13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Preference to Returned Soldiers
– This morning’s Canberra Times reports that only returnedsoldiers are to be permitted to sit for the examination of applicants for employment in connexion with the compilation of the census. As a very large number of the young men of Australia, including many sons of returned soldiers, had not an opportunity, on account of their youth, of going to the war, and because a tragic position exists in the Commonwealth Public Service as a result of the suspension of the recruitment of young men, I ask if the Government will sympathetically reconsider the matter, and throw open the examination to everyone who wishes to sit for it?
Mir. LYONS.- The second half of the honorable member’s question has no bearing upon the subject, because nopermanent appointments are to be made to the Public Service in connexion with the taking of the census. These appointments will be temporary only, and will terminate when the work has been completed. As to whether other than returned soldiers should be permitted to sit for the examination, I would remind the House that there will be perhaps thousands of applicants for a comparatively few appointments. It is the policy of this Government, as it was of the last Government, to show preference to returned soldiers. That has been the policy of this country since the termination of the war. If the suggestion of the honorable member were adopted, many young persons, and some who are not young, would sit for the examination, at some inconvenience, and probably expense, to themselves, with no hope of obtaining an appointment, even though they qualified. In these circumstances, the Public Service Commissioner felt that it would be useless and unfair to invite persons who are not returned soldiers to sit for the examination. Unfortunately, of the hundreds of returned soldiers who may apply for appointment, only a few have the prospect of obtaining a position.
– Has the Prime Minister issued instructions to Divisional Returning Officers that only returned soldiers shall be employed in the collection of the census?
– So far as I have any knowledge, the only instructions that have been issued are those of the Public Service Commissioner in relation to the examination.
Cruisers from Great Britain.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether it is true that Australia is to obtain three cruisers from the British Government. If it is, when these vessels arrive in Australia will they be manned by ratings from the Australian Navy or from the British Navy?
– I assume that, the honorable member refers to a statement that appears in the press to-day, which is pure “kiteflying”. The Government’s policy on defence will be announced by the Prime Minister when a definite decision upon the matter has been arrived at.
– Has the Minister for Commerce noticed an article that appeared in the press of Friday last, stating that the freight position is now clear, and that ample space is available for whatever apples and pears it may be desired to ship from Australia? Is he aware that since shipments started, the only extra freight space South Australia has received is space for 6,000 cases of apples, which, luckily, was transferred from Tasmania; that no provision has been made for freight to Hamburg during March; and that there is no boat for Rotterdam; further, that the total pear space available to South Australia is for 5,620 cases, and that it has been possible to fulfil a contract in Hamburg onlyby transferring to thatcity space for 7,000 cases which had been allotted to Hull?
Is the Minister aware that the shipping companies have made no further provision, and have thus left South Australia in the position that it originally occupied ?
– The honorable member should be aware that he may not, when asking a question without notice, make statements to the House and then ask a Minister whether he is aware of the fact’s mentioned. The purpose of questions is to elicit information from Ministers, not to give it to them.
– Then I ask, will the Minister, if it is not too late, take steps immediately to see what can be done in this matter?
– Not having seen the press report, I was not aware of the facts to which the honorable member has drawn attention. The latest official information that I have regarding shipping space from Adelaide is that, by the chartering of additional vessels, the full requirements of South Australia had been met. In view of what the honorable member has said, I shall institute further investigations.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House of the number of applications received from Australian manufacturers during the last twelve months under the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act, the reason given in support of them, and the action taken by his department upon them ?
– I shall institute inquiries, and later make a statement upon the matter.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet in a position to inform the House what has become of the ordinance dealing with workmen’s compensation in the Federal Capital Territory ?
– I regret that I cannot answer the question offhand. I shall have investigations made, and at the earliest momentacquaint the honorable member with the position.
Cost of Answering Question
– Is the PostmasterGeneral able to give an estimate of the cost involved in obtaining the information asked for in the question on the notice-paper to-day relating to the mail branch, Sydney.
– As soon as I saw this question, I issued the instruction that an estimate of the cost which would be involved in obtaining the information sought, and the research that would be necessary, should first be made. That aspect of the matter is being considered in conjunction with the inquiries that are being made, which seem to have been inspired.
– What steps does the Postmaster-General propose to take to prevent the continuance of the losses that are occurring each year in connexion with the working of the telegraph branch of his department, which, during the last five years, have exceeded £1,000,000?
– By the adoption of a sound policy, which was not put into operation until the present Government came into power, the disabilities and losses that are now occurring are expected to be reduced or removed.
– Has the honorable gentleman enlisted the aid of the Western Electric Company in his efforts to obtain the necessary “ sound “, so that the public may know what is being done?
– It is not my intention to employ any such artifice; I shall be content with making a statement in this chamber.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position to make a statement with respect to the establishment of wireless relay stations in western New South Wales?
– I expect to make a statement on this matter either next week or shortly thereafter.
– Is it a fact that the Lone Moth aircraft now in the possession of the Rockhampton Aero Club is to be sent to Brisbane? If so, does the Assistant Minister for Defence consider that such action is in accordance with the avowed policy of the Government, which favours decentralization? Will his department reconsider the application made by the Rockhampton Aero Club to have this Moth aircraft repaired and left in .the possession of the club which has done so much to further aviation in Central Queensland?
– The matter will be investigated, and the honorable member advised later when a decision has been arrived at.
– In view of the dangerous state of affairs arising between the British Government and the Soviet Government of Russia, as reported in the press, will the Government, if the position becomes accentuated, consider whether it would be wise to refer the matter to the League of Nations in the hope that delay will remove the danger ?
– The Ministry has no information regarding the controversy between Grea’t Britain and Russia to which the honorable member has referred, other than what has appeared in the press ; but the Government would hesitate a long time before gratuitously interfering in such a matter.
– Has any finality been reached between the Imperial Communications Company and Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited and the Government with regard to overseas communications?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That matter is not yet completed. Arrangements of which the Government has approved are under consideration.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Vessels exceeding 500 tons, but not exceeding 1,000 tons gross register.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Tariff (1932) : Special Duties (No. 4) : Primage Duties (No. 2) : Customs Duties (Canadian Preference, No. 2) : Customs TARIFF Amendment (No. 1) : Special Customs Duty (No. 5) : Excise Tariff Amendment (No. 3).
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 16th March (vide page 353), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167, Volume 135)-
That on and after the fourteenth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty- two, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat of Government, Duties of Customs at the rates respectively specified in the column of the schedule hereto headed “British Preferential Tariff” be imposed on goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom. . . .
And on motion by Mr. White (vide page 29) -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the thirteenth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, be amended as hereunder set out.
Group 1. - Items under which the rates are the same as those operating under the 1921-30 Tariff.
Item 2 (Ale and other beer, &c).
.- This group covers 535 separate duties out of a total of 1,773, comprising the complete tariff. Numerically it is the largest individual group. The rates operating under the items included in this group are the same as those operating under the existing law- the 1921-30 tariff. The group does not include any of the Scullin Government’s tariff amendments, with the exception of a minor amendment affecting timber, which was passed in 1930. This amendment had the effect of making the 1921-28 tariff the 1921-30 tariff. Were it not for the desire of the Government to enact a complete new tariff, instead of allowing traders and the department to work under the present patchwork tariff, these items would not have come up for discussion by the committee. Isubmit that honorable members should take a broad view of these duties, and pass the whole group as expeditiously as possible, instead of requiring a detailed explanation in connexion with each item. I should be surprised to learn of any real opposition in the committee to the rates operating under the items in this group. The fact that the Opposition, when in office, left these duties intact , and also that the Acting Leader of the Country Party (Mr. Paterson) submitted a motion that a reversion of the whole tariff to the 1921- 1930 tariff level be made, would indicate to the committee as a whole that the rates incorporated in this schedule are reasonable.
– That does not correctly describe my motion.
– It describes it correctly in respect of the British items. The honorable member wanted them to revert to the level of the 1921-1930 tariff.
– Only those items in respect of which no report had been made.
– Those items, and also others which have been reported upon by the Tariff Board are included in this group.
– The general principle need not apply to individual items.
– That is rather a quibble.
– It is not.
– To be consistent, the honorable member must support most of the items in this group. Of course, every item can be debated, but I do not think that is necessary.
– I certainly have grave objections to the whole of the items in this group being taken as a whole, more particularly asI wish to move an important amendment to item 3. My reason for requiring a discussion on these items is the fact that the Minister declared in effect that the statistics that I gave to this chamber were not correct. I pointed out in my secondreading speech that an enormous quantity of goods enter this country free of duty, mostly for the benefit of manufacturers, and, according to the Statistician’s figures in respect of goods that pay duty, the average duty has increased from20 per cent. in 1919, to 77 per cent. to-day. The more we make this fact public, the more the people will realize it. When we work out the figures, talcing into consideration the fact that a large quantity of these goods enter Australia at low rates of duty, we are justified in asserting that the average rate of duty has increased to about 100 per cent. Yet some honorable members prate about the inadequacy of the protection.
– The honorable member for Swan has stated that I challenged certain figures which he submitted to the chamber. If my memory serves me correctly, I made no mention in my reply of the honorable member’s speech except to say that it would be heartily approved by the late Mr. Cobden. The figures referred to by the honorable member for Swan were mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), and I think that, in my reply, I thoroughly refuted them.
Item agreed to.
Item 3, sub-item (f) -
) Spirit of strength not less than 65 per cent, over proof, denatured, or to be denatured prior to delivery -
.-I move -
That the words “ departmental by-laws “ be omitted from paragraph 2 with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “regulations”.
I hope that this amendment will be accepted by the Government. This Parliament should be jealous of its rights, and slow to give any body or person the power to impose taxation upon the people without its authority. Under our present system of allowing customs duties to be increased as prescribed by departmental bylaw, doubtful concessions are able to be made. Tariff duties should be dealt with in such a.manner as to enable Parliament to give consideration to proposed alterations. The customs law of this country should be in exactly the same category as every other law. A Minister cannot by a by-law impose special income taxation, and the same position should apply in respect of duties. At present traders do not know exactly where they stand in respect of the tariff. So soon as this Parliament passes a customs law, the Minister for Trade and Customs may alter it. I contend that the power how given to the Minister should be exercised through the Executive Council. In Canada any necessary alterations of the tariff are made by the GovernorGeneral in Council, so that the responsibility for them rests with the Government. It has often happened that, so soon as a trader imports goods, he finds that a new tariff classification has been issued which alters the whole aspect of his business. If my amendment is accepted, the Minister will place before Cabinet any regulations he wishes to have passed by the GovernorGeneral in Council. The regulations will be advertised in the Commonwealth Gazette, and every one interested will know what is happening. The extraordinary method of altering duties by departmental by-law leads to grave rumours, which sometimes unfairly besmirch the good name of a member of Parliament, or even of a Minister.
– That may have happened in the past; but it is not possible now.
– We read in the Sydney newspapers of persons having said that they have influence with the Minister.
– No one has any such influence with me.
– I am not suggesting that the Minister is likely to lend himself to corruption, but I want to place tariff-making above suspicion. The present method of altering the tariff is likely to disorganize business. I remember how some honorable members in this chamber opposed the imposition of embargoes by regulation, and the fight was particularly keen in another place. There was a stern fight in connexion with the sugar embargo. Under an earlier tariff schedule, manures entered this country free from duty, but, later, sulphate of ammonia was classified as a chemical, and made subject to a duty. In 1927, some fertilizers entered this country free, but as a result of the influence brought to bear on him, the then Minister issued a classification which included fertilizers under the heading of chemicals, and they, therefore, became dutiable. That action was taken without the authority of Parliament; indeed, it was taken in direct opposition to the expressed will of Parliament.
-The honorable member may deal only with the item before the Chair.
– Had that change been made by regulation, this Parliament would have been in a position to deal with it.
Mr.Forde. - To what by-law does the honorable member refer?
– I am referring to one issued in 1926, when the then Minister for Trade and Customs included fertilizers under the heading of chemicals. Another instance arose in connexion with wine casks. The casks in which Australian wine was exported to England cost so much to manufacture that the exporters of wine decided to bring them back to Australia for further use, but by a departmental by-law they were made liable to a duty of £3 9s.1d. on reentering this country. Prior to 1928, crude oil was admitted duty free, but under a departmental by-law-
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment as it affects the item before the Chair.
– There is already before this chamber a. bill to amend the Customs Act in practically the way in which I now suggest.
– When that bill is before us, the honorable member should deal with the matter he now desires to bring before the committee. He may not do so at this juncture.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I know that my remarks are unpalatable to some honorable members.
– Order! The honorable member’s remark is not in order.
– I was referring to those honorable members who were interjecting. I understand that interjections are disorderly, and I am surprised at the Chair allowing them.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are a distinct reflection on the Chair and are therefore disorderly. He must either confine his remarks to the question before the committee or resume his seat.
– In Canada these things are done by the GovernorGeneral in Council, which means the Executive, not by the Minister. It would be to the advantage of traders if these things were done by regulation, because then a member of either House of Parliament could move for their disallowance. That is what I am asking for. I am convinced that if that were done we should hear no more of the rumours which are current in the country.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and I agree with him that these things should be done by regulation rather than by departmental by-law, for then Parliament would be in a position to express its views on these matters. In* supporting the amendment I cannot do better than quote a few sentences from an admirable speech which the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) delivered in this chamber in May, 1931. Dealing with the very point which has been raised to-day, the honorable gentleman said -
I submit that nobody in this country should have that power that is now exercised by the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, without referring to Parliament at all, can introduce embargoes on imports, and, at his own sweet will, can make one man wealthy . and ruin another. That is a power greater than was possessed by the Czar of Russia, or is assumed by the Soviet Government.
I point OUt that the power is inherent in one member of the Government to say to a huge business organization, behind the back of this Parliament, “You can bring in, £50,000 worth of your products this year, and nobody else can “. He can also say to a British manufacturer, “ I will not permit you to do it “, and there the matter must end. Such an extraordinary power should not be wielded by any man.
I agree with what the honorable gentleman said on that occasion. He continued -
The phrase “ as prescribed by departmental by-laws “ occurs 108 times in these schedules. The general effect is that many articles can be admitted at reduced duties, if this course is approved by the Minister or his officers. I object in unmeasured terms to government by regulation and government by officers of the Customs Department. I am not reflecting on civil servants as a body; in fact, for them I have the highest regard, but I am protesting against the principle of government by regulations and administration not by a Minister, but perhaps by some -inconsequential minor official in the Trade and Customs Department.
To an interjection by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) -
The present system has been in operation ever since we have had tariffs-
The honorable member for Warringah replied -
The Minister does not deny that the system of which 1 complain is in operation now; his defence is that it has been operating for a long time. That does not dispose of my grave objection to government in that way.
The Postmaster-General stated my view of the case admirably. I feel that I am right in assuming that the honorable gentleman is entitled to some of the credit for the new free list connected with item 174. I feel confident that he, because of his strong views on this subject of government by regulation, must have been the moving spirit in the Government in making amendments by which a great number of items which previously could enter only subject to departmental by-laws have been made free. If I am correct in my assumption, I congratulate the honorable member, even as I congratulate him on the speech from which I have quoted. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will accept the amendment.
.- I support the amendment, because it is so reasonable. The extracts from a speech by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), which have just been read, must have given the honorable gentleman a foretaste of the day of judgment.
– The honorable member must deal with the item before the Chair.
– What the honorable member for Warringah said nearly two years ago is written in the book of Hansard for all to read. If the honorable member is consistent, he will vote for the amendment. When in Opposition he, and other honorable gentlemen now sitting on the Government benches, expressed views similar to those which ha ve been expressed to-day in support of the amendment. I hope that the amendment will be carried, that it will apply throughout ‘the schedule, and not only to this item. It is not right that any one man should be given the power to override the will of Parliament.
– I also support the amendment. - Many of the decisions given by departmental officers under this power have penalized the industries of this country Unfortunately, I am debarred by a ruling of the Chair from giving instances in support of the contention of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Departmental officers, having no practical knowledge of certain industries, sometimes give rulings which amount to gross injustice.
– I hope that the Minister will not accept the amendment. The statement that the control df the tariff is taken out of the hands of Parliament is absurd, because the Minister is always subject to the control of Parliament. At any time it is competent for any member to move the adjournment of the House to discuss any ministerial action.
– It may then be too late.
– If we do these things hy regulation, there will be chaos in the Customs Department. I believe in conserving the rights of Parliament and of its members. Those rights are not interfered with by allowing these things to be done by departmental by-law. I hope that the Minister will not accept the amendment, but will retain to the Customs Department the right to administer the law in respect of these items. This has been the practice for a great many years, and very few mistakes have been made.
– I cannot accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) ; it would limit unduly the power of the Minister. No Minister w ould wish to be vested with this responsibility if he could pass it on to some one. else. I remind the committee that, in my speech when introducing the schedule, I informed honorable members that it contained 387 new items, prescribing duties which, formerly, were dealt with under departmental by-laws. The honorable member for Swan, as one of the oldest members of this Parliament, must know that, every week, goods are admitted under departmental by-laws, the practice being to inform wholesale houses, Chambers of Manufactures and Chambers of . Commerce. As the fullest information is published in the press in respect of any such contemplated action, it is wide of the truth to suggest that anything is done surreptitiously. For this reason I am surprised that the honorable member should have conveyed that impression to the committee. The course indicated by the amendment was tried by the Tariff Board some years ago, and, in. 99.9 per cent, of cases the board’s decision was in accord with departmental rulings. The fullest inquiries are made before any goods are admitted under bylaw. Practically every member of the Country party has made application for the entry of some classes of machinery in this way, and I may add that the department gives the most sympathetic consideration to all such applications.
– But all this could be done by regulation.
– No. Very soon Parliament will go into recess for a few weeks. During that time the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) may be requested by some of his constituents to apply for the entry, . under departmental by-law, of certain machinery required in the dairying industry. If this had to be provided for by regulation, it would be necessary to lay the regulation before Parliament, and this would involve delay.
– It could be done immediately on the re-assembling of either House.
– But Parliament might be in recess for some months. Meantime, the required machinery would remain in bond, and bond charges would be accumulating. The complaint voiced this morning is simply ‘one of those time-honoured grievances which we hear whenever the. tariff is under discussion, and, as the question involved is one of principle, affecting customs administration since the imposition of the first tariff, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I should not have risen a second time in the discussion on this item, but for the statement just made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). The honorable gentleman appears to be under the impression that to provide for admission by regulation would involve delay, and would not be so advantageous as the system of providing for admission under departmental by-law. I remind him that, even if Parliament were not in session, any regulation made would be gazetted immediately, and would have the force of law until the re-assembly of Parliament, when an opportunity would be presented for either House to disallow it. Actually, there would be no delay. The only difference between the two methods of customs administration is this: The decision to admit goods under departmental by-law rests with the Minister, whereas an admission by regulation would require the concurrence of three Ministers in the Executive Council, and, as I have just observed, when Parliament re-assembles, all regulations come before it for review. The argument put forward by the Minister is not at all convincing, and, I suggest that, if the Government rests its case for the continuance of the practice of admitting n.e.i. itemsunder departmental by-laws, upon the honorable gentleman’s defence, it has no case at all.
.- If the position were exactly as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has stated it, there would not be much room for argument as to the merit of the course indicated by the amendment. But there are more difficulties than were mentioned by the honorable gentleman. In thefirst place, he must admit that the power of a departmental by-law is limited to the admission of goods; a bylaw does not give authority to increase the duties. It could only operate to increase the duties in cases where it was withdrawn after the admission of goods, so the complaint by members of the Country party who, by the way, are always seeking the admission, under bylaw, of certain classes of goods, really comes from the wrong quarter. I could understand a high protectionist being fearful of the consequences of admission of goods by departmental by-law, but the history of customs administration should re-assure us; obviously, none of those things that have been suggested are ever likely to happen, because no Minister would dare so to misuse his powers. I come now to the difference between the admission of goods by regulation and admission under departmental by-law. The honorable member for Gippsland has himself shown that regulations require the concurrence of three Ministers in Cabinet and the Governor-General, and any one who has been a member of a Cabinet knows perfectly well that important decisions affecting Government policy are not reached without full Cabinet consultation. So that no Minister for Customs would ever take upon himself the responsibility of doing, under departmental by-law, what would not be done by regulation. That, I think, answers the objection of the honorable member for Gippsland. The Minister has just explained the reason for the retention, by the Government, of the existing practice. Apparently, members of the Country party attach no importance to it. The Minister stated that if, while Parliament was in recess, application were made for admission of certain machinery under departmental bylaw, it could be done at once. But I do not agree that admission under regulation would necessarily cause delay, because, regulations can be gazetted immediately, and have the force of law. But this is the point: If the Government gazetted a regulation while Parliament was in recess, and under it admitted certain goods at rates below those prescribed in the schedule, and if Parliament subsequently disallowed the regulation, how would the revenue be collected ? That, I think, is the whole crux of the argument. The department would not dare, while Parliament was in recess, to frame a regulation to admit goods if there was a prospect of its disallowance by Parliament. The departmental officers would then be in trouble; they would be breaking the law by not collecting the revenue.
– In submitting a regulation to Cabinet, they would not be breaking the law.
– Yes ; because customs duties would not be collected on the goods so admitted.
– But Customs officials must obey a regulation.
– Yes, and they must also obey Parliament.
– Similarly, the Minister, in admitting goods under departmental by-laws, might be doing something of which Parliament would not approve.
– In that case, Parliament would express its opinion, and if it was against the Minister, he must bow to the will of Parliament, or get out. But in that ease, there would be no repercussion due to the failure to collect the duties, because the duties would be collectable during the time when the bylaw was operative. The position would be entirely different under the method of admitting by regulation. I suggest that, to argue that admission under departmental by-laws is equivalent to taking power out of the hands of the Parliament, is so much special pleading, because Parliament has specifically placed this power in the hands of the Minister for Customs, because of the special difficulty of specir tying, in the schedule, the duties on certain classes of goods. I, therefore, suggest to our friends in the corner that no Government would take the risk of acting under regulations, because Ministers would not know that, upon the reassembling of Parliament, there would not be a majority against them.
– And under the regulation method, the actual payments would have to be higher.
– That is so, because, as the Minister has explained, goods subject to admission by regulation might be kept in bond until Parliament reassembled because of the fear on the part of the Government that the regulation might be disallowed. I do not very much like placing so much power in the hands of the Minister, but, after all, we have given the same discretion to the Commissioner of Taxation, and no great harm has been done. To some extent, and because of the special difficulties mentioned, the powers given are absolute, but if they are mis-used, Parliament may apply the remedy.
.- I should like the committee to consider the difference between legislating in this matter by means of regulation and by means of departmental by-laws. Admission of goods under departmental by-laws prevents Parliament from exercising its authority. If the schedule is passed in its present form, the Minister for Trade and Customs for the time being will have the authority of Parliament to legislate in respect of all n.e.i. items; the only remedy being to ask the High Court to declare a by-law ultra vires. In the case of goods admitted in this way, Parliament parts entirely with’ its authority to review the Ministry’s decision. But where goods are admitted under departmental regulations, the position is entirely different, because the regulations made by Cabinet come, in due time, before Parliament for review, and Parliament may disallow them within fourteen days. If parliamentary action is not taken, the regulations become the law. With regard to the officers, it is not correct to say that they would be taking any risk in administering the customs duties by regulation, because the making of regulations would be the act, not of an official, but of the Government, and the first duty of an officer is to carry out the regulations. Therefore, he would be taking no risk even if, subsequently, regulations were disallowed by Parliament. This obligationon officers to carry out regulations is inconsistent with the provisions of the Customs Act. For many years customs duties have been collected in anticipation of parliamentary sanction. Nominally a person is entitled to disregard duties which have been so imposed, because duties have no legislative force until passed by Parliament. The Scullin duties, under which millions of pounds have been collected, had, for months, no legislative authority behind them.
– Yes, they had. . The Customs Act makes duties operative from the time the schedule is laid on the table.
– But the matter has not been finally dealtwith, and they have no real legislative backing, until ratified by Parliament. Of course, the public know that there will be no refund of duties, because Parliament can always validate any collections that have been made. It should be so arranged that alterations in the schedule made from time to time should come before Parliament for revision immediately it meets.
– I cannot see my way to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The honorable member is confusing legislative with administrative power. The Customs Act gives authority for the making of regulations, which are usually framed to give effect to the general purposes of the act, or to lay down a general rule. Section 270 of the act defines the authority of the Executive to make regulations as follows: -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this act prescribing all matters which by this act are required or permitted to be prescribed or as may be necessary or convenient to be prescribed for giving effect to this act or for the conduct of any business relating to the customs.
– In that definition, does the word “regulation “ include by-law?
– No. The. scheme of an act lays down the general principles of the measure, and regulations may be subsequently made “to give effect to the intention of the act. Parliament should watch regulations very carefully. The important things should be laid down in the act, and regulations should he framed only to cover minor matters. A by-law is different; the authority for it is in the Tariff Act. In the Trade and Customs Department, the officers are constantly faced with problems of administration. The honorable member said that classifications ought to be dealt with by regulation, but that is not practicable. By the classification of goods it is decided whether they come under the heading of one item or another. That ‘is a matter of law to be determined by the Attorney-General or, if his decision is disputed, to be determined by a decision of the High Court. These admissions of goods under by-laws are usually sought when a remission of duty is asked for. Frequently I have had brought before me applications for the admission of dairying machinery of one kind and another, and the applications have been granted by the Minister. We should remember that, in effect, the bylaws confer the power to relieve, not to impose a tax. Parliament is careful to reserve to itself the power to impose taxation, but it would be impossible to cover by regulation every conceivable instance in which relief might be afforded to the importer. I should be very loath to depart from a practice which has worked so well in the past. This power has been exercised most carefully by the Trade and Customs Department. When an application is made for a remission of duty, a careful investigation is made throughout the Commonwealth to determine whether the admission of the goods forming the subject of the application would be likely to injure Australian manufacturers. The court recognizes that, as soon as tariff resolutions are tabled, the duties must be collected. The matter has been before the High Court.
– The duties must be ratified during the currency of the session in which they are tabled.
– Sometimes a session lasts three years. If we substituted regulations for by-laws, goods which formed the subject of an application for a remission of duty would either have to remain in bond until the matter had been finally dealt with, perhaps six months’ later, or released upon an undertaking being given that duty would be paid if the decision went against the applicant.
What is the reason for the proposed change? So far as I can see, the honorable member for Swan merely desires that the regulations shall receive publicity. Do honorable members think that any more publicity will be accorded to regulations than is now given to bylaws ? I am informed that the by-laws are published in the Gazette, and circulated in the same way as regulations would be. Therefore, they receive all the publicity possible, short of being published in the press. The power conferred on customs officials to administer by-laws has not been abused. All the honorable member has been able to say is that such power may be abused. The Minister for Customs, as the head of the department, is responsible for every act of administration in his department, and he may he challenged upon anything that is done. The Minister is naturally jealous of the reputation of his officers, and stands by them so far as he is able. The Customs Department has a very fine record, equal to that of any similar department throughout the Empire. The capacity of its officers is high, and any one who has come into contact with them must be convinced of their impartiality and justice.
It is important, as I have pointed out, to recognize the difference between legislation and administration. The work of Parliament is to lay down the law. to make general rules, to prescribe conditions, to impose duties, and exercise certain powers, but when it comes to carrying out the law, some discretion must be left to the Minister. At the same time, I think that the Minister was right in obtaining legislative sanction for certain by-laws which have come to be recognized as permanent in character. This matter came before the Tariff Board several years ago, and was inquired into fully. When by-laws come to be recognized as permanent, they should be incorporated in a statute.
– It is provided in the Ottawa agreement that this shall be done, as far as possible.
– We now have the accumulated experience of many years to guide us. We know that the articles covered by certain by-laws are not likely to be manufactured in Australia, and it is well that manufacturers overseas should know just how they stand in regard to the tariff.
.- If the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) were to read item 3 of the tariff, he would see that a regulation would cover the matter very much better than any departmental bylaw. A regulation would be more complete, and would make it clear to traders what is the attitude of Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) expressed a fear that if regulations were substituted for by-laws, the department might find itself in the position of having to refund duties collected on goods if the regulations were subsequently disallowed by Parliament. The right honorable member must know, however, that in every instance in which a tariff has been imposed, and subsequently altered, the alteration has been made effective only from the date upon which it was made. Parliament would be able to ensure that the revenue was protected, and that no injustice was done, either to importers or to departmental officials. The honorable member for Darling Downs seems to think that by-laws receive all the publicity that is required, but I question whether half a dozen members of x’aruainent have even seen the weekly notices issued by the Customs Department. Members of this Parliament, and the people generally, should be well informed of the changes that take place from time to time in customs duties.
– That could be done straight away by administrative ftct
– Possibly so.Copies of regulations are sent to every honorable member, and he may move for their disallowance, or propose any amendment ; but departmental by-laws may be brought into operation without the Parliament having any voice in the matter. I could mention instances in which injustice has been done, and many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been lost to the Commonwealth in revenue owing to tariff alterations made under ministerial or departmental direction. I have claimed for years that Parliament should have sole control of the taxation of the people. We should not permit a Minister to alter duties in a mandatory manner.
.- We are discussing the wisdom of Parliament delegating its power to pass legislation. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has suggested the strongest reason why tariff alterations should be made by regulation rather than by by-law. When they are made by by-law the new duties operate immediately. But, when made by regulation, they operate only provided that they are not disallowed by either House of the Parliament within a certain time of being laid on the table. Of late years, governments have found it convenient to bring about parliamentary recesses by moving the adjournment of each House to a period to be subsequently fixed, instead of getting a prorogation. Thus we have had a continuous session extending over more than twelve months. One effect of this change in our procedure is to extend the time during which a tariff schedule can operate without parliamentary sanction. Many honorable members who in the last Parliament sat on the other side of the chamber, but are now ministerial supporters, we’re loud in their protestations against this. Several of the present Ministers objected that, because of this lengthening of the sessions, alterations in duties were allowed to operate so long that ultimately vested interests were created under them, and it then became difficult for Parliament to interfere. Thus, during the term of office of the Scullin Government, its tariff was in operation for two years without the Parliament being given the opportunity to say whether it should be the tariff of the country, or not.
– That is not quite correct. A government must command a majority in the House of Representatives in support of its proposals.
-But a tariff must be passed by both branches of the legislature, and it is extremely doubtful whether the Scullin tariff would have been approved by the Senate if that body had had an opportunity to deal with it in ordinary circumstances. If the policy of legislation by regulation were adopted in cases like the item under discussion, tariff alterations would have to come under the notice of the Parliament, and a motion for the disallowance of any regulation could be submitted in either chamber.
Sub-item agreed to.
Remainder of Division 1, viz., items 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 (a): (c) (d), 13 (b) (c), and 14 to 17, agreed to.
Items 25 and 26 agreed to.
Items 28 to 32 agreed to.
Items 33 to 37, 39, and 40 agreed to.
Item 41, sub-items (a) (b) (Butter and cheese).
.- Will the Minister give the committee an idea whether, in the negotiations with New Zealand, anything will be done that might lead to an alteration of the duties on butter and cheese. The party to which I belong stands for the adequate protection of both primary and secondary industries, and one of the largest labour-employing industries in Australia to-day is the dairying industry. The Assistant Minis ter, Senator Greene, is about to leave for New Zealand, and, no doubt, representations will be made to him in favour of the removal of the duty on Now Zealand butter entering Australia. At the present time, the Australian dairy farmers are getting a lower price for their butter than at any other period during the last 30 years. It has been said by the Minister that since the signing of the Ottawa agreement, and the proposed restriction of imports of Australian butter into the United Kingdom, the price of butter on the London markethas been increased.
– New Zealand and foreign butter, but not Australian.
Mr-. FORDE- The Canberra Times recently published the following message from London: -
Notwithstanding the announcement that Australia and New Zealand intend to restrict exports, butter prices continue to fall.
The present value of choicest Australian and New Zealand butter (salted) is 86s., the lowest for more than 30 years.
That paragraph clearly shows that the industry in Australia is now in a peri lous position. Great hopes were held out that, as the result of the Ottawa agreement, there would be a substantial increase in the price received by Australian dairymen for their butter; but as the result of the Minister’s visit to New Zealand, their protection may be whittled down. Since my party has been criticized by certain sections of the primary producers because it stands for high protection for the secondary industries, I point out that we desire also to give adequate protection to the primary industries. The New South Wales Farmer and. Settler, published an article on the 9th of this month beginning as follows : -
Ottawa a Back Number.
Since the Ottawa agreement was put into operation, no country’s butter has been harder hit by the falling market than Australian and New Zealand. Was this the purpose of Ottawa? . . .
If the butter trade in London had played the game, and had supported Empire sentiment to the same extent as the average English householder, dominion butter would occupy a leading position, as regards price, on the British market to-day. There is something sinister behind the whole business, and it is becoming increasingly evident that a determined effort has been made to circumvent the growing movement of “ trade within the Empire.” Wires are being pulled to restrict
Great Britain’s imports of butter, and aided by spineless British politicians, and the disinterestedness of our representative, Mr. Bruce, pressure is likely to be brought to bear to bring about the restrictions. If the Federal Government agrees, it will be deserving of strong criticism, and will have shown that it is not concerned with the prosperity of the great wealth-producing dairy industry.
What has Britain to gain by shielding the dairying industry of foreign countries? There seems to me a desire to restrict the imports of butter from the dominions; but I contend that any restrictions imposed by the Motherland should be placed upon foreign countries. A prominent Sydney business man, who recently returned from a world tour-
– The subject of the restriction of butter imports into Britain seems to me foreign to the tariff.
– We know that a representative of the Commonwealth Government is about to proceed :to New Zealand, where requests are repeatedly made for the wiping out of the duty that we have imposed on butter from that dominion. I have drawn attention to the fact that our dairymen are now receiving prices lower than they have been getting for the last 30 years. Attempts are being made to restrict the exports of an industry that has contributed, in a great degree, to the closer settlement of this country, and to the placing of ex-soldiers on the land. Men have been assisted to take up dairying land through the agricultural banks, and if, because of importations from sister dominions, they are deprived of their home market, the. Paterson butter scheme will break down. I fear also that a decision may be come to before honorable members are given an opportunity to debate the subject. I do not propose to move an amendment, but I ask for information. I represent one of the largest dairying districts in Australia, and am solicitous for the welfare of the dairymen generally. I want some assurance from the Minister that adequate protection will be granted to these primary producers. If the degree of protection that they at present enjoy is reduced, the Paterson scheme may break down, and additional burdens may be placed upon our producers. The price of butter is lower to-day than it has been for twenty years. According to figures published in January by the Empire Marketing Board, Australian butter was selling in London at that time for from 80s. to 82s. per cwt., which is a drop of from 22s. to 2-ls. per cwt. from the prices ruling last October. There was a difference of 18s. per cwt. between the price of Australian and Argentine butter in October, but the margin now is only 2s. per cwt. The following table shows how the price of butter has varied, recently : -
In these circumstances it is highly desirable that the Minister should give us au assurance that the Government will protect the interests of our dairymen.
.- I also would like some information from the Government respecting the negotiations that have been set ou foot for a new trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand. Is anything that Senator Massy Greene is likely to do liable to affect the welfare of our’ dairymen? This Government and its supporters have a very high opinion of the ability of the members of . the Tariff Board. I desire to know, therefore, whether this whole subject will be referred to the Tariff Board for report before a decision is reached? We have been told by honorable members opposite that the members of the board are infallible, and expert in ail industries, including the, pastoral, agricultural and dairying industries. One member of the board has been associated with a firm of importers, but yet he is an expert; another was a railways commissioner, and he also is an expert in primary and secondary industries. I, therefore, ask the Minister to say definitely whether the details of any proposed agreement with the New Zealand Government will be referred to the board for inquiry and report.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) aud the honorable member for Cook. (Mr. Riley) know very well that’ it is the policy of this Government to refer all tariff questions to the Tariff Board before submitting them to Parliament. The honorable gentlemen need have no anxiety about anything that Senator Massy
Greene may do in New Zealand. Probably no honorable member of this Parliament has a better knowledge of the dairying industry than Senator Massy Greene; I am sure that the producers of Australia in general and the dairymen in particular, will have the profoundest confidence in the honorable senator, who has gone from Australia to New Zealand to negotiate the proposed new trade agreement, for throughout his public career he has shown every sympathy with this industry, and done everything in his power to protect those engaged in it.
– In view of the fact that the butter industry was thoroughly discussed a few days ago, I do not think it necessary to say very much about it at present. I have given a good deal of attention to our trade agreement with New Zealand,.- and know that there are many anomalies in connexion with it, one of which relates to the tobacco duty. But I think honorable members are quite able to vote on this item without dealing at any greater length with the marketing of our butter.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 42, 44 (b) (c3) (d) (f), 45 to 50, and 51 (a) (b) (c4) (e) (f) agreed to.
Item 52, sub-items (b) and (o) -
Fruits, fresh, viz: -
Citrus, per lb. - British, £d. ; general, Id.
,- I direct attention to the item citrus fruits. This is one of the items in respect of. which the Scullin Government prohibited importations on the ground that we could produce in this country all the citrus fruit that we required. We are now faced with the spectacle that, although returned soldiers were assisted by every State Government in Australia to engage in the production of citrus fruits, this Govern ment has lifted the prohibition imposed by the Scullin Government, and it now imposes only an inadequate duty on imported citrus fruits. I understand that it is also proposed to allow citrus fruits from New Zealand to come into Australia. Although it is true that we have been able to build up an export trade in citrus fruits during the last few years it has not yet been possible to lift the whole of the pack from the Australian market. A statement issued recently by the Department of Commerce, shows that the export of citrus fruits from Australia increased from 39,850 centals in 1929-30 to 117,000 centals in 1930-31, and to 181,500 centals in 1931-32. It was pointed out that New Zealand was our best customer for citrus fruits, and provided a ready market for Australian lemons and oranges. With oranges a gratifying expansion has taken place also in our trade with other countries. Shipments of Australian oranges to New Zealand increased from 29,500 centals in 1929-30 to 81,511 centals in 1930-31. But the action taken by the New Zealand Government has practically deprived the Australian citrus-growers of that market. Does the Government propose to do anything in that regard? It cannot be said that the policy of the Scullin Government is responsible for what the New Zealand Government is doing, because the Scullin Government did not interfere with the duties on New Zealand goods. Thousands of citrus-growers all over Australia, as well as many in my own electorate, are very much concerned about the removal of the Scullin embargo. In support of this statement I quote the following report, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 3rd October, 1932:-
At a large meeting of the Oakville Branch of the ‘Fruitgrowers Federation, the Federal Government was severely criticized.
A protest was entered against the lifting of the embargo by the Federal Government on imported citrus fruit. It was maintained that the Government was selling its country in order that a few big commercial concerns could benefit by importing foreign fruits.
The citrus-growers are an important section of our producing community. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) had to face an irate group of citrus-growers at Gosford not long ago, and he knows how strongly they feel on this subject. Probably no other honorable members wish to take the part of these producers, but I feel it necessary to strike a note of warning to the Government, and to inform it that this industry needs help. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I imposed prohibitions for the benefit of the primary producers on the importation of glucose. cheese, eggs, lemons and oranges, dried fruits, except dates and figs, fruits preserved in liquid, vegetables salted or preserved in liquid or partly preserved orpulped, corn flour, jams and jellies, lard and edible fats, meats preserved in tins and other air-tight containers, pork, milk dried or in powder form, malted milk, peanut butter, onions and canary seed. It was said at that time that the adoption of this policy would ruin the producers and impair the financial stability of the country; but these doleful forecasts were not realized. All these prohibitions were removed by the present Government. This party, however, still stands for adequate protection for our primary and secondary industries, and we believe that the protection which the Government is now proposing for the citrus fruit industry is insufficient. In 1927-28, 846,900 lb. ‘of lemons and 595,900 of oranges were imported into Australia. We felt that this v/as not in the best interests of our citrus industry. I sincerely trust that the policy of this Government will not cause a recurrence of imports of this nature.
.- In reference to the statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde-), I would point out that representations have been made to me by the citrus fruit growers on the irrigation areas in my electorate to the effect that they are opposed to all embargoes and, of course, to the New Zealand embargo. Their request is that all embargoes shall be removed. They believe that if this policy is adopted they will he able to produce economically, and to compete against the producers of other countries.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) must be aware that one of the principal reasons for the visit of the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) to New Zealand is to endeavour to effect a more satisfactory reciprocal trade arrangement between the sister dominion and Australia. The honorable gentleman must also know that the prohibition of citrus fruits was a financial measure, and bad nothing to do with the tariff. That has been explained many times in this chamber by his leader, and it was on that basis that the arrangement had the support of honorable members on this side, who were then in opposition. The whole subject is now before the Tariff Board for. consideration, and its report should soon be before the Government. That the Government has the interests of the citrus-growers in mind is plainly demonstrated by the trouble and expense to which it has gone in sending the Assistant Minister to New Zealand , to promote better trade relations in this respect.
.- I am pleased with the information the Minister has imparted to the committee. It was on my representation that the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) referred this matter to the Tariff Board. Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) spoke on the item. I understand that he referred to some allegedly irate meeting that was held in my electorate. I assure him that I can handle all such matters myself. For his information, I may say that I attended a meeting, and placed the position before the growers, who were so satisfied that they indicated confidence in my efforts. I am prepared to admit that the action of the Government in prohibiting generally the importation of citrus fruits was helpful to growers, and that they were perturbed when it vas removed. However, when I went before the electors of Robertson during the last election campaign, I espoused the policy of the Government, which was definitely opposed to embargoes of any description, and, even- though I was most anxious to assist growers, it was not possible for me to reverse my attitude. Recently, in Sydney, I introduced a deputation to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), in the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). Temporarily, our trade relations with New Zealand are troubled because the sister dominion has refused to admit our citrus fruits, on the general ground of the danger of the introduction of diseases. The committee’ must be pleased with the action of the Government in sending the Assistant Minister to New Zealand, to deal with trade matters generally, and, principally, tn adjus the trouble. As an indication of my close association with head-quarters,I might mention that I have just received certain informationfrom the industry, as represented by the Fruitgrowers Federation of New South Wales, which I have passed on to the Prime Minister, as it will assist Senator Greene in the coming deliberations. I hope that the Australian citrus industry will receive every consideration and advantage from that conference.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 55 agreed to.
Item 56, sub-items (a) to (d) (Ginger).
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [12.20].- I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to give me a promise that the position of the Australian ginger industry will be referred to the Tariff Board, and the industry afforded protection. The matter was put before the board in 1931, and the outcome was a recommendation that the existing duty should not be increased. There are 100 growers at present engaged in the industry at Buderim Mountain, in Queensland. Obviously, that number will he increased steadily. In these times, when there is a general urge to settle more people on the land, we should do what we can to advance what will be quite a worth-while industry, and give some encouragement to the enterprising persons now engaged in it. I know that the Government cannot increase duties, and that it is pledged to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
– The honorable gentleman knows that that is not so.
Mr.FORDE. - We have been assured that, in future, tariff-making will be done through the Tariff Board. I know that the Ottawa agreement has closed the door to any increases being made in respect of duties against. Great Britain and the dominions for a period of five years, unless recommended by the Tariff Board.
Our importations of green ginger are about 102,000 lb., or 45½ tons per annum, chiefly from China. They used to be as high as 170,000 lb:, or 71 tons. About 150 tons of dry ginger are imported, the imports of ginger in brine or syrup being in the vicinity of 700 tons per annum, while preserved ginger not in liquid isimported to the extent of 35 tons per annum, or a total importation of 1,000 tons, of which 850tons are admitted free of duty. The ginger industry was established in Queensland some years ago, and the following figures indicate that its production has steadily increased : -
Buderim Mountain is a district in which the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is interested, and I am sorry that he is not in the chamber, as he would have had something to say on the subject. Through his enterprise, honorable members had the pleasure of testing samples of Australian ginger. Messrs. MacRobertson’s Limited, the great confectionery manufacturers, purchased about 3 tons of Australian ginger one year, treated it, and reported that it was of a quality satisfactory for the manufacture of preserved ginger. Green ginger, which should be harvested early in the season, before April, gives a yield of about 5 tons to the acre, and is. worth approximately £53 a ton. Although Queensland growers produced over 100 tons last year, they could sell only 15 tons of their output, as buyers had arranged to get their supplies from overseas. Consistently with my policy of giving preference both to primary and secondary industries, and in accordance with the promise that I have given to the growers of ginger, I urge the Minister again to refer this matter to the Tariff Board for consideration and report.
.- As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) intimated, an inquiry was made by the Tariff Board into ginger in 1981. The importations of this commodity are not great. I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall go into the matter, and determine whether it is one which should again be referred to the Tariff Board.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 57, 58 (a) (b) (d) and 59 to 63 agreed to.
– I move -
That the itembe amended by adding the following: - “And on and after the 9th March, 1933-
The amendment is necessary for drafting purposes, following the increased duty placed upon lard,which is listed elsewhere; it involves no other alteration in the wording or rates of duty.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Items 65 to 72 agreed to.
Item 73, sub-item (e) (Matches).
– Will the Minister inform honorable members when they may expect the report of the Tariff Board on matches?
– It will be presented very soon.
– In view of the Minister’s statement that the report of the Tariff Board on matches has not yet been presented, would it not. be advisable to postpone consideration of the item until honorable members are in possession of the report? It will be recollected that, only a little while ago, the Australian match industry was placed in an unenviable position as a result of a considerable reduction in the rates of duty on matches. The Government advocates that Parliament should consider and, if possible, act in accordance with the recommendations of the Tariff Board. In the circumstances, I suggest that it would be unwise to proceed with the item without being in possession of the board’s report on the subject?
– I contend that there should- be a considerable increase in the duty on matches. In a few remarks, I shall demonstrate to honorable members how difficult it is to trade with Japan and hope to receive fair play. I do not accuse that country of not keeping agreements, but. I shall show how “ slim “ its people are in their transactions with customers. In the year 1902, Japan manufactured 328,806,090 gross of matches at a cost of 8,608,571 yen. Beckoning the yen at 2s. - actually the value at that time was 2s. 0½d. - this works out at a trifle over five-eighths of 1d. per gross. I contend that workers in the British match industry were sweated in being compelled to make boxes alone at the rate of 2½d. a gross, and find their own paste. The Japanese were able to make theboxes, fill them with matches, and export them at five-eighths of a penny a gross. Of what avail is a duty of 2s. a gross against competition of that character? The facts I have mentioned were translated to me first by the Consul General of Japan, and subsequently checkedby the Warden of the Melbourne University and by myself. The letters of that great English philosopher, Herbert Spencer, show that when Japan sought his advice as to how it could best avoid quarrelling with the white nations, he advised that country to be careful of foreign missionaries, and particularly, of foreign traders. But as he wished to spend his last years in peace, and not to rouse the enmity of his fellow countrymen, he asked the Japanese Government to withhold his letters from publication until after his death. Japan honorably complied with that request, but I am sorry to say, that in recent years, it has forgotten some of the principles enunciated by Herbert Spencer. When the United Kingdom was given a preference of 6d. per gross, the Japanese, upon whose product the duty was1s., filled the boxes with very thin matches, and put 100 sticks in each box, and were thus able to export to the Commonwealth at the same rate of duty as was charged to the British manufacturer. At one time, Japan sought to win the favour of the working man by labelling its product “ Trade Union Matches”, but the practice was stopped when I called the attention of the Government of the day to it. I have only toadd that the matches made in Australia are good enough for anybody.
.- Because of the large match factory in my electorate, I am very interested in this subject, but the item now before the committee is merely a punitive duty directed against matches not put up and marked according to the requirements of the tariff. The main item relating to matches is in group VI., and I hope that when it is reached, the report of the Tariff Board will be before the committee. The Government has removed the embargo and surcharge imposed by my Government, and I hope that we shall be able to do something to restore the industry to its former position.
.- This is merely a punitive duty directed against those who seek to defraud by bringing into this country matches that are not properly marked as required by the department. The total importations under this heading, last year, were valued at only £1. When group VI. is reached, the report of the Tariff Board upon matches will probably be available to the committee.
Sub-item agreed to.
Items 74 (a) (d) (e), 75, 76, 77, 78 (a) (c) (f), 81, and82 (g) (h) agreed to.
Item83 (Potatoes in their natural state).
.- Because of the prevalence of the corky scab disease in New Zealand, there is an embargo against the importation of potatoes from the dominion into the Commonwealth. The Australian potato growers are experiencing a lean time. Much sympathy is expressed for the producers of wheat, wool, and butter, but all of them are faring much better than the potato-growers who have been operating at a loss for the last couple of years. Their only chance of recovery is a partial failure of the crop and the continuance of the embargo against New Zealand potatoes. Senator Greene has gone to New Zealand to discuss trade matters with the Government of the dominion. Does he know anything about potatoes? In any case, what policy will he enunciate on behalf of the Government? In my electorate the position of the growers is serious. I have received telegrams from representative bodies protesting against the removal of the embargo on New Zealand potatoes. Land for which the growers have paid £100 an acre will be valueless if corky scab obtains ahold in Victoria. Wheat cannot be grown profitably on land of a capital value of £100 an acre.
– Order ! An embargo imposed by the Health Department cannot be discussed on the tariff schedule.
– I understand that. I am merely asking for a definite assurance from the Government that potatoes from New Zealand will not be admitted to the Commonwealth.
– I also have received numerous communications from potato-growers in my own electorate, and in the division of Minders, the interests of which I am watching during the absence of its representative (Mr. Bruce). The position of thegrowers is causing them the greatest anxiety. For the last two seasons, the potato crop has been practically valueless. Last year the cropgave excellent promise, but in Victoria it was attacked by disease and the high hopes of the growers were dashed to the ground. This year, on account of the dry season, there is some prospect of an increase in prices. Because they fear the introduction of disease from New Zealand, the growers are apprehensive of the possible outcome of the negotiations between Senator Greene and the Dominion Government.
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss the embargo imposed by the Health Department.
– The growers are especially anxious to have an assurance from the Government that the embargo will not be relaxed.
– Order !
– Senator Massy Greene is en routeto New Zealand, where he will discuss potatoes, as well as other products, with the Dominion Government. No statement can be made at the present time regarding the proposals he will make to New Zealand, but he is accompanied by officers of the Departments of Health, Trade and Customs, and Commerce, and honorable members may rest assured that the whole matter will be thoroughly considered. I can assure the committee that the. Government has no desire to open the door for the admission of disease from any other country.
– Any decision reached by the Government would have to be ratified by Parliament.
– That is so.
Item agreed to.
Item 84, sub-items (a) (b) -
.- Rennet is used by dairymen in the process of cheese making, and is of considerable importance to Queensland which produces cheese on an extensive scale. The desirability of reducing the costs of production is generally admitted, and to that end duties should not be imposed upon the raw materials of industry. That principle applies to the cheese-maker, as well as to the ordinary factory proprietor. I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following to sub-item a: -
And on and after 18th March, 1933-
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I should like to know whether the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) intends to press his amendment, or is prepared to withdraw it. I believe that liquid rennet is now made in Australia. I have a very vivid recollection of the splendid work that was done by the Commonwealth Analyst, Mr. Wilkinson, during the war, when our cheese industry was in sore straits because of the shortage of supplies of this particular product. That gentleman, in conjunction with others, then practically saved the industry. I assume that supplies of liquid rennet of Australian manufacture are still procurable. The duty has remained at the same figure for a considerable period, and I hope that it will not now be altered.
– The rates of duty in the present schedule were recommended by the Tariff Board in 1925. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) says that his purpose in moving the amendment is to enable the local dairying industry to obtain supplies at a lower cost. I have had inquiries made into the prices of both the Australian and the imported rennet, and find that the local manufacturer came on the market in 1923 at the request of the producers. At that time the price of imported rennet was £12 for a 10-gallon keg. The local manufacturer placed his product on the market at a price of £10, and within three months the price of the imported line came down to £8. The present prices in
New South Wales are £5 10s. per 10- gallon keg, equal to 100 lb., and £5 5s. per 40-gallon keg, f.o.r. factory, for the local product, and £6 per 100 lb. for the imported article.
– Are the imports considerable ?
– In 1931-32 they amounted to 1,083 cwt., or 13,560 lb.
– What are the Queensland prices?
– In Queensland the prices are £5 f.o.r. factory in 10-gallon kegs for the local product, and £6 15s. per 100 lb. for the imported article. The price prior to the local manufacturer going on the Queensland market was £9 per 100 lb.
– That is another example of the value of protection.
– It is an example of the value of reasonable protection, not of prohibition. The duty was imposed after inquiry by the Tariff Board, and, in addition to protecting a secondary industry, is of assistance to primary industries. The report of the board upon the matter reads -
Although the local manufacturers have asked for duties of 10 per cent., United Kingdom, and 25 per cent., General, in respect of liquid rennet in bulk, seeing that they will still be relying to some extent upon the Industries Preservation Act for protection, and since the United Kingdom is importing the raw material from Denmark, and about 30 per cent. of the value of the finished product represents labour, the Tariff Board is of opinion that the rate under the British Preferential Tariff might reasonably be made 15 per cent., leaving a margin of 10 per cent. between that rate and the general tariff rate.
I submit that there is no reason for the amendment, and that the duties should stand as they appear in the schedule.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 86, 87 (a), 88, 89, 90, 91 (a) (c), 92, 93, 95, 96 (b), 97, 98 (a), 99, 101, 102, 103, and 104 (a) (c), agreed to.
Items 105 (a2), (aa1), 106 (a) (b) (c) (d8) (e4) (f5), 108 (a), 111 (a) (b), 112 (c), 113 (b), 114 (a), 119, 121, 125, 127, 128, 129, and 131 to 135, agreed to.
Items 136 (c2) (f1) (g), 137 (a1, 3), 139 (a), 140 (a) (b), 141, 142, and 144 (a) (c) agreed to.
Iron and steel, viz: -
Plates and sheets, plain tinned … ad val., British, free; general, 10 per cent. and a deferred duty as follows: -
On and after the 1st April, 1933 -
Iron and steel, viz: -
Plates and sheets, plain tinned . . . per ton, British, 70s.; general, 115s.
.- I should like to learn from the Minister whether this item has been reported on by the Tariff Board.
.- There is a proposal to manufacture tinned plates in Australia, doubtless because of the fact that a deferred duty of 76s. a ton British preferential, and 115s. a ton general, has been included in the tariff for some years. I am conscious of the necessity for tinned plate being made available to our industries at as low a cost as possible, and assure honorable members that before the deferred duty is imposed the Tariff Board will inquire not only into the rate of duty that should be imposed, but also as to whether this is an economic industry for Australia. I referred the matter to the Tariff Board on the 14th of March, in the following terms : -
I, Thomas Walter White, in pursuance of the powers vested in me as Minister for Trade and Customs by the Customs Act 1901-1930, do hereby refer to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report in accordance with section 15(1) (d) of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1929, the following questions: -
The necessity for the retention of deferred rates of duty under Item 147 of the Customs Tariff 1921- 1930, and Item 147 of the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932:
If the board is of the opinion that a deferred duty is necessary, what rates do the board consider should be incorporated in the tariff.
Honorable members will see that the Go vernment is fully alive to the situation, and that it will not impose the duty without an exhaustive inquiry by the Tariff Board.
.- If this matter is to be investigated by the Tariff Board, I urge an expeditious inquiry, because certain interests have indicated their intention of establishing the tinned plate industry in Australia. It is not fair to those who are prepared to take the risk of establishing new industries, particularly in view of the encouragement that this Parliament has given them by allowing deferred duties to remain for a number of years on the tariff schedule, to allow them to proceed with the establishment of factories and plant, and then for the matter to be referred to the Tariff Board for its consideration, and for that board, in its usual “ stinking fish “ style, to report that the industry is not economic, and that the local article is not of the required quality, and cannot be manufactured in sufficient quantities. I ask the Minister whether this matter has vet gone to the board?
– In that case, the board should be asked to speed up its inquiry so as to make known the intention of the Government to those who are prepared to undergo this expense.
.- The statement of the Minister conveys nothing more than that the matter has been referred to the Tariff Board. I ask whether, in the event of this industry being established, he can give any guarantee that the price of tinned plate will not exceed the present import rates when, and if, the proposed new tari ff comes into operation in October next? I shall certainly support any important secondary industry that can supply its products to the primary industries at import rates, but if the duty is to be used for bolstering up any secondary industry at the expense of our natural primary industries, I shall certainly do my best to prevent tariff protection from being given to it. Many of the secondary industries have, in the past, promised that if the whole of the home market were secured to them, they would guarantee that no increase in cost would result. We wish to be assured of even more than that. Import prices are gradually but surely declining, and if I am assured that the price of the locally manufactured tinned plate is not to be above the import price at any time, I am prepared to give the industry the necessary protection to ensure its success. The Customs Department, has supplied me with a table showing the imports of tinned plate during the last four years, and it will be seen from it that practically the whole of our requirements comes from Great Britain. According to this table, in 1928- 29, no less than 49,534 tons of tinned plate and sheets, at an average price of £22 10s. per ton, and valued at £1,113,432. were imported into this country from Great Britain, and only 35 tons from other countries. In 1929-30, no less than 57,280 tons, at an average price of £23 per ton, valued at £1,314,069, were imported into this country from Great Britain, and only 10 tons from other countries. In 1930-31, no less than 39,852 tons, at an average price of £21 per ton, and valued at £842,987, were imported into this country from Great Britain, and 8 tons from other countries. In 1931-32, no less than 45,618 tons, at an average price of £16 8s. per ton, and valued at £825,898, were imported into this country from Great Britain, and 25 tons from other countries. It will be seen from those figures that the price of tinned plate has gradually decreased. What we wish to ensure is that those who are engaged in the production of condensed milk, fruit, fish, jams, meat, and other commodities which are canned, are guaranteed against having to pay more than import rates for the tinned plate that they require. The sixth annual report of the Canned Fruits Control Board, shows that in 1932 no less than 27,697,512 cans of apricots, peaches, and pears were produced in Australia. During the last two years the canning fruit industry of Australia has experienced adverse conditions.
– There were also probably 80,000,000 tons of jam processed.
– I do not know much about jam, but I know that, at Shepparton, a town in my constituency, there is at present a tin-making plant which is manufacturing 250,000 finished cans a day. So we can quite understand that if there is only a fractional increase of the rate of duty, it will be. a serious setback to the industry. I offer no objection to the establishment of a local industry provided that it does not have a detrimental effect on our own primary industries. When the Tariff Board has prepared its report upon this proposed industry, it should come up again for discussion in this chamber. We cannot afford to place any further burden upon the fruit, meat, or dairying industries, and, before this industry is established, we should have some guarantee that the company which is to undertake the manufacture of tinned plate will sell its product at a price not above that at which the imported article is selling at any time.
– I. agree with most of the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). He referred to a manufacturing plant at Shepparton. That plant 1 have seen in operation myself. It is largely an auxiliary industry to the fruit industry, and yet the honorable member, unless he is given some guarantee in respect of prices, is not prepared to risk the establishment in this country of what would really be another branch of the fruit industry. I agree that it is vitally necessary not to do anything which would make it more difficult to continue the successful export of our canned fruits, but I think that the honorable member is going too far in asking that if the tinned plate manufacturing industry is established in Australia the local price should not be higher than the price prevailing for the imported article. We know from our experience that every time a local industry struggles to keep upon its feet, and succeeds in obtaining tariff protection, those who sell the imported article immediately reduce their prices.
– Only in isolated cases.
– I am not speaking of isolated cases. It has happened frequently, particularly in respect of parts of machinery, gearsand such like articles. If, when tinned plate is manufactured here, the price of the imported article is reduced to force the local manufacturer out of business, surely he will not be asked to chase the downward trend of prices? The price of the imported article would not then be a legitimate one, because immediately the local manufacturer went out of business, it would again be increased. I do not think that the honorable member for Echuca wants to prevent this local industry from being established; but he should not risk that result by asking the Tariff Board to recommend that, at all times, the local price must chase down the price of the imported article. He must know that frequently in the past the price of an imported article has been temporarily reduced until the local manufacturers have been driven out of business, only to be raised again later.
.- I agree entirely with the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), which, however, have not been correctly interpreted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). Despite the unfair criticism to which the Country party is frequently subjected, that party desires to see secondary industries successfully established in Australia. Its members, however, are not willing to support duties of any height merely to maintain local industries at any cost. In the case of tinned plate, a deferred duty is to operate on the 1st October. A few weeks ago I noticed in the press the statement that, in the near future, the manufacture of tinned plate would probably be undertaken in Australia. It is unfortunate that, when one reads a statement of that kind, one cannot always feel enthusiastic about the prospects, because one is not always certain that it will be such a splendid thing for Australia that it should be welcomed with open arms. All of us would welcome the prospect of such an industry being established in Australia if we could be sure that it would not be developed at the expense of any of our existing exporting industries. That is the whole difference between the outlook of those who sit in this portion of the chamber and that of many . honorable members who sit elsewhere. The members of the Country party desire to see secondary industries established in Australia so long as the articles they manufacture can be commercially made here; but they draw the line at industries, the establishment of which may result in the destruction of other industries which are already exporting their products and bringing to Australia money with which to meet our overseas liabilities. I agree with the honorable member for Echuca that it is not enough to have an assurance that, in the event of the manufacture of tinned plate being undertaken in Australia, the price of this commodity will not be greater than that now ruling. The Aus tralian canned fruit industry, to which particular reference has been made, must be in a position at all times to obtain its tinned plate as cheaply as its competitors can buy it. If the world price of tinned plate were to fall below the present price, and Australian users of tinned plate were forced to pay for the Australian article at the price now ruling, they would be at the mercy of their competitors, who, because they buy in the open market, can buy more cheaply. I would welcome the establishment of this industry provided that the Australian canning industry could rely on obtaining tinned plate at prices not greater than their competitors are called upon to pay. Because for a number of years tinned plate from Britain has entered Australia free, whereas’ foreign tinned plate has been subject to a duty of 10 per cent., practically the whole of our requirements of this material has been obtained from Britain. A great deal of it has been returned to the Mother Country with fruit in it. As I have said, I should prefer to have the tinned plate we require manufactured in Australia, rather than have it imported even from Britain, provided that the canning industry, which is more important than the tinned plate industry, could obtain Australian tinned plate at prices which would not place it in a worse position than its competitors. From that principle we cannot depart, nor do I see that any other proposal can logically be put forward.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) seems anxious to interject. Looking at him, I am reminded of the sugar industry. The sugar industry places the exporters of goods in which sugar is used in the same position that the tinned plate industry, if started in Australia, should place the exporters of canned fruits. The sugar industrysupplies it’s product at import parity rates free of duty to jam-makers, fruitcanners, and others who use it for processing fruit for export.
– And the public makes up the difference.
– I am not now dealing with the cost of sugar to the general public. The. sugar industry has been severely criticized; but, at least, it provides the great exporting industries with sugar for their export trade at the rate at which they could obtain it in the world’s market free of duty. If that is regarded as only elementary justice in the case of sugar, it is equally only elementary justice in connexion with tinned plate. I urge the Government to give this matter its careful consideration, so that, however much we may desire to start this new industry in Australia, we will not start it at the expense of existing export industries. The country would be better without an industry which would injure any of our great primary exporting industries.
.- While the ‘ debate has progressed, I have been wondering whether this matter has been referred to the Tariff Board.
– Has the Tariff Board the power to recommend that an industry should not be started in Australia? I hope not, for that would be too great a power to hand over to any outside body. Most, if not all, of the raw materials required for the establishment of the tinned plate industry in Australia, are obtainable in this country. The production of metals as the base of manufactured articles is as much a primary industry as is the growing of wheat or wool.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– If that primary industry is developed still further by the establishment of an industry for the manufacture of tinned plate in Australia, I can only .say that it is a desirable one to have in this coun-try. I assume that before the Minister takes action, there will be a further discussion in the light of the Tariff Board’s report. Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), I do not agree with the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) that we should follow down the prices charged for imported tinned plate. It is well known that almost every new secondary industry established in this country has been subjected to keen competition from manufacturers overseas. Whenever Australians have proved that they can manufacture an article to compete with the product of overseas manu facturers, the latter, including manufacturers in Great Britain, have lowered their prices, and if the protection afforded toour industries- is insufficient the time soon comes when they find it impossible to carry on successfully. Those who are now complaining that the proposed new local industry might put up its prices must realize what is likely to happen to us at the hands of importers if competition in Australia is obliterated. As thi3 is an ever present danger, we should, whenever the opportunity presents itself, give local manufacturers sufficient protection to enable them to be established on a firm basis, thus safeguarding the people of this country, including our primary producers, from monopolies .controlled by overseas competitors. It would not at all surprise me to learn that British manufacturers are interested in this proposal to establish the tin plate industry in Australia.
– That is certain.
– When I was in Great Britain some years ago I met many manufacturers who admitted without any hesitation that, as we have an abundance of raw material for many industries, we should engage in secondary production. Consequently, objection to these tariff items comes not so much from Britain as from people in Australia who are really advocating the cause of the British, and, sometimes, the foreigner, as against the Australian, manufacturer; but with regard to this industry at all events, there is to be a conjunction of forces. Already we are manufacturing millions of pounds worth of goods which, itf days gone by, were imported. In this discussion we should have a greater display of the Australian outlook, because I believe that Britain expects Australia to do its duty in this matter as in others. During the debate on the preceding item, we heard no complaints from members of the Country party, because they knew that local manufacturers were selling their product at below importers’ prices. There is every prospect that, when the new. industry covered by this item is firmly established, our people will be able to buy tinned plate at lower prices than at present. For this reason, if for no other, we should show a little courage and some degree of sympathy when dealing with all these tariff items, because the establishment of a number of additional secondary industries in this country will not only give increased employment, thus increasing the demand for primary products, but also be a valuable aid in the defence of Australia.
.- This industry, if established in Australia, will create a demand for the products of the great iron and steel works at Newcastle, which even the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) admits should be regarded as a great national undertaking from a defence point of view. This further demand for its products will,- no doubt, mean, eventually, lower production costs. The iron ore required for the various manufacturing processes at Newcastle comes from Iron Knob in South Australia, one of the most valuable deposits of iron ore in the world. It is transported to Newcastle in Australian steamers, manned by Australian seamen, and the Newcastle Steel Works give employment to approximately 3,000 persons If the development of that undertaking has been in any way hampered, it is because the demand for its products is not great enough to enable the management to bring down production costs sufficiently. The manufacture of tinned plate cannot, of course, bc undertaken by a small company. It requires the capital resources of a concern like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and Stewarts and Lloyds Limited, the world famous pipe manufacturers. I had an opportunity, some time “ ago, to inspect the iron and steel works at’ Newcastle, and was much impressed with the immensity of the undertaking. The galvanized iron works,- I was informed, absorb at least one-third of the output of the steel works, and’, in addition to giving direct employment to 1,000 men, are also responsible for the employment of 300 in the steel works, turning out the steel plates required for the manufacture of galvanized iron. If this new tinned plate industry is established, it will- provide an additional outlet for the products of the Newcastle iron and steel works, and will bring down the cost of galvanized iron which, of course-, will be a good thing for primary producers. Doubtless, honorable members will recall the confession made by the right honorable the AttorneyGeneral a few nights ago with reference to the lower price now being charged for an Australian motor car battery which he purchased. The’ Minister admitted that the reduction was due entirely to the establishment of the industry in Australia. Many instances could be cited of lower prices being charged by overseas firms when in competition with Australian manufacturers. In the course of my own speech the ‘ other day, I mentioned the lower rates now ruling for fencing wire, galvanized iron, linseed oil, and a number of other products, showing that the prices charged to primary producers in Australia were lower than those charged in South Africa or New Zealand, where there is no local competition.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will confine his remarks to the item before the committee.
– Yes, Mr. Chairman; but I am answering the argument of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), that the establishment of this tinned plate industry in Australia will mean higher prices for the commodities to our primary producers.
– I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that, before passing the item, we should be sure that it would not mean higher prices.
– As the honorable member has raised that issue, can he assure the committee that the price of butter in Australia is as low to-day as it is in other countries? Or can he say that the prices of potatoes or onions - to mention only two more - are as low?
– The general discussion on the tariff having closed, honorable members must address themselves to the items immediately before the committee. We cannot now have a general debate defining the attitude of honorable members or parties to the fiscal policy.
– All that I am attempting is to reply to some of the ‘arguments used by members of the Country party. I am not optimistic enough to think that the Minister will give consideration to this item without a report from the Tariff Board or that he will impose any duties other than those recommended by the board. I have no doubt that he will unreservedly accept the board’s recommendation.
Recently, one of the senior Ministers - 1 refer to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill)- in an address to the Warringah electoral council at Manly, said -
It is a waste of time for Australia to be haggling whether duties against Britain should be 00 or 05 per cent. Britain will not take our primary products unless she can increase her exports to Australia. Substantial reductions of ‘ duty are necessary.
This item deals with deferred duties, but since this Government has delegated its power in tariff-making to an outside body, can we rely on the duties proposed being sufficiently high to enable the industry to be established? The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was quite right in his criticism of this practice when he resigned from the Ministry. On that occasion, the honorable gentleman said - l.t is all very well to talk of following the reports of the Tariff Board, lt is a poor lookout for the political system if chat principle is to be adopted. It simply means that .Parliament becomes a machine for- the automatic registration of the decisions of an outside body. If you do that, you might as well abolish Parliament and set up a series of committees to carry on the government of the country. I cannot agree to such a trend.
I take the same stand. I have not sufficient faith in this Government to believe that’ it will consider this item on its merits. It is too ready to bow to the pressure of the corner party, which takes a “oneeyed view of these matters. Certain honorable members of the United Australia Party, representing country districts, fear the propaganda contained .in the weekly letter issued by the Country party. This matter ought to be considered impartially, and at once. We know that the Minister will submit to the decisions of the Tariff Board, and will not accept the responsibility of granting the protection necessary for what ought to be one of our basic industries.
.- The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has brought forward arguments which, rightly considered, ought to justify the establishment of the tinned plate industry in Australia without any protection whatever. He painted a glowing picture of the Broken Hill pre deposits, which he described as the largest and richest in the world, and we all know of the unlimited coal supplies at the disposal of the company. AVith these natural advantages, it should be able to compete upon even terms with producers overseas. In sworn evidence before the Tariff Board; it was stated that the very bars used for drawing out the sheets for galvanized iron cost more in Australia than did the finished article in Great Britain. The honorable member for Capricornia pursues his hobby of seeking high protection for every industry, but we must consider the economic effect likely to follow the imposition of duties of this sort. Australia has spent between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 on irrigation schemes to promote the production of fruit. The Commonwealth Government has advanced hundreds of thousands of pounds to enable the industry to carry on an export trade. We all realize the importance of the industry, and understand that it will be, in the future, almost entirely dependent upon export. Notwithstanding this, costs are continually being increased against producers as a result of tariff impositions! I was informed the. other day by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) that one processing company in his electorate has, as a result of increased duties, had to pay £8,000 more for the timber it requires. There is a danger that if we continue to impose duties without fully considering their possible effect, we may destroy industries which ought to provide a home market for our primary products.
– There are 2,000 people employed in two factories in the Goulburn Valley.
– We are not justified in allowing the Government to. impose duties by proclamation. Authority was given to the Minister to proclaim a deferred duty on glass, with most unfortunate results. There ought to be a big export trade from Australia in tinned jam and tinned butter; especially to the East: All the butter that goes to Ja va and India is packed in tins. I hope the Government will agree to the excision of this deferred duty, and in order to put the matter to the test, I move -
That the deferred duty be omitted.
– I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), because I am alarmed at these deferred duties. It is wrong to have duties of this kind ostensibly for the purpose of encouraging various industries, when too often it is found in the end that the duties are not justified. On galvanized iron the cost of transport, insurance, wharf charges, &c, amounts to £4 a ton, while exchange and primage represent another £6 a ton. Therefore, this commodity enjoys natural protection to the extent of £10 a ton. The Government should take a long view of the matter, and consider which industries are of the greatest importance. I should like to see the tinned plate industry established here, because it would absorb a large quantity of the output of- the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works, but we should not be asked to pay too dearly for it. When the Tariff Board was inquiring into galvanized iron, it was stated that “-the Australian company was charged £3 a ton more for the metal required than the English manufacturers had to pay. The same sort of thing would be possible in the tinned plate industry. When the board is making its inquiry it should be asked to state not only whether the duty is necessary, but also whether, from the angle of cost to the primary producer, it is advisable that it be imposed. It is a fact, I believe, that fruit preserving establishments find that their greatest outlay is not for the fruit they process, but for tins, labels, packing cases, &c. When, some time ago, it was suggested that we might dispose of our surplus sheep by tinning and exporting them, it was revealed that if the sheep were delivered free to the works in Sydney, the cost of tins, labels, packing, &c, would be more than the finished product would be worth on the market. In all these matters the Government should consider whether or not an industry is worth fostering, and protection should not be afforded if the only result will be to place a still heavier burden on the backs of the other sections of the community.
.- Many deferred duties have been passed since the inception of federation. There is a proposal afoot to spend about £1,000,000 in the establishment of mills that will be capable of rolling all kinds of steel plates, from ships’ plates down to the finest plates. I do not contend that we should impose high duties until the works are in operation ; but these works will definitely be established, and at the end of April the Government will know exactly what the proposals are. What company can be expected to invest large sums in an industry, without some guarantee of protection? Plate-making machinery is necessarily expensive. It would be a poor look out for the people of the Commonwealth if it were not for our great iron and steel industry. It could have played ducks and drakes with Australia during the war, but did not vary its prices. I strongly support the granting of adequate protection to an industry that is prepared to spend from £750,000 to £1,000,000 on plant. I shall always stand behind an Australian industry in preference to encouraging the use of imported goods.
.- The fruit-canning industry is one of our main exporting industries, which must be kept going at all costs. Nobody suggests that an industry, which can be conducted on sound lines should not be protected; but in this case there is a definite request that we should do nothing calculated to force up the production costs of the canning industry above world costs. One of the drawbacks of our protective system is that it has encouraged the development of subsidiary industries, which have, added to- the costs of the major industries. The deferred duty under consideration which affects a major industry that is also an export industry, has been in the schedule since about 1920. but it has never been applied, and I am given to understand that there is no intention to put it into effect. Therefore, why not accept the amendment? This item has been referred to the Tariff Board, and it will be possible later to consider its report on the matter.
.- I support the amendment. In other cases industries have been promised certain protection before beginning operations, and, irrespective of their success or otherwise, the promise given was the only argument that could be offered to- justify the granting of tariff assistance. The tin plate industry has not been commenced, and I have no desire to. commit myself to a .promise to. protect it. It is all very well for the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. “Watkins), to say that it may prove of great value to this country. The chief consideration is that if it places a further burden upon the export industries it will do a disservice to this country. It will put more people out of employment than it will provide with work. I cannot accept the statement of the high protectionists, who refuse to view the matter from both aides. They will not have to meet the extra cost themselves, and, therefore, they never consider the additional burden that is imposed upon primary industries under our fiscal policy. The honorable member for Newcastle referred to a proposal to establish the plate-rolling industry in this country. At Newcastle, on one occasion, the managing director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, when asked why he did not roll plates for shipbuilding, railway, construction, Aic., replied, “ Only « recently the board discussed the possibility of that; but we found that a suitable machine would cost about £1,000,000, and when we had it in operation it would be able to roll in six weeks all the plates required in Australia for railway and ship construction, and would be idle for the rest of the year “. I submit that our population is not yet large enough to justify the establishment of such an industry. It would pay us better to buy goods in the cheapest market until they can be economically produced in this country.
– Because successive governments have realized that the canning and jam-making industries should have the materials required by them for canning at the lowest possible cost, tin plates of British origin are admitted free of duty. Mostly they come from Wales, which is the home of the tin- plate industry. A deferred duty is shown in the schedule, and it will be applied only after a favorable recommendation by the Tariff Board. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) asks why the deferred duty has not been deleted. It has probably not occurred to him that if the duty has appeared in successive schedules since 1920, the company or companies which anticipated making tin plates had an idea that when they went into production they would receive protection if they could prove the justice of their claim. This duty was put into the tariff before the days of tariff boards. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) wishes to know if a report on this matter by the Tariff Board is available. No such report has been made; but in 1926 there was a general inquiry by the board regarding iron and steel, in which a passing reference was made to tin plate. The board remarked that, in all the circumstances, it did not favour any alteration qf the position; but it added that should a move be made at some future time to bring the industry into being, the matter might be reviewed in the light of the circumstances at that time.
Section 11 of the Customs Act provides that-
If the Tariff Board certifies to the Minister that any goods in the schedule upon which a deferred duty is imposed, will not be made or produced in Australia in reasonable quantities and of satisfactory quality on or immediately after the date specified in the schedule for the collection of the duty, the Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, defer the duty from time to time until the date specified by the Tariff Board as being the date by which in its opinion the goods will be made or produced in Australia in reasonable quantities and of satisfactory quality.
– There is nothing there about price.
– Surely the honorable member realizes that the Tariff Board is to inquire fully into the subject! It is ridiculous for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), who was formerly Minister for Trade aud Customs, to attack the Tariff Board as he has done, for he knows the duties of the board in this respect. We find the honorable member for Swan (:Mr. Gregory) voicing an opinion entirely opposed to that of the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition. If any testimony were required as to the necessity for the Tariff Board, it is surely to be found in such divergent utterances as those to which I have referred. Imagine the task it would be for this committee to reconcile the opinions of one who is almost a fanatic in his fiscal faith-
– As the Minister has forgotten himself to such an extent as to become offensive, I must ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– I am sorry if I have offended the honorable member. I was merely trying to describe his extreme enthusiasm. This item has been referred to the Tariff Board, and any honorable member of the committee who desires to do so may appear before the board to give evidence, as also may any other person in the community. As the inquiry will be held in public, there is no danger of anything being done in a hurried or underhand fashion. I assure honorable members that they may quite safely leave this deferred duty in the schedule.
.- The Minister has omitted one important factor. He has not informed honorable members that, if this proposal is agreed to, Parliament will have approved of a deferred duty of 77s. per ton British, and 115s. per ton foreign, on tin plates. This will give encouragement to certain persons to establish themselves in this industry. Further, it should be realized that the duty may come into operation without any reference whatever to the Tariff Board. The proposed duty has been arrived at by a rule-of-thumb method. There has been no investigation and need not be any, for the Minister can bring the duty into operation at any time. I remember that, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) was Minister for Trade and Customs, he obtained parliamentary approval to a duty which was to be deferred from March to, September ; but later cancelled the deferment and brought the duty into operation in June. Surely there is an obligation on this Parliament to do something to protect the great primary-producing industries which have been established for the development of this country, andin respect of which the Government has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in bounties ! Is Parliament prepared to say that it will pass this duty, and allow any firm that cares to do so to establish itself in the business of manufacturing tin plates, without having any regard to the enormous cost of such plates to those who need to use them ‘in this country ? I hope that Parliament will agree to my proposal.
.- I wish to refer briefly to one point mentioned by the Minister. He directed the attention of the committee to the character of the reference to the Tariff Board in connexion with deferred duties, and told us that the board would need to satisfy itself that the goods covered by this item could be produced in satisfactory quantity, and quality. If those who are desirous of engaging in thuindustry fail to satisfy the Tariff Board in these respects, the Government may eliminate the deferred duty, or defer it still longer. I point out that it is quite possible that the industry may satisfy the board that it can produce the article concerned, in satisfactory quantities and quality, but to do so it may need to take almost full advantage of the deferred duty. This would mean, of course, that the .price that would need to be charged for the article would be extremely high - so high, in fact, as to be almost prohibitive to the industries^ which need to use the article. For that reason, I heartily support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). If the amendment is carried, it will be still open for the Government at any time to bring down an amendment of the schedule to impose this duty.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has mentioned the powers of the Tariff Board; but the hoard can do a good deal more than the honorable gentleman- has indicated, as was shown in connexion with its recommendations in regard to the galvanized iron industry. In that instance, the board dealt with the price that could be charged for the galvanized iron. Surely it could do the same thing in this instance. I do not think that there is the slightest danger in retaining -this deferred duty. “It may be taken for granted that no Minister for Customs will act in a way which he knows to be against the wishes of the majority of the members of this Parliament. If he does so, honorable members will want to know his reason for so doing. The practice that is being adopted in this instance has been followed all through our customs history. The firm which proposes to engage in the manufacture of tin plates in Australia has allied itself with one of the biggest British firms engaged in this industry, and I am confident that it will be able to manufacture tin plates in Australia and supply them at an even lower price than is at present charged for tin plates imported from overseas. Because I believe this, I shall vote for the retention of the deferred duty.
– Honorablo members of the corner party are unnecessarily alarmed by this proposal of the Government. The reference to the Tariff Board to which I have already referred is in somewhat different form from the references usually made to it. That is a consequence, in a measure, of the Ottawa agreement. I point out that the Board has been asked to report upon “ the necessity for the retention of deferred rates of duty under Item147 “. Surely “necessity” will cover commercial production at an economic price. As I have already pointed out, section 11 of the Customs Tariff 1921, covers quantity and quality. I do not think that any more need be said. Honorable members are unnecessarily perturbed about a possibility that seems to be most remote.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Gregory’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell. )
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Items1 48 (b) to 150 agreed to.
Item 152, sub-item (b1, 2) (Close jointed iron or steel pipes and tubes, cycle tubing, &c.).
.- For eleven or twelve years a deferred duty was granted on iron and steel pipes and tubes. Unfortunately, as a result of something that occurred at Ottawa, the interchange of cables between the Governments of Great Britain and Australia, and conversations between Messrs. Baldwin, Chamberlain, ourResident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce), and the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett), the deferred duty was removed. That is strange, when it is remembered that the deferred duty on tinned plate remains. The item “ iron and steel tubes or pipes “ was referred to the Tariff Board, which, I regret to say, saw fitto report that the local industry was not making a pipe or tube of the requisite quality or in sufficient quantity to justify the imposition of the deferred duty.I take strong exception to that report. Some six months or more ago, I endeavoured, without success, to obtain from the Trade and Customs Department, either a copy of the evidence submitted to the board, or the information which induced it to come to such a decision.
British manufacturers of iron andsteel tubes do not make the article from British iron or steel, but import huge quantities ofstrip from Belgium and, in cases where the strip is of British origin it is made from ore imported from Spain. The iron and steel pine industry is a key industry, essential in times of peace as well as in war. The raw materials that would be required following the establishment of the industry would run into 1,000 tone of Australian steel, 100 tons of zinc, 500 tons of Australian coal and 20 tons of Australian chemicals weekly. It is highly desirable that this industry shouldbe established to give a fillip to the iron and steel, electrolytic zinc, and coal industries.
– I suggest to the honorable member that his remarks would be more appropriate on group 2.
Sub-item agreed to.
– I draw the attention of the Minister and the committee to the fact that the schedule of October, 1932, is before the committee, and all the items in it do not correspond with the memorandum on which the schedule has been divided into groups for the convenience of honorable members.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That the Chairman be authorized to amend the date of deferred duties to comply with those shown in the group memorandum.
Items 153 (a) (c), 154 (a) (b) (c), and 156 (a) agreed to.
House adjourned at 3.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l. - Information is being obtained in reply to questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) in connexion with staff and expenditure of the mail branch of the Postal Department in Sydney.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Workmen’s Compensation in Federal Capital Territory.
s. - On the 15th March, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked me certain questions, without notice, relating to workmen’s compensation in the Federal Capital Territory. I now desire to advise the honorable member as follows: -
An ordinance making provision for a scheme of workmen’s compensation in the Territory for the Seat of Government has been made, but has not yet been proclaimed. Action was taken to prepare suitable regulations and machinery for the administration of the ordinance, hut strong representations were made that its provisions should be modified. Similar representations were made in relation to a workmen’s compensation ordinance for the Northern Territory, which had been drafted on the same linesas those proposed for the Territory for the Seal of Government. The question of modifying the provisions of these ordinances has been receiving the attention of the Government, and it is expected that an early decision will be given.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330317_reps_13_138/>.