13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H.Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs any knowledge of the trade agreement reported to be imminent between the United Kingdom and the Argentine, by which it is confidently hoped that the trade between the two countries will be restored to its former volume? If so, will the honorable gentleman state what effect the agreement will have on Australian industries?
– I have no knowledge of the agreement, but I shall have inquiries made regarding it, and let the right honorable gentleman have a reply later.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Government is aware that usually petrol costs the user in Tasmania 2d. per gallon more than is charged in the capital cities on the mainland, and that, at the present time, the additional cost is 5d. per gallon? Will this matter be referred to the Royal Commission on the Petrol Industry for special attention ?
– The selling price of petrol in Australia - including, of course, Tasmania - will be referred to the Royal Commission on the Petrol Industry.
– The Melbourne Age of yesterday reports the following statement by Mr. H.S. Catling, who presided at a recent meeting of garage proprietors at Bendigo : -
If a seller was a “ loyalist,” handling only the major companies’ products, first-grade petrol would cost him1s. 97/8d. a gallon and second-grade1s. 77/8d., but if a seller was a “ disloyalist,” handling other companies’ spirits, also, first-grade petrol would cost him 2s.03/8d. and second-grade1s.103/8d.
Will the Government make the terms of reference to the royal commission sufficiently wide to permit the commission to report on the need for the stabilization of prices ?
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) had already called my attention to the substance of the allegation made by Mr. Catling. The inquiry by the commission into the selling price of petrol will cover the terms on conditions on which petrol is sold. It do not propose, however, to deal with certain difficulties which conceivably may arise in connexion with the inquiry. The Government does not propose to include specifically in the terms of reference the subject of stabilization of prices.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether the scope of the present inquiry into petrol prices will cover prices and conditions of sale of petrol in country towns and country districts?
– It is proposed to make a general reference asking the commission to inquire into the wholesale and retail selling price of petrol in Australia. That reference will include the country equally with the towns.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in possession of any information confirming the newspaper report that Japan has withdrawn from the League of Nations? If so, can he say whether the mandates of the Marianne, Pelew and Caroline groups of islands will be withdrawn from Japan?
– I have no information beyond what has appeared in the newspapers. Under the Covenant of the League of Nations, a power proposing to withdraw from the League must give two years’ notice of its intention so to do. Regarding the effect of such a withdrawal on the holding of mandates, there is some difference of opinion amongst authorities. The issue of the mandates was, in fact, determined by the Allied and Associated Powers, but their administration must be carried on in accordance with article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. It is impossible for any person to give an authoritative reply on the point raised by the honorable member’s question.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give to the House any information regarding the Four-Power Peace Pact to which reference hasbeen made in the newspapers?
– I can add nothing to what has been published in the public press. There appeared to be a grave danger of a collapse of the Disarmament Conference. Such a breakdown might have had very serious effects on the general proposals for disarmament, and particularly upon the political situation in Europe. The British Government, in consultation with the Commonwealth, and presumably with other dominions, determined to endeavour to bring the disarmament discussions to a definite, even if temporary and provisional agreement, in order to effect some degree of disarmament at once. The impossibility of dissociating disarmament from the existing political condition of the world, and especially of Europe, was recognized, and the British Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, and Sir John Simon went to Rome to discuss with Italian statesmen the possibility of arriving at an agreement which would contribute to a solution of the problem of securitywith which the problem of disarmament is so closely associated. The Commonwealth Government has been kept informed of the proposals for a disarmament convention. Certain matters of minor detail are being examined, hut the Commonwealth Government is giving general support to the proposals made by the British Government.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state whether it is a fact that by the abolition of trial by jury a basic principle of British justice is being denied the people of the Northern Territory? If so, on whose recommendation has it been done, and will the Minister delay the enforcement of so drastic an ordinance until residents of the territory have been afforded an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it by way of referendum?
– The question asked by the honorable member relates only to trials of civil causes in the Northern Territory. The method of trial of such causes is regulated by rules of court which a judge has power to make. What has been done is to bring the rules of court in the Northern Territory into line with the rules of the High Court, which provide that the trial of civil causes shall, unless otherwise ordered, beby a judge. It is open to parties in the Northern Territory to make application for a jury, and that is the ordinary procedure in many jurisdictions in Australia. If the judge thinks that a case is an appropriate one for trial by a jury, he can make an order to have it so tried. The procedure in the Northern Territory has been brought into accord with the general development of practice in relation to trials of civil causes, not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world as well.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral if it is intended that the judge of the Northern Territory shall act in a dual capacity, as a judge and also as a magistrate? If he so acts, will not an appeal from the lower jurisdiction to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the territory be tantamount to an appeal from Caesar to Caesar, and increase the cost of administering justice by making appeals to the High Court of Australia necessary?
– The honorable gentleman is aware of the difficulties involved in making provision for judicial appeals in a community such as that of the Northern Territory, and of providing for the adequate and competent administration of justice in what are generally regarded as the lower jurisdictions. The intention of the Government is that the judge to be appointed shall sit in the full and the limited jurisdictions which at; present are exercised by magistrates, and that he shall also act as a judge of the Supreme Court. True, this will remove the possibility of appeal, except to the High Court, against a number of decisions. That may or may not be a disadvantage. It is impossible, however, to comply with all that may be desirable from various points of view. It is thought that what has been arranged is the most practical and effective, and on the whole the fairest, method of administering justice in the Northern Territory. The jurisdiction of the lower courts, may I add, will be exercised by the judge only in Darwin, not in other centres.
– For the purpose of providing work for the unemployed of Canberra, and with a view to opening up country of great scenic beauty,will the Minister for the Interior give his support to a proposal for the construction of a trafficable road from Canberra to Tumut, which would open a new tourist route from Canberra to Albury, via Wagga?
– I understand that this proposal has been before governments for some years, but has been in abeyance. I shall inquire whether it is possible to have anything done on the lines suggested by the honorable member; but I do not think that the work, if undertaken, would be of much benefit to the unemployed of Canberra, because the road, for most of the way, would be through the State of New South Wales, and would have to be made by the State authority.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether there is any truth in the report published in this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times that the Government proposes to embark
On a comprehensive scheme of housing for the Federal Capital Territory, extending over a number of years? If so, is it proposed that loan money shall be provided for the work, and will members of this House have an opportunity of discussing the matter before anything definite is done?
– The Government has not yet decided upon any comprehensive housing scheme for Canberra of the nature mentioned by the honorable member, so that the question whether loan money shall be employed for the purpose does not yet arise. When the matter comes up for decision, the desirability of raising a loan for housing purposes will doubtless receive consideration.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House inform the House for what period it is proposed that Parliament shall adjourn over the Easter holidays, and whether any influence has been brought to bear by the Government of New South Wales regardingthe length of the recess?
– It is proposed that Parliament shall adjourn from the 6th April until the 26th April. That adjournment has been proposed by the Government after an impartial consideration of all relevant circumstances. If the honorable member believes that it is desirable to afford the Government of New South Wales an opportunity to bring influence to bear on the Commonwealth Government regarding this matter, the Government will be willing to consider any representations coming from that source.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Tariff Board’s report on sheet glass has yet been received? Is he aware that great difficulty is being experienced in obtaining adequate supplies of sheet glass for glass-houses used for the growing of tomatoes, &c. ? Is the embargo on the importation of sheet glass still in operation ?
– The Tariff Board’s report has been received, and is being considered. So far as I know, no difficulty is being experienced in obtaining sheet glass at the present time. The local glass manufacturing company has informed me that it has in stock thousands of cases of glass suitable for horticultural purposes. The embargo on sheet glass is still in operation.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that some tobacco manufacturers have requested the Government to increase the import duty on tobacco leaf, and to reduce the excise duty?
– It has frequently been suggested that the import duty on tobacco leaf be increased, and that the excise duty be reduced, but the suggestion has not, so far as I know, come from the manufacturers.
– Will the Minister for Commerce, when conducting negotiations regarding the restriction of butter exports to Great Britain, give due regard to a statement by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) who, when speaking to butter producers at Bellingen last week, said -
The policy of restriction is fundamentally wrong, being based on the illusion that by this means we shall be able to boost the price. The policy of restriction will affect production of a necessary commodity while millions are starving.
– Every factor vital to the question will be considered. Above all, the Government is anxious to hear the opinions of accredited representatives of the dairying industry before it comes to any decision on this matter.
– I have received innumerable letters from towns in New South Wales asking whether the Government is likely to make available during the year surplus military clothing, blankets, &c. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence announce the Government’s intentions in the matter?
– Approval is given from time to time for the distribution in the States of a quantity of part-worn and surplus military clothing as it becomes available. The quantity made available in New South Wales recently happened to be somewhat in excess of the usual amount. As the winter months are approaching, and the need is now much greater than is ordinarily the case, this larger quantity will be appreciated by those in want. The distribution has, for some time, been made through the New South Wales Government.
– I desire to inform the House that the Government has completed the Australian delegation for this year’s Conference of . theInternational Labour Organization, which is to open at Geneva on the 8th June next. The
Government has appointed Mr. A. R. Wallis, president of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, as the non-Government delegate to represent the workers of Australia at this conference. Mr. Wallis was placed first in a ballot that was conducted by trade union organizations.
– I have received from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The failure of the Government to realize its definite responsibility in regard to the unemployed of Commonwealth territories, and to deal with same”.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Three weeks ago the adjournment of the House was moved for the purpose of discussing the general position in regard to unemployment in Australia. All sections of the House participated in that debate. Since then, although the seriousness of the matter has been kept prominently before Ministers by means of questions, the position has become more acute. Definite signs are wanting that the Government is doing, or even contemplating, anything to cope with the situation. Surely the Commonwealth has a positive responsibility towards those who live within the borders of its own territories. While the condition of the unemployed in New South Wales is bad, because a cheese-paring State government is effecting savings at the expense of the workers, by means of wholesale dismissals and in other directions, it must be conceded that the responsibility of a State is very heavy, and that a huge amount would have to be expended by a State government to make any appreciable difference, in the number of the unemployedin any State. But in the case of the parent Government of the
Commonwealth the responsibility is comparatively slight. In the Federal Capital Territory only a little over 700 persons are out of work. Yet this great Commonwealth Government is either incapable of doing, or refuses to do, anything to alleviate the prevailing distress. The number of unemployed men, married and single, is almost equal. They, are receiving .barely sufficient to keep them in food, let alone other necessaries. The scale of rations at the proposed prices is as follows: -
The Scullin Government, during its term of office, made provision for employment at from half up to full time, and in its last six months it provided for almost full time for the whole of the unemployed on the register. During the period that the present Government has been in office the number of unemployed on the register at Canberra has increased by from 150 to 200. Yet the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), and other members of the Government, have stated from time to time that more is now being done towards the relief of unemployment in Canberra than was done by the previous Government. Not only is less being done, but more men have been thrown out of work as the result of the savings that have been effected by this Government in the administration of the Territory. Men who are given one-half, three-quarters, or full time, have an opportunity to purchase not only food on the ration scale, but also other necessaries, such as boots and clothing. This Government, however, has so far made no provision for the unemployed to get more than enough of the various commodities that are necessary to keep life in them.
– If they get enough, what more do they want?
– That interjection by the Postmaster-General is indicative of the policy of the Government. I should like the honorable gentleman to try to live on the rations provided in Canberra. Let me refer him to scale H, which relates to. a man, wife, and seven or more children. Apparently, the scale of ration is the same whether the number of children is 7, 8, 9 or 12. The rations are 10 lb. of meat, 16 oz. of tea, 7 lb. of sugar, 16 oz. of jam, 2 tins of condensed milk, 3^ lb. of butter, -J lb. of cheese, 1 lb. of soap, 13 loaves of bread, 4 lb. of oatmeal, 16 pints of milk, 4 lb. of flour, 2 tins of golden syrup, and 2 lb. of sago or rice. Yet the Postmaster-General has said “ What more do they want.” !
– The honorable member said that the ration was enough.
– It is not nearly enough for single and married men, residents of this Territory, who should, and did during the regime of the Scullin Government, receive more than the utterly inadequate ration provided ‘by this Government. The policy of the Scullin Government was to give the unemployed sufficient work to prevent them from being compelled to apply for the ration, but this Government, immediately it took office, started to reduce the expenditure in Canberra. We have now reached a stage at which the parent government of the Commonwealth has refused to provide for the. needs of 700 necessitous people resident in Canberra. The Minister has reiterated time after time that more money is being expended in the Federal Territory by this Government than was expended by the previous Government. Let me point out that the expenditure by this Government on the provision of employment is definitely less than the expenditure by the previous Government. In 1931-32, for additions, new works, and buildings for Canberra, the vote was £90,000. The Scullin Government left office before the full financial year had expired, but had it remained in office, the whole of the vote would have been expended. The expenditure was right up to the mark on the 6th January when that Government left office. But this Government reduced the vote to £77,000. Actually, the vote for new works and buildings was reduced by £30,000. The
Government will save this year over £21,000 on works in Canberra as provided for in the general Estimates. Taking every factor into consideration, the reduced expenditure on employment in the Federal Capital Territory has been in the vicinity of £60,000. Because of the curtailment of works in Canberra, few workers indeed have received relief under the vote for new works and buildings. On several works recently undertaken in the Federal Capital Territory only workers from New South Wales have been employed. The contract system does not permit of the use of a roster system or a system of rotation in accordance with the register. Because of that, six or twelve men have been given employment on full time, while the great majority of the unemployed of Canberra have had no opportunity to obtain relief work. The other day I asked a question in this House regarding the unfortunate men in this Territory, many of them sons of returned soldiers, who have been thrown out of employment because of the action of this Government and are, therefore, not in a position to pay their rents or instalments due under housing loans. These men are now receiving letters from the department threatening them with eviction. The unemployed residents of Canberra have no opportunity to obtain work in either Victoria or New South Wales. They are regarded as being outside of State jurisdiction, and, as a result, are compelled to stay in the Federal Capital Territory. Apparently this Government is carrying out a policy which, it hopes, will eventually drive the workless from Canberra, and place them beyond its responsibility. The question I asked was whether, in view of the fact that few returned soldiers would pass the necessary examination for clerical work on the census, the Government would take into consideration the question of giving, not only the married men in Canberra, who are endeavouring to pay their rents and instalments on housing loans, but also the sons of returned soldiers, an opportunity to obtain employment on the census.
– What about the rest of Australia?
– The citizens of the rest of Australia are entitled to obtain a share of this work. I am asking, not that the whole of it should be given to the citizens of Canberra, but that this Government, which has at least some responsibility in the matter, should give them an opportunity to obtain some of thiswork. Although the AttorneyGeneral promised to give consideration to my suggestion, I notice by the press that the examination is to be confined exclusively to returned soldiers. I urge the Government to provide more work for the workless of this Territory. The only work that is now being provided is just sufficient to enable a citizen to buy the rations to which he is entitled. The present allowance is for food only. Winter is approaching, and the unemployed have no opportunity to buy boots, shoes and clothing for their children. They cannot purchase the comforts which are absolutely necessary during the rigorous winter which is experienced here. They cannot obtain boots, shoes and clothing unless those commodities are provided by the Belief Society. It is a shame and a disgrace to this country that the parent government of the Commonwealth can do no more for its workless citizens than to provide them with a very small allowance. The Government should take immediate action to remove the distress of the community which has arisen out of its administration.
.-While I shall not pass lightly over what the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has said, I suggest that his remarks would have had more weight with both the Government and the people of Canberra had they been expressed by any other member in this House. During the two years that the honorable member occupied the office which I now hold, there were constant complaints regarding his administration, particularly as it affected the unemployed of this city and Territory. Honorable members may recollect that on one occasion the unemployed felt so incensed at their treatment that they decided tomarch on Parliament House.
– That demonstration was organized by anti-labour interests for party political purposes.
– The questions regarding Canberra which the honorable member for Darling asked a few days ago are regarded in the light of a joke by the residents of this city.
– The unemployed here do not regard their treatment as a joke.
– They know full well that they did not receive any better treatment from the last Government than they are receiving now. I admit that the Scullin Government did its best- to provide the people of Canberra with food and clothing ; . but I claim that this Government has done more than that Government “was able to do. I regret that it is not possible to do more than is now being done for the unemployed of this city. I should like to see no unemployment here at all. But Canberra occupies a . peculiar position among the cities of Australia. Prior to 1929, millions of pounds were spent here in preparation for the transfer of the seat of government. Colossal works, including the supply of water, electric light and sewerage were undertaken. When the Scullin Government came into office those works had been completed, and instead of the activity which previously existed, Canberra, in common with the rest of Australia, was feeling the effects of the depression. Naturally, that Administration was concerned; and although it did its best to relieve unemployment, the fact remains that when it relinquished office more persons were unemployed in Australia than when it took up the reins of government.
-Similar conditions existed throughout the world.
– As I have said, I credit the Scullin Government with having done its best for the unemployed of Canberra. But what was its best? The honorable member who moved this motion to-day said that the Scullin Government provided at least half-time employment for unemployed married workers. That is not strictly correct, for the Government of which he was a member was able to provide only one week’s work in three weeks for married men, and. one week’s work in five weeks for single men. At an earlier stage in that Government’s administration, single men received only one week’s work in twelve weeks.
– That is not correct.
– The records of the department will bear out my statement. The present Government provides married men with one week’s work every fortnight, which is better than the previous Government was able to do. LieutenantColonel Goodwin, of the Canberra Relief Society, who takes an active and kindly interest in relieving poverty and distress in this city, informed me a few days ago that the condition of the unemployed here had improved, because men on halftime employment were able to purchase more than the actual food requirements of themselves and their families; they were able to buy some clothing as well. That was not possible when they received only one week’s work in three weeks. I assure the House that the Government is not unmindful of the unemployed in this city. I, personally, desire to see them treated as generously as is possible. In addition to being the Minister administering this Territory, I am the representative of the surrounding district, and I want to see this city and district prosper. The present Government has done much for Canberra by its decision to transfer other departments here as circumstances permit. Already a number of officers of the Taxation Department have been transferred to Canberra, and at the present time, the Patents ‘ Department is in course of removal here. The transfer, .pf those two departments will add abo.ut 350 souls to the population of .Canberra. Their transfer has meant the. provision of additional housing accommodation, thus giving work to artisans and others in this city. There are not many carpenters, bricklayers, or other tradesmen connected with the building trade now unemployed in Canberra. I emphasize that this work is in addition to the ordinary relief granted by way of rations. Even tlie honorable member who moved this motion admitted that the food ration was sufficient. It is true that the future proposals of the Government in regard to unemployment relief in Canberra will mean that from the 1st April next the nominal value of the assistance to be rendered will be less than it is to-day, but there will not be any reduction in the quantity of goods which may be purchased. Because of a’ fall in the cost of living, those in receipt of relief will be able to buy as much with their reduced allowance as was possible previously with a larger sum. The Department of Health is convinced that the rations which the reduced grant will purchase will still be sufficient. I submit that the Government is doing as much as is possible in all the circumstances. The Government is concerned, not only with the granting of relief to the unemployed at Canberra, but also with the necessity for balancing its budget this year, as it did last year. Unlike the Scullin Government, it does not expect to end the financial year with a deficit.
– The Minister has not yet answered my question as to the amount of money that is being expended.
– The honorable gentleman quoted some figures to show what was done by the Government of which he was a member. It is true that, in connexion with certain items, the Scullin Government spent more in Canberra than the present Government has expended ; but in addition to the expenditure under the heading of unemployment relief, the present Government has spent considerable sums in the construction of buildings and in the transfer of further departments to Canberra, so that the total amount made available for the relief of the unemployed is more than double what the Scullin Government spent.When we reflect that the unemployed of Canberra are receiving as much assistance in the way of food relief as during the régime of the Scullin Government, and that, in addition, more constructional work is being undertaken here, it is not necessary to quote figures to show that they are being better treated. When the honorable member for Darling was in charge of the administration of Canberra, he followed the practice of the New South Wales authorities in regard to unemployment relief. I understand that further changes in regard to unemployment relief in New South Wales are contemplated. The Government is watching what is being done, with a view to making any alteration thought desirable in the system in operation here, because it realizes that the conditions in Canberra are similar to those in the adjoining town of Queanbeyan, and inother towns in New South Wales. It is a pity that the time ofthe House should be occupied with motions of this kind. There is just as much sympathy with the unemployed among supporters of the present Government as exists among members of the Opposition. The Government is doing all it can, and there is no need for the honorable member for Darling to make exaggerated statements about people starving in this city. If he knows of any persons who are starving, it is his duty to bring their cases under the notice of the officers of the department. Some time ago the Canberra Relief Society approached the Government for a grant to enable it to carry on its good work among the unemployed of Canberra, and the Government is hopeful of subsidizing the funds of the society to the extent of £1,000. Recently, we were able to show that there had, in fact, been a slight improvement in the figures, because the department had been able to provide one week’s work every fortnight, instead of every three weeks, as previously.
Mr.Fenton. - Is an unemployment tax levied in Canberra?
– No ; the money for the relief of unemployment is taken from general revenue. On the whole, I think that* that is the better system for a small area such as that of the National Capital. Some complaint was heardon the ground that the Government was endeavouring to reduce the rations of the unemployed; but the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) knows that that statement is quite incorrect, and. he should assist in clearing up the misapprehension on the matter. The unemployed have quite enough troubles to meet without being in fear of having their rations cut down. They will receive the same quantity of rations as before,and as I have already indicated, the food supplied will be of first class quality. On no less an authority than that of the Health Department, it may be said that the rations are adequate:
– I strongly disapprove of the Minister’s statement that the time of the House was being wasted in discussing this matter. In myview, the problem of unemployment transcends in importance all others that we can discussin this Parliament, and if wewere tosit continuously for the purpose of solving that problem, our time could not be better occupied. Therefore, any honorable member who focusses the attention of the House upon the importance of giving close attention to this problem, whether in Canberra or elsewhere, is doing a good service to the country. The Minister was at great pains to explain how difficult are the circumstances in which the country is now placed ; he said that the Government was endeavouring to do its best, and so on. But in considering this matter, I have ever in mind the promises made by the Government at the last election. We are entitled to remind the Minister and the Government of these promises. In support of my assertion that such promises were made, speeches and literature could be quoted in plenty. The party opposite appealed to the people on the specific subject of unemployment; yet Ministers can now merely tell us that they are trying to do their best under extraordinary circumstances. Those of us who during the election campaign expressed the view that the problem of unemployment, whether in Canberra or elsewhere, could not be solved without drastic changes in our monetary system, were laughed at. The honorable gentlemen who sit behind the Government to-day went up and down the country addressing the electors, and they even canvassed from door to door, informing householders who were unemployed that if they supported the Nationalist party candidates, work would be provided for them. So the responsibility of carrying out its promise to the people rests on the Government, and it is the duty of this party to continue to hammer home the fact that, instead of talking about the bad times we are experiencing, the Government should take practical steps in the direction of redeeming its election pledges. Honorable members opposite declared that they had a policy to meet the times ; yet the Minister did not answer the charge of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that the unemployment register in Canberra shows that quite recently the number of unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory has increased. That is a serious indictment of this Government. We are entitled to remind it, too, of its recent’ action in regard to the unfortunate unemployed who, in the course of tramping through the country looking for work, had occasion to use the shelter camps in Canberra. The Government threatened to take off the roofs of buildings here in which they sheltered. This incident is fresh in our memory. The policy of the Government was to force those men out of this Territory, so that the cost of giving relief to them would fall on other authorities. Ministers did not care what it meant to the men themselves to be forced upon the roads in search of shelter elsewhere. Ministers did not worry about that. They simply said : “ If these men are not out of Canberra within a specified time, we do not desire to use the police force in order to move them on, but we shall use stronger measures by taking the roof from over their heads, and forcing them out “. The Government has availed itself of every opportunity to use a power which I do not think was exercised by the last Government. I have no recollection of the last Government resorting to such measures. While the shelter huts remained, the attitude taken by the last Government, at least when I was associated with it, was that those who were so unfortunate as to have no other shelter, could remain in them, particularly during the winter months, when the climatic conditions in Canberra are severe. But, in the opinion of the members of the present Government, these unfortunate unemployed had to be got rid of. The statement made to-day by the honorable member for Darling indicates that the number of unemployed has increased of late, and, therefore, it seems to me that the record of this Government compares unfavorably even with that of the previous Administration, which the Minister has criticized, so far as the solution of this problem in Canberra is concerned. My point is that no matter what the circumstances may be, the present Government is to be blamed for the increase in unemployment, because of the undertaking it gave to the people at the last election that work would be providedforall.Itannouncedthatits policy,ifcarriedintoeffect,would restore confidence, and that capital would flow into the country. The wheels of industry which had been idle would be set in motion, and a real
Utopia would be set up within 24 hours, if the electors would only return that party to office. We were then assured that prosperity was “ round the corner “ ; but now the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) tells us that the Government is ready for it when it comes along.
I notice that, according to the scale of rations, a single man is to receive 6s. lid. a week, and a married man 10s. l£d. a week. Apparently, two persons, if they happen to be married, are to receive less than two single persons. According to the scale, I should say that a married couple should get 12s. 3d. a week. It would bc interesting to know who is the gentleman who fixed this scale of rations, and whether he tried it himself during a certain period, in order to see the result of living on that allowance of rations. The view held seems to be that a wife does not eat so much as a husband, or vice versa. The statement has been made that the number of unemployed is over 700, of whom 300 are single and 300 married. Assuming that the married couples had an average family of two children, there would be a total of 1,500 persons dependent on government relief in the Federal Capital Territory. The method of registration has been so tightened up that unemployed living immediately outside the boundaries of the Territory cannot register for employment or food. It is necessary for a person to be living in Canberra for six months, or, I think, even for a longer period, before he can be registered. In my opinion, no excuses can be accepted from the Government in this matter, and it cannot reasonably plead that the position is due to the hard times that are being experienced. Ministers must live up to their responsibilities and promises, and since they have failed to do that, it is the job of my party to use every means at our disposal to focus public attention on the fact that, when the Government appealed to the people at the last election, it boasted that it had a policy that would solve the greatest problem of the age’. Therefore, the Government stands condemned in regard to that policy, even within the boundaries of the small area which comprises the Federal Capital Territory, over which it has absolute control. I hope that the people of Australia generally will realize the significance of this position, and that when an opportunity presents itself for them to make a decision on the matter they will pass judgment on the Government for having lamentably failed to carry out its election promises. It is, therefore, no longer deserving of the confidence of the people.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have brought under notice a subject of paramount importance. The problem of unemployment is a serious one in every part of the world to-day, and, unless the governments of the various countries grapple with and solve it, they will be destroyed. Some time ago I madea suggestion to the Government that, with the object of alleviating the position, it should request the Imperial Government to amend the act governing the payment of indemnities due to it in respect of the Boxer Rebellion, to provide that the amount due by China might be met by the purchase of constructional materials for railways, &c, in Great Britain or her dominions. At present such purchases must be made iri- the’ United Kingdom. Dr. Chen, the Chinese Consul-General for Australia, approached me on this subject, and I was able to arrange certain interviews between him and the Government. He pointed out that the Chinese railways were in such a deplorable condition, owing to the’ lack of sleepers, that the Chinese trains could not travel’ at more than 12 miles an hour in very many places. He also stated that, if the act to which I have referred were amended as I have suggested, the Chinese Government would purchase millions of railway sleepers from Australia. It is well known that the iron wood, which is so plentiful in Northern Australia, makes the finest sleepers in the world. If the Chinese Government could purchase ironwood sleepers from Australia, the Commonwealth Government could put very many men at work cutting these sleepers. In support of my assertion that the sleepers are the finest in the world, I direct the attention of honorable members to the statement contained in a recent report on the Cooktown railway, which was constructed over 50 years ago with ironwood sleepers, that only 5 per cent, of the line needed re-sleepering. It would be far better for the Government to spend money in the securing of these sleepers than in the paying of doles. Ironwood sleepers are not perishable. They actually improve with age.
Some time ago I directed the attention of the Government to the fact that many men in Northern Australia had been out of work for periods up to twelve months, but were not eligible for sustenance. A number of other persons have been denied this assistance, because they have been convicted of a minor offence of some nature; but they have paid the penalty for their offence and it should not be held against them for ever. I understand that the Government originally issued the regulation limiting the payment of sustenance to persons who had been resident within Northern Australia for a certain period in order to prevent an influx of the unemployed from other parts of Australia into that territory; but it will be surely realized that that purpose has been served. In the circumstances, the Government should now be prepared to grant relief to ali the unemployed in that remote area. It is impossible for men to walk out of Northern . Australia in the way that they can walk out of almost any other part of the Commonwealth. They cannot lightly face the 900 or 1,000 miles cross-country tramp that is necessary to bring them into the nearest settled area. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) promised me some time ago that he would consider my representations on this subject, I ask now that speedy relief be given.
I- have received only to-day from Katherine, in Northern Australia, a letter which indicates that the policy of the Government is tending to increase unemployment unnecessarily. The letter reads as follows: -
I am writing to ask you if you will help me in the following case by laying the matter before the Minister for the Interior. I have been . growing peanuts in the Katherine for four, years. The first three crops were .grown on the block of which the soil was poor and subject to floods - the crops were poor and
I ran into debt. Last year I secured a transfer to another block and my crop looks good. I have now every hope of growing peanuts profitably.
My trouble is that the Administrator is insisting that I repay some moneys due for interest on the two blocks, &c, and this I cannot do this year and still carry on with the farm. This is the first out of four crops that is any good. When my tucker bill is paid (secured by a lien) there will be little left, and I must get two horses for the next season as my present two are old and worn out.
The sums owing the Administrator are £40 8s. Od. for interest, and £80 for seed peanuts.
Will you ask the Minister if he will agree to my paying the £46 next season, when I will be in a better position to pay, and the £80 the year after. If I am treated with harshness in the matter and payment is enforced, it means that, after four years of struggling and striving, I will be compelled to abandon the farm, as I have no means of carrying on. Scattered right along the Katherine are abandoned peanut farms rapidly returning to virgin country, with consequent large waste of public money, and 1 am sure the Minister will agree to a year’s grace in the matter of repayment, and give me a chance, sooner than have another settler forced into unemployment and a good farm lying waste. If I can pay my tucker bill and get horses, then I can go ahead, and by planting decent acreages I can quickly settle all accounts and become established.
The writer of that letter makes a perfectly reasonable request which, I hope, will appeal to the Government. If men are forced off their holdings unemployment will certainly be increased.
I also received this morning the following letter from a returned soldier: -
I read with interest, and a faint hope, your statement before the assembly as published in to-night’s Herald (Melbourne), and thoroughly agree with you when you say “ our only sure defence of North Australia is to populate it”, and I wish with all my heart that there were a scheme, or way, whereby some of us younger men could settle there with our families and escape from this sordid backyard 12 ft. by 20 ft. existence in Melbourne’s crowded inner suburbs. Personally, I would give anything to live in the northern State.
I am an ex-Australian Imperial Force man. and served for four years in an eighteenpounder battery. Four years, ‘19 to ‘23; I am now 37. Married, three children.
Two years ago I enlisted in the militia and am a non-commissioned officer in the Prahran Regiment, 14th, 1st class, Lewis gunner. Have been unemployed for over two years, and am faced with eviction, which means worry from early morn to the setting of the sun. Children poorly-clad, and sometimes hungry. They, at least, need better opportunities.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933. No. 40.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 32.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Brands Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of -
Health- Wood, E. J. F.
Treasury - Wilson, R.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 5 - Meat.
No.6 - Hospital Tax (No. 2).
Hospital Tax Ordinance - Regulations.
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 24th March (vide page 580), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167) (Volume 135)-
And on motion by Mr. White (vide page 29) -
Group 2. - Items which have been amended in accordance with the Ottawa agreement - hut not otherwise amended.
Division 16. - Miscellaneous
Item 392- Sub-items (a 1, 2, 3) (n) (g) (h). (Yarns).
.– When progress was reported on Friday afternoon, I was endeavouring to impress on the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) the serious effect which the Government’s proposals with regard to mercerized cotton, bleached and dyed yarns, and single ply yarns would have upon the Australian cotton industry. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not discussing these items in any party spirit, or, as has been suggested in some quarters, for political propaganda purposes. That the outlook for the Australian industry is serious will be seen from further facts which I hope to be able to disclose to-day. On Friday afternoon the Minister, in reply to my appeal that the Government should reconsider its tariff policy as it affected the cotton industry, said that recently Mr. Townsend, whose knowledge all honorable members respect, had been sent to Queensland, and there, and later in Sydney, had presided over conferences of growers and spinners convened to consider this matter. I have the greatest respect for Mr. Townsend’s ability. As he is regarded as the Government’s expert on this subject, I contend that the subitems should not be passed before we have an opportunity to read what Mr, Townsend has to say about these duties. Even if the Minister cannot have the report printed and distributed, he probably could have a number of typewritten copies prepared for the information of honorable members. On Friday the Minister declared that he wished to have the sub-item passed at once, and in defence of the Government’s policy, he said -
I have had inquiries made, and I find that the quantities of partially mercerized yarns which are being imported are insignificant.
The honorable gentleman also quoted figures to show that there had been a falling off in importations during 1931-32. I immediately wrote to the Commonwealth Statistician asking to be supplied with the latest figures dealing with importations. These are set out in the following table : -
– The honorable member’s figures are practically the same as those * which 1 gave on Friday.
– The Minister quoted figures to show that there had ‘been a decline in imports over a seven months’ period, and he then went on to say that due to a restoration of confidence and general trade improvement, there had been a slight increase of importations of mercerized yarn. The figures which I have just given show a heavy increase of importations of cotton yarns n.e.i. for the eight months of the present financial year over total imports for the whole of last year. I also pointed out on Friday afternoon that the. Australian Silk and Cotton Mills which, a year ago, were working 24 hours a day, were now working only about four-fifths of one shift; also that Bonds Limited were now working one shift four days a week, and” that Davies, Coop and Company Limited were working only three-fifths of one shift, and Bradford Mills, Sydney, three-fifths of one shift. At this time- last year, Bonds Limited were employing 978 persons in the spinning mill as compared with 415 this year - less than half - working four days a week only, so it is apparent that Australian cotton manufacturers are not participating in this trade improvement to which the Minister referred.
– The honorable member knows very well that last year the manufacturers were working three shifts in order to participate in the bounty which was about to be withdrawn.
– No doubt the Minister will offer any explanation to suit his own case. If the manufacturers had the whole of .the market to .supply, they would be working full time to-day. On Friday he said that there was no evasion of duty by the importation of partially mercerized cotton yarns in New South Wales. The Knitters Association in that State wrote to the customs authorities last year stating that as this would mean the evasion of protection given to other yarns, its members did not intend to import partially mercerized yarns. But a different story is told by manufacturers in the State of Victoria, as will he shown ‘by figures which I am about to quote. Imports of mercerized yarn in that State have doubled comparing October, 1932, with February, 1933, and the imports of cotton yarn n.e.i., admitted under by-law 404 in February, 1933, were 24 times as great as in October, 1932. I should like to know whether, in the circumstances, the Government will reconsider the whole of these duties. Subsequent to the Sydney conference, the spinners and growers sent the following telegram to the Government: -
Subsequent to meeting under Chairman A. Townsend to-day, spinners and growers again conferred and decided to bring following under your notice. It is desired to emphasize following. Cotton growers have record crop, possibly 20,000 bales to dispose of to spinners. As result erection new plant and extensions previously erected plant able consume 40,000 bales. Price, condition sale can be agreed upon. But it is impossible to do business in present unsatisfactory tariff position. Growers have commenced export their crop, and spinners will shortly be compelled to close down. Joint conference has made recommendations involving modification by-law admissions which, if given effect to, will remedy position, but immediate action necessary as continued existence both sections of the industry menaced.
The Minister has received a request, and, presumably, has considered it. If he has received a report from his representative who presided over the conference, why is it not available to the committee? Honorable members should bear it in mind that, although the growers have this year a good crop, most of it will have to be exported overseas unless the Government takes prompt action. The spinners, with plant capable of using double the crop, are unable to buy or consume more than a small portion of it, because the market for their yarns has gone to the importers. The spinning mills are working half of one shift only, whereas twelve months ago they were working double shifts. Necessarily 50 per cent, of the former employees have been dismissed. The steady further shrinking of the already shrunken market means that, at an early date, the losses of the spinning mills will become so great that they will have to close altogether. Tariff Board reports have visualized the extension of the market to spinners as their mills increased. But, although the spinners have expanded their operations, as they promised, their market has been reduced, by (a) tariff reductions, (b) tariff evasions and (c) tariff concessions. Another factor which has had, and continues to have, a throttling effect, is that the cotton-yarn users are so uncertain of the future that they cannot see their way clear to place orders.
In regard to tariff reductions, mercerized cotton is no longer subject to by-law. Every pound of cotton invoiced as “ mercerized “ is admitted free from the United. Kingdom, or at a duty of 17£ per cent, from foreign countries. For the six months ended December, 1931, the imports were 754,000 lb.; for the six months ended- June, 1932, 758,0p0 lb.; and for the six months ended December, 1932, 940,000 lb. Another reason for the decline in the demand for yarns is that mops can now be imported at a price which has strangled the local makers; hence the huge market for cotton yarns for this purpose has entirely disappeared. In addition, large consignments of cloth of varying natures are being imported, and are displacing cloth hitherto woven in Australia. This trade has the direct effect of displacing the local cotton yarns required in the manufacture of these textiles.
In regard to tariff evasions, I repeat the statement I made on Friday, that partially-mercerized cotton is being imported increasingly. The large advance in the imports of so-called mercerized cotton yarns is sufficient in itself to arouse suspicion, and I am surprised that the Minister has not taken action earlier. In October of last year, the department conducted a casual investigation of this business, and the investigator in Melbourne reported that he could find no evidence- that partially-mercerized cotton was being imported to any considerable extent. Will the Minister tell the committee the result of the more recent investigation ? There is only one remedy. Yarn when fully mercerized is completely changed physically. Every atom is transferred into a lustrous cylinder, which can be seen under a microscope. If the proportion of such lustrous cylinders is not approximately 100 per cent., the yarn is not mercerized. Therefore, every consignment of mercerized yarn invoiced at a low figure should be tested by the department in order to prevent importers from introducing partially-mercerized cotton yarn, and using it instead of the cheap soft yarn. The Minister stated that a yarn is either - mercerized or not mercerized; it cannot be partially mercerized. I produce two samples of so-called mercerized yarn, and even a layman can see the difference between them. Under item 392, sub-item a, paragraph 3, yarns of count 50 and finer are admitted free from the United Kingdom, and at duties of 15 per cent, if imported from other countries. Users are importing large quantities of count 50, count 52, and the like, and knitting them in what is known in the trade as “ two ends up.” This means knitting with two ends of count 50 to each- needle of the knitting machine, whereas hitherto one yarn of count 25, which is dutiable, was used. This practice can only be stopped by altering the item to read, “ in count No. 70 or finer,” and ‘by making, folded yarns dutiable on the resultant count; that is, two count 52’s to be dutiable as one count 26.
– That is not the regular practice of reputable knitters.
– I believe that the majority of knitters in Sydney are reputable ; but there are others who are always ready to evade the tariff duties, and their practice places an unfair handicap on the reputable knitters who do not want to evade the protection given to the Australian spinners. Another disability suffered by the Australian spinner is in regard to paper cones on which yarn is wound for sale. Unwound cones are subject to a heavy duty; and local yarn is id. per lb. dearer on this account alone. The great bulk of imported yarn is on cones, on which the importer pays no duty; instead, he sells them. In this respect, the Government made a bad mistake, for it is obvious that all cones or tubes holding yarn should be dutiable in the same way as cones without yarn are dutiable.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) desires to treat the Australian cotton industry sympathetically. He has emphatically stated his desire to do everything possible to encourage an extension of cotton cultivation in Queensland. In 1926, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) defined a policy for linking up the primary and secondary branches of the industry, and that policy has been continued ever since. He said -
Summing the position up, the Government has come to the conclusion that the basis of economic proposals to develop the cottongrowing industry must be the production of jaw material for manufacturing here, and 1101 entirely for an export industry to compete with the very cheap labour engaged in cottongrowing in other parts of the world.
After reviewing the local costs of production submitted confidentially to the Tariff Board, in comparison with those of low-wage competing countries, the Government had no hesitation in agreeing that the industry could not develop on a national, economic basis if it had to depend entirely on overseas markets, and that, therefore, the bounty was justified. . . . The national, economic basis is to grow cotton as a raw material for secondary industries.
It is generally realized that cotton cultivation is an industry for which Queensland is naturally suitable. That State has the soil, climate, and other natural conditions necessary for the establishment of a large primary industry. But it is essential to provide the .producer with a market, and that can be best provided in Australia. ‘ Therefore, Mr. Pratten developed the policy of fostering those secondary industries which were built on the cotton-growing industry. I am glad that that appears to be the policy of the present Minister also, and I merely urge him, because of the anxiety of the cottongrowers, to review carefully the present duties, particularly in the light of the statistics quoted by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). The general manager of the (Queensland Cotton Board, Mr. Webster, has stated recently -
During recent months, deliveries by the Queensland Cotton Board to Australian spinners declined steadily, and a stage has now been reached when it appears that it will be necessary for the board to export overseas , half of the current season’s cotton production, the assumption being that twenty thousand (20:000) bales of cotton will be harvested.
I have just returned from Sydney and Melbourne, where 1 have had long discussions with all spinning interests. Their business has fallen off very seriously.
He attributed the decline to the causes already stated by the honorable member for Capricornia. Those engaged in the cotton, industry are genuinely concerned. Mr. Webster further stated that the whole matter was discussed by the Cotton Board at its meeting last week, and it was felt that there was no alternative but to prepare for the export of 10,000 bales of lint overseas, which action would be rendered necessary if the present outlook did not improve. Governments have always encouraged the idea that the Australian market should consume as much as possible of the local production, and the following figures supplied to me by the Trade and Customs Department show to what extent that aim has been achieved : -
Therefore, S2 per cent, of Australian production has, since 1926, been consumed in Australia. . Indications are that this proportion will not be maintained, and the growers are becoming anxious. They realize that the home ‘market is their best market, but importations are so large that this outlet for their product is threatened. Australia is still importing great quantities of cotton goods which could, and should, be made in our mills from our own Australian-grown cotton. The report of the Department of Agriculture for Queensland, covering the season 1931-32, states-
The continuation of a graduated bounty on yarns, tariff and exchange rates provided a marked stimulus to the industry in the previous year, especially in respect to its’ spinning side. As a consequence, the whole of the 1930-31 production of lint, 4,891,119 lb., was .purchased for use in Australia … In round numbers, 5,000 growers applied for seed sufficient to plant at least 65,000 acres - a record acreage for the State.
Recent reports indicate that there will, be an exceptionally good crop in the central districts of Queensland where 50,000 acres of cotton are being grown. This .gives an indication of the extent to which the industry is expanding. Cotton is not grown in large plantations in this country; it is in the main being produced by a large number of small growers scattered throughout the State. Honorable’ members of all parties agree that an industry is deserving of protection if it is natural to the country, if it fills a definite need, and is being carried on efficiently. The cotton industry possesses all these qualifications, and I therefore appeal to the Minister to preserve the continuity of the protective policy inaugurated in 1926 of linking up the primary and secondary industries as regards cotton. Efforts were made before that time to establish cotton-growing in Australia, but not until then was a definite attempt made to link up the primary and secondary industries. Queensland is not the only State capable of producing cotton ; it can be grown in northern New South Wales, in Western Australia, and the Northern Territory. As a matter of fact, Australia, in order to render itself secure from attack from without, must produce its own cotton. The late Mr. H. E. Pratten, a former Minister for Trade and Customs, stated -
Cotton is a vital necessity for’ defence, and is also a raw material for some of our most important secondary industries.
Cotton-growing has had to go through the pioneering stage, but it has been taken up enthusiastically. In Queensland, large areas of land have been thrown open for this purpose, roads have been built, railways extended, and schools and other facilities provided. So far, we have seen only the beginning of this industry. The initial difficulties have been overcome, and the growers are now confronted with the problem of finding markets. They look to Australia to absorb their products, and I appeal to the Government to assist the growers by a sympathetic and helpful policy, and promote the further settlement of our lands.
– I assure honorable members that the Government is determined to maintain the policy of protection in regard both to the primary and secondary sides of the .cotton industry in Australia. As I explained on Friday last, the present trouble has arisen because the spinners are not prepared to pay the price which the cotton growers want. I realize that the price is low, but the difficulty is due to .the catastrophic fall in the prices of primary products. This, of course, applies’ to wheat and wool, as well as to cotton. Until the bounty on yarn ceased in June last, . spinners were, in some cases, working three shifts in order to make the biggest quantity possible while the bounty was payable. That explains why there is not the same activity at the .present time. Naturally, there has been some slackness in the industry since. Moreover, the trouble has been augmented by the fact that the Queensland cotton crop this year will be the largest on record - practically 25,000 bales, or almost twice that of any previous year. There is over-production on the primary side, and the spinners cannot absorb it.
It is contended that cheap, mercerized yarn is being imported and used as a substitute for the soft cotton yarns made in Australia, and that this applies also to cotton of count No. 50 and finer, which, when folded, can be’ used as a coarser count, and so become competitive with the Australian product. I made very careful inquiries into this matter, having taken it up immediately I assumed office. It has been shown that the increased use of mercerized yarn in substitution for soft cotton is confined to Victoria only, and departmental action on the lines suggested by the spinners will be taken to check this. If there are any loopholes in the tariff permitting evasion, the Government will do its best to close them. The accountant to the Department of Trade and Customs presided over a conference in Sydney last week, where representatives of the growers and of the spinners Were present, and only to-day, I received his interim report. This matter is so complex that the Government feels that all interests must, be given full consideration, and it is feared that precipitate action might have a detrimental effect on other sections- of the textile industry, including those producing cotton tweeds and towels, the protection upon which is based on the fact that certain yarns used in their production are admitted free df duty from the United Kingdom. This applies to dyed and other yarns, and to sewing threads, &c, not made in Australia.
– These importations have been coming in for some time.
– The Queensland crop is only just ready for picking now, and the Government is taking all necessary action to meet the situation.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 393 (a) to (d), 394 (c), 397 (a) (b), and 398 agreed to.
Materials and minor articles, of a class or kind not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia, for use in the manufacture of goods within the Commonwealth, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, British, free; general, 15 per cent.
.- When the first item of the tariff schedule was being debated, I moved a motion, the purpose of which was to take away from the Minister the power to grant concessions under by-law, and to give that power under regulation. I claimed that if this were done, the regulations would have to be laid on the table of the House, and either Houses of Parliament could, if it thought fit, disallow them. We have heard the Minister for Customs state that, when manufacturers or others desire to import machinery or goods free of duty, they may apply to him, and he will give their claim the fullest consideration, and see that justice is done. I want to see removed the political influence and lobbying which favour some and penalize others. May I remind honorable members that at one time it was the practice for the Minister to submit to Parliament a list showing what concessions had been granted, to whom they were made, and their value. I have endeavoured to learn, by means of a question, whether the Govern ment is prepared to amend the Customs Act in such a way as to enable Parliament to judge of the extent to which this practice is indulged in.
– A list of by-law admissions is published weekly in the Sydney Morning Herald and in the Commonwealth Gazette.
– The Minister knows perfectly well, that neither the name of the person to whom the concession is granted, the justification for granting it, nor the value of it, is given. The statement is made that some articles - which may have been imported three months previously - are to be admitted free of duty for one day. That is not published in the newspapers. In reply to a question that I asked, I was informed that in 1929-30, the value of the goods admitted under concession rates
Avas £1,741,093 under item 174, and no loss than £3,488,827 under item 404.
– Raw material not produced in Australia.
– If that be so, why is it not shown in the tariff schedule? I claim that honorable members ought to know when concessions are being given. I do not say that that can be done every week; but a report ought to be submitted annually. The power to tax is a prerogative of the Parliament, and it is Parliament’s duty to see that all the people are treated fairly and justly. So far as possible, the tariff schedule ought to show clearly what goods may be admitted duty free. Under item 404 the manufacturers of this country have benefited almost solely from the concessions that have been given. Since 1920, the number of commodities allowed in under security has increased remarkably, with the result that, generally speaking, the manufacturer can now import the majority of his requirements duty free. In 1929-30, goods to the value of £5,922,471 were admitted free of duty, the loss of revenue involved being £1,738,000. Parliament should have control over these huge ministerial favours. I admit that the year 1929-30 was a big year for imports, the total value being £131,000,000; but even so, the fact that tie admissions under concession rates amounted to 18 per cent, of the whole, invites comment. In 1931, the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who was then* a private member, expressed the following views on this subject : - 1 have with me one of the daily lists of thu Customs Department which shows that an engine, convertible to oil or gas, of 400 horse-power, was landed on the 6th March, and, although the duty on it was 55 per cent., it was brought in free on that day only. On the 17th February, a crude oil engine of 300 horse-power was allowed in free because the duty of 55 per cent, had been lifted for one day only. In each of those instances, the Commonwealth lost about £500.
I particularly direct the attention of honorable members to what follows: -
The business of this country cannot bo run successfully when it is being harassed by continual increases of duties without any reference being made to those concerned in the trade. Because one manufacturer asks that certain machinery for his factory should be allowed to come in free, the duty is lifted for one day only. Another manufacturer, in a like position, may not seek this concession. He will pay the duty, and so burden his factory with additional overhead expenses, and thus bc placed at a disadvantage compared with the other importer. The whole system is wrong. If this Government persists in bringing down schedules in this way, making protection a political plaything by agreeing to adjustments suggested in the lobbies, it will bring the commercial world to disaster.
That was the opinion of the honorable gentleman only two years ago. In 1930-31, although the imports fell to £61,000,000, the value of the goods to which concession rates applied was no less than £2,525,814, of which those that came under this item represented £1,061,505. The power is given to the Minister to make these concessions, but that power ought to be qualified in some way so that it will be obligatory on him to present to Parliament a return showing to whom the concession has been granted, the reason for it, and the total value of the goods affected. A couple of years ago, £37,000 worth of yarn was imported by the textile industry under these conditions. These concessions are made to manufacturers who are thus enabled to import their raw materials free of duty, though the tariff definitely imposes the duty. In view of the enormous total value of the goods thus admitted, surely honorable members are justified in insisting on the course that I have suggested being followed. It is their duty to see that no taxation is imposed and no expenditure incurred without the approval of Parliament. In this case it is their duty to insist upon means being provided for checking up the concessions that are granted. Were it not for the return that has been furnished to me, not one person in a thousand would have imagined that anything of the sort was being done. I move -
That the words “ as prescribed bydepartmental by-laws “ be omitted.
My object is to give the committee an opportunity to say whether the present system should be any longer tolerated.
Item agreed to.
Remainder of division - namely, items 404a, 410 (a), 415 (a2), 424 (a1, 2) (d), 425, 426 (b), 427 (c) and 435 to 438 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That the consideration of the remaining items other than those specified in Group 3 in the Customs Tariff memorandum (showing rates of duty under various tariff proposals) circulated by the Minister for Trade and Customs, be postponed until after the consideration of the items specified in Group 3.
Group 3 - Items which were passed by the House of Representatives during 1932.
– There are 31 items and sub-items in this group. All of these were exhaustively debated by this committee during 1932, and the rates which operate represent its determination. One or two contentious items were debated at considerable length. I suggest that it is quite unnecessary to again traverse that ground. No new facts that might influence the committee’s determination either way have since emerged. I suggest that this small group be passed without detailed debate on each item.
Division 2. - Tobacco and Manufactures Thereof. item 19-
Tobacco, unmanufactured, entered to be locally manufactured into tobaccb other than fine cut tobacco suitable for the manufacture of cigarettes - to be paid at the time of removal to the factory - ( 1 )Unstemmed, per lb., British, 3s. ; general, 3s.
Tobacco, unmanufactured, entered to be locally manufactured into cigarettes or into fine cut tobacco suitable for the manufacture of cigarettes - to be paid at the time of removal to the factory - (1)Unstemmed, per lb., British, 5s. 2d. ; general, 5s. 2d.
.- I should like from the Minister some, information respecting sub-item a. One fact that I should like to bring prominently before his notice is that there are approximately 2,000,000 lb. of tobacco unsold on the Australian market to-day. The president of the Australian Tobacco Growers Association, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), will no doubt have something to say regarding the large quantity of tobacco still unsold at Tamworth.
– Is it of marketable quality?
– The honorable member for New England assures me that it is. In other districts, there are also large quantities of tobacco made from Australiangrown leaf still unsold. I understand that the Minister sent an investigation officer to Tamworth to look into this matter, and I should like to know whether he has yet received his report. Has the Minister come to any arrangement with the tobacco manufacturers for the purchase of next season’s crop ? The previous Minister for Trade and Customs ((Sir Henry Gullett) entered into an arrangement with the tobacco manufacturers to take the whole of last season’s crop, which they estimated to be approximately5,500,000 lb. Afterwards, it proved to be 12,000.000 lb. I understand that although the tobacco manufacturers purchased a greater quantity than 7,500,0001b. some millions of pounds of tobacco still remain on the Australian market. When the excise on Australian leaf was 2s. 4d. per lb., and the duty on foreign leaf 5s. 2d. per lb., making the total impost on tobacco manufactured from foreign leaf 7s. 6d. per lb., the tobacco manufactured from Australian leaf was being sold at from 5s. 2d. to 8s. per lb., while the American tobacco was being sold at from lis. 9d. to 13s. 4d per lb. Because of the vast difference between the prices, the Australian public were quickly changing over to the Australiangrown tobacco.
– Does the honorable member smoke it?
– I am not an habitual smoker, although I know a good deal about the industry. No doubt the honorable members for Herbert (Mr. Martens) and Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who are tobacco experts, will he able to inform the honorable member of the quality of the tobacco made from Australian leaf. The Scullin Government increased the duty upon the imported leaf so as to develop the tobacco industry in Australia. We admitted at the time that as the change from the American to the Australian leaf tobacco took place, some alterations of the customs and excise duties would be necessary, but that, if possible, the same ratio qf preference to the tobacco made of Australian leaf should be maintained. When this Government reduced the import duty from 5s. 2d. to 3s. per lb., and increased the excise to 4s. 6d. per lb. on all tobacco, whether made of imported or Australian leaf, there was no alteration of the price of the American tobacco, but the price of Australian tobacco was immediately increased by 2s. 2d. per lb. That, of course, gave a tremendous setback to the sale of tobacco made of Australian leaf. It meant that the price of the quarter-lb: clipper block increased by 6d., the manufacturer bearing the additional 2d. The fine-cut tobacco also carried the extra burden. When the duty on American leaf was increased, one firm immediately employed 70 additional hands. Piece workers earned 33 per cent, more than they are earning to-day. An additional twelve strippers were put into use. They have .since disappeared, and the number of original strippers has been reduced by 33 per cent. Of the 70 additional hands, 40 have been dispensed with, and the remaining 30 are sharing the work. The experience at the works of the
British-Australasian Tobacco Company was similar. It has been suggested that there should be some alteration of the import duty. I am not prepared,* at the moment, to say what the rate should be. There should certainly be an increase in import duty on foreign leaf and a reduction in excise duty on the Australian leaf. According to the report of the Tariff Board on tobacco, the revenue from this source was, in 1927-28, £5,924,573; in 1928-29, £6,006,772 ; in 1929-30, £6,641,563 ; and in 1930-31, £6,159,4S2. I suggest that at this juncture the Minister might postpone the item, to enable him to investigate the whole question of tobaccogrowing and manufacture. T’ am informed that the Government will collect this financial year about £1,000,000 more than it collected for the year 1931-32. I suggest that a reasonable amount of revenue from this source would be abou: £6,000,000 per annum. The total tobacco production in the Commonwealth during the year 1931-32 is estimated at abou 12,000,000 lb. - a considerable increase, compared with the production for the previous year. Under the circumstances one would have naturally expected a considerable falling off in the quantity of imported tobacco leaf; but, judging from figures recently obtained from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, such has not been the case. According to those figures, the imports of unmanufactured tobacco for the period July to December, 1932, amounted to 9,736,648 lb., compared with 10,656,347 lb. for the corresponding period of the previous year. In other words, whereas the Australian production multiplied some six times in one year, the decline in imports, when the two half-year periods referred to are compared, shows less’ than 10 per cent. What is happening? The importers of American leaf are building up huge stocks of American leaf, so as to be in a favorable position if any increase of the present duty of 3s. per lb. takes place. Some time will elapse before the tobaccogrowing industry of Australia receives any advantage from any alterations in duties that may now be made. Recently certain representations were made to the. Minister by the. s. Australian Tobacco Growers Association, and his reply was that the matter had received consideration, and that it was not proposed to take any action to meet the request.
– What request did the association make?
– It requested the Minister to consider the question of rationing imports of American tobacco, or, alternatively, to review the incidence of the taxation, so as to give a greater measure of protection to the Australian growers.
– The idea was to increase the import duty, and to decrease the excise.
– That is so. I ask the Minister to postpone this sub-item to enable him to consult the accountants of his department as to how the incidence of duties should be varied to ensure the same revenue while giving adequate protection to the Australian growers, with a view to coming to an arrangement with the manufacturers to absorb the whole of the coming season’s crop. There is grave danger that, because of the falling off of the consumption of tobacco made from Australian leaf, and the large quantities held in stock, the manufacturers will refuse to buy the coming season’s crop. I have already been told by one manufacturer that this year he will not be in the market for Australian leaf. The Australian growers have put their all into the industry. They have effected improvements at considerable cost, and while the industry is in its initial stages it should be given a greater measure of protection. If there is any doubt as to the extent of the protection needed, the tobacco-growers should have the benefit of it.
– I appeal to the Minister, and through him to the Government, to take immediate steps to save this promising Australian industry. I have no intention of indulging in heroics; the situation confronting the tobacco-growers of Australia is far too serious for that. The Minister is young, both in office and in years, and I believe that he is an ardent Australian who desires to take a broad national view of this industry, and is not likely to be swayed by political or partisan arguments. I desire to acquaint him with the result of the Go vernment’s action last year in radically altering the then existing tariff position without providing for the preservation of the Australian tobacco-growing industry. As the president of the Australian Tobacco Growers Association, and also as the representative in this chamber of thousands of tobacco-growers, I say, unhesitatingly, that the Government’s policy has caused this industry to crash. If given the opportunity, I am prepared to substantiate my statement. At this time, when throughout Australia the cry is “ Save existing Australian industries and create new industries,” the possibility of this industry going out of existence must be regarded seriously by any government for the time being in office. The Australian tobacco-growing industry is in a state of collapse, as any other industry would be if similarly treated. The first factor in bringing about that collapse is the price of the Australian product, which has heavily increased in cost to the Australian smoker. This has resulted in imported tobacco being again used in larger quantities, to the detriment of the Australian industry. One Melbourne manufacturer of tobacco informed me only a few months ago that the ‘recent tariff alteration had destroyed 50 per cent, of his market for Australian tobacco. The Government claims to be desirous of opening more factories, and creating further employment, but its policy in connexion with the tobacco industry has had the opposite effect. The firm to which I have referred - Messrs. Dudgeon and Arnell - had plans prepared for the duplication of their factory, which would have resulted in the employment of an additional 60 workers, and the investment of further capital, but before the work was commenced, the tariff was altered and the market for Australian brands of tobacco collapsed. To-day that firm is buying Australian tobacco only under protest. The Minister’s predecessor made an unsuccessful appeal to the firm last year to buy more than 1,000,000 lb. of tobacco. The reason it was not bought was not that the Australian tobacco was of poor quality. On the contrary, the firm regards the Australian product as equal to, or even better than, the imported tobacco. The Australian article was not bought because there was no market for it. Unfortunately, there is a prejudice on the part of the Australian smoking public against Australian tobacco. That prejudice has been fostered and strengthened by the .hostile propaganda of those engaged in importing tobacco. The second factor in bringing about the collapse of this Australian industry is the destruction of a sense of security among tobacco-growers. The tobaccogrowing industry is an outstanding example of the value of new primary industries in country districts in this time of depression. In one year the number of tobacco-growers in Australia increased from about 400 to over 5,000. That was a phenomenal development in Australian industry. During that year the output of tobacco increased from between 400 and 500 tons to as many thousand tons, while the number of persons employed in the production of tobacco, instead* of being a few hundred, was approximately 20,000. The industry can claim to have kept many thousands of Australians off the dole during the worst period of the depression. Many growers, who last year assisted the ‘country by providing employment for men who would have otherwise been out of work, have now been left with their crops on their hands, and are facing ruin. Their feeling of security has disappeared. At a deputation which waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) some time ago’ I admitted that, for a time, the agreement entered into by the Government last year had been successful, but, unfortunately, that favorable state of affairs did not continue. Manufacturers of tobacco ceased to buy the Australian product, with the result that the industry suffered so serious a setback that it has practically collapsed. The Australian tobaccogrowing industry last year was worth £1,000,000 in Australian currency to this country. Apart from our one or two well-established big rural industries, no other primary industry can show such a result. Three thousand of the 5,000 tobacco-growers managed to sell their crops at a price which paid them. Surely that is a good reason for claiming that this Australian industry is worth preserving. Of 12,500,000 lb. of tobacco grown last year, 10,000,000 lb. was sold, and of that quantity about 8,000,000 lb’, realized an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb. The growers were satisfied with that price. But after it had purchased that quantity, the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, which controls about 90 per cent, of the Australian market for tobacco, and is practically a monopolistic concern, exercised its right to reduce prices, with the result that growers, instead of receiving 3s. 6d., or even 4s. per Jb. for their tobacco, received only ls. per lb., and even less, for it. A surplus of 2,500,000 lb. of tobacco has been left on the growers’ hands. Unlike wheat, and many other commodities, tobacco is indestructible; it can be kept for many years. Indeed, no American tobacco is manufactured until it has matured for at least four years, and that is why it makes such a good smoking mixture. The policy of Australian manufacturers has always been to manufacture the .Australian product almost as soon as it reaches them. . The less matured it is. the better pleased they seem to be. Is it any wonder that there is a prejudice against Australian tobacco when it is manufactured before it has matured? Most of the Australian tobacco bought by the Australian combine last year was of good quality; otherwise the relatively high prices paid for it would not have been offered. No one will claim that these companies are benevolent institutions. It is contended in some quarters that they have done even more than they undertook to do, and that, in fact, they have acted generously towards the Australian tobacco-growers. It is also urged that the tobacco which they failed to buy is of poor quality, not worth 3d. per lb. I answer that that is not true; and if given the opportunity I am prepared to prove my contention. Not all of the tobacco left on the hands of growers was grown in my electorate, as has been stated, for a good deal of it was grown in Victoria. I have seen samples of the tobacco left on the hands of growers in my electorate, and it is of good quality. I know these men, and can assure the House, that- in a matter of such importance, they would not attempt to deceive me. I say, without hesitation, that most of the tobacco yet unsold is equal in quality to that which was bought. Much of it. was never inspected by the buyers of the combine. They did. not want to buy it. All that the growers can do is to hold it; they do not know when, or at what prices, they will be able to sell it. I ask honorable members not to be unduly influenced by the hostile and foolish propaganda that Australian tobacco is not of good quality. Its quality has been proved by every test. I do not say that all the tobacco left on the hands of the growers is of first quality, but 90 per cent. of it is equal to that which has already been bought. I am glad that an officer of the department has been sent to the northern districts, and I predict that on his returnhis report to the Minister will confirm my statements.
– Can any of the unsold tobacco be used for purposes other than smoking?
– It cannot be put to any other profitable use. This combine enjoys 90 per cent. of the tobacco trade of Australia, and last, year - one of the worst during the depression - it declared a dividend that absorbed £500,000. It has been granted one of the most valuable monopolies that we could give to any combine, and I claim that it, has no justification for not having purchased last season’s tobacco, which is now on the hands of the growers. Since the tariff has been altered, this monopoly has deliberately imported leaf to the same amount as it did before tobacco was grown in this country. The fact is that this company does not want Australian tobacco. Last year it imported foreign leaf to the extent of 20,000,000 lb.
– Is that a fair statement, considering that the company pays a duty of 3s. a lb. on its imported leaf, although it, can buy Australian leaf at 2s. 3d. a lb.?
– The figures furnished by the Minister’s own department bear out my statement. For the first seven months of the present financial year, the company imported 10,000,000 lb. of tobacco.
– Does not that prove that the quality of the imported leaf is better than that of the Australian article?
– If the company is permitted to import at the same rate as previously, and to bring in sufficient tobacco to meet the whole of the Australian requirements, what is the use of growing any tobacco in this country? Obviously the company is taking advantage of the alteration that has been made in the tariff. It knows that the position will not always remain as it now is, and, therefore, it is creating enormous reserves for the future. It may surprise honorable members to know that for the last two yearstobacco has been obtainable in the United States of America almost for nothing. What a heaven-sent opportunity for this combine! Tobacco has been obtainable in America at as low a price as 5 cents per lb. Such a glut occurred that a great quantity of tobacco was burnt recently. Of course, the Australian monopoly has purchased a big supply of this tobacco, and will keep it in storage. I have learned that it has sufficient to last it for the next two years, solely asa result of the tariff alteration. If a big stick is not waved above its head, and if it is not informed that we expect, it to do something in return for the monopoly which it has been granted, it will ignore the interests of an important section of our primary producers. The possession of this monopoly is making; the shareholders of the company rich. Most of them are registered in London, and they are chiefly Americans; but if is the duty of this Parliament to give this combine clearly to understand that in return for its monopoly it must help us to establish the Australian tobacco industry. We should say to it, “We do not want American negroes to grow tobacco for us when we can grow it for ourselves “. I can assure the Government that the treatment received by the Australian tobacco-growers will be a big political issue at the next election. Vested interests in the industry have developed, and we cannot with impunity kill than industry by a wave of the hand or a stroke of the pen. I believe that if the Government does, not realize what.it has done, it will be sorry for itself at the next election, when it will have to face these outraged primary producers. There is much ill-feeling throughout the country districts in which tobacco is grown. The Governmentcould have avoided this situation if it, had conferred with representatives of the growers, with the object of taking action to prevent the destruction of this Australian industry.
I suggest that, in the first place, the Minister should impose an embargo upon the further importation of tobacco, and call upon the combineto purchase the remainder of last year’s crop. This year’s yield, which is already in the barns being cured, is not nearly so great as that gathered last year; but the growers are entitled to have it purchased. Their methods of production are improving every year, and if they receive a fair deal, within less than ten years they will be producing a class of tobacco equal to the best in the world. They will then be able to hold their own against competition from the United States of America. The present sense of insecurity must be removed, and, if the industry is to remain in existence, the tobacco now on the hands of the growers must be absorbed at reasonable prices. The growers desire to know what is to be done regarding the leaf grown by them this year. How are they to be protected against the imported leaf? A lot of imported tobacco is in bond, and I realize that the country obtains a great deal of revenue from this source; but if we placed an embargo upon imports, we could raise all the revenue from tobacco by means of the excise duty, and the Government could obtain nearly £1,000,000 extra revenue. It is not generally understood that 20 per cent. of the duty paid by the manufacturers on imported tobacco is refunded to them. It is estimated that, in the year in which the select committee that inquired into the tobacco industry made its report, no less than £350,000 was refunded by the department to the manufacturers, because of the 20 per cent. rebate allowed on steins. That large sum could be saved if importations were stopped, and if all the revenue were raised by means of the excise duty. Why should we return 20 per cent. of the revenue from imports to the pockets of the manufacturers? My suggestion is we should differentiate in favour of the Australian grower, to the extent of 4s. 4d. between the excise on imported leaf and on Australian leaf. We should increase the excise on imported leaf to 6s. 8d. a lb., and reduce it on local leaf to 2s. 4d. a lb. That would be a saving to the extent of the 20 per cent. of the import duty which is at present handed back to a bloated combine, and the Government could use the money thus saved in improving the conditions of invalid and old-age pensioners, or in reducing the deficit in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Under the plan that I have suggested, increased revenue would be received from the imported tobacco now being placed in bond, and I commend the suggestion to the Government as a good business proposition. The Government would not only obtain increased revenue from tobacco, butthe industry would be firmly established for many years.
I appreciate the action of the Minister in sending an officer to the electorate of New England. The tobacco that awaits inspection there, is not only in the Tamworth district, but in many others. Only yesterday, I received aletter from a grower at Quirindi, in the electorate of Gwydir. This man has20 or 30 tons of tobacco which have not been looked at by the buyers. A good deal of tobacco has yet to be inspected in Victoria, also.
Mr.Martens. - This kind of thing has happened before.
– Yes. The Minister will be able to form his own conclusions, upon receiving the officer’s report. I freely admit that the Minister has shown himself to be sympathetic towards the industry. He has been in office but a short time, and he has listened carefully to all the representations submitted to him. While we do not agree with his attitude to the industry generally, we hope that in the. course of time he will be educated to its needs. We think that if it is possible for him to do anything to save this Australian industry, he will do it, and he will receive every support from myself, and from those members who represent districts which produce tobacco. If the Minister acts on the advice tendered to him, and saves this important industry, he will be assisting a great many deserving primary producers and the large number of workmen employed by them. I have shown how he can notonly strengthen the financial position of Australia, but also do a good service to the Government of which he is a member.
.- It appears that the excise duty is too high, and is forcing the price of the Australian grown tobacco above that of the imported article. There is a very good Queensland tobacco on the market, but the working man who has had his wages reduced by from 25 to 30 per cent, cannot afford to pay an extra 2d. on a 2-ounce tin of tobacco, in order to show his patriotism. If the excise duty were reduced, and the import duty were increased, the Government would not lose revenue. The Minister must know that the parliamentary committee which reported on the position of the industry some time ago. took evidence more exhaustively than ‘would ordinarily be done by the Tariff Board. The committee examined many witnesses in all parts of Australia. It got into touch with the growers, the manufacturers and the distributors, and it presented a useful report to the Parliament. As a result of the action taken upon that report, there was a marked increase in the number of tobacco-growers in the Commonwealth. The following table shows the number of growers in each State in 1932, compared with the number in 1929 : -
That considerable increase resulted in the provision of a great deal of employment at a time when many men were badly in need of work. Our Australian people require tobacco, and are prepared to pay for it; but, evidently, the Government does not wish them to have the Australian product, for in reducing the duty by 2s. 2d. and increasing the excise it brought about an increase in the price of Australian tobacco. This will give the Australian manufacturers no chance whatever against their foreign competitors, who grow their product by coloured labour. I have followed the history of the tobacco industry very closely, and, in my opinion, it offers a fine opportunity for relieving unemployment. About twelve months ago, after this Go vernment had increased the excise duty and reduced the customs duty, the tobaccogrowers from all over the Commonwealth sent representatives to Canberra to discuss the situation with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett). When that deputation could not secure a reversion to the old duties it submitted a definite proposition to the Government, and, ultimately, an agreement was made with the manufacturers that they would purchase 7,000,000 lb. of Australiangrown leaf and restrict their imports to 12,000,000 lb. The tobacco manufacturers honoured the agreement in respect’ to the purchase of the 7,000,000 lb., and purchased an additional 1,000,000 lb. of Australian leaf. But manufacturers do not like any policy which savours of price fixation, and the tobacco manufacturers do not desire to renew the agreement, because, they say, it compels them to buy tobacco of an inferior quality. It is said that tobacco grown in the southern States is not of suitable quality. I have no doubt that the representatives of the tobacco-growers of these areas will contest the accuracy of that statement. By means of certain propaganda, the Queensland tobacco-growers’ organizations have been led to express an opinion against the renewal of the agreement. Personally, I think that they have been misguided. I fear that if no agreement is made, the tobacco manufacturers will buy their leaf in the cheapest market.
– They are doing so at present.
– According to our statistical returns, the imports of Australian tobacco are falling off. This is shown by the following table : -
The question is whether this reduction is likely to continue under the altered conditions. I ask the Minister whether there is any possibility of reaching agreement with the manufacturers to prohibit the importation of more leaf than is really required to make up the shortage of the Australian requirements.
– The tobacco manufacturers have intimated that they will buy the whole of our good leaf, from bright mahogany upwards.
– But who is to be the judge of what is good leaf? I have been advised by the Queensland tobacco-growers’ organizations that they have been able to sell their leaf at reasonably good prices; but discontent has been expressed by individual growers respecting the methods adopted by buyers for the manufacturers. I have been informed that the buyers pick the eyes out of the crop and leave the balance of it on the growers’ hands. “When the manufacturers operated in the first season after the increased duties had been imposed, and were in competition with other companies, the British-Australasian Tobacco Trust sent their buyers into North Queensland and bought crops which had been graded, ‘ but the other companies bought the crops on the face. Most of the growers know very little about the marketing and selling of their product, and prefer to sell the whole crop. Those who sold to the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Trust realized between 5s. and 6s. per lb. on the average when grading was agreed to. The representative of one of the manufacturers said to me in conversation not long ago, “I believe you are an ardent supporter of the agreement?” I replied, “ Not altogether ; but I am an ardent supporter of the customs duty of 5s. 6d. per lb. and excise duty of 2s. 4d. per lb.” The representative then said to me, “ The agreement compels us to buy a lot of poor leaf.” He also said that his company was prepared to buy all the good leaf. I asked him why the manufacturers did not buy all the good leaf prior to 1929, and prior also to the granting of protection by this Parliament, and the submission of the report of the Select Committee on the Tobacco Industry. If the manufacturers make an agreement to buy all the good leaf, they may honour the agreement. But .how much good leaf will be produced? We have been told that they purchased 2,000,000 lb. more .Australian leaf last year than ‘ they contracted to buy, and that the average price was 2s. 3d. per lb. But woul’d they continue to buy all the leaf if no agreement were made? They may say, “We will take all the good leaf.” But they may think, like the Queensland tobacco-growers, that good leaf is grown only in Queensland. Personally, I endorse the view of the Queensland growers ; but we do not desire to sacrifice the interests of the other tobacco-growers. We realize that, eventually, our tobacco-growers will supply all the requirements of Australia, and that the man who producers an inferior leaf will have it left on his hands. I inspected some of the tobacco factories in Melbourne not long ago, and was shown some of the leaf which was bought under the agreement. I do not know why the manufacturers kept it, unless it was to support their argument that they were compelled, under the agreement, to buy very inferior leaf. In my opinion, the grading and packing of that leaf was so bad that the growers concerned deserved to have it left on their hands. Our leaf must be graded, handled, and packed with the utmost care. It seems to me that in some of the Queensland districts, too much attention is given to grading and packing; but this is not so in some of the tobacco-growing areas of the other States. Unless something is done to improve the methods of grading, handling and packing in such districts, a reaction against Australian tobacco will undoubtedly occur. The Australian tobacco manufacturers have not always done the fair thing by the industry. A company was established in Queensland which was marketing tobacco allegedly grown at Mareeba. This tobacco was being sold in the shops in tins before any leaf had been harvested at Mareeba. That is not a fair thing. We have now on the market a good brand of tobacco known as Q.L.D., which is manufactured from Queensland and other Australian grown leaf. I can quite understand that certain honorable gentlemen in the Ministry who have imperialistic views would not smoke this tobacco. I doubt whether they would even inquire in a shop whether any Australian tobacco could be had. If everybody in Australia would insist upon being served with only
Australian goods, there would be no need for duties, for the patronage of our Australian people would ensure markets for our various industries.
It cannot be denied that the tobacco manufacturers have reaped a rich harvest in recent years. In support of this statement, I quote the following paragraph contributed to the Melbourne Herald on the 23rd June, 1930, by Mr. Harold Burston -
One Million Profit from Tobacco.
Prosperous Condition of Manufacturing Industry
Declared net profits for the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Limited exceeded the million mark for the first time in the year ended October 31st.
The popular belief that this dominating organization in the Australian tobacco trade had been prospering to a greater extent than its dividend rates indicated, was confirmed in the 1928 financial year, when subsidiary reserves were drawn upon for the huge amount of £2,324,131 to pay a bonus of 40 per cent. on scrip.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The manufacturer as well as the grower of tobacco provides a lot of employment, and the rights of both sides must be considered. At the same time it must be remembered that the. representatives of both sides gave evidence before the select committee, which exhaustively investigated the industry, and recommended that certain rates of duty and excise should be imposed. The Scullin Government, which was then in power, accepted practically the whole of the committee’s recommendations, including rates of duty and excise, which were put into operation. As the result, our growers competed favorably with imported leaf. Twelve months later there was a change of government, and in the fortunes of the Australian tobacco industry. By then the number of tobacco-growers in Australia had considerably increased, and the industry was fast becoming a valuable asset to the Commonwealth. Yet the present Government increased the rate of excise on Australian tobacco, giving the imported article an unfair advantage.
The manufacturers declare that . the consumption of tobacco is diminishing. The reason is obvious. Although during the past few years wages have dropped appreciably, the price of tobacco has increased. Now, because of the additional excise duty, the Australian product has been raised in price in excess of that of imported tobacco. Many argue that Australian tobacco is not so good as the imported article. As a cigarette smoker, rolling my own cigarettes, I smoked a good deal of fine cut Champion and Capstan before the Australian product was available, and I consider Australian QLD equal to any imported tobacco, while pipe-smokers assure me that flake cut QLD compares favorably with the overseas product. That is because QLD brand is manufactured from a matured tobacco of good quality. Prior to the present Government placing the Australian industry at a disadvantage, thousands were cultivating a taste for our product.
A perusal of the reports and balancesheets of various tobacco manufacturing companies reveals that those concerns are in a flourishing condition. Referring to these profits, the Melbourne Age of the 23rd January, 1931, states -
Accounts of the British-American company for the year to 30th September last are to hand by this week’s mail from London. Net profit was £6,501,560 or £143,788 more than for 1928-29. Dividend on the ordinary shares again is 25 per cent., and takes £5,895,180. Preference capital was increased in the year by an issue of £6,000,000, and dividend on preference shares requires £550,000.
That is a splendid return on capital, and it indicates that this big concern could easily reduce the price of its tobacco and still make handsome profits. The article continues -
Profits shown do not include the proportion of the undivided revenue of the subsidiary and associated companies. Sir H. CunliffeOwen, one of the directors of the BritishAmerican Tobacco Company, is on the board of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Limited, Melbourne.
It might well be suggested that, if import duties were to be lowered, here was a splendid opportunity to give preferential tariff treatment to Canada, which is seeking a market for its exportable surplus of tobacco, at present about 5,000,000 lb. Canada has given us preferential tariff on our wine, butter, meat and other primary . products ; here was a chance for us to , reciprocate, even if only in a small way. I also quote the following extract from the Melbourne ETerald of the 14th January, 1930 : -
Carreras Limited, which maintains a large connexion with the Australian tobacco trade, reports a record net profit of £1,285,154 for the year ended October 31. It exceeds the total for the preceding twelve months by nearly i£i31,000. ‘
Ordinary shareholders received £703,125 in dividend of 50 per cent., free of tax. The 25 per cent, capital bonus distributed at the beginning of the year ranked for this dividend, which is therefore equal to 62$ per cent, on the 1927 capital. lt is interesting to remember that, while the Australian grower receives only 3s. 9d. per lb. for his best tobacco, the manufacturer, after processing the leaf and making into cigarettes, receives the following return : -
After the Scullin Government imposed a duty of 5s. 2d. and an excise of 2s. 4d. on tobacco, the local industry expanded in a most encouraging fashion; but since the present Government has drastically reduced the rates to 3s. and 4s. 6d. respectively, there has been an alarming setback to the Australian industry. Honorable members have asked what members of my party seek. We want a restoration of the Scullin rates of duty and excise, as recommended by the committee which so exhaustively investigated the industry, that is,- a duty of 5s. 2d. and an excise of 2s. 4d. If that is not acceptable to the Government, I suggest that it should agree to the recommendation of the deputation which waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and adopt a sliding scale of excise. In order to give the Government an opportunity to reconsider the proposals of that deputation and arrive at a decision which, I hope, will result in the re-establishment of the Australian industry on its former encouraging basis, I move -
That the item be postponed.
.- The Government has made a great mistake in this matter, and has departed from a principle it espoused in connexion with the ‘ Ottawa agreement, when it gave preferential treatment to Great Britain by increasing foreign duties. In this instance it is decreasing the protection given to local growers in favour of the foreign article, which comes almost entirely from the country with which Australia has the greatest adverse trade balance. The peculiarity of the whole business is that if all of our tobacco requirements were grown in Australia our revenue would not suffer. As a matter of fact, our products would then be sold at prices cheaper than those which now obtain. The tobacco industry employs a considerable number of persons. The Government increased the rate of excise on Australian tobacco with fatal result to our growers, and arranged that the combine should pay for one year a certain price for a specified portion of the Australian crop. But no provision was made for the future, and one gathers from a speech that was made on the subject by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) last year that there is no hope for Australian tobacco-growers.
I do not share the fear of those who fear an over-production of Australian tobacco. That would, I believe, be the best thing that could happen to the Australian industry, as there would then be an opportunity to set aside a portion of our crops for maturation, the only requirement to make Austraiian tobacco palatable. The great disadvantage in the past was that those who purchased Australian tobacco had to smoke what was practically green leaf. Tobacco smoking is purely a matter of taste, and prior to the increase in the rate of excise many Australians had acquired a liking for our product. One reason was that its price was lower, a most important consideration in these times. I hope that the Government will recognize that the tobacco industry employs many thousands of persons, and that, if it persists in its present policy, money which is at present retained in the country will go to the United States of America, while Australian governments will have to make appreciably greater provision for dole payments to their unemployed. As i have declared on other occasions, my attitude to the tobacco duties is perfectly consistent with my fiscal faith as a revenue tariffist. I be;lieve that- the extension df this industry in Australia will not prejudicially affect the revenue. Unlike many other industries that have grown up under high protection and embargoes, and have placed a very heavy burden on the people of Australia, the tobacco industry will provide a great deal of employment, and ensure to Australian smokers a tobacco as cheap as, if not cheaper than, the imported article. I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to this matter. The tobaccogrowers of Australia have had considerable experience with the tobacco companies which, while building up big reserves and declaring substantial dividends in these days of depression, have adopted a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards the growers. My sympathy is entirely with the growers. I hope that the Government will not lightly pass this item in its present form.
.- I intend to support the amendment. This industry was the subject of very close inquiry by a select committee some years ago. If honorable members entertain any doubt about some of the statements made in the course of this debate, they would do well to examine the evidence taken by that committee, and thus inform their minds of the true position of the industry. I refer them particularly to statements made by Mr. Bentley, the managing director of the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company, who warned growers against the marketing of immature leaf. The maturation period, he asserted, should be not less than two years; if it were marketed earlier, the industry would suffer. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has mentioned a tobacco, known as the Mareeba tobacco. That was put on the market before the Mareeba leaf was harvested. It was sold in tins which, from their appearance, one would imaginewere old linoleum polish tins that had come from a rubbish tip, and the tobacco contained in them was of very inferior quality comparable to the quality of the containers. It certainly was not Mareeba tobacco. I do not know where the leaf was grown, but I understand it was handled by a mushroom company located in Brisbane and called, I believe, the National Tobacco Company. But its career was soon brought to a close.
One of the statements made in this debate was to the effect that the tobacco companies had not been dealing fairly by the growers. This view is borne out ‘by the evidence given before the select committee to which I have directed attention, and particularly the evidence of witnesses at Stawell in Victoria, Tumut and Tamworth in New South “Wales, and another area, the name of which I have forgotten, outside Tamworth. Individual growers at those places stated that although they were producing a leaf of good average quality and 70 per cent, bright mahogany, the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company’s buyers refused to take any of their crop. I have no illusions about the British- Australasian Tobacco Company in its treatment of the growers. All the evidence goes to show that, immediately an individual grower asserts his independence, he is marked down by the combine. Mr. Muller, one of the growers at Stawell, stated that although he had been dealing for years with the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, and was producing probably the best crop in that district, the major portion of it being bright mahogany, in one year he had the whole of it left on his hands.
The amendment is a reasonable one, and I hope that the Minister will accept it. If he submits this item to the accountants in his department, I feel sure he will be advised that, if the import duty on foreign leaf is increased and the excise on tobacco produced from the local leaf is reduced, the revenue will not suffer. Probably it will improve, and the added protection will be of substantial benefit to the Australian tobacco growers. As I am not a smoker myself, I cannot pretend to speak with authority as to the quality of the Australian leaf, but I do know that several small factories in the Commonwealth are producing a good tobacco which is in demand by all classes of smokers. Several brands, other than those mentioned by the honorable member for Kennedy, are on the market. One, known as the Digger brand, the product of a North Queensland company controlled by Mr. Bayliss, a returned soldier, at Home Hill, is, I believe, in favour with a considerable number of smokers.. This company, I am informed, has spent several thousands of pounds on plant and equipment. Periodically, it sends samples of its tobacco to me, because it is in my electorate, and I distribute it among friends. So far, I have not heard any adverse comment concerning its quality.
It has been suggested that smokers generally do not take readily to the Australian product. This need not occasion surprise, as tobacco is an acquired taste; and I believe that if our industry is encouraged, our smokers will eventually be quite satisfied with the Australian product. That was the experience in South Africa. “When steps were first taken to establish the tobacco industry in Southern Rhodesia, opponents of the proposal declared that the people would never be induced to smoke the South African product. The exclusion of American tobacco gave the local industry its chance to expand and improve its product, and it was not long before the people acquired a taste for the Rhodesian tobacco, with the result thai now, only a small percentage of American leaf is imported for blending purposes. The experience of South Africa confirms me in the belief that, if the Scullin tariff had not been interfered with, and if the people of this country were forced to smoke tobacco made from the Australian leaf, they would soon acquire a taste for it, and be satisfied.
I doubt .that the British-Australasian Tobacco Company is anxious to see tobacco growing flourish in this country, because, from time to time, many disparaging statements have been made by its representatives concerning the Australian leaf. For instance, officials of this company have declared openly that the only suitable area for tobacco growing in Australia is North Queensland, and they have mentioned in particular the Mareeba district. . Evidently they do not know what they are talking about, because the Mareeba district they mention extends from Bowen to Mungana, a distance of between 500 and 600 miles, and tobacco may be grown in places other than the immediate neighbourhood of Mareeba.
When the select committee took evidence two years ago, witnesses stated that the amount of mahogany or lemon leaf grown each year was increasing, largely as the result of growers’ wider experience, and of the advice tendered by experts: Mr. Lough, one of the buyers for the British - Australasian Tobacco Company, gave the growers very sound advice in this matter, as also did Mr. Marks and Mr. Howell, officials of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which has rendered valuable assistance to tobaccogrowers in all States. Experimental plots have been established in a number of tobacco-growing areas, and the results have shown the most suitable type of crop for each district. It is of no use to deny that some of the growers are in difficulties, because of the failure of the tobacco manufacturers to purchase 2,000,000 lb. of the last season’s crop. One grower in the Quirindi district has declared that he has not seen a buyer this year. This shows that the tobacco companies are not likely to be concerned about the position of our growers, if they can get supplies from the United States of America. As a matter of fact, I believe that the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company has an interest in American tobacco. At any rate, its attitude towards American interests would support this view, and it may be news to honorable members to learn that the percentage of bright leaf grown in the United States of America is not by any means so great as is generally supposed. But there is no doubt about the value of the Australian market to the American tobacco producer. We should keep it for our own growers, and it is only a question of time before they will have so improved their methods as to be able to cater for our full requirements. One witness who had been a buyer for ,the . British- Australasian Tobacco Company, with overseas experience, admitted that, once the industry was established in Australia, it would, if given reasonable protection, soon be able to hold its own. There is no doubt about the quality of the leaf produced in this country or the possibilities of its development. In what is known as the Mareeba district alone, there are more than 2,000,000 acres of suitable tobaccogrowing land which can be obtained at 2s. 6d. an acre, payable over a period of ten years, so it is not right to say that a large amount of capital is necessary to start tobacco growing. The Government would be well advised to give further consideration to the proposed duties, with a view to assisting an industry that will be of immense value to this country in the course of a few years.
– I, like the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), cannot claim to be a judge of good tobacco. There was a time, many years ago, when I could have expressed a personal opinion of some worth, but as I am now a nonsmoker, my judgment of the fragrant weed is not of much value. The statement by the honorable member for Forrest, that the promise of the manufacturers to purchase the Australian crop applied to only last year, was a surprise to me. If no undertaking has been given with regard to the crop now being harvested, the growers are in a precarious way, and steps must be taken to succour them. Before the departure of Mr. Stagg, the American tobacco expert who came to Australia under engagement to the Commonwealth, I, as Minister for Trade and Customs at the time, had long conversations with him, and I tried to induce him to remain here, because he said that his mission was incomplete; further investigations were necessary in the various States, and the growers needed further advice. But a view he particularly emphasized was that many growers had met with fair success in districts not particularly well suited to the production of tobacco, and the time had arrived when they should transfer their energies, knowledge and experience to other areas which would produce a better leaf.
– That is the whole trouble.
– Not the whole trouble. Mr. Stagg’s contention was answered by the purchase of last year’s crop. Much of the tobacco grown in Victoria was sold by Dalgety and Company at auction, and the prices obtained forleaf produced in the Goulburn Valley and other districts very widely separated were remarkably good. Of course, some of the leaf marketed was below the standard required by the manufacturer, but such variations are inevitable in respect of a crop that is comparatively new to Australia. I have no doubt that Victoria can produce a good average quality of tobacco, although perhaps not quite up to the standard of that grown in parts of Queensland. When the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) reduced the import duty and increased the excise duty, I understood him to promise definitely that, in order to give encouragement and security’ to the growers, he would, if necessary, ration imports, or even place an embargo on them. That promise is not being fulfilled. Unlike the honorable member for Forrest. I am a consistent protectionist. I would treat all primary industries alike. I do not believe in the protection of only one industry, or one locality; every primary producer has a right to a full measure of assistance through the tariff. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has asked that consideration of this item be postponed, in order that, the Government may consider a reversion to the duties obtaining prior to the alteration by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) ; but I believe that the growers would be satisfied if the excise duty were reduced, and the import duty correspondingly increased.
– That is what I am asking for.
– That request is worthy of sympathetic consideration, in view of the definite promise by the former Minister for Trade and Customs that the growers would be protected, and the fact that no undertaking has been given that this year’s crop will be purchased by the manufacturers. If it be true that millions of pounds of American leaf have been imported and stored here, to be used to the prejudice of the Australian leaf, the Government should take immediate action to ensure better treatment for the local grower. A decrease of the excise duty and an increase of the import duty are necessary to place the tobacco-growing industry on a firm footing, and I shall vote accordingly.
.- The Government would be wise to give further consideration to this item. The attitude of the Country party towards the tobacco industry has been correctly explained by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). We have heard a great deal about the protective incidence of these duties, but when they were last before the Parliament they were defended for revenue reasons.
– Whether they be called revenue duties or protective duties, the protection now amounts to 900 per cent.
– There are both import and excise duties. Previously the rates on .foreign leaf were, 5s. 2d. import duty, and 2s. 4d. excise. The local leaf was subject to the excise duty only. At present the import duty is 3s. and the excise duty 4s. 6d., making a total impost of 7s. 6d. There has been no increase of duty in respect of the imported leaf, but the excise duty on the local leaf has been increased to 4s. 6d. Therefore the Country party voted against an increase and not against a decrease. However, throughout the world tobacco is regarded as a luxury, and is taxed for revenue purposes solely. In the United Kingdom, which produces no tobacco, the duties are 9s. 6d. per lb. I recognize that the Scullin Government, had it continued in office, would not have allowed the old duties to continue; an alteration in the method of raising revenue, from this source was intended, otherwise the duties would not have been referred to the Tariff Board.
– We would have done it in a more equitable way.
– Probably along the lines now suggested by the Country party. In 1927 the Tariff Board reported on the tobacco duties, and suggested a use of the excise duty which would yield the requisite revenue, whilst, at the same time, giving protection to the local industry. It would be possible so to arrange the excise duty that the import duties could be abolished, and vice versa. Recently I visited Texas and other tobacco-growing - districts in my electorate. Texas is one of the oldest tobacco-producing districts in Queensland. In days gone by W. D. and H. 0. Wills operated a large factory there, and on the Severn river, particularly on the Queensland side, the number of old drying sheils indicated the great acreage that had been formerly cropped with tobacco. The industry practically disappeared, however, until its revival two or three years ago. Now there are two or three large tobacco plantations, a large number of people growing the crop on half shares, and others producing it merely as a side line. All of them are having a lean time, but they impressed upon me that they were concerned not so much in the price as in being able to market their crop. They did not ask for anything like 2s. 3d. per lb. ; the rates they mentioned were ls. 6d. and even ls. 3d. per lb. They said that those average prices would be profitable, provided they were assured of being able to sell their leaf. Unfortunately, there has been a big carry-over from last year’s crop, and there is likely to be a large unmarketed surplus this year. Of course the Government must safeguard the revenue, and after that it must take steps to see that the growers are able to dispose of their product at a fair price. It is strange that some growers are able regularly to sell their tobacco, while others are not. One man is able to sell everything he grows every year, while his neighbour across the fence, producing tobacco of equal quality, has it left on his hands. Buyers will purchase almost anything when it suits them, so it is of no use to say that they do not buy now because of the poor quality. A grower with many years’ experience informed me that two or three years ago a buyer who visited the place he was managing found in an old shed some tobacco leaf which had been lying there for seven or eight years. The buyer asked him what he wanted for it, but the man told him that it had been there so long that it was worthless, and he refused to put a price on it. The buyer, however, offered him 9d. per lb., and bought the leaf at that price. Probably some honorable members in this House have since smoked it.
This industry is different from other protected industries in that it has never taken full advantage of the tariff. Even when duties were highest the manufacturers of locally-grown leaf did not exploit the tariff in order to extract a high price from the consumers. Australiangrown tobacco was always cheaper than that made from imported leaf, sometimes by as much as 4d., or even 8d., for a two-ounce tin. This was a godsend to working men, who in Brisbane were able to buy tobacco at1s.1d. and1s. 3d. a tin. I have a letter from a man informing me that he had been in the habit of buying locally-grown tobacco at 8s.8d. per lb., which is1s.1d. for a two-ounce tin. Now he is unable to obtain this brand, and has reverted to the use of imported tobacco. We have been told that the public does not like Australian-grown tobacco. These things are a matter of taste, and an increasingly large number of Australians have grown to like the flavour of their own Australian tobacco. They have come to like it, and it suits their pocket. Smokers must smoke something, and many of them have come to prefer the local product.
All the tobacco grown is bought by two or three companies.
– It is bought by one company.
– A couple of others have recently come into the field. These companies are able to dictate the price at which the leaf is bought. We have to remember that, from the point of view of the manufacturers, there are certain disadvantages attached to exploiting the Australian leaf. When a new brand is put on the market, it has to be extensively advertised before it attains a general sale. Moreover, the manufacturers cannot use Australian leaf in the manufacture of any of their standard brands. These brands are made from certain recipes, and the mixture cannot be varied without affecting the flavour, and consequently the sale of the tobacco. Thus there is a certain prejudice among manufacturers against the use of Australian leaf, because of the added cost of marketing and advertising a new brand. On the other hand, new manufacturers are handicapped by having to sell their product without maturing it properly. They buy the leaf, manufacture and sell it the year in which it is grown, with the result that connoisseurs complain of its quality.
The Government looks on this industry chiefly as a source of revenue; but it should also consider the part it plays in providing employment. In the Texas district, and through Inglewood to Stanthorpe, there was notable prosperity during the period when adequate protective duties were in force on imported tobacco. There was not an unemployed local man in all the district from Inglewood to Yelarbon, and from Texas on to Stanthorpe, and the land was under cultivation at no cost to the Government, and at no extra cost to the smokers, who were getting their tobacco for less than when they were smoking imported leaf. The tobacco industry, when it is thriving, provides work, utilizes the land, and keeps men off the dole, and, unlike other protected industries, is not a charge on the community. The Government would be wise to reconsider the whole question in the light of what has been put before it. If it, wants revenue it must encourage increased production, and this can be done by adjusting import and excise duties in such a way as to encourage the consumption of locally-grown tobacco.
– I have been particularly interested in listening to this discussion on tobacco, because it reveals a belated effort on the part of our country cousins to undo a decision arrived at in this House a little while ago. I was interested in the remarks of various members of the corner party and of the Opposition, who claim to have a definite and personal knowledge of the industry. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), in moving his amendment, stressed the remarkable increase in the number of tobaccogrowers in recent years, due to what he claimed to be the proper protective measures adopted by the Scullin Government. This extraordinary increase would give the average man furiously to think. It would impress him as unhealthy. It does not seem rational for a large number of inexperienced growers to rush into an industry without paying attention to scientific means of production, or the proper selection of plants. I regard this sudden expansion of the industry with suspicion, and this has been strengthened by the fact that the quality of the leaf produced proves conclusively that the growers have been seeking quantity rather than quality. They have been content to produce inferior, dark leaf instead of the high-grade light leaf which is in demand among smokers. Honorable members conveyed the impression that there was a marked prejudice against Australian tobacco amongst consumers. The honorable member for Kennedy and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) said that a brand of tobacco known as “Mareeba” was PUt on the market before the leaf actually grown at Mareeba was harvested, and that this had reacted unfavorably against the popularity of Australian tobacco. It seems to be admitted, at any rate, that the Australian smokers were not pleased with the local product. The honorable member said that the manufacturers had packed the tobacco in tins such as might contain linoleum polish, and that the quality of the tobacco was equal to that of the’ tins! The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that the Australian tobacco put on the market up to date was green tobacco, and that that was why it had not proved to be popular. Again, it is evident that the consumers were dissatisfied, and I agree that they had reason to be. They should not be satisfied with less than the best. Later, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) told us, apparently with pride, that some rubbish lying in a corner of a man’s shed was sold at a price, and he added that probably some of it had been smoked by honorable members of this Parliament. That is a fine example of pride in an Australian product !
In my opinion, the Government is to be commended on its efforts to have scientific methods of cultivation introduced in the production of tobacco. We know from studying the reports of experts that many things have to be taken into consideration in the production of highgrade tobacco leaf. Climatic conditions must be suitable, the soil must be right, proper plants must be chosen, and due attention must be paid to the control of diseases and pests. Moreover, we must not saturate the local market, and thereby kill what promises to be a valuable industry. Honorable members have quoted figures which prove that, if the industry continues to expand at the present rate, saturation point will be reached in five years. What will happen then? Shall we export our surplus? Honorable members say that we cannot export in competition with the product of coloured labour in other countries. Honorable members, who complain of the competition of coloured labour in the United
States of America, should be reminded that the growers of this country exploit coloured labour by the method of sharefarming they adopt. . So profitable has the industry been in the past that they have been able to let out portions of their farms to Chinamen on the share system for the production of tobacco. All this shows that they have not been concerned with quality so much as with quantity. For the sake of immediate profit, they are prepared to take the risk of permanently injuring the industry.
– Where is coloured labour used in Australia in the production of tobacco?
– Honorable members in whose districts tobacco is grown must themselves know where this method of share farming prevails. Much emphasis has been laid on the fact that the manufacturers will not undertake to purchase this year’s crop. It has been pointed out that imports have declined considerably, indicating that there is a possibility of a good market for the coming Australian crop. I remind honorable members, however, that the particular associations and manufacturers that handle the tobacco leaf realize that the industry has come to stay, and that it is necessary to establish a demand for the local product. If they purchased indiscriminately the sweepings mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa, or the class of leaf described by the honorable members for Herbert, Forrest, and New England, as green and unfit for human consumption, they would definitely damn this Australian industry. They are displaying common sense in their handling of the crop, in that they will purchase only that quality of leaf which the consumer can smoke and enjoy, thus creating a demand for it and causing a reaction in favour of the Australian industry as one that is worth fostering. In the light of these facts, I am unable to support the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy. I feel that the Government is acting rightly in endeavouring to build up the industry along sound scientific lines, by compelling the growers to pay due regard to the quality of the leaf produced.
– I desire to strike a new note in this debate, the whole of which so far has been concerned with the men who grow the tobacco leaf. No consideration has been given to the thousands who work in the cities manufacturing the leaf into the finished product. I am at all times anxious to develop that section of the industry; but if the Minister accedes to the request to postpone the item, I hope that he will also give consideration to every other angle. My experience, which has not been very considerable on the primary side, but has been much greater in connexion with the secondary portion of the industry, has led me to the belief that the trouble to-day is that the price to the consumer is being made too high. Already the trade in the local product is falling off. I have no desire for hasty legislation, or for undue haste on the part of those who support the growers, that will have the effect of toppling the industry. The price of the Virginian leaf tobacco is too close to that of the Australian leaf tobacco. The Australian leaf is making rapid strides in colour, in aroma, and in every other feature, and has now reached the stage that it is difficult to distinguish between the best Australian and the Virginian. Rut with the approximation of the two qualities the prices also have all the time been coming closer together, with the result that the trade in the local product has been declining. Modern machinery that had not long been installed in the largest factory in Melbourne has been dismantled and sent to New Zealand for the manufacture there of tobacco, maybe not from Australian leaf. I want the Minister so. to re-arrange the excise and the duty that the Australian consumer will not have to pay a higher price for the local product, otherwise both the manufacturer and the consumer will suffer. I believe that to-day the particular brand of tobacco that has the largest sale contains from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent. of Australian leaf. As we have been concentrating for only a comparatively short period on the growth of tobacco leaf, that is evidence of remarkable progress, and to push the matter at a much faster rate I believe would dp more harm than good to the growers. I have gone through the tobacco factories of Melbourne four or five times a year, my latest visit having been made only last week, when I saw blank positions where huge machines were operating a few months ago. As. I have mentioned previously, those machines have been sent to New Zealand. Although we export Australian leaf to that dominion, 1 believe that the biggest proportion of the leaf manufactured into tobacco is Virginian, which is cheaper than the Australian leaf. I do not want the trade to be driven from Australia to New Zealand. The number of employees in the secondary portion of the industry exceeds by thousands those in the primary section. For the last 20 or 30 years or more, thousands of men and women have been employed in the manufacture of tobacco in Australia. The number has been decreasing every year, not because of the quality of the Australian leaf, but for other reasons, notably the introduction of machinery to replace human labour; also because, owing to the general depression, no apprentices or juveniles have been engaged, and the cost of tobacco is becoming too dear for the average smoker to purchase in the quantities that would be smoked if the price were lower. The aim of the Government should be to give the Australian industry every opportunity to develop, and not to make the cost too high for the average customer by the imposition of a stiff excise on Australian leaf, which would have the effect of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
– That is why the price is too high now.
– The price of the local tobacco is almost equal to that of the imported commodity. There is still a prejudice in some quarters against Australian tobacco, as there is against Australian hats, boots, and other goods, and that ha3 the result of- swelling the sales of Virginian tobacco when its price is only Id. or 1-Jd. a tin more. I represent a big section of those who work in the manufacturing section of the industry, and have to watch their interests, just as other honorable members have to watch the interests of the growers. The employees are apprehensive of losing their work, and their case should be considered by the Minister in addition to that of other sections of the industry.
– The committee appears to have lost sight of the fact that a few years ago Australia realized that an opportunity presented itself to promote a new industry. At that time, we imported annually £3,000,000 worth of tobacco, chiefly from the United States of America, and it was felt that an effort should be made to grow the leaf and manufacture it within our own borders. Action was taken by Federal and State Governments, and last year the production represented half the requirements of Australia. Yet some honorable members speak disparagingly of the growers. One honorable member said that he did not think it was wise to plant seed indiscriminately, without proper selection. ‘ I remind him that the planting operations are directed by departmental experts, who follow the most scientific methods adopted in any part, of the world. The seeds are not chosen indiscriminately, but are supplied by the Departments of Agriculture according to the requirements of the different districts.
– Are the climatic conditions taken into consideration generally throughout Australia?
– They are. This practice followed the action of the Federal Government, which planted experimental plots, or found the money for them, in different parts of Australia. We are now faced with the position that a considerable proportion of last year’s crop has not been marketed. That was prophesied by honorable members who opposed the principles laid down by the Government for the purchase of the crop. It was then known that there were in Australia opponents of the local production of tobacco, the principal one being the great manufacturing combine, which all along has done everything possible to prevent the development of the industry. It can secure tobacco from America at a smaller cost, and, but for local competition, might be able to induce the Government to lower the duty and the excise. In the past, many growers in different localities have made gallant efforts to produce a good quality leaf.
At Texas, I saw most beautiful crops of tobacco grown under conditions stipulated by experts loaned by the New South Wales Government. Some of the blocks were 25 acres in extent, and the tobacco leaf was flue cured. The combine paid those unfortunate growers only 6d. per lb. From the time that this Parliament interested itself in a practical way in the industry, tobacco-growing has extended rapidly throughout Australia. In Queensland, last year, 48d. per l’b. was realized at public auction for locally grown leaf. According to the Daily Mail of the 29th July, 1932, that was the price paid for a consignment of 110 tons of tobacco leaf sold by Dalgety and Company in Brisbane, when 75 per cent, of that consignment was sold by auction or private treaty at the one time. Any greens or stems were rejected. No tobacco-grower expects the manufacturer to utilize that class of leaf in the production of tobacco for consumption. Generally speaking, the agreement entered into last year operated successfully so far as the Queensland growers were concerned, but the growers of New South Wales for the most part had a rough deal. I can imagine that the combine in Australia would be prepared to kill the industry in one State at a time, but it is of too much importance to Australia for us to. give the combine an opportunity to wipe it out altogether. I support the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), because I believe that, under present conditions, Australian leaf is given little, if any, preference over the imported article. There is a duty of 3s. on imported leaf, but that is minimized to a great extent because of the fact that tobacco leaf in the United States of America to-day is selling at less than the cost of production. The leaf is a glut on the market and is being freely purchased by tobacco manufacturers of Australia as well as other parts of the world. That is amply shown by the fact that our importations last year were 15,000,000 lb., and for the first seven months of this year 10,000,000 lb. It is estimated that in Australia to-day we have a two years’ supply of imported tobacco. Can anybody suggest that we are supporting the local industry and encouraging the growers whom we have helped to place on the land, when we give to the manufacturer an opportunity to flood the local market with imported tobacco leaf, and to pay any price that he likes to fix for the local product? This is a serious matter to the growers, and any one who has read the report of the Select Committee on the Tobacco Industry must realize that the increased excise has placed a serious disability on the local industry. Most of the imported tobacco leaf comes from the United States of America. We have no reason at all to cater for that trade. We should not purchase the products of that country until it is prepared to purchase some of ours. It, therefore, behoves every honorable member to assist the local industry so that we may keep within Australia the millions of pounds that have in the past been sent to the United States of America to help swell our adverse trade balance with that country. We should retain that value in Australia, and, at the same time, provide additional employment for our own citizens. This year there is likely to be a decline in the production of tobacco leaf. The growers will be absolutely in the hands of the manufacturers, who have no incentive to purchase the local product. No agreement has yet been entered into with them to purchase the coming season’s crop, and their only desire seems to be to make large purchases of that American leaf which is being dumped on the markets of the world. Some honorable members have spoken disparagingly of the quality of the Australian leaf, but they seem to forget that the American leaf matures from two to four years before it is manufactured into the finished article. In Australia the leaf is practically unmatured, yet when samples of the manufactured tobacco are obtained, they are adversely criticized. It has been stated, principally by members of the combine in Australia, that it is practically impossible, to smoke the Australian tobacco. They even had the audacity to say that it was tainted with eucalyptus. The rates of duty prescribed under this item are most unsatisfactory. In the interests of the Australian producers, we should provide a greater margin of preference in respect of tobacco manufactured from
Australian leaf. The statement that it is practically impossible to smoke Australian tobacco has been strongly refuted.
– In what way has it been refuted?
– It has been refuted by the evidence that we have of the popularity of Australian tobacco, even though it has not matured for from two to four years. Any district that is producing tobacco unprofitably is not likely to continue to do so. We have evidence that Australia can produce the whole of its tobacco requirements. Why should we buy from our commercial enemies - the United States of America - a product that we can grow successfully in Australia? By encouraging this industry we shall keep within our shores many million of pounds that would otherwise be sent to the United States of America, and, at the same time, place in suitable occupations many of our unfortunate citizens who are at present unemployed.
– I hope that the Government will agree to the suggestion that has been made to-night to alter the excise duty with a view to giving preference to Australian tobacco as against imported tobacco. This is not a new subject to this Parliament. The late Honorable C. C. Kingston, the first Commonwealth Minister for Customs, looked upon the tobacco industry as one of the industries that would ultimately flourish within the Commonwealth. Right from the beginning little desire has been manifested for the use in manufacture of the Australian product. According to the summary of production as contained in the Statistical Bulletin No. 25, in 1924-25, the quantity of Australian leaf used in our tobacco factories was 1,066,763 lb., and of imported leaf 17,006,274 lb. In 1929-30 the quantity of Australian leaf used was 1,191,568 lb., and of imported leaf, 17,983,133 lb. In 1907, the quantity of Australian leaf used in our factories was 1,472,556 lb., and that of imported leaf 7,954,354 lb. Therefore, away back in 1907 there was a bigger proportion of Australian leaf used than there is to-day; but over a series of years, the proportion has practically remained the same. In 1928-29 the quantity of Australian leaf used was 978,030 lb., and that of American leaf, 18,157,689 lb. It was about then that a feeling grew up in the community that an earnest endeavour should be made to utilize more Australian leaf in our factories, and in 1930-31, as the result of the development of the Australian industry, the quantity of Australian leaf used in our factories increased to 3,128,684 lb., as against 13,327,414 lb. of imported leaf. Those figures, which are the latest available, show clearly that it needed something in the nature of a national movement to force the consumption of Australian leaf by the tobacco manufacturers of Australia. Judging from the purchases of Australian tobacco in the years from 1930 to 1932, it is quite possible that in future a still larger proportion of Australian tobacco leaf will be used in our factories. In fact the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has indicated that the consumption in respect of the Australian and imported leaf is now practically on a fifty-fifty basis. Naturally we must expect a little delay in the use of the Australian leaf because of the necessity for maturing it.
The tobacco-growers must be given some relief in the form, of a reduction of the excise duty. If the growers are left in the hands of the tobacco corporations, I am afraid that these will be disposed to work for their own convenience and profit, rather than in any patriotic spirit for the development of Australia. For the reasons that I have given, I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy, which recognizes the principle of a differentiation in excise in favour of Australian tobacco.
.- The experience gained since this subject was debated on a previous occasion should strengthen the support in this committee for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). On the occasion to which I have referred, the Government promised that serious consideration would be given to this industry. There was more than a hint by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) that, if necessary, an embargo would be imposed on the importation of foreign leaf. Those honorable members who have spoken in support of this Australian industry have made out a strong case. I do not intend to repeat what they have said, except to say that I, too, favour the restriction of imports until the whole position has been reviewed. That is the first important consideration. The figures that have been quoted, and others that I have examined, make it clear that we have in Australia a large quantity of imported tobacco leaf in excess of this year’s requirements. There is on hand probably enough for two years.
– Only in the coarse grades.
– Generally, there are large stocks on hand. For 30 or 40 years the growing of tobacco in Australia has been talked about; but until a high protective duty was imposed on foreign leaf it was never seriously considered as a flourishing industry in this country. When a really protective duty was imposed, the industry was given a fillip. It is true that, in many instances, the cultivation of tobacco was undertaken because of the fall in the prices of primary products. The depression in our primary industries generally forced those engaged in them to seek other and more profitable outlets for their energies, and their efforts met with a measure of success. Although for many years not more than about one-tenth of Australia’s tobacco requirements were produced in this country, in a little over two years the local production equalled about one-half of the total Australian consumption. Immediately, the Government became alarmed. It was suggested that the growth of this new Australian industry was so rapid as to be unhealthy, and also that the Australian product was of inferior quality. Such was not the case. On the contrary, as the quantity of tobacco produced in Australia increased, so did its quality improve. That is a point that stands out in our consideration of this subject. In conversation with some tobacconist’s before the recent tariff change was made, I was informed that Australian tobacco was becoming increasingly popular. That was due, in the first place, to its being cheaper than the imported tobacco. It had not, however, so established itself in public favour as to displace the foreign article.
I admit that the margin of protection given by my Government to the Australian leaf was higher than would be necessary in ordinary circumstances. That protection was given as an incentive toAustralian consumers of tobacco to smoke the Australian article until they had acquired a. taste for it. Every smoker admits that the smoking of tobacco is more or less an acquired taste. The present Government changed the policy of the previous Administration. It increased the excise On Australian tobacco by 2s. 2d. per lb., while not increasing the excise on foreign tobacco. It reduced the import duty on foreign tobacco by 2s. 2d. per lb., and at the same time increased the excise on Australian and foreign tobacco by the same amount. The net effect was to increase the tax on the Australian article, while not altering the tax on the foreign article. The result was inevitable; the price of Australian tobacco rose, while the price of imported tobacco did not. That, in turn, caused foreign tobacco to be consumed in larger quantities. Clearly, the Government did not want the Australian industry to expand, because in that case it would lose customs revenue. During this debate, it has been urged that my Government was giving consideration to the question of revenue. That is true. We discussed the subject with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) who was the chairman of the select committee appointed to inquire into this industry. We told the committee and the growers of tobacco, frankly, that any government must maintain its revenue from tobacco, and that, as the tobacco-growing industry expanded in Australia, there would have to be a gradual increase of the excise duty on tobacco produced in Australia to compensate for the loss of revenue due to the reduced importations of foreign leaf. That aspect-of the subject was also submitted to the Tariff Board for consideration and report. The definite intention of my Government was that, as the Australian industry expanded and the consumption of Australian, tobacco increased, there would be a sliding-scale change-over to revenue from excise in place of revenue from import duties. The contention of the present Government that it acted in the interests of the public revenues cannot be substantiated, for my Government would have protected the revenue, although not by the same means. Had the Labour Government remained in office it would not have reduced the import duty on tobacco from 5s. 2d. to 3s. per lb., and immediately increased the excise rate on Australian tobacco by 2s. 2d. per lb. The protective duty should have been retained as it stood, and, as the consumption of Australian-grown tobacco increased, so the excise duty could have been raised. If it were found that that process resulted in the price of tobacco rising too high, the import duty could then have been reduced gradually. By that means the revenue would have been safeguarded, and at the same time the Australian product would have been popularized, and the industry established on a firm basis. Those engaged in the growing of tobacco in Australia clearly understood that to be the policy of the previous Government. Although I have not a great deal of faith in commissions and committees, I freely admit that the select committee appointed to investigate the tobacco-growing industry did excellent work, and presented a valuable report to this Parliament. It did so, moreover, in a minimum of time, considering the scope of its investigations.
Fears have been expressed that this policy may raise the price of tobacco, and result in a reduced consumption of tobacco. It is true that the consumption of tobacco has decreased during recent years; - but that is true, also, of other commodities which are not necessaries of life. The reason is not far to seek. With one-third of the people of Australia unemployed, the consumption of tobacco would naturally fall. The depression has caused a diminished demand for many things, including boots and shoes, and that is why there are so many unemployed operatives in our cities.
I can see no connexion between any tariff proposal and the sending of machinery to New Zealand by any Australian tobacco-manufacturing company, to which attention has been called by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). The explanation appears to be simple. It is that New
Zealand has recently increased the duty on imported tobacco, and that Australian companies, rather than pay those duties, are prepared to start factories in the sister dominion to manufacture tobacco there. That is invariably the effect of a policy of protection in any country. The exports of tobacco to New Zealand from Australia have decreased in value from about £300,000 to £150,000. I assume that any exports from Australia would bc either of imported leaf manufactured in bond, or of Australian leaf. ‘ Probably it would be some of each. I cannot imagine Australian manufacturers paying the duty on imported leaf, and then sending it to New Zealand, where it would have to pay a further duty. Consequently, I feel justified in assuming that they would manufacture it in bond. I see no relation between the change over from manufacturing in Australia to manufacturing in New Zealand and the Australian duty, but I do see a definite connexion between that changeover and the New Zealand duty, because the New Zealand duty would make it unprofitable to export tobacco from Australia to the sister dominion.
– The Australian combine is out to capture the New Zealand market.
– The tobaccomanufacturing companies realize that it is to their advantage to manufacture in New Zealand rather than pay the import duty imposed by the New Zealand Government.
The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) said that the present Government was to be commended for having checked any unhealthy progress in this industry, and for having brought about a more scientific production of tobacco. The Government has done nothing whatever to bring about the scientific production of tobacco. All that it has done has been to arrest the progress that was taking place in the tobaccogrowing industry; it has discouraged people who spent their money in cultivating their land, and in establishing plant and buildings in order to establish a new industry in this country. There is no need for the honorable member for Wentworth to fear dire consequences if our tobacco production reaches saturation point. Why should the
Australian grower of tobacco not supply the whole of the tobacco requirements of Australia, so long as the revenue is protected in the way that I have indicated? This industry necessitates the employment of a large amount, of labour, and is, therefore, eminently suitable for closer settlement, and likely to absorb in healthy and profitable work many who are now unemployed. Moreover, the development of this Australian’ industry would help to correct our adverse trade balance with the United States of America. Prom the point- of view of. national finance, the protection of this industry is a sound proposition. The revenues of this country can be protected as well by developing this Australian industry as by encouraging importations of foreign tobacco. The development of tobacco-growing in this country would result in thousands of our people being profitably employed on the land instead of continuing to receive sustenance.
.- The Government is conscious of the importance of this industry in providing employment for primary producers who have found other avenues of employment unremunerative. It is also aware of the difficulties associated with the cultivation of tobacco. I have traversed this ground before, and suggested that honorable members might well read the Government treatises on tobacco culture. They will then see that the fundamental cause of the growers’ trouble is that tobacco of wrong types is being grown in Australia. Attempts to cultivate it are being made from Hobart to Cooktown; but in other countries, even where the best tobacco in the world is grown, its cultivation is limited to comparatively confined localities. The Director of the Australian Tobacco Investigation, in a bulletin on tobacco production in Australia, states -
With the idea of presenting the salient facts as to climatic’ and soil requirements for the production of good quality leaf, this bulletin has been prepared by the officers of the Australian Tobacco Investigation . . .
Tobacco is an exacting crop from such diverse points of view as climate, suitable soil, manures, cultivation, harvesting, curing and marketing, and a good product is possible only by meeting the requirements of the plant in all respects . . .
Smoking aroma tests carried out by . the Australian Tobacco Investigation on samples of leaf from the crops of 1927-28, 1928-29, and 1929-30, show that, taking the Commonmonwealth as a whole, about 5 per cent. was good cigarette tobacco,1¼ per cent. fair cigarette, 15 per cent. good medium pipe, 22½ per cent. fair medium pipe, 17½ per cent. good heavy pipe, while 37½ per cent. was poor heavy pipe tobacco.
– What about last year’s figures ?
– The honorable member has complained that tobacco grown in his district cannot be sold; but I have arranged for a Commonwealth officer to visit that district, investigate the complaint, and ascertain whether the protest that the district is being boycotted is justified.
– The Minister has quoted figures that are nearly three years old.
– Frequent tests have been made since. I have not time to read the whole of the bulletin, but I commend it to the attention of honorable members. The growers should not be induced to take up land for tobacco culture until they have received expert advice on the matter. Many conferences have been held on the subject of the purchase of the Australian crop. Last year the manufacturers bought much more leaf than they had contracted to buy. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and the former member for Indi (Mr. Jones), who is secretary of the Victorian Tobacco Growers Association, have admitted that they were satisfied with the price of 2s. 3d. per lb. paid by the buyers for last year’s crop. Yet in the district of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) the Mareeba growers have said that they will not be satisfied this year with 2s. 3d. per lb., because they consider that their tobacco is worth more than that. The honorable member has stated that the growers want from 5s. to 6s. per lb. for their leaf. They should consider themselves fortunate if they can get such high prices.
– They admit it.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr.Prowse) who at every opportunity will oppose any duty, and who has protested against the restrictions placed on the importation of wire netting, which is duty free, now joins with those who take exception to reduced tobacco duties. In Canada, where tobacco is grown by white labour, it can be purchased for 8 cents per lb. I now refer to the heavy grades that do not find a ready market in Australia. The price for leaf of higher quality is only 16 cents per lb. The duty of 3s. per lb. which is imposed under the Australian tariff amounts to 450 per cent. in the one case, and 900 per cent. in the other.
– That is wrong.
– I have received those prices by cable from Canada to-day. I am referring to the f.o.b. prices in Canada ; I have not taken primage duties into consideration.
– Those are ridiculous prices.
– They sound ridiculous ; yet growers in Australia got 2s. 3d. per lb. for last year’s crop, and some of the growers in Queensland are asking for 5s. and 6s. per lb., when the prices in Canada are 4d. per lb. for low-grade tobacco and 8d. per lb. for the best.
A great deal has been said about a combine that is boycotting the Australian product. The Government would like to see greater competition than obtains in the purchase of the Australian crop; but it must be recognized that several companies purchase Australian tobacco. If the manufacture of the locally-grown leaf is as profitable as we are led to believe, why are not many more companies prepared to snap it up, instead of paying the duty of 3s. per lb. on the imported leaf? This octopus that we have heard so much about has honoured its contract; it bought infinitely more last year than it promised to buy and it has assured me that this year it will purchase all the high quality leaf grown in Australia. Of course, it would be of no use to buy tobacco that would be unsaleable. It is not the business of the Government to attend to the purchase or sale of the Australian crop, but it has every consideration for those growers who, without a knowledge of the requirements of the market, have been induced to cultivate tobacco. It is necessary for the growers to be advised as to the best varieties of tobacco to plant, and the most suitable soils and districts for its cultivation. The Government is aware of the protests that have been uttered, and an inquiry will be commenced within a day or two in the district where Australiangrown leaf is alleged to have been boycotted. The Government will not press this matter to a division to-night. On a previous occasion a vote upon it was carried on the voices. We shall await the result of the investigation that is to be made in New England, and we are agreeable to the postponement of the item.
Amendment agreed to.
Division 4. - Agricultural Products and Groceries
Item 78, sub-items (d) (e) (h) agreed to.
Division 5. - Textiles, Pelts and Furs, and Manufactures Thereof, and Attire
Item 105, sub-items (g) (h1, 2) (j1, 2) (icl, 2).
.- All political leaders have spoken in favour of decentralization. They have deplored the fact that large populations have been built up in the big cities of Australia, and. have pointed out that everything possible should be done to establish industries in country towns so that the boys and girls in those centres may obtain employment. The haircloth industry was established at Goulburn by the Associated Textile Industries of Australia Limited. The duties on haircloth have been the subject of an investigation by the Tariff Board, and a spirited debate upon them took place in this chamber last year. The matter was again referred to the board, which recommended no increase of the duties. Knowing that this Government has pledged itself to accept almost willy-nilly the recommendations of the board, I realize that it is futile to speak at great length in urging the Minister to vary the Government’s former decision, but I hope that he will listen to the representations that will be made to him by me and also by other honorable members. This industry was employing about 100 work people in the manufacture of haircloth, but to-day only 30 or 40 persons are engaged. The remainder have had to be put off or utilized in the manufacture of other goods which the company produces. The in-> dustry was using approximately £7,500 worth of wool per annum in the manufacture of haircloth. Owing to the trade depression and heavy stocks of imported material, the local consumption has not yet been near normal. A considerable time elapsed in using up the existing stocks of imported haircloth, because, owing to the depression and the widespread unemployment throughout Australia, tailors were having a slack time, and their requirements of worsteds and haircloth were greatly restricted. I shall leave the statement of details regarding the industry to the honorable member for the district; but I ask the Minister to give a promise that he will again look into the matter, and consider submitting it to the Tariff Board for a further report within a reasonable time. Probably the report could be obtained before the tariff’ is finally disposed of. I have already indicated that 50 or 60 persons have been taken off this work, and if ton or twelve industries were forced to reduce their staffs to that extent, an additional 500 or 600 persons would be thrown out of employment. Since the British preferential duty on haircloth has been reduced to 6d. a square yard, or 45 per cent, ad valorem, the imports, particularly of a cloth comprised of cotton and hair, have increased, and the demand for the Australian article has decreased. It appears to be ridiculous that the principal material for a suit of clothes bears a duty of ls. a square yard, and 30 per cent, ad valorem, whereas the duty on the interlining, which is as much an integral part of the suit as the other material, bears a duty of only 6d. a square yard, or 45 per cent, ad valorem. Thus a square yard of the material used for making a suit, if of the value of, say, 2s. a square yard, is protected to the following extent: - Woollens - Cost of material, 2s. ; duty per square yard, ls. ; 30 ner cent, ad valorem, 7.2d. ; total 3s. 7.2d. An interlining of, say, the same value - and there are lines costing as much - would be protected only to the following extent : - Cost of material, 2s.; ad valorem, 45 per cent., 10.8d., total, 2s. 10.8d. I ask the Minister to investigate the position of this industry at Goulburn. What I have said in regard to this mill applies to other factories throughout Australia. Quite enough is happening at present to alarm the most ardent protectionist as to the future. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) said, and the present Minister has repeated the statement, that what has happened already in the way of the reduction of duties is an indication of what will happen in the future.
– What has happened already ?
– If the Minister would open his eyes as he goes about the country he would see what is happening. Men are being dismissed here, there, and everywhere. Bonds Industries Limited, for instance, had 900 persons working1 in their spinning mills a few months ago, and now they have only 415 persons working there. That is an indication of what is going on in different parts. With the closing down of every small industry more people are thrown on to the unemployment market, and fresh privation, destitution, and want follow.
.- Six months ago, I directed the attention of the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) to the haircloth industry at Goulburn, and asked that, as conditions had altered since the submission of the Tariff Board’s report in February, 1931, another report should be sought on the industry. The Minister adopted my suggestion, and the second report was furnished to the Government in December, 1932. In its second report, the board forbears to go through all the evidence, taken eighteen months before, and concentrates on some new points. Several illuminating passages appear in the report. In dealing with the grounds which caused it to recommend the duties set out in its first report, the board, in its second report, repeats the following reason : -
The minimum duty recommended by the board, viz., fid. per square yard, provided a protection which was approximately equal to the whole of the cost incurred by the local manufacturers in wages, factory overheads, fuel, stores, repairs and maintenance.
That seems to be a heavy protection. On the re-submission of the question, additional evidence was given by the company engaged in the manufacture of this cloth to the effect that the cost of labour and manufacture was more than twice that given at the first inquiry. On this point the board stated in its 1932 report that -
The amended figures disclose a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
Certain calculations submitted to the board were of a confidential nature, and could not be made public, but the board, in referring to them, said -
The margin for manufacturing, selling and profit in Australia is approximately three times the margin (in sterling) for similar operations and services in the United Kingdom. The board is unable to accept the contention that the margin for manufacture, selling and profit in Australia should be approximately three times that in the United Kingdom even after allowing for the difference between the currencies of the two countries.
Another argument put to the board on the re-submission of the case was that the discrepancy between the duty on haircloth and that on the woollen piece goods used for the outside of the suit was too great. The board justified the difference by pointing to the much greater cost of producing woollen piece goods, because of the designing, the weaving, and a more careful inspection of every yard of the cloth needed for outer wear, compared with the simpler process for the rougher construction of the lining materials.
Another point that the board referred to was that the raw materials of the woollen piece goods and the process of manufacture were all Australian, whereas quite half of the raw material of the haircloth was imported, and in a condition ready for weaving. The general conclusion of the board has some relation to the provisions of the Ottawa agreement. It reads -
The board is forced to the conclusion that it is impossible to provide adequate protection to the Australian haircloth industry- and here follows the important point- without imposing unduly heavy burdens upon the tailoring and clothing industries, and, ultimately, upon the people.
As I have frequently said in this chamber, the interests of the general consuming public must be considered. The board went on to say that -
The duties were imposed .before commercial manufacture was commenced in Australia, and before inquiry into the wisdom or otherwist; of attempting to foster the industry in Australia. Investigation has shown that it is not economic to produce locally the full range of requirements. The original unduly high duty affected more particularly the poorer classes of the community - the wearers of ready-made suits.
That conclusion justifies the recommendation of the board, and I have nothing more to say on the subject. The Government acceded to my request for a re-investigation of the claims of this industry to increased protection, and the board has given its decision.
Incidentally, concurrently with the receipt of the board’s report by honorable members, a paragraph appeared in the Goulburn press to the effect that this factory was working full time and was flourishing.
– The general manager has said that 40 less employees are engaged in this work than formerly.
.- The general statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to the effect’ that the tariff is causing additional unemployment in a number of industries will doubtless be reported in the press, and it may be believed. Although such statements may be made easily they are difficult to substantiate. Only this week the honorable member addressed a meeting at Ascot Vale, and while he was speaking a person interjected to the effect that hundreds of men had been dismissed from the Lincoln Mills.
– I did not say it.
– I have not said that the honorable member did say it. I said clearly that some one interjected while lie was speaking. But the honorable member did not contradict the interjector. The reference was to one mill in respect of which definite particulars are available. The Lincoln Knitting Mills now employs 1,240 hands. The spinning department has increased the number of its employees by 3.00, and the knitting department the number of its hands by 30 in the last two years.’ The tendency is still upwards. So much for the airy generalizations of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I did not say that at Ascot Vale.
– No; the honorable member generalized concerning the policy of the Government. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) is familiar with the industry, and, when the item was previously before the committee, he asked some pertinent questions, with the result that the Government undertook again to refer the matter to the Tariff Board. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) stated that, if that were clone, he would be satisfied. The matter was re-submitted to the board, which reaffirmed its previous recommendations, from which the following extracts are taken . -
That clearly indicates that the others were satisfied with the duty. In view of the board’s reiterated conviction on the subject, it is but reasonable on the part of the committee to approve the duties.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) intimated that the effect of any additional cost resulting from the increased duty on haircloth is felt most by the poorer sections of the community, as they use chiefly ready-made clothing. I remind the honorable member that haircloth is used principally in the better class of tailoring, canvas being employed in ready-made clothing. With all due respect to the Tariff Board, I do not think that all of its conclusions are arrived at after mature consideration. That is one reason why I do not regard its dictum as’ sacrosanct, to be obeyed on all occasions. I do not believe in blindly following the recommendations of this so-called board of experts. It is obvious that this Parliament has lost its grip on certain things, which are now decided by the Tariff Board.
.- I desire to remove a false impression that was conveyed by the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). The honorable gentleman made a speech on the woollen industry generally, so that I assume that I shall be in order if I do likewise.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item before the committee.
– The Minister stated that, when speaking at Ascot Vale on Sunday last, I declared that a number of persons had been dismissed from the Lincoln Woollen Mills.
– I am being misquoted, as may be ascertained by a reference to Hansard.
– If the Minister desired to state to the committee exactly what I said on that occasion, he should not have referred to a remark by an interjector. Surely the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will not be held responsible for interjections made at public meetings while he is in Western Australia. However, the matter is so absurdly trifling that I shall not bother further about it.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 106 (f4) and 113 (a) agreed to.
Division 6. - Metals and Machinery
Item 170 (a1, 2) agreed to.
Item 172, sub-items (a) (b) -
.- Before the committee agrees to this subitem, it should be supplied with further information on the subject from the Minister. Some time ago, the Tariff Board recommended an increased duty on wringers. Before doing so, it had assurances from a proposed Australian manufacturing firm that it would be able to turn out from 200 to 300 wringers a week at a reasonable price. Since then, honorable members have received many complaints that the promise has not been fulfilled, and that the price of wringers is greater than the articles would cost if they were imported and not loaded with this heavy duty. Even if the depression is one of the influences which have retarded the presumptive manufacturing firm from installing adequate plant to make wringers at a reasonable price, that affords a reason for postponing the imposition of the duty until there is a sufficient local demand to ensure a reasonable turnover, and make it possible for our manufacturers to sell their product at competitive prices. Although this is a small matter, it is typical of a number on which heavy duties are imposed by kind-hearted Ministers when in benevolent mood. It is the sort of mischief which, in the aggregate, is making our industrial costs so burdensome. Such practices appreciably affect the cost of power and everything else which has a bearing on the basic wage, making it increasingly difficult for wageearners to maintain their standards of living in face of the wage reductions which have taken place during recent years. If these things are allowed to continue, they will lead to the collapse of great industries and to an accentuation of troubles which are at present endangering the integrity of the Commonwealth. This duty has been in operation for a considerable time, and I hope that before the committee confirms it, the Minister will give an assurance that the manufacturers, even if they cannot turn out 300 wringers a week, as promised, will undertake to manufacture at least 150 to 200, and sellthem to the Australian public at a reasonable price.
.- I agree entirely with what the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has said. I would also point out that this matter was considered last September, and that when the vote was taken on an amendment that the sub-item be reduced to the level of the Pratten tariff, the following supporters of the Government voted in favourof it: - The honorable members for Corio (Mr. Casey), Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), Wannon (Mr. McClelland), Baker (Mr. Cameron), Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), Grey (Mr. McBride), Perth (Mr. Nairn), Parramatta (Mr. Stewart), and Balaclava (Mr. White). Speaking to the amendment, the honorable member for
Balaclava, now the Minister for Trade and Customs, said this -
I cannot see any justification for the imposition of increased duties on wringers. The statementof the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) was not satisfactory to me, and the Tariff Board’s report provides us with quite inadequate information. . . The report of the Tariff Board states that two enterprises have attempted the manufacture of household clothes-wringers in Australia, and goes on to say that “ The output has been small, and as both manufacturers are also engaged in producing other goods, it is not possible to form an estimate of the capital invested in the industry.” The board also reports that “ Production during the past three years has been at the rate of two machines per week.” I say, without hesitation, that it would be ridiculous to impose a duty of 40 per cent. against British importations. It must be remembered that our present importations come largely from Scotland, not America. The New South Wales firm interested in this proposal is manufacturing two wringers a week on the average. Surely no more is tobe said on the folly of this proposal. The imposition of this duty is not likely to create any additional work. It will only make wringers dearer for the people. The many waterside workers, carriers, clerks, and other men in the Melbourne ports who lost their employment because shipping practically ceased with the cutting off of imports into Australia, are not likely to be helped by. these duties. It is proposed that an ad valorem duty of 40 per cent. British shall be imposed on wringers. That is equivalent to 45 per cent. The primage duty of 10 per cent. works out at 11 per cent., exchange at 25 per cent., and other charges at approximately 10 per cent. Even allowing that the exchange duty may vary, it is apparent that the effective duty on wringers under existing conditions is over 90 per cent. We surely cannot agree to a continuation of that state of affairs.
Just what the honorable member for Wakefield said a moment ago -
As the Tariff Board appears to have been somewhat misinformed on this subject, the matter should be referred back to it for further consideration. We should certainly know whether the firm seeking additional capital from overseas was successful in its efforts.
Although it has been shown that the requirements of the Australian market can be met by one decent factory working for about ten days yearly, we are asked to vote for these duties, and penalize, to the extent of £1, every person who buys a wringer made in Australia. I move as an amendment -
That the item be amended by adding the following to sub-item (b) : -
And on and after 29th March, 1933 -
Clothes-wringers for household use. ad valorem, British, 12½ per cent.; general, 27½ per cent.
When the committee votes on this amendment, I expect to have the support of those members on the Government side who voted in favour of a similar amendment in September last.
.- I have a lively recollection of the debate which took place on this item in September last, and I recall the vigorous speech made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who is now the Minister for Trade and Customs. I was not in the chamber on Friday last when the Minister alluded to what he termed certain evidences of tariff inconsistency on the part of one or two members of the Country party, but I express the hope that when the vote is taken on this sub-item he will not stand charged with inconsistency. Last week, the honorable member forRiverina (Mr. Nock) spoke of the cumulative effect of the increases of duties in these schedules. This sub-item is a striking illustration of that, the effective protection, under existing conditions, being over 90 per cent. Surely, in the words of the present Minister for Trade and Customs, last September, We cannot agree to a continuation of this state of affairs. Asthe honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) has stated, the whole of the Australian requirements could be met by one factory working full time for ten days. The Pratten rates were British 12½ per cent. and general 25 per cent. Even the Scullin Ministry, which increased the tariff tremendously, and imposed a number of embargoes, left these rates alone. In October last, the present Ministry made them British 40 per cent. and general 50 per cent., and early in the present month altered the rates to British 40 per cent. and general 60 per cent., to bring them into line with the Ottawa agreement formula. I fail to see how this Government can reconcile these duties with the provision in the Ottawa agreement which states that British manufacturers shall be afforded opportunities for reasonable competition. Imported wringers come chiefly from a Glasgow factory, and Australian manufacturers are obliged to import a great deal of the raw material. I assume that the Government, which has declared its intention to adopt recommendations of the Tariff Board, has failed to note that, in its report on this industry, the board admitted that its recommendation would represent an added cost to users - our purpose should be to reduce, instead of increase, the cost of such articles to users - but that adequate protection under normal conditions of trade and exchange would be justified. I therefore contend that we are on absolutely safe ground when we urge that, . in order to provide the margin of preference for British goods under the Ottawa agreement, the rates of duty should be, ad valorem, British 12£ per cent., general 27 k per cent. I support the amendment.
.- I was most interested to hear the extract that has been read from my speech on this item last year. I am now able to appreciate the soundness of the views I then expressed. The production at that time was about two wringers a week. I pointed out that the Tariff Board had made a recommendation on insufficient evidence. Reading that report again, I am convinced that that was so.
– Surely the Tariff Board could not make a mistake!
– It is not infallible; sometimes Ave dissent from its recommendations and refer matters back to it for further consideration. Now several companies are engaged in this industry, and are producing wringers at the rate of 5,000 per annum. Therefore, the situation has entirely changed since last year. The Tariff Board is now reviewing the whole schedule in the light of the Ottawa agreement, and I shall await with interest its report on the present circumstances of this industry. All honorable members have received piles of circulars, and one of the companies which has been loudest in protest against the duties is asking for by-law admission of certain wringer parts to be assembled locally. All the evidence before us indicates that the industry has reached the stage of producing on a commercial scale, and is worth protecting.
.- The Minister has turned a complete somersault on this item, as on many others. His speech in September last against this industry was all nonsense.
It is obvious that the large number of speeches he made on the tariff schedule in denunciation of high duties when I was Minister for Trade and Customs were merely so much windowdressing for the benefit of his freetrade friends.
– Order I
Any reference to a speech made in the last Parliament must have a definite bearing on this item.
– My reference complies with that requirement. In September last the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) denounced the duty on wringers, and said that the local industry was not worthy of support, and that he was not impressed with the information given to the committee by the Acting Minister (Mr. Perkins). Already during the discussion of this schedule he has on several items eaten his own words, and has had to defend duties which he bitterly opposed when I was Minister for Trade and Customs. So much for the reliability of his statements. As Ave could not take much notice of what he said in September last, Ave cannot pay much regard to what he says to-day. The manufacture of wringers is one of the small industries deserving of encouragement. I had not the time to investigate the request for duties, but it Avas referred to the Tariff Board, which recommended a certain measure of protection. Whilst I do not say that we should f ollow7 slavishly the board’s reports on all items, this industry is a new one Avith possibilities of development. It can supply Australia’s requirements. No great hardship is imposed on housewives, because the price of the imported wringer, after the payment of the duty of 40 per cent., is 55s., as compared with 52s. 6d. for the “ Wattle “ wringer, exclusive of sales tax. In how many homes are wringers employed ? The “ poor housewife “ and the “ poor widow “ have been exploited on many occasions as stalking-horses for freetrade propagandists. I support the duties, and hor>e that all wringers used in Australia will be of local manufacture giving employment to our own people. The Minister’s complete somersault on this item is in keeping Avith his inconsistency on other occasions.
.- Again we have evidence that the customs duties are a geographical rather than an economic matter. I hope that those members who opposed these duties on a former occasion and are supporting them now are quite satisfied that only the new information available to them has induced them to alter their attitude. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) says that only a little extra burden is being placed on the poor widow in her laundry. The wealthy person will not greatly feel the extra cost of a wringer, but the duty will prove a heavy burden on the poorer classes. We have an obligation to decide that any duty imposed on a household necessity is justified. Every person who has knowledge of the use of wringers in the home can appreciate how they lighten the burden of the housewife, but, apparently, the local manufacturers are to be allowed to profit by the necessities of the poor. British manufacturers produce for the world market, but, having only a limited demand, it is impossible for the Australian manufacturer, particularly as ho must import many of the parts, to compete economically with his overseas rivals. Last year the Minister scathingly denounced the imposition of high duties to protect “ pettifogging industries,” and it is to support one such industry that he now asks the committee to increase the cost of a necessity of the home. All the small additions to the household accounts amount to a heavy burden. Wages have been considerably reduced, and the person with a small income has difficulty in paying his way. The housewife should not be further penalized for the benefit of an industry that cannot, because of the limitations of the local market, produce economically. This impost is not fair, and I hope that the amendment will be carried. As the Minister pointed out on other occasions, the customs duty is supplemented by exchange, primage, freight, and other charges, which in themselves amount to a substantial natural protection.
– I support the amendment. Six months ago I supported reduced rates on this sub-item, because Irealizedthata wringer, being an essential household utensil, should be available to the public as cheaply as possible. The stated policy of the Government has been a reduction of the costs of production and the cost of living. Imposts on articles of this kind are not in accordance with that policy. Such goods can be manufactured in Australia, but are sold at a price higher than that charged for the imported article, and the duty which would be collected on overseas goods if they were imported, is, in effect, handed over to the Australian manufacturers, the Government being deprived of that amount of revenue. The result is that the revenue must be made up in other ways, and that is one reason why we have primage duty and sales tax.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Hunter’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Am en d men t nega ti ve d .
Item agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the Housedo now adjourn.
– Honorable members are aware that over a long period members of the Opposition have endeavoured to obtain from the Government a decision in regard to the Matson Shipping Line. Whenever we have pressed for an announcement of the Government’s intentions, however, we have been informed that the matter is being attended to by the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce).
On the 22nd December last, a most representative deputation of all sections of employees engaged in the maritime industry waited on the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), and the case it made out must have impressed that honorable gentleman with the necessity for taking some action. In response to their representations, the maritime unions received a communication from the Minister, in which he stated that he had forwarded to London the facts that were placed before him. A decision by the Government is long overdue. The reason for the delay seems to be that the Government is afraid of international complications if action is taken against this company. The foreigner, however, does not seem to be greatly troubled about international complications when it is a question of doing what is detrimental to Australia, and in the light of that indifference, I cannot understand why the Commonwealth Government should dilly-dally over the matter. The New Zealand Government, I believe, has made provision in its Customs Act for the tackling of the problem. Action along similar lines should be taken in Australia, so that the interests of both dominions may be conserved and assistance be rendered to those on whose behalf I am pleading to-night - the men who are engaged in the maritime industry.
I am given to understand that the Government has under consideration a proposal to make available a survey ship in an endeavour to find fresh grounds for the trawling industry. The Maritime Transport Council, which is representative of the employees in this industry, has brought under the notice of the Government its views upon the matter. I read the following extracts from the letter sent by the council, so that honorable members may be placed in possession of the facts: -
Reports were tabled showing that for some considerable time past there has been a decided falling off in the catches made by the varioustrawlers, a striking example being given of one trawler, after an11 days’ cruise, returning to Sydney with a catch of 75 baskets, whereas in normal times the same ship would be out for a, period of6 days, and return with a catch of over 300 baskets. . . Some research or survey work will have to be undertaken for the purpose of locating new trawling grounds, otherwise the position of this very important industry will become very precarious, with the distinct possibility of total extinction.
The council is naturally much concerned about the likelihood of men engaged on the docks, as well as in the industry generally, losing their employment. The practice of searching for new trawling grounds is followed by Great Britain. I am given to understand that excellent results have been obtained with the aid of Government-owned survey ships, the trawlers being enabled to proceed direct to grounds where there is an abundance of fish, and to avoid wasting time on grounds where the fish is scarce or the ocean bed is unsuitable for trawling purposes. I have raised the matter to-night in the hope that the Government may hasten its decision, and thus save from unemployment those who are dependent on trawling for their livelihood.
.- Only a few years ago the Danish Government sent to Australian waters a survey ship, which carried out very valuable survey work in connexion with trawling grounds. The Danish scientist, Professor Schmidt, who was in charge, then supplied the New South Wales Government with a great deal of very valuable information. If that is not now in the possession of the federal authorities, I suggest that the Government communicate with the Chief Secretary’s Department in New South Wales with a view to obtaining it.
– Some time ago an extremely careful and elaborate inquiry was held into the fishing industry off the Australian coast, by the Development Branch, under the direction of Mr. Gepp and Mr. Murphy. Surveys were made, and a map produced which, I believe, indicates the places where fish are to be found at particular times. The whole history in connexion with the migratory habits of fish was gone into, the idea being to obviate waste of time and overlapping due to fishermen and trawlers conducting their operations in the wrong places at the wrong time. I should like to know what has become of that report.
– It is in the Parliamentary Library, in typescript.
– Nothing seems to have resulted from it.
.- I had occasion recently to obtain certain information in regard to the particular investigation referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). A very valuable work upon the matter has been produced, but, unfortunately, it is only in typescript, and, possibly, there are only half a dozen copies of it in existence. 1 suggest to the Leader of the House (Mr. Latham) that the Government should seriously consider the advisability of printing both the 1927-28 and the 1928-29 reports of the Development and Migration Commission on fisheries.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has asked whether anything has been done with reference to the Matson line and the various problems which have been raised because of the assistance given to it by the Government of the United States’ of America. He has called attention to the fact that the Parliament of New Zealand has passed certain legislation, the operation of which is contingent upon action being taken by the other dominions. I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member that we have news that at present consultations are actually taking place between the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) and Ministers of the Government of the United Kingdom. I am sure that’ the honorable member will recognize that the preoccupations of the Ministers of the United Kingdom have been severe in recent months. One has only to think of recent world events to realize the intense strain to which all the leading Ministers of the governments on the other side of the world have been subject. However, we received word last week that consultations were actually in progress.
With respect to the subject of trawling, which has been referred to by several honorable members, the position is that the Government has had under consideration quite recently the results of the work of the Development and Migration Commission, to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway).
– It is a very interesting report.
– It is very interesting and valuable indeed. The matter is under consideration, and at the present time the Government is rather inclined to believe that more useful results for the community as a whole, and particularly in the way of providing employment, are likely to be achieved by developing the pelagic fisheries of Australia than by developing the demersal or deep-sea fisheries, which are exploited by means of trawling. The possibilities of dealing with surface rather than deep-sea fish are being carefully examined at the present time. There is apparently scope for most useful investigation and inquiry in that direction ; and, if some of the anticipations which have been expressed are fulfilled, even to a reasonable percentage, it would appear that there is room for the real development of an industry, not only upon the sea, but also upon the land in dealing with the products of such fisheries. The Government at present is engaged actively in the consideration of the possibility of obtaining a special vessel for the purpose of making these investigations. Although no final conclusion on the matter has been reached, the Government leans to the view that more useful service is likely to be performed in those directions than by any further prospecting in trawling.
– Will the far northern waters be included in the investigation?
– If the proposals at present under consideration are further developed, the waters to be investigated first would be those in the south, because they are apparently more prolific in fish of the species which would be utilizable in the industry under consideration; but attention is also being given to certain fishing grounds on the Queensland coast. It must be remembered, however, that this industry would be for the production, not of edible fish, but of fish meal and other products, and accordingly it would be important that the products should be available for utilization in factories fairly close to large centres of population. I shall give consideration to the desirability of printing the reports to which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The following answers toquestions were circulated: -
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Bill: Application to Australian Troops.
d asked tbe Minister for External Affairs, uponnotice-
Whether the provisions of the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Bill, which recently passed the House of Commons in Great Britain, will affect Australian troops who may be called upon to serve overseas; if so, in what way will they be affected?
– The provisions of the act in question have no application to Australian troops.
Common w ealth R ail w ays.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the amount of capital invested, the rate of interest on same, the percentage return on capital invested, percentage of working expenses to revenue, percentage of interest to revenue on the Common wealth Government railways for 1932, compared with those items for the railways of each of the States of Australia, New Zealand, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, United Kingdom, South African and German railways, for the year 1932, or the latest year for which figures are available?
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - Inquiries are being made with a view to ascertaining whether the information desired by the honorable member is available.
e. - Information is being obtained in reply to a series of questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) regarding payments made under the Cotton Bounty Act.
am). - On the 23rd March, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked me a question without notice, on the subject of the eradication of prickly pear, and I promised to have inquiries made into the matter raised by him.
The position is that since 1919 the Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland have each contributed funds for a co-operative investigation on the control and eradication of prickly pear by natural enemies. A Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board consisting of one representative each of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland was appointed for the purpose ofcontrolling generally the expenditure of funds. The Commonwealth Government has recently announced its intention of continuing to contribute the sum of £4,500 per annum for a further period of three years from 1st June, 1933, towards the cost of this co-operative investigation, subject to the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland continuing their present contributions of £2,400 per annum each for the same period. The Government of Queensland has already agreed to continue its contribution for the period stated, and appropriate representations have been made to the Government of New South Wales on the subject.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - On the 24th March, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Buker) asked the following questions upon notice : -
What ia the number of (a) old-age, and
What is the number surrendered each mouth in each State?
I am now in a position to give replies to the honorable member’s questions. When the budget speech was delivered on 1st September, 1932, the Government’s policy in regard to invalid and old-age pensions was announced. The replies to the honorable member’s questions are, therefore, based on the surrenders since 1st September, 1932 -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330328_reps_13_138/>.