The duties under consideration have not been seriously defended by a single member of the Government or of the Labour party.
.- It is amusing to see honorable members opposite shedding crocodile tears for the wheat-farmers. Members of the Country party had the chance of their lifetime to get 4s. a bushel for the wheat-farmers.
– What has that to do with wire?
– 1 ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the item under consideration.
– The closing of the Australian factory would result in a considerable addition to the ranks of the unemployed. The primary producers, whom I represent, are endeavouring to do their share towards providing employment in their particular sphere.
– Who suggested closing the works?
– Honorable members opposite have remarked that wire could be procured from Germany at a very cheap rate. The sole objective of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) is to provide employment at a decent wage for Australians, and this would help to build up a home market for our primary producers. Members on the Government side have a free hand to vote as they wish on every tariff item, but their loyalty to the Labour party and to Australia compels them to support the tariff proposals of the Ministry. Members of the Country party ought to remember that the Australian public pays 4d. per . lb. more for butter than is charged for Australian butter in other parts of the world. Although those members have fought against every other tariff proposal of the Government, they are prepared to accept the protection given to the primary producers. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) referred to the need for fences in new farming districts. I point out that the interests of Australia as a whole are of greater importance than the cost of fencing. There should be co-operation between the Country party and the Labour party in order to find markets for the products of the farmers. With a view to maintaining a home market, we have endeavoured to keep our secondary industries going. I ask honorable members what was the price charged for fencing wire in 1917 and 1918?
– They were war-time prices.
– We did not manufacture fencing wire in Australia at that time. I had a large contract to discharge, which necessitated the purchase of barbed wire, and I had to pay for it over £3 a coil of a little over 1 cwt. A coil can be purchased to-day for a little less than half that figure. If supplies from outside sources were interrupted by another war or from any other cause, we would be obliged to pay high prices again unless we could produce our own requirements. The establishment of this and other industries in Australia is of great service to the country. One good effect of it is to stabilize prices. I trust that the committee will support this item, and that the members of the Country party will endeavour so to act that they will benefit the primary producers.
– I have received from the secretary of the Metropolitan Trades and Labour Council of Western. Australia a letter asking me to interview the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) with a view to obtaining some assistance for the unemployed in that State. That is a most unusual communication to be sent to a member of the Opposition, but I welcome it, and shall gladly co-operate with the Trades and Labour Councils of that and any other State, or with honorable members opposite, with a view to arriving at something approaching a solution of the difficulty of unemployment. But what co-operation have we had from the present Ministry? No argument, however cogent, that is advanced for a reduction of the tariff receives any consideration from the Minister. He has a majority of honorable members behind him, and forces through these items regardless of whether he has justice on his side or not. The primary industries, notwithstanding the condition in which they find themselves at the present time, offer the best avenue for the absorption of some of our unemployed ; but the persistence with which duties are raised against primary industries makes it impossible to look for any development in that direction. The employment of a few men at part time in Newcastle has the effect of excluding a very much larger number who otherwise might be employed in connexion with the pastoral and farming industries generally throughout Australia. The
Minister absolutely closes his ears to argument. I have no doubt that eventually he will see reason; but, in the meantime, the restoration of this country is being delayed more by the absurd persistence displayed by the Government in regard to high tariff imposts than through any other cause.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Stewart’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the sub-item be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item, as previously amended, agreed to.
Postponed item 176 -
.- Dryers and coolers of the type covered by sub-item c manufactured in the Commonwealth are quite as efficient as the imported machines,but owing to the cost of the raw materials and the low wages paid in the particular competing country, local manufacturers are unable to secure a reasonable proportion of orders. The action taken in imposing the increased duties on this item is part of the Government’s policy to rehabilitate the engineering industry.
Dr.EarlePage. - Does the Minister’s explanation include sub-item d?
– The increased duty on machinery covered by sub-item d is 10 per cent., and is in keeping with other increased duties on this class of machinery.
Question - That sub-items c andd be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Cha irman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
. -I again protest against the action of the Minister in endeavouring to increase the duty on this item without offering any explanation. It is most unfair to the committee, and does not make for the expeditious passage of the schedule. If the Minister would, immediately upon the introduction of an item, lead off with an explanation of the increases or alterations of duties proposed, the business of the committee would proceed much more rapidly. This debate has been going on for months, and the Minister is still hopeful, apparently, that he will succeed in smuggling an item through in silence. I wish the Prime Minister would take this stripling of his in hand, and educate him to a sense of the courtesy due from him to the committee. “We have now before us an item dealing with metal split pulleys. The old duty was an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent. British. An alternative duty is now proposed of 9d. an inch of diameter. I cannot say what that would amount to on an ad valorem basis, but as it is a specific duty, I have no doubt that it is prohibitive. I do not. know how many firms are producing these split pulleys in the Commonwealth now, but a few years ago there was only one, a very small show in Sydney. The Minister is seeking to hand over the whole of this business to one little Sydney firm A few years ago the Tariff Board reported on this industry, and if I remember rightly, was hostile to the proposal that further protection should be granted. I appeal to the Minister to make an attempt to justify this increase before the debate proceeds any further.
.- This is an entirely new item in the tariff. I suppose every member of the committee knows just what a metal split pulley is. All those who intend to vote for the item are aware, I presume, just how much of the pulley is metal, and how much is split, anc! are aware also of the precise significance of duties of 9d., ls., and ls. 3d. an inch of diameter. Under item 176 k this article was dutiable at an ad valorem rate of 45 per cent., 55 per cent., and 60 per cent. It is now dutiable at the alternative rate of 9d., ls., and ls. 3d. an inch of diameter, whichever rate returns the higher duty. Of course, it is all quite clear to some honorable members opposite who know all about metal pulleys, wire pulleys, wire pulling and similar enterprises, but there are members of this committee who want to cast intelligent votes. In saying that, I hope that I am not hurting any one’s feelings. It would be only fair and proper for the Minister, at this stage, to indicate the relation between a duty of so much an .inch of diameter, and an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent. If honorable members record their votes without the enlightenment and illumination which the Minister usually supplies, they will not know what they are doing. Without the information which the Minister would be able to disclose, were he to indulge in one of those cerebrations to which we are so accustomed, I am not prepared to support these duties. If I were to do so I would; be voting for something concerning which I have neither a fundamental nor superficial understanding.
– I, too, would like the Minister (Mr. Forde) to give the committee some information on this item. The fixed rates of duties are, per inch in diameter, 9d. British, ls. intermediate, and ls. 3d. general. Taking the general rate of ls. 3d. per inch on the diameter of a moderate sized pulley of only 12 inches, a duty of 15s. would be imposed. I should like to know what relationship a duty of 15s. bears to the landed, duty free cost, of such a pulley. On a 15s. pulley the duty would be 100 per cent., and on a 7s. 6d. pulley, 200 per cent. Will the Minister supply the information so that honorable members will know whether they should vote for or against the rates imposed ?
– Under this item heavy increases are proposed. Only a small number of mon are employed in this industry, which, I understand, is confined to one factory. The committee is asked to place the burden of these heavy duties upon the purchasers of metal split pulleys, on an ad valorem basis, or according to the diameter of the pulleys, whichever rate returns the higher duty. I strongly protest against the repeated efforts of the Government to impose heavy duties of this nature, which do not provide additional employment or revenue. The Minister, from whom we have been unable to obtain any information, is most discourteous, as he is conversing with the members of his party instead of listening to requests of members on this side of the chamber. I am not prepared to vote for duties of 45 per cent., 55 per cent, and 60 per cent, with alternative rates based on the diameter of the pulleys until I am supplied with some information as to the necessity for their imposition. These pulleys are used extensively in different factories, and are in fairly common use in connexion with building construction. I propose to vote against these duties, and to support any amendment that may be moved for their reduction.
.- These duties, without which it would be impossible for the industry to carry on, can readily be justified. Steel split pulleys were gazetted in 1925, under the Industries Preservation Act, as a result of evidence obtained by the Tariff Board that they were being imported at prices less than the domestic market price in the country of origin. At that time they were being extensively dumped in Australia by American manufacturers, and whenever the Australian manufacturers reduced their prices, the prices of the importedarticle were also reduced. In those circumstances,it was impossible for the Australian manufacturers to develop the industry. The products of this factory have, after numerous tests, been used by governmental departments in Australia with complete satisfaction. There appears to be no reason why American manufacturers should have the opportunity to supply approximately 25 per cent. of the Australian requirements when the Australian manufacturers are equipped to cater for the whole of the home market. The November resolution covered steel split pulleys, but in the present proposals the item has been widened to cover metal split pulleys as cast iron split pulleys were beingimported in competition with Australian steel pulleys. A condition precedent to the recommending of increased duties laid down by the Tariff Board when it made its inquiries some years ago, was that the Australian factory should lay down a plant capable of manufacturing all sizes of these pulleys. . The company did this, despite the fact that it is not customary for overseas manufacturers to so equip themselves, but to confine manufacture to certain sizes. The Australian company found that it was committed to treble its capital outlay for sizes which arc not largely in demand. This naturally influenced its overhead costs.
Importers concentrated on selling sizes most in demand. In some-cases sales were made, irrespective of the cost of production. These goods were gazetted under the Industries Preservation Act some years ago, and local manufacturers have so developed the industry that they are now able to supply 75 per cent. of our requirements and soon hope to be able to meet 95 per cent. of the requirements of the home market. As the duty proposed is only modest, I trust that the committee will support it.
.- The Minister (Mr. Forde), in his brief and unsatisfactory explanation, did not give the number of workmen employed in the factory in which the manufacture of pulleys is undertaken. The Tariff Board reported on this industry in 1925, and its report was unfavorable.
– The Minister has told us that things have changed since then.
– Yes ; but in 1929, when I was Minister and the matter came’ up for further consideration, it wa3 considered by the tariff officers of the department, and they strongly recommended that the industry was not of sufficient importance to warrant further encouragement at that time. I think the Minister should produce the Tariff Board report. This is a purely Minister-made tariff. Some one has made representations to the Minister, and he has overriden, not only the Tariff Board, but also his departmental officers.
– And in doing so he has broken the law.
– He has done that hundreds of times. He has just declared that he will give a monopoly of the Australian market to an individual factory. It is tariff-making gone mad! It is an offence against the intelligence of this chamber. The Minister is wasting his time and our time if he believes that duties of this kind will get right through this Parliament. I should like to move an amendment, but out of consideration to honorable members who must be as weary of this debate as I am, I will allow the item to go in the sure knowledge that it will not escape another place.
– In his very incomplete statement a moment ago, the Minister did not say whether the manufacturer of metal split pulleys, to whom this monopoly is to be given, has undertaken to keep the prices down to a certain level. It seems to me that if these duties, which the Minister regards as trifling - 9d., ls., and ls. 3d. per inch, or ad valorem, 45 per cent., 55 per cent., anc! 60 per cent. - are to be imposed, we should have been told whether any undertaking has been given that the goods are to be cheapened, that they are not to exceed a certain price, and that the manufacturers can actually supply the whole of Australia’s demands.
– I stated that the company would be able to supply the whole of the Australian demand, and that at present it is supplying 75 per cent, of it.
– The Minister did not mention the number of men em- ployed or the total volume of the industry, n fact, he gave no information whatever that is worth while from the point of view of enabling a considered opinion upon the item to be expressed. The imposition of a tax of this kind - after all, it is simply a tax - on the people of Australia, without the slightest trace of an explanation, is something we should not tolerate, and, as far as I am concerned, if that is what the Minister is proposing to do, there is only one course open to honorable members, and that is to fight every item from beginning to end. I arn prepared to let items we have no chance of altering go practically without debate if the Minister will give us full information so that we shall know where we stand in regard to these matters; but to ask us to go blind in the tariff, as the Government is going blind, is an insult to our intelligence. I trust that we shall not be asked to do it.
– A few moments ago I asked the Minister certain questions, but although he gave- a certain amount of information, he did not answer those questions. Where, as in this case, fixed rates of duty are provided as an alternative to the ad valorem duties of 45 per cent., 55 per cent. and 65 per cent., the committee should know the landed cost of the article upon which the duties are imposed, in order to enable the proportion the duty bears to the landed cost to be properly assessed. All we know is that the duty on a 12-inch pulley, under the general tariff will be 15s., and that it will be 22s. 6d. on an 18-inch pulley, and 30s. on a 24-inch pulley. But we also want to know the relationship between that tax and the value of the pulley itself. We do not know whether it represents 100 per cent., 200 per cent., or 300 per -cent, or more, and until the Minister gives us some more information, I shall vote against the item.
– I submit that there is an obvious conspiracy on the part of the Minister, and others who are interested in this item, to withhold the full facts regarding this proposal, but it must be remembered that there is another place where these matters must be reviewed, and where there will be an’ opportunity to get all the facts which the Minister is now withholding. It is an opportunity which I submit will be used to the fullest possible extent, and therefore nothing is to be gained by the attitude which the Minister is now taking up. We are not told who are manufacturing these metal split pulleys.
– They are being manufactured by the Australian Steel Split Pulleys Limited.
– At Auburn ? By the Purcell Malone group ?
– 1 think that is the case. At any rate, in the absence of any further information from the Minister, I shall assume that it is.
– The honorable member is labouring under a misapprehension.
– We are likely to be, because we cannot get from the Minister the real facts. I put it to the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), who is in the chamber, that no explanation of an item has been more incomplete than that which has been given in respect of this item.
– Did not the honorable member understand it?
– No I did not. I submit that no one understood the Minister’s explanation. Furthermore, the committee has been given no information as to the actual facts which are necessary to enable it to give a .considered opinion. [ Quorum formed.]
– Australian Steel Pulleys Limited is not associated in any way with the Purcell Engineering Works.
– By a process of elimination the committee is getting some information. We have not yet been told how many nien are employed in the industry.
– A growing number, I am assured.
– Loss than a dozen.
– Three years ago the number was much greater than that.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Having regard to the burden which this duty would impose on the public, the Commonwealth would save money if it pensioned off all those connected with the industry, including the directors. We have had no report from the Tariff Board, and have not been told the landed cost, duty free, of split pulleys. Yet we are asked to impose a duty of 60 per cent., plus a special duty on pulleys that are used in connexion with all sorts of machinery. Honorable members of the Opposition are genuine protectionists; but they want to see each protected industry placed on a proper basis. In the absence of essential information, the committee is unable to give intelligent consideration to the item, and I therefore propose to vote against it.
.- I protest against the discourtesy of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde). Twice, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), an exMin Later, asked in the most courteous manner for certain information which would enable the committee to estimate the real extent of the protection that the Minister is proposing. But the Minister has treated these requests with smug in difference. Does the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) approve of such discourtesy on the part of his colleague?
– I am not aware of any discourtesy.
.- In. common with other honorable members, L have waited in vain for an explanation! from the Minister on this item. When the honorable gentleman failed to explain his reasons for proposing these rates of duty. I hoped that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) would come forward and enlighten the committee.
– Why select me?
– Because I understand that the split pulleys are made in the honorable member’s electorate. lt passes my comprehension that these duties should be necessary. In order to test the feeling of the committee, I move -
That the sub-item bc amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 25th September, 1931 - (it) Metal split pulleys, per inch of diameter, British, 4jd. ; intermediate, Cel.; general, 7*d.”
.- It is not often that we have the pleasure of having the Prime Minister present during a debate on a tariff schedule introduced by this Government. I make a personal appeal to the right honorable gentleman in connexion with this item. The Government proposes to establish a monopoly in favour of one company. Split pulleys ;irc an important commodity, used in all classes of mechanical work. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to hear the Prime Minister speaking in opposition to the creation of this monopoly. The right honorable gentleman would be in his element, and running true to the principle of which he spoke this afternoon. All the really impartial evidence that we have condemns this proposal. The action .of the Government is grossly wrong, and should not be tolerated. I shall support the amendment.
– The Minister refuses to supply honorable members with information regarding this item. I repudiate the suggestion of the Prime Minister that there has been any stone-walling on the part of the Opposition in connexion with the tariff debate. Three items have been passed to-night, the Opposition allowing the vote On one to be taken after a debate of only five minutes. Two others, galvanized wire and fencing wire, are the most important in the schedule from the point of view of primary producers, and it was only reasonable for us to ask that at least a day should be devoted to their discussion. There has been no attempt to stone-wall ; no honorable member on this side has taken anything like the full time allotted to him by the Standing Orders. I rose only to express my desire to have some information on this subject. If the Minister does not possess it, I ask that he shall report progress. As soon as information enablingme to come to a decision is supplied, I shallbe prepared to record my vote on the item.
. - I also protest against the establishment of this monopoly. Apparently, only one company is concerned, but we can obtain no information from the Minister on the subject. I give my assurance that if I am placed in possession of the facts justifying the imposition of the duty, I shall be prepared to vote upon the item immediately. It is improper that the members of this committee should be regarded as of no importance, and treated with discourtesy by the Minister. Obviously, this item has no support from members on either side of the chamber. I propose to vote for the amendment.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Bayley’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Am e n dmen t negatived .
Sub-item agreed to.
Sub-itemr (Petrol pumps).
– I oppose this sub-item for the reason that it provides for an enormous increase in the duty, despite the fact that under the old duty the manufacturers of petrol pumps secured 95 per cent. of the Australian trade. Under those circumstances it surely is not necessary to impose this extravagant duty.
– The Tariff Board recommended it.
– The companies who applied for this duty admitted that it corresponded, roughly, to 120 per cent. ad valorem. They also pointed out that they were making many more petrol pumps than they could sell. For instance, the Jolimont Company said that it had manufactured 300 pumps during the last three years, and in the last year had disposed of only 50.
– That is due to the depression, and the falling off in petrol consumption.
– There will be little or no further imports of these machines, because before this extravagant duty was imposed, the companies had been able to secure 95 per cent. of the trade. The board itself says that this duty is practically prohibition. Its report reads -
The board considers that the fixed rate duties of £25 (British preferential tariff), £30 (intermediate tariff) and £30 (general tariff) asked for are prohibitive, particularly us they apply to pumping units as well as topumps.
I shall not vote for this duty, which is practically an embargo.
– I associate myself with the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). Despite the recommendation of the Tariff Board, I object to the creation of this monopoly. It has already been pointed out that the local manufacturers have gained 95 per cent, of tho Australian trade. The previous duty was quite adequate, and the 5 per cent, of imports has had the valuable effect of regulating both the price and quality of the product. Take that away and we shall, in effect, bring about the suppression of the existing competition. The local manufacturers will get together, if not in actual combine, at least in coming to an arrangement, and prices, as a result, will increase, and the quality of the article most likely suffer.
– Prices have fallen considerably during the last four years.
– The point that the Minister overlooks is that the local manufacturers have already secured 95 per cent, of the trade. Surely that shows that the old tariff was quite adequate, and possibly, too high.
– The Tariff Board recommended this duty, and the honorable member has already said that the recommendations of that body are all right-
– I have never said anything of the kind. I have said that in respect of certain items I am prepared to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I have criticized the Minister again and again for going beyond the recommendations of that body, n step which had never previously been taken. I am opposed to this sub-item and shall vote against it.
– I desire to draw the attention of the committee to the evidence of Mr. John Bryden. Brown, before the Tariff Board, to the effect that the present duty should effectively block importations of units or parts. It is,, therefore, proposed to block all importations of petrol pumps and to place a monopoly in the hands of practically two or three companies engaged in this industry. Competition is to be entirely eliminated.
– There are about sixteen local makers.
– The Tariff Board report does not say that. With the decrease in the sale of petrol, and the adoption of new distributing methods, these pumps will not bo nearly as popular in the future as they have been in the pa.st. We should not be asked to vote for a duty which will amount to something like 125 per cent.
– If the honorable member will look at page 5 of the Tariff Board’s report he will find the statement that the action of the Government in 1929 in increasing the duty materially assisted tho industry and averted serious loss.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That does not affect the present situation. The facts arc, first, that wo are being asked to vote for a duty of 125 per cent.; secondly, that such a duty will have the effect of preventing any petrol pumps from being imported into Australia; and thirdly, that a monopoly will be created. If this duty is agreed to, the firms at present engaged in this industry will speedily come together and arrange to charge whatever they like for their products. Moreover, they will very soon be asking for other concessions of a like nature. We should not create monopolies in this way. The handing out of concessions to a limited number of firms tends to build up monopolies. I am in favour of supporting Australian industries, and am prepared to give legitimate assistance to manufacturers; but I am not prepared to lend my assistance to the creation of monopolies.
– That cannot be helped sometimes.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is a reasonable interjection. But in this instance we can help it. If we vote for this duty we shall be assisting in the creation of a monopoly, and we shall be doing it with our eyes open.
A few years ago the public platforms from one end of the Commonwealth to the other rang with the denunciation, by supporters of the Labour party, of monopolies, rings, trusts and combines of every kind ; but this Government is doing more to encourage the creation of monopolies than any. previous Commonwealth government. I predict that in a few months, or in a year or two at the most, there will be a recrudescence of past attacks upon monopolies, because so many monopolies will have been built up through the operation of this unscientific tariff, which has been thrown upon the table without adequate investigation, and without any consideration of the requirements of justice and fair play to the general public. A little later I intend to point out how monopolies are being built: up.
– Did the British tariff build Cadbury’s chocolate monopoly?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The honorable member’s vision is so distorted that he is confusing Cadbury’s penny-in-the-slot chocolate machines with petrol pumps.
– - Does the honorable member for Warringah realize that, although the Tariff Board advertised its intention to take evidence in connexion with this industry, no one appeared to oppose the granting of a duty?
– That merely signifies that the application for the granting of the duty was well organized,and that only one side of the case was investigated. I will guarantee that there was no representation of the consumers at the inquiry. The Minister has claimed at different times that he represents the consumers; but he did not give evidenceat this inquiry. We should put an end to the handing out of concessions by this Parliament. At one time the granting of an ad valorem duty of 25 per cent. would have been regarded as substantial assistance for any industry; but we are now unblushingly providing duties of CO per cent., SO per cent., 100 per cent., and even 500 per cent.,. and the people who are granted these advantages are permitted to charge prices for their commodities almost up to the point of overseas competition. Why should such favours be granted to a few selected industries? This Labour Government is handing out charters to various concerns to charge whnt they like for their goods.
Although the Tariff Board has not offered any definite objection to the provision of these duties, I intend to use my own judgment on the subject. Generally speaking, I arn prepared to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board ; but I cannot agree to the imposition of a duty of 125 per cent. on petrol pumps, because it will lead to the elimination of competition, the prevention of the importation of improved types of pumps, and the creation of a monopoly in the industry.
.- I propose to show how this schedule is promoting monopolies. There are two sub-items under consideration, one relating to petrol pumps, and the other to mechanical pumping units for pumps of the type used for vending petrol. There is vagueness about the department’s definition, but it is generally understood that the mechanical unit is the small hand pump which raises the petrol from the tank to the measure, and which is retailed for about £2. Although the flat rate duty of £25 on the whole bowser is a heavy one, when the same flat rate is applied to a small part of the pump, it amounts to many hundreds per cent. To give an instance of the way in which this absolutely extreme duty has been used to protect vested interests, I may mention that a pump was recently imported asa pattern by a firm of engineers who desired to begin manufacturing them. The value of the small unit that was imported as a pattern was £2 or £3, but the duty charged on it was £25. The firm did not take the unit out of bond, and as it did not enter into competition as manufacturers of these pumps, the market was reserved to the monopolist friends of the Minister. That is one example of the way in which this tariff intensifies the bad effects of extreme protection. I urge the committee to reject the proposal.
Question- That sub-item r be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath. )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Motion (by Mr.Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- When does the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) expect to be in a position to supply the information, for which I recently asked, relating to the amount of the Commonwealth loan that has not been converted, and the maturity dates?
– The treasury officials are now working on this matter which has involved a good deal more scrutiny and compilation than was anticipated. As soon as the information is available, it will be supplied to the honorable member.
Next week the House will meet on Wednesday, but subsequently honorable members will be asked to assemble on Tuesdays.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310924_reps_12_132/>.