12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and offered prayers.
-I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is true that a clause has been inserted in postal contracts providing that tenderers for services and supplies must employ unionists. Is it a principle of administration that, so far as possible, non-unionists shall not be allowed to earn a living, and that government work shall be confined to. members of organizations who may be compelled to subscribe to the political funds of the Labour party?
– Postal contracts now require the tenderers to state whether they employ unionists. There is no attempt to prevent non-unionists from earning a living.
Attitude of Japan
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Japan is considering the possibility of obtaining a portion of its requirements in wool from South Africa, in retaliation for the customs duties imposed by the Commonwealth Parliament on Japanese goods? Having regard to the serious effect that the withdrawal of Japanese support from the Australian market would have on wool prices, will the Government seriously consider the advisability of removing or considerably modifying the duties on timber, cotton tweeds, cotton knitted goods, pearl and trochus shell buttons, artificial silk, and silk piece goods, duties which are particularly objectionable to Japan?
– The reiteration of the statement that Japan is contemplating retaliatory measures against Australia, and proposing to buy its wool requirements elsewhere is calculated to injure our wool trade, I advise honorable members to ascertain the facts before repeating such statements. The information in the possession of the Government is that Japanese buying of wool is brisker now than it has been for some time. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) has been investigating the matter very thoroughly, and he will make a statement on it to-day.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) I ask the Minister in charge of war service homes whether he has received requests from returned soldiers organizations for the revaluation of war service homes in accordance with presentday values of real estate; if so, has the Government reached any decision on the subject ?
-Such representations have been received, and a subcommittee of the Cabinet is inquiring into them. Approximately £28,000,000 has been advanced for war service homes. In the present condition of the real estate market reliable valuations of house property cannot be rnadily obtained. If the war service homes were written down to present-day values, the Commonwealth wouldsustain a tremendous loss over a long period of years. A valuation based on the present state of the market would not be fair to the taxpayers. The Government is, however, endeavouring to devise an equitable method by which the payments by occupants of war service homes may be eased without throwing an undue hurden upon the rest of the community.
-Will the Treasurer state whether the negotiations between the Governments of Great Britain and the Commonwealth in regard to the payment of Imperial pensions in Australia have yet been completed?
– On the 17th September I outlined the arrangements that had been completed. Payments now being made to Imperial pensioners in Australia include the arrears of exchange premium.
– Has the Prime Minister received any communication from the Imperial Government or the League of Nations regarding the trouble which has led to military intervention byJ apan in Manchuria?
– I have received several communications on the subject, but at this stage any public statement would be premature.
– Has the Minister for Home Affairs rescinded the instructions issued to the Commonwealth police on the 3rd July last regarding the issue of rations to returned soldiers residentin or travelling through the Federal Capital Territory?
– I refer the honorable member to my answers to his previous questions on the subject.
– In view of the cabled statement that there is an increased demand in the United Kingdom for Empire produce, is the Minister for Markets taking any steps to increase the activities of the various marketing organizations under his control?
– Duriug the year ended the 30th June last record quantities of mutton, lamb, dried fruits, canned fruits, and other Australian products were exported, and found a ready sale. Our principal market, of course, is Great Britain. As a result of the intense publicity campaign conducted by the marketing organizations, the demand for our products continues, and there is no doubt that when the new season opens tho London market will be entirely bare of lust year’s exports of canned fruits, dried fruits, and other commodities.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether tobacco suitable for making cigarettes is subject to an excise duty of 2s. 4d. per lb., while the excise duty on manufactured cigarettes is 7s. 6d. per lb. ? In consequence of these duties, is not more fine tobacco being used by persons who are rolling their own cigarettes, thus causing a considerable loss of revenue in respect of the duty on manufactured cigarettes? Will the Minister consider the possibility of increasing the revenue by decreasing the excise duty on cigarettes?
– The excise duty on manufactured tobacco, whether imported or Australian grown, is 2s. 4d. per lb. In addition, there is an import duty of 5s. 2d. per lb. on imported leaf. I shall investigate the honorable member’s suggestion, and let him have a fuller reply next week.
– The Commissioner f Pensions has considerably reduced many invalid pensions, thereby causing much dissatisfaction and hardship. Many persons arc under the impression that this is in accordance with government policy. Has the Prime Minister issued instructions that invalid pensions shall be reduced ?
– The decision of what is adequate maintenance is in- the discretion of the Commissioner. It is true that the Administration has reduced the amount set down for adequate maintenance, with the result that some invalid pensions have been cancelled. The Government cannot instruct the Commissioner in this matter, but it can represent to him what it believes to he the view of Parliament, and as a result of a conference with the Commissioner the interpretation of adequate maintenance will be liberalized, and the pensions that have been cancelled or reduced will be reviewed.
– The Melbourne Herald of yesterday published the statement that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) is about to retire from politics and assume the position of Administrator of the Federal Capital Territory. I ask the honorable gentleman whether there is any truth in that report?
– Such a canard was published in the Melbourne and Sydney evening newspapers. There is absolutely no truth in it. It is not the policy of the Government to appoint members of this Parliament to positions which can be adequately filled by re dundant public servants. The alleged reason for this canard was that because of certain occurrences in my electorate recently I was retreating. I assure the House that I have no intention of retreating from the Darling electorate.
– Has the Treasurer any information to the effect that a large proportion of the dissenters from the recent loan conversion were persons who had purchased bonds and inscribed stock in the open market at low prices?
– I do not think that the Treasury officials know at what prices the stock of such holders was purchased. A fuller statement of the difficulties arising in connexion with the matter will be made to the House - possibly next week - when the bill is introduced.
– Has the Treasurer any information which he can give to the House on the press reports of negotiations between Australia and Great Britain regarding the exchange position?
– The Commonwealth and the State Governments are much concerned with the exchange rates, they being the largest purchasers of Australian exchange in London, and naturally should be consulted and informed by their bankers as to any action that may be contemplated by the banks. Moreover, as the exchange is largely controlled by a pool constituted at the instance of the Government, the matter is one for consultation between the Government and the banks. I think it likely that the Prime Minister will take up the matter with the Commonwealth Bank authorities next week.
– Has the Minister for Home Affairs received a report that a large number of specimens have been removed from the site of the Henbury meteorites in Central Australia? Are there any steps that he can take to prevent the further removal or destruction of unique objects of scientific interest?
– The honorable member informed me privately yesterday that araid had been made on these meteorites, and that certain specimens had been sold in Adelaide, while a number had been sent to London. I am taking adequate steps to make it a penal offence for anybody, other than authorized persons, to interfere with them. The area in which they are located has been declared a reserve.
– Is there not some authority in Australia at the present time with power to prevent valuable scientific specimens of any kind being sent out of the country?
– I am in communication with the Minister for Trade and Customs with the object of taking the necessary steps to circumvent the robbery which has taken place.
– Is there no machinery in Australia whereby the despatch of scientific specimens, whether anthropological, mineral or of any other nature, may be prevented, unless with the consent of the authorities?
– At the present time, collectors of curiosities of any kind are not prevented from “sending them out of the country.
Payment to Davies Coop and Company Proprietary Limited
asked the Minister for’ Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow : -
No later details are available but from information obtained sufficient seed has been imported and distributed to sow approximately 30,000 acres during the season1931-32.
Crystal Brook Relay Station
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Yes. Considerable delay was experienced in obtaining the necessary power supply for the operation of the station owing to a local franchise difficulty, but this difficulty has now been overcome and the installation is proceeding.
Imports - Duty
– The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) has asked a number of questions regarding the imports of tea and the revenue received in customs and primage duties. The information is being obtained.
Reductionsof Governmental Salaries
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the average percentage reduction in salaries and wages recently imposed by the Commonwealth and each of the States in connexion with the Premiers Conference rehabilitation programme?
– The following table shows the average percentage reduction for the Public Service proper, and for all services respectively. The figures are exclusive of rationing, and exclusive of unemployment relief taxes: -
The position was set out in the statement made by me in this House on the 17th September (Hansard, page 54).
Appointment of Assessors
– On the 17th September, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
Class 1 (a). - Sailing Ship Masters - J. M. Hart, Sydney; S. G. Symons, Sydney; T. Kasson. Melbourne; J. M. Stott, Melbourne; J. Mackay, Brisbane; A. Nicolson, Port Ade laide; J.W. W. Yates, Fremantle; G. Francis, Fremantle; T. J. Davies, Launceston. Class 1 (b). - Steamship Masters - B. G. Blayney, Sydney; W. T. Howell, Sydney; C. V. Wood. Sydney; C. Z. Lindebergh, Sydney; F. W. Joliffe, Sydney; M. M. Osborne, Sydney; G. B. Mercer, Sydney; T. Easson, Melbourne; G. B. Ramsay, Melbourne; J. M. Stott, Melbourne; S. A. Pidgeon, Melbourne; H. Matheson, Melbourne; J. Mackay, Brisbane; J. W. Herd, Brisbane; R. D. Taylor, Brisbane; P. Weir, Port Adelaide; E. S. McLaren, Adelaide: R. Jalland, Adelaide; J. W. W. Yates, Fremantle; A. Mills, Fremantle; J. G. Dodds. Busselton ; T. J. Davies, Launceston ; R Jobling, West Tamar; A. V. Harrison, Devon port. Class 2. - Engineers - J. Johnston Sydney; J. Anderson, Sydney; W. A. R Douglas, Sydney; A. Corrighan, Sydney; A
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Consideration resumed from the 24th September (vide page 271), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff be amended -
Postponed item 176.
Sub-itemf, paragraph 1, postponed - f (2) Refrigerators and Refrigerator Parts, viz.. : -
Cabinets imported with or without Refrigerating units -
Automatic Controlling Devices, each,
British, £2 10s.; intermediate, £2 15s.; general, £3: or ad val., British,60 per cent.; intermediate, 70 per cent.; general, 75 per cent. whichever rate returns the higher duty.
The term “ British thermal unit capacity per hour “ mentioned in this item shall be as defined by departmental by-law.”
– I hope that the committee will make better progress with the tariff than in the last fort night. I realise, of course, that we have been dealing with some of the most contentious items. It was excusable that honorable members had a good deal to say about galvanized iron, wire, malleable fittings, sewing machines, &c., but it is necessary that we should make definite progress to-day. While some members have complained that I have addressed the committee at too great a length on some of the items, others have expressed the view that an explanation by the Minister on each item would greatly facilitate the passage of the tariff. This item affords all those honorable members who advocate the imposition of prohibitive rates of duty on goods imported from countries which refuse to purchase Australian goods an opportunity to prove the sincerity of their statements.
I was reproached early this year on the score that the duties imposed by Australia did not sufficiently affect importation from the United States of America. One member of the Country party has complained that that country does not buy largely from us; that our purchases have been at least four times as great as those of the United States of America from Australia. I was reminded of the following figures relating to the trade balance between the two countries : -
Imports from United States of America -
Exports to United States of America -
Balance in favour of United States of America -
Owing to the restrictive duties imposed by this Government on many American goods, our adverse trade balance was reducedfrom £25,082,436 in 1929-30 to £8,467,889 in 1930-31.
Before the imposition of the increased duties, most of the refrigerators imported into Australia came from the United States of America. During the course of the tariff debate I have heard many honorable members advocate that every endeavour should be made to rectify the adverse balance of trade with this country by the imposition of prohibitive duties on goods which are exclusively imported from the United States of America into Australia. Many other honorable members have criticized the Government’s tariff proposals on the ground that they were directed against British tradeto the exclusion of other countries.
The action of the Government in imposing duties under this item shows that it is consistent in its policy, and moreover, remedies to some extent the Australian adverse trade balance with the United States of America, a country which is notorious for its refusal to purchase to any great extent primary or secondary products of Australia. I appeal to all those honorable members who are earnest in their professed wish to have the disproportionate trade balance with America rectified, to support this item. The same principle has been applied by this Government, as by previous admi nistrations, with regard to luxury goods, as instanced by the prohibitive rates of duties which have been operating under the customs tariff for many years on motor-car bodies.
In analysingthe effects of the duties on refrigerators the most essential factor to be considered is price movements. Before these goods were manufactured in
Australia evidencewas not lacking that importers of the various types sold in Australia had entered into an arrangement for the fixation of prices. No great disparity existed between the prices of the various types, and the margin between the landed duty paid cost and the retail selling price suggested exploitation of the purchasing public. The retail prices of these imported refrigerators were so high that they constituted a direct invitation to local engineers to break into the trade. The American manufacturers at this time had the advantage of a world market which enabled them to manufacture under mass production methods. Despite this great advantage, they retailed refrigerators in Australia at such a high level that Australian engineers were enabled to manufacture and sell their appliances at a lower price than those charged for the American machines. The industry in the Commonwealth is developed to such an extent that to-day prices are considerably lower than those charged for the imported goods in 1927, prior to which date Australian refrigerators were not manufactured in Australia. A popular Australian model is at present selling at a price which is 40 per cent. lower than that of the imported model in 1927, and on all domestic and commercial models very considerable price reductions have been effected.
– How do the prices compare with the landed duty free cost of i mported refrigerators ?
– American refrigerators can be dumped on this market because the season in the. United States of America ends when the Australian season begins. They are dumped here at a price at which it is impossible for the Australian manufacturers to compete.
– Will the Minister say what the price is?
– They sell at various prices for various models. I shall furnish a list of prices to the honorable member. For the benefit of those honorable members who will no doubt suggest that the present duties will create a monopoly, allow me to state that a notable feature of present-day prices in Australia is the great variation in selling prices of the refrigerators made by the different firms engaged in manufacture.
Each firm seems to be imbued with the idea of getting its prices down to as low a level as possible, and selling prices are based solely on production costs. Proof of this can be had by comparing the selling prices of the refrigerators manufactured in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia with the production costs obtaining in those States. Present-day selling prices for refrigerators are also lower than the prices for imported refrigerators prior to the increase in the tariff. Australian household type refrigerators are available at as low a price as £50.
– What capacity have those refrigerators?
– The capacity I think is 4 cubic feet, and the quality is at; least equal to that of any imported refrigerator. I have received advice that certain manufacturers are making complete refrigerators which will be retailed at £50.
– It is necessary to go to Brisbane to get those.
– I agree that the Brisbane manufacturers, whose factory is situated in the honorable member’s electorate, are making a very fine type of refrigerator. Before refrigerators were manufactured in Australia, the public were obviously being charged too much for the imported article, because the lowest retail price of the imported American refrigerator was £95. Because of the massproduction methods employed in America, and the fact that the American season ends just when ours is beginning, the American manufacturers should be able to place refrigerators on theAustralian market at a lower price than that.
– There is no season for these articles. Why, I am told, that in some parts of America it is so cold that they use them for bath heaters.
– Let the honorable member ask any of the importers’ agents in the galleries of the House to-day whether there is any season for this article, and chey will tell him that there is. Some of them approached me, and said that they wished this item to be dealt with because it was necessary that they should cable away immediately for supplies or they would miss the season.
The next factor which the committee should consider is that of employment.
Approximately 800 employees are directly or indirectly engaged in the manufacture of refrigerators and refrigerator parts. The increased employment amounts to 400. To a great many persons, a refrigerator posting even as little as £50 is a luxury item, and, owing to the present depression, the demand for refrigerators is not so great as it would be at normal times. Notwithstanding this, however, the Australian industry has been so stimulated by the increased duties that employment has been found for an additional 400 persons. Had it not been for the increased duties it is doubtful whether even one firm would be manufacturing refrigerators in Australia to-day, owing to the surplus American stocks, which the manufacturers are prepared to sacrifice below cost of production.
– They would give thom away with a bonus, I suppose.
– I know that the honorable member sneers at all Australian manufacturers, and is opposed to anything which tends to build up local industry; butI ask him to be fair in this instance if he can. These surplus stocks in America would constitute a grave menace to Australian production were it not for the specific rates of duty now operating. The quality and design of the Australian article is at least equal to that of the best American refrigerator, and 90 per cent. of the material used is of Australian origin.
At the Tariff Board inquiry some doubt was expressed by importers us to the ability of local manufacturers to keep in touch with improved methods of manufacture, and to incorporate in their machines up-to-date designs. I have had inquiries made, and find that the Australian refrigerators are both heavier and larger than the American article, and possess special features which have originatedin Australian workshops, and meet the exacting climatic conditions of Australia. Australian refrigerators have not to depend for their improvements on the American refrigerator. In many instances the Australian manufacturers have improved on the American design. We have in this country engineers as capable asany overseas. Of course, there is no reason why the Australian manufacturers should not import the latest American designs and use them as models. We know that many of the Australian models are copied from American designs; I do not deny that. There is special provision under the tariff by-laws for the importation of goods manufactured overseas in order that they may be copied by Australian manufacturers.
– Why not export our locally-manufactured refrigerators to America, and clean up the market there ?
– Steps are being taken to supply refrigerators to New Zealand and South Africa. In case honorable members may be under the impression that special plant must be used for the manufacture of refrigerators, I point out that general purpose tools and machines only are used. Once again I appeal to honorable members to support the Government in its endeavour to rectify the adverse trade balance between Australia and the United States of America. I have in the past been criticized for having done nothing to stop imports from the United States of America, with which country we have under normal conditions an adverse trade balance of £30,000,000 a year. Here is an. opportunity to do something in the direction of improving our trade position.
I ask honorable members to bear in mind four cardinal Doints in respect to this duty - (1) Prices have been reduced to the Australian public as a result of the competition of Australian manufactures with the imported article; (2). employment has been increased; (3) the adverse trade balance with the United States of America has been partly rectified; (4) internal competition in Australia to-day is well established. I know that we shall be told that the high duties on imported refrigerators will cause too much capital to be invested in the industry in Australia. The capital, however, is already invested, a fact which makes it all the more necessary for the duties to be imposed in order to assure the Australian market to the Australian manufacturers who have put their money into the industry.
– No one can complain that he is called upon to participate in this debate with a mind uninformed; the Minister oozes information at every pore. We now know all about refrigerators, and everything incidental thereto. With his purpose of rectifying our adverse trade balance with the United States of America I am most heartily in accord. I respect and admire the American people, but in my present frame of mind I should not object to walking from J ohn o’ Groats to Land’s End to help the Britishpeople. The Minister, although he told us many things, was strangely silent on the need for means of refrigeration in our country districts. We are told that we have a populated fringe round the coast, andan empty interior. Well, an essential factor in the stimulation of land settlement is the making passible of the enjoyment of reasonable comforts and necessaries of civilized life, among which I venture to include refrigerators. When I am listening to the speeches of some honorable members, I think that they must be suffering from some pernicious form of ptomaine poisoning, which I put it down to the faulty distribution of refrigerators.
The Minister referred to the need for redressing our adverse trade balance with the United States of America, and most honorable members agree with him that that is a most desirable object. It is surprising, however, to observe that the duty on British refrigerators at the present time is no less than 445 per cent., with a 4 per cent. primage rate, while under the 10 per cent. primage rate it will amount to 550 per cent. Whatever may be said of the United States of America - and as we want to live in peace and harmony with the world, we say nothing - at the moment it is obvious that we owe a duty to Great Britain, and in helping Britain we are helping ourselves. Britain was never in greater need of help than she is to-day, yet it is at this very time that the Minister proposes to help Britain - the corner stone of the Empire - by imposing a duty of 550 per cent. on the refrigerators imported from that country. That is not the way to help her.
– Very few of the refrigerators used in Australia are imported from Great Britain.
– The Minister reminds me of one of Marryat’s characters who, when charged with having an illegitimate offspring, protested by way of excuse that it was “ only a very little one.” That, no doubt, is true; but the Minister is now proposing to destroy what trade we do with England in refrigerators. Indeed, what he said is not strictly in accordance with the facts. There are over 2,000 of these machines in Australia, a’nd they are the only kind suited to the circumstances of the man on the land, being as they are, independent of all adventitious aid. They are a self-contained unit; they do not depend upon electricity, as do other makes. They can be operated with electricity, gas, petrol gas, or even a kerosene lamp. The efficiency of these machines may be gathered from the fact that Lyons - I refer not to my distinguished leader, but the great catering firm in London - ha3 installed one of these refrigerators in each of its 1,200 shops. That speaks volumes for their efficiency. A dweller in the most remote parts of the Commonwealth may, with this machine, enjoy all the advantages of city life. It requires no attention ; it is not dependent upon the- - service of experts, and is British made. Our first duty is to our own country, our second duty to the Empire, and particularly to Great Britain. A refrigerator which is not adapted to the conditions of our back country ought not to be encouraged. Refrigeration is essential to the health and comfort of our people. Any one who has lived in the interior, where high temperatures prevail, knows how greatly refrigeration reduces discomfort and improves health. It is of particular benefit to our women folk in the conduct of the home. These machines have been wrongly grouped. They were formerly included in item 208 a under the group heading, “ Manufactures of metals “. They have now been covered by this new classification, and are grouped -with mechanical machines. They, are non-mechanical; they have no moving parts, and cannot get out of order. They do not require any attention. On page 14 of the Tariff Board’s report the following paragraph appears: -
The board has already expressed herein the view that the imposition of fixed rate duties on refrigerators would operate inequitably as regards the non-mechanical type. The board is also of the opinion that there is no justification for the imposition of non-mechanical refrigerating units of ad valorem duties higher than those imposed on units of the mechanical type.
This legislature has repeatedly expressed its approval of the principle of British preference. With a flat rate duty there is virtually preference to American refrigerating units’ as opposed to those of British manufacture. Owing to the greater value of the unit and parts, the duty falls very harshly upon British manufacturers; the difference in favour of the American manufacturers being something like 50 per cent. The Tariff Board clearly recognizes that nonmechanical refrigerators ought to be dealt with under a separate heading, and that the flat’ rate duty is clearly inequitable, amounting to virtual preference to American machines.
I am entirely in accord with the policy of encouraging Australian industries, and I rejoice, as I am sure we all do, at this evidence of the skill and enterprise of the Australian people; but the operating parts of the Australian-made machine are imported from America. The motor, which is the essential part of the mechanical refrigerating device, is imported from the United States of America, as also is another small part.
– The Minister said that the Australian manufacturers are improving on the imported model.
– Yes, but he did not say anything about the motors. The nonmechanical outfit has not any moving parts, and neither pump valves, nor motor. In principle, the two kinds of refrigerator are entirely distinct, and the method of grouping in the present schedule operates harshly and inequitably against the nonmechanical refrigerator. While I rejoice at the progress made in this industry in Australia, the fact remains that the type of refrigerator made here, to which the Minister referred, is useless to the nian on the land who cannot obtain gas or electric power.
– Considerable power is required.
– That is so. Sufficient power could not be worked by jacking up a Ford car and using its engine. The machines referred to by the Minister can be used only when electric energy is available.
– Electrical refrigerators can be used on a farm by being worked off a. petrol engine, or a lighting plant-
– On which unnecessarily high duties are imposed.
– Half-crowns can be made by any one who has a coining plant. One can do anything if one has the necessary appliances. The other day the Minister w.as endeavouring to show how slight was the difference which these added duties make to the man on the land; but he has been careful not to suggest that farmers would have to purchase some sort of a petrol motor in order to generate the power necessary to operate these refrigerators. By the time a farmer had added all the extras which he would need under the Minister’s proposals his farm would virtually have become a factory. I direct the attention of the committee to the recommendations contained in the Tariff Board’s report of the 4th September, 1931. The board recommends the substitution for the item 176 r 2 as appearing in the schedule of a paragraph to read -
Refrigerators, up to and including 7,300 British thermal unit capacity per hour and parts of such refrigerators, imported separately or otherwise, including cabinets, but excluding electric motors, ad valorem, 55 per cent. British, (SO per cunt, intermediate, and 05 per cent, general.
At a later stage, I propose to move the following amendment as a new item 176 f 3:-
Non-mechanical absorption type refrigerators up to and including 7,500 British thermal unit capacity per hour and parts of such refrigerators imported separately or otherwise, including cabinets ad valorem, 55 per cent. British, 00 per cent, intermediate, and 05 per cent, general.
That amendment, which is confined to the non-mechanical machines, has the support of the Tariff Board. Although the board’s recommendation is general, and covers most types, it distinctly states in the paragraph on page 14 which I have just quoted, that there is no justification for grouping the two classes under the one item. Refrigeration, as I have said, is essential to the health and comfort of our people, and it would certainly be a reflexion upon the wisdom of this national legislature, which is presumedly cognizant of the circumstances of this country, should it deliberately prevent their use by the settlers outback. Life on the land is difficult enough in any circumstances, and ought to be made as comfortable as we can make it for our pioneers. The British refrigerator is the only one that is of any service to the man on the land; unless his farm is situated near a town or in a district where electrical power can be used.
– At least 95 per cent. of our settlers are iri that position.
– Certainly quite as many as that. They ought to be our first concern. I do not question the efficiency of the American machines; but the British- refrigerator possesses an’ enormous advantage in this one respect, that it requires no attention, and demands no service. It contains no moveable parts. Any man who owns a motor car will readily appreciate that advantage. The refrigerator is of Swedish invention, but is manufactured in Great Britain. The company which handles it in Australia has already sold a large number in this country, and 22£ per cent, of its total sales have been made to persons living in rural districts. If the duty is reduced it proposes to carry on manufacturing operations in Australia. The secret part of it, of course, would have to be imported. I am a whole-hearted advocate of protection, but to impose a duty which amounts to 445 per cent, with a primage tax of 4 per cent, is protection run mad, and the primage tax is now 10 per cent., and, consequently, the total imposition is very much greater. If the Minister agrees to my suggestion, the duty on the imported parts will still be 107$ per’ cent.
– Even that is too high.
– The points that should be borne in mind are: (1) The British refrigerator is an efficient machine, and is the only type that is of any service to l.he great majority of the people in our country districts; (2) it is of British manufacture; (3) if the duty is reduced, just as much employment will be given to Australian labour as is given by any other type of machine; that is to say, SO per cent, of the list price will be spent in Australia., because the whole of the machine with the exception of the part which gives the secret process will be made in this country. Thus no damage would be inflicted upon Australian industry, and the man on the land would be given an opportunity which he sadly needs, of enjoying the priceless benefits of refrigeration. Assistance would be given to Great Britain; it would be a gesture of friendliness in her time of need. The proposal has the support of the Tariff Board, which has reported in its favour as recently as the 4th September last. A? the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has a prior amendment, I content myself by giving notice now of my intention to move later the amendment that I have outlined.
– I move -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following to paragraph (2) : - “ And on and after the 26th September, 1931-
(2) Refrigerators up to and including 7,500 British thermal unit capacity per hour and parts of such refrigerators, imported separately or otherwise, including cabinets but excluding electric motors, ad val. British, 55 per cent.; intermediate, 60 per cent. : general, 65 per cent.
In this amendment I am conforming absolutely to the recommendation of the Tariff Board made in the early part of this month.
Before referring particularly to the item, I ask the committee to bear with me while I make one or two general observations arising out of the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde). The honorable gentleman once more levelled at honorable members who sit on this side the charge that they were unbending in their hostility to Australian manufactures, because of the attitude they had adopted during this debate. This allegation is wide of the fact. My reply is that practically the whole of our tariff structure has been built up by honorable members who to-day owe, or who in the past have owed, allegiance to the parties that now occupy the benches on this side of the House. But for their activities there would to-day be no great manufacturing industry in this country. We have always been firm, sound protectionists, and we are still. But I am not in favour of creating monopolies by law.
I subscribe to the desire of the Minister to effect a better balance of trade with the United States of America. But I would sound a note of warning in that connexion. Our trade is ill-balanced for the simple reason that we are compelled by circumstances to purchase heavily from the United States of America certain things that we cannot obtain elsewhere. That applies- particularly to petrol, motor cars, and films. There is a danger in carrying to extreme lengths this action against the United States of America or any other country. If those countries that have an unfavorable trade balance with us were to apply to us the medicine that it is so often urged we should apply to America, we could not possibly dispose of our great wool clip. In the case of Japan, Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy, the balance in our favour amounts to something like £40,000,000 a year. There is only one attitude to adopt, and that is to consider the balance of our trade with all countries. It cannot be considered piecemeal without striking heavily at ourselves.
Up to November, 1929, there was an ad valorem duty of 60 per cent, on refrigerators. Since that date there has been a surcharge of 50 per cent., which, so far in this debate, has been overlooked. The present specific rates of duty were imposed by the Minister, apparently on his own initiative, and without consultation with any one or any reference to the Tariff Board - that having been done subsequently. It is not necessary for me to emphasize the very great importance of refrigeration, both in a domestic and in a business .sense, to this community. Australia is a country of strong sunshine, and one in which the utmost possible use of ice ought to be made. I look forward to the time when an automatic refrigerator will be installed in every Australian home. I do not know anything that is so calculated to add to the amenities of life in a domestic sense as the widest possible use of these machines. Therefore, our objective should be to make them as cheap as possible to the people. The proposals of the Government are not calculated to do that; but rather to build up sooner or later a monopoly within Australia. It is perfectly true that at the present time there is within Australia an almost fierce competition between the local manufacturers. If one could be sure that that competition would be sustained, that there would be no price-fixing arrangement, no merging of interests, no creation of a monopoly, one would have no objection to these prohibitive duties. But history teaches us that that is not the usual trend of events in the commercial world. As far back as the days of the Tudors, immediately the king had sold a monopoly, exploitation of the people began. We have now nineteen reputable firms within the Commonwealth. I am prepared to give adequate protection to the industry; that has always been my attitude towards it.I cannot speak personally of the whole of the manufacturers; but I can of one or two. Their efficiency is exceptionally high, and I was delighted to visit their works. They have the whole of my sympathy, and my praise (for their achievement up to the present time. But, in my opinion, the item as it appears in the schedule will not only have adverse effects on the Australian public, but is positively bad for the manufacturers themselves. On the question of the danger of prohibitive duties, I make the following quotation from the annual report of the Tariff Board : -
Excessive duties are dangerous for the following reasons: -
They may shelter industry unduly and tend to lack of efficiency or to undue profit. In certain types of manufacture this effect is largely safeguarded against by local competition, hut with a limited market such as exists in. Australia there is frequently room for only one or two factories capable of large-scale production. When this is the case prohibitive duties cither result in lack of competition with the grave risk of excessive profits, or the installation of more plant than is necessary to cater for the requirements of the market.
There is nndoubted evidence of the danger of encouraging the establishment of plant over and above what is actually justified by the market available.
The board cites the manufacture of hosiery, and comments upon the heavy over-capitalization and losses sustained by those engaged in that industry. It then goes on to state: -
The same position is liable to arise in the manufacture of refrigerators. The Australian market, which is strictly limited, would appear to justify not more than two factories capable of producing economically, taking into consideration the inevitable changes of type and design.
Yet, as the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has reminded the committee, there are no fewer than nineteen manufacturers in this industry in Australia.
Mr.Forde. - Assuming that to be correct, it is an additional reason why the duty should remain.
– It is difficult to understand the logic of the Minister’s reasoning. He is endeavouring to persuade the committee that because nineteen manufacturers are engaged in this business when, according to the Tariff Board, two would be capable of supplying. Australia’s requirements, the people of Australia should be fleeced by means of these high duties in order to ensure a return to an over-capitalized industry. The board reports further -
Since the imposition of the proposed prohibitive duties, now in operation, the ad valorem equivalent of which range up to130 per cent., twelve manufacturers have set out to build refrigerators in Australia. The position must necessarily result in unnecessarily high overhead costs and ultimately lead to serious economic waste.
It is interesting to know, and I draw the attention of the committee to the fact, that although the Tariff Board has had a number of very extraordinary cases before it recently, it singled out this particular item for comment in its annual report. The refrigerators covered by these duties include a very wide range of machines, from the small domestic refrigerator of about 4 cubic feet capacity, up to refrigerating ice cream cabinets, and even butchers’ rooms. Under the Minister’s proposal, domestic refrigerating units of the small capacity are dutiable at £15 15s. under the British tariff, and £17 10s. under the general tariff which, of course, applies to machines of American manufacture. The Minister informed the committee that the Australian price of these domestic refrigerators was £55, and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Patersou) asked what was the landed cost of imported machines of similar capacity. I am credibly informed that the f.o.b. price is£14 7s. 6d.. and that the c.i.f. charges bring the price up to £15 16s. 3d. If we include landing charges, £4 2s., which seems a very heavy item, the total cost is £1918s. 3d., and the proposed duty under the general tariff is £17 10s., plus £8 15s. surcharge.
Mr.Forde. - What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– I suggest that the Minister follow the Tariff Board’s recommendation. Members of the board know infinitely more about this subject than the Minister, or any other member of the Cabinet.
– Last night thehonorable member would not accept the Tariff Board’s report with regard to petrol pumps.
– No, because, in my opinion, the recommendation of the board went too far, and I could not support it without departing from principles to which I have always endeavoured to adhere - an uncompromising opposition to the creation of monopolies in Australia. [ Quorum formed.] On page 13 of its report, the Tariff Board shows that the rate of duty necessary to equalize the Australian price for domestic refrigerating units with the price of imported refrigerating units of the same capacity, would be 52.6 per cent. But it states that, to ensure tothe Australian manufacturers a reasonable proportion of the Australian market, it is prepared to recommend an ad valorem general tariff of 65 per cent. That should be ample in Australia, with costs falling, and the certainty that there will be a further decline in the very near future. Let me again summarize the position : The duty on British domestic refrigerating units is £15 16s. 3d., plus 50 per cent. surcharge, plus 10 per cent. primage duty. That measure of protection should, surely, be sufficient for Australian manufacturers. The amendment should he acceptable to the right honorable member for North/Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because British machines will have a preference of 15 per cent. ad valorem over foreign refrigerating units.
– This item is the most stupid in the whole tariff schedule, because, as already has been shown, it has had the effect of destroying employment in Australia. The Minister endeavoured to convince the committee that these duties would mean more employment, hut the official advice from the Tariff Board is that it will have the reverse effect. It will also increase the waste that takes place in our food supplies, and seriously jeopardize the health of our people, who will inevitably be forced to use an obsolete type of refrigerating plant, and be out of line with the rest of the world. In its report upon this matter, the hoard states -
There would appear, however, to be no doubt that the demand for refrigerators has been checked - at least temporarily - by the duties now operating, and that, therefore, the employment previously provided by the production of cabinets in Australia has been definitely lessened. Apart from the labour formerly employed in the manufacture of cabinets, a very considerable amount of money was distributed in Australia in the selling and servicing of imported refrigerators.An examination of the figures supplied by the distributors of “Frigidaire “ refrigerators shows that those distributors during the year 1929 spent locally £51,450 other than in wages and salaries. In wages and salaries,mostly for sales and servicing, the amount spent was £54,348. The amount remitted overseas by these distributors represented only one-third of the value of the total sales in spite of the fact that at that time cabinets for household models were imported with the refrigerating units. To show the effect of the use of Australian cabinets on the percentage of the retail selling price sent overseas as regards household models one of the most popular sizes has been taken. This shows that whereas when the cabinet was imported with the’ machine over 38 per cent. of the retail price was remitted overseas, if a local cabinet were used the amount would be in the vicinity of 30 per cent. In the case of another and larger model, the percentages were 34 per cent. and 22 per cent. respectively.
The total amount sent overseas for the purchase of one of these refrigerating units represents only 22 per cent. of the selling price. The remainder is disbursed in Australia to Australian work ing men. Surely it will not be contended by the Minister or Government supporters that only those employed in Australian factories have the right to live in this country. Persons engaged in the distribution and servicing of these machines have as much right to consideration as those who come under the special protection of the Minister for the time being. The board goes on to state -
The use of Australian cabinets will, therefore, considerably reduce the percentage of the selling value of refrigerators sent overseas below the figure of 331/3 per cent. shown for 1929. As already stated herein, cabinets for commercial units have in the past been largely of local manufacture. It will be seen, therefore, that .the importation of refrigerating units lias been responsible for the distribution of a considerable amount of money in Australia in the manufacture of cabinets and in the selling and servicing of the complete refrigerators. It is, of course, obvious that if sales are maintained a very large proportion of this work would still have to be carried out in connexion with refrigerators wholly manufactured in Australia. The evidence is conclusive, however, that the sudden application of the high duties now operating tended to disturb the natural flow of business, and that the net result on the’ employment which might have been expected in the manufacture of cabinets and the selling and servicing of refrigerators has been unfavorable.
The board makes it plain that it is totally opposed to the Minister’s proposal, and it recommends the duties which have been suggested by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), whom I intend to support. Furthermore, the Minister endeavoured to camouflage the real position by delivering a long dissertation upon the respective merits and demerits of the Australian and American refrigerating units. That issue is not before the committee. Our chief concern should be the type of refrigerating unit to- be made available to the people of Australia.
In regard to overseas competition, the Minister suggested that there was a possibility of the American competitors dumping refrigerators in Australia. On this point the Tariff Board said -
The argument advanced at the inquiry for the maintenance of the proposed fixed rates at present operating was that there is a danger of cheap unguaranteed refrigerators being -dumped into Australia from overseas. No evidence in support pf such an argument was, however, presented, nor has the board been able to elicit any evidence of the suggested dumping having taken place in the past. The board is not impressed with the likelihood nf such a position arising in the future.
The reasons which the Minister gave iti support of these duties absolutely vanish into thin air when they are put under examination.
I shall give a number of reasons why we should reduce the duties. Even if we kept them at the previously existing figures the industry would be receiving substantial protection. A duty of 65 per cent, is substantial, and would have staggered Australia three or four years ago.
– Then there is the sur1ax, the primage duty, and exchange to be taken into account.
– Quite so. A few years ago every member of the committee would have fainted if duties of the magnitude now suggested had been proposed. In other days there was always a fight to get a duty up to 65 per cent., whereas now it appears that we must fight to keep it down to that figure.
The history of the development of this industry is intensely interesting. Refrigeration is one of the most important developments of recent times. Prior to the application of electrical power to refrigeration, steam power was applied. Honorable members must know what a wonderful advantage the application of this principle has been to Australia. It has enabled her to sell her butter, meat and other perishable products in a fresh condition overseas, and so has eliminated the tremendous amount of waste of foodstuffs that formerly occurred in this country. In the early days, the manufacture of ice permitted a considerable degree of refrigeration to be carried out in a wholesale way, and so made possible the sale of foodstuffs which must inevitably otherwise have been wasted; but there was always a difficulty iu maintaining an even temperature in the refrigerators. Science has proved to us that the bacteria of putrefaction is tremendously increased when the temperature rises above 50 degrees. It is estimated that, when the temperature is be- .tween 40 and 50 degrees the bacterial growth is only one four-hundredth of what it is when the temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees. Those who were accustomed to the old fashioned ice chests will remember how difficult it was to keep the temperature down, because, as the ice disappeared, the temperature rose. This fact gave a great deal of trouble to butchers and other sellers of perishable foods, and it also caused a good deal of ptomaine poisoning, because people would take a chance with tainted food. But since the introduction of electrical refrigeration about fifteen years ago, tremendous improvements have occurred, for foodstuffs can now easily be kept at an even temperature, whereas under the old methods of refrigeration, that was not possible. It is only during the last five or six years that the use of electrical refrigeration has been made possible in private bornes. The progress of the industry in the last few years has been such that electrical refrigerators have become available at a price low enough and of a kind reliable enough to make home refrigeration practicable. I suppose that it is only within the last two or three years that there has been very great confidence displayed in this form of refrigeration. Six years ago it would have been difficult to find more than half a dozen electrical refrigerators in the private homes of Australia, whereas to-day thousandsof them are in daily use. This shows the wonderful advance that has been made. Intensive research by the great electrical concerns of the world has made this progress possible. Many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent in developing the types of household electrical refrigerators now in use in different parts of the world ; but the development has not yet ceased. Every two or three mouths, new processes are being developed, new appliances put on the market, and new patents applied for. It will be realized therefore that the industry is in a continual state of revolution. But, unfortunately, these new processes and patents do not immediately become available to the manufacturers of Australia. If we adopt a policy which will concentrate the control of this industry in the hands of a few firms we shall act very unwisely. Seeing that such intense research is still being conducted in connexion with refrigerators, we should move slowly in order to ensure that our people will not be obliged to purchase refrigerators below the standard of those in use elsewhere. The advances that have been made in connexion with air cooling and water cooling in the last few years have been remarkable. Some time ago, electrical refrigeration was almost entirely confined to air-cooling processes, but it has now been discovered that the watercooling process is very much cheaper and more satisfactory and reliable, and modern machines are being equipped with water-cooling apparatus.
If we impose the high duties on electrical refrigerators which are being advocated by the Minister, wo shall practically prohibit the importation of electrical refrigerators, and so compel our people to use obsolete appliances. The effect of imposing the duties recommended by the Minister will be to give the firms at present manufacturing electrical refrigerators in Australia an absolute monopoly. There was a time when this business was in the hands of one or two firms, but 1 have been informed that there are now nineteen enterprises engaged in the business, although the report of the Tariff Board indicates very definitely that the possible market for these appliances is not sufficient to maintain more than one or two firms. The board, in the. paragraphs of its last annual report, in which it deals with the danger of prohibitive duties, makes some telling observations on this aspect of the subject.[Quorum formed.] On page 21 of that report, it endeavours to impress upon the people the stupidity of developing enterprises in Australia in excess of the possible market for the products manufactured. Its observations in this regard are as follow : -
There is undoubted evidence of the danger of encouraging the establishment of plant over and ahove what is actually justified by the market available. This tendency for prohibitive rates to encourage too much factory capacity is illustrated in the hosiery industry: During the inquiry held by the Tariff Board into an application for an increase in the duties on cotton yarn, Mr. G. G. Foletta, general manager, Prestige Limited, made the following statement: -
The knitters, to their sorrow, have had far too much protection. That is the trouble or the biggest part of the trouble in the knitting industry to-day, and has caused great economic loss to Australia, because we have imported quite 50 per cent, more knitting machinery into this country than can ever be used. What is far more serious is to think that we should have trained thousands of hands who will have no opportunity of ever getting back into the knitting trade. Al! this was due to a greater degree of protection being given than was needed. This has come about because everyone said, “ This is a good thing, let us get into it”, and they were off before we knew where we were.
The same position is liable to arise in the manufacture of refrigerators. The Australian market which is strictly limited would appear to justify not more than two factories capable of producing economically, taking into consideration the inevitable changes of type and design. Since the imposition of the proposed prohibitive dutiesnow in operation, the ad valorem equivalent of which range up to 130 per cent., twelve manufacturers have set out to build refrigerators in Australia.
As 1 have said, there are now nineteen firms engaged in this business. The report proceeds as follows: -
This position must result in unnecessarily high overhead costs and ultimately lead to serious economic waste. The fact that in the course of time only the more efficient manufacturers will survive and thus the number of factories will ultimately be reduced is not a satisfactory answer, for, as stated- by Mr. Foletta in regard to hosiery, much damage is done at the outset.
It must be plain to any one who thinks about the situation which is arising in this industry that many of the firms now making electrical refrigerators must, before very long, become bankrupt. But that is not the most serious aspect of the subject. If the firms which are now making these machines do go out of business it will mean that many householders will be unable to obtain spare parts for their appliances, and will be deprived of the service which is necessary to maintain their equipment in good working order. Those who have had personal experience of the operation of Kelvin a to rs, Frigidaire appliances and the like know that there is need for a fairly constant service, and a good supply of spare parts. If the local manufacturers of these machines are unable to maintain operations, neither the service nor the spare parts will be available. These refrigerators are usually sold with a guarantee of anything from one year to three years’ free service, and if the makers of the machines go out of business this will not be available, while spare parts will have to be specially manufactured at a very heavy cost to the people who need them.
It is also inevitable that if we take steps which will have tlie effect of preventing the importation of electrical refrigerators we shall deprive our people, of the possibility of buying the most uptodate machines. We all know that the maximum demand is made on these appliances in the hot and humid month of February. During that month of last year the manufacturers were quite unable to supply the demands of butchers and others who desired the installation of electrical refrigerating machinery.
– Yet the right honorable member says that there is likely to be a surplus production in Australia.
– I reiterate the point made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that the entry of so many firms into this business must inevitably have the effect of causing many of them to become bankrupt in the near future. In any case, a great many of the parts being used for the manufacture of refrigerators in Australia are being imported.
– That is true of 50 per cent, of them.
– It is also true that, in their desire to insure the sale of their particular brand of machines, some of the manufacturers are equipping them with inefficient motive apparatus, with the result that when a strain is put upon them they fail. This will inevitably involve the purchasers of the machines in the wastage of .meat, fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs, and possibly endanger the public health. It is highly desirable that we should do everything that we can to protect the interests of the people who buy electrical refrigerators, and to insure that the appliances will be of such a nature that they will not deteriorate rapidly and involve the purchasers in heavy medical and nursing expenses. This is, of course, a new development, which depends for its existence on the satisfactory performance of the machines which are manufactured and sold. The mora dissatisfaction that results from their use the fewer will be the sales. That will ultimately tend to increase prices. This is a stupid duty, imposed in defiance of the recommendation of the Tariff Board, the body which has made a proper investigation into the industry. It pointed out that it was ridiculous to have a flat rate of duty for machines of all sizes. This duty will prohibit imports, and will prevent us from enjoying improvements in electrical apparatus. Australia, as a. whole, has one of the hottest climates in which white men are living, and refrigeration is needed here more than in any other country, yet we are to be penalized by being forced . to purchase inferior machines of obsolete design, just because the Government of the day has given a promise to certain manufacturing interests, or groups of employees. It is common -knowledge that those engaged in the cabinet-making portion of this industry are against this excessive duty, because they know that if the free importation of refrigerating units were permitted, there would be more work available in Australia. As was pointed out by the Tariff Board, the protection which is being afforded to this industry will amount to more than it costs the manufacturer in respect of wages and output. This is an extravagant duty and cannot be said to be’ necessary. Take, for instance, a Kelvinator unit of a capacity of 5 cubic feet. Its landed cost, without duty, and including S per cent,, exchange, would be £25 15s. The duty at 65 per cent, ad valorem, as suggested by the Tariff Board, would be £12 2s.; primage duty of 10 per cent., £1 4s.; sales tax of 6 per cent., £2 8s.; total landed cost, £41 9s. In addition, we hav.e to allow for a profit of 60 per cent., £25; and the cost of a locally-made cabinet, £23; which will make the price of the imported machine £89 9s. A similar machine locally made sells nt £77 10s. The local manufacturer, therefore, has an advantage of £18 in respect of the selling price, and if the Australian machine is anything like as good as the imported one, it should command a sale; yet the Minister says that the duty recommended by the Tariff Board is not sufficient, and that it has to be doubled before the locallymade article can compete with the foreign article.
– The local machine is selling at £50.
– That is a machine of 4 cubic feet capacity. I am speaking of a machine of 5 cubic feet capacity. There must be something very wrong with the locally-made article if. with an advantage of £18 in the selling price, it cannot compete with the foreign article. The Minister is imposing a flat rate of duty of 130 per cent.
– “What is the Minister’s answer to that?
– He does not intend to say anything more on this subject.
– His mind is closed in the same way, unfortunately, as the purses of the great majority of the people of this country, who are greatly in need of refrigerators. It, would add im- measurably to the comfort of householders if they could obtain these machines at reasonable prices.
– The price of these machines dropped 40 per cent, as the result of the competition of Australian manufacturers.
– Surely the Minister does not seriously suggest that within the last eighteen months, since this extravagant duty has been imposed, the price of the imported article has fallen !
– The price of the Australian article has dropped within the last eighteen mouths.
– The point I am making is that, because of the prohibitive duty, there is no real competition between the Australian and the imported article. The Tariff Board has stated that this industry has already adequate protection. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has .moved an amendment with the object of adopting the recommendation of the Tariff Board, and I am supporting it. The suggestion that a duty, of 65 per cent, is not sufficient protection to the Australian industry U ridiculous.
The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Until now I have not taken any part in the debate on the tariff, although I have exercised my vote. Since the Tariff Board’s general report has been before honorable members, there has been a different atmosphere in this chamber. As the board points out, these duties are far too high even from the point of view of a protectionist. I heartily support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). I suggest that we should for once waive party considerations. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has pointed out, the existing duties are sufficiently high. The Massy Greene tariff, when introduced, was regarded as being too high, and in this instance the Tariff Board has suggested a duty of 65 per cent. That, surely, should provide’ sufficient protection for any industry. I understand that the locally-made refri- gerator can be used only in places in which’ an electric supply is available, whereas the imported machine can be operated in any country town or district merely by the use of a small lamp for starting purposes. What is the object of the Minister in imposing this excessive duty?
– There is an ad valorem duty of 550 per cent, on the imported article.
– As the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said, all honorable members have received, telegrams from the Australian Gaslight Company, the North Shore Company, the Newcastle Gas Company, and others, asking them to adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The crack of the party whip seems to be more in evidence to-day than ever before. Many Labour members, if they had a free hand, would, I am sure, vote for the adoption of the recommendation of the Tariff Board, and thus add to the comfort of the people out-back by allowing them to purchase at a reasonable price a machine suitable for their requirements.
– I understand that the Government is now proposing to place a heavy duty on a type of refrigerator which is. not made in Australia, and which can be used in country districts where the local machine is useless. I understand that the imported machine can be operated anywhere merely by the use of a small lamp for starting purposes. Very often in. the case of sickness the ability to obtain foods and articles cooled in a refrigerator means the difference between life and death to the sufferer. The Government is adopting a dog in the manger attitude. Although this machine is not made in Australia, the Minister refuses to allow it to be imported here. The Government seems to think that we should build round Australia a prohibitive tariff wall, hut we are not in a position to do that at the presenttime. The Minister, in imposing this duty, is playing with fire. It is vitally necessary that, during the severe summer experienced in Australia, the people in the interior should be able to obtain refrigerators at a reasonable cost. I think that the committee should adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board, and not increase the duty. In regard to the suggestion that the Government is not adopting the recommendations of the Tariff Board, the schedule shows the futility of keeping that expensive body in existence. If its reports are to be scrapped why does not the Minister take steps to abolish it? I have no personal acquaintance with any member of the Tariff Board, but I assume that the members “of the board are appointed because they are experts at sifting evidence on tariff matters, and are capable of judging economic conditions and applying them to a tariff. Their opinions must, therefore, be of value to the nation. If they are not men of that type, they are square pegs in round holes. If they, are to spend their time going through the country at the expense of the nation, and making reports which are simply torn up, I fail to see the need for keeping the board in existence. My definite conclusion is that the Government should either abolish the board or take notice of its recommendations. When the board reports that .the evidence* shows that there are in Australia manufacturers with big turnovers, making 100 per cent, profit, I must be guided by it, realizing as I do that no true Labour government could support a tariff that would permit such a. thing. I am leaving Canberra at 4 o’clock to-day, and may not be here next week, and possibly the week after. If honorable members want my vote in support of their amendment, the division must be taken this afternoon. My vote, on this occasion, will go to support the Tariff Board’s report, so that those who need these articles, which are so beneficial in the interior, may not be penalized. What appeals to me more than anything else is the fact that in hospitals they may be used to save life. I could not conscientiously give a vote that might prejudice the life of some, citizen in the interior. In that respect I would be prepared to go even further than the Tariff Board has recommended.
.- r-I propose to be brief in order to secure the vote of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) - though, possibly, the mission upon which he is going may do much more harm than these duties - and because honorable members on this side of the chamber have already delivered a most devastating criticism of the Government’s proposal. Apart from the statement made by the Minister, which has been entirely riddled by those who followed him, nothing has been said against the arguments adduced in favour of the amendment. Indeed, it would appear, judging by the fact that, with the exception of two Ministers and the four honorable members now present on the ministerial side of the chamber, no interest is being taken in the matter, and nothing can bc eaid against those arguments. At any ratu, no one has attempted to defend these high duties, which have aptly been described by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) as “ the most stupid ever imposed in an excessively stupid tariff.” The Minister is quite complacent about the matter; he knows that “he has the numbers behind him; but when these duties are reviewed in another place, the arguments which have been advanced in this chamber, and the fact that nothing has been said in favour of the duties, will not be ignored. I should imagine that today’s discussion will induce another place to knock out the higher duties, and accept the lower rates recommended by the Tariff Board.
– And they are high enough.
– I was about to say so. The attitude of the Minister in this matter reminds one of Lord Clive’s exclamation during a parliamentary examination - “ Istand astonished at my own moderation “. I am surprised at the moderation of honorable members on this side in being content to vote for a rate of 65 per cent. But when we realize that, the Government is asking for a duty of 130 per cent., I suggest that there is some justification in asking that it be cui down by at least one-half. At any rate, the Opposition is prepared to accept a duty of 65 per cent., to which, of course, must be added 10 per cent. primage, and from 30 to 40 per cent. exchange, freight, insurance. Any industry that requires a greater, protection than that is not natural to Australia, and should not be encouraged. Honorable members are not arguing about the poor man’s refrigerator. The cost of this article in question is in the neighbourhood of £61 for the imported machine, and at least £60 for the locally-manufactured refrigerator. The local manufacturer always gets right to the top of the tariff wall; he takes every advantage of the Mount Everest wall we have erected around his industry.I have a customs entry showing that under the old rate as recommended by the Tariff Board, the duty was 64¼ per cent., and another customs entry showing that under the existing schedule the rate is 135¾ per cent., plus all the other charges I have mentioned.
– The honorable member is too moderate. The ad valorem duties under the present tariff are 170 per cent. upon the American article, and 550 per cent. upon the British.
-I always strive not to overstate a case. Therefore, I produce the actual proof of what I am saying, leaving it to the right honorable member to supply the more intimate details which go to make up the 550 per cent. which he has mentioned. It has been said that the Australian manufacturer has brought this invention up to a state of most intense perfection ; but would it not be advisable for him to bring down the price? While the cost of refrigerators remains at £60, I shall have to he content with a £4 10s. ice chest, and havethe ice cart calling. Only the aristocrats on the other side of the chamber can. afford to purchase these refrigerators. The rates of duty are of no consequence to plutocrats like them. They can afford to pay any price for an article. But while these heavy duties remain, the poor unfortunates on this side of the chamber and the public generally will be compelled to put up with their £4 10s. ice chests and, at the risk of of ruining their carpets, have the ice man calling several times a week. The Government’s policy is nothing more than one of exorbitant exaction. In no circumstances should this committee stand for it.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I quite agree that Australian manufacturers exhibit great skill. So, also, do
Australian workmen. It is significant, however, that, when refrigerating machines have been required for a special purpose, the orders have had to be filled from overseas. I instance the case of Messrs. Atkinson, the largest perfume makers in Great Britain, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - when it needed a refrigerator to keep active cancer specimens with which it was experimenting - various shipping companies, and even Sun Newspapers Limited. The latter needed a plant that would keep at an even temperature a substance used in the process of printing, and, notwithstanding the company’s wellknown predilection for locally-made articles, the order had to be placed overseas, andit is therefore futile for the Minister and those who support these duties to claim that the locally-produced article possesses all the virtues.
Although it is unusual for the Minister to controvert any evidence adduced against the Government’s tariff proposals, he may endeavour to do so in connexion with the prices that 1 shall quote. I find that a 4-cubic feet, imported “ Frigidaire “ is sold in Australia for £65, while a locally-made “ Electrice “ of the same size costs £67 10s., and another locallymade machine of similar capacity handled by Noyes Brothers, £65. Notwithstanding the protection given to the local articles, itis generally more expensive than the foreign one.
– Those prices ruled prior to the introduction of these duties. The imported article is now considerably dearer than the others to which the honorable member has referred.
– I have the price lists before me, if the honorable member cares to inspect them. They bear out my contention that, except, in exceptional circumstances, local manufacturers have taken every advantage of the high protection given to them by the tariff, and do not pass any benefit on to consumers. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made a very clear statement regarding a British-made gas-operated refrigerator. While I know that it is almost useless to look to this Government for patriotism, I suggest that if there is any such quality in this chamber, this is the time to manifest it towards Great Britain. The article to which the right honorable gentleman referred has the virtue of being equally as effective in the country as in the metropolitan areas. It is not dependent upon an electricity supply. The Government should, therefore, meet his suggestion, and allow the machine in duty free.
It is most improper that the Minister should bring down a schedule and persist in adhering to it, irrespective of any arguments adduced as to its anomalies. The Government should acknowledge faults when attention is directed to them, and accept amendments designed to rectify the weaknesses. Such action would indicate that the Government is prepared to take a reasonable view with regard to tariff proposals, and to act fairly to the public. I am hopeful that, in this instance, the Government will realize that it is asking for something that is absolutely unreasonable, and which, if persisted in, will inflict hardship on the public.
.- I desire to make my position with regard to this item quite clear. I support the proposal advanced by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and am prepared to vote for the free admission of the refrigerator to which he referred. It is not operated by electricity, and could be used equally as well in country as in metropolitan centres. At the same time, I am prepared to support the proposed duties on all other classes of refrigerators.
.- I am prepared to vote for the lowest possible duty on these refrigerators. Here is a device designed by the ingenuity of man to give comfort to his fellows, particularly those who live under climatic conditions such as those experienced in Australia. The Government ofthe day, eager at all times to bolster up monopolies, is willing to make it impossible for the average person to enjoy the advantages of this invention.
– The honorable member’s leader stated that nineteen refrigerator companies are already operating in Australia. It does not look as if there is any monopoly.
– Those firms will combine readily enough when competition is shut out. I do not mind if the Government places an embargo on importations from the United States of America, with which country Australia has a big adverse balance of trade, and which is not deserving of our patronage. Apart from that, I support reciprocity in trade. The tariff attitude of this Government is antagonizing other countries, and losing Australia all its commercial friends. We have a favorable trade balance of at least £40,000,000 per annum with Belgium, Prance, Germany, Japan, and Italy, anc! are under an obligation to extend trade reciprocity to them.
Honorable members know that people living in the country districts have to pay double prices for ‘ practically every commodity that they need. To that I object. These modern refrigerators are invaluable to people in the outback as a means of enabling them to keep perishable goods from deteriorating. That comfort is to be denied to the majority. The existing rate of exchange and primage duty, coupled with freights, should afford sufficient protection to Australian industries, without the imposition of exorbitant duties such as these. It is manifest to me that the Australian factories cannot compete on an economic basis with their overseas competitors. I am prepared to join with i he honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and support the entry to Australia of duty-free refrigerators.
.- Honorable members representing Queensland constituencies are naturally expected to be staunch protectionists. Many of the industries in that State have received substantial assistance through the Customs Department, but they have never taken improper advantage of it. I am not a geographical protectionist; I am willing to give assistance to industries in any part of Australia ; but the present Government has gone to extremes in the protection of enterprises, many of which have not a reasonable chance of success. And apparently ministerial members are prepared to give unquestioning support to the Minister in respect of every item. Honorable members of the Opposition have been at considerable pains to collect facta and marshal arguments; but the
Minister apparently intends to adhere rigidly to every item in the schedule. All the criticism that was directed against the duties upon galvanized iron and fencing wire made no impression upon the honorable gentleman, whose enthusiasm for protection amounts almost to bigotry. Now we are having the same experience on this item. The Minister has been twitted dozens of times with his statement that this schedule would give enjoyment to an additional 50,000 men. He would appear to be determined to realize that prediction regardless of the extent to which he penalizes the Australian people in the process. We are all aware that, although the high tariff duties have been in operation for a considerable period, there is now even more unemployment than before. Seemingly, the Government has no other policy but protection, and for that reason is not in any hurry to introduce other business, and deal with the many difficult problems that demand urgent attention. This tariff debate is being allowed to drift along in the most haphazard manner. The manufacture of refrigerators is not likely to develop into a big industry. According to the Tariff Board, the retail sale of these machines amounts to £500,000 a year.
– There is a very big untouched market and plenty of scope for the development of the . Australian industry. ,
– If such a market is available, the Minister is penalizing those people who may want to buy the particular class of refrigerator that will meet their requirements. The evidence before the Tariff Board showed that mechanical refrigerators were being manufactured by twelve firms, but we are now assured that other firms are engaging in the industry.
– There are about eight responsible manufacturers in Australia.
– The representative of one leading Sydney firm stated to the Tariff Board that his factory was prepared to manufacture all the refrigerators required in Australia. If that is true, what will become of the other firms whom the Minister is inducing by this excessive protection to start manufacturing?
– Competition will keep down -prices.
– I believe in competition ; that is one of the principles of Nationalist policy; but I am afraid that the Minister is leading many people to disaster when he induces them to engage in an industry which will not provide a living for all of them.. In any case, capital, which could be used to greater advantage in other directions, will be tied up in these factories’. After all, only half the industry is being protected, for 50 per cent, of the raw material is being imported. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) staled that the motor was the principal part of the electrical refrigerator, and that it was obtained from the United States of America. It is a rank absurdity to give this industry an extraordinarily high rate of protection. I would be satisfied to follow the recommendation of the Tariff Board on all items, but the Minister accepts the advice of this authority only when it suits him. The imposition of a fiat rate to cover all classes, mechanical or otherwise, is a . mistake. If he would adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board in respect, of mechanical refrigerators, and make an alteration in respect of British machines, much of the objection to this item would be removed. Country residents will be denied the comfort of owning a refrigerator because they cannot afford to install an electrical plant, and in many parts power is not available. There is no doubt of the efficiency of the British refrigerator and the reasonableness of its price. After all, refrigerators are no longer a luxury; they are a comfort which, in this climate, should be brought within the reach of as many people as possible. We should endeavour to give some preference to our British kinsmen, especially when we shall not penalize our own people by so doing. The imposition of a flat rate is neither sensible nor just. The Minister should pay regard to the honest and sincere representations that have been made by honorable members of the committee on this item, and adopt the report of the Tariff Board.
.- If the Minister wished to pull down the pillars of the temple of protection, of which he is such a fanatical .devotee, he Gould find no more effective method than
by forcing through such tariff excesses as are illustrated by this item. These absurd duties will be passed by the unreasoning votes of ministerial automatons, who, without knowing the nature of any amendment that has been moved, can be depended upon to vote with the Minister. “ Theirs not to reason why,v theirs but -to answer the division bells and vote blindly with the Government. The worst feature of this item is the fixed rate. I have a profound distrust of fixed rates generally. When a. percentage duty is imposed we can estimate the extent to which the prices of imports will be increased and the local manufacturer can profit. But when duties of £10. £11, and so on are imposed on goods the landed C03t of which, duty free, we do not know, we have no means of ascertaining the percentage of protection. There are good grounds for distrusting fixed rates. Last evening I requested the Minister to inform me of the duty free landed price of split pulleys of certain sizes, but he would not tell me. I asked this morning, by way of interjection, the landed cost of duty free imported refrigerators, but the Minister would give no information on the subject. I have since obtained advice as to the cost of split pulleys, and it shows the danger of fixed rates. The general tariff rate on 12-in. split pulleys is l5s. each. I was laughed at last night when I remarked that if they cost 7s. 6d. each the duty was equivalent to 200 per cent. I have received a telegram from Melbourne stating that British pressed steel split pulleys. 10 inches by 4 inches, which is a little smaller than the size I mentioned, COS 7s. Id. each, while the Australian-made pulley costs 34s., less 15 per cent. The discount on the Australian article has been reduced from 35 per cent, since the tariff was increased, and the 15 per cent, discount reduces the. 34s. to about 29s.. which is more than four times the f.o.b. price of the British pressed steel pulley. That is the sort of thing which we have to put up with in Australia through the imposition of enormous fixed rates of duty. This affords one illustration of the tremendous load under which industry generally is staggering.
In considering the fixed rates on refrigerators, it has to be remembered that, in addition to these duties, there is a 50 per cent, surtax, and, therefore, the fixed British preferential rate of £10 on refrigerators up .to and including 10 cubic feet gross internal capacity is really £15, and the £12 in the general column becomes £18. For the other sizes, the British preferential rate of £22 10s. represents £33 15s., and the £25 in-the general column becomes £37 10s. To those amounts must be added 10 per cent, primage, as well as the exchange. We are indeed a long suffering people with respect to the tariff. The amendment before the committee conforms with the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I share the amazement of “the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) that honorable members on this side are showing such moderation in being prepared to concede the amount of duty recommended by the board, rather than the still higher rate fixed by the Minister. To the British preferential rate of 55 per cent. ad valorem must be added a surcharge of 50 per cent., 10 per cent, primage, and 30£ per cent, exchange. Without taking into consideration the exchange on f.o.b. prices, the British preferential rate of 55 per cent, amounts to 101.75 per cent., after allowing _f or the surcharge of 50 per cent., the 10. per cent, primage and the- 10 per cent, which the Customs Department adds to f.o.b. rates. If we add 30.5 per cent, exchange, the British preferential rate is further increased to 132.25 per cent. Of course, the freight also has to be added to that charge. I shall support the amendment, and, if it is carried, it will be well to make a further amendment to provide for a reduction in the British rate. Even if we leave the duty in the foreign column as suggested under the amendment, and as recom-, mended by the Tariff Board, we may well reduce the British rate to some extent.
.- On hearing the remarks of some of the speakers, it might be imagined that refrigerators were comparatively new to Australia; but I remind honorable members that the first frozen produce sent from Australia to Britain was despatched over 51 years ago. One of the greatest trade demonstrations held in London took place in 1930, when the jubilee of the arrival of the first frozen produce from Australia - it came from Sydney - was celebrated. Home refrigerators, however, have been manufactured m this country only during the last twelve months. No doubt, every honorable member believes that we should give preference, next to our own industries, to those of Great Britain, and after them to those of the sister dominions. Every year millions of pounds worth of partiallymanufactured goods are landed in Great Britain, finished off, and exported. I thought at first that the type of refrigerator mentioned by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was exclusively of British manufacture. 1 believe, however, that so little of it is of British manufacture that it would nol be entitled to British preference. I am prepared to give preference to British goods, next to Australian ; . but I would first satisfy myself that they really were of British origin. When I was in England I visited a great machinery exhibition in Birmingham. ‘Being at that time Minister for Trade and Customs, I was interested to meet British manufacturers, and they, in their turn, were anxious to discuss with me matters relating to Australian trade, and particularly the new tariff schedule which had only recently been introduced. My experience was that the British manufacturers were- not averse to Australia developing her own industries as much as she could. They realized that we in Australia do a considerable business in Great Britain ; that we are, in in fact, next to India, Great Britain’s best customer. They explained to me that all the British manufacturers wanted was a fair deal. They realized that Australia was part of the Empire, and it was to their interests as citizens of the Empire to see us, a unit of it, develop our industries. One manufacturer present sounded what was generally regarded as a very discordant note, and was almost howled down by his associates! He suggested that, because Australia had imposed a tariff which affected British trade, Australian goods coming into Great Britain should be boycotted. Prominent manufacturers told me afterwards not to take any notice of him. He was a man whom his colleagues despised, because the articles in which he dealt were manufactured almost wholly in foreign countries, merely being brought to Britain to be finished. We should keep that in mind when considering goods allegedly made in Britain. I may observe parenthetically that I am very glad that opinion in Great Britain is rapidly turning in favour of a protective policy. They might not favour so high a degree of protection as we do ; but it is a change in the right direction, and I am sure that at the next election a majority of the electors will endorse a protective policy.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that he did not think it right to assail a country simply because we had an adverse trade balance with it. [n the past we have imported from the United States of America goods which Great Britain could not supply. The motor cars most favoured in Australia were not until recently made anywhere other than in Canada and the United States of America. Our other imports from the United States of America were petrol, kerosene, films, softwoods, &c, hardly more than half a dozen important items altogether. When I was in Washington I had an opportunity of speaking with Mr. Klein, who is in charge of the Customs Department there. I said to him that the balance of trade between Australia and the United States of America was too much against us. Whereas we were importing £30,000,000 worth of goods from the United States of America, she was taking only £10,000,000 worth from us. That, I said, could not continue, because it was only natural that we should deal with those countries which bought our products. He took the same view of the matter, as has just been expressed by the honorable member for Henty. He pointed out that Japan had an adverse trade balance with Australia, but had a favorable balance with the United States of America. Some of the money which Japan obtained for the goods she sold to the United States of America went to pay for the wool she bought from Australia. I am glad that we have to some extent corrected our unfavorable trade balance with the United States of America, having reduced it from £29,000,000 to £10,000,000.
– How much of our manufactured goods have we exported?
– I have always advocated the export of secondary manufactures.
– But we have not done it yet.
– I believe that in the near future we shall be able to export a considerable quantity of manufactured goods to other parts of the world, and particularly to Canada, with whom we have recently concluded a trade agreement. Adequate tariff protection is essential if we are to build up our industries. I am certain that neither the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle. Page) nor the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) would be prepared to embark upon a manufacturing enterprise in Australia with no other protection than the primage duty, the 50 per cent. surtax, and the exchange rate. All those are temporary forms of protection, and the manufacturer, before investing his money in an enterprise, must be assured of permanent protection.
I understand that the refrigerators made in Australia are 95 per cent. Australian material and manufacture. What industry could possibly be more deserving of protection, more especially as it has been established that, since the manufacture of these articles began in Australia, their prices have been reduced considerably? This is a new industry, not yet twelve months old, and already it has achieved remarkable results. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) said that. under the shelter of the protective duties, too many factories for manufacturing refrigerators would spring up. He went on to say that many of them would go to the wall, the shareholders would be left lamenting, and those who bought their products would, in a little while, be unable to get parts for them. I remind the honorable member, however, that most of those engaged in the manufacture of refrigerators are making other articles also. One factory I visited is making, besides refrigerators, telephone and wireless material. The Australian manufacturers are also making the motors used in refrigerators. These motors operate on the automatic system, and require little or no attention. Once they aTe started they continue running until the temperature has been sufficiently reduced, and then they cut out automatically. “When the temperature rises beyond a certain point, they begin again. In view of the fact that the industry which is now firmly established in Australia is employing a large number of our own people, and is capable of meeting our requirements, it is only reasonable to give it the protection provided. I intend to support the Government’s proposals.
– I shall vote with the Government on this item, although I know I shall be the only Opposition member to cross the floor. If honorable members desired a continuance of the adverse trade balance which exists between the United States of America and Australia, they could not do better than reduce the duties proposed under this item. I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), in moving his amendment, and also, to the views expressed by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) concerning the amendment which he proposes to move. I shall support the proposition of the right honorable member for North Sydney, and oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Henty. In the first place, the refrigerators covered by the amendment of the honorable member for Henty consist of parts imported from the United States of America, whereas the amendment moved by the right honorable member for North Sydny is to provide additional preference to refrigerators of British manufacture. Frequent references have been made to the hardships experienced by those who have to purchase commodities on which high duties are imposed. Some honorable members have claimed that their sole object in opposing high duties is to assist the primary producers in producing, for export. The duties proposed by the Government in this instance will not interfere with the cost of primary production, but if they are reduced,’ an industry already established in Australia will, probably, be destroyed to permit the United States to export to us. I would be prepared to support even higher duties than those proposed by the Minister. Some honorable members appear to be guided by one desire, a reduction in wages, and the alleged advantages of importing cheap goods from any countries. By the imposition of these duties, an Australian industry is being assisted, and work is being provided for our own people at reasonable wages and under fair industrial conditions.
– What about the primary producers?
-The imposition of these duties will not impost any hardship upon the primary producers. Refrigerators of the type under consideration are not used in primary production, and those able to purchase them for domestic convenience are prepared to pay the price at which they are sold rather than open our market to the United States of America.
– The people cannot afford to pay £60 for a refrigerator.
– The only alternative is to reduce the duties on the British product. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), and other honorable members, have supported a policy that has been largely responsible for the unfortunate trade position that existed between Australia and the United States of America in the past. If these duties are not imposed, we shall be using the manufacturers and workmen in the United States of America, who do not care twopence about our primary producers. It will give them further opportunity to flood our markets with their goods. I shall always support the imposition of duties against the United States of America, particularly in “connexion with mechanical contrivances of the type under discussion. The latest returns available in the Commonwealth Year-Boole show that during the financial year 1928-29, Australia imported £35,308,000 worth of goods from the United States of America, while that country purchased only £5,830,000 worth from Australia. Of our total importations, 24.54 per ce,nt. came from the United States of America, which obtained only 4 per cent, of its importations from
Australia. Apparently some honorable members are anxious for a continuance of a policy which, in a period of ten years, robbed Australia of £210,000,000 worth of gold, which had to be used to adjust our trade balance. That is the amount of money, over and above our exports, that the United States of America has taken from us.
– Why not impose an embargo ?
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who has opposed the imposition of these duties, and will vote against them, now suggests that an embargo should be placed upon the importation of these machines. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who also favours a reduction in the proposed rates, would destroy the possibility of many men securing employment in their own country. I believe that the users of these machines would, if necessary, be prepared to pay a slightly higher price for machines of Australian production rather than support a policy under which millions of pounds of our gold has to be sent away to the United States which purchases none of our butter and meat. I intend to oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Henty by voting with the Government and to support the proposal of the right honorable member for North Sydney to give greater preference to Great Britain.
.- One cannot help but admire the optimism of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) who believes that in the aear future our secondary industries will be able to engage in the export trade and thus assist in relieving our adverse trade balances with other countries. If the workmen engaged in some of our secondary industries were not interfered with by honorable members opposite, those industries would, I believe, be able to export a portion of their products. There is no reason why the products of the iron and steel industry, for instance, should not compete in the markets of the world. No country has been so richly endowed with raw materials as has this country, and the fact that we are unable to export our secondary products is a reflection upon Australia and its manhood. If Australian manufacturers will soon be in a position to export, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong suggests, it would be interesting to know why they cannot give the Australian people the benefits of lower prices.
– The price has been reduced from £95 to £60.
– The Minister reminds me of Mr. Hume Cook; he is always telling us how high prices were in 1920 or 1921, when everything waa dear. Why should we have, not only embargoes in certain cases, but in other cases duties ranging to as high as 300 per cent. and 400 per cent., to enable our manufacturers to carry on? I am pleased that the right honorablemember for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) intends to move the amendment to which he has referred. All our past actions have tended towards the destruction of the primary producer. Having destroyed him, we are now doing our best to put him in a refrigerator and freeze him.
– I have been a farmer, but you have never been.
– That is quite untrue. I have received the following letter from the Perth Electricity and Gas Department : -
These rates of duty, high as they are, were made subject to the surcharge of50 per cent. On non-mechanical gas refrigerating units, the duties represent about 420 per cent., and, as there are no competitive gas-operated refrigerators manufactured in Australia, such high duties are not warranted.
How can any one suggest that such duties are warranted? I am not worrying very greatly about this item, because those whom I represent arenot able to purchase such commodities. They have been starved by the legislation which this Parliament has enacted year after year - ever since 1920. We were told of the marvels that would be wrought by protection in Australia, and of the wonderful development that would flow from it. Employment under good conditions was to be provided for our people. Yet we have had nothing but unemployment and destitution, and the destruction of a number of industries. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has spoken of the “ temple “ of protection. In my opinion, protection has brought in its train nothing but a political hell.
One section after another has continually sought concessions, while the only people who have produced wealth have been brought to the verge of starvation. The systemis a preposterous oue, and under it no effort is being made to make Australia self-possessed. When you destroy competition you destroy the finest asset a nation can have. That is what is done when embargoes and excessive duties are imposed.
Mr.Forde. - Your leader told us that nineteen companies are making refrigerators in Australia. Surely, then, there is sufficient competition !
– You get the full benefit of it in connexion with your wheat.
– How can that be? What is the good of making a stupid interjection like that?
– You have freetrade in regard to your wheat.
– We have to sell our wheat in the markets of the world.
– The wheat industry has freetrade. yet it is on the rocks. England has freetrade, and she, also, is on the rocks. It is a pity that you are not on the rocks, too.
– We have been put on the rocks by the legislation of the past.
– What past?
– Your past.
– You have supported every duty that has been put on ; you have supported every government that has put them on.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath.).Order! I ask the right honorable member for North Sydney to cease interjecting.
– I desire that the right honorable member be made to withdraw the statement that I have supported every item of the tariff that has been introduced. That statement is quite incorrect.
– I said that the honorable member had supported every government that had imposed those duties.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is addressing the Chair, and it is competent for him to deny the statement.
.- After the wordy warfare that has been indulged in by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I take it that the right honorable gentleman will support this’ item. I support it with very much greater enthusiasm because, unlike the majority of honorable members opposite, I have some little knowledge of the industry. I very much regret that the croakers and the carping critics in the corner opposite, who have attacked this item, have not familiarized themselves with the conditions tinder which the industry is being carried on.
– The honorable member had a similar knowledge of sheep-skins.
– That is a knowledge of which I arn very proud. I have no regrets for the action that was taken in that respect, and at the appropriate time I shall have some comment to offer on.it. At the moment we are discussing an item that to my mind gives well-deserved protection to locally-manufactured refrigerators. There are engaged in this industry, under good Australian conditions, 700 or 800 employees. Honorable members opposite would prefer that they should be unemployed and exist on the dole rather than enjoy the labour conditions which the Australian Labour movement has helped to establish. At least eight or ten substantial factories are engaged in the manufacture of refrigerators. I have had the opportunity of inspecting some of those works, and compliment Australian manufacturers on the excellence of their product.
– In what electorate are those factories?
– In the electorate of Cook two factories are engaged in the manufacture of refrigerators, and they arc making a very creditable article. Honorable members opposite have made a special plea for the British manufacturers. Their concern is for the interests of everybody except those who happen to be in their own country. They are prepared to speak well of overseas interests, but will not advance one good reason why we should support and encourage our own industries and help our own workpeople. The British refrigerator referred to by the right honorable member for North Sydney can neither claim nor receive the benefits of any protection under the British preferential tariff, because it is manufactured largely in Switzerland, and 75 per cent, of the labour and material in it is not of British origin. On the other hand, as the honorable’ member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has pointed out, 95 per cent. of the finished Australian refrigerator represents Australian labour and material. For that reason alone I am prepared to support this item. Honorable members opposite are continually urging that we should reduce the tariff against British manufacturers, on. the ground chat wc owe something to Great Britain. That is true, but in tariff matters we have reason to expect reciprocal action on the part of the Mother Country, and I remind honorable members that only a few months ago the British Government placed its order for army requirements with a foreign country. As the United States of America has imposed a high tariff against many Austraiian primary products, we are fully justified in protecting Australian manufacturers from competition in that quarter. One member of the Country party said this morning that the United States of America, France, Japan, and a number of other countries .which he mentioned, purchase large quantities of Australian wool, the suggestion being that we should not do anything to antagonize our export trade with those nations. It is true that Japan and France are good customers for our wool, but the United States of America is not. Its tariff on greasy scoured wool is 31 cents per lb., so I, at all events, have no hesitation in supporting this item if its only effect is to check the importation of American refrigerators. Honorable members opposite challenged the Minister’s statement that overseas manufacturers are dumping their products in Australia, and they attempted to ridicule the suggestion that there was such a thing as seasonal trade in refrigerators. A moment’s reflection will, surely, convince them that the trade in this class cf goods is certainly seasonal. No one would think of purchasing a refrigerator at the commencement of the winter months. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) also objected that if this item is agreed to, Australian house holders will be restricted to the use of a refrigerating unit of obsolete design. Besides being unpatriotic his statement was not correct. I challenge him to show in what respect the design of Australian refrigerators is obsolete. In his endeavour to decry the value of the Australian product, he also alleged that last summer there was an enormous loss of foodstuffs through lack of refrigerating facilities. Does he imply that, if the Australian manufacturers were unable to meet all requirements, there was not a sufficient number of imported refrigerators available? At the present time importers have refrigerators in stock carried over from last year. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mi-. Hughes) also was incorrect in his statement that ail motors for Australian-made refrigerators have to be imported. These motors are being made in this country. Only a few weeks ago, a local manufacturer placed an order for £1,000 worth of fractional horse-power motors with another local manufacturer, thereby helping an important Australian industry. From the various objections raised by honorable members . opposite to the item under discussion, I am forced to conclude that they are not au fait with the real position, because in addition to manufacturing locally the motors, we are also making the cabinets. This work provides a considerable amount of employment.
– Is it not true also that one Sydney company is manufacturing, a non-mechanical refrigerator ?
– Yes. Foreman and Company, in Alexandria, are turning out that type of refrigerating unit which is especially useful for residents of country districts, so honorable members need have no misgivings concerning the welfare of people living outback with regard to refrigerating plants. I intend to support the item, because I wish to see Australianmade refrigerators placed in all Australian homes.
.- I should like to know why, in view of the strong comments made by the Tariff Board with regard to the nonmechanical type of refrigerator, the Minister proposes to adhere to the flat rate of duty. He persists in ignoring the report of the board, notwithstanding that its recommendations are based upon evidence taken from all persons concerned who have perfect liberty to come before it to state their views. The board also has access to confidential information concerning the position of any particular industry, and since it is not influenced by the votes of electors, as is the case with the Minister and his supporters, its recommendations should be adopted. The Minister is not as unbiased as the board by a long way, for he has many influences brought to bear upon him, not only by the management of enterprises which desire special duties, but also by honorable members who consider that they have a duty to perform to their constituents. But in view of the report of the Tariff Board, I cannot understand why the Minister should remain adamant in regard to the nonmechanical type of refrigerator. In this connexion, the board reports -
Furthermore, as lias been indicated, the initial cost of the imported refrigerating unit of the non-mechanical type is relatively small in comparison with the selling price of the complete unit. Provided therefore the cabinet is made locally, and there would appear to be every prospect of this being done under the duties which are being recommended, a very large proportion of the selling values of the complete plant will he expended in Australia.
In the light of that statement, there does not seem to be much reason for the fear expressed by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) that an injustice may be done to the local manufacturers. The report proceeds as follows : -
Figures tendered to the board by a local concern handling this type of refrigerator have been examined by the board and they disclose that the f.o.b. value of the unit (excluding the cabinet) is only 8f per cant, of the ultimate retail selling price of the complete appliance under the duty operating prior to the operation of the proposed increased rates.
The Tariff Board was set up to advise the Minister, but apparently he is not willing to accept its advice. In view of the fact that we have such an uptotheminute report on this subject - it came to hand only a day or two ago - I appeal to the Minister to pay some regard to it, and to accept the proposal of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that the duties recommended by the board, namely, 55 per cent., 60 per cent., and 65 per cent., be applied. I hope the Minister will take notice of the arguments used in support of the board’s report, both in regard to the nonmechanical type of refrigerator, and also to what constitutes fair and reasonable maximum rates of duty.
.- - I shall direct my remarks solely to the amendment of which I have given notice, and shall say nothing in regard to the criticism of the importation of American machines, although for reasons that are very deep rooted, I am not to be regarded a? hostile to any proposal that would tend to redress our adverse balance of trade. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) have stressed the view that non-mechanical machines should be treated differently from mechanical machines. I ask the Minister to give special consideration to that point, and to weigh well the arguments that have been submitted to him in support of it. I ask honorable members to vote for my proposal, first because if it is accepted no harm whatever will be done to the Australian industry. If I. believed that it would have that effect I would not have made it. On the other hand, I believe that it will do very much good to the finances of this country by diverting to Great Britain whatever trade there is in imported refrigerators Secondly, I claim support for my proposal, because it is not suggested thatwe shall import finished machines, but that we shall import the secret processes which are not available in Australia. The imposition of a flat rate of duty would be grossly unfair to Great Britain, because it would amount to no less than 550 per cent, on British machines, as against 170 per cent, on American machines. This would mean a preference against Great Britain and not in her favour. Thirdly - and notwithstanding the remarks of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) that some one in Alexandria is making, or will be making, non-mechanical refrigerators - I seek support for my view, because hitherto no nonmechanical appliances of this kind have been, put on the market in Australia. In the womb of time there are no doubt many wonders, hut we must deal with things as they are. There is at present ao refrigerator on the market that can serve the interests of the man on the land except the non-mechanical one. Since at least80 per cent. of the list value of these non-mechanical machines will be manufactured in Australia, I ask honorable members who are stalwart champions of Australian industry - and I am one - to support my proposal. In the great centres of population, mechanical refrigerators can, of course, compete on equal terms, but in remoter districts there will be no competition. Because these appliances cannot be made in Australia; because the tariff, as it is now framed, will impose an almost intolerable burden upon our people, and cause discrimination against Britain and in favour of America, I claim the support of honorable members for the view that I have expounded. If they vote for the item as it stands they will cast a vote in favour of the United States of America and against Great Britain. That is not their intention at all. By all means let us protect Australian industries; but when a secret process of immense value to the people of this country is awaiting our acceptance, we should welcome it.When the amendment of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has been disposed of, I propose to move the amendment which I have outlined.
– I have listened with interest to the debate, and I regret that, after consideration, I cannot accept the amendments that have been moved. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in sponsoring the case for the non-mechanical refrigerator, has pleaded the cause of the British manufacturer, and has urged upon the committee the desirability of trading with the Mother Country.I think that we all appreciate the advisability of giving Great Britain preference in our trade with other countries. But charity begins at home. The British Empire Marketing Board has said: “Buy products of England and next the products of the dominions “. Therefore, we in Australia can rightly say, “Buy Australian-made products and next English products “. The committee should knowthat the Electrolux re frigerator does not contain sufficient British labour or material to enable it to qualify for the British preferential tariff.
– It contains 74 per cent. of British labour and material.
– I believe that that is so. The patented process of this machine is carried out in Sweden, and the finishingoff process in Great Britain. It is only partially made in Great Britain. A further point which has been made by almost every honorable member opposing the Government’s proposals is that these refrigerators are sold to the man on the land, situated in places not provided with electricity. On this subject let me quote from the evidence before the Tariff Board. Mr. Caldwell, a member of the board, asked the representative of Electrolux this question -
I think it would be helpful if the witness pointed out the proportion of his sales made in areas not provided with electricity.
The witness, Mr. R. F. Turk, answered -
It would onlybe a guess, but I should think it would be in the vicinity of 25 per cent. That would he in fairly big country districts.
The chairman then said -
The more surprising feature is that you are doing three times the business in districts that are served with electricity.
The witness answered -
That is because of the denser population.
Subsequently, the representative of Electrolux sent to the Tariff Board a communication in which he pointed out that 22 per cent. of the sales of this type of machine were effected in areas not served by electricity. It is not stated whether that percentage refers to small country towns with electricity plants or to the farming areas generally. Personally, I do not think that these refrigerators are used to any extent by the farming community.
– I can assure the Minister that the farmers do use these machines.
– I should think that they would be used more on sheep stations, where the refrigerators can be operated by the electric lighting plant at the homestead. The evidence given on oath by the representative of this particular refrigerator cuts the ground from under the feet of those honorable members sponsoring this request. The evidence also shows that this non-mechanical refrigerator definitely competes with the Australianmade electric refrigerator. During the debate no mention has been made of the fact that thereis on the market an Australianmade non-mechanical refrigerator, which has been specially designed to meet tha conditions of out-back farmers. There is no cheaper refrigerator on the market and it is the most economical as regards running costs. It is sold to the farmers at £40, which is the lowest cost at which a refrigerator can be purchased in Australia. I understand that the firm of Richard Forman and Sons, of Alexandria, has been manufacturing this machine for the last two or three months.
Question - That the amendment (Mr: Gullett’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( C h airman - Mr. McGrat h . )
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following new paragraph (2a) : - “ And on and after the 26th September, 1931 (2a) Non-mechanical absorption type Refrigerators up to and including 7,500 British thermal unit capacity per hour, and parts of such refrigerators imported separately or otherwise, including cabinets, ad val. - British, 55 per cent.; intermediate,60 per cent.; general.65 per cent.”
Question put. The committee divided. (Ch airman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-itemf 2 agreed to.
Sub-item jagreed to.
The following paper was presented: -
Public Service Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1931, No. 117.
Extra Sitting Day - Sweating in the Clothing Trade: Disclosures in the “ Age “ -Dr.Johnfitzharding - Tasmanian Brownell Potatoes : Victorian Prohibition - War Service Homes: Pike Insurance- Macmillan Report.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
The House will meet on Wednesday next, hut, as I intimated last night, the following week we shall meet on Tuesday. The business to be done next week will be the tariff. The Government hopes to have the bill dealing with the conversion loan ready by Thursday. Some replies from the States have not yet come to hand.
.- I wish to draw attention to some articles that recently appeared in the Melbourne Age, and in particular to one published in yesterday’s issue. It sets out conditions which are alleged to obtain in the clothing industry, and, but for the lateness of the hour, I should read the whole of it. I content myself with quoting the following: -
HOW WORKERS ARE VICTIMIZED.
It is idlefor any one to deny the existence of these sweat shops. There are many to be found in Carlton, in Collingwood, in Richmond, in Fitzroy, in the central block of the city, andeven in such supposedly better-class suburbs as St. Kilda. A recent visit to a number of these places disclosed conditions which are a downright disgrace to Australia, and a standing reproach to the business concerns which are mainly responsible for the extortion which is practised on poor folk struggling for a bare existence for themselves and their families.
It concludes -
The factories inspectors frequently visit the large, well-managed and well-ventilated factories, but they are seldom seen in the little, back-lane sweat shops. Surely it is time some one took a hand to help’ these unfortunate folk who are powerless to protect themselves against dastardly victimization.
If what is contained in the article is true, those concluding words are by no means an over-statement.
– These allegations have been brought under the notice of the Minister for Labour in Victoria. I am still quoting from the Melbourne Age -
Commenting on the revelations of exploitation in the clothing trade made in the Age, Mr, Webber said the inspectors of his department had paid several surprise visits to the districts mentioned, but had not been able tff obtain definite evidence of sweating. If, however, information could be supplied confidentially to his department that sweating was being indulged in he would have investigations made immediately.
The Minister goes on to point out that there are certain limitations upon the powers of inspectors to visit these places on account of the definition of a factory which exists in the Victorian Factories and Shops Act. He indicates that an amendment may be made in the law which will extend those powers.
I ask the Government to endeavour, at least, to ascertain the facts and, if these people are breaking any Commonwealth award, to take proceedings against them forthwith. I have never believed in leaving the policing of awards entirely to trade unions. If this report is true, and if any of these persons are respondents to an award, a duty lies on the Administration of the Commonwealth to take any action within its power to put a stop to such conditions.
I call the attention of the Government to the provisions of section 41 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which enables a judge or a registrar, or any other person authorized in writing by a judge or registrar, to inspect any place where work is being done. I am summarizing the provisions of the section, which was drawn in an endeavour to keep within the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. There we see one possible means of the Commonwealth doing something which might be effective, notwithstanding the defects of the Victorian law. Under section 50aof the act, which was introduced as an amendment in 1928, it is possible to appoint inspectors for such periods as the Minister may determine, and extensive powers of inspection and search may be given to them. It seems to me, particularly iu view of the statement made by the Victorian Minister of Labour, that there is a difficulty in the present Victorian law which, at least, impedes effective inspection. If so, *the Government of the Commonwealth ought to consider whether it can do anything to discover whether these allegations are true and, if they are, put a stop to the conditions which have been described. I hope that an inquiry will be made into the matter, for two reasons: First, for the credit of the country and, secondly, to prevent a continuance of such conditions if they are found to exist, and the powers of the Commonwealth will avail to bring them to an end.
.- I thank the Melbourne Age’ for its splendid articles on this subject. Forty years ago it helped very effectively to put down sweating in Melbourne. As a result of its publicity, and the help of a certain committee, Mr., now Sir, Alex. Peacock introduced into the Victorian House the first anti-sweating measure. I am willing to supply to honorable members who are interested a copy of the splendid report that was made by Mr. Harrison Ord, then Chief Inspector of Factories for Victoria. He intimated that large warehouse employers engaged girls at 2s. 6d. a week, which sum they would pay them on Saturday morning, allow them to keep it over the week-end, and insist on its return on Monday morning. To use the words of Mr. Ord, “ The kind employer made the excuse that he was teaching them a trade; that they were apprentices “. Actually, they were not apprentices because, when they asked for more than 2s. 6d. a week, they were immediately discharged and others engaged in their place. I think that the Honorable Samuel Mauger and myself are the only two alive who were on that committee.
– Dr. Strong was also a member of the committee.
– T am pleased to include him. The Reverend A. R. Edgar, who then presided over the Wesley Church. Lonsdale-street, loaned us the room in which we met. Other members were Mr. Sincock solicitor, and Mrs. Muir, who have passed over the Great Divide. It was largely because of the activities of that committee ‘ that the Government passed its antisweating act. If the evil has crept back it indicates that the tariff protection we give to our industries is a farce and a failure. It is necessary that action should be taken to protect the workers, and also, the citizens who pay us our salaries. My friend Senator Guthrie wrote me recently saying that he had sold his wheat for ls. 5 1/2d. a bushel. Was the price of bread reduced when the cost of wheat fell?’ It was not. The public has been robbed right and left. It is a fact that there is a’ considerably greater quantity of wholemeal than of white flour in a ton of wheat; why then have the bakers the audacity to charge id. a lb. more for wholemeal than for white bread?
I urge the Prime Minister not to rest upon the idea that this sweating menace falls within the province only of the State concerned. The Commonwealth Government controls the tariff, and it should help the State Government in every way to put down this evil, which is aggravated by our unemployment troubles. I know of an instance where a man was working at a guest house in a fashionable suburb of Melbourne, and receiving 12s. 6d. a week. Iu return for some service that he rendered a guest that person paid him 5s. a week. When the mistress of the swell establishment heard of it, she deducted 2s. 6d. a week from the man’s wages., and paid him only 10s. That is a scandalous state of affairs. Sweating is not worthy of any Christian community, and our religion is nothing hut hypocrisy if it allows it to continue. I urge the Prime Minister to assist to put it down with no uncertain hand. I should like to see it made law that an establishment that turns out even one piece of clothing a week is constituted a factory. Sweating conditions could not obtain if all- the work were performed in factories, because they are supervised by State inspectors, and union officials. I regret that such disgraceful conditions should have been discovered in the city I have had the honour and pleasure of representing for so many years, but I. glory in the.fact that a great newspaper has exercised its wonderful power to expose and crush this vile thing.
.- Will the Minister for Health (Mr. McNeill) make available to me the file relating to the complaint regarding Dr. John Fitzharding, of the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s request.
– During the discussion on the Estimates shortly before the recent adjournment of the House, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked for certain particulars concerning the insurance of war service homes. The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: -
The total amount of insurance paid to. date by occupants of war service homes amounts to £269,346, and the balance of the Trust Fund, War Service Homes Insurance Account, is £162,329. A statement of the receipts and expenditure in respect of this account is set out on page 90 of the budget - Parliamentary Paper No. 247. This statement covers the financial years 1928-29, 1929-30, and 1930-31. The premiums paid by the occupants of war service homes are - Brick, ls. per cent.; wood, 3s. per cent., with an additional fee of ls. in respect of each policy. I understand that the above rates are 50 per cent, cheaper than those which are charged by insurance companies generally. The total amount of claims that have been paid is £55,502, and the amount paid to fire brigades is £7,755, a total of £63,257.
.- I take this opportunity, the first I have had since my return to the House, to call attention to a matter that is of serious concern to the people of Australia generally, and is causing considerable resentment on the part of Tasmanians, particularly the farming community. I refer to the action of the Victorian Government in prohibiting the importation of Brownell potatoes from Tasmania. For some years a form of embargo against Tasmanian potatoes has been maintained by the Victorian Government. Recently, Smith’s Crisps Limited, a Sydney firm, secured land at Richmond, Victoria, and spent £12,000 in preparation for the manufacture of potato crisps. To their astonish ment and consternation, they were informed on the eve of commencing operations that Tasmanian Brownell potatoes, the only variety that was suitable for crisping, would not be admitted. Negotiations between the company and the Victorian Agricultural Department continued for some time, and conversations took place between the Victorian and Tasmanian Premiers; but the efforts of both the company and the Tasmanian Government were without avail, the Victorian. Government insisting that potatoes from Tasmania would not be admitted even if a guarantee were given that they would go straight into consumption.
– On what grounds?
– Because of the alleged prevalence of a certain disease in Tasmanian potatoes. I have grown potatoes in Victoria and Tasmania. This .vegetable is subject to many diseases, but I know of none in Tasmania which is not equally common in Victoria. It must bo obvious that the prohibition against Tasmanian potatoes is for the purpose of protecting the Victorian potato-growers from competition, and not because of the fear of the introduction of disease. Clearly, this is a violation of section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that trade and commerce between the States shall be free and unrestricted. Hitherto, Tasmanian potatoes, although not allowed to go into consumption in Victoria, have been permitted to be transshipped at Victorian ports and transported by rail to any destination beyond the Victorian border. But, because the crisping factory would consume annually many thousands of bags of potatoes) interested Victorians decided to keep the trade for themselves, and the Government has declared that imports from Tasmania shall not be carried from the boat to the factory, notwithstanding that the firm undertook to supervise and police such conveyance in any manner desired by the Government. According to newspaper reports, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture has declared that Victorian potatoes are equally suitable. That is not a justification for prohibiting the admission of potatoes from another State, but it does emphasize my contention that the act of the Victorian Government is clearly a violation of section 92 of the Constitution. A State has no right to prohibit the importation of the products of another State simply because the importing State produces something equally good. Tasmanian potatoes command in the Sydney market always £2 a ton more than the Victorian product. It is not I or Smith’s Crisps Limited who say that the Tasmanian article is superior, but apparently the consumers in general think it is. In this week’s Sydney newspapers Tasmanian Brownell potatoes are quoted at £2 10s. a ton. higher than those of Victoria. Smith’s Crisps Limited were prepared to pay a higher price for the commodity that was most suitable for their trade, but were not allowed to do so. The result is that the firm have altered their plans and intend to start a factory in New Zealand and extend the existing works in Sydney. Victoria has lost an industry that would have employed at least 100 men, and Tasmanian growers have lost the sale of large quantities of potatoes. The result has not benefited the Victorian growers. Honorable members’ will understand the feelings of the people of Tasmania, amongst whom there is a widespread agitation for retaliation. They declare that this is clearly a boycott of Tasmanian goods, notwithstanding that the trade between the island and Victoria is greatly in favour of the latter.
– New South “Wales has imposed an embargo against Victoria.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the attitude of New South Wales justifies the treatment received by Tasmania in this matter. The point is whether the action of which I have complained is constitutional, and whether the Commonwealth Government has” power to intervene. If the AttorneyGeneral is satisfied that a provision of the Constitution has been violated, is it necessary that action be initiated by the Commonwealth, by the State of Tasmania, or by the individuals concerned? Has the Commonwealth Government the power to intervene to protect the rights of Tasmania under the Constitution? In the case of Nelson v. the New South Wales Government, cattle were removed from Queensland to New South Wales in defiance of the New South Wales quarantine laws, and without notifying the de partment as was required by the Quarantine Act. Nelson omitted to give the information required, and the High Court held that the State had power to quarantine the cattle. That case, however, is not analogous to that which I am discussing. The Tasmanian authorities are careful not to admit certain plant seeds into that State because of the danger of introducing diseases such as the lucerne flea. Tasmania does not prohibit the admission of clover seed from infected areas, but it has to undergo a rigid inspection. In no State is so rigid an inspection made of produce intended for shipment as in Tasmania; I have in mind particularly the inspection of potatoes. We do not complain if a shipment of diseased potatoes is prohibited, but if they are free from disease, there should be no embargo on their export. Will the Prime Minister take action in this matter under discussion, if he has authority to do so, and will he state what he considers to be the powers of the Commonwealth in this case? When there is talk about unity of effort, dominion preference, and world-wide trade, we should not have two States fighting each other. I am not in favour of boycotting, because retaliation is a two-edged sword.
– The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), in my opinion, did not fully state the case when he said that the Attorney-General of Victoria, who is also Minister for Agriculture, had remarked that the potatoes proposed to be imported could be supplied by Victoria. The honorable member should have pointed out that the Minister also observed that a potato disease was prevalent in Tasmania, and he did not wish it to be introduced into Victoria. The honorable member might also have said that the prohibition was not made because a certain person wished to start a potato crisp factory in Victoria. The prohibition has been in operation for some time.
– Tasmanian potatoes could be carried through Victoria until last week.
– The prohibition could not be removed merely to allow certain produce to be carried from the Port Melbourne wharf through a few city streets and to a certain factory. It would, have to apply to every shipment from Tasmania, so long as that State refused to stamp out the disease that prevailed. A few years ago, Irish blight occurred among the Victorian potato crop, and for some months Victorian potatoes were excluded from nearly all the other Australian markets. If the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) refers to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States of America on this matter, he will find that although trade in that country is free between the States, a State has a right to protect itself by salutary methods in matters of this kind. The honorable member cheered the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) when he stated that Victoria was acting in a small-minded way in this matter, butI point out that only this week a Victorian department gave a iurge contract to an Adelaide factory for the supply of motor plates.
Mr.M. Cameron. - Because the Adelaide firm submitted the lowest tender.
– At any rate, it shows that Victoria is not so parochial as has been suggested.
After waiting about ten days, 1 was able to-day to obtain a copy from the Library of the Macmillan report. I am told that there is a large waiting list of members who desire copies of the report. This important document is the result of two years’ investigation by some of the keenest financial minds in Britain, and it is of vast importance, considering the financial position of the Commonwealth, and the debates that will ensue in this House in the near future. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the Library Committee, that additional copies should be provided. I was unable to obtain a copy privately.
– Regardingthe matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), I, too, read with considerable interest, and with a measure of disgust, the special article on sweating published in the Melbourne Age. Por some time, complaints have been made about sweating being practised in small manufactories which are very often oneman concerns. The State Government has been endeavouring to pass legislation to moot the situation. Under the existing law, such premises cannot be registered as factories, and, therefore, this; cannot be entered by inspectors. Legislation was introduced some months ago, but washeld up by the Opposition in the State Parliament, at whose instance it was postponed for three months.I understand that the Victorian Government will bring down further legislation in the near future to meet the position. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) drew my attention to tht article in the Age, and 1 discussed it with the Attorney General (Mr. Brennan), to see if federal legislation would meet the case. Unless the employers in question are respondents to cases in the Federal Arbitration Court, the Commonwealth Government has no power to take action, no matter to what extent sweating is practised. The difficulty of making them respondents is due to the difficulty of serving the logs on so many individuals. Amendments of our Arbitration Act are undoubtedly required to meet the position, and we are hopeful that such amendments will be made.
– This is really a constitutional difficulty.
– I realize that the difficulty can be effectively overcome only when we obtain increased industrial powers under the Constitution. We are not remaining inactive, however, because our powers are limited. I have discussed the matter with the Attorney-General, and he is investigating itwith a view to seeing what can be done. If it is possible to take any action, it should be taken immediately, and should be as drastic as possible, because this is one of the meanest forms of sweating possible, especially as it concerns womenand girls. The Repatriation Department has actually been finding employment for girls in some of these factories, and it has been stated that daughters of deceased soldiers are among those who have been so shamefully sweated. Immediately bc heard of this the Minister for Repatriation called for a report on the matter, and whatever power he possesses under the Repatriation Act he will exercise to protect these girls.
The question raised by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) is a very vexed one. My sympathy is entirely with the principle of freetrade between all the States of the Commonwealth. I desire that trade should be as free as possible, and without any undue hindrance. There are exceptions to all good principles, and one is the right of each State to protect its own area from plant diseases which may be introduced from other States.
– Could that not be overcome by the Commonwealth determining whether or not a State was justified in a particular instance in imposing a ban on imports?
-The Commonwealth is not the determining authority in this matter. The subject has been taken up by the Markets Department, and has now been referred to the Crown Law Department. In any case, it would not be for the Government to decide the matter. If an actual dispute arose, it would be one for the court to settle, because it would be asked to determine whether or not there had been a breach of the Constitution. Ido not desire it to come to that, however. Every State has passed very stringent measures to protect itself from diseases which may. be imported from other States, and it is possible some of those measures are more stringent than they need be.
– Economic entomology!
– Perhaps, but every State takes a very serious view of this matter. There are some areas where, if one were to bring in a second-hand fruit caseor a potato sack, one would incur a serious risk of being hanged, drawn and quartered, so great is the fear of the people lest plant diseases be introduced. Generally speaking, there is a very sound reason for restrictions of this kind. I have every sympathy with Tasmaniabecause, if the potato-growers there are denied an outlet for their product, it will be a serious blow to them ; much more serious than it -would be to growers, in other States, because potatoes are a staple product in Tasmania, a State which is particularly suited for growing the best class of potatoes.
– What about Cororooke?
– I have more than an Australian-wide sympathy with Cororooke; as the honorable member knows, I have a strong personal sympathy with it ako. I remind the honorable member for Darwin that the Government has not lost sight of the matter of Tasmanisn potatoes.We are investigating it thoroughly, ascertaining the facts, and whatever action is possible will be taken.
– I have to inform the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), in reply to hig representations, that the Library authorities are trying to get additional copies of the reports he mentioned, and will take steps to see that the requirements of honorable members are adequately met.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 September 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310925_reps_12_132/>.