13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H.Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As all honorable members have been inundated with circulars protesting against the proposed reduction of the Commonwealth grant to rifle clubs, will the Acting Leader of the Government assure the House that the Government will seriously consider the need for maintaining the grant on the present basis ?
– I understand that the honorable member has already been informed by the Assistant Minister for Defence that the grant to rifle clubs will be considered in connexion with the framing of the Estimates. I am not prepared to make any statement in anticipation of the budget speech.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether a representative of the Commonwealth Government will accom pany the trade ship which is to leave Australia for the Orient on the 13th April?What is the Government’s asso- ciation with this enterprise?
– The trade ship Nieuw Holland has been chartered by the Chambers of Manufactures. The Governmentis not responsible for initiating the project, but, realizing its potentialities for good, has given its benediction to it. A representative of the Department of Commerce will travel with the vessel, and I shall be the guest of honour at the dinner to be held on board on Easter Monday, the eve of the ship’s departure from Sydney. Believing the enterprise to be fraught with great possibilities of benefit to Australian trade, the Government has given every encouragement to the promoters.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is true that the Government considers that large amounts have been illegally claimed or received by certain firms under the Cotton Bounty Act? If so, has the Government instructed the Crown Law Department to recover such amounts, or to prosecute those who have made illegal claims ?
– The Government has been investigating for some time allegations of overpayment under the Cotton Bounty Act.
– As the House is to adjourn to-morrow for the Easter vacation, will the Minister for Trade and Customs lay on the table to-day the papers in connexion with the overpayment of cotton bounty?
– The Government has not yet dealt with those papers, so that it will not be possible to comply with the honorable member’s request.
Mr.NOCK- Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of the Tariff Board on axe handles? Can the honorable gentleman say when the report will be available to honorable members ?
– As the Tariff Board is dealing with more important items, I cannot say when its report on axe handles will be available.
– Having received numerous letters of protest from private individuals and public bodies relative to the death sentences passed on a number of aborigines in Darwin, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether in view of the primitive nature and tribal customs of the natives he will use his influence to have their sentence commuted to a term of imprisonment?
– I have already signed a document commuting the sentence of death to imprisonment for life.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Government has received proposals from any person or persons in Sydney regarding a collection of relics of Sir Henry Parkes which is offered for housing in Parliament House, Canberra? If so, what action does the Government propose to take?
– I am informed that a circular letter on this subject has been issued, but it has not yet been considered by the Government.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs state whether the Government of the United Kingdom has definitely withdrawn its embargo against the export of munitions of war to China and Japan? If the embargo should be re-imposed, will the Commonwealth Government take precautions to ensure that Australia will act in unison with the United Kingdom in this regard?
– The embargo has been definitely withdrawn. The hypothetical circumstances mentioned by the honorable member will be considered if, and when, they arise.
Report by Mr. Archdale Parkhill.
– Some time ago, a promise was made to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) that the report submitted by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) on his visit to the Northern Territory when Minister for the Interior would be laid on the table of the House. I ask the present Minister for the Interior when that report will be available ?
– I understand that such a promise was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). Certain portions of the report were intended for the information of Cabinet and the department only. I understand that the author has been asked to eliminate the confidential portions, and to make the report in condensed form available to honorable members.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether the successful applicants for temporary employment at Canberra in connexion with the tabulation of the census will have to pay full fares from their present places of residence, or will the Government extend to them the concession enjoyed by successful applicants for permanent employment in the Public Service of having to pay not more than £3 ?
– I have previously announced that while the liability for fares will attach to successful applicants who are prepared to accept the appointments offering, the Government will advance to them the amount involved, repayment to be made in instalments out of salary.
– In connexion with the examination of applicants for the positions of tabulating clerks and the selection of successful examinees, will it be possible to devise some more equitable system under which those coming from distant States will be placed on the same basis as those who may come from Melbourne, Sydney, or nearer Canberra?
– What is an equitable basis is a question which must be considered in relation to the position of the taxpayers as a whole, as well as in relation to the individuals affected. The proposal of the Government is, I suggest, a perfectly fair one. An advance will be made to pay fares, and the money will be repaid out of salary. If the system suggested by the honorable gentleman were introduced into all cases of temporary employment, it would sometimes happen that the fares would be far greater than the employment was worth, and I am afraid that no government could admit such a principle as one for general application.
Effectof Importations on Australian Industries.
– In view of the large increase in customs revenue, due to the encouragement of importations to the disadvantage of Australian industries, can the Minister for Trade and Customs say if the Government will consider the advisableness of reviewing its tariff policy in order to restore to the QueenslandIndustries the adequate protection they enjoyed under the Scullin tariff?
– The honorable member’s question touches upon a matter of policy; but for his information, I would remark that unemployment figures now are lower than they have been since March, 1931. I may add that the employment figures for the Broken Hill Proprietary Works at Newcastle have almost trebled, and they have also improved at Holden’s motor body-building works, and many other such establishments throughout Australia. The improvement in employment indicates that the Government’s policy of giving adequate protection to efficient industries is approved by the people generally.
– Is the Minister aware that 150 employees of the North Australian Rubber Mills in Brisbane were dismissed yesterday?
– No; and I am much surprised at the statement. I remind the honorable member that changes in employment in factories may be due to a number of causes. Sometimes building operations necessitate a reduction of staff, night shifts are taken on or put off, and there are other reasons. If the honorable member will give me particulars of the industry referred to, I will have the necessary inquiries made.
– I should like to know if the Minister for Trade and Customs will give instructions for the circulation among members, while the Parliament is in recess, of the reports of the Tariff Board as they are published, if they deal with matters which are included in the schedule now before us?
– The practice is to distribute the Tariff Board reports to members as soon as they have been dealt with by Cabinet. I think that a greater number of these reports have been circulated during the last month than has been the practice for a. long time previously. So far as may be possible, I shall expedite the circulation of the reports when received.
Powers of State Authorities
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House if, in the event of this Government lifting the embargo upon the admission of certain plants to the Commonwealth, it would still be competent for health or other departmental officers of one of the States to recommend to their government that the distribution and sale of such plants should be prohibited ?
– It is not usual to give legal opinions in answer to questions, but the law on the subject mentioned by the honorable gentleman is so plain and beyond dispute, that I am prepared to answer offhand that there is no doubt that every State has power to prohibit the distribution or sale within its borders of any articles, after they have ceased to be concerned in interstate or foreign trade. For example, a State could prohibit the sale of bread, petrol, potatoes or any commodity within its borders without interference by this Parliament, subject to the limitation that it could not prevent interstate trade or transport from abroad against the will of this Parliament.
– In the event of any State Government prohibiting the importation of the products of another State, would the Commonwealth Government be empowered to override that prohibition?
– I can only give the honorable member the facts and allow him to form his own opinion, because the legal question involved has not yet been decided authoritatively. The States have the power to protect their people by their own laws against plant diseases and other diseases. The Commonwealth has full power to legislate in respect of quarantine, but the extent of that power has not been authoritatively defined. Under section 109 of the Constitution, the federal law prevails where a State law is inconsistent with it.
– With reference to a statement of the Prime Minister as to the date on which he would return to Canberra, will the Acting Leader . of the House take honorable members into his confidence, and let us know what are the movements of the right honorable gentleman, and also if he is suffering reaction as the result of his visit to Western Australia ?
– -The Government appreciates the kindly inquiry of the honorable member. The Prime Minister did announce his intention to return to Canberra before the Easter adjournment of the House ; but he is now expected not to arrive in Canberra before Saturday next.
– Has the Acting Leader of the House any statement to make in connexion with the negotiations in progressbetween the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene) and the New Zealand Government for the entry of New Zealand potatoes into Australia?
– There is nothing to report; but, as I have already indicated, the conditions upon which many classes of goods are allowed entry into New Zealand and Australia respectively are under discussion. Nothing can be or will be done until the Assistant Treasurer has reported to Cabinet, and, in any case, action affecting the tariff will have to be brought before Parliament for validation.
– In view of statements which have appeared in the press to the effect that a committee of members composed of Government supporters has made certain recommendations to Cabinet for an amendment of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, can the Acting Leader of the House indicate whether the Government intends to give effect to those recommendations ?
– Apparently the honorable gentleman believes everything that he reads in the newspapers. No report has been received from the committee referred to, and, if it had been received, it would not become the subject of discussion by Ministers in the House.
– I have received from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Bouse this afternoon to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The policy of the Government in connexion with hotels in the Federal Capital Territory.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Were it not for a report in this morning’s Canberra Times, honorable members would not have known of the proposed change of policy in connexion with the Hotel Kurrajong. It is now proposed to house the census staff there. It would appear that the department is acting without authority, because no consideration has been given to the convenience of those members of Parliament who, when in Canberra, live at the Hotel Kurrajong. Evidently it was intended to put the new policy into operation before honorable members could enter any protest. The report this morning suggests that it is the intention of the Government to force those honorable* members who believe in government enterprise to support private enterprise. Recently, the tariff at the Hotel Kurrajong was increased, whereas the tariff at tha Hotel “Wellington, which is privately controlled, was reduced. I do not agree with the proposed change of policy. The hotels of Canberra were built by the Commonwealth, and should be conducted by the Commonwealth. It is now proposed to house the census staff at the Hotel Kurrajong. Previously, it was thought that they could be accommodated :it Duntroon, but it now appears that the cost of renovating the buildings there, as well as of providing transport to and from Duntroon, would , entail expenditure greater than would be the case if the staff were accommodated at the Hotel Kurrajong. In my opinion, it would be more economical for the work connected with the census to be performed at Duntroon, and for the staff to be housed in that locality. The accommodation there was considered satisfactory for the cadets and others associated with the Royal Military College, and it should be suitable for those engaged on the census. Whatever renovations or alterations were considered necessary could be made. The Hotel Kurrajong cost the taxpayers of Australia £91,718, and it should be controlled by the Government for the accommodation, not only of members of Parliament, but also of tourists and other visitors to Canberra. The men engaged temporarily on -the census will receive only a little over the basic wage, and will be unable to pay as much for their accommodation as is charged to the present ‘guests at the Hotel Kurrajong. The effect will ‘be detrimental to the goodwill value of that hotel; in future, it will be regarded by tourists as second rate, and it will take some time for it to regain public favour. The report also states that the Government is of the opinion that it would be uneconomical to establish a commissariat staff at Duntroon. Here is an opportunity for the Government to honour its pre-election pledge to provide work for the unemployed. In this city there are many women who would be glad to find employment on a catering staff at Duntroon. If the proposed change is made, it will be difficult to accommodate the delegates to the various conferences which will be held in Canberra in the future. Recently, a conference in connexion with cancer research was held in this city, and at various other times there have been conferences of the Young Women’s Christian Association workers, and others. Apparently, the Government desires to divert this trade from the government-controlled hotels, either to those hotels which are conducted by private enterprise, or to the’ Hotel Canberra, where the tariff is higher. The guests at present at the Hotel Kurrajong comprise 35 members of Parliament, thirteen permanent boarders, seven secretaries to Ministers, and five pressmen, a total of 60, in addition to casual visitors. I should like the Minister, when replying, to explain why the tariff at the Hotel Kurrajong was recently increased by ls. a day to those guests who have only a cup of tea and a slice of toast for their ‘breakfast. Are we to understand that it is the policy of the Government to close all government-controlled institutions both in Canberra and elsewhere ?
– Although the statement made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) warrants a reply, it can hardly be said that he has raised a matter of national importance, particularly in view of the fact that subjects that are actually of national significance are now awaiting decision by this Parliament. I do not know the source from which the information published in the Canberra Times this morning, about the accommodation of the census staff at the Hotel Kurrajong, was obtained, yet it has some foundation in fact. The matter is still under discussion by Cabinet, but it is hoped that the proposal will be carried out. I am satisfied that when a full statement upon the matter is made to the House, honorable members will readily see that the
Government is doing what is right. It makes uo apology to the House, or to thu country for trying to save the people’s money. Honorable members should bear in mind that the hotels in Canberra were not built to be run as losing concerns, simply because members find it convenient to use them. In order to give employment, it was decided to take the census this year. This necessitated the provision of accommodation in Canberra for from 200 to 250 persons, who will be engaged in the work for from six months to two years. The majority of them will be employed for the two-year period. The department has been busily engaged in ascertaining whether a sufficient number of houses are available for the accommodation of this staff.
One scheme which found favour, and which appeared, at. first, t.o offer a satisfactory solution of the problem, was to utilize the buildings at Duntroon, but upon an inspection being made recently, it. was found that at least £4.000 would have to be expended in .making those buildings habitable. When the Defence Department ceased to conduct the military college there, it was found that a certain amount of damage had been done to the buildings, such as the removal of wash basins and sanitary conveniences. The Government was not prepared to spend that large sum if it could be avoided, although it was recognized that those premises would be a good standby iri the event, of other accommodation not being available. Officers of the department have been thoroughly examining the position, and it is found that £40 of the taxpayers’ money in hard cash is being lost week by week at the Hotel Kurrajong, while a similar loss is being suffered at the Hotel Canberra. Although individual members may feel aggrieved at having to pay an extra ls. a day for their board, I point out that the taxpayers are losing to the extent of about £S0 a week on the two government hotels.
– Does that include the cost of the maintenance of the gardens surrounding the hotels?
– -That cost is not included. After exhaustive inquiry, the officers of the department found that only on 35 days during the last twelve months was the accommodation at the Hotel Canberra insufficient to meet the needs of the guests at both that hotel and at the Hotel Kurrajong. During the last two months, two of the government hotels have been leased to private persons, announcements to that effect having been made in this House. Owing to the leasing of the Hotel Wellington, we have been able to dispense with the services of a caretaker, and the hotel has become revenueproducing to the extent of about £20 a week, besides giving a certain amount of employment.
The honorable member for Hunter remarked that the utilization of the Hotel Kurrajong for the accommodation of the census staff would cause unemployment. On the contrary, it is anticipated that the census work will increase employment in Canberra, and I venture to say that the business people of this city will soon be able to endorse that statement. If al! the guests can be accommodated at the Hotel Canberra, the two private hotels or the private boarding houses, the Government will be able so to reduce its loss on hotel management as to make the accounts about balance. The scheme has been carefully considered, and, in my opinion, although individual members may cavil at it, the country at large will be pleased to know that this change is being made. The constituents of honorable members, at least, will know that the Government is safeguarding their interests in this matter.
– The Government would be pleased to see action taken in other directions also.
– I have no doubt that satisfactory action will be taken in this particular matter. The recent increase in the tariff at the Hotel Kurrajong was the result of careful inquiry by officers of the department, and certain recommendations were made. But even if the changes recommended were made, it would be impossible to make the two Government hotels pay. Now the Government has an opportunity to overcome this difficulty. According to last year’s figures, ample accommodation will be provided for visitors if the scheme under contemplation is carried out. Visitors and others will have the option of patronizing any one of three hotels, which have varying tariffs. I refer to the two privately leased hotels, and to the Hotel Canberra. Personally, I should be glad if a suitable applicant could be found for a lease of the Hotel Canberra, so that the Government could relieve itself of the responsibility of conducting it, and hand it over to private enterprise. But failing that, the scheme under consideration should meet with the approval of the country generally. The hotel tariff which honorable members have been charged has been made as reasonable as possible. It is true that some members have complained, and no doubt the expense has been slightly higher than usual on account of the House having been sitting on four days a week; but members come to Canberra with their eyes open, and they cannot expect the Government to run hotels as a losing proposition to meet their convenience. The Government has no hesitation in saying that it endorses the principles underlying the scheme that I have outlined.
– The Minister states that the scheme has not yet been adopted.
– A sub-committee of Cabinet has been appointed to go into the matter, and arrange the details. Nobody can say what the tariff at the Hotel Canberra will be, because Cabinet has not yet come to a decision regarding it. The Government has, however, come to the conclusion that ample room is available at the Hotel Kurrajong to house the staff to carry out the work of taking the census. The honorable member for Hunter has said that this could have been done at Duntroon. That possibility was examined, but the Government found that although the Duntroon premises could have been got ready to accommodate the staff for an outlay of £4,000, the rooms available would not have been sufficient for the actual carrying out of the work. The cost of transport that would be involved by doing the work at Duntroon has not yet been thoroughly examined, but I understand that no saving could be effected by doing the work at Duntroon. Bus accommodation for the staff would have to be provided between the Hotel Kurrajong and Acton, as it would have been necessary between Duntroon and Acton, so there would be no actual saving in the cost of bus transport. As the matter stands, honorable members will, I think, realize that the Government is doing the right thing, and it has no hesitation in putting the scheme forward. It has been suggested that the closing of the Hotel Kurrajong would result in a lack of accommodation for those attending important conferences that may be held in Canberra, such as the conference on cancer research. I point out that ample accommodation in the hotels provided by the Government and by private enterprise, as well as by private boarding establishments, is available in this city. Honorable members generally will, no doubt, agree that the Government should be congratulated, rather than criticized, upon its proposed action.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– I listened carefully, and I heard only one call.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 1 1 a.m. to-morrow.
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)
InCommittee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 4th April (vide page 830), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167) (Volume 135)-
And on motion by Mr.White (vide page 29)- ]. That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the thirteenth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, be amended as hereunder set out.
Group 5. - Items amended by Scullin Government and supported by Tariff Board reports.
Division 13. - Paper and Stationery
Item 334, sub-items (l3) (m1) (Gummed paper, glass paper and flint paper).
.- This is another of the industries that was put on a firm footing by the duties imposed by the last Government. Any one who has studied the industry must admit that it has been established on a sound basis. It is a credit to those who have put their money into it, who arc now furnishing employment for Australians in making a product which was formerly imported. All the raw materials used are of Australian origin, and comprise craft paper, glue and crushed glass. The advantages of this duty are, therefore, widely distributed. Australian abrasive papers are being used with complete satisfaction by such bodies as the Victorian Government Railways, the Public Works Department, and by Australian match manufacturers. Irrefutable documentary evidence of satisfactory quality was handed to the Tariff Board at its inquiry. The use of Australian abrasives has not increased costs to the consumer in the slightest degree. That is an important point, because it is generally objected that, when an industry is granted protection, it increases its charges to the public. The history of this industry in Australia affords another example of the fact that, instead of increasing prices, sane protection effects a general reduction, for, since the company began operations, it has reduced prices by at least 15 per cent. The tariff was necessary, not to offset prices, but to militate against the longstanding prejudice in favour of foreign brands. The tariff on sand, glass and flint papers will enable local manufacturers to secure a large proportion of the Australian trade in the abrasive papers that are covered by this sub-item, and assist them gradually to undertake the manufacture of other abrasives, such as garnet, carborundum, and emery papers and cloths. At page 7 of its report on abrasive papers and cloths, the Tariff Board states -
The board is satisfied as to the quality and efficiency of the goods produced by the applicant company.
Notwithstanding that the applicant company’s selling prices have been lower than those of the imported goods, and that the quality of its products is satisfactory, the company has so far supplied only an inappreciable proportion of the requirements. This failure to obtain a greater share of the business is apparently due to preference displayed for the imported goods by consumers, who are evidently prepared to bear the extra cost in order togratify their desire for the imported article.
I am glad that, since the local product has been effectively protected, and consumers have had to purchase it, the prejudice against the Australian article has been steadily dying out. The board continues -
The board is satisfied that, so far as the papers under consideration are concerned, there isno necessity to import, except as to the special papers already mentioned herein.
The industry under review, in so far as it covers the manufacture of sand paper, glass paper and flint papers, is one which, in the opinion of the board, is deserving of encouragement . As already stated, the whole of the raw materials used are of Australian origin. Seeing that the selling prices of the Australian papers have been under those of the competitive imported papers, and the local manufacturers have given an undertaking not to increase their prices, it is evident that if, as the result of additional protection, the business now done in the overseas products were diverted to the Australian goods, subject to admission under by-law of the special papers referred to previously herein, there would be no added cost to users. As a matter of fact, the evidence indicates that, by reason of decreased costs of production consequent upon increased output, the selling prices of the local papers will bo substantially reduced, with resultant saving to consumers on prices hitherto obtaining.
The remarks that apply to this industry apply to others. Much of the employment for which the Minister credits the present Administration is due entirely to the protectionist policy of the Scullin Government, which enabled many businesses to be built up in Australia. For tunately, this Government has not yet had time to knock away the foundations of the policy which has given so much direct and indirect employment. This industry draws a good deal of its raw material from the iron and steel works at Newcastle, and keeps many men in employment. I hope that the Minister will not do anything to upset its stability.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 338 (a) and 340 (a) (b) (c) agreed to.
Division 14.- Vehicles
Items 355 and 357 (b) agreed to.
Item 359, sub-items (b1) (f3) (g1) (Vehicle parts).
.- The motorcar spring industry was one of those which came under the consideration of the Scullin Government when it was casting about for means of providing additional employment in Australia. That Government, when laying the foundations for its protectionist policy, desired, among other things, to establish industries which would use the product.? of the iron and steel works at Newcastle, resulting in an increased output and reduced charges to subsidiary industries. As will be seen from the following table, the imports of motor-car bodies have decreased appreciably since the Scullin tariff was imposed : -
An examination of that comparative table of imports shows how severely the automotive manufacturing industry and the manufactures of motor springs in Australia have been affected. They are still passing through a most trying time. At present all chassis for motor vehicles arc imported without road springs, these being supplied by Australian manufacturers. The market available to local manufacturers comprises the supplying of these original equipment springs, together with springs for replacement purposes, and both fields are taken care of wholly and satisfactorily by the local industry. Since most motor vehicles use four sets of springs, it will be seen that the number of springs required in normal trading periods runs into large quantities, and that their manufacture represents an important volume of business, which gives employment to many Australians.
There are over 40 laminated spring manufacturers in Australia, distributed fairly evenly in the capital cities. The majority of these organizations cater solely for replacement spring work, but there are five manufacturers handling springs for original equipment purposes. Each of the latter has a modern spring manufacturing plant fit to be compared with that in any other part of the world, and capable of producing springs the equal of those manufactured anywhere. Under normal trading conditions, these five manufacturers can readily handle the total Australian volume of business, even allowing for its equalling at some future time the peak period of the year 1928-29, when 92,19S unassembled chassis were imported. With the present restricted volume of trade, any one of the five manufacturers could supply the entire requirements of the Australian market. The raw materials used are wholly of Australian manufacture, and represent a most important outlet for local steel products. The steels required are special alloy steels. A considerable amount of experimental work has l-.-.m carried out by the Australian ste’ ‘ companies, with a view to bringing the.r product to a high standard of perfection, and a position has now been reached at which they are able to produce these alloy steels at a uniformly high standard. Accordingly, the spring manufacturing industry not only is of great importance to steel producers, but, through them it reacts on our coal-mines and limestone quarries, as well as benefiting associated industries such as the transport industry. An additional advantage is the experience gained by our steel producers in the handling of alloy steels, the more intensive development of which I believe can be expected when there ia a return to anything like normal times. The advance of Australian manufacture in the original equipment field has had a beneficial effect not only on the suppliers of raw materials and on the spring plants themselves, but also on the motoring public of Australia. . Road conditions in this country are such that stronger springs are demanded than are usually supplied by American or British manufacturers, whose springs are designed for road conditions that are more nearly perfect, because of the greater attention that has been, paid to road construction, and the expenditure that has been incurred on it. The prices at which springs are sold in Australia compare favorably with those at which they were imported when the duty upon them was the same as was imposed on the chassis. The aim of overseas motor vehicle manufacturers is to sell to Australia as much of the vehicle as possible. Every deletion from the chassis reduces the selling price of the vehicle, and correspondingly the total sales volume. Accordingly, they have consistently refused to delete items from the chassis until the tariff has compelled them to do so. The last Government deleted as many items as possible by imposing high duties on the different paris, with a view to their being manufactured in Australia. Where keenly competitive conditions exist in this country, and where obviously no advantage Ls taken of the tariff, the tariff is beneficial to the existence of local industries. This is another industry that gives employment to a large number of our people, and I sincerely trust that the Minister will not be in a hurry to lessen the protection given to it, on the pretext that something of that sort must he done in order to comply with the terms of the Ottawa agreement. Interference with the industry in that direction must result in unemployment for many persons who today are engaged in it. I should like the Minister to tell me whether there is any truth in the statement that this is one of the items that is to be referred back to the Tariff Board for further investigation and report.
– It is not necessary for me to say anything about this industry, because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has already given a full account of it. The honorable gentleman has pointed out how Australian industries in general benefited during the regime of the last Government. That claim would appear to be contradicted by the figures relating to unemployment. These show that when the Scullin Government came into power the number of unemployed was 120,000. By January, 1930, the number had increased to 130,000 ; by April of the same year to 200,000; by January, 1931, to 285,000; and by December of that year to 300,000; That, however, is by the way; I mention the fact merely because some honorable members opposite would appear to have overlooked it. All that
I wish to say now is that 90 per cent, of the replacement trade in springs was held by Australian manufacturers before this duty was imposed. Unquestionably, however, the duty has helped these manufacturers to engage in the production of new kinds of springs. The local factories are well equipped for this class of work. Henderson’s Spring Works, in Melbourne, have been operating for probably the last twenty years. The Tariff Board has approved of these duties, and has shown that the price of springs has been reduced to half what it was before they were manufactured in Australia. Therefore, this is the sort of industry that ought to be encouraged. It absorbs Australian steel, thus assisting employment at Newcastle and Broken Hill. It is not intended at present to re-submit the matter to the Tariff Board. An inquiry into it was held in. 1930, when the board supported the existing duties, which for the time being will continue to be imposed. Some time ago I said that the engineering industry generally, in its application to the products turned out at Broken Hill, would be overhauled ; but that is a somewhat distant prospect.
Sub-items agreed to.
Division 16. - Miscellaneous
Item 375 (c) agreed to.
Item 376, sub-item (a1, 2) (Bags, baskets, boxes, cases, trunks, purses, wallets, with or without fittings)
.- This industry came under my notice while I was Minister for Trade and Customs. The last Government imposed the existing protection after very careful consideration, believing that the industry gave considerable employment to Australian tanneries, which were experiencing difficulty in placing their products. In the past, £150,000 annually was sent abroad for the purchase of ladies’ handbags, purses and wallets. At the present time we are assisting to keep in employment boys and girls who make these articles here, whereas formerly we imported the goods of European, Eastern, British and American factories. It is no exaggeration to say that Australia is one of the principal hide and leatherproducing countries of the world ; yet, to within rr:ent years, we expended sub stantial sums with a considerable degree of prodigality in overseas markets, chiefly in Germany and the United States of America, in the purchase of leather products for domestic uses. For many years prior to 1930 the importations of leather handbags, purses, and travelling bags reached a value of £200,000 annually. Such an uneconomic and illogical condition of affairs had, sooner or later, to come to an end, and a stop was put to it when the Scullin Government came into office. Effective protection was then imposed with a view to enabling the local manufacturers to supply the whole of the demand for these articles. The importations of leather products, which in the year 1931-32 were entered under the three tariff sub-items now under review, were valued at only £9,841. That will show the extent to which importations were affected by the duty, and the 50 per cent, surcharge imposed by the Scullin Government. The largest section of the industry is that which manufactures travelling goods, ladies’ handbags, purses, wallets, &c. This section is successfully producing every variety and colour in leather handbags, and buyers are satisfied that the manufacturers are adopting every change of pattern which takes place overseas. Recently a large emporium featured a range of Australian made handbags as being of either English or continental manufacture. While such action is to be deplored, it indicates that in regard to quality and style the locallyproduced article is in every respectequal to that which is imported. In fact, the man in the street is scarcely able to distinguish the local from the imported article. The industry in Victoria gives employment to 539 persons, and when these duties were imposed an additional 100 hands were employed. It has provided increased employment because of the protectionist policy laid down by the Scullin Government, and it is one of those industries to which the. Minister points as having received considerable benefit because of the policy of this Government. I say that, in spite of this Government, some of these industries still survive. If any harm is done to them because of the present policy, the Labour party, when it is returned to power, will restore to them the protection that they well merit.
– Honorable members on this side of the chamber are just as much interested in the development of Australian industries as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). This industry certainly merits the support of honorable members, and it may be of interest to them to know that, since its establishment, the local manufacturers have secured most of the business that formerly was transacted “abroad. Prior to the imposition of these duties, some £200,000 worth of these articles were imported into Australia. Although the industry is now firmly established, any downward alteration of. the duty will place it at, the mercy of foreign manufacturers of cheap products. The fact that the industry employs 1,000 persons, and that some £250,000 has been invested iu buildings and plant, should be sufficient to warrant the support of this Parliament. The industry is of distinct value to Australia. It uses local raw materials; in fact, it uses Australian leather to the value of £100,000 per annum, and, if the duty remains unaltered, there are excellent prospects of the industry being expanded. Since it has been established, keen competition has taken place between manufacturers, and, consequently, prices have been reduced, and the people of Australia have received excellent service from it.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 390, sub-item (a1, 2) (Cordage, rope and twines).
.- I am interested in this item, because of the existence of the cordage factory of Messrs. Donaghy and Son.? at Geelong. That firm has been supplying considerably more than local requirements for many years. The industry in Australia is not one of the very large industries, but it is very important and long-established. It is particularly important in a country like Australia-, which is still in the developmental stage. My knowledge of the industry is confined to Messrs. Donaghy and Sons’ works at Geelong, which, I believe, are typical of the industry as a whole. The ‘ Tariff Board, in its report of the 19th November, 1930, was particularly complimentary to the industry. It said -
The board is convinced that the industry in Australia has reached a high standard of efficiency. The quality of the locally-made article compares favorably with the best overseas productions, the only criticism on thi* score being that, in some cases, bag-sewing; twines, for instance, thu local manufacturer’sproduct is of a higher quality than is necessary for the use to which it is put.
The whole tone of the report is satisfactory and encouraging to the industry. Because of the exchange and other factors, the local industry has, since the depression, obtained a much larger share of the local trade. During the last two or three years, it has not taken advantage of its sheltered position; in fact, prices have fallen, and the users of its products have had the benefit of the decline in the price of raw materials. The industry has worked for many years under duties of 30 per cent. British, and 40 per cent, foreign. The rates are now 40 per cent, and 60 per cent, respectively. The increase in protection is not very much, particularly bearing in mind the fact that the greater part of the raw material is imported, and is subject to a reasonably high duty, and also to primage and exchange. The industry is now slightly apprehensive because of the fact that out of 220 odd items that were referred back to the board for investigation, thirteen items, including this one, were picked out for re-inquiry. However, I take it that no particular significance is to be attached to that action ; that it is part of the policy of the Government as time goes on to refer all items back to the Tariff Board, and that this is one of the relatively early items to be so referred back. I ask the Minister to have full warning of the approach of the Tariff Board inquiry given to the companies which are participating in this industry, and also to inform them of the particular aspects into which the Tariff Board wishes to inquire.
. -The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) rightly referred to this industry as one which has done its duty to the country, and particularly to the primary producers. The firm of Donaghy and Sons, of Geelong, was one of the first to, commence in Australia the manufacture of reaper and binder twine, and it is significant that soon after it started operations, a reduction of the price of that commodity took place. The primary producers have no cause for complaint regarding the quality and price of the locally manufactured reaper and binder twine. The Australian manufacturers have given their clients splendid service, in fact, they have supplied an article of a higher quality than is necessary for the use to which it is put. This industry is thoroughly established in the constituency of Maribyrnong. It has, from time to time, sent its agents abroad in order to obtain the latest machinery for installation in the local factories. The rope works of Footscray are to-day manufacturing a score of articles that at one time were not made in Australia. The factory is thoroughly well organized, and has associated with it an engineering branch which, after obtaining patterns and the right to manufacture, has turned out machinery of an intricate nature. Of course, machines which produce an article which is required say, once in a decade, are not made in Australia. They are made by British engineering firms which cater for the trade of the world. This industry has shown the extent to which manufactures may be developed in Australia as a result of reasonable and proper protection. I have pleasure in supporting the item as it stands, and with the honorable member for Corio, I hope that if it is to be reconsidered by the Tariff Board, clue notice will be given to the manufacturers to enable them to prepare their evidence.
– The honorable member is painting the lily.
-I am not. I am speaking a good word for an industry whichhas developed under the protective policy of this country. I felt it necessary to testify to the fact that this industry is particularly beneficial to our primary producers.
.- Undoubtedly, the rope and cordage industry of Australia is efficiently conducted. Even in pre-federation days this industry was able to maintain certain operations successfully, though it had then the assistance of only a low duty. Under the 1921-30 tariff the duties were- British, 30 per cent. ; intermediate, 35 per cent. ; and general, 40 per cent. In consequence of the efficiency of the industry and the improved machinery which has been installed, more and more of this business is coming to the local manufacturers, and an export trade of small dimensions is being done. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) has expressed apprehension lest the TariffBoard should do anything to injure the industry. It is true that the board has been instructed to make another inquiry into the subject, but there is no need for alarm. Perhaps it may be decided to dissect this item for the reason that certain cordage cannot economically be made in Australia. But though I do not know what the board will recommend, I can assure the honorable member that no harm will come to those engaged in the industry. Ample notice of Tariff Board inquiries is always given to chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce, as well as to interested firms, and advertisements are inserted in the press, which gives members of the general public an opportunity to be present at the inquiry and to tender evidence if they desire to do so.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 392 (e) (f) agreed to.
Item 419, sub-items (a), (cl, 2) (Surgical an d dental and veterinary instruments, appliances and materials).
– I wish to draw the attention of the committee to item 419. In the welter of tariff argument an item like this may be lost sight of, and yet our action in implementing the details may affect considerably the general health of the community. My remarks will be confined to ligatures. During 1931-32 our imports of ligatures were valued at only £9,300, and the duties amounted to £881. This item does not, therefore, affect the revenue to any great extent. I point out that the health of the community is to a considerable extent in the hands of (hose who use surgical ligatures, and I, therefore, ask the Government to consider that aspect when dealing with this item under our customs legislation. Honorable members may recollect that some little time ago quite a number of deaths occurred, due to surgical operations following upon tetanus. The finding of the coroner in one case in December was that death was due to the gut used in the surgical operation. The coroner pointed out that the present methods of sterilizing the gut were declared inefficient in 1929, but were still in vogue in Sydney. Mr. H. P. Morley, a research chemist and honorary director of the Ligature Department in the London Hospital, is now in Australia, and in an interview which is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 31st March, he stated that, as the. result of research in a laboratory specially erected at, the London Hospital, at a cost of £14,000, 90 per cent., if not more, of the methods used for the sterilization of gut had been condemned. He also said that it had been found that the intestines of New Zealand lamb made the best gut, as they had so far been found to be free from tetanus. This was probably equally true of Australian lambs; but the same thing could not, in his opinion, be said of English animals. Gut from New Zealand lambs was being used exclusively in the London Hospital. Mr. Morley drew attention to the fact that the Japanese gut, which was used extensively in these days, consisted mainly of vegetable fibre, and silk covered by a secret solution. This gut should not be used for internal surgical operations. In view of the fact that Australian firms are manufacturing surgical gut from material which is absolutely free from tetanus germs, I think that we should take steps to ensure that only such gut shall be used. With a duty of only 20 per cent. on foreign gut and no duty at all on British gut, it seems to me that there is a likelihood that tainted gut may come into Australia and be used with disastrous results, to some members of the community, at least. I, therefore, suggest th at consideration of this item should be postponed to enable the Minister to make surgical ligatures a separate subitem. In my opinion, this article should be the subject of an embargo or of a prohibitive duty in the interests of the general public. If necessary, the Government should give an extra impetus to the manufacture of surgical gut in Australia, seeing that the intestines of New Zealand and Australian lambs have been declared to be eminently suitable for the purpose.
.- I support the request of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison). The health of the community should be guarded in every possible way. It is regrettable that diseases such as rickets should be gaining an increasing hold in Australia. In view of the fact that scientists have declared that the intestines of the lambs of New Zealand and Australia are absolutely free from tetanus germs, these should be used exclusively for the manufacture of surgical gut, and an absolute embargo should be placed upon the importation of this surgical necessity from Japan. I believe that, generally, we should foster Australian productions, and that, particularly, we should stimulate the production of surgical gut.
– I am aware of the force of the reasons advanced by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) for the prohibition of the importation of surgical gut; but I point out to them that about twenty other articles are included in this sub-item. It would not be fair to postpone the whole sub-item in order to deal with one small part of it. I promise the honorable members that I shall give consideration to their request, and that, if it is thought wise, I will provide later for the separation of surgical gut from the other articles mentioned in the item. In the meantime, I ask the committee to pass the sub-item.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 420 agreed to.
Item 424, sub-item (b1).
Vessels, including all fittings imported therewith, viz.: -
Vessels. n.e.i. trading intra-state or interstate for any continuous period of three months or otherwise employed in Australian waters for any continuous period of three months -
– I move -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 8th March, . 1933, relating to paragraph (1) of sub-item (B) of item 424,be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of paragraph 1 of sub-item (b) of item 424 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
Paragraph 1 of this sub-item was amended by the March, 1933, resolution. I am moving this amendment in order that that portion of the March, 1933, resolution relating to this paragraph may now be debated.
Vessels, n.e.i., up to 1,000 tons gross register, were included in this paragraph in the October, 1932, resolution. The March, 1933, resolution covers vessels, n.e.i., up to 500 tons. The result is a reduction of the duties on vessels over 500 tons and up to 1,000 tons from 50 per cent. British, and70 per cent. general, to free British, and 15 per cent. general.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 432. sub-items (a) (b) agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to.
That the consideration of the remaining items other than those specified in group6 in the customs tariff memorandum (showing rates of duty under various tariff proposals) circulated by the Minister for Trade and Customs, be postponed until after the consideration of the items specified in group6.
Group 6. - Amendments made by the present Government which are supported by Tariff Board reports. division 4.Agriculturalproducts and Groceries.
Item 4.4 (as) agreed to.
Item 64, sub-item (a) -
British, 3d.; general, 4d.
Amendment (by Mr. White) agreed to-
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after9th April, 1933-
British 3d.; general. 4d.”
Sub-item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 73, sub-items (a) (b) (c) (d)-
Matches and Vestas of all kinds -
Wood, in boxes containing 70 matches or less - per gross of boxes, British, 10d. ; general,1s.9d.
(1) Wax, in boxes containing over 50, but not exceeding 100 vestas - per gross of boxes, British,1s. 2d.; general, 3s. 2d.
(1) Wax, for each additional 50 vestas or portion of 00 vestas per box, an additional duty - per gross of boxes, British, 7d. ; general,1s. 7d.
Wood, for each additional 70 matches or portion of 70 matches per box, an additional duty - per gross of boxes, British,10d. ; general,1s.9d. (D)N.E.I. - per 1,000 matches or vestas. British; 2d.; general, 3½d.
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra) [4.4]. - I am surprised that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has not volunteered an explanation of the drastic reductions of the duties on this item. The chief interest in the reduction is that it is considered by low tariffists to give a knockout blow to the policy of high protection, and I propose to examine the item from that aspect particularly. The reductions are greater on this item than on any other item in the schedule. Such strength as the case for a reduction has, lies in the report of the Tariff Board which has devoted itself entirely to proving that the industryhas been making excessive profits and taking undue advantage of the protection afforded to it. I have no objection to the searchlight being turned on any protected industry, or on every industry, because each one enjoys protection either through the customs tariff or the other laws of the Commonwealth and States. But when the searchlight is turned on the industries that enjoy customs protection, I invite the Government to turn the light on to other activities also, such as banking, warehousing, shipping, and importing. For many years importers have been making huge profits, although they have very little capital invested.
– And they do not submit their books to the Tariff Board.
– They have not to undergo the gruelling inquiries to which the manufacturers are subjected. Usually the reports of the Tariff Board state the facts pro and con, but I fail to see any evidence of that impartiality in the report on matches. The document reads in ore like a brief for the prosecution. There is surely some answer to the charges made in the report; it may not be so convincing as one would like it to be, but at least we are entitled to hear it. No defence, however, is mentioned by the board. I am not going to assume the role of counsel for the defence of those who make unduly large profits; I leave that responsibility to those honorable gentlemen who represent the makers of profits. But I am prepared to defend Australian workers and Australian industries, which are menaced by the report of the Tariff Board. In order not to complicate my remarks I shall direct them principally to the chief sub-item - wooden matches in boxes containing 70 matches or less. The preferential duty on this sub-item has been reduced from 2s. Id. to lOd. a gross and the general rate from 3s. to ls. 9d. The local matches are subject to an excise duty of 6d. a gross, and as that charge is not borne by the imported article, the protection is further reduced by that amount. Therefore, the actual reduction has been from 2s. Id. to 4d., and from 3s. to ls. 3d. a gross. The protection now proposed is lower than that provided in the Massy Greene tariff ; allowing for excise, the present schedule reduces the Massy Greene rates from ls. Id. to 4d., and from 2s. to ls. 3d. At the present rime the Australian manufacturers are in full enjoyment of the local market. How much of it they will lose to foreign interests if the duties in this schedule are maintained no one can tell, but we can estimate the result by past experience. When the industry had a protection somewhat higher than that now proposed, the imports of matches were considerable: In 1928-29 they were valued at £152,000; and in 1929-30 at £114,000. Foi- half of the latter year the duties imposed by my Government operated. In 1930-31 the imports were reduced to £1,400, and last year to £25, showing that, with the higher protection, the whole market was secured by the local manufacturer. The principal makers in Australia are Bryant and May and the Federal Match Company. Prior to the increase of the duties in November, 1929, and the imposition of surcharges and prohibitions in April, 1930, two distinct and definite undertakings were given by the industry to the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) - first, that if they were afforded adequate protection they would! extend their factories and employ themaximum, number of people; and,, secondly, they would supply the whole requirements of Australia and not increase the price. They have honoured to the letter both of those undertakings, and have justified the almost prohibitive protection which wc gave to them.
– Do not. overlook the Russian menace.
– The importation of matches from Russia would have closed up the industry had my Government not taken drastic action. The Tariff Board’s report in 1925 stated that the Australian manufacturers had assured the board that if they got increased protection there would be no increase in prices, they would build additional factories and supply all Australia’s needs of wooden matches. Those assurances have been carried out. At that time the employees , in the industry numbered 660. Shortly after the increase of duties, the total number of employees wa3 increased to 1,040, and there was a substantially greater demand for local raw materials, including stearine, paper, paper board, glue, cotton, and timber. The production of these materials employed as many Australians as were directly engaged in the match factories. As soon as the reduction of duties by the present Government was announced the number of employees in the industry was reduced. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), without investigation, declared that that was a political stunt. I have yet to find a body of men with a large amount of money invested in an enterprise ready to lose trade for the purpose of a political stunt. No similar suggestion was made when a larger body of men was dismissed in Sydney later. The number of employees is now down to 860, including 78 employees in the new factory at Perth. Under the high duties the number o.f employees in the Melbourne and Sydney factories increased by 360; now they have decreased by 240, although the full effect of the tariff reductions has not yet been felt. Honorable members may ask why the manufacturers dismissed workers before the importation of matches commenced. The answer is that as soon as the new schedule was announced, buyers of matches, wholesale and retail, started to reduce stocks in anticipation of cheaper supplies from foreign countries.
– The price of local matches was reduced by 6d. a gross.
– Yes, but buyers anticipated cheaper importations, and, as they did not replenish stocks, the factories had to reduce their employees. With regard to the price, I have a copy of the Tariff Board’s 1925 report, which shows that, when we were importing approximately one half of our requirements in wooden matches, and when the duty was ls. Id. British and 2s. foreign, Swedish matches were defeating the Australian match companies in the local market. At that time, it should be noted, the retail price of Swedish matches was Sid. a dozen, while the price of Australian matches was 6-£d., and .in some cases 6d. a dozen on cut lines. It was stated at that time that the Swedish march was a better article. I doubt that any one would say that to-day, because the Australian industry has done all that it possibly can to increase the standard of its output, with the result that now there are no better matches on the market. The Tariff Board states that the wholesale price to the grocer of Swedish matches in 1925 was 6s. 2d. a gross, compared with 5s. lid. a gross for the Australian matches, or 4s. lid. a gross at the factory. Let me emphasize that the Australian price has not been increased by one fraction since then, the only alteration being the addition of the excise duty, which, in effect, is not an increase in price, but a passing on of taxation. The outstanding fact to remember is that, since the duty has been increased, the price of Australian matches has remained unaltered.
It is said, also, that the Australian manufacturers have made big profits. I admit, that they have, and, while not attempting to excuse them, I should add that the industry is highly efficient, and if it is making big profits when its product is being retailed at 6-£d. a dozen, what profits must have been made by the importers when Swedish matches were being sold at 8½d. a dozen? I cannot help thinking that, in some respects, the Tariff Board’s report dealing with this industry reads so much like the case for the prosecution, and this. I suggest, is an extraordinary attitude for the Tariff Board to take. Honorable members will, I believe, admit that members of the board have gone out of their way to criticize this industry, and I feel very much concerned that a body, which is to be vested with such supreme authority under the Ottawa agreement, should present such a report as this. It has on it the brand of the old worn-out freetrade arguments. The board, referring to the 1928-29 figures,, states that, if the whole of the Australian requirements were imported at New Zealand prices, a. customs duty of 2s. 6d. a, gross could have been imposed, without, increasing the cost of matches to the Australian user. Then it proceeds to argue that we should have got a revenue of £300,000, instead of £93,000, so that the protection given to the local industry resulted in a loss of revenue amounting to £207,000, which was £50,000 more than was paid in wages and in the purchase of Australian raw materials. But, when the board was dealing with the revenue position, one would have imagined that it would take into account all relevant facts of the industry. It did not do that. It ignored entirely the revenue received by Federal and State governments from income tax, land tax and rates, as well as all the revenue derived from income taxation on subsidiary companies. All these considerations were brushed on one side as though they did not exist. This is the kind of argument which one might, expect from a biased partisan, but certainly not from a board that is supposed to be judicial in ite functions.
Why did the board examine the figures for 1928-29? Clearly it did so because that year presented the strongest case in support of its argument. Why did not it take the year 1929-30, 1930-31, or, better still, ] 931-32, if it wished to deliver an impartial judgment on the industry?
But, as 1 have stated, it took the figures for the .year 1928-29, and presented an entirely supposititious case, which should not find place in the report of such a body. 1 have made inquiries about the New Zealand position, and have been informed by a leading member of the Dominion Parliament that the retail price of wooden safety matches, which are not manufactured in New Zealand, ranges from 7£d. a dozen at the chain stores to lOd. a dozen at, tobacconists and other establishments. Honorable members will know from experience that prices at chain stores .are usually lower than elsewhere, yet the lowest price for wooden matches in New Zealand is 7½d. a dozen, running up to 10d., compared with the Australian price for Australian matches of 6£d. to 7d., and,- for a cut line, 6d. a dozen.
The board also states that the Australian companies have made big profits, and the figures are given. The companies have submitted their reply. I am not here as a protagonist of the capitalistic interests. My Government did not give effective protection to this industry merely to enable manufacturers to make big profits. We gave increased protection :i3 a national policy to enable Australian secondary industries to employ more labour, and also to maintain the balance of trade, and, as I have shown, this policy resulted in increased employment in the match industry, without increasing prices to the local consumer. During the three years since increased duties were imposed, the importations of matches wa,3 sl opped and our trade balance benefited to the extent of nearly £500,000. This is the angle from which I would like honorable members to consider this item. If, however, they follow the board, and indict this Australian industry, they should at least be fair, and put the other side of the case.
The other day . we heard the Acting Leader of the Government (Mr. Latham) and Government supporters strongly defending the profits made by our banking institutions. I invite those honorable members who then rushed to the defence of our present banking system, which controls the life-blood of every industry, to apply the same methods to banking as they are now applying to the Australian match industry. Let them turn the searchlight of their criticism on to those financial concerns which are squeezing the life-, blood out of industry in this country. My complaint is not that the Australian match industry has had the searchlight of criticism directed upon its operations, but that the criticism is so one-sided as almost to imply that people who build factories and give employment are tq be regarded as the enemies, and not the friends, of the people.
Let us see what these companies have done with their profits. It is true that they have paid dividends of 10 per cent. But so have the banks and others. In its investigations, the Tariff Board goes back to 1922. I invite honorable members also to go back to 1922 in their inquiries into the affairs of our banking institutions, and our great commercial and importing houses. If they do this, they will find that one leading bank, in order not to disclose its real profits, wrote down its- buildings and land to £480,000, which actually did not represent the value of one of its city buildings.
Since increased protection was given to the match industry, it has, out of the profits earned, spent £200,000 in the erection of a new factory at Perth, and in extending its Melbourne and Sydney factories. It has provided employment for an additional 400 operatives. Apparently, banks are permitted to exploit the community without any protest being made, but if an industrial enterprise succeeds, and even if it provides more employment for our people, its existence, in the opinion of certain people, is a crime. I do not suggest that this Australian industry has not made profits. It has, but, as I have shown, it has increased employment, it has not, raised its prices, and it is buying more of its raw material in this country.
– Can the right honorable gentleman say out of whose pockets those exorbitant profits were made?
– They did not come out of the pockets of the consumer, because when we were importing one-half of our requirements, and when the Swedish matches had command of the local market, the retail price was Sid. a dozen. To-day, with an efficient local industry, the price is 6½d., compared with 7½d. to10d. a dozen in New Zealand where there is no local industry. I therefore contend that the public of this country is not being exploited to nearly the same extent that it was exploited by the importers. I do not suggest that the consumer would not benefit by a reduction of prices. There has been a reduction. I recognize, of course, that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), belongs to the anti-Labour party in this Parliament which rejects the idea of regulating prices and profits. I, and all members of my party, stand for a policy of regulating prices and profits. If the honorable member for Fawkner and his friends are prepared to initiate proposals for increased constitutional powers to regulate industry generally, they will have our wholehearted support. But I warn them that unless our industries are protected from unfair foreign competition, we shall have a flood of foreign importations, and more of our people will be rendered idle. The profits of importers of matches must have been infinitely greater than are the profits of the Australian industry to-day, because the price then charged to the public was 8½d. a dozen. For the same reason, importers’ profits in New Zealand must be greater than manufacturers’ profits in Australia, because, as I have shown, prices there are higher than in this country. It may be argued that profits in this industry are too high, and that prices should be reduced. I believe it would have been better for. the companies and for our protectionist policy if the prices had been reduced earlier, because it is now claimed that this Government and the Tariff Board have forced prices down. The industry does not deny that, in the statement which has been circulated among honorable members. Prices have been reduced by 6d. a gross, because the Australian industry is determined, as far as possible, to hold the local market. How far it can succeed remains to be seen. On the figures that I have seen, I doubt that the Australian companies can hold their present trade against foreigners. Perhaps they can, but we should bear in mind that they will have to pay an excise duty of 6d. a gross, which importers are not called upon to pay. The Government may claim credit for having reduced the price of matches by a half-penny a dozen. But, having done that, it should restore the protective duty in order to ensure that this market will be retained to the Australian workers. Australian matches have been reduced in price ; their quality is good; they have a market. In urging the Government to restore the duty, I remind it that the remedy will still be in its hands. Unless the duty is restored, foreignmatches will come here in large quantities, and partially destroy this Australian industry, throwing hundreds of Australians out of work. The Minister may say that my prediction will not be fulfilled, because of the antidumping laws passed by this Parliament. I suggest that, instead of the Minister issuing a proclamation under that law, we should achieve the same result in a more open way by restoring the duty. As I have said, the price of matches is now practically what the Tariff Board declares it should be. In the circumstances, I appeal to the committee not to do anything to take from those engaged in this industry their home market.
.- The Government is aware that this is a most efficient industry. Honorable members who have seen the wonderful factory at Richmond, Victoria, will admit that Bryant and May are model employers. They will agree, also, that, generally, the product of that factory is of good quality. We are, however, concerned now, not so much with the efficiency of the company, as with the protection which is to be afforded to this industry in the future. According to press reports, the managing director of Bryant and May has objected to the inquisitorial methods of the Tariff Board. I submit that the Government is entitled to be inquisitive in regard to any industry which enjoys the benefits of a policy of protection which has been adopted by the Government. It obtains its information by means of inquiries conducted by the Tariff Board. I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) of statements which he made in this chamber on other occasions in regard to monopolies, and I ask him whether he is of the same opinion still.
– I know what the Minister is about to read, and I say now what I said then.
– On the 17th June, 1930, the Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, said - lt is no doubt equitable that a trader should bc able to obtain a reasonable profit on the sale of goods, but what the Government has to guard against is that manufacturers are not taking undue advantage of the protection afforded by the tariff by charging unnecessarily high prices, acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public, or acting in & manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods. Under paragraph h of sub-section 1 of section 13 of the Tariff Board Act, these questions can be investigated by the Tariff Board, and if it be found that an Australian industry is taking undue advantage of the tariff in any of the manners set forth, the Government can then consider what action should bo taken against the particular industry.
That is what the Government is doing. The speech of the right honorable gentleman continued -
With the limited powers the Commonwealth has in regard to internal trading, it would appear that the only manner whereby salutary action could lie taken against the offenders would bo by removal of the protection afforded by the tariff. As a preliminary to an inquiry by the Tariff Board, the Government proposes to depute an accountant of the Customs Department to investigate the methods of trading adopted by certain industries, with a view to ascertaining whether there is a prima facie case for submission to the Tariff Board for full inquiry.
– I endorse what I then said.
– The speech of the Leader of the Opposition to-day contains only slight references to the claims of consumers; he spoke of the industry and its employees. This tirade against the banks was also beside the question.
– The right honorable gentleman dealt at length with the position of the consumers.
– On the same subject, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said -
We can remove the protection from people who arc exploiting the workers or the consumers. The Prime Minister has already stated in this chamber that that power will lie exercised if the manufacturer attempts to exploit the protection that is given to him.
The Australian match-making industry has made enormous profits over a number of years. The Tariff Board has found that those profits have resulted from over-protection, and, consequently, it has made certain recommendations in the interests of consumers. It cannot be gainsaid that this industry has been treated more than generously by successive governments. In addition to a high protective duty, it lias been further assisted by anti-dumping legislation applying to all countries excepting the United Kingdom, where it was unnecessary, because of a trade arrangement which has been entered into by the company. Later, a 50 per cent, surcharge was added to the already existing protection, and, subsequently, the total prohibition of the importation of matches was added. This industry has shown its gratitude for these concessions by exploiting the Australian consumer and profiteering on an unprecedented scale. All true protectionists will regret that ‘ the company has proved recreant to the trust reposed in it. The industry should have reciprocated by treating the Australian public fairly, and asking Only a fair price for its products. It has done the protectionist cause a great deal of harm; it has led to a misunderstanding of the meaning of protection. Moreover, in exploiting the public, the company has disregarded the future welfare of its employees, numbering over 1,000. The majority of honorable members in this chamber are protectionists; all are solicitous for the welfare of the Australian consumers. On. that ground, I appeal to the committee to approach this item in a non-partisan spirit, and to protect consumers and employees alike. I hope that all honorable members have read the Tariff Board’s report on this industry. If they have done so, and believe that the Tariff Board is right, they should support the Government in reducing this duty.
The three companies making matches in Australia are Bryant and May, of Victoria, the Federal Match Company, of New South Wales, and the Western Australia Match Company of Western Australia. Bryant and May of London hold the majority of the shares in the Victorian company, a proprietary company whose balance-sheets are not available to the public, while the Melbourne company practically controls the company in Western Australia. It will be seen, therefore, that, for all practical purposes, the con trol of the match-making industry in Australia is centred in Bryant and May, London, lt is interesting to see what the Economist says of the profits of this English company in its issue of April, 1932-
The report and balance-sheet shows that profits for the year have fallen by less than 2 per cent. - f 520.038. against £530,035 for the previous year. Capital outlay has been small, mid as a result the already strong liquid position of the company has been further strengthened. The ordinary dividend is again 25 per cent, tax free, and absorbs the sum of £330,000; £50,000 is placed to the reserves, making £550,000. The carry forward is increased from £209,854 to £327,975. . . . A further £100,000 has been written off properties, plant, &c, and this item now stands at £793,943.
In addition to its holdings in the Australian company, the London firm of Bryant and May is interlocked with a Swedish company, to whose profits the Australian consumer also . Contributes. These facts are overlooked by honorable members who urge that more protection should be given to this Australian industry. I have shown that the profits of the parent company in London have been unduly high. A portion of those profits are represented by the excessive profits of the subsidiary companies in Australia. The capital of the Melbourne company, which stood at £150,000 when it commenced operations, was increased by £150,000 out of reserves in 1922.
– It took a page out of the book of the banks.
– In 1925, a further £100.000 was added to the company’s capital, out of reserve. It is interesting to note that in that same year, Bryant and May, Melbourne, approached the Tariff Board with a request that the duty on matches be doubled. In refusing the application, the Tariff Board made some caustic comments. In a circular which has been sent to all honorable members, the Australian company admits that from 1915 to 1931 it paid an annual dividend of 10 per cent. That dividend was paid on the total capital, which has been increased in the way that I have shown. Iu 1931, it paid” £200,000 to a Swedish company to induce it to withdraw from the Australian market. Mr. Scullin. - That action transferred the work from foreigners to Australians.
– The agreement entered into with the Swedish company required it to supply formulae, trade secrets, and other information to the Australian company. The issue of shares to the Swedish company was accompanied by a provision entitling it to participate, to the extent of one-third, in all future profits made in Australia and in further bonus shares. No assets were transferred by the Swedish company to the local company. That the Australian company paid £200,000 for the goodwill of the Swedish company’s Australian business, gives some indication of the value it placed on the Australian market. In effect, that sum was a payment to a powerful competitor to keep it out of the Australian market, so that the local combine could enjoy its privileged position to the full. Until a few years ago, Australian manufacturers were able to supply only 60 per cent, of Australia’s requirements of matches, and, consequently, some imports were necessary. Those imports came chiefly from Sweden. At the time this agreement was consummated, there existed, apart from the ordinary customs duty, a surcharge of 50 per cent, of the ordinary duties, and a prohibition on the importation of matches under which imports were rationed. In addition, the Industries Preservation Act gazettals were still extant.
It can be taken for granted that the local combine would not have paid £200,000 to the Swedish company had it not feared that that company intended to establish factories in Australia. Confirmation of the statement that competition in the home market reduces prices is to be found in the Tariff Board’s report of the 8th July, 1925, when the managing director of the Australian company, Mr. Joshua, said -
The Swedish match industry is practically dominated by one large company, whose influence is also felt throughout the world. Where customs duties in any country prevent successful competition by importation, this company builds factories of its own in such countries.
In the circular which it has distributed among honorable members, the Australian company takes credit for having kept foreign companies out of Australia, but it. doe3 not say that it gave a foreign company one-third of its share capital, or that some of the dividends of that foreign company will be paid by Australian consumers. From the point of view of employment, it is immaterial whether the manufacture of matches in Australia is undertaken by an Australian, a British or a foreign company as we do not get the benefit of the price reduction. It may be claimed that this £200,000 share issue was made as an ordinary commercial transaction, on account of the Swedish company undertaking, to supply on request, formulae, specifications, trade secrets, trade marks, details of machinery improvements, and other information and expert advice. As to. whether the local companies ever made a request for any of these is best known to themselves; but it is certain that the public did not benefit by reduced prices, and this would be the only justification for the issue of a third of the share holding of the company. If the purchase of these rights were the true reason, then the benefits accruing from that action should Iia ve been immediately reflected in the selling price to the public. It will be seen by the last report of the Tariff Board that the managing director of the company, Mr. Joshua, said, in. effect, “ We have carried out our contract. We did not raise our prices over a certain period ; but we cannot bind ourselves not to do so in future, in the event of our costs of production increasing through taxation or other costs”. The right, honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Scullin) also sees merit in this. Yet after the board had taken evidence on the 31st March, the price of matches was reduced substantially. Therefore, it appears that the Tariff Board, which is so frequently attacked - and the right honorable member for Yarra has said that lie attacks it seriously-
– When did I say that?
– At a dinner of the Australian Natives’ Association in Melbourne, the right honorable gentleman said that the board was not a body of experts.
– I said that some of its members were not experts.
– The right honorable member does not support the Tariff Board; he is not averse to a random shot being taken, at’ rates of duties by his Deputy Leader, or by somebody else. If this board, which can take evidence from _ both sides, which sits in a judicial capacity, and has all the facilities for obtaining technical information, is not better fitted to pass an opinion on tariff matters than any honorable member, I am very much surprised. The board has inquired into this industry, and because of its inquiries, prices have been reduced. The tariff has been lowered only sufficiently to make the threat of competition possible, so that the manufacturers will be induced to study the consumers a little more than they have done in the past. Before passing from the subject of profits, I draw attention to the estimate made by the board, that for every £5 paid by one of the companies in Australia, in wages, about £4 went into the coffers of the company by way of reserves. That is a very strong statement. If honorable members can blink at these facts and say that because in the past we have supported the granting of high protection to these companies, we should continue to do so, they must be unreasoning prohibitionists.
Little more need be said on this aspect of the matter, apart from making a comparison of the amount involved in the reduction of the selling price, which has recently been made by the company as a result of the Tariff Board’s report. On present consumption figures, this means a reduced income of £57,689 on wooden safety matches, and on a basis of a production equalling 60 per cent, of Australian requirements, which the company supplied over some years, it would mean £35,000. Even after making this reduction, the company, on its own showing, in a statement recently submitted to me, is able to make a very substantial profit on capital which includes amounts issued as bonus shares, and shares to the Swedish company. Some idea of the excess profits can, however, be gained from these figures, and these profits were mainly earned when the companies were meeting npt more than 60 per cent, of Australian requirements.
These profits were made even when imported matches were coming into the country.
An allegation was made in the press, I believe, that the Tariff Board’s report has been long delayed. It is dated the 29th September, and it was tabled only last week. It came back to the Government some time after the serious illness of my predecessor. Nevertheless, the Government considered it, and it was sent back for further information, because the Tariff Board had taken into consideration primage and exchange, and an addendum had been put in the report on that matter.
– That report was received in October.
– Yes, and the matter was referred back to the Tariff Board for information as to costs. The board was not prepared to re-open the case, and thereupon I tabled the report last week. Every possible opportunity has been given to the industry to have any further facts regarding the industry elicited, and the Tariff Board’s report, as it stands, is as complete as could be expected.
– The Minister seems to have shown a lot of sympathy with the company.
Mr.WHITE. - A thorough inquiry from all aspects was essential for so large and important an industry. It is true that the board has taken exchange and primage into account in determining what rates of duty are necessary; but, in order to curb the profiteering proclivities of this combine, it had no other alternative. The interests of the public demanded such action. The board does, however, suggest an alternative method if Parliament desires to give consideration to the fixation of duties on the basis of primage and exchange being excluded, and it states that the duties it has recommended might safely be increased by 7d. per gross, provided the local manufacturers undertake immediately to reduce their price to 4s. 9d. per gross, including excise duty, as against the then existing selling price of. 5s. 5d., and provided, further, that the price will be progressively reduced as costs of production are reduced in the future. The company has reduced its price to 4s.11d. a gross, but not to 4s.9d.
– To 4s. 5d.
– There is an excise duty of6d. a gross; deducting that, the charge is 4s. 5d. In suggesting the price of 4s. 9d. a gross, the board made very liberal allowances. In the first place, it included as capital earning income the shares given to the Swedish combine to keep it out of the Australian market; it accepted thec.i.e. and e. cost of wooden safety matches stated to be the price in Finland, as against the estimated price paid by New Zealand importers; and it included in local costs of production, sea freight on matches manufactured in Australia and formerly shipped to Western Australia. As is well known to most honorable members, the companies have very recently reduced their selling price from5s. 5d. to 4s.11d. a gross, as against the Tariff Board’s suggested price of 4s. 9d. a gross, less further reductions in the event of costs of production falling. Representatives of the companies state that, to earn a 10 per cent. profit, they cannot sell below 4s.11d. a gross. On this aspect I wish to state that the Government is not prepared to accept the company’s revised price as a satisfactory one. The Government has, for the time being, decided to adopt the price of 4s. 9d. a gross recommended by the Tariff Board; but I may say that it is aware of reductions in manufacturing costs which have occurred since the board’s inquiry, and these should enable manufacturers to sell at a figure below the 4s. 9d. a gross suggested by the Tariff Board. Inquiries are still proceeding, and, when completed, action will be taken to force any further reductions in the selling price which may be justified. Full control of the price situation is possible through the Industries Preservation Act. I do not think that there will be time to read the whole of the provisions of the act; but I point out that if the export price of matches is less than the wholesale selling price in Australia, the f.o.b. price abroad is loaded by the Customs Department up to the Australian level.
– Therefore, the manufacturer, and not this Parliament, fixes the duty.
– That is what I am pointing out.
– That is not what takes place.
Mr.WHITE. - That is what can happen under one section of the act. I shall show that if an exporting company, which might he co-operating with an Australian company, were to send matches to Australia, and put the price up above the Australian level, no duty would be paid. It was found that the matches coming to this country were being charged a higher invoice rate than those sent to New Zealand. Many intricate points arise in that connexion; but I may say, in passing, that the Industries Preservation Act gave an added protection to this company. The company benefited by it, and will benefit by it in future. In fact, no foreign matches have come in for some time under the present duty, nor are they likely to be brought in.
A great deal of propaganda and misrepresentation has been indulged in by representatives of the local industry. Honorable members have seen two circulars that have been sent to them. Immediately the new tariff rates were announced in September last, the company dismissed a certain number of employees, and stated that the new tariff had made it necessary to do that. At this particular time, the 1921-1930 tariff rates continued to operate, plus a surcharge of 50 per cent. of the duty payable under such rates. The new rates did not operate, and, indeed, are not yet operating, as they are lower than the 1921-1930 tariff rates which are the existing law. In addition, the Industries Preservation Act gazettals still continued in operation, under which no foreign matches could be landed at less than the Australian manufacturer’s selling price. In spite of all these protective measures, devised expressly for the maximum protection of this industry, and not extended to any other industry in the whole of the Commonwealth, the representatives of the industry stated that they would have to dispense with employees on account of the lowered tariff. Later, when they realized their blunder, and in the absence of importations, they had to fall back on the excuse that smaller stocks were required. I would draw the attention of honorable members to the following facts in relation to this matter: -
There was no justification for advancing the reason that the tariff was the cause of the dismissals. The truth of the matter is that most of these dismissals would have occurred in any case, but opportunity was taken to ascribe them to the reductions made in the tariff, even though such reductions did not operate.
– The Minister will say anything !
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it; but the Minister is calling the local firm a liar, although it has nobody here to defend it.
– Six months afterwards, we find that the importations were still negligible, yet the company stated that it had been compelled to dismiss some 150 employees in order to get down to a lower stock basis. All I can say is that its action in this respect is typical of its actions and statements in other directions.
All unbiased honorable members must have realized that on this item the protectionist policy is on trial. We have often, in the abstract, thought of such a case as this - a monopoly exploiting the public under cover of our protective tariff. This committee is now faced with the very real difficulty of having to deal with a profiteering monopoly. An admittedly hard problem is presented on account of the employment that is given to 1,000 persons. But, the interests of consumers demand that they, too, should be protected. The Government has given serious consideration to all aspects of the case, and has decided to submit the present duties for ratification. In doing so, it realizes that the industry will he depending for its protection, so ‘ far as certain countries are concerned, on the action taken under the Industries Preservation Act. This being so, it is essential that if this form of protection is to be retained the Minister should have power to determine a landed duty-paid price which will compel the Australian combine to sell its matches at a reasonable price. It is proposed to take action accordingly. The Government takes the view that there is no alternative but to lower the protection to such a point as will bring the local product into competition with foreign matches. In case my words may be twisted, I draw attention to the following paragraph in the report of the Tariff Board : -
Having regard to the attitude of the local manufacturers, and their implied intention of maintaining “ business on the basis formerly existing,” the board considers that consumers should be protected by giving them access to matches at cheaper prices, and thus forcing a reduction in the price of Australian-made matches. For this reason, it recommends the imposition of rates of duty which will permit imported matches to be delivered c.i.f. and duty paid at main Australian ports at a cost slightly in excess of what it considers to be a reasonable price for matches manufactured in Australia . . .
Honorable members will see that the duties are worked out so that the imported matches will be dearer than the Australian matches. The paragraph concludes - and which will secure the market to the Australian manufacturers, provided they sell their products at such prices.
I ask the committee to endorse the Government’s action, which has been taken in order to ensure that the manufacturers in this industry or, indeed, in any other industry, do not takeundue advantage of the protection afforded to them.
.- I endorse what has been said regarding the efficiency of this industry, its splendid equipment and the good treatment meted out. to its employees. I do not think that any one who has seen the factory at Richmond, or any of the other factories, will dispute that. That, however, does not affect the question with which we are now dealing. The story disclosed in the Tariff Board’s report exemplifies the danger associated with prohibitive rather than competitive duties. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) stated that the present duties were lower than those in the Massy Greene tariff. That is true, but, it was while the Massy Greene duties were in operation that enormous reserves were built up by the company. On page 7 of the Tariff Board’s report the following paragraph appears: -
In 1922, the company had a paid-up capital of £150,000; in November of that year, share capitalwas doubled by the capitalization of reserves amounting to £1 50,000, and in September, 1925, a further issue of bonus shares amounting to £100,000 increased the share capital to £400,000.
During that period when the company was enjoying the protection of 2s. a gross under the general column of the Massy Greene tariff, it created enormous reserves, which proves that something less than the Massy Greene duties might be adequate. It might be said that the company could not have amassed such reserves had it not been for the dumping duty, but that duty was not imposed until the end of November, 1.923, and the board’s report states that in November, 1922. or a year before the Massy Greene duties were fortified by the dumping duty, the share capital was doubled by the capitalization of reserves.
In 1921 a duty of 2s. a gross, general, was imposed on wooden matches. That was increased indirectly by’ means of a dumping duty which came into operation in 1923. In November, 1929, shortly after the Scullin Government took office, the duty was increased to 3s. a grass. A few months later, in April, 1930, a 50 per cent. surtax was imposed, increasing the duty of 3s. to 4s. 6d., while shortly afterwards a total embargo was imposed under which matches could not be imported except with the consent of the Minister. Naturally, importations were confined to such varieties of matches as local factories could not produce. In May of last year, the total duty of 3s., plus surtax of 50 per cent., was reduced, in effect, by the imposition of 6d. a gross excise duty on locally manufactured matches.
The dumping duty imposed in November, 1923, wasmade to affect imported matches sold at less than2 s.7d. a gross f.o.b. In 1924, the position was carried a good deal further because a gazettal of that year provided that dumping duties should be imposed if the landed costs of overseas matches were lessthan the price fixed by the local manufacturers. Under that arrangement, it is the Australian manufacturer, and not this Parliament, which fixes the extent of the dumping duty. If the local manufacturers increase prices by1d. a gross, presumably the dumping duty will be increased by a similar amount, and vice versa. Under such an arrangement, if full advantage is taken of the Industries Preservation Act, it is possible for a manufacturer to determine the extent of his own protection by fixing a price at which he sells his product. That is a strong argument in favour of the amendment of that provision.
– The amendment suggested by the honorable member has already been made, because the Minister now fixes the rate by notice in the Gazette.
– That is an improvement. One can realize what overseas manufacturers would do in connexion with a duty of this kind. They would naturally argue that they might as well have the benefit of any rise in price, as that the Government should have it in the shape of a dumping duty. That, of course, accounts for the difference between the price of matches in New Zealand and in Australia. On page 7 of the Tariff Board’s report, honorable members will see that the price’s charged in New Zealand were substantially lower, in some cases by as much as1s. a gross, than those charged in Australia. In 1929, matches were sold to New Zealand at 2s. a gross, while 3s. was charged for the same kind of matches in Australia. In 1928-29, the Australian price for matches was 3s.0½d., while the price in New Zealand was 2s. 2d. Those figures show clearly that the overseas manufacturers realized that there was no advantage in cutting the price of matches sold to Australia, because, to whatever extent prices were cut, the dumping duty would be collected by the Government.
– That is still going on.
– It must continue to go on so long as the dumping duty exists in its present form. The Leader of the Opposition, in a speech which seemed to me to be full of special pleading, said that the price of matches in New Zealand was higher than that in Australia, and he used that as an argument in support of the present duties, and in eulogy of the Australian manufacturers. It seems to me that we are confusing two things. The wholesale price in New Zealand is undoubtedly lower than it is in Australia.
– What is it?
– The Tariff Board quotes the landed cost in New Zealand
– But what is the wholesale price?
– I think that it is rather a matter of the retailer’s profit.
– What is the price charged to the wholesalers in New Zealand?
– No doubt it would be interesting to find that out. We know that the landed cost in one case is substantially below the landed cost in the other, but I do not know what profits are made by the merchants and retailers respectively which result in New Zealanders having to pay more for their matches than do Australians. The Australian manufacturers seem to regard a 10 per cent. dividend as exceedingly moderate, and have said as much in some of their published replies to the Tariff Board’s report. In my opinion, the firm that can obtain 5 per cent. on capital in these times is fortunate, and I can assure honorable members that very few primary producers are making even 2½ per cent.
The Minister did not make quite clear the reason for a variation of the general duties from those recommended by the Tariff Board. I assume that the increases in the general column have something to do with exchange and primage. On wooden matches in boxes containing 70 matches and less, the duty is10d. a gross British, and1s. 9d. a gross general. For the larger size containing 140 matches, the British duty is1s. 8d., but the general duty is 3s.10d. One would imagine that in this case the general duty should be 3s. 6d., or double that for the smaller size. In the case of wax matches, there has been a variation right through as compared with the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I should be glad if the Minister would explain the reason for these variations.
.- The Minister (Mr. White) has adequately replied to the perf ervid utterances of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). The right honorable gentleman described the reductions contained in the present schedule as the most drastic that have yet been presented. That is obvious, as is also the reason, namely, that the board’s report is the most drastic that honorable members have yet had before them. The report furnishes ample justification for the Government’s action. The right honorable gentleman said that he had no objection to turning the searchlight on. one industry if it were turned on others as well. For instance, he said that if the Government would turn the light on the banking industry, as it had done on the match industry, he would approve of that most heartily. Whereas in the match industry there is one combine, in the banking industry there are a number of separate units competing one with the other. They have no tariff protection. The right honorable gentleman grudged no praise for the match combine. He said that it had carried into effect every undertaking that it gave to his Government; that it was going to reduce prices and extend its operations to supply the whole of the Australian requirements.
– I did not say that it undertook to reduce prices.
– A most tempting offer would be forthcoming were we to start da novo and offer a sufficiently powerful group full and exclusive rights for the whole of the Australian market, as was done by the Scullin Government in this instance, and ask a price for the privilege. But the Scullin Government handed over to this company the Australian rights for the manufacture and supply of matches, and for this valuable concession it paid nothing. The fact that the undertaking has extended its operations, has supplied the whole of the Australian requirements, and has reduced the price of its commodity, is nothing to its credit or discredit, but is merely evidence of the business acumen which has characterized its operations in many directions.
As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said, this is an efficient industry; it makes a good product, and is a model employer. It has not spared expense in putting forward its case in reply to the indictment of the Tariff Board, for every honorable member has received voluminous printed and typewritten propaganda on the subject. The thing against which I protest is that the company placards its claim that the factory established at Richmond is a model of industrial conditions. We know that the conditions there are good, but they are no better than they should be, and the company would do well not to advertise those conditions as a virtue, for which it should claim especial credit. Usually, when such things are done, they are not talked about.
The capital position of the company is, to say the least, amazing. From the profits which have been won in a short time, the total capital of the company has grown enormously. Honorable members opposite are continually gibing at such institutions as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which also has taken into its business profits that have been won. In that case, the practice is described as reprehensible; in this, admirable. It must be remembered that, whereas the Colonial Sugar Refining Company earns only5½ per cent. on its capital investment in Australia, this match company has averaged 10 per cent., a figure which is equal to. about 40 per cent., if the original capital is borne in mind. To that honorable members opposite take no exception, though they claim to be here to safeguard the welfare of the consumers. In this instance, no doubt, it is loyalty to their leader which indicates their line of action, or inaction, as it might more aptly be termed. There is no objection to a concern taking into the business profits that have been won, and thereby extending its activities. Nor is there any objection to an industry capturing the whole of the Australian market if it can do so. But the terms and conditions under which this industry has been given control of the Australian market and has taken extra capital into the business show no regard at all for the consumer. Although it might be a difficult matter to pass on to the consumer any small reduction in the price of matches, that affords no excuse for the company making no effort to do so. The company cannot expect to continue its monopolistic position, which yields such handsome profits, regardless of its compulsory consumers. In these days, interest returns are totally different from what they were a few years ago. Interest on government securities has fallen from 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. to 3½ per cent. or 3¾ per cent., and industry cannot expect to show the returns that it did formerly. This company must fall into line with others.
I shall not go into detail concerning capital increases or returns on capital. I do not know how much of the capital of this company is held in Australia, but I should say that it is inconsiderable. An amount of £200,000 has been paid to Sweden in the form of shares, and another large sum has been paid to Bryant and May in Great Britain, the company which founded the industry in Australia. So that it is reasonable to assume that at least nine-tenths of the total capital is held outside of Australia.
It is strange that honorable members opposite should be so fervent in their support of high profit making by what is virtually an absentee operator. That is not in conformity with the views they generally express, and I put the following questions to them: -
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) spent most of yesterday enumerating the alleged virtues of the Scullin Administration, pointing out instances in which that Government was said to be responsible for establishing new industries in Australia, and claiming that the Tariff Board had agreed with its action - inferentially praising the board for that agreement. In those cases the Tariff Board was all right. How. does he reconcile that attitude with his assertion that the Tariff Board is all wrong in this case? Those are questions which honorable members opposite should answer and which they will find difficult to answer.
– The honorable member takes great liberties.
– No more than those accorded me. I have the liberty to express my views, which I am doing.
– The honorable member does notexpress them very truthfully.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is distinctly out of order, and must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– A wise man once said that it requires a strong constitution to withstand repeated attacks of prosperity. That the match industry of Australia has developed a strong constitution as a result of repeated attacks of prosperity is apparent from the propaganda with which we have been so liberally provided. This is a case of history repeating itself. If honorable members will consult the Bible, they will find that after the death of Moses, the Lord spake unto the Joshua of old inviting him to lead the Jews to the promised land, saying -
Every place that the sole or your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you.
There seems to be some parallel between that and the present position of the match industry in Australia. The biblical account continues -
From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates,all the land of Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
That, to-day, might mean Western Australia -
There shallnot any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life.
The Joshua of old sent his spies into the Promised Land and, on their return, it is recorded -
And they said unto Joshua, truly the Lord hath delivered into our bands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.
This story surely has found a complete echo in the match industry in Australia.
– This is the beginning of that portion of the tariff schedule “which leads, figuratively, to the electric chair. I agree with many of the things that the Minister said, but I do not agree with many of the things that were said by the honorable member forDenison (Mr. Hutchin). I give the answer “ No “ to the questions which he had a perfect right to ask, and I do not think that any member of my party, including my leader (Mr. Scullin), will disagree with that reply. The questions submitted by the honorable member have no logical basis. He was merely setting up puny straw creatures so that he might proceed to knock them down.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said that, in this instance, protection is on its trial. I agree with the honorable gentleman. But I disagree with the suggestion made by him and other honorable members that protection should be trodden underfoot. The principle should not be blamed, even if some unscrupulous persons have allegedly taken advantage of it.
For many years, my colleagues and I have been charged with never being able to see the point of view of the employers, because of our biased advocacy on behalf of the employees. Yet, on this occasion, we are charged with advancing the interests of the employer. I still stand for the employee. But I want to defend the right of industries to develop and perpetuate themselves in Australia.
Admittedly, it is difficult to obtain an unbiased decision on this matter. I do not suggest that honorable members opposite are actuated by any sinister motive. In this instance, honorable members who support the Government are slightly biased, because of the record of this industry in the immediate past. I shall qualify that later. But, while it is difficult to obtain a fair decision from those who support the Government, it is impossible to do so from the representatives of the Country party. That is because of their fixed freetrade principles. Had this duty been even lower than that recommended by the Tariff Board honorable members of the Country party would have urged that it be still further reduced.
The Minister and honorable members generally are in agreement that the match industry in Australia is carried on under ideal conditions, that its employees are paid well in comparison with those in other industries, and that the conditions of labour are sane, healthy, and hygienic. The company has expended a good deal of its profits in enlarging its plant, providing ideal factory surroundings, and establishing branches throughout Australia.
The Tariff Board investigated the case of the industry, and presented a severe indictment against the company. I shall not defend it. Although I may differ from some other members in this respect, I say that the Tariff Board has a perfect right to inquire searchingly into the circumstances surrounding any industry.
– I admitted that it had a perfect right to do so.
– I believe that the Tariff Board should be on the same basis as the British Tariff Board, which is composed of a group of experts who are at liberty to inquire into the economic conditions of any industry. After its investigation, the board should advise the Government, but it is the Government itself that must make proposals to this committee. That is its duty. It is essential to have a body exercising those functions, not to supplant the Government in the making of final decisions, but to assist it on fiscal questions. I fear, however, that, because honorable members are not satisfied with what has happened in the past, they may be prepared to “cut off their nose to spite their face and thus damage the industry to the detriment of the workers. So far as it has proceeded, the debate has consisted of a fairly severe castigation of this company for exploitation in the past. The Tariff
Board made certain recommendations with a view to bringing it back to a fair and equitable basis, and the Government was proceeding to give effect to those recommendations when the company adopted the suggestion of the board that it should reduce its prices. I am concerned, not with what has happened in the past, but with what is in the best interests of the people in the future. That is all that should concern this Parliament. The Tariff Board acted rightly in making its recommendations, and so did the Government in proposing that the tariff should be reduced if prices were not. But now that prices have been reduced and the position is safeguarded, it would bo altogether wrong to take action that might prevent the development of the industry in the future. The Minister said that this company had made large profits. Of course it has. He also said that some of those profits had gone overseas. But if we stamp out the’ industry and leave an open door to the importer to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements, will not all the profits go overseas? I have had something to do with the employees’ side of the industry, and, on more than one occasion, have negotiated with the company for conditions and piece-work rates that I considered were justified. The company granted those conditions, and I am now anxious to see that they are maintained. It has been clearly proved this afternoon that the price of matches in Australia is not so high as it is in London or New Zealand. This industry is at the bar of Parliament to-day, and what we have to determine is, under what conditions shall it be carried on in the future. If those who occupy the Government benches intend to allow their minds to be clouded by what has gone before, they may do injury to the people that they represent. The Government is believed to stand for the reasonable protection of Australian industries. If it were asked whether it is protectionist or freetrade, it would vehemently deny that it is freetrade and assert that it is a protectionist administration. Having applied the corrective, we must overlook what happened last year or the year before. There are a thousand persons directly, and at least another thousand indirectly, affected by this industry. Practically the whole of its raw material is produced in Australia. As many logs of the right kind as Queensland has been able to supply have been used for years in the making of match boxes. Had that State been able to supply the necessary class and quantity of timber, probably the match sticks would have been made from it. I can see no logical reason for putting a spoke in the wheel of the industry, and risking the throwing out of work of the employees who are engaged in it. Surely the aim of the Government throughout has been to encourage both British and foreign companies to establish industries in Australia. The slogan of every party at the last election was, that it would be better for Australia to encourage the establishment here of branches of overseas industries, than that ‘those concerns should send us the finished article. The policy of both this Government and its predecessor has been, not to hamper, but to foster and assist in every direction, the development of existing industries. The appeal has been made to all employers to endeavour to increase the number of their employees, and to assist in arresting the fall in prices. That is what is now being done. What does it matter who is responsible for the change that has taken place, so long as the right action has been taken ? The Government applied the screw to this company, and compelled it to reduce its prices. Why should we now run the risk of knocking it on the head by reducing the duty? The Ministerhas referred to the existence of a dumping duty. That, I contend, is only an underhand method of doing what can be done by a straight-out method. I am not acquainted with the manager of any industry who does not believe that the dumping duty harasses him, and does him no good. It does not imbue him with that confidence which would induce him to enlarge his plant or to take the risk of opening a new branch of his business. When there are definite duties, he knows exactly where he stands. Unless the dumping duty is tightened up, it will be an incentive to employers to refrain from reducing prices.
Another argument that I should like to advance is this :Why should we worry about a duty of 6d. or1s. more than is absolutely necessary? If the Tariff Board continues along the lines it has followed in regard to this particular industry, and if the Government takes action against any industry that exploits the people, no more is needed. If. having corrected what was wrong, we hamper the future development of the industry, we shall only nullify the good that has been done. Even though a duty were higher than it need be, that would not make for exploitation, especially as we have a Tariff Board which has been instructed to inquire into all the circumstances surrounding an industry, with a view to taking punitive action that will prevent exploitation. Surely honorable members do not want it both ways. I say that this industry gives good employment to both male and female Australian workers. It employs labour in light work that cannot be found elsewhere. One of the difficulties confronting all State Ministers to-day is the provision of employment for those who are capable of doing only light work. The arguments used by the Minister should not apply to the future. I agree that he is on sound ground in the justification he has given for the action that has been taken. But, having safeguarded the people from exploitation, let him not take action that will endanger what ought to be a really good industry. Exploitation can always be prevented by action similar to that which has been taken.
– The Tariff Board says that, under these duties, the Australian industry can hold all the trade.
– It may do so. But why kill the confidence of these people, and prevent them from extending their operations? It is not necessary to keep them on the bread-line. The Minister might well postpone this item, with a view to seeing what eventuates. A continuance of the Scullin tariff would not adversely affect the public, but, on the other hand, would give that confidence which is needed if the operations of the industry are to be extended. I am not at all afraid of monopolies in this country. No matter what government might be in office, sufficient power exists to check mate the avariciousness of any local monopoly if the Government has the courage to exercise it. I agree with the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) that monopolies are the natural order in the economic development of industry. The Country party has always clamoured for efficient manufacture. Its contention is that struggling manufactures which cannot be economically conducted ought to be closed down, and that encouragement ought to be given to the big, strong concerns that can supply us with the commodities we require, somewhat along the lines adopted in other countries. The members of that party cannot have it both ways. We must have either modern factories, with up-to-date plants, conducting their operations on a scientific basis, or the struggling, backyard industries to which those honorable members object. Profits can be regulated by Parliament. I urge the Government to hesitate before reducing these duties, because I am afraid that such action may undermine the further development of this industry in Australia by giving to outside companies the opportunity to share substantially in the trade. It is our duty to do all that we can to safeguard the people and the industries of Australia, and not to be biased by an agitation against this company on account of what are regarded as its illegal operations in the past.
– The debate, so far, has been conducted in an exceptionally moderate strain, and I propose that my observations shall have a similar basis. Still, that will not prevent my stating clearly, definitely, and perhaps, somewhat incisively, the views that I hold on this question.
I regard this as one of the most important questions that has ever been discussed in this chamber. We have in this industry one of the most extraordinary examples of profiteering and exploitation that it has ever been our lot to experience. I stand amazed at the action of the Opposition in defending this monopoly, and at the casuistry which it has employed. As soon as an attempt is made to tie honorable members opposite down to a definite statement in respect of this monopoly, they begin to scuttle away from the position that they had taken up, and deny that they are defending the monopoly. Yet member after member of the Labour party has spoken in defence of this monopoly, which has, for many years, been exploiting the working people of ‘this country.
– What about the women and children?
– I consider that a pertinent interjection, because this monopoly presses just as hard on the women and children as it does on the working men. Honorable members opposite have said that the company engaged in this industry has treated its employees well, that it gives them morning and afternoon tea, that it has a model factory, and that its palatial buildings are surrounded with beautiful gardens. What credit is due to the company for giving those facilities, in view of the fact that they are being given at the expense of the working men, and the people generally? It is merely buying safety. If it is true that a section of the workers are fortunate enough to find employment in this industry, and are working under these conditions, that has been made possible only because other workers have had to pay high prices for the product of the factory. After all, what is this extraordinary benefit which the monopoly confers upon its workers? What is being done by this great public benefactor before which members of the Labour party bow down in silent and respectful obeisance? The company employs 1,050 hands, of which 700 are women and girls, and the average wage which this company - declared by the Opposition to be a model employer - is paying is £172 per annum per employee. Is that a munificent sum to be paid to the workers in this industry in view of the tremendous and colossal profits that have been wrung from the working men and the people generally over many years? The members of the Labour party are defending a monopoly which pays its employees less than an average wage of £4 a week. Do honorable members opposite stand for that?
– I rise to a point of order. I take exception to the remarks of the Postmaster-General that the members of the Labour party are defending a monopoly. Such a statement is highly objectionable to my colleagues and myself, and I ask that it be withdrawn. We are discussing, not whether a monopoly is in control of the match-making industry, but whether certain duties are adequate for the protection of an Australian industry which provides employment for Australian people.
– The remark of the Postmaster-General does not relate strictly to the item before the Chair, but it cannot be regarded as personal, because it refers to the Labour party generally.
– I insist upon the withdrawal of the remark.
– As it is usual, when remarks are objected to, for them to be withdrawn, the Postmaster-General will withdraw the remarkto which exception has now been taken.
– I submit that in no sense was what I said unparliamentary. My remark was a perfectly proper statement to make in a debate like this. It would be extraordinary if one had to withdraw every observation to which his opponents objected. Honorable members opposite might even object to my presence here. If they did so, would I be asked to withdraw from the chamber? To require the withdrawal of a statement merely because objection had been taken to it by an opponent would reduce parliamentary discussion to an absurdity. I submit that as my language was not unparliamentary, I was entitled to use it.
– When the point of order was taken by the honorable member for Cook, I drew his attention to the fact that the reference was not personal. For that reason, I do not myself think it reasonable to demand its withdrawal, although it has been the practice of the Chair to request the withdrawal of any remark to which exception has been taken.
– With reference to your ruling, Mr. Chairman-
– There can be no discussion on my ruling.
– If I were to describe the supporters of the Government as a pack of scoundrels, would I not be asked to withdraw the remark?
– The honorable member for Cook is not now in order.
– I regard the statement of the Postmaster-General that the Labour party stands for a monopoly as offensive to myself, and I ask for its withdrawal.
– The statement of the Postmaster-General was that the members of the Labour party were defending a monopoly, and I have ruled that that statement was not unparliamentary.
– Had the members of the Labour party advocated the nationalization of the matchmaking industry, instead of defending this monopoly, they would have taken up a. reasonable attitude in consonance with the teachings of genuine Labour men, who have now passed away. There are no Labour leaders in the federal arena, because no Labour leader would support a proposal of this kind.
– The honorable member is now criticizing the Labour party as a party; I ask him to deal with the item before the Chair.
– A monopoly of this kind is contrary to Labour principles and the platform upon which honorable members opposite stand.
– The platform of the Labour party is not the question before the Chair. I remind all honorable members that they will have an opportunity to speak upon this item, and I ask them to withhold their comments until they are called upon by the Chair.
– All the favours that have been conferred upon this monopoly, and have enabled it. to exploit the people of this country, were given to it, strange to say, by a Federal Labour government. The industry was given a prohibition on imports, a provision against dumping, a 50 per cent. surcharge, and a high duty. Those arc the privileges that were conferred upon this monopoly by a government masquerading under the name of Labour.
– On a point of order, I ask with due humility whether the Postmaster-General is in order in stating that honorable members on this side of the chamber masqueraded as a Labour government. The remark is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I have already called the Postm aster-General to order, and I was about to remind him again when the honorable member rose, that his reference to the Labour party had no relation to the item under discussion. I ask the Postmaster-General to deal with the item before the Chair.
– I have asked that the remark to which I have taken exception be withdrawn.
– On a point of order, I submit that the remark of the Postmaster-General was a fair criticism of the attitude adopted by the party opposite when in office.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral to proceed with his speech.
– Why not call the PostmasterGeneral to order?
– The honorable member must not interject.
– The PostmasterGeneral is not discussing the item.
– I warn the honorable member not to interject.
– Any one, irrespective of the party to which he may belong, who supports this monopoly, and takes the line of argument used by the Opposition in respect of this monopoly, is entitled to be described, not as a true Labour man, but as a monopolist, a high prohibitionist, and as a person who stands allied with the privileged and vested interests of this country.
– What do they do with their profits?
– I have already warned the honorable member twice not to interject, and, if he offends again,I shall name him. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to deal with the item under discussion, and not to refer to political parties. If the honorable member expects protection from the Chair, he must not make provocative remarks.
– I rise to a point of order. On one occasion I, in your judgment, sir, disobeyed your ruling after being called to order twice. I would point out that the Postmaster-General has been called to order on three occasions.
– The honorable member is reflecting upon and criticizing the Chair, and I ask him to resume his seat.
– I am stating the fact that you, sir, have called the PostmasterGeneral to order on three occasions. That is no reflection upon or criticism of the Chair.
– The Chair does not require the assistance of the honorable member for Darling. I ask him to resume his seat, and not to interject again.
– I have finished with that aspect of the matter.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I have several times warned honorable members that the debate cannot be carried on in this manner. I shall have to name honorable members if they do not cease interjecting.
– There are different rules for different sides of the committee.
– I shall name the honorable member for Darling if he again interjects. I shall use the powers conferred upon me by the Standing Orders if honorable members will not obey the Chair.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.If honorable members are not opposed to the proposals of the Government, and are not prepared to defend this monopoly, why all this bother? Why not give a unanimous vote in favour of these proposals which do not inflict damageupon any one? All that the Government is seeking to do is to restrict and restrain the rapacity that is characteristic of this monopoly. Despite the reduction of duty, not a single match comes into this country or is purchased by the workmen of Australia which is not manufactured by this monopoly.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral want matches from overseas to come into Australia?
– Order !
– Surely it is reasonable for this Parliament to take some cognizance of the price that the people of Australia have to pay for matches, which are an absolute necessity! The object of the tariff is to accord this industry certain privileges, but the company has been using these privileges in a manner which is unfair to this country. It has been left to this Government to take the necessary steps to curb the rapacity of the company, and to see that it docs at least the reasonably fair thing to hundreds of thousands of our citizens who are compelled to purchase the matches that it makes. The report of the Tariff Board shows clearly that the controlling interest in this industry is held by the British company.
– But is that company a British company?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is just the point. The report of the board shows, further, that a certain Swedish company has been paid £200,000 of the money spent by the workmen of Australia. In other words, it has been bought off. Surely this establishes the fact” that there is a connexion between this industry in Australia and Great Britain and the interests that were controlled by Kreuger and Toll, one of whom made such a disgraceful departure from this life, and left behind him a trail of misery and ruin involving thousands. Wo are entitled to see that this monopoly, with its world-wide connexions, which has wrought so much harm abroad, shall be subjected to some definite, specific, and satisfactory control in Australia.
– What about Lord Inchcape?
– If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has any objection to the principle that I am stating, let him stand up like a man and say so, instead of meandering as he did in his speech.
Let us see from where this company obtained its gigantic funds. The Tariff Board has reported that £150,000 was originally put into the company. As the Minister for Trade and Customs has pointed out, this amount has been increased two or three-fold. Where has the money come from? Not out of the pockets of the capitalists of this country, nor from those who have money to invest in industries in Australia, nor from wealthy people overseas who are prepared to invest money in Australia. Certainly not! The money has come out of the pockets of the working men and women of Australia, .who have had to pay such excessively high prices for their matches. The profits of this company have reached such a colossal total that it has been able, out of its profits, and not out of the funds of the capitalists of Australia or other countries, to establish branches of its industry in other cities. Its funds have been wrung from the working men and women of Australia.
– They have got cheaper matches.
– On the. question of the reduction in the price of matches, I direct the attention of honorable members to the evidence given by Mr. Joshua before the Tariff Board. This gentleman, speaking on behalf of the monopoly which has taken enormous wealth from the working classes of this country, stands forward and truculently declares :-
There will be no more blank cheques. I am not prepared to tell this board or any one else that I will not raise the price, because I do not know what new tax will be put upon us or what new hurden we will have to bear. There has been no change in our prices for years and years. … In any case, we promised that wo would not raise the price, and we have not done it, but I am not going to make any such promise for the future.
Yet, when this Government, on the strength of the report of the Tariff Board, has the courage to take action, these people who, through their representatives, said so peremptorily and definitely and positively that there would be no reduction in the price of matches, have now reduced the price by 6d.
– Why didn’t you take action before?
– The honorable member for Kennedy is forgetting my warning.
– This reduction will apply to the retailers, and will affect the buying of matches by the dozen. But the Government thinks that more than that is required. The people of this country should get their matches for at least -Jd. a box less than they are paying now.
– They are getting them for -Jd. now!
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is not so. So much for the attitude that has been adopted by this rapacious company! I now direct the attention of honorable members to a circular which this monopoly has issued, in which it has the temerity and audacity - not to use any stronger terms - to suggest that the excise duty should be taken off. Underlined in red ink in this circular I find the words -
As a step towards righting the position, the Government might abolish the excise.
The company dares to suggest that Australia should get nothing at all out of its profits, but that they should all go back into its own pockets. The match worker is to get his paltry £172 a year, and his morning and afternoon tea in the model factory of this monopoly, but the country is to get no excise duty.
– The workers there are getting 6s. 6d. above the federal basic wage now.
– I name the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) for repeatedly disobeying the order of the Chair.
– What I said was pertinent to the speech.
– Ten thousand postal employees get less than the amount mentioned by the Postmaster-General.
– In view of what has happened, I move -
That the honorable member for Kennedy be suspended from the service of the committee.
– I rise to a point of order. This is most drastic action.
– The question is not open for debate.
– I submit to you, Mr. Chairman-
– Why gag him?
– It is just as well that I did not interject twice, or I shou’ld have been named twice.
– On a point of order, I put it to you, Mr. Chairman, that interjections are always frequent in this committee, and that it is usually only after persistent disorder that an honorable member is named. I have been listening to this debate for some time, and I have not heard the honorable member for Kennedy interject for several minutes. His interjection wa3 not offensive, but was pertinent to the speech. In view of the fact that the interjections of the honorable member for Kennedy in this debate have not been as frequent as the interjections made by certain other honorable members opposite-
– The right honorable member is reflecting upon the Chair.
– Every point of order is, more or less, a reflection upon the Chair. I feel that I have the right to ask for fair play for an honorable member of this committee.
– Order ! The question cannot be debated.
Question - That the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) be suspended from the service of the committee - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 19
Robertson (Mr. Gardner) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) as tellers for the “ ayes,” and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) for the “ noes.”
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having announced the result of the division,
– Then, I move-
That the honorable member for Cook be suspended from the service of the committee.
Question put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr . Bell. )
Majority . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In the House:
– The right honorable gentleman, from his. acquaintance with the Standing Orders, must be aware that the Chair has no knowledge of what takes place in committee except as it is reported to him by the Chairman of Committees. The Chairman having reported that the honorable member for Kennedy was named and suspended from the service of the committee, it is now my duty to put the motion “ that the honorable member for Kennedy be suspended from the service of the House “.
Question put - The House divided.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr.Rosevear) declining to act as teller,
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) indicating his willingness to act as teller.
Result of division - (Me. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Ayes . . . . . . 38
Noes . . . . . . 17
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Kennedy was accordingly suspended for the remainder of the sitting, and withdrew from the chamber.
Question - That the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) be suspended from the service of the House - put. The House divided.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) again declining to act as teller,
– I again remind the honorable member for Dalley that in refusing to act as teller he is offending against our procedure. I appoint the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) to act as a teller for the Noes.
Result of division - (Me. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Ayes . . . . . . 40
Noes . . . . . . 14
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Cook was accordingly suspended for the remainder of the sitting, and withdrew from the chamber.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has twice this evening refused to obey the call of the Chair to act as a teller. I wish to impress it upon all honorable members that any disobedience of a call of the Chair is, in parliamentary practice, an offence. Although on a number of occasions this conduct has occurred and no disciplinary measures have followed, the House should know that when an honorable member is called, either by Mr. Speaker, or by the Chairman of Committees, to act as a teller, he renders himself liable, if he refuses to “ tell,” to be named by the Chair. On this occasion I shall not name the honorable member for Dalley, but I hope that he and other honorable members will realize that it is obligatory upon Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees, to see that the duties which a member may be called on to perform are faithfully discharged.
Sitting suspended from 6.48 to 8.15 p.m.
.- I support the reduced duties proposed by the Government. The time has come for further governmental action to protect the consumers as well as the manufacturers. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) stated this afternoon that when high protection was granted to the match industry, an undertaking was given by the manufacturers that prices would not be increased. Having regard to the allround reduction of costs, the people of Australia are entitled to ask for something more than that. Prices of nearly all commodities throughout the world have fallen, and an undertaking merely that prices will not be increased is not sufficient . Australian consumers should share in the fall. The report of the Tariff Board on matches is the most scathing indictment of any industry that that body has yet made. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) said that his concern was not with the past, but with the future. My reply is that the safest guide to the future is the record of the past. History is the best basis upon which to judge the future, and we have an official declaration that the match-making industry, when granted very high protection and prohibitions, did not play the game. In the circumstances, the Government is justified in acting upon the advice of the Tariff Board. I notice, however, that the duties imposed in this schedule do not conform exactly to the board’s recommendations. For instance, the board advised that the rates on matches in boxes of 50 or less should be 7d. and1s. 2d. The duties provided in the schedule are 7d. and1s. 7d. Where duties of1s. 2d. and 2s. 4d. were recommended, the Government has proposed 1s. 2d. and 3s. 2d. Where1s. 8d. and 3s. 6d. were recommended, the Government has proposed1s. 8d. and 3s.10d.
– Those variations are necessary to comply with the Ottawa formula.
– Some of the margins seem greater than the percentage of preference required by the Ottawa agreement. Practically anything can be made in Australia - at a price - and the criterion of whether the protection of an industry is justified is the burden it imposes upon the people. The Tariff Board, throughout its report, ‘ emphasizes the fact that the burden resulting from the high protection of the match industry has been unduly heavy, and has not been justified by the employment provided. Members of the Opposition seem to be concerned’ as to the effect of the reduction of duties upon employment. The matchmaking industry employs about 1,000 hands, and pays in wages £178,000 per annum. Australia’s requirement of matches is approximately 2,400,000 gross of boxes. If that output be divided into the wages bill, -the cost is about ls. 6d. per gross. The duty provided is ls. 7d. When the protection of a commodity exceeds the total wages required to produce it, the manufacturer has no reason to complain. Therefore, I see no risk of the industry being seriously affected by the reduction of duties. When there is no local competition, the public can be protected only by rigid control of the protection given by Parliament. The Tariff Board stated that the controllers of the match industry were not prepared to give any blank cheque, or even an assurance, that the prices would not be raised. Yet when they ascertained the nature of the board’s report, including an allegation that the manufacturers were exercising monopolistic powers, their prices were reduced almost to the extent recommended by the board. In those circumstances, the committee is justified in following the advice of the board, by refusing to increase the duties which it recommends.
.- The speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) this afternoon was a damning indictment of, private monopolies. He drew attention to the weakness of the capitalistic system, and if his speech had been made by a soapbox orator fulminating on the Yarra bank against capitalism and monopolies it could not have contained more cogent reasons for the nationalization of this industry. But, of course, the present Government is not prepared to nationalize a monopoly. When the Bruce-Page Government had an opportunity some years ago to obtain for the Commonwealth Parliament increased powers over trade and commerce, it did not ask for powers sufficiently wide.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).Order ! The trade and commerce powers sought by a previous government cannot be associated with this item.
– In order to deal with a monopoly in the match-making or any other industry, unlimited powers over trade and commerce are required by the National Parliament, but when the party now in power had an opportunity to obtain those powers from the people, it neglected to do so.
– Order ! The honorable member must obey the Chair.
– No doubt this matter will engage the attention of a future Parliament, but we cannot hope that this present Government will .attempt the nationalization of monopolies.
– If the honorable member persists in disregarding the order of the Chair I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am dealing with the Labour party’s policy of new protection and control of monopolies, and the additional powers necessary.
– Those matters do not enter into the consideration of this item.
– I submit that I am in order in drawing attention to the Labour party’s policy for the protection of industries. Even the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) should be able to support the Labour party’s policy of new protection. He said that when Parliament grants protection to an industry.it should have some control over prices and distribution, and I assume that he would also include control over conditions of employment in the industry. The plank of the Labour- party’s platform relating to new protection reads -
The Labour party would like to have the opportunity to put that policy into operation.
– The honorable member is digressing from the item before the Chair.
– If this Parliament had the powers advocated by the Labour party it would be able to ensure that protected industries are charging only reasonable prices to the community. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) unfairly said that the members of the Opposition stood for profiteering by an absentee company. That was a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Neither the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), nor the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) tried to justify profiteering by companies whose industries have been protected by this Parliament. Both made it clear that their concern was for the employees in the factories, and the Leader of the Opposition stated definitely that he would not attempt to justify the high profits that had been made. My attitude on this item is governed by a desire to keep in employment approximately 1,000 people who are engaged in the match-making industry, instead of giving employment to Russian and Japanese workers in the production of matches to be sold in Australia by agents and importers at 2d. and 2½d. a dozen higher than the prices charged for the locally made article. That was happening in 1925 when the importers supplied half the Australian market. The members of the Labour party have a right to be concerned for the employees in this industry, and to resist any proposal that will jeopardize their employment. I have no hesitation in saying that the matchmaking companies should have reduced their prices as soon as they captured the Australian market. I have no quarrel with the Tariff Board over its investigation of this industry. Nor did the Leader of the Opposition hold that the board was not justified in ascertaining all the facts relating to the operations of these protected enterprises.
– It is very desirable that the board should do so.
– Yes, but the right honorable gentleman objected to some of the threadbare freetrade jargon employed by the Tariff Board in its comments on the protectionist policy. The report shows that the board has recently changed its outlook on this subject. Some of its arguments are of the kind that we hear on public platforms from representatives of the so-called Tariff Reform League, the Town and Country Legion, and numerous other freetrade organizations. The board has referred to the loss of customs revenue resulting from the protection of the match-making industry. That test might be applied to any secondary industry, including woollen textiles. If we were to import millions of pounds worth of woollen goods such as those now made in Australian mills, huge amounts of additional revenue would be collected by the Customs Department. But the local mills are giving direct employment to 12,000 of our people, and indirect employment to about 5,000, who are earning salaries and enabling the controlling companies to earn profits and pay taxes. The Tariff Board, and the opponents of protection, say nothing about the heavy taxes paid to governments by Australian manufacturers. We should remember the duties that are paid on the raw materials imported by them, as well as the insurance, advertising, transport, and other charges that have to be met. In the case of this particular industry, employment in subsidiary industries is given to seamen, timber-getters, box and carton makers, paper and glue makers, and many others. It is well to realize what the result of these duties may be to employment in Australia.
Comparing the new duties with those imposed under the Scullin tariff, the reductions are from 2s.1d. to10d. a gross British, and from 3s. to1s. 9d. a gross general. Then we must take into consideration the excise of 6d. a gross, which is not charged on imported matches. Because of that 6d. excise, the net protection is reduced from 2s.1d. a gross to 4d. a gross on British imports, and from 3s. to1s. 3d. a gross on foreign imports. Therefore, compared with the Massy Greene tariff, the protection now provided is about one-third on imports from the United Kingdom, and almost half on foreign imports of matches of the most popular kind. What will be the outcome of these reductions? We are told by the Minister, of course, that the local company will go on employing the same number of persons as before, although we have been informed that 360 fewer people are employed in two of the Australian factories, and, even taking into consideration the new factory in Western Australia, the net reduction amounts to 162.
– They still supply the Australian requirements.
– Yes; but many of those retailers who usually buy large quantities from the local company have reduced their orders considerably, because they hope to be able to import matches from Russia, Japan, or some other foreign country at more favorable prices than those now charged. When the local company felt that it had the whole of the Australian market, it was able to take the risk of accumulating large stocks in Australia to meet future demands; but to-day the future is so uncertain that it cannot go on building up these large stocks. Years ago, half the matches sold in Australia were imported, and the price was 2½d. a dozen higher than that now charged for matches made in this country. I have no objection to the Government dealing with the company in any way that will result in bringing about a reduction of prices; my chief concern is for the workmen in the industry, and I do not want to see the industry sacrificed. This vicious reduction of the duties below those provided in the Massy Greene tariff of 1921 must have a disastrous effect upon employment. Unless the Government can give an assurance that matches made in Japan, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Sweden and Norway will not be brought in, further unemployment must result in the industry.
I listened with amazement to the speech delivered by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill). Crocodile tears ran down his cheeks when he remarked that his heart went out to the women and children who were being fleeced by this huge octopus. The average number of matches used by an ordinary family in twelve months is estimated to be less than one gross, and a reduction or increase of the price to the extent of 6d. or even1s. a gross could not be said to affect seriously the cost of living. If there are five persons in the average household, such an increase of the price would mean an extra1d. to 2½d. for each person per annum. If the Government wished to draw attention to other increases in the cost of living, it could point to some of its profiteering importing friends, who, before the Scullin Government came into office, were making phenomenal profits. Those importers were not employing thousands of Australians, but merely a few clerks and typists. They were indenting millions of pounds worth of goods from other countries; yet the searchlight of investigation which has been directed upon ‘the match industry was not turned upon Flinders-lane or York-street, or the private banking institutions of Australia.
– The honorable member must deal with the item under consideration.
– This afternoon the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition showed the Tariff Board up in a bad light when he pointed to the fact that the board had failed to compare the retail price of matches in New Zealand with the retail price ruling in Australia to-day. He showed that the New Zealand price was from7½d. a dozen in the “ chain “ stores to10d. a dozen in the tobacconists’ shops, while the selling price in Australia ranged from 6d. to 7d. a dozen. That shows clearly that where there is no local industry, and where the community depends entirely upon imported matches, greater exploitation of the public occurs than in Australia, where we have a local industry and where the whole of the Australian market is secured to the local manufacturer.
The Postmaster-General, in a most provocative speech, spoke of the meagre average wage of the workers in this industry. The amount is £172 per annum ; but the Minister did not mention that approximately 700 girls were employed in the industry, and that the wage was higher than the average salary of the members of the Commonwealth Public
Service. If the Minister ascertained the average wage paid to female employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, he would find that it is much below £172 per annum.
– That figure covers both male and female employees.
– The average wage of the male employees would be much higher. I am assured that the average wage paid to the male and female employees in the match industry is about the same as, or slightly higher than, the average salary paid in the Commonwealth Public Service, in which most of the employees are males. Since the majority of the employees in the match industry are female, the criticism based on the argument that this industry pays a low wage is not justified.
I should like every manufacturer in Australia to carry out the Labour party’s new protectionist policy, under which there would be no profiteering, while reasonable prices would be charged to the public, and there would be fair standards of wages and conditions of employment. The match industry is one of those that observe a decent standard of wages and provide good conditions of employment. No honorable member on this side of the chamber believes in the encouragement of monopolies which exploit the people; but, where monopolies exist, it is better to have them in Australia, where government control over them can be exercised, than in Sweden, Russia, Germany, Japan, or some other country, selling, through importers and foreign agents, to the Australian people at high prices, matches which are the product of coloured labour or cheap child labour. Honorable members who profess to take up the cudgels on behalf of the consumers must talk with their tongues in their cheeks, because their main supporters are the big financial institutions and profit-making retail monopolies which are out to make the greatest possible amount of profit. The only party that will put into operation the policy of new protection, which provides for a fair deal to all sections of the people, is the Australian Labour Party.
.- I think that the public will judge the concluding remarks of the Deputy ‘Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) upon the attitude which his party has assumed on fiscal matters within the last few years. The report of the Tariff Board on the match industry is a revelation, not only to the public of Australia, but even to the members of this Parliament. I have never read anything more disgraceful or astounding, and I hope that it will mark the beginning of a new fiscal era. Henceforth, some time after protection has been afforded to an industry, the Tariff Board should be required to submit a further report to the Parliament, so that honorable members may be made aware of any other happenings similar to those that have been made known in connexion with the match industry. Under the 1921 tariff a very heavy duty was imposed on imported matches, and in 1923, following a request that imports should be subject to dumping duties, the matter was referred to the Tariff Board. At that time, the board was not required to take evidence in public and it need not take it on oath. It then recommended that the industry should receive the benefit of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. Here was a board, whose members were receiving high salaries from the people of Australia, which despite the high duties on matches already operating, under which the company had made enormous profits, recommended, in addition, that all wooden safety matches exported from any country except the United Kingdom, the landed duty-paid cost of which was less than the manufacturers’ selling, price of comparable Australian-made matches, should be brought under the provisions of the anti-dumping act. I estimate that during the past twelve years the country has paid for matches an extra £3,000,000 for the benefit of this company. We are told by the Tariff Board that in 1922 the local company had a paid-up capital of £150,000; that in November of that year the share capital was doubled by the capitalization of reserves amounting to £150,000, and that in September, 1925, a further issue of bonus shares, amounting to £100,000, increased the share capital to £400,000.
Thus, within a period of three years, undistributed profits amounting to £250,000 were given to shareholders in the form of bonus shares in addition to dividends. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that if we were to be dependent on goods produced by monopolies, it was betterto have the monopolies in our own country, where we could control them. We do not seem to have been able to exercise much control over the match monopoly. The Tariff Board further states -
At the present time, the share capital of the company is £672,917 - the addition since 1925 having been -
An issue of £200,000 share capital to Svenska Tandsticks Aktiebolaget, Stockholm, Sweden, in 1931, in accordance with an agreement under which two Swedish companies undertook to withdraw from the Australian market to give the local manufacturers the goodwill of the trade previously held by them.
I have always understood that, not only this company, but also the firm of Bryant and May inGreat Britain, was part of the great Swedish match ‘ combine of which Kreuger was head. The report continues -
The honorable member for Capricornia referred to the Tariff Reform League. I remind him that it was Mr. W. F. Gates, the secretary of the league, who brought this matter before the Tariff Board. He stated, I understand, that, out of a total of 600,000 shares, only 44,000 were held in Australia. It was he who supplied the information which enabled this investigation to be made, showing what this company really is. It is suggested that, as it is an Australian company employing Australian labour, under most excellent conditions, the people of Australia should be compelled to purchase its products. Yet we are told by the Tariff Board that, for the period covered by the tariff schedule, the average number employed in one factory was only five adult males, 24 adult females, one junior male, and 12 junior females. I admit that it is a good thing to promote industries in Australia, if they are efficient, and it is acknowledged that this company treats its employees well; but that is no justification for the action taken years ago in giving it a monopoly.
I have watched the operations of the Customs Department more closely, perhaps, than any other honorable member ; but it was not until I saw the Tariff Board’s report that I had any idea that an anti-dumping duty was in operation on matches. When it is proposed to bring the anti-dumping provisions into effect, an advertisement is inserted in the Gazette, which very few honorable members see, and hardly any one knows what is being done. We do not know how many other items the anti-dumping provisions may be applying to at the present moment.
For the last twelve years the public has been taxed excessively under this provision, as we can see by comparing the import prices of matches in Australia and in New Zealand. For instance, in 1929-30 the import price in Australia was 33. a gross, while in New Zealand it was only 2s. The Tariff Board report states that the average value of the Australian importation is based on statistics for importations of wooden matches in boxes containing 70 matches or less; the New Zealand figures are based on statistics for importations of all wooden matches; but, as far as is known, the bulk of importations into New Zealand are comparable in count and quality with the Australian importations selected for this comparison.
The Scullin Government imposed a 50 per cent. surtax on the importation of matches, and later an embargo, notwithstanding the fact that it needed revenue badly, and, in order to get it, increased taxation to the point where it practically crippled industry. The Government was starving for money, and put on special taxes, reduced salaries and old-age pensions; yet it imposed an embargo on the importation of matches, thus sacrificing a revenue of about £140,000 a year. Evidently, it believed that it was much better to increase taxes and reduce the salaries of its officers and workers, than to interfere with the profits of this company. In the circumstances. I can understand the heat displayed by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) when discussing the subject this afternoon. There has never been a clearer case presented to Parliament of exploitation of the people than is revealed in this Tariff Board’s report. The board states that the present price is 7d. per dozen boxes, and some years ago, before the operation of a high tariff on matches, the price was about 4d. per dozen. Seeing that prices have increased so much, how can it be said by the honorable member for. Capricornia that it is better to have a monopoly operating in our own country where we can control the price it charges for its output?
– Matches have never been sold at 4d. per dozen boxes since before the war.
– During the war, it was very difficult to import any article, but what justification has there been since the war for an increase in price of more than 75 per cent.? The board’s report goes on -
On this basis, it will be found that Australia pays at least £370,000 more per annum for matches than if they were imported duty free. Every employee could, therefore, be pensioned off at his or her present wage, and £102,000 a year saved.
Surely the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) ought to have realized that it would be better for the country to obtain some revenue from the importation of matches, than to hand over the making of them to a monopoly which has so obviously exploited the public.
The anti-dumping provisions of the Industries Preservation Act encourage the importers to keep their prices up in order that the landed cost of their goods in Australia shall not be less than the price fixed by the Australian manufacturers. That is what I have always said in connexion with rabbit netting. I do not believe that we should give even to the Minister, the power to say that if goods are imported into Australia at a price which is less than that fixed by the local manufacturers,” an extra duty must be paid so that the people may not be able to buy anything at a cheap rate. It seems to me to be a monstrous arrangement
I draw the attention of the Minister to the recommendation of the Tariff Board that the duty on wooden matches in boxes containing 112, should be ls. 8d. British, and 3s. 6d. general, whereas the general duty fixed in the schedule is 3s. lOd.
– That is to accord with the Ottawa formula, and with the principle that, where specific rates have been fixed, they were to be allowed to remain.,
– It would have been better not to bother about the English price, but merely to take steps to see that too high a duty was not imposed. The board recommended 3s. 6d. foreign as sufficient, and the Government should have accepted the recommendation by reducing the rate on British matches. It is evident, from a perusal of the board’s report, that the Australian company has been on a wonderful wicket for some years. During’ the early stages of its operations, it was in an extraordinarily good position. This state of affairs should not have been tolerated. I can never understand why we have not, before this, been given some information regarding the manner in which the company has been exploiting the public. Our governments have been, apparently, so anxious for the welfare of this monopoly that they have issued proclamations that the dumping duty should apply when the wholesale price of imported goods in Australia was less than the Australian manufacturers’ price. Apparently, that sort of thing is to continue.
– No, it will not. The rate is to be determined by the Minister on the report of the Tariff Board. The system is to be altered by a gazettal notice.
– Does that mean that when the company, for whatever reasons, good or bad, chooses to alter its price, the Tariff Board shall make an inquiry to determine whether or not it is justified in doing so? Surely we have other work for the board to do? Neither is it work which the Minister can have done, by an officer of his department. It should not be handled in that way at all, and in saying that, I am making no reflection on the Minister, who is, I am convinced, as honorable and capable as any Minister who has ever held the position.
– We may yet bring the duty down to 4s. 6d. a gross. Investigations are still proceeding.
– .The Government should adhere to the duties recommended by the Tariff Board. If a situation arises subsequently, justifying a higher duty, the Minister may bring down an amending schedule, to which Parliament will no doubt agree. If the system of imposing the dumping duties by proclamation is adhered to, this company will be able to determine the measure of its own protection by fixing the price at which to sell its product.
– That practice has now been changed. The rate in future will be fixed by the Minister, and not, as in the past, by the company. In this, we are following the suggestion of the Tariff Board.
– That will encourage the overseas manufacturer to keep his price up to the limit.
– That will be watched, because we know at what price he exports to other countries, such as -New Zealand.
– I have observed this practice in the past, and have produced before the Tariff Board proof of the fact that the British manufacturers of wire netting quoted to New Zealand and South Africa a price c.i.f. and e., which was about the same as, and in the case of South Africa even less than, the f.o.b. price quoted to Australia. I believe that it is impossible to obtain such a quotation from Great Britain today, on account of Tariff Board regulations and the operation of the dumping duty. If the dumping duty is fixed on the basis of the prices charged by Australian manufacturers, importers will so fix their prices as to bring the landed figure to the same level as the -price of the Australian product, and competition will be destroyed. I hope .that the anti-dumping provisions will be made effective, so that the manufacturer will not continue to enjoy the privilege he has had in the past, of having the dumping duty fixed according to the prices he charges.
– That matter has been righted.
– I hope that in the future the reports of the Tariff Board will be presented to Parliament immediately they are received, I understand that in certain circumstances a report may be held back for some time ; but it is desirable that the report, whether favorable or otherwise, should be presented to Parliament without delay. This report has been sent back to the board, evidently with a view to its modification, and under another government honorable members may not have even seen it. I am pleased that the Minister has seen fit to present this report, but regret that he has referred the matter back for further consideration. This inquiry will have a healthy effect, because every newspaper in Australia has published extracts from the report to illustrate what has been done in the past in connexion with the imposition of high duties and customs restrictions. I trust that there- will be fewer opportunities for that sort of thing to occur again. This report exposes one of the greatest scandals that has come to light in Australia. That these people, with the assistance of governments, should have been able to exploit the community, is disgraceful.
.- I am pleased to be able to support the Government’s proposals in this case. The honorable member for. Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) was accurate in his assumption that the members of the Country party would like the duty to be lower than it is. I have before me the testament, according to Joshua, on the match industry. I do not know whether he is the son of Nun; but he has uttered the following warning: -
It is not for us to tell legislators what they should do or leave undone, but it is indeed our duty to warn them of the probable consequences of their action in a matter of which we have infinite knowledge.
I do not question their infinite knowledge. They wanted it also to remain private knowledge when they appeared before the Tariff Board. That, in itself, ought to have condemned this company, or any company that asks this Parliament for high protection, and is not prepared to disclose the benefit and profit derived from it. Such companies want to be given a blank cheque, so that they may fleece the public of Australia. It is the duty of this Parliament to see that they do not get it. It is useless for honorable members to say that the price of matches has not been increased, or that it would not be lower if this protection were not given to a monopoly in Australia. In 1911, matches could be bought for from ls. 7d. to 2s. a gross. They were sold over the counter for 3s. a gross after railage had been paid on them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), following his usual practice, has endeavoured to show that the cost is only so much a family. He has done that also in the case of sugar, bananas, and other commodities. It is these additional costs that account for the onerous burden that is being borne by the people of Australia. They affect very severely the old-age pensioner, about whom there has been so much squealing’ in this chamber. No other commodity is of such universality as matches, and the cost of them bears heavily all round. As a matter of fact, when purchased by the box the cost is ls. a dozen. I regret, with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), that the Government has not adopted the report of the Tariff Board, which, on its own admission, is a generous one. The British tariff might have been reduced, instead of the foreign tariff being increased so as to comply with the terms of the Ottawa agreement. I heartily support the proposals of the Government.
.- I rise as a high protectionist of the reasonable type, to support the item as it appears in the schedule. To me, protection should serve a two-fold purpose. It should safeguard the manufacturer as well as the consumer, it should protect the efficient industry, and it should not be used as a cloak either for inefficiency or for the exploitation of the consumer.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the debate has been the pious indignation of honorable members opposite while the searchlight of inquiry was being played on the burning cinders of what has undoubtedly proved to the purchasing public to be a flaming monstrosity. That the match industry is a monopoly, no one will deny. Yet honorable members opposite nave seen fit to defend the industry with an enthusiasm and a vigour that would be invoked in a struggle for life.. They resent any criticism of their attitude by honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) stated in his opening remarks that this is the most drastic reduction in the whole of the tariff schedule. The Tariff Board inquiry showed that such a reduction is far more necessary in connexion with this particular industry than in the case of any other. Drastic evils call for drastic remedies. The right honorable gentleman also dwelt at length upon the attitude of some members of the committee towards banks and commercial houses, and even went so far as to mention Flinders Lane, in an attempt to justify the retention of the old duties. I would point out to him, however, that two wrongs never make a right. His case was not strengthened by the introduction of extraneous matters. Time and again honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber have been bitterly attacked by honorable members opposite for having defended alleged monopolies. Yet when the opportunity presents itself for us, in turn, to criticize them, they, for some peculiar reason, resent it. The right honorable gentleman gave as one of the reasons for the retention of the aid duties the fact that the match company had faithfully carried out certain undertakings that it gave to his Government two or three years ago. He further stated that the wages and conditions which prevail in the industry are excellent from the employees’ point of view. I am pleased that the conditions have been improved probably as the result of representations by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). I point out, however, that the users of matches have to pay for those conditions, as well as for the high profits, the tremendous reserves, and the hundreds of thousands of bonus shares that have been distributed from time to time. Honorable members of the Government party are now able to turn against their opponents the criticism, in a general sense, that has been levelled against them. I shall illustrate my point by reading from some interesting pamphlets that were circulated during an election campaign. One of themreads as follows: -
Vote Against the Politicians who Handed Australia over to the Monopolists.
Another piece of advice that was given to the electors reads as follows : -
The Labour party stands for the millions; not the millionaires.
How these people have changed their ground since those days ! A little further on there is another interesting statement, in the following terms : -
“TO HIM THAT HATH.”
The Bruce-Page Ministry has putthe interests of a handful of rich people before the interests of the country as a whole.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the item.
– The report of the Tariff Board contains one significant paragraph that I feel justified in quoting. It reads -
The factory selling price of wooden safety matches manufactured in the Melbourne factory is 4s.11d. per gross, plus excise duty, plus sales tax. Similar matches manufactured in the Sydney factory are sold at 4s.10d. per gross, plus excise duty, plus sales tax.
That, to me, is an illustration of the degree of exploitation that has been practised in some Victorian industries. In New South Wales the working hours are 44, compared with 48 in Victoria; and when this evidence was taken the basic wage in New South Wales was £4 2s. 6d., compared with a wage of considerably under £4 in Victoria. The New South Wales match industry, in addition to providing for family endowment, pays a much higher rate in respect of workmen’s compensation. Notwithstanding those additional charges, the selling price of matches is1d. a gross less in New South Wales than it is in Victoria. Either the manufacturers of New South Wales are fair-minded and generous, or some of the Melbourne manufacturers - and I am inclined to this view - are exploiting the public. That applies not only to this industry, but also to many other industries that are operating in Victoria. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition fears that matches produced by cheap labour countries may enter Australia; but, at the same time, he is willing to allow the Australian consumer under the pretence of being afraid of the black bogy to be exploited by the local manufacturers. I am prepared to support with adequate protection any industry that is efficient and of reasonable importance, but I am not prepared to support an industry like the matchmaking industry, which, particularly in Victoria, is exploiting the public.
.- We on this side of the chamber feel like the gladiators of old Borne, who, when addressing Caesar in the arena, said, “ Hail, Caesar ! those about to die salute thee.” We know very well that we cannot persuade the Government to make any alteration of this duty, and we much regret that the protection which was previously given to the match industry has to some extent been withdrawn. The duty has been reduced from 2s.1d. British and 3s. general to10d. and1s. 9d. respectively. I am a protectionist right up to the hilt. I do not impute bad motives to the freetraders in this chamber, who, I do not doubt, are as honest in their opinions as I am; but they should know that a business, to be successful in these days, must be a monopoly. The late Mr. Krueger, whose activities included the financing of countries, was mainly responsible for the world monopoly of matches. No one who is a wide reader can doubt for a moment that the match industry has become a monopoly throughout the world. Still, as an Australian, I would rather support a monopoly in my own country which is subject to our laws than a monopoly outside which is beyond our laws. I grant that the match-making industry is a monopoly. I believe in the nationalization of industry, and I hope that some day, by its universal adoption, poverty- will become a thing of the past. I have no objection to monopolies within Australia, because every successful monopoly helps to establish the foundation of nationalism. Not! a single federal basic wage, as prescribed by the Arbitration Court to-day, equals the wage that is paid in the match-making industry. The majority of the employees in the industry are females. Unfortunately, civilization has not reached the stage of equal payment for equal work, regardless of sex. What is the new protection to which some honorable members have referred? It is protection by means of the tariff of the Australian manufacturer to enable him to compete against the world, at the same time extending preferences to the Motherland, since 98 per cent, of our population are of British stock; the protection of the worker by means of wages boards or the Arbitration Court, provided that the system is administered sensibly, and not ridiculously, as it is at present in Australia; and the protection of the buyer of the product - the housewife and others by requiring list prices for the citizens.
No industry has carried out its promises more faithfully than has this match monopoly. The working conditions in the match-making; industry of Australia are unsurpassed, either in Europe or in Japan. In 1925, the local manufacturers promised that their product would be sold to the public at one price, and up to date that promise has been kept. The price charged is the nearest approach to a list price that I know of. Where no real list price is supplied by a manufacturer who has the advantage of high-tariff protection, is the fault of the Commonwealth Government.
In 1905, I made a trip to , Japan, and ‘while there my attention was drawn to the Japanese match industry. At that time, the unfortunate match-box makers in England - mostly womenfolk - were sweated. They had to make match boxes, finding their own paste, at 2½d. a gross. To my astonishment, I found that in Japan matches were exported and sold at less than Id. a gross. I was so struck with this industry that in a booklet on Japan and the East, which I published on my return to Australia, I included the following paragraph: -
In the year 1902, Japan manufactured 328,806,090 gross at a cost of 8,608,571 yen. Reckoning one yen at 2s. (the actual value is 2s. 0½d) this works out at a trifle over $ of Id. (0.635) per gross. In face of these figures, it seems that even Scandinavia must shortly surrender the business of match manufacturing absolutely to Japan.
At that time, Japanese matches were sold at a price of less than Id. a gross. Today, Japan is exporting matches at 3s. 3d. a . gross! That price represents an increase of 6,100 per cent., or 61 times the price of 1905. It is not feasible that the wages in Japan have increased in the same ratio.
When the duty we imposed was 6d. a gross on British matches and ls. a gross on foreign matches, the average content of the boxes being 60 matches, the Japanese, by increasing the average content to 100 matches, were able to send into this country almost the same quantity of matches as Great Britain was sending. Let me give another instance of the ability of the Japanese. A large quantity of Japanese matches was imported into Australia labelled “ Trade Union Matches “, and I am afraid that many of our workers bought those matches under a misapprehension. However, I brought the matter under the notice of the Government of the day and “those labels soon disappeared. As I asked in this Parliament when I returned from Japan, of what use is a protection of 1,000 per cent against cheap Japanese matches ? Nothing but the prohibition of the importation of matches will satisfy me.
I hope that the time will come when we shall see the wisdom of nationalizing this industry for the benefit of the people of this country. Many years ago, in the days following the bursting of the land boom, when I discovered that insurance companies in Melbourne were paying dividends of 60 per cent., 70 per cent, and 80 per cent., I endeavoured to get the government of the day to enact a law that no dividends should exceed 10 per cent. I suggested that any amount of profit in excess of that amount should be divided into two equal portions, one of which should be placed in a reserve fund for the company and the other of which should be placed in a special fund for the Government. I did not then know that there was such a thing as a dividend tax in any country in the world; but I discovered subsequently that in Sweden, the home of the match industry, there was a dividend tax, by the imposition of ‘which the revenue of the country was assisted. I consider that the match monopoly of Australia should be subjected to a dividend tax. We all know that the watering of stocks is a method of hiding profits and limiting dividends. ‘ This particular company has undoubtedly made very large profits. Its success has depended upon three factors among others. The first of these is the protection, afforded to the industry by the fiscal policy of the country; the second is the wages paid to its employees; and the third is the fixation of prices. The price of matches, as was stated this afternoon, had not been altered since 1925 until recently, when a reduction of 6d. a gross was made. I am afraid that I shall have to play the part of the gladiator in this instance, because it is impossible to defeat the Government on this issue; but, in the interests of the people of Australia, I appeal for consideration of the case that I have submitted. Why should not the Government tackle monopolies by curtailing their dividends? I do not believe that we shall get anywhere by the reduction of the duty.
.- I have frequently in this chamber objected to the imposition of duties on necessaries of life which cannot be manufactured here on a commercial basis. I have mentioned on such occasions special types of machinery used in our primary industries. I think it is quite unscientific and wrong to impose a tax on such machinery. But in this case the storm is in a teacup. I agree that to some extent the match industry is a key industry, and that it has to a certain extent become a monopoly by reason of the massproduction methods that have been adopted. But it cannot be said that it is a happy example for those freetraders who wish to make out a case for the relief of the primary producers of Australia. What difference can this reduction of duty possibly make to primary producers? Under the Scullin tariff the foreign duty on matches was 3s. Under this tariff it will be ls. 9d. The difference of ls. 3d. represents about one-ninth of a penny on one dozen boxes. Does any honorable gentleman believe that this reduction will benefit the consumers of Australia ?
– If the price of matches were reduced to 4s. 6d. a dozen, the boxes could be retailed at -Jd. each.
– They are sold at that price now when bought by the dozen. As a matter of fact, this reduction of duty will benefit the middlemen, and not the public. Housewives will continue to pay 6d. or &%d. a dozen for their matches. Warm championship of antimonopoly legislation, and the idea of depriving certain interests, which, by the regimentation and rationing of their industry, have attained good results, of the benefits afforded them by the operation of protective duties, is unworthy of a government which protests that it is protectionist in policy. My attitude on the tariff is that if it is possible by reasonable protection to establish industries in this country capable of producing goods at the price at which they can be imported, or even at a slightly higher price, I have not the slightest compunction in providing that protection, if, in doing so, I am not placing any heavy burden upon our consumers. Because of the low price of primary commodities, there is a demand for the cheapening of production costs, but unless we are careful we shall outrun the constable. In this instance, I am afraid that by reducing the tariff we may allow foreign matches to come into this country. The duty now proposed is 3d. ‘a dozen less than that provided under the Massy Greene tariff, and during the period that the Massy Greene tariff was in operation nearly half the matches used in this country were imported. Do we expect the gay and festive importer to stand aside and allow the opportunity to import matches at a big profit to pass him by? If we do, we shall be disappointed. So many matches were imported into Western Australia, until comparatively recently, that one of the hobbies of the boys of that State was the collection of match box brands. Sixty or seventy different brands were collected by some boys. If that could be done with a duty of 2s. a gross how much more easily may it be done with a duty of ls. 9<i. a gross? I do not question the sincerity of the Tariff Board. It has doubtless made a close inquiry into this industry. But its deductions from the evidence submitted to it are unsound in certain instances. To my mind the board has not dealt in a business-like way with some of the evidence placed before it, though I do not accuse it of being consciously unfair. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein), who professes to be a protectionist, astounded me a little while ago by complaining that matches were being sold in
New South. Wales at 4s. 10d. a gross, and in Victoria at 4s. lid. a gross. I do not know why matches are id. dearer in Melbourne than in Sydney, but I presume that it is because of some element of competition in the business. If the honorable member really stands for protection, and in view of his statement I am prepared to believe that he does, I ask him not to lay too much stress on the fact that 144 boxes of matches, each containing 60 sticks, cost Id. more in Victoria than in New South Wales. This difference cannot in any way affect the primary producer. We shall get nowhere if we reduce duties on that basis. This bogus cry for a reduction of the duty on matches in the interests of the primary producers should not be heeded, for the producers will not be helped by such an action. I am afraid that if we reduce the duty, foreign matches will gain admission to Australia. The importers will see to that.
Let me ask honorable members if they have considered which class in the community was chiefly notable prior to the depression for the making of big fortunes? It certainly was not the primary producers ; nor, except in a few instances, was it the manufacturers, many of whom lost all they had through attempting to manufacture commodities here for which there was not a big enough market. It is true that the Australian people are remarkably adaptable, and can make things which they have never seen made. A visit to any exhibition will support this statement. We are among the most versatile people in the world. But the fact remains that the people who have been chiefly notable for accumulating big fortunes in this country are the importers who have been able to bring into Australia goods for which they have charged prices that have had no proper relation to the cost of manufacture. We have not been able to ascertain the cost of making some of the articles that I have in mind, as we are able to ascertain the cost of manufacturing wax matches, jams, pickles, and other everyday commodities. The ‘ safest and most profitable investment in Australia is in great firms like Myer’s, in Melbourne, and Anthony Hordern’s in Sydney. I do not regard the Australian match- making industry as a dangerous monopoly. Even if it was indiscreet enough to avail itself of the opportunity to amass large profits in the course of its business, its product has been selling at a lower price than is charged in Great Britain, allowing for the difference in exchange, and in New Zealand, where there is no local industry. I regret that a large proportion of the shares in the Australian industry is held abroad, but we should not forget that at least one-half of its shares, which were held by the Swedish combine, were taken over by British firms when the Swedish concern collapsed. While I admit that a profit of 10 per cent, is high, a large amount of money, £300,000 we are told, has been spent on the extension of its business to meet the whole of the requirements of the Australian market. A small factory has been established in Perth, costing £90,000, and employing 78 persons. Recently I had an opportunity to inspect that factory, and was much impressed with its efficiency. The retail price of matches in New Zealand is from 7½d. to lOd. a dozen ; in Australia it is from 6-Jd. to 7d., or, if excise were not payable, 6d. to 7d. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has told the committee that, in Western Australia, he is obliged to pay Id. for a box of wooden matches. I was surprised to hear the honorable member say that, because knowing him as I do, I am confident that if any one succeeded in selling him a box of matches for Id. it would be regarded as the joke of the season. I am quite satisfied that the honorable member would do what everybody else does - buy his dozen boxes of Australian matches for 6d. so they would cost him only id. a box.
The case for the Australian industry is that it supplies the whole of the Australian market, gives direct employment to over 1,000 persons, and benefits indirectly a much larger number engaged in other industries. If this industry were non-existent, importers would have the whole of the Australian market to themselves and the public would suffer. In the circumstances, I am at a loss to understand why the Minister did not scrutinize the item more closely, and rely upon hisown common sense when fixing the duties. My fear is that this item has been cut so drastically that we shall soon have a flood of importations, to the detriment of the Australian industry.
. -Honorable members need have no doubt as to my attitude towards this item. I intend to vote for the preservation of the Australian industry. I am not one of those who believe that members of the Tariff Board must always be right. As I have remarked on former occasions, they are human beings, and as such, are liable to err. It is not my intention to indulge in any tirade against the board. All I wish to say is that on many occasions within my knowledge, when I was Minister for Trade and Customs, the board reached wrong conclusions. For that reason, its recommendations are not always in the best interests of Australia. Without being unduly critical, I believe that members of the board, like members of Parliament sometimes, have carried out some of their investigations for the definite purpose of discovering evidence which might justify an opinion previously formed, and I suggest that this industry may be cited as a case in point.
I do not intend to offer any apologies for the misdemeanours of manufacturing concerns. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs - I have no doubt other Ministers have taken the same stand - I always made it clear to manufacturers who approached me for protection, that if at any time I had proof that they were taking advantage of the protection given them and were fleecing the public, the hand which gave them protection would take it away again. My one regret is that we have not the constitutional power to police our tariff effectively. Doubtless, honorable members will say that we are doing so in this case, because this item was referred again to the Tariff Board, which furnished the report and recommendation to the Minister, who has accepted it practically in globo; but I fail to see how the Tariff Board can be right on every occasion. If this Government adopts all its recommendations, it will make many huge blunders, and do a serious injury to Australian industries.
– The Government is not slavishly adopting the recommendation of the Tariff Board in this item.
– It has accepted practically the whole of the board’s recommendation dealing with this industry. This, I suppose, was to be expected, since the Government has so often assured us that its policy is to refer all tariff applications to the board, and to abide by its decisions. -
– The Tariff Board, I suggest, is a better authority than the honorable member.
– Yes, and better also than the Minister himself. But it does not follow that its recommendations are always sound. During my term as Minister, I frequently enlisted the services of experts in the Customs Department, and on many occasions I accepted their decisions in preference to recommendations made by the board, being convinced that the board had not taken into account all essential factors in coming to its determination.
I am well aware that all honorable members with freetrade leanings will seize upon this report of the Tariff Board as a choice morsel at which they will nibble for a long time, possibly with great satisfaction to themselves, and doubtless will make it the starting point for a general attack on Australian industries. But even if the position were as bad as has been stated by the board, there is no justification for these drastic reductions of duties. As the board’s report “has been quoted somewhat extensively during this debate, I suggest that honorable members should make themselves acquainted with the contents of circulars containing information in rebuttal of the statements made in that report. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) told the committee that the huge Swedish combine was interested in the Australian industry, and also in the parent company in Great Britain. He added that the Australian company had paid £200,000 for the goodwill and certain trade marks of foreign companies, but omitted to state that the Australian company regarded this as a good, sound business investment, and certainly not a gift to foreign interests. “While large profits have been made in more recent years, it should be remembered that in its earlier years, the Australian match industry, like many others in this country, had to overcome serious initial difficulties. Then, when it commenced to make profits, it invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in extending its business activities with a view to catering for the whole of our requirements.. This feature of its business is characteristic of so many of our large industrial concerns, and should win our approbation instead of calling for condemnation, because it means an increase of employment directly and indirectly, and confers a great benefit on Australia as a whole. Since the payment of £200,000 for certain trade marks and goodwill of foreign companies, British interests have acquired one-half of the foreign-owned shares in the Australian industry. Consequently, foreign interests now hold only a very small proportion of the shares in Bryant and May Proprietary Limited. I understand that the proportion so held is only one-sixth, so that foreign interests do not dominate this Australian industry.
– How many of the shares in Bryant and May are held in Australia ?
– The capital invested in many of our Australian secondary industries has been provided from outside Australia. We should not seize on this one company, and say that it should be punished, when we know that dozens of other companies operating in Australia also work on capital from abroad. “Why should the big concerns in this country, which have issued debentures in London, be passed over and this one company singled out for harsh treatment? It is evident that some persons in the community are only too willing to harm an Australian industry, or to wreck the pro- ‘tective policy of this country. It is admitted on all sides that the conditions of the workers in Bryant and May’s factories provide a splendid example to other employers. Probably no better equipped factories, with such contented employees, are to be found elsewhere in the world. Every wage-earner in those establishments pays income tax and unemployment tax to the State, and probably Federal income tax as well. That the company also contributes to the revenue of the nation is shown by the following paragraph from a statement supplied by the company: -
A very large proportion of the profits of our companies, instead of going out of the country, were used to build and equip new factories and enlarge others, all providing more and wider-spread employment. We promised, in return for adequate protection, to provide for the whole requirements of Australia, and we did it. Including additions to the Sydney and Melbourne factories, and the building and equipment of a splendid new factory at Perth, Western Australia, we have put back into the Australian industry over £ 300,000! Governments, State and Federal, derive immense revenue from our industry: last year, between them they collected from us £140,000. On every gross we sell, they take about eighteenpence in taxes.
An industry which contributes so handsomely to the public funds is deserving of our support. From what has been said during this debate about the rights of the consumers, one would form the opinion that these consumers are not the workers and their families. It is safe to say that the persons directly and indirectly connected with Australian manufacturing industries number nearly 3,000,000, or about one-half of the total population. The workers of Australia will not object to adequate protection being given to the match-making industry.
I submit that, notwithstanding our limited constitutional powers, we can deal effectively with manufacturers who overstep the mark. “When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, particularly during the absence of the then Prime Minister from Australia, strong pressure was brought to bear by foreigners who wished to obtain a grip of the Australian match-making industry. I turned aside their advances, and rebuked them for their overtures. If, at any time, the Commonwealth were to have in office men who would listen to the representations of such people, and fall in with their desires, the public of Australia would be in a much worse position than it is to-day. The history of the match combine in other countries makes interesting reading. The great Krueger combine exercised a tremendous influence in the match-making industry. There is also the Russian menace.
We may, if we like, call the local industry a monopoly; hut I would sooner have an Australian monopoly than have Russian methods, which practically amount to slavery. We can deal with an Australian monopoly, hut we cannot” deal with one outside Australia. Many members of the old Labour party were freetraders, among them being the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the present Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). Later, they subscribed to the policy of new protection - protection for the manufacturer, protection for the worker, and protection for the consumer. I shall not raise my little finger to expose this industry and the Australian community to the rapacity of the match combine outside Australia which has left its stain on the public life of most European countries. It is still a wonderful power, although some of its former chief agents are no longer associated with it’. I fear that there is a likelihood of Russian and Japanese matches entering this country in large quantities. I do not wish to offend the people of any nation, but it cannot be gainsaid that the labour conditions in Russia and Japan are not comparable with those which obtain in Australia.
– The Japs and Finns are members of the match combine.
– Possibly they are to the- extent that it concerns their international trade. I am confident that no honorable member is prepared to allow the men, women and children of Australia to work in an industry in competition with the product of what is practically slave labour in Russia, or of labour ( working under the conditions which prevail in Japan. I believe that some of the capital of this company has been sent to Sweden. From documents in my possession, it appears that a half interest is owned by Bryant and May, of London, and that the Swedish company owns a one-sixth interest.
I have not been able to find out how the match industry is carried on in Canada, or the price of matches in She sister dominion; but we have definite information that in New Zealand, which is dependent upon importations, and in Great Britain, where the excise and other charges are higher than in Australia, matches cost more than they do here. A succession of governments in Great Britain - Conservative, Liberal, Labour and Composite - has allowed that state of affairs to continue.
– What about the Tariff Board’s report?
– I may inform the honorable member that I made no “complaint about the conditions enjoyed by the Australian butter industry, although I know that Australians pay for their own butter more than is paid for it by the people of Great Britain. A large proportion of the money that has gone to assist wheat-growers and other primary producers has come from the pockets of the manufacturers, whom certain honorable members are for ever decrying. If we had no secondary industries in Australia, it would be a case of “ God help our people.” We should be absolutely stranded. Yet, on the slightest pretext, some honorable members are prepared to speak and vote against Australian secondary industries. It is most unfair.
– This report has shocked the public.
– Many other things must shock them more. The report certainly proves that Australian consumers are purchasing matches more cheaply than can be done in Great Britain and New Zealand. I shall vote against the proposals of the Government in regard to this item, and on any other attempt to lower duties and endanger Australian industries.
– Will the honorable member answer a question?
– I wish that, instead of adopting a lawyer-like attitude, and asking honorable members to answer questions, the honorable member would convey his opinions in a speech to the committee. I have very little time at my disposal, and do not intend to answer the honorable member’s question, although I have never concealed my views on any subject. I realize that, on this occasion, it is hopeless to expect to prevail against the Government and its temporary allies, the members of the Country party; but I shall vote against the lower duty and, so long as I remain a public man, do nothing to create unemployment or lessen the benefits that have been granted to our great secondary industries.
.- The debate has been intensely amusing, for it has given freetraders, quasifreetraders, and moderate protectionists an opportunity to attack the principle of protection. They have all, from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who is frank in his advocacy of lower duties in any circumstances, to that stalwart protectionist, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), raised their voices in mock horror at the mere thought of this socalled giant octopus getting its tentacles on to the working section of the community. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) almost drew tears from the eyes of his listeners when he painted a harrowing picture of the onslaught of the match monopoly upon the workers. The whole affair is an excellent example of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Throughout its term of office, this Government has done its utmost to help monopolies by giving them subsidies, and by granting them every available plum and picking. For the purpose of political propaganda, honorable members opposite protest that this is the only Government that is likely to protect the interests of the workers. They shed crocodile tears and exclaim, -“ For God’s sake think of the unfortunate workers who have to pay 3d. a year more for matches than would be the case if they were admitted duty free.” Yet this is the Government that coolly handed out £1,000,000 to this, and £500,000 to that, wealthy section in the form of remissions of taxes. It is all a matter of illusion, reminiscent of Barmecide’s feast. The whole thing has been staged by the Government as a mock attack upon monopolies. It makes honorable members opposite feel so virtuous. The honorable member for Denison made a courageous attack on the match industry, yet he would welcome every conceivable assistance being granted to the great mining, banking, and shipping interests, which are in the same category as the match industry, inasmuch as they represent capitalism in a supreme degree. Big business is a natural modern evolution. So, too, is the watering of stock. Yet honorable members opposite nearly wept tears of blood when they indulged in their dirge about the match monopoly, this terrible octopus which is harassing the community. The Labour party has attacked these practices ever since it became politically articulate, but honorable members opposite are guilty of hypocrisy when they strain at the match industry gnat and swallow such camels as banking and shipping combines, which they bless, subsidize and protect. We recognize that the watering of stock is immoral, and we have always urged that private enterprise should be restrained from indulging in this practice; but I am certain that if we introduced into this House a motion to prevent, so far as the Commonwealth Parliament can constitutionally do so, the watering of stock, honorable members opposite would not support it. How many of them would vote to enforce moral principles in business even in the Federal Capital Territory? About fourteen or fifteen companies have registered in the Federal Capital Territory, and their names are on office doors in this city. This is merely a subterfuge to evade the laws of the State in which they operate, but this Government will take no steps to prevent this abuse. Some honorable members who have spoken to-day have said that the watering of the stock of the match combine, thus increasing it from £150,000 to £600,000, is wrong. I agree that it is against all moral law for any set of persons to deceive in this way, and to have hidden reserves. But last week, when we attacked banking and urged that the watering of stock and other questionable practices by private banking corporations should be investigated, ministerialists shrank with horror from an inquisition which, we were certain, would reveal even greater offences against social and moral laws than have been alleged to-night upon the pretext of protecting the workers from the operations of a combine. In the sugar industry the combine has watered its stock and paid dividends up to 12£ per cent, on it, and honorable members opposite have applauded this as smart business to be admired and approved. I draw no such distinction between the operations of the match manufacturers and those of banking, coal, light, and power, corporations.
These practices have been in operation ever since companies were formed, and the supporters of the Government are the bulwarks of the system which allows them. Undoubtedly, the match industry is a monopoly, and, on principle, the Labour party is opposed to monopolies. It is the only party which has attempted to obtain for the Commonwealth Parliament sufficient power to deal with trusts and combines; but when we took a referendum of the people with a view to securing amendments of the Constitution in the direction of enlarging the powers of this Parliament, our proposals were opposed by the party now in office. So far as I can see, one firm controls the production of matches in Australia. There is nothing to prevent any other company from starting another factory, but I suppose that any firm or persons courageous enough to do so, would be undersold and hurried to the same fate as has befallen all others that have attempted to compete with established monopolies. But that is incidental to capitalism, private enterprise, freedom in business! It appears, however, that the Australian monopoly has treated the users of matches better than the monopoly in the United Kingdom has treated the British public. What would the Australian people have been paying to the overseas match monopoly if we had not established our own industry? In England the price of matches is11d. a dozen, including an excise duty of about 4½d. Yet, England is close to the home of match making.
– Australia is only the home of the head of the match.
– Whether or not that is so, matches are cheaper in Australia than in the United Kingdom. In New Zealand, where only wax matches are manufactured, the imported wooden matches cost more than we pay for our local product. The Labour party does not defend profits on the scale of those made by the match manufacturers, and we have sought power to prevent monopolies from exploiting the public, but one fact that has emerged clearly from this debate is that the combine which controls match-making is world wide. It would appear that by far the greater proportion of the total quantity of matches used in all countries are made by an organization that has ramifications throughout the world. If ever there was an illustration of the necessity for the people to mind their own business and not allow private enterprise to mind it for them, it is provided by the monopolistic control of this industry. Just as the internal politics of certain countries are directed by petroleum oil interests, so are they controlled by the matchmaking industry, as was disclosed by the recent Kreuger scandals’. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) said that Labour would permit exploitation by local manufacturers. I would rather be exploited by a manufacturer in Australia who employs Australian workmen, and uses Australian raw and other materials, than by manufacturers in Britain, Germany,France or America ; and I am prepared to pay more for an article manufactured under Australian conditions than for similar goods made in a country which employs, in some cases, sweated coloured labour. I have no apology to offer for the fiscal policy that I personally espouse. Except in a few lines of manufactured goods, this country has very little hope of successfully competing with other countries; and, therefore, if Australia is worth anything at all, it is surely worth being made self-supporting, as far as possible. The ideal of the Australian Labour Party ever since its inception, has been to make Australia a selfcontained country, independent of other nations for the things that can be produced and manufactured here. Surely the day has long since gone by when we need to depend on countries 12,000 miles away for articles which are essential to our existence. During the war period, from 1914 to 1918, Australia was exploited right and left. Our people were bled white because of the cost of commodities which were imported at high prices.
– That happened throughout the world.
– Yes, but if Australia had been in the same industrial position between 1914 and 1918 as to-day, the cost of living at that time would have been considerably lower than it was. “We were thrown to the mercy of overseas manufacturers and importers. The
Labour party stands for the giving of as much employment as possible to our own people. The ideal of some honorable members is to have such products as meat, butter, onions, potatoes, and rice highly protected; nothing less than prohibition will satisfy them. Only recently the rumour appeared in the press to the effect that the embargo against the importation of potatoes from New Zealand was likely to be lifted, and the announcement raised a chorus of protest from those honorable members who are protectionists in regard to primary products, but freetraders with respect to secondary industries.
Surely, in self-defence, we should aim at having a population in Australia sufficiently large ‘ to enable us to be selfcontained, and to hold this country against any aggressor. For many years to come we shall not have a sufficient population to defend Australia, if we rely solely on primary production. A thousand persons depend directly upon the industry of match-making in Australia, and probably a thousand others are engaged in the production of the raw materials which the industry uses. This industry contributes £140,000 a year to the revenue of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, it is of some economic importance. The Labour party believes in the protection of not only the match-making industry, but also all other secondary industries, particularly during times of depression, when as much employment as possible should be provided for the people. Yet my friends opposite, instead of having a thousand persons in Australia directly employed in matchmaking, would have that employment transferred to some other country. The ideal of the Labour party of making Australia a self-contained nation resulted in the formulation of its new protection policy. For a number of years we had within our ranks a number of freetraders; but one by one they came to realize that, without an adequate policy of protection, and without some ideal before us to provide Australia with secondary as well as primary industries, adequate protection of those industries was necessary. On hearing honorable members opposite pretending to attack the match industry, merely for the purpose of attacking the principle of protection, although in reality they stand for monopolies, I felt constrained to speak in defence of the policy of protection.
– I do not intend to give a silent vote on this item. The lowering of these duties will, I believe, go a long way towards crippling one of the most prosperous and efficient industries in Australia. Honorable members on the other side of the chamber have been accustomed to charge those of us on this side who support protective duties with helping to bolster up monopolies. I do not hesitate to say that if we must have monopolies it is better to support them in Australia than overseas. It is true that the Tariff Board’s report on this industry proves beyond doubt that huge profits have been made by the match-makers. We do not stand for the exploitation of the public under the protection given to industry, but it must be admitted that a considerable part of the profits made by Bryant and May have been devoted to expanding the industry in Sydney, Melbourne, and other parts of Australia. Had the industry not received protection, the profits would have been made just the same, but they would have been spent overseas. The public, of course, would have been exploited to no less an extent, and perhaps to a greater extent. It is admitted that this is one of the most efficient industries in Australia, and, I am prepared^ to say, in any part of the world. It has supplied, and is supplying, the whole of Australia’s requirements in matches, and prices have not been increased since protection was granted six or seven years ago. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) pointed out that matches were cheaper in Australia than in New Zealand or Great Britain. The Tariff Board, in the course of its report, states -
The price of locally-manufactured matches should be reduced, and the board considers that the only effective method of enforcing a reduction is to reduce the duty so that importations can be landed in Australia at lower costs.
It is evident, therefore, that the Government, as well as the Tariff Board, is anxious that the duty should be reduced sufficiently to enable overseas manufacturers to supply the Australian market to the detriment of the local industry. The match industry in Australia employs hundreds of workers directly in its own factories, and furnishes employment for many more who are associated with subsidiary industries. I am opposed to the reduction of the duties on matches, because I know that it will affect adversely the timber industry in Queensland. I have just received from Hardwoods (Australia) Proprietary Limited, the following telegram: - . s
In view our material interest iri hoop-pine timber industry and its present precarious position and our knowledge of value of Bryant and May’s log purchases to timber industry through being their principal suppliers, we consider any drastic cut in protection matchindustry which will affect Bryant and May’s purchases this timber will have serious effects on hoop-pine timber industry.
It has been admitted that this company is a model employer. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill), when criticizing the company this afternoon, endeavoured to make honorable members believe that the wages paid by it were less than were paid to employees in other industries, and that the average wage was only £172 a year. He did not explain, however, that the majority of the employees are females, for whom an average wage of £172 a year is higher than the average wage paid for female labour in the government service, or under the federal basic wage for the Commonwealth. Of course, the Government has decided that this item must go through, and it will go through, though the effect must be seriously to injure the match industry in Australia.
.- During this debate, honorable members who support the Government have concentrated on two arguments, the first of which is that the- company has made large profits during the last few years. It is not sufficient justification for depriving an industry of protection merely to prove that it has been successful in making considerable profits. There are some industries, and I believe this to be one, in connexion with which a reduction of prices may make a considerable difference to the profits of -the company without conferring any real benefit on the consumers. The average Australian family does not use a gross of matches in a year. Therefore, while a reduction of 6d. or ls. a gross may make a difference of £50,000 or £100,000 in the profits of the company, it will make practically no difference at all to the individual consumer. It is estimated that this company will lose £50,000 a year as the result of the reduction provided in this schedule, but the public will not benefit, because the retailers will probably still charge the same price, and profit by what the company loses.
The other argument dwelt on by honorable members opposite is that the match industry should not be protected because it is a monopoly. Judging from the remarks of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), that once blessed word “ Mesopotamia “ has now given way to the equally, blessed word ,” monopoly “. The continued repetition of “ monopoly “ is supposed to be a sufficient answer to the considered argument’s of members of the Labour party in support of the retention of the Scullin tariff. This particular company may have a virtual monopoly of the match-making industry, but that does not necessarily imply that it is opposed to the interests of the community. It is quite possible for a monopoly to be of benefit to the community. We have in Australia examples of the beneficent exercise of monopolistic powers by governments. Certainly that does not prove that a monopoly is unsocial. Yet that is the argument of our opponents. - History teaches us that ever since the industrial revolution the progress of industry has been towards monopolies. Almost daily we read in the press of large combinations of capital, involving tens and even hundreds of millions of pounds, coming together for the purpose of obtaining greater control over industry. The Government party claims considerable credit’ because of the searching inquiry that has been made into the affairs of this particular industry. Honorable members of the Opposition cannot help wondering why they do not show consistency by having a similar searching inquiry made into all large enterprises throughout the Commonwealth. Three combinations of. capital” control practically the whole of the commercial life of this country. The banking interests, the large mortgage and estate companies, the insurance companies, and others, are all more or less closely connected through these three combinations of capital. It is certainly time that a most searching inquiry was made into those particular interests, so as to ascertain the extent of their ramifications and the connexion which the banks, the - insurance companies, and the mortgage and estate companies, have with each other. While the Government party is quite willing to inquire into individual interests when it believes that it can thereby find argument to bolster up its case, it regards the banking institutions as sacrosanct. The mere suggestion that an inquiry should be held into the operations of those institutions is viewed with horror. The day is coming very quickly, however, when a party of a different political complexion will have control of the treasury bench, and will institute an inquiry not only into the affairs of certain individual interests, but also into those of the larger and more powerful interests. The Labour party does not believe in allowing any industry to make large profits at’ the expense of the community. It considers that the Commonwealth Government should have the power to fix the prices of commodities, as is done to-day by the Queensland Labour Government. During the last war, the Federal Government- fixed the prices of commodities, and, in 1916, upon the case of Farey versus Burvett being taken to the High Court, it was decided by five judges out of seven that under the defence provisions of the Constitution the Government of the Commonwealth had the power during war time to fix the prices of commodities, but that that power did not exist during peace time. If the Government is considering the taking of a referendum for an alteration of the Constitution, I suggest that this matter is most deserving of consideration. If the Commonwealth Government had full power to fix the prices of all commodities we should not need to worry as to the extent of the assistance given to any particular industry. The Labour party has very little for which to thank the manufacturers. It believes in protection, because it considers that that i3 the best course to adopt in the interests of the Australian community, and also because it holds the view that our own people are thereby assisted to obtain employment. On too many occasions it Kas been found that the manu facturers are more concerned with the making of attacks upon the wage levels of their employees than with the tariff. While the Scullin Government was doing its best to assist the manufacturers, the president of the Chamber of Manufactures in Brisbane, Mr. King, was busily engaged in attacking it. At different times the employers’ organizations in Brisbane have approached the Arbitration Court in an endeavour to break down the conditions of their employees.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the item.
– I intend to connect my remarks with the item. A point raised by the Postmaster-General was that this company is paying less than £4 a week to its employees. It surely is relevant to point out that the present Government, which suddenly poses as such a strong believer in high wages, and which has always boasted of its policy of preference to returned soldiers, proposes to pay less than £4 a week to returned soldiers who, after having passed an examination, are to be employed in connexion with the taking of the census. There is at least one thing that this company has done; it has put back into industry the profits it has taken from industry, and in that way has found employment for a large number of Australian citizens. The magazine To-day, in its November issue, publishes the following in connexion with Australian manufacturers : -
At the 1001 election they supported the Barton-Deakin Government, received the Kingston tariff of 1901 in return, and forsook the Deakin Government at the 1903 election. In consequence, the Deakin Government. lost office for a time. At the 190G election the manufacturers supported the Deakin Government, and were rewarded with the Lyne tariff of 1907. But, although the manufacturers had arranged the Deakin-Cook fusion, they swung to Labour at the 1.010 election. Fisher Government rewarded them with the Tudor tariff of 1911, but was deserted by them at the 1913 election.
– On a point of order, I submit that what the honorable member is quoting is entirely irrelevant to the debate.
– I have already asked the honorable member to confine his remarks to the item.
– The very people who are now suffering from the actions of this Government have changed from one party to another at almost every election. At the last election they fought vigorously against the Labour party, which imposed the duties now sought to be reduced. They cradled a viper to their bosom, and that particular viper is now turning on them and savagely attacking them. They are finding that it is a costly experiment to put their friends into Parliament, and in future they may not be so ready to do so.
The Labour party believes that there should be some method of investigating industries, but it also believes that it is not merely a remarkable coincidence that almost every decision of the Tariff Board, as at present constituted, is exactly in accord, with the wishes of the Government. We certainly place no reliance in such a body. This company points out that during last year £140,000 was paid by it in Federal and State taxation alone, and that that_ fact was not referred to by the Tariff ‘Board in its report. The company also points out that 75 per cent, of Australian timber is used in its manufactures, whereas a few years ago it used only 20 per cent. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) only a few moments ago read a telegram indicating that persons dealing in timber in Queensland feel that this Government’s attitude to the matchmaking industry is entirely unjust. This company is spending £4,000 a week on local material. The stronger the case that Ave have put to the Minister the more he has endeavoured to lead the people to believe that it is only propaganda. The Labour party at one time endeavoured to give effect to what is known as new protection, and by means of the Excise Tariff Act of 1907 it afforded tariff protection to certain industries on the understanding that their employees would receive decent wages and standards of living. This company can at least claim credit for the fact that its employees are well treated and well paid. They are in a much better position than returned soldiers to be employed by this Government. Unfortunately, the manufacturers, in conjunction with the Victorian Government, appealed to the High
Court against the endeavour of the Federal Parliament to bring about new protection, and in the case of the Commonwealth v. McKay in 1908, brought before the High Court by the manufacturers and the Victorian Government, the court decided that the power of the Commonwealth Constitution did not extend far enough to allow the Government then in power to protect industries as they should be protected. I urge the Minister to reconsider this item, and to support an Australian industry which is giving employment to many hundreds of our citizens.
.- I move -
That the sub-items be postponed.
If this is agreed to it can be taken as an instruction to the Government to restore the higher duties. Earlier this evening I gave my reasons for opposing the Government’s decision. Despite the fact that the company has reduced its prices, the Government, in insisting upon these duties, is inviting importations of foreign matches, and the consequent unemployment of many of those who are at present engaged in the industry, or profiteering. We are not defending a monopoly. We are concerned about the workers in the industry. Before these reductions of duties were made the industry employed well over 1,000 hands, and it is in their interests that I have moved my amendment. I hope that the Government will accept it.
.- I had no desire to make a speech on this item, but this evening I was twitted by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who said that I was putting questions only and not rising in my place to address myself to the question before the committee. I did try, unsuccessfully, to put a question to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and afterwards to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, two of the most valiant upholders of high protection. We are invited by the Government to reduce certain duties which were imposed to protect the match industry, and one would have expected those honorable members who are opposed to the proposals of the Government to give reasons for their attitude. I submit that there is one question which should have been answered by the members of the Opposition, but which has not been even touched upon by them. The question is this : Oan it be shown that this company, under the duties set out in this item, would be unable to retain the Australian market and, at the same time, make a reasonable profit? It seems to me that that is one question which we have to determine in .coming to a conclusion on this item.
– A great deal of information has already been given to the committee on that point.
– We have before us only the report of an expert board. That board has made certain recommendations regarding the protection necessary for the industry, and in its report has disclosed an extraordinary state of affairs. We find that, under the protection given by a former government, this company has been making huge profits over a series of years. That fact has been established. These profits have been extracted from the pockets of the Australian people. The members of the Labour party said that they would, as a party, like to have power to control monopolies and to fix prices. The high protection that was afforded to the industry by the Scullin Government gave it practically a monopoly. It gave it tho full control of the Australian market, and I wonder, if the Labour party were given the power, on what principle it would determine the price at which the company should supply the Australian public with matches. It would be absurd for this committee to fix prices, for it is not within our compass or ability. We have not the knowledge necessary to determine the issue. An expert body, the Tariff Board, has recommended that certain duties should be imposed in order to ensure the due protection of this industry, and also the due protection of the Australian purchasing public. No attempt has been made by honorable members opposite to show that the degree of protection recommended by the Tariff Board, and provided in this item, will not enable this proprietary company to retain the Australian market, and also make a reasonable profit. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) said that this had been an amusing debate. I agree with him. I have been greatly amused by the speeches of honorable members opposite. I know something about special pleading, and recognize a special pleader when I hear him. I have never, in this chamber, heard such special pleading as that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) himself for this industry. There was no need for the generation of heat in this debate. We have a simple question to decide. We should do our best to protect the interests of the people as a whole. Seeing that this company has made such enormous profits over a period of years, we should pause to consider whether we should not try the experiment of reducing the duties. So long as the Australian Industries Preservation Act remains on our statute-book it will be impossible for any outside concern to capture the Australian market. That act is, in itself, a great protection to this company. I believe that the Tariff Board has recommended duties which will give reasonable protection to this industry. After listening very carefully to the speeches made by honorable members opposite, I can see no reason why the board’s recommendations should not be agreed to. Consequently, I shall support the Government’s proposal.
– We have been told by honorable members of the Labour party that they would rather have a monopoly in Australia under their own control than a monopoly overseas beyond their control. But what kind of control can this Government exert over a monopoly in Australia except that made possible by the tariff? We have no price-fixing power, and no trade and commerce power in relation to industries carried on within a State. The only curb that we can place upon monopolies is that which has been made possible by the regulation of customs and excise duties. This is the only means we have of preventing the exploitation of the public, and of keeping industries on a competitive level. It has been said that these duties are lower than those provided in the Massy Greene tariff. But a prima facie case has been made out that the Massy Greene tariff of 2s. general on wooden matches was too high, for this company was able, within a very few years, to amass enormous reserves - and this before the dumping duty was applied.
– How long before?
– The Tariff Board reportedthat in 1922 the paid-up capital of this company was £150,000, and that in November of that year its capital was doubled by the capitalization of reserves amounting to £150,000. It was at the end of 1923 that the first dumping duty was imposed. I submit, therefore, that we have conclusive evidence that the then existing duty of 2s. general was unnecessarily high. I regret that the application of the Ottawa formula to this item has resulted in a somewhat distorted relationship between the British preferential and the foreign rates; but that appears to be inescapable. Needless to say, I shall support the Government on this item.
Question - That the sub-items be postponed (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-items agreed to.
Census Employment - Shipping Space tor Apples and Pears - Public Service Recruiting.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer briefly to a subject which this morning I was unable to elaborate in a ‘question that I put to the right honorable the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham) relating to employment in connexion with the forthcoming census. Under Public Service Regulation 93, permanent employees upon appointment have travelling expenses refundedto them in cases where the fare exceeds £3. In the case of applications for temporary employment in connexion with the census, however, the Government is not able to make the same concession. Successful applicants will receive a voucher to cover travelling expenses, but will be required to repay the amount by instalments. This will operate very unfairly against applicants from Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, or Tasmania, as travelling -expenses will be so heavy that it will hardly be worth their while to accept the employment offering. In some cases the fares may be £10 or £15. I hope that the Government will give this matter further consideration, and agree to help these people in the same way that it assists successful applicants for permanent positions in the Public Service. If they are not assisted in the way suggested, it will be very difficult for men who have had long periods of unemployment to accept employment which may last for only five or six months.
.- On the 17 th March, I asked the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) if his, attention had been directed to an article which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser stating that there was ample space available for South Australian apples and pears awaiting shipment to the overseas market. I also pointed out that
South Australia had been badly treated by the shipping companies in this matter. The Minister, in reply, assured me that he would make inquiries, and furnish me with the necessary information as early as possible. Although I raised this matter three weeks ago, up to the present time I have had no reply from the Minister. Other honorable members representing South Australia have also asked questions on this subject, and I have had a considerable amount of correspondence from interested persons in South Australia. I realize, of course, that the fault lies, not with the Government, but with the shipping companies, but our people look to the Minister for assistance in this matter, and I am sure that it is his wish to do whatever lies in his power to help them. It is now too late to prevent the damage being done, so it would be useless to ship pears and applesto these markets. The fruit-growers in South Australia will have at least 100,000 cases of apples left on their hands, and as the local market cannot absorb that quantity of fruit, the growers will be forced to accept whatever prices may be offering. On the 29th March, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) also directed attention to the unsatisfactory position that had arisen, due to the failure of shipping companies to provide the necessary space. A few days ago I received the. following letter from a firm of wholesale fruit produce merchants, of Adelaide, who are large exporters of apples and pears to overseas markets: -
Enclosed is a cutting from the Advertiser stating that Mr. Stewart replied to Mr. Gabb that the reason South Australia was so badly treated in respect to freight for apples and pears was the ineptitude of the people representing the South Australian fruit-grower.
To my knowledge, Mr. Stewart has not made the necessary inquiries to know what he is talking about, and I do not think it is at all sporty for him to make this statement before fully inquiring. Certainly we may be inept (even some of our politicians may be), but I challenge the Minister to find that we have not acted with discretion and common sense in respect to freight applications.
As I have advised already, we applied at the time fixed by agreement, viz., during November, for a total of 280,000 cases of apples and 18,000 cases of pears. We got 185,000 apples and 5,620 pears.
Re apples. The best time for shipment to London for South Australia is March. We received only 3,000 cases prior to 20th March. We applied for space to Bremen, Copenhagen,
Rotterdam; and South Australia was not allotted a single case to cither of these ports for the whole of the season. We received nothing for Hamburg in March, although we usually ship nearly 50 per cent. of our crop to Hamburg.
Re pears. One grower in Victoria obtained space for 100,000 to 150,000 cases of pears, and Victoria was allotted 350,000 pears out of an application for 450,000 to 500,000, equal to about 75 per cent., whilst South Australia received 5,620 cases out of 18,000, equal to about 31 per cent. These figures and percentages show conclusively that South Australia did not get reasonable treatment, and it was not due to ineptitude, as publicly stated. A motion was carried at the South Australia Fruit Marketing Association meeting yesterday; a copy will be sent you. I appreciate your action on growers’ behalf.
I understand that the Minister has a copy of the letter, and I hope that he will make a full explanation to the House. It may be that he was misinformed by the shipping companies. I should like the matter cleared up in the interest’s of the fruit-growers of Australia who are worthy of all the assistance that we can give to them.
– I emphasize, first, that the provision of space for the shipment of fruit or other produce from Adelaide or elsewhere is not a matter which primarily concerns the Commonwealth Government, but is one for arrangement between the shipping authorities and, in this case, the South Australian Fruit Marketing Association. As a result of some difficulty which was experienced in connexion with the provision of shipping space for South Australian fruit, the South Australian Fruit Marketing Association sought my aid in securing additional space. That was the only reason for my department or myself coming into the matter. As a result of inquiries made in shipping and other well-informed circles, I was informed that the cause of South Australia’s trouble was the indecision and hesitancy of the Fruit Marketing Association when discussing the question of space with the shipping people. Exception has been taken to my reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). That reply was provoked by a suggestion in his question- that the Commonwealth Government was in some way responsible, and that it might be necessary for South Australia to threaten to secede in order to get us to move. While it was, perhaps, unfortunate that I used the word “ ineptitude “, my purpose was to emphasize that the responsibility lay, not with the Commonwealth authorities, but with the people concerned. If my method of emphasizing that point has caused offence, I am sorry. I can assure the honorable gentleman that, althoughthis Government is not directly responsible, it does desire to help the primary producers in arranging the difficult matter of shipping space for their products. The honorable gentleman said that, although three weeks had elapsed since he asked a certain question, no reply had yet been furnished to him. He will, I am sure, admit that he and I have been in almost daily consultation in reference to this matter, and that there has been no question of disregarding his request, but that, on the contrary, I have evinced a sincere desire to meet the situation rather than look for scapegoats.
– Recently, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked whether a certain report regarding recruitment in the Public Service could be laid on the table of the House. I have looked into this matter, and find that the only report to which this question could refer is a document which was prepared solely for the confidential information of theGovernment. I regret that it is not possible to lay it on the table of the House.
I can assure the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the Government has given full consideration to the question raised by him, first, from the general point of view of the desirability of introducing a provision under which travelling expenses would be payable in the case of persons temporarily engaged by the Government, and, secondly, in relation to the special facts of this case, which has to do with the engagement of temporary assistance in connexion with the tabulation of census results. The Government is unable to adopt the principle of paying the fares of persons temporarily engaged for this work, for the reason that it would involve the community in a heavy expenditure. When a permanent officer is transferred from one place to another, or a person is appointed permanently to the Public Service, and is directed totake up duty at a particular place, the obligation to incur expenditure on transport charges is imposed on him in a real sense by the action of the Government. A distinction must be drawn between such cases and those of temporary employees. Further, where the period of temporary employment is short, difficulties would arise in connexion with the payment of, perhaps, a considerable sum for fares. The Government would like to make the employment as profitable as possible to every one concerned; but in these matters principles must be considered. The Government feels that the fact that special arrangements have been made to make it possible for citizens to obtain this employment ought not to be made a ground forclaims for further special concessions. On the occasion of the last census all the clerks required were engaged in Melbourne. No question arose as to payment of fares. There was then no opportunity, as has been given on this occasion, for members of the community in other States to have any real chance of securing employment. The fact that more generous opportunities are now being given should not be used as a means to secure further concessions. The Government is advancing the fares to those who are unable to pay them, and providing for their repayment by instalments from the salaries of the individuals concerned. This is not a hasty decision, as the matter has been fully considered. In the circumstances, I am unable to promise the honorable member that there is any likelihood of the decision being changed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he arrange to have Canberra’s electric lighting system operate in the streets until 1 a.m., instead of until midnight as at present, in order to assist residents to find their homes on dark nights without stumbling into ditches and other excavations?
– Certain street lighting, such as that around Parliament House, is in operation until 2 a.m. If the honorable member will indicate the locality to which he refers, consideration will be given to an extension of the time at which lights are switched off in that part. It is not considered to be justifiable to burn street lamps after midnight generally on account of the extra cost involved .
r asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the details of the system, as reported in the press, under which girls employed at government hotels in Canberra are rationed for two weeks in five, and, as a result, receive an average wage as low as 10s.10d. per week?
– The office staffs of Hotel Canberra and Hotel Kurrajong were two in excess of requirements. In order to avoid dismissals, five of the girls were rationed on the basis of two weeks’ rationing in five. Under this arrangement, the lowest average net earnings of any member of the office staff was £1 15s. 4d. per week. One girl has been found a position in another establishment and, in” future, rationing will be one week in four.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - The annual contribution to the League of Nations of each State member varies from year to year according to the expenditure of the league. The Australian quota is on the basis of 27 units out of a total of 1012½ units. The annual contribution of the Commonwealth from the inception of the league to 30th June, 1932, is shown in English currency in the Estimates of Expenditure under Miscellaneous Services, Prime Minister’s Department, and is as follows: -
An additional sum of approximately £52,000 is involved in payment of the contribution to 30th June, 1933.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has any leather classed as rough chrome tanned goat skins, or have any partially prepared chrome tanned goat skins, been brought into the Commonwealth from India; it so, to what extent have such importations token place, and under what classifications, if any, are these goods subjected to customs duties?
– Inquiries are being made into this matter, upon completion of which the honorable member will be fully advised.
Postal Department : Adults in Junior Positions.
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 April 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330405_reps_13_138/>.