13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Remission of Taxation - Invalid and Old-Age Pensions
– In view of the state ment made by the Prime Minister last week of the Government’s intention to introduce, before Christmas, legislation for the remission of certain taxation, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government proposes to invite Parliament to restore the recent reductions of invalid and old-age pensions, the maternity allowance, and other social services?
– The intentions of the Government were clearly outlined in the statement I made to the House last week. Pensions are paid from the proceeds of taxation levied on the people. The taxation is too high, and because the revenue is likely to be more than sufficient to meet the anticipated expenditure for the year, the Government has been impelled to grant certain relief to the taxpayers.
– First the Government economizes at the expense of the pensioners, and then it gives relief to the taxpayer.
– The money which the pensioners are paid is extracted from the taxpayers, and the Government feels that t lie burden of taxation is too heavy for the community to bear.
– If the Government did not anticipate saving £1,100,000 by the reduction of invalid and old-age pensions, and £220,000 by the reduction of Public Service salaries, would it be able to grant, the remissions in taxation which were announced last week?
– No ; and were it not for the extremely high rate of taxation which has been imposed on the people, it would not have been possible for either the pensioners or the public servants to have received as much in the past as they were getting.
– Is it a fact that, the Government expects to save £1,100,000 during this financial year by the reduction of pensions?
– Unfortunately, it has now become clear that the amount saved will he less by about £400,000 than we anticipated. This is partly due to the granting of further concessions since the original proposals were introduced, and partly to the granting of new pensions.
– Certain pensioners receiving less than the maximum pension have already had their pensions reduced by 2s. 6d. a week without an inquiry having been made. Will the Treasurer give an undertaking that these cases will be inquired into, and that when reductions are found not to be justified, the full pension will be retrospectively restored ?
– Yes. This matter was first raised by the honorable member foi Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), and the Government has decided that no time will; be lost in examining those cases.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Commonwealth Government is associated with the statement made by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the House of Commons on the 10th November, regarding disarmament ?
– Since the delivery of the German memorandum to France in August last, the Commonwealth Government has shared the desire of the Government of the United Kingdom that as soon as possible a basis should be found on which the principal powers could resume complete co-operation in the work of concluding a satisfactory convention for the reduction and limitation of armaments. My Government has been in constant consultation with the Government, of the United Kingdom on the subject, and when the draft of the statement which was made in the House of Commons last Thursday and has been published in full in the newspapers, was communicated to us, we agreed that it constituted such a basis. The Goment hopes that all the powers will accept it as such, and take part in the drafting of a convention by which every State will bind itself, on the basis of complete equality, to a measure of reduction and limitation of armaments, and in no circumstances to increase them. The Governments of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are now consulting further as to how the maximum of positive disarmament may be brought about, and it is hoped that at an early date the Commonwealth representative at Geneva will associate Australia with a proposal which, in the opinion of the two governments, is a basis for a satisfactory convention.
– Having regard to the importance of the wool industry, will the Prime Minister present the report of the Wool Committee to the House in such a way as to afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss it?
– I shall be glad to afford such an opportunity to the House, subject to the disposal of the business now on the notice-paper and such other measures as may be urgently necessary. Honorable members may have an opportunity to discuss the wool industry generally on the bill to be introduced to give effect to the amended financial proposals of the Government. One of those proposals - relief in respect of land tax - is a direct consequence of the report of the “Wool Committee.
– Is the right honorable gentleman sure that Mr. Speaker will allow the report of the committee to he discussed on that measure?
– I can only say that if a general discussion of the wool industry is in order at that stage, the Government will have no objection to it. I cannot give an unconditional promise to provide an opportunity for a separate discussion on the report of the Wool Committee.
– When will copies of the report be available?
– Almost immediately.
– I ask the Prime Minister, ,in the absence of the Attorney-General, whether he has seen an article published in the Melbourne Labor Call of the 6th October, which is distinctly disloyal, and a calculated insult to all returned soldiers ? Will he inquire whether action can be taken under the Crimes Act against Arthur Francis Doyle, over whose signature the article appears, or against the editor of the newspaper?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Attorney-General.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in the report published in the Sydney Morning Herald that he is negotiating on behalf of the Wireless Broadcasting Commission for the band of the Grenadier Guards or the Coldstream Guards to tour Australia?
If so, does he not think that he might more fittingly negotiate with’ the Musicians Union with a view to forming a hand from the many Australian professional musicians who have been out of regular employment for many months ?
– The proposal emanated from the Australian Broadcasting Com-, mission. Apparently there was a desire that one of the famous military hands of the Empire should tour Australia, and, at the request of the commission. the Commonwealth Government commenced negotiations to that end in England. I understand, however, that the project has been abandoned.
– In connexion with the subsidy being paid to Huddart Parker Limited, in respect to the shipping service between Sydney and Hobart, will the Prime Minister indicate what concessions, if any, have been secured in respect of fares and freights during the currency of the subsidy?
– No conditions were laid down by the Government in connexion with the subsidy for a continuous service between Sydney and Hobart. The Government has been negotiating for a reduction of fares and freights, and recently, when the continuous service was arranged, Huddart Parker Limited announced that the fares between Sydney and Hobart would be reduced by amounts ranging from 7s. 6d. to 15s., according to class. I am pleased to be able to intimate now that, as a result of further representations by the Government, the companies, with the exception of the Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited, which was not represented in the negotiations, have agreed to substantial reductions in the freights on produce, fruit and general cargo, to come into operation from the 1st January next. The reductions will operate between all Tasmanian ports and all mainland ports in both directions, and their exact extent will be shortly announced by the companies concerned. The companies are also considering the Government’s representations that passenger fares should be further reduced.
– Has a decision yet been come to regarding the taxation of certain moneys belonging to the StarrBowkett societies?
– I am sorry to have to tell the honorable member again that this matter has not been finally dealt with. It was referred to a sub-committee of the Cabinet some time ago, and although the sub-committee has completed its report, Cabinet has not been able to consider it because of the pressure of other business.
– Seeing that the plight of the unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory has become so desperate that a monster march on Parliament House has been planned, because of a report from a recent deputation to the Minister that conditions would not improve, and that the unemployed faced the darkest Christmas ever experienced in Canberra, will the Minister adopt the suggestion of the unemployed that the reservoir on Black Mountain be constructed by day labour recruited from among Canberra’s workless people, instead of letting the work by contract?
– I assure the honorable member that the plight of the unemployed in Canberra has not been overlooked. It is the intention of the department to proceed within the next few days wi th a number of works costing approximately £30,000. This sum will be augmented by a further amount of £10,000 for the “provision of special Christmas employment under the scheme announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) a day or two ago. When all these works have been put in hand, we are hopeful that there will be very few unemployed in Canberra.
– How is it proposed to allocate among the various States the sum of £100,000 which it is proposed to spend on the relief of unemployed, and what methods will be adopted in its expenditure ?
– The money will not be distributed among the State authorities, b»t will be spent by the Commonwealth on works within the State boundaries. The “various departments have been asked to send in a list of urgent works which have been held up through lack of funds, and from them the Public Works Department will make out a schedule upon which the money will be spent. A sum of £10,000 has been set aside for expenditure in Canberra.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the general dissatisfaction among the wheat-growers of Australia with what is considered to be the totally inadequate assistance which the Government proposes to grant to the industry? Judging from the shoals of telegram’s which honorable members have received,the wheat-farmers are of the opinion that, owing to the collapse of the world’s markets, nothing less than the payment of a straight-out bounty will bc of any use to them.
– I know something of the shoals of telegrams, because many of them have come to me. The Government has taken care to inform itself, so far as possible, of all the circumstances surrounding this problem. It has notified honorable members that it is prepared to receive further representations from the wheat-growers, but, up to the present, it has not seen any reason to change the policy it recently announced.
– Can the Prime Minister say what reduction in the price of superphosphates the companies will make under the Government’s scheme for subsidizing purchases ?
– I hope to he able to deliver on Friday next the second-reading speech on the bill dealing with this subject. By that time all arrangements will have been completed, and I shall be able to inform honorable members what concessions the superphosphate companies are prepared to make.
– Is the Minister for the Interior able to inform honorable members what progress has been made regarding the institution *of a system of workmen’s compensation in the Federal Capital Territory?
– I regret that I am not yet in a position to state what has been done, but a reply will be furnished as early as possible.
– Will the Prime Minister get into touch with the Division Of Economic Entomology with a view to -having steps taken to check the invasion -of blowflies, which has resolved itself into a plague in the Federal Capital Territory ?
– I shall look into the matter to see what can be done.
– In view of the inadequacy of the service provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to listeners in the far west of New South Wales, will the Postmaster-General, in their interests, make an early decision regarding the application for a B class station to be established at Dubbo ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The honorable member’s representations on this subject, made by letter recently, have been considered by the Government, which hopes soon to complete its inquiry as to the best sites for the establishment of new stations in different parts of Australia.
The following papers were presented : - Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 125. Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act- Ordinance of 1932 - No. 20 - licensing. Public Service Ordinance- Regulations amended.
Motion (by Mr. Mabb for Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1927.
Bill brought up by Mr. Mabb, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Mabb for Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the- Crimes Act 1914-1932.
Bill brought up by Mr. Mabb, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 11th November (vide page 22S9), on motion by Mr. Gullett -
That the bill be now rend it second time.
Upon which Mr. Scullin had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and negotiations opened for a new agreement embodying concessions to Australian producers and preferences to Great Britain on specified items without endangering our protective policy or depriving Parliament of its power to give effect to the will of the people on general tariff policy.”
.- -On Friday last, I pointed out that it was generally agreed that Australia’s delegates to the Ottawa Conference made no serious attempt to gain any concessions for Australia in respect of wheat or wool. Long before” the delegation left Australia, a report appeared in the press of a statement alleged to have been made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), when in London, that Australia did not intend to ask for any concessions in respect of wool and wheat at the Ottawa Conference. When his attention was drawn to the report the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) undertook to investigate it, but he made no subsequent statement to the House as to its correctness. The results of the conference speak for themselves. As I have said, the Ottawa agreement is of no benefit to the growers of wool or wheat in this country.
I come now to the meat agreement, concerning which the supporters of the Government claim that our delegates won concessions which are of advantage to this country. Paragraph 4 of schedule H reads -
The policy of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom in relation to meat production is, first to secure development of home production, and, secondly, to give to the dominions an expanding share of imports into the United Kingdom.
Before considering the meaning of that paragraph, it would be well to survey the present position in regard to meat in the
United Kingdom. In tlie press of. the 4th November, the following report appeared : -
The wholesale price of home-grown beef is fid. per lb., which is the lowest level ever reached in living memory. New Zealand mutton at 2d. per lb. scarcely pays for the cost of shipping it. The present glut of supplies, coupled with the large shipments on the water,’ will aggravate the crisis during the next four mouths.
It will be seen that for the next four months the meat producers of Australia can expect to gain nothing from the Ottawa agreement, particularly in view of the fact that the policy of the British Government in relation to meat production is, first, to secure the development of home production. Apparently, this question will give rise to considerable political controversy in Great Britain. The various political parties there will place before the electors their several views on this matter; some will favour freetrade in meat, while others will not. The supplies of meat by the dominions will depend on the fiscal policy of the political party in power in Great Britain. The report from which I have quoted continues -
The consequent agitation among conservative members of parliament who represent agricultural constituencies is calculated to embarrass the Government . . . The, immediate difficulty in relation to exports from the dominions concerns the thousands of tons already shipped. Meanwhile, though the Government does not intend to interfere, the agitation in government circles increases. The great glut of meat is calculated by the volume of New Zealand shipments and the threatened heavy dumping of Free State products. This super-abundance of meat may make it necessary for the dominions to investigate their future exports. Australia’s real problem concerns the army and navy contracts. The Sun learns that the strongest pressure is being exerted on the Cabinet to place these contracts with home producers. They expire about May. The Govern ment will not interfere with them, but it may be compelled to assist home producers in connexion with future contracts. The present agitation does not emanate from irresponsible or whole-hog tariff elements in the Conservative party, but from the more sober sections whose weight cannot be ignored.
With meat a subject of prime political importance, we may look forward to seeing varying policies in operation in Great Britain from time to time, according to the view of the party in power as to what constitutes the adequate development of home production. It is true that, after the home production of meat has been developed to its satisfaction, the Government of the United Kingdom is to give to the dominions “ an expanding share of imports into the United Kingdom “ ; but paragraph 5 of schedule H provides that -
In order to co-operate with His Majesty’s5 Government in the United Kingdom In the carrying out of this policy, His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia agrees to limit the export of frozen mutton and lamb to the United Kingdom for the year 1933 to an amount equivalent to the total imports from Australia during the year ended the 30th June, 1032 . . .
Since there is already a glut of meat in Great Britain, which will probably continue for some time, it does not appear that the meat producers of Australia can expect much in the near future as a result of the Ottawa agreement. And even when that glut has been overcome, we can hope for little from the agreement, because of the Australian delegates having conceded to the British Government the right to develop, first, the home production of meat, and then to limit our 1933 supplies to those of 1932. Therefore, there appears to be little scope for the dominions obtaining “ an expanding share of imports into ‘the United Kingdom “. Paragraph 6 of schedule H reads -
During the year 1933, and in the light of the experience gained, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom will consider, in consultation with His Majesty’s Government iri the Commonwealth of Australia, the best means of ensuring an improved price situation and the more orderly marketing of supplies.
No doubt, the intention is so to regulate meat supplies in the British market that it will not become glutted, and by that means adopt a system of artificial price fixing in Great Britain. This aspect of the situation is referred to in a circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales, in which, dealing with the Ottawa agreement, this passage appears -
Reverting to the meat agreement, it should be observed that unless the volume of spending power of British consumers is increased - and it is very doubtful whether it ,vill be by reason of the Ottawa agreements - the higher prices they are forced to pay 40r meat will mean they will hot be A.ble to continue paying present prices for other commodities.
If some scheme is to be devised between the British Government and the Australian Governmetn to regulate and to ration supplies of meat on the London market in order to fix an artificially high price for meat, the quantity to be consumed by the British public will be regulated by their spending power. We know that their spending power, like that of the peoples of other countries, has gradually diminished. By creating an artificially high level in Great Britain, which will mean only a reduction in the demand for the commodity we supply, we shall not achieve anything on behalf of Australian producers.- It is stated in the agreement that “ the policy of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom is first to secure development of home production “. I ask honorable members to compare that policy with article’ 10 of the agreement, and to say whether any Australian industry has ‘been given a guarantee similar to that given to the meat producers of Great Britain. No Australian industry has the benefit of such a far-reaching protection. With respect to meat compared with our primary and secondary industries the British delegates have secured a greater concession than our Australian delegates. Further commenting on this phase of the agreement, the circular issued hy the Bank of New South Wales states that -
Much more serious is the meat agreement, under which the supplies of meat on the British market will be limited, so that the prices of frozen meat cun be raised for Empire (producers. At present, as with many other commodities, there is an excess of meat on the world markets. It is proposed to remedy this situation by throwing the whole weight of adjustment upon foreign producers, notably upon beef producers in the Argentine, and bacon producers in Europe. Meanwhile, the Argentine must heavily reduce her exports of meat or dump her supplies on any market that is available. Obviously, the greater the amount of foreign meat excluded from the British market, the greater pressure this excluded meat will exert in reducing world prices.
Many authorities have claimed that the present world-wide depression can be overcome only by a rise in price levels throughout the world; but one of the immediate effects of forcing supplies of Argentine meat off the British market, and practically excluding them from the whole of the British Empire, will be that
Argentine meat producers will either have to go out of business or be compelled to dump their products, wherever they can, at whatever prices are obtainable. That will result in a general reduction in world meat prices; and that will not be of advantage to meat producers in Australia. In view of the political pressure which may be exerted against the interests of the Australian producers of meat, because of the concessions given under this agreement, in which the British Government is to give, first consideration to British meat producers, it is interesting to refer to article 9, which provides -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertakes that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
Who is to be the judge of whether industries are “ assured of sound opportunities for success “ 1 Undoubtedly the Tariff Board will be asked to determine this important point. Surely those controlling such industries are in a better position than any one else to determine whether they are reasonably assured of success. I now pass on to article 10 which provides that-
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake (hat during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers a full opportunity of reasonable competition-
That is one of the most delightfully vague provisions one could imagine. If it means anything, it is that Australian industries are to be pitted against highly organized industries in Great Britain. No reasonable person would suggest that industries in a country with a population of between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 persons can successfully compete industrially with a country one-third of the size of New South Wales, and with a population, eight times as great as that of the whole of Australia. Not only have the industries of Great Britain become highly industrialized, but their work has been standardized to a degree that would be impossible at present in Australia. The organization of our secondary industries is still in its infancy. The agreement undoubtedly provides that Australian industries are to be pitted against British industries, on what is termed full oppor- tunity of reasonable competition. The article continues - on the basis of relative cost of economical and efficient production.
That is another delightfully vague provision.Who is to determine “ the relative cost of economical and efficient production “ ? Surely the people who invest their money in and control industry are able to do that better than the Tariff Board, or even this Parliament. Yet article 11 seems to confer upon the Tariff Board the power to determine which Australian industries shall be absolutely extinguished, and which shall be allowed to continue their existence with “full opportunity of reasonable competition.” There can be no such thing as “full opportunity of reasonable competition “ between industries which are in their infancy and others which have been established for many years, and are thoroughly organized in every respect. Australian industries will not receive anything like the advantages that British industries will receive under this agreement.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) quoted certain remarks by persons said to represent the textile industries of Australia which seemed to indicate that they were satisfied that Australia would receive benefits under the Ottawa agreement, and that employment would not be affected. I call attention to the following statement by Mr. F. W. Hughes, the vicepresident of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, which appeared in the press yesterday : -
Heeding the urgent entreaties to provide employment, textile manufacturers extended their works under the illusion that an industry so natural to Australia would always receive ample protection. The illusion has been rudely shattered by the recent reduction of about 40 per cent. in the duties on yarns, and about 30 per cent. on woollen textiles. Plans for further extensions must now toe abandoned, together with any hope of increasing employment in the industry.
Those observations throw a different light on the subject.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that the Labour party should not adversely criticize the Ottawa agreement, for it would be to their political advantage if it proved to be a failure. According to the honorable member, those who supported the agreement were prepared to risk the loss of their seats if it proved to be a failure. I suggest that the success or failure of this agreement means infinitely more to Australia than the winning or losing of a few seats in this Parliament. We should not stake individual seats in this House against the well-being of theprimary and secondary industries of Australia. This agreement should be discussed on its merits, and not on its probable effects on the interests of individual members of this House, or particular parties represented here.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I find myself in agreement with certain remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) in regard to the meat industry. I was pleased to hear the honorable member say, in discussing the effect of this agreement on Great Britain, that he was opposed to the raising of price levels by artificial means. In making that statement, the honorable member endorsed a principle which is accepted by all moderate protectionists. One of our grievances against those who advocate extremely high duties is that they favour the bolsteringup of manufacturing costs by artificial means, and so cause substantial increases in the cost of living.
I greatly appreciate the excellent service rendered to Australia by the delegation which represented the Commonwealth at the Ottawa Conference. I deplore the personal criticism of the leader of the delegation, the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). Whether honorable members agree or disagree , with the political views of that right honorable gentleman, they should be prepared to admit that he did the very best he could at Ottawa in the interests of Australia.
– He was a traitor to the country.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) also deserves our commendation for his work. I regret that on account of his excessive labours at the conference, he is now laid aside by illness. It is gratifying that the last reports of the honorable member’s condition indicate that he is rapidly recovering. We may therefore hope soon- to see him back in his place in this House. In my opinion the Australian delegation was the best equipped delegation at Ottawa. This was due almost entirely to’ the preliminary work of the Ministers and departmental officers, who had carefully prepared the basis on which they would negotiate’ with Great Britain arid the other dominions. The able service rendered in this regard by the’ honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) also deserves the hearty appreciation of honorable members of this House. It has already been deeply appreciated by the people of Australia generally. It was due’ to’ the exceptionally fine work of the honorable member in preparing the case that Australia submitted at Ottawa that he’ wa3 able’ to show so clearly the results w’hich might reasonably be anticipated from the treaty.
Before proceeding to discuss the details of the treaty, I shall briefly survey the conditions which led to the necessity for its negotiation. In our modern civilizations people demand a much greater variety of goods to meet their normal demands than did the people of primitive civilizations. In former days, the heeds of the people could be supplied without much knowledge, or the exercise of a very great deal of skill by the individual. In such civilizations, men could themselves produce the great bulk of their requirements j but in these days the provision of the normal needs of people calls into activity a great deal of research, knowledge and skill, for our requirements are both complex and numerous. This has led to the specialisation of individuals and! countries iri those industries which their economic conditions enable them to exploit to the fullest degree. The conditions of certain countries, like the training of certain individuals, are more appropriate for the production of particular commodities than those of other countries and individuals. But there has gradually grown on the part pf many countries a desire to become. what is called self-contained. Since the war, for instance: a spirit of nationalism has been developed and extended to such a degree in many countries that harriers have been erected against the trade and commerce of other countries.- A notable illustration of this is provided by the United States of America,, and the high protectionists of this country often refer with approval to the high protectionist policy of America. I admit that, during the last 80 years, the United States of America has made great progress under a policy of high protection.- But it is surprising that even though, both naturally and economically, that country is the best equipped in the world, to become selfcontained, with, perhaps, the exception of the British Empire, it is grievously affected by Unemployment and the other concomitants of the prevailing world depression. That is the more remarkable when we realize that, even at the peak of its trade prosperity, the United States of America exported less than 10 per cent, of its total production. In the circumstances it should have been possible for* that country to adjust its internal economy to enable it to escape the bad effects of the depression, and prevent unemployment reaching anything like the dimensions it has reached there. But what has occurred is an excellent illustration of the impossibility of any country living independently of the other nations of the world. Because the United States of America and other countries have endeavoured to adopt a policy of trade insularity, there now exists an insistent need to lower the high tariff barriers that have retarded the trade and commerce of the world.
Finding it impracticable to come to reasonable terms with foreign countries, the leaders of the British Empire proceeded to negotiate with the several units of the British Commonwealth of Nations in an endeavour to stimulate trade within the Empire. The result was the Ottawa Conference. While I do not for a moment imagine that the resultant agreement will provide all the benefits that are claimed for it, it is a notable step iri the direction of lowering the tariff barriers that have been limiting our international trade. It must be recognized that only when trade flows freely between one country and another can those concerned enjoy prosperity. Australia and the other dominions were anxious to arrive at a trade agreement with the Mother
Country, because Great Britain is the world’s greatest importer of foodstuffs. As an example, I remind honorable members that our exports go to the Homeland in the following proportions: -
Obviously, if we can retain that market, with a preference over foreign importers to Britain, we shall considerably assist Australian industry. It has been claimed by some honorable members opposite that neither our producers nor Australia generally, will benefit materially from this agreement. I am confident that the benefits that we shall derive from the meat agreement exceed the expectations of those who investigated the matter before our delegates proceeded to Ottawa. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said that there is a glut of meat in Great Britain. The fact remains that since the Argentine, the dominions, and the Mother Country arrived at a mutual agreement in the . matter, press reports indicate that the price of meat has risen by ½d. per lb. at Smithfield. I believe that the 10 per cent, reduction of meat imports into Great Britain will create confidence and have the effect of maintaining, if not raising, existing prices.
There has been a good deal of comment regarding the agreement as it affects wheat. Some honorable members say that, because of the provisions of article 5, it is doubtful whether Australian growers will obtain any advantage. The article reads -
The duties provided in this agreement on foreign wheat in grain, copper, lead and zinc on importation into the United Kingdom are conditional in each case on Empire producers of wheat in grain, copper, lead and zinc respectively continuing to offer those commodities on first sale in the United Kingdom at prices not exceeding the world price.
Much controversy centred about the meaning of that paragraph, particularly the concluding words. Because there is no restriction other than a duty on the importation of wheat into Great Britain, there is no necessity for the Mother Country to insist on the provisions of article 5. Obviously, if dominion producing are not prepared to offer their wheat at world parity, British purchasers may secure their requirements from foreign sources. On the other hand, the preference of 3d. a bushel on dominion wheat will be an incentive to British consumers to buy from us. Even if they c?o buy foreign wheat at world parity, they will have to pay the duty, which gives our product an advantage of 3d. a bushel. In the circumstances, the article is unnecessary, and meaningless so far a.s it affects our wheat sales to Great Britain.
While some honorable members have questioned the concessions granted to Australia by Great Britain, we have heard little about article 4, which reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom undertake that the general ad valorem duty of 10 per cent, imposed by section 1 of the Import Duties Act, 1932, on the foreign goods specified in schedule D shall not be reduced except with the consent of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia.
That is a binding obligation on the British Government, providing that we shall receive a quid pro quo for our concessions to the Mother Country.
We have heard a good deal of talk about articles 9, 10, 11, and 12. I believe that, article 12 is a decided step towards the retardation, and perhaps the reduction, of high tariff barriers. I suggest that, as this Parliament has seen fit to make legislative provision for the appointment of a board to deal with tariff matters, we should be prepared to accept its recommendations. The board has more time and greater facilities than have members of this Parliament for the investigation of the fiscal problems that arise, and its decisions should carry weight with honorable members. In my opinion, article 12 is one of the most important provisions of the agreement, and it should be honoured in both the letter and the spirit. It would be most dangerous - and, no doubt, our attitude would be unacceptable to the British Government - if we did not carry it out in its entirety. Owing to the low prices that we have been receiving for the commodities that we export, we have been given an opportunity to exploit markets in countries which previously have not been in a position to purchase our exports. This fact is demonstrated by our increased trade with the East, mainly Japan and China. As was pointed out in the budget speech, the value of our trade with Eastern countries increased from £14,000,000, in 1929-30, to nearly £18,000,000 in 1930-31, and to £21,000,000 in 1931-32. Since the people of those countries have, during a period of low prices, acquired a liking for such commodities as wheat and wool, they are likely to continue to purchase them in the future. I consider that Australia will find later the present era of low prices to have been of benefit in opening up new markets, and enabling our primary producers to dispose of their commodities with practically no carryover.
On several occasions, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has urged that, owing to the impossibility of selling abroad all the goods that we produce, we should concentrate our efforts upon the development of the local market. His contention, of course, is based on wrong premises, because Australia is one of the few countries that, practically speaking, has uo carry-over of any commodities at the present time. In the last few years, Ave have increased our production in many directions, partly because of favorable seasonal conditions, and partly because the producers have found it necessary to increase their output to compensate them for the low prices obtained. In Brazil, when the coffee producers endeavoured to do what the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) objected to, that is, raise prices by artificial means, they accumulated huge stocks of coffee, and, for the last two or three years, they have been trying to dispose of it, but without great success. We know also the result that attended the operations of the Farm Board in the United States of America, and of the rubber planters in Malaya in attempting to maintain high prices. Large stocks were accumulated to the detriment of not only the local producers, but also those in other parts of the world. Therefore, the system now operating in Australia, under which the producci’3 accept world prices, whatever they may be, should be encouraged, because, ultimately, we shall have the benefit of a clear market when conditions throughout the world improve.
It has been said that no effort was made at Ottawa to obtain concessions from Great Britain for our wool. Since Britain buys only about 30 per cent of our wool, it would obviously have been impossible to obtain a trade arrangement with Britain which would be of much benefit to our pastoralists.
– There is a good carry-over of that commodity.
– Last year it was less than 40,000 bales, probably the lowest figure for the last five years. Between seasons there is usually some wool in store; but the quantity carried over last year was under 40,000 bales, while our total annual production is 2,000,000 bales.. It is most gratifying to those in control of the marketing of our wool that the carry-over is so small.
– We dispose of over 90 per cent, at each sale.
– Last year, Japan bought about 25 per cent, of our total production of wool, and she is our second largest customer. If Australia is prepared to accept world parity for its exportable commodities, it should be able to dispose of them in the markets of the world, even if the production were considerably increased. To the producers of wool, one of the most gratifying features of the agreement is that with regard to certain commodities that are produced in the East and in other countries that are good customers of Australia, there are reservations whereby negotiations may be entered into, and reciprocal agreements made, to the benefit of both such other countries and ourselves. We should do nothing to antagonize our customers. On the contrary, we should do everything possible to remove any impression that we are deliberately shutting the door in their face. Although it has been said that the Ottawa agreement will antagonize other countries, I think that the experience of Great Britain in having already been approached by several other countries which are desirous of entering into most-favoured-nation agreements, shows that those countries realize that the Ottawa agreement is beneficial to them. Such an arrangement will encourage them to buy our products, ami we, in turn, must trade with them. Reciprocity is the keynote of trade.
By lowering the tariff wall that restricts trade, we shall benefit other countries as well as ourselves. Many predictions have been made concerning the probable results of the operation of this agreement. Those honorable members who are new to this House have since their advent to it heard similar predictions concerning other proposals of the Government. When its proposals in regard to tobacco were brought forward, they were strenuously opposed in certain quarters, and it was asserted that they would not only mean the ruin of the tobacco-growing industry, but also a greater degree of unemployment. It is, therefore, gratifying to find that after an experience extending over six or eight months the tobacco-growers are so satisfied with the arrangement that within the last few days a deputation has asked the Government on their behalf to endeavour to renew it on the same basis. That is definite substantiation of the benefits that have accrued from it. Unemployment has not been increased nor production diminished; on the contrary, the Government has been asked to arrange for the purchase by the manufacturers next year of 10,000,000 lb., proving that growers generally are of the opinion that the production in the coming season will be at least equal to, if not greater than, what it was last year.
The experience gained from a fair trial of this agreement may suggest directions in which it would be wise to amend or alter it so as to make it entirely beneficial not only to the producers of this country hut also to the Empire generally. I have much pleasure in supporting the hill. [Quorum formed.]
– It is not my intention to give a silent vote on the bill, because I believe that it affects the interests of Australia to a greater extent than any measure previously introduced in this Parliament, and goes much further than was intended by this Parliament prior to the departure of the Australian delegation for Ottawa.
Article 16 provides that after its ratification the agreement will remain in force for a period of five years. The adoption of that article will thus mean the continuance of the agreement during the life of this and a future Parliament. I feel sure that the members of the Australian delegation exceeded their powers when they agreed to bind, not only this, but also a future Parliament. I am satisfied, too, that the agreement in its present form is not in accordance with the mandate given to the Government by the people at the last election. Further, the adoption of the agreement will result in our fiscal freedom being bartered away. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has made a definite pronouncement of the attitude of the Labour party in relation to article 16. The right honorable gentleman made it clear that when a Labour government i3 again returned to power - which we believe will be the result of the next elections - the agreement will be amended. It is our sincere conviction that it is opposed to the interests of Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has said more than once in this House that the agreement must be adopted as a whole, and that the Government will not even consider any amendment of it. That attitude will not advance the interests of Australia, but will place the people of this country in an impossible position. The agreement violates Australia’s recognized policy of affording protection to all Australian industries.
Articles 10, 11, 12, and 16 are the most objectionable. The first two, in my opinion, should be considered together, because both make provision for the Tariff Board to review the existing tariff without reference to this Parliament. Article 10 goes even further, in that it lays down that the producers of the United Kingdom shall have equal opportunities in competition with Australian manufacturers. That is absolutely wrong in principle, because the effect will be to close down the majority of our manufacturing industries and to throw on the unemployed market many thousands of our people. It has been argued that the proviso to article 10 is a safeguard to Australian industries. That is not so. The proviso in question reads -
Provided that, in the application of such principle, special consideration may be given to the c:ise of industries not fully established.
I claim that when the agreement takes effect, that proviso will be absolutely useless, because those industries which are not already established will be denied the opportunity to reach that stage. I believe that the agreement will destroy not only industries that are not yet fully established, but also many that are now manufacturing on a commercial basis. Article 11 provides that the Tariff Board shall be in duty bound to review generally our existing protective duties, with the object of reducing the rates in accordance with the provisions of article 10. The other day the Prime Minister denied the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that, since the Ottawa Conference was held, many items .in the tariff schedule had been reduced, whereas the party to which I belong knows full well that those reductions of duty took place in conformity with the terms of the agreement arrived at by the Australian delegation at Ottawa. The agreement gives the Tariff Board complete control of the tariff policy of Australia. This Government should not tolerate that position because, after all, the Tariff Board, which is composed merely of public servants, has no authority whatever, and is not responsible to the people. That opinion is held not only by members of the Labour party, but also by quite a number of people outside of this Parliament. The following article on the Ottawa agreement appeared in the Queensland Producer of the 5th October last - a publication which has no connexion or sympathy with the Labour movement -
Not once during the pre-election campaign did Mr. Lyons, Mr. Latham, Mr. Gullett, or any other member of the Federal Government give any clear indication of what its fiscal policy would be. Invariably, they studiously avoided a definite pronouncement on the matter, beyond more or less vague generalizations that they would bo largely guided by the recommendations of the Tariff Board, the electorate had little or nothing to go upon. Although the Government has since tried to convey the impression that the election was fought and won on the tariff issue, there is irrefutable evidence that such was not the cn se, lt. is, no doubt, a matter for extreme gratification to Mr. Lyons and his ministerial coll en giles that the views of the members of the Tariff Board so exactly and conveniently coincide with theirs, and vice versa. Of course, it may be a mere coincidence, but to the impartial observer, it seems rather remarkable that there is such complete unanimity. In any case, it is pertinent to ask if credence should be given to the statement that the Federal Government is guided entirely by the recommendations of the Tarin’ Board, or in actual fact, it is not far more influenced by the known wishes of city interests, and particularly those of “ big business “ and importers generally - interests, it is understood, that make a practice of contributing generously to party funds.
The implication that the recommendations of the Tariff Board should be accepted without question is contrary to common sense, for if this were so, it would mean that the Government had delegated one of its most important functions, namely, that of directing national policy, to a body composed of men who are not responsible to the electors. It is incredible that any such body should be vested with supreme authority to dictate national policy and possess the power of life and death to industry, and it is a severe tax on the credulity to ask us to believe any such thing. The truth is that the “ expert “ inquiries of the Tariff Board merely serve as a smoke screen, and the fiscal policy is determined quite irrespective of the recommendations of the board. Although this is becoming increasingly obvious, the polite fiction is still being maintained. In the circumstances, the attempt of the Government to shelter behind the Tariff Board may be regarded as either an admission of crass ineptitude or moral cowardice.
That article clearly shows that the Government, by allowing the Tariff Board to control the destinies of Australia so far as tariff making is concerned, has exceeded the mandate given to it by the people at the last elections. The primary producers, not only of Queensland, but of Australia generally, are wholeheartedly behind the members of the Labour party in their protest against the delegation to the Tariff Board of a power that should properly remain with this Parliament. Under this agreement, the industries of Queensland will suffer more than the industries of the other States. I refer to the cotton-growing industry, the tobacco industry, the sugar industry, the peanutgrowing industry, the banana-growing industry, the rum-producing industry, and the canned-fruit industry. All of those industries, with the exception of the banana-growing and the tobacco industries, are confined to Queensland, and it appears to me that this Government, in penalizing them under the provisions of the Ottawa agreement, has made a direct attack upon that’ State. The operation of the agreement will undoubtedly bring about the ruin of the banana-growing and the canned pineapple industries. The banana industry is unlike other primary industries because, as you, Mr. Speaker, as a representative of some of the bananaproducing areas of Queensland, well know, the plantations are useless for the growing of other products. They are situated in mountainous country and the holdings average from 10 to 15 acres. These properties will be rendered useless as the result of the operation of the agreement. The majority of the banana-growers of Queensland are returned soldiers, who are endeavouring to make a living on small holdings. For that reason alone, the Government should take effective steps to prevent these men from being driven off the land. The Government’s action in allowing Fiji, bananas to enter Australia is a gross violation of the White Australia policy. As Fiji bananas are grown under black-labour conditions, it is impossible for the Australian growers to compete with the Fijian growers. The wage paid to the Fijian worker is in the vicinity of £24 per annum, whereas that paid to the white Australian worker is 12s. a day or approximately £187 per annum. It is therefore clear that the operation of the Ottawa agreement will bring about not only the ruin of many thousands of banana-growers in Queensland and the northern portion of New South Wales, but also a considerable loss of revenue to the government of those States. Every case in which Australian bananas are packed is made from Queensland timber, and when the banana-growing industry has been practically ruined as the result of the operation of the agreement, the timber industry of Queensland and the shipping and railway authorities of both Queensland and New South Wales will suffer ft loss of revenue. I have with me a statement prepared by the bananagrowers, which shows the number of people engaged in the industry, and their dependants, and the amount of revenue paid each year in freight to the various railways. It reads as follows : -
The number of banana growers in Queensland and New South Wales is approximately 8,000. The dependants of the growers number not less than 10,000, and there are ‘ approximately 3,000 others directly engaged in plantation work, making a grand total of 21,000 persons attached to the. banana industry.
Upwards of 1,000,000 cases are cut from Australian timber and used in the industry each year.
It is estimated that during the next twelve months, the Queensland banana industry will pay in freight to the Queensland railways, £50,000; to the New South Wales railways, £07,000; and to the Victorian and South Australian railways, £17,000, or a total of £134,000.
I assume, of course, that the agreement will be adopted. This being so, bananas from Fiji will, in the near future, be imported to the injury of the bananagrowers of Queensland and northern New South Wales, and the railways revenue of the States mentioned. It is true that the agreement limits the importation of Fiji bananas to 40,000 centals per annum, and those who support the hill argue that such an inconsiderable volume of imports will not materially affect the Australian industry. I do not endorse that opinion. The importation per annum of 40,000 centals of bananas will mean the marketing of 4,000 cases per month, chiefly in New South Wales and Victoria; and as these Will come in at the peak of the Australian season, the market will be glutted, and. prices will be depressed.
– The quantity of Fiji bananas will not be noticed in the Australian market.
– I do not agree with the honorable member ; it will, I believe, seriously prejudice the interests of banana-growers, of Queensland and northern New South Wales. As labour costs in Fiji are much below the Australian standard, the producers in Fiji will be in a favorable position to compete in the Australian market, even with the duty at 2s. 6d..per cental. Therefore, I hope that the Government will take some action to assist the Australian growers, and also to maintain the principle of a White Australia. The compensating advantages arising out of my suggestion would more than offset the advantages to be derived from the trade concessions made, to Fiji. Another Queensland industry which was sacrificed in the bartering at Ottawa is the export trade to Canada of canned pineapples in the interests of the Australian export trade in brandy. The concessions given are greatly in excess of the benefits likely to be derived from the export of Australian products to the Federated Malay
States. Considered by and large, Australia, in this agreement, is giving away practically everything, and receiving nothing in return. There are three rum distilleries in Queensland, and one in New South Wales, but practically the whole of Australia’s requirements are supplied by Queensland. Unfortunately, this industry has also been sacrificed in order to allow the product of the West Indies and other black-labour countries to compete in the Australian market. The agreement, as a whole, is unsatisfactory. If adopted in its present form it will, I believe, practically destroy every Australian secondary industry of importance, and throw many thousands of Australians out of work. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) declare definitely the intention of the Labour party not to be bound by this agreement, when it was returned to power. I intend ‘to support the amendment. If it is defeated, I shall vote against the second reading of thu bill.
.- It is with considerable diffidence that I rise to take part in this debate. The bill relates to what is essentially a trading agreement between the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth of Australia. I am, and all my life ‘ have been, a professional mau, and I have no first-hand knowledge of either primary or secondary production, but I represent a constituency that is vitally concerned in the success of both industries. There is also a large body of my constituents who, though directly associated with neither, are keenly interested in the general prosperity of the country.
At the outset, we should consider what made the Ottawa Conference necessary. It was the existence in our community of a great army of unemployed. I agree with the declaration of the Prime Minister of Great Britain a few days ago, that the problem of unemployment is essentially international ; it cannot be solved until international relations have been equitably adjusted. The extent of unemployment in any country is the measure of its prosperity. If it has no unemployed, it is exceptionally prosperous; the greater the number of unemployed the smaller the degree of prosperity. We were at our wits’ end to find work for our large army of unemployed, and were driven by the sheer exigencies of the situation into an economic conference with the United Kingdom and other dominions, in the hope that together we might devise some means whereby the workless in the various British countries could be absorbed in industry. We entered this conference in good faith. We appointed able and upright men to represent us, and we set them the exceedingly difficult task of making an arrangement with the United Kingdom that would be reciprocally advantageous. I do not agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the task was impossible. It was impossible only if we expected our delegates to arrange an agreement that would satisfy every one. That was not their task.
I have listened with interest and profit to the speeches made on this all-important matter, and I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the debate has been conducted on a high plane. It has, however, been disfigured by. such speeches as those of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who charged our delegates to Ottawa with having “ sold the Commonwealth “ - with having deliberately sacrificed the interests of the Commonwealth to those’ of the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Oxley even complained of the candour of the leader of the delegation (Mr. Bruce) in laying all his cards on the table, the inference being that, like some trickster, the right honorable member for Flinders should have .kept a card up his sleeve to play at the critical moment. Lord Snowden stated in the House of Lords that the delegates to the conference purported to meet as a band of brothers; I believed that they did and that they strove together with the one idea of reaching an arrangement that would be reciprocally advantageous. The attempt upon which these men embarked was one of the greatest adventures in statesmanship of which I know. It seemed almost impossible for men representing such varied and conflicting interests to be able to reach any agreement. The fact that they have done so is matter for astonishment, seeing that even in this House we cannot achieve unity on allimportant national questions. Yet at Ottawa, the delegates were able to arrange an agreement, which, if it does not satisfy every one, should satisfy every reasonable person.
The agreement was made in good faith, and has been submitted to us for consideration.Complaint has been made in certain quarters that Parliament is asked to accept or reject the agreement as a whole. I make no complaint on that score’. Although I am without first hand knowledge ofindustry, I claim to have the intelligence of the ordinary average citizen whom I represent. I am in the position of a juror; I hear the evidence pro and con, and the responsibility for my vote is my own. If I thought that the dire effects which the members of the Opposition have predicted would follow the operation of the agreement, I would, regardless of the fate of the Government, vote against it. The juror in this matter has an exceedingly responsible task, for his decision may be fraught with consequences disadvantageous to the Commonwealth. I have listened to the speeches for and against the agreement, and amongst the former I regard the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) as having reached the high water mark in this debate. He has practical knowledge, wide experience, and great ability, and no man in the House would have the temerity to question his sincerity. The honorable member has assured the Parliament that the agreement will be distinctly to the advantage of the Commonwealth as well as of the Old Country. I listened with special interest to the speech of the the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). A sincere and earnest man, he disapproved of the agreement, and relinquished his position in the Cabinet, prematurely in my opinion. Had he considered the compact a little more deeply and carefully, he would have come to the conclusion that he was not required to make such a sacrifice.
– May I disabuse your mind of that opinion straight away? I knew what the articles were.
– The fiscal views which the honorable member has held all his life are well known, and one would expect to find in his speech reasons for the serious step he took and the sacrifice ha made.
– There is more to come.
– The honorable member’s speech amounted merely to this : -
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.
The reason why I cannot tell.
The honorable member now, by interjection, promises that he will tell us later. We shall be able to consider his further reasons when he submits them, but the statement he has made so far does not justify the serious step he took.
– Is the honorable member questioning the good faith of the honorable member for Maribyrnong?
– No. I am merely saying that if he had taken more time, and had as much information about the agreement before he resigned, as he has now, he might never have considered it necessary to take that step.
– I knew enough to make up my mind.
– I felt that this matter was too important on which to give a silent vote, and I must give my reasons. I confess that I am largely influenced by the opinions of men who have a thorough knowledge of the subject, and whose bona fides cannot be questioned. I must, as a juryman, accept such opinions as evidence, and act upon it. The consensus of opinion among the country representatives in this House is that, so far as country interests are concerned, the agreement will confer benefits. They differ as to the degree of advantage that will accrue to the primary industries, but they all agree that, taken by and large, benefits will be received.
Now, what about the secondary industries? We have been told that the agreement will kill our secondary industries in Australia. On this point I value the opinion of a man like the late Samuel McKay, whose recent death we all deplore. He was one of the greatest industrialists in Australia, a man who was held in the highest esteem by his fellow manufacturers. He went to Ottawa as a consultant to the Australian delegation, to give them the benefit of his mature experience. He left these shores as the vice-president of the Melbourne Chamber of Manufactures, and, in his absence, was elected president of the chamber. Now, he, being dead, yet speaks, and I was profoundly impressed by the message he sent to his friends in Melbourne when a decision had been reached at Ottawa. This message, in effect, was “ The results are all to the good of the primary producers, and the agreement will not harm Australian manufacturers.” That is the expressed opinion of one of the most experienced and most successful manufacturers in Australia.
– Who succeeded under the shelter of the tariff.
– Yes ; I thank my honorable friend for the interjection. His success was won under the shelter of the protectionist policy of Victoria. I remember when his brother, H. V. McKay, as a working blacksmith, was taking his harvester round to the agricultural shows to commend it to the farmers. Behind the protecting shield of Australia’s fiscal policy, he developed his industry from its small beginning to the magnificent concern it is to-day. It does not confine itself to the comparatively narrow limits of the Commonwealth, but its products are sold in open competition in the markets of the world. Surely my honorable friends must admit that I am justified in giving weight to the opinions of such men as these when framing my judgment on this agreement? When a man like Mr. Samuel McKay says that in his opinion the agreement will not injure the secondary industries of Australia, I have, reason to believe that we have nothing to fear from it.
Honorable members will agree with me, I think, that, on this important subject, we ought, every one of us, to be left untrammelled to form his own judgment. We ought to be in a position to give a vote which will be an expression of our opinion, intelligently formed on sufficient evidence. But that is not so, I am sorry to say. This debate has developed into one on the relative merits of freetrade and protection. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) quoted the other night with great approval part of a leader from the Melbourne Age, out, in my opinion, the attitude now adopted by that journal is absolutely unworthy of so influential a newspaperit is attempting to browbeat honorable members of this House. I do not forget the great service the Age has rendered to the secondary industries, and to the cause of protection. David Syme, itsfounder., has been rightly called .the father of protection in Australia, and I had hoped that, at this critical stage in our history, we might have looked to thisjournal to take a lead in fiscal reform^ and show us the way.
– It is showing us the way.
– I animadverted a little while ago upon the unworthy action of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker), and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), when they called in question the bona fides of the leaders of the Australian delegation. The Age, in a leading article, charges our delegates with treachery, with being traitors, with having signed away the fiscal rights of the Commonwealth to our certain hurt. The Age has charged men like the Resident Minister in London and the Minister for Trade and Customs and Mr. Samuel. McKay with being traitors to the country which sent them, to the conference.
– It has said the same thing about the leaders of the Labour party.
– Two wrongs do not make a right. Not only has the Age made that charge, but, speaking of the now famous articles 9, 10, 11 and 12, it says that “ they are of such sinister import as to constitute the focus point for public concern and criticism.” It regards those article’s as the core of the agreement. It goes on to make the following statement, which I heartily resent as a member representing.a great constituency r “‘That member who, through fear of impairing his political prospects, shirks the fight, will stand disgraced in the eyes of the Australian nation.” Of course, shirking the fight, in the opinion of the Age, means yoting for the agreement. That newspaper has said, in effect, that any member of this Parliament who dares to vote for the agreement will stand disgraced in the eyes of the Australian nation. In yesterday’s Age, writing on the last occasion when it would be able to influence votes on this great issue, there appears a paragraph to the effect that members representing industrial centres who dare to vote for the agreement will ibc committing political suicide.
– Honorable members on that side of the House approve when we receive the lash of newspaper criticism, but they do not like to get it themselves.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the statements published in the Age constitute fair criticism, or that its attitude is fair to honorable members who sit here in a representative capacity to exercise their judgment to the best of their ability in settling important questions? Such an attitude by a journal from which one would expect better things makes our difficult task infinitely more difficult.
– That should not be so.
– If a man were not human,, perhaps it would not be so; but, “being human, I contend that it is not fair for honorable members to be told by a great newspaper that if they dare to cast their votes in a certain way they will incur the implacable opposition of that paper, which will do its best to turn them out of public life. Will the honorable member say that, to the ordinary man, that does not constitute a temptation to trim?
We have before us an agreement framed after the most careful investigation by delegates representing all parties, in a sincere desire to reach a decision that would be of mutual ‘advantage to all concerned. The reception accorded to this agreement has been most varied. I have already referred to the opinion of Lord Snowden who, in his second-reading speech in the House of Lords, said that the delegates were supposed to gather round the conference table like a band of brothers, but that the dominion delegates were obsessed with economic nationalism. Messrs. Bruce and Bennett, he said, had brought pressure to bear on the delegates of Great Britain, and forced concessions from them under threat of opening up negotiations with foreign countries. Well, that is his opinion. The opponents of the measure in this country say that the Australian delegates gave away everything to Great Britain; that they were traitors, and sold Australia to the British manufacturers. I prefer to accept the opinions of men like the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) and Mr. Sam McKay as representing respectively the country and manufacturing interests.
Now I look at the agreement itself, and study these offending articles, 9, 10, 11 and 12. What, after all, do they amount to? In article 9 we undertake that we will not accord protective duties to an industry that has not a reasonable prospect of success. What is wrong with that?
– Very well then, we have disposed of that. Article 10, which has given rise to most of the controversy regarding the agreement, does not provide, as the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) suggested, that, the manufacturer in the “United Kingdom will be placed on an equal footing with the Australian manufacturer. Under its provisions, the Commonwealth Government undertakes that during the currency of the agreement, our tariff shall not be raised beyond a level which will give “United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative costs of economical and efficient production.” That means that the Tariff Board, in fixing a duty in respect of any commodity, must consider the conditions which prevail in countries which are competitors of Australia, and take into consideration the effect of our legislation, providing for higher wages and better conditions to workers than obtain in the United Kingdom, on the cost of production in Australia. Having taken these and other things into consideration, the Tariff Board recommends a duty which it regards as being fixed on a reasonably competitive basis. If, despite these handicaps, the manufacturers of the United Kingdom can beat us in our own markets, they have a perfect right to do so.
Let us examine the attitude of the Opposition to this article. During the course of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), I asked the right honorable gentleman whether he thought that Australian manufacturers should be protected against competition from outside Australia. With his usual courtesy, the right honorable gentleman paused to hear and to answer my question. He said that, in his opinion, an industry which had proved that it could produce goods of sound quality at a fair price was entitled to the whole of the Australian market. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) then interjected that, in that case, the industry required no protection. I wonder if the Opposition, as a whole, endorses the view expressed by its leader. If an industry can do the things mentioned by the right honorable gentleman, it will naturally secure the home market. I was not so fortunate with a question which I directed to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). Once he has begun his speech, hat honorable gentleman never stops until he has said his last word. Like some drivers of motor cars, his foot is always on the accelerator. 1 tried a dozen times to get him to listen to my question, but he did not pause. I do not attribute his failure to reply to me to any lack of courtesy, but rather to his inability to stop. I desired to ask him on what principle he would fix a duty if the responsibility were his. I suggest that he would have had some difficulty in answering that question. I was similarly unfortunate in my attempt to direct a question to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). It was remarkable how he accelerated his speech when I interjected. I desired to know from him whether any agreement which might have been entered into at Ottawa would have met with his approval, and I think that, had he answered me, he would have had to answer “ No.” Most honorable members on this side of the House object to being regarded as freetraders. We claim to be “ reasonable” protectionists. We are prepared to protect Australian industries from competition from abroad. The members of the Opposition, on the other hand, in claiming’ the whole of the Australian market for the Australian manufacturer, show that their idea of protection amounts to prohibition, pure and simple. It is absurd to say that we in this Parliament can fix duties at such a level that they will give an opportunity for reasonable competition. Honorable members opposite may ask who else can say what the level should be. I suggest that there is no better way of fixing duties than by making them the subject of a careful investigation by an independent body, such as the Tariff Board. Every speech by Opposition members implies a belief that there is no need for a tariff board, and that Parliament should have the responsibility of fixing duties. What would be the position if there were no tariff board to investigate these matters? Ever fickle, the electors would return one party to power to-day, and another party tomorrow; and each in turn would upset what the other had done in the way of fixing duties. With such a state of affairs, there would be no stability in industry.
– Who suggested anything of the kind?
– That suggestion is implicitly contained in the speeches of Opposition members. Although I do not want to make invidious distinctions, I regard the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) as one of the most thoughtful members of the Opposition. But even he said that our object should be to make Australia selfcontained. I was sorry to hear that sentiment fall from his lips, because I had thought him to be a man with a broader mind. No individual can live to himself, nor can any nation do so. I go’ further, and say that no Empire can live - to itself- r
– Yet that is what the honorable gentleman wishes to bring about.
– I regard this agreement as a step towards not only Empire unity, but world unity/ also ; it is that aspect of it which fascinates me.
The Opposition has objected strongly to article 12, claiming that it means that this Parliament will hand over to the Tariff Board its responsibilities in , tariff matters. It does nothing of the kind. The Tariff Board is the creature of Parliament. By creating it, Parliament merely says that it recognizes its own powerlessness to fix duties as they ought to be fixed, because it has not the facilities, the time, or the ability, to fix them properly. For that reason, Parliament sets up a body of experts whom it can trust to do this work, while reserving to itself the final decision. Parliament is not obliged to accept blindly the recommendations of the Tariff Board; but surely it is not unreasonable to ask that Parliament, in the event of its not accepting the recommendation of a board which has conducted an exhaustive inquiry into an industry and come to a decision as to the measure of protection that ought to be afforded it, should give reasons for rejecting that recommendation.
– This agreement binds Parliament to accept recommendations of the Tariff Board.
– No, only that we shall not impose duties in excess of those recommended by the board. As I have already stated, I’ regard the Ottawa agreement as a great adventure in statesmanship. It required courage on the part of those who came to the momentous decisions which constitute the agreement.
I am reminded that I have only two minutes left. I shall utilize that time to say things that I have been almost afraid to say, because I realize that generally Parliament is not the place in which to say them. I shall, however, speak what is in my mind, namely : that my views on this, and I hope on all questions that come before me are, in the last resort, determined by my religious convictions. I have no desire to preach, or to dictate to my fellow members in any “ I am holier than thou “ spirit ; but I believe, as has been stated recently in one of the monthly letters issued by the National Bank of New York, that the basis of sound economics is the moral law. In other words, the law of economics and the moral law are one and the same. What is really at the root of all the troubles that beset the world to-day? Why is it that every country is facing the same apparently insoluble problem? Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s luncheon a few days ago, the Governor-General spoke somewhat as follows : - “ We have the extraordinary paradox of human want, standing like Tantalus, in the midst of teeming super-abundance, and experts, statesmen, economists, financiers, and all leaders of thought, in spite of their earnestness and patriotism, are unable to elucidate that paradox “. I am reminded also of the words of Mr. Montague Norman, quoted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) the other night - “ It is impossible to get united world action because the difficulties are so vast. The forces are so unlimited, so novel, and precedent so lacking that I approach the whole subject in ignorance and humility. It is too big for me, but I am willing to do my best.” That is the paradox that is facing the world to-day, and one which its wisest men are impotent to solve on purely economic grounds. [Leave to continue given.’] I believe that in saying this I am explicitly stating a thought that is lurking in the background of many minds to-day - that our moral and economic laws are one. We cannot have sound economy unless it is morally sound. The baffling problems which to-day confront the world are the result of the colossal crime of the Great War. Enormous sums have been, and are still being, spent on armaments, every penny of which, as the Attorney-General said in his speech at Bendigo, is strictly uneconomic. How in the name of common sense can we ever build up a sound economic system if we ignore all spiritual considerations? It cannot be done. We are told that the system under which we are living is crumbling. I remind those who advance that contention that it is the man who makes the system, and not the system which makes the man. So long as we have selfish men, we cannot have an unselfish system. The most unselfish system ever conceived would not last, while man remains selfish. It is because nations and individuals are selfish that the trouble that we are facing to-day has arisen. We owe allegiance to our King ; but there is another and higher allegiance - our allegiance to the King of Kings. It is of His Kingdom that we think when we say “ Thy Kingdom come.” It is His will that we have in mind when we say “ Thy will be done.” This invisible kingdom is confined within no geographical boundaries; its citizens are of every nation, and kindred, and people and tongue. His will is their law, the achievement of His great purpose, their supreme aim. It is because I believe that the agreement we are now considering is a step - even though a short and faltering one - in the direction, not only of imperial, but of world unity, that I feel constrained to support it.
Before I conclude I should like to refer to a simple experience of Captain Bertram, the German aviator, when lost in the wilds of north-west Australia, as related by him in an address which he recently delivered in Canberra. Iri the last extremity of weakness, and having abandoned all hope of rescue, he was found by some poor blacks who tended him with the utmost care and kindness, until he was eventually conveyed to the mission station. It was the application of the principles taught these primitive folk by the fathers of a Christian mission which saved these valuable lives. Is it not possible that this simple incident furnishes a clue to the direction in which we must look for a solution of the world’s baffling problems? My own profound conviction is that -
If wc would build anew, and build to stay,
We must find God again, and go His way.
.- When it was suggested by the Prime Minister of Canada in 1930 that an imperial economic conference should be held at Ottawa, Australia and other British dominions became interested, and, when steps were taken to give effect to that suggestion, other countries began to wonder to what extent they would be involved. Australia began to consider what concessions it could give, and generally on what basis Great Britain and the dominions could enter into reciprocal trade agreements. Later it was decided that the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) should represent Australia at that conference. It was the intention at that time that these two gentlemen should be our only representatives, but the members of the Country party suggested to the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and to the right honorable member for Flinders that they should co-opt the services of other representatives, who should be attached to the delegation in an advisory capacity, but with a status which they would not otherwise possess. I am glad to- say that the suggestion made by the Country party, which met with some hostility at the outset, was afterwards adopted. That it was a wise suggestion is shown by the ‘fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs, in moving the second reading of this bill, referred to the assistance the Australian delegation had received from those who acted in an advisory and honorary capacity. Since primary production represents 97 per cent, of our total exports, the Country party speaks on behalf of those who, in the main, would receive benefit from any expansion of our overseas trade. Although that party is concerned with what may be termed sectional interests, its members regarded the conference from a wider view-point. For some time the Country party has had an extension of inter-Empire trade, which was the object in view in convening the Ottawa Conference, as a plank of its platform. While the conference was proceeding, very little information of value was received from the representatives of the Australian. Press Association. After the conference had concluded, it was said that there had not been any bargaining. Honorable members have, I think, now realized that definite bargaining did occur. The Minister for Trade and Customs said that Australia’s representatives granted concessions in return for certain concessions demanded of Australia. It has been suggested that the concession granted with respect to Fiji bananas was given to enable Australia to receive consideration in other directions. Quorum formed.’] Bargaining was resorted to, but possibly it was done in committee, and not during the plenary sittings. The only authentic information received was that contained in the press immediately after the agreement had been signed on the 20th August. On the 22nd of that month the Australian press published certain details which were most confusing. An official statement attributed to the leader of the Australian delegation was cabled to Australia. It consisted of seven paragraphs, Nos. 2 and 3 of which read -
Ottawa which conflicts with Australia’s’ existing policy.
That statement lias a peculiar sound, to me. Paragraph 5 reads -
It will be seen from these two extracts from his official statement that the leader of the Australian delegation stressed twice in seven short paragraphs that Australia’s tariff policy has not been altered in any way in consequence of the decisions of the conference, for such alterations as have been made would have been made even had the conference not been held. Why then did we send delegates to Ottawa, and why did so many business organizations incur the expense of sending representatives there? Again, how, in such circumstances, can it be said that the Ottawa Conference is a milestone in the economic life of both Australia and the Empire?
It is most unfortunate for us that neither the leader of our delegation nor his right hand man, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), is here to give us his help and advice in the discussion of this agreement. Like other honorable members, I greatly regret the illness of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and hope that he will enjoy an early convalescence and a rapid recovery of his full health and strength. But it is undoubtedly unfortunate that this measure must be passed through this House in1 his absence. It is regrettable also, that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), who had so much to do with the preparation of the case for Australia, is able to participate in this debate only as a private member. I, with other honorable members, listened with great interest to his speech last week, and he was able to enlighten us on many points ; but it must be remembered that a good deal has transpired in the Cabinet since he left it.
The Ottawa Conference lasted for a considerable time. Apparently, great difficulty was experienced in reaching an agreement on certain points. Yet it has been suggested that this conference is only the prelude to a world economic conference. In view of the fact, as pointed out by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), that “a band of brothers” found such great difficulty in arriving at a common understanding, I cannot see any prospects of the holding of a successful world economic conference. Recent happenings in the United States of America, for instance, make the prospects of such a conference less favorable than ever. Three things may come out of the American presidential election which will be of interest to Australia and the outside world. Prohibition, which was an emergency wartime measure that apparently was incapable of bearing the strain of peace time, will probably be abandoned. That will perhaps indirectly affect Australia and all other countries. But two other outcomes of that election will directly affect this country and also the Ottawa agreement. We may expect, in the first place, a downward revision of the American tariff, and in the second place, signs have appeared in the sky for some time which indicate that the United States of America may go off the gold standard. President Hoover announced some time ago that America had been within a fortnight of doing so at one stage. If America goes off the gold standard our fiscal relations with her will be very much benefited. If she lowers her tariff barriers our position under the Ottawa agreement may be vitally affected. As things are to-day, it certainly does not appear that a world economic conference is likely to be successful.
The Prime Minister has told us that we must accept this agreement in toto. The Government will not agree to any amendment of it. The Government is entitled to make such a decision; but I do not think that it was wise to do so. I can see uo difference in principle between this bill, which provides for the ratification of an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom, and a bill which provides for any thing that must be agreed to by the two Houses of this Parliament. The principle, I say, is the same. When a bill introduced into this House has been passed, it goes to the other chamber, and becomes law if that chamber agrees to it. But if it is amended in the other chamber, the concurrence of this chamber is sought. I cannot see why, if we suggest amendments to the Ottawa agreement by ‘amending this bill, the concurrence of the Government of the United Kingdom could not be sought and obtained. There is no justification for the Government saying “We ask you to ratify this agreement, but you must not alter it.” In other words, the Government is saying to us that this is to be regarded as a fail accompli. The Government has, on several recent occasions, in my opinion, usurped the powers of Parliament in this way. We should be permitted to alter this agreement if wo desire to do so. The Government could then seek the concurrence of the United Kingdom in such alterations.
When the bill reaches the committee stage, I intend to move for the deletion of the provision granting concessions to Fiji in relation to bananas. If such an amendment were passed, the concurrence of the Government of the United Kingdom could be sought and, I believe, it could probably be obtained. In my opinion there is absolutely no difference in principle between the making of amendments to this bill which would require the concurrence of the Government of the United Kingdom and the making of amendments to any other hill which would require the concurrence of the other House of this legislature.
Many of the important subjects discussed at Ottawa received very little attention, while many other subjects, quite as important as those which were discussed, were entirely overlooked. It appears to me that very little attention was given to the proposal for an Empire currency. It is true that a statement on that subject was issued from Ottawa, but it was vague in its terms. I candidly confess that I did not understand it thoroughly, and I doubt whether anybody else did. But since then we have heard nothing more on the subject. As honorable members know, currency goes to tho heart of our general financial condition. It is amazing to me that it received so little attention at Ottawa. Another sub- ject which surely must have been discussed, but on which no declaration was made, is Empire shipping. An arrangement has been made to promote trade among the constituent parts of the Empire, but no provision has been maderequiring the use of British shipping in such trading. I think that arrangementsshould have been made for all our cargoesto be carried on British bottoms. Wehave heard something in this House recently about the Matson line and its business in Australia. Surely that was a subject that might have received attention at Ottawa; but apparently it wasentirely avoided. I sincerely regret that some arrangement was not reached on twosuch vital subjects as Empire currency and Empire shipping.
A good deal of attention has been focussed during this discussion on the meat agreement that was made with the United Kingdom. Of course, the delegates of the meat-producing countries of the Empire, like the delegates of the -United Kingdom, were in a very difficult position in dealing with this industry. As we all know the catch-cry “A free breakfast table” has sounded throughout Great Britain for many years. The intentions of the Ottawa Conference in regard to meat are specifically stated. It is evidently the desire of those concerned to raise the price of this commodity for the benefit, first, of the producers of the United Kingdom and then of the dominions. The subject is a thorny one, and I am glad that an arrangement has been arrived at, but, judging from the statement made by the Prime Minister last week, it has already been varied. Apparently the Ottawa delegates did not deal with the subject exhaustively enough. In spite of the remarks of the Honorable W. Angliss, apropos the meat agreement, I candidly admit that I entertain a good deal of doubt as to the outcome so far as Australia is concerned.
The remarks of Mr. W. R. Carpenter, chairman of directors of W. R. Carpenter Limited are also of interest. Mr. Carpenter indicated that middlemen, in offering a price for copra, take into account the degree of preference that has been given to the different units of the
British Commonwealth of Nations. I am of the opinion that that is likely to happen in regard to other commodities, for instance, butter. It is quite conceivable that our producers will not receive the full benefit of the 15s. per cwt. preference, but that a big proportion of the amount will be absorbed by middlemen. The market can be manipulated in such a way as to nullify any such preference. It is significant that the prevailing price for Australian butter in London is about 92s. a cwt., with a downward tendency. That is the lowest figure for many years, I really think that the 15s. per cwt. preference will not afford our producers the advantage they hope for.
– It will mean that 15s. per cwt. will be paid on Danish butter, and that this money will go into the British Treasury.
– I am inclined to agree with the honorable member. That 15s. per cwt. is less than what it costs us to market our butter in Great Britain. Of course, our producers will have the advantage of the exchange.
To gain full advantage from their exports to Great Britain, Australian producers will have to remedy faults of the past with respect to methods of marketing. I have been told of many occasions on which resentment has been aroused in Great Britain by the faulty marketing of Australian goods. We do not appear to possess a marketing “ sense.” Only a couple of days ago, Mr. Tout, chairman of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, who accompanied the Australian delegation to Ottawa, made some trenchant remarks on the faulty methods employed in marketing our meat in Great Britain. As every honorable member who has studied the subject knows, these have been unsatisfactory for years, and the remarks of Mr. Tout come as a timely warning.
In to-day’s press there appears a report of a statement made by the chairman of the Casino Co-operative Dairying Company complaining that Australian butter is marketed in Great Britain under a variety of trade names. There is no really recognized Australian butter except the “ Kangaroo “ brand. This Government brand is superimposed on a multiplicity of private brands. It is quite easy for traders to blend different varieties, with the result that Australian butter loses its characteristics. Danish and New Zealand butter producers take every care to establish the identity of their product, and “ LUR “ brand Danish butter is known throughout Britain. This is of enormous assistance to the Danish butter industry.
The announcement has been made that arrangements are practically completed for the appointment of Australian trade representatives in Great Britain and elsewhere. I hope that those selected will be well-known and well-trained men from the commercial world, not Government officials. Our trade representatives should be given an official status, which will assist them in their efforts. [Quorum formed.] If Australia is to market only one brand of butter in Great Britain, there must be greater uniformity among the States in regard to the percentage of the choicest grades. Last’ year, New South Wales exported 82.18 per cent, of choicest butter, and although I have no wish to make odious comparisons, the percentage of thi3 grade from some of the other States was disgracefully low.
– Unfortunately, the second class butter was bringing as much as the choice butter in Great Britain last year.
– Had the average of choice butter been greater, we would have got an average better price. I urge the Minister for Commerce to endeavour to induce the exporters in the other States to increase their percentage of choicest butter; otherwise we shall not obtain the full benefit on the British market of having a single Australian brand, or of the 15s. per cwt. preference, and the manipulators of the market will have an excuse for reducing the net price to the producers. In Great Britain, preference is given in some cases by means of a quota, and. in others by a definite preferential duty. Particulars of the practice to be followed in Britain were cabled to Australia immediately the butter agreement had been signed, and were published in the press on the 22nd August. Mr. Osborne, who was attached to the Australian delegation, discussing the effect of the agreement upon the butter industry, said that he considered the result “ satisfactory, but not up to expectations.” He added -
Our application was for a duty of 2d. per lb.; now the duty is fixed at 15s. a cwt. This will be more favorable to Australia and New Zealand, if prices fall, than a percentage duty. It was disappointing that our application for quantitative restriction upon foreign importation was not entertained, but on this matter grave doubts were expressed whether it would not involve a dangerous precedent which might eventually act to the detriment of the dominions by applying the same principle to dominion products. The danger was realized at our first meeting here when British farmers intimated that they would support restrictions, but wished it to be distinctly understood that if at any time the dominions sent into Britain such large quantities as resulted in the prices of British products being brought below the cost of production, they would want restrictionsapplied to the dominions also.
Butter men were forging a two-edged sword, one edge being used to-day to cut off the foreigner, while the other edge might be applied to-morrow to out off dominion supplies. We pressed for restriction as a temporary expedientto meet the existing glut of supplies, not as a permanent measure. The opinion in New Zealand circles is that the butter settlement is far from satisfactory, and must be regarded as a temporary arrangement.
Except with regard to bananas from Fiji, the Government is implementing the agreement by increasing the foreign duties, and allowing the British duties to stand as at the present time. The right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), the leader of the Australian delegation, commenting on the results of the Ottawa Conference, said -
The success achieved had been due largely to Mr. Bennett’s guidance. He believed they had made some contribution towards the restoration of the prosperity of the Empire and the whole world. They had carried out the negotiations on a basis of trying to promote mutual trade, not placing barriers around themselves. They were aiming at lowering barriers, and promoting freer interchange of goods. It was the great thing that had emerged from the conference.
If the great result that has emerged from the conference is a lowering of tariffs, the Commonwealth Government, under this bill, is apparently going in the opposite direction to that indicated by Mr. Bruce the day. after the agreement was signed. I am in agreement with Mr. Bruce that tariff barriers should be lowered. I understand that an amendment will be moved, at a later stage, to give effect to that principle, and I shall have pleasure in supporting it. I have mentioned that I propose to submit in committee an amendment providing for the deletion from schedule G of the reference to Fiji bananas. I recognize, however, thatthe agreement, generally, confers considerable benefits upon the Australian primary producers, particularly those engaged in the dairying industry in the production of butter, cheese, condensed milk, milk powder and casein. I am afraid that I shall have to accept the duty on separators; but I strongly object to the preference on Fiji bananas.
I was rather chary about article 5, which states -
The duties provided in this agreement on foreign wheat in grain, copper, lead and zinc on importation into the United Kingdom are conditional in each case on Empire producers of wheat in grain, copper, lead and zinc respectively continuing to offer those commodities on first sale in the United Kingdom at prices not exceeding theworld price.
The explanation given by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), however, seemed to clear up that matter. Article 10 provides that during the currency of the agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production. I draw particular attention to the words “ economical and efficient.” If the condition is observed, there will be nothing to fear from any alteration that may be made by the Tariff Board. I definitely disagree with article 12, which provides that no new protective duties shall be imposed, and no existing duties shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendations of the tariff tribunal.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- I support this agreement, because I am of the opinion that the advances made by the British Government to the dominions are marked by sincerity, and that those of the dominions to the British Government are based on a genuine desire to grapple with the difficulties in which the world is situated. Some honorable members suspect that the United Kingdom is endeavouring to obtain advantages at the expense of her dominions. Such a tendency is not observable in the history of either the Old Country or her dominions. The bulk of the English and the Australian people are so closely knit by ties of blood that any treaty entered into between them must lead to commercial unity, and point to the world a way out of the problems that confront it. Australia’s difficulties can be overcome only by acting in concert with the other nations of the world. 1 am not prepared to subscribe to the doctrine that the higher you build tariff barriers, and the more self-contained you make your own country, the more prosperous you become. The strongest evidence in refutation of that contention is to be found to-day in the United States of America, which country, for many years, has erected tariff barriers that other nations have been unable to surmount, but which, at the present time, is in a more depressed condition than Australia has ever experienced. I submit, therefore, that the causes of the ‘depression are fundamental, and cannot be assigned to the effects of either protection or freetrade. When nations wish to trade with each other there must be give and take on both sides in any commercial agreement that is entered into. The great Ottawa Conference was a genuine experiment designed to assist in solving the problems of the world. Honorable members will recall that before the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) left Australia, he declared that unless some nation gave a lead, considerable difficulty would be experienced in finding a way out of the depression. The trouble is that all the nations have been waiting for one of their number to lead the way. Great Britain has always been in the van in pointing a way to liberty, happiness, and peace. She has always been the protector of the smaller nations. The consolidation of commercial interests, by reciprocal agreements such as that which we are discussing, is a step towards the rehabilitation of the world.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– The opposition to this agreement in the Old Country comes from the discredited political party led by
Lord Snowden. One cannot have better evidence of the good “ faith of England than is furnished by the fact that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, probably the leading Labour man in the Old Country, has succeeded in welding together different political groups, and now has a majority such as has never been experienced previously in the history of England. It is a discredited party in Australia which incited the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) to ask questions concerning the accuracy of the statement that the right honorable member for Flinders threatened that if an Empire agreement were not come to he would enter into agreements with foreign nations. Those who are acquainted with the right honorable member would never credit him with making such a suggestion to the leading statesman of the world. Only a diseased mind would promulgate and perpetuate an idea of that sort in a country like Australia, where the right honorable member for Finders is so well known. Who are the men who, in this country, are opposing this agreement? They are members of the legitimate and the illegitimate Labour movement.
– Tell us something about the bill.
– I wish honorable members to understand that, the opposition to the agreement in this House is not dictated by an honest and a true desire to’ deal with the depression, but is actuated by prejudice and a wish to cast a stigma upon those who, in the making of it, served this country honorably and well. A stubborn resistance to the agreement is practically confined to those who were discredited when the last appeal was made to the people. The statements of a man like Mr. Ramsay MacDonald are more worthy of acceptance than are those of Lord Snowden.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I warn honorable members in the corner that they must not continue derisively to interject “ hear, hear “, and that they must cease interjecting.
– Mr. Ramsay MacDonald says -
The delegates went to Ottawa charged with the duty of coining to agreement with the dominions, and not letting the conference break down. They had to say, “ We know well that this conference, if successful, can only result in tariffs, and things we call foodstuffs will have to be included somehow ‘>. All’ that we have done is to put up the stillest fight possible, in order that these tariffs shall be as advantageous as possible to this country.
The newspaper paragraph from which I make that quotation goes on to say -
Mr. MacDonald appealed to tlie House to carry out the agreements in the most generous spirit, and appealed to tlie dominions to show the same spirit in applying the agreements to their own position.
We should listen to the Prime Minister of England when he appeals, not only to the House of Commons, but also to the dominions, to treat this agreement in a generous spirit, knowing that its only object is to attempt to cure the difficulties from which we are suffering to-day. He has led the Labour movement in Great Britain for many years, and is an outstanding figure in it; and he gives the agreement his benediction in no uncertain terms. The Hon. Neville Chamberlain whose opinion I shall also quote belongs to a different school of political thought in the Old Country. The Chamberlain family, as we know, have been protectionists. No one would suggest that Great Britain is erecting a high tariff wall; as a matter of fact it is a very low one, designed to enable her to differentiate between her dominions and foreign nations. I have not the slightest doubt that when this agreement has been confirmed and given effect, those nations will seek favored nation treatment from the Old Country, with the result that an impetus will be given to trade and commerce. There can be no prosperity unless the nations trade with one another. Without trade and commerce, wages cannot be paid or profits be made, and the unemployed problem cannot be solved in either this or any other country. I believe that the Ottawa Conference forms the basis upon which the nations of the world may come to a common understanding. The report of Mr. Chamberlain’s speech in the House of Commons reads–
Mr. Chamberlain declared that if the process of the Ottawa conference resulted- in increased prosperity of a United British Empire, then that was the greatest contribution which the Empire could make towards the restoration of the prosperity of the world, and was bound to bring community of thought and action on other matters. The conference, he said, had resulted in a better understanding by the different members of the Empire of one another’s difficulties.
The Daily Telegraph, commenting on Mr. Chamberlain’s attitude, said -
Mr. Chamberlain is convinced, like the rest of the world, that Ottawa will do much to deepen the channels of Empire trade, some of Which are getting choked.
When two schools of political thought in the Old Country agree on an issue like this, it behoves honorable members of this House to think seriously before trifling with, or discarding the agreement. I do not believe that the Australian people will stand behind any party that seeks to destroy it. I hope that the members of this House will view this issue as it was viewed by the Prime Minister of GreaBritain (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) and by the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Lyons) - that this is one of the united efforts a united people must make in order to rehabilitate their country. I would rather accept the advice of a Prime Minister who represents Labour in Great Britain than that of tlie Leader of the Opposition who represents Labour in this country. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking on this bill, I had occasion to make an interjection which I was compelled to withdraw. He was at that time making the following reference to the Tariff Board : -
Hitherto, the Tariff Board’s duties were twofold - to protect Australian industries, and to safeguard Australian, consumers. Now Ottawa had imposed upon the board a third duty - to watch the interests of British manufacturers in the Australian market. Industries established in Australia, employing Australian workers, were to receive no advantage against British competitors.
Most honorable members will admit that the right honorable gentleman, in making that statement, was biased in his view, and that it was beyond his capacity tn view the agreement fairly. His opposition to the agreement is based on party considerations. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) suggested that an imperial economic committee composed of manufacturers and producers of the Empire should be set’ up with a view to the further development of Empire trade. Surely the right honorable member must admit that the Ottawa Conference was attended by men representing every department of trade, commerce and industry in Australia. In fact, so many were the representatives of the interests of this country at the Ottawa Conference, that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) at that time suggested the chartering of a special vessel to convey them overseas.
I was pleased to read that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) approves of the agreement. He was reported in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald as follows : -
The advantages that were being given by Australia to the United Kingdom were outweighed by the advantages that the United Kingdom was giving to Australia.
It was very gratifying to me to read such an honest and fair opinion of the agreement. Among those who represented Australia at the conference were Mr. H. W. Osborne, who represented the dairying interests; Mr. R. W. Knox, of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce; Mr. Angliss, the representative of the meat interests; and Mr. Tout, of the Graziers Association. The last-named, who is one of the leading members of the Country party, said, on his return from the conference, that a good agreement had been arrived at, and that this country would be wise to adopt it. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has discussed the concession on meat. If the meat producers of the Old Country are in difficulties, in regard to meat production, will that honorable member say that the British Government is unreasonable in seeking to protect them by imposing a slight restriction on the importations of meat? Instead of being accused of seeking to harm the meat industry of Australia, the British Government should be commended for the action it has taken in the best interests of its own meat producers, at the same time giving Australia the best terms possible in respect of our meat exports.
If there are any anomalies in this agreement, which prove to be detrimental or injurious to any one dominion, there will undoubtedly be a unanimous desire on the part of all the units of the Empire to rectify them. Those honorable members who throw doubts upon the honesty and integrity of the British statesmen who took part in the framing of this agreement, do it either from pre- judice or from a lack of understanding of the British spirit that dominates all sections of the Empire.
Honorable members have freely discussed articles 9, 10 and 11 of the agreement, and much has been said about the power which the agreement confers upon the Tariff Board. When investigating the conditions of an industry it is much better in the interests of the country that a body of business men should take evidence from both sides and then make recommendations with respect to the measure of tariff protection that should be given to it, than that a minister should impose an additional tariff, after having received deputations and having had influences brought to bear upon it, but without having received from both sides in the industry full information as to its conditions. That the people believed that the previous Government had betrayed this country when it imposed increased tariffs without consulting the Tariff Board, was clearly proved at the last election when they decided that Labour was no longer fit to occupy the treasury bench. Only an expert body of business men, trained to take evidence, and to weigh the pros and cons of argument, is able to frame an effective and efficient tariff. One of the leading merchants of Sydney took me into his office, and showed me the evidence that he had recently given before the Tariff Board, to the effect that owing to the tariff policy of the previous Government which did not have the advice of the Tariff Board, the landed cost of an article worth 13s. in the Old Country was £2 8s. Id., while the locally-manufactured article is sold wholesale at 18s.
– The previous Government did not take the advice of the board.
– Not only that, in some cases it did not seek it. Nothing could be more dangerous to a community than the action of a body of politicians in attempting to frame a tariff policy without seeking the advice of men trained in trade, commerce and industry. The members of the previous Government had neither the ability nor the knowledge to frame an efficient tariff, and their attempt to do so brought disaster to Australia. I see no danger in allowing the
Tariff Board to frame the tariff policy of this country. It may be necessary to enlarge its numbers to enable it to undertake that work. Tariff making should bc outside the control of party considerations.
– Does the honorable member contend that the officers of the Trade and Customs Department are not in a position to advise Ministers?
– I do.
– Then the honorable member knows nothing of the Trade and Customs Department.
– Without casting any reflection upon the officers of the Trade and Customs Department, let me say that it is not their duty to decide the relative values of a tariff. My experience of public servants is that they are not trained in the school of business and commerce. They enter the Service early in life, and gradually improve their positions, but they have little or no contact with business. I know quite a number of business men who have failed to understand the interpretation of certain descriptions placed upon goods by the customs officers, and they have had to produce evidence that certain materials that were being held up because of being declared to come under one classification, really came under another classification. The customs officers have to depend upon their intercourse with business men before they can obtain a true indication of the value and classification of goods.
– Does the honorable member agree with the system of appointing a member of the Trade and Customs Department as chairman of the Tariff Board?
– That depends on the qualification of the official concerned. I do not for a moment suggest that senior officers in the Customs Department are incapable of understanding tariff problems, but I say definitely that a public servant, being under the authority of a Minister, is the wrong man to advise any government regarding its tariff policy. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh had ha<l any experience in business he would realize the importance of differentiating between items in a schedule so as to declare the sections to apply to goods; he would know also that to do this efficiently it is necessary to take expert evidence from the industries concerned. I, therefore, say that the Government is warranted in selecting the best available men to constitute the board. The Scullin Government, of which the honorable member for Hindmarsh was a supporter, ignored the board entirely, fearing possibly that it would make recommendations which the Government did not intend to adopt. During its term of office it increased the duties on 531 tariff items and sub-items. Of this number, the duties on 452 items were increased for protective purposes, 72 for revenue purposes, and 7 for Canadian preference purposes. References by the Scullin Government to the Tariff Board covered 222 items and sub-items. We are in our present position because previous governments did not attempt to deal with trade reciprocity proposals in a business-like way, and the only safe course now is to entrust these important issues to business men.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has referred to the position of Queensland primary industries under this agreement. I doubt that we can take seriously the representatives in this chamber from Queensland. Some time ago they predicted disaster for the tobacco-growers following an arrangement made by this Government with the British-Australasian Tobacco Company. They have spoken in similar terms of the sugar industry because of the more recent alteration of the sugar agreement. Last year the honorable member for Kennedy told’ us that, very shortly, there would be a vast increase in the number of unemployed in Queensland, because the tobaccogrowers would be on the dole. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) also objected to tlie Government’s proposals with regard to the tobacco industry, but apparently he has realized that his fears were unfounded, for only the other day, when introducing the deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), he, in effect, shook hands with the right honorable gentleman and admitted that the Government had done the right thing; that the interests of the tobacco-growers could safely be left in the hands of this Government. I entirely agree with him and declare further that, under this agreement, the sugar industry will be safe and the banana-growers of Queensland and Northern New South Wales need have nothing to fear. We produce annually 1,550,000 cases of bananas. Under the agreement it is proposed to admit at a reduced duty about 50,000 cases of Fiji bananas. Can it be contended seriously that the introduction of these 50,000 cases will seriously prejudice the interests of the banana growers of this country? It was said, some time ago, that opposition to the views of the tobacco growers would be remembered when next candidates were before the electors in Queensland. Possibly some Queensland members are, for the same reason, uneasy about the alteration of the sugar agreement. If they are, they should take courage from the fact that it was approved by the Labour Government of Queensland after the growers themselves had accepted it.
Let me put to the representatives from Queensland the other aspect of this concession to Fiji. Australian exports to Fiji in 1931 amounted to £372,000, whereas our imports from Fiji amounted to only £34,000. Obviously, if we are to retain our trade advantage, some concession must be made. I am entirely sympathetic with our primary producers, and believe that their welfare should be safeguarded to the fullest extent, but I doubt that certain members of the Country party in this House really represent country interests. Not long ago, they demanded concessions from the Government at the point of the pistol, so to speak, but subsequent events have proved that this Government’s policy for the encouragement and protection of primary production is sound, and is showing good results right throughout the Commonwealth. Members of the Country party dare not vote against this agreement, which will do so much to encourage trade reciprocity between the Commonwealth and Great Britain, and between the Commonwealth and the sister dominions. The people of Australia have good reason to thank this Government for having successfully steered the country clear of the shoals and difficulties that beset it when it took office. On no occasion has it proved unworthy of the trust reposed in it and in its supporters.
.- I preface my remarks by saying that, in common with other honorable members, I regret exceedingly the illness of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), and I hope that he will speedily regain his good health. As the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Lane) has had something to say about the attitude of the tobacco growers in Queensland, I may be permitted to make some observations under this heading. The following is a copy of a telegram received a few days ago by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) from the North Queensland Tobacco Growers Association: -
This association definitely opposed agreement with tobacco manufacturers for renewal of two and threepenny average price coming seasons tobacco.
The following letter was sent to the Prime Minister from the same association : -
Mareeba, North Queeusland. 2nd November, 1932.
It is noted that on October 19th last, you received a deputation consisting of eighteen members of Parliament and representatives of tobacco growers’ organizations, who requested you to arrange for the purchase by the manufacturers of 10,000,000 lbs. of the coming season’s tobacco at an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb.
This association is representative of a very large number of growers in the most important tobacco area of Queensland, and I am directed to convey to you the fact that at our annual meeting held on the 26th October last, a unanimous resolution was passed to the effect that the growers of this district are definitely opposed to a renewal of this 2s. 3d. agreement.
It is apparent that this arrangement only represents a camouflage pool, and I am directed to draw your attention to the fact that all representatives at the recent Brisbane conference of tobacco growers were definitely opposed to anything in the nature of a pool.
It is certain that during the past season Queensland’ as a whole, and more especially North Queensland, was unduly penalized by the average price agreement then operative. The grower here received nothing on account of the higher average grade of his product, and it is on these grounds that our objection is based.
This association has to request that you will defer any arrangements with manufacturers at the 2s. 3d. price until such time as the full views of Queensland have been placed before you, as it is our intention to have this matter dealt with at the next meeting of the tobacco growers committee appointed by the recent’ Brisbane conference.
We feel certain that you will give this question the attention it deserves in conjunction with the special quality ‘> consideration to which North Queensland is entitled.
That letter does not support the statement of the honorable member for Barton that the tobacco-growers are satisfied.
Those who have spoken in support of the agreement have emphasized the desirability of Parliament being guided by a disinterested body known as the Tariff Board. Having regard to the nature of some of the board’s reports, I am not content to be entirely guided by that authority. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) referred to the Tariff Board’s report on the manufacture of Diesel engines by Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, and a member on the Ministerial side interjected that that firm was engaged principally in assembling, and actually imported 30 per cent, of the vital parts used in construction. That interjection was based on tlie Tariff Board’s summary of evidence, paragraph 2 of which reads -
The available Australian market is too small to permit of economical local manufacture.
Only one Australian manufacturer - Walkers Limited - is endeavouring to meet Australian requirements. That company finds it .necessary to import a large proportion of vital parts, approximately 30 per cent, of the total value of the engine. The company’s business is, therefore, more in the nature of assembling than manufacturing.
The existing duties have not only failed to establish the Australian industry, but have increased costs and have prevented the installation of many contemplated plants, thereby obstructing the sale of other Australian manufactures which would have gone into the completed plant.
Mr. H. S. Goldsmith, general manager of Walkers Limited, in the course, of his evidence before the board, stated - ,
The percentage of imported material, according to weight, used in the manufacture of engines turned out up to date have been -
On a basis of value the percentages have been less.
That is a. direct contradiction of the Tariff Board’s summary. If all the reports of that body are equally mislead- ing, this. Parliament will need to be careful about accepting its advice in regard to the protection of Australian industries.
– I am content to quote the evidence of the general manager of the firm; the honorable member may look up the evidence on the other side. According to the Ottawa agreement, the Tariff Board is to supersede this Parliament in the determination of the duties to be applied to imports from the United Kingdom. If the board’s report on Diesel engines is typical of its capacity to assess evidence and place facts before this Parliament, I shall be very reluctant to take notice of its recommendations. But, apparently the Government does not intend to carry out all the recommendations of the board. When the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was speaking, I asked by interjection whether he would accept 100 per cent, of the board’s recommendations, and he replied, “ Certainly not.”
– We shall accept the board’s reports as a guide.
– But the agreement provides that the board’s recommendations shall be final and binding on this Parliament.
– I draw attention to the following articles :-
It is there clearly provided that Parliament shall not impose on imports from the United Kingdom duties in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– No, but Parliament may impose lower duties than are recommended.
– I shall not consent to this Parliament forgoing its right to protect Australian industries in excess of the recommendations of the board.
In regard to the sugar industry, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) in moving the second reading of the bill, said -
The Sugar position was not changed at Ottawa. Prior to April last all Empire sugar was accorded preference, the rate varying with the degree of polarization. The effective rate on Australian sugar was about £3 12s. -a ton. Honorable members will recall that in April last the British Government reduced by £1 a ton the duty on sugar from the colonies. At the conference we joined with the South Africans, and with representatives of British beet sugar interests, in a sustained effort to have this additional preference made applicable also to sugar from the dominions. Our effort was not successful. The British delegation pointed out that the public finances of the sugar-growing Crown colonies were in a very bad way owing to the depression, and the Government and taxpayers of the United Kingdom * were in the last resort obliged to meet the deficiencies. The additional £l preference on colonial sugar was in reality an indirect grant in aid to the colonies from the British taxpayer, as an alternative to a direct subsidy. The extra concession was a temporary one only, until the colonial financial position improved.
The preference ruling prior to April, 1932, gave to the dominions and the colonies a great advantage in the sugar market of the United Kingdom, and the reduction by £1 of the duty on dominion sugar would have cost the British public upwards of £250,000 a year. In view of these facts, and as the prevailing preference in 1931-32 was worth, approximately, £1,000,000 to Australian sugar-growers, the British refusal of our request can scarcely be described as ungenerous.
As a matter of fact, the South African representatives obtained for their growers something that our delegates failed to get. The latter part of the Minister’s statement would lead one to believe that the value of the British preference to the Australian sugar-growers had averaged £1,000,000 per annum, whereas over a period of seven years the average quantity exported to the United Kingdom was 170,500 tons per annum, and the real value of the preferential duties averaged £614,0S7 per annum. The average quantity exported to Canada was 13,348 tons, and the real value of the preferential duty averaged £46,717 per annum.
The details for each year are shown in the following table: -
– How does the honorable member propose to connect all these details with the bill?
– I am showing that the statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs was not correct. Moreover, the Prime Minister said that the sugar industry will be benefited by the Ottawa agreement to the extent of £2,000,000. I challenge him or any of his supporters to prove that the industry will benefit from the agreement to the amount of one penny. It may be advantaged by the action taken subsequent to the Ottawa Conference by the Sugar Board on the advice of Mr. Pike, acting Agent-General for Queensland.
-The honorable member may reply briefly to the Prime Minister’s statement, but I ask him not to deal with the sugar industry in unnecessary detail.
– The preference granted to Australian sugar by the United Kingdom will not be worth more than £500,000 per annum.
– Half a million pounds annually for five years.
– That preference was granted before the Prime Minister entered this House; it was not extended by the Ottawa agreement, and would have continued until 1936, even if no agreement had been made at Ottawa.
We are asked to believe that because of the excellent work done by the Austraiian delegates at Ottawa, certain benefits will accrue to the Australian people from the agreement. Mr. J. Bartlet Brebner, writing in Current History for October last, says -
The Imperial Economic Conference, which concluded its labours at Ottawa on the 21st August, might be summed up with reasonable accuracy by saying that tlie British delegation succeeded in preventing the dominions from involving the Empire as a whole in internationally dangerous policies. Perhaps the cool, rather grim, N. C. Havenga, of South Africa, should be added to the group of wise men. But, in general, the dominion representatives, with one eye on their own electorates, and the other 011 the unanimous disinclination to admit failure,” were guilty of far too much futile bluffing and “ demands “ for impossible novelties in the way of helpful British economic policies. . . .
The treaties are to run for five years, and thereafter, except on six months’ notice from either party, but there are two highly significant provisos. At the end of three years, Great Britain may investigate the results of free entry of dominion foodstuffs in the light of the interests of British producers, and, if necessary, either impose a preferential duty or sot up a quota system. In addition, the duties (and preferences) on wheat, copper, zinc and lead may at any time be cancelled if dominion producers cannot provide them in sufficient quantities “at prices not exceeding the world prices.”
In other words, if our miners are not able to produce minerals for sale at the same price as the products of black labour in other countries, the United Kingdom will not accept our exports. I quote, also, the following paragraph published in a Brisbane evening newspaper: -
Reviewing the Ottawa Conference in an address to the Constitutional Club to-day, Mr. B. H. Molesworth, acting lecturer in Economics at the Queensland University, said he had come to the conclusion that the conference had achieved little, and much of what it did achieve might be more harmful than helpful. It was probably just as well from the point of view of Imperial relationships, that the conference did not attempt to achieve more. Attempts to have forced greater concessions might have led, even at Ottawa, to increasing friction anil irritation. It is not always wise to try to force business dealings upon one’s friends. In any case, the Empire was not an economic unity, it was not oven a geographical unity, and they could not fly in the face of geographical facts. Actually the failure to achieve greater economic unity did not prevent, rather it very possibly helped, the maintenance of the Empire fis a political group, joined by ties of friendship and sentiment.
We have been told that certain representative men have said that the agreement does not constitute a danger to our secondary industries. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) this afternoon quoted a statement to this effect by the late Mr. Samuel McKay. I do not wish to discuss that gentleman. I never knew him, but I know that the industry with which he was associated was built up behind, the protective tariff of Victoria. The honorable member for Fawkner was fair enough to admit that. Now, however, the Sunshine Harvester Company is linked up with an international trust, and Mr. McKay was not concerned whether Australia maintained her protective policy or not.
Speaking recently on the subject of the Ottawa agreement, Mr. H. B.’ Sevier, President of the Adelaide Chamber of Manufactures, is reported in the Adelaide Advertiser, of 26th October, as saying -
Accompanying the schedule of reciprocal preferences agreed to at Ottawa was an agreement regarding Australia’s future fiscal policy, and it was at once evident that certain of the clauses were viewed as containing real danger for the secondary industries of the Commonwealth. The proposal to restrict the flexibility of the country’s protective tariff and to take from Parliament the supreme right to enact tariff changes in accordance with the needs of the hour, whatever they might be, for the next five years, had been generally viewed by Australian manufacturers as a retrograde and unnecessary legislative step.
Further, absolute reliance upon and acceptance of the recommendations of a Tariff Board which was originally appointed in a solely advisor)’ capacity to Parliament, was a departure from past practices not justified by the circumstances. Further, it might easily result in restricting the full and natural future development of industrial resources. It was to be hoped that the Commonwealth Government would give the most serious consideration to those legitimate doubts and objections raised on behalf of the secondary industries. “ It is clear that if the tariff reductions are persisted in a grave relative check to our internal industrial rehabilitation will be given,” added the report. “Apart from the widespread anxiety felt in secondary industries of a possible further extension of this policy of reductions, the influence ‘which it has already had on the curtailment of orders is known to bo serious. The inevitable practicable effect of a policy of reduced duties is to increase imports, and although it is not yet known to what cumulative extent orders have been diverted from our industries, to those situated overseas, following the tariff reductions on 1st September, the Government Statistician’s figures already indicate that a substantial adverse trade balance is in process of being built up during the first few months of the financial year. If considerably added to by the importation in the coming months of goods which could, and should, have been made in Australia, our international financial status will again be threatened, and the valuable economic lessons to be learnt from the crisis of the past year will have been disregarded.”
He believes that Australia was narrowly saved from disaster by the restriction of imports, and that the danger will return if our present policy of reducing duties is persisted in.
– How is it that employment is steadily increasing in Sydney?
– Increasing employment in the factories of Sydney or anywhere else is attributable only to increased purchasing power of the people. The honorable member for Fawkner said this afternoon that the Ottawa agreement would be instrumental in providing more employment. I suggest to the honorable member that there is no hope of permanently solving the unemployment problem until we recognize that machinery is steadily displacing manpower in industry, and make allowance accordingly. All the world over the application of science to industry is resulting in a greater output from a smaller number of workers, and unless the number of working hours is reduced, while- the purchasing power of the people remains the same, or is even increased, employment cannot be found for those out of work. Two years ago, any one who made that statement would be looked upon as a disruptionist or a demagogue, but it is now being generally recognized that the working time must be shortened. Recently a member of this House received a letter from the Secretary of the International Labour Office at Geneva, stating that the two most backward countries in this regard were Great Britain and Australia. The statesmen of most of the other lead” ing industrial countries had come to recognize that if the world was to be brought back to economic stability the number of working hours would have to he reduced, while wages should remain at about their present level.
I believe that some slight benefit might accrue for certain interests from the Ottawa agreement, but the direct results will not be anything like what the people hoped for. It is evident that no one is really satisfied with the agreement. The honorable member for Barton said that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald was satisfied with it, and when he was re minded that Lord Snowden was anything but satisfied, the honorable member sought to dismiss him as of no importance. I hope that the honorable member for Barton will live a long time; but nomatter how long he lived, he would never1 be able to “in for himself as high a place in the regard of thinking men asthai; occupied by Lord Snowden. That gentleman left the British Cabinet because he believed the agreement was inimicable to the interests of Britain. In almost every periodical one picks up these days the Ottawa agreement is discussed, and it is evident that all those directly affected by the agreement, and most of those not coming directly within its influence, are dissatisfied with the provisions of that document. Perhaps that in itself does not make the agreement any the worse, and personally I believe the conference achieved some good.. The holding of such conferences, whether national or international, must result in good. If men engaged upon the solution of any problem would only get together and discuss their differences, I believe that they would quickly find themselves in agreement regarding 95 per cent, of the matters at issue. I am one of those who regret that the Government saw fit, on the report of a delegate to the last conference at the International Labour Office, to refrain from sending a representative this year. Although it may not seem that any great benefit was achieved from attending the conference, I believe, with all respect to Mr. Taylor, that if we are ever to solve the problems confronting us it can be done only by conference and discussion. I do not propose to condemn the Ottawa agreement, nor to concern myself with whether the delegates who represented us were the best available.” The fact remains that they attended the conference on behalf of Australia, and that they did their best for this country according to their belief. The Ottawa Conference may not have achieved a great deal, but it will lead to the holding of other conferences, which will get us somewhere eventually. 3 believe that the industrialists of this country, both employers and workers, could achieve more in the way of settling their differences by getting round the conference table than by bringing their case? before outside tribunals. At the same time, I appreciate the need for an arbitration court to compel the recognition of just claims by both parties. People get to know each other only by meeting and discussing their affairs ; they get nowhere by standing aloof. Honorable members who read the literature in the Parliamentary Library on this conference must recognize that there is plenty of room for differences of opinion regarding it. We do not need to restrict ourselves to the opinions of politicians. All manner of persons representing all sorts of interests have expressed their opinions, some in eulogy and some in criticism. All this controversy must have a good effect in the end. We shall get down to essentials as the result of discussion. I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, because I believe that, if this bill be withdrawn, something better may be substituted for it.
– I support the bill for the ratification of the Ottawa agreement, not because I think that Australia will obtain from it all the advantages she might have done, nor that any part of the Empire is likely to do so in the near “future, but because it is the first step towards the attainment of an objective that has been in the minds of many Australians for a generation. I am pleased to observe that an increasing number of Empire-minded persons in the United Kingdom are also desirous of drawing more tightly the economic ties which bind the British Commonwealth of Nations. This gathering at Ottawa was an epoch-making event. It was held in Canada, a dominion that has always shown itself to be particularly desirous of effecting Empire reciprocity. In pursuance of this policy, Canada only recently entered into an agreement with Australia which has conferred a great benefit upon the Australian dried fruits industry. That industry, through the preference obtained on the Canadian and British markets, is now on. a sound basis, and the expenditure of millions of pounds on the Hume Reservoir, and other water conservation schemes, has been made reproductive. The success achieved in respect of the dried fruits industry has led many people to believe that an extension of the reciprocal principle could not fail to be of advantage to all parts of the Empire. The Ottawa agreement is the first step towards placing trade reciprocity on an Empire-wide basis.
Those who have opposed the Ottawa agreement in this House have implied, if they have not directly stated, that there is no particular need for an arrangement of this kind, and that no material advantage will accrue from it. Although they have condemned the agreement, they have not suggested anything constructive to take its place. I desire to cite the experiences of the French nation. In 1913, France imported’ from its colonies goods to the value of £2,750,000 and exported to them goods valued at £3,250,000. At ‘the conclusion of the Great War the nation established a new system of trade, with the result that, in 1928, the imports into France from its colonies were valued at £58,500,000, while it exported to them goods worth £78,000,009. If that remarkable result could be achieved in such a comparatively short time by the French people, the possibilities for an expansion of trade within the British Empire, with its varied climatic conditions and numerous classes of products, are almost illimitable.
In spite of its weaknesses, the agreement marks the first step, towards the realization of the objective I have mentioned.
– Not the first step; that was taken 25 years ago.
– it is the first material step. In order to show the necessity for some such arrangement, I desire to quote figures relating to the trade of Britain. In 1928 the total trade of the British Empire with all countries was valued at £3,307,000,000, of which only £856,000,000, or about 25 per cent., represented trade within the Empire, the balance of 75 per cent., amounting to about £2,500,000,000, being done with foreign countries. What a gold-mine the British Empire has been to foreign countries! In considering our own position, it is well that we should know the experience of other nations. During the same year the French nation transacted 55 per cent, of its total business with its own people, while of the total trade of the Japanese Empire only 35 per cent, was done with foreign countries. The United States of America, the best organized economic unit in the world, transacted SO per cent, of its total trade with its own people. These figures show the necessity for greater reciprocal trade between the component parts of the British Empire.
I shall now show the extent of the trade between the United Kingdom and some of the countries which are Australia’s chief competitors. For a number of years the United Kingdom had an adverse balance of trade with Denmark amounting to approximately £46,000,000 per annum, and, in the case . of the Argentine, the unfavorable balance of trade represented £52,000,000 per annum. These countries are among Australia’s chief competitors in the British market. Britain’s unfavorable trade balance with the United States of America totalled £150,000,000 per annum. This unfavorable balance of trade with foreign countries was, no doubt, one of the main reasons why the policy of Britain, which had remained unchanged for generations, was altered about twelve months ago. To revert to our own trade figures, we find that for the seven years ended June, 1930, Australia had a debit balance with the United States of America of £200,000,000. These immense debit balances give proof of the great financial strength of the Empire; but it is well that we took stock of our position before it got out of control. I have no doubt that the unfavorable trade balance was also one of the chief reasons why Britain departed from the gold standard, and also took steps to prevent the United Kingdom from continuing to be the dumping ground for the surplus products of other exporting nations.
The Ottawa Conference offered Australia a wonderful opportunity of which full advantage should have been taken. Every minute Britain imports foodstuffs to the value of £1,000, but less than half of its requirements come from its own dominions. Of the wheat and .flour, valued at £64,000,000, imported into Britain annually, the imports from the dominions are worth only £34,000,000. In the case of meat respective values are £80,000,000 and £16.000,000.. Fruit valued at £38,000,000 is imported by Britain each year, the value of the dominion trade being £13,000,000. Britain’s total imports of butter and other dairy produce, including eggs, represent £84,000,000 per annum, of which the dominion proportion is £39,000,000. Although the importations of wine into the United Kingdom are valued at £6,000,000 per annum, the dominions’ share of that trade is less than £500,000. Yet all these commodities are produced in abundance in the dominions. This state of affairs can, and must, be altered to our mutual advantage. There is a market open to us for these things if only we will take full advantage of the opportunities available to us. It is in this connexion that our representatives did not achieve that success which was possible to them, because they were too intent on seeking to obtain something without giving an adequate return for it.
No one could read the report of the Ottawa Conference without being impressed with the importance given to, and the time taken in the discussion of, the monetary aspect of Empire affairs. It is in this direction. I suggest, that we shall derive the greatest and earliest benefit from the deliberations at Ottawa. The recent successful conversion loan is evidence that money is now obtainable at better rates than formerly, and there is good reason to believe that even lower rates will be obtainable in the comparatively near future.
At the Ottawa Conference the necessity for raising the prices of commodities was recognized; but so far there does not appear to be much prospect of success in that direction. Indeed, prices have fallen considerably since the conference terminated. Notwithstanding the almost superhuman efforts of the last three years on the part of our export industries, during which period they have not received the cost of production, the position of) Australia will be difficult indeed unless, in the near future, the prices of our staple products rise considerably, or the costs of production are reduced. The representatives of the Mother Country at the conference were careful to guard against any material rise in the cost of living, or of production in the United Kingdom, and, therefore, i* is surprising to find the Commonwealth Government submitting in connexion with this measure a tariff schedule which will have the effect of increasing the cost of production in Australia. The tariff schedule submitted in connexion with this bill raises the duty on from 300 to 400 items. That reliable and highly efficient body, the Tariff Board, has stated that any further increases in duties must inevitably increase the cost of production in this country. The report of the Tariff Board for the year ended the 30th June, 1932, contained on page 15 the following statement regarding tariff reductions and employment : -
In a number of reports during the year the board, after having been convinced that the reduced rates are stilt adequate to protect efficient industries, has recommended reduction of duties. Sometimes, however, it has been obvious that a reduction or removal of Unties would jeopardize the particular industry concerned or other allied industries, and would throw certain operatives out of employment. Naturally, the board would recommend action which might have this effect only after very serious consideration. The board has constantly had in mind that the prevailing very serious unemployment is bad for the financial, physical and moral condition of the community, ami in all its deliberations has regarded it of vital importance that remunerative work should be found for the people. Nevertheless, the imposition of high rates of duty for the benefit of one industry, resulting in seriously higher costs to other secondary or primary industries, may cause some additional employment in the one. but resultant unemployment in the others. The maximum employment of our people is largely dependent upon the successful expansion of our export industries. This expansion, though largely affected by the world’s demand for our products, is also bound up with low costs of production. The establishment of new industries or the extension of existing industries which need the application of excessive rates of duty tend to add to costs and retard progress and employment. Australia’s prosperity will depend not only on the keeping out of unnecessary imports, but to even a greater degree on the expansion of exports ot the products of her great primary and her natural secondary industries.
I am surprised to find that, in conjunction with this measure, the Government has submitted a tariff schedule which will seriously increase the cost of production, and the cost of living in this country. It must be obvious to every one that, if Australia is to reach a state of financial stability, costs must be reduced instead of increased. Although the results of the Ottawa Conference are not as satisfac- tory as I should like, I believe that some benefits will be derived by Australia. For instance, it is very gratifying to find that our great dairying industry is to have a continuance of the preferences given early this year. It is also pleasing to learn that a slight increase is given in the preferences on our exports of dried fruits, in the production of which a large number of returned soldiers are engaged. The products of a number of smaller industries are also to receive preferential treatment, which will result in greater energy being displayed and in. an increased volume of exports.
It must, however, be obvious to every one that, apart from wool and wheat, we have io look more and more to the United Kingdom as a market for our exportable products. Of our exports of wheat during 1931, totalling 165,000,000 bushels, the United Kingdom took only about 24,000,000 bushels. It takes only about one-third of our wool. The woolgrowers will be disappointed to find that the agreement signed at Ottawa will not be of any benefit to them. The wheatgrowers, too, will be disappointed; but I do not think that they will be very much surprised to find that our delegates, who had already shown their unwillingness to a3k the Australian people to pay a slightly increased price for bread in order to place an essential Australian industry on an economic basis, were unable to prevail upon the representatives of the British Government to increase the cost of the loaf to the British consumers. On the 8th November, I submitted a question ‘to the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), to which I received a reply which I regarded as most unsatisfactory. The question was based on a cablegram, which read -
Expected Preferential Bill will bo passed present form to conform with, all grain must be consigned from Australia to United Kingdom which, according to advice, means bill of lading must be issued exclusively United Kingdom, to obtain free entrance. This precludes sending for orders according charter party. Also precludes using United Kingdom ports unsold balance, unless named in separate hill of lading if ordered Continent first port discharge. Same applicable parcels with United Kingdom Continental option. Imperative you see Australian Government urging immediate action otherwise restrictions new bil! will’ lower values to great detriment Australian farmers.
Naturally, the Australian, wheat-growers, with the knowledge that the probable surplus from Canada and Australia alone totals about 600,000,000 bushels and that the annual, requirement of the United Kingdom is only 200,000,000. bushels, are not very enthusiastic as to the benefits which they will receive under the agreement; but I assure’ the Government that they will be very surprised and disappointed if, when it is ratified, they are in a worse position than they were before. After quoting the cablegram to which I have referred, I asked the Minister the following question: -
What action; if any, docs the Government propose to take to see that ordinary trading conditions shall be maintained from Australian ports?
The Minister for Commerce replied -
I presume that the question is based on the interpretation of “First Sale” in the Ottawa agreement. If that is so. the question reveals an entire misconception of the meaning of that provision.
– I think that the Minister’s reply was based on a misapprehension.
– Yes, as I shall show. The answer to that question was followed by a question asked by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) on the same subject and to which the Minister replied -
This question apparently is similarly based to that of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland). In amplification of my reply to that honorable gentleman, let mo say that the term “First sale in the United Kingdom “ is intended to refer only to the original sale, and shipments of goods to the United Kingdom have no bearing whatever on shipments to any other part of the world.
The point I wish to make is that the Minister himself is under a misapprehension. The material point relates to shipments to any other port, apart from those in the United Kingdom. I particularly impress upon the Government the necessity to determine the effect upon such shipments of article 5 of the agreement. I know that, the Minister without. Portfolio (Mr. Bruce) has the matter in hand, but in the interest of the wheat-grower the Government must be absolutely certain that as the result of the agreement no harm will be done to the growers.
Frequent reference has been made to the benefits to be derived by those engaged in the meat industry. I believe that some advantages will accrue as a result of the ratification of the agreement, more particularly if those engaged in the industry can get through next year successfully. It is particularly regrettable that arestriction is to be placed upon our meat exports during next year ; because present conditions are tending towards bringing about next year one of the greatest blocks in the export of meat from Australia that has even been experienced in our history. For months past, the pastures have been so good and the price of stock so low that the number of stock offered has been much smaller than would have been the case had marketing conditions been more favorable. Every breeder who has not been forced to 3ell is holding his stock. Owing to the glut in the cold stores in Great Britain, and in meat exporting countries, we find, two months before we reach the year in which exports are to be restricted, that exports to the United Kingdom are being curtailed. This means that additional quantities will necessarily be marketed next year which is the only year during the operation of the agreement in which there will he any restriction upon our exports. I, therefore, urge the Government to watch the position very closely, and to consider the advisability of conferring with the British Government in order to prevent a repetition of the unfortunate experience of 1919, when practically every cool store in the Commonwealth was full, and when there was no outlet for our meat.
The agreement is not what I expected. It could have been improved had our representatives shown an inclination to give away a little more instead pf trying to get too much from others. We could, with advantage to ourselves, have given away a little more, particularly by reducing our very high customs duties. I have been surprised at the way in which some honorable members have endeavoured to advance the claims of our secondary industries. The leading economists of Australia have recently collaborated in the publication of a book in which they show that the additional cost of our. imported products, as the result of our duties, is equal to a bounty of about £26,000,000 a year to the secondary industries of Australia. Yet, this Government has introduced a tariff schedule which provides for increases of foreign duties. It appears to me that the manufacturing industries of Australia are showing the wrong spirit in objecting to the provision in this agreement that they shall submit to fair and reasonable competition from the outside world, particularly in view of the fact that our primary exporting industries, upon which the real prosperity of this country rests, have been brought to their knees, so to speak, on account of the excessively low prices available for their products in recent years.
This agreement is nothing like so satisfactory as that which, I believe will ultimately be made between Australia and the other parts of the Empire. I believe that the British Empire, to which we have the honour to belong, is one of the greatest powers for good in the world to-day, and that this agreement is the first step towards the adoption of a policy which will ultimately make it the greatest economic unit on earth.
.- I support this agreement because I believe that it is the result of an honest attempt to develop inter-Empire trade. I deprecate the remarks that have been made from the Opposition benches to the effect that our representatives who went to Ottawa, and rendered good service to Australia while there, were traitors to their country. “While I regard the agreement as an attempt to obtain a better market for our primary products, I am not a super-optimist. I do not think that we can at present estimate the value of the agreement in pounds, shillings and pence. Articles have appeared in the press at various times since the delegation returned from Ottawa, in which estimates have been made of the value, in hard cash, of this agreement to the primary producers of Australia. These estimates have varied from £2,000,000 to £10,000,000. Various people have estimated that the concessions in the agreement are worth £750,000 to the wheatgrowers, £1,500,000 to the butter producers, and huge sums to our mutton and lamb producers; but I -think that it is hard to say, -at present, what it will be worth to any particular industry. The markets of the world have been disorganized in consequence of the Ottawa Conference, probably because people anticipated what would be done there. Many foreign countries have shipped abnormal quantities of products to Great Britain, and this has led to the heavy fall in prices which we have witnessed recently. Butter which, while the conference was in session, was ls. 2d. per lb., has fallen to ll$d. per lb., and meat has fallen to a price level never before touched in this country. I hope that these low prices will be temporary. I have been glad to notice only recently, that an increased price has been realized for lamb, which is one of our important exports. Government interference with trade naturally upsets the markets of the world; but we trust that there will be a recovery to reasonable price levels in the near future. We must take a long view of this agreement. In regard to mutton and lamb, for instance, we must look to 1933 for beneficial results from it.
Tlie value of inter-Empire trade will be understood when it is realized that Great Britain takes one-third of the wool, one-third of the wheat, three-quarters of the meat, and nine-tenths of the butter which Australia exports. But the balance of our exportable surplus of these commodities must be sold in foreign markets. Canada and Australia will have to market 300,000,000 bushels of wheat over and above what Great Britain buys from them, and can consume, and this will have to be sold to foreign nations. But these foreign nations are doing exactly the same thing that we are trying to do - they are making every effort to become self-contained. Germany, France and Italy, for example, are now growing practically all the wheat they require. What, then, will become of the 300,000,000 bushels of wheat that we must market outside of Great Britain? It is necessary for us to keep in close touch with foreign markets as well as with the British market. We must realize that if we do not trade with foreign countries, they will not trade with us, and, consequently, we shall have a tremendous quantity of wheat, wool, meat, butter and other produce left on our hands. If we cannot sell our produce we must restrict production, and it is hardly conceivable that a primary producing country like Australia should be forced to adopt such a policy. Yet, many foreign markets are already practically closed to us on account of the excessively high duties, amounting in many cases to absolute prohibition, imposed on foreign goods by the previous Government. France has imposed such a duty on our wheat that it is impossible for us to sell wheat in that country. The same remark applies, in some degree, to both Germany and Italy.
A quota system has been applied to meat, but as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) has pointed out, an extraordinary situation has arisen in the meat industry. Under this agreement, there is to be a restriction of Australian exports of meat, including mutton and; lamb, to Great Britain until 1933. I do not anticipate any great difficulty on this account in regard to our mutton and lamb. We should probably have been able to export practically the whole of our surplus. But the Argentine exporters have been asked voluntarily to restrict their exports to Great Britain by 20 per cent., and the Australian exporters have been asked, apart altogether from this agreement, to restrict their exports by 10 per cent. I can quite imagine the meat exporters agreeing to a policy of this kind, for the cool stores are full of mutton and lamb today. Great Britain has 2,500,000 carcases of mutton and lamb in her .cool stores; and Australia, according to figures supplied to me by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), has 9,000 tons of mutton and lamb in cool stores in this country. This meat was put into cool storage before the Ottawa agreement became effective, and the exporters were only too willing to make any arrangements whatever to enable them to clear the huge stock which they hold. Until this meat is cleared, we cannot hope for markets to open to us. For this reason, it is necessary for us to take a long view of this agreement. We shall have to wait until the trade resumes its regular course before we can expect any advantages. . This voluntary arrangement has been made with the exporters only. I think that the producers should have been consulted. It was unfair to ascertain only the mind of the exporters.
I cannot understand the attitude of the manufacturers of Australia to this agree ment. Surely they are prepared to meet fair and reasonable competition. Unless the interests of the primary industries of Australia are protected, it is useless to protect secondary industries, for the prosperity of this country is determined by the prosperity of the primary producers. Reference has been made during this debate to the position of world trade. My view is that in the post-war period the manufacturers became altogether too prosperous. They made a great deal of money, and expended such a large proportion of it in expanding their operations that they naturally overtook the demand for their goods. The same thing happened in relation to primary production. Our primary producers got far too much for their wool and wheat, and the inflated prices led them to expand their industries to such a point that world requirements were more than met. It is for this reason that butter is being sold to-day for 11½d. a lb. If it were not for the Paterson scheme and the exchange position, our dairymen, who are perhaps doing as well as any other section of the community, would be receiving no more than about 7d. per lb. for their butter.
Notwithstanding the observation of one honorable member that if we reduce the cost of production, it will ‘simply mean that we shall produce more than we oan sell, something Will have to be done to bring about that result. The primary producers of Australia are already making desperate efforts in that direction so that they may meet .their obligations. The most scientific methods of producing butter have been adopted by our dairymen who are to-day getting twice the return that they previously got from a cow. This has enabled them to reduce their overhead costs, and they also hope that it will assist them ultimately to recover prosperity. . Our wheatgrowers are doing the same kind of thing. By the adoption of new methods and by the sowing of new and improved varieties of wheat they are reaping as many bags as they previously reaped bushels of wheat per acre. Our wool-growers have probably done more than any other section of the community to develop their industry on economic lines. The average weight of an Australian fleece has been increased from 5 lb. to 9 lb. The Wool Committee, which has just submitted its report, has pointed out that the duties imposed by our tariff are equivalent to 2d. per lb. of wool. If these duties were lifted, it would enable this great industry to be carried on under something like profitable conditions.
But I believe that we shall do more by pasture improvement than by. any other means to redeem our position. Some extraordinary results have been obtained through the improvement of pastures. On one property of about 3,000 acres in my district, the wool return has been increased from 7 lb. to 20 lb. per acre. This result has been obtained, not on an experimental, but on a practical basis. On another property which adjoins my own an exceptionally fine result has been obtained on an area of several thousand acres. In 1927, the wool clip of this property was 120 bales, and that was the regular clip. But in consequence of the adoption of modem methods of top-dressing and pasture improvement, the clip from the same area has been increased to 360 bales. It will be seen from these remarks that our primary producers are doing their best to rehabilitate their industries and restore prosperity, and the Government now has an opportunity to do something to assist them in achieving that eminently desirable objective.
A great deal that has been said during this debate about the value of the home market has been quite nonsensical. How can the home market become of much greater value to us while we have to sell two-thirds of our wheat, two-thirds of our wool, and a large proportion of our other produce outside of Australia? Honorable members opposite, who talk about the home market’, have always resisted the introduction by immigration of additional population to Australia. An increased home market is attainable only by a policy of migration, which, I have no doubt, the British Government would welcome ; but it must be a migration of industry and capital as well as of persons. If we could double or treble the population of Australia, we could then begin to talk of a home market. If we ask the present generation to wait for a home market, we shall get nowhere. As a matter of fact, at present there are more people going out of the country than there are coming into it. It is essential that there should be a better distribution of the people of the Empire. I believe that Great Britain is anxious that that should be done. We have any amount of room in Australia and, if we chose, we could develop this country by absorbing a good percentage of the surplus population of Great Britain.
We should foster Empire trade, but at the same time we must consider foreign trade, because, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and others, it is essential that trade between countries should go on as in the past. Nothing leads to more trouble than the endeavour of a nation to remain self-contained. It simply cannot be done.
When members of the present Government were in opposition, they opposed most strenuously and solidly the tariff that was introduced by the Scullin Government. I was very pleased to hear the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), who is at present i-n charge of the House, say that if we wait until the schedule is completed, we shall be entirely satisfied. I conclude that the. Government is prepared to give effect to articles 9, 10, 11 and 12 to the fullest extent. I hope that in doing so it will extend some proportionate preference to Great Britain. The schedule, which comprises some hundreds of items, does not give the slightest preference to the Mother Country. The Government is dangling a rope to the British manufacturers, which they cannot reach. The only way to give them some encouragement is so to adjust the rope that’ they may reach it; and receive some benefit from the schedule. Prior to federation various States gave United Kingdom manufacturers a preference which really meant something. These gestures “on the part of the Government mean nothing, except that the foreigner has a further imposition placed on him, while British manufacturers remain just where they were.
There is a great potential value in articles 9, 10, 11 and 12. Article 9 speaks of industries which are reasonably assured of success. During the regime of the Scullin Government, a number of industries were established in Australia that will not survive when things become normal and they no longer have the advantage of the existing 25 per cent exchange. There then will be a tremendous howl for an increased tariff. It is time that steps were taken to nip in the bud industries which cannot succeed under normal conditions.
Article 10 makes reference to reasonable competition. Surely the people of Australia are prepared to meet reasonable competition? It does not mean that we are to give free entry to British goods, but that, in return for a reasonable protection, we are to meet reasonable competition. I shall give an instance of what happened when I was PostmasterGeneral. I called tenders for certain telephone material which was made by only one firm in Australia. There was only one buyer, the post office. It is scarcely possible to have competition when there is only one seller and one buyer. Tenders for that material were called all over the world. Speaking from memory, the Australian tender was £226,000, the foreign tender, using Australian copper and lead, being £116,000. When I sent for the representative of the Australian company and told him that I could not accept his tender he said that, he would have to close his factory and sack 500 persons. As a matter of fact, there was only8 per cent. labour involved in the manufacture of that material. I said, “ If you will wipe £38,000 off your contract, I shall give you the advantage of the 45 per cent. duty and accept your tender.” He did so, and his tender was accepted. That sort of industry is not essential to this country. The savings that could have been effected by having that copper and lead manufactured in another country would have given employment to 1,000 persons in Australia and, in addition, would have given our people cheaper telephonic communications than they now have. That nonessential industry was established at the cost of the telephone users of Australia.
– The Scullin Government was not then in power.
– No ; but when it was many industries were established which are in exactly the same position as the one to which I have referred.
I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) with regard to our Tariff Board. The schedule contains 425 items, and it will take the board over four years to investigate them. Our primary producers and exporters are anxious that something should be done immediately. The only way out of the difficulty is to appoint four or five tariff boards, composed of experts, who will deal with the matters expeditiously. I hope that the Government will give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member for Corio. I am not quite certain that the present Tariff Board is composed of experts. I know that its members are honorable men ; but the board was originally appointed by a protectionist government for a protectionist purpose, and every succeeding government has, naturally, had a view-point of protection and, therefore, has chosen men who lean towards that view-point.
It is absolutely essential, I feel certain, that in carrying out this agreement a reduction should be made in the rates of duty against Great Britain. We are to get a decided advantage in connexion frith many of the commodities referred to by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) such as wines, dried fruits, and even butter; and we should be prepared to give something in return.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that he intends to move to amend the tariff schedule when we reacb it. I urge the Government to give effect to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, and give this Parliament an opportunity to discuss the general principles of that schedule before the House goes into recess. The honorable gentleman also pointed out that the Scullin tariff had not yet been validated and that, if it were validated, it would be months and perhaps years before we could give effect to the terms of the Ottawa agreement. I hope that the Government will try to satisfy those who are asking for reductions of the duties on British goods. I trust that the agreement generally will confer great benefits upon the primary producers of the country.
Mr. lilLEY (Cook) [10.10]. - I view the agreement as an instrument by which manufacturers overseas hope to regain that portion of the Australian trade’ which they have lost as the result of the establishment and expansion of Australian secondary industries. In my opinion, the agreement will prove harmful to our secondary industries, and of doubtful benefit to the primary producers. For that reason I intend to oppose the measure. I take this opportunity to express my regret at the continued indisposition of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), which has prevented him from piloting this bill through the House. Although I do not share his views regarding the value of the treaty, I realize that in the preparatory work, in the deliberations at the conference at Ottawa, and in the task that he undertook upon his return to Australia, the Minister has given of his best services, and that his health has been undermined because of his devotion to duty. With other honorable members I hope that he will be restored to health at an early date. I also recognize that the Deputy Comptroller of Customs (Mr. Abbott) and the officers associated with him, because of their special knowledge of tariff matters, rendered, at Ottawa, valuable services to the Commonwealth. If the Scullin Government had continued in office, I have no doubt that the same loyal and efficient assistance would have been at the disposal of delegates selectedby that Government as was available to the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) and the Minister for Trade and Customs.’
I regret that the Government has seized this opportunity to remove the intermediate tariff rates, which I had hoped would be used for many years for the purpose of promoting reciprocal trade arrangements between Australia and countries that are good customers of ours. I regard this action as unfortunate, and as a distinctly retrograde step. The Minister for Trade and Customs, in moving the second reading of this bill, said -
On behalf of the Government, however, it may definitely be said that in our view the Australian tariff still presents opportunities for mutually beneficial treaties with foreign countries, and the Government will gladly enter into negotiations to that end. It need scarcely be added that we value highly our foreign customers, and realize that one-way trade is expensive and impracticable trade.
I desire to know what steps the Government proposes to take with a view to giving effect to that proposal. I hope that it will immediately open up negotiations with countries that trade with us. We have a trade treaty with Canada which has a population of only 10,000,000, and with New Zealand, which has a population of only 1,500,000. It would be well for us to encourage trade with Italy, whose population amounts to 43,000,000, and increases annually at the rate of 500,000. Canada has set us a good example in that it maintains trade commissioners, not only throughout the British Empire, but also in foreign countries. In 1910, Canada entered into trade agreements with Germany and Italy. Countries such as France, Japan, Germany, Belgium and Italy, purchase far more from Australia than we buy from them, as the following table shows : -
During the regime of the Scullin Government, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), severely criticized that administration for having imposed certain special duties. The present Minister for Trade and Customs then said -
The Scullin Government has dealt out brutal treatment to these countries, and made us the most hated people on earth.
That was rather an extravagant statement, in view of the failure of the honorable member and this Government with which he is associated to show special consideration for those countries. Australia would derive great advantages from reciprocal trade arrangements with countries such as Italy, which imports annually fresh and frozen meat to thequantity of 133,549,000 lb., of which less than 4,000,000 lb. is imported from
Australia. Up to a year ago, Italy purchased large quantities of wheat from other nations, and in one year purchased 71,090,000 bushels of wheat, of which only 5,861,000 bushels, or one-twelfth pf her total requirements, was obtained from Australia. It is true, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) said, that Italy has substantially increased her production of late; but she has no vast areas suitable for wheat-growing such as the wheat belts of Australia, and it is not altogether profitable for her to produce all the wheat that she requires. During the last few months, Italy has entered into trade arrangements with Hungary, Roumania and Trance. Hungary will export to Italy annually 2,000,000 quintals of wheat. The fact that Italy also imports 5,596,000 lb. of leather, not one pound of which is purchased from Australia, shows the possibility of useful trade with that country. The enormous importation ‘of 135,765 lb. of - peanuts by Italy indicates what wonderful possibilities exist for the disposal of the surplus Queensland crop which in normal times is far in excess of Australia’s requirements. It would be much better to dispose of our peanuts as a result of a trade agreement than to continue the embargo on their importation, which for some years has antagonized our friends in the East. Italy purchased from Australia last year 150,000 bales of wool, while her purchases from South Africa totalled only 50,000 bales. In 1930 she imported 3,131,000 lb. of butter, of which only 350,000 lb. were purchased from Australia. During the last three years she has imported 8,633,000 lb., of which we supplied only 564,900 lb. The necessity for exploring every avenue for the disposal of our surplus wheat, and for investigating the possibilities offered by countries such as Italy, become apparent when we realize that this year’s crop is estimated to yield about 200,000,000 bushels, of which the home market will absorb not more than 50,000,000 bushels. Duties are not imposed by Italy on the products of Australia such as frozen meat, greasy and scoured wool; they are admitted on the “ most favoured nation “ basis. In view of that special treatment, we in turn should reciprocate.
Our exports to France last year totalled £6,747,944, while our imports from that country were worth only £1,498,306. In 1927-28 we exported to France 701,000 lb. of butter, valued at £44,945, but last year she took from us only £9 worth. The reason for that is the prohibitive duties imposed by Australia on certain of her products.
– By the Scullin Government.
– It is true that some of those duties were imposed by the Scullin Government. I am anxious for an arrangement to be come to whereby the products of France will receive preference over those of other countries which are not such good customers of ours, so long as such action is not to the detriment, or at the expense, of British or Australian industries. Retaliatory measures have been taken by France.because of our tariff increases and prohibitions. The French customs tariff provides for the imposition of three rates of duty - a minimum duty, a general tariff duty, and a surcharge of treble duty. The minimum tariff is applied to certain goods that are imported from countries with which France has reciprocal commercial treaties, and the surcharge - to certain goods from countries which impose very, high duties on French products. For example, the duty on butter is - minimum tariff, 100 francs per 100 kilos ; general tariff, 200 francs per 100 kilos. Until recently, the duty on Australian butter was 200 francs, whereas that on butter from Denmark and the Argentine was only 100 francs, the reason being that those two countries had commercial treaties with France. France imports about £1,500,000 worth of butter annually, half of which is supplied by Denmark. The 100 per cent, preference given to Denmark and the Argentine precludes the importation of Australian butter. The treble duty on the Australian product is 600 francs, while Denmark, the Argentine, and other countries pay only 1,00 francs. The treble duty on Australian wheat is 150 francs, as against 50 francs in the case of Canada, the United States of America, and other countries. Our time and energy would he better spent in cultivating the friendship of, and achieving reciprocity with, Italy and. France, than in entering into arrangements such as that which exists between Australia and New Zealand. Although our trade with the dominion is satisfactory, it must be borne in mind that we could do without many of the goods which we now import from New Zealand. In oric year we imported £63,590 worth of horses and sheep, £687,380 worth of wool, £296,709 worth of hides, £67,886 worth of sheepskins, £32,072 worth of tallow, and £436,831 worth of timber. Most of those commodities are produced in Australia, and need not be imported from New Zealand. Our exports to that dominion include tea - which we do not produce - the value of which alone exceeds £100,000.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) has charged the Labour party with being the champion of monopolies and vested interests. The following is an extract from the report of a speech delivered to a meeting of manufacturers in Sydney by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) : -
He thought that the great inrush of overseas goods was due to decreased costs of production in other countries, due to amalgamations and mergers. He hailed with delight the recent developments in the Australian rubber industry, and urged other manufacturers to go and do likewise. Get the small manufacturing units to merge themselves into more powerful organizations, and with improved plant and reduced overhead, meet foreign competition with increased efficiency and better organization. All that the Government could do to assist would be done.
That was a clear invitation to manufacturing interests to combine with a view to reducing overhead costs and eliminating competition, and it was accepted by many industrial organizations. Yet the lieutenant in this chamber of the Minister for Trade and Customs endeavours to fasten on the Labour party the charge that it champions monopolies and vested interests ! There is no need for me to assure honorable members that that is not so. Government members, generally, and particularly the Postmaster-General, are discreetly silent concerning the monopolies on the other side of the world which the Government is very anxious to assist at the present time. I instance the shipping combine, which will benefit substantially as a result of the Ottawa agreement by having its ships filled with the products of overseas manufacturers when they leave Great Britain for Australia. These honorable members are silent also concerning international cartels, which fix the prices of such commodities as pipes and tubes, that are so essential to the man on the land and to the mining industry.
– There is no control of metal prices.
– I can furnish ample proof in support of my statement that an international cartel fixes the prices of pipes and tubes.
– At an unduly high level?
– Yes. The prices of those sizes that are made in Australia have been gradually reduced over a period of from six to nine months; but the prices of the larger sizes, which are not made in Australia, have not come down in sympathy with those of the smaller; on the contrary, they have advancedThat is to the serious detriment . of the man on the land. The merging of interests is commended by the PostmasterGeneral when it. takes place in Great Britain, but it is attacked when it comes about in Australia. We can control the activities of huge organizations in Australia, but we certainly have no control of huge interests overseas.
I am strongly opposed to this bill. Most of the articles of the agreement are repugnant to me and I strongly resent the willingness of the Government to follow blindly the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Honorable members supporting the Government have referred to the Tariff Board as a body of experts, but I cannot say truthfully that the members of the board are experts. If I were appointing the personnel of the board, I should certainly select officers of the Customs Department, men who, having been engaged on customs work for many years, have more expert knowledge of tariff matters than the present members of the board, and, therefore, would carry out the functions of the board more satisfactorily and with greater despatch than is now possible.
This bill encroaches upon the rights of the Parliament. It will accentuate the problem of unemployment in Australia and give some relief to the unemployed in Great Britain. It aims a deathblow at many of our secondary industries, and at the same time benefits British industrialists. I realize that no matter what is said during the course of the debate, nothing will cause the Government to alter its decision to carry this bill without amendment ; but I look forward to the time when the Labour party will again be in office, and the agreement will be altered in accordance with the declaration of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). At the committee stage we expect to have an opportunity to deal with those articles of the agreement which are particularly distasteful to us. I hope that it will not be long before the Labour party is again in office, and adequate protection is again given to our important secondary industries.
.- I believe that the agreement which was entered into by our delegates at Ottawa will operate in the interests of the great mass of the people of this country. I have always advocated the encouragement of trade within the Empire, and this agreement is no doubt a step in that direction. The future of the British Empire depends upon the establishment of a mutual understanding among the various units of the Empire to help one another. I take it that the real purpose of the Ottawa Conference was to enable Great Britain and the dominions to get together in order to discuss the possibility of preferential trade within the Empire with the view to establishing Empire relations upon a sound reciprocal basis. The conference held at Ottawa was of vital concern to Australia and the Empire as a whole, and nothing but good can ultimately come of the agreement that was entered into there. The Australian delegation is. entitled to much credit for the part that it played in the deliberations at the conference. Of course, naturally there are persons in the community who are disappointed with the results achieved; but, -after all, primary production ranks, first in Australia’s development and the Australian delegation did right in placing Australia’s requirements foremost. We could not have expected them to demand all that Australia, required . to enable it to. rehabilitate itself. The spirit of give and take had to enter into the negotiations at Ottawa just as it enters into any other conference of similar importance. Taking into consideration the policy of freetrade which Great Britain has maintained for centuries, we must admit that that country has made wonderful progress in respect of its new fiscal policy. For three years, from 1925 to 192S, I was in London as Agent-General for South Australia, and during that period I learned much of the British people. I met British statesmen and became familiar with the views that they held in respect of freetrade. I learned of their desire for a free breakfast table. To them a tax on foodstuffs was a nightmare. Many a British election has been won on the slogan of “No taxes on foodstuffs.” But towards the end of 1928, I noticed that a decided change in the fiscal policy was coming about. At that time we were offered only a limited field in Great Britain for reciprocal treatment in respect of our exports - of primary produce, although our preferences to that country were all in its favour Great Britain, although it was quite willing to accept preferential treatment from Australia, was not prepared to extend preference to this country. There is now evidence of a new spirit in Empire relations, and we all hope that it will grow in strength and be to the advantage of this country. For instance, in 1929 the average margin of preference granted by Australia to goods of British origin was 15 per cent. This has since been extended to almost the complete tariff schedule. To give some idea of the value of the total trade of Australia, I may state that in 1928-29 our imports totalled £143,647,S81, and our exports £144,850,452. In the following year our imports were valued at £129,545.935, and our exports at £125,127,148. In 1930-31 our imports had fallen to £60,959,633, and our exports to £102,103,336. Many earlier speakers in this debate have emphasized the fact that Australia is Great Britain’s second-best customer. I take the view that, as we have granted a very wide range of trade preferences to Great Britain we were entitled to expect rather better treatment in the negotiations at Ottawa.
I have already mentioned that Australia is a primary. producing country and have emphasized that, as a nation, our solvency depends upon the success of our primary industries. The maintenance of our great secondary industries also is dependent upon the stability of our primary industries. If they fail Australia will go down with them. Our primary producers provide £96 Ss. 7d. out of every £100 required to meet our overseas obligations. One of the difficulties confronting the Government is the alarming drift of population to our capital cities and larger urban centres throughout the Commonwealth. The latest statistical information discloses that 62.6 per cent, of the people live in streets, and 49.03 per cent, live in the seven capital cities. Our purpose must be to check this drift in population and get more of our people back into primary production, but if they are to succeed, we must provide markets .for their products.
I believe that the germ of helpfulness is in the Ottawa agreement. Through our delegates to that historic gathering we have, as it were, blazed the trail. In the course of time there will, I believe, be other negotiations for the further development of Empire relations.
As regards the conference, the major portion of the time of delegates was occupied in discussing proposals relating to the meat export trade, which is of such importance to this country. Australia’s original request was for a series of preferential duties on beef, mutton, lamb and pig meat, together with some restriction of foreign imports into the United Kingdom. There appears to have been much bargaining around the conference table. Australia wanted preferential duties and, in my opinion, was entitled to them, if for no other reason than that, during the war, we sold all our available meat supplies to Britain and the Allies at ls. per lb., whereas the Argentine, our chief competitor in this export trade, insisted on getting from 2s. to 2s. 6d. per lb. It has been said that the Argentine grew rich while the nations were at war. I therefore repeat that, as Australia stood by Great Britain during the war, we have a right now to expect the Mother Country to stand by us.
– Hear, hear!
– Order ! I have found it necessary, several times during the debate, to reprimand the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The honorable gentleman would be wise to take notice of this final warning.
– In 1926, the British army and navy contract for meat went to the Argentine. I took great exception at the time on behalf of the Government of South Australia, and I am pleased to say that in the following year the contract came back to Australia.
Under the agreement, the United Kingdom undertakes to proceed with a plan for the regulation of imports of foreign bacon in the interests of home agriculture, to ensure a minimum price of 80s. per cwt. That seems to be the only item in respect of which complete agreement was reached. In my opinion, Great Britain could have afforded to be more generous to the dominions. As regards frozen beef, the Commonwealth Government undertakes to use its best endeavours to limit the export of frozen beef to the United Kingdom during 1933, to an amount exceeding the exports during 1931-32 by not more than 10 per cent., and that the export of mutton and lamb during 1933 will not exceed the quantity imported during the peak year 1931-32. This should give Australia an opportunity to build up her export trade in these commodities, and I think there is considerable room for development.
As regards wheat, the British Government suggested a quota scheme under which Australia would get a substantial share of the British market at world’s parity prices. For this we can say to Great Britain “ Thank you for very little “. The best that the dominion representatives were able to secure was a duty of 2s. a quarter, or 3d. a bushel against all foreign wheat with a free entry for the product of the dominions. Wool, and wheat are Australia’s chief exports products, and I looked to the Mother Country to give us greater assistance than has been obtained under the agreement. I sincerely hope that we shall be able to develop our flour trade under the 10 per cent preference, which will stand for ten years. At one time we did an important trade in flour with South Africa, but in more recent years it has declined seriously. There is room for negotiations with the various dominions.
In the event of further treaties ‘being negotiated, flour should again figure prominently in our exports. The dairying industry is growing; the low prices for wheat and wool have encouraged farmers to engage in mixed farming, and the proposed duty of 15 per cent, on butter, representing an increase of 5 per cent., or 1§ per lb., should be helpful. I am not satisfied, however, that the Paterson scheme is operating, to the best interests of the Australian people, and I suggest to the Government that the Department of Commerce should give consideration to this matter with a view to evolving a more satisfactory scheme for the marketing of butter. There is urgent need for the appointment of a trade commissioner in the United Kingdom. There is in the Old Country an immense market for primary products, such as Australia produces, and I believe that a really live trade commissioner could render invaluable service to our people. As regards eggs, the new preference of ls. to ls. 9d. per great hundred, or 10 per cent, on London wholesale prices, should enable the industry to thrive. Our apples, pears, oranges, and canned fruits are assured of advantages over the products of foreign countries. These concessions should be of immense advantage to Australia. We are alreadydoing a very good trade in dried fruits, and I hope that this will be extended. In regard to Australia’s concessions, we are told by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) that the British delegation accepted the Commonwealth’s decision that amendments of protective duties should be made through the Tariff Board, and that the Australian delegation was not in a position at Ottawa to engage in arbitrary alterations. Great Britain has certainly laid stress on the Tariff Board, and shown appreciation of its past work, and confidence in its future recommendations. I sincerely hope, however, that in any revision of duties, due consideration will be. given to established Australian industries. I do not wish to see a wholesale slashing of our tariff schedule, regardless of the needs of local industries that have sound economic possibilities. An independent tribunal should be set up to decide what secondary industries are capable of thriving in Australia.
In regard to the vital provisions of the agreement itself, I agree with article 9 that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities of success, but this condition should operate only after thorough inquiry by a competent body. Article 10 provides that the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative- costs of economic production. This introduces a new fiscal code, but I am prepared to give it a trial. Article 11 - requiring that as soon as practicable, existing protective duties shall be reviewed by the Tariff Board, in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 and that where necessary parliamentary action shall follow such review - savors too much of the handing of all Empire tariff matters over to the board. Parliament, which represents the people, must not surrender its powers. I do not like the provision of article 12 that no protective duty shall be imposed, and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of. the recommendation of the Tariff Board. This takes away the freedom of Parliament, which should be supreme. In the main, however, the agreement is a distinct step forward in Empire relationships. Under it, Australia will benefit, and because of that, I shall support the second reading, hoping that as time passes, we may, by negotiation, secure better terms from the United Kingdom.
.- At this stage of the debate little that is new can be said of the bill. For that reason I shall not attempt to discuss it in detail. Great enthusiasm marked the departure of the Australian delegation to Ottawa. Newspaper articles were written regarding the concessions that might be expected from the conference, and people were led to expect a reversal of the economic tide and the immediate substitution of prosperity for depression. Undue optimism was stimulated. Travelling about the country I was asked by many people what Australia was likely to get from the conference, and I invariably advised them to expect very little. The view I expressed was that if we were negotiating merely with the United Kingdom a mutually satisfactory agreement might be reached; but that at a round table conference of representatives of the various peoples in the British Commonwealth of Nations, unanimity would be almost impossible of achievement. I am astonished, not that so little has been done, but that anything at all was accomplished. As a matter of fact, the conference achieved a good deal ; certainly we have obtained from it much more than I expected, although much less than many people were led to expect because of the blare of trumpets that accompanied the departure of our delegates. I intend to support the hill. The agreement includes some items which, if we were voting on them in detail, I should not support. But this agreement, like a.ny other, is an agreement of minds. A man selling a horse may ask for it twice as much as he believes it to be worth; if the sale is effected, he is satisfied and so is the buyer, - or he would not have bought it; each believes that he has made a good bargain. Such a belief is the basis of all agreements by compromise. In the parliaments of all countries that were parties to the Ottawa arrangement, a minority of members have expressed dissatisfaction with the agreement, but the overwhelming majority of members in each country are convinced that their people have got the better of the deal. That is a wholesome conviction for the parties to any bargain to have. If we take a broad view of the agreement, it is evident that Australia has made a good bargain. Australia is a primary-producing country, and the primary producers have been especially catered for in the agreement. With the exception of bananas and pineapples, the products of Queensland will now be marketed under more favorable conditions. No representative of Queensland could contemplate throwing the agreement overboard, because, by so doing, he would be sacrificing the preference to butter, cheese, meat, &c, which is of suchvalue to that State. The agreement contains items of which Queensland cannot approve, but the balance is in its favour. I approve of articles 9, 10, 11, and 12, and I cannot understand how any one can object to our carrying on trade with? other countries under reasonable conditions. Some time ago the Chamber of Manufacturers issued a circular stating that its members no longer intended to pin their faith to tariffs. Of course, they may have meant that they would only be satisfied if the existing dutiesremained without being made any higher. In my opinion, it is a disgrace for our manufacturers to admit that they cannot carry on under the protection of the existing tariff. Our raw materials, such as minerals and wool, are sent abroad, freight has to be paid on them, and the cost of the manufacturer must be added, together with the return freight, primage and customs duties and exchange, before they can be sold here in competition with goods manufactured in Australia. Surely that is sufficient protection for Australian industries.
I was particularly pleased to hear the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) speak on the advisability of opening up trade with foreign countries. The Ottawa agreement is really a step in that direction. Let us first establish on a proper basis trade with our own people, and then let us enter into trade relations with foreign countries. The honorable member suggested that we might encourage further trade with France and Italy, and I suggest also Belgium. I approve of the proposal, particularly in regard to glass. We have always sold to Belgium goods to ten times the value of what she has sold to us. Last year, I believe, we sold to her eleven times as much as we bought from her. We imported from Belgium less than £300,000 worth . of goods, whereas we sold to her over £4,000,000 worth, and everything we sold to her was the produce of the soil, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal. But great objections have been raised against our buying the usual products of that country. Of course, if we desire to trade with other countries, we must be prepared to have the trade flow both ways. We have heard too much pf this stupid fetish about being self-contained. Only those interested in the manufacturing industries desire the country to be selfcontained. They wish to keep the Australian market entirely for themselves, without competition, so that they may make what they like and sell their products to the rest of the community at whatever price they like; but they never attempt to export at world’s prices. If we have the right to say that we will not buy anything from other countries, we must admit the right of other countries to refuse to buy anything from us. Of the wool we produce in Australia, we use only 6 per cent., so that a market must be found overseas for the other 94 per cent. To follow the arguments of extreme protectionists to a logical conclusion, we must consume all our own primary products, and must therefore reduce our production of wool to 6 per cent. of the present output. But like those of the manufacturers, the interests of the wool-producers must be protected ; the wool-producers must not be permitted to suffer loss; we should have to charge sixteen times as much for the wool used in Australia as it is fetching now, and this could only be achieved by manipulation of the tariff. Only. twothirds of the butter we produce is consumed locally, so that, if we became selfcontained, we should have to cut the throats of a third of our dairy herds, and charge 50 per cent. more for the butter so that the dairyman may not lose. Wheat production would have to be reduced by a half, and the price of wheat doubled toprevent our growers from; suffering loss. Of course, all this. may be ridiculous, but, in reality, it. is not more so th anthe claims of the extreme section of the manufacturers. The position of Australia, isolated as it is in the South Pacific, would become precarious if we were completely self-contained and ceased to trade with any one else. We are situated too close to Asia to be able to feel secure without the protection of the Empire. Our best friends are our own relations, and, next to them, the other white races of the world. I believe that we should endeavour to promote trade with the East, and to that end should be prepared to buy from Eastern countries as well as sell to them. Members of the Labour party are agreeable to exploiting the Eastern markets for our own goods, but they are not prepared to take goods in return.
We are not getting from the Ottawa agreement all that the optimists looked forin regard to some items, par ticularly meat. No restriction has been placed by Great Britain on the quantity of chilled meat imported from the Argentine, though a limitation has been placed upon frozen meat. Of course, chilled meat is under the disadvantage of having to pay approximately1d. a lb. more freight.
– A restriction has since been imposed upon the importation of Argentine chilled meat.
– But no provision is made for that in the agreement itself. Wool is not subject to agreement either, and the only way in which our woolgrowers can hope to benefit is from the sale of meat and the increased prosperity of other countries, which will enable them to buy more of our wool. If the agreement is ratified as it stands, not much benefit will be obtained from it, but we must regard it only as a beginning. It was a splendid thing to get the nations of the British Empire represented at Ottawa, and I have no doubt that further trade agreements will be entered into in the future. The opening of the way for further consultation was, in my opinion, the greatest achievement of the conference.
– The discussion of the Ottawa agreement recalls the words of George Washington - the man who was “ first in peace, first in war, and first in the hearts of his countrymen “ - who, in his farewell address delivered on the 19th September, 1796, gave expression to sentiments which are peculiarly appropriate to-day. He said -
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should! hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things ; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the Government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual’ opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from: time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favours from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favours, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favours from nation to nation, lt is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
The Ottawa Conference has shown us that even in our dealings with other dominions we must realize that each is looking after its own interests. That is only to be expected, and, therefore, I believe that the best service we can render < the British Empire is to develop Australia. The whole Empire will benefit as the result of the growth of its component parts. Although the dream of mankind - a zollverein of trade among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations - is impossible of attainment, there is some virtue in establishing inter-empire trade preference. Nevertheless, we must be careful not to injure our own industries to such an extent as to counteract our gains from other sources. Australia is in a different position from that of any other country. It extends nearly from the equator to 39 degrees 40 minutes south latitude; its climate and its soil are so varied that almost anything which can be grown in other countries can be grown to perfection within its borders. “Whether they can be grown on an economically sound basis is, perhaps, subject to question. During recent years, we in Australia have proved that we can produce rice of good quality at a reasonable price. In this direction, as in others, Australians have shown their adaptability and progressiveness, for whereas in many other countries rice is still picked by hand, we, in Australia, use machines, each of which will gather as much rice as 1,000 natives would gather under the old method. “What wc have done in the growing of rice we have done in other directions. In minerals, also, this country is possessed of great wealth: almost every known mineral is obtainable here.
My objection to- the agreement is not based on any belief in the superiority of a policy of either protection or freetrade, but that it strikes at the heart of the Constitution, in that it is a departure from the principle of self-government. I shall quote some of the articles in the schedule, and give them my own interpretation. Article 9 reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
I have never been an extreme protectionist. No one representing a “Western Australian constituency could be an extreme protectionist, especially when his colleagues practically preach freetrade. I have always contended that it is impossible for “Western Australia, for the most part a primary-producing State, to force a policy of freetrade on the whole of Australia. The great majority of the people of Australia live in the eastern States and they are determined that Australia shall manufacture many of the goods which previously we imported. From the point of view of Australia generally, that is a laudable desire. There is no fear that the policy of protection will be cast aside, notwithstanding that from time to time reductions in the protection accorded to specific industries may be made. Of the 6,500,000 people in Australia, over 6,000,000 are residents of the eastern States, and their will must prevail. How does this agreement affect the autonomy of the people of Australia? When we permit other countries - even the Motherland - to say to us that only those industries which are reasonably sure of success shall survive, we destroy the policy of protection.
Diverse views have been expressed regarding article 10 which reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this, agreement, the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production . . .
That means that manufacturers of the United Kingdom are to be allowed to compete with us as if they were in this country. No other country has ever made such a proposal. Even in the matter of meat, which Great Britain does not produce in large quantities, she reserves to herself the right to give first consideration to her own people. The honorable member for
Corio (Mr. Casey) suggested that certain honorable members on this side of the chamber considered only themselves, and that the rest of the world could “go hang “. We do not adopt such an attitude, but what does Great Britain Jo? Our Government has been asked to reduce the quantity of meat to be exported next year, as the policy of the British Government is first to secure development of home production. While the products of a primary industry in Great Britain are to be reserved to Great Britain, we are not to have the right to protect our own industries. Why in Heaven’s name should we be debarred from establishing secondary industries in Australia and continuing those already successfully in operation without the blast of unfair competition from outside?
– The agreement does not contemplate anything of the kind.
– That is the way in which I read it. Article 11 provides that -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall bc made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
The Tariff Board will be the determining factor. Although this Parliament will deal with legislation arising out of recommendations of the Tariff Board, the principles upon which it shall be guided will be laid down by the board. We cannot be regarded as a self-governing community if we are to give away everything. That is the principle to which I am opposed.
– The honorable member will not fight the agreement on those grounds at Kalgoorlie.
– I shall fight it on the principle that I stand for Australia first. Do the members of the Country party suggest that we must sacrifice the interests of the primary producers of Australia for a mess of pottage in the form of an illusory preference in the British market ? In the matter of wheat we shall not get one penny more than was previously obtained. The Australian wheatgrowers are to have a preference on the British market of 3d. a bushel, but they will still be compelled to sell their product at world’s parity in the markets of the world. If the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) believes that the primary producers in this country, whom he represents, are in favour of smashing up our secondary industries he will find that there are not many in Australia who will support him. They will not sacrifice the industries already established in Australia in order to suit any particular section of the community. Our position in Australia cannot be improved by destroying our secondary industries which have been established by the investment of huge sums of money and the application of energy and intelligence to production. We do not propose to do anything unfair to Great Britain. Australia, with the exception of India, has always been Great Britain’s best market. The trade relationship between Great Britain and India is due to the arrangement entered into between the two countries. To-day, Japan is securing a good deal of trade in India and is gradually pushing the Britisher out of the market. In the Sydney Bulletin of the 25th January, 1928, the following interesting figures appear : -
Figures also show that for every £3 worth of goods exported from Argentine to Great Britain, Argentine purchases only £1 worth of British goods. The Argentine meat producers have received special consideration because of the huge amount of British capital invested in that country. Although the representatives of the
Argentine were not supposed to take any part in the proceedings at the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, they were represented, and actually assisted in framing the policy with respect to meat. I am strongly in favour of encouraging production in Australia, but I am not prepared to support an agreement which purports to assist Australian production, but which, in effect, does not do anything of the kind.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Scullin’s amendment), stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I move -
That the bill be referred to a select committee.
I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In May, 1930, an examination was held under the Public Service Act for the position of linemen. It was restricted to returned soldiers. A fee was charged, and a number of the examinees were successful, but no appointments were made because no vacancies then existed. The opportunity has now arisen to give employment to some of the successful examinees, who, as returned soldiers, are entitled to the position hy law. However, I am informed by the Postmaster.General (Mr. Parkhill) that it is proposed not to appoint them, but to appoint messengers and other officers in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department who cannot be otherwise usefully employed. The honorable gentleman’s predecessor in office gave an assurance that this would not be done. The following is an extract from the reply given by the PostmasterGeneral to a question asked by me: -
Difficulty has also arisen in finding the means for satisfactorily absorbing considerable numbers of permanent officers of the department who had become redundant because of reduced business, and the position was further complicated by the fact that a number of messengers (permanent employees of the department) had reached adult age, necessitating the payment of adult wages at a time when there was no means of finding suitable employment. These youths, in a very large number of cases, have had to be retained on work normally undertaken by juniors receiving a very much lower wage. In the hope of finding suitable outlet for these two classes of officer, it was arranged by the Public Service Board and the department to call applications from permanent Fourth Division officers desirous of obtaining positions of linemen in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania.
That raises, directly, the administration of the principle of preference to returned soldiers as defined “in the Public Service Act’. The Public Service Board is entitled to transfer officers from one section of the department to another if the work is permanent, but, at any rate, in Western Australia, this work is of a temporary nature. Section 83 of the Public Service Act reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, a returned soldier whose name is enrolled in the prescribed register for temporary employment shall, if competent for the work required, bo considered for temporary employment in priority to an)- person who is not a returned soldier. and section 84 is as follows : -
In the making of appointments to the Commonwealth Service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, the board shall give preference to returned soldiers.
These men have passed the prescribed examination and proved their competency for the work. In Western Australia, this work is of a temporary character, and arises out of special activity in connexion with telephones in the Coolgardie and Geraldton districts. The appointment of permanent officers would be uneconomic, and a violation of the provisions of the Public Service Act.
– I must explain that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) intended to bring this matter up on Friday last, but, as I was going to Sydney by the afternoon train, he courteously deferred doing so until this evening. In May, 1930, an examination was held in Western Australia, and 53 returned soldiers passed for an estimated number of 20 vacancies. Unfortunately, since that time the altered economic conditions have removed the necessity for making any additional appointments, and have, in fact, brought about a considerable redundancy of permanent officers in several classifications of the Service. The position to-day is that, owing to normal staff wastage, six vacancies require to be filled in the lines section of Western Australia, and the question for consideration is whether the department shall take returned soldiers who passed the qualifying examination, but who have never been permanent officers of the Service, or employon linemen’s duties some of its redundant staff from other classifications, and thus obviate the financial wastage which is at present taking place. There are now throughout the Service approximately 750 young men over the age of 21 years, for whom it has not been possible to find positions in which adult labour is needed. Not only j3 the department carrying a financial burden which would not be undertaken by any private employer, but the young men themselves have been denied an opportunity to earn the adult wage.
Whilst there is the greatest sympathy with returned soldiers who have been disappointed in not securing positions which at one time might have seemed within their grasp, it does not appear that the department has any option but to make the best use of its existing permanent personnel, who could scarcely be dismissed from the Service in order to make way for others who have never been on the permanent staff. Unfortunately, large numbers of candidates to whom it has been found impossible to offer positions, were successful in passing examinations in all States throughout the Commonwealth in respect of positions of telephonists, telegraphists, messengers, linemen, &c. A considerable number of returned soldiers passed the examination for linemen in other States, and they also are still waiting an opportunity for appointment. Honorable members may be interested in the financial aspect of the matter. A youth of 21 years would normally receive £174 per annum ; but under the recent decision of the Government, if it is found impracticable to employ him on other than the work of a minor, he receives £139 per annum, which is the standard rate for a youth of 20 years. The minimum rate of a messenger is £69 per annum, so that, even. at the rate as reduced by the Government, the excess amount being paid is £70 per annum. On appointment to the position of lineman the pay would be £193 per annum, consequently by appointing an adult officer now engaged on the work of a minor the saving would be £70 per annum. The inquiries which are now being pursued cover the whole Commonwealth, and at a later date the same procedure which is being adopted in Western Australia may be applied in other States where linemen’s vacancies exist. The department is adopting what I think will be regarded as a reasonable course. The returned soldiers in question certainly passedan examination in 1930 for a limited number of positions; but before they could be appointed, circumstances entirely altered, and positions are not available to-day for other than members of the permanent staff. There are more men now on the permanent staff than there are positions to be filled. Unless this Parliament is prepared to dismiss men who are on the permanent staff, the present arrangement must be regarded as a just one. The desire of the Government is merely to do what is most fair and reasonable in these difficult times, and I submit that it has acted in accordance with that principle.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. My attention has been drawn to the statement quoted. It is not, however, a fact that the negotiations were conducted in the manner indicated in the honorable member’s question.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. I would refer the honorable member to my statement in this House on the 10th November, in which appreciation was expressed of the difficulties confronting the wheat industry.
It is only with the greatest reluctance that the Government will contemplate schemes based on compulsion. Only if the circumstances of the industry are such that it is impossible to organize efficient marketing methods by voluntary action, and a request for such control has been approved by a substantial majority of producers in the industry, will the Government be prepared to ask Parliament to provide powers by which a minority of producers will be deprived of their liberty.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
s. - On the 10th November, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What amount has been paid by the Commonwealth, and to what industries and interests, in subsidies and bounties, for the years ended the 30th June, 1931, and the 30th June, 1932, respectively?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Bounties for the past two financial years have been paid as follow: -
y.– On the 26th October, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What was the total quantity of potable brandy of Australian origin in stock in Australia on (a) the 30th June, 1932, and (b) the 30th September, 1932T
I am now able to furnish the honorable member, with the following information : -
The stocks of Australian brandy in bond in Australia on the 30th June, 1932, and the 30th September, 1932, were 1,089,837 proof gallons and 1,042,495 proof gallons respectively.
y. - On the 26th October, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321115_reps_13_136/>.