12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
Interest on Unconverted Bonds.
– Yesterday I asked the Treasurer whether it was a fact that interest accruing since July on bonds or inscribed stock, the holders of which have dissented from conversion, had not yet been paid, and the Treasurer replied - i understand that the position is that in cases where half-yearly dates lor the payment of interest have occurred since the conversion loan was launched, the rate of interest payable to those who have dissented is that which would have been payable had the holdings concerned been converted.Thiscourse has been adopted pending afinal decision as to what shall be done.
I now ask the Treasurer whether any interest under the conditions he mentioned has been paid since the 31st July in respect of bonds or inscribed stock, the holders of which dissented from conversion. ‘ If not, does the Government intend to proceedwith such action before parliament has had an opportunity to consider what shall be done with regard to dissentients?
– On further considering the question asked by the honorable member yesterday, I find thata slight correction and amplification of my answer is necessary. In thecase of tax-free securities, the half-yearly interest payment dates remain unaltered on conversion, and interest is being paid on the usual halfyearly interest dates, as regards both securities which have been converted and those in respect of which dissent has been notified. In both cases interest is calculated at the reduced rate applying on conversion. In the case of taxable securities, new half-yearly interest dates are provided for on conversion, and new securities are issued carrying reduced rates of interest as fromthe 1st August. On taxable securities which have been converted, interest is being paid up to the 31st July at the rates applicable to the old securities, and, as from the 1st August, at the new reduced rates payable on conversion. The interest which accrued on such securities up to the 31st July is being paid on the date when, but for the conversion, the next half-yearly interest payment on such securities would have become due. The interest accruing since the 1st August on such converted securities is being paid on the new half-yearly interest date applicable to the security after conversion. In the case of taxable securities in respect of which dissent has been notified interest accrued up to the 31st July is being paid on the half-yearly interest date applicable to the old securities, but interest accruing since the let August is not being paid at present. It is not practicable to pay interest since the 1st August in such cases as, if these securities are to be converted as proposed by the Premiers Conference, the new securities to be issued will have altered interest payment ‘dates which cannot be determined until conversion is effected. That explanation may seem complicated and difficult to follow, but I remind honorable members that it relates to a technical subject. I hope that next week the Debt Conversion Bill No. 2 will be before the House, and on it a fuller explanation will be given, and opportunity for the discussion of the subject will be presented.
Australian Short-term Indebtedness.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House what State Governments were concerned with the bills held by the Westminster Bank and recently rediscounted?
– The bills held by the Westminster Bank cover overdraft accommodation supplied to the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, and Western ‘ Australia. The bills, which matured on the 30th September, were issued on the 14th May last. They have now been renewed at an interest rate of 6½ per cent., as compared with the old rata of 4 per cent. In ex- planation of the increased rate of interest, remind honorable members that the Bank of England has increased the discount rate. The bank rate on the 14th May was2½ per cent., but on the 23rd July it was increased to per cent.; on the 30th July to 4½ per cent., and on the 21st September to 6 per cent.
– I ask the Prime Minister what are the duties of the Unemployment Secretariat, where are its headquarters, and what Minister is in charge of it?
– The Unemployment Secretariat is not a permanent body. A committee was appointed by the Premiers Conference to examine and report to it on works proposals that would provide employment, and it consisted mainly pf permanent officers of the Commonwealth Development Branch. The Minister in charge was Senator Daly.
– What are the names of the members of the Unemployment Secretariat, what are their permanent addresses, and if they have presented any reports, will the Prime Minister have them published in the press?
– The report submitted by the secretariat was published in flue press, and I believe that roneoed copies of it were supplied to honorable members.
Tariff Board’s REPORT
– A few months ago the Minister for Trade and Customs undertook to lay on the table of the House the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton industry, so that honorable members would have an opportunity to consider it before the cotton -duties ki the tariff schedule were discussed. In order that that opportunity may be afforded, I ask the Minister to place the report on the table without further delay.
– The report will be laid on the table in time to enable honorable members to consider it before the cotton duties are dealt with.
– The Prime Minister is reported in the newspapers as having said in reply to Mr. Charles Hardy, who presented a petition from the Riverina movement yesterday, .that the Government would probably propose that a referendum on the amendment of the Constitution should be held. If the Government intends to take a referendum on that subject, will the right honorable gentleman announce at -an early date the terms of the questions to be submitted to the people ?
– The Government has not abandoned its intention to submit to the people proposals for an alteration of the Constitution. When the necessary legislation is again submitted to the House full details will be furnish Ad to honor.”/ * members
– Can the Minister’ for Markets give any indication of the effect of the regulations issued on Monday by the Canadian Department of Public Revenue, which provided that the currency value of goods from an exporting country shall be taken into account in assessing the import duties on good,going into Canada ?
– I shall have inquiry made, and let the honorable member know the exact position..
Speech at Colac.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to th,fact that the Leader of the ‘Opposition hto make a speech at a comic concert a: Colac? Does he consider that the financial proposals of the Government should be discussed in such a way, and will noi the interests of the Government b<> greatly advanced if the honorable member is both seen and heard by the electors?
Question not. answered.
Employment and Development
– If the altered financial position in Great Britain brings about a reduction of the exchange rate to the advantage of Australia, would such financial relief from exchange payments make possible an advance by the Australian banks to assist useful employment and development, and if so, what amount does the Prime Minister anticipate may in this way be diverted from exchange payments to loan works ?
– The question is one that could be answered only by a prophet. Of course, any relief that may be given to government budgets by the reduction of the rate of exchange will lessen the demands upon the banks, making it easier for them to provide advances for the relief of unemployment. Nobody could Bay at the present time what amount could be w> made available; that, must depend on the tendency of the exchange rate. As I indicated, yesterday. in answer to a question, it is not desirable that there should be a sudden, sharp fall in the rate of exchange. Such a fall would, probably, have undesirable results, and the effect upon our trade would be serious. Before anything could be said as to future rates of exchange, one would need to know what will be the stabilized price of sterling.
– Is it a fact that returned soldiers, who were employed by the Federal Capital Commission, as competent clerks, are still living in Canberra, and are unemployed? Is ittrue that, when they were dismissed preference was given to men who were not ex-soldiers?
– If the honorable member will supply concrete cases, I will have them investigated.
– If there is such a body as the Shale Oil Development Committee, and if it is operating, will the Prime Minister state what its activities have been up to the present time, and whether the money expended by it is being devoted solely to development at Newnes, to the exclusion of other districts where there are deposits of oil shale?
– There is such a committee, and I shall obtain a report as to the details of its work.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister, by way of explanation, to the following statement which appeared in the Melbourne Sun Pictorial yesterday : -
Public opinion throughout Australia is strong in the belief that the broadcasting contract should yield better public entertainment and be a finer stimulus to musical and histrionic culture. The12s. per licence allowed to the contractor, out of a licence fee of 24s., yields a gross annual return at present of about £150,000, and the Government also gets a substantial share - 9s. per licence - for the Consolidated Revenue. Professor Heinze has put before the Postmaster-General a proposal for the establishment of a national orchestra. It is suggested that the project may be financed by1s. or1s.6d. per licence from the Government’s share of the fees.
Before the Government calls tenders for the renewal of the broadcasting agreement, will the right honorable gentleman give this Parliament an opportunity to consider whether the control and management of broadcasting in Australia should not bo made wholly a national concern ?
– The present arrangement will not expire until next June. The subject is under consideration, but no decision has been arrived at. Honorable members will be advised when the Government is dealing with the matter.
– Have representations been made recently by Imperial Airways Limited, or by the Dutch air service, with respect to the establishment of air mail services between Great Britain and Australia? If so, is the Government prepared to consider the matter favorably?
– No recent representations have been made, although both the companies mentioned have submitted proposals to the Government. We have not given much encouragement to the belief that we shall be able to provide large sums of money as subsidies.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral indicate when the report of his administration of the Bankruptcy Act during the last year will be available to honorable members? It was laid on the table some time ago, but when will it be printed and circulated?
– I shall make inquiries as to the practice usually followed, and give the honorable member a reply as soon as possible.
– Will the Prime Minister make available to honorable members, and to women’s unions’, a copy of the report of the general secretary to the League of Nations dated Geneva, the 27 th July, 1931, on the subject of the nationality of women?
– I will look into the matter, and, if possible, I shall comply with the suggestion.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is contained in the following tables: - 1 and 2. -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
What progress has been made in the convening of the national conference of State and Commonwealth Governments and transport interests with the objective of the coordination of transport?
– Arrangements were being made to hold a conference of Ministers of Railways, representing the various States and the Commonwealth, during the third week in August, but this did not ultimately meet the convenience of some of the States, and the matter was postponed for the time being. An effort is now being made to ascertain a date which will be suitable.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
When will he receive the report of the Jacob Johnson inquiry, and when will it be presented to Parliament?
– I understand that the report was handed to His Excellency in Melbourne to-day. It will be presented to Parliament in due course.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the extraordinary alleged drop in the cost of living figures, with the resultant drop in the wages of the workers and the general dissatisfaction of the trade unions concerned, will he consider a prompt and inexpensive inquiry into the figures for the past twelve months?
– The fall in food prices in Australia from 1929 up to June, 1931, is estimated by the Commonwealth Statistician at 21 per cent. The recorded fall in food prices over the same period in other countries has been -
The index of wholesale prices of foodin Australia based on published market prices has fallen in the same period 26 par cent. It is not, therefore, considered that there is any reason todoubt the accuracy of the Statistician’s figures. The Bureau of Statistics is constantly on thewatch for the possibility oferrors creeping into its price data, and is always ready to examine any specific complaint as to accuracy. The prices on which the cost of living index is based are published for every month for the 30 chief towns of Australia, and so are open to the criticism of any one interested.
asked the Attorney- General, upon notice -
What action does the Government intend to takein relation tothe suspended awards of the Australian Railways Union ?
-I assume that the honorable member’s question relates to awards which were set aside by the Full Court of the Common wealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on the4th October, 1930. ‘The Government has no power to do anythingin the matter, which can only be dealt with by the court on the application of a party.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
During that year duty was paid on 11,112 machine heads at British preferentialtariff rates and on . 2,813at general tariff rates. The statistics do not showfrom what countries the latter number wasimported.
Appointment of Non-Returned soldiers.
askedthe Treasurer, upon notice -
– The filling of the vacant position of Senior Investigating’ Officer, Sales Tax Section, Victoria, has been made in accordance with the requirements of section 50 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. The officer pro- visionally appointed to that position is one whom the department, after giving full consideration to the relative efficiency of all officers available for the appointment, considers to be the most efficient officer for the position. Every officer who considers he is more entitled to appointment to the position has, and has presumably exercised, his right of appeal against the officer provisionally appointed on the ground of (a) superior efficiency; or (b) equal efficiency, and seniority. The determination of any such appeal rests with the Public Service Board which is required, for the purposes of its determination, to make full inquiry into the claims of the appellant and those of the officer provisionally appointed. As Parliament has entrusted the function of determining such matters in the first place to the permanent head of the department concerned, and in the second place to the Public Service Board, and as the appeals in this case have not yet been determined, it is considered undesirable that answers should be given to specific questions which erroneously assume there is ministerial control of that function.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Wages and Conditions of Employment
asked the Minister for, Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following paper was presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s Statement of combined accounts of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1931, together with certificate of the Auditor-General.
DEPARTMENTAL Replies to Questions.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
.- I desire to bring under, the notice of the House a matter that concerns every honorable member, in connexion with the administration of the Department of Home Affairs. On different occasions honorable members have asked the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) questions concerning the activities of his department. It will be my object this afternoon to show that this House has been grossly misled by the honorable gentleman in the answering of such questions, in the making of statements by leave, and in replying to points that have been raised in committee of supply during the discussion of the estimates of his department. The evasiveness of the honorable gentle. man must have been apparent to every honorable member. It was displayed as recently as Thursday last, in reply to a question that I asked. It is my intention to refer particularly to three matters that affect this department. Two of them are largely intertwined; they relate to the dole relief that is given to returned soldiers, travelling unemployed, and permanent residents of the Federal Capital Territory. The third is in a different category, and relates to certain statements that were made by the honorable gentleman during the course of the debate on the estimates of his department a couple of mouths ago.
In the first place, I direct the attention of honorable members to certain questions that were asked, not only by me, but also by other honorable members, particularly the honorable members for Balaclava (Mr. White), and Hunter (Mr. James), and the replies that were given by the Minister. Following upon an exposure in the local press of the conditions surrounding the issue of food rations to unemployed returned soldiers in the territory, the Minister made a long statement, which was so peculiar and which left so much to the imagination that it was considered advisable to seek further information. The honorable gentleman. said that unemployment relief was being given to all returned soldiers in the territory except those who had a ‘’ large “ income, the amount stipulated being 10s. a week. He quoted the case of one returned soldier who was alleged to be in receipt of a pension of £2 a week, and of another in whose case the amount was 30s. a week. When he was asked later by -the honorable member for Balaclava whether he could state how many returned soldiers were receiving a pension of £2 a week, he referred the honorable member to a reply that he said he had made to a question that I had-asked. No such question was asked by me, therefore the honorable member for Balaclava did not receive an answer to his question. Subsequently I asked the honorable gentleman whether, in assessing the income of an unemployed returned soldier in Canberra, his war pension was taken into account, and received the reply that that question had already been answered. I then asked whether it was the general practice of his department to regard as income the war pension of any returned soldier. The honorable gentleman evaded that question by saying that he had nothing to add to the statement that he had already made. I then asked the Prime Minister a question couched in similar terms, and the right honorable gentleman replied that he did not know to what I was referring. I put it to the House that those replies were not only evasive, but also contained misrepresentation. The questions to which I have alluded were put to the Minister following the statement that he made by leave of this House; therefore he himself initiated the discussion. That statement, I may say, was not in accordance with fact. The honorable gentleman had issued to the Canberra police instructions concerning the matter of food relief. As late as last Thursday I asked him whether those instructions had been withdrawn, and he referred me to an answer that he gave several months ago. That question had not previously been asked; therefore, it could not have been answered. A similar question was asked in September by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and on that occasion the Minister referred the honorable member to an answer that he alleged he had given to me; whereas, as I have already said, no such question was asked by me. Consequently, this House was wilfully misled. The *Canberra Times drew attention to the position on the 15th July last. For the information of honorable. members, I shall read the instructions that were issued to the police, but which the Minister, on his own accord, said that he had ordered not to be put into effect. Those instructions consisted of only three clauses. They are dated the 3rd July last, and relate to the issue of rations to travelling unemployed. I ask ‘ honorable members to note that only returned soldiers are referred to in them. They read -
That is the full text of the instructions that were issued to the police, and posted at No. 4 camp, of which the Minister has spoken so much. I defy any honorable member to find in them mention of any unemployed other than returned soldiers. They definitely stated that the pensions of returned soldiers were to be taken into account in calculating the amount of relief that was to be given. The Minister has denied in this House, more than once, that such was the case. So far as I am aware, this is the first occasion on which those instructions have been quoted in this House. The Minister was asked to furnish the text of them, but did not do so. When the honorable gentleman denied that pensions had to be taken into account in calculating the amount of relief to be given, the Canberra Times took up the matter, and quoted the case of a man named McGrath. Honorable members will probably recall this particular case. McGrath had been told that his pension of 8s. 3d. a fortnight was to be taken into account, and that he was not to attend for his ration’s on the 16th July. Later the police interviewed McGrath, and, as a result of the interview, he was allowed to draw his rations in the ordinary way. Consequently, the Minister was able to say that his instructions were not, as had been interpreted by some honorable members, that war pensions were taken into account in assessing income. Owing to the publicity given to this matter in the Canberra Times, and the fact that the man’s name waa mentioned, the Minister was brought up with a round turn, and was caused so much perturbation that he said that the statements were a vindictive and political attack upon him. The statements made were devoid of any political colouring whatever. As the Minister, “ who is responsible to Parliament, is a resident of the Federal Capital Territory, he should have known what was going on. He was fully acquainted with the facts through the reports that appeared in the press, and from the protests made by the local branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League with respect to the undue discrimination against returned soldiers. I again direct the attention of the House to the fact that the instructions issued to the police dealt only with returned soldiers, and if any vindictive attack was made by any one it was made by the Minister, and not ‘by a body to which the Minister has not the honour to belong. The Minister denied that a war pensioner receiving 4s. 3d. a week was refused rations, and that discrimination was being shown against war pensioners. I have already proved that discrimination was shown against a certain man who was drawing a pension of Ss. 3d. per fortnight, and not 8s. 3d. per week as the Minister perhaps inadvertently, stated. On the 16th July this man was told not to apply for further rations, but to renew his application on the 23rd July. The McGrath case was then ventilated in the House, and a police officer was sent to the No. 4 Camp to advise McGrath to be sure to call for his rations. I now ask the Minister whether the instructions I have quoted were issued and whether discrimination has not been shown ? I say quite deliberately that the action of the Minister constituted one of the most despicable attacks upon a body of men whose war pensions were taken into account in assessing income.
– I rise to a point of order. I resent the use of the words “ despicable attack “, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– As the words used by the honorable member are offensive to the Minister, I nsk that they be withdrawn.
– I withdraw them. The Minister’s statements constitute a subtle form of misrepresentation and evasion.
– Order !
– The language used by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) is most offensive to me, and I ask that the words, “ subtle form of misrepresentation and evasion “, be withdrawn.
– The words used by the honorable member are unparliamentary, and must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw them. The answers supplied to questions on the 17th and 28th July contained further inaccuracies. During the’ debate on the Estimates for the Department of Home Affairs, the Minister said, in effect, that in Canberra only the travelling unemployed were receiving the dole. That, however, is not the case. On the 6th August a letter written by E. Kestel appeared in the Canberra Times coincerning a statement previously made by the Minister that only the travelling unemployed received the dole. A portion of the letter roads -
The crowning effort, however, is contained in the statement reported to have been made when the House was discussing the Estimates, “ That in the Federal Capital Territory we have been able to avoid paying the dole to residents “, and the further statement “ Only to the travelling unemployed is the dole paid “. The facts are that hundreds of ration orders have been issued by the Home Affairs Department to bona fide residents in Canberra, who have been in the past regular employees of the Administration. Orders are still being issued to such residents. The department some time a.go deputed an officer to spend the whole of bis time in examining the applications for relief of such resident unemployed, and none other. It is well known that travelling unemployed who are not bona fide residents receive their orders direct from the police. The ears of the Minister would surely have burned could he have “ listened in “ to the laughter and derision with which his statement was received and discussed by gangs of workers and unemployed all over , the territory, many of whom, unfortunately, have had occasion to apply and accept ration orders from the Acton branch of the department.
The writer also asked how long Parliament and the community must suffer such palpable misrepresentation. The statements contained in. that letter are in accord with the official report supplied by the department on the 28th August, covering the week ended the 21st August, 1931.
Rations were issued by the Department “of Home Affairs, Federal Capital Territory, last week, to 120 itinerant unemployed, and 124 local single men, and 10 married residents.
This statement amounts to a direct contradiction of the declaration of the Minister that rations had been issued only to travelling unemployed. Whom are we to believe, the Minister, or the officials of the department he is supposed to represent. Again, on the 10th September, the following statement was published by the department : -
The Federal Capital Territory Branch of the Department of Home Affairs issued food relief rations costing £76 4s. 8d. to 129 single men, and 2.3 married men resident in the Federal Capital Territory during the week ended Saturday last.
There we have another instance in which the published returns issued by the Department of Home Affairs contradict what the Minister stated in this House. Some explanation is clue from the Minister. On the 10th September the Minister made the following statement: -
Until recently, single unemployed men have been receiving three days’ work at the rate of £1 a day every six weeks, and, in addition, they were given three rations valued at 8s. each during the same period, the total value of rations for each man being £4 4s. in six weeks.
That system was supposed to have taken the place of the dole or ration relief cards for residents of the Territory. Actually, however, that was not the case, because in spite of the Minister’s statement tha; only travelling unemployed receive relief, it is clear that relief has been granted by his department to others also.
On the last Estimates tb; sum of £8,000 was set down for work on the new road between Canberra and Goulburn. The Minister stated that this money was to be expended on completing work which had been begun by the last, Government. T have made inquiries into the matter, and have learned that the road was already completed, and that the £8,000 was to be used for the purpose of reconditioning the surface which, owing to faulty construction during the regime of the present
Government, had already begun to develop defects. It had nothing to do with work left undone by the previous Government, but was to bo expended in patching up bad work done under the direction of this Government. I challenge the Minister to deny the truth of my statement.
– Does the honorable member mean that the money was squandered ?
Mr.R. GREEN - It was, and a further £8,000 was necessary in order to make the road traffickable.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his information?
– I challenge the Minister to deny what I have said. All honorable members in the House should be just as much concernedas I am regarding the accuracy of ministerial replies.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– Honorable members may draw their own inferences. When the Minister was charged with’ discriminating against, returned soldiers in the issue of relief, he gave evasive replies, and was backed up by the Prime Minister, who, I must admit, is usually direct enough. On this occasion, however, he said that he did not know to what I referred when I questioned him, although he knew well enough. I have shown that others besides travelling unemployed have received the dole in the Territory, although the Minister stated that they had not. Finally, I have shown that, in regard to the expenditure of £8,000 shown on the last Estimates, the House was misled, and that the misrepresentation was wilful and deliberate.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that statement, and apologize to the Chair. The concluding words of his speech were highly offensive and unparliamentary.
– I withdraw the statement.
– The honorable member must also apologize.
– I apologize to the Chair.
– The honorable member who has just concluded a tirade of abuse against me-
– Order !
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has abused me and the Government in characteristic fashion. If such charges had been made by any other member of this House, I should probably have taken them much more seriously. I have always regarded the honorable member very sympathetically, because of his incapacity, and I still do so. It is a great pity, however, that he should allow his incapacity to interfere with his sense of fairness. The honorable member charged me with discriminating against returned soldiers in the issue of unemployment relief in the Territory. I inform him once more that no such discrimination was shown. Having made that charge, the honorable member went off at a tangent, and became so incoherent that even I, who have been responsible for administrating the matters to which he referred, could not understand what he was driving at. He declared that I had wilfully and deliberately misrepresented the position regarding the expenditure of money on the new Canberra to Goulburn road. Re said that a sum of £8,000 was placed on the Estimates, not to finish the road, but to recondition it - work which was rendered necessary by faulty construction carried out under my administration. The honorable member does not seem to know that the construction of roads is not under my jurisdiction. Even if it were, I can assure the honorable member that the reply I gave to him was quite correct : the work had not been completed. The honorable member’s informant evidently misled him with regard to this matter as, indeed, his informant seems to have done in regard to many matters.
– The roads in the territory come within the jurisdiction of the Federal Capital Territory administration, which, again, comes under the control of the honorable gentleman’s department.
– Once again I shall endeavour to put the honorable member right. The whole of the construction and maintenance of roads in the Territory comes under the administration of the Works Department. If the honorable member will seek informationthrough proper channels, and not from the muckrakers of the city, he will probably obtain great satisfaction.
– The methods through which the honorable member obtains his information, are of a muckraking character. I could employ more descriptive language than that if I were not hindered by the Standing Orders, and I am sure that it would not shock the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). I think that the incoherent tirade of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) can bast be answered by quoting from a letter which I have received from a number of returned soldiers and others resident in the Federal Capital Territory. The epistle was written voluntarily, and was entirely unsolicited. It is dated the 4th August,1931, and reads -
Capitol Hill Camp, 4 th August, 1931.
To the Hon. A. Blakeley,
Minister for Home Affairs,
We, the undersigned residents of the Unemployed Camp, desire to place on record our appreciation of the arrangements that have been made for us, and the treatment that we arc receiving from your department.
The comfortable cubicles, in addition to wood, water, electric light, sanitation,&c., are appreciated, and we realize that it is as much as is humanely possible for the Government to provide under the present economic conditions. We, as a body, including war pensioners, resent in the strongest possible terms the attacks that have been made upon you, by divers persons in the Territory, in respect of your treatment of the unemployed, for political purposes, and we. are doubtful if the above-mentioned conditions would prevail had the Opposition been in power.
The war pensioners of this camp wish to disassociate themselves from the statements expressed by the pseudo “ brass hat “ element in the returned soldier movement, whom, we claim, are not voicing the opinion of the rank and file.
We are, honorable sir, the undersigned as follows: -
The communication is signed by a number of persons, including ten returned soldiers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 30th
September (vide page 369), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff be. a mended -
Division 6. - Metalsand Machinery
By omitting the whole of paragraphs (1) and (2) of sub-item (d) and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs: - “(1) Dynamo Electric Machines -
For the purposes of clause (a) horse-power shall be determined as prescribed by departmental by-law.
N.e.i. ad val., British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 55 per cent.; general,60 per cent.
.- As an amendment to the item I move -
That the paragraphs be amended by adding the following: - . “And on and after 2nd October, 1931 -
1 ) Dynamo Electric Machines, ad val., British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 55 per cent.; general,60 per, cent.
Static Transformers and Induction Coils for all purposes, unless otherwise expressly provided for, ad val., British, 60 per cent.; intermediate, 70 per cent.; general, 75 per cent.”
I do this for a double reason. First, the flat rate charged on these articles completely removes the British preference of 15 per cent, that previously obtained. That alteration should be explained. The second reason why I move my amendment is that if these rates are brought into operation they will grossly overtax the community generally, especially the productive section.
This is an age of electricity, lt has been convincingly demonstrated during the past 40 or 50 years that electricity is the most convenient means of transmitting anergy that has ever been discovered. The past 30 years, particularly, have been a period of electrical revolution, analogous to the steam revolution that took place 150 years ago. lt has brought about a transformation not merely in productive conditions, but also in living conditions. Australia is being kept out of step with the world’s progress in this science by stupid impositions such as those contained in the sub-item under consideration. Al present there is installed in Australia roughly about 1.6 horse-power per worker employed in our factories as’ compared with the 4 horse-power per worker installed in the factories of the United States of America. We are deplorably unelectrified, and are feeling the drawback in the lowness of the real wages enjoyed in Australia, which are not within from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, of those which obtain > in the United States of America. In Australia, we are short of man-power. Wo also suffer from the effect of very high price levels for our goods. The only way we can overcome those difficulties is to supplement our man-power with the maximum amount of electrical power. -That would bring down the price and increase the output of finished goods per unit of capital and horse and man power employed, and effect a reduction in the huge margin which exists between the cost of the raw material and that of the finished goods, and assist considerably in the rehabilitation of Australia. It has been proved that one horse-power is able to do the work of about eight men, and that with horse-power at l£d. a unit it costs something like 1.13d. per hour to run.
We are throwing away the advantages that might accrue to us through a reduction of the cost of production and an increase in output.
There are two conditions that are absolutely essential to the production of cheap power. The first is to have cheap generating plant, and the second is to have cheap transforming plant to enable the electrical power to be converted into the maximum amount of energy. If these conditions are obtainable, it is possible to cheapen costs and increase the real wages of the community, so improving the prosperity and progress of the nation. It has been found that as a result of the imposition of high customs duties, the cost of dynamos and transformers has been considerably increased. I am modest in my amendment, as I do not desire to lessen its chances of success, but I really believe that these goods should be admitted duty free. I may point out that while it would cost £15 14s. to land a 10 horse-power motor in Australia duty free, such an article costs £28 4s., when loaded with duties at the rates set out in this schedule. The price of these motors to manufacturers is practically doubled. Our fiscal policy as applied to the electrical industry is placing a heavy burden on industry generally. .Last year the duty paid on imported electrical machinery amounted to £1,300,000. The total number of workers in Australia is approximately 487,000, of whom only about. 4,870 workers, mostly girls, are employed in the manufacture of electrical machinery. It will be seen, therefore, that this industry provides employment for only about 1 per cent, of the workers; yet, in order that they may bc kept working, manufacturers who require electrical machinery in their establishments, are called upon to pay, by way of duties, a sum equal to £260 per annum for each worker employed in the industry. As in addition each of those workers -receives an average of £200 pf r annum in wages, it will be seen that these duties hurden industry generally to the extent of £460 for each person employed in the manufacture of electrical machinery in Australia. The electrical goods manufactured in Australia each year are worth about £300 per man engaged in their manufacture. Honorable members will see, therefore, that each employee engaged in the manufacture of electrical plant in Australia costs the users of that class of goods £160 per annum - the difference between the £460 and the £300 I have mentioned. In order to maintain, approximately, 5,000 workers, industry generally has to meet an annual charge of £800,000, which capitalized at 5 per cent., represents about £16,000,000. What benefit does Australia derive from all this expenditure?
Before the imposition of these higher duties Messrs. Noyes Brothers charged £54 for one type of motor; after the schedule had been tabled, their price for the same article rose to £66 15s. The price quoted to the Sydney Water and Sewerage Board for four transformersbefore the tabling of the schedule, was £234 12s.; the imposition of the duties raised the price to £364 2s.
– Was that the firm’s quote for the local article?
– An Australian motor, which before the schedule was tabled, was sold at £54, afterwards cost £66 15s. These duties impose an unfair burden on industry generally. Something must be done to reduce thai burden. That can .best be done, perhaps, by altering the duties insofar as they affect British preference. Particularly at this time, when Britain is financially embarrassed, there is good reason for our taking action in . that direction. During the past two years our importation of electrical goods from Britain lias steadily declined. Two years ago we imported from Britain electrical machinery to the value of £667,000. Last year that trade declined to £512,000, whereas our trade with the United States of America in electrical machinery remained steady during that period. I emphasize the fact that these heavy duties have been imposed notwithstanding that Australia still has to import four-fifths of her requirements of electrical machinery. The imposition of a flat rate of £5 per machine, with 15s. per horse-power in addition, will cause a further decline in our trade with Britain in these articles. Britain’s production of electrical goods is valued at £84,000,000 per annum, of which 22 per cent, is exported, whereas tha United States of America exports only 5 J per cent, of that country’s production of similar goods. Yet Australia’s purchases from each country are practically the same. In this direction, there is an opportunity for us to give Britain a helping hand at this critical period. Instead of giving the Motherland only about 30 per cent, of our trade in electrical goods, we should place 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, of our orders there. That result would be obtained if
Ave maintained, or increased, the previously existing preference. I trust that the amendment will be accepted by the committee. (Quorum formed.]
– I support the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). The Government’s proposal means that the prices of electrical goods to Australian users will be increased by from 100 per cent, to 150 per cent. I refuse to be associated with a proposal of that kind. Since the first duties of 20 per cent, and 27 per cent, ad valorem, British, and 40 per cent, ad valorem foreign, were placed on these goode, there have been several increases in the duties, coincident with which the prices of electrical goods have been raised.
– The honorable member merely makes a statement; he does not substantiate it with facts.
– I quoted from a letter which I received from a manufacturing firm in Australia showing that the price of one article was raised from £54 to £66 15s. within four months, because of the higher duties.
– The Minister did not attempt to dispute those figures. Proof has been furnished by the right honorable member for Cowper that these dynamos are used extensively in both our secondary and primary industries, so this is merely another instance of the Government’s determination to pay no regard to the requirements of industry generally, so long as the interests of a small group of persons are conserved. Apparently the welfare of our primary producers, as well as of hundreds of thousands of employees in industry, makes no claim upon the sympathies of the Ministry. The increase of costs in secondary production is one reason why those industries are in a more or less stagnant condition. Furthermore, as the right honorable member for Cowper has explained, the British preferential tariff in this item has, for some unexplained reason, been entirely abandoned. This must be the deliberate policy of the Government, because the Minister has repeatedly outlined the procedure adopted with regard to all tariff proposals. He has explained that, in the first place, an inquiry is made by the Tariff Board, then follows a further investigation by his tariff officers, and subsequently the proposals are reviewed by a sub-committee of the Cabinet.
– Who comprise that committee ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs, the Treasurer, and the Prime Minister.
– It would be interesting to know who acted for the Treasurer when that honorable gentleman was in Queensland recently. It has been freely stated that, during his absence, the sub-committee favoured the adoption of quite a number of Tariff Board recommendations, but that when he returned, the decisions were reversed and higher duties imposed, notably in respect of refrigerators.
– Where did the honorable member get that information?
– I am repeating a current statement, widely believed. It would appear, therefore, that the abandonment ‘of the principle of British preference cannot be an inadvertence; it must represent the considered policy of the Government. This is a matter upon which honorable members are entitled to further information. I repeat that the immediate effect of these duties has been to increase the price of these machines by from 100 per cent. to 150 per cent., with disastrous results to Australian industry generally.
Question - That the amendment (Dr. Earle Page’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
. -Under this item, a new paragraph 5 is added to sub-item d as follows : -
Mr.Frankel, of the importing firm of Philip Frankel and Company, was introduced to the Minister for Trade and Customs by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), on whose behalf I am speaking to-day, when he was recently in Brisbane, and he explained the need for a revision of this paragraph. I understand that the Minister promised to look into the matter, and, if it could he done, revise the paragraph. The difficulty of the importers is set out io a communication from the firm of Philip Frankel and Company, one paragraph of which says -
The Ford coil is d single high tension spark coil and it takes four coils to operate the four cylinders, while the high tension universal coil used in most of the other American cars i- a multiple spark coil and will operate four, six, or eight cylinders. This coil cannot he used on Ford ears or Fordson tractors, as the design of the electric system will not permit it. 1 hope that the Minister, who knows the whole of the circumstances, has already honoured his promise, and will suggest some modification of the paragraph, or ai least explain why it appears in its present form. The communication from Philip Frankel and Company certainly suggests the need for some modification, it seems absurd that the duty payable on coils for one type of motor car should be 24s. and for other makes 6s., 7s., or Ss.
– It is true that Mr. Frankel, of the firm of Philip Frankel and Company, interviewed me on the point raised by the honorable member, and that I arranged to have inquiries made into his complaint. Those inquiries have been instituted, but the result is not yet to hand. If they bear out Mr. Frankel’s statement, I shall arrange for the Minister representing the Government in the Senate to move an amendment to this paragraph. In the meantime, I stand by the duties as proposed.
.- Again we have the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) endeavouring to sneak a great’ section of this schedule through without a single word in support of it. The duties imposed by this item cover important machinery and accessories, and are designed to aid the establishment of a new industry in Australia in a field of enterprise which has not yet been investigated by the Tariff Board. Yet the Minister expects the committee to swallow the whole of these duties without a word of explanation. This is not tariff -making ; it is the sheer prostitution of tariff-making. To attempt such a thing in this committee is an outrage. The imposition of prohibitive rate3 of duties on a very wide range of mechanism, and the establishment of a series of monopolies are things bad enough in themselves. but how much worse is it when the Minister has not the courtesy to support his proposals with any explanation? Realizing, however, that the Minister can depend on the socalled representatives of Labour to vote with him if a division is called for, all that I can do is to register my protest against his silence.
.- It is a scandal that an item of this nature should be passed without some explanation being given by the Minister. This item - Coils, high-tension ignition, each 6s., 7s., and 8s., or, ad valorem, 45 per cent., 55 per cent., and 65 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty - seems to be new. I ‘wish to know something about these particular coils. What coils are they? Are they high-tension X-ray coils, which have not yet been satisfactorily produced in this country? When I was Minister for Repatriation in the last Government, the department, in an endeavour to encourage Australian manufactures, secured for the Tubercular Soldiers Home, at Wahroonga, an X-ray coil for chest examination, and so forth, but it did not give us the results desired. It did not show details which were necessary to ascertain exactly how these tubercular patients were progressing, and how they should be treated. In such circumstances, it is necessary to import machines containing some specialized and patented apparatus, which can be produced only in certain places, and, as a rule, in one place throughout the world. Yet in respect of this item the Government is saying that, we. shall not permit special apparatus to enter this country except under a prohibitive duty. Surely we are entitled to some information from the Minister. I have already spoken of the need for protecting Australian industry, and I now appeal to the Government to protect the national health of this country.
– In normal times at least £50,000 worth of these coils would be required annually in the Commonwealth. They have been and are being successfully manufactured in Australia, but the old rate of duty was not sufficient to protect the Australian manufacturer from foreign competition.
– What does the Minister mean by saying that these coils have been successfully manufactured here, but that the old rate of duty was not sufficient?
– High-tension ignition coils are now being manufactured in Australia, but it has been found necessary to increase the duty so as to expand the local market, and to ensure that the whole of the requirements of Australia will be manufactured in our own factories. This increased duty forms part of the Government’s plan to have manufactured in Australia component parts of motor cars. The Government considers that where it is found that such component parts can be economically manufactured within the Commonwealth, protective duties should be imposed with a view to bringing about ultimately the manufacture of complete motor cars within the Commonwealth. That day has not yet arrived, but we hope that it soon will.
– What are these parts?
– High-tension ignition coils, and I feel sure that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), as a motorist, knows all about them. These duties have been operating for a considerable time. I assure the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), that careful investigation is being made into the complaint of the Brisbane firm regarding high tension coils required in Ford motor cars. I am endeavouring, to meet that complaint. Within a few weeks this item will be before the Senate, and if the Government can meet the wishes of the honorable member, the Minister representing the Government in that chamber will move the necessary amendment.
.- We all know, I suppose, that a high tension ignition coil is something that at times causes trouble in a motor car. That is my own experience. I had expected the Minister to give us some information relevant to this item. He says that it is the desire of the Government eventually to have established in Australia the manufacture of motor cars. Well and good.
– We must start first with the parts.
– That is so, but what I wish to learn from the Minister is this : The old duty on high tension ignition coils was 35 per cent. British preferential. It is proposed to alter that rate to 45 per cent. ad valorem, or 6s. each, whichever rate returns the higher duty. What is the relation of the rate of 6s. to that of 45 per cent.? I suggest that if honorable members are to cast an intelligent vote, they should be told what these coils are worth. In the past I have deferred to the great knowledge and experience of the Minister; but I must admit that my faith in him has been badly shaken, because, although he at times talks at high tension, with an effect resembling ignition, the general result of his statements is an all-round discharge of electricity without any useful purpose being served. The Minister speaks nicely and smoothly, and sometimes volubly and loudly; but, when we ask for details, we hear nothing from him that is likely to affect the mind of any reasonable citizen or of a member of Parliament. That may be a severe statement, but it is justified. It would be interesting to have an honest answer to my question. How many honorable members know how the rate of 6s. compares with the ad valorem rate of 45 per cent. on an ordinary high tension ignition coil? Is it more or less?
– It would not be less.
– What the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) says is probably true, because the general intention of the Government is to increase the duties to the point of prohibition. Generally speaking, I object to prohibition. I believe in protection, but not in prohibition. If this is a prohibitive duty, I require very special reasons to be given by the Minister before I am prepared to support it. Unless I receive some definite and precise information, I must vote against this proposal, which has not been justified by the general observations of the Minister.
Question - That paragraph 5 be agreed to - put. The commit.tee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Ayes . . . . . . 33
Noes . . . . . . 24
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- Paragraph 6 relates to parts of alternating current motors of from 1 to 125 horse-power, upon which ad valorem duties of 45 per cent., 55 per cent., and 60 per cent, are proposed. These parts are in the same category as the motors in regard to which the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) moved an amendment, and the duties on them are a definite charge on industry. Electrical power is used, not only in factories and municipal areas, but, particularly in Victoria, throughout the State. Because of the unreliability of the coal supply, electrical power, which is cleaner and cheaper, is becoming more popular. No inquiry by the Tariff Board preceded the imposition of these duties. Prior to December, 1920) the duties on electric motors were 35 per cent. British and 50 per cent, general. Local manufacturers have turned out quantities -without applying for any increase of the duty, but suddenly the Government decided to increase the obstacles to the importation, of motors and parts, and so afford an opportunity for the building up of a monopoly. Since the duties have been increased there has been no decrease, generally speaking, in the selling price of locally-made motors and parts. The duties shown in the schedule added to other charges mean a total protection in the lowest instance of 102 per cent. The British preferential duty of 45 per centad valorem is in its application equivalent to 50 per cent. To this must be added exchange 30 per cent., primage 10 per cent., shipping and insurance charges 10 per cent, to 15 per . cent., and packing case duties approximately 2 per cent. Any person seriously engaging in the manufacture of these parts in Australia should not require a protection of more than 35 per cent. It is true that repairs to electrical motors are effected in Australia, and there are a few lines which we can economically make locally, but the manufacture of special lines and those which can be produced cheaply only iti mass should not be attempted. However, it is futile to make any representations to the Minister, because the Government has the numbers to give effect to its policy. Some of these duties were imposed two years ago, and only now is Parliament being formally asked to ratify them. Meanwhile, trade has been disorganized. As it seems impossible for any discussion of the tariff in this chamber to be effective, I suggest that it would be wise if we abandoned this debate and proceeded with more urgent business. The Government’s attitude reminds one of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Australia is on the brink of a financial crisis, and we are wasting days in the discussion of technical matters; I venture to say that on no item can any two members speak with knowledge and authority. When it suits him the Minister delivers a statement that has been supplied to him. If the Tariff Board’s report helps his purpose, he quotes from it; if it does not, he withholds it. Instead of continuing this debate, we should ask the Tariff Board to report on the complete schedule in the light of the circumstances now obtaining. The economic situation has changed entirely since the schedule was first submitted to Parlia- ment. Exchange Iiss1 risen to 30’ per cent., and, in addition, primage and1 sales taxes have been- increased1. In order to assist Australia back to economic equilibrium’’, industry mu’st be revived, and méli restored- to work. That result will not be obtained1 from this unscientific tariff. Merely on the representation of some mannfacturer that he can produce electrical parts, the Government increased the duties without reference to the Tariff Board. This” procedure is unhinging business’, increasing unemployment, and promoting insolvencies. Scarcely any commercial enterprises are making profits, and only those with substantial reserves will bc able to carry on during the period of depression ; yet the Minister blithely continues to increase duties, doubtless in the sincere belief that he is creating employment. Having regard to the fact that unemployment has increased from 12 per cent, since the Government assumed office to nearly 25 per cent, now, I am amazed that the Minister has not had the courage to ask Cabinet to reconsider its tariff policy.
– The honorable member knows that the increase of unemployment is not due to the policy of protection, the economic depression has decreased the purchasing power of the people.
– I do not say that the tariff is entirely to blame, but it has helped to promote unemployment. Customs revenue has also declined.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item, and not revive the general tariff debate.
– This debate should be terminated, and the schedule sent to the Senate, which doubtless will reject those unsound duties which are creating unemployment. Meanwhile, this House should proceed with more important business. As the duties on the sub-item before the committee are practically prohibitive, I shall vote against them.
.- I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). Again, on an important item, the Minister is affording the committee no information. We are told that because increased duties on electric motors were agreed to-, we should have no objection to passing similar duties on electric motor parts. We are supposed to accept that statement by the Minister as a. reason f or voting on a subdivision of an item as to the whole of which no explanation has been given. It is a matter for consideration whether it is worth while going on with the debate at all. The Minister has behind him an array of empty benches, and when the bells ring, the numbers troop in, and heads are counted. There is no attempt to justify the proposals, and the Government simply relies on the voting power that it has in this chamber. It makes no appeal to reason, and listens to no such appeal. Should we go on with a debate in which there is no endeavour to arrive at an intelligent appreciation on the part of the Government of the real significance of the duties which the committee is asked to adopt?
.- The duties on electric motors appeal to me as worthy of support. Whereas an imported 5 horse-power motor and starter used to cost about £60, they may now be purchased for about £30, because they are made in Australia.
– What ! Secondhand !
– I bought seven second-hand electric motors from the Federal Capital Commission al £7 10s. each. The time is not far distant when small electric motors will be extensively used in Australia. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has referred to the Nymboida, hydroelectric scheme in his electorate. Practically every farmer in the area served by the scheme will have a motor of horse-power, and it can be purchased for £6. Motors of this description should be made in Australia. If they are imported from Germany, German copper and other material will go into their manufacture. Whereas, if they are made in our own country, a demand will be created for Australian materials, and employment will be found for our own people. The Minister need not answer the criticisms which have been offered by honorable members opposite, because there are agents who take them into their rooms, have long conversations with them about the supposed effects of the proposed duties, and honorable members come into the chamber tq repeat the sophistry that has been pumped into them. Firms in Australia are making electric motors, and as electric current is being reticulated almost throughout the settled parts of Australia, country people generally will soon be able to use it, and this will make rural life more tolerable than it has been in the past. I hope that the Minister will not accept the arguments submitted by honorable members opposite.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) always raises the level of a debate, and on this occasion he has accomplished that desirable object. He failed to furnish any useful information, but said that agents took honorable members on this side into their rooms and primed them with regard to proposed duties. Regarding the particular duties under consideration, no representation has been made to me by a principal, an agent, or anybody else. From no source has any single statement been made to me with respect to this sub-item; but I consider that I am entitled to ask the Government for information. When an honorable member who supports the Government rises in his place in these circumstances, I think that he might endeavour to give information, instead of making reflections in general terms upon other honorable members, particularly when his remarks have no foundation in fact, and when he is merely shooting an arrow in the dark.
.- The committee is surely entitled- to some information in regard to this matter. The Minister’s reason for not explaining it is that, because the duties on electric motors have been passed, the duties on everything connected with those motors should also be agreed to. What is the reason for the- duty of ls. 3d. per lb. on sub-item 179 (6), “Parts of alternating current motors, 1 horse-power to 125 horse-power, both inclusive”? The rate is 15s. per horse-power for the motor. Does 1 lb. of wound or unwound rotors represent one-twelfth of a horse-power? The Minister apparently does not know whether a horse-power represents 10 lb. or 50 lb. We have no information as to why 3s. 3d. per lb. has been collected as duty on wound or unwound stators or rotors.
Even if we have been foolish enough to pass the duty of 15s. per horse-power on the complete motor, surely the Minister should connect the 15 pence with the 15s. Is there any relationship between those two figures? Further, why should the duty of ls. 3d. per lb. on parte of American, German, Austrian, and Czechoslovakian motors apply also to similar parts of British motors? Honorable members opposite have expressed a desire to protect Australia from the competition of low-wage countries, and I remind them that there is a big difference between the wages paid in Czechoslovakia and Great Britain. Has the Government decided that, so far as electrical machinery is concerned, Britain is not to be given a chance to market its products in Australia? I have pointed out that the United States of America, in the last two years, has maintained its trade in this machinery, while the British output has declined. Surely the Minister will now agree that some concession should be made to British industry.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Cusack) has referred to the Nymboida hydro-electric scheme, of which I had the good fortune to secure the installation in northen New South Wales. Lip to the present time, the expenditure incurred, in connexion with the scheme has amounted to £240,000, and that is £40,000 or £50,000 more than should have been spent, owing to the necessity for purchasing imported articles which could not be commercially made in Australia. Last night I made an appeal to the committee with respect to plant required for an extension of thi3 scheme, because such plant could not be made, on a commercial basis in this country, and yet the installation of which at the present time would have provided work for 360 Australians for two years. About £6,500,000 worth of electrical goods are used in Australia annually, and only about one-fifth of that quantity is manufactured locally. Therefore, the duties on electrical goods represent a huge impost on. the consumers. It is necessary to reduce these duties in order to help to bring down the cost of production. It is useless for the Minister to say that here and there the prices of certain motors have been reduced, as the result of their manufacture in Australia.
On the 14th May, 1930, a 35 horse-power squirrel cage motor, developing 1,440 revolutions per minute, and without slide rails, pulley or starter, was quoted by the local makers at £54, and in September,1930, a similar motor was quoted by the same manufacturer at £66 15s.When I wrote to the late Minister for Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), in connexion with this matter, I received areply to the effect that the case had been investigated, and the Government was satisfied that the company was not making an undue profit. The Government declared that it would be sure that the tariff was not used as a means of exploiting the public, and yet, when a company charged £12 15s. more than it had previously been doing for an engine quoted at £54, it was declared that the company was not making an undue profit. Was inquiry made as to whether the raw material used in the manufacture of the Australian engine had been purchased at a reasonable rate? The heavy duty imposed, ostensibly for the purpose of protecting an Australian industry, is, apparently, due to the high original cost of the materials used. In these circumstances, surely it would be only fair and just to have an examination made of the causes that have contributed to such a position. We are trying to provide a remedy; and that cannot be done without an examination of those causes. That applies to the whole of this tariff schedule. Basic materials have been increased in price because of the high duties imposed on them, and that increase has been reflected to a progressive extent in the costs of other items. Had we got down to bedrock in. connexion with our basic industries, we should now be in a position comparable with that of Canada, which exports annually £16,500,000 worth of iron and steel products in addition to supplying her own requirements. That position has been brought about by means of a duty of only 3.5 to 20 per cent. Why cannot we achieve a similar result? The Minister should tell us why it is not possible to give Great Britain preference in this case, and why it is considered that1s. 3d. per lb. is properly applicable to this particular item. [Quorum formed.]
.- It surely must have occurred to the Minister that, as high duties on motors mean a definite increase in the production costs of both primary and secondary industries, in that the price of the motor is part of the capital cost involved in the establishment of any new factory, so in the same way prohibitive prices for parts mean an increase in maintenance costs. He should not be blind to the fact that high costs of production have the effect of throwing out of employment, not only unskilled workers, but also trained artisans.
I assure the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack), whose speeches are at all times more entertaining than useful, that he is quite wrong when he assumes that we who sit on this side obtain our information from tariff representatives. On this point I endorse the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). I speak only on subjects of which I have had some practical experience.
I intend to vote against this item. I should have voted against the duty on motors, which comes within the same category, but was unable to be present when it was taken.
– I thank the honorable member for “ Bally Palaver “ for having stated that my speeches are more entertaining than useful. I am sorry that I cannot return the compliment, because his speeches are neither entertaining nor useful.
I have had some experience of this matter, and can say without hesitation that every item connected with this branch of engineering is cheaper to-day than it was four years ago.
– In England the decrease has been 40 per cent., and in the United States of America about 50 per cent.
– In 1928 one could not purchase an English 5 horse-power dynamo and starter for less than £50, and so many firms overseas have gone and are going “ broke “ that if one were to import any line, there would be no guarantee of being able to replace any part of it should the necessity to do so arise. The establishment of these firms in Australia enables replacements to be made with certainty. The cost of transformers, generators, switch gear, motors, and every other item connected with this branch of industry, has been reduced largely because these things are being manufactured in Australia. I give the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) credit for what has been done in connexion with the generation of hydro-electricity in his electorate. We need a multiplication of such schemes throughout Australia; but we must also see that the machinery required is made in this country, so that the wages that are paid will circulate among our own people, thus enabling them to purchase the surplus of our production.
I do not think that there is any need for me to reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), who, apparently, wished to insinuate that I was not as amiable as I might be. When honorable members opposite sneer at those who sit on this side, they deserve to be given a quid pro quo.
.- The commit tee has already agreed to a fixed rate of duty on motors, and, to be consistent, it ought to agree to the fixed rate of duty on parts. I am anxious to have the tariff passed as quickly as possible, consequently I address the committee only when necessity urges me to do so. The debate has now been in progress for twelve weeks. . It is the desire of the Government that the schedule shall reach the Senate speedily, because without it there is no business for that chamber to transact.
Repair and replacement work provides a good deal of employment for Australians, and the rates which appear in the schedule are proposed with a view to keeping that work as much as possible in Australia. I am unable to account for the opposition that has been shown to. this item. The matter has been investigated very carefully, and it has been found that these fixed rates are necessary in order to keep the work in Australia,
.- The Minister has been appealed to again and again to give some sort of justification for this arbitrary tariff making. He has just said a few words, yet has told us nothing about the item under discussion; nor has he explained the reason which impelled him to decide upon a duty of 1s. 3d. per lb. Why should it not be 9d., 10d.,1s., or1s. 9d. Is it that the honorable gentleman knows nothing about the industry, and is afraid to trust himself to speak upon it? We know that he has read millions of words of carefully prepared matter since the debate on the tariff began.
– The honorable member has read millions of words that have been put into his hands by the importers.
– The Minister has never departed from his brief, which has been put into his hands by the manufacturers.
– No statement has been put into my hands by the manufacturers; but the honorable member has had statements put into his hands by foreign traders.
– The Minister knows nothing whatever about this item.
– Get down into the gutter again ; you ought never to have come out of it.
– Order! I call upon the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Similar charges have been made so often by the Minister, that I care little whether he withdraws the remark or not. His whole attitude is offensive to the committee. He should not impose these high duties without making, or attempting to make out a case for them.
– He “ went blind,” and he wants us to do the same.
– The honorable gentleman “ took it blind “ from the manufacturers. I refuse to “ take it blind “ from anybody.
Mr.Forde.-The honorable member “ takes it blind “ from the importers.
– The Minister is constantly throwing out the taunt that we, who sit on this side, represent the importers. I again tell him that we were responsible for all the protective duties that existed in this country up to two years ago.
– The honorable member said in 1928, before any of these duties were imposed, that we should have a tariff holiday.
– It would have been a very good thing had there been no increases from 1928 up to the present time; although I would have been prepared to make a number of increases if, after careful investigation, they were found to be necessary. I would not have had the hardihood to bring down items designed to establish important new industries, without referring the matter to the Tariff Board, nor would I have asked the committee to accept them without giving reasons for them, or saying a word about them. The right honorable member forCowper has pointed out that in regard to this item there has been a departure from the principle of British preference. No reason has been given for that; the Minister has merely provided for a flat rate of1s. 3d. per lb.
The honorable gentleman has pleaded for greater expedition in the discussion of the tariff. We desire expedition; but so long as, by his silence, he continues to act contemptuously towards us, so long will tardy progress be the principal feature of the debate. I realize that very little is gained by protesting, but I cannot allow these items to go through in silence, because that would seem to imply acquiescence in this extraordinary form of tariff making. If, at the outset of the discussion of each item, the Minister would give his reasons for the proposed duties, he would greatly facilitate the business of the committee.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) should endeavour to act normally, and not ramp and wave his arms, as he did when he sat on the back ministerial bench in 1928, and stabbed his own party in the back. The opinion then held by him was that it was time we had a tariff holiday.
The honorable member went away for the week-end, and was absent from the committee yesterday. During his absence he received a brief from the importing interests, and to-day, he returns to the committee and abuses the Minister.
– On a point of order, I ask that the Minister be called upon to withdraw his statement that I have a brief from the importing interests. That statement is offensive to me.
– I do not consider that it is offensive.
– The statement that I have a brief seems to me to imply that I am the special representative of certain interests. I deny that that is so.
– If the inference were that payment had been made, the statement would-be offensive ; but as, in my opinion, a brief is only a written case, I do not consider that it is offensive.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Does the right honorable member wish to dissent from my ruling?
– I merely wish to ask a question. Since I have been a member of this’ Parliament, the invariable custom has been for the Chair to demand the withdrawal of any statement that an honorable member considers offensive to him. It has been regarded as essentially a matter for the determination, not of the Chair, or of any other honorable member, but solely of the honorable member concerned. I wish to know whether that practice is to be departed from in the future?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I understand that it has been the practice of Mr. Speaker and the Chairman Committees to ask for the withdrawalof words which they have regarded as offensive to an honorable member, even when no objection has been raised by him.I have always exercised my own judgment in the matter, and in this instance I rule that the words which have been used by the Minister are, for the reasons I have already given, not offensive, and, therefore, need not be withdrawn.
– During my experience in this Parliament it has been the practice of Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees to ask for the withdrawal of any expression which an honorable member regards as offensive.
– My ruling in this instance is that the words complained of constitute permissible criticism.
Mr.FORDE. - The discussion yesterday was conducted on a high plane. Honorable members opposite offered fair and valuable criticism. For instance, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) delivered an interesting speech with respect to the duties which the Government has imposed upon certain types of imported machinery. This afternoon, however, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) made an insulting reference to me by saying that I, as Minister, hold a brief for the manufacturers. I took strong exception to that statement, and said that the honorable member held a brief for the importing interests. Because of his antipathy to Australian manufacturers, the honorable member was appointed as a stop-gap Minister for Trade and Customs in the Bruce-Page Administration. It was known that he would not do anything to assist Australian industries. Representations were not made to him when Customs Minister, because manufacturers knew that it was absolutely useless. This Government is conscientiously doing its best to protect Australian industries, and is giving effect to the platform of the Labour party.
– Who paid the election expenses of the Minister?
– No manufacturer contributed 6d. towards my electioneering expenses, but the honorable member for Henty knows that his electioneering expenses were paid by the importing interests in this country. Because his fiscal policy was in the interests of the importers, he was able to have an army of highly-paid canvassers travelling round his electorate in motor cars. This Government believes in encouraging all manufacture that can be undertaken in Australia. Instead of throwing insults across the chamber, the honorable member for Henty should endeavour to conduct the debate on a higher plane.
.-The first offensive remark was made by the Minister, who said that I held a brief for the importers.
– That is not so.
– Hansard will show that it is so. The Minister is solely responsible for what he complains of.
– Is the honorable member for Henty in order in speaking again on this item?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I understand that the honorable member for Henty is making a personal explanation.
– Yes. I am replying to the accusations made against me by the Minister. The whole dispute has arisen in consequence of the Minister endeavouring to surreptitiously push these items through. I have already protested, and will continue to do so while the present methods are adopted.
Question - That paragraph 6 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
By milling a new sub-item(f) as follows : - “(f) Ironclad or moulded fuses, iron clad or moulded switches, ironclad or moulded airbreak switches and fuses combined -
– Under sub-item 179 f the committee is asked to impose unnecessarily heavy duties; in the case of fuses of British manufacture, a duty of 8s. Apparently honorable members overlook the fact that small house fuses are included in this item, and that on every imported fuse used in connexion with domestic electric lighting and power services a duty of 8s. must be paid. The invoice price of these fuses is from 2s. to 2s. 6d. each, and, therefore, the ad valorem duty will be approximately 350 per cent. I have repeatedly protested against the imposition of such excessive duties, and contend that, unless the flat rate is removed, a special sub-item is desirable. British fuses, which are superior to all others, are to be penalized, and users of these goods will either be compelled to purchase fuses of an inferior quality or pay an unnecessarily high price. The prices of British fuses are much higher than those of local manufacture, but while the British product retains its superior quality, users will prefer to purchase the superior article. A duty of8s. is absurd. The imposition of. a duty of 8s. on an article the cost of which ranges from1s. 4d. to 2s., is an absurdity which demands some explanation from the Minister. Surely honorable members are not going to vote blindly on the matter. When the division bells ring presently, honorable members surely are not going to flock in and record their votes on this item without knowing anything about it, and without having heard one word of justification from the Minister for the proposed duties.
– So long as the clerk knows what it is all about, apparently it does not matter whether even the Minister is informed regarding it.
– That is so. I put it to you, Mr. Crouch, who have seen so many tariffs put through, that even you could hardly favour the passage of an item of this kind without any answer having been given by the Minister to the criticism levelled against it. Before these duties were imposed, 250-volt fuses of British make sold inAustralia for 2s. 2d. each, including a duty of 7d. Similar articles of Australian manufacture were sold at 1s. 9¾d. each. Where, then, is the need for imposing a duty of 8s. each on such fuses. Under the old duties, 10 amp. 500 volt double-pole switches of British manufacture sold at 8s. 3d., whereas similar Australian switches sold at 4s. 3¾d. On the British switches a duty of 2s.1d. each was paid. That, one would imagine, was sufficient on an article selling at 8s. 3d. Under the new tariff, a duty of 8s. has been imposed on this article. I put it to the Minister that this is obviously not an item on which there should be a flat rate of duty, because the value of the goods varies so greatly. If, in the drawing up of the tariff schedule, there had been the slightest attempt at discrimination or proper classification, if anything like judgment had been exercised, these glaring anomalies could never have crept in. The Minister is apparently determined to put the tariff through, with all its anomalies and inconsistencies. Nothing seems to matter to him so long as he gets it through. Why doe’s he not try to justify these duties? Is the Minister under some occult influence which drives him to force these items through, demanding from the members of his party their support irrespective of the merits of the proposals? I am at a loss to understandwhy a Minister, with his reputation to make in this country as an administrator, permits these glaring anomalies, these instances of execrable judgment, these grave injustices to come before the committee, and then ins iaa on forcing them through with the aid of a servile majority.
There is a crying need in Australia for the reduction of production costs. I have said that over and over again in 4ho course of this debate, and yet I have said it no more often than have other honorable members in this chamber. Nevertheless, when the opportunity arises to reduce production cost3 without inflicting injustice on any section of the community, the Government refuses to accept it. I move -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after 2nd October, 1931 - (r) Ironclad or moulded fuses, ironclad or moulded switches, ironclad or moulded airbreak switches and fuses combined, ad val., British, Gu per cent.; intermediate, 70 per cent.; general, 75 per cent.
– The ad valorem duty on this item is 65 per cent., 70 per cent., and 75 per “ cent., which appears high enough; but what would be the astonishment of honorable members if a nought were added to each of those numbers, and the duties read 650 per cent., 700 per cent., and 750 per cent.? If there is to be any relation between the ad valorem duties and the fixed duties, the equivalent of the fixed duties of 8s., 9s., and 10s. would, on these small household fuses, amount to approximately 650 per cent., 700 per cent., and 750 per cent. The proper fixed duties to correspond with the present ad valorem duties would be, approximately, 9d., 10d., and lid., instead of 8s., 9s.; and 10s. The figures which I have here, and which I have no reason to doubt, show that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has rather understated than overstated the position. Under the old duties, the small household fuses of 5 amperes were landed from Britain, duty paid, at ls. lid. each, the actual landed cost being ls. 4d. Therefore, on an article costing ls. 4d., there is now imposed a duty of 8s., which represents 600 per cent. The general tariff is 10s., which represents 750 per cent., but as the European article usually costs even less than the British article, the general rate would represent more than 750 per cent. That is nothing more nor less than a joke, and I should like to know what excuse the Minister can offer for this absurd proposal. Under the old duty of 35 per cent., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent., the Australian-made fuses used to undersell the imported British fuses by 6d. each, being sold at ls. 10d., as against 2s. 4d. If the Australian article could- undersell, the British article by 6d. at the old rate of duty, what is the need for imposing a duty amounting to 600 per cent.? I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah, although I think that it would have been better to revert to the old duties of 35 per cent., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent., instead of, as he proposes, 65 per cent., 70 per cent., and 75 per cent. ‘
– This is a proposal to increase the duty on certain fuses and switches from 35 per -cent, to 8s.) or 65 per cent, ad valorem. This item includes the ordinary, domestic household switch. Last night, I was speaking on item 179 b, which included electric fittings consisting wholly or partly of metal, on which the ad valorem duty was 65 per cent. Everybody knows that there is some metal in electric switches employed for ordinary domestic purposes, and I assumed that, for that reason, they were included under item 179 b. and were dutiable at 65 per cent. That, I thought, was bad enough. I never dreamt for a moment that the ordinary “domestic switch was covered by item 179 f, and was dutiable at the rate of 8s. each under the British preferential section, while the general tariff was 10s. each. The Minister does not deny that this item includes the ordinary ls. 6d. switches. Such a proposal is, in my opinion, beyond all possibility of justification. By no conceivable argument can it be justified to any reasonable man. This is not a matter of protection, but of almost insane prohibition.
– Perhaps it is a printer’s error, and the fixed duty was meant to be Sd., 9d., and lOd.
– Even that would be fairly high. It is amazing, when one considers the variety of switches that are used for ordinary household purposes, and the tremendous number and diversity of those employed in establishments where a great deal of electrical power is used, that the Government should seek, to apply to them the rates of duties prescribed under sub-items 179 b and v. It appears to me to be difficult to draw a line of distinction between the two sub-items, and the Minister should first of all explain why there is a specific British preferential duty of 8s. a switch under sub-item 179 f, while no such specific duty is provided under sub-item 179 b. The honorable gentleman should next explain why it is proposed to impose higher duties oh articles of this character. In the light of these considerations, I propose to support both of the amendments that have been indicated. *[Quorum formed. *
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [5.28 1.- 1 rise to find out,- if possible, what essential difference there is between this subitem and others dealing with electrical fittings which have been discussed by the committee. Why is a British preferential rate of 8s. a switch prescribed in this instance when it was not in connexion with similar articles dealt with by another sub-item? Is there something essentially different between the purpose of ironclad switches and dynamos, rotors, &c. ? Why should there be this discrimination when previously it did not exist? In this instance the British preferential rate is prohibitory. Is that the explanation - the exclusion of British goods? This is an increase from 35 per cent, to 800 per cent. We have heard many times in this chamber that the previous British preferential duty of 35 per cent, enabled local manufacturers to compete- successfully with the imported article, and materially to reduce the prices of their switches. Why, then, is it necessary to increase the rates so drastically?
– This item does not cover household switches, which are dealt with by sub-item 179 b. It concerns industrial switches.
– I am informed by those in the trade that this sub-item includes domestic bath heater switches, and I should like the matter made clear. The opportunity presents itself to assist Great Britain, which is in financial diffi culties, and 1 can scarcely conceive that there is anybody in Australia who would refuse to help the Old Country.
.- There has been a good deal of misconception im this matter. Yesterday the DeputyLeader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), intimated that domestic switches came* under sub-item 179 n.
– And the Minister declared that I was wrong.
– The switches covered by sub-item 179 f are used for industrial switch gear installations, and vary in price from 6s. to 58s. 5d. The prices of industrial switch fuses run from 12s. to 97s., while those of ironclad industrial switches with fuses vary from 16s. to 4S7s. 6d. Since Australian manufacturers have been producing these switches, the selling price has been considerably reduced, in one case by 39 per cent., in an endeavour to compete successfully with i lie imported British article. However, the previous rate of duty was found to be insufficient, hence the increase. In this particular branch of the switch gear industry there are six manufacturers, with a capital of £45,000, employing 125 hands. The quality of the Australian-made switch gear has been proved to be quite satisfactory and efficient. The protection now afforded will allow the Australian industry to develop, and increase its output. Since the new duties were imposed the prices of the local article have been reduced by from 5 per cent, to 15 per cent. The duties, therefore, are not unreasonable, and I hope that the committee will pass them.
.- As the Minister said, there has apparently been some misapprehension with regard to this matter; but where it 13 has not been made clear. When I said last night that sub-item 179 b applied to domestic switches, the Minister corrected me. Now he claims that my remark was correct, and that sub-item 179 f applies only to switches, the cheapest of which costs about 6s. I ask the Minister whether an electrical switch which has some metal in it can be an “ ironclad or moulded switch.” It is the practice of the customs administration, which is embodied in the act, that where an article is dutiable under one of several headings duty is charged on the highest basis. If it turns out that the ordinary household porcelain switch, partly made of metal, and falling under 179 b, may also be described as an “ ironclad or moulded switch,” it will be dutiable under 179 f, which imposes a British preferential rate of 8s. a switch. It may be that “ ironclad or moulded switches “ is a perfectly well understood term. I should like to know precisely what it means. Tariff items are not selfexplanatory. I have heard honorable members speak on this subject on the basis of information supplied by the trade, which should know the meaning of these terms. It is a remarkable thing, then, that members of the trade should think - wrongly, as the Minister now declares - that domestic switches are included in the definition appearing in sub-item 179 f. I understand that, before he entered this chamber, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was secretary of an electrical trade union, andI therefore assume that he has some knowledge of electrical appliances. Perhaps he would be good enough to enlighten the committee regarding this item.
– I was never a paid official of the union.
– Was not the honorable member associated with an electrical trade union?
– I waspresident of a trade union.
– It had not occurred to me that the honorable member was selected for that position for ornamental purposes only. I thought that he was chosen because of his expert knowledge of the trade.
– I worked at the trade for many years ; I could not have been a member of the union otherwise.
– In that case, the honorable member should be able to give us an explanation of this item. If so, I should be glad to hear it.
– I shall endeavour to enlighten the committee regarding these electrical appliances. Until recently, the use of ironclad “switches was chiefly confined to large industrial undertakings.
– Why are they called ironclad ?
– They are called ironclad because of the metal covering which surrounds the porcelain interior. These switches reduce to a minimum the risk associated with installations having a heavy consumption of electric current.
– Are they all large switches ?
– Until recently ironclad switches were used principally in big industrial undertakings, where considerable electric power was consumed, but the greater application of electricity to household purposes during recent years has made their use more general in ordinary dwellings. They are, for instance, used where electric bath heaters, ranges, or other electrical apparatus, taking considerable current, are installed. In order to gel sufficient heat for bath heaters, it is necessary to adopt the three-phase type of installation, which consumes more current than an ordinary installation, and, therefore, increases the danger arising from any fault. In Sydney and other cities, there are now large numbers of such installations in the homes of the people, so that the ironclad switch is more frequently seen in household installations. Ironclad fuses are used by the supply companies, such as those in Sydney and Balmain, on their main supply lines. In such cases, However, the fuses are sealed and are not used by the consumers. It is now possible to get a totally enclosed article in which both the fuse and the switch come under the description of “ ironclad “ - a combination of an ironclad fuse and an ironclad switch. These combination appliances are coming into more general use as electric power is used more for household purposes.
– What is the average cost of an ironclad household installation ?
– I frankly admit that the cost of these installations is an important consideration. To connect a bath heater under the three-phase system costs at least £10, whereas the bath heater itself can be bought for about £9 15s.; the installation costs more than the price of the appliance. Much of that cost is due to the fire underwriters’ regulations, which require apparatus of this type to be fitted at the front door of a bouse, in order to minimize the danger which is always present where large quantities of current are used.
– What are moulded switches?
– “ Moulded switches “ is not a term much used in the trade. It is given by the Customs Department to that portion of a switch which is cast in the mould.
– Are they made of metal ?
– Yes. I understand that the term is used to meet any technical objection which might be raised by importers. A moulded switch is a fitting which is moulded in cast, and contains an interior porcelain fitting, which, of course, is r non-conductor of current.
– How would the honorable member differentiate between item 179 b and item 179 f?
– A fuse is an adjustable porcelain fitting which can be removed. It is the weakest spot in the installation, and in the event of a fault occurring, it blows out and cuts off the current. To the porcelain fitting the fuse wire is attached. The outer covering is of metal. In an ordinary household installation of, say, ten lights and two power points, ironclad fittings are not general. The Pritchard switch, now mostly used, which is manufactured in Australia, is a stamped covering -with a composition base, to which the switch fuses are attached. It is not made of iron. As I have said, the ironclad fittings are used chiefly in big industrial undertakings where a considerable amount of electric power is used.
– The Minister has given us a belated and laboured explanation of this item, and has alleged that the- arguments of those who oppose it should be directed against another item, but he has not made out a “good case for this excessive duty. The lucid description of the various types of switches given by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) proved beyond doubt that the Minister’s explanation was wrong. The honorable member said that during recent years ironclad switches have come into more general use in household installations. Moreover, the trade itself accepts this duty as applicable to household fittings. The trade is protesting, not against the duty on switches valued at £2 18s. - of which I had not previously heard - but against the duty on this cheaper class of switch.
– Can the honorable member show me any protest from the trade about this duty?
– Yes. Until the honorable member for West Sydney spoke about them, I had no clear knowledge of those fittings, although I had obtained some information concerning them from the trade. As pointed out by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), these duties can be manipulated by the department. The trade, both British and Australian, has accepted this, duty as applying to the ordinary switch used in household installations. The committee is indebted to the honorable member for West Sydney for the information he has supplied regarding this item. There is no justification whatever for this duty. I am informed that under the old tariff the local manufacturer was selling his product at ls. 10d., on which price he had a margin of 6d. against the imported article, which showed clearly that the increase of duty was unnecessary from the Australian manufacturer’s point of view. The effect of the higher duty was to make importation impossible. ‘ Immediately consumers knew that stocks would not be replenished, the whole of the available supply, equalling approximately six months’ requirements, was cleared. This took place early in December, 1929. Since then the importers have had repeated requests from municipalities throughout the State asking to be informed if this fuse would again be on the Australian market within a reasonable time. I repeat that there is no justification whatever for this outrageous impost.
.- The committee is entitled to have some explanation from the Minister with regard to this item. On the 21st November, 1929, the Government imposed duties of 3s. British, 4s.. intermediate, and 5s. general on these fuses, and the rates now sought are 8s., 9s., and 10s., respectively. I assume that the Government considered the November duties fair and reasonable.
It now proposes to increase those rates by between 200 per cent. and 260 per cent. Such a volte-face calls for some explanation. If the duties imposed in November, 1929, were reasonable, what justification is there for the rates which now appear in this schedule? Under the old duty British fuses were sold at very much higher prices than the locally-made article There was really no competition between the two products. For example, under the 35 per cent. ad valorem duty, one particular make of British fuse, which is affected by this duty, was sold at £1 3s.1d., whereas the Australian product of the same type was sold at12s. 3d. Surely we are entitled to know why Australian industrial concerns are to be required to pay twice as much for their material, and we have every right to know why the Government has changed its mind.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Archdale Parkhill’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Paterson) proposed -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 2nd October, 1931 -
Ironclad or moulded fuses, ironclad or moulded switches, ironclad or moulded airbreak switches and fuses combined -
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Silting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
.- This sub-item relates to distributor arms for distributing high tension current to sparking plugs. This article is something which is used in motor cars, and any motor car owner can examine it for himself. Distributor arms of six sizes are being manufactured in Australia, and I am assured that the price has been reduced since the imposition of this duty. Some thousands of these articles are distributed throughout Australia.
– What is the cost of them ?
– They are packed twelve in a box, comprising two of each type, and are sold much cheaper than they were previously when distributor arms were imported. The wholesaler receives approximately 13s. a box of twelve distributor arms, which is retailed to garages at £11s. The public are charged approximately 2s. 6d. for each distributor arm. This duty is being imposed in accordance with the policy of the Government in encouraging the manufacture of motor car parts in Australia. We are not yet able to manufacture a complete car, but that may be possible as time goes on. In the meantime, the parts are being manufactured separately. Quite a number of men are employed in the manufacture of these distributor arms. In view of these considerations, I ask the committee to pass this sub-item.
.- The Minister has given us the illuminating information that these distributor arms are something used in motor cars. He also said that they are packed twelve in a box, and, when the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked at what price they were being sold, he replied that they were much cheaper now than hitherto. On that scant information we are asked to endorse this duty, which has been increased from 35 per cent., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent. to a specific prohibitive duty of 9d.,1s., and 1s., or alternatively,65 per cent., 70 per cent., and 75 per cent. The Minister persists in treating this committee with utter contempt. When he was asked for information as to the effect of this duty on employment in this country, he said that quite a number of men were being employed in this industry. That probably means, as in most manufacturing industries in Australia, that fewer men are being employed as the result of the imposition of these prohibitive duties. The Minister has also said that he is assured that the price has been reduced. He has given no evidence of that; he has practically told us nothing. I object to this sub-item, because it imposes a prohibitive duty, which, with the full approval of the members of this alleged Labour party, is aimed at setting up a monopoly in this country.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). The Minister has told us how these distributor arms are packed, but he has not explained what they are.
– I had one in my hand prior to the dinner adjournment, and I am prepared to show it to the honorable member.
– I take it that the distributor arm is the rotating arm within the distributor on a motor car.
– That is so.
– Then the value of the annual production of this small rotating arm would not exceed £1,000.
– These distributing arms are used only for replacement purposes.
– Any honorable member who has or knows anything about a motor car is aware that it would not be necessary to replace a distributor arm more than once in five years. It is ridiculous to impose this duty of 65 per cent. British preferential, which, together with exchange and other charges, amounts to a prohibitive duty of 122 per cent. It is quite unnecessary even to consider this sub-item, and, if the Minister will not withdraw it, I shall oppose it. This is an attempt to mulct the community for the benefit of some small manufacturer whose total output is negligible.
.- The Minister must have gone to some trouble to discover this industry, because, judging by the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), this distributor arm is a small article of little value. The Minister has admitted that it costs about1s.
– That is the wholesale price. The retail price is 2s. 6d.
– It is probable that the value of the annual production throughout Australia would not be more than £2,000 or £3,000.
– Sincethe imposition of the duty, about8,000 or 9,000 distributor arms have been manufactured in Australia, despite the fact that there were huge stocks on hand.
– That is interesting information. About 8,000 distributor arms have been manufactured, which, at1s. each, represents a value of £400. Yet the Minister is asking this committee to impose a duty of more than 100 per cent. on these articles. It would be interesting to know the number of factories manufacturing distributor arms. Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald published a statement to the effect that at the end of 1930, there were 919 more factories in New South Wales than at the end of 1929, yet at the same time there were 29,559 fewer people working in them.
– That is because of the depression.
– It is because this prohibitive tariff has doubled the price of manufactured articles and reduced the consumption.
– The unemployment in those factories would have been three times as great had it not been for the protective duties imposed by this Government.
– The Tariff Board holds the opposite opinion. It says definitely that there is no doubt that the increase in prices brought about by the prohibitive tariff, is one of the prime factors in unemployment, and that the only way to bring about employment is to increase the purchasing power of money. The Tariff Board considers that the output of these factories would increase if the cost of the manufactured products were lowered. Yet this Government has imposed a duty which, with exchange and other charges, gives a protection of 122 per cent. on an article the production of which is worth £400 annually. In the manufacture of another article referred to in this schedule, one man is employed.
– For the whole of his time?
– I do not know ; but he is the only person carrying on the industry. Another sub-item, which has just disappeared from the schedule, relates to carburettors. That industry employs three men and two boys. In view of the perilous state of our great exporting primary industries, which employ many thousands of men, why should we increase their costs in this way, and make it harder for them to carry on and less possible for them to employ other men in reproductive occupations? We should encourge those industries, instead of bringing into being abortions of this sort, which are really of no value to Australia. This increased duty has been in operation for the last fifteen months, and during that period the industry has produced only 8,000 distributing arms worth 1s. each.
– As soon as the heavy stocks are exhausted, there will be a big development in this industry.
– Why oppose this subitem?
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) comes from a district in which many people are forced to use galvanized iron. Yet the other day he sold and betrayed those people by voting for an increased duty on galvanized iron, which, he is well aware, must have the effect of increasing the price of that commodity. The imposition of duties such as these reduces the whole of this tariff-making to an absolute farce. I am glad that the Minister has been able to give us this information. I wonder if the position in respect of distributor arms applies to other articles referred to in the tariff, the duties on which have been increased by 500 per cent. or 600 per cent., and if the number of additional men employed in the industry has forced a greater number out of other industries.
– The right honorable member, when he was Treasurer, forced quite a lot of men out of employment !
– When the BrucePage Government left office, the unemployment was 1 in 10, but it. is now 1 in 3. This Government has put more and more people out of work. The only State that is holding its own is Queensland, which has the good fortune to be controlled by a non-Labour government.
.- Apparently the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) would have been delighted if even the £400 worth of distributor arms which were manufactured in Australia had been imported from America. He suggested that the acute unemployment is the result of the tariff. No one knows better than he that the tariff was not even a contributing factor. During the Bruce-Page regime the imports ranged from £145,000,000 to £160,000,000; the estimate for this year is only £45,000,000. Obviously, if those who are out of work were engaged in industry the market for our manufactures would be very much greater than it was when we were buying heavily goods from overseas. The attitude of the right honorable member is inconsistent. The best market for the primary producers is provided by the secondary industries, and members of the Labour party offer no excuse for supporting a policy designed to develop Australian production. Because of the previous Government’s policy Australia was flooded with imports, but when the depression lifts and trade improves the industries which are being fostered by this tariff will develop and the money previously sent abroad for the purchase of goods will remain in the country. The Government’s tariff policy has done much to keep people in employment. It is futile for honorable members opposite to accuse the Minister for Trade and Customs of not knowing what a distributor arm is. Ho is not an engineer or a mechanic, but he understands his job as head of the Trade and Customs Department. If this item keeps only one person employed under Australian conditions it is worthy of support.
– My statement that 8,000- distributor arms had been, manufactured in Australia was erroneous; 25,000 have been produced since the duty was imposed.
– That is at least a promising beginning. The right honorable member for Cowper has such a passion for cheapness that I am surprised that he does not migrate to China. I shall not vote against any item that gives employment to even one person in Australia. In order to keep our trade balance on the right side the Government should stand by every duty it has proposed, and, if necessary, prohibit imports until the depression lifts.
– I oppose the item for the very reason that prompts the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to support it. This senseless interference with trade is directly responsible for throwing people out of work. Customs duties were never intended to protect an industry so insignificant that it produces only £400 worth of goods in fifteen months. The prosperity of Australia will not be developed by encouraging the production of arms for distributors, minor parts in motor equipment. Th, effect which this tariff is having on industry is indicated by the fact that the number of factories has decreased by 216 ; the number of factory -workers by 31,228 ; and the value of factory products by £1S,000,000.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Since this tariff schedule was introduced unemployment has increased by 46 per cent. That is the result of the interference, with trade which is caused by items such as that now before the committee.
.- This item reminds me of the duty imposed ou shovels in the 1920 schedule. Inquiry disclosed that fifteen men were employed in that industry, and all users of shovels were taxed to keep them in employment. After all, the duty on a distributor arm is only 100 per cent’. ! I have here a customs invoice for a motor car brake drum. The cost of the article was £23, and the duty £98 4s. lOd. ; or 426 per cent. !
– By what means would the honorable member build up the secondary industries ?
– Does the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) imagine that excessive duties of this character will build up industry and provide employment? They are bound to have the opposite effect, by reducing production. This hot-house protection is all right for those engaged in the sheltered industries; they continue to receive high wages, but the primary producer, who might be able to employ labour if given fair conditions, and thousands of other persons, are robbed of their livelihood. I shall oppose this absurd item.
.- I object strongly to the imposition of fixed duties, some of which representa protection of up to 1,000 per cent. Australia would be better off without industries which must have protection equal to ten times the import value of the articles they produce. We have heard much of the efficiency of the Australian workman. I agree that he could do well if he were given a chance.
– Who prevents him?
– The unions and the Arbitration Courts prevent him from doing his job efficiently. Such conditions have been imposed on the Australian workman that he cannot do his job as he would like.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member must confine his remarks to the sub-item under consideration.
– If Australian manufacturers were given a chance to compete on an equitable basis with overseas manufacturers, considerably lower rates of duty would suffice. Flat rates amounting to several hundreds per cent. give the labour unions an opportunity of saying to the manufacturers, “ We ask for so much. You can go to the Minister, and he will give you any duty you require “. In other words, a “ go-slow “ policy is encouraged.
– I again ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the sub-item beforethe committee.
– These huge duties bolster up the inefficient among the very efficient Australian workmen.
.- Some time ago I received from a constituent an account showing that for spark plugs sold for1s. prior to the introduction of the 1930 tariff, he had been called upon to pay 5s. 3d. immediately after the duty had been imposed. Of course, the Minister and the Government promised that they would see that the Australian manufacturer did not take advantage of the tariff to impose excessively high charges upon the public. The only consolation that my client has with respect to the charge of 5s. 3d. for a1s. plug is that on and after the 1st October, the article will cost 3s. 4d. Even that price is too great an increase on1s. I hope that even at the eleventh hour the Government will reconsider its tariff proposals, and realize that the inevitable result of passing the present schedule will be increased unemployment and decreased production.
Item agreed to.
.- Have the duties in sub-item a, relating to telegraph and telephone apparatus been recommended by the Tariff Board? It is fairly difficult to ascertain from the board’s report whether the duty was put into operation before or after the matter was submitted to the board. If it was referred to the board subsequent to the imposition of the duty, the rates in the schedule - “ Free, 15 per cent., 20 per cent.” - are apparently what the board recommended. Will the Minister explain what has occurred ?
– The increased duties imposed are in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board in 1926. . A subsequent request for further duties was referred to the board, which reported that the rates now in the schedule should prove sufficient to enable Australian manufacturers to compete. Full details concerning the industry are to be found in the two reports of the board which have been distributed.
.- The Minister has not given me the information that I desire. In the report of the Tariff Board, the fact was stressed that it would not be commercially practicable for the manufacture of many articles to be begun in Australia. The board said plainly that there was not sufficient demand here to justify the adoption of that course. I wish to know whether the duties in this particular sub-item protect simply the goods which can be commercially and satisfactorily made here, and for which plant already exists, or whether it is intended to protect other articles that are not now being made here.
– The board says that, in all the circumstances, it recommends that no alteration be made in the duties at present imposed on telegraph and telephone apparatus under sub-items 180 a 1 and180 a 2 of the tariff proposals of the 19th. June, 1930.
.- For what reason has the British preferential rate on gas meters in sub-itemb been increased from 27½ per cent. to 55 per cent., and the duties in the intermediate and general columns from 35 per cent. and 40 per cent. to 65 per cent. and 75 per cent.? Such huge increases demand some explanation by the Minister.
– It was found necessary to increase the British preferential duty to this extent in order to encourage the manufacture of these meters in Australia. The tendency was to import all these goods from Great Britain, but charity begins at home, and there arc a number of firms in Australia who can manufacture our requirements.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (c) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: - “ (c)Electroliers; Gasaliers; Chandeliers;
Pendants; Brackets; Wall, Stand or Table Lamps; Gas Cooking and Heating Appliances, including Gas Ranges, ad val., British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 55 per cent.; general, 60 per cant.”
.- I move -
That the sub-item he amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after the 2nd October, 1931- “ (c) (1.) Electroliers, Gasaliers, Chandeliers. Pendants, Brackets, Wall, Stand or Tabic Lamps, ad val., British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 55 per cent. ; general,60 per cent. (2.) Gas Cooking and Heating Appliances, including Gas Ranges, ad val., British. 35 per cent. ; intermediate, 40 per cent.;general. 45 per cent.”
The duties of 35 per cent., 40. per cent., and 45 per cent., were included in the 1921-28 tariff, and the duties of 45 per cent., 55 per cent., and 60 per cent., were provided in the schedule of the 19th June, 1930. The effect of the amendment is that the rates of duty on gas cooking and heating appliances, including gas ranges, will revert to those operative under the 1921-1930 tariff. In taking this step, the Government has fully considered the matter, and it is of the opinion that effect should be given to the Tariff Board’s recommendation. This shows that those who say that the Government never adopts the board’s recommendations are wrong. The Government desires to retain the proposed duties on electroliers, gasaliers, &c, and on wall, stand, or table lamps. Representations weremade by the manufacturers that the existing rates were insufficient to allow them to compete with certain imported goods. The Government was of the opinion that the rates should not be less than those allotted to manufacturers of metals, and these are the rates proposed. The principal local manufacturer is. well able to meet competition in the large electric tight fittings, and he has equipped the majority of the leading picture theatres in Australia as well as those in New Zealand. The Government has examples of this firm’s work, but if they were brought into the chamber they would fill the table.
.- Some note should be made of the fact that this is the first time during the whole of this debate that the Minister has been compelled to admit that the duties which he was suggesting are too high. It is pleasing to notice that he is now proposing to bring them down, even to a slight extent ; butI do not think that he is going far enough. He should have lowered all the rates to the level of the 1921-1928 tariff. It is rather significant that, although Ave have heard much of the lack of protection given by the late Government, the Minister now finds that the protection previously given on this sub-item was ample.
-i advise the right honorable member not to be in too great a hurry to praise the Minister.
– I feel that there is something behind his action. Possibly it will have a boomerang effect, that will be felt when we reach the succeeding item. I shall not be surprised to find that this relief has been given with the object of disarming criticism when it is proposed to make other duties higher than they are at the present time.
– There is something sinister behind it.
– I agree with the honorable member.We have heard a great deal as to the failure of the last Government to protect the industries of this country. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), on another item this evening, quoted Australia’s adverse trade balance in proof of that contention. I shall read a sentence from the Commonwealth Statistician’s report for 1930, to disprove it. After setting out the adverse balance of trade for the previous fifteen years, that official went on to say -
There are, however, alleviating factors of considerable dimensions which might modify the results given in the table. Among these probable influences are - Stocks of wheat still unshipped and imports of private capital. Unfortunately, thereis no information regarding the imports of private capital, but there is reason to believe that as a result of the protective tariff-
He was referring to the protective tariff of the last Government- there has been a considerable importation of capital during recent years for which no immediate export is required.
Although that was written in 1930, it referred to the position that had existed during the previous fifteen years. The reason given by the Commonwealth Statistician for their having been an adverse balance of trade was that there had been a considerable importation of capital for the establishment of new industries in this country. As I have pointed out on several occasions, every year there was a very considerable importation of machinery into this country for the establishment of new industries. Visiting different metal-working establishments, I have noticed that they have machinery that was imported free of duty. Apparently, other industries are not to be allowed to do that.
Attention called to Hip. state of the committee. There being no quorum,
In the House: [Quorum formed.]
In committee (Consideration resumed.)
Amendment agreed to.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (d) and inserting in its stead the following subitem: -
.- I move -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after the 30th July, 1931 - (d) Filament lamps for lighting and heating, per lb. - British, 2s.; intermediate, 4s.; general, 4s.”.
The reason for the amendment is to permit of the incorporation in the present proposals of this item as it appeared in the tariff resolution of the 29th July last. It will be recollected that the tariff resolution which was introduced on that date provided for an increase in the existing duty. In order to make secure the legal position in relation to any dutiesthat may have been collected under that resolution, it is necessary to have them incorporated in the present proposals. The amendment does not alter the rates proposed under the July resolution, which was in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. That recommendation was dated the 24th April, 1931, and was made after exhaustive inquiries into the whole of the industry. Electric Lamp Manufacturers, Australia, Limited, which represents four of the strongest companies in -the world producing electric lamps, and whose products are recognized as being of high quality, has established at Newcastle a very fine factory for the manufacture of electric filament lamps. An amount of £161,000 has been expended on buildings and machinery and the factory is equipped to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements in general purpose electric lamps. In fact, the output capacity of the factory is 14,000,000 lamps, as against a total Australian demand of 12,000,000. The company is at present placing on the Australian market, through various distributors, from 8,000,000 to 9,000,000 lamps, or about 75 per cent. of the total requirements.
The rates of duty requested by the company were8s. per lb. British and 12s. per lb. general. The Tariff Board recommended 2s. and 4s. respectively, which in its opinion ought to place the local manufacturers on a competitive basis with overseas suppliers. The quality of the lamps produced locally is in keeping with the standard attained by the parent company. This, combined with the cost of inland transport, and the fact that the company finds it desirable to import, about 90 per cent. of its raw materials, precludes the marketing of its lamp at a price below that at which the parent company’s lamps could be retailed. This price is somewhat in advance of that at which the lamps of other overseas manufacturers are retailed.
The Government has come to the same conclusion as that which was arrived at by the Tariff Baord, that the granting of the full protection sought by the local manufacturers would force the cheaper lamps off the market, and thereby compel the public to buy the high quality article, which, although having much to commend it, is priced at too high a figure for some members of the community. The duties proposed will not eliminate competition, but will assist the local manufacturer to a slight extent, and at the same time add considerably to the revenue without materially increasing the price of the cheaper lamps.
In introducing the resolution of the 29th July last, which included the duties now proposed, I mentioned that, although the Government had adopted the report of the Tariff Board, representations had been made to it by the industry, and those who desired that the whole of the lamps required in Australia, should be manufactured locally, and that it would have further inquiries made. Since then, the tariff officers of the Customs Department have made additional inquiries into the industry, and have found that there is no case for the alteration of the duties as requested. If the percentage of Australian materials used in the manufacture of these lamps is increased to any considerable extent, further consideration will be given to the question of what rates are necessary to protect the industry. At the present time, only 10 per cent. of the raw materials used are of Australian origin, and the Government considers that the rates proposed are as high as the circumstances warrant. This company’s establishment is one of the best equipped in Australia, and I sincerely hope that before very long it will be manufacturing the whole of Australia’s requirements. If we were to grant the whole of the protection asked for, the revenue would suffer to the extent of £100,000.
Mr.Watkins. - The Minister has not made such a statementin connexion with other items.
– The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) naturally is deeply interested in this matter. The Cabinet has gone carefully into it, and in the light of the reports of the Tariff Board, and of investigation officers of the department, it is not prepared to go beyond the recommendation of the former body.
.- It is not fair to the committee that, having had this tariff schedule before it for many months, the Minister should propose an increase on any item without affording honorable members an opportunity of properly examining the position. What he is proposing is to double the existing protection.
– Iam giving effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
– That may be. One would have thought, however, that out of ordinary courtesy, the Minister would have circulated his amendment so that we would have known where we were. There has been ample time to do that, even -since 4 o’clock this afternoon, after which hour nothing can be cleared from the Customs Department. Honorable members would then have had some knowledge of what was contemplated.
This is a very interesting industry, and its history is well worth reviewing at some length. A year or so ago the present Government made a great boast of its protective tariff having been responsible for the establishment of the industry in Australia. The facts are that negotiations which had been in pro- . gress for several years had practically been concluded when the late Government went out of office. Although the industry was established in Australia as a result of those negotiations the Government now contends that it was due to the imposition of high duties. We now find that its establishment was not due to these duties, and that the company requires higher rates than even this Government is prepared to impose. The industry was established in Australia because of the extensive market which existed for its products at that time.
– I draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the state of the committee.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The time which must elapse between calls for a quorum has not expired.
– No period is provided in the Standing Orders.
– The Standing Orders do not so provide, but the practice now adopted in committee has been followed for many years.
– I did not previously direct your attention to the state of the committee.
– There can be no discussion on the point raised by the honorable member.
– A good deal that has been said with respect to the establishment of this industry is not based on facts. A year after the industry has been established the Government proposes to do what it considers necessary to protect it. Why is it necessary to increase the duties when the rate of exchange is over 30 per cent. and the primage duty 10 per cent, which gives the industry further protection. If such duties are necessary nowthey must have been a year ago when the Government was boasting of its fiscal policy, and its benefits to new industries. What is the position with respect to this particular industry? If honorable members opposite read the Tariff Board’s report, I do not think that they would support the Government in this instance. By its action it is really preventing the poor people of this country from receiving at a lower price lamps which are quite as good, or even better, than those at present being manufactured by this company.
– That is not so.
– The increase in duty which is equivalent to 3d. or 4d. a lamp on the 12,000,000 lamps used annually in Australia means that an additional £100,000 a year has to be paid by the purchasers. I venture to suggest that that is more than has been invested by the company in the establishment of the industry. The Tariff Board conducted an exhaustive examination with respect to the lamps produced by the associated and non-associated companies and foreign products. The board stated that the associated companies’ lamps were retailed at 2s. 6d. each, whereas the product of the non-associated companies was sold at from 10½d. to1s. 9d. each. What is being done to enable the people of this country to obtain cheaper lamps which are quite as good as those produced in Australia? The Tariff Board carried out a series of tests, and on page7 of its report gives the following results: -
At the time this report was being compiled the test had proceeded for 700 hours.
The following lines of lamps were tested: -
The following is a brief summary of the results of the tests at the end of the 700 hours’ period -
Length of life. - At the end of 700 hours all six lamps of lines (a), (b), and (c) were still burning. One lamp of line (d) and four of line (e) had burnt out.
Average lumens per watt for 700 hours X wattage of lamp X number of hours over
Initial cost + cost of electricity consumed by lamp burning for 700 hours equals
Lumen hours per penny.
In these calculations only lines (a), (b), and (c) were taken, as lines (d) and (e) had proved to be faulty. The results, which showed the average lumen hours per penny for 700 hours for the three lines were -
The Government is deliberately imposing an additional duty on lamps which, according to these tests, would give better service to the people of Australia who are compelled to pay more for an inferior type. I am prepared to give a reasonable protection to this company; but at present the bulk of its work is done by girls, who assemble the parts.
– That is not so.
– It is only natural that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) should act as a foster-father to every industry established in the district which he represents.
– There is very little difference between the old and the new duties.
– On these lamps there is an increase of 2d. each.
– Oh, well-
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), who represents a working-class constituency, suggests that we should not worry about an additional 2d. a lamp, which on an average annual consumption of 12,000,000 means taking £100,000 more out of the pockets of the workers. The honorable member contends that £100,000 is nothing to the workers of this country.
– But it means an increased wages bill.
– The honorable member is apparently disregarding the interests of those whom he is supposed to represent. It is not merely the workers who are concerned, but those who are compelled to live in the backblocks. Honorable members opposite say that they do not wish American products to come into this country, but when electric light equipment is expensive people, particularly in the country, are compelled to use kerosene, or gas made from petrol produced in America. With the use of coal and water electric light can be generated which would be used to a much greater extent if lamps could be purchased at reasonable prices.
– Why tell all these fairy stories?
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) does not care if this Parliament places an additional burden of £100,000 upon the backs of the workers of this country. The Tariff Board further states -
Material tariff concessions have been granted to the Australian manufacturing company by the admission under departmental by-laws of certain parts of the lamps which arc imported for incorporation in the lamps produced in Australia. Parts which are being admitted under by-law to Tariff Item 404, free of duty, under the British preferential tariff and at 10 per cent. under the general tariff for use in the manufacture of electric incandescent lamps are -
These parts comprise by far the greater bulk of the material used in the manufacture of the complete lamps, and the tariff concessions granted are, therefore, a very material assistance to the manufacturing company.
The Minister, who has said that he is adopting the recommendations of the Tariff Board, did not accept the hoard’s advice in connexion with galvanized iron and many other commodities upon which heavy duties have been imposed. He is adopting the hoard’s recommendations, in this instance because it favours the imposition of higher duties than those previously in operation. When the Minister moved a reduction in duties a few minutes ago, I said that the rates on some other articles would be increased. We now find that that is what has been done.
– The right honorable member for Cowper should not complain of the Government’s action in this matter, as the tariff has been before Parliament for some months.
– But the amendment moved by the Minister has only just been brought under our notice.
– In the schedule before honorable members the duties on filament lamps are -1s. British, 3s. intermediate, and 3s. general. I intend to oppose the increased duties.
.- I was glad to hear the Minister (Mr. Forde) say that it was the intention of the Tariff Board to conduct a further investigation with respect to the duties imposed under this item in order to ascertain whether those in operation afforded sufficient protection to the industry. I have visited many Australian factories, and the establishment in which these lamps are manufactured is the finest I have yet inspected. The attitude of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and other members of the Country party, seems to be that when the Tariff Board recommends a reduction of duty they applaud it, but when it brings in a report recommending further protection for any Australian industry, they cannot find a good word to say for it. When we analyse the import figures for electric lamps, we find that Great Britain does not get a very large share of the trade. For the quarter ended the 30th June, 1,246,788 lamps, valued at £44,345, were admitted to Australia. Of this total, 271,984 came from the United Kingdom, the balance coming from such countries as Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, &c. From Czechoslovakia we imported during that period 54,131 lamps; from France, 300,000; and from Germany, 42,000. The 271,000 lamps which we imported from the United Kingdom were valued at £26,043, while from Japan we imported 550,000 lamps, valued at only £4,235. From the Netherlands, we imported 123,094 lamps, valued at £4,500, and from the United States of America, there came 68,356 lamps. It will be seen, therefore, that, omitting the United States of America and Great Britain, most of these cheap lamps came from the cheap labour countries of the world. Most of the imported lamps belong to two cheap classes, while the Australian manufacturers are making almost every line required. Compared with some of the rates of duty about which honorable members have complained, the proposed duty on these articles is very moderate. This is a high class industry in which good working conditions obtain, and in which the latest scientific improvements have been availed of to promote efficiency. If after these duties become operative the present rate of imports of cheap lamps continues, I trust that the Minister will have the matter reviewed, and will obtain another report on the industry.
.- I also hope that the Minister will review his decision regarding this item. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) refer disparagingly to those countries from which we import filament lamps. The honorable member must realize how important those countries are to Australia in the matter of trade, and it is a good thing for us that we are able to buy something from them in return for what they buy from us. I have already quoted in this House the figures relating to trade between Australia and most of the countries to which the -honorable member referred. Japan buys from this country each year £12,571,000 worth of goods, while we buy from her goods to the value of only £4,282,000, leaving a balance of trade in favour of Australia of £8,289,000. Yet the honorable member objects to our buying from Japan filament lamps to the value of a few thousand pounds. Does he think that we should buy nothing from that country, and expect her to continue spending her money in Australia?
– Why should we buy anything from her if we can make it here?
– As the British Economic Mission pointed out in its report, there is such a thing as attempting to do too much. It is obvious that Australia is trying to do too much when it endeavours to develop industries which require as much as 1,000 per cent, protection. Protection then becomes a burden upon the community. The honorable member for Newcastle referred to low- wage countries, but he seems to overlook the fact that in Australia there are nearly 400,000 people who receive no wages at all, because they have no work. This foolish tariff policy which we have been pursuing has contributed largely to unemployment. In order to employ a few persons in some unprofitable industry, we impose a burden on the rest of the community, and increase- overhead costs all round. It would pay us to buy these articles in a spirit of reciprocity from those countries which are such large purchasers of our primary produce. It amused me the other day to read in the newspapers fulsome accounts of a gathering of certain Ministers and other prominent persons on the wharf to speed the departure of a solitary ship laden with goods for the sister dominion of Canada. The departure of such ships ought to be a daily occurrence in the life of a nation 150 years old.
– Why did not the Government which the honorable member supported do something to bring it about?
– Listen to the yapping from the other side! It is indicative of the kind of the thinking which is responsible for Australia’s present condition. We have had the best counsel ob tainable; we have been advised that we are on the wrong track, but have refused to heed the advice. There should be a thriving trade between Australia and other countries in both directions, trade which would provide employment for everybody. The honorable member for Newcastle mentioned Germany. We have a favorable trade balance with that country of nearly £7,500,000. What is wrong with our buying a few articles from her in ‘order to “show that we are not unsympathetic towards her in the matter of trade. With France we have a favorable trade balance of £11,000,000. Why should Ave not buy a few filament lamps from her to show that Ave are not unfriendly? Instead of doing this, however, Ave set ourselves out to snub these people, and they are taking reprisals against us, so that Ave have now hardly an international friend in the world. The sooner Ave abandon these tiddly-winking enterprises, and concentrate on Australia’s great natural industries, the sooner wi 11 Ave overcome our economic difficulties, and solve the unemployment problem. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) seems to be obsessed Avith the idea that he is going to develop all sorts of Australian manufactures. In the face of all his previous failures, he persists in trying to build up exotic industries at the expense of certain sections of the community. I trust that the people will shortly begin to see on which side their bread is buttered. The Government, Avith the help of its brutal majority, is forcing these items through, but I hope that the people, and particularly the unemployed, will take counsel Avith themselves, and see that the fiscal policy of the country is altered. It is in their hands to do it.
.- I oppose the amendment moved by the Minister, and wish to draw’ the attention of honorable members to the effect which these duties, if they become operative, are likely to have on prices. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) said that the new duties would probably make a difference of not more than 2d. a lamp. I have before me a price list showing the prices of Australian lamps before and after the last increase in” duty Avas made. When the tariff was last amended, a duty of ls. per lb. was placed on British lamps, which had formerly been admitted free, and almost immediately the retail price was, in most cases, increased by considerably more than 2d. A lamp that previously sold at 2s. 9d. went up to 3s.; another which sold at 2s. lOd. went up to 3s. 3d. ; while still another, which sold at 4s., went up to 4s. 6d. A better class of lamp, which sold at 5s. 6d., went up to 6s. 3d. The prices of high-powered lamps increased from- lis. 6d. to 13s. 3d. ; from £1 9s. to £1 13s. 6d. ; and from £2 lis. to £2 18s. 9d. Judging by the dates which these price lists bear, it appears tha.t the increased prices were due to the alteration made in the tariff in November, 1930. If the increased duty imposed at that time had such an important effect upon prices, it seems likely that there will be a further large increase as a result of the duties now sought to be imposed.
.- Evidently the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is opposed to any sort of protection for any industry other than a. primary industry. According to him, if the Government adopts a Tariff Board report it is wrong, and it it does not adopt the report it is also wrong. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) complained that he had not received sufficient notice of this proposed duty.
– We heard of it only to-night.
– The resolution was moved in July of this year.
– The amendment was moved to-night.
– The amendment’ merely incorporates something already in the schedule.
– Yes, and the tariff schedule has been before the committee since July last. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked why we should not buy filament lamps from Japan. In 1927-28 we imported a total of 5,388,764 lamps, valued at £299,563; in 192S-29, the value of the lamps imported was £296,396, while in 1929-30, the value was £339,378. Most of the imported lamps came from Austria, the Netherlands and the .United States of America. The importations from other countries of the world amounted to £26,367. The company concerned made a request to the Tariff Board for a protective duty of 8s. per lb. British preferential, and 12s. per lb. intermediate and general. The Tariff Board thought those rates excessive, and recommended 2s. per lb. British preferential, and 4s. per lb. intermediate and general. The Minister has accepted that recommendation. On other occasions, the cry of certain members opposite has been that the Minister will not abide by the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Now, when he adopts it, those honorable members are. still dissatisfied. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has complained about the resultant cost of these duties to the man in tlie country. I ask what additional cost does the community have to bear as a result of the operation of the Paterson butter scheme, and of the sugar agreement. Is the honorable member, or his colleague, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), prepared to recommend the abolition of the 6d. per lb. impost on New Zealand butter introduced into Australia?
– All this spoon-feeding will have to cease, if the country is to regain stability.
– Apparently the honorable member is prepared to remove all protection to Australian industry, reintroduce black labour to our sugar fields, and Chinese labour on our wheat fields. He is not prepared to pay the price for the development of the nation along really White Australia lines, but evidently desires that we should retrogress to the coolie labour standard. When this Government endeavoured to help the wheatfarmers by granting a guarantee of 4s. per bushel on. their product, the honorable member’s friends in another place rejected the scheme. No doubt, when that other place has this tariff schedule before it for consideration it will endeavour to nullify the Government’s attempts to grant protection to Australian industry. In this case, the exorbitant request of the company has been rejected, and the recommendation of the Tariff Board approved. Honorable members of the Country party are adopting stone-walling tactics to impede the progress of the tariff. In every sense of the word, they are an “ Opposition “ parly, and, if they continue their present tactics, they will remain long in the cold shades of opposition.
.- I propose to support the Government in this matter. Throughout the tariff debate I have made it quite clear that my objection to the large number of items to which I found myself opposed was in no sense the conventional objection of an opposition. I have objected to item after item on the ground that the duties proposed were absolutely prohibitive, and were encouraging the establishment of monopolies in Australia. In that I have been quite consistent. There have been other grounds of objection, for instance, the extent to which the Minister has acted arbitrarily and without reference to the Tariff Board.
Under the Customs Tariff 1921-1928, these lamps were free British preferential, and 2s. per lb. intermediate and general. By tariff proposals introduced into Parliament on the 5th November, 1930, the rates of duty were amended to 1s., 3s., and 3s. The Australian manufacturers requested that a specific duty should be imposed on each bulb amounting to 9d. on bulbs not exceeding8 watts, 1s.6d. on those exceeding8 watts, but not exceeding 65 watts, and 2s. on each bulb exceeding 65 watts. I understand that since making that request the company has had the impudence to ask for a duty of 4s., 8s., and 8s. per lb. The recommendation of the Tariff Board halves that by 50 per cent.
I am always pleased, when I can, to support the Tariff Board, which was set up to make recommendations for the guidance of Parliament. It does not follow that the Government or Parliament should necessarily accept those recommendations, but I am pleased when I am able to approve them, as in this case. There are one or two features of this industry that do not particularly commend themselves to me. There is the fact that the industry is importing the great bulk of itsraw material. It is, in a sense, the Ford works over again ; mainly an assembly works. One can only hope that it will develop into positive manufacture from Australian raw material at a comparatively early date. Another feature is that we are setting up a single protected company that is to supply the whole requirements of the Australian market. Had the duties recommended by the Tariff Board been prohibitive I should, on that ground, have opposed them. However, in the opinion of the board, the duties are not prohibitive, and will not exclude all competition. I am, therefore, pleased that as the Minister has, for once in a while, brought down a duty based upon the recommendation of. the Tariff Board, I shall be able to associate myself with him and vote for the item.
– I, like other honorable members who have spoken to this item, am not averse to the establishment of Australian industries. But I have always held that another section, the general public, the great body of consumers, have also to be considered. Before this item is passed, this committee should consider whether the interests of the consumer are being conserved. This morning I received a communication, together with a specimen lamp that is made in Belgium and sold in Australia at 1s. I produce it, together with an Australian lamp of similar capacity, which is sold for 2s. 6d. Honorable members should realize that in. imposing these duties, in an endeavour to establish the industry in Australia, they are mulcting the general public of an additional 1s. 6d. for each electric light bulb that is purchased. The Tariff Board has pointed out that if the industry is successfully established, and is able to capture the total Australian market, it will employ 267 female adults. 50 male adults, and 3 male juniors. To provide work for those 320 persons, of whom 267 are females, the Government proposes to impose upon the members of the general public an additional1s. 6d. for each electric, light bulb that they buy. The Tariff Board points out that “ all the materials, except alcohol, solder and the gas for gas- filled lamps will be imported, and that of the materials for a vacuum lamp, approximately 95 per cent. will be imported “. That is the type of industry that the public is being asked to pay so much to establish. This Parliament has no right to impose such a heavy disability upon the general community in order to assist what is merely an assembling factory. I protest against the proposal, and I shall continue to do so in this and every other place. This imposition is a monstrous outrage upon the general public.
.- It is quite clear that the committee is going to approve of the Minister’s amendment to impose a duty of 2s. per lb. British preferential and 4s. intermediate and general, on these lamps. A perusal of the Tariff Board’s report in this matter makes it evident that the recommendation of the board is based upon an intense investigation. A considerable volume of evidence was taken, and the board rejected the request of the company for a much higher rate of duty than that recommended. The report of the Tariff Board shows that that body desired to protect the public. It points out that large numbers of the people were buying lamps at1s. each, and obtaining satisfaction from them. It also shows clearly that the distributing costs of the Australian companies are far too high. That is a matter which Australian manufacturers will have to consider in the future ifthey are to receive assistance from this Parliament. In paragraph 3 of page 10 of its report, the Tariff Board states -
The board can see no justification for the maintenance of such prices either under existing conditions or if the lamps are made in Australia.
Paragraph 6 reads -
The board is of the opinion that no duty should be imposed that will assist in maintaining such a costly system of distribution with resultant selling prices.
It would appear that the costs of distribution, rather than the duties, are the principal reason for the high prices charged for these articles.
Mr.Riordan. - The company had to perfect its organization.
– The lamps of the associated companies are sold at the same prices throughout Australia, and that probably has something to do with the high cost of distribution. Nevertheless, the company would do well to heed the hint given by the Tariff Board in its report. I am pleased that the Minister has adopted the board’s report in this instance.
.- On other occasions I have protested against the futility of this tariff debate. Knowing that it has a majority in favour of its proposals, the Government pays little or no heed to what is said in opposition to them. However, I feel disposed to support the duties in this instance, as I have supported other duties which I have thought to be fair. On the other hand, I have not hesitated to oppose duties which I have regarded as prohibition masquerading as protection. In this instance, the- Government has followed the report of the Tariff Board, and, partly for that reason,I feel that I can support the duties ; but I should like the Minister to say how many hands the company employs or will employ as a result of these duties, the estimated loss to the Commonwealth in customs duties because of the establishment and growth of the Australian industry, the amount of discount off the retail prices proposed to be given to public and semi-public bodies, and whether the £450,000 capital of the company is its paid-up capital, or only its nominal capital. I should also like him to say whether the selling methods of the company and its distribution charges meet with his approval.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after the 2nd October, 1931 - (e) Wireless receivers and parts and accessories, viz.: -
Chargers, battery, . 4 ampere to 1 ampere, both inclusive, each - British, 7s.; intermediate, 9s.; general, 10s.
Chargers, battery, exceeding 1 ampere and up to and including 3 amperes, each - British, 21s.; intermediate, 27s. ; general, 30s.
Chokes for battery eliminating devices, each - British, 10s.; intermediate, 12s. 6d. ; general,15s.
Condensers, fixed mica, each - British, 5d. ; intermediate,6d.; general, 6d.
Condensers, variable, of capacities exceeding . 0001 microfarad, but not exceeding . 001 microfarad, with gang or drum control per each condenser contained therein - British, 2s. 3d.; intermediate, 3s.; general, 3s.6d.
Without gang or drum control, each - British, 2s. 3d. ; intermediate, 3s.; general, 3s.6d.
Condensers, variable, midget, of . 0001 microfarad capacity or less,eachBritish,1s. 2d.; intermediate, 1s. 5d. ; general,1s.6d.
Dials, vernier, each - British, l0d. ; intermediate,1s.1d.; general,1s. 3d.
Dials, n.e.i., each - British, l½d.; intermediate, 2d.; general, 2d.
Eliminators, “A” battery, each - British, 35s.; intermediate, 45s.; general. 50s.
Eliminators. “B” battery, eachBritish. 27s.6d.; intermediate, 35s.; general, 40s.
Eliminators, “BC” and “ABC” battery, power packs, and similar devices, whether imported separately or incorporated in a wireless receiving set, each - British, 40s.; intermediate, 50s.; general,60s. (12)Resistances, fixed, having a resistance value of 2 megohms and over, each - British, 4½d. ; intermediate, 5½d. ; general,6d.
Headphones, each - British, 2s.6d. ; intermediate, 3s.6d. ; general, 4s.
Jacks, ‘phone and loud speaker, each - British, 4d. ; intermediate, 5d. ; general,6d.
Knobs, each - British, l½d.; intermediate, 2d.; general, 2d.
Lightning arresters, each - British, 4d. ; intermediate, 5d. ; general,6d.
Loud speakers and parts thereof -
Loud speakers excluding transformers, each - British, 10s.; intermediate, l1s.; general, 12s.6d.
Parts of loud speakers imported other than in complete loud speakers, viz. : -
Field coils, each - British, 2s.6d. ; intermediate, 2s.9d.; general, 3s.
Field coil cores, each - British.1s. : intermediate.1s. 3d.; general, 1s.6d.
Field coil housings, each - British,1s.6d.; intermediate,1s. 9d.; general, 2s.
Cones with or without voice coils, each - British,1s. 3d.; intermediate,1s.6d. ; general.1s. 9d.
Cone housings, eachBritish. 2s. : intermediate, 2s. 3d.; general, 2s.6d.
N.E.I., ad valoremBritish, 35 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
Provided however that in the case of combinations of any of the above-mentioned parts duty shall be payable on such combinations as though the parts were imported separately.
Plugs, ‘phone and loud speaker, each - British, 3d.; intermediate, 4d.; general, 4½d.
19 ) Rheostats potentiometers and variable resistances, each - British,6d.; intermediate, 7d. ; general,8d.
Sockets, valve, each - British, 3d.; intermediate, 4d. ; general, 4½d. (21.) Transformers, audio and radio, each - British,1s. 9d.; intermediate, 2s. 3d.; general, 2s.6d.
Transformers, power, each - British, 20s.; intermediate, 22s.6d. ; general, 25s.
Combinedpower transformer and choke, each - British, 30s. ; intermediate, 35s. ; general, 40s.
Or as to all the goods covered by paragraphs (1) to (23) of sub-item (e) with the exception of the goods covered by sub-clause (6) of clause (b) of paragraph (17) the following rates if same return a higher duty, viz.: ad val. - British, 35 per cent.: intermediate, 50 per cent.: general, 55 per cent.
Parts, n.e.i., other than cabinets, ad val. - British, 35 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
Wireless receiving sets wholly assembled, partly assembled, or unassembled, excluding cabinets, valves, loud speakers, head ‘phones, batteries or any device for eliminating bat- teries -
Per valve socket excluding sockets for valves forming part of any batteryeliminating device - British, 20s.: intermediate, 25s.: general, 30s. Or ad val. - British, 35 per cent. : intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 55 per cent. (whichever rate returns the higher duty).
Provided - (1) In the absence of valve sockets the sets shall be charged duty at the above rates on the basis of the number of valves for which they are constructed or designed.
In the instance of sets constructed or adapted for use with multiple purpose valves, the set shall be charged duty equal to that payable on a set having an equal number of unit stages using unit function valves.
Wireless receiving sets and gramaphones combined, excluding cabinets, valves, loud speakers, head ‘phones, batteries, or any device for eliminating batteries -
Per valve socket excluding sockets for valves forming part of any batteryeliminating device - British, 25s. ; intermediate, 30s.; general, 35s. Or ad val. - British, 50 per cent. : intermediate, 55 per cent.; general, 65 per cent. (whichever rate returns the higher duty).
Provided - (1) In the absence of valve sockets the combined sets shall be charged duty at the above rates on the basis of the number of valves for which they are constructed or designed.
In the instance of combined sets constructed or adapted for use with multiple purpose valves, the combined set shall be charged duty equal to that payable on a combined set having an equal number of unit stages using unit function valves.”
The amendment proposes to make alterations to paragraphs 12, 17 and 26. The amendment to paragraph 12, dealing with fixed resistances, is made solely for departmental convenience. It does not affect the rates, and is made merely with the object of making the intention of the paragraphclear. The paragraph in the resolution of 26th March, 1931, read, “ Grid leaks.” Grid leaks are fixed resistances used in wireless receiving sets and placed in the grid circuit of a valve. Although their resistance values vary, they are generally of 2 megohms or larger, although in some instances they may go as low as one-tenth megohm. The department has been classifying allfixed resistances of 2 megohms and over as grid leaks under this paragraph, and resistances of less than 2 megohms under paragraph 24 as wireless parts n.e.i. This amendment confirms the departmental practice, and places the classification on a more secure ground.
Paragraph 17 deals with loud speakers and parts thereof. Loud speakers are being manufactured in Australia by at least two firms - Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and Eclipse Radio Proprietary Limited - and in order to prevent the importation of loud speaker parts and their assembly into complete loud speakers in Australia it is necessary to impose fixed rate duties on the principal parts of loud speakers. As a result of inquiries made into the f.o.b. prices of comparable loud speakers from the United States of America, it is found thatthe rate of 12s. 6d. per loud speaker approximates the ad valorem equivalent of 90 per cent. at the highest. These importations were almost solely from the United States of America. The necessity for such high rates becomes apparent when it is known that the commencement of the wireless season in Australia coincides with the completion of the American season. As models in wireless change from year to year, the surplus stock at the end of the season is disposed of at less than manufacturing cost. It is the usual practice for the American manufacturers to sell such surplus wireless goods at list price less 80 per cent. Sales are made on the local market as well as to overseas buyers, and consequently no action can be taken under the Industries Preservation Act to apply the dumping duties. It, therefore, becomes necessary to impose substantial duties on all wireless receivers and parts thereof in order to conserve the Australian market for local manufacturers. This principle was recognized by the Tariff Board in recommending increased duties on other wireless receiving set parts. The ad valorem rates on parts n.e.i. in 180 e 17 b 6 have been reduced from 50 per cent. British; 55 per cent. intermediate; 65 per cent. general; to 35 per cent., 50 per cent., and 55 per cent. respectively, which are the alternative ad valorem rates on all other wireless parts. One firm estimates that if the protection is granted it willmean the employment of 100 operatives.
The amendment to paragraph 26, which deals with combined wireless receiving sets and’ gramophones, is proposed in order to rectify an anomaly. It has been found that the ad valorem rates on the combined wireless receiving sets and gramophones were not equal to the fixed rates on wireless receiving sets. It was, therefore, possible to incorporate a cheap gramophone motor equipment, worth possibly only a few shillings, in a high-class wireless receiving set, and thus evade the fixed rate duties on wireless receiving sets. Importers at present cannot take advantage of the position as the importation of both wireless receiving sets and combined wireless receiving sets and gramophones is prohibited; but there is no doubt that immediately the prohibitions were lifted advantage would be taken of the anomaly and, therefore, the rates on the combinations have been increased to make the duty on them approximate the proportion to which their value bears to the value of plain wireless receiving sets. This subject has been carefully inquired into by the Tariff Board, whose recommendations have, in the main, been accepted. There is a prohibition against the importation of wireless sets, practically all of which come from the United States of America.
– Is it proposed to remove that prohibition?
– No. The duty is being altered to comply with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Since the prohibition was imposed some hundreds of workers have been employed in making wireless sets in Australia. The prohibition was necessary in order to rectify our adverse trade balance with the United States of America.
.- The proposals which the Government placed before Parliament prior to the amendment outlined by the Minister were submitted on the 19th June last. Notwithstanding that since that date the Government has had ample opportunities to submit amendments in time to enable honorable members to consider them, the committee is asked this evening to accept this item, subject to an amendment now moved by the Minister, the significance and effect of which, I feel sure, few members understand. The Government’s action in this instance is only in keeping with its attitude throughout this debate. I do not propose to discuss this item, because any discussion of the tariff in this chamber is useless. The Government does not give members a fair opportunity of understanding the significance of its proposals ; in many cases the Minister has not condescended to submit either facts or argument in support of his proposal. The supporters of the Government take so little interest in the debate that few of them are to’ be seen in the chamber.
The Government has submitted a programme for the completion of the debate on the tariff which makes adequate discussion absolutely impossible. On behalf of the Opposition, I now make it clear that we on this side consider it futile to continue this general debate. The tariff will go to another place, where there will be an opportunity to change some of the Government’s proposals.
There is absolutely no prospect of altering them in this chamber, because in tariff matters this is not a deliberative assembly. Accordingly, the Opposition does not propose to waste time and effort in a useless discussion. A number of honorable members on this side who desire to express the strong opinions which they hold upon certain items, will express those opinions, but will reserve their protests to the balance of the tariff. Subject to those expressions of opinion we intend not to do anything to prevent the Senate from dealing with the tariff as soon as possible. W e realize that although liberty of action is supposed to be allowed on both sides in this tariff debate, government supporters are not permitted to exercise that privilege. Many honorable members on this side regard the Government’s proposals as prohibitive instead of protective in their incidence, but the tariff is the responsibility of the Government, and, subject to the limitations which I have indicated, the Opposition does not propose to take part in prolonging what has become a parliamentary farce.
.- I desire also to say a few words with regard to the conduct of this debate and the attitude of the party which I have tho honour to lead in relation to it. Last night the Minister was good enough to state in a letter to me what he thought should be the programme for this and the next two or three weeks. The honorable gentleman advised me that it was proposed to finish the tariff debate within three sitting weeks, including the present week. I have carefully considered the matter, and after examining the schedule, I find that if we are to complete the business within the time allotted by the Minister it will be necessary each day to dispose of at the very least seventeen items, many of which are of great importance. I honestly believe that it is physically impossible for honorable members to accomplish that task in a thorough and satisfactory manner. Consequently, especially after to-day, when the Minister, without previously informing the committee, introduced two fresh proposals for higher duties and another to amend existing duties, I feel that it is absolutely futile and hopeless to continue this discussion. In the division on the first item in the schedule, the Government was beaten by one vote. We may assume that government supporters, like honorable members on this side, were then free to exercise their own judgment in relation to its tariff proposals, but since then the Labour party has been regimented and severely disciplined with the result that the Government has not again been in a minority. In the circumstances, I contend that the right thing to do is to send this tariff to another place where it will be dealt with. We shall then he able to see what items are worthy of discussion, and whether we in this Parliament have any practical chance of alterations in this tariff, leaving the main issue to the next Parliament after an appeal to the people. To indicate how cavalierly the Government is treating this debate, I have only to remind the committee that, at one stage to-night, it was impossible to obtain a quorum from the Government side of the House, and the chairman was obliged to report to t he House, when a quorum was obtained.
– There was only one member of the Opposition presentwhen the bells were rung to form a quorum.
– That was because we wished to test the sincerity of the Government and its supporters. The absence of a quorum on that occasion showed clearly that government supporters were not sufficiently interested in the proceedings to give the Minister the necessary numbers to carry on the discussion, or even to stay in Canberra.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to have your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to the relevancy of the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). Apparently, we are to listen to a lecture upon the sins and shortcomings of the Government and its supporters. I submit that what the right honorable gentleman has said is not relevant to the item under discussion.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I have allowed the leaders of responsible parties to make what is undoubtedly an important announcement with regard to the debate on the tariff, but I cannot permit a general discussion upon this aspect of the. question. I, therefore, ask the Leader of the Country party to be as brief as possible.
– I thank you for your ruling, Mr. Chairman-
– I rise to order. I respectfully submit that it is not in order for any honorable member, whether he be a leader or deputy leader of a party, to engage in a general discussion on the tariff at this stage.
– I have already ruled that the right honorable gentleman is in order. I have allowed honorable members on both sides, during the tariff debate, to make incidental references to items other than the one under discussion.
– Nevertheless, I submit that it is not in order for an honorable member, except by leave of the committee, to make a general statement when we are dealing with a particular item.
– I have already ruled that, as an act of courtesy to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country party, such statements may be made.
– It is not a question of courtesy, but of adherence to the Standing Orders.
– I have already stated why, in connexion with this particular item, it is not my intention to further prolong the debate. Honorable members of the party which I lead in this chamber, have endeavoured to keep to the Minister’s schedule for the tariff debate. There has been no unnecessary discussion upon any subject, and even upon those items concerning which we might have said a good deal, we allowed a vote to be taken with as little delay as possible. I am prepared to assist the Minister, in every way possible, to get the schedule to the Senate, where alone effective action can be taken and early redress secured for the people. There are still a few items upon which some honorable members of the Country party wish to speak; but we will give all reasonable assistance to the Minister to-night, and tomorrow, I trust, we shall dispose of the entire schedule so that the Minister may make the necessary arrangements for its presentation to the Senate.
– I wish to avoid a wrong impression which might be created by the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). From what has been said by those honorable gentlemen, some people may be led to believe that honorable members have not had reasonable time for the discussion of the tariff. As a matter of fact, this is the eleventh sitting week during which the schedule has been debated, and there will be three full weeks after this week, or a total of fourteen weeks set apart forthe consideration of the tariff. No attempt has been made to curtail debate up to the present time. I do not think that the gag has been moved upon any item.
– But it is indicated now.
– No, it is not. I remind honorable members opposite that the leaders of their party in another place asked the Government to give a guarantee that the tariff would he sent to the Senate before the 1st November. They expressed the fear that’ they might not have an opportunity to discuss it until some time next year. The same request was made by the Opposition leaders in this House, and now, when the Government is doing everything possible to expedite the debate in this chamber so as to honour the promise given by the Prime Minister, that it would be sent to the Senate not later than the 1st November, we are being charged with endeavouring to rush it through. Honorable members must admit that there has been ample time for the discussion of the various items, and that frequently considerable time has been occupied in useless discussion upon some items of not very great importance. I feel sure that, with some organization within our own ranks, all those items which are of importance to individual members, can be fully discussed and dealt with. Constructive and helpful criticism will always be welcomed, and will receive the fullest consideration at the hands of the Government. I am certain that if a spirit of sweet reasonableness is displayed, we shall be able to dispose of the tariff within the time allotted to it, because, as I have stated, there will be three full sitting weeks after this week.
.- Following upon the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), I want to make it plain that the attitude which the Opposition has decided to adopt is due not altogether to the Minister rushing or failing to rush the tariff, but to its objection to his method of making the tariff and presenting it.
– Is the honorable member in order in further prolonging a general discussion, which I submit has been quite out of order from the commencement?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member is in order in making an incidental reference, but I ask him to be brief.
– I merely wish to state reasons why I am not prepared from now on to discuss the items of this schedule as they come before the committee. I may break that rule, however, in regard to two or three items. I decline to proceed any further with this general debate, because the Minister, since he has assumed the office that he now holds, has broken every recognized rule on tariff presentation; He has built up this tariff without proper consideration by himself or by the officers of the Trade and Customs Department, and without consultation with the Tariff Board. Indeed, he has entirely changed the whole nature of protection in this country from wellconsidered tariff-making to absolutely prohibitive tariff-making.
- Mr. McGrath-
– I am finishing.
– I should like to know just how long the committee is to remain patient.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Henty have been quite in order. I understand that he does not intend to proceed further.
Mr.C. Riley. - Each member of the committee will be entitled to follow on the same lines.
– I shall not discuss the item further because, although it is one of the most comprehensive and complex in the schedule, the Minister has, not deigned to give the committee a single reason for including it. He depends on the party Whip and on the solid party discipline which he has been able to exercise over his followers. This is tariffmaking without precedent, and, with but a few exceptions, I decline to take any further part in it.
– It is evident that honorable members of the Opposition have now decided to adopt different tactics in regard to the consideration of these items.” They realize that it is futile to raise frivolous objections to individual items, and that it is better that reasonable consideration should be given to the respective items or groups of items.
– The honorable member has not spent half-an-hour in the chamber while the tariff debate has been under consideration.
– The honorable member is not accurate in saying that. I am familiar with the items of the tariff, and so are other Ministers. We have afforded honorable members of the Opposition every opportunity to discuss the items, even to the extent of monopolizing, if they so desire it, practically the whole of the time of the committee.
– But the Government takes no notice of what is said.
– There is no justification for that statement. The schedules were very fully considered by the Minister,- by the department, and by the Cabinet sub-Committee before they were brought in.
– There were hundreds of items to which consideration had to be given.
– It is true that there were many items to be considered.
– And quite a number of schedules.
– The number of schedules is evidence of the consideration the Government has given to the need for bringing in .a workable and reasonable protective policy for Australia. Honorable members opposite are apparently dissatisfied with the Government’s tariff policy; but, although they are at perfect liberty to criticize, or even denounce it, if they wish to do so, they have no right to question the motives of the Government in formulating that policy, in bringing it before the committee, and in supporting it in this chamber. There can be no mis-. apprehension in regard to the attitude of the Government towards the tariff. It has always declared its intention to protect Australian industries- effectively.
– Since when has the Australian Labour Party stood for the creation of monopolies?
– The honorable member seems to be annoyed because the Government is giving effect to its policy. We all recognize that a tariff policy, whether it means high protection, moderate protection, or no protection for the industries of the country, is open to criticism and objection. There are always in every community those who support’ a high protective policy and others who denounce it; those who think it a wise policy, and those who think it unwise. This Government has no qualms with regard to its policy. It believes in the need for a high protective tariff to establish Australian industries.
– The Government has certainly “ established “ them.
– We have endeavoured to carry out our policy in that respect; it remains yet to be seen whether it will be successful or otherwise. If it is not fully successful there should be a thoroughly impartial and practical consideration of the way in which it has worked. No government worth its salt would stand hard and fast to a policy if it were found necessary to modify it, but honorable members opposite are denouncing this schedule and questioning the motives of the Government in formulating it, without giving an opportunity to the Govern.ment or to the country to see whether the policy is sound or- not.
– Does the honorable member think that it will prove to be sound ?
– It gives every promise of it. As an illustration of the general effect of the whole policy of high protection let us see what has happened in the case of agricultural implements.
– The manufacture of agricultural implements was established in Australia before this Government took office.
– I am not claiming for this Government the credit for having established the industry. What
– There are many over here who agree with that. Of what use is it to make that observation?
– I am merely asking that there should be reasonable consideration of all the main items of the tariff from that point of view. There are some unreasonable critics who denounce every item in the schedule simply because it comes before the committee. In the case of agricultural implements, although there has been keen competition from overseas in that class of machinery, Australian manufacturers have turned out almost every description and kind of implement required on the farms at a price which compares well with the price paid by farmers even in freetrade countries. Not only that-
– Having regard to your ruling, Mr. McGrath, in the case of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), I raise the point of order that it is not open to the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) to discuss the general protection policy upon this item.
– I ask the Treasurer not to trespass upon the latitude I have already allowed to leaders in the committee.
– The point has been raised whether we should proceed with a detailed discussion of these items, or whether the Opposition should surrender in the hope that another place will do the work that it should be doing in this committee. That attitude on the part of the Opposition is not justified. The responsibility is upon this committee to give detailed consideration to the tariff items, and honorable members opposite are not warranted in making statements amounting to misrepresentation about the attitude and policy of the Governmnent on the ground that all their suggestions have not been accepted.
– None of t1 em has been accepted.
– That is not so; but even if it were so, on that ground alone the Opposition would not be warranted in- surrendering the fort. Honorable members opposite are certainly not proceeding in a democratic way when they say, in effect, “ the interests of our constituents can go hang; we shall depend upon another place to get in our assassin’s work on the tariff”. .
– Why should the Treasurer grieve because we do not intend to discuss these items?
–! am not grieving, but I do not intend to allow this cunning and pernicious propaganda to go- out to the people unanswered. The Government is endeavouring to establish a tariff which will effectively protect Australian industries. We do not wish to bolster up uneconomic industries, or to shelter industries which have no proper place in Australia; but we invite honorable members to bend their minds to this tariff problem and to make reasonable suggestions. It is of no use the Opposition saying that this Government ignores the reports of the Tariff Board, because the reports of that body are always considered by a sub-committee of Cabinet. The board was not set .up, . nor was it recognized by our predecessors in office, as the final authority in regard to duties. It was set up as an investigating and recommending body, and its recommendations have always been respected, but not always acted upon either by this or any previous Government.
.- I should like to devote some time to the item before the Chair, but I find that an impossibility. Through the courtesy of the Government in sending, the members of all parties in this chamber a list of the items which have to be dealt with to-night, I find that there are nine items still to be discussed. In those circumstances, I cannot understand the statement, of the Minister that honorable members will be given full opportunity to discuss every item of the tariff. Since we have nine more items to consider tonight, I regret that I have no time to dis cuss the item now before the Chair.
. -This item is one of the most important and complicated in the tariff schedule, and honorable members know little about it. I have, to the best of my ability, assisted the Government to pass the various tariff schedules which it has placed on the, table. It has a perfect right to introduce its own tariff policy, and, in my opinion, the. Opposition generally has assisted in giving effect to that policy. The Minister has read a long statement, which he did not understand, setting out further alterations to this item, and in fairness to the committee he should make a copy of it available so that honorable members may understand the extent and effect of the amendment. The objection which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) have taken tonight has nothing to do with the time allotted for the discussion of the tariff. The Government has not curtailed the time of the committee at all.
Mr.Forde. - We have not applied the gag at any stage.
– What we complain of is that the Government has paid no heed to our suggestions. The tariff is a purely non-party issue, and should be considered as such. Honorable members on this side are entitled to make suggestions, and the Minister should listen to them, and if he considers them reasonable, he should give effect to them. I trust that further information with respect to this item will be given the committee.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That a new sub-item (g)be inserted as follows : - “By omitting the whole of sub-item (g) (twice occurring) and inserting in its stead the followingsub-item: -
And on and after the 2nd October, 1931 - 180 (g) Storage batteries and parts thereof, viz. : -
1 ) Storage batteries for wireless receiving sets and storage batteries suitable for use in motor cars otherwise than for propulsion purposes, ad val., British 50 per cent.; intermediate, 57½ per cent.; general, 70 per cent.
Composition parts including containers for storage batteries for wireless receiving sets and for storage batteries suitable for use in motor cars otherwise than for propulsion purposes, per lb., British, 2d.; intermediate, 2¼d.; general, 2½d.; and ad val., British, 40 per cent.; intermediate, 47½ per cent.; general,60 per cent.”.
The changes proposed by thisamendment are (1) increase of 10 per cent. on storage batteries for motor cars used otherwise than for propulsion purposes; (2) increase of 15 per cent. British preferential tariff, 17½ per cent. intermediate tariff, and 20 per cent. general tariff, on electric storage radio batteries; (3) increase of 2d. British preferential tariff, 2¼d. intermediate tariff, and 2½d. general tariff, per pound on containers and composition parts of storage batteries.
The increases have been made in accordance with a recommendation of the Tariff Board, and have been necessitated by the imposition of the revenue duty of 4d. per lb. on crude and reclaimed rubber. The duty proposed on the containers and composition parts has taken a different form from that recommended by the Tariff Board, but the net result approximates the recommendation submittedby the board. If anything, the rates which I have proposed on such goods are slightly lower than those recommended by the Tariff Board. The reason for proposing the cumulative rates on the containers and composition parts is to enable the specific rates to be dropped should the revenue duty on crude and reclaimed rubber be abolished at any time. It is not possible to apply the same proportion to the increased duties on the storage batteries, consequently, a straightout ad valorem rate is being imposed.
Amendment agreed to.
Item,as amended, agreed to.
By omitting the whole of paragraph (2) (twice occurring) of sub-item (a) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “(2) Valves for Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony, ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
And on and after 1st July, 1931 -
Valves for Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony,ad val., British, 27½ per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cunt.”
.- I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after the30th July, 1931-
Valves for Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony, each, British,1s.; intermediate, ls.6d. ; general, 2s. ; or ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate,15 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.
And on and after 1st January, 1932 -
Valves for Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony, each, British,1s.6d. ; intermediate, 2s.; general, 2s.6d; or ad val., British 20 per cent..; intermediate, 35 per cent; general, 40 per cent. ; Whichever rate return’s the higher duty “.
The reason for the amendment is to permit of the incorporation in the present proposals of this item as set out in the tariff resolution of the 29th July, 1931. That resolution provided for an increase in the duty, and in order to make the legal position secure with regard to any duties which may have been collected under the resolution, its incorporation with the present proposal is necessary. The amendment makes no difference to the rates proposed under the July resolution. As I explained in July, the specific rate of1s. British preferential, and 2s. general, each on wireless valves was proposed for the purpose of giving a decided preference to British valve makers. The rates under the 1921-30 tariff were of no advantage whatever to the British manufacturers as the ad valorem preferential rate of 10 per cent. returned the same amount of duty as 25 per cent. on Dutch valves under the general tariff, because of the fact that the f.o.b. price of the latter was considerably below that of the British article. The amended rates should ensure the collection of an additional £20,000 in revenue. The Government has carefully investigated the prices at which wireless valves are sold in Australia, and is satisfied that considerable disparity exists between the landed cost and the selling price to the public, par ticularly in respect of foreign valves. In these circumstances there is no reason why the Government should not levy a revenue duty, particularly as importers, by virtue of the exorbitant profits they are making, are well able to absorb the impost.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Items 182, 184, 185, 187, 190, 191,’ 192, and 104 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn,
.- This afternoon, the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr, Blakeley) assured me, in answer to a question, thataward conditions are observed in connexion with unemployment relief works in the Federal Capital Territory. Information which has been furnished to mo indicates that that is not correct. The award governing employment in the Territory provides -
Employees shall be paid fortnightly during working hours not later in the week than Friday. When a workman is discharged from his employmenthe shallbepaid forthwith, on the job, all wages due to him, and in the event of there being any delay in the making of such payment, the employee shall be paid all the time he is kept waiting at ordinary time rates.
I am informed that sometimes men finish their employment on the Thursday, but have to come back next day to get their pay. Some of them live outside the city area and have to incur considerable expense for bus fares. The present practice is a violation of the award. Another provision relating to holiday pay is -
Where at such times as Christmas, Easter, or other holidays, works are by approved arrangement closed down for longer periods than the ordinary holidays, men shall receive pay for the holidays occurring in such periods on the lines mentioned above, provided that they work on the day preceding the holidays and report on the day following the close of the period for which the works have been closed.
I understand that at Easter, works were closed down for a period, and the men did not receive the pay to which they were entitled for the holidays. Monday next is Eight Hours Day, and I ask the Minister to look into’ this matter immediately, because I am informed that some works are already closed down and men have been discharged. There is a possibility of a repetition of the practice adopted at Easter, by which workers were deprived of pay to which they were entitled under the award. I do not- know that the Minister for Home Affairs is aware of the circumstances I have mentioned, but I ask him to investigate them immediately in order to ensure that the full provisions of the award are observed.
– Will the honorable member give me concrete instances?
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [10.40]. - I referred during to-day’s proceedings to three matters which the Minister for Homo Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) had been evading. Two of them were most important, but the Minister spoke on the least important, namely, the £8,000 provided on the Estimates for the reconstruction of the Canberra-Goulburn road. No reply was made to the other two points raised by me, although I made specific charges against the Minister; but I realize thatno effective reply could have been given by him.
– Is the honorable member now replying to something said by the Minister this afternoon ?
– I am making certain statements regarding the maladministration of the Department of Home Affairs.
Mr.Blakeley.-I take exception to that remark. It is most offensive to me, and I ask for its withdrawal.
-I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House, an honorable member may not continue a debate that was part of the proceedings of the sitting.
Attention called to the state of the
Mr. Speaker adjourned the House at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19311001_reps_12_132/>.