13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H.Mackay) took the chairat 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that twelve months ago an ordinance providing for workmen’s compensation in the Federal Capital Territory upon the basis of Commonwealth legislation was ready for promulgation? Were representations made to one or more of the several gentlemen who held the portfolio of the Interior during the last year that the ordinance should not be gazetted? When does the Minister intend to afford to the workers in the Federal Capital Territory the same rights to compensation as are enjoyed in the various States?
– I shall have inquiries made into the subject, and let the honorable member have a reply.
-Is the Minister for Commerce yet in a position to inform the House of the result of the negotiations between the British Government, the Commonwealth Government, and the Dairy Produce Export Control Board in respect, of the proposed restriction of the export of butter from Australia ?
– As all the members of the. Dairy Produce Export Control Board have not yet had an opportunity to consider the proposals, I am not able to make an announcement to the House.
– Has theMinister for Commerce yet secured any statistics regarding the alleged increase in the manufacture of butter in the United Kingdom from cream imported from Denmark and Sweden?
– Inquiries reveal that instead of the imports of cream from Denmark for butter making having increased, the total importation of Danish cream in 1932 was only 3,000 tons, which was 300 tons less than the importation in 1931, whilst the importations during January of this year were lower than in January,I am informed that the imports of cream from Sweden are negligible.
Telephone and Broadcasting Fees
– According to a paragraph in this morning’s newspapers, telephone charges and listeners’ fees for wireless broadcasting have been reduced. Will the Postmnster-Gi-uerai stale whether that information is correct, and, if so, will he supply further particulars to the House?
– . I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred. In consequence of the re-arrangement of telephones in certain congested areas, altering the distance of subscribers from the exchange, a slight reduction of charges in certain cases has been effected, but no general reduction of such charges or listeners’ fees has taken place, Obviously, any general alteration would have to be considered in conjunction with the budget for1933-34.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state what action has been taken to give effect to a decision reached some months ago by Australian meat interests that a council should be established to control the export of meat ?
– A sub-committee of Cabinet has been appointed to discuss the matter with the interests affected, and no time will he lost in coming to a decision.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. A week ago, I asked a question which suggested inconsistency on the partof theMinister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in regard to the sales tax. My question was based on a statement published in the press, whichI have since learned referredto Mr. John White and not to the Minister for Trade and Customs. I regret my mistake.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 14th March (vide page 225) on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167, Vol. 135)-
That after the words “ United Kingdom “ the following words be inserted: - “and that the Government without delay submit a further schedule which will carry out the terms and the spirit of the Ottawa agreement with. respect to increased preference to British goods in the following manner: -
Duties against British goods to be reduced to the level of the 1921-1930 tariff in all cases where they have been raised above that level without report by the Tariff Board “.
And on motion by Mr. White (vide page 29)-
.- Never before in the history of Australia was the tariff issue so important as it is to-day. Tariff discussions are taking place in every country in the world, and countries which have long been freetrade have in recent months adopted a measure of customs protection. The new Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who is in charge of probably the biggest schedule ever submitted to a Commonwealth Parliament, has assumed office at a momentous period. I join with other honorable members in congratulating him on the high honour conferred upon him, and hope that when the schedule has been dealt with by the committee it will not be so bad as some of us now fear. The grouping of the items of the schedule is a great improvement, and will add considerably to the convenience of honorable members when dealing with them.
Over this discussion the disastrous Ottawa agreement hangs like the shadow cast by a dark cloud ; it has influenced the Government, and, I am afraid, will influence the Parliament, to revise the tariff downward as no other Parliament for many years past would have contemplated. The terms of the agreement were prominently displayed in the Minister’s statement. Particular emphasis was laid on article 10 which includes the condition that Australia’s protective tariff must be so amended as to give to manufacturers in the United Kingdom full opportunity to compete in the Australian market. Not content with emphasizing that condition the Minister uttered a threat which was directed mainly to supporters of the Government. He said -
The defeat of any item which implements the agreement would necessarily be regarded in the gravest light by the Government.
I have no doubt that that paragraph was included in his speech with the full authority of Cabinet. How it contrasts with the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) when, as Leader of the Opposition, he delivered his policy speech at the commencement of the last general election campaign ! On that occasion, he said -
On the Opposition side there is no whipping on the tariff. Members vote as they please.
If we are to give proper consideration to this tariff, we must not be confined to determining the minimum rate of duty which will give local manufacturers and producers a fair opportunity to compete against overseas competitors. Yet I take it that in the interpretation of article 10 of the Ottawa agreement that question will be of paramount importance. That, I think, is stating the position fairly. I believe that this National Parliament, facing its many problems, should have looked at this matter from a different angle. The real practical question that this Parliament ought to consider is what industries can be soundly established in Australia, and made capable of supplying all our requirements at reasonable prices, and what rates of duty will be necessary to give such industries the whole of the Australian market. We are to-dayfaced with problems of the gravest character, such as the maintenance of the solvency of our nation, and the protection of our people from the constant misery and privation that follow upon permanent or long periods of unemployment. In view of the gravity of the situation, I suggest, particularly to Ministers, that it is futile to talk of following the middle path in a serious matter such as this, or to refer to the existence of sincere free traders on the one hand and stem protectionists on the other. How many members of this chamber will admit that they are free traders, sincere or otherwise ?
– Some are free traders, although they do not admit it.
– That, probably, is true. At any rate, the Minister’s interjection is a charge against their sincerity ; yet he spoke of them as being sincere free traders. Freetrade to-day is an impracticability. It is a dream and an unreality, and the idea of steering the middle course between something which is unreal and something which is real is simply foolish and fantastic. We have heard much specious talk about competitive tariffs, and the word “competitive “ has been rolled like a sweet morsel under the tongue and spoken of as if it embodied all the virtues. But those people who speak so freely about competitive tariffs are, I should say, more solicitous about the importing interests than they are about Australian interests.
– That statement is not fair or correct.
– There can be no question that, in discussing this subject, any amount of sympathy for importers is expressed, but mighty little sympathy for those men who have pioneered industries in this country, have taken great risks, have shown considerable initiative, and have spent many weary hours in endeavouring to solve their immediate problems. Many of them could have made more money as importers than they have made as manufacturers. I am not holding any brief for either of the two sets of capitalistic organizations in this country, but if I lean to any one group, it is to that group which has established industries in Australia and is employing Australian workmen.
Any one who has ordinary intelligence, and a knowledge of plain English, must read in the Ottawa agreement, the intention to place British manufacturers on an equal competitivebasis with Australian manufacturers in the markets of this country. With that intention, I totally disagree, because, should it be carried out, industries already established in Australia will be detrimentally affected. If the agreement does not mean that British goods are to have freer entry into Australia, or that British manufacturers are to capture a share of the Australian market which is held to-day by Australian manufacturers, it means nothing, and is only a scrap of paper. If the Government faithfully carries out the terms of the agreement, its action must have the result of giving the British manufacturers a greater share of the Australian market now held by Australian manufacturers, and to the extent to which overseas goods are successful in competing with Australian goods, to that extent will Australian goods be displaced in our own markets. That is a simple matter of arithmetic. If under tariffs amended in conformity with the Ottawa agreement, overseas manufacturers gain a footing in the Australian market against our own manufacturers to the extent only of 10 per cent., then 50,000 workers willbe thrown out of employment.
– Are not the arguments of the honorable member directed against the agreement itself and not the schedule ?
– They are directed against both, because the schedule is the outcome of the agreement.
– The schedule is designed to give effect to the agreement, and it is the agreement itself which the honorable member is discussing.
– I am discussing the agreement and the tariff which implements it. I do not know what point the honorable member is trying to make, but he is helping to emphasize my contention. If under the existing conditions, in giving effect to the agreementby tariff amendments, 10per cent. of our local market is gainedby successful competitors abroad, approximately 50,000 Australian workers will be thrown out of employment.
– Surely there will be increased trade.
– Australian industries should be permitted to obtain the benefit of increased trade. With the present output and intense overseas competition, overhead costs will be relatively greater. Production costs will ; be increased, and Australian industries will be less capable of meeting the cold blast of competition to which ‘they will be exposed. Several Ministers, including the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) have quoted the policy speech of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), made when he was Leader of the Opposition. It was quoted by the Prime Minister himself when the Ottawa agreement was laid before us, in order to show that the agreement and the proposed subsequent tariff amendments were in strict conformity with the terms of his policy as placed before the people at the last election. I challenge honorable members to cite one word in that policy speech indicating that goods from the United Kingdom would be admitted to Australia on the basis of giving British manufacturers full opportunity for reasonable competition with Australian industries. I suggest that they would not dare to put such a thing on paper. But those honorable members, at a private interview with the manufacturers’ representatives in Melbourne,said something entirely different.
– What did they say then ?
– We should all like to know the full story.
In order to give effect to the granting of preference to goods from the United Kingdom, duties were increased on a long list of foreign goods. With that action I have no fault to find, although it has been criticized by other honorable members. But, if we accept the Government’s statement, what has been the effect? On a liberal reading of the speech of ‘the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), it has ensured to British manufacturers a larger measure of preference and greater security against foreign competition in a market that they already held; in other words, it has given a monopoly to British manufacturers as against foreigners in the Australian market. I have no objection to offer to that. But I do submit to this committee of Australians, or of “ ought to be “ Australians, that that very security which we give to British manufacturers against foreigners in the Australian market ought to be given to Australian manufacturers in their own market on the goods they produce.
– It is ; through the Tariff Board.
– Under the Ottawa agreement, and the schedules which give effect to it, no shelter, no security is given to Australian manufacturers. Will the Minister deny that the basis is one of fair competition?
– Of course it is fair competition; the agreement says so.
– Then I ask the Minister, is there fair competition between the British manufacturer and the foreigner in the Australian market? Of course there is not. The honorable gentleman knows that the handicapping which is to be done by means of the tariff is designed to put British and Australian manufacturers on a level in the fight for the Australian market.
– On the basis of relative costs.
– Exactly. Relative costs, distance from market, and all other factors, will be taken into account if the agreement is honestly carried out; just as a handicapper in a race considers the relative merits of the competitors, and handicaps them in such a way that each may have a chance of winning. Does the honorable gentleman agree with that statement of the case?
– But that is not to happen to the British manufacturer in his competition on the Australian market with the foreigner. In that case the competitors are not equal ; the British manufacturer is given absolute control of the Australian market in connexion with goods that we do not produce. All that I ask is that, in their own market, Australians shall have the same advantage over all others as the British manufacturers are given over foreigners on the articles we do not make.
The Minister has said that reasonable competition should not mean destructive competition. At the risk of repeating myself, I say that successful competition destroys a competitor’s trade to the extent of the success, and that, consequently, to whatever extent competition is successful it is destructive in its application to an opponent. The Minister has also said that reasonable competition will be an automatic price regulator, and that already there is keen local competition in most of our industries. Every one knows that maximum output reduces costs. If overseas competition reduces local output, it will prevent maximum effort, and thus increase costs. Therefore, it is not a regulator of prices, but more than likely will be responsible for increasing costs of production; and that will either mean increased prices, or the entire loss of the Australian market to overseas competitors. I should say that in the majority of cases full advantage has not been taken of the higher tariff. When the Government that I led imposed the highest tariff that was ever imposed in Australia-
– Or in the world.
– I would not say that. But even if it were, I am not apologizing for it. A number of complaints were made of some persons having taken advantage of the higher duties, and ray Government set on foot investigations to ascertain whether there was any foundation for them. In not one case, so far as I can recall, was the charge sheeted home. In some cases it was shown that, where prices had been increased, no duty had been imposed; some retailer or wholesaler had taken advantage of the agitation to derive a little more profit. As a matter of fact, in practically every case in which duties have been raised, the price of the article affected has been reduced. I admit, of course, that prices have fallen all over the world. I have said, and I have been jeered at in this chamber for saying, that the imposition of a duty establishing an industry in this country, and setting up competition with the importer, has, in many cases, had the result of reducing prices. I was pleased to have that assertion supported by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) the other night. The right honorable gentleman was combating an amendment that had been moved by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), and had to make out as good a case as he was able to present; but, even so, I do not question his earnestness or sincerity. The right honorable gentleman spoke from personal knowledge that had been gained from purchases and from observation. He goes round with his eyes open, as the majority of intelligent men do. He said -
Where the effect of the duty is to obtain the home market for our own manufacturers or producers, and there is competition between them it does not follow that the price of the goods will be increased either by the amount of the duty or at all.
I agree with every word of that. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
It is easy to cite cases in which the imposition ofa duty has led to a decrease of price, on account of the fact that our own manufacturers have obtained the market, and by competition among themselves brought down the price.
That language is clear and definite. I ask the right honorable gentleman and the Government these questions: As to their knowledge there are manufacturers who have not increased prices, while in some cases prices have been reduced since the higher tariff was imposed, why should they be disturbed? Why should they be interfered with? Why should the gates be opened to allow somebody else to come in and share a market of which they now have complete control, thus displacing their employees, adding to their overhead costs, and making it impossible for them to sell as cheaply as they were formerly able to do? Why not allow them full possession of our market? The answer will be - I can almost see it crystallizing in the mind of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) - “ Article 10 of the Ottawa agreement forbids it”.
-There are other answers.
– Article 10 is like a minatory finger, directing the Tariff Board and the Government to take the downward course. If they follow the course directed by that finger, Australian industries are doomed. There is not the slightest doubt about that. Any person who understands the practical results of these things must see’ that that will happen.
One of the arguments against high tariffs that I have frequently had put to me is, that they encourage the establishment of industries beyond a point that is economically sound, and that intense local competition reduces profits. That is a question which the local manufacturers will have to fight out among themselves. But is it not better thatwe should have some competition among our own people, even though it be intense, than that we should have destructive competition from overseas, the effect of which will be to close down factories in Australia, or at any rate to reduce the number of employeesin them? If our tariff results in the creation of local monopoly, we must deal with it on the spot. We can deal with monopolies overseas only by setting up competition against them here. There is no doubt that there are important monopolies. I have always said that, as we have power to protect industries, we should have constitutional power to regulate prices. I hope that that will come. Meantime, there is the power of taxation, and, in any case, we have some control over our own industries. If there is to be any exploitation by monopolies, it is better that it should be in Australia than abroad. Despite a great deal of glib talk from honorable members about monopolies, I have not heard a specific case cited.
– What about the iron and steel industry?
– No honorable member has proved that to be a monopoly exploiting the tariff by exorbitant prices. This debate must notbe narrowed to a consideration of the conflict of the interests of the primary and secondary industries. Our duty is to reconcile those interests, and to end any conflict that may exist. That cannot be done by destroying or weakening our secondary industries because world prices have fallen. It should be our aim to build up both industries side by side. The primary industries of Australia have never been disregarded by honorable members who sit with me in this Parliament. We realize that they are the foundation on which national prosperity must rest. But we contend that we should not have much prosperity if we had not a good local market to buy the products of those industries. Apart from wool, of which comparatively little is consumed locally, the major portion of our primary production goes into local consumption. By increasing our power to consume commodities, we build up both industries side by side. By expanding the area of production, intensifying cultivation, assisting the man on the land, and seeing that he receives a fair return for what he produces, we shall thus clear the path for a progressive nation, and remove our primary producers from the danger of being subjected to the vagaries of the international market. And we can do that. Australia has a greater opportunity than any other country to deliver itself from the economic ills that beset the world.
Many reasons have been given for the present crisis. Those include the breakdown of our monetary machine, the chaotic condition of international finance, and the tremendous development of machine production. The last is probably the gravest problem, and will eventually have to be faced although the other two are, perhaps, the immediate cause of the crisis. The industrial revolution which began 150 years ago was as nothing compared with the revolution that has taken place since the war. Mr. Howard Scott, the director of the Energy Survey of North America, a science known as technocracy, stated in a most illuminating article which appeared in the January issue of Harper’s Magazine -
At the present moment the United States of America has an installed capacity of one billion horse-power in engines doing work.
If these engines were operated continuously at capacity, it would require fifty times the number of adult workers now living on the earth to equal this output by human labour alone.
He also explained in the same article that the high point in the number of industrial workers employed was reached in 1918, although peak production was not reached until 1929. indicating that, during those eleven years, while the number of workers decreased, the output increased.
That proves to me that a reduction in the hours of work is inevitable and imminent; also that, to cope with this technological revolution, there must be fundamental changes in the whole method of production and industrial development, including the control of machinery. In the meantime, Australia can do much to protect itself from the ill effects of the mechanization of industry, and even obtain benefits therefrom.
Before the crisis the average yearly imports to Australia amounted to £140,000,000. That figure was reduced to £45,000,000 by the action of the Labour Government. Instead of reverting to the old system of large importations, even when overseas prices rise, we should take advantage of the opportunity, make the goods we require locally, and reduce imports. At first the restriction on imports resulted in a certain dislocation of trade, but now that they have been reduced, they can be kept down and our own industries developed. By the use of up-to-date machinery and our splendid man power, we can extend production in Australia, raise the standard of our people, and ensure prosperity greater than was ever known before. In that direction there is hope for Australia. But if the drift that has set in is allowed to continue, back we shall go to the dangerous position from which the country was extricated by measures taken by the Labour Government three years ago. The efficacy of those measures is shown by the following figures. In 1929-30 we had an adverse commodity trade of £32,000,000. By 1930-31, that had been converted into a favorable trade of £15,000,000, which, in 1931-32, had grown to a favorable trade of £30,000,000. Those figures do not include the shipment of gold. That growth of favorable, trade has now been checked. For the last seven months it amounted to £8,900,000, as against £17,900,000 for the corresponding period of last year. Unless our overseas interest is reduced, we shall require nearly £30,000,000 this year to meet our obligations abroad. If the suspended war debt, or part of it, has to be met, a considerably larger sum will be required.
In my judgment, Ministers are not paying due regard to the position. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) said that the fears that were expressed by myself and others a little while ago are not expressed to-day. I agree that the position does not appear so dangerous as it did last September, but, when we look forward to the next financial year, it appears still dangerous. Ministers say complacently that the cash position for this year is all right. That is so, for a number of reasons. Our war debt payments, amounting to £5,540,000 sterling, have been suspended ; there was a surplus of from £7,000,000 to £8,000,000 in London from the excess of exports from the previous year, and there has been an extraordinarily high volume of exports this year, which only a lunatic would contend will be maintained over coming years. “Without being a Jeremiah, I say that we cannot expect such beneficial seasons as we have enjoyed recently to continue uninterruptedly. If that happened Australia would, indeed, be God’s own country.
I ask what of the next financial year, which will begin in less than four months’ time ? At any time we may expect a lean year, and if we continue reducing tariffs and increasing imports, we shall be in serious difficulties. I say that with some historical knowledge of the subject. When honorable members on this side previously issued warnings of a similar nature, they were disregarded. The amendment of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) totally ignores the trade position, and discloses that there has been no examination into its effect on Australian industries and revenue.
– Who says there has been no such examination?
– I do; were it otherwise the honorable member would not have committed himself to such an absurdity. When challenged by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the only reply from the Country party was that if might increase the revenue. There is only one way of increasing the revenue, and that is by increasing imports; but if we increase imports we shall injure our Australian industries, and adversely affect our trade balance.
– Most of the import’s are manufacturers’ requirements.
– No. Why is it that the textiles imported for the last seven months were valued at nearly £2,000,000 more than for the corresponding period of last year ?
– Cornsacks were included.
– They were not. I have personally examined the list of imports, and I know that that is not so. There is £1,700,000 additional under the heading of textiles which does not include cornsacks or twine, or other requirements of industry. The importation of textiles has increased by that amount during the last seven months over the importation for the corresponding period of last year.
– The textile workers in Australia are busier than ever.
– That is because the old stocks have been depleted, and these workers are getting a chance under the Labour tariff. But if the policy of the present Government is continued, they will soon become less busy, as the honorable member will then realize. There is a lot of talk about increasing imports. Protestations of honesty and declarations that Australia will meet its obligations are only idle words when they come from men who, by their action, would make it impossible for Australia to pay. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) in a thoughtful speech last night, for which I give him credit, said that the trade balance would be almost balanced this year if we eliminated sinking funds. If “ ifs “ and “ ands “ were pots and pans beggars would ride on horseback. If we eliminated part of our interest commitments we would do even better. Sinking fund payments represent between £2,500,000 and £3,000,000 per annum. It is true that we are not under a definite legal obligation to make sinking fund payments, but we are under a moral obligation to provide sinking funds in proportion to each debt. We owe that money as much to the British bondholders as to the Australian bondholders; and if we postpone payment this year, merely because we are not bound by the letter of the law to pay, we shall have to pay double the amount next year. . By not paying now, we are only putting off the evil day. That is not sound finance.
Who can guarantee that we shall have the same volume of exports as last year? Unless there is a rise in prices, we shall be in grave danger. I do not make that statement lightly; this is not the time to say things which will create trouble unnecessarily. But we must issue warnings as occasions for them arise. It is better to create fears in the mind of the Government than to allow them to go on until we meet collapse and cannot face the position. If a collapse comes, we shall be forced to borrow against interest, as we did in. the past. For the last seven months the commodity balance was £8,900,000. If we add the gold exported, eliminating the gold reserve, we reach a total of £14,262,000. The requirements for the year will be about £30,000,000, not including payments for war debts, which were only temporarily suspended. Our trade figures for February and March will be good, but after March they will fall again, when our exports fall off. The next five months will have to give us a credit trade balance of £16,000,000 to meet our minimum requirements; yet for the first seven months of the financial year our credit balance amounted to only £14,000,000, and this is the most favorable year we are likely to get for some time, unless there is a rise in world prices. The probability of a rise in prices is, I admit, a gamble. It certainly would be a gamble to rest our case entirely on the prospect of such a rise. Our imports of merchandise, calculated in sterling, for the first seven months of this financial year amounted to £34,000,000, as against £24,000,000 for the corresponding period of’ the previous year - an increase of £10,000,000. For the same periods our exports of merchandise were valued at £43,000,000 and £42,000,000 respectively -an increase of £1,000,0.00. That is to say, against an increase of £10,000,000 in imports there has been an increase of only £1,000,000 in exports. The value of our exports cannot be increased materially unless there is a rise in prices. It is true that there has been a steady increase in the volume of our exports, and for that I pay my tribute to the men on the land, who have stood by their country in its crisis. I am prepared to help them in every legitimate way; but I am not in favour of curtailing production. We owe it to the country to keep on producing. As 1 have said, we cannot increase the value of our exports to any great extent, unless there is a rise in prices; but we can check the volume of imports. We must keep our imports below exports to the amount of our overseas obligations. To fail to do that is to default. No other avenue is open to us.
The honorable member for Corio said that it was not the fiscal measures introduced by the Scullin Government which- rectified our trade balance. In saying that, the honorable member repeated a statement which will not bear examination. It is true that he was fairer than some others who have criticized the Scullin Government; he admitted that the balancing of our trade was hastened by six months. ‘ My answer to him is that a delay of six months in putting, things right would have been fatal. I say that because I was the Prime Minister of this country at the time that the matter was dealt with. I remind honorable members that the Scullin Government did more than bring down drastic tariff changes; it commandeered the whole of the gold of this country, which otherwise would have been sent out of Australia to pay for imports instead of meeting our obligations. Probably the best way to answer the honorable gentleman’s statement that these adjustments could have been made without the fiscal measures introduced is to direct his attention to a statement by one in whom he places considerable reliance, I refer to the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce. The journal issued by the London Chamber of Commerce for January, 1933, contains the following report of a speech which Mr. Bruce delivered on the 2nd December, 1932:-
For the year ended 30th June, 1030. there was an adverse trade balance of £34,000,000, but as a result of the steps taken, by the end of June, 1932, this had been completely wiped out, and Australia had a favorable trade balance of over £30,000.000. These figures showed what a tremendous task had been accomplished. . . Faced with the heavy fall in the value of its export, trade and the necessity of providing some £30,000,000 for interest overseas Australia had ruthlessly to cut down imports, and the curtailment effected was from £131,000.000 in 1929-30 to £44,000,000 in 1931-32. This curtailment was effected by prohibitions or embargoes, surcharges, and very heavy increases in all customs duties.
The last paragraph of that speech was -
No other course was open to the Commonwealth if it were to meet its external obligation.
– I did not suggest that there was.
– The honorable member suggested that things would have righted themselves automatically, and that any other government would have done the same. The honorable member was not here when the storm broke over our heads. At that time he was in a position in London which enabled him to know how difficult that position was. It is for that reason that the honorable member did not repeat the wild statements which other honorable members have made. He did not say that the action taken was not necessary. But he did not know the political repercussions, which, I assure him, were considerable. They have not yet abated. I remind him of the speech of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) during this debate, in which he attacked the late Government for imposing embargoes and prohibitions. . In that speech also the Scullin Government was accused of having done those things on the “ plea “ that thereby it was balancing our trade. The Acting Leader of the Country party, an ex-Minister of the Crown, sneered at the things which saved this .country from bankruptcy! Yet there is not an intelligent man in Australia who does not know that that was the position. He added that we were keeping the exchange at bay by doing so, although he should know that the exchange was then in the hands of the trading banks, and controlled by them. It is not until recently that the Commonwealth Bank ‘has had complete control of exchange.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the high duties had no effect on the exchange?
– No; but I say that high’ duties regulated imports, and probably rendered it unnecessary for the exchange rate to soar higher than it did.. If honorable members wish the exchange rate to get to a position, worse than 50 per cent. ‘ off gold, they are depredators of our currency to the limit, and they ought to be silent for evermore about inflation, because the very height of inflation is to deflate one’s own currency. Honorable members in the Country party wanted more than that, and they wanted it earlier than they got it. The banks tried to hold our currency; and found that they could not. I think that they tried to hold it too long. But they acted according to their best judgment; everybody was groping in the dark for the first few months. The Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) states that exchange is the natural corrector of unbalanced trade. Mr. Paterson. - So it is.
Mr.SCULLIN. - In normal times, yes; but in a situation such as that into which the Bruce-Page Government had allowedthe country to drift, a more drastic method must be applied. If exchange is the natural corrector of unbalanced trade, why did it not correct the unbalanced trade during the three years when the honorable member was a member of that Government? [Leave to continue given.] In normal times the trade balance corrects itself by the rise and fall of the exchange. But when Australia was on the brink of ruin, or, at any rate, on the verge of absolute and certain default, other measures were necessary. The Deputy Leader of the Country party was in a Ministry for three years, during which we had an adverse trade of just upon £30,000,000. We should have been sending overseas during that period additional goods to the value of £90,000,000, or thereabouts, in order to meet our obligations. At a low estimate, Australia went to the bad in those three years to the extent of £120,000,000. My Government faced that tragic position, and rectified it. Yet all the thanks we get is the sneer that we did it on the “ plea “ of correcting the trade balance.
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) remarked that another government would have done the same thing. Then why did not the Bruce-Page Government do what my Government did? It cannot be said that that Administration was not faced by the problem, for it was. For seven years it bolstered up an adverse trade by borrowing money overseas. During seven years they placed round the neck of the people of Australia a great load of interest, to suit the importers, until at last the credit of the country was exhausted. For ten months the Bruce-Page Government could not float a loan in London, and then met its interest commitments by means of shortterm loans. It contracted £18,000,000 worth of short-dated loans during its last few months of office. This indebtedness hung over the succeeding government like the sword of Damocles. I would not have raked these matters up if credit instead of a sneer had been given to my Government, which faced the problem and saved this country.
Low-tariff advocates seem to be more numerous in Australia to-day than twenty years ago.
– Hear, hear !
– That statement is cheered by thePostmaster-General. Later those cheers will be directed elsewhere. Low tariff advocates have received encouragement from some of the writers who have been ‘discussing the present crisis. Our libraries are being filled by the books of these writers; but on reading their books - and some strong men havebeen dealing with the subject of high tariffs - one comes to the conclusion that the point these writers emphasize is that creditor nations must accept payment in goods for both the interest and principal of their investment’s. To bring that about, they argue that there must be a lowering of tariffs. There is another way by which creditor nations could save the position; by the wiping out of war debts and the reduction of interest rates. But, whatever method the creditor nations employ, it is necessary for their debtors to increase their tariff protection. A debtor nation must export more than it imports. If its export values are reduced by low prices, its only course is to reduce the volume and value of its imports. That is a matter of common sense. Those writers who have so greatly encouraged low tariffists have, really, emphasized the need for Australia to be more effectively protectionist than ever.
During the last twelve months the Government has reduced the duties on 160 items. These are not all reductions of protectionist duties, though most of them are. Worse still, we are told that there are more reductions to come. The cumulative effect of these reductions, which have been going on for twelve months, is to retard the reemployment of our people in secondary industries. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) remarked that the textile workers were never busier than at the present time, and that is true. But were they busy before the Scullin tariff was introduced? Factories were closed down for days at a time, and some for months. These are now open again, and they have their chance, because stocks have been depleted. The tariff which my Government brought down is now proving its value, and the wisdom of our action will be shown if our industries are given a chance. But, while the value of that tariff was being shown, disruption began. Those industries which were not hit were wondering when the blow would fall. The result is that expansions have been held up, stocks are being kept to the minimum, and workers are continually in danger of being dismissed. Surely we ought to take an Australian outlook in this great national and world crisis. We should seek the advancement of our own industries, and the welfare of our own people. We claim with pride that Australia is a land of great opportunities, but why not give to Australians opportunities to develop it?
– It would be most difficult for any government to bring before the Parliament tariff proposals which would meet with unanimous approval. Considering, that our policy has been attacked in extravagant terms by the right honorable member who has just resumed his seat, who believes in prohibition, and criticized with equal vigor by honorable members in another part of the chamber, who favour freetrade, I suggest that we have done remarkably well, as influential journals in this country have already pointed out, in taking a reasonable course in regard to the tariff. On Friday last, the front page of the Labor Daily was adorned by a photograph of the Leader of the Country party (Dr.
Earle Page), and the letterpress stretched across the page indicated that industry had been smashed, and that Dr. Earle Page, General Bennett, and the Labor Daily itself had been stunned by the fact’. It was indicated that this was the most frightful news that had ever been published. I may be pardoned for experiencing a somewhat cynical satisfaction, and for harbouring a somewhat cynical regret that they could npt remain insensible for an extended ‘ period - politically, of course ! The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has just appealed to the members of the committee and the country generally to support an absolutely prohibitive policy for Australia. He has told us that Australian industries cannot compete with similar industries . abroad, and that therefore there must be no competition - not even reasonable competition, with the allowances provided from the Ottawa agreement, respecting which he was strangely silent. The right honorable gentleman is suffering from an inferiority complex, and he does our manufacturers an injustice in thinking that they are suffering ‘similarly. He says that the manufacturers of Australia must be granted an absolute monopoly of the home market. I remember that some years ago the Labour party of Australia was opposed to monopoly in every form. The fact’ that its leader can to-day advocate monopoly shows the retrogression of this great movement. In my opinion, it is a good thing that there are some honorable members of this Parliament - and they are not members of the Labour party - who, from their places in this chamber, and from the platforms of the country, are prepared to take sides with the workers, the middle classes, and those who are being ground down by monopolies of one sort or another. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has told us that’ this is a “ freetrade tariff “, and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has called it a “Scullin Tariff” - which is the most objectionable thing that has yet been said about it. Following upon this welter of invective, in which such extreme views have been expressed, I think I am entitled to describe our proposals as fair and reasonable. The Government has adopted a middle course, and is reducing the Himalayan duties introduced by the previous Administration.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) did me the honour, in the course of his speech, of quoting from certain speeches which I made in this chamber while I was sitting in Opposition.
– And they were good stuff!
– Having heard the honorable member read them so well, I agree with him. The question has been asked, where do I stand to-day. My reply is that what I said then I believe now. Not only was I bitterly assailed in my own electorate during the last election campaign because of the fiscal views I expressed, bur vested interests spent more money in my electorate in opposing me than was spent by them in any other electorate in Australia. Yet, I expressed myself on this issue in my electorate just’ as I did in this Parliament, and the majority of my constituents showed their approval of my views. But I am not so vainglorious as to believe that my single, unsupported and desultory efforts can bring about the changes which I desire to see in our fiscal policy; and when I hear a gentleman like the Leader of the Opposition advocating the adoption of a course which I honestly believe would be fatal to this country, I think it wise to ally myself with those who are opposed to such opinions, and are in favour of a policy which will begin the emancipation of our people from the thraldom of high tariffs, which has been and still is the curse to the working class of every country in the world. That is all I wish to say on the personal aspect of the subject.
The Leader of the Opposition, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has observed, refrained from dealing, to any considerable extent, with the tariff schedule now before the committee, or any of its implications, and has made a ‘bitter attack upon the Ottawa agreement. He could not find a single thing in that agreement, which was arrived at by the statesmen of the Empire, that was worthy of praise. Some of his supporters are saying, “ Hear, hear,” yet the honorable member for Darling (Mr.
Blakeley) last night said that the Labour party was prepared to extend to GreatBritain every possible preference. Where, then, does this party stand on this, subject? It would appear from what we have heard this afternoon that the Leader of the Opposition and his followers are not only bitterly opposed to the Ottawa agreement, but are also opposed to the people who are behind that agreement; otherwise, they would be able to see some good points in the agreement. I have never disguised my view of the Ottawa agreement. I regard it as a mutual arrangement between two parties. Great Britain undertakes, on the one hand, to give Australia substantial benefits ia respect of products of our great primary industries, but she asks us, on the other hand, to allow the manufactured goods of Great Britain to enter Australia on a competitive basis. To put it in another way, we are to have opened to us, to a greater degree than formerly, the best market in the world for our primary products - the market which has really kept this country solvent.
– ‘Great Britain is to flood, and we are to restrict!
– I shall discuss that point presently. All that Great Britain has asked is that the protective policy of this country shall be on a competitive and not a prohibitive basis. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite should fear the word “competition.” In ordinary life every person has to meet competition, and cannot hope to avoid it. We realize that competition induces emulation, increases efficiency, and benefits industry.- Honorable members opposite would protect the industries of this country entirely from overseas competition, and this, as the Leader of the Opposition has admitted, would lead to the creation of monopolies. The right honorable gentleman was not quite fair in his references to article 10 of the Ottawa agreement. In the first place, he imported into it words which it does not contain, suggesting that, in its application, it meant “equal” competition. He must’ have known that the, word “equal” is not to be found in the article in question. What it stipulates is that the tariff shall be’ based on the principle that the protective duties shall afford to the manufacturers of the UnitedKingdom full opportunity for reasonable competition.
– Does not the word “ reasonable “ imply fair and equal competition ?
– It certainly does not mean protection to the extent which the right honorable member and his colleagues would give.
– What does the word “ reasonable “ mean in its application to the tariff on British goods?
– It does not mean a tariff that would exclude British manufacturers from the Australian market. Letme direct the attention of the committee to the precise language of article 10, so that honorable members may properly understand its meaning. This, of course, was not the intention of the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. His purpose was to quote only that portion of it which suited his argument.
-That is not a fair statement, but it is typical,of the Minister’s attitude.
-I submit that it is a fair deduction to make from the right honorable gentleman’s speech this afternoon. Article 10 provides that the Commonwealth shall undertake, during the currency of the agreement, that - the tariff shall he 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 end efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle, special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
This gives a clear statement of the intention of the framers of the Ottawa agreement, which has been endorsed by the respective governments represented at Ottawa.
The Leader of the Opposition also had something to say about our trade balance, a subject upon which he airs his views on every conceivable occasion. Referring to an increase of importations, he denied point blank the statement of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) that these increases were mainly ofraw materials required by Australian manufacturers. On this point, let me direct attention to the following extract from the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) last week, when introducing the Tariff Schedules now before the committee : -
This particularly pleasing feature of recent import statistics indicates that increased quantities of raw materials, tools of trade and machinery are necessary to meet the demands of our local industries. Notable increases have occurred in the importation of the following classes of goods : -
Pulp for paper making.
Machines and machinery of almost every class.
Tools of trade.
An examination of the import figures covering 100 important items representing raw materials of various kinds discloses that while in 1928-29 the imports under these items were valued at £2 5 , 042,000 or 17.5 per cent. of the total commodity imports of £143,280.000, the position in 1931-32 was £11.527.000 out. of a total commodity import of £44,042,000, or 26.2 per cent.
If, because of the assertions of the Leader of the Opposition, any honorable member requires further information, I refer him to the quarterly summary of Australian statistics, which furnishes conclusive evidence in support of my contention. These show that the imports of hessian and other jute piece-goods used in our manufacturing industries, increased in value from £82,000 in 1931, to £154,000 in 1932, and to £211,765 for the current financial year; I should add that bountiful harvests are responsible for the upward trend in these trade figures, so I find it difficult to understand why the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition should have criticized them so severely. Professor Copland, whose views are generally regarded as of value, in his comments upon this subject, recently stated -
We should, therefore, welcome an increase in imports as an indication that economic conditions within Australia are improving. Clearly, the spending power . of the people must be increasing. Some goods must be imported to carry on the production of the country. Thus an expansion in textile production requires an increase in, cotton, linen and silk piece goods. The increases in petrol, paper iron and steel goods, kerosene, fertilizers, bags, electrical machinery and ships, to which the statistician draws attention, are all in part associated with an increase in productive activity of Australian
That, I submit, is the answer to the ful.minations of the Leader of the Opposition against :;he increase of importations that has been noted in our trade figures during recent mouths. In his references to Australian industries and the’ creation of monopolies under prohibitive tariffs, Professor Copland states -
Ou this point the remarks of the Tariff Board, in its last annual report, are opposite: “ The Board concludes that only in exceptional circumstances, where selling prices can be adequately policed, should prohibitive duties be imposed. Industry and the community are better served by the imposition of rates which will enable efficient manufacturers to establish natural industries and gain the market iti proportion to their success in giving good value to consumers”.
I commend that statement to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition as a reasonable view of the tariff position. After all, perhaps the best barometer to gauge the prosperity of a country arid the merits of a policy is provided by the statistics relating to the number of persons in employment. Never at any other time did the manufacturers of this country receive such coddling and encouragement as’ during the period when the last Labour Government was in office, and, yet, during that period, the employment figures fell steadily and drastically. In 1928-29, the number of men employed was 450,482.. Then the Scullin Government came into office, .and duties were raised. In 1929-30, the first year the Labour Government was in office, the number in employment declined to 40.9,1.90, while in 1930-31, the figure had fallen to 338,842, a difference of something like 120,000. The Labour party’s policy, had, therefore, the result of removing 129,000 men from their employment. That is a policy which the Leader of the Opposition wishes to re-introduce.
The honorable member, during his speech attacking the Ottawa agreement, had the temerity to say that the policy of the United Australia Party, on which it went to the country, contained no reference to preferential trade with Great Britain. As a .matter of fact, this is what the present Prime Minister (‘Mr.’ Lyons) said on that point-
T, need scarcely, say that the’ United ‘Australia Party stands for the fullest- attainable measure of preferential empire . trade. The abandonment by Britain of the old freetrade policy appears to open the way to a great extension of reciprocal tariff agreements between the two countries. As soon as the British Government is ready for’ action we would gladly enter into trade negotiations. Every step should also be taken to extend preferential ‘ trade agreements between Australia and the other dominions.
That is a fair and definite statement regarding preference, not only to Great Britain, but to the dominions as welL The United Australia Party did not go to the country on a policy of freetrade. It condemned the prohibitive tariffs imposed by the last Government, and declared that industry must be efficient in order to qualify for tariff protection. It declared for a competitive, as against a prohibitive, tariff, and for tariff-making through the Tariff Board. This is what Mr. Lyons said -
We believe that tariff changes of such a character may easily prove bad for industry and business generally’ and consequently for employment. Where the tariff has been raised to what may be considered excessive levels without reference to the Tariff Board, wo would submit cases for hearing as soon as practicable, and we would in broad principle abide by the recommendation of the board.
That policy the Government is following to-day. A review of the tariff was promised, and is now being made. The tariff is being revised in a downward direction, and I make no apology for that. As a matter of fact, that is what’ recommends to me the tariff now before the committee. , For the first time for many years, a tariff has been brought before Parliament. in, which, more dutiesare being reduced than are being in-, creased. The. present schedule contains 51 items on . which duties are being reduced, while the duty is being increased on only eight. Of these,, two are revenue, duties, so that the number of straightoutincreases is very small. There are also 367 items which are free to Great Britain but carry a 15 per cent, foreign duty. ‘
The Government has been severely criticized in regard to these free- items.. Almost, every bulletin issued by the Coun-try. party has attacked the Government!! on the ground that on 400 items the ditty against .foreigners -was increased instead’ of the’ duty on British ‘ goods being ‘reduced.’ Let me point out in- the first place > that there are not 400 items in the tariff.
The tariff consists of 75 items and 1,933 sub-items. Had the Country party desired to be fair, it’ would have pointed out that it was referring to sub-items and not items. Its propagandists took good care not to mention that a great number of these sub-items are already admitted free from Great Britain, or carry a duty of not more than 5 per cent. Therefore, the duties against foreign goods under those items had to be increased in order to preserve the formula.
– The honorable member may have done. so, but that does not alter the fact that the propaganda issued by the honorable member’s party has been disseminated throughout the country, and is of a grossly unfair nature. The Government would have appreciated it much more if the honorable member had used his ‘influence to stop such propaganda, which he knew to be untrue.
The Tariff Board has come in for a great deal of criticism from the Labour party. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), who was Minister for Trade and Customs in the last Government, made a speech recently in which he disparaged the Tariff Board, and spoke of its members as if they were anything hut a body of impartial men doing a patriotic and useful work for their country. In any case, what alternative have we to the Tariff Board. The same system has been adopted in Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa. There could be nothing fairer than a tribunal composed of the best available men, to make an impartial investigation of industries and advise the legislature as to what is a reasonable measure of protection. What are the alternatives? One is log-rolling by interested manufacturers, either directly or through agents who swarm about this building and importune honorable members. The other is that the Minister should inspect the various industries that are seeking protection. With all due respect to him T doubt that he has sufficient knowledge of the details of industry to judge whether this or that undertaking is entitled to protection.
– He could appoint an ‘able officer of his department to investigate the facts.
– And make the recommendation which the Government wanted !
– The suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is opposed to the Tariff Board principle. There is not the slightest doubt that if the alternatives I have mentioned were put to any unbiased section of the public, they would declare emphatically for the Tariff Board principle.
– ‘There are tariff boards and tariff boards.
– The remark of the honorable member is unworthy of him. I am convinced that 99 per cent, of honorable members would be satisfied to allow the Tariff Board to be selected not by the Ministry, but by an entirely impartial body; all that the majority of honorable members desire is fair and impartial arbitrament. Apparently, the honorable member for Capricornia has a different idea.
The remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) were hardly justified, and were not consistent with his previous attitude. The honorable member was elected to this Parliament on the policy for which this Government stands, which I have read to the committee. On that policy , he joined the Ministry. For nine months, as a Minister, he supported that policy and helped to implement it. That was the policy to which he was seeking to give effect in the work which, as Minister for Commerce, he did prior to, and during, the Ottawa Conference. Tha.t policy is incorporated in this schedule which, in the circumstances, should excite the honorable member’s appreciation rather than his cynicism.
– He said that he did not resign because of a difference of opinion in regard to policy.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is well known. The amendment by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) fills me with amazement. The honorable member suggested as the standards by which the policy of the Government should be judged - (1) the views expressed by the economists in 1929; (2) the Ottawa agreement; and (3) the statements of Ministers when they were in Opposition. He omitted to cite the policy upon which the Country party went to the people. Surely that is important; or does the honorablemember, like some American statesmen, regard a platform as something upon which one gets into Parliament to be forgotten immediately afterwards? Here is an excerpt from the policy of the Country party -
It is not ourintention to smash well established and properly run secondary industries, but we will see that sufficient protection is afforded those industries to secure their continuance upon the lines of efficiency.
. We shall refer a carefully planned basis of investigation to the Tariff Board to determine. . .
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Nothing; the fault is in the amendment moved by the acting leader of the party, which ignores the principles contained in that paragraph, and proposes that, without investigation by the Tariff Board, and by mere rule of thumb, certain duties should be reduced by 25 per cent. or more. The amendment is utterly at variance with the protestations and platform promises made by the party to industry. Those engaged in secondary industry are entitled to consideration, and can reasonably expect that the promises made during the election campaign will be adhered to in Parliament. What must the electors think of a party which discards its policy immediately after the election and substitutes another method of tariff revision, which, besides being grossly unfair, is a mere caricature of the undertakings given on the hustings.
– Prior to the last general election a conference was held between representatives of the Country party, the old Nationalist party andthe All for Australia party. The policy that was adopted by the Country party representatives, and, I understand, endorsed by . the. council of the party, provided that the revision of the tariff “ must be carried out equitably”. Would the summary removal, without prior investigation, of duties that have been in existence for two or three years, be considered an equitable revision of the tariff?
– Was that policy agreed to by the All for Australia party also?
– No ; I am quoting the policy to which the Country party subscribed at that conference. That policy was -
The scientific revision of the tariff for the economic rehabilitation of Australia with a view to the encouragement and protection of efficient primary and secondary industries.
The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) declared that the tariff should be revised upon the advice of the Tariff Board. But that proposal is not contained in the amendment.
– The amendment reads - and that the Government without delay submit a further schedule which will carry out the terms and the spirit of the Ottawa agreement with respect to increased preference to British goods in the following manner: -
Duties against British goods to be reduced to the level of the 1921-1930 Tariff in all cases where they have been raised above that level without report by the Tariff Board.
The amendment proposes the immediate reduction of duties. Does the honorable member for Corangamite contend that it means that the items are to be submitted to the Tariff Board before they are reduced?
– That is the object.
– If that is so, the amendment is entirely unnecessary, because it merely urges what is the present policy of the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to debtor and creditor nations. I cite America as an illustration of the pernicious influence which excessive tariffs are exercising throughout the world. That country is exacting from other countries the payment of huge war debts. [Leave to continue given.] The United States of America is exacting from the various debtor nations of the world the payment of immense sums of money,but that country has, like Australia, erected a high tariff wall against foreign imports. The Hawley-Smoot tariff has reached such a high level that none of the debtor countries can export their goods to the United States of America. There are only three ways in which debts between countries can be paid. They can be paid in ‘gold, in goods, or in services. When the war debt of Germany was adjusted, the United States of America immediately imposed a high tariff, to prevent German goods from flooding that country, and the debt of Germany to the United States of America has been met out of the money loaned by that country to her. High tariffs have banked up the trade, of the world in circumscribed areas. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition, one would think that the industry and commerce of the country was merely a municipal enterprise, concerning only the people in the immediate vicinity. This country cannot live within itself. It has to export its goods, and sell them at parity on the other side of the world.
– Is the Minister suggesting that our position is analagous to that of the United States of America?
– If we build a high tariff wall round this country, we shall receive no new money, because there will be no inflow of trade. As the Minister for Trade and Customs pointed out, despite the enormous tariff for which the Leader of the Opposition takes pride in having instituted, the exports of our secondary goods represent less than 4 per cent, of our total exports. It is to the producers of our exportable goods, which represent 96 per cent, of our total exports, to whom we have to look for bringing new money and wealth to this country. Although the’ path has been as clear as it can be ahead of us, we have burdened with excessive costs, under our high tariff, the industries which bring money into this country. It is to break down that position that we are endeavouring to aid primary production in this country. This Government stands for a review of the tariff in accordance with the schedule which it has submitted to honorable, members.
Mr. MCNICOLL (Werriwa) [4.18.;).- During the last four or five days, I have listened with close ;. attention to the speeches of honorable members of all parties, and I have looked in vain for the wisdom that is supposed to be found in a multitude of counsellors. It is difficult for any one to reconcile the extremely opposite statements of honorable members. I regret very much that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) should have expressed himself as he did in respect of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). Most honorable members appreciate the sterling characteristics of that honorable member, and no one is more free from the fault of sneering at others. I am disappointed at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition. His statement was unfair, and was not up to the standard of his speeches in this chamber.
– Did the honorable member hear the speech of the Acting Leader of the Country party?
– I did.
– How did the honorable member interpret the reference that he made to the Labour party?
– I think that the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland contained reasonable criticism. I certainly would not say that it contained any sneering terms.
– The Acting Leader of the Country party said that we did certain things on the “ plea “ of necessity. That was a charge of insincerity.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr,. Parkhill) referred to the amendment proposed by the Country party ; but, until he became aware of its correct form, he was quite at sea as to its meaning. His remarks, as recorded in Hansard, are likely to give a false impression to anybody who reads them, because they do not give a true indication of the meaning of the proposed amendment. As a member of the Country party, I have noticed with interest, and not a little amusement, the endeavours of speakers on both sides’ of the chamber to attach to the Country party a freetrade la’bel. The United Australia Party would not care to be considered a prohibition party, yet it has as many advocates for an excessively high tariff as has the Country party for a’ low tariff, or even a freetrade policy, and vice versa. . It seems to be a tradition in this Parliament that honorable members should be allowed individual freedom in fiscal affairs. The policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), made when he was Leader of the Opposition, has been quoted as stating that the tariff would be a non-party matter, and that there would be no whipping of honorable members on that issue. We are hoping that that is so.
– Surely the honorable member does not accept that statement? Mr. McNICOLL.- I do not accept it, mainly because of a reference made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in his speech last week. The tariff policy of the Country party to-day is that which was advocated by the Prime Minister in his policy speech fifteen months ago. At that time he stated “ the Nationalists and the Country party stand firmly behind the Massy Greene and Pratten tariffs.” If, according to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), the Country party is freetrade, then so must -be the Prime Minister and his party. If, according to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), the Government is following a via media, we are entitled to ask what are the two extremes?
– Did the honorable member quote in the speech of the Prime Minister the word “ stand “ ?
– The word is “ stood “. The honorable member quoted the word “ stand “ as if it completely described the present position.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral imply that the policy of the Government has changed?
– No; but the honorable member should quote the statement accurately.
– The middle course so proudly claimed by the . honorable member for Corio for the Government can only represent the extent of its departure from its election policy, and it is to the extent of that departure that the Country party is criticizing the tariff schedule which is before honorable members. The right honorable the AttorneyGeneral, who, beneath a calm exterior, must have felt anything but happy under the probe of Hansard memories, as revived by the honorable member for Gippsland, characterizedthe amendment of the Country party as a rough and ready means of dealing with the schedule. The heavy increases of tariff imposed by the Scullin Government were sufficiently rough and ready, and met with strong opposition from members of the present Government. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), in his speech last week, said that those increases had a special object - the adjustment of the trade balance - and were imposed with the definite understanding that they would be withdrawn as soon as possible. The point covered ‘ by the amendment introduced by the Acting Leader of the Country party is that those increases were imposed suddenly, and without reference to the Tariff Board, and that, therefore, in conformity with the policy of the Government, they should now be removed and the items affected submitted to the Tariff Board for revision, and later to this Parliament for reconsideration. To-day, in the third year of their operation, many of these high and so-called emergency duties are considered by industry as being necessary protective walls, and they are retained by a Government composed of the very men who previously condemned them. The abolition of these emergency duties imposed by the Seullin Government and the return to the Pratten tariff, which this Government is pledged to support, can hardly be called a roughandready action, and such a description does little justice to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), who is said to possess a calm and unbiased legal mind.
I am pleased that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has been appointed Minister for Trade and Customs. While on active service he gave evidence of personal courage, and that trait in his character should be one of his greatest assets in his new position. By interjection last night, the Minister asked the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) if he placed his own position abovethat of the Tariff Board. That is a pertinent, question, and the implication is that the Minister himself, even after two months of intensive study, recognizes the value of the Tariff Board as an- expertbody able to obtain and weigh evidence and to come to an independent conclusion. This Parliament has a high opinion of the Tariff Board..
The Ottawa agreement has placed a great responsibility upon it. The Minister pins his faith to the board. I ask honorable members to do it the justice of listening to some of its considered judgments. The board, in its last annual report, said -
The board considers it necessary again to comment upon the disturbingly high cost in Australia of essential plant and raw materials. This is not done with any idea of disparaging local industry, but the board feels it incumbent upon it to continually’ lay emphasis on the * prevailing high prices of essential products, for the simple reason that until such prices arc materially reduced to meet the seriously reduced purchasing power of the community, neither the demand for the products nor employment can be effectively resuscitated.
In this chamber there is often talk of sectional interests. The Country party has always stressed the needs of the primary producer. The fact that this nation depends so much upon its primary industries is being so widely recognized that other political parties are now paying attention to the man on the land. We should have in mind all the time the national welfare and the interests of our 6,500,000 consumers, whose earning power has diminished considerably in recent years. The Tariff Board puts its finger on the spot when it calls attention to the need for a reduction of prices. There is no doubt that the tariff is one of. the causes of high prices. A table is given to illustrate the board’s contention, and the following observation is then made : -
Some of the comparisons in the foregoing table are startling. The board regards the production of woollen textiles as one of Australia’s natural secondary industries, and one in which an extensive export trade should be capable of development, and it is disconcerting to find that a yarn spun from fine merino wool should cost 57d. per lb. in Australia as against 32d. per lb. for a similar yarn in the United Kingdom.
It is almost as expensive as some other “ yarns “ that are spun in connexion with the tariff. The report goes on to say -
The fact that the operation of exchange affects this and other comparisons, is not overlooked, but even after making allowance for the influence of exchange on local costs, there is still a marked discrepancy which cannot bc ignored.
Referring to -cotton, the report says -
The high cost of cotton yarn spun in Australia constitutes a serious charge on industries using such yarn as a raw material. For example, a yarn spun locally from Australian cotton costs 30d. per lb. as against 12d. per lb. for a similar yarn spun in Liverpool from American cotton. The table also shows the high cost of galvanized iron and of important plant and machinery. The price of the article is in several instances more than double the f.o.b. price of the comparable overseas product.
That is not an extract from a speech of a member of the Country party, but an expert opinion given by an independent authority set up by this Parliament to deal with the tariff.
A new note is introduced into this debate by the Ottawa agreement, and especially by that clause in it which undertakes to give British manufacturers the right under certain conditions to a reasonably competitive trade. In this connexion, it is interesting and informative to refer to the annual report of the Tariff Board. On page 13 of it, there is mention of the very point that was raised this afternoon in the debate that took place between the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill). The Tariff Board says-
Many manufacturers recognize the seriousness of the excess costs of Australian industry . . . They claim that if they are to reduce costs the whole of the Australian market must be secured to them.
It is very difficult to see how that can be reconciled with the Ottawa agreement. If that view be general, the opposition to the Ottawa agreement is easily understood. One manufacturer in giving evidence claimed that the Australian market should be secured under any and all circumstances for all goods that are manufactured or could be manufactured in Australia. The protective policy of the Country party stops far short of such sentiments, and so does the Ottawa agreement. Another paragraph in the report which is invested with some importance is that which reads -
Many of the items in the customs tariff cover a range of commodities for some of which there is sufficient demand to enable economic production, while others have so limited a sale as to be costly to produce.
The board condemns as dangerous the granting of duties that are so high as to constitute prohibition, as they encourage the expenditure of too much capital, increase overhead charges, and result in the lessening of efficiency in production, and the earning of unreasonably high profits. As a whole, this most recent report of the board gives considerable support to the policy in regard to the tariff advocated by the Country party.
The big improvement noticeable in the present tariff schedule affords gratification. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has already commented upon a number of its features. But while some reductions have been made, the fact remains that in group 7 there are items that were raised by the Scullm Government to considerable heights without a reference of the matter to the Tariff Board. Those admittedly were emergency duties, and the party of which I am a member considers that they should be reduced by the present Government. Our justification for that belief is furnished by the policy speech of the Prime Minister, in which he said that the Pratten tariff was the one upon which his party based its faith.
I sympathize with the Minister (Mr. White) in the tremendous task that confronts him, and trust that he will give us credit for honesty in our criticism. I remember a speech that he delivered last year, in which he gave evidence of an acquaintance with the report of the economists who investigated the effects of the Australian tariff. I shall, therefore, conclude by reminding him of some of the findings of that body. They reported, among other things, as follows : - (1.) Extreme applications of the tariffhave undoubtedly been a cause of net loss. (2.) The benefits and costs of the tariff do not inarch together. (3.) The tariff falls with the greatest weight on the export industries.
– I congratulate the Minister (Mr. White) upon the excellent speech that he made in introducing this schedule, and hope that at some future date he may see fit to bring down a schedule that will accord more closely with the statements that he has made.
I, in common with other honorable members, devoted some time to the consideration of this subject during the recess, in an endeavour to fathom some of the difficulties that it presents. The remarks of older, more seasoned, and, one would expect, wiser members, have caused a certain degree of wonder to those who are new to this chamber. As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr.
McMcoll) remarked, one would be justified in looking for wisdom among such a multitude of counsellors. Unfortunately, however, the majority of new members were left at the conclusion of the last period of this session in a complete fog, out of which theyfound it necessary to endeavour to feel their way during the recess. I frankly confess that, having studied the effect of tariffs upon costs and employment, I have come to the conclusion that tariff-making demands ‘ the devotion of a considerable amount of thought; not the arbitrary action that has characterized certain , governments. nor the violent fluctuations and changes that are suggested by some honorable members. Upon the measure of thought that’ we devote to the subject depends the prosperity or the adversity of our people, and the degree of employment or unemployment that is to. be their lot. The tariff strikes at the very roots of our economic fabric, and in the successful implementing of it lies the difference between employment and unemployment, prosperity and adversity. By their arbitrary action, and their failure to face up to the question in a proper way, governments from time to time have helped to create a monster that they are now loath to destroy. Its extraordinary structure is admired, while there is a forgetfulness of natural caution and a blindness to the destructive forces involved. I say at the outset that I am not a freetrader. The world is still in the throes of an economic blizzard, and any extreme fluctuation, either upward or downward, would have a tendency towards economic suicide. At the same time, however, I disagree entirely with the views in regard to prohibition expressed by honorable members opposite. It has always been a source of wonder to me that the Labour party as a whole - representing, as it does, the working class, and knowing full well that extraordinary tariff charges react to the detriment of the people in whom it has such a lively interest - supports extreme tariffs. It is common knowledge that’ tariff charges eventually are borne by the consumer, who, unfortunately, has to pay in an increasing ratio for the commodities that he can least afford to ‘buy, and the anomaly lies in the fact that those with large incomes pay just as much for the ordinary every day commodity as do persons in reduced circumstances. Let us follow this thought a little further, and consider the attitude that is adopted by the Labour party in other countries. Are their tactics similar to those of honorable members opposite? They are not. In England, and on the Continent, the Labour party recognizes its obligation towards the working class, and is inclined towards a very low tariff policy, possibly bordering on freetrade. It realizes that, if goods can be purchased cheaply, the worker must benefit considerably. It adopts the policy that, as its supporters pay the piper, they must endeavour to call the tune. I was deeply interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), in common with whom I feel disposed to lean towards the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland. As the same time, however, I realize that a drastic and violent change in our tariff policy may not react to the benefit of the Australian community as a whole. I am supported in that contention by the report of the Tariff Board, from which such pertinent quotations have been made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr.
Mcnicoll). Unfortunately, that honorable member did not delve deeply enough into its pages. Had he done so, he would have found what would have caused him furiously to think. Judging by his championship last year of the protection afforded to haircloth, I should say that the honorable member holds protectionist views. Had he turned to page 15, he Would have found that the Tariff Board made the following statement with reference to violent tariff changes: -
There can bc no doubt that sections of the community have suffered much disruption of business and endured hardship following the frequent and violent changes of the tariff during the last three years. What may have been beneficial to some has meant ruination to many, and much dislocation and loss of confidence have resulted. At present there is a demand by some for reduction, and others press for stability. There is no doubt that stability of the .tariff would he of great value to industry, provided that the rates are reasonable and just. The board has already reported on many of those tariff items the duties under which were increased without the matter first having bee.n referred to it. There still remain a number of items on which the board has not yet reported, and until this has been done and the Parliament has acted in accordance with its judgment, there must be some sense of insecurity. When this review has been completed: however, it is hoped that, in the interests of all the parties, the community will be secured from further frequent and violent changes.
I particularly refer the last sentence to the honorable member. The arbitrary reduction of our tariff to the 1921-30 level is just as violent iu its effect as was the ridiculous tariff action of the Scullin Administration. The unfortunate persons who were coaxed into investing money in our secondary industries, by the belief that the action of the Scullin Government would result in stability, should have a chance to adjust themselves to altered conditions. If the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) were adopted, many small manufacturers would be forced into the bankruptcy courts, and, simultaneously, there would be a tremendous increase i:i unemployment. On the other hand, if by considered action and careful adjustment we restore our tariff legislation to stability without materially interfering with the unemployment problem, and force uneconomic industries out of existence, those investors would be given a chance to make their businesses efficient, or get out.
– Presumably, if a builder constructed a wall for the honorable member 6 feet higher than he desired it. he would have it removed one brick at a time.
– I should take into consideration how the alteration affected my neighbour. If the sudden demolition .of the wall impinged unnecessarily upon his privacy, I should give him a fair chance to re-adapt himself to the proposed new conditions before having the barrier removed.
The action of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), when Minister for Trade and Customs, seemed to be without rhyme or reason. Apparently, he considered, only the interests of the industry concerned, and had no thought for community’ or national interests. What mattered it to him whether those whom he claims to represent suffered intolerably from the burden of increased costs; whether the national well-being was upset, or unemployment increased? He adopted an arbitrary action, failing to realize that a tariff is bound up in the economic life of the country, and, therefore, needs careful analysis. The honorable gentleman’s action tended to create monopolies, which 1 refuse to support. I believe that certain monopolies should exist for the provision of essential services,but that they should be controlled by the Government. I commend to honorable- members, when considering the matter, the axiom, “ Competition is the soul of ‘business,” and urge them to guard against precipitate and extreme action which will result in the establishment of monopolies. Moderation is essential.
The Leader of the Lang faction in this chamber (Mr. Beasley) is an ardent supporter of high protection. I cannot understand this, because his attitude definitely injures those who support him. He must be aware that, by curtailing shipping by placing embargoes and restrictions on imports, the Scullin tariff threw hundreds of his supporters out of employment. In his innocence, the honorable member expected those persons to be absorbed in the imaginary additional secondary industries, which would, the then Minister for Trade and Customs assured him, spring up over night. The honorable member h;is been sadly disillusioned,-. and I incline to the belief that we may safely call on him to support a moderate tariff. Otherwise, I am confident that the next elections will provide a different representative for West Sydney.
It. is very true that, while you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, you cannot fool all of them all of the time. In future, the honorable member had better study principle rather than party.
Extreme protection means high cost of production.. Manufacturers take definite advantage of the margin between high duties and their costs, and tend to develop slipshod methods, which cannot stand up to competition.
Under the sub-heading, “ Tariff reductions and employment”, the report of the Tariff Board states -
Nevertheless, the imposition of high rates of duty for the benefit of’ one industry, resulting in “seriously higher costs to other secondary or to primary industries, may cause some additional employment in the one, but resultant unemployment iu 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 nf exports of the products of her great primary and her natura] secondary industries.
Honorable members have repeatedly contended that a tariff .increases the cost of production, and have even quoted expert authorities proving that it has increased the cost of primary products by 9 per cent., or even more. Yet, ig the face of such evidence, it is now proposed to increase foreign duties. The logical conclusion is that that will result in automatically restricting our purchasing power on the English markets, with which we desire contact, and will cause additional unemployment. We are accentuating the position by increasing the foreign and refraining from lowering the British tariff. That must increase our costs .and lead to loss of markets.
A pious wish has been expressed that the Tariff Board should reconsider the items affected. It is wise for us to consider what the Tariff Board has done. The Minister told us that in the 201 reports presented during the last three years, only thirteen’ have been referred back to the board, and declared -
Tn respect of those 201 reports which have been submitted by the board during the last three years, and which the board considers provisionally meet the requirements of the Ottawa agreement, the Government takes the view that it has. for the time being, substantially complied with the agreement.
Something more ‘is necessary, and, towards the close of my speech,’ I shall make a suggestion that, may meet with the approval of honorable members.
Let me deal with unemployment. It is common knowledge that within twelve months of the introduction of the first tariff schedule, an application was made to the Arbitration Court for increased wages. When the tariff was increased there was a consequent increase in prices, which reduced the purchasing power of the community. Desiring to maintain the standard of living previously enjoyed, the workers applied for an increase in wages. That was granted, and immediately there was an increase in the cost of production, which demanded a further increase in the tariff to balance matters. So the vicious circle was made complete. Such action must result in loss of markets and unemployment.
I shall read to the committee an extract from the Tariff Reformer, which, in turn, was culled from extracts from the Argus. It gives interesting information and statistics regarding the results of increased tariffs, and goes back as far as the Kingston tariff. It is as follows: -
We give hereunder the statistics of unemployment following on each advance in tariff rates : -
Then follows the comment that the Pratten tariff of 1925 was the only one which was followed by a decrease in unemployment, and that this was due to our heavy overseas borrowing, and to the extremely high prices which we received for our primary products. As tariffs have gone up, there has been a gradual increase in unemployment. The journal which I have mentioned has culled from the Melbourne Argus reports of speeches by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), in an attempt to show that their predictions as to the effect of increased duties on unemployment have not been realized. Under the heading “ Hot Air- Cold Comfort “, the following appears: -
– By its tariff amendments the Scullin Ministry has arrested the retrogression in industry, and now we are at the beginning of a great revival which will result in the employment of at least 100,000 additional workers.
At that time, unemployed unionists in Australia numbered 63,144.
– There are better times ahead.
By then, the unemployed had reached a total of S0,595.
– The figures indicate that the tariff policy of the Federal Ministry has been very successful in its result.
Apparently, he was satisfied, although at that time 113,614 persons were unemployed.
Now let us see what the present Leader of the Opposition had to say. .This journal states -
– It is estimated that at the end of twelve months, 100,000 more hands will be employed.
At that time, the number of unemployed in Australia, including unionists, was 130,000.
– While a number of people engaged in importing businesses may lose their positions this will be more than counterbalanced by the absorption of additional workers in the manufacturing industries.
The unemployed figures had, by that time, jumped to 200,000. “We then come to the policy speech of the right honorable gentleman in December, 1931, in which he stated -
We have 300,000 unemployed, many of then suffering severe privation.
The arbitrary action taken by the Scullin Government increased the number of unemployed from 120,000 in October, 1929, to 300,000 in December, 1931. So much for that government’s boasted attempt to relieve unemployment, and its promise that its tariff schedule would open up a paradise for Australian workers.
Honorable members opposite have stated that protection is Australia’s settled policy. I suggest that the action taken by the Scullin Government has really unsettled Australia, and that if persisted in, it will settle Australia in the true sense of that word. The ridiculous prohibitions would, if continued, settle Australia indeed.
In all times of unemployment, the cry “ Back to the land “ is heard. With the policy of increased land settlement I agree, in order that Australia’s* manhood may be preserved. The morale of the city dwellers in Australia appears to be almost completely broken. I remind honorable members of the hundreds of their constituents who, at one time, considered themselves to be definitely above the breadline, but now have “been forced out of their neat homes into squalid surroundings. If land settlement were the province of the Federal Government, it could do much to make the country more attractive to city men by telling them of its broad open spaces, where men can obtain plain, wholesome food, and can supplement their living by what they themselves can grow; of the clear sky overhead., and the fertile loamy soil beneath their feet. If we can make these things real to the city dweller, we shall do something towards the salvation of this nation. Unfortunately, these things are not within the province of the Federal Government. Why do we penalize the country man by insisting that he shall pay increased costs for the things that he requires, while at the same time, we give to those engaged in secondary industries relief by means of the tariff? Such a policy, instead of attracting men from the cities to. the country, has the opposite effect. Is it any wonder that the bulk of the population of Australia is to be found in its capital cities? Of the total population of Victoria, 60 per cent, is congregated in Melbourne and its suburbs. We may think that that is typical of all countries, but it is not so, for of the population of England, only 11 per cent, is domiciled in London ; only 7 per cent, of the population of France lives in Paris; New York contains only 5 per cent, of the people of the United States of America, and only 3 per cent, of the population of Japan lives in Tokio. If the Governments of Australia make country life so attractive that men will be induced to leave the cities to settle on the land; if they assist producers in the marketing of their produce, they will do something for the well-being of this great nation. Those things can be done if the problem of tariffs is tackled in a proper way. But I fear that the Government has not attempted to implement tariff reform as it should be clone. If it had studied the index figures of primary production and secondary industries, it- surely would have realized the necessity for action. Since the drastic steps taken by the Scullin Government, the index figure has continuously set against the primary producer: The monthly- summary of Australia’s condition issued by the National
Bank of Australasia Limited, contains in its issue for January, 1933, a comparison of wholesale price index numbers, based on the figure of 1000 for 1911, for both primary and secondary products. It is as follows: -
That statement shows how the index figure has set against the primary producer. A downward trend in secondary industry prices would be in the interests of the community as a whole.
The Ottawa agreement is indissolubly linked with the schedules which we are considering. I regard the Ottawa Conference as the realization of Australia’s nationhood. It was a direct challenge to foreign countries, particularly France, which was endeavouring to gain economic control of the Continent, and the United States of America, which was trying to establish a corner in gold. The conference was* held not a moment too soon,’ because chaos was inevitable unless something was done to bring about a definite understanding in a world of continual change. Many difficulties, some of them of great magnitude, faced the representatives of the dominions when they met at Ottawa.’ It was no light task to attempt to reconcile Britain’s freetrade policy with the various fiscal policies of the dominions. Each dominion was seeking concessions, the granting of which might make all the difference between prosperity and loss in certain industries. They also had to deal with the financial crisis as it affected each of the several parts of the Empire. Fortunately, the representatives placed all those difficulties in their true perspective. Australia was not content to remain unrepresented at the conference. It is generally admitted that our representatives ably stated Australia’s case: Adapting the words of Kipling, Australia was prepared to remain a daughter in her mother’s household, hut she must still be. mistress in her own. Australia has proved that in a little over a century she can rightly claim a place among the mighty nations of the world. This country with its 3,000,000 square miles of land - 25 times greater in area than the Mother Country, and one-fifth of the whole mighty Empire - has challenged the world with her White Australia policy. Ninety per cent, of the inhabitants of this great land are of British blood; and they are determined to develop and defend their wonderful heritage. A new formula has been evolved and put into operation, and in time, it will be seen that Australia has forged an unbreakable link in the mighty chain of Empire. But Australians have been actuated by other than patriotic motives, for there have been definite economic reasons for what they have attempted. This country possesses a super-abundance of raw materials and, naturally, its people must be on the lookout for new markets. Australians have shown a keen desire for an expansion of trade within the Empire. Recognizing our blood relationship to the people of Britain, we have extended preference to Great Britain in matters of trade. We are Britain’s best customers, purchasing from her each year goods to the value of £50,000,000. But because 70 per cent, of the total Empire trade, valued at £3^07,000,000, was handled by foreigners, we sought and evolved a scheme of reciprocal trade within the Empire. In any such scheme we must see that our primary and secondary industries progress side by side. We must realize that the best market for our primary products is within the fields of secondary industry. Similarly, those engaged in our secondary industries will find their best market among our primary producers. We must see that this policy of reciprocal trade is put into operation in a way that will redound to the credit of Australia as a whole. The purpose of the Ottawa Conference was to give our blood brothers preference in Empire trade; yet honorable members opposite complain that sister dominions are treated better than foreigners. Every patriot within the British Empire believes that the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations should be given preference over foreigners. But how do we seek to do that in Australia? We maintain the high costs affected by British imports by maintaining the British rates of duty.
We have increased the costs affected by foreign imports by increasing the duties on goods of foreign manufacture, and, although we maintain the cost of British imports, we say to the people of the United Kingdom, “ You must take goods from us at a preference “. But, by increased costs, we automatically cancel the value of the preference granted to us by Britain under the Ottawa agreement, with the result that the man in the country who expects much is sadly disappointed. I realize that the Government has granted many concessions to the man on the land. It has helped him considerably by exempting certain goods from primage duty and sales tax, and by relieving him of other taxation. He also gets a certain amount of relief through the exchange, and, therefore, I urge my country cousins not to press too hard for subsidies. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has asked for assistance for the butter industry, and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has made similar requests; but the concessions which the Government has already granted to the Country party should move it to be more moderate than it now appears to be.
I draw the attention of honorable members to The Australian Tariff - An Economic Inquiry, which wa3 written during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government by five leading economistsDealing with the cost of protecting primary products, and particularly with the butter stabilization scheme, the economists state -
The raising nf the price of exports by 3d. automatically increases the price for home consumption by the same amount. Hitherto about £800,000 per annum has been paid in this way as a subsidy on butter exports, and the total cost of protecting the butter industry against. New Zealand-
I presume that this criticism is applicable to the protection of the Australian producers against Danish and Argentine butter - both at home and abroad, appears to have been about 4d. per lb. of butter consumed at home, or £3.000,000 per annum. Recently the bonus on exports has been increased to 4d., . and a further increase, to 4id. has-.’.been” decided on. This, may be expected, to increase the cost of protection to over £4,000,000, but the lower figure of £3,000,000 has been retained here.’
Referring to the total subsidies to production, the’ economists remark1 -
We may now put together the foregoing estimates :
These may be grouped otherwise as follows: -
” Other assistance to primary production “, with some details of which I do not agree, includes expenditure on State railways, low railway rates, and expenditure on roads and jetties, irrigation schemes, bores, closer and soldier settlement, &c. It is thus seen that the man on the land has been receiving certain help through the tariff, and also definite assistance from State and Commonwealth Governments. I have in mind the 9 per cent, increase in the costs of primary production which was mentioned by the five economists as being due to the tariff, and I consider that the concessions granted to the primary producers will not equalize the increase of costs by the arbitrary action of the Scullin Government, which must have increased that 9 per cent, to a considerably higher figure. I do not approve of the extreme suggestion offered by the honorable member for Gippsland. I suggest that the Government should refer to the Tariff Board every duty that bears heavily on the primary producer and is affected by the Ottawa agreement. These duties should be reconsidered impartially, without direction by the Government. The establishment of a special committee to review these rates would hasten the downward revision of the tariff. If the Government brought that result about, it would earn the thanks of a grateful nation.
:- While I recognize the difficult position i-i ‘ which industries’ in Australia find themselves to-day, and the urgent need there is for an immediate solution of the tariff problem, I feel that most unfair criticism has been directed against the Scullin Government, for the charges against it have been reiterated without due allowance being made for the motives that actuated that Government in its tariff policy. Every honorable member who was in the last Parliament knows that the trade balance of the Commonwealth was then adverse by millions of pounds, and those who called upon the Government’ to impose embargoes were the financial institutions of this country. Our critics ought to admit that the’ circumstances of Australia were exceptional while the Scullin Government was in power. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), apparently, attributed to the tariff alone the great preponderance of population in the cities as compared with the country districts of the various States. But centralization, particularly in New South Wales, is due to causes other than the tariff. In- the southern States, railway freights, for instance, have been so arranged that produce is attracted to one large centre, instead of to the nearest places of export on the coast. Judging by the differences of opinion, notably among representatives of country districts, one would imagine that the Ottawa agreement is about to break down, if it has not already failed in the encouragement of trade between Australia and the Mother Country Yesterday, it was shown in this chamber that the Country party was discontented with the position that has arisen in regard to butter exports. Now that party contends that the high cost of manufactured articles is making life on the land impossible. They do hot mention the high cost of land, and the heavy interest rates that are charged to the rural population. These factors, more than any others, are crushing the man on the land. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) spoke of the high duty imposed on wire and galvanized iron; but if he analyses the figures he will -find, that on most lines of wire, wire rods and the like, Great Britain has quite recently imposed even higher duties than those obtaining in Australia. . -
– The duty on barbed wire is £8 12s. per ton.
– On galvanized iron, the duty is 25 per cent., and I ask whether that is unreasonable.
– It amounts to £4 10s. per ton.
– The honorable member complains about the cost of wire and wire netting. Only recently the drawers of wire, in order to meet the position of the man on the land, brought down their prices by 15 per cent. They have been reducing prices for the last year or two, as they have been able to secure increased trade throughout the Commonwealth. It is well to be fair to both sides when discussing tariff matters. The primary industries could not be carried on without the secondary industries; they are complementary to one another.
I presume that my friend the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) represents the wool-growers; but I point out to him that the operation of the tariff is not responsible for the present low price of wool. The Textile Mercury and Argus - a Manchester publication - in its issue of the 3rd June, 1932, remarked - ,
Bradford importers are not getting hold of the relatively cheap wool which they had hoped for at this period of the selling season. The pace has been set all the way by the continent and Japan, but it was naturally assumed that in due course these countries would satisfy their requirements and become less keen competitors. At no period since the opening of the season have top-makers been able to buy wool in Australia at* a price which would show a profit in the top market. In September, the margin on the wrong side was as much as twopence per lb., but in the meantime it has narrowed down, and the difference lately has only been slightly on the wrong side. This encourages Bradford buyers to lower their limits for the Sydney sales by a halfpenny in many cases but to everybody’s surprise continental limits were moved in the opposite direction, and in order to secure good combing wool Bradford limit had to be raised.
It is apparent from that report that the Bradford importers were compelled by continental buyers to pay even the price they did pay for Australian wool. In other words, low as prices have been, the English traders were obliged by foreigners to do even what they have done for::our wool producers. Yet we have been told all our lives that charity begins at home!
– The honorable member is 100 per cent. British, and yet he can make a statement of that description !
– I am speaking of only a few traders, and on evidence supplied to me by a big London business man. How can we expect business men of this description to adhere to the terms of any agreement? All that the British delegation has promised to do is to try to persuade such traders to observe the spirit of the Ottawa agreement. If we study our trade relations with Great Britain, we shall see that Australia has always been Britain’s best customer among her own dominions. Even to-day we are buying £5,000,000 worth more from Great Britain than she is buying from us. It cannot be denied that since the war Great Britain has dealt more leniently with foreign countries than she has with Australia. I regret to say that we have not had from the Mother Country the fair deal that we have had a right to expect from her in view of the part that we played in the war. Canada, only lent her men to Great Britain, but we are endeavouring to pay the whole cost of our participation in the war.
Honorable members who represent Western Australian constituencies keep telling us that. they have been more adversely affected by t the tariff than any other State; but they never tell us that
Western Australia will not attempt to establish any manufacturing industries, nor allow people from the other States to establish them there. It must be remembered too that Western Australia is always ready to pay more for an imported article than for an. Australian article. “Evidence of the desire of the Common wealth as a whole to assist Western Australia is provided iu the fact that the price of Australian iron and steel goods is the same in Perth as in Sydney.
– What a wonderful sacrifice ! Why not leave us out of it all ?
– To those honorable members from Western Australia who are talking secession, I would say that the Commonwealth has done a great deal for their State. I have never heard them complain because this Government is paying £20 a ton for every ton of mail matter carried under the air mail contract between Western Australia and the other States. The company interested in this contract is paying large dividends ar the expense of the Government. Actually, the Commonwealth Government has assisted Western Australia more than it has helped any other State. The building of the east-west railway was not provided for in the Constitution ; but it was one of the first big national undertakings endorsed by the Commonwealth Parliament.
To return to the Ottawa agreement for a moment, I feel compelled to say that I think it is destined to fail. Some of its terms should never have been agreed to. I do not think that any future Australian Government will feel bound to observe all the provisions of the agreement. It is time that the Government of this country took an Australian view of our problems. It will be impossible to develop Australia by encouraging only primary industries. We must develop secondary industries as well as primary industries, and we must adjust our political arrangements accordingly. The twists and turns of this debate indicate -clearly “that the policy of this Government will gel; us nowhere. An inter-Empire trade agreement must be fair to both parties if it is to succeed. In my opinion, -the Ottawa agreement is hot fair to Australia, and I fear that it will fail, though If. hope that it may succeed. In’ any case, we must think more of Australia than we have been doing, and less of countries overseas.
.- As a comparatively new member of this Parliament, I express my appreciation of the new form in which the Minister for Trad-! and Customs (Mr. White) has presented this schedule to the committee. It is possible, with the schedule in its present form, for honorable members to get a clear understanding of the real position in regard to the respective duties. Whether we agree ‘ or disagree with the Government’s proposals, we must admit that no attempt, has been made to conceal any of the facts of the case. This debate has shown that there is a great divergence of opinion among honorable members on tariff matters. It is obvious that we cannot reach . unanimity. The Government apparently has realized this, for it has evidently done its best to formulate a policy which will reconcile the opinions of honorable members to the -greatest possible extent. Honorable members have approached the consideration of the tariff largely from the point of view of the districts which they represent. I do not make this statement ‘ with a desire to imply any degree of insincerity. It is natural that honorable members should express in Parliament the views held by the majority of the people iu the districts which they represent. I approach the consideration of this subject confessing that I, too, have certain predilections concerning it. From the general tenor of the debate up to the present time, it is safe to assume that honorable members generally admit that an increase of prices follows the imposition of duties. It is true that, during the discussion, one or two instances to the contrary were cited; but I repeat that the raising of tariff walls undoubtedly results in an increase in the cost of secondary commodities. A year or two ago honorable members opposite were in power, and the Government supported by them increased the tariff to a greater extent than any preceding government. Doubtless they had at the back of their minds the belief that, while a higher tariff might mean higher prices for manufactured goods, the industrial section of the community, which they claimed to represent, would benefit from the action taken. and thus would be able to meet the higher living costs due to higher price levels, because of the practice in Australia of basing wages on cost of living figures. While there may be some diversity of opinion as to the true reflex of the index figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, generally speaking, the workers in secondary industries as well as those engaged in rendering services not directly connected with the manufacture of goods, obtain an advance in wages and salaries with every rise in the cost of living figures. The same cannot be said of those engaged in our primary industries. Their income depends almost entirely on world’s parity, which is not in any way affected by Australian price levels. Therefore, it is incumbent upon any government, when bringing down proposals to raise the tariff barrier, to consider the effect of the higher duties on the industries to which I have referred. Our chief primary industries export the greater proportion of their production, and only one or two - the butter and dried fruits industries - have, by organization and legislative enactment, been able to control prices in the home market, and thus reimburse themselves largely for lower values ruling overseas. But as regards wheat and wool-, our major exporting industries, the position is entirely different. One well-known economist estimates that our fiscal policy is responsible for an increase of production costs in these primary industries of about 15 per cent.
– Which economist has the honorable member in mind? There are other figures.
– I am quoting the opinion expressed by Professor Giblin.
– Professor Copland states the increase to be 16 per cent.
– The Wool Inquiry Committee states that the tariff has increased the cost of production in the wool industry by approximately 2d. per. lb. which, on present prices, is about 20 per cent. Members of the party to which I belong, realizing the seriousness of the position, pledged themselves during the last election campaign that, ifreturned to Parliament in sufficientnumbers, they would endeavour to secure a reduction of production costs by a downward revision of the tariff.
This is the first Australian Government - probably also it is the first government of any country - to check the. tendency to raise tariff barriers. But while we pay the Ministry this tribute, we regret that the downward revision is not more general, and that the process for the granting of relief to the primary industries is so slow. I should like the Government to give favorable consideration to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and in respect of those items upon which the Tariff Board has not recommended an increase, reduce the duties to the level of the 1921-30 tariff. There is, I admit, a divergence of opinion among honorable members on this point. Some honorable gentlemen have expressed the fear that, if the amendment we’re accepted and the tariff revised accordingly, the flood of imports which, they assert, would follow the lowering of the duties, would inflict serious injury on a number of Australian secondary industries. This fear, I believe, is without foundation. But if there were an undue increase of importations of manufactured goods, and if the stability of our secondary industries were threatened, the safeguarding provisions of the Industries Preservation Act could be applied. I direct attention to, the following provision in section 18 of the act of 1909 : -
For the purposes of this part of this act, competition shall be deemed to be unfair, unless the contrary is proved, if-‘
under ordinary circumstances of trade, it would probably lead to the Australian goods being no longer produced or being withdrawn from the market or being sold at a loss unless produced at an inadequate remuneration for labour;
That section, I submit, gives adequate authorityto the Government to take action in the event of the influx of overseas goods threatening Australian industries.
– That provision applies only after an inquiry by a justice of the High Court.
– It was inserted to guard against what is known as the dumping of goods in the Australian market “by overseas competitors1; I contend that it. could be applied with equal force in the event of the Australian market being flooded’ with foreign imports following a revision of the tariff in the manner suggested .–by the honorable member for Gippsland.
I also wish to direct attention to the effect of the existing tariff on our natural secondary industries, especially the manufacture in this country of woollen textiles. Since we produce the finest wool in the world, the manufacture of woollen textiles should he one of our most efficient natural industries. Unfortunately it is not. The Tariff Board, in its 1932 report, expressed concern at the high price of a number of woollen textiles manufactured in this country. One need not go far to seek the cause. A,s all honorable members know, the manufactured product of one industry is, very often, the raw material for another. In. some cases the processes are carried out under one roof, but in a majority of instances the manufacturing of such commodities is carried on in separate establishments. Therefore, it is important that duties imposed for the encouragement of a particular industry should not encourage the manufacturer whose finished product is the raw material for another industry, to charge unduly high prices for that product. Apparently this is what is happening in Australia. The Tariff Board reports that the cost of Australian woollen yarn is 52d. per lb., as against 32d. per lb.- for woollen yarn manufactured in Great Britain from Australian wool, the increase being approximately 78 per cent. As a result it is practically impossible for Australian woollen textile manufacturers to purchase the Australian yarn and produce articles on a basis on which they can compete with British manufacturers. This is one concrete instance of the injury done by a high tariff to an important secondary industry in Australia. The Australian standard of wages and conditions of labour are important factors in high manufacturing costs.
I listened with interest, to the speech of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham.) one night last week. The right honorable gentleman spoke of the application of scientific methods to all modern manufacturing processes, and showed conclusively that, because of the mechanization of industry, the volume of employment had been materially curtailed, deducing from this that, while ‘in the past higher wages and Australian conditions in industry were, in part, responsible for the higher manufacturing costs in this country, the same objection could not now be made because of the changed conditions in industry already mentioned. I consider that excessively high tariffs are- the main causes of our present troubles. Unduly high protection is an incentive to manufacturers to become somewhat lax in management, and to be content with a lower standard of efficiency. Thus they are unfitted to meet competition from overseas. I find support for this view in the action taken by the Government in imposing a duty of 4d. per lb. on rubber from Papua.
It appears that, because of the inconvenience occasioned in the manufacture of rubber goods, due to the introduction of Papuan and other foreign rubber, the manufacturers have come to the Government and actually asked for a duty of 4d. per lb. on this material, ignoring altogether the fact that an increase in the price1 of raw rubber must of necessity result in an increase of the price of the finished commodity. Either the business is so profitable at the present time that the manufacturers can absorb this increase, or they intend to increase the priceto the consumer. ‘At the present time, the. duty -ranges from 8d. per lb. British to lOd. per lb. foreign, or an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent. British and 40 per cent, foreign, plus primage, exchange and other ‘charges. Because of the high protection afforded, the inducement to reduce costs to a minimum has disappeared, and now the manufacturers have the audacity to ask the Government for a duty on raw rubber, which will increase the cost of the commodity to the consumer. If the manufacturers can concur in a request of that nature, it is evident- that they are making too much profit-
Under the terms of the Ottawa agreement/ Australia agreed to admit ‘a certain quantity “of bananas from Fiji at a reduced rate of duty. The quantity stipulated was 40,000 centals, which represents only 2-J per cent, of the consumption of bananas in this country. Yielding to the agitation raised in the northern States against this proposal, the Government has agreed to devote the estimated revenue derived from the duty on imported Fijian bananas, amounting to £5,000 a year, to the assistance of the banana-growers in Australia. If that practice is to be generally adopted, there is no reason why any group of manufacturers, which is faced with increased competition because of the Ottawa agreement, should not have allocated to them the proceeds of the duty collected on imported goods. Before the Government agreed to allocate the revenue derived from the duty on imported bananas as it proposes to do, Parliament should have been consulted, so that the matter might be discussed fully, and honorable members afforded an opportunity of expressing their opinions.
I listened with great interest to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) when he discussed the tariff. One of the most important points he made was that the steps that have been taken to reduce costs, namely, the reduction of wages, &c, were having the very opposite effect from that desired. The more wages were reduced, he said, the less became the purchasing power of the community, so that the general economic situation became worse instead of better. He also said that there should be an extension of credits. That proposal was put forward by the last Government, and proved unacceptable to the people. It is unfortunate for the honorable member that the facts do not support his argument. During the ‘period that these economy measures have been in operation - and they were initiated by the Government he supported - the general position has substantially improved. It is difficult to reconcile the figures relating to unemployment, as issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, with those prepared by the States in regard to the number of persons receiving relief. According to the Commonwealth Statistician there has, it is true, been a definite reduction in the number of unemployed, but the State returns show a much greater reduc- tion in the number of those receiving sustenance. In South Australia, there were 80,000 persons receiving sustenance from the State in January, 1932, and for the period from January to July of that year, the amount expended on sustenance was £614,000. 1 In January, 1933, the number receiving relief had declined from 80,000 to 56,000, and the amount expended during six months declined from £614,000 to £462,000, a reduction of 24,000 in the number receiving relief, and of £152,000 in the amount expended. This represented an improvement of approximately 25 per cent., which figure is out of all relation to that quoted by the Commonwealth -Statistician in regard to unemployment. In the Melbourne metropolitan area, the number receiving relief in February, 1932, was 39,861, but in February;, 1933,, this number had declined to 27,473, a reduction of 12,388. I suggest to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that he should accept the facts, even though they controvert his favorite theories.
The honorable member also suggested that there should be an extension of credits, but it is a matter of opinion whether such extension would benefit the country or not. It is relevant to point out, however, that the banks, during the five years from 1927 to 1931, did not restrict their advances in any way, as the following table shows : -
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the subject before the Chair.
– I was endeavouring to reply to the statements of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I have demonstrated, I think, that the depression has been in no way due to the withholding of advances by the trading banks, and that there has been no shortage of money in the country.
The avowed objective of the Government is to reduce costs of production, but it is evident, from the graphs which have been published, that wholesale prices have not fallen to anything like the same extent as have prices for primary products. Therefore, the Government has not achieved the measure of success for which we had hoped. While the extraordinarily large gap between the prices of secondary and primary products is not peculiar to Australia, it affects this country more than many others, because we are so largely dependent upon our primary industries. The intentions of the Government, no doubt, have been of the best, but governments, like individuals, must be judged by results, and, in the opinion of primary producers, the results have not been satisfactory. If, as seems apparent, the position cannot be remedied by action along any one line, then the Government must continue its downward revision of the tariff, and, at the same time, afford relief to the primary industries by every other means possible. Two opportunities for this are to ‘be found in the field of taxation and the charges for government services. It is true that some relief has recentlybeen afforded by the remission of taxation. It has been very small, hut has been appreciated by those who received the benefit of it. Charges for government services, however, have not been reduced to any appreciable extent, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government, by negotiation with State Governments, to endeavour to ‘bring about the reduction, which is so badly needed, in freights and other charges. This is, admittedly, not wholly a Commonwealth matter, but the Commonwealth Government can profitably take the initiative. In regard to taxation, I urge the Government to abolish the 10 per cent, super tax on incomes derived from property, making the abolition, if possible, conditional upon the reduction being passed on to the man on the land who has borrowed money on mortgage or overdraft.
I again urge the Government to give consideration to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). In this way, more will be achieved thanby giving effect to the present proposals which, admirable as they are, must give rise to considerable delay.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [8.0].-
The speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) this afternoon was disappointing. It consisted mainly of futile arguments unsupported by facts, and based entirely on party bias and hatred. When he was in Opposition the chief complaint of the honorable gentleman against the Scullin Government was that it presented a tariff schedule which included items upon which the Tariff Board had not reported. The Scullin Ministry inherited from the Bruce-Page Administration an adverse trade balance that required immediate rectification, and if the country was to retain its solvency, there was no time for the Government to submit items to the Tariff Board before taking action to reduce the flood of imports. In support of that statement, I can quote no better authority than the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce), who said at the Ottawa Conference -
So far we have concentrated on the maintenance of our external solvency. In that we have succeeded. I grant that Australia’s very success has embarrassed other dominions and countries. By restricting imports we have shut the products of their industry out of our own market. . . We had no choice. So severe and long-continued was the fall of prices that we had to do these things or default.
The Scullin Government had to do these things or default, according to the real Prime Minister who is at present in London. Why did not the PostmasterGeneral give credit where credit was clue ? The Resident, Minister in London knew that before such a well-informed audience as the Ottawa Conference he had to state the facts of Australian tariff legislation from the time the depression started in 1929, and no doubt was aware that statements such as were made by his colleague this afternoon would not have carried conviction. He continued -
I have not underestimated nor minimized the depressing effect of redoubled competition in restricted markets. The pressure on the trade of other dominions caused by adjustments such as those found necessary in Australia is inevitable in any attempt to re-shape our economic activity to the present level of prices. Recognition of this emphasizes the necessity of seeking the level of sterling prices ut which these stresses will disappear. They arise very largely becaues countries need to increase their exports to meet their oversea interest obligation and to pay for essential imports- They will fade out as the values of their exports recover. We -may then look for a relaxation of prohibitive tariffs and embargoes on trade and for a greater stability in exchanges.
In July last the Resident Minister in London said at Ottawa that no alteration of our tariff policy could be expected until the prices of our export commodities improved. The trend of prices is still downward. One of the features of the Scullin Government’s policy which was most condemned by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. “White) and the Postmaster-General was the attempt to raise prices. At that time the right honorable member for Flinders was out of Parliament, having lost the confidence of the Australian people. To-day he represents the Commonwealth in London, and no doubt his colleagues in Australia are being guided by his advice. We must recognize that at Ottawa he had the decency to give credit where credit was due; probably he was aware that the delegates from other parts of the Empire knew the facts as well as he did. When he arrived at Ottawa he said -
This is not the occasion on which I should discuss this question or set out Australia’s proposals to assist Empire trade. That will come later. At this stage I confine myself to saying that the Australian allegation, as a result, of months of careful preparation, has or rived in Ottawa ready to make its contribution to the discussions which are opening to-day. We know what action we can take further to help Empire trade, and particularly British trade, in the Australian market, and wu are also ready with definite but limited requests for assistance to some of our exports.
I cannot believe that when the Australian delegation left for Ottawa it had a free hand to barter away our secondary industries, and ask for only limited concessions for Australian producers. That statement of the Resident Minister in London would lead one to believe that he was representing the United Kingdom rather than Australia. The newspapers stated that at the conference he placed all his cards on the table. No exception COn be taken to a reasonable degree of candour, but he was the only delegate who at. .the outset of the bargaining stated how much his country was .prepared to give away. He said, in effect, that Australia was prepared to sacrifice its secondary industries without knowing what reciprocal concessions it would receive. The Labour Government that came into office in 1929 tried to force commodity prices back to the level of 192S. Our Nationalist opponents said that this should not be done. Yet at Ottawa, the head of the Australian delegation advocated such a policy. He said -
To-day, the world is not suffering from any lack of commodities. The production of. wealth has, with the aid of science, attained to a point never previously reached, and is sufficient to provide a standard of living higher than has previously existed. Vet we have millions of people unemployed, and the general standard of living is declining. This position is a challenge to our civilisation. To fail to find a solution is an indictment of statesmanship in the Empire and throughout the world. All peoples are looking for a lead on this problem. Let us here at Ottawa attempt to give it. There is no reason why we -cannot, within . our own group of nations, associated as we assuredly would be with other nations whose monetary policy is closely linked to ours’, take the first steps to restore world trade. Such a development *ould gain the adherence of many other countries, and with the strength thus gathered., the way would be paved for the solution of what i”s, perhaps, the greatest problem that has ever battled mankind.
Those views were expressed by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) when he was Prime Minister in 1929, and were advocated in the Labour party throughout the following two years. We condemned the policy of deflation, and said it was necessary to retrace our steps by introducing a measure of controlled inflation. The Labour party was condemned in unmeasured terms for advocating a policy, which since that time, has been adopted by many other countries. The Resident Minister emphasized at Ottawa the small returns which Australia had received for the substantial preferences it had given to the United Kingdom.’ Is it too much to ask that Australia be granted concessions similar to those we have granted to Great Britain against the foreigner? All previous tariff schedules submitted to this Parliament have included many items which provided for the admission of articles of British origin free of duty. Ou this point, Mr. Bruce said at Ottawa-
Without overlooking the importance of. trade between the dominions, and in order to simplify the issue and to avoid making this statement unduly complicated, it is better for me to discuss our attitude to Empire trade in terms of the trade between Great Britain and Australia . . . Both the British and Australian Governments have subjected their trade with each other to careful examination, and have jointly conducted in Canberra and in London, a preliminary discussion of the possible methods of mutual assistance.
This Parliament of 112 members was never afforded an opportunity to discuss the proposals to be submitted at Ottawa prior to the departure of the Australian delegation. The delegates were selected by Cabinet without reference even to the supporters of the Ministry. The debate on the bill for the ratification of the Ottawa agreement indicated that private members of the ministerial party knew as little of the instructions given to the delegates as was known by members of the Opposition. In a country supposed to be democratically governed, no delegation should be sent abroad to barter away important industrial interests without Parliament being first consulted. Mr. Bruce continued -
This exe.niina.tion and discussion has shown that Australia’s preferential system has been of great significance to British trade. It must, however, be remembered that we have for years been giving generous preference to Great Britain without any consultation . . .
Australia began her policy of preference to British goods as long ago as 1007, when, mainly by the reduction of the British rates, concessions, to the extent of 5 per cent, were made on 317 items. In every revision of the tariff since that time, preferences to Britain have been repeated and, as a rule, increased both in numbers and in margin, until prior
Ut the depression, they ranged over practically the whole tariff and expressed on the average an advantage of 15 per cent, in favour of the industries of the United Kingdom. It is not my intention to engage in the old argument as to what has been the actual value of those preferences to Britain, but one matter is beyond challenge. The trade of the eight years, 1022-1929, discloses the remarkable fact that Australia, with its small population of about 0,000,000 people, and situated some 12,000 miles from the British Islands, was second only to India as Britain’s beat customer.
That statement was repeated last week by the Minister for Trade and Customs when introducing an amending schedule. All that, was asked of the delegation of the United Kingdom was that the same preference be given to us as was given by us to Great Britain.
The present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), when the discussion on bananas and other commodities produced in
Queensland took place, said that that State would- benefit to a greater extent than any other State, because of the concessions granted in respect of meat and butter. What is the position to-day? Prior to the Ottawa conference our exports of lamb and mutton were increasing, but immediately after the ratification of the agreement a restriction of 10 per cent, was imposed upon the export of lamb and mutton from Australia to Great Britain. Now a restriction is being imposed upon our butter exports. While Great Britain is thus breaking the Ottawa agreement, Mr. Bennett, the Prime Minister of Canada, is negotiating with the United States of America for a separate trade agreement. Australia is the only country in the world that has honoured its obligations. But are we to honour the Ottawa agreement when we find that other nations are breaking it? As stated to-day by the Leader of the Opposition every increase of 10 per cent. in the importation of manufactured goods means the displacement of 50,000 employees in our own manufacturing industries. Our primary industries cannot absorb men who are displaced in our secondary industries. Wool is produced to-day at under the cost of production. Most of our wheatgrowers are financially embarrassed, and the dairymen are in a similar position. Where is Australia drifting? The supporters of the Government say that we wish to create a monopoly for Australian manufacturers; but the Government’s action in creating a monopoly for Great Britain in Australia, as against our own manufacturers, will throw thousands of our people out of employment. To-day about 30 per cent, of our people are on the dole. How can we increase our population if we do not encourage our secondary industries iri the same way as other nations of any standing have done? The right honorable member for Flinders, who undoubtedly has an imperial outlook, is much concerned about the position in Great Britain. That country is a good customer of ours, but my complaint is that the attitude adopted by the Australian delegation at Ottawa was at variance with that adopted by the other delegations. Our representatives said that we had’ a lot to give and little to ask for. The right honorable member for Flinders, in the course of his speech, said -
It Ls sometimes charged against the Commonwealth that in her grant of preferences she has first adopted a tariff level sufficiently high against Britain to protect her own secondary industries, and has then lifted the wall somewhat higher against the foreigner, and that, therefore, her preferences have been of little benefit to Britain. Such a contention, however, cannot be sustained.
The contention of the rank and file of the party who owe allegiance to the right honorable member for Flinders, and are making rash and irresponsible statements in this chamber during his absence, is opposed to that of their leader. Whom are we to believe? Did the right honorable member for Flinders tell the truth at Ottawa, or are the PostmasterGeneral and his colleagues telling the truth in this chamber? One statement must be wrong. I have heard the right honorable member for Flinders speak on many platforms throughout Australia, and one thing with which we cannot charge him is the mis-statement of a case. Yesterday afternoon one honorable member, who was speaking from the Government side of the chamber, threatened his own leaders that if they persisted in their interjections he would tell honorable members generally of what took place at the conference which was held in Melbourne between the manufacturers and the United Australian Party prior to the election. As a matter of fact the manufacturers said that they would keep the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the other members of the Country party quiet until after the elections if the United Australia Party, when put in office, was prepared to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board. If the statement of the honorable member for Flinders, as contained in this report, is correct, I do not know what would be his position were he confronted with the problems that faced the Leader of the Opposition when Prime Minister of this country. At that time the Labour Government had to maintain the solvency of this nation, and it succeeded in doing so only by giving effect to a prohibitive tariff policy. The right honorable member for Flinders further said -
It is true that in our tariff (‘policy we have protected approved Australian manufacturing industries against excessive competition from Great Britain, but even in those industries the tariff wall, as it was prior to November, 1929, allowed the preferential competition of British goods .over most of the field covered by Australian secondary industry. We went far beyond that. We carried the practice of preference down to the lowest range of our duties’ and applied it to goods not produced in Australia, and even to large quantities of raw material required for our industrial life. . . The benefit of this policy to British industry is disclosed by the following examples: Cotton piece goods, dutiable in the Australian tariff at 5 per cent. British, 25 per cent, foreign, and tinned plate, free British, and 10 per cent, foreign. The effect of such duties has been to give to Britain practically the whole of the Australian trade, and there is not the least doubt that in adopting such a policy we have penalized Australian industry and our consumers.
The right honorable member for Flinders adopted an attitude different from that of the supporters of the Government. He said -
Taking the five years, 192C-27 to 1930-31, inclusive, we find that of cotton piece goods of a total value of £37,700,000, imported into Australia, no less than £32,800,000 came from Britain, and of the total tinned plate to the value of £5,858,000, no less than £5,700,000 came from .the same source. In our tariff even at the present time, despite the financial emergency revision of the late Government between 1929 and 1932, of the total of 1,326 items in our schedule, British goods secure free admission under 320 items. In our 25 years of preferences we have given not ungenerously, and we have given at no small expense to ourselves.
In view of the fact that Australia provided a market for large quantities of British goods, all we asked in return was an opportunity to place a reasonable proportion of our primary products on the British market. It must not be forgotten that Australia is the second largest customer of Great Britain. The right honorable member for Flinders also stated - .
At the Imperial Conference of 1930, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, in his opening .statement, contrasted British trade with Australia with that carried on by Great Britain with Argentina and Denmark. This comparison was striking, and since Argentina and Denmark are two of Australia’s most important competitors in the British market, I propose to continue to use these two countries for comparative purposes.
Who was the Australian Prime Ministerwho attended the Imperial Conference in 1930? It was the present Leader of the
Opposition, who, this afternoon, was condemned by the supporters of the Government for having imposed prohibitions in an effort to maintain the solvency of this nation, to re-absorb our own people in manufacturing and primary industries, and to recover the community’s 30 per cent, loss of purchasing power.
The supporters of the Government have quoted unemployment figures to support their contention that a number of people have gone off the dole. In New South “Wales if a man obtains a day’s work in a week, he is deprived of the dole, but that does not mean that he is in employment. To all intents and purposes he is still unemployed. In Queensland the relief worker receives work for two or three days of the week, and is regarded as not being unemployed, although his family may be in a state of semi-starvation. All this is taking place in a country which the right honorable member for Flinders says is now producing more than ever before. That honorable gentleman also stated that the standard of living in Australia should be higher now than it has been in the past. Yet his supporters in this chamber are crying all the time for a forcing down of the living standard in this country. The right honorable gentleman further said -
During the calendar year 1929, Argentina and Denmark imported goods from all countries to a total value of £267,000,000, as against fi 45,500,000 imported from all sources into Australia. Moreover, British imports from Argentina and Denmark in the same year amounted to £139,000,000, and from Australia only £56,000,000. Yet in that year Australia bought from the United Kingdom goods to the value of £54,000,000, while the combined exports from Britain to Argentina and Denmark amounted only to £40,000,000.
We have received from Great Britain a preference of 15 per cent, in regard to butter, but according to the right honorable member for Flinders, no advantage could be obtained in respect of wool or wheat.
Another problem which the Scullin Government had to face was the dumping of wheat in Great Britain. Because wheat could be obtained at a low price from foreign countries, Great Britain was prepared to purchase it, well knowing that in taking that action it was sacrificing the interests of Australian farmers. Because Russian wheat was obtainable at a few pence a bushel less than the price asked for Australian wheat, it received a preference over our product. During that period the wheat-grower of Australia received less than he had ever previously obtained in the history of wheat production in this country. When Australia asks for the preferential treatment of any of her primary products, she has every right to expect better terms than are given to the Argentine or Denmark, because she is a far better customer of Great Britain than either of those countries. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
We intend first to adhere to all the preferences now operating. Next we propose generally to widen existing preferences with a limited, number of reservations where Britain has already practically the whole of the trade, and in certain other special cases.
Yet in an earlier part of his speech he said that before we could safely remove any duties there must be a forcing up of the prices received for our exports; that until we were assured that Great Britain would accept our exportable goods, and could force up the prices of those goods, it would be dangerous for the Government to interfere with the tariff schedule. The Dominions of Canada and South Africa made no statement as to what concessions they were prepared to make, but merely demanded what they wanted. A further paragraph in the right honorable gentleman’s speech reads as follows: -
Another direction in winch we believe we can increase British trade is by a close examination of the practice of admission under by-law. We are even prepared to widen the margins of preferences in Britain’s favour with respect to the admission of essential goods not produced in the Commonwealth.. 1 emphasize this proposal, because it provides strong evidence of our preparedness to make an immediate contribution to the revival of British exports to Australia, even though such concession must obviously prove onerous to our people under existing circumstances.
The right honorable gentleman was prepared to give away anything, even though it involved considerable sacrifice by our primary producers and the consumers of Australia generally. Australia occupies the position of the aboriginal in the story of the crow and the turkey that I related on a previous occasion. She always gets the crow, while Great Britain gets the turkey. I commend this speech ‘ to the’
Postmaster-General, and advise him to study it closely before he again addresses himself to the tariff. If he does so, he will have an accurate knowledge of his subject. The Resident Minister also said -
We have the fullest .disposition’ to give generously all that we can possibly afford to give, and I am completely confident that Great Britain approaches the conference in the same spirit.
The right honorable gentleman was prepared to give generously without knowing what he would receive in return. What we have received has not proved very satisfactory to the banana-growers, the butter producers, or the meat producers. Those who are engaged in these industries hold the view that the Ottawa agreement is a tragedy.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) attacked the Government on the results of the Ottawa Conference. That honorable gentleman was a member of the Cabinet when the Ottawa agreement was made. He then extolled its virtues, and averred that it would be a good thing for the primary producers of this country. He argued that the reduction of 10 per cent, in our exports of meat would force up the price on the .British market. A similar argument is now being used in regard to butter, and, as time goes on, it will be found that every primary product will meet with the same fate. What is the effect of the restriction of exports? It is to glut the home market, and destroy it 30 far as our primary producers are concerned,’while at the same time the prices ruling for wool and other primary products on the overseas markets are not profitable to them. The Resident Minister in London also said -
Thus the Australian delegation, after the most careful consideration and helpful preliminary discussion, feel that they are ready with practical proposals for the assistance of British trade over a. very wide range of commodities, and with definite though limited requests for our own exports.
Further on. in the report, honorable members will find that the right- honorable gentleman made reference to the wool industry, and expressed the view that there was not much hope of a great deal being done for it at the conference. He also dealt with the wheat and other industries that are of real concern to the primary producer of this country, and went on to say -
I now propose to indicate ‘ the nature of the requests we seek from Great Britain. We are not seeking great or difficult concessions. So little is required to restore Australia to the position of a great market for - British goods and a market of far greater potentialities, that we are’ convinced that such action must be regarded as being highly advantageous from the British point of view.
Who -was responsible for the position that existed when the right honorable gentleman arrived in England ? What Government was in power up to within a few months of his departure for Ottawa? It was a Labour government, led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). According to the Resident Minister, the Government that occupied office in Australia from the end of 1929 to the latter part of 1931 left Australia in such a condition that very little w;as required- from Great Britain to restore her to prosperity. Now, however, after twelve months of Nationalist rule, a great deal is needed to place this country on the road to prosperity. We hear from the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) frequently the statement that prosperity is around the corner. I suggest that it is chasing itself round a saucer track. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
We have reduced our rates of interest on capital, and our rates of wages. We have thus reduced very substantially our costs of production. . ‘
I well remember the howl that arose from the Opposition of the day, .led by the present Attorney-General, when the interest rate on the Commonwealth’s indebtedness in Australia was reduced. That action was characterized as the repudiation of a solemn obligation that had been entered into by previous governments. Yet the idol of honorable members opposite, the Resident Minister in London, extols the reduction of interest on capital and the reduction of the rates of wage3 payable in Australia. We may have reduced the rate of interest payable to the bondholder in Australia, but has the Government acted similarly towards the -banking institutions pf this country? What benefit has the primary producer derived from the reduction of interest rates on ‘ overdrafts? In his case, the reduction has been very slight indeed.
The Resident Minister in London told the Ottawa Conference that the reduction amounted to 22£ per cent. I owe a few pounds, but the reduction in my case has not been 22£ per cent. The right honorable gentleman also said -
Since the delegation left Australia I have been advised that our adverse trade balance in merchandise of £32,000,000 in 1929-30 has been turned into a favorable one of £31,000,000 for 1931-32. We are continuing to reduce our costs of production, our efficiency is progressively advancing, and in many forms of agriculture we have an almost unlimited capacity for the expansion of production. Yet in spite of these endeavours we are producing at a loss and we cannot indefinitely continue to do so.
Who wass the Prime Minister when the adverse trade balance was rectified? The Scullin Government was in power during 1930-31, and for six months of the year 103.1-82. It was during that period that the trade balance was turned from an unfavorable into a favorable one. The Resident Minister made a very strong point of this, and then went on to say -
What we require is a market capable of absorbing our production, and a relatively small measure of assistance in that market - assistance, too, over a limited range of commodities. Great Britain can provide that market and can at once afford to the dominions the needed assistance.
Everyone knew before the right honorable gentleman left Australia, that he was being sent overseas to look for markets; yet all that has been achieved is a reduction of our exports. He added - lt will surely be found well worth while for a great industrial country like Great Britain to help Australia and the other dominions back on to the road towards prosperity. The help she gives will be at once reflected in the improved markets for her own manufactures. In these days when the world is affected by such intense nationalism, is there anything like such good prospects for British trade in any other direction 1 . . . The outstanding product of Australia, on which her prosperity largely depends, is wool. Despite the remarkable progress in the breeding of sheep and iu the application of highly efficient methods of production and marketing, the wool industry of Australia is in a most precarious position owing to the extremely low level of prices iii the world markets. Unfortunately, Great Britain is not in a position to render assistance to this major industry Wool is one of the commodities of which the empire production is far in excess of empire requirements, and the great bulk of our wool clip must necessarily be marketed outside the Empire.
If that be the case, what is likely to be the reaction on the wool industry of Australia if other nations adopt the principle that we have adopted in regard to the making of trade treaties; if, for example, South Africa should enter into a trade treaty with Japan? A year or two ago Russia bought wool on the Australian market, and it appeared that she would become a fairly decent customer of ours. The Commonwealth Government, however, imposed a dumping duty on timber from Russia, and when the next wool sales took place no Russian buyers were present. They transferred their trade to a country which permitted the sale of their timber, while concurrently with the prohibition against the dumping of their timber in Australia, they dumped their wheat into Great Britain, to the detriment of the producers of wheat in this country, the result of their action being the destruction of the market in Great Britain so far as our wheat-growers were concerned.
The concessions with respect to meat and dairy products are being severely felt by the producers in those industries. During the next twelve months, the exports of butter are to be restricted to the extent of 6 per cent.; and the meat producer has been treated in similar fashion. The attitude adopted by the other dominions at the Ottawa Conference is well illustrated by the speech of the Leader of the South African delegation, who said -
The right of any dominion to establish and encourage local industries cannot be questioned.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.This afternoon the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) definitely stated that the Government intended to give British manufacturers trading with Australia a reasonable competitive chance with local manufacturers. I have taken the trouble to consult the Concise Oxford Dictionary as to the meaning of “ reasonable “, and I laughed to myself when I thought of the guile of the honorable gentleman. This is how the dictionary defines the word -
Reasonable - endowed with reason; reasoning (rare); sound of judgment; sensible; moderate; not expecting too much; ready to listen to reason; agreeable to reason; not absurd; within the limits of reason; not greatly less or more than might be expected; inexpensive; not extortionate; tolerable; fair.
Many honorable members in this chamber, and thousands of people outside it, could advance excellent arguments upon the various shades of meaning of some of those definitions.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that, under the Ottawa agreement, Ave were promised an equal opportunity of trade with Great Britain. I opposed the Ottawa agreement, believing it to be wrong in principle for a government to bind its successors by an agreement. Many people in and out of Australia adopted a similar attitude. If a report that appeared in the press about ten days ago is correct, the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Bennett, was then negotiating to effect a trade agreement with the United States of America. Evidently Mr. Bennett believes that the Ottawa agreement will have a boomerang effect, and possibly react to the disadvantage of Canada in its business relations with the United States of America.
When the Ottawa trade agreement was being debated in this chamber, the attention of the Government was drawn to the disagreement then existing among delegates in connexion with the meat industry, and honorable members were assured that Australia would receive favorable treatment, and that great benefit would accrue to our meat producers. I suggest that the foreign investments of British capitalists are the deciding factors in such matters. Within the last few days we have learned that, in compliance with a series of requests from the British Government, this Government intends to acquiesce in a restriction on Australian butter exports to the United Kingdom. That is definitely opposed to the spirit of the Ottawa agreement. We were disillusioned in regard to meat. Now it is butter. What will be next? The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) declared that a restriction on the export of butter from Australia to Great Britain would be in our best interests. I say, definitely, that our exports of butter should not be restricted. It has been rightly suggested by some honorable members that the cost of producing our primary commodities is so great that it is practically impossible for those concerned to carry on. The only way in which we can meet our overseas obligations is by exporting our primary products, principally wool, wheat and meat. Unfortunately, we have no gold to send abroad.
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) rather scoffed at a recommendation made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and sponsored by some members of the Labour party. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that the people of Australia should stand behind their primary producers, ‘by granting them bounties or some other equivalent form of relief on exports, to ensure their receiving an appropriate return for their labours. I know that many arguments can be advanced against bounties, and that, once paid, it is sometimes difficult to cease paying them. I also associate myself with certain other remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. From public platforms and “ over the air “, I have declared that we should repay our overseas obligations on the basis of money values at the time the responsibilities were incurred, and we should not be asked to meet them on the basis of a depreciated Australian currency. Speaking at the Ottawa Conference, the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) said that if we paid on the latter plan, we should have to export approximately an additional 100 per cent, more of our products than would have been needed at the time the obligations were incurred. He addled that neither Australia nor any other country in the world could do that. I agree with the right honorable gentleman. It is merely pulling wool over the eyes of the people, and pulling our own legs, to say that we can meet our obligations in that way. I am prepared, at any time, to attend a Labour conference or any other gathering and advocate that view. Some would like the Labour party to adopt such a policy; others are against it; but, sooner or later, it will be necessary to adopt it and resort to what is termed an “ inflated “ currency, more or less on the lines advocated by
Mr. Theodore when honorable member for Dalley.
The Postmaster-General referred to Professor Copland, and sneeringly rebuked me for having suggested the possibility of disagreement with that gentleman’s views. Professor Copland stated that the United States of America’s method of inflation was not the same as that proposed in Australia. The fact is that both methods have a similar backing, the only one that is. worth-while - the producing power of the people. The Queensland Government is seeking to make available for closer settlement 3,000,000 acres of land, principally for dairying purposes. Any curtailment of our butter exports will seriously embarrass the Queensland Government’s effort to extend this great industry. Some of the land, particularly in the Palmerston area near Innisfail, is most fertile, and it represents but a small portion of the far northern section of Queensland which is available for closer settlement.
– Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the debate.
– I believe that what I have said is closely associated with the tariff. Any reduction of protection will adversely affect industries that were benefited by the Scullin tariff. It will bring them into active competition with overseas industries. The importation of commodities must of necessity reduce our output.
The honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) rightly quoted figures regarding an alleged decrease in the number of unemployed in South Australia and Victoria. I do not question the accuracy of his statistics, but I contend that they are not a true reflex of the position. A number of persons have been employed in those ‘States for two out of every five weeks, and, because they have been so employed, their names have been struck off the dole or other list. That is merely camouflaging the position, and it leaves the unemployed in those States in a worse position than before.
It is regrettable that this Government has begun to negotiate with a party to the
Ottawa, agreement with a view to curtailing the export of one of Australia’s commodities. I ask any honorable member to enlighten me and the country generally, how Australia will be able to meet its overseas obligations, about which honorable members opposite prate so glibly, other than by exporting its products. As I have previously said, a restriction of our exports and a reduction of the tariff wall against the import of commodities from other countries will limit our output and, incidentally, increase our unemployed figures. In 1919, Mr. Lloyd George declared in the House of Commons that had a bigger penalty been inflicted on Germany, it would have had a boomerang effect on the countries which were allegedly to benefit therefrom. A similar remark could truly be applied to a reduction of exports from Australia.
The Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) has moved an amendment which, if carried, would actually have the effect of further reducing our duties, and of aggravating the position more than the present schedule does. This is not a fit time to interfere with the tariff schedule introduced by the Scullin Government. As was amply borne out by the remarks of the right honorable member for Flinders at the Ottawa Conference, that tariff schedule saved Australia from default if not from something worse. We shall be again faced with a serious position if the proposed reductions are insisted upon. Certain honorable members suggest that a practically freetrade policy would confer all sorts of blessings upon Australia. Freetrade countries have similar troubles to those which beset us. After centuries of freetrade Britain is espousing a modified protective policy to safeguard its own industries. Whatever happens, the Government of Australia should protect our industries first, lt is stupid to build up industries and when partly established expose them to the vicious attacks of world competition. I am opposed to any tariff revision a*, this stage, and believe that the proposed alteration would have a bad effect upon the country generally. Members of the Country party declare that the reductions made by the Government are not as great as they desire. I believe them. I -also believe that certain members who support the Government are just as sure that the reductions should not be made. I arn confident that some of the proposed reductions will not have the effect forecast by the Minister for Trade and Customs and by the Government. However, there will be ample opportunity to deal with each item as we come to it. In no circumstances do I favour the amendment.
– At the outset I want to express the surprise that I felt when I examined this schedule, after listening to the excellent introductory speech that was made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). It could be compared to the surprise that many honorable members received a few months ago, when the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) introduced the bill implementing the Ottawa Trade Agreement, with its accompanying schedule, providing as it did that the margin of preference to the United Kingdom was to be given by raising the tariff wall against foreign countries, and not by reducing it’ against Great Britain.
It has been particularly interesting to me to listen to the criticism that has emanated from those who support the Government regarding the Scullin tariff schedule of 1929. I hold no particular brief for the Scullin Government, nor for the policy for which it was responsible. Those who were in that Government are well able to take care of themselves. Nor am I a supporter of the schedule introduced by it. At the same time, I admit that Australia was then in a peculiar position and that the special circumstances demanded special action. I am not in accord with the action taken by that Government, nor do I think that it was primarily responsible for adjusting the then unfavorable trade balance. I believe that the position would automatically have righted itself, because of the reduced purchasing power of the people. Instead of imposing prohibitory duties, the natural regulation of trade by means of the exchange rate would have adjusted things.
– Why did it not do so in previous years?
– The criticism by ministerial supporters of the Scullin tariff, which they describe as prohibitory, is interesting when one reflects that, taking all the circumstances into consideration, the present tariff schedule erects an infinitely higher tariff wall than did that of the Scullin Government. When the Scullin tariff was tabled, the exchange rate was practically at par - it may have been 30s. against us - whereas it is now 25 per cent, against Australia, the result being an increase of effective protection to ‘the secondary industries by that amount. In my opinion, the present schedule is higher than that of the Scullin Government.
– The total protection is greater.
– Undoubtedly it is. A good deal has been said regarding the necessity for a tariff in order to increase employment in this country. If honorable members will investigate this subject thoroughly, they will find that, as the tariff wall has been made higher, so unemployment has increased. Moreover, an examination of statistics will show that, -as imports have increased, unemployment has decreased. Some honorable members seem to imagine that a high tariff is the cure for, whereas, in in my opinion, it is one of the chief causes of, unemployment. Every committee that has been appointed to inquire into the effects of tariffs has come to the conclusion that they are one of the chief factors in raising the costs of production in all industries, not alone in secondary industries. I submit that the costs of production are the root cause of the difficulties which confront this country. At the Ottawa conference an attempt to raise prices was made. It is true that, following that conference, there was a temporary rise of prices in some directions, but since then there has been a consistent fall of prices. It is not always recognized that excessively high prices can be as great an evil as excessively low prices. Between 1923 and 1929 Australia experienced a boom period, during which high prices were received for our products. I claim that these high prices were largely responsible for our present difficulties, because they were the measure of our borrowing capacity. Unfortunately, during that period we borrowed up to the limit of our capacity, and, consequently, we are now in trouble. The rumblings which are heard in many parts of Australia are due to the high tariff wall which has been erected. I am not a secessionist, and I trust that better counsels will prevail in “Western Australia, for we must stand together in these difficult times ; but I submit that the secession movement, which seems to be gaining ground in some parts of the Commonwealth, has its origin in this chamber, where these questions are” discussed. There is no necessity to send a delegation to Western Australia to attempt to kill the secession movement which the Government seems to believe originated in that State; it originated in this chamber, where the laws of the country are made.
Another reason why there should be a material reduction of the tariff is the lower purchasing power of the community. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) had a good deal to say about the difficulty that this country will have in meeting its commitments overseas. That difficulty was enormously increased during the boom period, when we received high prices for our products. For a number of years we borrowed at the rate of from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000 per annum. That meant that goods to that value were brought into this country to compete with our secondary industries. Our purchasing power is now so much lower than in the past, and being unable to borrow even if we wanted to, the result is much less competition for our secondary industries to face. From whatever angle we view this matter, we see every justification for a material reduction of the tariff.
It has been suggested during this discussion that our secondary industries are the base of our state structure. I submit that, instead of being the base, they are the superstructure. One honorable member said that our secondary industries could live without the country districts. They could not exist for 24 hours without the country districts. The success or failure of our secondary industries depends entirely on the success or otherwise of our primary industries, as, unfortunately, the local market is practically the only one they have. If our secondary industries were doing more to create a favorable trade balance, there might be some justification for the bounty of £30,000,000 they receive from the community as a result of the tariff. According to the Minister, only 3 per cent, of our exports represents the, products of our factories, whereas 97 per cent, of our export trade represents primary production. Our primary industries, not our secondary industries, are the base of our State structure. These industries are in a bad way. If the days which we have spent in discussing our secondary industries had been spent in seeking a means of assisting our export industries, our time would have been better employed.
Some honorable members profess to see signs of increased prosperity in Australia. Apart from gold, Australia has at the present time practically only one export industry on a cost basis, and, therefore, I fail to see how prosperity can be around the corner, in 1923 our wheat industry got into difficulties. The next year it was the turn of the wool industry. To-day both the meat industry and the butter industry are undergoing the same experience. In all these industries the prices received for the product is below the cost of production. The fruit industry is the only one of our export industries, apart from gold, which is on a co3t basis. Unless these other great export industries can be placed at least on a cost basis how can Australia hope to progress? The semi-exhausted state of these industries is a matter which should engage the serious attention of this chamber, because, unless they are placed on a sound footing, we shall, indeed, have the greatest possible difficulty in meeting our annual commitments.
I shall support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland, and I hope that we shall have not only an immediate reduction of duties, but also a progressive reduction, so that the costs of production in all industries can he lowered and our export industries placed on at least a cost basis.
.- As expected, the criticism of the tariff schedule, both inside and outside Parliament, has come from the two extremes in fiscal thought, and, to a large extent, it is political rather than economical. To the criticism voiced in this chamber that was intended to be helpful, I have given some attention.
The amendment of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) that the tariff should revert to 1921-30 level is a rule-of-thumb method, which I should not have expected from, one generally so meticulous. Surely the honorable member realizes that such a drastic reduction as he proposes would have a serious effect on trade, would dislocate the budgetary position, and, more important still, would so reduce revenue as seriously to jeopardize our chances of meeting our commitments both here and overseas. The carrying of his amendment would involve the country in a loss of about £6,300,000 per annum. I am surprised that the honorable member, who usually gives weighty consideration to any statement he proposes to make in this House, should have moved an amendment which is contrary to the platform which his party placed before the country. His amendment is calculated to–
– Embarrass the Government.
– I am surprised that the honorable gentleman should put forward a proposal merely to embarrass the Government. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has told the story for the whole party.
– Nothing of the kind.
– If I am wrong, I ask the Acting Leader of the Country party to reflect that if his amendment were carried the loss in revenue would be £6,300,000 per annum.
– How does the Minister arrive at that sum? ‘
– I have here a statement setting out the position -
– The honorable member is shifting his ground. Although he has been elected to Parliament to protect the trade of the country, and to prevent Australian workers from being thrown out of employment, he has suggested a slipshod method of dealing with the tariff, notwithstanding that he knows there is a Tariff Board whose duty it is to inquire into tariff matters in the interests of all parties.
– Had the Tariff Board recommended these duties, I should not have moved my amendment.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) made
A speech couched in almost similar terms to that of the Acting Leader of the Country party. He suggested that tariffs be progressively reduced over certain periods. In his usual frank and deliberate manner, he said that a tariff such as that before the committee must have been framed within the precincts of Little Collins-street and the Sassafras-road. From that I deduce that he meant that i; had been conceived by men who could not see beyond the cities and the factories. I would not say that the outlook of members of the Country party, or of any other honorable members, is circumscribed by the boundaries of their own paddocks, because I consider that the representatives of the people in this chamber, in the main, have a vision that is national, and not parochial. Their comments on the tariff range from the extreme criticism of those who prefer very low duties, or no duties at all - and I include among them the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), whose speeches, I think, would have been heartily approved by the late Mr. Cobden - to the criticism of those who, among the ranks of the Labour party, selfishly advocate prohibition. In either case it is criticism which squares with the slogan of the honorable member for Wakefield, who spoke of “ government of the feeble for the greedy “. That honorable member’s proposal for tariff cuts is similar to that of the Acting Leader of the Country party. It would dislocate trade and commerce, for it can be readily realized that, with such a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of secondary industries, they would soon languish, and more men would be put off if it were known that duties were to be reduced, factory orders would be cancelled, and many industries would soon be at a standstill. I submit that that is not the way in which to deal with the tariff. We have a Tariff Board Act, under which the Tariff Board has been established, and its inquiries are in the nature of an open court. The board is making an investigation into the operation of the whole of the tariff, under the terms of the Ottawa agreement. One member of the Country party was kind enough to make a personal explanation to-day on a matter regarding me on which he had made a mistake. I thank him for it. Now he has made the reckless statement that the average amount of duty enjoyed by secondary industries in Australia was in the vicinity of 100 per cent.
– I referred to the average protection.
– The protection of 25 per cent, represented by the exchange rate is also in the nature of a bounty on exports. The honorable member spoke of duties and of 100 per cent, protection. We are accustomed to hear him rattling off figures, but rarely are they checked.
– The 25 per cent, exchange operates against the manufacturer in regard to his raw material.
– Quite so. The dutiable goods cleared from the United Kingdom in 1930-31 were valued at £9,894,241, and the amount of duty collected was £3,252,703. Therefore, the duty was equivalent to 32.87 per cent, ad valorem.
– I was talking of the tariff schedule, not of the imports.
– But the schedule relates to imports. I am taking the honorable member up upon his statement about 100 per cent, protection in regard to all secondary products. The value of the United Kingdom goods cleared free of duty in 1930-31, was £10,639,720; but the honorable member did not mention that. The duty collected, expressed as an average on the whole total, including free and dutiable goods, was only 15.84 per cent, ad valorem; but any stranger in the gallery last night would have been led by the honorable member to imagine that the average protecton enjoyed by secondary industries was 100 per cent. At any rate, that is how I also interpreted his remarks. So much for the statistics of theoretical economists who browse on the fodder of figures. Let us be as generous as we possibly can to the honorable member, and throw in the 10 per cent, primage, which, in some instances, is only 4 per cent. Putting primage down, on the average, at 7 per cent., and allowing also for freight, the protection amounts then to only 23 per cent., which is still over 75 per cent, less than the figure mentioned by the honorable member.But what are figures when an honorable member desires to confuse or confound?
– The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott.) will have the statement of the Minister published in all the country newspapers.
– I hope that it will be published alongside the statement of the honorable member for Riverina.
I admit having supported the idea that the Tariff Board should be enlarged to enable it to deal more expeditiously with tariff inquiries. When I was appointed to office, my first inquiry was as to whether the work of the board could be speeded up. I am satisfied with the achievements of the board in the past three years. It has gone through 214 items, and has declared 200 of them to be in accord with the spirit of the Ottawa agreement. It is doing its work excellently. It is not generally known that the board works in sections, and that the various reports are brought together before the chairman.
– Is the Minister satisfied that the duties in the case of those 200 items are in accord with the spirit of the Ottawa agreement?
– I think that any honorable member would agree that this board, which takes evidence from both sides, is in a better position than honorable members to answer that question.
– The reports to which the Minister refers were made before the Ottawa Conference was thought of.
– But the board has gone into those matters, and finds that the duties are not contrary to the spirit of the Ottawa agreement.
– Is the board now seized of the full facts?
– Yes. Honorable members are aware that, in many industries, wages have dropped, both in Australia and overseas, and this fact is taken into consideration by the board, which makes its decision after weighing all the facts. It is within the power of the board to reconsider all duties. I submit that if the board were enlarged, and two chairmen were appointed, there would be a lack of co-ordination in the work. It would he better to hasten slowly in this matter, and to allow the board that has so ably carried out its inquiries in the past to continue its good work. To add an economist to the personnel, or to establish a prices board, as suggested by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), may be excellent ideas; but where are we to stop?
– Why not appoint an extraordinary committee to consider the items affected by the Ottawa agreement?
– We might make appointments ad lib; but seeing that this skilled board has recommended what duties are fair and reasonable, has exposed profiteering, has induced firms to bring down prices, and in many cases, has saved manufacturers from themselves by advising them not to begin the manufacture of certain commodities, it must be recognized that it has done most valuable work. It is continuing to do this work, and it is employed at top pressure in examining the enormous schedule before us to see whether it is in accord with the spirit of the Ottawa agreement. Economists may be summoned before the board, statisticians may be examined, if necessary, as was done in the case of a recent inquiry in Melbourne; but further permanent appointments to the board would only increase its cost. I submit that at the present time, when the Government is making cuts in expenditure on social services, and endeavouring by all means in its power to reduce governmental expenditure, further salaried appointments to the board would be unwarranted. At a time like this, when Australia is showing some signs of recovery, when she is convalescent in a stricken economic world, we should be indeed grateful that we are able to pay our way, and to meet our internal and overseas commitments. This is not a time for aggressive selfishness such as has been demonstrated in this chamber by sectional parties that put forward proposals calculated to benefit only a section of the people, whether those parties favour low tariff’s, or are prohibitionists. It is rather an occasion when, if we wish to secure the greatest good for this country, and the maximum of development, we should hack up this Government’s sincere effort to obtain a fair amount of protection for the secondary industries, and when we should support an agreement that will benefit every primary producer. As I mentioned in my introductory speech on the tariff, the Government recognizes that the primary producer is the backbone of the community. It wishes to improve his market - and the best market in the world is that of Great Britain - by the preferences granted under the Ottawa agreement; yet, instead of approval and gratitude from the section that has beneted to a large extent under that agreement, the Country party now selfishly asks for more assistance. I point out to honorable- members that such a proposal might wreck the agreement, and embarrass trade.
– It could not wreck the agreement.
Mr.WHITE. - I take it that further amendments such as that before the committee will be submitted, but I exhort honorable members of the United Australia Party to stand by the policy enunciated by the Leader of this party (Mr. Lyons) prior to the last election. It was then promised that if the United Australia Party were returned to power the tariff would be carefully reviewed by the skilled Tariff Board. I trust that honorable members will not jettison this policy by approving of a motion that must embarrass trade, reduce revenue, and endorse an extreme policy.
– We are all tired of tariffs.
– Probably Australia has been tired of tariffs for a long time, but it must be remembered that the Liberal and Nationalist parties in the past and the present United Australia Party are protectionist in sentiment. We believe in a sane, reasonable and selective tariff. We also believe that Parliament should be guided by the recommendations of the Tariff Board in fixing duties. If this amendment were agreed to, our primary producers would not be benefited. Let me remind honorable members again that the Government has given abundant evidence of its desire to assist primary producers, for ithas given remissions of sales tax, land tax, thesuper tax on property, and primage duties; and it has also sponsored the Ottawa agreement. I ask the committee, and particularly those of its members who are Government supporters, to stand by the policy of the Government, because it is broad enough in its comprehensiveness to give room for every element of progressive national thought. If our policyis adhered to, both primary and secondary industries will be stimulated, and the welfare of the people in general will be promoted.
.- I should not have participated in this debate except for the inaccuracy of certain propaganda by the Country party. I candidly confess that I have been rather disgusted by the attitude of certain honorable gentlemen t opposite, who have expressed views in this committee which do not represent the true position. The speeches they have made here are subsequently circulated through the country, and paragraphs from them are published in the country press, with most misleading results. As a matter of fact, there is so much disagreement among the members of the Country party that some of the statements of the Acting Leader of that party (Mr. Paterson) have been almost repudiated by other members of it. The Acting Leader of the party, for instance, said that there were 360 items in the tariff schedule in respect of which duties had been increased, and only 160 items in respect of which duties had been decreased. If the honorable member had been candid, he would have said that many of the so-called increases relate to items which are on the free list.
– I did not include one such item.
– If the honorable mem-‘ ber will examine the schedule he will see that many of his alleged increases are in respect of foreign duties only.
– I excluded all such items.
– It is hard to understand the attitude of mind of certain members of the Country party. They have told us that the degree of protection granted to certain industries is infinitely greater than that provided by the customs duty because account must be taken of exchange and primage; but is there a member of the Country party who would favour the reduction of the exchange rate? The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland), among others, said that the degree of protection afforded certain industries on account of customs duties, primage and exchange, was more than 100 per cent, in certain industries. Yet he is not favorable to a reduction of the exchange rate. Although statements such as those to which I have referred do not clearly set out the position, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) will no doubt use them in preparing his propaganda matter for the country press. It seems to me that Parliament should deal with such honorable members as the Australian Cricket Board of Control dealt with Don Bradman.
We have also been told by members of the Country party that if a restriction be imposed on the export of butter the terms of the Ottawa agreement will be infringed ; but I point out that even if the proposed restriction is carried into effect, Australia will be able to export 3,000 tons more butter than she exported last year. I object to the tactics of the Country party in “regard to the proposal to restrict the exportation of butter. A couple of days before an announcement was expected in the House on this subject, a member of the Country party, for political reasons, moved a certain, motion in this Parliament. That was done, I believe, simply to enable members of the Country party to adopt a certain attitude when they next appear before their constituents.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks have no relation to the subject before the Chair.
– I am trying to explain that the Country party has argued that the proposed restriction of butter exports is tantamount to a breach of the Ottawa agreement, and that consequently the present tariff schedule should not be ratified. Such statements create a false impression throughout the country. We all know that the Ottawa agreement was implemented with the support of the Country party. As that party has already supported the adoption of the agreement it is unfair for it now to pursue the course which it has been following during this discussion. Such a policy is unworthy of a party which claims to represent the country people. The plain truth, of course, is that certain honorable members on this side of the chamber represent country interests just as effectively as, if not better than, honorable members of the Country party. If we could follow up all the propaganda of the Country party, we should doubtless be able to correct the false impression that it creates, but we cannot do so. In my opinion, honorable members of the Conn try party are placing themselves in a very awkward position. Though these honorable gentlemen are favorable to the investigation of the tariff by the Tariff Board, they would like to adopt a different procedure in regard to certain duties. Let me remind them that in the last annual report of the Tariff Board, it is stated that one of the first factors which the Board takes into consideration in calculating the capacity of a secondary industry to maintain its operations is its capitalization. The board has made it clear that it is opposed to the over capitalization of secondary industries. Honorable members of the Country party have argued that one reason why primary producers cannot obtain goods manufactured in Australia at a reasonable price is that our secondary industries are over capitalized; but they never tell us that one of the greatest problems of primary producers is over capitalization. On numerous occasions when figures have been submitted to us to enable us to estimate the cost of producing certain primary commodities, an excessive amount, has been included to cover the value of the land. Actually, our primary industries, in New South Wales, at any rate, are over capitalized to a greater extent than our secondary industries. Members of the Country party have wilfully - I was about to say wickedly - remained silent about the overcapitalisation of the land industries, prefering to attributed the collapse of those industries to the high costs imposed upon them by the secondary industries of this country. I do not share that view, and in this connexion J. direct attention to a statement which appeared in a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, a report from Geneva to the effect that, because of the mechanization of rural industries, the farmer of to-day could accomplish in one hour work which, a century ago, occupied 300,000 hours. Is it a fact, as has been stated so often in this House, that costs of production in the land industries have not been lowered by the introduction of machinery?
– Who said that?
– It has been said over and over again by members of the Country party, including, I think, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), who, a few “ months ago, declared that so difficult was the position of our primary producers, because of the high cost of production, that the larger the area worked, i;he greater was the loss sustained.
– That is so. -
– The statement was, I think, repeated by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby). Notwithstanding this opinion, I contend that the wheat-farmer who secures a return of 30 or 40 bushels an acre off high-class wheatland, must necessarily make more money tb.au the farmer whose return from inferior land is so much lower.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– I submit that my remarks are revelant to the arguments advanced by members of the Country party as a reason why the schedule now before the committee should not be accepted.
I listened attentively to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). He declared that there could be no middle course between freetrade and high protection. I could not help thinking that the honorable gentleman was rather begging the question, and certainly I do not agree with him. I have always believed in moderate protection for a young and growing country, as opposed fi a policy of high protection, because of the danger of the creation of monopolies, which might constitute a serious menace to the community, particularly the working classes and the consumers. The schedule now before the committee is a middle course. It represents a moderate degree of protection for Australian industries. The fact that it has been adversely criticized by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, who represent the prohibition school of thought in tariff matters, and has been condemned also by the Country party, is, I think, the best evidence we could wish to have that it represents the middle course in fiscal policy. I say this, not because I blame the Scullin Administration for the high tariff which it imposed during a grave crisis, but because. I believe we have now reached a stage in the history of this country when, if it is to recover from the effects of the depression, a more moderate form of protection is essential.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) declared that we have not yet emerged from the worst stage of the depression. I entirely disagree with him. I challenge those honorable members who think with him ip this matter to go through their constituencies and inquire of their people if the position is as serious now as it was a year or two ago. There is evidence on every hand that the economic and industrial condition of this country in on the mend. If Country party members of this chamber, representing the State . of New South Wales will only take the trouble to ask their colleagues in the State Parliament if the Stevens-Bruxner Government is making any impression on the unemployment problem in. that State, they will soon be enlightened, and I hope they will refrain in future from making ‘ any further allegations to the contrary. The honorable member for Wimmera must have known that his statement to-night was a reflection upon the Government, and that, if uncontradicted, it might mislead country people.
In my opinion the agreement made at Ottawa between the leading statesmen of the Mother Country and the dominions was a wise one, and it ill becomes the Opposition and Country party members of this chamber to suggest that any provision in it will work ,- to the detriment of the people of this country. The agreement will. I believe, do more to rehabilitate the world than anything that has been done since the depression started. It is well known that even now our primary producers are facing extraordinary difficulties because of the gradual contraction of overseas markets, due to the chaotic social and industrial conditions in countries which hitherto have been large purchasers of our commodities. Unfortunately, some of those countries are to-day paying more attention to revolutionary propaganda, which honorable members representing the Lang party in this chamber predict will eventually sweep over this country, and. as a consequence, we find it difficult to dispose of our surplus commodities at profitable prices. Honorable members- opposite are quite unfairly blaming this Government for the prices which our farmers are receiving for their wheat. This Government has done more than any other administration to assist those farmers, but some of their representatives in this Parliament are dissatisfied because they were unsuccessful in a proposal to put £4,000,000 into the wheat-growers’ pockets. Country party members are now declaring that they forced the Government to adopt a proposal for the assistance of our wheatfarmers. As a matter of fact they know that the only arrangement to assist the farmers which the Government did not make was the one which they sponsored.
– The honorable member’s remarks apply to a previous decision of this Parliament and have noth’ing whatever to do with the question now before the Chair.
– The very best thing which members of the Country party can do is to vote against the amendment. It was a mistake to move it. One honorable member of that party said, the other day, that they never changed their minds. I remind him. of the old adage - “Wise men change their minds; fools never”. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) told the committee definitely that the carrying of the amendment would mean a loss to the revenue of £6,000,000. I ask members of the Country party to bear that in mind, and also to ask themselves if, in view of this serious loss of revenue which would result, they could honestly vote for the amendment, and still believe they were acting in the best interests of the country. I appeal to honorable members to vote for the .Government’s proposals and for the maintenance of the revenue.
.- I. do not propose to reply to the remarks of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Lane). All I need say is that he is one of those dairymen from Sydney who give advice so freely to the dairymen in the country districts. I invite country people to read the Hansard report of the honorable member’s speech, and judge for themselves as to the attitude which he takes up. It contained no reference at all to the tariff. The honorable member concerned himself mainly with land values and kindred subjects. He did not explain how it was possible for primary producers to write down land values, retain their assets and carry on successfully.
I sat beside the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) for a long time when he was a private member, and I felt that I was a man after his own heart. I listened to speeches made by him as a private member in opposition to the tariff proposals of the Scullin Government, with which he was very much dissatisfied. I also listened carefully to the speech with which he introduced the schedule now before the committee, and although his sentiments were satisfactory enough, I regret to say that his schedule is not. It is very unsatisfactory to country people, and is diametrically opposed to the principles laid down in the Minister’s speech. It gives nothing to the primary producer, and promises nothing. Any reductions of duties it proposes are of little or no value to them. Like the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), I am grateful to the Government for the remissions of sales tax granted to primary producers. We are grateful for anything which will place us more nearly on a par with the secondary industries.
The honorable member for Wentworth referred to what have been described as subsidies paid to primary producers, but many of the things mentioned cannot fairly be so described. For instance, it has been stated that. the money spent on soldier settlement constitutes a subsidy to primary producers, and that the losses on railways come within the same category.
– I said that I did not agree with that.
– I am glad that the honorable member does not, but those statements are frequently made by members supporting the Government! The Paterson butter scheme is sometimes referred to as a subsidy to the farmers, but the ‘benefits which the farmers derive under that scheme are not conferred by the Government. As a matter of fact, the Butter Control Board has asked the Government to stabilize the industry by giving legislative effect to the Paterson scheme, but the Government has refused to take that step. I am opposed to subsidies to primary producers or any other classes of the community provided we are all placed on the same footing. Recently, the Government appointed an expert committee to inquire into the wool industry. That committee reported that the tariff was responsible for increasing the cost of producing wool by 2d. per lb., about 20 per cent, of the cost of production; yet the tariff has not placed so heavy, a burden upon the wool producers as it has upon those engaged in farming operations.
The primary producers certainly expected that the Ottawa agreement would give them something more than they have yet received from it. Practically every member of the Country party supported the agreement when it was before Parliament, and many of us went through our electorates making speeches in support of it. Although no benefits have yet been derived, we still hope that the agreement will be of some assistance to the primary producers. A fortnight ago, I made a speech in the course of which I referred to the Ottawa agreement. Afterwards, a man, who is a British settler, moved a vote of thanks, aud stated that his daughter had received a letter from a friend in. England asking what her father thought of the Ottawa agreement. The writer said that in her opinion it was a splendid arrangement. Previously, they had had to pay ls. 2d. per lb. for Aus tralian butter, but they were then getting it for ls. per lb. That i3 what some of the English people think of the Ottawa agreement, though, of course, I do not blame the agreement for the fall in the price of butter on the English market.
The Ottawa agreement would have been a splendid thing had the Australian Government given to the United Kingdom benefits commensurate with those we expected to receive, but that has not been done, lt was refreshing to hear the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill), speaking authoritatively as a Minister I presume, say that any future revision of the tariff would be in a downward direction. His statement was in marked contrast with many of the statements of those who support the Government, as well as of members of the Opposition. Our duties against British goods are still too high, with the result that Britain can obtain no advantage from the Ottawa agreement. Members of the Country party, and many Nationalists as well, believed that substantial concessions would be granted to Britain, so that British manufacturers would be placed on a competitive basis with Australian manufacturers. If we are to get something from Britain, we must be prepared to give something in return. Australian primary producers must look to Britain for a market. The rest of the world is practically closed to us because of the prohibitive duties imposed by the last Government. This applies to wheat, wool, fruit and other commodities.
When members of the present Government were in Opposition, they adopted the middle course in regard to tariff matters, and supported the Pratten tariff. Now they are finding virtue in what the Postmaster-General described as a Himalayan tariff, that imposed by the Scullin Government. They are hand and glove with the Labour party in supporting a tariff which they previously opposed.
– Does the honorable member think that that is a fair statement?
– I think it is.
– I am surprised that he should make such a statement. All the items in that tariff to which exception was taken were to be referred to the Tariff Board, and the honorable member knows it.
– At any rate, the Nationalists and members of the Labour party have now formed an unholy alliance in defence of a high tariff. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) made a most admirable speech, as he always does in defence of the attitude of present Ministers. In effect, he addressed the jury most ably, but he will not obtain a unanimous verdict. He has not convinced us that the change of attitude is justifiable. His argument was that times have changed, and that he and his colleagues are merely keeping up to date. Has one year made all this difference? The Minister for Trade and Customs informed us that 201 items in the tariff were dealt with by the Tariff Board three years ago, and that its recommendations were accepted as satisfactory by the Government. The Attorney-General now tells us that conditions have changed so much within twelve months that he and his colleagues are justified in changing their policy. If that be so, how can the Government accept as satisfactory Tariff Board reports three years old, and act upon them? It is difficult to reconcile the two things.
– Which statements are inconsistent ?
– If the AttorneyGeneral was correct in saying that a year has made such vast differences in the economic outlook, surely those matters dealt with by the Tariff Board more than a year ago, should be again referred to that body, because its reports and recommendations are out of date. I agree entirely with the views expressed by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey). On other occasions I have said that at least three tariff boards should be operating so that the tariff schedule may be revised as expeditiously as possible. The members of the board are non-partisans, and are supposed to deal with these matters as experts. They could form themselves into subcommittees so that the items could be more effectively and quickly reviewed.
The Postmaster-General referred to unfair propaganda by the Country party. I know nothing of that, but I take exception to a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), and repeated in the press from time to time by other Ministers, that members of the Country party voted for a 400 per cent, duty on tobacco. That is not correct. No member of the Country party voted for such a duty.
– We acquiesced in the reduction of the duty.
– That is so. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) proposes that we should revert to the Pratten tariff until all the items not already reported upon by the Tariff Board have been dealt with by that body, leaving always the Ottawa margin as a safeguard for the British manufacturer. Is there anything wrong with that proposal? I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs said that if the amendment were agreed to the customs revenue would decline to the extent of £6,000,000. The Acting Leader of the Country party clearly stated that his proposal applied only to British goods ; therefore it cannot affect petrol and other goods from foreign countries. I am certain that the Minister for Trade and Customs is over-estimating the effect which the adoption of the amendment would have upon the revenue.
– It would increase the revenue.
– I believe that it would. Those manufacturing industries that are flourishing were not established under the Scullin tariff; they were founded and developed under the Pratten tariff and earlier schedules. When the Pratten schedule was submitted, did any of the manufacturers complain that the duties were not high enough? The higher duties imposed by the Scullin Ministry were foisted on the manufacturers against their will. Those engaged in secondary production were satisfied with the protection they had in 1929, and the Government should agree to revert to the duties of that year, especially as the customs protection is supplemented by 25 per cent, exchange and 10 per cent, primage, giving an additional protection of 35 per cent. Notwithstanding the gibes and allegations of some honorable members, no member of the Country party advocates a return to freetrade. We aro asking only that this Parliament shall revert to the high tariff operated by the Bruce-Page Government in 1929.
– Was not that too high ? _
– We are satisfied to go back to that schedule.
– That is not an answer to my question.
– It is near enough. I am not like the Attorney-General, who says that times have so changed that the conditions of 1929 and 1933 are not comparable.
I can hardly believe that the Government realizes the seriousness of the position of the primary producers. In the northern areas of Victoria, the wheat-growers are on the verge of collapse, and the wool-growers also are in a bad plight. The dairymen, who up to the present time have been doing fairly well, are now likely to suffer a setback. If something is not done in the near future to give relief to the primary producers, a complete collapse will take place in some districts. Only recently a member of one of the principal firms of auctioneers in Victoria told me that he had on his books £80,000 worth of debts which anybody could have for £20,000. He stated that three years ago most of the debtors were men of substance, but that to-day the plight of all of them was such that, if one failed, the lot would collapse.
I cannot understand why the members of the Opposition have such a dread of the competition of the British manufacturer.If that competition is so dangerous as they allege, Australian industries must be on a very unsound basis. Canadian manufacturers, who pay probably higher wages than are paid in Australia, have a monopoly of the supply of farming machinery to the markets of the world, in competition with all comers.If Canada can achieve such success in secondary production, why should not Australia be able to do likewise? Our workmen are as good, and the wages they receive are certainly not higher than are paid to artisans in corresponding industries in Canada. Yet the Australian manufacturer is afraid to compete, notwithstanding that he is protected by duties which were increased by the Scullin Government to such an extent that they are a positive burden on the primary . producer. America, too, despite the high wages paid to its workers, and the almost prohibitive Australian tariff, is able to sell tools on this market in competition with the local maker. What are the obstacles to economic secondary production in this country ? I want to see the day when our manufacturers become exporters, and, like the primary producers, bring wealth to Australia by sending their goods overseas. I am afraid that day is far distant; but, until the manufacturers are able to export their surplus, they will not be of the value to Australia that they should be. Those engaged in primary production are sick and tired of being hewers of wood and drawers of water for the manufacturers, and they expected something more from the present Government than is offered in this schedule. I have not the slightest hesitation. in supporting the amendment, which represents a middle road, leading us back to the 1929 tariff that was supported wholeheartedly by every member of the present Ministry.
.- This subject has been so fully dealt with that I rise only to reply to the amazing statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) that the carrying of the amendment would mean a loss of £6,000,000 of customs revenue. I say that that is a joke. I ask the Minister whether he fully appreciates the meaning of the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). I challenge him to prove that, if given effect, it would mean a loss of revenue within £5,000,000 of his estimate. One item alone - petrol - is not a British product. I ask the Minister to discuss this matter with his officers, and obtain from them further information on the subject. The amendment is to the effect that duties against British goods be reduced to the level of the 1921-30 tariff in all cases where they have been raised above that level without report by the Tariff Board. Those duties are substantially covered by group 7 of the tariff schedule. The schedule comprises 120 pages, and group 7 about seven or eight pages. That group provides for items amended by the Scullin Government which are not supported by the Tariff Board’s reports, and it is those items to which the amendment refers. They include glucose, biscuits, fish, badges, buttons, woven and embroidered material, tray cloths, waddings, and so on. We heard a lot about wadding and cotton wool for hospitals when the duties were being increased by the Scullin Government, and yet this Government has made no attempt to reduce them. If the amendment were carried, the loss in revenue would not be £1,000,000 ; in fact, the revenue might easily increase instead of decrease. It is hitting below the belt to try to attribute to the Acting Leader of the Country party an action which he is absolutely incapable of doing.
The honorable member forCorangamite (Mr. Gibson) has referred to the question, of tobacco. Throughout the country we hear it alleged that the Country party was inconsistent in voting against a reduction of the duty on tobacco. Letme explain the action of that party. It voted, not against a reduction, but against an increase of duties on locally-grown tobacco. The import duty on tobacco was 5s. 2d. per lb., and the excise 2s. 4d. per lb., a total of 7s. 6d. per lb. on imported tobacco. It was altered in the Gullett schedule, and the import duty was reduced to 3s. per lb. and the excise raised to 4s. 6d. per lb., still leaving a total duty of 7s. 6d. per lb. on the foreign leaf. Therefore, the Country party did not vote against a reduction of the duty on tobacco leaf as there was no total reduction. The locally-grown leaf in days gone by was subject to an excise of 2s. 4d. per lb., and that was raised to 4s. 6d. per lb.; so that there was no reduction at all of the total duties on the foreign leaf, but there was an increase of duty on the local leaf of 2s. 2d. per lb. That is what the Country party voted against. Another point which I wish to emphasize is that at that time it was stated definitely by the present Government that the tobacco duty was not a protective, but a revenue matter. That being so, the members of the Government should not have gone round the country talking about it as a tariff matter. If it were a tariff matter, as they now say it is, why did the Government bind its own supporters who have’ tobacco-growers in their electorates to vote with it on that occasion ?
– Does the honorable member think that there should be a reduction of the duty on tobacco?
– I do not care whether there is an increase or decrease of import duties, provided that the locally - manufactured tobacco does not have to bear increased excise or be placed in a less favorable position. In any case, we obtain no tobacco from Great Britain, and tobacco is not mentioned in group 7.
– We get cigarettes and tobacco from England.
– We are referring to tobacco leaf.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) spoke of the subsidy paid to the butter industry, and during his speech there were interjections to the effect that the public were paying that subsidy in order that the growers might benefit. If we compare the prices of butter to-day in Australia and the Old Country, we shall find that the grower is not getting so much for his fresh butter in Australia as is paid in London for comparable fresh butter. Our butter when it arrives in London is two months old, and frozen hard. Even with the addition of the bonus under the Paterson scheme, the price for fresh butter in Australia is not more than the London price for comparable fresh butter at any time.
– It is cheaper to-day.
– That is so. The amendment of the Acting Leader of the Country party means substantially that the British duties under group 7 shall revert to the level of the Pratten tariff, until such time as they are dealt with by the Tariff Board. When the Scullin Government imposed higher duties, honorable members who were then in Oppositionsaid that the duties were extreme. That happened only a little over a year ago. Even if the duties imposed by the Scullin Government were reduced to the level of the Pratten tariff, there would still remain an additional protection of 35 per cent., comprising10 per cent, primage duty and 25 per cent, exchangewhich were not in force when the Pratten tariff was introduced. I support the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Country party, and I am sure that, had many honorable members properly understood it, we would not have heard half of the wild statements that have been made to-night.
.- The figure £6,300,000, which I mentioned, represents the loss of revenue that would be occasioned if all the revenue duties were reduced to the 1930 level. I had intended rising to explain this when the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) received the call. I have since obtained information concerning the loss that would be occasioned if the British duties only were reduced, and find that the figure is £1,300,000. The Government could not afford to lose that substantial sum by the application of any rule of thumb method of adjusting the turill, such as the acting-leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) has suggested. I hope that the Country party will be as frank as I have been iu admitting the mistake that it has made.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) has referred to his association with me when I was a private member. He then believed” that we saw eye to eye on tariff matters. The honorable member has taken umbrage at my having dared to say that the Country party supported the heavy duty imposed on tobacco, and objected to its reduction. He rather twisted my words when he alleged that I said that the members of that party had voted for this duty. There is not an honorable member who has not heard the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) on innumerable occasions ask questions in relation to tobacco, and bring up the subject on motions for the adjournment of the House. Only last Friday he complained about the manner in which the tobacco-growers had been treated. The duty on tobacco amounts to something like 490 per cent. It will be remembered that a political crisis almost developed when the bulk of the members of the Country party opposed the reduction of the duty from 5s. to 3s. per lb. when that proposal was made by this Government.
– It was agreed to on the voices.
– The Country party was divided on the matter. Honorable members, opposite well remember the division that took place on the motion to apply the gag. The voting on that occasion was along lines that would have been followed had the division been on the proposal to reduce the duty. As late as last Friday the honorable member for New England alleged that his district was being boycotted by the tobacco manufacturers. He well knows that the manufacturers pay. a duty of 3s. per lb., and that it is possible for them to buy tobacco in his district at any price they care to name, proving that the question is one of quality. Nevertheless, in response to his protest, I have arranged that an expert shall visit the district to see whether there is an atom of truth in his allegations.
– I have listened with interest to the speeches that have been made upon the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), because I realize that the policy of the Government to-day approximates very closely to my actions with respect to tariffs since I have been a member of this chamber. Some honorable members who sit on the Government benches have expressed displeasure at the failure of the Government to give effect to all that they claimed was necessary in the interests of Australia when they sat iu Opposition. At that time I had not the honour of voting with them on tariff questions; but on the present occasion the Government has changed its tariff policy to a marked extent in the interest of the unemployed and of the continuance of industry, in which many millions of pounds have been expended.
As a primary producer it may be advisable for me to explain why I do not propose to support the amendment of the Acting Leader of the party of which I am a member. Many of those who will be found supporting the amendment are ardent free traders, who realize that their only means of achieving their purpose is to take one step at a time. The reductions proposed by the amendment, if given effect, they believe will bring them nearer to their goal. Efficient secondary industries that are established in this country are of such great value to Australia that I should fear to do anything that would have the result of closing them down. Our tariff is valuable, not only from the point of view of the revenue that is obtained by its means, but also because of the employment that it makes possible at the present extraordinary stage in our national history. If honor- able members realized the privation, starvation and humiliation that would be caused among a large section of our people by the closing down of a number of industries, and the swelling of the ranks of the unemployed, they would admit that the ideal, in regard to tariffmaking, is to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. As a primary producer, I recognize the great value of our secondary industries. The consumers in our cities offer the best possible market for those who produce for local consumption. Wool and wheat are not our only primary industries. There are the maize industry, the rice industry, the cotton industry, the fruit industry, the butter industry, and many other industries, the producers in which realize the value of the spending power of those who are engaged in secondary industries in the cities, and how essential it is that they be kept in employment. All sections of primary producers have a right to have their views expressed in this chamber. In their interests, as much productive work as possible must be provided in our cities, in order that necessary foodstuffs may be purchased. In many homes within our city areas, the husband has been unemployed for two years or longer, and children who have come of age are waiting for industrial development to provide them with work. What chance have they of obtaining employment, and what is their outlook if industries are closed down? We must give them some hope by developing industries that are already established. A high tariff does not necessarily mean that we shall not produce at a low cost. At the present time, some industries which enjoy a high tariff are exporting their surplus output. That is possible because, first of all, we have to keep our. cheap third-rate goods to enable a young industry to get a footing. When those industries have been established economically they can begin exporting. Last year our boot and shoe industry, which is highly protected, exported £25,000 worth of material.
– It used to send away about £700,000 worth of material.
– When boots were supplied to soldiers at the war. I am speaking in the interests of the honorable member’s electors when I say that the ricegrowers of Australia appreciate the volume of local consumption. Prior to the honorable member’s entry to this Parliament those growers asked for an embargo on the importation of Chinese rice, which request I supported, and would do so again. The manufacture of machines and machinery is highly protected and the industry is now exporting products to the value of almost £600,000 per annum. I do not ask that high tariffs should be continued to the detriment of our people, but where a satisfactory outcome can be reasonably expected, I support protection.
Some say that the Government is taking a middle course, while others claim that it is practically adopting the tariff of the Scullin Government. I believe’ that the Government is endeavouring to formulate a reasonable tariff in the be3t interests of Australian trade and of our primary producers, and I think it ray duty to support the policy that was so clearly put before the committee by the Minister.
– What about the price of Diesel engines?
– Unfortunately, the honorable member has had his way regarding Diesel engines, the Tariff Board having prohibited their manufacture in Australia by permitting the free entry of the British product. That, was done despite the fact that Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, were satisfactorily manufacturing Diesel engines over 50 horse-power, and were preparing to manufacture them up to 1,000 horse-power. That promising industry has Deen closed, 250 nien who could have been absorbed to-day have been thrown out of employment, and valuable machinery now lies idle. Such is the policy in which the honorable member for Swan rejoices. His only care is for the wheat industry of Western Australia, and he would close all others which do not confer benefit upon the wheat-growers of his State.
Some honorable members have objected to the increase of the duty on casein. If that duty were not in force cheap second-grade casein would be imported. As a result of the duty the industry is now exporting £21,000 worth of its products per annum.
– Has the increased duty assisted the export of the product?
– No ; but it has enabled the industry to become established and to export some of its output. “We know that heavy duties arn imposed on imported soap, but the local industry exports its products to the value of £259,000 per annum. We have heard a good deal of criticism regarding the duty on biscuits, yet each year we export £S2,000 worth of the Australian article, in the manufacture of which Australian wheat is largely used. There are those honorable members who would close down all highly protected industries, including the canned fruit industry, which annually exports products to the value of £2,250,000. Those industries are of inestimable value to Australia, and are worthy of the support of any reasonable tariff reformer.
I have claimed that the matters of revenue and credits in London closely concern this debate. Many of the higher duties arc essential at present because of existing economic conditions. It is preferable to obtain revenue in this way than to call upon the taxpayers to subscribe it through some other channel. Even if we went back to the Pratten tariff it would not satisfy all honorable members. There are many who would want still further reductions. If the Pratten tariff were adopted, it would immediately harm the cotton and other industries, and I cannot bring myself to believe that Australia would be benefited by closing down those industries. Quoting from the journal of the British Chamber of Commerce, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) stated today that the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce), speaking of Australian tariff increases and prohibitions, declared that no other course than an increase in tariff and prohibition was open to the Commonwealth if it was to meet its obligations; that another government would have had to do the same thing. I quite agree with that. I have supported this tariff in the past, and I shall do so now. Honorable members who criticize my action had better support the amendment of the Leader of the Country party. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) endeavoured to take me to task for the stand which I took in the interests of the primary producers of Australia, and said -
Not long ago the honorable member for Wide Bay conducted with almost barbaric ruthlessness a campaign against the bananagrowers of Fiji who sought a share of that trade in return for important concessions which they offered.
No concessions were offered. I am proud to say that I did resist to the utmost the importation of bananas from FijiI am opposed to Australian farmers who, in their small holdings are endeavouring to grow bananas under white-labour conditions for white people, being subjected to competition from blacklabour bananas. I am proud to think that the honorable membe’r regards my campaign as having had some effect. He said that, in season and out of season, I had advocated prohibition and embargoes. I remind him of the words of the Resident Minister in London that “ No other course was open to the Commonwealth”. If I am accused of advocating prohibitions and embargoes, the same accusation must lie at the door of the Resident Minister in London. If I am wrong, he also is wrong in saying that no other course than very heavyincreases of customs duties, embargoes, prohibitions, and surcharges was open to the Commonwealth if it was to meet its obligations. He also must have been wrong when he said that any other government would have had to do the same. I remind the honorable member for Macquarie ‘ that he, as well as I, supported the sugar embargo. I would support an embargo on the importation of milk to compete with milk that the dairies in his district supply to Sydney if I thought the Australian industry was threatened. I would support any embargo in order to protect an Australian industry from competition from blackgrown articles. The chief reason for the placing of embargoes and prohibitions on imports is that they are necessary to meet such competition. The honorable member for Macquarie complains that I am inconsistent in that, while supporting these embargoes I advocate that the British butter market should remain open to the dairy producers of Australia. The two things are not on all fours. Great Britain entered into an agreement with Australia, and we should insist on our right to the market which that agreement gave us. When objection was raised to the importation of bananas from Fiji, we were told that provision for their importation was contained in the Ottawa agreement. That was before it had been sanctioned by Parliament. The bananagrowers of Australia had to suffer because of something which was contained in that agreement. The Ottawa agreement also provides that there shall be free entry of our dairy produce into Britain, and surely I am not inconsistent in claiming that that portion of the agreement should also be adhered to after ratification by Parliament. Moreover, Britain is an importer of butter, half of her requirements of that commodity being supplied from foreign countries, whereas Australia need not be an importer of bananas, because this country can produce all the bananas that its people need. I submit that the criticism directed against me is most unfair. The honorable member for Macquarie should have been more careful before attacking me as he did for defending the banana industry. He also stated that Australian textile workers were never busier than they are to-day. It is good to think that the wheels of industry are turning at high speed to produce cotton and woollen goods for Australians to wear. The more employment found for our Australian textile workers, the greater will be their ability to purchase Australian wool and cotton. Our primary producers are protected to the extent of 4d. per lb. against New Zealand butter; they also have the benefit of a 3s. per cental duty against black-grown maize; and they are protected in other directions also. They cannot expect to have that protection unless they are willing that those engaged in secondary industries be also given a measure of protection to enable them to exist. Realizing how serious it would be for Australia if our industrial workers were turned into the streets, I feel that I owe a duty to our secondary industries, as well as to our primary industries. I hope that this Parliament will do everything possible to increase employment inboth primary and secondary industries, so that our people may be relieved from the destitution and want which so many of them are fighting so bravely.
– I shall not detain the committee long in dealing with a subject already worn . almost threadbare. I compliment the Minister on the simplicity of the schedule placed before us; its division into groups is roost convenient. The fiscal policy of the Government lies between the extreme policy of the Labour party and that of the Country party. Each of those parties, viewing the matter from opposite angles, says that the policy of the Government will bring ruin and disaster upon Australia. The people of Australia should rejoice that the Government has steered a middle course. If the fiscal policy of the Country party were put into operation, many now engaged in secondary industries would be thrown out of employment, yet that party offers no other avenue of employment for those who would suffer. They could not, at the moment, be profitably employed in primary industries, because, according to the Country party, nearly every farmer in thecountry is on the verge of bankruptcy. What is to become of the consumer of primary products if he loses his job? Yet the Country party says, in effect, “ Close the factories and let him take his chance.”
– When has the Country party said that?
– That would be the result of the operation of a policy which would not allow our secondary industries to compete with overseas industries. The Country party minimizes the difficulties of the manufacturers, and magnifies those of the farmers. It complains bitterly of the hardships inflicted on primary producers by the tariff, especially in connexion with galvanized iron, nails, wire and similar articles. The duty on galvanized iron is 90s. a ton. A reasonable time to allow as the life of that iron would be 30 years, and the duty on a ton of it would amount to 3s. per annum. Yet we never hear the end of the complaint about this duty from the Country party. A similar comment is applicable to the duties on nails and wire. For their miserable ends, members of that party refuse to consider the life of these particular products. On the other hand, what protection is the community affording to the primary industries? They receive the benefit of the exchange^ rate of 25 per cent., and the people’ willingly pay for the Paterson scheme, which benefits the producers of butter. There are also high duties on potatoes, onions, tobacco, and many other primary products, but we never hear anything about that from the Country party. The Labour party, ‘ and particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), object to the word “ reasonable “ in an article of the Ottawa agreement, which provides that the duties shall be such as to ensure reasonable competition. If wages, hours, and overhead expenses were the same in Australia as in other countries, the skill and energy of the Australian worker would afford him ample protection; but it is necessary to have the word “ reasonable “ in the agreement owing to the great disparity between labour costs in Australia and those in other countries. Wages in the pottery industry are 124 per cent, higher here than they are in Great Britain, the hours of work in Australia are shorter, and the workmen’s compensation and other charges make the local labour costs much higher than they are in Great Britain. Yet, in going through the schedule I find that, notwithstanding this disparity, the local manufacturer has only the paltry protection of 25 per cent., which seems to me to be inadequate. This industry is suffering severely owing to the slump in the building trade, and the local manufacturers should have the benefit of meeting what little demand there is for the articles that they produce. The duty on tiles and earthenware sanitary conveniences entering the British market is now 20 per cent., with the result that that market is being swamped by Japanese and cheap Continental goods. The British manufacturer is raising an outcry for increased protection, and he hopes to recoup himself for his loss of trade at the expense of the Australian manufacturer. While in the last few months the imports into Australia of these goods from Great Britain has increased, in New Zealand and Canada they have diminished. This fact affords a striking example of an industry in which the Australian manufacturer has suffered severely. Notwithstanding the disparity between labour costs in Australia and other countries, I think that the Tariff Board should consider other factors that operate in this country. For instance, there is a great disparity between labour costs in Victoria and those in New South Wales, and iu my opinion, a duty that would ‘be reasonable in Victoria would be unreasonable in New South Wales. Since there are uniform tariff rates throughout Australia, we should assist the Tariff Board by insisting on uniform labour costs throughout the Commonwealth. In Victoria, the. basic wage is lower than in New South Wales, and the hours of work are longer; yet we find that each State enjoys the same degree of protection. New South Wales is, therefore, unfavorably situated in this regard, and manufacturers in that State feel that they are compelled to approach the arbitration court to ask for an increase of the hours of work to enable them to compete with rival manufacturers in Victoria. Instead of Victoria adopting the democratic attitude of falling into line with New South Wales, and by reducing the working week to 44 hours each week, giving the workers the benefit of man’s inventive genius, it is compelling New South Wales to take a retrograde step. I feel that in due course, this Government will give the people an opportunity, by referendum, to’ express their opinion on this matter, and I hope that it will result in almost uniform labour conditions throughout Australia. That would make the work of the Tariff Board much easier than it now is.
At the present time, several of our industries would be unable to carry on in the absence of exchange and primage, and in the event of those advantages disappearing, it would be the duty of the Government to increase the protection afforded to them; otherwise, many of them would be destroyed.
During this debate, some remarkable statements have been made. One honorable member said that the tariff schedule involved the bartering away of Australian industries. Nobody takes that remark seriously, and I regret that any honorable member should make such a foolish observation. I regretted to hear another honorable member say that those who worked two weeks out of five in New South Wales were worse off than they would be if they were on the dole. Foolish statements of that description, which are not based on fact, are doing an incalculable amount of harm. A man who works two weeks in five gets £3 10s. a week, which averages 28s. a week for the five weeks, whereas the same man on the dole would get only about 9s. 6d. a week in goods. It is therefore absurd for an honorable member to say that the man who works two weeks in. five is worse off than a man on the dole. We hear of men in Sydney who have not only said that they are no better off working two weeks in five than they were on the dole, and a few who have actually gone so far as to refuse the two weeks work with the object of remaining on the dole.
I felt it a duty to make these few remarks to-night. I ask honorable members to be a little more considerate and thoughtful in their observations. If the quality of the arguments used by some honorable members in this debate were improved, a great deal of good would be done. After all, every honorable member desires to see an improvement in conditions generally, and we should all do our little bit to that end. What does it matter if a certain government is given credit for any improvement that may occur? The thing that matters is that there shall be an improvement.
.- The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) told us that, he felt justified in delivering his speech to-night, because he was correcting the errors of previous speakers, yet the honorable gentleman himself made more erroneous statements in his short address than have been made by any other speaker in this debate. For instance, he compared a man who worked two weeks in five with an individual who received 9s. 6d. a week in dole tickets. . The two cases are not comparable, for a man who is entitled to two weeks employment in five would have three or four children dependent upon him, and such a man would receive considerably more than 9s. 6d. a week in relief.
– But which is the better off?
– I am not arguing whether a man is better off working two weeks out of five than he is by remaining on the dole. I am simply pointing out the misstatements of an honorable gentleman who had the audacity to accuse members of the Country party of making misstatements. The honorable member for Lang has made statements much more grossly inaccurate than any made by a member of the Country party. I regret that this debate has for some time degenerated into an attempt by certain, honorable members to misrepresent’ the views of other honorable members. The amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) has been described by some government supporters as an attempt to introduce freetrade into Australia; but no member of the Country party has advocated freetrade, and we should not be accused of doing so.
– The Country party is a party of spare part’s.
– I have never yet heard of a machine that could do without spare parts. Spare parts are necessary to replace worn parts if machines are to run smoothly, and it would be a good thing if some of the worn parts in this legislative machine could be discarded and replaced by new spare parts. All that the Country party is seeking to do is to direct the attention of the Government to the necessity of revising the tariff on sound business lines. We are not asking for concessions for primary producers only ; we are merely asking for conditions which “will allow us to carry on our business in a businesslike way. Primary production is just as much a business as is secondary production. The farmer, the grazier, the dairyman and the fruitgrower are engaged in business enterprises, and under existing conditions they cannot carry on their operations on proper business lines, for the simple reason that they are carrying a burden which they cannot pass on, as’ it is passed on iu some secondary industries. Honorable members who have criticized the Country party should remember that, if our amendment were agreed to, industrial conditions generally in this country would be improved. Under existing conditions the bulk of our manufacturing industries are being strangled, because they ai:e being penalized by certain other secondary industries, which provide them with what is their raw material. The excessive costs which our tariff imposes upon machinery and tools of trade, as well as upon certain raw materials of various industries, are far too heavy.
The honorable member for Lang tried to show that high protective duties were necessary in view of the high labour costs in Australia. But what is the reason for our high labour costs? Is it noi; that the tariff wall has forced the workers of this country to seek everincreasing wages? It is the old story of a dog chasing ils own tail. Our tariff wall increases living costs, and this, in turn, forces the workers of Australia to seek increased rates of pay. No one is more anxious than the primary producer that the working people of this country should get a fair return for their labour, for we realize that, by this means, the purchasing power of the people is increased; but we cannot allow one section of industrialists to enjoy conditions which are obtained by the bolstering up of their industry by an extremely high tariff wall, at the expense of other important industries. I remind Government supporters that the building up of secondary industries by means of high tariffs means the limitation of the output of those industries to the Australian market. Every one must admit that industries which depend upon a high tariff for their existence are absolutely precluded from building up an export trade. “Would any honorable gentleman who makes any claim to statesmanship suggest that Australia can prosper by putting a steel band around her secondary industries, and limiting their output to the requirements of 6,500,000. people?
– “What about the Paterson butter scheme?
– The Paterson butter scheme has done a great deal more for the butter industry than has anything that the honorable member has done for any industry in his electorate. It has enabled the dairying industry to stand on its own feet. Lt is a voluntary scheme, .and it is to the everlasting credit of those engaged in the dairying industry that they have adopted it. On account of the Paterson scheme the dairymen of Australia have been able to sell their product in open competition on the world’s markets.
– But the people pay for it.
– The honorable member for Lang must not interject.
– At the cost of a few paltry farthings per lb. of butter it has been possible for the dairying industry, in the course of a number of years, to bring millions of pounds of new capital into Australia. What secondary industry in Australia can point to an export trade which has brought into Australia, in any ten years, the amount of revenue that has been brought into it by the dairying industry in one year? The butter producers did not ask for a subsidy from the Government. It is, however, true that they enjoy a protective duty.
– The Paterson butter scheme costs the people of this country £3,500,000 per annum.
– How much of that amount is contributed by those engaged in the dairying industry? They pay practically the whole of it through high . tariff duties on all their requirements. Why are not Government supporters fair in their statements concerning our rural industries, which are the foundation upon which the prosperity of this country depends? Even if the dairying industry does take a few farthings per lb. from the consumers of butter in Australia, it is entitled, just as our secondary industries feel that they are entitled, to expect some contribution from the people of this country. Our secondary industries have received very generous assistance by way of bounties and internal taxation. The difference between our manufacturers and our primary producers lies in the fact that the former are able to increase prices for their products, in some cases to the extent of 150 per cent., whereas our primary producers are obliged to sell their surplus products in overseas markets at, world’s parity. Apparently those representing city interests are quite willing that our farmers should continue indefinitely to sell the produce of their labour in open competition in the markets of the world, and to purchase their requirements at Australian prices. Hence the introduction of the Paterson butter scheme, and the need for a sales tax on flour to assist the wheat-growers of this country. I say definitely that our primary producers are fully entitled to demand Australian parity for the whole of their products consumed within Australia. Our secondary industries are amply protected against foreign competition. Yet those engaged in them expect our primary producers to pay high prices for tlie whole of their requirements, and sell their own products in the world’s markets in competition with coloured and cheap-labour producing countries. This, I contend, is the principal cause of our present financial difficulties.
Is it any wonder that the people of Western Australia are at last almost in open revolt against _ the disabilities which have been inflicted upon them through extremely high tariffs? Unlike Queensland, Western Australia, which is essentially a primaryproducing State, reaps no compensating advantages from high protection, which serves so well the secondary industries in the eastern States. Queensland enjoys some compensation in respect of its great sugar and banana industries, and in other directions; but Western Australia has to export approximately fourteen bags out of every fifteen bags of wheat it produces, and wheat-growing is its principal industry. Consequently, a sales tax on flour would be of little value to the people of that State. Western Australia and New South Wales furnish contrasts in extremes. The former is, as I have explained, a primaryproducing State, whereas New South Wales contains more than one half of the secondary industries of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, it benefits very largely from the high tariffs that have been inflicted upon the Commonwealth in recent years. Although Western Australia, Tasmania, and, to some extent, Queensland, benefit but slightly from this policy, they are compelled to contribute substantially in cash for the purchase of commodities manufactured, for the most part, in the capitals of New South Wales and Victoria. This is one reason why the people in Western Australia are now clamouring for secession. They feel that they have reached an absolute financial dead-end.
We contend that the Government should speed up the downward revision of the tariff, aud that, if the amendment submitted by the Acting Leader of the Country party is carried, the tariff will comply with the requirement of the Ottawa agreement that there should be a certain margin of preference for British goods over the products of foreign countries. A downward revision of our tariff would also be evidence of our intention to keep faith with foreign nations, and should improve our trade relations with those countries which hitherto have been good customers of ours. Honorable members should keep these facts in mind when discussing the tariff. The Ottawa agreement was designed as an instrument to expand trade relations of Empire countries, but, as is well known, it cannot provide for the disposal, within the Empire, of the whole of our surplus wheat and wool. We must still look to those foreign countries which, by recent tariff legislation, unfortunately, we have been endeavouring to exclude from the Australian market. It is a fact worth remembering that, after the whole of Britain’s requirements in wheat have been met, there will still be a surplus of between 300,000,000 and 350,000,000 bushels of Australian and Canadian wheat to be sold in the world’s market. Therefore, we cannot afford to antagonize the people of countries who, in normal trade conditions, would purchase our products.
Practically every country in the world is facing financial difficulties, and has been compelled to appreciate more fully the value of produce as .against the accumulation of gold. We could not have a better illustration of this than the desperate plight of the United States of America, which has in its vaults by far the greatest proportion of the world’s gold supply, and still has millions of its people unemployed and on the verge of starvation. The only thing which can hold the nations together is trade and commerce. We have an abundance of surplus primary products, but our tariff policy is discouraging trade relations with countries which in normal circumstances would be spending millions of pounds in the purchase of our goods, and so helping to keep this country solvent. Yet honorable members supporting the Government keep on deliberately insulting tho members of the Country party day after day, and night after night, because we have the temerity to advocate the only course that will save our primary industries which provide 97 per cent, of our export trade.
There is another matter which I desire to emphasize very definitely. To-night the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) was anxious to correct a mistake. I give the honorable gentleman every credit for correcting it immediately his attention was called to it,
– I was ready to make the correction before my attention was directed to it.
– I am not concerned with what the Minister had beforehim. He must recognize that we are able to discuss only what he said, not what he intended to say. Though the Minister did not perhaps intend to be unfair, he undoubtedly placed an unfair construction on the statement of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), that the schedule now before the committee, if taken in conjunction with tariff, exchange, primage duty and transport costs, and excluding the British free list, gives the Australian manufacturer protection to the extent of 140 per cent, against foreign competitors, and almost 100 per cent, against British competitors. The Minister did not seem to grasp the fact that the. honorable member for Riverina said that that was the position if we excluded goods on the free list, lt is possible to make duties so high that they are prohibitive, in which case the goods covered by them are excluded from Australia altogether. Nevertheless, although there may be no competition in the sense that, because of a prohibitive duty, goods are imported and sold in this country, that prohibitive duty is instrumental in inflating the cost of the articles manufactured here.
– Does the honorable member contend that the figures quoted by the honorable member for Riverina are correct ?
– The honorable member’s conclusion is only about 70 per cent. out.
– Why exclude the free list?
– He is working up a figure.
– That is not the reason. I cannot understand how goods on the free list can be taken into consideration in regard to the tariff schedule.
– They are in the schedule.
– They have no bearing on the question of import duties. If they are on the free list, there can be no argument about them.
– They have a very direct bearing on the tariff.
– Those goods on the free list have no bearing on duties. Similar articles manufactured in Australia enjoy no tariff protection whatever; they are subject to world-wide competition with only the natural protection of freight, exchange, &c.
– Suppose we took half the items on the protected list, and put them on the free list. Would the honorable member still argue that Australian industry was receiving 100 per cent, protection ?
– Yes, in regard to those goods still on the dutiable list. The percentage quoted applies only to dutiable articles.
– Then it is not an average ?
– The honorable member for Riverina stated clearly that, the figure constituted an average iti regard to those goods which paid duty.
– If there were a duty on one item only, would the honorable member still claim that Australian manufacturers were receiving protection to the extent of 100 per cent,?
– In regard to that one item, yes. If he had wanted an average over all the importations, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) would not have excluded goods on the free list, but he did make that exception as is recorded in Hansard. Let me take one specific item. In the schedule the duty on drapery imported from England is 5 per cent., but before the goods are placed free on rail in Sydney, the actual protection amounts to 70 per cent. That is what we are complaining of. We resent insinuations that we were unfair when
Ave directed the attention of the Minister to the fact that the rate of duty shown in the schedule does not indicate the amount of protection that is actually enjoyed by certain industries in Australia. The charges imposed on certain goods, including duty, primage, &c, have the effect, not only of making those goods more expensive, but also of increasing the cost of production in other industries in which the goods are used. Many of the secondary industries in Australia to-day are commercially strangled, because certain other industries are receiving more than their fair share of protection. During this financial crisis, it is only reasonable that we should ask those engaged in secondary industries to bear their fair share of the general burden, instead of leaving it to one or two sections of the community. When costs are being reduced, the first thing to come down, as a rule, is the wage of those employed in secondary industries, but we know that, at the present time, many of those industries are making substantial profits, though the primary industries are being carried on at a loss. No government can justify the bolstering up of one section of the producers at the cost’ of the community, while other sections are suffering. That is why we are asking the Government to force the secondary industries to forgo some of their profits so that the primary industries may be carried on, not at a profit, perhaps, but with less loss than at the present time.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) said that the casein industry was receiving a substantial benefit from a protective duty, but the fact mentioned by the honorable member immediately afterwards - that , the industry exported £21,000 worth of casein last year - shows conclusively that the industry is not so dependent on customs protection as he suggested, or it would not be able to sell its product on the world’s market. Until our secondary industries are able to export at least a percentage of their products, they cannot hope for any great expansion. They are already hidebound ; indeed, having regard to the economic limitations of the manufacturing enterprises, the talk of over-production in the primary industries is ridiculous The latter at least sell the whole of their surplus abroad, and bring into the country hundreds of millions of pounds. No secondary industry has been able to export its goods, and practically sell them by auction in the markets of the world, as the primary producers do. In view of this fact, the attitude adopted by parliaments and governments towards the primary producers is the most illogical and unfair imaginable ; yet, because the Country party states in Parliament and the press, the case for the primary producers, it is accused of adopting underhand tactics. We shall continue to state our views in Parliament and the press, and on the public platform. We are pleading a just cause, and I defy any honorable member to contradict the statements I have made this evening.
The fruit-growers throughout Australia are admittedly in a difficult position. Certain fruits are protected, but the growers are selling their fruit and vegetables on the local market at prices lower than ever before, and lower than those being realized on most European markets. No man receiving wages from a secondary industry can reasonably complain of the prices he is asked to pay for fruit and vegetables. ,
The rice industry, which is protected to the extent of less than Id. per lb., was established on a firm basis, not by the protective duty, but by organization amongst the growers, which gave to them complete co-operative control of their industry, so that they are able to prevent over-production.
– The rice-growers are exporting now.
– The quantity exported is negligible.
– Is planting restricted?
– Yes, in this way: The water is supplied by the Water Conservation Commission, and as 7 feet of water is required to produce a crop of rice, the commission authorizes the planting of only a restricted area by each grower.
– Does that apply in Victoria?
– No ; there is an unwritten understanding that Victoria and South Australia will not engage in rice production because of the certainty that it would lead to over-production, thus destroying the efficiency of an industry in New South Wales which is supplying the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth, and giving to the people a first-class article at the same price as they paid when the grower was receiving only £7 10s. a ton for his paddy rice.
I have endeavoured to correct some of the misstatements made during this debate, and to draw the attention of the committee to the fact that many secondary industries are suffering disabilities through, the operation of extremely high duties, which are increasing the cost of production and the cost of living, these increases, in turn, being reflected in labour costs. This vicious circle can be broken only by the Parliament effecting a business-like downward revision of the tariff. The primary producers, who, by their exports, are maintaining Australian credit overseas, must continue to demand from Parliament further relief from the heavy hurden of taxes which they are carrying to-day. One of the principal burdens is the high tariff that adds to the cost of everything needed to carry on primary production.
A few moments ago I referred to a draper’s invoice. i have two other invoices- which indicate the excessive protection that certain items enjoy. Allowing for the customs duty, exchange, freight, insurance, primage, duty on cases and packing, wharfage, cartage, customs entries and agency fees, the actual protection amounts to 120 per cent.
– Most of those charges are made in every country.
– I am concerned about what is happening, not in other countries, but in this country. When honorable members behind the Government tell us glibly that certain items have only a small protection of 5 per cent., 10 per cent., or 20 per cent., and we can show definitely that those items are carrying a protection of 120 per cent., are we not justified in asking them to reason with us, and to give us some relief from what is undoubtedly exorbitant protection? An item may carry a small duty, but when we add up all the costs that have to be incurred in landing British goods here and in getting them ready for sale, we find that it is carrying a protection of 120 per cent.
– They are legitimate marketing costs that would be incurred in any particular industry.
– That is so, but the fact that those protective costs are incurred does not make it necessary for this Government to impose an extremely high tariff in addition.
– They are not protective, but commercial costs.
– They are protective costs.
– The Australian producer does not have to bear those costs at all.
– They are certainly manufacturing and importing costs applicable to British goods landed here.
– They are not protection as we know protection.
– They are protection. The word “ protection “ does not mean the customs duty alone; that is only one form of protection. Primage, exchange, freight, insurance, landing costs are other forms. “ Protection is the cost that has to be incurred in landing into this country an outside article to be sold side by side with the Australian-made article. The tariff is the protection which is directly under the control of this Parliament. When one specific item has a protection of 50 per cent, or 60 per cent, in respect of the cost of landing it here, there is no necessity for the Government to overload that natural protection by imposing a tariff duty. A few years ago, there was no protection in the form of 25 per cent, exchange, and at’ that time the secondary industries were not clamouring for additional protection. They carried on satisfactorily. We contend that now that 25 per cent, exchange has become a natural protection covering all items, the Government should sympathetically consider the advisability of revising the tariff in a downward direction. That is a matter which is entirely within its own hands. The Minister for
Trade and Customs (Mr. “White) directed attention to the fact that the Government would lose revenue immediately tariff duties were reduced. We all know that revenue would be lost as the result of tariff reduction if there were no further increase of imports. But if we establish our tariff -protection on business lines we shall be able to develop our commercial relations with other nations, which are prepared to take a greater proportion of our primary products, provided that we allow them to import into this country many million pounds worth of their goods under lower rates of duty. If that were done, I venture to say that the aggregate amount of customs duty collected would not diminish or suffer. This country is starving for increased trade. As I have said before in this chamber, one-third of our population is either directly or indirectly dependent upon transport for its existence; and if we continue to tie up our shipping soas to prevent the exportation and importation of necessary requirements of our own country and other nations, we shall aggravate theproblem of unemployment, which is so closely related to the very tariff schedule which we are now discussing.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) has tried to prove the figures that were submitted to this chamber by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), and I must say that I admire his excellent party spirit in trying to support his colleague in respect of figures which all honorable members must admit were entirely wrong. The ‘ honorable member for Riverina said that if we examine the schedule, and omit the free list, we shalll find that ‘the tariff together with exchange, primage and transport costs, gives the Australian manufacturers an average protection of 140 per cent, against foreign imports, and 100 per cent, against British imports. The honorable member for Calare now quotes only three items, and gives them as examples of the average protection of the whole tariff. In actual fact, the average protection throughout the tariff schedule, omitting the free list, is 32.8 per cent., and not 100 per cent, against British goods.
– That is the fiscal protection only.
– Taking into consideration freight, primage and exchange, which last is a bounty to the primary producers, we find that the protection amounts to only 75 per cent, against British products. Yet the honorable member for Riverina spoke of a protection of 100 per cent. Unfortunately for the honorable member for Calare, nothing that he has said regarding the exaggeration of the honorable member for Riverina can controvert my figures.
– We have before us a tariff schedule which provides for a complete revision of the duties affecting the whole of the industries of the Commonwealth. To-day, in having to review the whole range of Commonwealth industries, we are practically in the same position as we were when the first Australian tariff was introduced in 1901. I suggest to honorable members that we should approach this subject in exactly the same way as did the Federal Parliament in 1901. It was realized that under the Constitution, the Parliament possessed power that would enable it to assist in the development of Australian industries. Parliament took the view that it was developing Australia as a whole, and that it was advisable not to put section against section, but rather to harmonize all the various industries of Australia in order to develop the full national strength of this Commonwealth.
– The first aim of the Commonwealth Parliament has always been to preserve the primary industries, to which the fullest attention and consideration have been given. It is neither fair nor proper to suggest that Parliament has, at any time, been antagonistic to primary industries. Personally, I have always done my best to conserve the interests of primary producers, and I hold that in the framing of a tariff their interests should be given first consideration. The benefit of the comprehensive policy of this Parliament was recognized during the Great War. The whole of the industries of Australia had by then been so completely organized that we were able to place at the disposal of the Empire and its allies the full resources of the Commonwealth in regard to both primary and secondary production. To-day it is just as essential to keep an eye on the future, and to see that our main secondary industries are also properly preserved. Adherence to that policy does not imply antagonism to the policy of fostering the primary industries of the Commonwealth. Looking at the matter from the national point of view, that is the attitude which we are bound to adopt. The relative value of primary and secondary industries is readily discernible when one studies the “latest returns. The actual value of production in Australia during the year 1930-31, which was not a favorable year, was -
Those figures make a total output of £31 9,701,060. They indicate practically the effect of the policy that has been followed during the last 30 years, and show that a balance has been preserved between our different industries. We have been able to develop our primary and secondary industries side by side. They ought to be so developed without antagonism. It has been necessary to regard the tariff, not purely from an economic point of view, hut as a national instrument for defence purposes, for the strengthening and retention of our population, and for the encouragement of the investment of capital for the further development of our resources; in short, for nationbuilding. That has been the policy adopted throughout, and it has been responsible for the very fine record that has been achieved in the gradual development of our industries. The primary industries are greatly concerned in the establishment of secondary industries. The latest figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician reveal the quantity of raw material, including goods locally produced, that is used in our factories.
For the two years 1929-30 and 1930-31, the proportion of primary production consumed locally amounted to 56 per cent, and 44 per cent, respectively of the total production. Those figures prove the value of the local market for Australia. The more we increase the extent of that market, the better it will be for our primary producers. For that reason we are justified in encouraging our secondary industries.- According to the Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics, December, 1932, the value of the raw material used by secondary industries in 1930-31 was £162,104,646, a large proportion of which was represented by goods produced in Australia. That touches the question, “ What industries ought we to establish in the Commonwealth?” We are told that they should be natural industries. What is meant by natural industries? According to my interpretation of the phrase, we should establish those secondary industries that have mainly as their basis the natural products of the Commonwealth. At the same time the importation of certain raw materials is essential. Applying that test, many of the industries that we have established have given very fine returns. Take, for example, the tanning and leather industry. The raw materials used by that industry in 1930-31 had a value of £2,132,000. In the same year the value of the raw material used in the manufacture of boots and shoes amounted to £3,148,000; in fellmongering and wool scouring to £3,349,000; in soap and candle-making to £1,448,000; in saw-mills to £2,995,000; in agricultural implement-making to £596,000; in engineering to £2,386,000; in the smelting, refining and rolling of iron to £6,133,000; in jam and fruit preserving to £2,354,000; in sugar confectionery to £2,590,000; and in woollen and tweed mills to £3,756,000. It will thus be seen that some of our main industries depend very largely upon primary products, and provide a very considerable home market for the consumption of Australian goods. Consequently, in that regard there is a connecting link which ought to be preserved between primary and secondary industries. I feel very strongly that it would be a fatal error to engender a feeling of antagonism between the city and the country districts of Australia. They are absolutely interdependent, and cannot be separated; they are part and parcel of one community. It is frequently contended that the cities are drawing the people from the country. That is not altogether the case. Numbers of persons are drawn from the country because of their inability to get land. There is a keen desire for land in the Commonwealth. As an illustration, dealing with the pricklypear development conditions during the last six months, the Minister for Lands in Queensland has advised me that, for separate lots of 39 and 9 portions near Chinchilla there were 1,300 and 490 applicants respectively, while for 47 portions near Millmerran there were 660 applicants, and for one portion near Dalby 660 applicants. We must have secondary industries in order that we may meet the need for diversity of employment. Many of those who dwell in country districts have several sons, all of whom are not of .the same disposition. Some may desire to engage in skilled trades, while others may have professional inclinations. “They have no desire to become farmers People in the country districts naturally look to the big secondary industries to give them that diversity of employment which ought to exist in a great nation. In the early days of the Commonwealth many young men who wanted to pursue skilled careers had to go abroad, and Australia was the loser. Fortunately, in recent years we have given greater attention to scientific investigation, and young people with a bent in that direction have been retained aud employed here in that capacity. Science is also helping to draw more and more people to the land.
For national reasons, Australia has had to develop a protectionist policy. Apparently, all honorable members in this chamber agree that there must be such a policy. Members of the Country party have made, it clear that protection is a matter of degree. Some honorable members have advanced suggestions which, if accepted, , would whittle down the protection given to our industries until it amounted only to a revenue duty. The revenue side cannot be overlooked when framing a tariff.
When the obligations of the Commonwealth were initially decided on, this Government was vested with powers to collect customs and excise, of which, for a time, a certain proportion was to be returned to the States as revenue. That principle, in effect, remains. When the Financial Agreement was rati)fied, it. provided that the Commonwealth should pay £7,584,912 each year on behalf of the States, in addition to providing a sinking fund. Financial relief has also been given to certain States. It seems clear that about £2,000,000 annually will have to be paid as relief to the States for some time to come. So that the Commonwealth Government has, in all, to secure a revenue of about £12,000,000 a year merely for State purposes. In considering a reduction, or -the removal of duties, the Minister should be able to advise as to the effect on revenue, because it is imperative that the sum to which I have referred should be provided each year for the States. The actual customs revenue for ‘ 1930-31 was £28,300,000, and last year it was £28,405,796. When £12,000,000 is deducted, it leaves the Commonwealth with only £16,000,000 to go towards meeting interest, war debts, and other obligations. It is certain, too, that pressure will be exerted in an endeavour to have sales tax and other forms of taxes removed. Revenue must therefore be considered in the fixing of the amount of customs duties to be imposed.
Generally, the line of action which the Government has suggested meets with my approval; that is, the maintenance of a protective policy, with investigation by the Tariff Board. While it is not bound by the decisions of the board, Parliament ought to give them most earnest consideration. To what extent has the Ottawa agreement interfered with our power to carry out a protective policy? That is important, because an investigation must be carried out by the Tariff Board, and much depends upon the interpretation that the board puts upon the agreement. This Parliament and the Tariff Board are bound by the agreement. Under article 12 no new protective duty can be imposed, and no existing duty increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Board. It is to be regretted’ that that clause is in the agreement, but we are bound by it. Schedule G embodies the formula of preference to be given to the British Empire, which Parliament cannot vary. When a duty is fixed upon British goods that preference will fall into its appropriate place in the tariff schedule that we adopt. We are now giving Great Britain much better terms than hitherto, the range of preference being wider and higher - 17$ per cent, as against 15 per cent. The Tariff Board also has to inquire whether the Australian industry affected is efficient and economical. We may safely assume that British industries are economically carried on, for they have to compete in the markets of the world. The Prime Minister equally with those who support him, clearly held out to the people of Australia the assurance that he would stand by the Australian protectionist policy on the lines that have been advocated by Liberal and Nationalist parties of the past. Has the Ottawa agreement affected the power to carry out that policy in any way? The attitude adopted by the Government appears to show that, ‘in its opinion, it has not.. Speaking on the subject, the then Minister for Customs, Sir Henry Gullett, said -
Throughout the preparation, and at Ottawa, it was agreed between the two Governments that all estimates with respect to the Australian import trade should be based upon the Australian financial year 1929-30. What represents a normal Australian tariff level was not so easy to determine, but I venture the view that the protective tariff as it was in 1929 before the changes made in November of that year - speaking broadly, of course, and having regard to cost of production - was a reasonably satisfactory one.
A little later, referring to the action of the Tariff Board, and the advantages to Great Britain. Sir Henry declared -
Finally, there is the progressive benefit, which will accrue as the depression lifts, and as the Tariff Board proceeds with its work of revision, and there is a general return to what I have described as a normal tariff level.
He contemplated that a protective duty on the basis of 1929-30 would come within the description of a competitive tariff under this agreement.
In a speech quoted in the House of Commons, Mr. Bruce, the Resident Minister in London, said -
There has been no radical departure from Australia’s policy.
In introducing the Trade Agreement Bill in the House of Commons, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking of Canada and Australia, said -
For some time they have been pursuing a policy of fostering their own industries. No one would for a moment suggest that they have not a perfect right to do so and that, indeed, a further development of those industries is quite inevitable and proper for both those countries.
The people of Britain contemplate that under this agreement the Commonwealth will be able, subject to the agreement, to carry on its protective policy, and impose duties certainly as high as those of 1929-30. When the Tariff Board comes to interpret this agreement, and to apply those clauses to which its attention has been directed, it must have regard to the fact that Australia is entitled under the agreement to a protective policy. Article 9 of the agreement sets out that Australia undertakes that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success. Subsequent articles also refer to the protective policy of Australia. The position is modified try the following words : - “ such a level as will give to United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production.” My view is that the hands of Australia should not have been tied under article 12. The danger is that if the Tariff Board should take a narrow and restricted view the hands of this Parliament will be tied. The sovereign power of this Parliament should not have been so restricted. We must approach this tariff knowing that we are bound to observe that agreement. Having adopted it, we are bound to carry it out in spirit as well as according to its letter. Its spirit undoubtedly is that there shall be a complete revision of the duties that have been imposed, and that they will be revised on the lines suggested. It will then be for Parliament to give effect to the agreement. In doing so, Parliament should be guided by the Tariff
Board. It has been suggested that, in the past, our tariffs have not been scientific. From time to time, we have heard men say that they believe in scientific tariffs, but no one has yet come forward with a definition of a scientific tariff which is acceptable to all parties.
– A scientific tariff should be a common-sense one.
– It has not been possible to lay down general principles for the framing of a tariff covering the whole range of production, both in Australia and elsewhere. It was thought, however, that there should be a proper examination by a capable and impartial body. For some years, that examination has been undertaken by the Tariff Board, which in its investigations, has adopted certain practices, that have led to the desired result - a full investigation of the facts in order to give effect to the policy of the Parliament. If we examine some of the Tariff Board’s reports we shall see some of the methods it has adopted, especially in connexion with claims for higher duties. No one, I think, will deny that the Tariff Board has carried out its duties impartially. It has, however, been suggested that it is more interested in its work on the manufacturing side. In this connexion, it is interesting to note that in its 1925 report, the board said that its first duty was to consider the interests of the primary producers. It can truly be said that in the succeeding years the board has kept that object in view. In its next report, it repeated that statement when it said -
Primary producers are anxious to take advantage of the policy of protection provided by the tariff and requests have been received for the imposition of much higher duties on a number of products. In some cases the duties asked for practically amount to prohibition while in other cases the applicants have requested straightout that absolute prohibition of imports be adopted. Some of the lines specially referred to are maize, millet, lucerne seed, hops, citrus fruits, dried fruits, and butter. The Tariff Board is wholly sympathetic with those primary producers who are forced to meet the competition from countries where the standard of living is much lower than it is in Australia.
The attitude of the Tariff Board throughout appears to me to have been one of sympathetic consideration for primary producers. [Quorum formed.]
There has been a general condemnation of embargoes and prohibitions, but, personally, I should be sorry to see the Government part with its power in that direction. That power has already been invoked to the advantage of .the primary producers of this country. I do not stand for prohibitive duties in a normal tariff, but there are special occasions when the use of a high duty or even a prohibition can be justified. It has been suggested that high duties necessarily mean high costs. This matter was referred to by the Tariff Board in its report for 192S, in which it stated -
High duties are not necessarily always reelected in the local cost of production, or in local selling prices. Where there is a large demand for any class of goods, and the market can be secured for the Australian manufacturers by the curtailment of imports, mass production and internal competition result in reduced costs. However, on goods produced singly or in small numbers, and supplied under contract or by tender (as an example - large machinery) high duties must affect Australian prices. Costs of material and labour in Australia are much in advance of the same costs abroad, and there is no quantity production factor by which the effect of those high costs can be minimized.
That confirms a statement by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that it does not necessarily follow that the imposition of protectionist duties means high costs within the community itself. It has been said that Great Britain, as the result of the protective legislation recently passed there, has furnished instances in which foreigners coming into the British market are really paying the duties themselves, and thus contributing to the British revenue. There are other aspects of the tariff to which I should like to call attention, but I do not propose to detain the committee at this late hour. I again suggest to honorable members that we should consider the tariff from a national point of view, and remember that it is necessary to populate this continent. We have adopted the White Australia policy, and we must make development possible in the northern parts of Australia. We are under an obligation to assist the development of Queensland equally with that of Western Australia. In a lecture delivered recently in Canberra, Dr. Cilento proved that the white races can thrive in northern Australia, and we should keep that fact in mind in dealing with tariff matters.
– It is clear that the Government proposes to force members of the committee to the point of exhaustion in order to obtain a decision on this matter. I think that the Minister himself has spoken on four occasions, and if more time than is usual for a debate of this nature has been taken up, the responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the Minister. One may say at the outset that this schedule is the first instalment, after some months of consideration by the Government., of the results of the Ottawa, agreement. Ir, will mean a huge loss to local industries at a. time when the country can ill afford it. Nearly £7,000 was spent by the Commonwealth Government in sending a delegation to Ottawa foi the purpose of discussing a scheme for reciprocal trade between the dominions.- We discussed details of the agreement some months ago, and criticized that portion of it which provided an opportunity for the destruction of many of Australia’s secondary industries; but we have now reached the stage at which we can obtain some idea as to bow the agreement will operate. We are not yet in a position to know what the full effect will be, because it is necessary first that the schedule should be examined by the parties engaged in secondary indus-tries. They cannot determine within a few days just how far-reaching this tariff schedule will be in increasing unemployment, although we have already seen in the leading newspapers in the capita] cities somewhat startling statements by men associated with those industries as to the probable effect of the schedule on the employment position. We have reason to have our own views as to whether the Government is much concerned about that matter. We remember utterances by the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) who, at a Premiers’ Conference not many months ago, suggested that the public works programmes should be slowly cut down so that those affected might become accustomed to unemployment. If the Government’s first concern is about the importing interests, this schedule has given us good reason to think that, in the opinion of Ministers, the problem of unemployment is not of paramount importance.
A number of leading manufacturers have declared their opinion at first sight regarding this schedule; but I am not much concerned about their particular personal interests. One of them, Mr. Bennett, who is chairman of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, spent a good deal of time in discrediting other political parties at. the last election, in order to assist the present party into office, and, therefore, be is merely reaping the reward for his actions of a little over twelve months ago. If it were possible to apply the tariff in. such a way that such persons would bear the brunt of it, it might teach them who their real friends are. I am told that in Melbourne the leaders of the party in power consulted with manufacturers, and that certain undertakings were given that the manufacturers would have no cause for worry.
– A number of things were done at the last election which are not likely to be mentioned in debate in this chamber.
– No doubt certain undertakings were given; but whether they will be honored in full will be proved in the next few days, and the result of the deliberations may prove to be more costly than before. If it were possible for me to deal with those men without regard to the effect that it would . have on a large number of the workers of this country, I should not be in such a difficult position as that in which I find myself in discussing this matter at the present time. It is generally agreed that our manufacturing industries are in a position to determine the degree and measure of employment that they will provide, and naturally, we are concerned about that aspect. It is fitting, therefore, that I should direct attention to the fact that at this very moment certain representatives of our manufacturers are very active1 in their endeavour to get the industrial tribunals of this country to reduce wages, lengthen the hours of work, and degrade working conditions generally. Mr. Bennett, for instance, only yesterday, in the inquiry in Sydney into the hours of work, declared that the 48-hour week should be established in Australia on a permanent basis. He did not think that any scheme for a reduction of the hours of work should be considered. This only goes to show that the representatives of the manufacturers’ of Australia are very backward in their views on this subject. The general tendency throughout the world, and not particularly on the Labour side either, is towards a reduction of the hours of work as a means of coping with the unemployment problem, and of compensating the workers for the introduction of machinery and science into industry.
– We shall find Australia very much behind if we are not careful.
– That is so, and it is regrettable,because for many years we have prided ourselves upon being in the van of reform. Although on occasions I have criticized the leaders of the Labour movement of Australia, I am quite ready to admit that the pioneers of this movement are largely responsible for the advancement and improved social conditions of our people compared with those enjoyed by the people of many other countries. I have had limited opportunities of discussing this subject with representatives of other countries who admit the advances we have made. To me it is clear that at the moment, our manufacturers are as backward in their views on this subject as they have been all along. Although the Labour party has done a great deal to assist in the development of the secondary industries of Australia, our manufacturers are at present showing a marked unwillingness to give any return for this assistance in the shape of reduced hours of work, and improved conditions for those engaged in industry. They are not even prepared to acknowledge the onward march of social reform in other countries. In view of these facts, the honorable members for whom I speak will reserve to themselves the right to deal as they think fit with the various items that will come before us during our discussion of this’ schedule. We shall be guided, not only ‘by the effect of the proposed duties upon the industries concerned, but also by the attitude of the employers in the industry towards their employees. We shall do our best to ensure that the greatest measure of employment possible is provided.
It has been stated that the object of protection is to prevent goods from low wage, and even coloured countries, coming on to the Australian market to the detriment of our own products. But while that is so, many manufacturers, having obtained the necessary protection, set out on a definite move to reduce wages in this country, even to those of the level of the low wage countries to which I have referred. Our manufacturers cannot have it both ways. We shall do everything possible to maintain our standards in Australia.
The members of the Country party have declared, during this debate, that they are anxious to see our primary industries develop to the greatest possible extent, and they have said that there is a market available overseas for their products. They contend that if the tariff wall is lowered it will be possible to produce these various commodities at much lower prices than at present, and that this will make it practicable for us to market our goods overseas at a figure which will ensure the sale of them. But is there a. market overseas for our goods? Only this week we have been informed that the Government intends to restrict the export of butter from Australia. This does not suggest that there is a profitable overseas market for butter. It must also he remembered at the same time that there are in Great Britain 2,500,000 people unemployed. These people cannot possibly obtain the degree of sustenance that they need. Definitely, they cannot afford to buy all the butter that they would like to buy, because they have not the purchasing power to do so. In other countries of the world there are also hundreds of thousands of people in a state of semistarvation owing to lack of means. It must be apparent to everybody, therefore, that a radical change is necessary in our social system. All the mathematical calculations that have been indulged in during our discussion of this schedule are useless, for we are not touching the real problem that faces us. The people who are in the predicament to which I have referred are left cold by the discussions in this Parliament. We must get down to fundamentals before we can hope to improve their position to any considerable extent. The trend of the discussion during this debate shows clearly that very few honorable members are prepared to fight to preserve the interests of their fellow citizens. A solemn obligation rests upon every country and the Governments of every country to care for their own people. But, unfortunately, this Government does not seem to be chiefly concerned with the welfare of our own people. There is no doubt that the British Government regards the troubles of its own people as serious. It is the policy of that Government we are now discussing. In Australia, we are not in a position to know in detail the exact position in Great Britain, because we are many thousands of miles distant, and we know that such press reports as are received are coloured to suit the particular interests concerned. Nevertheless, we can draw our own conclusions from” the reports which show that adequate measures were taken at Ottawa for the disposal, in dominion market’s, of the products of secondary industries of Great Britain. Representatives of the British Government were faced with the position that foreign markets for British manufactured goods were being closed to them. As the result, they turned their attention to the exploitation of the dominions, and it would seem that they received every encouragement’ at the hands of the Australian delegation appointed by this Government. These gentlemen did not seem disposed to place any great obstacles in the way. On the contrary, they opened the door, widely, because the agreement provides the same facilities for the representatives of British manufacturers in the presentation of their case to the Tariff Board as are afforded to the representatives of Australian industries, and, as was mentioned by the last speaker, when the Tariff Board has presented its report it will not be competent for this Parliament to alter its recommendations in any way. To me, it seems strange that the same authority was not vested in the Dairy Produce Export Control Board. As a matter of fact, the claims of that board might be urged with even greater force than those of the Tariff Board, because the Minister for Commerce told the House yesterday that it comprised the elected representatives of the people engaged in the dairying industry. Constituted in that way, it should have authority to speak for the industry, and its recommendations should not be called in question. But, of course, that would not suit the Government. When recently the board did speak for the industry, Ministers promptly applied pressure upon it, with the result that it made a second recommendation of an entirely different character.
While it may be argued by some honorable members that my observations are not entirely relevant to the schedule, I contend that there is close association between the proposal now before the committee and the agreement entered into at Ottawa, and that therefore I am not digressing to any extent from the question before the Chair. It appears to me that the British Government’s power and influence is much greater in Australia than that of our own Government. We have every evidence of the truth of this statement as each week goes by. Also we have ample evidence that the appointment of a Resident Minister in London has been especially advantageous to British manufacturers and British financial institutions, because, apart from the pressure which, according to the cable news, seems quite recently to have been exercised at the instigation of the Resident Minister to make the position of our own people worse under the Ottawa agreement, he has been unable to deal satisfactorily with our overseas loan problem, and we have not yet secured a reduction of the interest burden in conformity with the relief given to other countries. I say this because it appears to me that the Resident Minister in London seems to be more concerned about “ knocking “ this country than assisting it. Unfortunately, the Government has the numbers, so all that those who are opposed to it can do is to express their dissatisfaction in this chamber and, later, when an opportunity presents itself, to state their views from the public platforms throughout the country.
The attitude of the Country party in this matter is deserving of attention. It is true, as the last speaker observed, that one of the most serious problems confronting us at the moment is that of finding employment for the many thousands of our boy3 and girls who are leaving school and who, at present, have no prospect of securing work. The position is not likely to be improved, unless adequate measures are taken to develop our secondary industries.
– The honorable member bus just mentioned the worst aspect of our unemployment problem.
– I believe it is. Very often, I think that, under whatever system we are living and irrespective of the angle from which we view the existing social order, it is vitally necessary that we should sincerely direct our attention to proposals for the employment of all our people, because work is food for the body as well as for the brain. It is absolutely essential, if we are to develop as a nation, that we should find work for the large numbers of boys and girls who are leaving school each year. Failure to do this is the first sign of the decay of a nation. Governments which neglect to tackle this problem are sealing the fate of their own country. I think we all realize the gravity of the position more fully when we come in close personal touch with parents, who so frequently seek our aid as members of Parliament in their endeavours to place their sons or daughters in useful employment. I, therefore, emphasize that we must look to our secondary industries to provide this very necessary avenue. It is clear to those who care to reason this question out in an impartial way, that if we stifle our secondary industries we strike a very serious blow at the most important problem that confronts the nation to-day. It should be remembered also that opinion.-! differ among the youth of this country, as to the nature of employment thai should be offered to them. I speak from personal experience. My people were farmers, and are associated with primary production to-day. Employment in a primary industry did not appeal to me, as no doubt it does not appeal to many sons who have been reared
On farms. I felt a strong inclination for some other form of occupation, and 1 am glad to say that I was able to. gratify my desire because the opportunity for such employment ‘ was available. The boys and girls to-day should have the same range of choice. It is, I think, also clear to most of us that rural industries do not offer such a wide field for employment at the present time as they formerly did. Because of the application of modern methods to all forms of agriculture the demand for labour is much less than it used to be. In many instances where there is a large family, some members of it must necessarily seek employment in secondary industries.
At the present time every country seems to be concerned with the welfare of its own people to the exclusion of all other peoples. Great Britain is so concerned, and has been able to exercise what I regard as an improper influence over Australian affairs. To that I take the strongest exception. The Commonwealth Government has received no mandate from the people for the policy it is pursuing. No mention of these matters was made during the last election, and if the people were given an opportunity of expressing an opinion to-day on the Ottawa agreement they would not, I am sure, support the Government. Certainly, those engaged in the dairying industry would not favour the proposals which the Government has just put forward. We cannot complain because Great Britain is trying to solve her problems, but she should not be permitted to solve them at the expense of our people. In past years, migration schemes were instituted, by means of which British migrants were brought to this country at the expense of British and Australian Governments, and many of them engaged in skilled occupations here. As a result of the amended tariff, they will be thrown out of employment, and will become a charge on the State. Therefore, Britain’s policy in regard to the Ottawa agreement is inflicting hardship even on its own people who have settled in Australia. The Dominions Secretary, Mr. Thomas, has admitted that Britain’s chief concern is to keep her people employed, and she is trying to find a market for her products in Australia. Foreign countries have, to a large extent, closed their markets against British goods, but in Australia, Britain has found a government which appears to be remarkably sympathetic with her appeal for markets. The Australian workmen who will be thrown out of employment as a result of importations from overseas, have no prospect of finding other occupations. All that they can do is to wait for loan councils and premiers’ conferences to allocate small sums of money for relief work under starvation conditions. Seeing that the other countries are attending only to their own interests in these matters, I am justified in putting forward the Australian point of view from the same angle.I am concerned, not only with secondary industries, but with primary industries also. Those on the land are entitled to proper treatment, as are those engaged in every other industry. I am not prepared to support a policy which has for its purpose the enslavement of thousands of our own people, so that we may be able to sell some of our primary products to a very doubtful overseas market.We should try to build up a home market for those products.It was stated by a member of the Country party that, apart from wool, the home market for primary products is already worth millions of pounds every year. For my part, I do not know whywe should be worried so much about overseas markets for our wool. Those prominently associated with the industry have told me that the market for our wool will be there whatever happens, because its qualitycannot be reproduced in any other part of the world. It docs not much matter who produces an article; if the manufacturers want, it they will buy it. In spite of hostile propaganda the world soon forgot that Russia had repudiated her debts,and is now trading with her the same as ever it has done..
We stand for the protection of Australian industries, and we are much concerned about Australia’s unemployment problem.We can see nohope of solving that problem if the Government carries out its present policy. The Australian market for primary produce would be much greater if the purchasing power of the people were increased. There are thousands of unemployed in Australia who, if their earning capacity were restored, could extend considerably the market for primary produce, but that, I am afraid, will not happen until certain radical changes are made.
In dealing with the items, the attitude of those honorable members who are associated with me will be that if the manufacturers concerned are not conceding to their employees those wages and working standards for the maintenance of which protection was given to them against competition from overseas, we shall vote against a continuance of that protection, and so afford those employers an opportunity to decide whether they are prepared to carry on their industries under the conditions whichwe think are desirable for the workers in this country.
House adjourned at 1.12 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the report that it is proposed to destroy surplus wheat -
1 ) Will the Government take steps to declare illegal the destruction of food fit for human consumption?
Will the Government consider placing before the people of Australia at any referendum that may be taken orat the next general election(to saveexpense)a referendum to enable the people of Australia to vote as to whether persons who destroy good food or who propose todo so should be prosecuted as criminals?
– It does not appear that the necessity has arisen for consideration by the Government of the matters raised in the honorable member’s question.
Persons Engaged in Australian factories.
h asked the Treasurer, upon notice - ‘
What was the number of employeesengaged in Australian factories for each of the years, ended 30th June, 1929, 1930, 1931, and 1932?
– The following information has been furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In connexion with the taking of the census -
Is it a fact that the employment of the staff has already commenced, and they are now working at Canberra?
If so, how many have been employed, and how many were selected from each State?
Was the competitive examination which was promised held?
If no examination were held, what methodwas adopted whenengaging the staff?
Will an examination be held before making future appointments, and will all applications be considered?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. A temporary staff of nine adult male clerks is at present employed in Canberra in connexion with preliminary organization work. These appointments were made in the customary order of preference by the Commonwealth Public Service Inspector, Canberra, from his list of registered applicants, after the usual arithmetical test had been satisfactorily performed. 3, 4 and 5. A central tabulating staff of approximately 250 temporary clerks will be required in connexion with the census, and will be located in Canberra, but no appointments have yetbeen made to this staff. Arrangementsare being made by the Commonwealth Public Service Board for’ an examination of applicants to be held in all capital cities about the end of April. Appointments will be made during July next. Only successful examinees will be appointed.
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
e. - Information is being obtained in reply to a question asked upon notice by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), in regard to remissions and exemptions in respect of customs duty on certain goods.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330315_reps_13_138/>.