13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - Advice has been received from the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) that pending settlement of the general subject of international war debts in their wider aspects, the Government of the United Kingdom has agreed to the postponement of the payment of interest due from the Commonwealth on the 31st March, 1933, under the War Debt Funding Agreement. The interest due is £1,960,000 sterling or in Australian currency, including exchange, £2,450,000. Under a previous agreement with the British Government, sinking fund payments under the Funding Agreement were suspended for the two financial years 1931-32 and 1932-33, the saving in this respect amounting to £1,628,000 sterling per annum. It was anticipated when the budget was framed that the Commonwealth would not have to meet these interest and sinking fund payments during the current financial year, and the latest intimation from the British Government will not affect in any way the anticipated result of the year’s transactions.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet able to announce his intention regarding the promulgation of an ordinance to introduce workmen’s compensation in the Federal Capital Territory?
– No; but I hope to be able to do so within a few days.
– I have received from Mr. Gladstone, Mayor of Wagin, Western Australia, the following telegram: -
Understand it is intention of Commonwealth Savings Bank to convert various sub-branches to agencies. These comprise Wagin, York, Beverley, and other offices which were formerly full branches of the old State Savings Bank and are still conducted by State officials. This council strongly protests.
Another telegram from Western Australia makes a similar protest. Will the Prime Minister exert his powerful influence to prevent the removal of an important convenience from these growing towns?
– I shall endeavour to obtain information in regard to the matter from the Commonwealth Bank. I remind the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), however, that one of the principal complaints of the Western Australian people against the Commonwealth is the constant increase in the cost of federal government. I have no doubt that the step proposed by the Commonwealth Bank is an economy measure.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Brake drums for motor vehicles.
Cotton packings, asbestos cord, asbestos pipe and boiler covering and greasy packings of jute and hemp.
Packings ( but not including asbestos packings).
Ordered to be printed.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. On Thursday last a discussion took place in this House . on the subject of oil, and the attitude of the large importing companies towards the inquiry that has been conducted by Mr. John Gunn. In the Labor Daily of the 20th March, I am reported as having said during the discussion, in reference to the Federal Royal Commissions Act -
If any member knows of any weakness in the act, either real or imaginary, we shall be glad to hear of it.
Upon that passage the newspaper commented -
That was a definite enough statement, and expressed a definite purpose. Yet for some unexplained reason the last sentence of Mr. Latham’s statement was omitted from the proof copy of Hansard circulated yesterday.
I did not use those words or anything like them. The report published in Hansard is complete; it was not altered by me. The words that are alleged to have been omitted from the report were invented by somebody else.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state what steps the Government proposes to take to strengthen its powers under the Royal Commissions Act, in view of the impudent statement by the major oil companies that the Government’s proposed commission on the petrol industry is merely a try-on?
– by leave - Some years ago an inquiry into the sugar industry was conducted by a royal commission appointed under an act of this Parliament. Witnesses refused to reply to some of the questions asked in the course of its inquiry, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company applied for an injunction to restrain the commission from seeking certain information. The matter went to the High Court, which held that it was within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to pass an act authorizing inquiries into any subject on which the Commonwealth had legislated, and any other subject on which it had power to legislate. Those subjects are set forth in section 51 and other sections of the Constitution. But by a majority, the court held that such inquiries could not extend to matters relevant only to a possible amendment of the Constitution.
The ease then went to the Privy Council. It was considered to raise a question affecting the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and the States. Such a question can reach the Privy Council only if the High Court gives a certificate that it is one which ought to be determined .by the Privy Council. Many honorable members must bo aware of the constitutional controversies upon that subject that arose at the outset of federation. The question submitted to the Privy Council was a limited one. Had I had warning that this matter would be raised, I should have been able to state precisely the question submitted to the Privy Council. That body examined exhaustively the validity of our act, and decided that it was ultra vires the Commonwealth Constitution.
For many years, however, there has been a difference of opinion among lawyers, yet unsolved, as to the true effect of this decision of the Privy Council. Ordinarily, the High Court is bound by a decision of the superior tribunal, but in this instance there is a. good deal to be said for the proposition that the decision of the Privy Council is binding upon the High Court only in relation to the matter which it had jurisdiction to determine by virtue of the certificate, and ‘that, even though the Privy Council held in express terms that the act is ultra vires, it is still open to the High Court to hold that it is udt ultra vires. The position is, therefore, remarkable from the legal and constitutional point of view, and, as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, I should -be glad if it were authoritatively determined. It certainly is the opinion of many lawyers of standing that the decision of the Privy Council has not, in this matter, the authority that it ordinarily would have.
Any defect that may exist, in the act is a constitutional one. I do not say that in all other respects the act is perfect ; but it is important to understand that, if there is a defect in the act of the nature indicated by the decision of the Privy Council, then this Parliament cannot remedy it. A constitutional defect is beyond the power of this Parliament to remedy, and accordingly an amendment of the act would not meet the position. The Commonwealth Government has to bear this position in mind when authorizing inquiries under a royal commission. If in the present instance the procedure of a royal commission is adopted - and it will be adopted unless those concerned are prepared to make the fullest information freely available - every effort will be made to associate the inquiry with the undoubted legislative powers possessed by the Commonwealth in respect of taxation, including income tax, customs and excise, and irs trade and commerce powers. In that way every effort will be made to avoid any weakness that is avoidable. If objection should be taken by those concerned, and it should appear that, long and expensive litigation is ic prospect, an application will he made to an appropriate State government to confer powers, under State laws, upon the royal commissioners, in order that there shall be the fullest inquiry. If that is done, all legal difficulties should be avoided. It is along such lines that the matter is being handled.
– ls it necessary for only one State to confer powers?
– From a practical point of view, that would meet the case. The Government hopes that any State Government would he willing to assist. I might add that the Government is informed that the companies are reconsidering whether they will give an undertaking upon the only basis on which the Commonwealth Government is prepared to proceed with a more or less informal inquiry. The Government has informed the companies that it expects an immediate reply from them, and does not propose to hold the matter over indefinitely.
– Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that, in his negotiations with the Government of New Zealand, which are designed to solve the trade difficulties of the two sister dominions, the Assistant Minister (Sena- - tor Massy Greene) will not barter to the disadvantage cf our potato and hops industries ?
Mi-. LYONS.- The Assistant Minister who is representing the Commonwealth in the conference with the New Zealand Government has been fully supplied with all information regarding the two industries referred to. I assure the honorable member that adequate steps will be taken to ensure that the interests of the industries will be given the fullest consideration.
– Some weeks ago, the Incapacitated and Wounded Soldiers Association made representation to the Postmaster-General that free wireless licences should be granted to members of their organization. Will the honorable gentleman advise what action has been taken in the matter?
– The request referred to is similar to others from blind and other incapacitated persons, to all of which it has been found necessary to make refusals, chiefly because of the financial position.
– In view of the importance of rifle clubs to Australia from a defence point of view, will the Assistant Minister for Defence fully consider the claims of those organizations when the Estimates are being prepared?
– The request of the honorable member will receive earnest consideration when the Estimates are being framed.
– According to a communication that I have received, the postal department is again1 threatening to prevent the use of the telephone for the transmission, and the dictaphone for the reception of press news. As such a retrograde step would render useless costly dictaphones that are already installed, and add to the cost and difficulty of providing news in the country, resulting in a curtailment of the information supplied to country residents, will the Minister sympathetically consider continuing the existing system, which was originated at the suggestion of his department t
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.This subject was considered by the previous Government, and also by my immediate predecessor in office. The use of dictaphones is being permitted until the 30th June next. The honorable member’s question raises a number of considerations ; but I must correct a misapprehension which apparently exists in the mind of the person who has inspired his inquiry, and also in the minds of other newspaper proprietors, namely, that there is a proposal to limit the use of the telephone. There is no such proposal. The only proposal is that there shall be a limitation of the use of machines for the reception of news- at the end of the telephone. The actual position is that, by the use of these machines, newspaper proprietors are able to obtain their news for approximately 30 per cent, less than the concession telephone charges prescribed by legislation for press purposes.’ This is on account of the high speed of the machines.
– The honorable member may put it that way if he likes. The use of these machines is not permitted in any other country in the world. The nearest approach to than is the teleprinter, which operates much more slowly than a dictaphone, and for the use of which a charge of £65 per annum is made. The real point at issue is whether the Government can concede a privilege to a section of the community which, if permitted, will involve the department in a- loss of revenue of about “£100,000 per annum at a time when every effort is being made to manage the Postal Department in such a way that a reduction of charges may be made not to one section, but to every section of the people. If the department had this additional income of £100,000 per annum available it could make a reduction of. roughly £1 a year to each telephone subscriber. A deputation is being arranged for the middle of April in regard to the matter, when the whole subject will bc reviewed. In the meantime every effort is being made -by the department to ascertain if there is a way to meet the users of these machines. There is no desire on the part of the Government, to restrict the use of efficient machines or new inventions, but I think honorable members generally will admit that in these times consideration must also be given to the revenue aspect of the subject.
– In view of the fact that various reports have appeared iu the’ press to the effect that the Defence Department intends to install 16-in. guns at various coastal centres, and also that the Government intends to give a contract to the lessees of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard for the construction of a new cruiser, will the Assistant Minister for Defence make a definite statement on these matters to clarify the position ?
– The press reports of my visit to Sydney arc entirely incorrect. The desirability of reorganizing the coastal defences of Australia has been under review for some considerable time, but the financial position has made action in regard to it impossible. This subject, together with other aspects of the defence of Australia, will receive the earnest consideration of the Government when the defence estimates are before it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that claims are being made on the relatives of pensioners who died between the 12th October and the 31st December for the refund of pensions paid to them during that period? In some cases claims have been made for the refund of only a fortnight’s pension. Seeing that the Government allowed the pensioners until the 31st December to determine the course they would take in regard to their pension without involving themselves in the necessity to make refunds, I ask whether similar consideration will he given to the relatives of deceased pensioners to whom I have referred ?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– In view of the fact that the Government has promised that the miners’ phthisis allowance and sustenance received by the relatives of pensioners will not be treated as income1 for the purpose of assessing pensions, will the Prime Minister anticipate the passage of the necessary legislation, and give instructions to that effect?
– I have already said thai we will anticipate legislation in regard to the sustenance allowance, and I shall see whether the same action can be taken in regard to the other matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– With a view to expediting the business of Parliament, and particularly the consideration of the tariff schedule, will the Prime Minister ask Parliament to grant leave of absence to the honorable, member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), so that they may proceed to Western Australia and take part in the secession referendum campaign, seeing that they are such f erven i advocates of secession?
– The honorable member’s question is not in order.
Mr.- ABBOTT.- Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the report of the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) on the visit he made to tho Northern Territory, while he was Minister for the Interior, will he made available to honorable members?
– I shall consider the request. I am not sure that a report, prepared for the information of Cabinet only, should be given full publicity, buI shall sec whether the information contained in it can he conveyed to honorable members in some other form.
– In view of the necessity of expanding the markets overseas for our products and also the need foi raising price levels, has the Government made any attempt to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements with other countries along the lines suggested in the Ottawa agreement?
– Various nations have invited the Commonwealth to make reciprocal trade agreements with them, but the first necessity is that the tariff now before Parliament shall be made law. I hope, therefore, that honorable members will facilitate this business.
– The Sydney Morning Herald of to-day’s date reports the Postmaster-General as having stated, in a speech which he made before members of the Quota Club in Sydney, that Australia was one of the first countries that had set about putting its house in order, and that, having done this fairly successfully, it was now ready for prosperity when it came along. I ask the honorable gentleman to carry his statement a little further, and inform the House where this prosperity may be found, and what steps he has taken to prepare the people for it?
– On the occasion referred to by the honorable member I was invited to express opinions which, possibly, involved some original thought. The quotation made by the honorable gentleman was one of the observations made, and I suggest that, in view of what this Government has done, and the excellent work which it proposes to do, the statement in question fairly correctly summed up the position.
Telephonic Communication With the Mainland.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House of the Government’s intentions with regard to the establishment of telephonic communication between the mainland and Tasmania? What is the estimated cost of, and the revenue from such a service?
– This matter was the subject of an inquiry by the Public Works Committee, which reported, a year or two ago, that to establish telephonic communication between Tasmania and the mainland would cost £180,000, and that, while the revenue at the outset would be insufficient, it was anticipated that, after the system had been in operation for some time, it would increase by. approximately £8,000. Financial difficulties preclude the Government from undertaking this expenditure this year; but it will be considered in connexion with the Estimates for the next financial year.
– As very valuable information has been obtained from an aerial survey about the potential oil-fields of Australia, by Dr. Woolnough in association with a photographer and pilots of the Air Force, I ask the Prime Minister if the Government will give favorable consideration to applications from private mining companies for the services of the Commonwealth Geologist as well as the photographer and Air Force pilots ?
– I shall give the matter consideration, and refer the request to Senator McLachlan, the Minister in control of Development.
– I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman did not quite understand my question. What I desire to know is, will the Government give favorable consideration to any applications which may be made by private mining companies for the services of the Commonwealth Geologist, the photographer and Air Force machines and pilots, for the purpose of making aerial surveys of their properties?
– I understood the question. It would be advisable to refer all such applications to the Minister in control of the department concerned. The Government will give consideration to any recommendation which may be made.
– Will the Treasurer say on whose behalf, and for what purpose, an amount of £6,136,087 in gold was exported from Sydney during February, as disclosed in the return released by the Collector of Customs yesterday?
– The information which the honorable member seeks is to be found in the return to be laid on the table of the House to-day. The gold was exported in accordance with the terms of an act of Parliament.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement in connexion with the proposed paper pulp industry in Tasmania?
– I have no definite information at the moment. Proposals have been made by one or two companies to establish the industry in different parts of Tasmania - one in the north and one in the south. I understand that the promoters of the companies concerned are in conference, with the “object of reaching agreement upon one proposal which may be submitted to the Government for the establishment of the industry.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the result of the Government’s consideration of the proposal to appoint a committee to inquire into the state of the wheat industry, as promised at the end of last year? Ako, when are we likely to have its decision with reference to certain recommendations made by the Wheat Conference which sat in Melbourne recently?
– No promise was made at the end of last year that a committee of investigation would be set up to inquire into the wheat industry. A report has been received from the Melbourne conference. When the Government reaches a decision with regard to its recommendations, the honorable member will be informed.
Statements by Ministers.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statements in the past, that ministerial announcements of government policy would be made only by him, will he say by what authority the AttorneyGeneral declared at Newcastle last Saturday that the report of a £7,000,000 defence programme was without, foundation? Also, will he inform the House of the extent, if any, of the negotiations in connexion with defence?
– Honorable members may rest assured that any announcement of government policy made by the Attorney-General are made after consultation with me, and, therefore, with the full concurrence of the Government.
– As many lighthouses on the Australian coast have been equipped with ‘mechanical apparatus; which provide no employment, I should like to know if it is the policy of the Government to continue displacing man power by installing mechanical apparatus in all lighthouses?
– Mechanical contrivances have been installed in a number of lighthouses, and are proving highly efficient. As to the intentions of the Government with regard to other lighthouses, the matter will be further investigated, and the honorable member advised.
– Has the Prime Minister any statement to make to the House regarding the reduction of Id. a gallon in the price of petrol, which was announced a few days ago following the discussion in this House ? Is he able to explain why the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited should act in conjunction with the other major companies in this matter, and does he know of any alteration in the situation which would justify the reduction in price?
– I have nothing to say regarding the action of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited in reducing its prices simultaneously with the other companies. I understand that it has been the practice, for a considerable time now, for them, to act in co-operation in these matters. Regarding the price of petrol, I can only say that I am gratified that the reduction has taken place.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral state when his department will install automatic telephones in the large centres outside the capital cities?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILLThat matter has been under consideration by the Government, but nothing can be done until the Estimates are prepared for next financial year.
The following papers were presented.
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933. No. 37.
High Court Procedure Act, Judiciary Act and Matrimonial Causes Ordinance of the Territory for the Seat of Government - Ri,les of Court - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 23.
Patents, Trade Marks andDesigns Act - Regulations (Temporary) - Statutory Rules 1933. No. 31.
Public Service Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 30.
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 17th March (vide page 390), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167) (Volume 135) -
And on motion by Mr. White (vide page 29) -
Group 1. - Items under which the rates are the same as those operating under the 1921-30 Tariff.
Item 157 (Barbed wire).
.- I move -
That the item be postponed.
My reason for this motion is to enable the item to be submitted to the Tariff Board for investigation and report as to whether the duties are necessary during such time as the exchange rate remains at 20 per cent., or over. The duty on barbed wire of 68s. a ton British, and 180s. a ton general, has been in operation for a number of years. It was in 1920, when the Massy Greene tariff was adopted, that the duty was increased from 10 per cent. British to a fixed rate of 68s. a ton. I have always considered this duty on barbed wire to be an anomaly, in view of the fact that British wire netting was admitted free, and that, until the imposition of the Scullin duties, plain fencing wire was also admitted free from Britain. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) argued the other day that, because I had moved an amendment to reduce duties on certain British goods to the level at which they stood in the Pratten tariff, when increases had been made without reference to the Tariff Board, I had committed myself to support every duty which had been in existence during the Pratten regime. I submit that a very little reflection by the Minister will enable him to realize that that is an unreasonable assumption. Even though one accepted that as a general principle, one might deviate from it in regard to specific items.
Farms are falling into disrepair all over the country to-day because their owners are unable to keep their fences in order, and this is largely due to the high price of fencing material. Barbed wire is essential to the pastoralists. If a man kept only sheep, he might be able to gut along with plain wire and wire netting; but practically every one who runs sheep has to keep a certain number of cattle to eat down the coarse feed, and horses are usually run as well. Where large stock are run, it is necessary to have barbed wire on the top of the fences. If plain wire alone were used, the fences would soon be leaning over at an angle of 45 degrees. Just as wire netting is free now, and as plain wire was free until the duties were imposed by the last Government, so barbed wire should be free, British, anil 112s. a ton, general. That would still preserve the existing difference between British and foreign rates.
We were told by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) the other da.v that the position had changed during the last few years, the implication being that it had changed in such a way that it was necessary not only to retain duties, but also, in some cases, to increase them. I admit that the situation has changed, but it has changed to the detriment of the primary producers, and to the advantage of the manufacturers. When this duty on barbed wire was imposed, the primary producers were receiving much higher prices for their produce than they are to-day, while the manufacturers were obtaining no benefit from the rate of exchange. To-day the primary producers are much poorer than they were, while the manufacturers are enjoying the benefit of 25½ per cent. additional protection due to the exchange rate. These are excellent reasons why the duty on barbed wire should be reviewed.
In the circumstances I might well have moved that these rates be struck out, and that there be substituted for them “ free, British; 112s., foreign.” But I do not ask the Government to take that stride all at once; I merely urge it to submit this item to the Tariff Board, and ask it to inquire whether these duties are necessary while the exchange rate remains at 20 per cent. or over.
– The duty of 68s. per ton on importations of barbed wire from Great Britain has remained unchanged since 1920. On an ad valorem basis, it represents from 17 per cent. to 19 per cent., and nobody, I think, would describe that as a particularly high rate in these days. The lowness of the prices of primary products, and the fact that the fall in the prices of secondary products has not corresponded with the fall in the prices of primary products might furnish an argument to be addressed to the committee if there had been a recent change in the tariff; but since this particular duty has not been altered since 1920, an unfortunate example has been selected as a case for an alteration. A careful comparison has been made of the costs of English and Australian barbed wire, and the figures have been worked out in relation to various gauges. The cost of Australian barbed wire landed into store - it is landed at the same price in all the capital cities, the price being the same in Perth as in Sydney - is lessthan the cost at which English barbed wire can be landed into store, irrespective of duty.
– Then the duty is unnecessary.
– That is precisely the interjection that I anticipated. As it is said that the duty is unnecessary, the
Argument must be this: where there is a duty, and an Australian article is pro duced and sold more cheaply than a similar article from abroad, the duty is unnecessary, and should not be retained. If, on the other hand, the Australian article is produced and sold at a higher price than that at which the British article can be imported, that should not be permitted, and in that case, also, there should be no duty. This would lead us directly to freetrade in all cases. I suggest that one of the objects of a protective tariff is to provide on fair terms - terms fair to the community as a whole - a market for our own manufacturers. In this case, at a given moment, it may be that the duty is commercially unnecessary. The honorable member for Gippsland has referred to the subject of exchange.From one point of view, exchange is the measure of the depreciation of currency. The world’s commerce is unstable at the present time. Reference has been made to the surplus of products to be found in many countries, and these countries are ready to jump in if our door is left open for a moment - when there might be sales at knockout prices for a limited period. That the Australian product is selling at a price below that of the foreign product does not show that it would be safe in the interests of either the industry or the community as a whole to take off the duty. I regard the facts of this case as a tribute to Australian industry. It is the sort of thing that 1 like to see, and since nobody is able to suggest that the community is being exploited at all-
– Or the primary industry.
– Neither the primary industry that uses this commodity, nor any other section of the community. When nobody can suggest that there is any exploitation of the community at all, and when we can buy a good article made in Australia at a lower price than that of the imported product, even if no duty is paid, there is every justification for maintaining a degree of protection which has helped to bring about that result. We know where we are under this duty. The primary industry and the other industries know where they are, and everybody can see the advantage to the community. It does not by any means follow that if there had never been a duty, this industrywould havebeen so successfully operated as it has been. That being so, a proposal to remove the duty, or to make its retention conditional upon exchange, ought not to receive the favorable consideration of the committee. I submit that on the facts this duty is entirely justifiable, and I could wish that all the duties in the tariff had been so successful in their operation.
– The amendment cannot be proposed in the form in which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said he would move it. He embodied in it words which amounted to a direction to the Government. These I cannot accept, although the honorable member is entitled to use them in his argument. The question before the Chair is “ that the consideration of the item be postponed “.
.- I support the amendment. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) tried to create the impression that the cost of barbed wire is not greater in Australia than in England. I have not the figures with me, but I am confident that the price of barbed wire in England is 30 per cent’, less than the Australian price. The Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) referred to the declining income of the users of barbed wire in this country. Their plight is so serious that this committee should devote its energies to reducing their costs in every direction possible.
– Did the honorable gentleman say that I stated that barbed wire could be bought as cheaply in Australia as in England?
– That is the impression the right honorable gentleman’s remarks conveyed to the committee.
– I must have been misunderstood, although I can scarcely conceive that to be possible.
– The materials necessary for the manufacture of barbed wire should be obtainable cheaply in Australia, and if the manufactured article were as cheap as it is in other parts of the world, the industry which manufactures it would render a great service to this country. Australian users of barbed wire should be able to obtain their requirementsmore cheaply than they do now. The removal of the high duty would induce Australian manufacturers to improve their methods, or, perhaps, to be content with lower profits from the sale of barbed wire to those in industries which are showing losses. There should be greater competition in those industries which arc not essential to the progress of this country.
.- The duties on barbed wire imported from foreign countries were not imposed iu 1920, as has been stated, but in 1927. At that time, we were getting very little barbed wire from England; most of our requirements came from the United States of America and Canada. When these duties were imposed, barbed wire sold for about £12 a ton in New York. A duty of £9 a ton, together with freight and other charges amounting to about £3 a ton, brought the price of imported barbed wire to £24 a ton. The Australian article was selling for £23 10s. a ton at the time. Yet the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) says that there has been no exploitation of the users of this commodity. I remind the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) of a letter forwarded to a previous Minister by a manufacturer of wire nails and barbed wire in Melbourne. There being an embargo on the importation of wire, this manufacturer had to obtain his supplies of raw materials from the drawers of wire in Australia who were also manufacturers of barbed wire and nails. He complained that these manufacturers from whom he was forced to obtain his supplies were selling barbed wire at the price which he had to pay for his raw materials, and that they would not reduce their price to him unless he undertook not to sell in New South Wales or Queensland the commodity he manufactured, and agreed to raise by £6 a ton the price at which he sold barbed wire in Victoria. Does the AttorneyGeneral think that there was no exploitation there? The then Minister promised that he would refer the matter to the Tariff Board in order to ascertain whether or not the action of the manufacturers of wire amounted to a restraint of trade. He did so; but later the matter was withdrawn from that body, and no inquiry has been made. Were it not for these high duties, Australian users of barbed wire would-be able to obtain it for £6 a ton less than they are now called upon to pay. Is not that exploitation ? Is it right that those who supply the raw material for the manufacture of barbed wire should be able to dictate the price at which the article made therefrom shall be sold? Surely it is the duty of this Parliament to protect those who are endeavouring to open up new country. They are already seriously handicapped by the exchange rate. I hope that the amendment will be agreed to.
.- One gets tired of listening to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) on the subject of the duty on barbed wire. The honorable gentleman should know that so far as the exchange rate is concerned, this item is not different from other items. His amendment that duties should be fixed according to the exchange rate having been defeated, the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) now endeavours to achieve the same result in respect of this item.
– I moved no such amendment.
– If there is one commodity included with those which may be classed as light iron products in connexion with which there is no monopoly, it surely is barbed wire. To my own knowledge, wire is drawn in two places in New South Wales, and also in Victoria.
– Not in Victoria.
– Wire is made in Victoria. Australian manufacturers did not take advantage of the embargo on the importation of wire to raise prices. On the contrary, they have reduced prices since 1931. Only a little while ago, the manufacturers in New South Wales made further reductions of prices in respect of large orders in order to assist the primary producers. I cannot understand the attitude of the members of the country party who wish to whittle away the protection given to this industry in order to permit the entry into Australia of the manufactures of the United States of America, a country which buys nothing from ns. In the last two or three years, the price of barbed wire has been frequently reduced. Yet the representatives of the Country party contend that the manufacturers have a monopoly, and are taking advantage of the primary producers. They should be ashamed to advocate the sale in this country of foreign cheap labour products in preference to Australian products.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). During the last federal election, the party to which I belong promised that if put into office, it would bring about an early revision of the tariff, and refer all items to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. I therefore see nothing wrong with the amendment, and I commend it to honorable members’ generally. This duty has not been altered since 1920, although, at the same time, conditions in Australia have changed considerably. During the last few years, this duty has conferred a considerable advantage on the manufacturers. They should now be well established, and able to meet overseas competition, and to give a more equitable deal to the primary producers. The duty under item 159b - wire, iron and steel for use in the manufacture of barbed wire and wire netting as prescribed by departmental by-law - is 52s. a ton, British preferential. It seems to me that the imposition . of this duty is likely to bring about monopolies in Australia. Any company which manufactures barbed wire from imported raw material, would be heavily penalized by this duty. By imposing a duty which will enable the local manufacturers, to charge whatever price they like, we are simply playing into the hands of combines. Excessive duties discourage competition, and are entirely unfair to the primary producers.
– I support the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland. This duty was levied in 1920, when the price of wheat was 7s. 6d. a bushel. To-day, the price is 2s. Id. a bushel.
– What was the price in 1926?
– About 6s. a bushel.
– This duty was recommended by the Tariff Board in 1926.
– The Minister’s admission that, the Tariff Board recommended this duty at a time when the price of wheat was 6s., entirely justifies the request of the Country party. The supporters of thu Government have compared the prices of imported -hues delivered in this country, with local prices. I contend that the comparison should be between the price at the English factory and that at the Australian factory, due allowance being made for the additional cost, of producing the article .in this country. If ti) lit were done we should lino that the prices here and in England were far apart. We must also take into account the fact that, under the protectionist policy, we have- practically established a monopoly in the trade, and that, therefore, the manufacturers are under an obligation to treat the people of Australia fairly. To-day the price of barbed wire is practically the same as it was at the beginning of 1932.
– What is the price to-day ?
– About £25 us. a lon. During the last two years wages and interest rates have boon reduced. Therefore those persons who have invested capital in this industry must recognize that they cannot expect, the same return to-day a« they received a few years ago. In view of the monopoly that has been conferred upon the manufacturers, and in view of the fact that they are not standing up to their obligations, I sup-port the amendment for the postponement of the item pending the report of the Tariff Board.
.- The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow) expressed the whole matter in a nutshell when he stated that the policy of the United Australian Party, us clearly announced at the elections, was the revision of the tariff* and the reference of all items to the Turill Board for investigation and report. . During the recent discussion of the position of the wool industry, I suggested that items such as barbed wire should have been among the first to be referred to the Tariff Board for report. The .tariff policy of the Government, arising out of the … - .- Ottawa trade agreement, is based on competitive rates of duty;. The. last report of the Turill Board on. barbed wire was framed, under a policy utterly different from that’ operating to-day. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham),, speak ing ‘on the tariff, stressed the difference between the conditions existing to-day, and those which existed previously. The Minister just now admitted that, in 1926, when the Tariff Board made its report, the price of wheat wai 6$. a bushel, whereas to-day it is 2s. Id. Notwithstanding that fact, the price of barbed wire is much about the same as it was in 1926. During the last -two or three years the conditions of every primary and secondary industry in Australia have entirely altered. Wages and other costs have been -reduced. In some instances the earning power of efficient secondary industries is now based on the writing down of capital. The time is therefore ripe for a review of the duty on barbed wire. This item is of considerable importance to the primary producers, particularly those in the west of New South Wales and towards the centre of Western Australia. Those settlers have to copp with many pests, particularly the dingo in Western Australia, and barbed wire plays an important part in the erection of vermin-proof fences. Therefore any unwarranted excess cost in respect of that commodity mitigates largely against the successful settlement of the interior of Australia. I . urge the Minister to give the amendment serious consideration. As its acceptance would not mean a departure from the policy of the Government as announced at the last election,. the honorable gentleman should be able to agree to it.
.- The test which several honorable members have urged should bc applied in the determination of the duty that should be imposed on this commodity, ‘is the prices that are being received for primary products. Lo-day compared with those that were received up to 1930,’ To my mind,that is not the vital factor. By treaty arrangement with Great Britain, the whole of this tariff schedule - is subordinate to the articles’ contained in the Ottawa agreement ; consequently, the test that should be applied is, what is required by article 10 of that agreement; in otherwords, whether the duty does, in fact, give . effect to- ‘ the provisions of that article. Article 10 lays it down that the Australian tariff shall be so framed as to allow British manufacturers full opportunities of reasonable competition in Australia, on the basis of costs of production and efficiency in industry. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), in justification of the continuance of the duties that have been in existence for some years, urged that the Australian industry had reduced prices, and that it was not exploiting the primary producer. Although that may be so, it is beside the point, just as is the price of wheat and of wool. I am not convinced that article 10 is being implemented hi this particular item; therefore, I consider that the matter should be referred to the Tariff Board. As it has been agreed that no duty shall be fixed without referring the matter to that tribunal, there should bo no objection to that course being followed.
– I alI opposed to the amendment. This item involves one of the greatest industries in Australia, an industry which provides employment for a considerable number nf persons not only directly at the Newcastle Steel Works, but also in the obtaining of the iron ore and other things necessary for the manufacture of wire and other steel products. The Ottawa agreement is not involved, because Great. Britain is not a competitor of Australia in barbed wire, the imports of which would come principally from the United States of America. Figures that have been supplied by Lysaght Bros., in a communication dated the 20th March, 1933, show that the price current at the 1st January, 1930, was £22 10s. a ton, plus a bounty of £2 12a. a ton, and that the present price is £22 a ton, a reduction of £3 2s. a ton.
– That is the wholesale price.
– I contend that the Country party hoa been treated fairly, not only by this, but also by previous Governments. The attitude of that party towards the duties on galvanized iron, wire netting, fencing wire, and barbed wive, would lead one to suppose ‘ that the primary producers are the sole users of those commodities, and that they are obliged to purchase fresh supplies of them every year. I would remind honorable members, however, that thousands of tons of iron and fencing wire are used in the con struction of homes, and for other purposes in cities and towns ‘ throughout Australia.
– The honorable member may not discuss galvanized iron on this item.
– I. am merely pointing out that this taxation is borne by those who live in metropolitan areas. Many tons of wire have been purchased for fencing purposes around the Lakeside reserve and along the shores of Lake Macquarie. The persons who make those purchases do not squeal about these duties, as the farmers continually do. Iu my opinion, therefore the argument is onesided, and should not be heeded.
.- I support the amendment. Barbed wire is peculiar, in that it is used practically exclusively by the agricultural and pastoral industries; consequently, the genera] community does not pay this tax. The wire generally used is 14 x 3 gauge, and according to a price list that I have from Lysaght Limited the present price to the consumer, in Sydney is £25 5s. u ton. On the 15th July, 1914, the price of that gauge was £17 10s. a ton. Thus there has been on increase of 44 per cent. The Attorney-Genera) has rightly said that even if no duty were imposed, we would not be importing this commodity from the United Kingdom at the present, time. But there are other countries from which, in pre-war times, Australia obtained supplies of barbed wire. Whilst I would do nothing contrary to the spirit of the Ottawa agreement, I suggest that that arrangement does not contemplate a virtual prohibition by Australia of importation from countries other than the United Kingdom. We export our own products to all parts of the world, and in order that we may negotiate trade agreements with other countries, it is essential that we allow them an opportunity to compete in the Australian market. At any rate, Uie margin of preference which Great Britain is entitled to receive isspecified in the Ottawa agreement, and in the light of that, the position pi barbed wire should be investigated by the Tariff Board whose report would be a valuable guide to this Parliament.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said feat the present adverse exchange was not necessarily permanent, and, therefore, a reduction of the duty on barbed wire would be a mistake. I specifically mentioned that I desired that the item be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation as to whether , the present duties are necessary while the exchange rate is at 20 per cent, or over. The right honorable gentleman also treated the amendment as if I had proposed an actual reduction of duty. I have proposed merely a reference to the Tariff Board, and in view of the fact that the duty has been in operation for many ‘ years during which no inquiry has been held, there is sound reason for an expert investigation of it now. The AttorneyGeneral, in defence of the Government’s attitude, stated that the manufacturers of barbed wire in Australia were selling at a price which showed that they were able to compete with the British product without making use of this duty. If that is so, the retention of the duty of 6Ss. on British barbed wire is a breach of article 10 of the Ottawa agreement. That article provides that the protective duty shall not exceed such a level as will give the manufacturers of the United Kingdom full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production. It is clear from what the AttorneyGeneral has said that without this duty the Australian manufacturers would be on a reasonably competitive basis. Therefore, the right honorable gentleman has, unwittingly, declared that his government, by retaining the duty of 68s. on barbed wire, from the United Kingdom, is guilty of a breach of article 10.
.- Some time ago the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) referred to an industry in which wool entered a machine at one end and came out woven and labelled goods at the other end. The manufacture of barbed wire is in the same category. I have seen a barbed wire factory in operation, and the machinery continuing to produce coils of wire in the absence of any attendant. This industry employs no labour; therefore, the protection of it cannot be justified as being in the interests of the workers. On the other hand, it is a direct burden on those who. are developing new country.
– I support the amendment. The rate of duty is not the only matter to be considered by the Government. The principal manufacturers of barbed wire in New South Wales belong to one of the tightest combines in the Commonwealth, and to prevent competition are adopting tactics as unscrupulous as are adopted by any combine in other parts of the world. I challenge Lysaghts, Bylands, and other manufacturers to deny that statement. I could supply to the committee information regarding the manufacture of ‘barbed wire which would show that, under the cloak of protection, a watertight combine has been formed which is penalizing the consumers. I hope that the committee will agree to the amendment, if for no other purpose than to afford the other parties interested an opportunity to place their facts before the Tariff Board. An endeavour is being made to bolster up the price of barbed wire by charging to the manufacturers an unnecessarily high price for plain wire.
.- I am at a loss to understand the reluctance of the Government to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). The mere fact that there is a pronounced difference of opinion in the committee regarding this duty is, to my thinking, sufficient reason why the matter should be made the subject of an expert investiga-tion. Having listened to the arguments pro and con, I am unable to express an opinion on the merits of this duty. There is no question that since it was imposed, conditions have materially changed, and in respect to it, we should avail ourselves of the valuable- assistance of the Tariff Board. I am heartily in sympathy with the amendment.
– During this discussion, a great deal of stress has been laid on article 10 of the Ottawa agreement. That article reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during tha currency of this agreement, the .tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle, special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
Exchange is not mentioned in the article, but the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) proposes that the item shall be referred to the Tariff Board inthe light of the existing rate of exchange. The Government of the United Kingdom has been negotiating with the Commonwealth Government regarding the reconsideration of all duties on iron and steel. No protest against the existing duties has been made by British manufacturers, and, if honorablemembers are taking up the cudgels on behalf of Great Britain, their championship is unnecessary.
– Inview of the dissatisfaction of the primary producers with this duty, what is the Minister’s objection to referring it to experts for a report and recommendation?
– It will be referred to the Tariff Board indue course. But the board is at present working at high pressure, and the Government does not desire, to impose a further burden upon it. When the British representative arrives in Australia to confer with representatives of the Commonwealth Government, the Government will decide what items in the iron and steel industry shall be referred to the board. The present duty of 68s. on barbed wire from Great Britain was imposed in 1920, and all Governments since that time have permitted it to remain, and have subscribed to the principle that the cost of protection should be borne by the user, instead of being spread over the whole community. I ask the Leader of the Country party, if he thinks that this is an anomaly, why he did not rectify it when he was a Minister of the Bruce-Page Government?
– As I stated this afternoon I raised the subject.
– Where did the honorable member raise it ?
– I cannot disclose Cabinet secrets.
– As I was not in Parliament at that time I am not aware what the honorable gentleman thought and did. Boiled down this is a matter of price. On recent English quotations a duty of 68s. a ton is equivalent to 17 per cent. on 14 gauge, and19 per cent. on 12½ gauge barbed wire. The c.i.f.e. prices of English barbed wire at Australian ports are £26 5s.1d. for 14 gauge, and £23 15s.1d. for 12½ gauge, landing charges amounting to an additional 10s. 6d. a ton. Therefore, the landedinstore costs, exclusive of duty, are £26 15s. 7d. for 14 gauge and £24 5s. 7d. for 12½ gauge barbed wire, as against landed-in-store costs of Australian barbed wire at all ports of £23 18s. 6d. and £22 8s. 6d. respectively. If the duty were added to the English cost, the disparity between the English and f.o.b. prices would be considerably greater.
– Take the duty off.
– I have already said something about aggressive selfishness. The honorable member seeks duties favorable only to one section, not to the whole community. The selling prices that I have quoted clearly indicate that Australian manufacturers are not taking advantage of the present exchange situation or the duty. It may be. argued that, this constitutes grounds for the removal of the duty.
– It does, if the terms of article 10 are adhered to.
– I have already dealt with that aspect of the matter. Obviously, it is impracticable to have scattered throughout the tariff, items under which duties have been adjusted to the exchange situation. Any action in the direction of making allowance from duty on account of the incidence of exchange must be determined in principle, and relates to the protective tariff as a whole, not to isolated items. The acting leader of the Country party knows that a special Tariff Board inquiry is now proceeding into the effect of the incidence of exchange upon imports. When that inquiry is completed the matter can be dealt with comprehensively. In the meantime it would not be right to pick out odd items and suggest that the protection afforded by exchange should be considered when fixing rates of duty.
The manufacture of barbed wire is complementary to the production of fencing wire and wire netting, and in 1926 the Tariff Board conducted an exhaustive investigation into this branch ofthe iron and steel industry.. In recommending the retention of the 68s. duty on barbed wire, the board furnished the following information as to the position regarding the manufacture of these three commodities-
– Did it recommend the existing foreign rate?
– Our foreign imports have been chiefly from Germany. I have quoted only English prices, to which it would be advisable to confine our attention. The following are the reasons then advanced by the board:-
– What proportion of the labour referred to is used in the production of barbed wire?
– That would be difficult to determine. The production of each class of wire is co-related in one big industry.
In response to the appeal made by this Government in January, 1932, to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and subsidiary companies, for a lowering of the prices of these commodities to assist in the rehabilitation of industry, those companies made substantial reductions in the price of the fencing wire, wire netting, and steel products extending over the whole range of their manufactures. The manufacturers of galvanized iron also responded to the Government’s appeal, and reduced the price by £2 per ton. The honorable member for Swan referred to a case which he took up, and to a letter with the contents of which, he said, I was familiar. Although he declared that it wasin his possession, the honorable member failed to read the letter. He claimed that the so-called monopoly had been pressing certain manufacturers out of existence, and that, on his representations, the Government promised that the matter would be inquired into. I do not desire to take any credit from the honorable member, of whom my recollection is that his speeches are always confined to barbed wire and galvanized iron. That impression is supported by a newspaper report which I read last week, which declared that he was still continuing in Canberra a speech he started in Melbourne. If the honorable member casts his memory back, he will recall that I asked, in this chamber, whether the manufacturers would be permitted to receive wire under by-law, to allow those who were being oppressed to carry on, and to compete against the alleged monopoly. It was revealed that, because of the existing competition, primary producers were buying barbed wire at considerably less than the cost of production. Certain barbed wire and nail manufacturers inVictoria complained that they had to pay more for the raw material than they received for the finished product. It was claimed that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company wanted to keep certain manufacturers out of some of . the States. However, we were not able to prove that that statement was correct. My predecessor in office did the right thing, and referred the matter to the Tariff Board. The manufacturers of barbed wire and nails, who had been complaining, then came to an agreement. There was a price reduction, and an arrangement of which I never heard the full details. The result was that the matter was not referred to the Tariff Board.
– Those persons were deceived.
– I gave the honorable member, also the honorable member for Swan, details at the time. That agreement prevented the Minister for Trade and Customs going on with the matter. So that the honorable member for Swan has told us nothing new. We merely find that certain people, who could have gone to the Tariff Board, decided that they would not do so. Of course, if they were hostile, they could not be made to give evidence.
I have proved that the existing duty is not a charge on the primary producer, Australian wire being cheaper than the imported article. That affords a good reason for keeping the duty as it is. I have also explained why there was no necessity to refer the matter immediately to the Tariff Board.
.- The figures quoted by the Minister are better really than those in my possession, for mine show that the landed cost of 13 gauge wire, without duty, was 14s. a ton more than the Australian price. The figures quoted by. the Minister indicate that the local article is £2 17s. a ton cheaper than the imported commodity.
– I mentioned only 12-^ and 14 gauge wire.
– The Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), contend that as the company is not using the duty, there is no need for it; that if there is no need for the duty our manufacturers would be on a reasonably competitive basis without it, and article 10 of the Ottawa agreement would then come into operation. I admit that article 10 overshadows the whole discussion, but, while there may be logic in such an argument, it displays no justice to Australian manufacturers. It would be outrageous if we were to penalize our manufacturers because they did not take advantage of the tariff. Again, I warn honorable members of the Country party that if we have an industry in
Australia that is supplying a commodity more cheaply than it can he imported from Great Britain, without the addition of duty, that industry should be fostered. An industry is not brought down to a competitive basis by removing a duty. As soon as the duty was reduced there would be an influx of commodities, with resultant decrease in the output of Australian factories and an increase in price. Any one who knows anything about business is aware that when a manufacturer is assured that a duty will be constant, and that his output will not be interfered with, he can work accordingly and produce efficiently. But let that duty be reduced, even by a small percentage, and trouble will begin. I suggest that to leave well alone is a sound proposition.
By way of interjection, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) referred to the high rate of duty on the foreign commodity. What does he want? Honorable members ask for a reasonable basis of duty for British commodities, and that we should give effect to the Ottawa agreement. The honorable member for Swan wants a reduction of the foreign rate to enable foreign commodities to come in and start nibbling at the market now held by Australians.
– Look at the rate.
– I am concerned, not with the rate, but with the price of the article. I would not care if the duty was £180 a ton instead of 180s. a ton, so long as the price charged for the commodity was reasonable.
– So long as the right honorable member does not have to buy the wire !
– That is not fair. I am desirous that the Australian public as well as the manufacturers shall be adequately protected. The Australian manufacturers are not taking advantage of the present duty.
– I shall show that they are.
– The honorable gentleman has not shown it so far.
– That i3 a matter for the board . to ascertain.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) might not be quite so ready to support some propositions I intend to make for the submission of certain matters to the board. I have some much stronger cases than this one.
– I shall support the right honorable gentleman if he makes out a case.
– A case has not been made out in this instance. I can see no justification for referring this item to the board, in view of the fact that the Australian manufacturers are charging less for barbed wire than the price for which it could be imported, even if there were no duty at all. If the British article is allowed into Australia under conditions laid down in article 10 of the Ottawa agreement, the purchasers of this wire will soon be paying more for it than they are paying to-day.
.- I think the foreign duty was imposed on barbed wire when the Canadian article was selling in the country of origin at £12 a ton. At that time the duty was £9 a ton. We were then paying £24 a ton. That was in 1926.I have not looked up the figures recently. Certain remarks by the Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) require some comment. I have pointed out that, although there is an embargo on the importation of this wire, certain drawers of the wire threatened a Melbourne firm that if it did. not increase its price by £6 a ton, goods would be dumped against them to the detriment of their business. Surely we are entitled to expect more freedom in our trade than that. When threats of that kind are made, it is time for the Minister to act. Manufacturers should not be allowed to impose this kind of restraint upon trade. I am astonished that the Minister should admit that he approves of the adoption of such a practice.
Question - That the item be postponed - put (Mr. Paterson’s amendment). The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 158 (Wire Netting)-
.- I shall not move an amendment to this item, for I can see how useless it would be under the circumstances to do so. But I ask the Minister to consider the report of the Tariff Board in connexion with the dumping duties imposed on British netting. The board has been engaged on this inquiry for some time, and its report should be available. I asked the honorable gentleman a few days ago when the report would be presented, and for some reason which I did not understand he asked me to give notice of the question. As the investigation has been in progress for several months, it is time that the report was available. The Hughes Administration in 1922 allowed wire netting, fencing wire, and galvanized iron free entry into this country, but provided a bounty to assist the local manufacturers. In 1924 a dumping duty was imposed under the provisions of the Australian Industries
Preservation Act. When the Western Australian Government imported 350 miles of wire netting, valued at £7,900, for use on its group settlements, it had to pay a dumping duty of £1,790, although the manufacturers were receiving a bounty of £38s. a ton. We had this refunded later. But the British manufacturers are now quoting New Zealand and South Africa approximately the same price for this wire c.i.f.e., as they quote Australia f.o.b. London., They say that if there is to be any additional profit from their Australian trade, they may as well have it and not the Government, so they are quoting higher prices for us. In these days when the rabbits are such a scourge in Australia it is urgently necessary that our settlers shall be given every possible assistance to fence their holdings against the rabbits. In Western Australia, and I suppose the same is true of other parts of the Commonwealth, the rabbit scourge has reached abnormal proportions. The Government should, therefore, do everything it can to help settlers to obtain the best wire netting at the cheapest possible price. Grievous complaints have been made lately respecting the quality of the wire netting manufactured in Australia. Recently a Mr. Warren, who lives near Albany, brought to Perth a piece of wire netting made in Australia by Lysaght in 1900, which had been in a fence for 32 years, and was then as good as the day it was put there. In contrast with this, samples of Australian wire netting have recently been submitted to the Tariff Board, not only by myself, but by customs officials, which had been only four years in the fence. This netting, brown with rust, could be torn to pieces with the fingers, although the wire that was holding it was as bright as the day it was put there. I ask the Minister to inquire into the reason for the brittleness and inferiority of the wire netting that is being supplied by Australian manufacturers. I am informed that it is due to the use of steel insteadof iron wire in the process of manufacture. This may be the cause of the inferiority, or unsatisfactory methods of manufacture may be the cause of it. When a settler undertakesthe very heavy expense of constructing verminproof fences to protect his property from rabbits, he has the right to expect that his fences will last a reasonable time. These fences must be 3 ft. 6 in. high, and the netting must be 6 inches in the ground. It is expensive to construct such fences, and the settler is justified in anticipating that when they are constructed they will last for 30 or 40 years. It is monstrous that, in some cases, netting is supplied which lasts only five, six, or seven years. I have no desire to place undue burdens upon the local manufacturers. If a small bounty is necessary to enable them to maintain operations, let them have it; but I protest against the application of a dumping duty to British wire netting. We should be prepared to make some sacrifice to enable our settlers effectively to protect their property against rabbits, and we should certainly assure them that they may rely on the quality of the netting supplied to them.. I hope the Minister will take steps to expedite the report of. the Tariff Board, if it is not yet to hand.
.- I fail to understand the objections of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), because this item is free, British, and it is in strict accordance with the Ottawa agreement. The honorable member also criticized the quality of the Australian article. On this point, when giving evidence before the Tariff Board, he produced a sample of wire netting which, he said, was Australian made.
– The department also produced a sample taken from the same fence.
– I understand that, subsequent to the inquiry,it was established that the sample of wire netting was not of Australian manufacture at all; it was imported.
– It was not.
– I have been so informed by a man who knows. It is about time that this adverse criticism of Australian goods ceased. It is well known that, because of this prejudice against Australian-made goods, our manufacturers were obliged to lead the public to believe that articles of Australian manufacture were imported.
.- I support the contention of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). When this item was made free, British, in the tariff of 1922, the intention was that our farmers and pastoralists should not be penalized in any way in the development of their industry. But such is the unfairness of extreme protectionists that it was not long before the government of the day introduced and passed the Industries Preservation Act, under which a dumping duty was imposed on imported wire notting. The suggestion of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) that the sample of wire netting which the honorable “member for Swan produced, when giving evidence before the Tariff Board, was not manufactured in Australia, was merely a ruse to mislead the committee. I should like honorable members to understand fully the need for cheaper wire netting in Australia. About 60 years ago rabbits and foxes were introduced, from the Mother Country. They increased so rapidly that our farmers and graziers, in self-protection, were soon obliged to wire-net their properties against these pests, and it is essential that they should be able to obtain this necessary commodity as cheaply as possible. The Minister for Lands in Western Australia informed me, when the Industries Preservation. Act became operative, that it deprived eight settlers in my State from obtaining wire netting. The injury done to our primary producers by means of these tariff penalties, is among the reasons why the people of Western Australia are dissatisfied with this Parliament, and now desire to have complete control of their own affairs.
– I am unable to follow the arguments of the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse). They have just been complaining of an item which is free, under the British tariff. If their complaints mean anything, they mean that they desire the free importation of all commodities. But thi? item is really better than that, because the British tariff, being free, and the .general tariff heavy, it prevents large importations of wire netting from countries like the United States of America, which does not purchase any’ of our primary products. The honorable member for Swan also, spoke disparagingly .of the life of Austraiian wire netting, and .in his sweeping condemnation of it, he made no allowance for the possibility of destruction by fire. He admitted that the tie-wire lasted longer. He explained that this was because it was of heavier gauge, and was not in contact with the ground. It has been suggested that a bounty would be preferable to the existing duties, but it has .been shown that, when the bounty was payable on this class of goods, the expenditure more than equalled the total cost of wages paid in the industry. I am conversant with the uses of wire netting. My great State is absolutely enclosed, from the Gulf of Carpentaria down to the Tweed, for the purpose of keeping out vermin from the adjoining States.* Wire netting is essential for protection against rabbits, marsupials, dingoes, and other vermin. Particularly is its use necessary in the earlier stages of land development, so that the item, being free British, is a concession of great value to our primary producers. The Australian product will, I am sure, last as long as the. imported article. The Government is adopting the right policy in imposing a heavy duty on foreign wire netting.
– Under the present system, the item is not free British.
– It reads free British, if Australian manufacturers’ are prepared to carry on under ordinary conditions. Apparently,” the honorable member is objecting to the general tariff of 200s. per ton.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has asked that the imposition of the dumping duty on wire netting be inquired into. This has already ‘been done by the Tariff Board, and its report is expected very soon. In the circumstances, I cannot understand why any honorable member should complain about this item.
– We have been paying a dumping duty for many years.
– It is imposed if the landed cost of goods is less than the Australian price.
– Wire netting has been free, under the British preferential tariff since federation, except for. a brief period from March, 1920, to September 1922, during which time n British preferential duty of 6Ss. a ton operated. In September, 1922, a bounty of 68s. a ton was substituted for the duty. Since the institution of the bounty system, the total payments made have amounted to £605,212. Under that system, the whole of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth assisted our primary producers to ‘buy their wire netting at a lower cost.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member evidently does not know how the bounty system operates. Under protection, the users of a commodity pay the added costs, if any. Although this item is free, British, a slight bounty is still “being paid- on Australian-made wire netting.
M’r. Gibson. - What is the amount of the bounty ?
– I shall give the honorable member the information later. Under the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act, a dumping duty may be imposed on wire netting if it is sold to the Australian’ purchaser by the British exporter at a price which is lower than the domestic price in Great Britain, and provided that the landed cost in Aus. tralia is lower than the manufactured selling price of Australian wire netting. As to the prices per mile of British and Australian wire netting, I draw the attention of the committee to the following figures : -
The reason for the lower prices in New South Wales is that a special contract was made by the manufacturers with the New South Wales Government with the object of assisting in the eradication of the rabbit pest. The question of reducing the prices of netting for the States, other than New South Wales, is at present receiving the consideration of the manufacturers. The following are the net pricesof Australian wire netting in New South Wales : -
The information I have given indicates that we are fortunate in having this industry in Australia at the present time, as the price for local netting is lower than for the imported article. There is a bounty payment of 9s. 7d. a ton which helps to keep prices down. The primary producer, therefore, is in this exceedingly fortunate position : He is able to obtain a 25 per cent, exchange premium on the products which he exports, but, owing to the existence of the wire netting manufacturing industry in Australia, he is able to purchase wire netting at prices considerably lower than the landed duty free cost of English wire netting. As in the case of barbed wire and fencing, wire, the manufacture of wire netting forms part of a very efficient Australian industry catering for the needs of the primary producer at prices surprisingly low when compared with overseas prices, and the prices of other Australian manufactured products.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has referred frequently to the quality of Australian wire netting. Has he ever proved that Australian netting is not so good as the imported article? Has he ever gone before the Tariff Board to give evidence to that effect?
– I have.
– And what did the board have to say about the . quality of the samples the honorable member produced?
– How does the Minister know anything about it; has the board reported yet?
– No, I merely asked the question. Why is the honorable member becoming hot about it? The fact is that the durability of wire netting, whether made in this country or elsewhere, depends to a great extent upon the locality in which it is used. If it is used on a fence that crosses a salt marsh, it will corrode quickly. The same thing, of course, applies to galvanized iron which,if used to roof a foundry, will rust through in a very short time. The honorable mem’ber is not acquainted with the facts, and does not know, apparently, that the process of manufacture in Australia is exactly the same as in Great Britain. I am also assured that, if anything, the quality of the steel and zinc used in the locally-made product is even higher than that used in England. Seeing that there is no duty on imported English netting, and that we are paying a bounty to enable the primary producers ‘to obtain this commodity at as low a price as possible, I cannot see any reason why the item should not be agreed to.
.- I cannot understand why there should be such a disparity between the present price for wire netting, and that prevailing in prewar times. Despite what the Minister has said about the efficiency of the local industry, and its effect in reducing prices, the fact remains that Australian-made netting, 42 x 1-J x IS, is selling at £31 a ton, as against £18 5s. for netting of exactly the same description in 1914.
– Everything has gone up proportionately.
– Everything except products which have fallen in price. I agree that anything which can be done to cheapen the cost of this commodity to the primary producer should receive our consideration.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) made some stupid comments on my remarks this afternoon. I remind him that I made no mention of foreign duties at all, and I still controvert the statement that British wire netting is admitted duty free. It is shown on the schedule as duty free I admit, but it is subject to the provisions of the Aus tralian Industries Preservation Act, and the Minister has power, if English netting is imported at a price less than that at which the Australian manufacturers are selling their product, to impose a heavy dumping duty on the imported article.
– In effect, it gives the local manufacturers a monopoly.
– It does.
– But has not the price at which the imported netting is sold in Australia to be lower than the price at which the article is sold in the country of origin ?
– No, not now, owing to netting having been proclaimed under the dumping act. If the Minister said that, he was wrong. According to the act, if netting is landed in this country at a price less than that which the Australian manufacturers are charging, the dumping duty may be imposed. I ask the Minister to expedite the presentation of the Tariff Board’s report on this subject, and also to obtain information, if possible, regarding the complaint that galvanized iron goods are being made from steel supplied by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, instead of from iron, as was formerly the case. We know that fencing wire made out of iron has lasted without serious deterioration for 70 or 80 years.
– I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), but I must insist that the dumping duty of which he complains is imposed only to prevent damaging and unfair competition with Australian industries. Honorable members must understand that if wire netting or any other commodity is to be produced with reasonable efficiency in Australia, it must be assured of a market, and the dumping duty is designed to prevent unfair competition by established manufacturers in other countries.
– But under the terms of the anti-dumping proclamation, no British wire netting may be landed here at less than the Australian price without incurring the penalty of the dumping duty.’
– The Australian price is governed by the fact that Britain may compete in this market free of duty.
– So long as she does not under cut.
– That is not so. If it were, it would mean that the Australian manufacturers could charge any price they liked. The dump- ing duty will apply only if the Australian manufacturers are called upon to face damaging and unfair competition. The honorable member for Swan advocated a return to the old bounty system.
– I ask that the antidumping proclamation be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Swan has been such a staunch opponent of the payment of bounties, that I cannot understand his favoring a return to that system iu the case of wire netting. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the present system. The British manufacturers have free access to our market, and there is a reasonable tariff against the importation of wire netting from the United States of America and other foreign countries. In comparison with the price which Britain charges for wire netting in other countries, the Australian price is reasonable, and we cannot have Australia made a dumping place for Britain’s surplus production.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) tried to make us believe that there was something wrong in the anti-dumping provisions, as they apply to wire netting. This is the provision of which he complained -
A dumping duty may be imposed on wire nutting if it is sold to the Australian purchaser by the British exporter at a price which is lower than the domestic price in Great Britain and provided that the landed cost in Australia is lower than the manufacturer’s selling price of Australian-made wire netting.
Suppose wire netting was quoted at ,£25 a ton in Great Britain, but was invoiced at £20 a. ton when imported from that, country into Australia ; if that wire netting, > hen landed in Australia, was sold at less than the price of Australian-made netting, the dumping duty would apply. The anti-dumping duty would be imposed only if the English exporter were deliberately selling his product in Australia “"”at a price less than that for which he sold it in his own country, and were at the same time under-cutting the Austraiian manufacturer. The Tariff Board has inquired into this matter, and the report will be available shortly.
Item agreed to.
Item 159 sub-items (a) (b) (Wire).
.- Item 159 a deals with “ wire n.e.i. “ which is free, British ; and 15 per cent., general. Item 136 e, of group 8, however, covering metals and machinery, refers to wire “ other,” which carries a duty of 172s. and 173s. It is somewhat difficult to follow the differentiation. It is rather difficult to distinguish between “ wire, other “ and “ wire, n.e.i.” I think that it would be advisable to state what kind of wire is meant by “wire, n.e.i.”, since “wire, other” carries duties of 52s. per ton British, and 172s. per ton general, while on the other item, the rates are British preferential free, and general tariff 15 per cent.
– Item 136 applies specifically to wire made of iron or steel, whereas under item 159, wire, n.e.i.. may include non-ferrous wire, such as copper, brass, aluminium, bronze, and many other kinds of wire.
Item agreed to.
Item 160 sub-item (a), agreed to.
Item 161 sub-item (a) (Agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural machinery and -implements, n.e.i.) -
.- Items 161, 162, 163, 165 and 171 relate to similar articles, and, it would save a considerable amount of time if I could submit an amendment that would apply to all of them.
– The honorable member may not move an amendment applying to all those items, but a test vote could be taken upon an amendment on the item now under consideration.
– I move- *
That sub-,i,te,n (a) be postponed.
My object is to have a report furnished by the Tariff Board as to whether these duties are necessary while the rate of exchange remains at the present level. Nearly all the articles covered by the items to which I have referred are tools of trade of the primary producers, whilst almost all the goods that are admitted free are tools of. trade of the secondary industries. If we are to give a fair deal to the primary producers, the materials used by them should be admitted free. This amendment is in conformity with the declared policy of the present Government, that duties shall he varied only upon recommendations by the Tariff Board after it has made full inquiry. I fail to see any good reason why the Government should refuse to refer this, and the other items which I have mentioned, to the Tariff Board for reports and recommendations upon them. It is generally conceded throughout Australia that the cost of primary production must be. reduced to. enable the primary industries to export in competition with other countries. This is possible only if those industries are placed on a fair competitive basis. If the primary producers have to pay up to 100 per cent, more for their materials than is paid by their competitors, they will be placed in an impossible position.
– Name one item of agricultural machinery for which the Australian producers pay 100 per cent, more than is paid by their competitors.
– That is quite a simple matter. It is not merely the cost of agricultural machinery that seriously affects the operating costs of the man on the land. The Minister has said that 96-J per cent, of the exports of this country consist of primary products, and I point out that we depend upon our exports to bring new money into Australia to enable us to meet our commitments overseas. Every increase in the cost of living in Australia naturally has a serious effect on those who produce the wealth which enables the secondary industries to exist. Therefore, we should not hobble the primary industries. Although the Government made two promises at the last election - one to the Country party and the other to the manufacturers - it certainly made it clear that alterations to the tariff would be made only upon the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
.- Would it be permissible for me to discuss, in conjunction with this item, the related items referred to by the honorable iri ember’’ for Forrest?
– With the leave of the committee there could be no objection to that.
– The Minister has asked if one line of agricultural machinery could be mentioned which is about 100 per cent, dearer in Australia than overseas. I direct attention to onehorse mowers, which are covered by item 371 (c). 1 have a letter before me from a man who writes on behalf of small farmers, dairymen and others, who wish to cut a certain quantity of grass hay if they can obtain a one-horse mower at a price that they can afford to pay. My correspondent states -
The smaller farmers, of which there art many thousands throughout Australasia., require a machine of this description to cut. grass which, in good seasons, would make very good winter feed for their stock. This especially applies to dairy farmers where they have to feed through the winter, and having a small machine of this description would save them very considerably in the matter of fodder.
The English price for a 3-ft. 3-in. or 3-ft. 6-in. machine of the best make, say Harrison McGregor, is £13 10s. f.o.b. English port. Now if this machine could be landed for about £2! it would be of great benefit to this large class of the farming community.
The price they aru charging here for a local machine is £27 10s. This puts the machine outside the possibility of the smaller farmers.
Then the writer proceeds to give costs, and shows that, under present conditions, the cost of landing the English machine without any profit would represent a 76 per cent, increase on the English . f.o.b. price. The British preferential duty on one-horse mowers is £2 8s. each, or 30 per cent, ad valorem. Let us take the cost of a 3-ft. 6-in. mower in Great Britain ‘ at £13 10s. The statutory 10 per cent, of the. f.o.b. cost, which must be added to obtain the “value for duty “, amounts to £1 7s., which makes the value for duty £14 17s. The 30 per cent, duty amounts to £4 9s. 2d. My correspondent sets down the freight and landing charges at £1 10s. and 19s. respectively, which seems to me a moderate amount. He puts down nothing for the duty on the packing case. The exchange at 25 per cent, on £13 10s. is £3 7s. 6d., which brings the total cost of the imported machine to £23 15s. 8d.. or a 76 per cent, increase on the original f.o.b. cost. I presume that if a machine of that kind were imported, the importer^ would expect a profit before selling it to the farmer, and it is probable that, the machine would be sold in Australia for about £27 10s. The difference between £23 15s. 8d. and £27 10s. would presumably represent the dealer’s profit. In order to be as certain as possible with regard to the price of locallymade mowers, I wrote only three days ago for the present price of a 3-ft. 6-in. locally made one-horse mower, and the price given was £27 10s. If one compares the £13 10s. British f.o.b. cost of this machine with the price of £27 10s. for a 3-ft. 6-in. McKay machine in Australia
– Is that a fair comparison ?
– The quality would not necessarily be the same in each case.
– I am not prepared to say whether the machines that I am comparing would be the same in quality. But I do say that the reasonably-priced 3-ft. 6-in. English machine gives good service to the man on the land in the cutting of grass. The only similar machine manufactured in Australia costs slightly more than twice the English f.o.b. cost - £27 10s., compared with £13 10s.
– A better comparison would be the landed cost in Australia of the English machine.
– It is not always fair to compare local manufacturing costs with import parity rates. Where labour conditions are ‘comparable, it is fair to use as a measuring stick the cost of manufactures in both countries. I do not suggest that labour conditions in Great Britain are quite comparable with those in Australia ; a fairer comparison would be between the costs of machinery manufactured in this country and in Canada. The Minister asked for one instance of a machine in which the difference between the English and Australian prices is about 100 per cent. I have answered him by quoting n one-horse mower, costing £13 10s. f.o.b. English ports, and an Australian machine of similar capacity costing £27 10s.
– I have sat on both machines, and know that they are not comparable.
– It is a 3-ft. 6-in. machine in each case. I have sat on a British machine which had been working for 25 years, and was still in good order. There appears to me to be no justification for decrying these British machines. I do not say that they compare exactly with the Australian-made article, but I know that they do the work well, and at a much smaller outlay. The raw materials for these machines are obtainable in Australia, where there is also a good market for them, so that mass production methods can be employed in their manufacture. The difference in cost is not justified. It is a good argument in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), that this item be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report as to the necessity for the continuance of duties which enable such immense differences between British f.o.b. prices and our own prices to be maintained.
.- I approach the consideration of this subject with an open mind, for I am not concerned for one section alone: I consider myself to be the representative of the primary producers as much as of those, engaged in secondary industry. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) seeks to attach to Government supporters a stigma which I resent. Unlike him, I cannot claim direct association with the man on the land; but, to the extent that opportunity has offered, I have, both as a private member and as a Minister, done what I could; indeed, I claim to have done as much for him as any other. We are told that the tariff hampers the man on the land, and the honorable member has cited an instance in which, he says, the farmer, because of the tariff, pays 100 per cent, more for an Australian one-horse mower than the implement costs in England. To bring in this example, the committee was asked to discuss a number of items as a group instead df dealing with them one by one. We were, however, given to understand that there are other equally objectionable cases. From the honorable gentleman’s remarks, one gathers that, if the man on the land could get this 3-ft. 6-in. onehorse mower at a lower price, he would, like a giant refreshed; drive in triumph over all competition. The protest of the honorable gentleman is somewhat belated, for it would appear that since 192.1 mowers have been subject to the present duty of £2 8s. or 30 per cent, ad valorem, whichever returns the higher duty. For many years, the honorable gentleman has championed the cause of the Austraiian dairymen, and therefore he cannot plead ignorance of their conditions. He has rendered them yeoman service, and for that I give him credit. Yet, during the years that he was a Minister, he did not take off the duty on these mowers.
– I was not Mussolini.
– No. The honorable member resembles rather the Vicar of Bray. The comparison quoted by the honorable gentleman, is not a fair one, for the prices he mentioned - £27 10s. for an Australian machine, and £13 10s. for ti British machine. The price of the English machine expressed in terms of Australian ‘ currency would be about £17. By adding £3 14s., representing the profit of the man who sells the machine in Australia, we arrive at a total of £20 14s. To that we must add freight and insurance. Oil that basis, we see that the Australian machine, instead of costing 100 per cent, more than the British, costs only 20 per cent. more. I shall not attempt to follow the honorable member in his excursion to Canada, where, he says, things are sold more cheaply than in Australia; for I know nothing about conditions there. Among honorable members in the corner, however, there seems to be a disposition to decry Australian manufactures.
– No. -Mr. HUGHES.- I was certainly of that opinion.
– We object only to the prices charged.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), making a comparison in disparagement of the Australian article, told us that he had torn apart with his fingers a. piece of wire netting which he said was made in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.1A to 8 p.m.
.- The representatives of the Country party, in their criticism of the tariff, have been most unfortunate in their selection of items. Their stock in trade seems to be galvanized iron and barbed wire, and if those items were obliterated from the tariff schedule, they would have no propaganda at all at their disposal. The Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), when examining the list of farming implements, found one item relating to horse-drawn mowers, and, as one honorable member reminded him, he compared like with unlike. He compared an inferior English article with a vastly superior Australian article. His contention was based mostly on presumption. In comparing the English price with the Australian price, he failed to take into consideration the cost of freight from England to Australia, and the difference between sterling and Australian currency. What is this commotion which has been raised by members of the Country party? They wanted the Government to take action with, respect to a number of items without any reference to the Tariff Board.
– No. We asked that the items be submitted to the board.
– The honorable member criticized the Government for not having slashed, by a rule-of-thumb method, tariff items from one end of the schedule to the other. It is true that in this instance, the honorable member has moved to postpone the item with a view to having it referred to the Tariff Board, but he must know that il has already been listed for report by that board. I have been informed by an outside organization that the applicant for the reconsideration of the duties on farming implements was the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). As a result of an application by that honorable member, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) referred the items to the “Tariff Board for public inquiry and report. The board has listed the items for investigation, and the .interested parties have been advised that an inquiry is to take place. It is extraordinary that this sham fight should have been put up by the Country party.
– The honorable member knows all about sham fights.
– The honorable member put up a sham fight on the tobacco issue, and ran away when the vote was taken.
The implement-making industry is of considerable importance to Australia, because agrcultural conditions in a young country like this are different from those obtaining in most of the older countries of the world. We have varying soils. We have country consisting of red loam, black land and sandy soil: we have also the Mallee, a most difficult type of country; we cultivate also, land only partially cleared of stumps and stones. At various times, such areas have been thrown open for agricultural and closer settlement purposes. The manufacturers of fanning implements have played an important part in evolving new kinds of machines for the cultivation of difficult country.
– They have led the world.
– They have led the world and our inventions have been copied by other nations. Let me inform those honorable members who have at times roundly condemned the pioneers of our implement-making industry that this great national undertaking is a prolific user of the products- of the great iron and steel works of Newcastle, and is thus of vast importance to Australia from a defence point of view. In wai* time it is imperative for Australia to have, not only its own iron and steel industry, but also its own farming implement factories. One would think from the utterances of the representatives of the Country party that the implement manufacturers have not been prepared to give a fair deal to the primary producer. What have they actually done for the man on the land? They have made superior machines, which are available to the producers at lower prices than those ruling in other parts of the world for inferior machines. They have made the local primary producer independent of overseas manufacturers and importers. The stripper-harvester, which’ is unchallengeably of Australian invention, has been brought to a high standard of perfection in this country. The machine, which is now being made with a 12-ft. cut. is a labour-saving device, for .Australian wheat-growers to the extent of many millions of pounds sterling. It has. put Australia on the map as a wheatproducing and exporting’ country. It enables the farmer to harvest all the acreage which he cares to plant, and it saves in harvesting expenses as much a bushel as the cost of railing the grain to . the seaboard and . freighting it to Europe. The header-harvester or reaperthresher is also an Australian invention. When heavy rain falls just before harvest, crops become badly tangled, and are sometimes flattened to the ground. Under such conditions it is not possible to gather all the grain with the stripper-harvester, which is designed only to take off the heads of grain without taking much straw, and it is only when the crop is standing that that can be done to perfection. Australian inventors, therefore, designed the header-harvester, which is capable of cutting an enormous quantity of straw, passing it through its threshing devices, and extracting the grain therefrom. It is estimated that in one season alone, when much rain had fallen just before harvesting, the use of the croplifter device saved the wheat-farmers of Australia £1,000,000. Overseas firms have copied Australian inventions in respect of the following machines: - The stripper-harvester, the reaper-thresher, the set beam- governor steerage plough, the stump-jump mouldboard plough, the stump-jump disc plough, and the combination drill and cultivator. I have no doubt that the Tariff Board will carefully investigate every aspect of this industry. My only fear is that the board, taking its lead from the Government, may make some drastic alteration of duty which will militate against the progress and development of this industry and bring about further unemployment. In 1930-31, the agricultural implement-making industry employed 3,043 hands and paid £607,421 in salaries and wages. The value of its production was £832,891, and the plant, machinery, land, and buildings in use were valued at £1,296,067. That the importance of this industry is appreciated in the United States of America is apparent from the following statement which appeared in a bulletin issued by the Department of Commerce, United States of America : -
The enormous increase in wheat-growing in Australia would hardly have been possible had not suitable machinery been evolved capable of satisfactorily handling the matured crops under tlie climatic and labour conditions provailing in that country. The entire credit for the development and perfection of the stripper, and, later on, of the stripper-harvester, is due to the Australians themselves, as both of these machines were invented and first perfected in that country. ‘ When it is considered that these machines as built at. present are but little different from the first ones built, and that under ordinary conditions they work in a most excellent manner, it must be admitted that Australian agricultural engineers are second to none when given an equal opportunity.
Because of local competition, our farmers have a decided advantage over the producers of other countries. The following is a comparison of prices of foreign agricultural implements in South Africa, British East Africa, and New Zealand with prices of Australian agricultural implements : -
The Tariff Board, in its last report relating to prices of implements, stated - in the case of New Zealand prices, the. board has examined figures back to 1920, and has found that the prices in New Zealand of certain imported drills, ploughs, disc ploughs, and harrows were, on an average, nearly 19 per cent, dearer than identically similar implements imported into Australia.
In 1924, a similar position still existed, at least in those classes of implements, the manufacture of which was firmly established in Australia, and the information before the Tariff Board is that iu that year imported ploughs, harrows, cultivators, and small kerosene engines were on an average about 7$ per cent, dearer in New Zealand than identically similar imported goods in Australia.
That was a very intelligent Tariff Board, comprising, ‘as it. did, such men as Her.bert Brookes, George Hudson, David Masterton, and Walter Leitch. It was a board with a protectionist outlook, and I inn certain that the agricultural implements industry would have nothing to fear from a close and careful investigation of its affairs by a board of similar calibre to-day.
After hearing evidence in every State iu Australia, and considering the representations of the importing interests, the primary producers, and the Australian manufacturers, the ‘board summarized its report in the following terms: -
Australian-made implements are sold cheaper, than imported implements.
The prices of Australian-made implements have been regularly and consistently reduced since the protective tariff of -1020-21 was introduced.
There is no need to import dutiable agricultural implements.
The ‘Australian farmer has the advantage of efficient service from factories “ on the spot “.
Australian implement makers are not charging excessive prices, neither are they making excessive profits.
The effect of the tariff on agricultural implements is not detrimental to the best interests of the primary producer.
What is the reason for all the present commotion, and the demand that, the matter be again referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report? According to outside organizations, for the last three months interested parties have been acquainted with the position, and an inquiry is being held in response to the application of the Hon. H. Gregory, M.P. Is the Country party not cognizant of that fact, or is it rushing will-nilly into an attack on the tariff in the hope that it may convey the impression that it alone can save the country, when in reality it would deprive the uri mary producers of Australia of a local market, which from one end of the world to the other is recognized as the best possible market that can be procured?
.- The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has founded his speech on the brief that has been supplied to him by the manufacturers of agricultural implements. I admit at the outset that, very great credit is due to those masters of industry, the McKays’, for the magnificent works that they have established; but one cannot help wondering why this excessive protection is required by them. The honorable member for Capricornia has supplied the committee with figures showing the prices that are charged for agricultural implements in New Zealand, South Africa, and the Argentine. How is it that, with all the wonderful resources that Australia possesses, including everything that is essential to the manufacture of these implements, there has been no exploring ,by Australian agricultural implement makers of the market in New Zealand, South Africa, and the Argentine, where this machinery is being sold at much higher prices than those that rule in Australia? It would appear that there is hero presented a splendid opportunity to get rid of our adverse trade hal ante. At one time Australia did a very fine trade with the Argentine, but lost it during the war. Why is it that the owners of the Sunshine Harvester Works have sent to Canada Australian engineers and Australian capital, with orders to commence the manufacture there of agricultural implements, with a view to an endeavour being made to capture the Argentine trade? And Canada, we must remember, is a country which has to import most, of its pig iron and coal, and in which the factory wages are higher than those that are paid in Australia. In these circumstances it would be interesting to learn why the Canadian farmer is able to purchase a reaper and binder at nearly half the price that is charged in Australia. A few years ago a number of reapers and binders were sent from Australia to New Zealand to compete on that market, but in the following year we exported only a few pounds weight of parts. Why should the Australian farmer be mulcted in these extra charges? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the report of the Tariff Board in connexion with this matter, but did not read the whole of its epitome. It also said -
If a farmer insists on using an imported machine, it is not unfair to expect him to pay the duty.
Australian implement makers are not charging excessive prices, neither are they making excessive profits.
Tracing the history and setting out the position of T. Robinson and Company, the report states -
This was followed by five years of steady progress, in which each year a dividend of 10 per cent, was paid. In 1923, the dividend paid was 15 per cent., and in 1924, 20 per cent. In 1924, this company, in addition, distributed £60,000 in bonus shares, raising their capital issue from 40,000 to ‘ 100,000 out of the reserves that had been accumulated over a period of seven years. The very pronounced success of this company during the last two years has been, in the main, duc to the improvements made in their stripper-harvester, which gave thom something of a preponderance of this business, and enabled them to mass produce. During the last four years they have made reductions in the price of this machine.
In the light of that quotation, can it be said that excessive profits were not -made ? In both the United States of America and Canada the wages are higher than those that are paid in Australia, and the difficulties that have to be overcome are equally as great. In -view of the marvellous success of the industry in Australia, and the profits that are made, a further inquiry should he held to determine whether the proposed duties are necessary.
. - The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has read the report of the Tariff Board concerning the history and the position of T. Robinson and Company. From the point at which the honorable member concluded his quotation, the board went on to say -
Firms such as this one that have succeeded in mass production should not be discouraged. They are entitled to good profits, and the community that encourages such is likely to progress. The Tariff Board has impressed upon this firm the necessity for further reductions in prices, and will, in future, keep in touch with them, and with all other such firms similarly circumstanced, and press for the limit of price concession.
The Tariff Board is impressed with the necessity, when considering the case of firm? engaged in the agricultural implement industry, such as this one, and the question of profits earned by them, to have in mind the very large capital engaged in the undertaking, as represented by internal reserves and bank overdrafts, in addition to the amount of subscribed capital. Such firms perform the services of banking institutions by extending long credits on hire-and-purchase agreements, which are of stupendous importance to the primary producers, and, furthermore, are involved in heavy annual expenditure in the maintenance of expert staffs who educate the primary producer in the use and care of modern agricultural implements.
Having considered all these facts, including the profits that were madeby the company mentioned, the hoard arrived at the following conclusions : -
I agree that any increase of costs is a matter for consideration. It has to he remembered, however, that the agricultural implements industry has been responsible for very valuable and remarkable inventions, which have been of great assistance to the Australian producer.
– We are all willing to admit that.
– I am very glad indeed to note the establishment in Australia of so successful an industry. Let us assume that the burden on the wheat producer is . 292 of a penny a bushel of wheat produced. Considering the benefit to the community as a whole, of having such an industry established in Australia because of the large quantity of Australian materials that it uses, and the tremendous volume of employment that it provides, I. venture to suggest that any burden imposed by it is amply compensated for by many other provisions that are made by the community as a whole, and particularly by the governments of the States out of general revenue, in support of the wheat producer and the wheat-producing areas of Australia. Honorable members who have read the report of the com mittee of five economists which inquired into the tariff will remember that that committee worked out the extent of the benefit conferred on the primary producer by various legislative measures of one kind and another. I feel sure that that benefit far outweighs the burden of 292 of a penny a bushel.
– The committee of economists reported that the additional cost that the tariff laid on the export industries amounted to 9 per cent.
– The committee, however, pointed out that were it not for the development of secondary industries under the protection of the tariff, it would not be possible to support as many persons at the same standard of comfort as in fact obtains in Australia. This matter has to be looked at as a whole, and all considerations must be taken into account. The point made by the committee was this : That but for the efforts that had been made towards the stimulation of both primary and secondary industries, we would have been unable to support an equivalent number of people at the standard of comfort which, in fact, obtains. It must be remembered that very nearly all industries in Australia are in. receipt of artificial assistance of one kind and another. The exceptions are the producers of wool and base metals, the professional classes and shopkeepers and others employed on their own account in the cities and towns, and many clerical employees. These classes have no protection of any character; they are in the competitive world. But the artisan is protected by the awards of arbitration courts and wages boards, the manufacturer by the tariff, the butter producer by the most complete scheme of artificial protection yet devised, and the wheat farmer and the producers of wine and fruits by bounties.
– Order ! The debate must be confined to the items in the group now under consideration.
– I have strayed outside the group only for the purpose of summarizing briefly the position. The particular point under consideration is the relation of the prices of agricultural implements to the possibility of the wheat farmer being ableto continue his industry. But for the invention of the stump-jump plough and various other implements invented and developed in Australia, the manufacture of which was made possible only by the tariff, the wheat industry would not have developed to its present extent. An examination of the burden alleged to be caused by increases of the price of agricultural implements shows that if it does exist to some extent, it is amply offset by the many other benefits conferred upon the w’heat producer by Federal and State authorities.
.- The latest report of the Tariff Board on agricultural implements is about nine years old. *
– It was made in August, 1925.
– At any rate, the report is out of date. Since it was made, the conditions of industry have changed, and, to-day, very much higher prices are paid for machinery in comparison with the prices received for agricultural produce. These facts justify the Government in referring the duties on agricultural implements to the Tariff Board. The Minister stated a few days ago that he had submitted an item to the Tariff Board, and asked that body whether the duties upon it were necessary. I suggest that the Minister should ask the Tariff Board to deal urgently with agricultural implements, and to advise whether the present extreme duties need be continued, whether they are ‘advisable as well as necessary. The- Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred to the use of strippers in days gone by, and to the economy in wheat harvesting which followed the introduction of the header. We admit that economies have been effected, but if we aggregate all the economies and savings which are alleged to have resulted from the introduction of the header, the combine, ana other new machinery, it’ would appear that the farmer should be able to produce wheat for nothing. All that the man on the land wants is fair treatment. I am satisfied with the quality of Australian agricultural machinery, and I pay a tribute to those who produce it, but I do not admit the contention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that an English mower is not of a quality comparable with that of the Australian article. I have probably had more’ experience of agricul tural implements than has the honorable member.s Australian machinery is good and efficient; it is the product of the brains of not only the engineer and mechanic, but also the practical farmer. We are agreed as to the quality of the article; only the price is in dispute. I ascertained in. Sydney yesterday that the price of a binder was £77. In 1914, I paid £38 for a binder of equal quality.
– What is the cost of the imported article?
– £68 5s..
– The tariff is almost prohibitive, and practically no binders are being imported. I admit that when the stripper was first produced, the price was lower, but costs all round were less. The Australian manufacturer had no artificial protection, but he was able to use imported steel and iron which cost much less than the Australian metals which he is now compelled by the almost prohibitive tariff to use. The farm machinery makers are entitled to consideration on account of the excessive prices they have to pay for the raw materials from which they produce their implements and machinery. Very little farm machinery has been imported from the United Kingdom in recent years; even before the tariff was raised to a prohibitive height, most of the imports came from America, and because of the extremely high rates in the general tariff, I support the amendment to defer this item. On harvester-threshers of a value of £1,000 in America, the natural protection represented by the cost of importing, including casing and labour at factory, inland freight from the factory to the port of shipment, marine insurance, freight from America to Melbourne, wharfage, packing, cartage and receiving, but excluding customs duty and exchange, amounts te £773 2s. or 77^ per cent. Until recently, there was a primage duty also, and we art thankful to the present Government for having removed it. In addition to the natural protection there are the custom* duties of 38£ per cent, on the machine, 3 per cent, on the casing, and 3f pel cent, on the labour in packing and inland freight to the seaboard, This makes tho total of the natural protection, customs duties, 122^ per cent. Adding the 73 per cent, for exchange, the total protection is 195 per cent. On reapers and binders the customs duty is 10 per cent, more and on labour in packing and freight 2 per cent, more, bringing the total protection up to 207 per cent. On mowers, the total charges are 216 per cent., on hay rakes, 201 per cent., and on grain drills, 184 per cent. During the last few months the Tariff Board has twice inquired into the glass industry, and twice into the duties on piping. Within the last twelve months, there have been two inquiries into galvanized iron. Yet nearly eight years have elapsed since the duties on agricultural machinery were reviewed. If the Minister will undertake to ask the Tariff Board to deal with this matter expeditiously the members of the Country party will not press this amendment.
– We shall be satisfied.
– In the absence of such an assurance, we must take the amendment to a division. In regard to the criticism of imported machinery by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Iknow that the English mowers and binders are good machines, and have rendered satisfactory service, both before and since the advent of the Australian articles. The honorable member said also that the prices of the Australian machines had been consistently reduced since 1921. Having regard to the reductions of wiges, interest, and other overhead charges, we . were looking for a further decline of prices, but the net price this year is not less than that of last year. This matter should be immediately investigated by the Tariff Board, so that Parliament may deal with the duties in the light of an up-to-date report and recommendation by an expert body. The report already made l.y the board mentioned the necessity for further price reductions, and, in view of the decline of the price of wheat since that report was drafted, production costs must be lowered wherever possible. We believe in Australian secondary industries, and appreciate the quality of the machinery that the local manufacturer has produced. All we ask is that the man on the land be given a fair deal ; he has to compete against the rest of the world, and should not be required to pay unduly high prices for the implements he needs for production.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that English mowers could be bought, in Great Britain at £13 10s., and by this figure he endeavoured to prove the contention, of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that’ the price of the Australian article is 100 per cent, greater. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) rightly pointed out the unfairness of comparing a price quoted in sterling with a price in Australian currency. Apart from exchange, freight and other charges have to be added to the English price. If the machine were landed here free of duty, it would cost £19. 14s.: with duty added the price would be £24 2s.; but the machine would not be sold for that amount. He states that the Australian mower costs £27 10s. It must be obvious from these figures that the local machine is competitive in price. I shall quote some figures to show the difference between the prices of Australian and other mowers. In 1928-29, when 45 machines were imported into the Commonwealth, the price was £24 each, and in 1930-31, when 21 machines were imported, the price was £21. According to the latest report of the Tariff Board, the price of the imported machine was £30. We are told that the price of these mowers in England is £13 .10s.. and the suggestion is that the Australian farmers could buy them for that price.
– Even the British farmers cannot do so.
– That is so. The cheapest machine that the British farmer pa ti buy is a Massey-Harris implement - made in France,- and it costs the British fanner £19 19s. A Massey-Harris machine landed at Durban costs £25 10s. in gold. In Australian currency the price would be £26 6s. 6d. Then it must he remembered that the 3-ft. 6-in. machines of Australian make weigh 6 cwt. 1 qr. 20 lb., whereas the MasseyHarris machine weighs 3 cwt. 3 qr. 23 lb. Honorable members will realize, therefore, how misleading are many of the figures that are quoted during a discussion like this by honorable members who are engaged in propaganda in favour of certain interests, and against a government which does not stand for prohibitions.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the following extract from the report of the Tariff Board on this subject : -
In concluding this report, the Tariff Board would mention that for some considerable time now the agricultural implement makers in Australia seem to have been made the chief target of attack by those who are critical of the protectionist system which has been adopted by the people of Australia. The Tariff Board considers, in view of its exhaustive investigation and report, this industry might be permitted to perform its useful functions to the community without being made the main objective of such attack.
Every phase of this matter has now been examined by the board. The result of the investigation is wholly favorable to the local industry, and the Tariff Board unanimously agrees that the protective duties should not be disturbed.
– That report was made seven years ago.
Mr.WHITE. - Honorable members should realize that there is no sales tax on these machines, because the Government desires our primary producers to obtain the machines at the lowest possible price. In this connexion the following tables are most informative : -
Difference infavour of Australian. 6-ft. reaper and binder - £12 8s. less than in Argentine, even though prices in Argentine are on a sterling basis. 8-ft. reaper and binder - £14 13s. less than in Argentine. 8-ft. reaper harvester - £90 10s. 6d. less than in South Africa. 10-ft. header harvester - £145 8s.6d. less than in Argentine. 14 x 29 cultivating drill - £4 0s. 9d. less than in South Africa. 15-disc drill - £136s. 4d. less than in South Africa. 10-disc harrow (16-inch disc) - £2 16s. 3d. less than in South Africa.
Light set disc plough (2 furrow) - £131s. 3d. less than in South Africa.
Heavy set disc plough (4 furrow) - £16 7s. 9d. less than in South Africa.
Although the report of the Tariff Board was made in 1925-26, it still stands good. But I remind the committee that the whole subject is again before the board. As honorable members are aware, the board is working very strenuously to discharge the duties placed upon it under the terms of the Ottawa agreement; but I give an assurance that, if a reduction of duties is recommended, the recommendation will be acted upon, either in this chamber or in another place. In all the circumstances, it can be confidently declared that there has been no exploitation of the farmers, and that the price of these machines is quite reasonable.
.- It is manifest from the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), that not one of these gentlemen is an agriculturist, nor has any one of them any expert knowledge of our agricultural industries. These honorable gentlemen have quoted figures which have been supplied to them for a certain purpose. Those of us who have had to buy agricultural machinery during the last four decades know that many of the statements made during this debate are incorrect. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) read a statement prepared for him by the representatives of the machinery manufacturers to the effect that prices were continually falling.
– My statement was not prepared by the representatives of the manufacturers.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs also assured us that the price of the reaper and binder had dropped continuously. Let us look dispassionately at the history of the price of these machines. Prior to the war, when there was no protection on such machinery, a reaper and binder could be bought for £38 cash, or for £40 with a little credit. During the war, when shipping was dislocated and business arrangements generally were abnormal, the price rose to over £100. It is with this peak period that comparisons are made with the object of showing that prices have fallen. At that time, H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited decided to undertake the manufacture of these machines. The firm appealed for and obtained protection, and subsequently sold their machines for about £90, which was more than 100 per cent. above the pre-war price of the imported machines. Their machines are now priced at £77. But I ask honorable members to compare the purchasing capacity of the farmers now with what it was in 1914. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tells us that there has been a progressive reduction of prices, we should remember that it is a progressive reduction since the impossible war prices, but that the price is still nearly 100 per cent. above what it was in 1914.
– These machines were not made in Australia in 1914.
– The AttorneyGeneral, in the course of his speech, quoted from a report by five economists who offered their services voluntarily to the Bruce-Page Government. That committee indicated clearly that the development of secondary industries in this country had laid a handicap of 9 per cent. on our exporting primary industries. Unfortunately, instead of trying to offset that handicap on such important industries, the Bruce-Page Government, by means of the Pratten tariff, actually increased it. Following the Pratten tariff, we had the Scullin, or Forde tariff. I am told that since this came into operation, Professor Copland has estimated that the handicap which our secondary industries has placed upon our exporting primary industries has been increased to 16 per cent. There is not an agriculturist on the treasury bench, and unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has no knowledge of agriculture. Consequently, the full effect of this 16 per cent. handicap on our exporting primary industries is not realized. Unless our primary industries can operate successfully, it will be impossible for our secondary industries to make any progress. Only to the extent that our primary industries can market their products can our factories do business. Let us look at present prices for a moment. Instead of falling during thisperiod of depression, the price of manufactured products has actually risen. It is in the interests of the manufacturers themselves to bring the prices of primary and secondary products nearer together. Only as the two points of the scissors are closed, can we succeed. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition told us any number of times, while he was Ministerfor Trade and Customs, that the tariff schedules which he had tabled would increase employment. But the fact is that one man lost his job for every four minutes he held office. In these circumstances, it is useless for honorable members to talk as they have been talking about the good effect of high tariffs. The only solution of our economic problem is to bring the prices of primary and secondary products into some degree of equality. Of course, it is useless to talk of putting the primary producer on the same footing as the secondary producer, because the primary producer has to sell his products on the markets of the world ; but we should go as far as possible in this direction. It is unfair to burden the primary producers in order to serve the workers in other industries. High tariffs will never save the country. Certain gentlemen have talked for years about the necessity to establish secondary industries in order to populate the country ; but the fiscal policy which has dominated Australia for the last two decades has been absolutely ineffective in increasing the population of this country. The money which we should be spending in developmental works is being spent on doles for the unemployed. The time is ripe for giving our primary producers an even break with our secondary producers. The machinery which the primary producers need is much too costly. If it were as cheap as the Minister says it is our agricultural machinery manufacturers would be able to build up an export trade; but they cannot do so. It is because of the great decline of the price of our export primary products that the country is in such a parlous condition. We should not allow the primary producers to be “ sold “ in order to save the manufacturing industries of Australia. With the tremendous fall of their purchasing power, our primary producers are utterly unable to pay the prices that are demanded for the goods manufactured in Australia. If the prices of our export, commodities were as high as in 1920-21, the tariff would be still higher, and the secondary industries would be prospering-
– But the honorable member would still be growling!
– I am astonished that the Labour party of this country should support monopolies as it is doing.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the items under consideration.
– We are dealing with six comprehensive items, and I have been pointing out that it is impossible for the primary producers of Australia to continue to pay the prices demanded for these implements. Of course, if the primary producers were in a position tobuy them, all would be well; but, unfortunately, they have lost their purchasing power, and our secondary industries are also in difficulties. If our farmers could obtain their requirements at prices more in harmony with the pricesof their own products, there would be more men working in our factories, and more men in profitable employment on the land. The great disparity between the two sets of prices is the cause of all our troubles, and I regret to say that this Government is not giving full effect to the election promises of its leader. The downward revision of the tariff is not sufficiently pronounced.
– The honorable member may not, now deal with the tariff in general terms.
– I am speaking of its effect on primary production. However, it seems to me that the Government has the numbers, and that the vote on this item will be against the interests of our primary producers. It is obvious that members of the Country party are outnumbered.
.- I do notpropose to say very much upon this item, which has been very fully discussed, and the facts have been well brought out. But I should like to reply to the argument of members of the Country party that, if the duties on agricultural implements were reduced, there would be corresponding reductions of the prices paid by our farmers for their agricultural machinery. I submit that they have not establishedtheir case. If the duties were reduced to the extent demanded, we should have no worth-while secondary industries, and, in effect, we should be on the same basis as the Argentine.
– We had these industries before the duties were imposed.
– But our industrial position then was not comparable with that of to-day. The honorable member knows that. He also must know that, in their earlier years, our secondary industries had to overcome extraordinary difficulties. I recall the time when the firm of H. V. McKay, now the largest agricultural implement, making firm in Australia, and one of the largest in the world, had to suspend payment of wages to its employees in Ballarat, where the works were first established. In those days it was not an uncommon experience for employees in such industries to work, very often for weeks, without wages, because of the parlous condition of the industry. Such was the condition of the agricultural implement industry before the duties were imposed, so when honorable members talk about these works being established before the imposition of protective duties, they are misleading the committee, because they are not giving the facts. The Tariff Board report has been sneered at so often during this debate because it was made about seven and a half years ago. One honorable member erred in saying that ii was nine years old. My reply to that gibe is that it was the result of one of the most thorough investigations ever made into the industry, and that, although it may not bc up to date in some respects, the principle upon which it was based still stands. Let me make one or two quotations from it -
Imported implements are sold cheaper in Australia than in Argentine.
Argentine, I remind the committee, is a freetrade country.
– Are the farmers there doing well?
Mi-. SCULLIN.- They are obliged to pay more for their agricultural machinery than is charged to our farmers under protection, and, as I have just shown, they are not so well off. May not we deduce from this statement by the Tariff Board that the establishment of successful secondary industries in Aus- fl->] tralia under a system of protection has been responsible for healthy local competition, thus enabling our farmers to obtain their machinery at prices lower than are charged to farmers in freetrade Argentine? The Tariff Board also stated -
The Australian-invented implements have made it possible to produce wheat in the Commonwealth at a lower cost than any other country in the world, and 30 per cent, cheaper than in the United States of America.
Here is another quotation -
Lit the opinion of the Tariff Board the prices of agricultural implements are, in all probability, much lower in Australia with protection and local mann fa etu re than they would be- under freetrade had no local manufacture existed.
Thus we may conclude that all statements made by honorable members of the Country party that, if duties ware reduced, so rauch would be taken off the cost, are merely so much make-believe. May I remind them that, when my Government imposed an embargo on the importation of a number of commodities, the immediate result was a reduction by 5 per cent, of the prices charged by Australian manufacturers for their output.
– And then they put up prices by 6 per cent.
– That’ is not so. The honorable member for Corangamite has made that very misleading statement over and over again. He knows, of course, that the addition of 6 per cent, to the selling price of Australian-made commodities was due to the operation of the sales tax, and had nothing whatever to do with manufacturing costs. I should add that this 6 per cent, sales tax applied equally to the sales of imported agricultural machines, and that it did not go to the manufacturers or importers, but to Commonwealth revenue to balance the budget. I urged a greater reduction than 5 per cent., hut it was pointed out at that time the manufacturers had probably more than £2,000,000 of credit outstanding which they could not collect from the farmers. I am not holding a brief for those machinery firms that made big profits at the expense of our primary producers, but, I do not believe that, they are making them now.
I would also remind the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who quoted so freely from the Tariff Board’s report, that he did not read the paragraph relating to reduced prices being charged by our manufacturers.
– It was quoted earlier, by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham).
– No; the AttorneyGeneral omitted to quote that particular reference by the board, but I intend to do so for the information of the committee. Referring to the manufacturers of stripper harvesters, this is what the board said -
During the last four years they have made reductions in the price of this machine.
– I quoted that paragraph.
– Then what is the honorable member complaining about? Surely this is sufficient evidence of reductions of prices under protection. All these items should be examined fairly. This’ cannot be done if we are constantly being met with an interjection like that made just now by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) - that when the embargo was imposed prices were raised by 6 per cent. What is the inference to be drawn from such a statement? I remind the honorable member and also the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), that they were members of a government when these duties were in operation, so they are not new.
– I did not say they were.
– No ; but when he was a Minister, the honorable gentleman did not attack them on the floor of the House. lt is true that, he conveyed the impression that he made his protest in Cabinet, but when challenged on this point, he said he did not intend to divulge Cabinet secrets. Had not he. already done so? The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) in respect of another matter, took up the same attitude, and when he was attacked ‘by the Acting Leader of the Country party, he offered the same defence - “I am only one member of the Cabinet.” I object to the way in which these honorable gentlemen now shelter themselves when a charge of inconsistency is levelled against them. Although this Tariff Board report is seven and a half years old, it was made subsequent to the imposition of the exist ing duties. This is. the point which I would impress on honorable members in the Country party when they talk about these “ high duties “. I have shown that at least two Country party members were members of a government that operated them, yet did nothing to have them reduced.
.- I am satisfied with the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) that the Tariff Board will be asked to report upon these items very shortly. We were aware that this question had been submitted to the board, and the object of the amendment was to obtain from the Minister a promise that that body would be asked, at an early date, to make the inquiries. We are now satisfied on that point. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) did me rather less than justice when he suggested that I attempted directly to compare the British price of £13 10s. with the Australian price of £27 10s. for a 3-ft. 6-in. mower. I made it quite clear that £13 10s. was the - British f.o.b. price - not the price to the British farmer - and I quoted from letters which showed that, with exchange, the Australian price would he increased to about £17. I then went on to say that if machines of that kind, or better still, if Australian machines, could be sold retail at about £21, many small farmers would be able to buy them, but that they could not afford to pay £27 10s., the price quoted to me in Sydney.
– The Melbourne selling price is £26 6s.
– It is true that, in concluding my remarks, I made a comparison between the British f.o.b. price of £13 10s. and the Australian price of £27 10s., but .only in this way: I said that the margin between £13 10s. f.o.b. and the Australian manufacturers’ price of £27 10s. was too great, even allowing for exchange and all other costs, and that it was the best evidence we could wish to get of the necessity for an immediate investigation by the Tariff Board. I am glad that the Minister has agreed to speed up an inquiry.
– I understood the Minister to say that he would expedite the inquiry by ‘ the Tariff Board. As, apparently, he declines to give that assurance, we propose to press our amendment.
– As a matter of fact, the item has been before the Tariff Board for some weeks. It seems to me that honorable members are merely quibbling, but if it will satisfy them to receive the assurance, I can promise them that the inquiry will be expedited as far as possible.
– On that assurance I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Leave not granted.
– I should not have addressed myself to this item were it not that it is evidently proposed to press the amendment to a division. Honorable members have admitted that the British duty is not too high, so that the only object in urging a Tariff Board inquiry into the matter must be to have the foreign duty reduced. In myopinion, the foreign duty, far from being reduced, should be increased, because most of the machinery that would be affected comes from the United States of America. This Parliament ought to be prepared to impose a duty of 100 per cent. against goods from that country. Australian-made machinery is admittedly as good as that made in any part of the world, so that there is no justification for importing machinery’ from the United States of America, which buys nothing from us, not even our primary produce, which, after all, the British working man does. If we do not want Australian machinery, then let us buy British, on which all admit that the duty is reasonable. If this item is submitted to the Tariff Board, anything may happen.
– Of what is the honorable member frightened?
– I have reason to be frightened of what the Tariff Board may do. The only extensive machinery manufacturing firm in Australia, Walker’s Limited, which has been subjected to inquiry by the Tariff Board in recent years, happens to be situated in my electorate. Recently, upon the recommendation of the Tariff Board, the duty of 45 per cent. on certain British machinery was abolished, and that machinery is now admitted free. The result has been that the manufacture of Diesel engines has been stopped, and there is not one man working in that section of tne industry where there should now be 250. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that he could not speak as a primary producer. I can, and, as a primary producer, I endorse his remarks. If we, by removing duties, kill our manufacturing industries, We shall lose an important market for much of our primary produce, because some of our farmers produce entirely for the local market. Honorable members have spoken of the wheat-growers, and it is no doubt true that they are in a bad way ; but they are not the only primary producers. I believe that if this matter is handed over to the Tariff Board for review and report, there is a grave danger of injuring an important section of the primary producers in this country. In the Argentine, where there is no tariff and where there are no local manufactures, foreign-made implements are sold at a higher price than are Australian-made or foreign implements here. The competition of local manufacturers in Australia has the effect of keeping down the price of foreign implements sold on the Australian market. No doubt the wheat-growers are suffering hardships ; but, after all, they have been helped to the extent of £5,360,000 in the last two years, and surely we ought to give the Australian workers and our primary producers a chance. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who is a free trader, has moved an amendment to this item, his object being to reduce the duty on machinery made in the United States of America. If he succeeds in that, the effect will be detrimental, not only to Australian workmen, but to Australian primary producers as well. For that reason, I oppose it.
Question - That sub-item (a) be postponed (Mr. Prowse’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority … . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Items 162, 163, 165, and 166 agreed to.
Item 167 (Metal parts of reaper threshers, stripper, harvesters, strippers, and harvesters, n.e.i.)
iMany complaints are made regarding the very heavy prices that have to be paid for machinery parts. I have an invoice before me showing that on certain of these parts, the factory cost of which is £1,624 14s. 5d., the duties total no less than £.1,268 13s. Hd. The duty on the outside casing alone amount’s to £15 2s. A short time ago, the Government, in its desire to help the primary industries, took the primage duty off the casing; hut because essential tools were included it was subsequently reimposed. I had a letter from the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy) stating that it would be unfair to the local tool makers if that primage were not charged. In the case of the goods comprised in the invoice to which I have referred, the primage amounted to about £246, and the sales tax to about £271, and the actual cost of the goods was £1,801 16s. Id. above the factory cost. I have another statement showing that on machinery parts to the value of £23 0s. 7d., the customs duty alone amounted to £93 12s., while other charges brought the total cost of importation up to £9S 4s. lOd. I do not, intend to press this matter to a division ; but I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the substitution of an ad valorem duty for the proposed fixed duty of so much per lb. If this were done, far less complaint would be heard regarding these imposts.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The Government would not be doing too much if it reduced the duties on parts which are required to keep old machinery in working order. We have seen the amalgamation of the Massey Harris Company with H. V. McKay and Company, and now the Massey Harris stripper is manufactured in Australia in conjunction with the McKay harvester. The parts referred to are merely duplicates that fit into old strippers, and into the Massey Harris harvesters as previously imported. If the Government accedes to this request it will be assisting those primary producers who cannot afford to buy new machinery to tide themselves over these difficult times.
.- The request appears to me a reasonable one, and I shall ask the Tariff Board to consider whether an ad valorem duty would be fairer than a fixed duty. Yet it seems incomprehensible that anybody would order £1,600 worth of spare parts when the customs duties amounted to £1,200. Anybody doing that would deserve to pay the prescribed duty, because almost any spare part for agricultural machinery can be made in Australia. Of course, in the case of some obsolete machines it might be necessary to make patterns to enable those parts to be turned out by a local foundry, but to avoid a duty equivalent to 75 per cent, it would be better to place orders for these parts with local engineering firms. However, the whole matter is now before the Tariff Board, and I shall ask it to give consideration to the request that has been made.
Item agreed i.o.
Items 169 (a1) (b) (c2), 171 and 175 agreed to.
Item 176, sub-items (e) (g) (Mining machinery, n.e.i. J.
.- This item looks innocent, because it does not take up much space in the schedule; but in reality it is one of the major items in the tariff, and it should receive careful consideration. In agreeing to item 169, the committee has provided for a free British preferential tariff, and a 10 per cent, general tariff on monoline typecomposing machines; yet on mining machinery we are asked to impose a British preferential rate of 40 per cent, ad valorem, and a general duty of 55 per cent, ad valorem. It is beyond my comprehension to understand why a great primary industry like the mining industry should be saddled with such high duties on machinery required by it for the production of wealth, when printing machinery is either free or carries merely a 10 per cent. duty. The only reason I can ascribe for this apparent anomaly is that there may be some revenue consideration ; but this invidious distinction seems to be quite unfair and unsound. Although various principles have been enunciated in this chamber from time to time regarding the duties on agricultural machinery, mining machinery is in quite a different, category, because the heavy machinery used in mining operations cannot be efficiently made in Australia, and consequently it cannot be contended that its importation would cause unfair competition with local manufacturers.
– Much of it comes in” under by-law.
– I am not aware of that. In vain I have looked through the schedule with the object of noting in what respect the importation of mining machinery might injure local manufacturers, and, unless the Minister can demonstrate to me that the position is not as I conceive it to be, I shall not be satisfied on this matter. It was stated that 3,000 or 4,000 persons were employed in the manufacture in Australia of agricultural machinery; but I point out that 60,000 or 70,000 men are employed in the mining industry, the ramifications of which extend throughout the Commonwealth. This is one of our major industries, and it is of extreme importance to us at the present time that it should be fostered in every possible way. We hope that it will become of even greater importance as development proceeds, particularly on that side of it which is concerned with the production of gold and base metals. The industry is traditionally a heavy employer of labour, and, since the problem of unemployment is the most serious one that faces the community, anything and everything that can be done to encourage mining should receive our close attention. Every addition to the capital cost of mining machinery cramps initiative and prevents the opening up and development of new fields. It is safe to say that in recent years the major mining companies of Australia have had to pay in duty hundreds of thousands of pounds because of their attempt to win new wealth from the earth. The Wiluna gold-field is a case in point. Considerable expense was incurred in the installation of new machinery there, on which heavy duties had to be paid.
– Most of it came in under by-law.
– The Mount Lyell Company in Tasmania has spent £500,000 during the last six years in improving its equipment and installing uptodate machinery with the object of keeping down production costs, in order that the company may compete with competitors in other parts of the world. In order to meet the depressed prices for lead, zinc, and silver, the Broken Hill mining companies have gone in for a complete reorganization. They have installed a large power plant, sunk new shafts, and erected new winding engines of a powerful and expensive type. Notwith-standing any favours granted by various Ministers for Trade and Customs, the fact remains that these industries have had to pay out large sums by way of customs, duty. But for the exchange position, many of these projects would have had. to close down. The Mount Isa field in north-west Queensland has been simply a sink for money. This concern, which employs 1,600 Australians, is losing money, notwithstanding that it has a magnificent plant, and has done everything that scientific skill, energy and finance can do to reduce production costs.
– Has the honorable member seen a list of machinery items admitted under by-law for Mount Isa?
– I have not been privileged to see it.
– The list would astonish the honorable member.
– I am in touch with the mining people of Australia generally, and they inform me that the load of customs duties is extremely heavy. At Mount Isa, 630 miles from the coast, a successful attempt is being made to treat lowgrade silver-lead ore. Every pound paid in customs duties, or in other extraneous charges, is a permanent burden on the enterprise.
– Not one article that could not be made in Australia paid any duty.
– That is so.
– Honorable members generally will agree that an industry of such importance and magnitude is deserving of every encouragement from a customs point of view. Possibly, some favours have been granted to the Mount Isa enterprise. That is a matter of which private members have no cognizance, until speaking from their outside knowledge they gain the inside knowledge which the Minister is able to supply.
– These admissions under by-law are all gazetted.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that rock drills, which are extensively used in mining, come in free of duty?
– They are free of duty. They appear in another part of the schedule.
– I desire only to be assured that the mining industry is receiving every consideration from the Government, with a view to avoiding additional capital costs, particularly as successful endeavours are being made to raise capital, both locally and in Britain, for investment in mining enterprises in this country. The more we can encourage people to accept the risks inseparable from mining, by removing the duties on mining machinery, the better for Australia. It may be that mining will again help Australia to emerge from her lean period. We have not yet exhausted our metals. There are many willing to search for them, and to develop a field when found, if only they can be assured of the sympathy and assistance of the Government.
– It may save time if I make a statement at this stage. The importations under this item during 1931-32 were valued at £894. No amendment of the sub-item is proposed; the rates are the same as provided by the 1921-30 tariff. Other mining machinery is provided for under item 170 (b) to 170 (e) in group 2. The duties under item 170 (e), which covers coal-cutting machines, and item 170 (f), which includes rotary and percussive rock drills, are free, if of British manufacture, and 15 per cent. under the general tariff. Rotary and percussive rock drills form a large portion of the mining machinery imported. During 1929-30 the importations of these drills were valued at over £66,000, and last year at over £34,000. In all cases these drills were admitted free if of British manufacture.
Another item covering a large quantity of mining machinery, is 170 (b), in group 2, which includes ore-dressing machinery and appliances n.e.i. and accessories. The importations for 1931-32 were valued at £21,026, of which amount £5,887 represented machinery and appliances which were admitted under departmental bylaw, free, if of British, and 10 per cent. if of foreign origin. The duties under the item now being discussed were imposed in 1926 on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, in order to bring the cost of Australian machinery in line with overseas machines. The difference in wages and the cost of materials in Australia necessitated their imposition. The item under discussion, together with items 170 (b), 170 (c), and 170 (d) were referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report on the 2nd March last. Large quantities of mining machinery are brought in under by-law, a special officer of the department making investigations in each case. I hope that the committee will accept the item.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 179 (d3b) (e) and 180 (a1) agreed to.
Item 181, sub-items (a1) (b2) (Electrical articles and materials).
.- Sub-item 181(b) deals with telegraph and telephone cables. Lead covered telephone cables contain, at times, as many as 600 pairs of wires. Smaller cables may contain 100 pairs, or even only 10 pairs of wires. There is only one manufacturer of this kind of cable in Australia, and only one buyer, so that there is an absolute monopoly. When I was PostmasterGeneral, this matter came before me in connexion with Metal Manufactures Limited, a subsidiary company to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
– There is no connexion between the two companies.
– Metal Manufactures Limited have a monopoly of the manufacture of these cables in Australia. Today, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) stated that there was a possibility of telephone charges being reduced by £1 for each subscriber. In 1928, when I was Postmaster-General, tenders were invited throughout the world for the supply of telephone cable. At that time there was a tremendous expansion of telephonic facilities. The Australian tender was £226,000, compared with a tender of £116,000 from a German firm for cable landed in Australia - a difference of £110,000.
– How did the quality of its cable compare with that of the Australian article?
– It had to stand the same departmental tests, which are severe.
– There is more than that to be said.
– The Australian factory, which cost a lot of money to establish, exists merely to manufacture cable for the Government. Between 1924 and 1929, it manufactured cable to the value of about £200,000 per annum.
– The company manufactures for industrial concerns as well.
– The use of underground cable is practically confined to the Government.
– The companymakes various classes of material.
– The copper wire is paper insulated by machinery, and the labour cost is less than 8 per cent. of the total cost of manufacture. Since 1929, there has been a falling off of telephone extensions, with the result that during the last two years the output of the factory was valued at only £25,000. The huge plant is practically idle. I foresee that when tenders are again called for cable the overhead expenses will be charged to the telephone users. In 1928, when those tenders to which I have referred were received, I sent for the manager of Metal Manufactures, and told him that the Government could not accept his company’s tender, because it was so much higher than the German tender. I added, however, that if he. would agree to reduce his quotation by £38,000 it would be accepted. He did so, and the Government gave the contract to the Australian company. It seems to me that this industry should come under article. 9 of the Ottawa agreement, which states that tariff protection shallhis afforded only those industries which are reasonably secured of sound opportunities for success. This industry has been established to supply the Government, and practically no one else, with cable. That means that it cannot manufacture all the year round, because the annual requirements of Australia can be manufactured within a few months. Taking into consideration the tariff protection afforded to local manufacturers of appliances connected with the telephone system, the total added cost to the department is £700,000. It seems to me that these industries are not essential. The whole of the material supplied by them could have been purchased from Great Britain, and a huge saving made by the department. It would be a friendly gesture to that country if the Government reduced the duty from 30 per cent. to 5 per cent., thus enabling us to avoid excessive prices for telephone material.
.- In 1932 the value of the total importations under this item was £1,664. No amendment is proposed to this item, and the duty is the same as it was when the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) was Postmaster-General. I suggest that, if an amendment is considered necessary in respect of this item, it should have been proposed by that honorable member at the time he held ministerial rank.
– It would have been just as futile to move an amendment then as it is now.
– Let me inform the honorable member that, as late as 1930, the Tariff Board inquired into this industry, and recommended that no alteration of duty be made. No doubt the honorable member is also aware of the fact that, under item 370, articles imported by or being the property of the Commonwealth, not being for the purpose of trade, are free of duty. Had the honorable member, when PostmasterGeneral, been dissatisfied with the price or quality of the local article, he could have imported the foreign article free of duty. The Tariff Board has stated that the existing duty is satisfactory, and, no doubt, it will give consideration to this item later.
– The Minister has endeavoured to justify the existence of duties by stating that, the amount of revenue collected during a period of twelve months was only small. In connexion with this item, he said that the value of the imports had been a little over £1,000. The amount of revenue collected is really no criterion as to what the duty should be. The duty may be so tremendously high that nothing could be imported, and yet the burden on industry might be terrific because of the high prices charged by the local manufacturer. It is no argument to say that the value of the imports was only £1,000, or that the amount of revenue received was small, and that therefore the duty was harmless. Evidently, in this instance the duty was highly effective, in view of the fact that the imports were few. If the Minister wishes to justify duties, he should use a better argument than the one which he has used to-night.
. - I have been somewhat mystified by the remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson). I was much struck with his argument, and, for the moment, I thought that he was referring to something that I had done, because I remember encouraging a company to start copper wire drawing at Port Kembla: but it appears that his remarks had nothing to do with anything for which I can be held responsible. The honorable member endeavoured to show that the Commonwealth, in protecting local manufacturers, had been loaded with additional costs amounting to £700,000, but according to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) the honorable member, when Postmaster-General, could have imported the material without having to pay any duty at all. I fail to understand the honorable member’s point. The answer to the point taken by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), as to the small quantity of imports, is to be found in the remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite, who said that the value of the output of the Australian factories in two years -was £25,000. There is only one buyer, and that is the people of this country. We buy it and, as has been pointed out, we need not pay any duty on imported wire. There was no need for us to buy from the local manufacturers, unless we had made some arrangement with them to that effect, but if any arrangements were made they must have been made at the time the honorable member was Postmaster-General.
.- The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) seems to think that the Government should hand out money freely, and should not be liable for the payment of duties. He has had ministerial experience, and he knows as well as I do that every tender is submitted to the Tender Board, and that that body, in considering them, must take the duty into consideration. The duty must be credited to the local manufacturer before any decision as to the tenders can be arrived at. Further than that, certain departmental preference must be given. I cannot at the moment say what that preference was when I was PostmasterGeneral, but the right honorable member for North Sydney knows what it was during his term of office. No doubt the Minister for Trade and Customs knows the extent of the departmental preference given by this Government. But before any tender could be accepted by the Tender Board, the approval of the
Minister bad to be obtained. The Government could not say that it would purchase foreign material and thus evade the duty, lt was in duty bound to accept the decision of the Tender Board.
– Is the Government, bound by any statute to accept the decision of the Tender Board?
– No; but the Government is in duty bound to accept the decision of the Tender Board after it had taken every aspect into consideration.
– I am surprised at the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) in making his complaint at. this late stage. When I was Postmaster-General, I was not at all satisfied with the way in which matters were conducted in regard to tenders for the supply of telephone cables, and I think that the departmental documents will show’ that not one tender but two tenders were accepted - one local and one overseas. .1 believe the position in respect of the requirements of the department is being investigated at the present time. I understand that some years ago, when the Government was short of telephone material, it encouraged certain manufacturers to start this industry in Australia. The Commonwealth Government has, from time to time, purchased, material from the company, and I presume that it is in duty bound to give it considerable support. In recent years the cable requirements of the Postal Department have fallen to zero, and consequently there is little opportunity for local manufacture or for the importation of materials. The honorable member for Corangamite stated that during his term of office, the local tender was £226,000, and the German tender £116,000. When I was Postmaster-General, there were three tenders - local, foreign and British, but there was not nearly the difference between the British and the Australian tenders as there was between the foreign and the Australian tenders. If the matter were inquired into, I believe it would be found that some government gave considerable encouragement to local production. Every one knows that immediately after the war millions of pounds were spent by the Postal Department, and much of that, I believe I am safe in saying, was devoted to the carrying out of telephonic extensions, which raised our telephone branch to a very high state of efficiency. From a rumour that I heard to-day, I understand that the matter is being inquired into further, and that the local company is asking for more patronage from the Government. During my term of office, I was not satisfied with some of the explanations that were made; consequently, the tender was divided, a certain quantity of material being brought in from outside, and the remainder being purchased locally.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 183, 185 (a), 187 (a) (d), 1S8, 189 (e) (f) (h), 191 (a), 193, 196, 19S, 199, 202, 204 (a), 205, 206 (c) (e), 207, 208 (e), 214, 218, 220 (a), 221 and 222 agreed to.
Items 223, 225 (a), 227, 228, 229 (a) (f) (c) (h 2, 3), (i), 231 (a 2) (b) (c) (d), and 233 agreed to.
Items 234, 235, 236, 238 agreed to. Progress reported.
Exports op Butter to Great Britain.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn..
I take this opportunity to make a statement with respect to the present position in regard to butter. A number of statements have been made which display a complete misunderstanding of the position, and it is therefore proper that I should inform the House of the stage that has now been reached as a result of the consultations that took place between the Government and the Dairy Produce Export Control Board at a meeting which was held in Canberra to-day.
It has been asserted in some quarters that the Government has consented to a restriction on the export of butter to Great Britain, and that this alleged fact shows that Australia is submitting to dictation from abroad. It has been stated that Australia’s declared three years’ right of free entry to the British market is already denied her, and that in regard to anything that might be classified as a favour she has to share with the foreigner. Indeed, it has been alleged - I am reading from a well-known Melbourne newspaper - that our primary industries are being dragooned by Great Britain or by the Commonwealth Government into export restrictions.
At the outset, I want to make it quite cleaT that the question of the restriction of butter exports to the United Kingdom was raised, not by Great Britain, but by the Dominion of New Zealand. It is only just to the Government of Great Britain, in view of comments that have been based upon misunderstanding, that that fact should be made quite clear. On the 19th January last, the British Government received from the High Commissioner for New Zealand a letter asking that, as a matter of urgency, a meeting should be arranged with a view to discussing the position that had been created by the fall of the price of butter in Great Britain to a level which could only be described as disastrous to exporting countries. That is the first point: That the question was raised by New Zealand, and that the British Government did no more than ask New Zealand and Australia to meet its representatives for the purpose of discussing the position.
The next point that I wish to make is this : As is well-known, the Ottawa agreement provides for ‘ tlie free entry of Australian and other dominion butter into Great Britain during a period of three years. The British Government does not ask that that provision be amended or altered in any respect. The Commonwealth Government is able to insist upon the observance of the terms of the Ottawa agreement. Indeed, no such insistence is required. Unless the Commonwealth Government agrees, no change can be made in the terms of the Ottawa agreement. The position, therefore, is that, if the dominions wish to maintain the Ottawa position, and to have no restriction in respect of butter, they can do so. No doubt has ever been raised as to that being the true position. The British Government does not urge the imposition of any restrictions. But if there are no restrictions, it is quite certain that negotiations which are now pending for the making of trade agree- ments between the United Kingdom and Denmark and other countries, will be greatly facilitated. The British Government, therefore, does not ask that any restriction be adopted. Tha question has to be considered in Australia simply from the point of view of the interests of the Australian industry. By the common consent of the British Government and the Australian Government, that is the only point of view which is being taken, or which if is necessary to take. The question under consideration relates to a dominion restriction, with a foreign restriction of double the percentage that might ultimately be adopted by agreement in the case of any dominion, together with the maintenance of the 15s. per cwt preference in respect of dominion butter. Accordingly, if ultimately a restriction were accepted, it would mean that double . that restriction would apply to foreign butter on a percentage basis, and that the 15s. per cwt. in favour of dominion butter would he retained. The Government has sought the advice of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board, which is representative of the dairying industry. That board is now due for re-election; in fact, nominations have just closed. An election will be held iii only one State, the sitting members in all the other States having been re-elected without a contest. It is reasonable, therefore, to suppose that the board possesses the confidence of the industry. If the board recommends that no restriction be imposed, the Government will have no hesitation in adopting that course. At the present time, the board does not, upon consideration of the facts recently placed before it, feel justified in. recommending that no restriction be imposed. It has been in communication with the Government, and this afternoon resolved -
The Australian .Dairy Produce Export Control Board resolves that the Commonwealth Government be requested to defer final determination of the question of restriction of the export of butter until the board has had an importunity of discussing the matter with the representatives of tlie New Zealand Dairy Board, who will visit Australia within the next few weeks.
The Government is prepared to accede to the wishes of the Australian board, and therefore does not propose to take any action at present.
I have not in this statement entered into the controversial subject of the probable effect of restriction. I have not referred to the undue increase of imports into the British market, and the great reduction of price that has recently taken place, nor have I speculated as to the possibility that a restriction of exports might raise prices to an extent that would more than offset any disadvantage suffered through abstention from exporting a proportion of our butter. Leaving all these matters out of account, I have sought only to make clear that there has been no dragooning on the part of the British Government. The proposal to restrict exports was made first by the New Zealand Government to the British Government, which afforded an opportunity for a discussion of the subject, and submitted the issue to the Commonwealth Government for consideration. Consequently, there is no foundation for the suggestion promulgated in certain quarters that the Commonwealth Government is dictating to the industry, and imposing restrictions upon it.
– What was the necessity for the resolution of the board this afternoon?
– The Government has been consulting the board in order to obtain its opinion. No useful purpose would Be served by relating the views which have been expressed by the board from time to time. On the advice of that body, the Government has deferred determination of the matter.
.- The statement by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) was extraordinary. It suggested that there was nothing in all the talk we have heard, that the cablegrams we have read were based on myths, and that no request was made by the British Government that the Commonwealth Government should consider a proposal to restrict the export of butter. This proposal, we are assured, was made by New Zealand, and the British Government merely asked the Commonwealth Government to consider it. If those be the facts, what has given rise to all the discussion that has taken place during the last few weeks? What did the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) mean when, on the 14th March, he stated, in reply to a question, that discussion was then taking place between the Commonwealth Government and the Dairy Produce Export Control Board, that a plan was being evolved, and that an announcement would be made in due course?
– All of that was accurate.
– In the speech of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) there was no denial that the Commonwealth Government was considering a request that the export of butter be restricted. Did not the Minister stress the advantages that would arise from such a restriction?
– Yes ; but the statement made by the Attorney-General tonight was not consistent with the Minister’s speech. The fact is that the discussion on the motion for adjournment made by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) frightened the Government. Ministers now realize that they cannot carry through a proposal which challenges the whole Ottawa agreement. If there is no foundation for the concern that has been felt lately, if no request for restriction was made, why did the Dairy Produce Export Control Board request’ the Commonwealth Government to defer determination of the matter? What inspiration was contained in the communications from the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) ? I invite the Government to lay on the table the substance of all the communications that have passed between the British Government and the Resident Minister in London, between the Resident Minister in London and the Commonwealth Government, and between the Commonwealth Government and the Dairy Produce Export Control Board. The Government realized the political effect of a breakdown in the Ottawa agreement within a few months of its endorsement by this Parliament, and the Attorney-General, in endeavouring to cover up the whole business, has not deceived honorable members. There should not be a moment’s hesitation in rejecting any proposal bythe British Government that the Commonwealth should agree to a restriction of exports.
I do not say that those controlling the export of butter should not seriously watch the position during the present season in order to prevent this country from being depleted of stocks. The seasonal prospects in some States are not good, and it is the duty of the board to see that adequate stocks are maintained iu Australia. But it should not agree to a restriction of exports, because if the season should prove more favorable than at present appears likely, our surplus stocks can be shifted abroad. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that more than one communication on this subject was’ received by the Commonwealth Government from the Resident Minister in London, and that the British Government was insistent upon a restriction of exports, to which the board would not agree without conditions as to legislation which the Government was not prepared to accept. Now the determination, of the matter is being deferred, and there is an attempt to camouflage, which is not fair to honorable members.
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has just made a carefully-prepared statement, and, when honorable members sought further information, took great pains not to depart from it in the slightest degree.
– It was written by myself ten minutes ago. “Mr. BEASLEY.- The right honorable gentleman was careful to make no departure from his prepared statement to enlighten honorable members more fully regarding certain portions of it. He made long and very careful references to the Control Board along the lines that were emphasized by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) in dealing with the motion for the adjournment last. Thursday, stating that this board was elected by the representatives- of the in-‘ dustry, and that it could therefore speak as being truly representative of the industry. We have been informed that, on two occasions, the board had arrived at a decision opposed to the restriction of exports. The next development was that the executive members of the board were brought to Canberra to discuss the matter with the- Government. Why should the necessity arise for rushing these members to
Canberra after they had reached a decision, unless some direction had been given to the Government from the other side of the world? There is more in thu? than a mere matter of correspondence with the New Zealand and British Governments, or the activities of the Control Board itself.
– It was stated by Ministers that if they could get the New Zealand Government to agree, they would restrict exports.
– That was admitted by the Prime Minister in reply to a question by the honorable member’ for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). The next point is that the Government announces that it will not do anything other than what the Control Board advises it to do.
– I did not say that.
– We are also told that the Government will take its directions from the Control Board, because it truly represents the people in the industry.
– I did not say that.
– Apparently, the Government does not know its own mind. Certainly no one else knows its mind because of the many conflicting statements that have been made. Nominations for the Control Board closed yesterday, and with the exception of Queensland all the States have re-elected their representatives. It is logical to assume, therefore, that the board may be influenced to take another course since the election of its’ members has been determined, and that if the representatives of the industry, after discussion, decide on a certain course, the Government will accept their decision.
– I did not say that.
– The point I am making is that, if the Government intends to accept the decision of the Control Board, why was it necessary for the board to carry a resolution asking the Government to defer action until it can consult another body in New Zealand ? What does the ‘ Governnent really propose to do? After all, if the board does not’ approve of what the Government wants- to- do,’ why not tell us now? If ‘the Government will not accept the board’s advice it will indicate clearly to us that it has a definite policy of its own on the matter quite apart from the board altogether. This subject cannot be glossed over as the Attorney-General is attempting to gloss it over to-night. There is too big a background to the problem. Too much knowledge of it is abroad for it to be handled in this way. It appears that the timely action of the honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) last week in focussing public attention on what is being done, and in bringing Ministers to their feet on this subject, was thoroughly justified. It is clear now that there is confusion within the Cabinet on this subject. Seeing that the board desires action deferred it is clear that some instructions must have been received from the other side of the world. Something definite has been asked of this Government, lt is all very well to say that the Ottawa agreement cannot he varied unless the Commonwealth Government agrees to it. Of course it can be varied with such a willing . government as is in power today. In view of the readiness of the representatives of this Government at Ottawa to fall in with the wishes of the British Government, and the readiness of the Government itself, a thousand times more marked to-day, to do everything that is requested of it from overseas, the agreement can doubtless be easily varied! The only conclusion we can roach is that pressure has been brought to bear upon it. Instructions have been given, and it is useless for the Government to indulge in “stunts “ with the Control Board. Perhaps the fact that nominations closed only yesterday made it desirable last week for the board to fall in with the wishes of the Government. Now there will be a little more sparring and a little more make-believe. But why cannot the Government be honest with the people, and tell them where it stands?
– Perhaps it will be admitted now that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) took a little too much for granted last week in his endeavour to interpret the mind of the Control Board. I, for one, am pleased to have the assurance of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that, for the ‘time being, the Government proposes to accept the advice of the board.
– He did not say that.
– I think I have correctly interpreted the right honorable gentleman’s remarks.
– The honorable gentleman has interpreted them with complete accuracy.
– I can only hope that the Government will continue to be guided by the board, and that, the composite wisdom of our board and the board in New Zealand will succeed in arriving at some agreement, which the Government will adopt.
– The honorable member for West Sydney. (Mr. Beasley) i3 very disappointed at the disappearance of a mare’s nest into thin air - if that is where mare’s nests go ! We all know from where the honorable member got the idea on which he based his remarkable statement about the Government acting on directions from abroad. He received it from the daily journal which, I presume, is his main source of information. It was thought, desirable to make a plain statement of indisputable facts in relation to this subject. That statement concluded with two definite observations. The first of these was that if the representatives of the industry desired any restrictions the Government, would be prepared to accept its advice. That does not mean that the Government is prepared to do whatever the board says, which is quite a different thing. I rose mainly for the purpose of making that plain. Suppose, for example, the board were to advise the Government ‘ that it, was prepared to accept, restrictions, but that it recommended the acceptance of the restrictions on the conditions that the Government found a very large sum of money out of Consolidated Revenue. Then a very different question would arise. I made my statement in order to prevent any misunderstanding such as might be created by the suggestion that the Government would accept the advice of the board whatever it, was. That was exactly what I was careful not ‘to say. My other observation was that, after . the statement published in the most inventive section of the Australian press - that the Government had accepted dictation from a board, and would restrict the exports of butter - I thought it wise to announce, on behalf of the Government, that no restriction had been accepted, and that consideration of the question was being deferred until the Control Board was able to discuss the matter in conjunction with the New Zealand board.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The mover of the motion for the adjournment having replied, the debate is closed.
Question put, and division called for.
The bells having been rung,
– Do I understand that honorable members desire to call off the division?
– I must ask honorable members to be more careful, in future, before calling for a division.
– We called for a division as a protest against the action of the Government.
– I remind the House that, under the circumstances, it is a very undesirable form of protest.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the repeated warnings of the Auditor-General, will he carry out his promise to appoint a commission to investigate the cost of our aviation activities in the past, with a view to taking the necessary steps to get better results for the money spent upon this necessary activity in the future; if so, can he inform the House when such investigation will commence?
– No such promise has been made by me. The question of air transport services has been comprehensively investigated recently by an interdepartmental committee, comprising responsible officers of the Civil Aviation Branch of the Defence Department, Commonwealth Railways, Postmaster-General’s Department, and Treasury. So far as I am aware, the Auditor-General has not at any time suggested that there has been any malpractice in the administration of civil aviation, and the Government does not consider that there is any justification whatsoever for the appointment of a commission to investigate aviation activities in Australia.
s. - On the 9th March, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
As previously advised, no gold has been shipped overseas by the Government. The following information in regard to shipments of gold overseas has been supplied by the Commonwealth Bank. All values are in gold pounds : -
s. - On the 16th March, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
With regard to recent occurrences in North Australia waters -
Has the department any knowledge of a Japanese vessel being recently challenged near
Thursday Island, and replying by running away flying the Japanese flag?
Has the department any knowledge of the landing of a crew from a Japanese submarine, alleged to have been witnessed by natives T
In order to allay the fears of the inhabitants of Thursday Island, cun he make a statement to the House in regard to recent, occurrences ?
If he considers it inadvisable to make a public statement, will he, for the information of the House, place a report on the position upon the tabic of the Library?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : - 1 and 2. Reports to this effect have appeared in the press. Recently the. master of n Japanese sampan was fined at Thursday Island for a breach of the Customs Act for failure to answer customs’ signals. The report regarding the presence of a submarine i’.; unconfirmed, 3 and 4. There is no occasion for fear on the part of the inhabitants of Thursday Island. The explanation of the occurrences is that a certain amount of poaching for trochus; shell is going on in northern wain.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330321_reps_13_138/>.