13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the reported statement by the Acting Leader of the House that the reductions made by the present Government in the Customs Tariff have been greater than those made by any other country in the last 20 years, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government will reconsider its tariff policy?
– The Sydney MorningHerald of yesterday published the following statement: -
A New Department.
Commercial Museum and Bureau.
It has been realized for some time thai. Sydney, which is the most important commercial centre of the Commonwealth, requires an office where up-to-date information may be obtained by the business community in regard to oversea trade, and where officers will be easily accessible to representatives of the various industries. . . .
I ask the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) whether the report is correct.
If so, is Sydney alone to enjoy the benefit of this new convenience, or will other capital cities, particularly Adelaide, participate in it?
– The report apparently refers to the proposal to change the location of the Sydney branch of the Department of Commerce. Advantage is to be taken of the opportunities offered by the new location to create a commercial museum and bureau. At the present time, no further extensions of these conveniences is intended, but I assure the honorable member that the activities of the Department of Commerce will not he centralized in any one city.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet able to fulfil the promise he made a fortnight ago to announce at an early date the Government’s decision in regard to the establishment of a relay broadcasting station in northern New South Wales.
– And western New South Wales.
– The Government’s intention is to establish six additional relay stations, one in each State. The preliminary inquiries have been more protracted than I anticipated, but I am daily expecting a final report, and hope to be able to announce the intentions of the Government before the House adjourns this week over the Easter holidays.
Motion (by Mr. Gregory) - by leave - agreed to -
That order of the day No. 2 - Western Australia: Exclusive power by State to enact customs and excise legislation:Resumption of debate upon motion by Mr. Gregory - be discharged from the notice-paper.
Removal of Potato Embargo
– -The Sydney Daily Telegraph of to-day reports that Senator Greene, as a result of his conference with representatives of the Government of New Zealand, has agreed to the removal of the embargo upon potatoes from the dominion entering Australia. I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether there is any truth in that statement, and, if so, whether the Government proposes to make such an agreement without consulting Parliament?
– Senator Greene has entered into no agreement that would bind either the Parliament or the Government of the Commonwealth ; but his negotiations cover many commodities. The embargo imposed by the Commonwealth against New Zealand potatoes has been discussed, and, naturally, the producers in the dominion desire its removal. Obviously no agreement affecting tariff policy can be made with the Government of New Zealand without the approval of this Parliament, and any understanding reached by Senator Greene would be provisional, and subject to consideration by the Government, and, in respect of nearly all its terms, by the Parliament; but it is only fair to add that the embargo on potatoes from the dominion is a quarantine precaution imposed by administrative act.
– Is it conceivable that potatoes from New Zealand will he admitted into Victoria, as a part of the Commonwealth, while that State continues its embargo against Tasmanian potatoes? The potato disease said to be prevalent in Tasmania against which this embargo byVictoria is directed is also known to be prevalent in New Zealand ?
– And in Victoria.
-I am afraid that all kinds of strange procedure are conceivable, and the Government recognizes the anomaly to which the honorable member refers. The Government has been informed that there is quite a considerable distribution in Australia of “ powdery scab “, the disease against which the various embargoes have been imposed, and that aspect of the matter is at present engaging consideration.
– To an appeal I have made against the eviction of Northern Territory farmers from their homes, I have received an official reply from the Minister for the Interior that no action can be taken to interfere with the decision of the Primary Producers Board. In view of the fact that receipts exceeded expenditure by £613 15s. 10d., and that the Administrator is following a ruthless policy of excessive economy - he explains in his annual report that he is anticipating the Government’s intention - will the Minister issue instructions to prevent foreclosing on farms and farming machinery, pending his visit to the Northern Territory and his personal investigation of the circumstances of the settlers? What good purpose can be served by evicting from their blocks farmers whose dues are in arrears?
– Exhaustive inquiries have been made into each case, but if the honorable member will bring to my notice any case in which, in his opinion, hardship has been inflicted, it will receive my personal attention.
– Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that a Victorian royal commission has reported that cases of misrepresentation in respect of migrants have occurred, in which both the Governments of Victoria and the Commonwealth were implicated? Did the representatives of the Commonwealth department have an opportunity to give evidence before the commission, and, if so, was the report made after the full hearing of such evidence?
– A copy of the report has been received ; but it has not yet been possible for Ministers to give consideration to it. It appears, however, that the reference to the commission was confined to the obligations of the State of Victoria. I have already read a portion of the report, and it is there stated that the obligations of the Commonwealth were not in question. There are, however, in the report references to statements made by Commonwealth officers. As is well known to honorable members, all land settlement schemes have been entirely under the control of the State governments concerned, and all obligations for performance of promises made or inducements held out rest upon them. The States have at all times steadily resisted any endeavour by the Commonwealth, to interfere or have any share in the management of their land settlement schemes.
– In view of the findings of the Victorian royal commissioner in connexion with British land settlers in Victoria, in which case the Commonwealth .Government is involved, will the Government suggest, as a compromise, that the unfortunate settlers concerned should be invited to inspect land in the Northern Territory with a view to selecting living areas there, in which they could be assisted by this Government?
– I have already answered an inquiry from the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) on the subject. I am unaware of any foundation for the remarks with which the honorable member prefaced his question. The prospects and terms of settlement in the Northern Territory are generally known. However, it can hardly be supposed that the large areas into which most of the land in that locality are divided could be satisfactorily used by those who were concerned in the recent investigation.
SURPLUS MILITARY CLOTHING.
– What is the approximate quantity of military clothing which the department intends to make available for the unemployed at Brisbane, and what method of distribution does the department propose to adopt? Will the Minister also take the necessary steps to ensure that the clothing is made available to the unemployed at Brisbane prior to the winter months?
– Partly-worn and unserviceable military clothing is made available, mainly after encampments, and is forwarded for distribution to the Government of the State concerned. All partly-worn and unserviceable material that may be available in Queensland will be sent for distribution to the Government of that State. I shall ascertain whether further clothing can be made available for distribution by that Government before the winter sets in.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendationsby the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Rubber and rubber manufactures.
Wireless receivers, parts and accessories.
Ordered to be printed.
– Has the attention of the Acting Leader of the House been drawn to a paragraph in this morning’s press to the effect that Mr. Crofts, union secretary, had stated before the Arbitration Court that he proposed to bring forward evidence showing that stocks had recovered their values since the last hearing of the wage case, and that he would produce evidence proving that the general position was now better? Can we take that statement as a definite indication that prosperity has returned to Australia as a result of the activities of the present Government ?
– There have been occasions when I have found it necessary to dissent from opinions expressed by Mr. Crofts, the secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. On this occasion, however, I am able to agree with him to quite a considerable extent. At the same time, I hope that he will not exaggerate for any particular purpose the indubitable signs that things are much better now than they were before this Government came into office. It is necessary to bear in mind that the reconsideration of the conditions which have been in part responsible for this improvement in our position raises some very difficult questions.
– As the report on recruiting in the Commonwealth Public Service, made by the Public Service Commissioner at the request of the Prime Minister, is now available, will the AttorneyGeneral lay it on the table of the House?
– I shall examine the matter, and ascertain whether the report can be laid on the table of the House.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether Mr. Barton, who recently withdrew from the Royal Commission on the Petrol Industry, has any professional or business connexions with Bond’s Industries Limited, and whether the withdrawal of Mr. Barton from the commission is connected in any way with the claim of Bond’s Industries Limited for £26,000 under the Cotton Bounty Act ? When replacing Mr. Barton on the royal commission, is the Government prepared to give consideration to the request of honorable members of the party to which I belong for an extension of the scope of the inquiry and to appoint a suitable person on the commission for that purpose?
– The reasons for Mr. Barton’s request for release from service on the commission were as stated in the telegram which I read to the House on Friday afternoon last. With regard to the extension of the scope of the commission, I presume that the honorable member is referring to the desire which has been expressed in some quarters for an inquiry into the utilization of coal for the production of oil. It is not the intention of the Government to extend the scope of the inquiry to include that subject, because we consider that that would result only in the production of what would be practically a text-book on the subject, based on opinions expressed in Australia, whereas text-books based on world experience are already available to all who are interested, and this is not a question upon which inquiry in Australia is necessary for the purpose of ascertaining the facts. We already have the information, and it is available to all who are prepared to use it.
– Is it correctly stated in this morning’s newspapers that a Mr. Hancock has been appointed to replace Mr. Barton on the petrol commission? If so, will the Attorney-General inform honorable members what are the qualifications of this gentleman for the position?
– No appointment has been made. When such an appointment has been made, it will be immediately announced in the House.
– As it is the expressed desire of the Premier of New South Wales that uniform hours of work and a uniform basic wage should operate throughout the Commonwealth, and as this opinion is shared by the judges of the Federal Arbitration Court, I ask the Attorney-General, whether the Government will co-operate with the Government of New South Wales and the Governments of the other States with a view to the inauguration, under the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court, of these urgent and necessary reforms?
– This subject has been canvassed for many years - in fact, almost since the establishment of the Federal Arbitration Court. If the Parliaments of the States are prepared to confer further industrial power upon the Commonwealth Parliament, as they may do under the Constitution, the Government will consider the possibility of working towards the end indicated by the honorable member. The only other way in which the subject can be dealt with is by an amendment of the Constitution. As at present advised, the Government will not consider the submission of any proposal for the amendment of the Constitution by way of referendum until an election is about to be held, and, all being well, that ought to be in the distant future.
– I direct the attention of the Acting Leader of the House to the following telegram which I have received from Senator Johnston : -
Lyons at Albany made following statement. His Majesty the King would tell Western Australia that a charter had been given to Australian people at time of federation and that Britain would not interfere with affairs of a nation that had its own Constitution. Great number loyal citizens this State are deeply incensed at King’s name being dragged into party controversy. Regarded as constitutional outrage. Some thoughtless people think Lyons being Privy Councillor spoke with authority. His Majesty’s name unfairly and disloyally brought into dispute with possible dangerous results. Suggest you consult Prowse and ventilate matter in House.
Similar statements have appeared in the press. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether any correspondence has passed between His Majesty the King and the Commonwealth Government which would warrant one of His Majesty’s Privy Councillors making such a statement as that reported to have been made by the Prime Minister?
– I am not prepared to answer questions which involve the bringing of His Majesty’s name or possible action into controversy here. But, although that is a general rule, in order that my reply may not be misrepresented if left in that form, I answer the’ honorable member’s question by saying “ No.” Obviously, what the Prime Minister was stating was what any sensible person would recognize to be the fact.
– Has the Government received any late news of the position in the war between Japan and China ?
– The Government has no information beyond that which has recently appeared in the press.
– Has the Government received any later news than that recently published in the press of Hitler’s Murder Government of Germany?
– Whatever views may be entertained by honorable members as to present events in Germany, I, as Minister for External Affairs, am not prepared to answer questions framed in the language which the honorable member has chosen.
– In view of the paragraphs which have appeared in a section of yesterday’s Melbourne press to the effect that the British Government has reversed its former decision in regard to imports into the United Kingdom from Russia, has the Commonwealth Government any advice on the subject which can be made available to the House?
– The Government is in receipt of information that a bill was to be introduced into the House of Commons to-day with the object of conferring upon the Executive power to prohibit imports from Russia. It was intended that the bill should be passed this week.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the duty on oregon is 14s. per 100 super. feet, plus 10 per cent. primage and 6 per cent. sales tax, and that in 1914 the duty on this timber was only 6d. per 100 super. feet? Is the honorable gentleman also aware that the present rate of duty constitutes a tremendous handicap on the building trade, especially in South Australia, where large quantities oforegon are used as roofing material?
– Oregon is, to some extent, competitive with Australian hardwood. The Government is cognizant of the situation, and has referred the subject to the Tariff Board. It is expected that the board’s report will be available before the item in the tariff schedule dealing with oregon is reached.
Weekly Working Hours
– Has the Government yet reached a decision upon the instruction that it will give to the government delegate as to how he shall vote on the question of the 40-hour working week at the International Labour Conference? If not, will this House be given an opportunity to express an opinion on the subject before the Government determines the matter?
– My desire was not only to intimate to the House the decision of the Government on this subject, but also to present to it something in the nature of a report upon it. I assure the honorable member that only the intense pressure of business has made it impossible for that course to be pursued, and this I greatly regret.
– In view of the disconcerting statements recently made by Commander Bennett, and also the report which appeared in the press on Monday last that another mysterious seaplane had been seen off Darwin, will the Assistant Minister for, Defence, as a precautionary measure, despatch a patrol boat and seaplanes to Darwin? Will he also give immediate consideration to the desirability of further augmenting the Darwin garrison ?
– I am not aware, in minute detail, of the circumstances to which the honorable member has made reference. I shall give consideration to his question, and see what action is appropriate in the circumstances.
Preference to Returned Soldiers
– On the 17th March, I asked whether, because of the small number of returned soldiers in the Federal Capital who are eligible for appointment to the temporary census staff, the Government would allow non-returned married men who are resident at Canberra at present unemployed, many of whom have built homes under the Government’s housing scheme, to undergo examination with a view to appointment on the census staff ? Has the Government given consideration to the subject?
– The Government has considered the matter raised by the honorable member, and found it impracticable to devise a scheme which would be fair to returned soldiers presenting themselves for examination in other centres than Canberra. It has therefore decided to adhere to its announced policy of giving preference to returned soldiers in connexion with these appointments.
Appointment of Cadets
– Will the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Marr) advise whether the Government has finally selected the cadets required for the New Guinea Public Service? If so, will he make public the names of the successful candidates ?
– The examining officers expect to present their report this week, and I hope to make its contents known before the House rises.
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 31st
March (vide page 781), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167) (volume 135) -
And on motion by Mr. White (vide page 29)-
Group 5. - Items amended by Scullin Government, and supported by Tariff, Board reports.
Division 5. - Textiles, Felts and Furs, awd Manufactures’ Thereof,’ and Attire.
Item 112 sub-items (a) (b2) (Furs and other skins and articles made thereof).
.- I support the present duties. Honorable members will admit that the fur industry is an important one to Australia. According to figures provided by the Commonwealth Statistician, there are 95 factories and 1,055 persons engaged in the. industry, the land and buildings being valued at £371,146, and plant and machinery at £30,533, while £143,435 is distributed annually in salaries and wages.
Prior to the increase of the duties on fur garments, the Australian industry was in a serious position. This was attributable mainly to the heavy importations of fur apparel, due to buyers placing their orders overseas, and the increased duty on dressed coney skins, our raw material, without increased protection ‘being given on made-up garments. The importations of these items had increased from £41,179, in 1925-26 to £87,110 in 1928, which demonstrated the necessity for effective protection. Another adverse factor was that the duty on dressed coney skins was the same as that on made-up garments imported from Great Britain. Consequently, skins were imported in the form of garments, te the detriment of Aus tralian furriers. Furriers in Europe and Great Britain have a distinct advantage over those in Australia, by reason of the fact that the former’s raw material is manufactured in their own country, while in Great Britain skins are imported duty free. On the other hand, Australian manufacturers have to import the skins, which, with duty and charges, increases his cost approximately 50 per cent. Wages are 25 per cent, higher in Australia than in Great Britain, and the working week is four hours shorter. Another important factor which militates against the ability of Australian manufacturers to compete with the overseas product, is the manner in which fur garments of English and Continental origin are jobbed at the end of the ‘season, and shipped to Australia at ridiculously low prices. The season begins in Australia when it finishes in England, and overseas competitors prefer to clear their surplus endofseason stock to Australia, which practice does not affect the prices of their new season’s goods. These end-of-season goods are sold in big parcels by overseas manufacturing warehouses, or factories, and Australia becomes a veritable dumping ground for surplus stocks at each change of season. It is imperative, therefore, that the present duties should be retained, to give the industry adequate protection.
This is one of the items that the Minister should have referred to the Tariff Board for further investigation and report under the terms of the Ottawa agreement, which provides that British manufacturers shall be given equal opportunity of competing in the Australian market. Since in November, 1929, the present duty was imposed on rabbit skins dressed or prepared, sub-item b2, the Australian coney industry has made remarkable progress. The product is equal in every respect to the imported article, and the output is such that to-day the local industry is in a position to supply Australia’s requirements for all classes of coney skins, whether processed on Australian rabbit or otherwise. When I was in Hobart a couple of years ago, I took the opportunity of inspecting one of the factories which treat Australian rabbit skins, and there I saw furs of a highly satisfactory nature being prepared.
To give some tangible indication that the industry is of real importance, I point out that it definitely employs 250 persons, that approximately £100,000 has been laid out in capital, and that it provides a valuable outlet for Australian rabbit skins.
In its report the Tariff Board states that it is satisfied that it would be in the best interests of the industry and the community generally to impose a duty which would effectively protect the manufacturers in all groups of the fur industry. Incidentally, the duties now in operation were imposed in accordance with the board’s recommendation. There is the danger that the recommendation made by the Tariff Board on the 27th June, 1930, might be reversed by a recommendation made at the present time, because the board would now have in mind the Ottawa agreement, and the lead that has been given by the Government in the direction of a lowering of duties.
I wish to make it clear to the Minister that, in my opinion, any tinkering with these duties must lead to increased unemployment in Australia. It will be noticed that quite a number of the increased duties in this group, which were imposed by the Scullin Government without its having first obtained the recommendation of the Tariff Board, were subsequently endorsed by the board. In the light of that fact, surely those who think that the Tariff Board cannot err will admit that it must have considered that many of the duties imposed by the Scullin administration were fair and reasonable.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 114, sub-item (f).
Hats, caps and bonnets -
– I move -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: -
And on and after 9th March, 1933 -
Felt hats for girls and women; berets; girls’ and women’s caps (other than bathing) of any material; hats n.e.i., and bonnets, per dozen, British 45s., general 60s., or ad valorem, British 45 per cent., general 65 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
This paragraph was amended by the March, 1933, resolution, and the amendment is proposed in order that that portion of the March, 1933, resolution relating to this paragraph may now be debated.
No alteration has been made to the duties, as compared with the October, 1932, resolution.
.- In a speech that the Minister delivered on the 8th March last, he stated that the Tariff Board desired to reconsider a number of tariff items, of which this is one, in order that the British manufacturer might be given a better opportunity than now exists of competing on the Australian market. I would point out, however, that this industry can produce the whole of Australia’s requirements in millinery, and that if the already limited market has to be shared with overseas manufacturers, the result must be a considerable augmentation of unemployment in Australia. There are approximately 100 millinery manufacturers in Australia to-day, whose capital investment amounts to £700,000. The normal employment is estimated at 4,000 operatives, and the wages paid to them £400,000 per annum.
– The importation of Paris models must be allowed.
– Paris models from which copies may be made in this country. That, however, is altogether a different proposition from allowing the importation of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of millinery. Prior to the increase of duties under the November, 1929, tariff proposals, the millinery manufacturing industry in Australia was in a most unsatisfactory position, due to excessive importations. Big houses such as David Jones, Myers, Farmers, and Buckley and Nunn’s every year sent their representatives to Paris to purchase large quantities of millinery. That practice was brought forcibly before the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) while he was Minister for Trade and Customs, as well as before me during my tenure of that office. The landed, duty paid, price of imported millinery during 1928-29 was estimated at no less a sum than £800,000. Overseas manufacturers had a distinct advantage over Australian manufacturers, as in the majority of cases the raw material, particularly in the straw section, was produced in the same factory as the finished hats. Millinery headwear in the past has been particularly subject to “ endoftheseason “ clearances in England and on the Continent. These clearance lines were sold in big parcels by manufacturers and warehousemen at practically any price in order to get rid of end of the season goods; and, as the seasons abroad are exactly six months ahead of ours, Australia became a dumping ground for them. Our manufacturers have built up a huge enterprise since they were given tariff protection. Employment is provided, not only for girls, but also for quite a number of men. I hope that the Minister will not precipitately take action that will permit of importations even in restricted quantities, and that the duties will not be altered within the next six months as the result of a report of the Tariff Board.
– I pointed out when introducing this group, that the whole of the items it contains were confirmed by the Tariff Board. They do nor. need the blessing of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), nor is it necessary for him to sound a warning regarding what may happen or to remind honorable members of how many employees are engaged in the industry. These industries were firmly established long before the Scullin Government was heard of. That Administration did not attempt to obtain parliamentary approval of its tariff, but merely brought down schedules that in. many respects imposed prohibitive duties and dislocated trade. Now, however, the honorable gentleman takes advantage of the opportunity which this Government is giving to honorable members to debate the tariff, to pronounce a benediction upon this industry. The whole of the group could very well be passed without discussion by honorable members opposite, because it contains some of the few items introduced by the last Government which had the approval of the Tariff Board. In this instance the board reported that the local product is satisfactory, and gives good value; that the industry provides employment for about 5,000 persons, and that She competition is so keen that there is very little likelihood of manufacturers making unduly high profits at the expense of the consumers. Those statements were contained in the report submitted by the board in November last. The matter will be reviewed by the board in the light of article 10 of the Ottawa agreement, .and we can- deal with any further report on the matter when it comes to hand. Seeing that out of 214 items referred to the board, it has stated that in 201 cases the duties conform with the spirit of the Ottawa agreement, why should there be unnecessary fear that this industry, which seems to be well established, and is amply protected, is likely to be prejudiced ?
.- It is interesting to notice the controversy between the Opposition and the Government in this matter. A couple of years ago honorable members who now sit on the treasury bench had different views from those they hold to-day. It does not matter, I suppose, if poor people are required to pay an extra 3s. 9d. to 5s. for girls’ hats. Any honorable member who looked up the report of the investigation made into the operation of the 1929 tariff would see at a glance how unnecessary it was to increase the duties on these goods. What I object to most of all is the double-barrelled system under which duties are imposed. There is not only an ad valorem, but also a fixed rate, and whichever duty returns the higher amount is imposed. Apparently, an effort is being put forward to make the clothing of the poorer section of the people as dear as possible.
Amendment agreed to.
Item 117 agreed to.
Item 120, aa (Feather or down quilts).
.- Ministers must admit, I think, that members of the Opposition have shown every consideration to the Government in facilitating the passage of the tariff schedules. Members on this side have no desire to “ stone wall “ any items ; I merely desire to point out that the duties on feather or down quilts were imposed under the Scullin tariff, under which the industry has progressed. The rates under the 1921-30 tariff were 35 per cent. British preferential, and 50 per cent. general, and the present rates are 45 per cent. and 65 per cent. respectively. Since these rates were imposed, practically the whole of the down quilts sold in Australia have been manufactured locally. The industry is responsible for the permanent employment of over 300 persons, and is of material benefit to the poultry farming industry, which is now able to dispose of large quantities of feathers that would otherwise be difficult to market, and would, as in the past, have to be destroyed. Many thousands of persons, a large number of whom are returned soldiers, have taken up the poultry breeding industry. The feathers are specially treated, and this subsidiary industry is kept fully employed in supplying quilt manufacturers. Quilts in the past were classed as luxuries; but the greatly increased production and reduced selling prices, due to keen competition amongst manufacturers, has brought these goods within the purchasing power of the general public. Cooperation between retailers and manufacturers is of advantage to both, particularly to the former, since heavy commitments for overseas purchases are not now necessary. Thus middlemen’s charges have been eliminated. The range of local production is extensive, and the public is obtaining satisfactory service at reasonable prices. In the past, a feature that militated considerably against Australian manufacturers was the fact that the end of the English winter coincided with the beginning of the Australian winter, and clearance lines in considerable numbers found their way to the Australian market at prices with which Australian manufacturers could not compete. I hope that the Minister will not interfere with the duties applicable to this item. I am sure he wonders how he can keep faith in regard to the promise made by the right honorable the Attorney-General at the Constitutional Club in Sydney, and the promises made at the last election.
– The Government has to tread the fiscal path very warily, because of the two extreme elements within its own ranks.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the’ item under consideration.
– I trust that nothingwill be done to interfere with industries that have enjoyed prosperity under the duties imposed by the Scullin tariff.
Item agreed to.
Item 124 (Braids, fringes or edgings, of textile materials, not being for attire).
– These duties were put into operation when I was Minister for Trade and Customs. In some instances the Scullin duties are to be reconsidered by the board, but in others the board has shown its good judgment by endorsing the proposals of the Scullin Government.
Mr.Nairn. - Why is the honorable member “ stone-walling “ the tariff ?
– If we get much more such criticism, we shall begin to “stonewall “.
– Order !
– This may not be a large industry, but it is engaged in the manufacture of braids, fringes, or edgings of textile materials, not being for attire. Our chief competitors are found in the United Kingdom and Germany. In the past, German competition was particularly strong, and local manufacture was practically confined to filling in blanks between shipments. However, recognition of the superior quality of the local article, combined with the slight increase of duty, has assisted local manufacture very considerably. This industry gives employment to a considerable number of persons. It is not a large industry, but we have to remember that 100 small enterprises each employing 50 persons together provide employment for 5,000. That is important when we remember that the great problem to-day is to find employment for our boys and girls from sixteen years onwards. Practically 70 per cent. of the raw material used inthe manufacture of these articles is of Australian origin, being principally cotton and woollen yarns. The balance, consisting of mercerized cotton yarns and artificial silk yarn, is not procurable in Australia, and has to be imported. With the development of the manufacture of carpet fringes the percentage of woollen yarn used will be considerably increased.
The normal Australian consumption of these braids, fringes and edgings is estimated to be worth £75,000 a year, and there is no reason why the local manufacturers should not supply the market entirely, thus utilizing increasing supplies of Australian raw material. I have said on other occasions that when the buyers representing local industries attend the wool sales in “Australia and compete against the Japanese, French, German and Italian buyers, the effect is to increase prices and provide higher returns to the Australian woolgrowers.If this industry, and others of a similar character, are encouraged to develop, they will demand an increasing quantity of Australian woollen and cotton yarns. Directly and indirectly the industry provides employment’ for considerably over 100 persons, and it is still developing. The work is light, and offers an avenue of employment for boys and girls. At the present time, there are hundreds of thousands of parents in Australia dependent on the earnings of their sons and daughters. If the young people’s employment were taken away from them, they and their parents would have to go on the dole, which no decent Australian wants to do if he can avoid it. Moreover, factory workers are consumers of the primary products raised in Australia, and the home market is the best market.
Item agreed to.
Division 6. - Metals and Machinery
Sub-items 137 (a2) and. 138 (a) (b) agreed to.
Item 148, sub-item (a) (Gold leaf).
.- The gold leaf industry is carried on in the electorate of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). When I was Minister, the claims of the industry were brought under my notice on several occasions, I think by the honorable member for Balaclava himself. The matter was gone into carefully, and the Scullin Government imposed the duties at present in the schedule. Under that protection the industry has developed. The Tariff Board inquired into the industry, and in . its report dated the 24th April, 1931, stated that it was well worthy of encouragement, and that the rates of duty sought were justified by the circumstances and should be imposed. The raw materials used in the manufacture of gold leaf are gold, silver and copper, all of which are produced in Australia. Before the tariff was amended an increasing quantity of gold leaf was coming into Australia from Germany. The Tariff Board was satisfied, after an exhaustive examination, that the quality of Australian gold leaf was equal to the British, and appreciably superior to the German leaf. I should like to hear from the Minister what progress has been made by this industry since the imposition of the duties. It is situated in his own electorate, and he may be able to tell us something about it. I was anxious that the duty should be imposed, and it was a Federal Labour Government that gave the protection the industry now enjoys. I am told that the industry is highly skilled, and one that provides employment for a number of Australians.
.- The Deputy. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has invited me to tell him of the progress made by this industry. I have been so busy since I have been a Minister that I have been no more able to visit factories in my own electorate than I have been able to visit those in his. The honorable member said that the Scullin Government imposed this protective duty. As a matter of fact, the Tariff Board recommended it, and that is what concerns me. I bring the board’s report under the notice of the honorable member, and invite him to. read it. If the Scullin Government had taken the recommendations of that report as a criterion when framing its duties, Australia would not now be suffering from many of the financial ills with which it is afflicted. The duty on this item , is 10 per cent., not several hundred per cent., as in the case of some of the items dealt with by the Scullin Government. It is not like one industry I have in mind, in connexion with which a 50 per cent, surcharge was imposed, and a prohibition as well.
– :The duty On gold leaf is 10 per cent, and 40 per cent.
– The British duty is only 10 per cent.
.- I should like to know in what frame of mind the Minister for Trade and Customs approaches these matters. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that the duty on this item had been imposed by the last Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs said that that was not so; that it had been recommended by the Tariff Board - that supreme authority ! If that is how the Minister views the matter, one wonders where Parliament comes in, and what are the duties of the elected representatives of the people in this regard. The Minister’s phrase “ The duty was not imposed by the Scullin Government, but was recommended by the Tariff Board” is illuminating.
Mr.White: - The right honorable gentleman should not endeavour to twist my words. I said that what mattered most to me was that the duty had been recommended by the Tariff Board.
– The Minister got up for the purpose of contradicting what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had said. He emphasized that the duty was 10 per cent. British, and in that was unlike the duties imposed by the Scullin Government on a number of other items. Yet this Government is itself responsible for duties of considerably more than 10 per cent. Are we to understand that a duty of 10 per cent. against British goods is to be the measure of protection afforded to Australian industries in the future?
– I am sorry to strain the patience of honorable members sitting behind me, but I cannot allow the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to go unchallenged. The right honorable gentleman said that I was attempting to take from his Government credit for the imposition of this duty. What I did say was that the whole of the items in this group were introduced by the Scullin Government, and had the approval of the Tariff Board. That is clearfrom a perusal of the introductory words to group 5 - “Items amended by Scullin Government and supported by Tariff Board reports “. The right honorable gentleman has no ground for his pique.
.- I thought that the Minister would have brought forward some evidence in rebuttal of my statement. [Quorum formed.] Surely members on this side are entitled to speak for five or ten minutes on each of these items. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs I had to listen frequently throughout the night to monotonous freetrade speeches of from 20 to 30 minutes from members who support the present Government. Honorable members opposite should be a little more tolerant towards members on this side of the chamber who desire to speak to items which were placed in the tariff schedule by the Scullin Government. As the Minister in that Government who was responsible for many of the items, I feelthat it is incumbent on me to say something in support of these duties. When the Minister rose to reply I thought that he had some information to impart; but he merely said that I was quite wrong in my statement that these items were imposed by the Scullin Government, as he wished to tell the committee that they were recommended by the Tariff Board. All I can say is that, in respect of this sub-item, the Tariff Board showed its good judgment. The Scullin Government did not wait for a report from the Tariff Board before imposing duties which would tend to relieve unemployment in this country; it was prepared to take prompt action in the interests of Australia, after an investigation had been made by departmental officers. The Minister attempted to brush aside all the argument of honorable members in opposition by saying that this sub-item bears a duty of only 10 per cent. Britisih; but I remind him that most of the gold-leaf imported into Australia came from Germany and paid a duty of 40 per cent. The Tariff Board reported that, in its opinion, there was no reason why the Australian requirements of gold-leaf should not be produced locally, and that the small additional cost to consumers would be more than compensated for by the employment in Australian factories which the establishment of the industry would provide. I fear that, of late, the Tariff Board has not the protectionist outlook which characterized it a few years ago. We are told that the Tariff Board is an independent body, yet the Minister’s predecessor, Sir Henry Gullett, admitted that he had given certain instructions to the Tariff Board, particularly in relation to articles 9 to 14 of the Ottawa agreement, which can only mean a downward tendency in the protective policy of this country.
– Since there is no suggestion of altering the duties on this sub-item from those imposed bythe Scullin Government, I should not have spoken but for the dogmatic utterances of the Minister. He told us that these duties had been recommended by the Tariff Board; but we all know that the real test has still to come, because the items in this group are again to be referred to the Tariff Board. The manufacture of gold leaf has only recently been commenced in Australia. Most of the items in this group represent the output of struggling industries, which are carrying on largely with borrowed money. The evidence available indicates that they are doing reasonably well, in that they are balancing their ledgers; but they still owe the money which they borrowed, and will be in debt for probably another decade. I fear the result of the Tariff Board’s reconsideration of these items, especially in view of the statements of the Minister that he is concerned only with what the Tariff Board thinks. Unless the Ottawa agreement is a sham, it means that British manufacturers are to gain from it; and, if they gain, it must be at the expense of struggling industries in this country. That is a serious outlook for Australia, because so many of our people depend in one way or another on these small industries. I fear that the Tariff Board, knowing that a majority of this chamber favours a lowering of duties, may assassinate struggling Australian industries in order to benefit British manufacturers.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 153, sub-items (b) (d) (Castiron pipes and fittings).
.- It will be noticed that these sub-items do not conform to the Ottawa preferential formula, nor are they included in the specific list of exemptions from that formula. Is this the explanation, that cast- iron pipes and fittings are not commercially made in Great Britain?
– The rates of duty on these sub-items were increased by the previous Government on the recommendation of the Tariff Board submitted in 1927, with a view to giving adequate protection to local manufacturers of castiron, soil and rain-water pipes of from 2 inches to 6 inches internal diameter. The previous rates of duty were British 48s., and general 80s. Although importations havebeen recorded separately only since the increased duties have been operating, it is known that practically the whole importation of these goods comes from Britain. The importation of castiron pipes and fittings was prohibited between the 4th April, 1930, and 1st September, 1932. The proposed duties are recommended in order to counterbalance the lower manufacturing costs in overseas countries, and are not particularly high when all factors are taken into account. Owing to the absence of applications for permission to import these goods, it is considered that the local industry is satisfactorily meeting requirements. There are no importations of cast-iron pipes and fittings from foreign countries.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 154, sub-item (e) -
Railway and tramway material, viz. : -
Fishbolts, per cwt. - British,11s.; general,16s. ; or ad val. - British, 45 per cent.; general 65 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
.- I move -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after 5th April, 1933 -
Fishbolts, ad val. - British, 45 per cent.; general, 65 per cent.”
No one will deny that a prohibitive tariff destroys the revenue, and that, as a consequence, a government which imposes it is obliged to seek some other avenue of taxation to make up the deficiency. The Tariff Board, in its report in 1930, pointed out that the revenue from the importation of bolts was £81,500, and that the sum by which the total amount paid by users of the locally-made bolts exceeded the total amount which would have been paid for similar bolts and nuts imported duty free was £120,000, so that the tariff burden on the taxpayers of this country amounted to £201,500. If we deduct the aggregate wages paid in the bolt and nut industry in Australia, £82,000, we find that under these duties the people of this country carry an additional penalty to the extent of £120,000 yearly. Fishbolts are largely used in the construction of railway and tramway lines. Although the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has told us that over 200 of the Tariff Board’s reports were re-submitted to that body for an expression of opinion as to whether the duties imposed on items covered by them conformed to the formula of the Ottawa agreement, and he was advised that they did, it seems to mo hardly possible that the board can say definitely that this item is in keeping with the spirit of that agreement. It is true that the rates preserve the margin of British preference; but no one can contend that this prohibitive duty on British imports gives British manufacturers a reasonable chance to compete with Australian manufacturers. Similar bolts cost in England from 13s. to 14s. per cwt., compared with 28s. 6d. per cwt. in Australia. If we allowed for exchange., the English price would be 17s. 6d. per cwt. We should, however, remember that English wages are paid in sterling; this gives the Australian manufacturers a further advantage. In the circumstances, a margin of lis. is unreasonably wide, and as it must affect costs of railway and tramway construction in this country, the fixed duties should be removed. Tinder the ad valorem duties, 45 per cent, on articles of British manufacture, plus 10 per cent, primage, 12 per cent, transport charges and 25 per cent, exchange, the Australian manufacturer has a margin of 92 per cent, against his British competitor. We say that even this margin is too great, and this item, in its present form, does not comply with the spirit of the Ottawa agreement.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment. The rates are the same as those recom mended for ordinary bolts and nuts, and the ad valorem duties are slightly lower that those recommended by the Tariff Board. The board made an investigation of this industry in 1930, and in one paragraph of its report stated that the applicants’ claim that fishbolts and railway nuts and bolts should be subject to the same rate of duty was reasonable, as there was no appreciable difference between the costs of production of fishbolts and ordinary bolts and nuts. Accordingly, the board recommended that the application be granted. The industry in Australia is very well organized, and is highly efficient. I therefore contend that there is no necessity for the amendment.
.- I intend to support the amendment. Up to 1929, the duty on this item was 27£ per cent. British and 40 per cent, general. We are now asked to approve of ad valorem duties of 45 per cent. British and 65 per cent, general, as well as a dragnet proposal under which the duty may be lis. per cwt. British, and 16s. per cwt. foreign. We should know definitely where we stand in this matter. Ad valorem rates of 45 per cent. British and 65 per cent, general, represent an increase of nearly 50 per cent, on former rates under which the industry flourished, because up to 1929, the imports were very small. No sound reason has been advanced why we should increase costs of railway or tramway construction in Australia. These duties will add enormously to the burden on the people of this country. I examined the figures the other day, and estimated that the tariff on this class of material has increased the cost of railway construction in Australia by about £4,000 a mile. How is it possible for us to develop this country properly, if, by means of the tariff, we add so greatly to the cost of essential public works such as railways? No one can contend that our manufacturers were unable to carry on under the old rates of duty. These high duties affect very seriously the cost of raw materials in other industries. I ask the Minister to be content with an ad valorem duty. Surely with a tariff protection of 45 per cent., plus the natural protection and exchange, Australian manufacturers should’ be able to compete with British firms.
We never know what rate per cent, a fixed duty may represent; it may be 150 per cent, or even 200 per cent.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would have the committee believe that Australian firms cannot produce a fishbolt. He and his colleagues profess great faith in the Tariff Board when an item upon which the board has not reported is under consideration, but when that body has submitted a report which is not to their liking, they resolutely ignore it. The duties on the smaller items of iron and steel production are lower than they were previously, and some are lower than the rates recommended by the Tariff Board, The Broken Hill Proprietary is continually charged by some honorable members with having a monopoly, but the fact must’ not be overlooked that during the war the so-called “ octopus “ supplied the rails for the transcontinental railway, and did not increase the price. Some governments give preference to the imported article, even when the price of the local article is the same. Fishbolts are made in every State of the Commonwealth, and therefore there is no monopoly in respect of them. Perhaps from some other country in which wages and labour conditions are at a low level, cheaper fishbolts can be obtained, but I hope that the committee will not, by supporting this amendment, declare that Australia with it’s enormous ore resources, cannot produce an elementary commodity like fishbolts.
.- The amendment is unnecessary. In 1928-29, the imports were valued at about £1,000, and during the last two years have not exceeded £2,000 per annum. Yet some honorable members would have us believe that the duty on fishbolts increases the cost of primary production, keeps up rail freights, and makes more expensive the construction of railways and tramways. The Australian, market is being satisfactorily supplied by local manufacturers who obtain their raw material from the great iron and steel works at Newcastle.
– If they can hold their trade with lower duties, why do they want the duties increased?
– The Tariff Board has carefully investigated this item, and recommended the duties proposed. The Australian market should be preserved to the local manufacturers, who, in buying their raw materials from Newcastle Steel Works, help to reduce the prices of galvanized iron, wire and other commodities by enabling the Newcastle works to increase their output. For defence purposes, the iron and steel industry is necessary; it gives much employment, directly- and indirectly, and we should do nothing to injure it.
.- It is enlightening to know that local prices so much in advance of those. for the imported article are, in the opinion of the Minister, reasonable. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) spoke of preference having been given to imported ‘ goods, although their prices were not lower than those of the Australian- product. The Tariff Board’s report, however, declares that Australian manufacturers are getting preference in respect of government contracts, thus eliminating British competition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) called attention to the trifling value of the imports, and yet said that these imports would strike -a blow at the great basic iron and steel industry of this country.
.- In 1927-28 fishbolts imported from Great Britain were valued at only £1,225, and in 1928-29, at £1,193. In those years low duties were operating. The imports from foreign countries were negligible. If the local manufacturers were able, with a lower duty, to hold the Australian market, and since then costs of labour and coal have been reduced, what can be the object of imposing higher duties if it be not to enable a few manufacturers to secure an absolute monopoly and to keep up their prices?
.- Fishbolts are a comparatively small item in this division, but it has been used again as the basis of an attack upon the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and its methods. I have taken the trouble to ascertain what advantage this alleged “ octopus “ is taking of the increased protection granted to it. The raw material from which fishbolts are made is pig iron, and the facts show a progressive reduction in the rices of this material, as well as of earns, channels, blooms, billets, &c, since effective protection was given to the industry by the Massy Greene schedule of 1921. In 1920 the price of pig iron was £10 2s. 6d. a ton; in 1921, £10; in 1922, £9 ; in 1923, £8 10s. ; in 1924, £8 ; in 1925, £7 10s.; in 1928, £6 10s.; in 1930, £6 5s. ; and to-day, £5 2s. 6d.
– Those reductions have taken place all over the world.
– If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has a monopoly, it can ignore what is happening in other countries and keep its prices up. Has there been a greater reduction in other parts of the world than in- Australia?
– The price of pig iron in the United Kingdom to-day is about 45s. per ton.
– Prices in Australia have dropped by 49 per cent, since 1920. Has there been a greater percentage reduction in other countries? I do not favour monopolies, but if an Australian enterprise is giving employment and is not exploiting the public, it should not be pilloried as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company is pilloried by members of the Country party.
.- Although I intend to support the amendment, I endorse the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) regarding the broad policy of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. It has a monopoly, but in respect of pig iron and other raw materials of secondary production, its record shows a real effort to increase turnover by keeping prices down and to give service commensurate with what the user could get from manufacturers overseas. It is small additional duties of this sort which make it impossible for the manufacturers to reduce their prices. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that this duty is only a little thing, and makes very slight difference to the primary producers. Fishbolts are made not by the iron and steel monopoly, but by allied firms such as that which manufactures galvanized iron. Some manufacturers are definitely shirking their obligations by not writing down their capital and re-organizing their works so as to enable them to manufacture their steel products at a reasonable price. It is these small additional duties which keep up the costs of our key industries and make them a burden upon, instead of an asset to the community. If there is anything that we should make in this country it is iron and steel products. We have the best iron ore and coal deposits in the world, and they are extremely well situated. Practically from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, of the manufacturing cost of these products is represented in labour. Wages throughout the Commonwealth have been reduced. Although many of our iron and steel products are being sold at a price lower than that of the imported article, the price is still too high. These little additional duties which are imposed as a result of a sort of flabby kindheartedness on the part of the Government of the day, not only increase the load which is already bearing heavily upon our primary and exporting industries, but also interfere with Australian standards. Every time we pay for an industry more than it is worth, industry in general suffers. The Tariff Board recommended this duty some time ago in the hope that additional protection would enable the company to reduce its prices, but the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has produced figures which show conclusively that the company has not reduced its prices, despite the lower cost of coal and wages. It has shirked the re-organization of its works which would have enabled it to reduce its prices. It has shown itself to be unworthy of protection, and has become a drag upon the other industries of the Commonwealth. I hope the committee will accept the amendment of the honorable member for Riverina.
– Most honorable members seem to have the idea that there »s only one company in Australia making fishbolts, and that it has a monopoly. Such is not the case. The Tariff Board inquiry covered the manufacture of bolts, nuts, rivets, metal washers, raildogs or frogs, and fishbolts, and no less than twelve firms gave evidence as manufacturers. Some of. the engineering firms named in the report are well known throughout Australia, and they include
Macpherson’s, H. V. McKay, and Sewell’s, three Melbourne firms; one Newcastle firm, and one Sydney firm. As a great number of these products are sold to government departments, competition is keen indeed. The Tariff Board report states that the Australian manufacturers labour under a disadvantage of 115 per cent, in wages, and 63 per cent, in material. Honorable members know little of the efficiency of the Australian factories. The prices charged by them compare favorably with those charged by Midland factories, notwithstanding the fact that our wages are higher and our labour conditions better than those of Great Britain. It is repeatedly suggested that this duty is affecting the man on the land. That statement cannot be substantiated. The total importations in 1928-29, when the duties were lower than they are to-day, were approximately 50 tons; in 1929-30, 35 tons; in 1930-31, nil; and in 1931-32, 10 tons. Much ado has been made about this small item, although it is not pressing unduly upon any section of the community. It is giving work to engineering firms who are badly in need of it. As the matter is now before the. Tariff Board it is sufficient for the committee to pass the duty as it is, and to reconsider it when any change in the duty is proposed.
– This duty- is prohibitive rather than competitive. An ad valorem duty is constant in relation to the value of the article, no matter whether the world’s price falls or rises; but that is not so with a fixed duty. The present fixed duty is lis. British, and 16s. foreign. That represents a certain ad valorem duty with a certain definite world’s price. If the world’s price falls - and the price of these commodities in other parts of the world have been falling during the last year or two - then the rate becomes relatively higher than before. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) quoted figures to show that the sterling price f.o.-b. of British fishbolts is from i3s. to 14s., so th’at upon that f.o.b. basis this duty represents something like from 75 per cent, to SO per cent. Not one rail way system in Australia is paying to-day. The railways are unable to meet their interest burden because of the tremendous cost of construction and upkeep of the permanent way, rolling-stock, and so on. The difference between the Australian price of 28s. 6d. per cwt. for fishbolts and of the British price of from 13s. to 14s. sterling f.o.b., surely supplies one explanation of the tremendous overhead and interest burden that has to be met by the Australian railways. The Minister has said that this duty hardly affects our transport system. He quoted figures to show that the quantity of importations was negligible, and that the revenue collected through the customs was almost infinitesimal. We cannot answer this question as to the extent of the burden upon the transport systems by simply taking into account the amount of revenue collected. We have to take into consideration the extent to which local manufacturers are able to tax the transport systems by means of the higher prices which they are enabled to charge under cover of this duty. It is not simply a question of the amount of duty that is collected. We might have the duty so high as to preclude the possibility pf obtaining any revenue whatever, yet the Australian manufacturer might be taking an immense toll of the community under cover of the protective duty. I certainly support the amendment. It is quite reasonable. We should do away with fixed rates, and substitute ad valorem rates, which maintain a constant relation to the value of the goods whether prices rise or fall.
– The figures quoted’ by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) are not those ruling to-day.
– They are last week’s figures.
– And the figures given in respect of wages were considerably out of date. It is also wrong to suggest that there is no child labour employed in the engineering workshops of Australia to-day.
– There is no female child labour employed.
– There are females employed in Macpherson’s workshops.
The labourthere shows a large predominancy of juveniles.
– Not in the manufacture of fishbolts.
– I am referring to the manufacture of bolts and nuts, and other articles which affect the price of iron and steel products. Girls are employed in the iron foundry department of the Sunshine Works. I have accompanied an inspector through those works, and I know theconditions there. The marginbetween the wages paid in Australia and those paid in Great Britain is nothing like so large as it was a few years ago. It has been suggested that these small subsidiary industries are not worth while, but most of the efficiency experts employed by the large engineering works contend that it is the subsidiary industries which enable the major project to be successful. I cannot understand why the members of the Country party should be so much concerned about this duty. They agree that the price charged has not been excessive. They have not tried to contradict the Minister’s statement that these articles are being manufactured in several of the States, and that there is keen competition. Their only complaint is that this duty is a little higher than it need be. No harm will be done by having a duty 10 per cent. higher than it might be, because the higher duty will give confidence to the manufacturer to extend his operations, particularly if he knows that the duty is not so fine as to encourage competition from abroad which, if established, would ruin his business. Most honorable members have admitted that the firm which is manufacturing fishbolts - a branch of the major firm at Newcastle which supplies the raw material, and has a hand in many other subsidiary industries - is playing the game. Why should we begrudge this firm the advantage of an additional 10 per cent. duty, the existence of which is likely to give it some incentive to scrap its old machinery, and to install an up-to-date plant, which will operate for the benefit of the community generally. I hope that the committee will leave the duty as it is.
.- The Minister has told us that he fails to see how this item can affect the primary pro ducers; but it is not our fault that he fails in this respect. Since 1914 the railways of Australia have been the biggest machine for making losses in this country. Losses of over £80,000,000 have been incurred in that period. Wages have been increased by 60 per cent., and freights have been increased to a similar extent. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has pointed out that the tariff burden on railway construction amounts to more than £4,000 a mile. In order to help the Minister to see how this item affects the primary producer, I invite him to consider the price that the people of Australia pay for this article compared with the price that the people of other countries pay for it. The excess cost is the extent of the additional burden that our primary producers have to carry. The question at issue is not whether there are or are not any imports, but whether we should be paying 28s. for i t when the people of other countries pay only 14s. for it. This additional cost is being imposed upon us at a time when the purchasing power of the people has been deplorably decreased. The Government seems to be afraid to allow the secondary industries of Australia to meet any competition. In the circumstances, I must support the amendment, and I expect every other honorable member of the committee who has the interests of our primary producers at heart also to support it.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Nock’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question, so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 161, sub-items (b) (c) (Lawn mowers and spray pumps).
.- South Australia has not many secondary industries, but those that she has are good. The firm of Scott, Bonnar Limited is engaged in the manufacture in South Australia of electrically-driven lawn mowers, hand roller mowers, and also petrol-driven lawn mowers. I am quite satisfied with the provision of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this item, but I ask the Minister to consider whether the provisions of paragraph 3, n.e.i., afford reasonable protection to those engaged in the building of petrol-driven lawn mowers. This industry isflourishing in South Australia at present, and I hope that nothing will be done to give it a setback.
.- The building of lawn mowers is a comparatively new industry in Australia, which has developed under the encouragement given to it by the Scullin tariff. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) will bear me out when I say that at FootscrayWest, in his electorate, the well-known English firm of Qualcast is building lawn mowers that are equal to those produced in any other part of the world. The duties provided in this item are those recommended by the Tariff Board, and this is one of the occasions on which the board has shown good judgment. More than 100 persons are already employed in the Victorian factory to which I have referred, and, so far, 30,000 lawn mowers have been produced there.
– One hundred and twentyfive persons are employed in the factory to which I referred.
– I am pleased to hear that statement. The rate of production of lawn mowers at the Footscray West factory is increasing. At present mowers are being produced at the rate of 250 a week, but it is the intention of the company to bring the output up to 350 a week during this year. This company could not have established its operations under the protection provided by the 1921-28 tariff. At least five other companies in Australia are engaged in the manufacture of lawn mowers. The material used for the production of lawn mowers here is 88 per cent. in value of Australian origin, and consists of wrought iron, cast iron, malleable iron, bolts and nuts, timber and paint. Only the steel blades and pull bars are imported. The Tariff Board gave careful consideration to this industry, and reported that it was completely satisfied that the lawn mower factories of Australia were in a position to cope with Australian requirements. It also reported that the materials used were of local origin except for the special edges and multiple gears for some types of mowers. These special types are not covered by the item now under consideration, but are covered by the n.e.i. item under the old rate of duty. The board reported that the quality of the Austrailan lawn mowers was superior to that of the imported article. It also stated that the benefit of the additional employment which resulted from the manufacture of lawn mowers in Australia far outweighed any other considerations. In dealing with the selling price of the mowers the board reported that the price at which Australian-made mowers were being sold to the public compared more than favorably with the ruling rates for imported mowers under the old duty. Since that report was made by the board, price reductions have occurred in connexion with various makes of Australian mowers. These reductions have become possible because of increased sales and a consequent reduction of overhead costs. One advantage in having the Qualcast company establish a branch in Australia is that the parent concern makes available to the local branch, without additional cost, knowledge that it has gained from years of research and experience. It is interesting to note that Qualcast lawn mowers are considered to be highly satisfactory in Western Australia. In that State the grasses are naturally tough, and, it is claimed, other Australian-made lawn mowers were unsuitable for them. In its comments on this industry, the Tariff Board stated -
The hand mower of the type which preponderates in the Australian trade is a suitable line for local manufacture for the reason that it is largely repetition work of a mechanical nature. The amount of direct labour required to turn out the full Australian requirement in hand lawn mowers is not large. . . The board considers additional protection is necessary to secure the business to the Australian manufacturers, and, therefore, recommends that the ad valorem rates of duty of 45 per cent. (British preferential tariff), 55 per cent, (intermediate tariff), mid CO per cent, (general tariff) should be applied to the class of hand lawn mower manufactured in Australia.
This is another of the new industries that were established as a result of the tariff proposals of the Scullin Government, and for the future of which I am apprehensive, in view of the changed fiscal policy of certain honorable members, who are prepared to make a scapegoat of the Tariff Board in connexion with any alterations that may be effected in the tariff. I am afraid that, however desirous the- Minister might be of continuing a protectionist policy for these new and rapidly-developing industries, he will not be a free man when the board recommends reductions. I have inspected the industry, and realize its possibilities as a direct and indirect employer of labour. It draws on the great iron and steel works of Newcastle for its raw materials, a procedure which must, in the aggregate, bring about a reduction of those raw materials to all industries.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 169, sub-item (d) agreed to.
Item 176, sub-item (i 1, 2) (Pumps of the type used for vending petrol).
– I do not propose to move an amendment to this item, as I realize that that would be absolutely futile. The duty on petrol pumps is, frankly, prohibitive, and that is admitted even by the Tariff BoardThat body stated in its report upon thi’1., matter that, before the increased duty was granted, Australian manufacturers of petrol pumps were already producing and supplying 95 per cent, of our local requirements. Obviously, the intention was to close up that small leak, the remaining 5 per cent. Several honorable gentlemen who now occupy the treasury bench spoke strongly against the proposal of the Scullin Government to increase these duties. Among them were the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), the Deputy Leader of the Government (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill). In his protest, the honorable member for Henty said - 1 associate myself with the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). Despite the recommendations of the Tariff Board, I object to the creation of this monopoly. It has already been pointed out that the local manufacturers have gained 95 per cent, of the Australian trade. The previous duty was quite adequate, and the 5 per cent, of imports has had the valuable effect of regulating both price and quality of the products. Take that away and we shall, in effect, bring about the suppression of existing competition. The local manufacturers will get together, if not in actual combine, at least in coming to an arrangement, and prices, as a result, will increase, and the quality of the article most likely suffer.
– The Tariff Board recommends this duty, and the honorable member has already said that the recommendations of that body are all right.
– I have never said anything of the kind. I have said that in respect of certain items I am prepared to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board. . . . I am opposed to this sub-item, and will vote against it.
While, less than two years ago, the PostmasterGeneral said -
It is, therefore, proposed to block all importations of petrol pumps and to place a monopoly in the hands of practically two or three companies engaged in this industry. Competition is to be entirely eliminated. . . We should not be asked to vote for a duty which will amount to something like 125 per cent.
The facts are, first, that we are being asked to vote for a duty of 125 per cent. ; secondly, that such a duty will have the effect of preventing any petrol pumps from being imported into Australia; and, thirdly, that a monopoly will be created.
At one time the granting of an ad valorem duty of 25 per cent, would have been regarded as substantial assistance for any industry; but we now unblushingly provide duties of 60 per cent., 80 per cent., 100 per cent., and even 500 per cent., and the people who are granted these advantages are permitted to charge prices tor their commodities almost up to the point of overseas competition. Why should such favours be granted to a few selected industries?
I have chosen only two or three shortextracts from the many protests that were made at the time.
– My remarks were quite sound.
– My regret is that the Postmaster-General is to-day not in a position, as an individual, to give effect to what he stated in that admirable speech made two years ago. I submit that, to pass prohibitive rather than competitive duties, is against the undertaking given by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the Ottawa agreement, and in direct opposition to the tenor of the speeches made by some of its leading members two years ago.
.- I believe that on the only occasion on which I moved the adjournment of the House I was actuated by the desire to protect the manufacture of petrol pumps in Australia. At that time, the oil companies were importing a considerable number of petrol pumps from the United States of America. The then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) indicated that ample proof had been afforded him and the Government that petrol pumps could be manufactured in Australia superior to the imported article, and that therefore the industry was deserving of protection. The unfortunate garage proprietors were then paying exorbitant prices for pumps imported from the United States of America. Unfortunately, certain honorable members attach the term monopoly only to industries which are established within the- bounds of the Commonwealth. On that occasion, the organization controlling supplies from the United States of America was a much more menacing monopoly than any that now exists in Australia. This duty was needed, and it has proved in every way satisfactory. If honorable members will examine the pumps which are manufactured locally, they will appreciate the wonderful adaptability and ingenuity of Australian manufacturers and workmen. The industry was entirely new to this country, but, within a few years, our manufacturers are turning out an article about which it may be truth- fully said that no better is obtainable. I disagree with the comments of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
– The honorable member cannot refute them.
– The honorable member has not been able to show that the local article costs more than that pre- ‘viously imported from the United States of America. As a matter of fact, I believe that Australian-made petrol pumps are cheaper than those which were imported.
– That is so.
– Therefore the honorable member for Gippsland has advanced no adequate argument against the duties. The fact that an Australian industry isproducing a satisfactory article at a reasonable price affords no reason for the honorable member to assail it. I see no reason for his opposition, and am abundantly proud of the achievement of Australian manufacturers and workmen.
.- It is admitted that the duties on these items are high, but the competition which exists between the twelve Australian manufacturers is healthy and keen. When these concerns began to manufacture in 1925, the manufacturers supplied petrol pumps to individual garages direct; now the oil companies supply and sometimes lease the pumps to garages. As a result’ of the petrol pumps being manufactured in Australia, the price has fallen from about £80 to half that amount, showing that the public is not being exploited. Though the duty is high, it was recommended by the Tariff Board, which, under, the terms of the Ottawa agreement, will again review the item. As the matter is not urgent, naturally other items will take precedence, but if, in due course, there is an alteration in the recommendation (of the board, the subject will again come before the committee to be dealt with.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 177, sub-item (b1, 2, 3) agreed to.
Item 180, sub-items (a2), (d), (e1, 2, 4, 7 to 16, 18 to 21, 24), (g), (l), (m), (n) (Electrical and gas appliances).
.- The duties-
– What again ?
– If the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) would only try to make himself familiar with the tariff, he might be able to take an intelligent interest in the debate. Instead of scoffing at my efforts on behalf of the community, he would then be of some use to the committee.
– The honorable member is wasting time by stonewalling.
– The mere fact that the committee has disposed of almost five groups in three weeks shows that there has been no stonewalling. The reasonable attitude of the Opposition in this regard is in direct contrast to that of honorable members opposite when they were in Opposition and the Scullin tariff was being considered. The duties on telephone and telegraphic apparatus are considerably below those which were sought by the manufacturers who appeared before the Tariff Board in September and October, 1930. To effectively protect the industry, specific rates of duty are necessary. I urge the Minister to give the matter further consideration. The present tariff was imposed on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, but was not considered by the previous Government to be really protective. At the inquiry that was conducted by the Tariff Board, it was shown that there would be keen competition in Australia in the production of any lines that could be manufactured in this country. In this connexion, it should be noted that the present duties apply only to those lines that can be economically produced in Australia. Owing to the financial depression, the Postmaster-General’s Department has not, for some time, been ordering telephone apparatus to any great extent. But immediately the depression lifts sufficiently to allow it again to order in satisfactory quantities, a considerable number of radio manufacturers who are very well equipped to-day for the production of telephone and telegraph apparatus will be willing to engage in the manufacture of those lines. There is no doubt that the Governmentwould be able to purchase at favorable prices, because of the substantial increase that has taken place in the production of Australian wireless receiving sets - a production that is three or four times as great as it was four years ago. Oyer £500,000 is invested in the radio, telephone, and telegraph apparatus manufacturing industry in Australia, and thousands of pounds have been expended upon dies, &c., for the manufacture of telephone apparatus. If fully developed, this industry would be of great economic value to Australia, and would provide congenial employment for many of our young people. For a number of years there has been very little variation in the design of telephone apparatus; consequently, from the standpoint of evolution, the items under review are stable. The potentialities of Australia for the manufacture of telephone and telegraph apparatus are altogether different to-day from what they were when the Tariff Board last considered this matter. I believe that, if the board made a further inquiry, it would submit a different report. The radio manufacturing industry is firmly established in this country.
– Who wrote the statement that the honorable gentleman is reading?
– I am not reading a statement, and I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to direct the Minister to cease his interjections.
– The Minister must refrain from continually interrupting the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde).
– He is reading a statement.
– I have certain notes containing figures and headings; but the Minister does not like to hear the facts.
– If the Minister wishes to raise a point of order, he may do so ; but he must not interject.
– The radio manufacturing industry is so well equipped with the necessary plant and machinery that it would be able to employ hundreds of young people in the production of much of the telephone and telegraph apparatus that is now imported: The complete manufacture of radio receivers, that is now undertaken by Australian manufacturers, presents many more difficulties than are encountered in the manufacture of telephone and telegraph apparatus. Telephones and telephone parts have been standardized for a number of years, and research work upon them has virtually ceased. Most of the research work in telephone engineering within recent years has been devoted to the questions of transmission and automatic switching apparatus, with which the item under review is not closely concerned. In 1921, when radio broadcasting began to develop, practically all the big telephone manufacturers in the world turned their attention to the manufacture of radio apparatus. The radio manufacturers of the Commonwealth are now in a position to turn their attention to the production of telephones and telephone apparatus. A number of them have oversea connexions of worldwide repute to assist them. That is an important factor in the establishment and development of Australian industries, because overseas connexions can keep the local interests supplied with the results of the latest research work, that are obtained at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum. One of the difficulties under which the Australian manufacturer of radio apparatus labours, is that the demand for his radio goods is seasonal, rising to its peak in the winter, and waning considerably during the summer months, when he invariably reduces his staff substantially. It is with a view to filling in that slack period that I should like to see these manufacturers producing telephone and telegraph apparatus in their workshops. If the duties that are now sought on that apparatus were made truly effective, the radio manufacturing industry of the Commonwealth would be in a position to produce telephone apparatus during the summer months, thus increasing its turnover, reducing its costs of production, and leading to the permanent employment of thousands of Australian workers who are now engaged in seasonal industries. I admit that the duties in the schedule are based upon a recommendation of the Tariff Board. The inquiry which resulted in that recommendation, however, was made some years ago, and I submit that the factories have since become more- fully equipped, with the result that the manufacturers could tell a different story to the board, and probably induce it to revise its previous decision. Not only would additional work be provided in the radio factories of the Commonwealth, but benefit would be conferred on other Aus tralian manufacturers who produce the raw materials of the radio and telephone manufacturers, such as electrical porcelains, papier mache articles, presses and machine tools, galvanized iron products, aluminium castings, paint and varnish, bakelite powder, hard rubber and ebonite, machine screws, insulating compounds, wooden cabinets, and much other material. I submit that, if effectively protected, the industry as a whole would provide employment for about 4,000 operatives when the Postmaster-General’s Department resumed normal buying. We are told that to-day the revenues are buoyant, that telephone, postal, and wireless returns are most promising, and that, in the near future, there will probably be a return to normal development in the telephone and telegraph branches. Any appreciable addition to the number of telephones requiring to be installed throughout Australia would result in a big increase in the imports of this apparatus should it not be made in Australia. There is nothing very difficult connected with its construction. Certain lines are covered by patents; but it is known that electrical manufacturing companies, or branches of overseas manufacturers, hold the Australian rights for the manufacture in this country of a number of lines that were formerly imported. This is another avenue of employment that might well be explored.
– If a case is made out for further inquiry, I shall consider the resubmission of this matter to the Tariff Board.
– A most up-to-date and highly technical factory has been established in this . country for the manufacture of filament lamps. Under the previous tariff the output reached a maximum of 4,000,000 lamps a year, but last year, owing to a sudden influx into Australia of cheap lamps from Japan, it dropped to 1,000,000. The Minister might well instruct his officers to investigate the likelihood of the dumping of these lamps, and if that is evident, steps should be taken to protect the industry in Australia.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for on filament lamps was considered adequate, but a depreciated currency enabled some countries to market their product in Australia at allegedly low prices. That fact came officially to the notice of the department only yesterday. I am having inquiries made, and if the industry can establish a prima facie case, the matter will be referred to the Tariff Board with a view to applying the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act.
.- I was somewhat surprised to hear the Minister say that the duty on filament lamps was adequate. I understand that it was quite inadequate, and that for that reason the Phillips Lamps Company Limited, of Newcastle, made very strong representations to the Prime Minister during his recent visit to that city. The right honorable gentleman then replied that he was greatly impressed with what he had seen at the company’s factory, and was amazed to learn that these lamps were being manufactured in Australia. He said that he was not aware that they could be produced in this country. That statement led the manufacturers to hope that they would be given adequate protection. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has been deeply interested in this industry for a long period, and when I was Minister for Trade and Customs he induced . me to visit the works at Newcastle. The factory is one of the most up to date in the world. It is a branch of an efficient overseas firm, and is kept abreast of the times by being supplied with the results of the latest electrical research work. The local company complains that at the present time it cannot compete with the cheap electrical goods that are being imported from Eastern countries. This matter was seriously considered by the Scullin Government, and I have no doubt’ that the present Ministry has given attention to it. I should like to have a definite assurance from the Minister that these duties will be reconsidered.
.- When I stated that the duties were adequate, I may not have made myself clearly understood. There is a paragraph in the report of the Tariff Board stating that the board was satisfied that the proposed duties would not entirely eliminate competition, nor was this desirable, because there was a fair demand for lamps of the cheaper types, and if these were excluded a certain proportion of the public would have to buy lamps of a higher quality than they required. Most of the complaints heard now are due to circumstances that have arisen lately, and if a good case can be made out by the local manufacturers, steps will be taken to safeguard their interests. I move -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to the heading to sub-item (e) and paragraphs (1), (2), (4), (7) to (16) inclusive, (18) to (21) inelusive and (24) of sub-item (b) of item 180 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of the heading to sub-item (e) and paragraphs (1), (2), (4), (7) to (16) inclusive, (18) to 21 inclusive and (24) of sub-item (e) of item 180 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
No alteration of duties is involved by this motion, and it makes no alteration of the rates or wording appearing in the group memorandum in the possession of honorable members.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-items and paragraphs, as amended, agreed to.
Item 181, sub-item (b 1), agreed to.
Item 182 (Bolts, nuts, rivets, and metal washers, n.e.i.) - 182. Bolts, nuts, rivets, and metal washers, n.e.i.; screws with nuts, or for use with nuts; engineers’ set screws - per cwt., British, lis.; general, 16s.; or ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general, 05 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
.- These duties were imposed by the Scullin Government on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Considerable capital investment, amounting in the aggregate to about £340,000, has been made in this industry, and the number of persons employed is about 500, with an annual wage disbursement of about £80,000. In the manufacture of ordinary black bolts and nuts, about 85 per cent, of the raw material used is Australian steel. This is one of those industries that draws some of its raw material from the iron and steel works at’ Newcastle, and that is one of the reasons why I, as Minister for
Trade and Customs, gave favorable consideration to its request for these duties. It is estimated that the industry uses about 15,000 tons of Australian steel annually. A good deal of competition occurs in the sale of the locallymanufactured article. Anybody who has inspected one of the local plants must have noticed the efficient way in which the industry is conducted. An extremely high standard in manufacture has been attained,, yet the prices of Australian bolts and nuts are lower than they have been for the past fifteen years. The report of the Tariff Board, dated the 4th March, 1930, states -
The inquiry has disclosed that the bolt and nut-making plant available in Australia is considerably more than adequate for the present output. As a result, much of this plant is only partially used, and the costs of production are on that account excessive by reason of overheads being higher than if the plant were fully occupied. The stimulus given to local production by the demand for bolts and nuts during and immediately after the war, when, on account of disturbed conditions and the shipping shortage, overseas manufacturers were unable to supply the Australian market, led to extensions in the existing plant and the erection of new factories. With the return to normal conditions, prices overseas were greatly reduced, and it was found that the industry in Australia could not maintain its output without further protection.
According to that report, the board was of opinion that further protection should be granted as the result of the decision of the Scullin Government. The effect of the increase of the duties was to keep in employment a large number of men who would otherwise have been thrown out of work. These duties show the necessity to afford tariff protection both to primary and secondary industries. I hope that the Minister will not decide later to reduce the rates.
.- I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 5th April, 1933 - 182. Bolts, nuts, rivets and metal washers, n.e.i.; screws with nuts or for use with nuts; engineers’ set screws, ad val. - British, 45 per cent.; general, 65 per cent.”
A number of points not applicable to fishbolts may be mentioned in connexion with this item. A good argument has been advancedby the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in favour of the revision of these duties. The honorable member referred to a statement made by the Tariff Board that, as the result of its inquiry, it was disclosed that the bolt and nut-making plants available in Australia were considerably more than sufficient for the present output. That, I think, gives clear evidence that it is unnecessary to impose prohibitive duties such as those provided in this item. Under this method of tariff -making, uneconomic industries are established, and they eventually fail. This has been the experience in regard to the boot industry. High duties encouraged the investment of too much capital in those industries, and after a few years it was found that more boot factories than were required had been established, with the result that many of them had to work part time or close down. The experience in this regard shows the need for more care than has been exercised in the past in tariff revision. When the Tariff Board inquired into the bolt industry, Australian steel was quoted at £12 12s. 6d. a ton, and the price of English steel was £8 2s. 6d., the margin of difference being £4 10s. a ton. Yet protection to the extent of £11 a ton is given to the bolt industry. It is too much. We have been told that most of the bolts are made by automatic machines. Then why is it necessary that the Australian price should be protected to the extent of £11 plus transport costs above the English price? The cost of bolts has a direct effect on the costs of primary production. Every machine on the farm is composed partly of bolts, and replacements are frequently required, the extra, cost of which, due to these duties, has to be borne by the man on the land. The honorable member for Capricornia did not read the following extract from the report of the Tariff Board, although it appears on the same page as the passage quoted by him: -
Whilst the cost of these commodities to the consumer has risen as the result of increased duties, the local manufacturers are still unable to compete on the open market against the imported article. . . .
It has frequently been claimed in regard to various commodities in respect of which assistance or further assistance under the customs tariff was sought, that the imposition of customs duties has not resulted in increased prices to consumers. Such a position cannot, however, be maintained in the case of bolts and nuts . .
It is obvious that the cost to consumers of the duty on bolts and nuts has not been fully compensated for by the benefits conferred by the local industry.
These facts must not be overlooked, and they serve to justify my request for a revision of these duties. When one compares the prices of bolts and nuts here and overseas one sees that the reduction since the presentation of the board’s report has been very small. The Australian price of 2¼-in. to 3-in. bolts and nuts is 36s. per cwt., compared with the English f.o.b. price of 19s. 6d. per cwt. The Australian price of5/8in. bolts and nuts is 32s. 8d. per cwt., while the English f.o.b. price is 16s. 6d. per cwt. In the case of¾in. bolts the prices are 30s. and 15s. 6d. per cwt. respectively. No matter in what lines we compare prices, there is almost invariably this margin of difference, ranging from 80 to 100 per cent. Since March, 1930, when the board’s report was presented, the price of the steel used for making bolts has dropped by £1 12s. 6d. a ton. It takes about 1¼ tons of steel to make a ton of bolts, and, therefore, the advantage due to the reduction of the price of steel on1¼ tons is £2. In addition to that, a material reduction of wages has occurred. There has also been a big reduction of interest, and yet the reduction of the price of bolts is only 26s. 8d. a ton to persons who had contracts with the bolt manufacturers, while the list price to-day is practically the same as it was in 1930. This proves that high protection which places a prohibition upon the entry into Australia of any goods that would ensure reasonable competition with local manufacturers, merely results in keeping up the local price. When high prices are maintained despite the reduction of interest, wages, and the cost of raw material, it is time the Government paid attention to the need for affording some protection to the public.
– I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment. The arguments advanced by me with regard to fishbolts are applicable to this item also. The Tariff Board has inquired into this industry, which has been in operation in Australia for many years. The report shows that the following firms are manufacturing these goods in Australia: - McPherson’s Proprietary Limited, H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited, G. E. Sewell Proprietary Limited, Enfield Bolt and Nut Works, Abbotsford Manufacturing Company, Commonwealth Telegraph Supplies Limited, Brown and Dureau Limited, Duly and Hansford, Automatic Engineering Company Limited, Australian Insulator Iron Works Limited, Lowe Brothers Limited, and N. Begg, Newcastle. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has advanced the usual argument that we ought to be able to import bolts and nuts at prices lower than those charged by the local manufacturers.
– We should be able to get them locally at lower prices.
– The present prices are attributable to a great extent to the limited business being done by local manufacturers; we cannot attribute them entirely to the tariff. Owing to the general depression, the local firms are not getting the full advantage of the present duties. The Tariff Board made strong criticism of these firms; but I point out that if the honorable member asks for prices he will find that all the firms in the local market are competing keenly with one another, and some are having a hard time. The board pointed out in its report -
If by reason of the granting of additional protection the production in Australia of bolts and nuts is increased to the extent it is anticipated it will, then the following advantages should result: -
Arc not honorable members anxious that we shall find as much employment as possible for Australians? I urge the honorable member for Riverina not to jeopardize employment by persisting in his amendment. I draw the attention of the committee to the fact that the duties imposed are the fixed rates “ or” the ad valorem rates. Both rates are not applicable to this item. The board gives these other pertinent reasons -
The increased demand for Australian steel will no doubt bring down the cost of wire netting and barbed wire to the farmers, because the greater the turnover the cheaper the cost of production. This is an old-established industry, not one of mushroom growth.
.- The Minister has used as an argument in favour of the retention of the present duties the fact that this is an oldestablished industry. We have frequently heard as an argument in favour of a duty the statement that an industry was just beginning, and was getting on its feet, but this is the first time we have heard it stated that an industry, because it is old and well established, is deserving of a higher rate of protection than when it was new and undeveloped. This industry is old enough to have grown feet on which it can stand without assistance. A few years ago, there was a duty on this item of 35 per cent. British ; to-day it is11s. per cwt., or 45 per cent., whichever is the greater. Evidently the older the industry becomes the more help it needs. Some of these industries never seem to get beyond the stage when they need to be spoon fed, and the bigger they get the more spoon-feeding they need. The Minister’s assertion that this is an optional duty, and not an addition to the fixed rate is self-evident, and merely demonstrates the extreme reasonableness of the honorable member’s amendment.
.- The Minister used another argument which seemed to me to be remarkable. He said that the local factories had been equipped with plant to turn out what used to be Australia’s normal requirements, but that, with the falling off of demand, overhead costs had increased in ratio to production, and that that explained why there had not been a substantial reduction of prices in Australia. He urged that we should give the local factories all the business they were able to cope with and prices would come down. The true interpretation of the Minister’s contention is that there is no real competition in Aus tralia. Although business is slack, prices have not come down, because high overhead costs must be met, and because factories have been established in excess of public requirements. If there were real internal competition, and the local factories were able to supply more than the local demand, prices would inevitably come down. It is unfair to the public that they should be denied the benefit of cheaper prices merely because the manufacturers have loaded themselves with heavy overhead costs. Prices outside Australia have fallen, but they have been maintained here, and the only conclusion one can come to is that the prohibitive duties imposed on imported articles have enabled Australian manufacturers to keep up their prices.
– I was amazed at the argument advanced by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). He stated that as this was an old-established industry it should not receive protection, but I remind him that there are several old-established primary industries in Australia for which the honorable member and his friends demand protection. We have lately heard grumblings from the honorable member’s party because there is talk of lifting the embargo on potatoes from a sister dominion, and we had an eloquent speech from the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) in favour of the protection of the rice industry, which happens to be centred in his electorate. I do not agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that Australian industries are not entitled to the whole of the Australian market. The Labour party stands for effective protection, so that the whole of the Australian market may be available to efficiently conducted Australian industries.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock). Bolts and nuts are of the greatest importance to primary producers. Owing to the nature of their work, there is severe wear and tear on machinery, and the renewal of bolts and nuts is constantly going on. Naturally, the man on the land looks on this duty as increased taxation on his produce, and so it is. Honorable members opposite argue, of course, that the fostering of Australian industries provides employment for the people of Australia. That is so, but there is no necessity to encourage Australian industry at the expense of the man on the land to quite so great an extent as is being done to-day. If we regard the tariff as a form of taxation, it becomes evident that the higher the taxes, the greater is the volume of unemployment. The tariff is a doubleedged weapon.
Item agreed to.
Item 1S7, sub-item (b) (Nails . . . Rail-dogs or Brobs, Spikes).
.- Prior to the tariff resolution of the 12th November, 1929, spikes were included in sub-item 187 (c) at very much lower duties. The manufacturers of deck spikes claimed that their manufacture was so closely related to the manufacture of bolts and nuts as to justify the granting of the same measure of protection to both. The Australian requirements of deck spikes are about 300 tons annually. The raw material used is Australian steel, which is purchased from the iron and steel works at Broken Hill. The present duties were imposed by the Scullin Government because it was believed that their imposition would lead to additional employment, or would keep those employed who would otherwise lose their jobs. Honorable members, by studying the Tariff Board’s report, can see that there is plenty of local competition, which will ensure that consumers are not charged too much. At least nine Australian firms are engaged in the production of deck spikes, including Latrobe in Tasmania. The Tariff Board, on page 7 of its report, states -
Assurances have been given by Australian manufacturers that they will not take advantage of any increased duty granted to increase their selling prices.
I should like to learn from the Minister what methods have been adopted to find out whether that undertaking has bee carried out. This industry is another of those which were assisted by the duties imposed by the last Government.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has asked me whether I have any information regarding the price at which deck spikes are sold, and whether the price has been increased since the duty was imposed. I remind the honorable member that I am not an encyclopaedia, but I shall have inquiries made along the lines he suggests. The honorable member also asked what steps, if any, had been taken to ensure that the manufacturers were not charging the public too much. When we come to discuss another item, I shall give an outline of the measures the Government is taking to police the tariff in order to prevent exploitation. If the honorable member has received any complaints, I shall be glad if he will forward them to my department, and inquiries will be made.
.- There was nothing unusual in the request I made to the Minister. He has a number of officers in his department who can make the inquiry I suggested, and who could furnish the Minister with the necessary information before the items come up for discussion. When I was Minister, I had inquiries made regarding alleged profiteering in respect of 126 items on which increased protection had been granted. In only one case was the charge proved. In cases in which assurances have been given to the Tariff Board that prices -will not be increased, the Minister should be in a position to inform honorable members whether or not they have been honoured.
Sub-item agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 io 8 p.m.
Item 200 (Eyelets and eyelet hooks).
.- Under the 1921-30 tariff the duties on these goods were 25 per cent. British and 35 per cent, general tariff; they are now 45 per cent, and 65 per cent, respectively. These higher duties were imposed by the Scullin Administration, and have had beneficial results, in that they have provided employment for a number of workers. Although not in itself a big industry, the manufacture of eyelets and eyelet hooks is one of a number of small industries which, in the aggregate, employ some thousands of persons, and are of considerable benefit to this country. The manufacture of eyelets in Australia was pioneered by Eyelets Proprietary Limited, of Windsor, Melbourne, which commenced operations in 1924. Beginning with a staff of five employees, the factory has increased until now 70 operatives have full time employment in it. These goods are used largely by the boot and shoe trade, and in the manufacture of tents, felt hats, stationery, clothing and radio goods. Since the increased protection was afforded to this industry, the Victorian company has expended a considerable sum on plant and machinery. There are now two additional manufacturers of these goods in Australia - one in Adelaide and the other in Sydney. In the manufacture of eyelets and eyelet hooks Australian materials, including brass wire, brass strip, copper strip, celluloid solvent, lacquers and cartons are used. In the event oi war, the plant of the Melbourne company could, at a few hours’ notice, be diverted to the production of detonators, percussion caps, and equipment fasteners. I hope that the Minister will not interfere with this industry. Some continuity of fiscal policy must be assured to these small industries if they are to develop. A larger output would enable them to reduce their overhead costs, with a resultant benefit to consumers.
– There is no intention to interfere with the existing duties.
Item agreed to.
Item 225, sub-item (c) (School chalks).
.- The present duties were imposed by the Scullin Administration, in which I was the Minister for Trade and Customs. I, therefore, make no apology for referring to them.
– I rise to a point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is indulging in tedious repetition in connexion with each item that comes before the committee?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).Since the honorable member has spoken only a few sentences in relation to this item, he cannot be guilty of tedious repetition. The point of order is not upheld.
– The honorable member for Perth does not like to hear the case for protection put in rebuttal of his freetrade propaganda. As each item deals with a new subject there has been no repetition. Before the Scullin Government imposedthese higher duties, school chalks were imported from overseas, but they are now manufactured in Australia. If we are to educate our young people to buy goods made in their own country, we must start while they are still attending our schools. The school chalks made in Australia are manufactured from gypsum obtained from the gypsum fields of Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, the process of manufacture taking place in Melbourne. At least 95 per cent. of the raw materials, together with the boxes, cases or other containers, are of Australian origin; the balance comprises a small percentage of colouring material which must necessarily be imported. The Tariff Board, in its report on this item, says that since Messrs. James Bell and Company, the principal manufacturers of school chalks in Australia, commencedoperations in 1925, there has been a decided downward trend of prices. That is important, in view of the oft-repeated statement by supporters of the present Government, that the establishment of factories in Australia leads to higher prices for the goods they produce. After an investigation, the Scullin Government decided to give this industry adequate protection. Various government departments, wholesalers and consumers, have testified to the excellent quality of the local product. The education departments of the several States endeavour to impress upon the minds of the scholars attending public schools the wisdom of buying goods manufactured in Australia, and it is highly desirable that they should be consistent and use Australian made school chalk. The nation’s shoppers can do much to provide employment in Australia by buying Australian made goods.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 231, sub-item (g1, 2) (Paints and colours).
.- This is another item in respect of which the protective duties were increased by the Scullin Administration after an investigation, and later, were approved by the Tariff Board. This paint manufacturing industry already employs about 1,200 Australians, and produces paints, enamels and varnishes to the value of over £1,500,000 per annum. There is keen competition among the Australian manufacturers of these commodities, and consequently there is no need to import any of them from other countries. The value of the paint manufacturing industry to the Australian linseed oil industry may be judged from the sales of linseed oil to the Australian manufacturers of paint. One crusher in Sydney sells to them 54,000 gallons of linseed oil monthly and another crusher sells 18,000 gallons a month. There are several other smaller crushers operating in different parts of the Commonwealth. Under normal conditions, between 800,000 gallons and 1,000,000 gallons of linseed oil are used each year in the Australian paint manufacturing industry. That these duties have the approval of the Tariff Board, should convince honorable members opposite that they are well justified.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 232, sub-items (a) (b) agreed to.
Division 8. - -EARTHENWARE, Cement, China, Glass and Stone.
Items 237 (o), 240 (b 1) and 244 (b) agreed to.
Items 251, sub-item (c)’ (Bottle stoppers).
.- After a careful investigation, the Scullin Administration saw fit to increase the protection afforded to this item. Since the higher duties have been in operation, Eyelets Proprietary Limited, of Melbourne, have expended over £1,000 in the supply of additional plant for the manufacture of bottle stoppers. The company’s increased output has resulted in lower production costs, thereby enabling it to reduce its selling prices from 3£d. to 3$d. per stopper throughout Australia. Prior to the higher duties coming into force, American stoppers sold in Australia for 3d. each. Australian stoppers are considered by the leading manufacturers of hot water bottles to be equal to any imported stoppers. As in the case of other industries, the manufacture of stoppers provides a market for Australian copper strip, brass wire, rubber washers and cartons. In its report on this item the Tariff Board stated -
Taking into consideration the quality of local stoppers, the price at which such are being sold, the ability of the applicant company to manufacture the requirements of Australia, and the fact that no one appeared to oppose the application, the board is of opinion that the request for the increased rates of duty on stoppers for hot water bags should be granted.
This is another instance Of the duties imposed by the Scullin Administration being supported by’ the Tariff Board.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 255, sub-items (a) (b) (Glue, cements and prepared adhesives, n.e.i.).
.- I should like to know whether this item has again been referred to the Tariff Board for consideration in the light of the Ottawa agreement. The manufacture of glue, cements and adhesives gives employment to some thousands of Australian workers, and I am concerned that many of them may be thrown out of employment in the event of the duties being reduced.
.- The present duties were confirmed by the Tariff Board in 1930. As the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has said, the duties in respect to this item were imposed by the Scullin Government and endorsed by the Tariff Board. The item has not again been referred, to the Tariff Board because the companies manufacturing these commodities are carrying out their undertaking not to increase prices. The prices charged by them for their output are reasonable. These are valuable industries which use the by-products of some of our primary industries. Ultimately this item will be referred to the Tariff Board for consideration in connexion with the Ottawa agreement, but for no other reason. When the Tariff Board’s further report is received, it will be brought before Parliament.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 259 (Roofing slates, n.e.i.).
.- Under this item, importations from the United Kingdom and France were, for some time, free of duty. The increased duties imposed by the Scullin Administration had a very beneficial effect on the local industry. The . raw material is quarried at Goulburn, New South Wales, and the roofing of government buildings in Canberra and many in New South Wales and Victoria has been carried out with slate produced from the Goulburn quarries. The capital invested in the industry is £20,000, and increased turnover is essential to its being successfully carried on. Although the Australian price is lower than that of the imported article, there is an unaccountable prejudice against the local product, and unless the existing protection is maintained, there is a possibility of the industry being seriously injured. Unfortunately, this prejudice against the Australian product is fairly general, but the high standard of efficiency aimed at in Australian industries is gradually breaking down this harmful attitude on the part of the buying public. This is one of those industries that need continued protection, so that they may capture the whole of the Australian market. The item is listed for further consideration by the Tariff Board, but I hope that nothing will be done to interfere with the measure of protection now given- to the industry.
Item agreed to.
Item 262, sub-item (e) agreed to.
Division 9. - Drugs and Chemicals
Item 266, sub-item (c 1) (Cresylic acid) .
.- This sub-item continues the fixed and ad valorem duties that were imposed on cresylic acid by the Scullin Government. Importations come principally from the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United ‘States of America. Cresylic acid, like carbolic acid, is among the valuable chemicals extracted from coal tar. It is a liquid, which, when pure, is three times as ‘powerful a germicide as carbolic acid. It is the essential constituent of lysol, as well as other surgical and veterinary preparations, and is largely used in sheep dip because of its antiseptic and insecticidal properties. Works for the refining of cresylic acid were established in 1929, and a plant laid down for the production of 80,000 gallons per annum, which was considered to be a fair estimate of the normal Australian requirements. The enterprise was undertaken after most exhaustive research to obtain an economical method for the manufacture of high- grade cresylic acid from inferior qualities of creosote oil, which are almost entirely produced in Australia from vertical retort tar. Creosote lime and sundry materials used in manufacture are of Australian origin, and represent 80 per cent, of the raw materials used. The balance, soda, is obtained from the United Kingdom. The capital employed in the industry is £40,000 ; the value of the plant is £17,000, and that of the buildings, £7,000. It provides considerable employment, both directly and indirectly, to our people. To meet the requirements of consumers, the local cresylic acid is manufactured to four different specifications or grades. The present protection is necessary to enable this industry to progressively develop. Any alteration of the existing duty would result in decreased production, idleness of working and experimental plants, and consequent unemployment. We cannot afford, at the present time, to throw any Australian operatives out of work. I hope that the Minister will stay his hand with regard to this item which, I am informed, is to be referred to the Tariff Board.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 275, sub-item (d) (Pyrites).
.- On a previous occasion, I succeeded in having pyrites placed on the free list, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, because it is a commodity essential to the manufacture of superphosphate, and, therefore, is of great importance to the State of Western Australia. But it will be necessary for the interests concerned to enter into long contracts for the importation of pyrites for the manufacture of sulphuric acid. When I brought this matter to the notice of the Government a couple of years ago, it was stated that it would be necessary to have contracts ranging from eight to ten years, and that we should have from 70,000 tons to 80,000 tons of shipping coming to Western Australian ports with pyrites. Unless those vessels could get wheat or wool cargoes here they would have to return in ballast. As the matter is of considerable importance to Western Australia, I shall be glad to hear what the Minister has to say concerning the attitude of the department to the proposal.
Mr.WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for Trade and Customs) [8.21]. - Importations of this commodity during the last three years have been principally from the United Kingdom. The item gives effect to a recommendation made by the Tariff Board some time ago. I can assure the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that any application from local companies which may desire to enter into contracts for the importation of pyrites will receive sympathetic consideration. I recognize the need for such contracts. I understand that one application from Western Australia is now under consideration.
Sub-item agreed to.
Items 281, sub-items (a2), (b1) (f), (m), (n). (Drugs and chemicals).
(1) Bismuth metal, per lb., British 2s. 3d.; general, 3s.6d.
.- Sub-item f deals with hydrogen peroxide, the duties on which were increased by the Scullin Administration from an ad valorem rate of 25 per cent. British and 35 per cent. general, to fixed rates of1s. 3d. per gallon, British, and1s. 6d. per gallon, general. The manufacture in Australia of hydrogen peroxide was commenced shortly after the outbreak of war, but it soon became apparent that, before the local industry could capture the Australian market, fixed duties were necessary. Some years ago, hydrogen peroxide was made in ten volume strength, which was costly to ship, but later a method of producing 100-volume strength was discovered, whereby nine-tenths of the freight was saved, and foreign makers got through the then existing protection to this Australian war-time industry. Thanks to the inventive genius of our Australian chemists, the method of producing 100-volume strength was perfected, and recognizing the importance of this discovery to Australia, a higher and more effective protection was granted after full inquiry by the Tariff Board. Expensive and most modern plant has been installed to meet Australian requirements under most economical working methods. Hydrogen peroxide has two important uses - medicinal and commercial. It possesses very high antiseptic qualities, and is used in connexion with operations. Used com mercially, peroxide plays an important part in the bleaching of all classes of material, including wool, cotton or silk. Ivory, and even tripe, are treated with peroxide. Medicinal-quality peroxide is now sold to the public at a lower price than before the duty, when the German and British manufacturers were supplying this market. Technical-quality peroxide is selling at 2s., as compared with 2s. 6d. for the imported article. Increasing output and sales of by-product would enable further price reductions in the near future. Barium sulphate, precipitated, a by-product of hydrogen peroxide, is now being produced equal in analysis to the imported article, and the selling price is the same as that obtaining in England. This new industry will be of considerable advantage to local paint, ink, paper, and rubber manufacturers. The peroxide trade in Europe is in the hands of an amalgamation of English and German interests. The principal Australian manufacturers are now associating themselves with the amalgamation referred to, and will have the advantage of the most up-to-date information from the scientists in Great Britain and Germany. The managing director of the Australian company is now on his way to England to complete negotiations between the British and Australian interests. Local manufacturers gave an undertaking to the Scullin Government and to the Tariff Board to sell at a given price, and although since then costs, through taxation and exchange, have risen 30 per cent., they have kept faith, and have sold the local article at the agreed upon price, putting all their energy into economy of production, and making saleable their by-product. Arrangements are now being made to export to New Zealand and the near eastern countries of Asia. Since protection was given to the industry, prices have been reduced, and are now below the prices charged for the imported article when importing agents had the whole of the Australian market to themselves. This industry is another link in the chain of evidence in support of the wisdom of the Scullin Government’s tariff policy.
.- Under sub-item a2. the duties on arsenate of lead, in paste form, are¾d. per lb. British, and1¼d. per lb. general, or ad valorem 15 per cent. British, and 30 per cent. general. The fixed rates would not appear to be heavy, but when it is remembered that from 4 lb. to 6 lb. of arsenate of lead is used in 40 gallons of water as an orchard spray, it will be seen that it is costing the orchardist from 6d. to 8d. a cask extra. In ordinary circumstances, this might not be regarded as a heavy tax, but these are not Ordinary times. Orchardists, like other primary producers, are facing grave difficulties, and the duties on this spraying material work out at about 5s. a day, which is nearly as much as the wages paid to an orchard hand, including keep. This tax on a preparation used for the control of orchard pests, besides being uneconomic, penalizes those who are endeavouring to develop the land industries with a view to exporting their surplus products, thus helping Australia to meet her overseas obligations. Trees have to be sprayed three or four times in a season, and the duty on spray represents an added cost equivalent to the wages of one employee.
– For how long?
– Spraying usually starts when the trees are in blossom, and. continues until January. If this preventive against codlin moth is neglected, the orchardist may not be able to gather more than 40 per cent. of his crop. I ask that the item be referred back to the Tariff Board.
.- Bismuth salts are subjected to duties of 3s. and 4s. 6d. a lb. Bismuth is an important drug used extensively in medicines, and chemists complain that its present cost is unreasonable. Will the Minister inform the committee whether it is being produced in Australia? If we are dependent on overseas supplies we are at the mercy of a combine, and that may account to some extent for the excessive charges. This item may appear to be small, but it is highly important to the health of the community, and I ask the Minister to review the duties.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), and ask the Minister to postpone sub-item n so that further consideration may be given to it. Bismuth salts are used extensively in hospitals, and are much employed as a corrective of gastric disorders. The general tariff of 4s. 6d. per lb. appears to be excessive. I am informed by a medical man that Australian bismuth cannot be satisfactorily used for certain medical purposes, and that the standard drug is Merx bismuth salts, a German preparation. We should not make the cost of medicines so high that poor people cannot afford to buy them. This duty means, in effect, that hospital funds which are provided by the contributions of the charitable public, are diverted to the Treasury through the Trade and Customs Department.
.- I hope that the Minister will not interfere with the duties of5s. and 7s. per lb. on menthol and thymol, both natural and synthetic. Representations were made to the Scullin Government that these products can be satisfactorily supplied by Australian factories, and the former ad valorem rates of free, 10 per cent. and 15 per cent. were replaced by fixed rates of 5s. and 7s. per lb. The manufacture of menthol and thymol is a highly-specialized industry, and there are only a limited number of firms engaged in its production in England, Germany, France, Switzerland, and America. Natural menthol comes almost entirely from Japan, and is obtained from a plant, and not by chemical manufacture. Australia was the first country to make thymol and menthol by chemical processes from eucalyptus oil. Although theworld’s output of thymol is not large, the manufacture of this drug in England was protected as a key industry. This indicates the importance attached to it there. The raw material used by local manufacturers is wholly Australian, eucalyptus oil being the foundation. One German firm uses a different raw material. Prices of the local products have been considerably reduced since the increased duties were imposed. The establishment of works in Australia followed by developments in other countries, enhanced the demand for Australian eucalyptus oil produced from the broad leaf peppermint, prices for export rising fully 50 per cent. Local menthol and thymol are sold at the same price in all capital cities of the Commonwealth. As a result of the customs protection, the Australian manufacturers have increased and improved their plants considerably. Larger and improved stills and reaction vessels have been installed in order to supply Australian requirements. Wholesale chemists in all centres are now using the local menthol and thymol, as are most of the large manufacturing users. This is one of those useful smaller industries which will make Australia more selfcontained in war. During the last war, Australia was seriously inconvenienced because certain drugs and chemicals were not produced locally! I, therefore, ask the Minister not to allow the Tariff Board to interfere with this important industry.
.- I hope that the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) will not be as proud as is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) of making the medicines required by the poor as dear as possible. When I was in New Guinea a medical officer told me that he was compelled to purchase his drugs and chemicals in Australia, and for some of them paid prices 300 per cent, in excess of what he would pay for imports from Great Britain. A similar burden is placed on Australian users, and this is not fair to either the hospitals or the poor. I endorse the contention of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow) that sprays used by orchardists should be as cheap as possible, but it is even more important that excessive duties should not be imposed on drugs and chemicals that are essential to the health of the people. The chemists have told me that it is almost impossible to get Australian bismuth, and the cost of the imported article .is unduly high because of these duties.
– Arsenate of lead has been reported upon by the Tariff Board whose inquiries showed that Australia is producing all its own requirements, and that imports from abroad are unnecessary. The board stated -
The board considers that the. Australian manufacturers of arsenate of lead are entitled to ad valorem rates equal to those accorded to the products above quoted, so far as the intermediate and general tariffs are concerned. As to the British preferential tariff, it is considered that the rate of 15 per cent, should be* sufficient. In the case of arsenate of lead, the board also considers it necessary to provide alternative fixed rate duties, in view pf the possibility of low-priced importations.
If the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow) finds that the duties on arsenate of lead press unduly on the orchardists in Tasmania, and he can establish a prima facie case for revision, I shall not hesitate to refer the item back to the Tariff Board. A charge of 5s. a day certainly seems a heavy impost on such an industry as orcharding, which is experiencing a lean time. But until a prima facie case against the duties recommended by the board is established, they must remain.
Sulphate of magnesia, popularly known as epsom salts, if imported in large packets, is subject to lower duties; therefore, the burden on institutions using it in considerable quantities is not great. The manufacture of thymol is adequately protected. Eucalyptus represents 60 per cent, of the ingredients. This industry is well established and the Tariff Board has reported that the local product is equal to the best imported. Having regard to the fact that the duty on menthol and thymol entering the United Kingdom is 33^ per cent., the rates provided in this schedule are not excessive. The Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) urged that inquiries be made into the duty on bismuth; and the honorable member for Swan asked whether this commodity was being manufactured economically in Australia. I admit that I have doubts about it. A certain company in Sydney did endeavour to manufacture bismuth, and it spent as much as £80,000 in mining operations. The Tariff Board considered the industry largely from a mining point of view and made certain recommendations. As the negotiations with this company have broken down, and as there is a likelihood that the duty may increase the cost of certain medicines for sick people, I shall accede to the request of the Acting Leader of the Country party, and ask the committee to postpone sub-item n while agreeing to the other sub-items.
– Does the Minister wish to postpone sub-item n in respect of both bismuth metal and bismuth salts?
– Yes. The honorable member for Swan referred to the fact that prices in Great Britain were lower than those in Australia, but he must know that our currency has depreciated considerably, and that his comparison is not a fair one. In addition, a great number of these duties are for revenue purposes, and without them the Government would not be in a position to assist the wheat-growers.
Sub-items (a 2) (b1) (p) (m) agreed to.
Sub-item (n) postponed.
Division 10. - Wood, Wicker and Cane
Item 291, sub-items (c 2) (d) (f1, 2, 3) (i2) to (l) (Timber)- (i.) Timber, dressed or moulded, n.e.i.; timber tongued or grooved or tongued and grooved; weatherboards - per 100 super. feet, British, 22s.; general, 24s.
Provided that the rate of duty payable on timber classifiable under this sub-item which was reported in accordance with paragraph a of section 64 of the Customs Act 1901-1930 before the 20th March, 1930, and which was in licensed customs warehouse on the 31st December, 1930, shall be per 100 super. feet, 12s. (British. Preferential Tariff) ; 14s. (Intermediate Tariff) ; and 20s. (General Tariff).
– I wish to refer to sub-item i - timber undressed, cut to size for making boxes, the duty on which is 12s. per 100 super. feet British and 14s. foreign. Under the 1930 tariff the duty was 5s. per 100 super. feet. While for some purposes Australian timber may be of use for making boxes, generally, and especially for the export trade the imported timber is preferred. I know that a rebate on imported timber can be obtained in respect of the export trade, but there is generally so much trouble in obtaining it that the large number of small exporters do not bother about asking for it. Even with a more moderate tariff a considerable quantity of Australian timber would be used, but in the export trade, which requires boxes of a good pattern, baltic pine is essential. I shall not move any amendment because I realize that the numbers would be against me, but I hope that the Minister will agree to reduce the duty under this sub-item. At one time the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) told me that the increased cost to the Shepparton canners, because of this increase of duty, was over £8,000. In view of the fact that the duty on foreign timber has been increased from 5s. to 14s. per 100 super. feet, representing an increase of nearly 300 per cent., I ask the Minister to give favorable consideration to my suggestion for a reduction of this duty.
.- I hope that the Minister will not reduce the duty. As he well knows, this is one of the most troublesome items in the tariff schedule. The Scullin Government, realizing that it was impossible to please all sections of the community, stood for preference to the Australian timber industry, and rightly increased the duties. This item was investigated by the Tariff Board, and the duties shown in the schedule were recommended by that body. Any reduction of the tariff would cause absolute consternation to the timber industry. I can quite understand that the Minister would like to refer the item back to the Tariff Board, but even that course would be fraught with danger in view of the changed outlook of the Tariff Board since the ratification of the Ottawa agreement. I received a telegram from Mr. Nixon, the secretary of the Sawmillers’ Association of Brisbane, and in it he says -
Associated saw-millers and timber merchants of Queensland seek your best efforts retain existing duties on all timbers. Ample timber supplies in Australian States to continue to supply the needs of the Commonwealth for very many years.
The timber industry is a great employer of labour, and I hope that nothing will be done to harm it. Had it not been for the duties imposed by the last Administration, many more men in the industry would have been thrown out of work, but, as it happened, hundreds of men were kept in employment cutting and seasoning timber for the local market which, had it not been for the high duties, would have been supplied from abroad. Another formidable competitor with our timber industry is Russia, and I should like the Minister to state the policy of the Government in regard to imports from that country. On this subject, I have received the following communication from the
Hardwood Millers’ Association of Victoria : -
In reference to the second shipment of Russian .timber ex the Shinnoh Maru, which arrived in Sydney in October last, I made representations to the Minister lor “Trade and Customs on behalf of the saw-millers organizations of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, seeking the same dumping duty, namely, 10s. per 100 super, on the shipment in question as imposed by the previous Government on the first shipment in 1931. In response to my representations, and in answer to a question in the House, the Acting Minister (Mr. Perkins), on the 13th October last, stated - (see Hansard No. 20, page 1138 of loth October).
A shipment of about 1,800,000 super, feet of Russian timber arrived in Sydney recently, and as the Department of Trade and Customs is of opinion that the timber is being dumped, a dumping duty of 10s. per 100 super, feet is being imposed on it.
I now find that .portion of the timber ex Shinnoh Mar fi has been released on payment of ordinary duty, without any dumping duty added, and the balance has been released on a guarantee of only 3s. per 100 super, feet to cover any possible dumping duty, pending an inquiry by the Tariff Board. The saw-millers of Australia were under the impression that they were protected by the Minister’s statement, and it has come as a very rude shock to us to find that such is not the case. A large portion of the timber has now been sold, and is coming into competition with our own timbers, as well as soft woods imported under the terms of the Canadian-Australian trade agreement from Canada.
The complaint is that Russian timber is being sold in Australia in competition with our own timbers, as well as with soft woods imported under the Canadian trade agreement. I understand that the Tariff Board is to conduct an inquiry into the necessity for a dumping duty- on the second shipment of Russian timber. The Hardwood Millers’ Association is quite justified in its apprehensions as to the future policy of the Government regarding imports of Russian timber. .The association wants to know why this inquiry is necessary in view of the fact that its members went to the expense of giving evidence before the board when, during the last administration, it made its exhaustive inquiry into the King Lud shipment. Surely the Minister will not continue to upset the industry by holding an inquiry into every shipment of Russian timber. The association wants to know where.it stands in this matter, and what
Ifr. Forde. is the future policy of the Government in respect of Russian shipments.
.- I hope that the Minister will not attempt iu any way to alter the duty on timber cut to size for box-making. If the duty were lowered, hundreds, if not thousands, of men at present engaged in the timber industry would be thrown out of employment. The case-making trade of Australia uses millions of feet of timber each year, and if imported shooks are allowed to enter this country duty free or under a low tariff, it will add greatly to our unemployment. Millions of cases are used for the export of our apples, pears, and citrus fruits, and they, are mostly made of Canadian timber, chiefly hemlock and spruce. Quite a number of cases are made from timber cut from local pine forests, but frequently fault is found with them in the overseas markets. I hope that this item will not be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation. I. have had considerable experience in case-making, and have imported millions of feet of timber. It was a great boon to the saw-millers and case-makers of Australia when the Government imposed on timber cut to size for casemaking a duty of 12s. British, and 14s. foreign. I do not object to undressed timber coming into Australia; but if timber prepared for case-making were admitted at low rates, I have no doubt that within twelve months a strong request would be made for the re-imposition of the present duties.
.- I do not believe that the Minister would agree to refer this matter ‘ back to the Tariff Board. That body has already reported on the timber duties, and the present Government has not interfered with the -rates it has recommended. A sufficient supply of case-making timber is available in this country to meet requirements for many years ahead. A large number of persons would be thrown out of employment if these duties were reduced. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) admitted that he realized that he had few supporters in this chamber. Many members of the Country party, excluding the honorable member for Swan, do not know whether they are freetraders or protectionist’s, but that honorable member, at least, knows where he stands.
– Order !
– The manufacturers of boxes carry on a big export business in three-ply timber. The core of the trees, af ter the three-ply has been stripped from the logs, is used mostly in the manufacture of cases, and if foreign timber were admitted at low rates of duty our saw-millers would be deprived of that market for their output as a result of foreign competition. It has been said that timber is produced in Russia under conditions of slavery; but slave conditions in Russia are no worse than the slave conditions in Canada, so far as the interests of the Australian timber trade are concerned. If Australian workers were reduced to the same standard of living as that of workers in cheap-labour countries overseas, how could members of the Country party expect to receive the benefits of the Paterson butter scheme? The honorable member for Swan wants cheap butter boxes, but dear butter. He desires cheap clothes, cheap wire, and cheap wire netting, but a high price for wool.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item under discussion.
– Afforestation activities are carried on in the Federal Capital Territory, and each State Government also has a forestry policy. Are we to develop our Australian forests, and then allow timber produced by black labour to be dumped on the Australian market, our locally-produced timber eventually having to be consumed by bush fires? I hope that the Minister will not, for a moment, entertain the request of the honorable member for Swan, or refer the matter back to the Tariff Board. Members of this committee are quite capable of deciding for themselves whether or not these duties should be altered. Every protection should be given to the Australian industry.
– I trust that the Minister will stand by the present duties. Under article 11 of the United Kingdom and Australia trade agreement, the Minister is bound to refer to the Tariff Board existing duties which affect British trade with Australia; but in the case of the duties now under consideration there is no such obligation upon him, because the timber affected comes from countries other than the United Kingdom; it comes from Scandinavia, Russia, and North America. Under these circumstances, the Minister can make up his mind independent of any requirement of the Ottawa agreement. If he is satisfied that the present duties are justified, he need not refer them back to the Tariff Board. I know of no subject on which the board made a closer investigation, or in which the range of evidence was wider than in connexion with the timber duties. Nearly two pages of the board’s report, which was presented in 1930, were occupied in giving a list of the representatives from the different parts of Australia who gave evidence. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has selected an isolated sub-item; but taking the duties as a whole, the board prepared carefully and scientifically a scale of duties which was satisfactory to the industry. The honorable member believes in investigation of duties by the Tariff Board, and I point out that the present duties are those recommended by it after full inquiry. It is easy for honorable members to repeat ex parte statements in this chamber, but I contend that if those statements are contrary to the findings of the board, it would be but fair to refer them to that body for further investigation. Members should not be expected to accept ex parte statements when the persons to whom they are attributed cannot be cross-examined, and it is not reasonable to attempt to use such statements in this chamber with a view to influencing members’ votes. “We should be careful not to accept such statements in preference to the considered judgment of the Tariff Board.
In Queensland the present duties have resulted in the opening up of hitherto inaccessible forests, upon which large sums of money have been spent in roadmaking and other developmental works. These operations have been particularly beneficial to men who would otherwise have been unemployed, and it would be a serious mistake to do anything that would check them.
– These duties were imposed before the present Government took office.
– I am merely discussing the merits of the duties. These duties, which have been recommended by the Tariff Board, were introduced by a previous ministry, and the present Government is now asking the committee to re-affirm them. I should not have considered it necessary to speak on this matter had it not been for the suggestion that a variation of the duties should be made. The case is perfectly clear for the legitimate encouragement ofthis important Australian industry. We have often heard it said that the industries that are natural to this country are particularly deserving of protection and development, and that we should not encourage “ hot-house “ industries. Surely in this great continent, with its immense timber resources, every encouragement should be given to the production of timber suitable for commercial purposes. At the same time we must have regard to the future requirements of the Commonwealth, and we must adopt such a policy as will conserve our forest areas, so that there will be a supply for the future. The Commonwealth Government is trying to encourage a serious outlook in this matter, and the imposition of these timber duties shows that the Government is favorable to a comprehensive forestry policy. I am glad to know that a decided forest conscience has been awakened in Australia. Proof of this is found in the Forestry School that has been established at Canberra, and which is working in co-operation with the forestry authorities in the States. A report recently issued by the Queensland Forestry Department indicates that a national outlook is now being displayed in regard to our large forest areas, and that their complete development is considered necessary. In view of the attitude of the Minister to these duties, I do not consider it necessary further to discuss them. As a general principle, we should recognize that, having enteredinto the Ottawa agreement we are bound by its terms, and, whether we like them or not, we must observe them in spirit; but this committee can make up its own mind in regard to these timber duties. I urge it to stand by one of our great natural industries. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) is aware of the large areas of softwood plantations that are being developed in South Australia, and in almost every other State a similar story can be told. I hope that the policy of the Government will be to do everything possible to conserve the Australian timber industry, and that the Minister will adhere to the existing duties.
– I should like the Minister to give the committee an assurance on this matter, although I have little doubt as to his attitude to these duties. I strongly support the present rates. Protracted negotiations occurred over a period of six or seven months between all sections of the industry in order to get a carefully prepared schedule of duties that were generally satisfactory. Each section put forward its separate requirements, and no finality could be reached until their requests were co-ordinated. Eventually duties were imposed which met with the approval of all, and I do not think that any harm has resulted to the community. Those in the timber industry, in the cities and in the country, all appear to be satisfied. In the circumstances, I hope that the Government will not interfere with the existing duties.
– Under bylaws, timber 4 inches x 3 inches is admitted free for case-making. Differences of opinion exist as to the suitability of hardwood as opposed to softwood for case-making, but, at its 1930 inquiry into the subject, the Tariff Board was impressed with the case for hardwood and recommended the duties which now appear in the schedule. There is no cause for alarm about those duties being reduced. They are not excessively high, and there is no necessity to refer them again to the Tariff Board under the Ottawa agreement, because in this instance the United Kingdom is not a producer.
A drawback is granted on all dressed or undressed timber that is imported and used for case-making for export purposes. That overcomes the argument that has been raised about penalizing the commodity exported.
– Some difficulty has arisen in that respect.
– No difficulty should arise. Those concerned have merely to state the case, and the rest is a machinery matter.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred toRussian timber. I assure him most emphatically that this Government does not stand for the importation ofRussian timber. The attitude of its members when in Opposition should convince the honorable gentleman in that regard. With virtual slavery obtaining inRussia, it would be quite wrong for the Government to permit the importation of commodities from that country to come into competition with our own factories or those situated in any other part of the British Empire. The honorable gentleman declared that some Russian timber has been recently disposed of. That I can neither deny nor affirm. The news certainly comes as a surprise to me and to the department. I am confident that if any Russian timber has been released it has been done under a security which will safeguard timber interests in the Commonwealth.The honorable gentleman is aware that the Tariff Board inquired into the matter. That board has power to invoke the aid of the Industries Preservation Act, and it will ensure that a price at least equal to the wholesale price charged for Australian timber is paid for that from Russia. In the circumstances, the committee need not be alarmed.
.- While I am satisfied with the statement that has been made by the Minister (Mr. White), there is evidently some fear in the minds of those engaged in the Victorian timber industry, for to-day I received the following telegram from the Victorian Hardwood Millers Association : -
Ours is a country primary industry. It has made notable progress, and employs large numbers of men. Prices reduced 30 per cent. since granted tariff protection. Reduction present duties would prevent further development, cause fear and result in reducing employment.
It has been said to-night that the bulk of our fruit is exported in softwood cases..
That is incorrect. I know that a quantity of Canadian timber is used for that purpose, I presume under the sanction of the department and subject to the drawback provision;but the great bulk of the cases used are made from hardwood. That applies particularly to the Tasmanian fruit industry. A method of treatment has been evolved which turns out our hardwood equally as attractive as pine.
– The dried fruit industry uses softwood for itscases.
– I am. aware of that. While it might not be generally suitable for building purposes, pinus insignis is coming into its own. South Australia particularly is to be commended upon its forethought in connexion with reafforestation. I believe that Queensland has also been active in this respect. Queensland pine is excellent in many respects, but it has to be treated and deodorized before it is suitable for butter boxes, the Victorian and Tasmanian butterindustry using mainly New Zealand white pine for export purposes, that timber being non-staining and taintless. On the evidence that prices have been reduced by 30 per cent. as a result of the existing duties, I urge that there should be no change.
– After the timber. industry of Australia has been subjected to years of investigation, the Government has come to a conclusion with regard to duties. Those adopted by it are the same as those which appeared in the schedule presented by the Scullin Government, indicating that, notwithstanding the exhaustive inquiry into the industry on the part of two governments holding contrary fiscal opinions, the value of our timber industry demands that no reduction of rates should be made.
I believe that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said that the Government has no intention of referring the item again to the Tariff Board.
– I said that as the United Kingdom is not, in this instance, a producer, there is no necessity to refer the item again to the Tariff Board under the terms of the Ottawa agreement.
– Some honorable members evidently desire to return to the conditions which operated prior to the imposition of the Scullin duties, when Australia was flooded with millions of feet of imported Oregon, which left our saw-mills idle, our teamsters unemployed and millions of feet of Australian softwood lying in the scrub, rotting. At that time, 70,000,000 superficial feet of Oregon had accumulated in the southern States waiting to be sawn. There is still a good deal of it in Australia entering into competition with our own timbers.
Honorable members must realize that consistency is invaluable in fiscal matters. They must realize, too, that the timber industry is of vital importance to every State, particularlythat which is so richly endowed by Providence, Queensland. That State from which I come has millions of feet of timber, equal or superior to anything in the world. In the ornamental section, its maple, walnut and silky oak are without peer; its kauri pine, a splendid softwood, exists in abundance in the far north, and magnificent hardwoods of every description are to be found throughout the State. I am glad that, as a result of the increased duties, people are being encouraged to use hardwoods. There is, however, a false impression that Australian softwoods are scarce. The important thing is to bring them into general use by protecting the local industry, and keeping out timbers from abroad,particularly those of the United States of America, which deserves no consideration from us. Our own softwoods will then be made available in any desired quantity.
– Why does the Queensland Government place such a heavy royalty on timber?
– That is a question of policy which concerns that Government. At the same time, it has been demonstrated that if the southern States desire to purchase Queensland timbers they will be assisted generously by the Queensland Government in the matter of decreased royalties. To their disgrace, the southern States have used oregon from the United States of America extensively, when excellent Australian softwoods of suitable length were available at competitive prices.
By urging the Government to instruct the Tariff Board to inquire with a view to allowing oregon to be again imported at a lower rate of duty the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) recently displayed sad ignorance of the position, and of the importance of the timber industry to Australia. He said that there was a factory in his electorate which employed 160 men, who would be benefited ifthe duty on Oregon were reduced. The Australian timber industry employs thousands. Our great mills, which at one time enjoyed a profitable export trade, are making every effort again to compete with the world. There are tremendous forests of hardwoods in Australia virtually untouched, containing timbers unequalled for beauty and durability. Only recently Australian hardwood was used extensively in a great building that has just been completed in the United Kingdom, and writers extolled the beauty of our product. The sooner these facts are realized by Australians generally, the better it. will be for the nation. I have here a telegram from the Timber Merchants Association of Queensland, which also speaks for the timber getters and settlers who have timber to sell. It reads -
Associated saw-millers and timber merchants seek your best efforts retain existing duties on all timbers. Ample timber supplies in Australian States to continue to supply the needs of the Commonwealth for very many years.
Those are our natural timber resources, without taking into consideration the ultimate results of our re-afforestation efforts. If honorable members would only take the trouble to inquire they would find that Australian timbers are eminently suited for every conceivable purpose, whether for the mining industry or building generally. In Queensland, local hardwoods are used in the mining industry. If honorable members were fully appreciative of the beauties of the panelling of the building in which we conduct our deliberations here, the flooring of King’s Hall, and the furniture which adorns every room, they would realize that we have an industry that is worthy of protection, and would not allow the local market to be flooded with cheap imported timber. We have timbers which make us the envy of other parts of the world. All that is needed is for public men to make known their value. It must be made known if advantage is to be taken of the opportunities for export that will present themselves when other great forests are cut out. The tariff is reasonable, and apparently is just, because no alteration of it is proposed. I sincerely trust that the Minister will not submit any phase of the industry to an investigation by the Tariff Board.. If that body were to get hold of it, Heaven alone knows what might happen to it; it might share a fate similar to that of an unfortunate Queensland industry - the construction of Diesel engines.
.- It is as well* to remind the committee that the subject-matter dealt with by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) comes under group 8, item 291. If the Chairman insisted upon relevancy, he would not permit a debate upon oregon at this stage.
– Oregon is included in another group.
– I wish to make my position quite clear. From time to time, I have dealt with the question that has been raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay, and have had good grounds for doing so. I am in favour of the item that we are now considering, and trust that it will be carried in its present form. In season and out of season, I have advocated re-afforestation. South Australia can claim to have done as much as, if not more than, any other State in connexion with afforestation. We are justly proud of what it has achieved, and hope that as time goes on a market may be found for the timbers that we grow. I have a good case to present to the committee in connexion with oregon, and shall submit it when that item is reached.
– I move -
That the figures and words “ 14s. ( intermediate tariff)” appearing in the proviso to sub-item (l), be omitted. .
The reason for the amendment is that no provision exists in these proposals for an intermediate tariff; consequently, any reference to such a tariff in the proviso to the sub-item would have no significance. The only country that would be entitled to the admission of this timber at the rate of 14s. per 100 super, feet is Canada, but as there have been no importations of it from that dominion the amendment does not affect the present position.
.- I regret that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has temporarily left the chamber, because I wished to point out to him, as well as to those who support the suggestion that he made, that imported fruit cases cut ready for nailing together would be offered for sale at the ship’s side for 6-Jd. apiece. It takes 3 super, feet of timber to cut a standard fruit case. That would work out at not more than 16s. per 100 super, feet. Any one who has any acquaintance with the building trade is aware that hardwood timber for building purposes cannot be bought under 24s. per 100 super, feet. By cutting down the timber for the case to a thickness of inch, two-thirds of the timber is wasted. I point this out to show what would happen if slats ready for nailing were allowed to come into Australia duty free, or at a low duty. Practically nothing would be obtained for the timber that is cut here for case-making.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) stated that hardwood cases were found quite’ suitable for export. I am unable to agree with him. Overseas markets have asked for what is known as the Canadian case. That is altogether different from the old standard fruit case, which is cut very thin, and which exporters from South Australia have refused to accept.
There are many thousands of acres of pine forests in South Australia, but they ~are in the growing stage. The case that is required for the packing of fruit for export is cut from 11-in. timber. That means that the log must have a diameter of about 15 inches. We are cutting boxes chiefly from the thinnings of pine forests, but these are not always suitable for export cases. It would appear that I am arguing against myself, but in reality that is not so. I stated earlier that large quantities of hemlock and spruce had to be imported for casemaking. That timber is allowed into Australia almost duty free, and, so far as South Australia is concerned, those conditions must continue for some considerable time. In years to come, our pine forests will provide suitable timber for the cases that I have mentioned.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) referred to the use of hardwoods in the mining industry. If he were to visit Broken Hill, he would find that it has been found necessary there to use softwoods, the reason being that it gives warning of moving ground, whereas hardwood would break without warning.
– Broken Hill is the sole exception among the mines of Australia.
– I feel sure that when the honorable member for Swan reads my explanation, he will agree that the present duty should continue.
.- I agree with the stand that is being taken by the Government. . The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), earlier in the evening, voiced the hope that the Government would continue the existing duties. I do not doubt his sincerity. I point out, however, that it was not the Government that he supports which imposed this duty, nor did those who to-day are sending telegrams to honorable members urging them to protect the industry give any assistance to the administration which inaugurated this protection of it.
The honorable member for Adelaide also argued that it is necessary to use softwoods in certain mines, because hardwood breaks without giving prior warning of moving ground. He probably had in mind brigalow, or some other semisoft wood. Broken Hill imported the timber that it has used, because it was - cheaper than Australian timber.
– That is not correct.
Mi. MARTENS.- It is absolutely correct. The hardwood timbers that have been used in the very big mines of Queensland, particularly at Mount Morgan and Gympie, will not break in any circumstances. Even where mines have been closed for many years, the timbers are still quite safe.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-items and paragraphs, as amended, agreed to.
Items 292 (a) to (h), 293 (a) (b) (c), 294 (a) (b) (c), and 295 (a) to (o) agreed to.
Item 296, sub-item (a) (Casks and vats, empty).
.- It has always seemed to me unreasonable that duty should be charged upon an Australian cask that has been sent overseas and is returned empty. The casks used in the wine industry are made in Australia, filled, sent overseas, and shipped back to this country, when an enormous duty has to be paid on them. It would be a -great benefit to that industry if they could be admitted free, and also be used two or three times.
– The duty is rebated.
– The privilege of the rebate of duty is allowed for a maximum period of three years, or a similarly long period. Applications have been received for an extension of the period, but anything longer I do not consider would be reasonable.
– I was not aware of that.
Sub-item agreed to.
Division 11. - Jewellery and Fancy Goods.
Item 318, sub-item (a2, 4a) (Master or controlling clocks, wristlet watches and cases).
.- This is an industry which was given substantial protection by the Scullin Government. After careful consideration, it proposed that the duties should be increased by the substitution of a fixed duty for the previously existing ad valorem rate. The manufacture of wristlet watches in Australia has had the effect of reducing the price of the imported lines to the public, in addition to building up an important industry in Australia. The price reduction is due to the importers of Swiss watches being compelled to meet the competition of the Australian manufacturers. The imposition of the duty has stopped the flow of cheap nickel wristlet watches into Australia. These watches were coming into this country by thousands, and were a menace to both the trade and the purchasing public. The Retail Jewellers Association informed the Tariff Board that it was anxious to rid itself of the trade in these so-called wristlet watches, where were no more than mechanical toys. The capital invested in this industry in Australia amounts to about £50,000, and the number of persons employed is about 150. The Australian wristlet watch manufacturers are producing all sizes and types necessary to meet the requirements of the public. The rates of duty now operating are those recommended by the Tariff Board in its report of the 3rd June, 1930. One development -of the new tariff is the establishment in Victoria of a working unit of a very old established Swiss firm. The company is trading under the name of the Australian-Swiss Manufacturing Company, at Bendigo, Victoria, and is supplying the market with an article for which there is always a fair demand. A flourishing industry is thus being built up inside the tariff wall. If this can be done in a time of depression, such as we are now passing through, much more could be done in good times. It is surely preferable for us to be giving employment to our people by this means than to be admitting to this country crowds of unemployed workmen from overseas. We need new chimney stacks and new factories in Australia, and we should welcome the old established manufacturing concerns of Switzerland and other continental countries, and of England and America, which establish branches of their various industries in this country.
As the result of the wider market secured by the tariff for the Australian “wristlet watches, the Victorian manufacturers have been busy improving their plants, and in undertaking the production of a wider range of designs. Handley and Tilley Proprietary Limited, of Abbotsford, Victoria, the largest manufacturers in Australia, report the following reductions of prices below those of last year : -
Gent’s cases, last year, 4s. each, now 3s. Od. each. Ladies case’s, last year, 3s. each, now 2s. Gd. each.
Gent’s cases, last year, 7s. Cd. each, now Ss. each. Ladies’ cases, last year, 5s. each, now 3s. 3d. each.
Gold has increased in cost equal to 4$d. per dwt. 9 carat gold; but, notwithstanding this, the price of 9 carat gold cases has been reduced as follows: -
One-hinged, last year, 13s. 6d., now, 13s. Two-hinged, last year, 14s. 6d., now, 13s. 9d.
As the increased cost of gold is equivalent to lOd. a case the real reduction is seen to be substantial. Handley and Tilley have a most efficient plant, a large proportion of which is Australian-made and is believed to be equal to the world’s best. The firm is capable of supplying all demands of the trade, and looks forward with confidence’ to materially increasing its working staff in the near future.
In addition to supplying watch cases for the standard type 15-jewel Swiss watches in all sizes and shapes, the Australian manufacturers are now making cases for many high-grade advertised lines, such as the Waltham, Rolex, Elgin, Thommen and Datum, Tavannes and Moeris watches. These are now fitted into and sold in Australian cases. The Australian public benefits alike by the lower prices and by the local makers’ guarantee.
I have made some inquiries to ascertain the growth of employment in this industry m Australia, and I find that the number of employees in the factory of Handley and Tilley Proprietary Limited, at Abbotsford, has increased as follows : -
Much of this development is due to the fact that this company has been able to capture the Australian market. It has also been able to increase its output and so reduce the price of its product to the people. I have no doubt that the experience of the Bendigo firm has been similar.
There is one aspect of the subject, however, to which the Government should give attention. The margin of protection allowed by the tariff introduced by the Scullin Government has been greatly reduced by the imposition of a tariff of 15 per cent., plus primage on all wrist watch movements that are brought into the Commonwealth to be cased in Australianmade cases. This counteracts, to a great extent, the margin of protection. It would be a very serious matter for the industry if this margin r were again reduced.
– I am glad to hear that statement. The steady growth in the employment given by this industry indicates the wisdom of giving it adequate protection. The establishment of the industry is undoubtedly due to the tariff policy of the Scullin Government. If it were possible to ascertain the number of instances in which employment has been increased because of ., the Scullin policy, the result would be surprising. When employment can be given to an additional 100 men here and there, a large total is soon reached. But for the tariff policy of the Scullin Government, many men who are to-day in work would be walking the streets.
– The watch cases being manufactured in Australia at present compare favorably with those being made in other parts of the world. This industry is in its infancy. Only four factories have so far been established in this country, but it is gratifying- to know that they seem to be soundly established. The class of work they do ranges from the very cheapest type of watch case to platinum and diamond cases which are very fair specimens of the jeweller’s art. Many varieties of cases are to-day being’ manufactured entirely in Australia. The patterns are being’ drawn, and the dies cut here. Precision work of this kind may be very valuable to this country if a war should ever occur, for it may not be generally realized that a watch factory can easily be turned into a fuse factory. The number of persons engaged in the manufacture of watch cases has undoubtedly grown, and the resultant increase of output has made possible a reduction of prices. The building up of an export trade with neighbouring countries is now more than a possibility, for it has already started. It seems that we may be able to outsell our opponents overseas before very long. It is true that our factories were started almost exclusively with foreign labour, but these foreign workmen took young Australians in hand for training, and my knowledge of the work of the Bendigo factory justifies me iri saying that the Australians who have been so trained will before very long be capable of teaching other Australians this very accurate work. . The reduction of price in this article is welcomed, and is entirely due to the increased output of the factories. Possibly very few people realize that Australia requires nearly 500,000 watches a year. I believe that we are doing the right thing in encouraging this industry, and in seeking to obtain our share of the trade in the lower priced watches. The demand for higher price watches is not very great in this country. The making of such watches is, to a large extent, the speciality of a few firms which produce the hand-made article. In regard to the importation of watch movements, I wish to say that the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and his predecessor in office have always been considerate when I have approached them. They have treated the watch movements as the raw material of the watch-case manufacturing industry, and have allowed them in under by-law. I am glad that the Government has seen fit to maintain the existing rate of duty. I believe that in establishing and fostering this industry we are doing something of great value to Australia.
.- The jewellery industry has been long established in Australia, and I am glad that the manufacture of cases for wristlet watches is now flourishing here, more particularly in the instances that have been mentioned. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) has said, the Government has endeavoured to cheapen the cost of these lines by admitting the watch movements free under departmental by-law. In case the interjection that I made while the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was speaking might be misunderstood, I wish to make it clear that by the operation of the Ottawa formula there is now a duty of 15 per cent, on foreign watch movements, plus 4 per cent, primage. The British movements, of course, come in duty free, but are subject to 4 per cent. * primage. The Tariff Board inquired into the subject of nickel-plated watch cases, but not into that of nickel silver cases. It was said that this line was not worth making. But that subject has now been referred to the board, and I hope that its report will come to hand before very long.
This duty is, of course, to some extent, also in a nature of a revenue item, as is the case with all jewellery lines.
Sub-item agreed to.
Items319 (b1) and 320 (b) agreed to.
Item 325 (a) agreed to.
Item 329 (Boots, shoes, slippers, clogs, patterns and other footwear).
.- This item shows an increase on the duties imposed by the Scullin Government. The footwear industry is important to Australia. The duties were increased by the Scullin Administration from 35 per cent. and 45 per cent. to 45 per cent. and 60 per cent. They are now 45 per cent. and 65 per cent.
This is not a new industry. It has been established in Australia for 50 years or more and its importance can be judged from the fact that there are 314 factories, employing 13,906 persons. Salaries and wages amount to £2,109,539, and the annual value of the output is £6,301,133. The industry is capable of supplying the whole of the requirements of the people in sufficient quantities, and at prices which impose no hardship on the consumer. There is practically no class of shoe, from the lightest infants’ shoes to the heaviest type of working boot, that is not made in bulk, under extremely competitive conditions which keep prices at a low level. There has been no action on the part of manufacturers to take advantage of the increased duties. On the contrary, since 1930, prices have decreased very considerably, so keen is the competition within the trade. The latest available figures, those for 1930-31, show that the industry absorbed 14,040,134 lb. of sole leather and 20,228,083 square feet of upper leathers, and as quite 90 per cent. of this raw material is of Australian production, the benefit to primary producers is apparent. After an inquiry into the question of the necessity for increased duties embodied in the tariff proposals of November, 1929, the Tariff Board in its report stressed the efficiency of the industry, and stated that those responsible for its development might well be proud of the progress made. It was further stated that the tariff had assisted in building up a very important Australian industry. The duties imposed have not been so high as to be prohibitive, but have been so adjusted as to enable the local manufacturers successfully to compete with products imported from all other countries. The high quality of tanned leathers produced by Australian tanneries can compare favorably with the best products from European countries. For many years it was thought by boot manufacturers that they could not get anything to take the place of German calf and other leathers from abroad. In the last few years, however, they have called on Australian tanneries for their requirements, and my recent inspection of boot factories has convinced me that the manufacturers are well satisfied with the local product. Unfortunately our exports to New Zealand have fallen off very considerably, due to the fact that New Zealand has now established its own factories. There are some people in Australia who will pay £3 3s. or £4 4s. a pair for American or English shoes, and some ladies are prepared to buy ballet shoes from Switzerland. They, however, are unnecessarily fastidious, because they could be quite well suited by the products of Australian factories. I hope that the Minister will not send this item for review by the Tariff Board in accordance with articles 9 to 14 of the Ottawa agreement. We know that there are certain British manufacturers who would like to exploit the Australian market; but the last Government realized the importance of keeping the work in Australia. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and others were a party to increasing the protection afforded this industry, and helped to keep the trade in Australia. Had that not been done, thousands of workmen would have been thrown out of employment. I trust that nothing will be done to decrease the duty, and interfere with the protection of an industry which deserves so well of the country.
. -This industry needs no eulogies from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and neither does the Government need any warnings from him. The boot and shoe industry was established long before the honorable member was born. It was an efficient industry in Victoria in pre-federation days, and supplies 95 per cent. of the Australian market. It is an industry of which we may be proud, and local competition is sufficient to keep prices within bounds. At one time Australia had an export trade in boots and shoes, not only to New Zealand, but also to Russia and other countries far afield. Our costs have increased considerably since then, and we have lost a great deal of our export trade ; but even now, with our slightly depreciated currency, there is an opportunity in the East to re-establish a trade overseas. The duties in the schedule are reasonable, and the Government at all times supports reasonable duties to protect efficient Australian industries.
Item agreed to.
Item 331, sub-item (d) (Rubber and rubber manufactures).
– I move -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to sub-item
Item 331 was amended by the March, 1933, resolution, and the goods covered by sub-item b of the resolution of the 13th October, 1932, are now covered by sub-item o of the March, 1933, resolution. The amendment does not make any alteration of the rates or of the wording of the item as set out in the group memorandum in possession of honorable members.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 332 (b) (Rubber manufactures n.e.i.).
– I move -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 9th March, 1933 -
Rubber manufactures and articles wholly or partly of rubber, viz. : -
1 ) Football bladders, bandages, clastic stockings, leggings, thighpieces, anklets, knee caps, wristlets and athletic straps, ad val. - British, 35 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.”
This paragraph is amended by the March, 1932, resolution, and the amendment just proposed is made in order that that portion of the March, 1933, resolution relating to this paragraph may now be debated. The amendment does not make any alteration of the rates or of the wording of the item as set out in the group memorandum in possession of honorable members.
.- This is one of those items relating to the importation of rubber goods such as football bladders, &c. Australian manufacturers are subject to considerable competition from eastern countries. I should like the Minister to look into the matter and, if necessary, impose adequate protection for the benefit of local manufacturers.
– I shall watch it closely.
Amendment agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether reports are correct to the effect that Australia House is not centrally situated, and, because of this, Agents-General are removing their offices to other centres in London, and further, that Australian products and tourist attractions are not prominently placed before the British public; if so, will remedial action be taken accordingly?
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - Australia House is situated approximately midway between the great financial, shipping, and importing centres of the City of London, on the one hand, and Whitehall and the huge shopping and hotel centres and places of entertainment of the West End, on the other, and is a prominent island building in the middle of one of the two main thoroughfares from the City to the West End. The Agents-General at present accommodated in Australia House have not given any indication of intention to remove their offices elsewhere, but the Government of New South Wales has notified its desire to determine, on 24th June next, the lease to that State of the portions of Australia House at present occupied by it. In addition to the continuous display at Australia House of various Australian products, the trade publicity organization there arranges for the exhibition and demonstration of the quality of Aus tralian goods on a very large scale throughout Great Britain, whilst Australian tourist attractions are constantly being brought before the public by means ofcinematograph films and the activities of the AustralianNational Travel Association.
e. - On the 24th March, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1 and 2 -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 April 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330404_reps_13_138/>.