13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– From time to time ques tions have been asked by honorable members concerning the selection of cadets for the New Guinea service. As I informed the House previously, a special board was set up to examine the qualifications of applicants and to make the necessary selection. The following ten cadets have now been selected : - Kenneth Wylie Bilston,Western Australia; John Russell Black, South Australia; Thomas George Aitchison, Victoria; Harry Edward Hamilton, Western Australia; Harold George Verey, New South Wales; Jack Unwin Hocking, Victoria ; Murray Stanley Edwards, Broken Hill, New South Wales; Dudley McCarthy, Kempsey, New South Wales; George Greathead, Bundaberg, Queensland; Leigh Grant Vial, Victoria.
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong- Attorney-
General) [11.2]. - I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
It is the intention of the Government to ask the House to re-assemble unless something unexpected happens, on the 26th April next. The motion is moved in this form so as to cover contingencies in the future against which it is impossible otherwise to provide specifically.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House, to the date of its next sitting.
.- I desire to inform honorable members that I am laying on the table of the Library a copy of the report of the preparatory conference convened by the International Labour Office, and held at Geneva from the 10th to the 25th January, 1933, on the question of the reduction of hours of work; also a copy of. the report on hours of work and unemployment prepared by the International Labour Office, which formed the basis of discussion on the subject at the preparatory conference. It is hoped that this afternoon there will be an opportunity for a short discussion on this subject.
– by leave. - Arrangements were completed this morning for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into certain matters affecting the refining, treatment, sale, distribution, and disposal of oil and oil products in Australia.
Two members of the commission, as has already been announced, will beMr. Sydney Ernest Lamb,.K.C, and the Hon. John Gunn, Director of Development. I have informed honorable members that Mr. A. E. Barton, whom it was originally intended to appoint, is unable to act. The Government is now fortunate in having secured the services of Mr. Arthur Justin Hancock. Mr. Hancock is a gentleman who is very well known in the accountancy world. He is a returned soldier, with four years service, who was educated first in Melbourne, and subsequently received special training at the University of London. His experience as an accountant extends over a period of twenty years. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
It is hoped that the commission will be issued either to-day or to-morrow.The Commissioners mentioned are to be asked “ to make inquiry and to report, with reference to such period or periods as they think fit, into and upon the following matters in relation to the operations of the importation into Australia, and the refining, treatment, distribution and sale in Australia, of mineral oils and petrol, and other products of mineral oils, namely -
Mr. Lamb is to act as chairman of the commission.
– Will the commission be empowered to inquire into the importation of crude oil?
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether it is a fact, as reported, that the fee to be paid to the chairman of the commission inquiring into the oil companies of Australia is 30 guineas a day? Can the right honorable gentleman give us any estimate of the total cost of this commission? Can he also inform us whether its sittings will be numerous?
-The fee is not 30 guineas a day; it is a smaller amount. I can give no estimate of the cost of the commission, but it will be considerable. It is likely that therewill be quite a number of sittings. It had been hoped to avoid this expense by the setting up of an informal inquiry; but, owing to circumstances of which honorable members are aware, that became impossible, and this expense had necessarily to be incurred.
– In answer to a question asked by me, the Acting Leader of the House stated that the Government regretted that the scope of the commission could not be extended into an inquiry into the extraction of oil from coal and shale, owing to the fact that its personnel did not include a man possessing the technical knowledge that would be necessary for making such an investigation. In view of the fact that Mr. Barton has resigned and a substitute commissioner is being appointed, will the Government give consideration to the appointment of a man possessing the technical knowledge necessary to enable the commission to inquire into the extraction of oil from coal and shale on a commercial scale?
– The honorable member must have misunderstood me if he thinks that I said that the Government regretted that the scope of the commission could not be extended to include an inquiry into the possibilities of the extraction of oil from coal for the reason he has given. I have answered many questions on the subject, and throughout have said that the Government does not consider that any useful purpose would be served by setting up in Australia a body of three or four men to inquire into the possibility of extracting oil from coal upon a commercial scale. As I have previously stated, that information is available in the best form in technical journals and textbooks. In filling Mr. Barton’s place, the object of the Government was to secure a skilled accountant rather than some one skilled in the direction desired by the honorable member.
. - by leave - The tariff debate has so far shown clearly that the Government has quite failed to realize the extremely critical position of the primary industries of Australia, and the urgent and imperative need for substantial relief from the addition to their production costs that the tariff imposes - an addition which, in 1929, was estimated by economists at 9 per cent., but which undoubtedly is considerably heavier to-day.
The price of wool to-day is at the 1911 price level, while that of wheat and butter is 21 per cent. and 25 per cent. respectively below that level. Factory goods generally are approximately 90 per cent. above the 1911 rates. This immense, unprecedented, and growing disparity in prices, indicates that there has been no approach to an equality of sacrifice as between the primary and the secondary industries, and that, despite the fall in wages sustained by industrial workers, cheaper raw material, and lower interest rates, manufacturers in many cases have used the shelter of high duties to maintain price levels at a point that is wholly out of harmony with lower wages, beyond the reach of those who are engaged in the exporting industries, and out of touch with the rest of the world. If continued, this disparity between the prices of primary and secondary goods must inevitably result in complete collapse.
The Country party considers that the downward revision of the tariff which was promised early in the last election campaign, is not being seriously attempted, that the intentions and the obligations of the Ottawa Agreement are being misinterpreted, and that the Government’s decision to ratify Group 7 of the tariff schedule indicates a willingness to delay rather than to expedite the adoption of recommendations for lower duties that may be made by the Tariff Board, and that would operate immediately upon their being tabled only if Group 7 were not ratified. The Government defends to-day items which its leading Ministers stoutly opposed from the Opposition benches. It readily obtains the help of both sections of the Labour party in raising duties, as well as the assistance of the Country party in making such reductions as it may propose. Safe in the possession of this cross-trumping hand, the
Government shows scant consideration for amendments of any kind. In these circumstances, and realizing that to debate and call for a division upon all the items to which it is opposed, would be futile, and would merely involve- a waste of time, the Country party proposes to debate comparatively few of the remaining items, and to leave to the Government the responsibility of passing unreasonably high duties which the party is powerless to reduce.
– by leave - The actingLeader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) has taken advantage of the leave given to him by honorable members, to make an important statement with respect to the general tariff policy that he suggests ought to be adopted by this Parliament. I recognize the difficulty of making such a statement in the course of the tariff debate.
– That is why I asked for leave to make it this morning.
– It was on that account, I feel sure, that honorable members generally were prepared to grant him leave to make it now; although his remarks were rather more controversial than the statements ordinarily made under such conditions. Accordingly, I, too, have asked for leave to make a statement, and. I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) will make a similar request. If he does, I am quite prepared to accede to it.
The disparity between the prices of primary and secondary products to which the honorable gentleman has referred is not a peculiarly Australian phenomenon; it appears in every country where there are both primary and secondary industries, and is to be seen in a particularly aggravated form in the most highly industrialized parts of the world. It is only necessary to consider the position of the United States of America, and the history of recent farm relief efforts and the like there, to realize that the problem is more acute in that country than it is in Australia. This Government realizes, as all Governments must, the existence of the problem. In Australia, certain reductions of the tariff are being proposed. I have recently called attention to that fact, and have been reprimanded in some quarters for having done so. It is worthy of mention, however, that this is almost the only Parliament in the world in which reductions are being proposed. The World Economic Conference of 1927 presented a report, which was accepted by all the countries represented, deploring the existence of unreasonably nigh trade barriers, yet I think I am right in saying no action has been taken in any country but Australia towards lowering those barriers. No; in one area of Europe some action has been taken. The present depression is general and world-wide. The action taken in Australia is sound in the interests of the country, and would be of greater benefit if other countries had acted similarly. Pew increases have been made recently in the Australian tariff.
The lessening of the disparity between prices for primary and secondary products is a problem which may be attacked, either by trying to reduce costs, or by trying to increase prices. In Australia we have sought to solve the problem by reducing costs. Australia has been working to bring about a reduction of costs in connexion with both primary and secondary products, and has been successful to a very marked extent in practically every industry. This has been the salvation of our workers, and has staved off general ruin throughout the Commonwealth. The matter of costs is, to an extent, within our control, and great changes have been effected within the last three years. Reductions have been made in rent, interest, salaries, and wages, though I am sorry to say that very little has yet been done to diminish transport costs. In regard to the other matters, however, very real reductions have been made; greater, I suggest, than in any other country in the world. One result of this is that Australia has made better progress towards economic recovery than almost any other country. Honorable members probably have seen a cable message which was published in the newspapers a few days ago containing a message from the International Labour Office at Geneva, in which it was stated that in only four countries had there been an improvement of the unemployment situation within the period under review, namely, Canada, Australia, Germany and Poland. The figures in respect of Germany and Poland, it was pointed out, really conveyed nothing, because there has been an alteration in the method of keeping their statistics. Canada and Australia, however, stand out as countries in which there has been a marked improvement. So far as Australia is concerned, this is largely because there has been a reduction in costs of production. This has made it possible for industries to continue operating, though profits have been less. The Government has been working on this problem in co-operation with the Country party in order to reduce costs. There are those who say that we have been following the wrong policy; that what we should have done was to try to increase prices. We should all like to see higher prices, and if they could be brought about by world action, well and good ; but it is impossible for Australia to bring about higher external prices for its products. We could easily increase prices within Australia to a fabulous level, as was done in those countries where, after the war, currency and credit were inflated to bursting point. We could increase prices within Australia indefinitely, but that would not benefit the community. As we are not able to control world prices, we are doing what we can to reduce costs of production. If a world economic conference is able to devise means of increasing world prices, we shall be very pleased.
Regarding the reduction of costs, the honorable member said that the process was not going on fast enough, and, in particular, that the tariff was not being reduced fast enough. It must be realized, however, that sudden and drastic changes of a tariff are apt to result in catastrophe. For instance, if we immediately removed the duty on the importation of butter, the effect on Australian dairy farmers would be unfortunate.
– The price could not be. lower than it is now.
– The honorable member refers to the overseas price. I understand that the latest quotation is 65s.. per cwt. in London, the lowest price Australian butter has ever reached there. A few days ago it was 68s. This persistent fall in price may lead to the’ reconsideration of certain decisions reached by those whose particular responsibility is the welfare of this industry. I ask honorable members of the Country party to visualize what would happen to Australian primary producers if we removed the import duty on butter, potatoes, onions, maize, tobacco, bacon and hams, and other protected primary products. The primary producers would be immediately plunged into ruin. This policy of sudden and drastic tariff reduction must be applied all round if it is to be applied at all: A gradual reduction of duties is the wisest course to take. I was surprised to hear the honorable member’s comprint after the debate in committee last night on matches, the duty on which has been reduced so substantially.
The honorable member concluded his remarks with a reference to the performance of the Ottawa Agreement, and the election policy of the Government. The Ottawa Agreement is being performed beyond question by this Government. There are those who have sought to create the general impression - and their propaganda has been largely successful - that the Ottawa agreement provides for an all-round reduction of the Australian tariff. As a matter of fact, it does nothing of the kind. It provides for certain specific reductions, and they have been made. It provides for the application of a formula to determine the margin of preference to British goods. That has been done. The agreement provides, too, for a review of the tariff in ‘ accordance with certain principles; that review is being made. It also provides for the introduction of proposals into Parliament after the Government has considered the recommendations of the Tariff Board; such proposals are being introduced after the consideration of the recommendations. Every item of the Ottawa Agreement is being performed absolutely.
The policy of the Government was stated during the election campaign by the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister, when he said that many members of the party - though the party has never been whipped on the tariff - were dissatisfied with the prohibitive duties imposed by the last Government, yet were not prepared to make sudden and drastic changes on ministerial initiative, and not even duties which were regarded as excessive would. be reduced until the items concerned had been referred to the Tariff Board. That policy has been followed. It was the policy of the Leader of the Country party also. He said in his policy speech that protection should be extended only to economic and efficient industries, but, in order to determine which were economic and efficient, a carefully planned investigation should be made by the Tariff Board, especially into the subjects, about nine in number, to which he specifically referred. In spite of that, however, the Country party is now proposing reductions of duty without any investigation at all, or any pretence of an investigation. The Government is carrying out its election policy, but the Country party has abandoned the policy on which it went to the people at the last election.
.- by leave - This is an extraordinary way of indulging in a second-reading debate on the tariff, but I cannot refrain from taking my part in the triangular contest. The matter raised by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), and replied to by the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham), raises the issue of sectional interests in Australia - the old issue of primary versus secondary industries. It is most regrettable that this issue should be continually raised in a national Parliament. This Parliament does not exist to serve sectional interests ; its purpose is to serve national interests. While it is true that the present crisis has hit primary producers all over the world harder than the secondary industries, that does not justify, the so-called representatives of the primary industries in trying to drag down every other section to their own level.
– What about equality of sacrifice ?
– To adopt the policy of pulling down is not the way to bring about equality of sacrifice. It -is true that governments are sometimes forced into the position of having to pull down; that happened to my Government. We were most reluctantly compelled to reduce wages and social benefits to meet a sudden emergency and shortage of funds ; but, because we were compelled by the necessities of the situation, to do that, our action did not prove that to drag down all sections because one section is suffering is the way to cure our economic ills.
– Give us a hand to get up.
– We should try to give a helping hand to that section that is down, and the honorable member must admit that I have supported every legitimate proposal to give a helping hand to the primary industries. We cannot control world prices, but we can control local prices in the home market. That is being done in regard to butter - by a method not under the control of this Parliament. In regard to other commodities it is being done by the imposition of high protective duties, and the highest protection, in many instances^ is being given to primary industries.
– With what effect?
– With most beneficial effects. With regard to wheat, my Government sought to guarantee the producers a price that would more, than repay them . for the cost of production, but the Country party in the Senate rejected the proposal because, as a party, it, was more concerned with the vested interests of private capitalists than with the interests of the farmers who produced the wheat.
The primary producers are enjoying to-day a form of protection or subsidy to the extent of 25 per cent, through the exchange, which exceeds the average level of protection afforded to manufacturing industries. The primary producers obtain that assistance or subsidy on everything they export, and they get it at the expense of the whole community. Because I am not one of those who advocate sectional interests I freely agree that the exchange affords an additional protection to our manufacturers; but no one will deny that our primary producers get infinitely greater benefit from the exchange than do those engaged in any other industry. To that I have never objected. When head of a government, I agreed to maintain a high rate of exchange; this Government has done likewise. At the same time, I believe that had it” not been pegged the exchange rate would have fallen.
The Acting Leader of the Country party rose to state the policy of that party and it’s attitude towards the tariff. He said that his party regarded certain action as futile and would debate only one or two matters, and then take no further part in the discussion of the tariff. My party, however, small as it is, will fight for every principle that it believes to be right and will not run away either from the Government or the Country party. We will fight for our Australian industries and our Australian workers, both inside and outside of this chamber, so long as there is an item to fight on.
In defence of the Government, the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham) stated, in reply to the Acting Leader of the Country party, that the lowness of prices for primary products as compared with those for manufactured goods was a phenomenon which was worldwide. That is perfectly true. But I ask the right honorable gentleman, who resented the attack made on the Government for its failure to remedy an evil that is universal, ‘to restrain his own Ministers, and particularly the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) from so frequently reciting like a rhyme a prepared story about the increase of unemployment in Australia in the past three years, which they ascribe to the high protectionist policy. The Minister for Trade and Customs has repeatedthe figures so often that he should now know them by heart; but to employ them as he had repeatedly done to hit hard at high protection is the most unfair and meanest form of argument to which I have ever listened. The Acting Leader of the House knows that the increase in unemployment during the last three years has been worldwide, and has occurred in freetrade or so-called freetrade countries as well as in countries whose industries are highly protected. Surely we can look at the facts without misrepresenting them. It is true that, due to world conditions, the prices of primary products have fallen more than those of secondary products. It is also true that unemployment has increased throughout the world during the past three years, but the increase in this country is not due to our high tariff.
The Acting Leader of the House said that in Australia there is now some decrease in the number of the unemployed. But if a close examination were made of the employment statistics of the position in the last twelve or eighteen months, it will be found that the increase in employment has been confined to the manufacturing industries, and has been the result of the protectionist policy of the Scullin Government. As the stocks of imported articles have diminished, the people of Australia have been purchasing locallymade products, and these have been made available to them by the operation of the protective duties. After such an examination as I have suggested, honorable members opposite will be satisfied that the Government is on the wrong track in taking the action in which the Acting Leader of the House shows pride when claiming that this is the only Parliament in the world that is reducing its tariff. That is not a subject for selfcongratulation.
I shall say just a few words in reply to what the right honorable gentleman has said about the carrying out of the Ottawa agreement.
– This is a second-reading speech.
– I intend to assert my right’s. I have not spoken for half of the time that was taken by the honorable gentleman’s leader. Yesterday, the Minister for Trade and Customs made it an indictment of the Australian match industry, that the controlling interest of the Australian company was situated in England. But that, surely, is in accordance with the spirit of the Ottawa agreement. What does the Ottawa agreement stand for? It stands for the admission of British manufactures into this country in open competition with our own. That means that goods manufactured, not in factories merely controlled by interests in England, but in factories situated in England; goods upon which all the work of manufacturing is done in England and none of it done in Australia, shall compete on an equality in the Australian market with goods manufactured in Australian factories. It was the substance of the indictment of the Australian match industry, in yesterday’s debate on the duties on matches, that, notwithstanding that the matches are made in Australian factories, the parent company in England controls the majority of the Australian shares. Yet, as I have said, under the Ottawa agreement, for secondary products the Australian market is to be an open field for competition, on level terms, between the manufacturers of goods wholly made in Great Britain, by British workmen using largely British materials and paid by British capital, and Australian manufacturers employing our own people, and using, to a large extent, our own materials. It was objected against the Australian match company that some of its capital is held in England, yet under the Ottawa agreement, companies, the whole of whose capital is British, and operating entirely in Great Britain, are to be allowed to meet our Australian manufacturers on equal terms on the Australian market. What we have done by our ‘ protective policy has been to invite manufacturers from abroad to establish works in Australia. If they do so, they will be welcome; where, their capital is controlled does not concern us if they manufacture in Australia. ‘ I am afraid that it is only too true that this Government’ is carrying out the Ottawa agreement. If Ministers carry it out to the letter, as they threaten to do, it will be an unhappy thing for our Australian industries. If we weaken - and in some cases we may utterly destroy - the secondary industries, we also weaken, and perhaps destroy, the home market, which is the best market that our primary producers can have.
– Will the Acting leader of the House state whether, in view of the prevalence of certain antiwar propaganda in Australia, the Government is taking its part in co-operation with other nations to bring about world peace ?
– I am not acquainted with the particular anti-war propaganda to which the honorable member refers, but there is some so-called anti-war pro:paganda which is directed towards creating divisions within the ranks of our own citizens. The Government is cooperating with the governments of other nations of the world in the direction of promoting peace, through the League of Nations and its various agencies, which it regards as the best means for achieving that purpose.
– As the £5,000 that will be collected in the eastern States by way of duty on Fijian bananas is to be devoted to the welfare of the banana industry in those States, will the Acting Leader of the House consider setting aside a portion of the £6,000 which is collected yearly on Javanese bananas imported into Western Australia, for the purpose of assisting the banana industry in that State which, although an expanding one, is yet in the primary and experimental stage, and is having a hard fight to capture the Western Australian market ?
– The money which is collected from the duty imposed on Fijian bananas imported into Australia is not expended merely for the benefit of the banana industry in the eastern States. A large portion of it is expended to benefit the Australian industry generally by way of scientific investigation and research. With reference to the £6,000 which the honorable member states is paid in customsduty on Javanese bananas imported into Western- Australia, the Government is not prepared to consider the suggestion he makes. The arrangement with respect to the £5,000 collected on Fijian bananas is a special one, due to the fact that the banana industry in the eastern States is affected particularly by the new competition that has occurred in consequence of the terms of the Ottawa trade agreement. Similar conditions do not exist in relation to the banana industry of Western Australia.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether factories that are being established in Great Britain, and are really branches of big foreign companies, are to be regarded in the same light as long-established British industries, and receive preferential treatment from Australia under the provisions of the Ottawa Trade Agreement ? Further, will the honorable gentleman have an inquiry made by the Resident Minister in London concerning the ramifications of these foreign, companies with a view to ascertaining Just how far they will compete with Australian industries?
– The conditions for obtaining British preference are as set out in the tariff. They depend upon the amount of British work and material contained in the goods that are imported. It is not proposed to alter the arrangement which has been in operation for many years. I am afraid that the suggested inquiry as to the ramifications of foreign companies established in Great Britain would be a most expensive one. I shall look into the matter to see whether any general information can be obtained on the subject.
– I have just opened a letter from a member of the New South Wales Parliament which informs me that the moratorium and interest reduction legislation of New South Wales does not extend to Norfolk Island, which is under federal control. “Can the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether the interest reduction legislation of the Commonwealth Government applies to Norfolk Island ?
– Norfolk Island is governed by ordinances made by the Governor-General, with the advice of the Federal Executive Council. I am not aware of any complaints from Norfolk Island in respect of moratorium or interest reduction legislation. Only this week I had a long conversation with one of the leading residents of the island, and discussed .with him the general state of affairs on the island.
– I am informed that interest rates up to 10 per cent, are being charged on the island.
– We have not received any complaints.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform me definitely whether our moratorium and interest reduction legislation applies to Norfolk Island?
– I shall make inquiries and furnish the honorable member with precise information on the subject.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed the statement in the press that the Government of New South Wales has appointed Mr. H. S. Nicholas, M.L.C., as the sole Commissioner, with general terms of reference and with power to obtain such expert advice as he may deem necessary, to inquire into the position of areas of New South Wales capable of self-government? In view of the very evident interest that the Commonwealth Government took in the appeal to the Privy Council by the New South Wales Government in regard to the abolition of the Upper House of the State Parliament, and also the evident interest that it is taking in the secession movement in Western Australia, is it the intention of the Government to seek representation on the commission which has been appointed to inquire into the cutting up of New South Wales into new States?
– No. The procedure adopted by the Government of New South Wales is designed to assist in giving effect to the existing provisions of the Constitution.
– In view of the statement by the Attorney-General that the Government is taking active steps to reduce factory prices, will the right honorable gentleman inform me why the Commonwealth Statistician’s index figures for wholesale prices show that from December, 1929, to December, 1932, there has been an increase in respect of building materials from 1800 to 2069, groceries from 1678 to 1778, and chemicals from 1958 to 2166?
– I take it that the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show certain things because they are the facts. I suggest to the honorable member that the effect of policy on prices necessarily requires time to make itself evident, and varies from time to time. I doubt whether any honorable member really thinks that anything that this Parliament can do could reduce price levels from, say, 1600 to 800 without causing universal bankruptcy.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether any progress has been. made with the project to develop Northern Australia by a private company by means of a £15,000,000 loan?
– The matter is still being, considered by the Government and the private parties concerned. Certain information is not yet available. Some time will probably elapse before the next move is made.
– Yesterday I sought information from the Minister for the Interior regarding the wages paid to girls employed in Canberra hotels, and the honorable gentleman’s reply was that the average earnings of the staff amounted to £1 15s. 4d. per week. I now ask the honorable gentleman is it not a fact that the girls in the Government hotels in this city receive £1 15s. 4d. per week in wages for only the three weeks in every five in which they are not rationed, making their total wages actually £5 6s. for five, weeks? Is it not also a fact that £2 14s. is charged these girls for their board at the hotels during the two weeks in which they are rationed, and that this amount is deducted from their salary for the other three weeks, leaving a balance of only £2 12s. in wages actually paid them during the five-week period? If the girls receive only £2 12s. in actual wages, in the five weeks, is that not an average wage of 10s. 5d. per week ?
– In the main the statements made by the honorable member are correct. The amount I mentioned yesterday included board. I take it that board is a very important factor, and that it should properly count as “wages. However, starting from to-morrow, the rationing will be reduced to one week in four, so that the girls will actually receive an increased wage, including board.
– In view of the statement made recently by the Minister administering our war service homes legislation that this Government has not evicted any returned soldier occupants of war service homes, can the Minister concerned explain to me why Mr. F. V. Thompson, representing the War Service Homes Commissioner, proceeded against Clement Stanley Johnson at the West Maitland Police Court to obtain possession df a war service home in West Maitland, and also why he proceeded against William Frederick Skelly at the Mayfield Court in respect of a home at Mayfield? When Johnson pleaded impoverished circumstances the magistrate extended to the 30th June the time allowed him to vacate the premises. In view of the fact that the magistrate could adopt a sympathetic attitude in regard to these men who- are finding it impossible owing to unemployment to pay their arrears, will the Minister also adopt a sympathetic attitude towards them, and not proceed against them in the future for arrears that have” been incurred through unemployment?
– In no circumstances is any final action taken against a purchaser of a war service home who complies with the recommendations of the committee of inquiry. These recommendations have been approved by all soldier organizations, and adopted by the Government almost in their entirety. I have personally investigated the circumstances of the cases mentioned by the honorable member, and have ascertained that they do not come within the terms of the recommendations of the War Service Homes Committee.
– Has the Acting Leader of the Government noticed a report ‘in the press that the Government of the United States of America has agreed to a searching inquiry into the private banking institutions of the United States of America? If the right honorable gentleman finds that this is so, will he give further consideration to the request of the Opposition for a similar inquiry in this country?
– I do not think any honorable member was surprised by the announcement that there was to be a searching inquiry into banking in the United States of America. If it could be reasonably suggested that there is a situation in Australia even remotely approaching that disclosed in the United States of America, I have no hesitation in saying that the Government would order the most searching form of inquiry that it is possible to provide.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether he is aware that it is estimated that it will not be possible to find a market, either in this country or abroad, for about 800,000 cases of Australian apples this season? This, of course, would involve the apple-growers in a heavy economic loss, as the cost of production is very high. Is the Minister aware that a market could- be found for 200,000 cases of dried apples, and that the production of this fruit would absorb at least 800,000 cases of green fruit? I understand that if the Government grants assistance to the extent of £20,000, the fruit processors are prepared to treat this fruit. Will the Minister give this proposal immediate consideration?
– A proposal similar to that outlined by the honorable member is already receiving consideration by the Government.
Customs Tariff (1932) : Special Duties (No. 4) : Primage Duties (No. 2) : Customs Duties (Canadian preference, no. 2) : customs tariff Amendment (No. 1) : Special Customs Duty (No. 5) : Excise Tariff Amendment (No. 3).
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 5th April (vide page 893), on motion by Sir Henry . Gullett (vide page 1167, Volume 135)-
That on and after the fourteenth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat of Government, Duties of Customs at the rates respectively specified in the column of the schedule hereto headed “British Preferential Tariff” be imposed on goods the produce ot manufacture of the United Kingdom. …
And on motion by Mr. White (vide page 29) -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Repre sentatives on the thirteenth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, be amended as hereunder set out.
Group 6.- Amendments made by the present Government which are supported’ by Tariff Board Reports.
Item 74 (b) (Meats, poultry, game and soups).
.- The Government is proposing the reduction of the British rate of duty to 30 per cent., as against 40 per cent, provided under the Scullin tariff on sub-item b “ potted or concentrated, including extracts of meat jellies; preparations in dry form for making soup “. A report has been made by the Tariff Board on this subject, but I fail to see that any benefit will accrue to us as the result of this reduction of duty. Australia is a great meatproducing country. We have to export large quantities of beef every year, and have difficulty in finding a profitable market for it. We meet competition from the Argentine, where large amounts of British capital are invested. Queensland is., the home of half the cattle of Australia, and I feel certain that that State could supply all the rest of Australia with the kinds of meat covered by this item. The value of our importations under this heading in recent years has been as follows:-1925-26, £941,000; 1926-27, £115,000; 1927-28, £111;000; 1928-29, £130,000.
During the depression a falling-off has occurred in these imports. The Scullin Government prohibited all imports of canned meat because such importations were against the interests of our primary producers. So long as we find difficulty in obtaining a market for our meat, such importations cannot be justified. I do not know whether the Minister considers that this reduction of duty is a gesture due to the Ottawa agreement, or whether he is slavishly following a recommendation of the Tariff Board. Speaking at the Constitutional Club in Sydney recently, with manufacturers on the right and freetraders on the left, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Latham) said that the Government was not bound to follow the Tariff Board’s recommendations. He added that the Government would consider all the reports of the board on their merits. According to a leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald, nobody seemed quite pleased with the right honorable gentleman’s effort to satisfy both the manufacturers and the freetraders simultaneously. I do not see how the members of the Country party can very well support this reduction of the British preferential duty. Mr. James Doyle, the secretary of Beefine Proprietary Limited, Prahran, Victoria, manufacturers of liquid beef, appeared before the board on behalf of Fred. “Walker and Company Proprietary Limited, manufacturers of “Bonox”, as well as on behalf of his own company; and gave evidence as follows : -
Although the industry pf manufacturing liquid beef had been established in Australia for twelve years, local manufacturers obtained only 50 per cent, of the business owing to keen overseas competition. Although the industry may not be regarded as a large one from the point of view of capital invested and hands employed,.it was all-Australian, the raw materials and bottles used being of local production.
Beefine is manufactured wholly from prime beef, being a highly concentrated, peptonized fluid beef, no chemicals, colouring matter, or adulteration of any description entering into its composition. It is supplied to the majority of .private hospitals throughout Victoria, and. is in regular use at the following public hospitals, viz.: - Austin Hospital, Melbourne; Women’s Hospital, Melbourne; Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, and Homoeopathic Hospital, Melbourne. The Australian products are generally admitted to be quite comparable in quality with the best known imported brands.
In June, 1930, when the Tariff Board’s report was drawn up, the whole of the requirements of Australia of preserved and potted meats, poultry and game, could be supplied from the plant already in the country. Since the pastoralists cannot find sufficient markets for their meat, what justification can there be for importing potted meats into Australia in competition with the products of the pastoralists and the meat works, which give employment to thousands of our own people? Mr. Reginald W. N. Nossiter, works manager of the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company Limited, in the course of his evidence before the Tariff Board, said that the duty of 40 per cent, imposed by the last Government on imports from
Great Britain would assist the graziers of this country. Then why has the Government seen fit to reduce this duty? The reduction will not build up any considerable amount of trade with Britain that will be of advantage to Australia; but it will deprive some of our primary producers of a local market for their meat.
.- It is difficult to understand the attitude of the present Government to the meat industry. We were told that Australia would benefit by the preferences granted under the Ottawa agreement; but meat exports have been restricted for three years. The reduction of duty now proposed will result in the importation of goods that can well be made in Australia from meat, poultry and game produced in this country. We shall be giving away the little of the local market that is now left to our producers of meat, poultry and game. Not only have our meat exports been restricted, but restriction of the exportation of other primary products also is threatened. Many exsoldiers were encouraged to take up land for the purpose of poultry breeding, and the reduction of the British preferential duty on potted meats by 10 per cent, would prejudicially affect the market of those primary producers, as well as the producers of the other commodities covered by this item. I hope that the Minister will -postpone the item for further consideration.
.- This appears to be a comparatively small item ; but the duties relate to £100,000 worth of luxury lines imported anually which compete with goods manufactured locally from Australian primary products. Practically the whole importation of potted meats comes from the United’ Kingdom, and- the British preferential rate is the only duty that has .been reduced. Australia is not yet out of its financial troubles, for our overseas trade is still unfavorable. This year our cash position will be safe, owing to the fact that we had a surplus last year, and made large exports of gold. I fear, however, that in the next financial year we shall be in difficulties because of the unfavorable state of our trade. We shall have no gold to export, apart from new gold that may be produced. I understand that every ounce of the gold that was held in reserve has been shipped abroad. Honorable members must not sneer at the sum of £100,000. If they had experienced the anxiety that was shared by members of the last Government in 1929 and 1930, they would realize how necessary it is to reduce imports. “We had to scan the list again and again in order to save this country from default. We even had to consider every £100 worth of imports that could be excluded. The Tariff Board’s report shows that the imports of potted meats, &c, in the last two years were as follow: -
I see no reason why we should import meat or poultry in any form whatever. If there is any reduction of duty against which members of the Country party ought to fight, it is the reduction of the. duty on the commodities covered by this item, the importation of which would reduce the demand for similar goods which are being made in our own country from our own products. This is a luxury line. People who want luxuries should not be given greater facilities to import them to the detriment of Australian industries.
– This item relates not to meat or canned meat, but to extracts potted or concentrated, including extracts of meat, meat jellies, and preparations in dried form for making soup. The principal manufacturer of these commodities is the Bovril Company, of England. The Tariff Board’s report contains the following paragraph: -
If the increased duties embodied in the proposed schedule of November, 1929, were designed to induce the producers of bovril to manufacture in Australia, the board would be inclined torecommend their adoption. It is evident, however, that the Bovril Company does not consider the demand in the Commonwealth is sufficient to justify it manufacturing the Australian requirements in Australia. Seeing that this company is already producing the extract here, it would be in a more favorable position to make the bovril if it were practicable.
The evidence shows that all bovril imported into Australia, as well as large quantities supplied to other parts of the world, is made from extract of meat produced in Australia by the Bovril Company, and also by other concerns from whom the company purchases supplies necessary over and above that produced by it.
There is the answer.
– It is not an answer, for it ignores the trade balance.
– The Bovril Company buys meat produced in the Northern Territory and Queensland, and carries out certain processes in Australia, after which the extract is sent to England for further treatment and for export throughout the world. Australia’s meat market is principally overseas. Had the industry been established here on an economical basis, no doubt the Tariff Board would have acceded to the request for higher duties. The lowering of the duties will cheapen the beef tea used in our hospitals.
– I am astonished at the silence of honorable members sitting in the corner.
– We are satisfied.
– Eleven or twelve years ago I was under the false impression that those honorable members represented the primary producers of this country. The reduction of the duties on this sub-item will encourage the importation of meat and poultry at the very time that our exports of meat are subject to restriction. I dispute the contention of the Minister that this sub-item does not cover meat. The reduced duties will strike a severe blow at our primary industries, and consequently I am amazed that honorable members in the corner remain silent. The encouragement of this industry in Australia would assist other industries, such as the tin plate industry, which is about to be established at Newcastle, and also the glass industry, which would make the containers for the potted meats, extracts and soup. Moreover, it would assist the printing and the papermaking industries. The absence of any protest by the so-called friends of the primary producers is both surprising and disappointing. Australian producers of beef and mutton will be seriously affected by any importations of meat or poultry. Unfortunately, the prices obtained for beef, mutton, canned meat and rabbits are now about the same as they were twenty years ago, notwithstanding that the primary producers of Australia have to pay freights double what they were then. I am astounded that no protest is made by the Country party against the excessive charges of the shipping companies. The so-called representatives of the primary producers have not seen fit to draw attention to the luxurious liners which trade to and from Australia. In my opinion, they are examples of extravagance.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the sub-item before the Chair.
– Higher duties would materially assist those engaged in the canning of meat and the preparation of soups and other similar commodities in Australia, by placing them in a more favorable position to tender successfully for overseas orders, such as- British Army requirements and similar orders from other countries, including Italy. I hope that, notwithstanding the silence of the honorable members for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), Riverina (Mr. Nock), and Echuca (Mr. Hill), and other honorable members, the Minister will reconsider this sub-item, and will restore the duties to the rates prevailing under the Scullin tariff.
– It has always been a surprise to me that meat products should be imported from ‘a country which has to import most of the raw material used in their manufacture. The cattlemen of Australia have passed through severe trials during recent years. Many of them who, a few years ago, were comparatively wealthy, are to-day working for the banks. I am afraid that much of the meat sent out here in concentrated form is the product of the Argentine, our greatest competitor.
– In that case, there is something wrong with the Australian industry.
– We should encourage the manufacture of these extracts in Australian factories. There is no reason why the manufacturers of meat extract should not organize, as other producers are doing, with a view to opening up trade with Eastern countries. It has been predicted that, in the future, Australian factories will be the chief sources of supply of New Zealand and the East. I know that the firms of Bovril and Vestey are interested in cattle-raising in Australia, but I know also that they are more interested in the Argentine meat trade. In order to protect our own local producers, we should place practically an embargo on the importation of these goods. The meat extracts which come here as the product of the United Kingdom are originally imported from countries outside the British Empire. The beef and mutton producers of England dispose of their meat in the fresh meat market of Britain; they are unable to supply fully even the local demand. The meat imports of Britain from the Argentine are valued at about £40,000,000 per annum. A trade worth £100,000 per annum is surely worth establishing in this country. The establishment of subsidiary industries to the meat industry would encourage further expenditure on herd improvement. If these reduced duties are the outcome of the Ottawa Conference, it would appear that that conference has not been of much value to our primary producers.
– This item has nothing to do with the Ottawa agreement.
– I am opposed to the lowering of these duties, and I suggest that the sub-item be postponed.
If there is one section of the community which has passed through a gruelling time of .late it is the poultrymen of Australia, particularly those in Victoria, where about 30,000 birds have been lost through disease. I am glad to know that the disease has been eradicated.
– Can the honorable member name one firm which manufactures poultry extract in Australia?
– I understand that David Hyland and Sons Proprietary Limited, of Melbourne, put up these extracts; in any case, there is no reason why this industry should not be established here.
– This sub-item is not limited to extracts ; it says, “ including extracts “.
– It covers soup essences, also. It is ridiculous that Australia, which is rich in both meat and vegetables, should import essences for the making of soup. The Minister said that a reduction of the duties on this item would cheapen the beef tea used in our hospitals. I remind him that the beef tea supplied to patients in our hospitals is not extracted from bottles.
– Bovril is used largely in our hospitals.
– It is a libel on Australia to say that we should import these things.
– We do not want Bovril made from Argentine beef.
– I realize that it is useless to attempt to persuade the Minister to alter his mind. I expect that he will not give way, but throughout this debate I intend, by my vote, to do all that I can to support Australian industries. This item reduces the protection formerly given towhat should be a natural industry of the Commonwealth. Surely our primary producers, and especially those engaged in meat production, are already suffering severely enough without having further disabilities placed upon them.
Mr.NOCK (Riverina) [12.31].- I should not have spoken in the debate on this sub-item but for the challenge issued by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley), that members of the Country party should define their attitude to this industry. Speaking for myself, and I feel that other members of my party will agree with me, I am quite satisfied with the reduction of the duties proposed, and I should like to see the same policy applied to many other items. The influence of this industry on Australian primary production generally is so trifling as not to be a matter of concern. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) told us this morning that, at one time, our imports of these commodities totalled over £100,000. Later figures show that the trade has dwindled to £22,000, or less than one-fourth the volume of six or seven years ago, and that portion of it, which would affect the interests of our meat producers, is too trifling to be worthy of consideration, because the cost of the meat is practically nil. Production costs are governed largely by the efficiency or otherwise of the processors, and I suggest that if an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent. against British importations, plus 25 per cent. exchange, 10 per cent. primage, and allowing for the 10 per cent. on the invoice price at the works, or a total of almost TO per cent., without transport, is not sufficient to enable the industry to be established, or to keep going if it is established, then we must conclude that the industry is either inefficient, or is one which cannot be put on an economic basis.
.- At last the Country party in this chamber has become articulate concerning this sub-item, but its attitude, as stated by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) is, to say the least, tragic as regards primary production in this country.
– The attitude of the Country party to the tariff is not under discussion.
– Surely the remarks of the last speaker may be the subject of criticism. I ask for your ruling on this point.
– There is no need for a ruling from the Chair. The honorable gentleman was proceeding to discuss the attitude of the Country party to the tariff when I intervened. He may, of course, reply to arguments used by the honorable member for Riverina.
– The honorable member for Riverina had offered criticism of the sub-item, and I claim the right to reply, without interruption from the Chair.
– Order ! The honorable member must not speak to the Chair in that way. If he persists, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– You have done so before. The honorable member for Riverina, the last speaker, belongs to the Country party. In the course of his remarks he stated that the value of the trade protected by this item was only £22,000 a year, and he regards the protection given as quite sufficient.
– It is over 70 per cent.
– The honorable gentleman was not a member of this Parliament when the Scullin Government brought down its tariff proposals to encourage Australian industries, and to check importations of exotic foodstuffs, intended principally for the wealthier and more fastidious people in this country. That the Labour Government’s policy was successful may be seen from the figures which show that importations of the class of goods covered by this sub-item are now down to £22,000 per annum. I feel sure the honorable member for Riverina will discover that the primary producers of this country most certainly do not subscribe to the parochial policy which he has enunciated this morning, apparently on behalf of his party. The duties imposed by the Scullin Government had a marked effect on the importation of these particular foodstuffs. The Minister (Mr. White) has stated that bovril is manufactured in England. The facts are that four or five firms in Australia are also manufacturing bovril, and I have been assured by medical men that Australian bovril, manufactured by at least two firms in Queensland, is in every respect equal to the imported article. As we have in this country an unlimited supply of the raw material, all that is necessary is to employ the standard process to produce bovril. The Minister has also told us that bovril manufactured in England is made from Australian beef. I should like to know the source of his information.
– It is to be found in the Tariff Board’s report. ‘
– The honorable gentleman assumes that every statement made by the board is correct. In this case he has not gone to the trouble to inquire the truth or otherwise of the board’s report concerning the industry. Surely he must know that about 80 per cent, of the beef produced in Australia is consumed locally, and that the great preponderance of the beef imported into Great Britain comes, not from Australia, but from the Argentine. It therefore follows that the bovril imported into Australia is made from imported foreign beef.
– That is the honorable member’s guess.
– Surely it is reason able to assume that, as the Argentine is much nearer than is Australia to the British market, British manufacturers of bovril would enter into contracts with the nearer, and consequently cheaper, source of supply. It is not at all likely that they would pay higher prices for beef imported from Australia in very limited quantities if they could secure cheaper and unlimited supplies from the Argentine.
– The Tariff Board’s report states that the bovril imported into Australia, as well as. large quantities supplied to other parts of the world, is the extract of beef produced in Australia.
– We are producing these meat extracts largely at the Wyndham Meat Works in Western Australia, and also, I think, at Gladstone, in Queensland, and I have no hesitation in saying that the Australian product is quite equal to the imported article. It is significant, however, that it was left to a protectionist Labour Government to educate the people of Australia to the merits of our various products. At one time, it was customary for the wealthier sections of our people to give preference to imported condiments of all kinds. Apparently, if an article bore the brand of a French, American, or other foreign manufacturer, it was considered the correct thing to buy it, regardless of its cost or quality. But during the last three years, our manufacturers, encouraged by the higher protectionist duties imposed by the Scullin Government, have been producing an increasing range of excellent condiments, sauces, biscuits, and various other foodstuffs, including potted meats, chicken, and ham. We should bear in mind that importations of all kinds of tinned meats, poultry and game, such as grouse, teal, partridge, from England or elsewhere, come into competition with our potted meats, and, therefore, we should give adequate protection to the local industry. I hold the view that if our wealthier people are determined to gratify their exotic tastes by encouraging the importation of prepared foodstuffs such as I have described, they should be made to pay, and pay very dearly for them. In recent years there has been a remarkable improvement of the processes for the preparation of meat extracts and other foodstuffs which must be regarded as luxuries, and I repeat that our products are in every respect as good as, if not better than, importations front other countries. Yet we have members of the Country party in this chamber airily waving their hands and declaring that the industries covered by this subitem are not worth bothering about. They forget, apparently, that but for the protectionist policy of the Scullin Government, our importations in these lines would have been very much heavier, amounting possibly to £250,000 a year. The encouragement of the Australian industry would then have been deemed important because of its influence on primary production in this country. I remind my friends in the Country party that any attempt to improve the lot of our primary producers - and this industry certainly does that - is worthy of consideration. But if the declaration of policy by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) is to be taken as a guide, it will be found that in respect of many items which deal essentially with primary industries, those who are supposed to represent our primary producers in this chamber have fallen down on the job. But it is not the intention of honorable members on this side of the committee to allow this attack by the Government upon our primary industries to pass without a protest. Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) seems to think that this reduction of duty matters little to the primary producers. This morning the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) intimated that his party did not intend to take any further part in the tariff debate.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member inferred that it was of no use for the members of his party to speak further on the tariff, because there was little hope of bringing about any further reductions of duty. I ask him whether his party stands for the reduction of duty shown under this item?
– The honorable member’s opinion is contrary to that of the primary producers whom he represents, and of Mr. R. A. Mackie, the representative of the- pastoral industry of Queensland. On this subject that gentleman can speak with some authority, greater,’ perhaps, than that of many honorable members who claim to represent the primary producers. In a letter to me, he has pointed out that, up to date, the Ottawa agreement has brought about no change or benefit to those engaged in primary industries. In the Melbourne Argus of the 16th March appeared the following statement by Mr. Sanderson : -
I am sure that the Ottawa agreement has gaven the people of Australia an opportunity to rescue the primary industries. The need of the moment is >to bring about a combined movement with a view to watching and fostering the spirit of Ottawa in its widest sense.
Mr. Mackie’s comment on that statement is that, in the light of - happenings since Ottawa, those who have studied the position of Australia carefully must conclude that, instead of fostering the Ottawa spirit, as Mr. Sanderson suggests, we should scrap it. The honorable member for Riverina has stated that the value of imports under this item has during the last few years declined from £100,000 to £22,000, and that the reduction of the duty on meat products will make little or no difference to the pastoral industry of Australia. Yesterday the honorable member refused to support an amendment which, if carried, would have “increased the costs of the primary producers by about 4d. per head in respect of matches. To-day, he says that a loss of £100,000 to the Australian meat industry does not matter. I contend that a saving of that amount to the growers would at present be a very acceptable gift to them. Mr. “W. Angliss, referring to his appointment as the official representative of the Australian meat industry at the Ottawa Conference,, said that, at the moment, he could see three features of vital importance - a quota, a preference, or a combination of the two. If we are prepared to ask Great Britain for .preference in respect of our meat, surely it is up to us to protect the industry here. If we ask Great Britain to allow our meat to enter that country free of duty, then we are not consistent if we reduce the duties in Australia, thus inviting imports of foreign meat. On the subject of meat in relation to the Ottawa Conference, the Sydney Morning Herald published the following paragraph: -
In view of the official recognition of the importance of the subject of meat to Australia at the Ottawa Conference, surprise is expressed at Smithfield that nobody is going from London with a direct knowledge of the trade, now that Mr. C. F. 6. McCann’s visit has been cancelled. Importers here (London) are - surprised that neither Mr. McCann nor Mr. T. H. Heywood, Australian veterinary representative, are included among the advisers. While the value of Mr. W. Angliss’s knowledge is realized, it is felt in London that Australia’s interests need further safeguard by the presence of some one with an intimate knowledge of South American competition.
Sir Norman Kater, a member of the executive committee of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, was also at Ottawa during the conference, and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, he visited Bradford in company with Mr. E. H. Tout and Mr. Devereux, the financial representative in London of the Australian wool-growers. Mr. Devereux, Mr. Tout, and Mr. Angliss are all connected with the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company Limited, a company which has big interests in the Argentine, and no doubt those gentlemen visited Ottawa with the object of protecting their Argentine interests, in view of the fact that the Argentine trade is more profitable to the company than is its Australian trade. Senator R. D. Elliott has explained that he visited Ottawa, not as. the official representative of Australia, but in order to keep an eye on Vestey’s and other interests who were working against the Australian meat industry. He said -
I have with me the confidential message which Vestey’s 6ent the House of Commons. Vestey’s endeavoured to persuade the House of Commons that it would not be in the interests of Britain to give preference in respect of meat and other commodities to Australia and other sections of the Empire. Vestey’s are cleverer than we were.
Professor Shann, who is economist to the Bank of New South Wales, and was at Ottawa during the conference, has stated -
It is not surprising that the project of limitation, the quota on Australian mutton and Iamb, is commended by Australian middlemen. The known limit on exports will hang over the market. Pastoralists and farmers will be anxious to get in before the guillotine falls. Down will go the prices they will receive, i.e., the prices the middlemen will pay for their sheep and lambs. The middleman will score both ways on whatever he exports, widening his margin of profit by buying cheaper and by selling dearer than he could do in the absence of the quotas. That pretty game I dare predict will not long be tolerated in Australia.
Unfortunately, that pretty game has too long been tolerated in Australia. Any reduction of the duty on meat products must have an adverse effect upon the Australian industry. Great hopes were held out to the meat industry as a result of what took place at Ottawa. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) said -
The meat agreement will probably prove tha most far-reaching and valuable of all the Ottawa achievements, and reflects the greatest credit on the leaders of the Australian delegation.
In view of that statement, why is this Government now reducing duties and giving preference to foreign meats over Australian meats? Because of the fall in the prices of wool and maize, the South African primary producers will apply themselves to the growing of meat. In fact, at the Ottawa Conference the leader of the South African delegation said that his government favoured a quota on meat, because South Africa had already laid the foundations upon which it intended to establish a meat industry. I agree with the Acting Leader of the Country party that there is not much hope of this duty being restored to what it was previously. Since he believes in the reduction of duties, I ask him whether he would agree to the withdrawal of the duty of 6d. per lb. on New Zealand butter? The reduction of the duty under this item is just as detrimental to the meat industry as the withdrawal of the duty of 6d. per lb. on New Zealand butter would be to the Australian butter industry.
– That is rot !
– The adverse effect might be felt less in the case of the meat industry, but the principle is the same. The retort of the honorable member is not very intelligent, nor is it helpful to the primary producers of this country. His attitude towards the Ottawa agreement will take a lot of explaining at the next election. There was no need to interfere with the duty imposed by the Scullin Government, because it gave a certain amount of protection to the meat industry, and helped it to maintain its trade against foreign competition.
– The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) have both been responsible for some rather strange statements. The honorable member for Kennedy has said that had the duties on matches remained unaltered, the increased cost would have amounted to 4d. per head of population per annum. The value of the imports of the goods mentioned in this item is £22,000, and that sum spread over the population of Australia represents about fd. per head. So that if the effect upon the consumer of a reduction of the duty on matches is small, then the effect of the reduction of the duty under this item must be smaller still,, judged on the basis of the cost to the inhabitants of Australia as a whole. The Minister has told us that the goods included in this item are processed Australian meats.
– How does he know that?
– I have sworn declarations.
– There are many sworn declarations by manufacturers which the Minister will not accept.
– Thus meat exported from Australia is processed abroad in a special way, and the products are of a special kind not made in this country. The honorable member for Darling, when criticizing the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), said that his support of a reasonable lowering of trade barriers within the Empire indicated parochialism. I am quite unable to follow the honorable member’s reasoning. Surely the reverse of what he says is correct. The Country party is satisfied that this industry can progress with a duty of 30 per cent, against the United Kingdom. That rate, added to exchange, primage and other costs, makes the total protection about 70 per cent.. If the meat processing industry in Australia, receiving its raw materials at prices probably lower than in any other part of the world, cannot carry on with such protection, I shall be ashamed of it.
– The canned fruits industry probably could not continue without the present prohibition of imports. And surely if the imposition of prohibitive duties for the protection of this primary industry is sound, a ‘ similar protection, of the byproducts of the meat works would be equally sound. In many industries the by-products make all the difference between’ loss and profit. The special attention paid to by-products has enabled some countries to forge ahead, and their industries to increase their production and income. A comparatively small quantity of meat, particularly beef, used in British processed meats, comes from Australia; meat -extract is undoubtedly produced from Argentine beef. Surely one of the first duties of those claiming to represent the primary producers is to protect their principals in every possible way.
– Is not 70 per cent, protection ?
– The 70 per cent, includes 25 per cent, exchange and primage; but both of these are unstable factors. Primage duty is collected only for revenue purposes, and we do not know when the exchange charges will be removed. The only stable protection that an industry can haw is reasonable continuity of customs policy. In Sydney recently, a meeting of graziers, land-holders, farmers and others, resolved, by 85 votes to eight, to establish co-operative works for the export of meat. I assume that the new enterprise will handle beef, mutton, and lamb, and will put on the market various by-products. It will need all possible help, and should be assured of the local market. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that processed meats are only a small item. There are many small items which, in the aggregate, are considerable. “Mony a pickle makes a muckle.” “ Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” These are familiar truisms which we might well remember in the consideration of this schedule. At the forthcoming economic conference the exchange position throughout the” world may be completely altered. Exchange may disappear suddenly or gradually. If it should be withdrawn quickly, is this Parliament hurriedly to increase duties in order to preserve local industries from destruction, instead of leisurely and deliberately safeguarding against that danger by giving them adequate protection now? Tariff policy should have an element of permanency; it should offer security to the producers. By lowering the duties on processed meats, the Government is decreasing the opportunity for Australian primary producers to convert their raw material into secondary products to supply the local market. For their sake I appeal to the Government to reconsider this item.
– The committee should restore these duties to their former level. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that the smallness of this industry makes it not worth while. If that reasoning were sound, many industries that are now well established in Australia, would never have been brought into existence. A few years ago, I travelled through Gippsland at ‘ a time when the farmers were organizing to seCUre a duty on South African maize. Many people ridiculed this claim, and said that the farmers did not need trade unions. But I do not think that any primary producer would vote now to reduce the duty on maize and encourage importations of maize grown by black labour in South Africa. . We can all remember when the idea of growing rice in this country was scoffed at. Critics said that rice had been grown for thousands of years in Asiatic countries, and white farmers could not hope to compete with them. But Australian initiative and resource have triumphed, and by the invention and use of special machinery for harvesting the crop, rice as good as any grown in other parts of the world is being economically produced in the Commonwealth. If a previous Parliament had not thought this industry worth while, and protected it, it would not have the economic value which it undoubtedly has to-day. A few years ago we did not bother about growing tobacco on a large scale, but the industry has since vindicated itself, and no primary producers would vote to remove the customs protection from Australiangrown leaf. These remarks apply also to peanuts and peanut butter. Subsidiary industries, small in the beginning, are in the aggregate, a big factor in the indus trial economy of the nation, and individual industries ultimately develop into big employers and wealth producers. The man struggling to make a living on a mixed farm would strongly resent the removal of protection from some of these small industries. This Parliament should not, in order to gratify fastidious or luxurious tastes, encourage the importation of more or less artificial foods that will compete with the basic foods which this country produces in abundance. The unmarketable surplus of foodstuffs is ruining the farmers to-day. We have been told that the basic raw material used in these processed foods is Australian meat. But that is not wholly true. For instance, oxo blocks, which are used in night restaurants, are produced from Argentine meat. Why should we import poultry extracts and bird’s nest soup, when plenty of wholesome Australian poultry and other meats are available? These commodities are not used to any considerable extent at present, but the demand may grow, and we should not encourage a public taste for them. I am certain that the primary producers would do nothing to facilitate the importation of eggs from China and Japan. In recent years the development of an export trade in eggs has been a godsend to the farmers. But only a few years ago this industry was not regarded as worth while. The subsidiary industries are not of much concern to the large pastoralists and the wheat-growers, but the struggling farmer who lives by his own energy will rightly resent the competition of imports which diminish the market for the products of his industry. Most of the processed meats that are imported could be made in Australia if necessary. But the demand for them is limited. They” are imported only to gratify people who must have something out of the ordinary, or to enable a restaurant proprietor or hotelkeeper to attract fastidious customers by placing on his menu exotic or rare dishes. Although the importations are not large, it would be wrong to facilitate their increase to the prejudice of wholesome foodstuffs that are locally produced. If the representatives of the primary producers were doing their duty to the great mass of the farming community, they would take precautions against the growth, of these imports. This competition should be .nipped in the bud.
.- I am amazed to find that the members of the Country party have not opposed this reduction of duty, on an item the importation of which would adversely affect primary producers. When he made the reduction, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) doubtless had in mind the terms of the Ottawa agreement ; and probably the recommendation of the Tariff Board is in .accordance with his view that, wherever possible, the duties on goods that come from Great Britain should be reduced. But the speeches that have so far been delivered ought to have convinced the committee of the reasonableness of the attitude of those honorable members who ask for adequate protection, not only for our secondary, but also for our primary industries. I have heard members of the Country party say that the imports of this commodity are not very large. They, however, have taken the figures for a year in which the depression reached its lowest point. In a normal year, according to the report of the Tariff Board, approximately £130,000 worth of goods comes in under this heading. While we have in Australia a number of meat factories that can turn out these potted meats, extracts of beef, meat jellies, soup powders, poultry and game, what justification is there for the importation of those commodities? I was amazed recently when I was shown in a shop in Melbourne imported grouse and teal, which is sold in competition with poultry from farms in the vicinity of that city. The growers of this poultry are men who are in a small way on the land, and they have every reason to expect some support from members of the Country party. In another speech,. I furnished information which proved that the standard of quality of the Australian article cannot be questioned. In evidence before the Tariff Board, it was pointed out that these Australian-made goods have been tested in public hospitals, such as the Austin Hospital, the Women’s Hospital, the Children’s Hospital, and the Homoeopathic Hospital, in Melbourne. The results of those tests show that the Australian product is at least equal to the imported article.
It is true that the goods covered by this item are luxury lines; but they are purchased by wealthy people, to whom the difference of ls. a jar is of no account. Advertising and propaganda enable the imported article to be sold at a higher price than the locally-produced article. Every pound of imported potted meat or extract that is sold in Australia displaces a pound of the product of our factories, and this has an adverse effect on the farms and pastoral holdings of Australia. The Tariff Board was told that the prices to storekeepers of beefine and competitive imported lines are as follows : -
As the result of salesmanship, advertising, and propaganda, the imported article is going into consumption, and is obtaining a preference over the locally-made product. I am .aware that certain members of the Country party say that we must not do anything that might damage the goodwill that exists between Great Britain and Australia. I do not think that any one is desirous of doing that.
– It is not possible to do so.
– It certainly is not possible in a matter of this sort. In the next breath, those honorable, members say that the importations of these products are so small as to make no difference to Australian primary producers. If that be so, the restriction of imports would not strain the relations that exist between the British and Australian Governments. Although in a normal year the value of the imports amounts to over £100,000, that is a small item to the big meat companies in Great Britain, which make this product for the markets of the world; but it is of much more account to the comparatively small companies in Australia, which manufacture only for the local market. To those who talk of the necessity for giving preference to the products of British factories, I would say that, of all the countries of the world,
Australia ranks next to India as Britain’s best customer. From 1921 to 1931, Canada, with a much larger population than Australia, bought £307,000,000 worth of British goods, while Australia bought £547,000,000 worth. -In proportion to population, Canada should have taken over £1,000,000,000 worth.
So much for the argument that the obligation rests on Australia to lower customs duties against goods that are imported from Great Britain. Surely our first duty is to the people of this country, but particularly to the primary producers, who are having such a bad time!
Quite a considerable number of people are giving their interpretation of the meaning of the Ottawa agreement. The latest is Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who recently addressed a meeting of the Royal Empire Society in London. In the course of his remarks, he said -
Under article 9, protection by tariff is to be afforded only to those Australian industries which are reasonably sure of success. This article means that if a country in the Empire can produce something economically, well and good, let it go ahead with that production. But if it cannot produce a certain commodity efficiently and economically, then it is not to try to do so by means of a tariff.
Applying the test mentioned by Mr. MacDonald, this is an article which it has been proved can be successfully and economically manufactured in Australia. Therefore, it is entitled to the protection afforded it by the last Government, and there is no justification for removing that protection when the primary producers of Australia are having such a bad time. Even though the members of the Country party decide not to debate these questions, honorable members who sit ob this side of the chamber should not hesitate to fight for the rights of the primary producers. I oppose this reduction of duty, because it strikes a blow at a section of our primary producers. The item may be small; but there are hundreds of such items, and in the aggregate they have a considerable effect. Honorable members have heard the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) plead with the Government on behalf of citrus-growers. Other honorable members have urged the claims of the egg producers and other -sections of primary producers. Taken singly, the imports of different commodities may be comparatively small; but it is a very big question to the citrus-growers and the egg producers, who were adversely affected by the lifting of the embargo which the Scullin Government imposed upon imports at a time when Australia’s trade balance had to be rectified. I submit that in this case the extra 10 per cent, should be restored. It means nothing to the big manufacturers of Great Britain - who, by the way, import from the Argentine much larger quantities of beef than they import from Australia. Of the cattle killed in this country, 80 per cent. i3 used for local consumption and only 20 per cent, is exported. The Minister for Trade and Customs says that sworn evidence was. given before the Tariff Board that bovril is made from the extract of Australian beef. “While the honorable gentleman sat in Opposition, he asked on one occasion that power should be vested in. the Tariff Board to deal with witnesses who did not tell the truth. He then said that some witnesses, would swear anything. To-day, however, his argument is that, because it has been sworn, we should accept the statement of the representative, of these big vested interests that Australian beef is used in the making of this product.
– Does the honorable gentleman allege that it is not true ?
– I am merely employing the honorable gentleman’s own argument, that one cannot believe the statements of many witnesses who appear before the Tariff Board, because they represent interested parties. Did not the honorable gentleman say only last night that no notice could be taken of the statements of the representative of a match company whose affairs we were then discussing? Did not that representative make sworn declarations before the Tariff Board? If the Minister argues that the representative of the parent bovril company in Great Britain should be believed, then the representative of that match company also should be believed. The Minister must have talked nonsense when, from this side of the chamber, he advocated that the Tariff Board Act should be amended to give to the board the power to deal with untruthful witnesses. I ask the honorable gentleman not to reduce this duty. Some weeks ago, members of the Country party pointed to the number of reductions that were designed to protect the primary producers; yet, to my amazement, they have fallen down in their fight for the primary producers, and would allow this duty to be reduced. As an intimation to the Government that the committee desires to have this matter reconsidered, I move -
That the sub-item be postponed.
.- A statement that I made has been quoted by several honorable members. I referred to the small importations during the last two years, by way of comparison with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the value of the importations amounted to £100,000 annually, and I suggested to the committee that the figures which I gave represent our present normal importations. Analysing the figures - £22,000 last year and £24,000 for the previous year - we find that only a minor portion represents the meat extract.
Mr.White. - That is so.
– The biggest part represents the jars, and the packing and processing costs. The members of the Opposition are not really concerned about the primary part of the industry but merely with the secondary part of the industry, and are advocating extreme protection for the processing portion of the job. That is a policy which the members of the Country party are not prepared to support.
– Does the honorable member think that the primary producer in this case is given any protection?
– Very little; there is not much in this item that he has to protect. The difference between the attitude of members of the Country party, and of those who sit on the Opposition benches, is, that we are prepared to support reasonable protection, while they continually harp upon what they term “ adequate protection.” The definition of “ adequate “, judging from their actions and speeches, is “ absolute prohibition.”
Mr. Mackie, a stock and station agent in Queensland, has been referred to as though he were the representative of the primary producers. The Graziers Conference of New South Wales a few days ago carried a resolution in favour of a general reduction of the tariff. The desire is, not for a reduction of duties in respect of secondary industries only, but for a general reduction of the tariff. That organization represents the producers who are actually producing the primary commodities. A similar resolution was carried by the Farmers and Settlers Conference last year, and for many years before that, in favour of a general tariff reduction. The present reduction of 10 per cent. is reasonable, and will receive my support.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment to postpone the item. It is obvious that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has moved the amendment in an attempt to embarrass the Country party by making it appear that its members are not prepared to support their own primary industries. The Country party and the Government realize that the best market for the primary producers is the export market. I was interested to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say that, when I was in opposition, I urged that there should be an amendment of the Tariff Board Act, so that persons giving false evidence before the board might be prosecuted. As a former Minister for Trade and Customs, the honorable member should have known that that provision already existed in the act. I learned of it since I became a Minister. In view of some of the reckless statements made inside and outside Parliament on matters relating to the tariff, it is, I think, a wise provision.
The honorable member made certain allegations against an English witness who gave evidence before the Tariff Board. That body, sitting as an open court, and hearing witnesses for and against the application, must be better informed, and be in a better position to make a just decision, than are honorable members of this committee. The figures quoted by honorable members to show that £100,000 worth of bovril is imported annually are not reliable, because they have never been dissected. The department cannot -say how much is represented by importations of bovril, and how much by potted poultry, soups, &c. We know that even the high duties imposed by the last Government, and the high rate of exchange, could not induce the English companies to start manufacturing in Australia. The duty has been reduced by only 10 per cent., and it has been done on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. This is one of the 214 items sent on to the board by the ‘ Government for consideration. The board made a recommendation which is in accord with the Ottawa agreement, and the Government has accepted the’ recommendation. I shall quote the evidence of the English witness which has been impugned, not directly but indirectly, by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is as follows : -
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had the report in his hands all the morning, and either he has not come across that paragraph, or he prefers to follow his own line of reasoning. The evidence continues -
There is now a duty of 30 per cent, on these commodities, which are not the products of secondary industries. I admit that some secondary industries, in which labour figures largely in the cost of production, need more .protection. I again remind honorable members that the Tariff Board has recommended this duty, which is in accord with the Ottawa agreement.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has imputed an unworthy motive to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), by saying that his amendment has obviously been moved with the intention of embarrassing the Country party. That is, without doubt a reflection on the sincerity of the Labour party, and of the honorable member who moved the amendment. I do not ask the Minister to withdraw the allegation, because I do not expect anything better from him. The Acting Leader of the Minister’s own party (Mr. Latham) did not hesitate this morning to embarrass the Country party in the course of a speech in which he flagellated the Deputy Leader of that party (Mr. Paterson). The speeches of the Minister and of members of the Country party have not satisfactorily explained why Australia should import meats in any form. Why should we be sending money out of the country, whether the amount be large or small, for such commodities? A prohibitive duty should be imposed on their importation. This is not a matter of determining what duty is sufficient to ‘ enable an industry to become established in this country. I do not give any consideration to that view of the matter on this item. These are commodities which we cannot afford to import while Australia’s finances are in their present condition. The annual importations in normal times are £100,000 a year. It hag been stated that that amount has now fallen to £22,000 ; but the decline took place after the duties had been increased.. These goods compete with the product of industries already established in Australia. Honorable members know that there is a long list of such items of luxury, including potted meats and extracts, potted and canned fruits, pickles, chutneys, &c, running in the aggregate into many hundreds of thousands of pounds, all helping to pile up an adverse trade balance such as that which, in the past, nearly ruined Australia. The present Government has removed prohibitions and is reducing the duties on a number of these luxury lines. The Minister said that the duty on this item had been reduced by only 10 per cent. Why, I wonder, has the Government chosen 30 per cent. as a proper duty instead of 40 per cent. ? What is its process of reasoning? Presumably, any reduction is justified if it accords with the Ottawa agreement. Observance of the Ottawa agreement seems to mean that we must admit certain goods because they happen to be made in Great Britain whether we want them or not. I warn the Government that, if importations of this kind continue, it will, before long, be faced with a problem similar to that which confronted us in1929-30; it will then have to shut out goods which we really need, because it is now admitting goods that we do not need. When my Government was faced with a crisis in 1929-30, we first excluded those imports which we could manufacture ourselves, and, that being done, we excluded other goods that we did not regard as essential, whether we could make them here or not. That, after all, was plain common sense, and is the practice followed by ordinary people in running their household affairs. If people’s income is cut down, they do without the things that are not necessary. That is what we must do in Australia now. I ask honorable members to pay serious attention to the danger of this growing aggregate of importations of unnecessary commodities.
Question - That sub-item (b) be postponed (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
– I move -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to item 79 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of item 79 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
This item was amended by the resolution of March, 1933, and my amendment is proposed in order that that portion of the March resolution relating to the item may now be debated. The March, 1933, resolution reduced, the duties on these goods from 46 per cent. British, and 60 per cent. general, to 20 per cent. and 37½ per cent. respectively.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to give an explanation in regard to the item as amended, as the tariff has been reduced almost by half. According to the report of the Tariff Board there was a diversity of opinion even among manufacturers as to whether the duty should be reduced or increased. The secretary of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures supported an increase, while a representative of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, on behalf of the essence manufacturers, asked for a reduction. Evidently certain products are covered by this item which are not clearly defined in it. The report of the Tariff Board includes fruit essences, ethers, aromas, flavours, &c, together with oilmen’s stores n.e.i., being groceries, including culinary and flavoring essences.
.- This item includes all groceries put up for resale and termed generally “ oilmen’s stores, n.e.i.” Regarding the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) concerning essences, the rate proposed means a reduction in the rates of the duty imposed by the last Government to the extent of 25 per cent. British and 22-£ per cent, general. The proposed rates differ from the 1921-30 tariff rates only to the extent of a 1 per cent, ad valorem increase under the general tariff, which gives effect to the formula margin in the Ottawa agreement. The only other alteration to the item is the deletion of the reference to non-spirituous culinary and flavoring essences. The Tariff Board recently inquired into the necessity for the duties imposed by the previous Government. In accordance with its usual procedure it advertised the holding of the inquiry, but no witnesses appeared to give’ evidence in support of the increased duties, except in regard to essences. On the other hand evidence was tendered in opposition to the duties affecting certain other classes of goods. The board, therefore, recommended that the duties under the 1921-30 tariff should be reverted to. It is obvious that if the manufacturers did not appear to support the higher rates of duties they were content with the reduction. Most of the wholesale manufacturers of these groceries have been able to establish themselves under the Massy Greene and Pratten schedules.
The board held a separate inquiry with regard to essences, and recommended that non-spirituous culinary and flavoring essences should he grouped with other non-spirituous essences under tariff item 11 (b), at rates of 3s. 6d. per lb., or 30 per cent, ad valorem British, and 5s. per lb., or 50 per cent. ad. valorem general. The board’s recommendation with regard to non-spirituous essences is guided, first, by the necessity for providing adequate protection to the industry, and, secondly, by the past difficulties in tariff classification, which necessitated frequent sampling of goods. The matter of essences has already been dealt with in group 5, comprising items amended by the Scullin Government’ and supported by a Tariff Board report; therefore, essences really do not come into this debate. I ask the committee to pass the duties on the remaining grocery items, which were not contested before the Tariff Board.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 91, sub-item (b 1, 2) (Canary seed and mixtures containing canary seed).
.- Canary seed was first grown in - Queensland in 1S99, but its cultivation did not show any marked progress until 1920-21, when a crop of 3,500 tons was produced. In that year there was a world shortage of this commodity, and prices gave a profitable return to the grower. Although there is an element of uncertainty as to the extent of the crop harvested, the Tariff Board is of opinion that the production of canary seed in Australia has been deterred mainly by the uncertainty in the minds of growers of receiving a payable price for the seed.
It is necessary that growers should receive £25 a ton, which is equivalent to £5 an acre, to make the production of canary seed a payable proposition. The expenses of marketing carried out by the Queensland Canary Seed Pool Board, amount to £7 10s. a ton, making the price to merchants £32 10s. c.i.f. Australian ports. When the Tariff Board held its inquiry, overseas canary seed could be purchased for as low as £17 a ton c.-i.f ., and the duty of 7s. 6d. per cental, equivalent to £8 8s. a ton, which was then operating, was well below that necessary to ensure the market for the local producers. The duties necessary to retain the market for the local producers are those now proposed.
The board ascertained that the average price paid for canary seed since 1914 by one of the largest seed merchants was £34 lis. 8d. for imported seed, and £31 6s. 8d. for Australian seed. It will be seen therefore that a stabilized price of £32 10s. a ton for Australian seed would not make the position of the seed merchants over a period any different in the future from what it has been in the past.
The Queensland Canary Seed Pool Board assured the Tariff Board that, provided the duties now proposed were granted, seed would be made available at Australian capital ports at a price not exceeding £32 10s. a ton. Later inquiry has shown that the 1931-32 crop was quoted at £32 10s. c.i.f. Australian ports for 25-ton lots. A condition to the Tariff Board’s recommendation was that production would be undertaken on a commercial scale. It is evident that the industry set out to satisfy this condition. Preparations were made by growers for a 3,000 ton crop during 1931-32, but seasonal conditions prevented the attainment of their object, and the crop fell somewhat short of Australian requirements of 1,500 tons. The 1932-33 crop is estimated at 1,500 tons, the quantity received from growers up to the end of February being 1,170 tons. The price asked for the 1932-33 crop is £32 a. ton c.i.f. Australian ports, which is 10s. a ton less than the price for the 1931-32 crop, while rebates up to £1 a ton are allowed for quantity purchases. There is every indication that a much larger acreage will be put under crop next season. The Government is satisfied that the additional duties will not impose any undue hardship on users, of canary seed; and that the possible small increase in cost of seed to users will be more than offset by the added employment resulting from the production of the seed locally.
.-I am pleased that the Tariff Board recommended an increase of duty in this instance, and I hope that even those freetraders who want substantial reductions of duties on many lines will support this 100 per cent. increase in the duty on canary seed. In addition to being used for feeding canaries, canary seed is used for the extraction of oil.
This item came under my notice when I was Minister for Trade and Customs, and a total prohibition was imposed against the importation of canary seed. When the Queensland growers, numbering about 300, failed to supply the Australian demand, the Minister gave special permission for the importation of sufficient canary seed to supply local - requirements. According to the Tariff Board, this industry cannot yet supply the whole of the Australian requirements, about 1,500 tons, but expects to do so in from two to three years. This is another of those small primary industries that gives seasonal employment to about 1,500 persons, a big consideration in these times of depression. Our imports of canary seed are chiefly from the Argentine, the quantity imported in 1928-29 being to the value of £39,346, of which £16,577 went to the Argentine Republic. Realizing that this was an industry deserving of encouragement, the Scullin Government granted a total prohibition on the importation of canary seed, to which proposal there was a good deal of opposition. The matter was referred to the Tariff Board, which recommended an increase of duty amounting to approximately 100 per cent. I know that the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) is vitally interested in the matter, for most of the growers are in his electorate. I appeal to members of the Country party, who have obtained substantial duties on potatoes, onions, dried fruits, and a number of other primary products, to support these duties, for the industry has considerable merit and employs a number of persons who, while they may not be resident in the Gippsland electorate, are nevertheless Australian citizens.
– I shall not occupy much time in discussing this item, because the Tariff Board has investigated the industry, and made a recommendation which the Government is accepting. I point out that the canary seed growers, through the Canary Seed Board, are observing the undertaking that they gave. I have just received a telegram from the chairman of the board in which he states that the board has already taken delivery of 1,200 tons of seed, and that it is expected that heavy planting will be done in the coming season. The total Australian requirements of canary seed are estimated at 1,500 tons, so that the growers took prompt action to ensure that the requirements would he met. The value of this industry to the Darling Downs district is between £50,000 and £60,000. About 300 growers are engaged in the production of this seed mainly as a sideline, and the industry gives employment to about 1,500 people. The Darling Downs is practically the only part of the British Empire in which canary seed is grown. The climatic and physical conditions, which are essential to the success of the industry, are peculiar to this area. Our competitors in this trade are the Argentine, Turkey, Japan, China, and the Netherlands. In view of the special circumstances of this industry it deserves every consideration. That the quality of the seed produced here is beyond question, was shown by the exhibits of this seed in the agricultural shows in the Darling Downs district recently. The witness of one importing company admitted at the Tariff Board’s inquiry that the seed was of fair average quality right throughout. I therefore have no hesitation in asking the committee to support this item.
.- I confess to some perplexity in regard to this item. An increase of 100 per cent, is proposed above the duties provided in the Scullin Tariff. What have the honorable members of the Country party to say about such an extraordinary increase? When the Scullin Government had the courage to prohibit the importation of canary seed, it was subjected to considerable ridicule hy the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill), the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), and other honorable members who support this Government. What have those honorable gentlemen to say now? Does the Country party intend to maintain silence on this item, as it did on the item dealing with potted meats, which seriously affected certain primary producers of this country?
– A reduction of 10 per cent, was proposed in that item, but an increase of 100 per cent, is proposed in this one.
– It is also important to notice that the value of our imports of canary seed is in the neighbourhood . of about £39,000, while the value of our imports of potted meats is about £100,000. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that the imports of potted meats were insignificant. I should like to hear what he and his colleagues have to say in reply to the arguments that the Minister has advanced in favour of this increase. How does the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) propose to vote on it? Surely he and other low-tariff advocates opposite will not agree to an increase of 100 per cent, above the rate which prevailed during the Scullin regime. . The Tariff Board has inquired into this industry, and as it is an expert body in respect to canary seed, mustard seed, and every other commodity mentioned in this schedule, I had better support the item. But I am anxious to ascertain the opinion of the Country party, for I remember that we shall later be discussing the duty on onions and other primary products, and also, perhaps, the embargo on the importation of potatoes from New Zealand.
– The honorable member may only discuss the item before the Chair.
– We surely are entitled to expect some degree of consistency from honorable members who support the Government.
– I wish to point to two most unusual and pleasing features in regard to this item. The first is that, although this is a Queensland industry - practically all the canary seed produced in Australia comes from Queensland - the Government is not attacking or seeking to destroy it as it has done in regard to other Queensland industries. The second is that the Tariff Board has actually- recommended an increase of duty in this instance. I do not know whether we may assume from these two facts that both the Government and the board have repented of their past sins, and that we may now expect them to alter the attitude that they have adopted in regard to other items in the schedule. We certainly hope so. If the board has seen the light, I suggest that the .Government recommit certain items, and particularly that which relates to potted meat, so that the decreased duty of 10 per cent, may be rectified. Like the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley), I also am curious about how the members of the Country party propose to vote upon this item. If they wish to convince us of their sincerity, they will oppose the item, though it must be admitted that they have been inconsistent in many instances. Those honorable gentlemen are opposed even to slight increases of duties intended to protect secondary industries; yet they warmly advocate heavy increases of duty for the benefit of primary industries. The Labour party will be consistent on this, as on other, items. Probably honorable members of other parties will be consistent only in their inconsistency. The attitude of the Labour party may be stated in a few words. It believes that, if there is a reasonable likelihood of stimulating a local industry, whether it be primary or secondary, by giving it adequate protection, such protection should be afforded to it. We shall make no exception of that rule in this case.
.- The attitude of the Country party was made abundantly clear to all honorable members this morning, and I hope, also, that it was made clear to the general public. We desire a downward revision of the tariff.
– Does that include this item?
– We think that there should be a downward tendency right through the tariff. We feel that, by continually increasing the tariff, we are destroying the possibility of Australia ever making good, and are also giving privileges to small sections of the people. That was made quite clear this morning, and it is not necessary for me to say any more on the point.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 94, sub-items (a) (b) (Soap).
.- A reduction of duty equivalent to about 10 per cent, is shown in this item compared with the rate which appeared, in the Scullin tariff. This reduction will bring the duties back to those which prevailed under the 1921-28 tariff. I shall not offer any serious objection to this reduction, because, when the subject was investigated by the Tariff Board, the representatives of the soap” manufacturers did not appear to give evidence. Probably they feel, as the Country party has shown that it feels, that it is futile to submit arguments on the subject; and in view of the recent recommendations of the board, we must all . agree that there is justification for such an. attitude.
When the Scullin Government was faced with an adverse trade balance, which had to be rectified, it prohibited the importation of soap. We believed that, as the necessary raw materials for the manufacture of all kinds of soap were available in Australia, there was no justification for spending thousands of pounds in importing soap from overseas. In 1928-29, which can probably be taken as a normal year, our importations of soap under three headings were valued at £115,000. The -.Scullin Government formed the opinion that; as the Australian manufacturers were making soaps of the highest quality, even the most fastidious .people should be satisfied with them, and that, therefore, all importations of soap should cease. The Australian production of soap in 1927-28 totalled 122,554,483 lb., the value of which was £2,207,827. This industry is of great importance to the Commonwealth, because it uses the byproducts of one of our big primary industries. I am pleased to know that an export trade in soap is being built up. Large quantities of “Preservene” soap have been exported from Australia to England, and have found a ready market there.
– The Preservene people have their own factory in Great Britain.
– When I was Minister, the company stated that it- was exporting ‘ soap from Australia. The annual exports of soap amount to 16,800,000 lb., valued at £298,000. As an advocate of the encouragement of Australian industries, I hope to see an increase of the exports of both primary and secondary industries, and, therefore, I am pleased to know that a show-boat is about to visit the Dutch East Indies, and other parts of the East, with a view to advertising the products of Australian factories. Those responsible for the organization of that display are confident that the trip will ‘ result in considerably increased exports from Australia to the East.
In opposition to the increased duties, an interesting array of witnesses appeared before the Tariff Board. There were the manager of H. Moreau and Company Limited, Sydney, general importers and agents, representing Roger and Galletthe French soap manufacturers; Mr. W. H. Sinclair, director of Hodgson and Company Limited, indent merchants of Bathurst-street, Sydney; and the Victorian representative of another company of importers and agents. It is interesting to note that one of the representatives of the importers stated -
The manufacture in Australia of many well-known toilet soaps such as CuticuraPears, Colgate, Cashmere Bouquet, and Palm Olive, which were at one time imported, has resulted in reduced selling prices.
He gave an example, and in that respect, he was much fairer than most of the representatives of importers are. He went on to say -
For example, Palm Olive, which was formerly retailed at ls. per cake, is now being sold at Od., and in some stores 4-jd. per cake.
That is a reduction of at least 50 per cent., and yet, we are told that if we pull down the tariff wall, and admit imports from France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the East, cheaper soap will be available to the Australian public. In that event, the numerous indent agents and importers would reap the profits. They would probably buy soap at the old rate, and make a profit of 30 per cent. Then the wholesalers would make another 30 per cent, profit, and the chemists who retail the goods would do the same, thus increasing the price to the public by 100 per cent. But according to the importer to whom I have referred, owing to. the establishment of soap factories in Australia, the prices have been reduced by approximately 50 per cent. Then this witness referred to another well-known brand of soap, which is retailed at ls. a cake, and he said that it was being supplied to wholesale distributors at l$d. a cake. This shows that the big profits are being reaped, not by the manufacturers, but by the distributors. When I was Minister, I found that many of the complaints about profiteering on the part of manu-. facturers Gould be traced to unscrupulous” distributors or retailers who, on the ground that the duties had been increased, raised the prices of locally-manufactured soaps.
– They often raise the price of the locally-manufactured article to bring it up to that of the imported lines. -
– That is so. The same witness further remarked, in his evidence before the. Tariff Board -
Locally manufactured soaps have, to a large extent, supplanted imported soaps, and it is evident that no further increase in duty is necessary. .The Australian demand for the soap manufactured by Roger and Gallet is too small .to justify the erection of a -factory to cater for local requirements. Imported soaps, such as Roger and Gallet’s and Morny’s, are not competitive, on a price basis, with any soap made in Australia. The f.o.b. price of Roger and Gallet’s special line is 5s. Od. per dozen oakes, the retail price in Australia being, under the 1921-28 tariff, 4s. Od. per box of three cakes. The prices of Australian toilet soaps, packed similarly, range from lOd. to ls. 9d. per box.
– Some people pay for a name.
– Yes, but chemists are able to determine the exact ingredients of all the imported soaps, and when the Scullin Government imposed a prohibition against the importation of these goods, an article equal to the imported soaps was produced in Australian factories. The Tariff Board, in the course of its report, stated -
Evidence was given to the effect that the selling price of .these soaps, under the duty provided by the Customs Tariff 1921-1928, was 4s. Od. per box of three cakes., whereas the prices of locally-produced soaps similarly packed range from lod. to ls. 9d. per box. It was stated that the imposition of the proposed increased duty would entail an increase in the selling prices of the imported soaps.
The Scullin Government claimed that the importation of soaps was not justified, particularly at a time when it was essential to correct our adverse trade balance. The people of Australia should certainly do without imports of luxury lines such as Roger and Gallet’s soaps, and a number of other special lines purchased by those who consider that an imported article must necessarily be of better quality than one manufactured in Australia. Happily, that prejudice is rapidly disappearing, but it still persists in some degree.
I hope that the Minister will use his influence in the department to give every encouragement to local industries. When he was a member of the Develop Australia League, he was in favour of giving preference to Australian manufacturers, and the league, if not the Minister, advocated the prohibition of imports. According to the platform of that body, the whole of the Australian market for soap ought to be given to the local manufacturers, because even on the admission of the importers, the prices of Australianmade soaps have been reduced by at least 50 per cent., and an article equal in quality to that of the imported lines is supplied. In the electorate of the honorable member for Cook (Mr.Riley), soaps equal in quality to the best made in Great Britain, France and the United States of America are manufactured.
.- The Government desires to reduce these duties to the rates set out in the 1921-30 tariff. Those were adequate rates, under which the Australian industry was firmly established. It did not spring up during the short regime of the last Government; but that Government was so unwise, in its crude tariff making, as to provide for the total prohibition of the importation of soap, and, by so doing, annoy France, with which country Australia had a very favorable trade balance. It is now the intention of the Government to make favorable trade treaties with various countries, and France desires to recover its trade with Australia. I do not suggest that that is the reason why the Tariff Board has recommended this reduction of duty, for its inquiry took place prior to the making of the Ottawa agreement; yet this is one of the items on which we can encourage trade with other countries. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) mentioned that Roger and Gallet’s and Morny’s soaps were much more expensive than the Australian productions. That is a good reason why we should admit them into this country. If a certain number of persons are willing to pay high prices for special soaps, they are entitled to buy them. If a man desires to purchase a Rolls-Royce motor car, why should we compel him to buy a Ford ? The purchase of expensive imported soaps means revenue to this country through the customs, and this enables us to pay for our social services. Most of our revenue is derived through the customs.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has again referred to my association with the Develop Australia League. That organization stood for effective protection, and I have always believed in that. But I fell out with it when it went so far as to advocate prohibition, because I contend that prohibition is just as unwise as freetrade. Australia is very fortunate in that she is getting back towards prosperity ; she is one of the very few nations that are doing that.
– General references to tariff policy are not permissible in discussing this item.
– Australia’s recovery is being assisted by the policy of this Government, which is to help both primary and secondary industries. The honorable member asked the reason for this reduction of duties. The obvious reason is that the manufacturers did not come forward and ask the board to maintain the prohibitive tariff then imposed. The board’s inquiry was made when the importation of soap was prohibited, and the manufacturers realized that they had the bulk of the Australian trade, as well as a large export trade, and they had no desire to oppose the importation of the very small quantity of soap that was coming in from abroad. The proposed duties of 35 per cent. British preferential, and 55 per cent. general, are adequate.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) insists on provoking discussion by his general assertions and attacks. He spoke of the “ crude tariff making “ of the last Government, and of the prohibitions imposed by it; but he knows deep down in his heart - if he does not, he is not qualified to hold his present position - that the tariff policy of the last Government saved Australia from default. Nobody with any intelligence can challenge that statement. Yet we have this taunt hurled at us across the chamber on nearly every item. The object of my Government’s prohibition of imports was to correct our unfavorable trade balance, and there was every justification for preventing the importation of luxury lines such as fancy soaps, which were being brought in from Europe and other parts of the world. The prohibitions should never have been lifted. The Minister referred to our trade with France; but the goods France is taking from us are the raw materials that she must have, principally wool and skins, which she was exporting back to Australia in a manufactured form until the last Government increased the duties. I resent these references to the late Government’s “ crude “ methods of tariff -making. If the present Minister had given onetenth of the thought to the welfare of this country that the previous Government gave to it, he would, to-day, be found supporting the bold and drastic policy of that Government which has enabled the present Administration to boast of Australia’s sound position. The Minister let the cat out of the bag when he said that the Government wanted to give back to France the trade the loss of which had caused that country annoyance. We can make as good soap in Australia as is made in France or any other country, and we can sell it at half the price of the imported soap.
– The basis of all soap is a primary product.
– The opposition to duties which keep goods out of Australia comes chiefly from indent agents who make enormous profits from the mere handling of imported goods. For a box containing three cakes of soap, they charge 4s. 6d., merely because it is “ the best imported soap made by Roger & Gallet of France “. They use the name of those manufacturers to reap for themselves profits amounting, in some cases, to 500 per cent. They cannot make such exorbitant profits out of locally-produced goods, and that is why they favour the imported article. The Minister wants to restore our trade with France, because, he says, we shall obtain revenue from the importation of fancy lines of soap. His policy would get us back to the days when we obtained considerable revenue from customs resulting, perhaps, in a surplus, but also causing an adverse trade balance. I wish that the Minister would realize the responsibility of his position, and not be so fond of talking about “ crude “ tariff -making. He should give credit to the Scullin Government for having adopted a bold and statesmanlike attitude which saved this country from default.
– I regret that it is proposed to reduce these duties. Soap imported from France and elsewhere can be regarded as a luxury for which people should be prepared to pay. Prior to the prohibition of importations by the Scullin Government, Australia imported soap to the value of about £150,000 per annum. It is much better that these fancy soaps should be manufactured in Australia than that they should be imported from cheap-labour countries. It is beyond my comprehension that the members of the Country party continue silent and indifferent when an article which affects Australian primary producers is concerned. In the Australian Soap Works, in my electorate, clean and healthy employment is provided for many Australian breadwinners and young people. Since the soap-making industry received a fillip as a result of the prohibition imposed by the Scullin Administration, additional employment has been provided, not only in the soap factories, but also in those establishments which make the carton containers, while printers and operatives in. other callings have also benefited. These reductions will injure Australian primary industries, and I hope that at the proper time the indifference of those who are supposed to represent the primary producers will receive proper recognition at the hands of their constituents.
– There are two soap factories in my electorate which, since the protection given to this industry by the Scullin Government, have been able to supply more than 50 per cent. of the soap requirements of Queensland. These factories are efficiently managed, they treat their employees Well and, like others elsewhere in Australia, are producing soap which is at least equal to any imported soap. So long as that is the case there is no need for importations. In the manufacture of soap large quantities of tallow are employed, and thus the soapmaking industry provides employment, not only for the workers in the soap factories, but also for the man on the land. I regret that the Government has seen fit to reduce the duties to the level of the 1921-30 tariff. A retention of the higher duties would, ultimately, have resulted in cheaper soap. I shall vote against the proposed duties.
.- Sub-item 94 a covers fancy soaps, which are imported chiefly from France. The Minister does not wish to offend France, and so he is not favorable to a restoration of the Scullin duties in respect of that sub-item. But sub-item 94 e, soap substitutes, is in a different category; it affects a product of the United States of America, a country with which Australia has had an unfavorable trade balance- for a number of years. Commenting on sub-item 94 b the Tariff Board reported -
The evidence in opposition to the proposed increased duty was directed mainly to a cleanser and polisher manufactured in the United States of America, and sold under the trade name “ Bon Ami “. The opposition in this case was based on the ground that the juices of Australian made cleansers are lower than that of Bon Ami, and, further, that no effective substitute for the latter is produced in Australia.
When I was Minister for Trade and Customs numbers of effective substitutes for Bon Ami were brought under my notice. There is, therefore, no justification for lowering the duties on this sub-item on the ground that higher duties would adversely affect the widows and little children, for whom the- PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) seems so concerned. The Tariff Board’s report also contains the following paragraph: -
There does not appear to be any necessity, so far as ordinary requirements are concerned, for the importation of soap into Australia.
These soap substitutes are ordinary household requirements. By restoring the higher duties we should not offend France, and, therefore, I hope that, irrespective of his attitude to . sub-item a the Minister will allow the old rates of duty to continue in respect of sub-item b. Since we have effective Australian substitutes for Bon Ami, which are sold at a lower price than that charged for the imported cleanser, I hope that the Minister will accept my suggestion.
– Australian soap manufacturers have so improved their product that it is now at least equal to the best imported lines. I speak with some knowledge of the trade. In these Australian factories considerable capital is invested, and large numbers of Australians are employed. When the Tariff Board conducted an inquiry into this industry, not one of the Australian soap manufacturers gave evidence, and, therefore, we must assume that they are satisfied with the proposed duties. Australian soaps and soap substitutes have now such a hold on the Australian market that they are not in serious danger from foreign competition. I shall, therefore, vote for the subitems as they appear in the schedule.
.- I can assure the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) that the Australian soap manufacturers are far from satisfied with the Government’s proposal. They fear that a reduction of the duties will allow foreign manufacturers to flood this country with their soaps, to the detriment of the Australian industry. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), in stating that he expected additional revenue as a result of the decreased duties, mentioned that the French Government was pressing for a reduction of the duties on soap. That is not the case. I challenge the Minister to produce any document or correspondence from the French Government or its trade representative requesting a reduction of the duty. . What they asked for was the removal of the 50 per cent, surtax on perfumes. Their request had no reference at all to the duty on soaps. I am just as anxious as the Minister is to see reciprocal trade treaties made, not only with France, but also with Italy and other countries; but I should strongly object to the inclusion in such- treaties of any conditions which might do injury to Australian industries. I’ believe that reciprocal trade arrangements can be made that will be of mutual advantage to the Commonwealth and other countries that are good customers of ours. I, therefore, suggest to the Minister that, in the conversations which will in all probability be entered into in the course of a month or so, attention should be given to those commodities that are not made in Australia. There is a sufficiently wide range of such goods to permit of a satisfactory trade arrangement being made with other countries, without, at the same time, doing any harm to Australian i industries
– It is just as well that I should clear up the misapprehension that’ appears to exist in the minds of honorable members opposite. I did not go so far as to say that trade negotiations would be entered into with foreign countries, nor did I enumerate any items in respect of which we might negotiate, I merely emphasized that the foreign duties imposed in this sub-item were as high as those in the schedule brought down by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and that being so there was really no justification for the fiery speech which the honorable gentleman delivered.
– My complaint is that when the Minister removed the prohibitions imposed by the Scullin Government, he failed to make the duties effective.
– These duties must be considered in relation to the Ottawa agreement, and as they stand, they give British manufacturers the advantage of an additional 10 per cent, against foreign competitors in the Australian market.
– We say that the prohibitions should stand.
– This Government does not believe in prohibitions. From the speech of the honorable gentleman one would gather that this Government had done a substantial wrong to Australian interests by lowering the duties against British competitors. The effect of the change has been to raise the duties against foreign manufacturers. Soap-making is one of our oldest industries, and our manufacturers have their full share of the market. We now have an additional 10 per cent, margin between the duties against British manufacturers and those against foreign manufacturers, which we may use in future negotiations for trade treaties. If this margin were removed, the foreign duty then would only be down to the level of the Scullin Government’s tariff.
– I think that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) will agree with me when I say that one of the best equipped soapmanufacturing establishments in Australia is that of Kitchen and Company, in Melbourne. Soon after the Scullin Government imposed the embargo against importations, this company went to the expense of erecting an additional laboratory and engaging industrial chemists and designers in Great Britain for the purpose of manufacturing the special lines which, prior to the embargo, were imported. As these special lines may be regarded as luxury commodities, I question the wisdom of this Government’s action in lifting the embargo, because the definite result of its imposition by the Scullin Government was to encourage Australian manufacturers to produce side lines which, while not employing a great many more people, made it possible for factories to be run at full capacity. It also benefited other industries from which our soap manufacturers draw their supplies’ of raw material. The probable effect of the lifting of the prohibition will be to compel our manufacturers to dismantle that added section of their businesses, and I am afraid that it may also affect1 the employment figures, because the cessation of this class of work may not permit the factories to be run at full capacity. I should not ask for the continuance of the embargo if it affected articles that are absolutely necessary; but as these side lines are luxury commodities, no harm can be done by continuing the embargo. The suggestion made by honorable members opposite, and stoutly upheld by honorable members of the Country party, that, for reasons of. sentiment, we should not do anything to disturb friendly relations with France and other countries which buy largely of our surplus primary products, should not enter into the discussion of these sub-items at all. France does not purchase Australian commodities for sentimental reasons, but simply because she requires them for her own industries.
And France, as well as nearly every other country, is building up a tariff wall against foreign importations. We cannot hope to survive as an industrial community if we endeavour to conduct our business on sentimental lines.
.- I resent the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that supporters of the Government, and particularly members of the Country party are actuated by sentiment in supporting the reduction of duties on sub-items such as those now before the committee. If we allowed sentiment to govern us in’ this matter the sooner we discontinued the debate on the tariff the better. I am as anxious as any other honorable member may be to maintain high duties against importations, if their effect is likely to benefit our primary industries either directly or indirectly. We have been told that tallow, a product of the primary industries, is’ largely used in the. manufacture of soap, and that, for this reason, the representatives of the primary producers in this chamber should support the higher duties. But I venture to suggest that this is not the reason which prompts members of the Labour party to vote for these higher rates. Tallow carries a duty of only 10 per- cent. Therefore, members of the Labour party merely mentioned tallow for the purpose of hiding the true position. If they were really concerned about the interests of our primary producers, they would argue that tallow, as a basis for soap, should be subject to a much higher duty so as more effectively to protect the Australian soap manufacturing industry.
– Is any tallow imported ?
– Those honorable members overlook the fact that the manufacturers who are clamouring for such high duties, and who boast about the amount of employment which their industries provide, expect to get Australian tallow at world’s parity, or as near to it as possible. They are not prepared to support any scheme or arrangement that will guarantee to our primary producers an Australian price for the raw material before it is used in the manufacture of soap for which, under cover of a high tariff, plus exchange, they extract the highest price possible from the public. I am not going to oppose the subitems, but I consider it my duty to expose the fallacious arguments and sentimental reasons advanced by the honorable mem’ ber for Melbourne Ports and other members of the Labour party who accuse Country party members of inconsistency. We are consistent-
– In your inconsistency.
– It is my honest conviction that the honorable member for Oxley and his colleagues do not know what consistency means. I hope that I have exposed the fallacy of the argument of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and other honorable members that for reasons of sentiment members of the Country party or even government supporters are not consistent in voting for these lower duties. We are consistent in objecting to extremely high duties on articles that are manufactured from Australian raw materials which carry low rates of duty.
.- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) has taken the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) to task for suggesting that a sentimental regard for countries with which we have friendly trade relations actuates supporters of the Government in voting for these duties. Honorable members of the Opposition are opposed to these reduced duties, because they believe that, in the interests of our primary producers, the local market should be secured to the Australian industries. Soap provides a valuable market for tallow, one of our primary products; in fact, it absorbs practically the whole of the Australian output of tallow. Before soap manufacturing reached its present stage, exporters of tallow were obliged to accept world prices for the commodity. Now they get world’s prices, but by selling in the home market, save freight and other charges. Consequently, they get better prices.
– They do not.
– Representatives of the Country party appear to be annoyed because members of the Labour party direct the attention of primary producers to the inconsistency of their representatives in the discussion of various tariff items. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) would not, I suppose, suggest that protection be withdrawn from our soap manufacturers, because they use tallow which is a product of a primary industry, and pay a better price for it than was obtainable formerly. The Australian consumer to-day is paying for the duty of 6d. per lb. on butter, because the local price is much higher than world parity. If the honorable member for Calare stands for that, he is inconsistent in his attitude on the tariff. According to the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham), the price of butter on the London market to-day is 65s. per cwt. The honorable member for Calare cannot have it both ways. If the prohibition on soap is removed, the surplus products of cheap-labour countries will be dumped on the Australian market, irrespective of cost. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out that every nation is building up tariff walls in an endeavour to supply its own requirements. I cannot understand the argu- ment that, if we refuse to buy French soap, France will refuse to buy our wool. No nation buys a commodity for sentimental reasons, France buys only those things that it requires. Since the begin- ning of the depression the purchasing power of every nation of the world has greatly declined, and the nations have traded less and less with each other. The honorable member for Calare has stated that the Labour party supports a high tariff for’ sentimental reasons. That statement is not correct. During the regime of the Scullin Government, honorable members on that side of the chamber, who were then sitting in Opposition, opposed every prohibition and increase of duty on the ground that it would detrimentally affect the poor widow with a large family.
– The honorable member is dealing with the tariff policy generally, and I ask him to confine his remarks to the item before the Chair.
– If this protection is withdrawn from the soap industry, a grave injustice will be done to the poor people of this country, because the factories will close down, and men will be thrown out- of employment, and forced on the dole. I hope that the duties will be restored to what they were previously, and, if not, that a vote will be taken to enable the primary producers to gain a knowledge of the views of honorable members generally, so that at the next election they will vote for their real friends - the members of the Labour party.
.- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) has charged honorable members on this side of the chamber with using fallacious arguments in support of their attitude on the tariff. We are not given to making inaccurate statements. We are willing to explain our attitude on this or any other item, and to allow the people to judge whether our arguments are fallacious or not. The Labour party, when in power, acted, in the great majority of cases, on the principle of protecting industries to enable them to become established, and to supply their products at reduced prices. In this connexion, it is ‘interesting to read the evidence that was given before the Tariff Board by one of the importers of soap. This evidence was quoted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), but it will bear repetition. Mr. Basil George King, manager of H. Moreau and ‘Company Limited, general importers, Sydney, representing Roger and Gallet Paris, said -
The manufacture in Australia of many well-known toilet soaps such as CuticuraPears, Colgate, Cashmere Bouquet, and PalmOlive, which were at one time imported, has resulted in reduced selling prices; for example, Palm-Olive, which was formerly retailed at ls. per cake, is now being sold at Od., and, in some stores, 4id. per cake. Another wellknown brand of toilet soap, retailed at ls., is being supplied to wholesale distributors at lid. per cake. Locally-manufactured soaps have, to a large extent, supplanted imported soaps.
The fact that this industry has reduced the price of soap to the community bears out our argument. It, therefore, cannot by any means be considered- a fallacious argument. Then, again, we have .been charged with supporting high duties for sentimental reasons. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has shown clearly that sentiment has no place in our efforts to encourage Australian industries. If we are accused of sentiment, merely because we believe in developing Australian industries, then we take pride in having that accusation hurled at us. We have also been, charged with a lack of consistency. The Labour party has always advocated greater protection for our own industries, and, if that is inconsistency, we are quite satisfied to be charged with it. The Tariff Board, in coining to its decision in respect of this industry, said -
Such importations as have taken place have apparently been made to meet u demand created by a sect-ion of the community who, in order- to gratify a desire for the imported product, are prepared to pay for it a price considerably higher than that- ;it which the local article can be purchased. If the effect of the proposed duties were likely to be the diverting to the Australian manufacturers of the demand, small as it is, now supplied by the imported soap, there would be some justification for the imposition of such rates.- Seeing, however, that price is evidently not a determining factor, it would seem quite unlikely that the increased duties would confer any advantage on the Australian industry, and that the only benefit would be to the Customs revenue.
We have at no time said that we do not believe in assisting the Customs revenue. We believe, first, in assisting our own industries, and, secondly, in assisting, our revenue. The people who wish to import luxuries, in order to gratify an extravagant taste, should contribute towards the revenue of this country. The supporters of the Government have spoken of the need for equality of sacrifice. They have said that in this time of depression, it is essential to obtain t, revenue. That was their argument when they attacked the tobacco industry. They now have, in respect of this item, an opportunity to obtain revenue from a section of the community who are well able to afford it. Mr. King, when opposing the protection given to the local industry, said -
If the proposed duties are adopted, the retail price of soap manufactured by Roger and ballet will have to be increased by 3d. per cake. This increase in price will adversely affect sales, and make this article more than ever a luxury line.
Mr. Walter Henry Sinclair said
An increase in the price of thi* commodity will be a disadvantage to consumers, who will be forced to use it more sparingly.
If the consumers are forced to ,use this luxury more sparingly, they will naturally use more Australian soap; but if they continue to purchase the same quantity of luxury soap, they will contribute more to the general revenue. For that reason, the members of the Labour party are opposing this reduction of duty”. We believe in a prohibition of the importation of soap. It is an ‘article which should . not be imported into Australia. We are quite consistent in our attitude, and it still’ remains to be proved that our argument respecting the need to bolster up our own industries is fallacious.
– I cannot understand the argu-ment of the members of the Opposition’ respecting this item. I grant that they are consistent in their support of extreme protection. Despite the fact that industries which were given protection in the early days have now outgrown their swaddling clothes and are in a position to stand on their feet,, the Labour party insists that they should continue, to’, be coddled. When we, on this side of the chamber, point to the fact, that the Tariff Board has reported adversely against the continuation of this protection, honorable members opposite have apologized - we had one example last night - for supporting monopolies and profiteers. The purpose of protection is to assist an industry at its inception by sheltering it from outside competition. That is a good principle to adopt provided that the industry is worth protecting. Honorable members opposite have pleaded for special consideration for certain industries on the ground that they are not in a position to hold their own against outside competition; but in the case of soaps, that plea cannot be sustained. The manufacture of soap in Australia is efficient. The industry has improved its machinery and plant to such an extent that it has been able to reduce its price to the consumer. lt is under scientific management, and has made so much progress that it is able to export some of its products. It therefore has no claim for protection at the present time. If still afraid of outside competition, it should take advantage of the existing margin of protection and still further -increase its efficiency, and lower its prices to the consumer. If we persist in giving extreme protection, to industries that are really efficient we shall develop an unhealthy margin of “which the industry will eventually take advantage to exploit the public. If an industry when it has grown out of its swaddling clothes does not extend the benefits of protection ‘to the consumer, this Parliament should protect the public by enabling outside competition :. to enforce a lowering of prices. The interests of the consumer have been lost sight of by the members of the Opposition, although I grant their consistency, in advocating high duties for all industries, whether efficient or inefficient,’ economic or uneconomic. . /
Sub-items agreed to.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 April 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330406_reps_13_138/>.