13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H.Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– When will the Minister for Commercebe able to make a statement to theHouse indicating whether anything in the Anglo-Argentine trade treaty affects the provision in the meat agreement that if, in order to protect prices in the United Kingdom, a restriction of imports shouldbe necessary, regard will be had to the clause in the Ottawa agreement providing that the dominions shall have an increasing share of the British meat market?
– I dealt yesterday with the British trade treaties with both Denmark and Argentine. The meat agreement provides that Argentine shipments of meat to Great Britain may be reduced 10 per cent. below the Ottawa quota without involving the dominions in any corresponding restriction. Even at the present time the restrictions upon Argentine shipments to the United Kingdom exceed those contemplated in the Ottawa agreement.
– What becomes of the provision in the Ottawa agreement that the dominions shall get an increasing share of the British meat market?
– At the present time Australia is already getting an increased share of that market. Restrictions have been placed on the Argentine without any corresponding restriction of imports from the dominions, and no restriction can be placed on exports from the dominions to the United Kingdom except by mutual consent.
– Will the Minister for Commerce advise whether, if the restriction on the importation of meat from the Argentine to Britain exceeds10 per cent., as provided by the BritishArgentine trade agreement, that will involve a further restriction of imports from the dominions? Also whether, if acquiescence in that proposal were refused by the Commonwealth Government, the Ottawa agreement would be maintained in its entirety, or would the provisions of the British-Argentine trade agreement receive prior consideration?
– I thought that I had made this matter clear earlier to-day and previously. I again emphasize that an alteration of the Ottawa agreement can take place only with the consent of the parties concerned.
– In view of the complaints by the representatives of Japanese wool-buyers, and press criticisms, including those in the Melbourne Age of the 26th April, suggesting careless sorting and classing and false branding of Australian wool, will the Minister for Commerce make inquiries with a view to safeguarding the prestige of the wool industry ?
– Wool is one of the few major export products in respect of which there is no specific export regulation, and it speaks volumes for those engaged in the industry that so little complaint has been made hitherto. My department has noticed the newspaper reports, and will investigate them, because, although wool is not subject to any specific export regulation, the Commonwealth has adequate power to prevent any injury to Australian commerce. I am pleased to. note also that the President of the Graziers Association has announced the intention of that body to investigate these complaints.
– Newspapers have reported that the Commonwealth contemplates increasing the defence expenditure in the next financial year by approximately £1,000,000. I ask the Prime Minister whether that statement is made with the authority of the Government.
– The statement has not the authority of the Government.
– I understand that it is the practice of the Repatriation
Department to retain on the files anonymous letters, whether investigation has proved them to be true or untrue. I ask the Minister representing the Minister forRepatiration whether he will give a definite instruction that such anonymous letters must be immediately destroyed.
– I shall give consideration to the suggestion, but at the present moment I am not inclined to accede to it.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received from the Tariff Board a report on Oregon?
– The Board has been busily engaged on many inquiries, but will, I am confident, deal with oregon as quickly as possible. I am afraid, however, that its report will not be received before this item in the tariff schedule is reached.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government has yet considered the proposals of the committee appointed by the ministerial party to report upon the removal of anomalies in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act? Does the Government intend to adopt those proposals, and, if so, when?
– Matters affecting invalid and old-age pensions will be considered by the Government in conjunction with its financial policy for 1933-34.
– Some months ago, when the matter of general payments under the amended Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was brought up, the Prime Minister undertook that there would be a repayment of any reductions wrongfully made. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that his assurance on that occasion has not heen given effect by the department? Is the Prime Minister prepared to issue a general instruction to the department to the effect that where reductions were wrongfully made, there shall be retrospective payment?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give me specific instances in support of his statement, in which case I shall look into them.
– Will retrospective payments be made?
– Each case will be dealt with on its merits. If sums have been wrongfully collected from individuals, it would appear that there is no alternative but to. make refunds.
Cost of Living Adjustment : Superannuation,
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, following the representations in this chamber on Friday last, the Government has decided not to apply the latest cost of living adjustment to Commonwealth Public Service salaries ?
– The representations of honorahle members have been supplemented by a numerously signed petition presented to me this week by direct representatives of the Public Service organizations. The Government has undertaken to consider these representations when preparing the financial proposals for the new year.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government, when preparing its Estimates andbudget papers for the coming year, will consider the restoration of superannuation benefits to those who have been affected by the operation of the Financial Emergency Act?
– Without suggesting that the Government is prepared to restore the benefits referred to, my reply is that the whole field will be surveyed when the Government is preparing its financial proposals in the light of the position then existing.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral reply to the following questions : -
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs been advised that wine-makers in certain districts of South Australia are buying grapes for less than half the price scheduled by his department? Can he assure the House that full particulars are being obtained, and recorded, so that, should those winemakers apply for the bounty, the department will be in a position to decide that they are ineligible for it?
– As the honorable member is aware, the position in regard to the wine bounty is a complex one. and the purchasing of grapes at less than the rates fixed by the department has provided a new difficulty. No wine-makers are entitled to receive the bounty on wine made from grapes bought at less than those rates. The department has some knowledge of the circumstances, and will endeavour to check this practice.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has housed itself in palatial quarters, and that individual members of the commission have been provided with separate rooms as offices? In view of the necessity for the erection of additional broadcasting stations so that the twothirds of the hinterland of Australia not already served by wireless may enjoy the amenities provided elsewhere, will the honorable gentleman endeavour to curtail this ostentatious extravagance?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– On two occasions recently, I have asked when the gold bounty would be paid, and the amount involved. The Prime Minister replied that he would give me an answer in this House. In yesterday morning’s newspapers there appeared a statement on this subject, and I now desire to know whether that is an official intimation, in which case I should like an explanation from the Prime Minister of his reason for not advising me earlier?
– I did promise the honorable gentleman that I would give him an answer in the House, and I hoped to inform him this afternoon that the department was now proceeding to make these payments. I do not know what statement has appeared in the press; no statement was supplied by me.
– Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Cotton Board is exporting raw cotton to Japan for 67/8d. per lb., although local spinners are unable to obtain supplies, notwithstanding that they have offered 97/8d. per lb. for the cotton ? Will the Minister take steps to ensure ample supplies to meet local requirements?
– If the firms concerned will communicate with the Queensland Cotton Board, they will find that ample supplies of raw cotton are available. At a conference which was held in Sydney recently certain local spinners undertook to buy specified quantities of raw cotton, but some of them have not carried out their undertaking.
– In reply to a question which I asked last week relating to the shipment of gold for the purpose of purchasing British securities as a backing for our note issue, it was stated that about £9,000,000 of our gold reserve had already been absorbed in that direction. In view of the possible effects of the action of the United States of America in departing from the gold standard, is the Treasurer prepared to sus> pend that portion of the Commonwealth Bank Act which empowers the directors of the Commonwealth Bank to invest our gold reserves in British securities until the general international situation regarding gold as a basis of currency has been settled?
– I see no justification for .amending the act in the direction suggested.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the bill bc now read a third time.
.- Apparently, the House has decided that there shall be a royal commission to inquire into the operations of the oil companies doing business in this country, and I do not suppose that anything that r. might say will alter the position. I am too late. But it is not too late to place some restriction on the period for which the commission shall function.
Judging by what has happened in the case of. other royal commissions, it is likely that this commission will go on for years, and that before it has completed its investigations and submitted its report, the life of this Parliament will have expired, in which case the return will be- nil, notwithstanding the expenditure of many thou sands of pounds. That has been our experience in connexion with many of the commissions which have been appointed in this country in the past. The bill should be recommitted, in order that we may put some limit to the life of the commission. Most of the commissions which have been appointed in Australia have been created in order to enable the government of the day to escape from its obligations. I object to commissions on general principles. They are justified only when definite charges have been laid against an industry, or certain individuals, whether capitalists or others, in which cases the recommendations of the commission can be given effect. In my opinion, not one of the commissions which have been appointed during the past 30 years has been of any use to this country. Their appointment has. merely enabled the government of the day to evade awkward issues, and to that extent they, have served their purpose. “When their decisions have been favorable to the government which appointed them, those decisions have been given effect; the government concerned has done, with the backing of the commission, what it intended to do in any case. On those other occasions when royal commissions have arrived at conclusions contrary to the wishes of the government which appointed them, legislation in direct opposition to their recommendations has been introduced and passed. Some royal commissions have continued in existence year after year, until, as a result of a public, outcry against them, they have ceased to function. Without reflecting on the personnel of some of these commissions, the fact remains that they have travelled about the country month after month at heavy cost until public opinion has compelled the termination of their appointment. It would be interesting to know how many, if any, of the commissions which have been appointed in Australia have done any good and how many of them have been successful in getting their recommendations put into operation. I was a member of a royal commission, and in that capacity I drew hundreds of pounds of public money; it was my misfortune that I did not draw as many thousands. Although the royal commission on insurance lasted for years, and cost this country probably £20,000, it accomplished nothing. The commission to which I had the good fortune to be appointed was created in order to placate a section of the Country party. That commission travelled all over the country, and its members had a good time. It went to almost every port in Western Australia in an endeavour to find persons who would give evidence. Witnesses were obtained, even if that meant shanghaiing them in order to justify the existence of the commission. A visit was paid to Tasmania in the summer and to Queensland in the winter. The life of that commission was short, because the broad, national outlook of its chairman ceased as soon as the commission got outside the borders of his own State. He was not concerned with the vital interests of his colleagues. That commission went as far north as Cairns, and from there it travelled inland to find men to give evidence. The only witness we obtained was a man who swore that he had no evidence to give. One resident of Cairns said that 40 commissions had visited that place, but he did not know for what purpose, unless it were to fish or to view thescenery. One man, known as “ Cyanide “ Craig, told the commission that if it experienced difficulty in obtaining witnesses he would provide at least one witness. He was the local ratcatcher. As I have said, that commission cost the country many thousands of pounds. Unfortunately, it did not last more than a few months, so thatI was able to draw only some hundreds instead of thousands of pounds. For rapidity and cheapness of work, we of that commission broke the record. Exclusive of a few commissions that have investigated the affairs of private individuals - we established a new record by the rapidity with which we brought our labours to a conclusion, and the smallness of the cost to the community, though it was not my fault that that commission did not last as many years as it did months. But what happened to our recommendations? They were presented to the Government, and then pigeonholed. Nothing has been heard of them since. The history of that commission is identical with that of every other that has been appointed in this country.
The petrol commission will cost Australia thousands of pounds. It will con sider, among other matters, the cost of petrol abroad, and the cost of importing it into Australia. If this Government had desired to ascertain the truth regarding the petrol trade - the cost of obtaining petrol from America, Russia, or Mesopotamia - it could, by enlisting the services of expert persons abroad acquainted with the oil business, have found out in a few months what this commission will take years to discover. If the Government really wants an investigation made, and wishes to get a decision, and to act upon it, it could find out what it wants to know about oil much more rapidly and economically than by appointing this commission. But the Government hasdecided to have a commission, which will linger over the inquiry for months and years. If the Government does not desire to delay the matter indefinitely, but intends to take action, it is desirable that it should at least place some limitation upon the duration of the inquiry, and its cost to the country. At a time when economy in every direction is urged, and when wages and pensions are being cut to the bone, “how can the Government justify the expenditure of unknown thousands on this commission? I therefore propose to move that the bill be recommitted, for the purpose of reconsidering the duration of the Petrol Commission.
– As I explained to the honorable member personally a few minutes ago, a motion for the recommittal of a bill must be made when the order of the day is read. It is now too late, the third reading ‘ having been moved, to move for the recommittal of the bill. Therefore, the motion of the honorable member cannot be accepted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from the 28th April (vide page 1094), on motion by
And on motion by Mr. White (vide page 29) -
Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the thirteenth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, he amended as hereunder set out.
And on amendment by Mr. White (vide page 1094).
Group 6. - Amendments made by the present Government which are supported by Tariff Board reports.
Item 180, sub-items (b) (c) (e 3, 5, 6, 17, 22, 23, 25, 26) as amended, and (k) (Electrical and gas appliances, wireless receivers, &c.).
. -Having read the Tariff Board’s report on wireless receiving setswith a good deal of interest and appreciation, I am at a loss to understand why the board has recommended a reduction of the duties imposed by the last Government. It pointed out that the industry was receiving the higher duties from November, 1929 ; that since that year the industry had progressed considerably; that nine new factories had been established in Australia, and that most of the . firms that then operated were importers. The board pointed out that a substantial increase had occurred in the number of persons employed in the industry, about 2,000 being actually engaged in the manufacture of wireless sets, while from 500 to 600 were directly employed in making parts and cabinets for wireless sets. The board also remarked that since 1929the local selling prices of broadcast receivers had been reduced 50 per cent., while, during the same period, the standard of quality had improved. The board added that the reduction of the prices of Australianmade sets was greater than the reduction that had been made in the United Kingdom and the United States of America during the same period. It is true that prices overseas are lower than those in this country.
– Where are they cheaper overseas ?
– Although the statement has been disputed, I am takingthe report of the Tariff Board as my authority for saying that the overseas prices are lower than those in Australia.
– Wireless sets are not cheaper in England than here.
– But the Tariff Board by comparing the prices, shows that they are. I am not in a position to dispute the statement of theboard or the right honorable gentleman, as I cannot compare like with like.
– That is the important thing to do.
– Theboard says that, from the great number of quotations received,it is evident that the retail prices in England are appreciably lower than in Australia. Then the board makes a comparison of prices. Five-valve receiving sets selling in Australia at 19 guineas are comparable with similar receiving sets selling in England at 15 guineas.
– But 15 guineas in English currency is as much as 19 guineas in Australian currency.
– If the board has not allowed for currency differences, it has not fully presented the facts to us. I take the other statement of the board, however, that, since the higher duties were placed on these sets, the prices in Australia have been reduced to a greater extent than have the prices overseas. The point is that before the duties were imposed, the imported article was selling in Australia, and the importers were charging high prices; but when the sets were made in this country, a- reduction of prices could be made. Anythingthat will weaken or destroy that competition will tend to increase prices locally. The board has shown clearly that the price of wireless sets in Australia has been reduced by 50 per cent. since the high duties were imposed in 1929. It also states that this industry is capable of still further expansion, for there is a growing market for its products. I quote the following extract from the board’s report: -
On account of the possibility of the importation of large quantities of receivers from surplus stocks overseas, which may be invoiced at distress prices, ad valorem rates of duty are ineffective, and high specific rates are necessary to adequately protect Australian manufacturers.
The board then recommends specific as well as ad valorem rates of duty. It also states in its report -
A large amount of capital lias been invested in factories, and employment is being given to a large number of operatives.
Later it says -
Wireless broadcast receivers are not essential in other industries, and their production in Australia at costs in excess of world’s prices will not detrimentally affect the costs of the products of other industries.
But, despite these telling facts, the board has recommended a reduction of duties. I summarize the board’s report by saying that every statement it contains is a justification for the maintenance of the rates of duty that have been in operation since 1929. After all, what does it matter whether a rate of duty is 100 per cent, or 150 per cent., so long as the local manufacturers are not taking advantage of it? . The fact that prices have been reduced in Australia by 50 per cent, is positive proof that our manufacturers are not taking unfair advantage of the tariff protection which is afforded them. This industry has progressed enormously since 1929. Nine new factories have been established, and employment has been substantially increased. The employment of 2,500 ‘or 2,600 people in this industry has undoubtedly indirectly led to the employment of other persons. Why, then, should the conditions of the industry be disturbed? The board has not been too favorable to Australian industries in the reports that it has made in recent months, and it is regrettable, therefore, that in one of the few instances in which it has been favorable it has recommended a reduction of duty.
.- I should think that any government would be intent in these days on the keeping of people in employment. The new science of wireless broadcasting, and the new industry of manufacturing wireless sets, have been among the best employing propositions in the world in recent years. Marvellous advancement has been made in this regard. I am proud that Aus tralia has played its part in promoting the progress of this industry. A visit to any one of our frequent exhibitions of wireless sets is an education in itself. Visits to a few exhibitions at regular intervals afford convincing proof of the extent of the progress that has been made. I attended an exhibition recently, and was informed that about 95 per cent, of the sets exhibited were of Australian manufacture, and gave expression to many original ideas. Our electrical engineers, and others engaged in this industry, have rendered a wonderful service to our people, and have really made this department of electrical engineering a veritable sheet ^anchor for the whole industry. Electrical engineers and other electrical workers who lost their ordinary employment, turned their attention to wireless, and, with splendid Australian genius, they have been able satisfactorily to supply practically the whole of our wireless requirements. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), I am unable to follow the reasoning of the Tariff Board. The members of the board seem to have said: “Although this industry is doing well, the duties seem to be too high, so we will recommend a reduction of them “. Rut why should they do so ? The price of wireless receiving sets in Australia -has been reduced, and it cannot be argued that the industry has exploited the public in any way whatever. Not only has the price of complete sets been reduced, but so also has the price of batteries and other component parts. Every part of a wireless set which is being manufactured in Australia is available to-day at a lower price than before the local manufacture of these sets was commenced. I think, therefore, that we should let well alone. I cannot understand how the Tariff Board could recommend a reduced duty when it summed up in favour of the industry.
– Does the honorable member believe that a reduced duty will mean less employment in this industry?
– I think that we should not disturb this industry.. I should not be concerned if a duty were 1,000 per cent, or 60,000 per cent, so long as the article subject to the duty was being made available to the people at a reduced price. There might be some argument for a reduction of duty if the price of the locally-manufactured article were increased. One is often able to gather from a judge’s summing up - and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has heard many judges sum up - what the verdict, in the opinion of the judge, ought to be. The Tariff Board has declared in favour of this industry, and yet it has recommended that a penalty be imposed upon it. I have been in touch with wireless broadcasting since its inception in Australia, and have had a receiving set in my home since 1923. At that time, I purchased an imported set which gave me so much trouble that I soon disposed of it, and replaced it with an Australian set which has given me, and is still giving, complete satisfaction. I hear this personal testimony that the Australian set that I have had in operation for nearly eight years has given me splendid service.
– Doubtless, it was made under the old rate of duty.
– Whether it was or was not, the fact remains that it has been entirely satisfactory. Our Australian manufacturers have been able to satisfy their clients so well that they now supply 95 per cent. of the local market. I do not desire to be charged with being an ultra-protectionist.I am a protectionist without the prefix. I have listened to very many tariff debates in this Parliament during the last 23 years. This report of the Tariff Board is one of the most eloquent testimonies I have ever read to the efficiency of an Australian industry. Australian manufacturers are now providing our people with receiving sets better in quality and much cheaper in price than were obtainable from overseas firms prior to the establishment of the industry in this country. I should not have any objection to preferential treatment being given to British manufacturers, if we could be quite sure that the major part of manufacture was actually carried out in the Mother Country by British workmen; but as we now have a well-established Australian industry which gives employment to a large number of our people, my advice to the Government is to leave well alone.
– The honorable member believes in the status quo?
– If the industry is dealing fairlyby our people, there is no justification for interfering with it.
Although the Tariff Board has presented a very favorable report, it has advised a reduction of the duties, and its recommendation has been adopted by the Government. I do not know the board’s leanings in fiscal matters, but it may be necessary, when next we take the public platform, to elucidate certain matters in connexion with that body. Our electrical engineers have applied themselves with marvellous aptitude to this new industry, and for some years now have been supplying, at a reasonable price, a long-felt want of the people of this country.
– I have not read the Tariff Board’s report dealing with this item, but I gather from the references to it made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that it states that the Australian industry is making satisfactory progress, and is meeting the requirements of the Australian market. If this is so, it is difficult to understand why the board should recommend an alteration of the duties. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), by way of interjection when the honorable member for Maribyrnong was speaking, asked if lower duties would have the effect of adding to unemployment in this country; his inference being, of course, that it would not. It is, I think, only logical to assume that if the duties are lowered sufficiently to permit importations to be marketed in competition with the Australian article the unemployment position in this country must necessarily he affected. I am informed that prior to the imposition of the higher duties which encouraged the Australian industry, it was the custom of manufacturers in the United States of America - where scientific research in connexion with this new industry is constantly being made, and where naturally many failures are recorded - to dump wireless receiving equipment in other markets, including Australia, regardless of cost, the main consideration being the disposal of their surplus manufactures. People interested in this trade have advised me that, prior to the development of the Australian industry to its present stage, a considerable number of American receiving sets were dumped in this country, and as prospective purchasers were then unable to form an estimate of values, they were frequently misled into buying unsuitable sets at prices much above their real value. This may be said to apply generally to the electrical industry. Unless tests of equipment are made by competent men, the average user of electrical goods is unable to determine either the value or the life of the articles purchased. This being so, I have always contended it to be desirable, in the interests of our people, to manufacture these goods” locally so that, in the event of faults developing, users may have an opportunity to return -them to the manufacturers and secure replacements or have the necessary adjustments made. Since the wireless industry is well established in this country, the Government should, see that it is adequately protected so that users of all forms of electrical equipment may have an assurance tha’t it is of standard value, and can be maintained in a state of efficiency. Associates in my own .union have informed me that there is at the present time the greatest activity in the wireless branch of the electrical engineering trade.
– That is so, and it will continue under these duties. Those concerned have made no complaints on that score.
– If the general trade position is satisfactory, it seems strange that the duties should be altered, because if the protection is reduced, the ultimate outcome will be, as I have already stated, the importation of wireless equipment to the detriment of the local industry. The Minister has confirmed my information as to the activity in this industry. I wonder sometimes, at this development, because I suppose wireless may still, to some extent, be regarded as a luxury, although it might be argued that those who go in for this form of entertainment find the cost and maintenance of wireless receivers not so great as in other forms of entertainment. However, the fact is that the industry is so active that within the last few months, conditions in regard to rates of pay, &c, have been drawn up by a tribunal set up in Sydney to regulate the industry. It is very desirable that nothing should be’ done to disturb the present position. For the reasons given, I endorse the remarks of the previous speakers, and naturally, I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in support of the Government’s action.
– Recently a splendidly equipped factory for the manufacture of wireless receiving sets has been erected in my electorate, so, naturally, I am concerned about the lowering of the duties. The Tariff Board’s report from beginning to end, furnishes no reason why the duties should be reduced.
– Order ! Reference to my notes shows that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has spoken twice already to this item.
[3.291.- There has been rapid progress, as well as swift changes, in this industry. I know of no other industry which has developed to a greater extent, thanks to the enterprise of our own engineers, and also, in a large measure, to the activities of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited.
– What about the capabilities of Australian workmen?
– I have referred to that. This industry has also passed through a transition stage. It now provides employment, in the making of cabinets for wireless sets, to men who formerly were engaged in the billiard table making trade. These and other cabinet makers have been kept engaged, and the volume of employment has continuously increased.
The fixed duties on parts and accessories are in proportion to those recommended on the complete sets. The Tariff Board made a most careful examination of overseas prices. According to a later report by the board than has so far been referred to - it is dated the 26th January of this year - the board is satisfied that these duties will constitute an effective protection to Australian manufacturers against the importation of goods of the lowest quality and price. The rates recommended on complete receivers are the same as those recommended in 1929 ; and, by reason of the drop in prices that ha3 occurred throughout the world since that date, they are relatively higher. This industry is one of the few that has gone steadily ahead throughout the depression. A large amount of capital is invested in it, and the employees in Victoria and Now South “Wales alone number some 2,000. I believe that I am right in saying that during the depression the number of wireless licences issued increased throughout the Commonwealth, proving that the people had the necessary money to spend on this form of entertainment, and that they were satisfied with the quality of the instruments that they were able to purchase.
– Prices were reduced.
– That is so. The industry is an efficient one. The fixed rates on complete receivers are necessary in order that out-of-date or end-of-season goods may not be dumped in Australia. In one instance, the Government has imposed an even higher rate” than the Tariff Board recommended. There is room for further development in the industry, with consequent reductions in prices. The adoption of the proposed duties will place the industry in a sound position.
When I brought down the present schedule, the Government was subjected to a good deal of criticism, frequently il1:formed. It was most pleasing to me, therefore, to learn that the industry itself was satisfied with the duties proposed. I challenge any of those who to-day have recited the familiar story about unemployment following upon reduced duties, to name any firm in which the employment has been lessened by these new rates. The importations to-day are practically confined to special sets. Honorable members will, I think, agree that the industry can develop under these reasonable duties. The matter, however, will be carefully watched by the Government.
– What the Minister has said has changed my opinion considerably. If the industry is satisfied, then I am satisfied. But I want to be satisfied that the industry is satisfied. That any industry can be satisfied with reduced protection is a revelation of human nature hitherto not manifested to us. May I ask the Minister a” simple question : Where does it appear in any of the Tariff Board reports that the representatives of this industry have expressed themselves as satisfied with the proposed duties?
– I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman has misunderstood me. What I said was, not that such a statement of satisfaction had appeared in a report of the Tariff Board, but that, on the day following the tabling of the schedule, the press announced that the industry had expressed no alarm at the new duties, while other industries had told the familiar story of the -unemployment that would result. The right honorable gentleman, however, has a sure method of checking that statement. He is a’ director of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. I ask him, has that company ever sent to the Government a protest against the new duties?
– It has sent me here to do that very thing, if necessary.
– And the right honorable member, without consulting his board, and without knowing whether or not a protest has been made against the new duties, has taken it upon himself to address himself to the subject. As the industry is so efficient, as wireless sets may be bought at reasonable prices, and as it may be accepted that there is no objection to the present duties, I think that the item ought to be allowed to go through.
.- What a happy family we are on this item? This is what the Tariff Board says about the matter -
Taking into consideration the capital already invested in the industry, the board realizes the necessity for maintaining rates of duty which will adequately protect efficient manufacturers, selling at reasonable prices. The duties now operating, which represent ad valorem rates of 150 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and 455 per cent, (general tariff) calculated on the basis of exchange at par, are, however, excessive. Their maintenance may tend to retard improvements in designs, and may also permit of unreasonably high prices being charged by Australian manufacturers.
I cannot understand why the Tariff Board has recommended the long list of duties on separate parts. . It has to be remembered that this tariff, after approval by Parliament, may continue to operate for ten, fifteen, or twenty years. The former duties of from 35 per cent, to 55 per cent, upon these parts, plus natural protection and exchange, should surely be sufficient for any Australian manufacturer, if it were not for the wretched policy adopted by so many leaders of governments in the past, the effect of which has been to increase the cost of every particle of raw material that a manufacturer may require. In view of the wretched industrial conditions that have to be observed, and the interference with industry that has taken place, I can understand why a manufacturer cannot make good even with a duty of from 200 per cent, to 300 per cent.
– What does the honorable member call “wretched industrial conditions “ ?
– I refer to interference by persons who know nothing about an industry, and who, nevertheless, are able to fix all the conditions that have to be observed in it. The honorable member talks of preserving this market for Australia. It is more important to preserve Australia, so that our people may be able to buy these things. That is what many persons apparently overlook; they believe that it is magnificent to make everything dear. A statesman would try to make these articles cheaper for the people. It is only the wretched politician who believes that, by making everything dearer; he is helping the people. It seems to me to be essentially stupid to think that we can keep on building up costs, imagining all the time that trade will result therefrom. The board, in its report, says -
Retail prices in the United States of America are considerably below Australian prices for all sizes of receivers which allow of comparisons being made. The evidence showed that four-valve receivers sell in the United States of America for $15.00 (normally £3 ls. 9d.), and’ in Australia at £17 17s., and live-valve receivers in the United States of America are quoted as low as $29.50 (normally £6 ls. 5d. ), as against the Australian price of £10 19s. No prices were obtainable for American six-valve receivers, but seven-valve models, quoted as low as $49.50 (normally £10 3s. Sci.) were considered by witnesses to be comparable with Australian six-valve receivers selling at £37 10s.
The high cost of these articles in Australia must considerably limit trade.
– As things seem to be so bright in America, let us all go there.
– We know that to-day things are very bad in the United States of America. The prices quoted in the report were ruling a year or so ago, and I feel satisfied that a considerable reduction has taken place since then. The board also states -
The average cost per valve socket, as submitted by a representative of Victorian manufacturers, was stated to be 26s. According to these figures, duties of approximately 14s. per valve socket (British preferential tariff) and 20s. per valve socket (general tariff) would be necessary to thoroughly protect the Australian manufacturer, and such rates of duty would be equivalent to ad valorem rates of approximately 100 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and 303 per cent, (general tariff), calculated on the basis of exchange at par.
That shows the position into which we are drifting despite the fact that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), assisted by many other honorable members, is always hoisting the black flag of prohibition. Although I am pleased that some reduction of duty has been made, we cannot get away from the fact that fixed duties have been imposed upon almost every article required for wireless purposes, such as condensers, loud speakers, and coils of every description. No matter how the market may fluctuate, fixed duties instead of ordinary ad valorem duties have been imposed upon almost every item pertaining to wireless. When I was in Western Australia recently a man showed me a part for a wireless set for which he paid 15s., and he told me that the price of it in Great Britain was 2s. 6d. He also showed me a screw about li inches long, with a special head, worth about 3d., for which he had paid 2s. 6d. retail in Perth. The extraordinary prices charged for wireless parts make it almost impossible for the average citizen to purchase wireless replacements.
.- I move-
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, .1933, relating to sub-item (rc) of Item 180, be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of sub-item k of Item 180 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
The amendment does not in any way alter the wording of or the rates set out in the group memorandum in possession of honorable members. It is a formal amendment similar to others which have been incorporated in the schedule.
.- I do not wish to allow one point which has been raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to remain unchallenged. Although his argument has been repeated time and time again throughout the tariff debate, it must be answered. The honorable member quoted from the report of the Tariff Board a comparison of prices in Australia and the United States of America, and from that he deduced that Australian manufacturers were robbing the public. He asked how could we stand the strain? But be omitted to read from the report the following statement appearing on the same page as that quoted from by him : -
Since 1929 Australian manufacturers’ selling prices of broadcast receivers have been reduced by approximately 50 per cent., while during the same period the standard of quality has improved. Reductions in prices have been effected in other countries during this period, but figures obtained by the board indicate that the reductions effected in Australia were greater than in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America.
The honorable member quoted the price of £17 17s. for a receiving set. The Tariff Board says that there has been a reduction of the Australian price by 50 per cent,
– Not in respect of the prices that I quoted.
– If there has been a reduction of pricesby 50 per cent., the price for that particular set must have been £35 before it was manufactured to any extent in Australia. The board also says that nine new factories have been established as manufacturers of wireless receivers and accessories, that in the majority of these cases the firms concernedwere previously importers of the goods which they now manufacture, and that before manufacture became firmly established importers must have been exploiting the public, because they were then charging twice the price that is now being charged for receivers. If is of no use for the honorable member for Swan to compare local prices with those ruling in other parts of the world; he should contrast the prices charged in Australia, before the new factories started, with the prices ruling to-day. That is the proper test to apply to our protectionist policy.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-item and paragraphs, as amended, agreed to.
Washers and rivets, copper, ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general,60 per cent.
.- I move-
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to Item 184, be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of Item 184 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
This is the usual formal amendment, and it does not in any way alter the wording of, or the rates set out, in the group memorandum.
.- An absurd position obtains inthe copper rivet industry and allied industries. The price of copper in London to-day is £35 a ton, yet those who control the copper supply of Australia have such a hold of it that they are able to fix the Australian price for copper wire at up to £126 a ton. There is a margin of about £10 a ton between the price of pig iron and the price of wire drawn from rods made from pig iron. Yet the difference between the price of copper ingots and that of thecopper wire from which copper rivets are manufactured is no less than £91 a ton. In addition, we export 9,000 tons of copper annually, and the suppliers here have the advantage of the margin of freight to London, but no allowance is made for that in the price of the copper for local use. Today copper rivets can be bought in England for1s.1d. per lb., and delivered in Australia at1s. 5½d. per lb., yet those who control the supplies of copper wire in this country are charging 1s.1½d.per lb. for the wire from which the rivets are manufactured. This is a good opportunity for the Minister to make further inquiries into the industry in order to see whether something cannot be done to remedy this ridiculous position.First, we have a duty on copper, although there is no likelihood of copper being imported into this country. Then there is a still higher tariff on copper rods, and a duty of 35 per cent, on the copper rivets and washers. According to the Tariff Board’s report, the quantity of copper used in Australia in the manufacture of this commodity represents only 1 per cent, of the copper exported. Honorable members may think that this is a trivial item, and that the extra price for the local product is merely a trifle, but it is. the cumulative effect of all these small items that makes the cost of production in Australia so high. This industry employs only twenty persons altogether, not all of them men, while the aggregate yearly wages total £2,850. the manufacturers have reduced their price by 2d. per lb. since’ the publi-cation of the board’s report, but even at the reduced price Australia, still pays £3,760 more for its copper rivets and washers than it would have to pay if they were imported duty free, and that is after allowing for exchange and transport charges. It is evident, therefore, that the manufacture of copper rivets in Australia is not an economic undertaking. We were told by the British Economic Committee which visited Australia, that we were attempting too much in the way of manufacture. The Government should use its discretion when deciding what industries are worthy of protection and what are not. The duty of 35 per cent, on the quantity of copper rivets used in Australia would represent almost twice as much as the wages paid in the industry, for material represents 90 per cent, of the cost of this commodity. We must also remember that the twenty persons employed in the industry represent the aggregate. In the iron and steel industry, and galvanized iron and wire manufacturing industry, besides those directly engaged in manufacture there are the men employed in mining the ore and coal, and in smelting, but the copper we produce is exported, and would continue to be produced in the same quantity whether any were used locally for manufacturing rivets or not. That does not apply to the iron and steel industry. Every one who uses copper rivets is penalized for the sake of keeping these few persons in employment. The time has come when we should consider, not only the particular industry seeking protection, but also the effect of protection upon other industries which use its products. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that there will be an inquiry for the purpose of finding out why the price of locally-made copper wire in Australia should be £126 a ton, while the London price of copper is only £35 a ton.
.- Having regard to the facts placed before the committee by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), the Government would be justified in reducing the duty on this item. Copper rivets were at. one time admitted free, and under the Pratten tariff, the duty was 5 per cent. British, and 10 per cent, general. The Government has, unfortunately, been influenced by the wild s’tampede of the Scullin Government, which increased duties without any regard for the Tariff Board or the people’s interests. I move, as an amendment upon the proposed amendment -
That the rates of duty be reduced to 15 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and 35 per cent, (general tariff).
In this, as in many other industries, those who “began manufacture in Australia have done the country a disservice rather than a service. If the figures quoted by the honorable member for Riverina are correct, it is evident that it would pay the Commonwealth to provide the whole of the wages of those employed in the industry, and to import what we require from abroad. How can it be to the benefit of Australia to encourage industries which have no prospect of developing, and which place such a burden upon the consumer ?
– There is no need for this amendment, which stipulates a rate chosen at random by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). There is a great deal in the . argument of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), and much of what he said has already been brought before the Tariff Board. Influenced by those arguments, the board recommended that the duty be reduced, and that has been done. Certainly the industry is small, but 90 per cent, of the material used is copper produced in Australia. As regards the overseas price being charged for copper used within Australia, that is a mat- ter which may well be inquired into, and I shall have it investigated. I remind honorable members that a definite reduction has been made in the duty in order that prices may be competitive. A considerable part of our requirements in copper rivets is still being imported, and even under the high tariff of 1931-32, no less than £1,826 worth were admitted.
.- This is another of those petty little industries the protection of which adds to the general cost of production in Australia. Probably no other company has taken so much advantage of the duty on copper and copper goods as has the Australian Metal Company. Time after time the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr Gibson) has pointed out in this chamber the enormous charges made by that company for copper coils and copper wire generally. We are producing the copper in this country, and there is no justification for a high duty on imported copper goods. Certainly 35 per cent duty, together with natural protection and exchange, is far too high. These small industries have been occupying the Tariff Board when others much more important require careful consideration. Over a long series of years no company has been able to take such advantage of high duties as has the Australian Metal Company, which supplies the copper’ rods, if it does not actually manufacture the rivets. Having regard to the price of copper, the company’s charges for copper wire of every description are outrageous. I hope that the Minister will have inquiries made through the Tariff Board regarding the excessive cost of copper goods, particularly wire.
.- I did not move an amendment because I considered that it would be futile to do so, but I support the proposal of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). I am confident that if it were agreed to, the immediate result would be the reduction of the cost of wire supplied to the manufacturers of. rivets.
Amendment upon the proposed amendment negatived.
Original amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Items 190 (b1, 2, 3), (c), 194 (a) (b) (c), and 206 (b) agreed to.
Item 208, sub-item (o) -
Amendment (by Mr. Guy) agreed to- -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to sub-item (c) of item 208be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of sub-item (c) of item 208 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
Sub-item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 209 (Malleable iron castings not elsewhere specified).
. -I ask the Minister to reconsider this item with a view to omitting the fixed duty. It is absurd that every imported bend, elbow, knee, or other malleable fitting, should be subject to a duty of 2d. or 2½d. per lb. Iron castings have to be weighed as if they were gold dust in order that the duty upon them may be assessed. Of more than 5,000 types of fittings required in Australia, only 261 are manufactured locally. In New South Wales, girls arid boys are being placed on small holdings to grow vegetables and flowers; to this enterprise, water supplies are essential, and in order to benefit the manufacturers by means of a duty of so much per lb. on iron fittings, these young settlers are to be penalized. I have pointed out previously that on a 3-in. bend costing 3s. 9d. in England, the duty is 13s. 6d.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is under a misapprehension. The committee is not discussing pipe fittings. Malleable castings differ from ordinary grey iron castings, in that they have to be annealed after they are cast. The industry is comparatively new to Australia, and is supplying the ordinary requirements of the engineering trade. As the castings are worth only from 3d. to 9d. per lb., they could even he brought to Australia as ballast, and no ad valorem duty, however high, would be protective. The fixed duty is imposed so that no foreign exporter can evade the present moderate tariff by depreciating invoice values.
Item agreed to.
Item 211 agreed to.
Item 219, sub-items (a) (b) (c) (Tools of trade).
– I understand that this item has again been referred to the Tariff Board. The manufacture of tools of trade was investigated by the board about two years ago, but since that time, the industry has made considerable strides, and is giving a good deal of employment. The conditions of the industry have entirely changed, and the manufacturers desire that the duties should be further considered. If the. Minister will not agree to postpone consideration of this item until after the receipt of a report from the Tariff Board, I ask him to promise that if the hoard recommends an increase of duty, prompt action will be taken to give effect to the recommendation. Every industry that will provide an increased market for the steel works will mean, eventually, a reduction in the cost of all steel products. Moreover, it is desirable that we should establish industries that, in the event of war, could be speedily converted to the production of munitions.
– Tools of trade were inquired into by the board in May and June, 1931. The firm on whose behalf I am speaking, has taken to heart the lesson taught by that inquiry, and has completely re-organized its plant. It is now employing 60 hands instead of 9 as formerly, and the whole of the materials used in manufacture are Australian. Notwithstanding that Australian raw materials cost 200 per cent. more than the price paid by British manufacturers, local firms are confident of being able to compete if they are given a little further consideration. The manufacture of tools provides an increased market for base metals, and, therefore, may be regarded as natural to Australia. We should also encourage the establishment of factories that can be put to national use in times of crisis. This firm has reduced its prices for picks from 35s. 4d. to 29s. 3d. per dozen. Several other firms are engaged in this industry, but the representations made to me are based entirely on picks and mattocks. I ask the Minister to postpone further consideration of the item pending a reconsideration of it by the Tariff Board.
.- I support the request made by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison). This is a comparatively new industry. Although, in the early stages, its products were not of the best, it has advanced considerably, and locally-made tools are giving satisfaction to the users. The industry employs a considerable number of people in several States! The more we encourage the manufacture of tools of trade, the better it will be for the users and for Australia.
– What effect have the existing duties had upon the industry?
– The manufacturers of certain lines are feeling a great deal of apprehension. They claim that they suffer a considerable disability under the existing rates of duty, hut that if additional protection were given, they could produce goods which would suit the users in respect of both quality and price. I hope that the Minister will agree to the request to refer the item back to the Tariff Board.
– Although this is a new and a comparatively small industry, it is important, for it is engaged in the manufacture of tools, which include not; only shovels, picks, and mattocks, but also small stocks and dies. The Tariff Board has held an inquiry into the industry, and the only alteration made in the schedule of 1921-30, in consequence of its recommendations, is that the duties on dies, taps and chasers for use in machines or by hand, and screw plates and stocks, have been reduced from 45 per cent. British and 65 per cent. general, to 35 per cent. British and 45 per cent. general. The Scullin tariff provided for duties of 55 per cent. British and 75 per cent. general in sub-item a. There has actually been a reduction of 10 per cent. in the item in accordance with the recommendation made by the Tariff Board on the 11th September, 1931, and, of course, an increase in the general rate on subitems a andc of 5 per cent., and on subitem b of 10 per cent. to conform with the Ottawa formula. Many tools of the kind now under consideration can be made locally only at considerable extra cost to the users, in consequence of the limited demand for them in Australia, I say emphatically to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), and other honorable gentlemen who are over enthusiastic in their support of Australian industries, that it is a mistake for a manufacturer to imagine that because he can successfully manufacture one or two tools, he can also successfully manufacture the whole range of tools in that class. Manufacturers who have endeavoured to do so have frequently met with disaster. The Tariff Board has, time after time, saved manufacturers from themselves in this regard. A man who may be skilled in the manufacture of a certain article, frequently launches out into the manufacture of other articles of a similar nature, only to find failure waiting for him through an endeavour to do too much. An inquiry by the manufacturer himself, or by the Tariff Board before such manufacture had been commenced, would frequently have prevented disaster from overtaking the industry. We have always to remember that there is only a limited market in Australia.
– The policy of this Government is preventing the local manufacturers from obtaining the market.
– I disagree with the honorable member. A manufacturer may be able to make shovels successfully on a commercial basis, but if he proceeds to manufacture axes, he may make a serious blunder. A totally different class of steel and a much higher degree of skill is required in the manufacture of axes. If an almost prohibitive duty is placed upon axes which have to be imported, the man on the land is penalized, and no one receives any advantage. These are fundamental facts which should be borne in mind by the advocates of very high duties.
In reply to the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley), and other honorable gentlemen who have requested that this item be referred back to the Tariff Board for further consideration, I may say that in consequence of the manufacturers referred to by the honorable member for
Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) having intimated that they had adopted new methods, and were now able to manufacture mattocks and picks on a commercial basis, the board has already been asked to reconsider the sub-items dealing with those articles.
– The manufacturers have asked that this item be subdivided. They have already been working at a loss for eighteen months.
– I assure the honorable member that the board will make a quick inquiry into this industry. It is not necessary to reconsider the whole industry, which might take some time. As soon as the board furnishes its report on these items, the Government will give consideration to it, and, if necessary, adjust the duties. I believe in hastening slowly in these cases. I ask the committee to accept the item as it stands.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 220, sub-item (b) -
Traps, viz.: -
rabbit . . . per dozen - British, 10s.; general, 15s.; or ad val. - British, 45 per cent.; general, 65 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Amendment (by Mr. Guy) agreed to -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to sub-item (b) of item 220 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of subitem (b) of item 220 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
Sub-item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 226 agreed to.
Item 237, sub-items (a) and (b) (Chinaware, parian ware and porcelain ware).
.- The pottery industry, which is engaged in the manufacture of earthenware, china, glass and stone, is one of the oldest in Australia. It supplies practically all the pottery that is required, with the possible exception of the finest types of chinaware. The item now under consideration covers domestic ware such as teapots, jugs, cups and saucers, plates, bowls, dishes, jardinieres, and such articles, lt may bo said in favour of this industry that 98 per cent, of the materials which it uses are of Australian origin, and that the employment which it gives is spread over a very wide area. It is rather difficult to understand why the Tariff Board, after giving favorable consideration to the item covering sanitary ware, should recommend a reduction of duties on this item. For some reason, unknown to those who are interested in this trade, the duties have been reduced to a substantial extent. The Minister should offer some justification for this reduction. This industry is at present being subjected to severe competition from eastern countries such as Japan, and in this circumstance a reduction of duties at this stage appears to be a serious mistake. Until recently, the principal competitors of the Australian manufacturers were the manufacturers of the United Kingdom, but now Japan has entered the market to an alarming extent. In 1931-32, Japanese importations constituted 50 per cent, of the total. The Australian market has been absolutely swamped with brightly-coloured Japanese crockeryware such as jugs, teapots, and cups and saucers. I have seen a large quantity of these Japanese articles in the big business houses of our cities and also in certain auction marts. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), in discussing the cost-of-living figures the other day, referred to the decline in the price of crockeryware in consequence of the entry of auctioneers into this trade; but it should be remembered that the goods which are being sold at these cheap prices have been dumped in this country from J apan at prices which render competition by the Australian manufacturers impossible. Surely we should preserve our market for our own people, who are able to manufacture all the domestic ware of this kind that we need*. In order to show’ how seriously this Japanese competition is regarded by the manufacturers of other countries, I direct attention to the following statement which appears in
Ceramic Industry, a New York publication, of November, 1932: -
Ruining Domestic Pottery Industry
Japan with its low Labour Cost is Chief Offender.
Japanese imports for six months of 1932 lost $1,200,000 in wages to American labour.
It will be seen, therefore, that Japanese competition is also having an unfortunate effect on the industrial life of another great manufacturing nation. I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of checking imports of this ‘ nature from Japan. The Australian manufacturers consider that the protection at present being afforded to the crockery . and earthenware industry is inadequate. This is a natural industry to Australia, and it should receive the fullest fiscal consideration in respect of those lines that are being commercially manufactured here. Action should be taken without further delay to put a stop to the dumping of Japanese goods in this country, otherwise the whole trade will soon fall into the hands of the Japanese. The pottery and earthenware industry of Australia is not located in only one or two centres, but is engaged in all over Australia. The people of South Australia and “Western Australia often utter serious complaints because the secondary industries of the Commonwealth are located, to a large extent, on the eastern side of the continent; but here is an industry which has been established in many centres all over the Commonwealth. It is, therefore, desirable that the Government should take every possible step to protect it by providing adequate duties. There is no justification for the importation of pottery for domestic purposes which can easily be made in this country. The just claims of this industry should, therefore, receive the favorable consideration of the Government. The item now under consideration should be reviewed, and the . duties brought- into proper relation with those provided under item 241. I shall have something more to say later if the Minister is unable to give a satisfactory explanation of the Government’s intentions.
. - The manufacture of china ware, parian ware, and porcelain ware is one of the oldest natural industries of this country, and is worthy of protection. Ninety-eight per cent, of the materials used in the manufacture of these goods is of Australian origin. This industry provides work for numbers of Australian coal-miners, and altogether, both directly and indirectly, it employs many thousands of our people. It is capable of supplying the whole of this country’s pottery requirements, with the exception of certain special lines. Although those engaged in the manufacture of these goods are concerned that the duties are inadequate, they realize that the most serious danger confronting them is the dumping of goods from abroad. Of the importation of goods covered by these sub-items last year, fully 50 per cent, came from foreign countries where the labour conditions are not comparable with those of Australia. The competition A these goods has caused some agitation in both Great Britain and the United States of America, where action to prevent dumping has been found necessary. In the interests of the thousands of employees, and because of the large amount of capital invested in this industry, I hope that the Minister will take immediate and effective action to protect dumping.
– The duties under these sub-items are the same as in the 1921-30 tariff, and are 10 per cent, lower than the rates provided by the Scullin Government’s tariff schedule. The goods concerned do not comprise all the items covered by the term “ pottery “. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) was scarcely correct when he claimed that the Australian potteries could manufacture Australia’s crockery requirements; they are noted more for their pipes and other products used chiefly in the building trade. These sub-items deal with cups, saucers, plates, teapots, jugs, dishes, and similar articles. At an inquiry conducted by the Tariff Board, it was not denied that Australian manufacturers were able to supply only a small proportion of the lines in demand. The board was satisfied that the cups and saucers made by Australian firms were good products of their class ; but it stated that local manufacturers would have to reduce their production costs, and increase their operations considerably, before they could be regarded as potential suppliers of the whole of the Australian market. The board’s report states -
This claim was generally conceded by those supporting the request, it being acknowledged that the local production is practically confined to brownware, earthenware, and stoneware. . . . The immensity of range and the varying shapes, sizes and qualities included in the range may be gauged from the statement’ of one importer, that in his showroom in August, 1930, he counted 3,447 samples representing separate linos of chinaware and earthenware, none of which was produced in Australia.
The Australian industry enjoys a natural protection, because overseas competitors have to pack these goods carefully to prevent breakages in transit. In the opinion of the board, the natural protection is equal to 65-J per cent. The board expressed the opinion that the proposed duty was a sufficient protection to those lines which are made in Australia.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) referred to a flood of imports, chiefly from Japan. Immediately I took office, it was brought to my notice that foreign manufacturers were imitating British pottery, and I, thereupon, issued a regulation under the Commerce Act requiring all pottery imported into Australia to show clearly the country of origin. That regulation protects the Australian buyer. If the ‘ local manufacturers have evidence of dumping, they should bring the facts before the department, and establish a prima facie case, so that appropriate action may be taken. Statements which are not substantiated serve no useful purpose. I claim that the protection is adequate on the limited lines made in this country.
– A statement in one of yesterday’s Melbourne newspapers supports the contention of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The newspaper referred to contains some pertinent statements regarding chinaware and porcelain ware by a Mr. Cann, who recently returned from the East. Mr. Cann said that in some pottery works in Japan which he visited, about 75 per cent, of the employees were children, who received 3d. or 4d. a day for their work. Unless Japan has recently passed legislation altering the conditions which prevailed not long ago, these children work eleven hours a day and seven days a week. That gives an indication of the competition which Australian manufacturers have to meet. I believe that the Minister is alive to the danger of this competition, and I hope that, if he finds that these goods are being landed in Australia to the detriment of the Australian industry, he will take immediate action to prevent their importation.
.- I disagree with the Minister’s statement that the domestic ware covered by this item comprises only a small proportion of this class of goods. Evidently th6 Minister and the Tariff Board are not aware of the scope of this industry. Aus« tralian manufacturers of pottery make a wide range of domestic ware, including cups, saucers, plates, teapots, jugs, bowls, dishes, basins, egg-cups, coffee pots, trays, ewers, bread-crocks, biscuit barrels, vases, ornaments, jardinieres, and other articles. In view of the alarm regarding the effect of these duties, I ask the Minister to institute further inquiries, in order to ascertain to what extent Australian manufacturers can supply this country’s requirements of these goods. The remarks of the Minister to-day will not be viewed with satisfaction by those Australian pottery firms. The importation of these goods from Eastern countries in which cheap labour is employed, will do untold harm to this old-established Australian industry. I hope that the Minister will agree to restore these duties to the rates contained in the Scullin tariff.
– I regret that I cannot do so.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 239 agreed to.
Item 241, sub-items (b) (c) (Earthenware) .
– I should like further consideration to be given to these sub-items, because the earthenware manufacturing industry, like all other industries associated with the building trade, has suffered severely during the recent depression. This is one of the oldest industries in Australia, and 90 per cent, of its raw material is of Australian origin. It gives employment to large numbers of Australians, including many coal-miners, and produces articles which compare favorably in quality and price with the English article. In February and March, 1925, the Tariff Board investigated charges of dumping of these goods, and on its report that dumping had occurred action was taken. The industry fears that dumping will again be attempted. Agents of British firms in Australia have reported to their principals that the Australian pottery industry is languishing, and these manufacturers are ready to attack the Australian industry. When the embargoes were lifted, they circulated price lists which tended to knock the bottom out of the Australian market. In order to combat the competition from overseas, and to give Australian consumers of these goods articles of good quality, one Australian manufacturer installed a Dressier kiln at a cost of £40,000, also a modern casting plant. Such an industry is worthy of our protection. I ask the Minister to give this matter further consideration, in view of the fact that the industry has already suffered considerable loss owing to the almost complete suspension of operations in the building trade. After again reviewing the facts, the Minister may be prepared to refer the matter back to the Tariff Board, or to restore the duties to the level at which they stood prior to the recent reduction.
– Here we have another case in which the life of an industry is threatened by reason of dumping. It appears that dumping is being practised in all countries where tariffs have been lowered, and action must be taken promptly if this particular industry is not to be reduced to the same condition as that of other branches of the pottery industry. I support the case presented by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison).
.- I endorse the views expressed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings). I can give the Minister definite information which calls for an explanation from him. The Australian manufacturers of sanitary and lavatory articles of earthenware have for many years held the view that they have been unfairly attacked by manufacturers and exporters in the United Kingdom, particularly in regard to those lines of sanitary earthenware which are in most frequent use in Australia, and therefore form the major part of the production of the Australian factories. In confirmation of this view, it may be mentioned that the ordinary hollow front closet, and the smaller sizes in wash basins, both corner and flat-backed kinds, appear to be quoted by exporters from the United Kingdom at much lower prices relatively than the larger sizes, or even the smaller sizes, in styles that are not in general use. “When the embargo was removed last year, the prices circulated to the trade for the closet in popular demand in Australia was 13s. 9d. f.o.b. London, and, since the end of the year, the price has been further reduced to lis. f.o.b. London, both prices being less 5 per cent, and 2£ per cent, for London payment. Recent English price-lists show conclusively that the range of sanitary ware manufactures which is in popular demand in Australia is being clumped into this country to the serious detriment of the local manufacturers, and the destruction of an old and valuable industry is threatened. The Minister should not permit the dumping of these goods to the detriment of the Australian trade, and we ask that he should give an assurance that, where dumping can be proved, he will take the steps necessary to resist it, and see that the Australian manufacturers are given an opportunity to exploit the possibilities of the Australian market, provided they do a fair thing to the users of these goods.
– This subitem comes within the same category as item 237, which deals with the duties on crockery. It relates to sanitary earthenware, a line which has been satisfactorily made in Australia for many years. The Tariff Board points out that the local manufacturers make certain kinds of these goods, but do not supply a large proportion of the requirements. Therefore, they receive a high natural protection by reason of the cost of freight, breakages, packing, &c. It was stated to the board that the local manufacturers were being severely undercut in price by Japanese exporters, but the board satisfied itself that this competition could be successfully met by the local manufacturers concentrating on the sizes they usually made, instead of endeavouring to supply the market in ranges containing sizes not in general demand. Sub-item c, of item 241, covers sanitary and lavatory articles of earthenware, and the evidence submitted to the board indicated that the operations of the local manufacturers were confined to the production of the lower grades of goods, for which there is a general demand. The more expensive articles are generally of fireclay manufacture, which the board states has not yet been exploited by local factories.
– Is not the board’s report six months old?
– It is dated February, 1931. Practically the whole of the trade in the lines made locally is held by the Australian manufacturers, although some goods which could be supplied from local sources are being imported, and it is with a view to stopping the importation of these goods that the extra 10 per cent, duty is proposed under sub-item 241 o 1. If, as has been stated, further facts have emerged, and improvements have occurred in manufacturing methods, the matter could again be referred to the Tariff Board ; but I point out that, after the board submitted its report, a Queensland firm - the Dinmore Pottery Company - stated’ that it was manufacturing the larger articles of sanitary ware included in sub-item 241 c 2. Th<~ company was requested to furnish a full statement of its case, which is necessary, of course, in all applications for tariff revision, and, although this information was requested in June last, no statement has yet been received. In these circumstances what are we to do? Statements made in this chamber should be definitely substantiated. I ask the committee to pass this sub-item; but, if honorable members can show that the local manufacturers are suffering from the effects of dumping, or are manufacturing on a different scale from formerly, employing new furnaces or kilns, this matter will be taken into account.
– I can give thu Minister a list of prices.
– The proper time for the consideration of prices is when a matter is before the Tariff Board; but, if these prices are sent to the department, I shall give them consideration, and, if a good case is made out, it will be reconsidered with a view to sending the matter back to the board for a further report.
– The Dinmore Pottery
Company informed me that it had presented it3 case to the Tariff Board through its representative in Sydney. Its failure to reply to correspondence from the department is explained by the fact that it had presented its case, not directly, but through an agent.
– I have already stated that, when a request- was made to the company in June last for certain information, no reply was received. If the company’s methods are a little lax, it cannot expect the duties to be altered al the last moment - on the matter being raised in this chamber. .
Mr. E. J. HARRISON (Wentworth) [4.55 J. - I draw the attention of the
Minister to the fact, on which he has not commented, that this industry has previously been threatened by outside interests. In February and March, 1925, a definite inquiry was made into the industry, and a dumping duty was imposed. The danger of dumping confronts the industry to-day, as has been proved conclusively by the prices quoted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). He said that, when the embargo was removed last year, the price of the article in popular demand in Australia was reduced from 13s. 9d. f.o.b. London to lis. f.o.b. London, less 5 per cent, and 2-J per cent, for London payment. The recent English prices show, without doubt, that articles similar to those being manufactured in this country are being dumped into Australia to the detriment of the local manufacturers. Again, I stress the fact that the published accounts of the two largest manufacturers in Sydney and Melbourne reveal heavy losses for the past two years. The English companies are au fait with the position of this industry in Australia, and they are now starting to exploit this market, with a view to crushing the local industry out of business. Honorable members will realize that competitors always work upon the lower-priced goods, which are the bread and butter lines. The Sydney manufacturers, to whom I have referred, have put in new plant costing £40,000, and they produce a fine grade of article. They cannot be expected to compete in the better grades of goods if they do not begin on the lower grades. If the Minister ,does not take this matter into immediate consideration, he will find that the local industry will be crushed, and the experience that it has gained will go for nought. The plant that it has imported and installed will be rendered idle, and its workmen will be thrown out of employment, although over 90 per cent, of the material used by it, is Australian. If this industry went out of existence, many other subsidiary industries would also be destroyed. We expect that, when prosperity returns, a fillip will be given to the building industry, and it would be disastrous if the stocks of sanitary ware were then found to be low. In view of the fact that this industry has made heavy losses in the past, aud that its competitors overseas threaten to smash it completely, I hope that the Minister will give the matter his earnest consideration.
– An article published in the Trade and Engineering Supplement of the London Times on the 10th September, 1932, stated that the removal of the import prohibitions in Australia against the importation of tiles and sanitary ware was most welcome news to the pottery industry. It was pointed out that each month Australia was taking ware valued at £26,810. The British Government has been asked by the British pottery industry to impose a 50 per cent, duty on pottery ware imported into Britain, or twice the rate imposed under the Australian tariff against British pottery.
.- An almost unanswerable case has been presented to the Minister; his indecision in the matter seems to suggest that there is greater merit in the representations we have made than the Minister is prepared to admit. In view of the definite proof that has been advanced as to the injury being done -to this industry through unfair competition from abroad, the Minister will, I trust, immediately give further consideration to the matter. It is incomprehensible why any government should be prepared to allow art industry, which has suffered severely through the depressed condition of the building trade, to be subjected to further disadvantages by reason of the unfair importation of the class of goods that they manufacture. The Government’s first duty is towards the Australian manufacturers, who are helping to relieve the unemployment problem. It should build up Australian industries, so that we may maintain a favorable trade balance. Instead, the Government is tinkering with the tariff, and endeavouring to ruin a valuable industry. If the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) fails to recognize the importance of assisting this and similar industries, he will quickly have brought home to him the disastrous effects which will result to those who are directly and indirectly engaged in them.
.- It is very gratifying to find that my proposals in connexion with this important item are being supported by some honorable members on this side who, as protectionists, usually vote the other way. The name of Fowlers Limited has been mentioned during this debate. That firm is of long standing in Sydney, and has a branch establishment in Melbourne. I agree that it is necessary that the pottery industry should be retained in Australia, where it has successfully operated. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) referred to the poor rates that are paid in this industry in the East. In that respect, the following press extract is interesting. It reads -
Where Children of Ten Work for 3d. a Day. “ It is difficult to see how the world is to compete with the East,” stated Mr. Cann, a Melbourne business man, who is returning home by the Changte after a visit to Japan.
In pottery works he saw in Nagoya, there were about 100 employees, and 75 were under 10 years of age, and earning about 3d. a day. “ They were just bits of kids,” said Mr. Can n.
I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance that he will watch the position closely. That press statement should convince the honorable gentleman that it is essential that this trade should be protected to enable it to continue to operate in Australia.
. - I point out that the item that we are discussing does not concern pottery in general, which has already been dealt with. This item includes earthenware, brownware and stoneware, also sanitary and lavatory articles of earthenware. One honorable member has referred to the losses made by certain companies. The pottery industry is ancillary to many brickworks. The building industry has slumped tremendously for some time, and is only now regaining stability ; therefore, it is only to be expected that brickworks should have suffered. I am unable to determine what the honorable . member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) meant by his threats or promises. I assure him that it is the desire of this Government to afford protection to Australian industries, and to preserve a balance, which may be a delicate one, changing from day to day, to get the best out of both primary and secondary industries in the matter of employment. The Government will use the Tariff Board to examine the activities of these industries from an economic point of view, for it is also determined to protect the interests of consumers. I gave honorable members an assurance that this industry is being watched. As there seems to he a fear that the Government is doing nothing, I amplify that assurance by stating that our customs officers in Great Britain are investigating the matter of eastern and other competition, and the possibility of dumping. If it is found that the overseas export price is lower than the manufacturers’ price in Australia, which is one of the conditions precedent to the application of a dumping duty, the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act will be brought into operation.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 242, sub-items (b) (c).
Glass, viz.: -
.- The Tariff Board has reported on the subject, and, as I want the matter to receive consideration, I move -
That sub-item (b) he amended by omitting “ 1933” with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ 1934”.
I have previously objected to the over large powers that are given to Ministers in the matter of deferring duties. Only a little while ago, I referred to a deferred duty in connexion with sheet glass, which originating in 1925 was re-deferred by proclamation every succeeding six months. The report of the Tariff Board states -
The deferred duties had been postponed from time to time on the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
I want that to sink into the minds of honorable members. The report continues - and were due on the 1st August, 1930, for consideration as to whether their operation was justified. However, six weeks before the date of deferment had expired, a tariff resolution was tabled providing duties identical with those of the deferred provisions. The proposal to impose the duties was not referred to the Tariff Board.
When the Government imposed a duty on tin plates, we received an assurance from the Minister that the matter would be referred to the Tariff Board. The honorable gentleman forgets that he will not always occupy his present portfolio, and that a successor might bring these duties into force. One has only to read the report of the Tariff Board to understand the difficulties to which Australian industries have to submit, because of the foolish actions of the Government. Only a couple of years ago, when in opposition, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) and the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) spoke on this subject much more strongly than I intend to do. The duties on sheet glass had been deferred to the 1st August, 1930. A statement made to me at the time, which was confirmed by two of the leading members of the present Govern ment, was to the effect that the Australian Glass Company purchased in Sydney practically all the available stocks of sheet glass, and that, shortly after, the duty was imposed. Consequently, that firm was in a position to take advantage of the act of the Government, and make great profits from the transaction. I consider that the whole thing was a scandal. The Tariff Board had recommended against the retention of the rates of duty operating prior to August, the main reason given being that local manufacturers were not in a position to produce the commodity commercially, nor was it clear when production on a commercial basis could be expected. Yet, in face of that report, the deferred duties were brought into force. The Tariff Board further reported that “ the rates of duty were so high that they would seriously add to the cost in Australia of an important commodity without commensurate advantages to Australia “. On the 1st September, 1932, the recommendation of the board was given effect by the Customs Tariff Proposals No. 6, and on the 23rd September, when the matter was again referred to the board, a proclamation was issued prohibiting the importation of plain sheet glass unless the consent in writing of the Minister for Trade and Customs had first been obtained. This Government, many supporters of which had spoken bitterly against the action of the previous Administration, gave an order prohibiting importations, and then essayed the difficult task of rationing supplies to importers who, in good faith, had ordered the commodity from abroad after finding that it could not be supplied locally. One witness, Mr. H. E. Ross, representing the Institute of Architects of New South Wales, declared that the glass manufactured by this Australian firm was good, but other expert witnesses before the board affirmed that it was inferior in quality. Retailers of glass throughout Australia have complained bitterly about its quality, and the difficulty in securing consignments. Many have stated that they were obliged to send the glass back because it was useless for their requirement’s.
– Are other testimonials as to its good quality false?
– Those testimonials come, for the most part, from a few people who use this glass for the growing of tomatoes. If honorable members would like to hear the views of some of the witnesses before the board as to the quality of the Australian glass I will satisfy them. Mr. L. F. Irwin, president of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and chairman, of the Building Industry Congress of Victoria, offered this opinion -
I should say that the Australian glass is the poorest glass I have ever seen of any quality or any standard. I have never seen such consistently poor glass as was presented to me at Brooks Robinson’s.
I have already mentioned that Mr. Ross, representing the institute of architects of New South Wales, expressed a favorable opinion about the quality of the Australian glass. This is what he said -
My examination was quite impartial in that respect, and it was comparative. . . . In making this comparison, I would like to say that I regarded the Australian-made glass which I investigated in sheets at the works - sheets picked at random and in many cases covered with dust the accumulation of some weeks - as being distinctly superior to the average of the not-identified imported glass.
I turu now to complaints made by those who had to sell this glass. There is no doubt that complaints have been very general about its quality and the difficulty of securing consignments. The Minister should have investigated this aspect of the industry before the new duties were imposed. Mr. J. M. Harvey, giving evidence on behalf of Clarkson Limited, of Adelaide, stated that immediately the Australian Window Glass Company commenced manufacturing his firm gave it a small order to test out quality and delivery. The order, which was given on the 2nd November, 1931, was for 112 boxes of sheet glass. Deliveries were made in the following order in 1932: - 17th June, 5 cases; 20th June, 21 cases; 30th June, 30 cases; 11th August, 43 cases; 19th August, 10 cases; Sth September, 10 cases, making a total of 119 cases. The summary of this transaction shows that, on the 26th October, 1931, the Australian Window Glass Company wrote promising delivery of sheet glass in November-December. Following this advice, his company, on the 2nd November, ordered 112 boxes of sheet glass. On the 28th November, and again on the Sth December, Clarkson Limited wrote to the Australian Glass Company stating that the stocks of glass were reduced to danger point, and that, in view of the company’s undertaking to give delivery, at the latest in December, Clarkson Limited had postponed placing orders oversea. On the 16th January, 1932, the manufacturers wrote stating that they were drawing glass on the 18th January, and would immediately send a representative shipment so that Clarkson’s could judge its quality. On the 27th January the company wrote definitely assuring Clarkson’s that the glass would be shipped on the 29th January. On the 15th February, Clarkson’s wrote stating that no glass had been received, and that the samples sent to the Adelaide branch were too small to form an opinion of the quality, but that the glass appeared to be very thick; anything up to 40 oz., and quite unsuitable.
I have on other occasions emphasized the danger of placing too much power in the hands of the Minister, particularly with respect to the imposition of embargoes. It has been stated that the Australian Window Glass Company threatened Belgian manufacturers that if it did not get the sole control of Belgian coloured glass in Australia, the company would induce the Commonwealth Government to impose an embargo on the importations of that kind of glass. This emphasizes the danger to which I have just alluded. I am not suggesting that any Minister for Customs has been in any way influenced in this matter, but what I have said shows clearly that the people generally know very little of what is being done in tariff matters in this country. The board’s report laid on the table in March, 1932, makes somewhat extended reference to this subject. It appears that Mr. W. C. Price, a tile merchant of Waverley, New South Wales, who opposed the request for increased duties on behalf of Comptoir des Verres opals, in evidence stated that, in 1929, Mr. Smith, of the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited, and Mr. Hession, an indent agent of Sydney, were in Belgium, and that, while there, Mr. Hession succeeded in obtaining the sole agency of Belgian opal glass in Australia. Subsequently, he transferred his sole selling rights to the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited. The board then goes on to say -
The allegations made implied that Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited, after having obtained control of the opal sheet glass trade, took advantage of the position to increase prices and to treat tilers and. merchants harshly. There was a veiled suggestion of an even more serious nature, namely, that the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited, being the only holders of stocks of imported opal glass, applied for a high protection on such glass, and was also instrumental in having opal glass placed on the list of prohibited imports.
In a later paragraph, the board said this -
Par more serious is the veiled suggestion that Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited, having become the holders of large stocks of opal sheet, secured a prohibition of imports. The allegation does not definitely say so, but the implication is fairly obvious. In this connexion, the board unhesitatingly believes Mr. Smith’s avowal that he was not instrumental in securing the prohibition of importations, and that he was not aware of the intention to prohibit the importation of the glass until the issue of the proclamation prohibiting importations was actually announced in the public press.
– That disposes of the veiled insinuations.
– I hope that the Government will alter its policy with regard to the rationing and restriction of imports of this very necessary commodity, because the events of the last few years have given the people an impression that certain sections of our trading community have obtained favours from governments. It is also indisputable that those traders who, following the lifting of the embargo last year, placed orders abroad for large quantities of glass, are now being severely penalized owing to the refusal of the Government to allow stocks to be released. The Minister should take an early opportunity to make an announcement of the Government’s policy in this important matter. Because of the difficulties which retailers have experienced in securing supplies from the Australian company, there is no justification whatever for government interference with importations.
– I have been informed that a deputation regarding this item is in Canberra, and to give it an opportunity to present its case, I move -
That the further consideration of the subitems, be postponed until after the remainder of group 6.
I shall reply to the points that have been raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), when the matter again comes up for discussion.
Motion agreed to.
Item 250, sub-items (b) (c) (e) (f) (Bottles, &c., of cut glass, glassware n.e.i., &c.).
.- The manufacture of cut glass is a new industry in Australia, and it is to be deplored that so few persons are aware of the wonderful development that, within a very brief period, has taken place in connexion with it. I inspected the industry when it employed only about a dozen persons. A few weeks ago, however, when I paid a further visit to it, I found that the number of employees had increased to over 200.
For four years the Australian Glass Company was engaged in the making of cut glass; but that operation was conducted at a loss until the duty of 35 per cent. British and 60 per cent. general was imposed. Within a period of six months from that date, the company employed 100 persons, and shortly afterwards that number was doubled. If the company could now be assured of the restoration of the duty of 35 per cent., it would fill another big workshop, and employ an additional 200 workers.
Cut glass is not an article that adds to the costs of production; it is a luxury line, and it is being produced and sold in Australia at a price that compares more than favorably with that of imported cut glass. I ask any honorable member to place side by side the best imported cut glass, and Crown crystal cut glass, and I venture to affirm that, in many cases, he would select the Australian article in preference to the best imported. Nothing that is produced in any other part of the world to-day can, for workmanship and appearance, surpass Australian cut glass. I confess that a little more than a year ago I was astonished at what was being turned out in this country. I know of persons in different States who, upon being shown the products of the Crown Crystal Glass Works, could not be convinced that they were made in Australia. The workmanship is excellent, and the quality of the crystal really superb. I am profoundly sorry that this industry has been interfered with, even to the extent of the reduction from 35 per cent, to 25 per cent. British. It is true that a number of our big competitors are established in foreign countries; but there is also serious competition from Great Britain. At the present time, the company which makes this cut glass says quite frankly that, with the advantage of the exchange rate, it can just about carry on. But its existence is entirely dependent upon exchange, and that is a precarious position for it to be in. I believe that it was the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) who said the other day that, in appealing for higher duties against the competition of other countries, we had developed an inferiority complex. I do not admit that that is so. But I do say that an inferiority complex lias been demonstrated by many of the critics of Australian industries, who will not believe that it is possible to produce in this country artistic articles of high quality. No firm would welcome more readily than this company a visit from honorable members; and, it would do everything possible to enable honorable members to see exactly how its operations are conducted. Many honorable members have no conception of the nature of those operations, and probably have not, to their knowledge, seen the work that is turned out. The pressed work is splendid, but I am concerned more with the cut glass, because of the artistic nature of that trade. It is an occupation that develops the very best qualities in the operatives. The employees work continuously on splendid designs, and with beautiful crystal, in the most expert manner. The labour costs represent a very large percentage of the total. In a small article, such as a vase or a fruit dish, the principal part of the cost is not in the material, although that is the finest crystal, but in the highly skilled labour that is employed in fashioning it. That should appeal to honorable members. In the past, those who have had the means to purchase costly presents, or something beautiful for their own homes, have been obliged to accept the imported article, for which an exceptional price was charged. To-day, there is no need to buy an imported piece of crystal, no matter what design or what degree of perfection is required. I speak with emphasis on this matter, because I was amazed at what had been done when I visited the factory, and was most pleasurably impressed recently at the advance that had been made within the last twelve months. The young men and women who are employed in these works have been taught by some of the masters of the art, who, in the initial stages, were brought to Australia from other parts of the world. The skill and the aptitude of these young Australians for the work is admirable. They are being trained in a beautiful occupation, which must elevate their outlook, and which saves them from the sordidness that, unfortunately, is encountered in many other occupations. Are we to leave to others the monopoly of the artistic and the beautiful? Is this country, or this Parliament, so devoid of imagination that it would permit this industry to be stagnant, and to go out of existence should the rate of exchange drop, with the result that 200 young persons, who have been trained at the expense of their own time and application, might be compelled to take up an occupation that does not call for the expression of the higher side of one’s nature? That will be the fate of an industry which has just been created, if we follow the lines that are suggested, merely for the sake of reducing the British duty by 10 per cent. Any lowering of the exchange rate must mark the difference between the success and the failure of the industry. I appeal to the Minister to look at this matter from an altogether different angle from that which he is warranted in viewing other cases. It is an industry that appeals to the aesthetic tastes of many thousands of our people, as well as to the idealism of the boys and girls who are engaged in it. I earnestly urge the Minister to ensure that the industry is placed on a sound foundation, and that a firm which has shown such enterprise, and taken such risks, is given an opportunity to expand and to employ a greater number of our young men and women.
.- The right honorable gentleman has paid what is undoubtedly a well-deserved tribute to the efficiency of this industry, and has also, on the. artistic side, made an eloquent appeal on its behalf. I submit, however, that other factors have to be considered. Questions affecting the tariff are mostly unromantic, and are concerned with pounds, shillings and pence. The Tariff Board is a body that takes those factors into account, in relation to Australia’s trade. It considers the nature and the extent of the employment, importations, and prices.
– What is the date of its last report?
– July, 1931.
– That should be noted.
– This industry comes under an item that is subsidiary to the item that has just been deferred at the request of a deputation that is now in Canberra. It is a subsidiary part of a very large industry; but, although small, it nevertheless is efficient and important.. Let us see what the Tariff Board says about it. That body deals with factors that must be taken into account before any appeal to our artistic sense. The board has reported as follows : -
The commercial manufacture of cut glass ware in Australia is rendered difficult by the wide range of designs and patterns called for, and the very limited demand for many of these.
That is the old story of the manufacturer who commences on one thing, with respect to which he wishes to have the field entirely to himself, and then sets out to cover the whole range of items. The report continues -
Evidence was tendered showing that the patterns displayed by some of the local representatives of overseas suppliers run into hundreds in the aggregate. In the opinion of the Tariff Board, it is not an economic proposition for a local manufacturer, with the restricted market at his disposal, to endeavour to produce all the lines for which there might arise a demand, but production should be concentrated on those goods which, by reason of tlie greater demand, offer opportunity for manufacture in reasonably large hantities and at reasonable costs.
There are no official figures from which Australia’s requirements can be definitelyascertained, but the local manufacturer at that time estimated their value at £15,000 per annum. The Tariff Board considered that that figure was approximately correct. At the time of the inquiry the Australian output was valued at only £1,500.
– That was the position two years ago.
– The industry has, undoubtedly, grown apace since then, probably because of the increasing demand for those articles which can be economically manufactured. The argument holds good that if the industry desires to cover the whole field of manufactured articles, including those not in general use, then it will become uneconomic, and its prices to the consumer will be increased. The board in its report says -
At the inquiry in 1929, Mr. Smith, who also represented the applicant company at the present inquiry, stated that his company did not anticipate being able to produce every line that might be required. He claimed, however, that the Australian manufacturers and the suppliers in the United Kingdom could, between them, meet all reasonable demands. In the opinion of the board, the attitude adopted by the applicant company at the inquiry in 1929, as indicated in the preceding paragraph, was reasonable, and is one that should still be applied. It is obvious that the Australian manufacturers will not be able to commercially produce all the varied types and patterns.
– That was the position four years ago.
– If the industry is destroyed, how can it produce any article commercially ?
– The duty is adequate to enable the industry to conduct the manufacture of certain lines, but so soon as it endeavours to cover the whole field of manufacture it will become uneconomic. The board further says -
At the same time it is considered by the board that, with a duty of 25 per cent., and the added protection in the form of freight and other charges (excluding exchange which at present represents an added measure of protection), the Australian manufacturers should be able to compete successfully against British manufacturers in many lines. With the duty at 25 per cent., the suppliers in the United Kingdom would be in a position to supply goods which do not lend themselves to economic production in Australia, and thus assist in providing the public with a reasonable diversity of articles and designs.
If we put aside the artistic appeal of the Leader of the Opposition and consider whether the industry is economic or not, and whether the consumer is being studied, I think we shall agree with the Tariff Board that the duties are sufficient. If they prove to be inadequate, and if the company can show that unemployment is a result, the matter will be reconsidered.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) advanced a good argument for a bad case. In reply to an interjection which I made during his speech, he said that prices overseas and local were comparable, but in saying that I do not know whether he took into consideration the duty and the exchange. He then upset his own argument by declaring that if the exchange fell, the industry would languish, and that if the protection given to it by his Government were restored, the number of employees engaged in the industry would increase. There is an aspect of this industry which this Parliament should take into consideration; it is not the aesthetic, but the financial aspect. We are short of revenue. The bulk of the importations of cut glass come from Belgium and countries with which we enjoy favorable trade. In one year Belgium bought £10,000,000 worth of goods from us, and we bought from it only £1,000,000 worth of goods. By continuing that favorable trade we shall employ more people in this country than by encouraging the manufacture of these articles. This National Parliament should take this matter into consideration. We must show countries like Belgium that we have some spirit of reciprocity. The manufacture of these articles in Australia employs but few workmen. We receive no customs revenue from local manufactures. If wc encourage the making of certain lines of cut glass in Australia we shall offend a valuable customer, and, in addition, pay higher prices for the finished article. I ask honorable members to consider dispassionately whether the development of this industry will help Australia.
– It will at any rate lessen the misery of unemployment in this country.
– The honorable member is always thinking along miserable lines. He is utterly incapable of dispassionately calculating the cost to Australia of developing this industry. We must take every factor into consideration. Can we afford to offend a customer like Belgium? The honorable member knows very well that if we shut out the goods of another country we are likely to bring about reprisals. If we encourage this industry, and, as a result, offend Belgium and other countries and lose their trade with us, shall wc be better off? I consider that the present duties are too great. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that the price of the local manufactures has not been increased. Let me inform him that the price of 8-oz. dispensing bottles for chemists is now 32s. a gross, whereas theprewar price was 12s. a gross. Some time ago, because of the imposition of duties, the price of the local article was increased to 32s. a gross. A manufacturer then set up in opposition to the glass company and sold these bottles at 18s. a gross. The glass company thereupon reduced its price to 14s:, and, later, to 13s. a gross. That forced the opposition manufacturer to close down, and then the glass company raised its price to 32s. a gross. The price of babies’ feeding bottles, pre-war, was 7s. 6d. a dozen wholesale and ls. each retail. The price to-day is 24s. a dozen wholesale and 2s. Gd. each retail. The “development of this industry is likely to impose a heavy burden upon those who require babies’ feeding bottles.
.- I have listened to the explanation of the Minister, and his reasons, which are rather ancient, for making a drastic reduction of the duties on cut glass, including bottles, decanters, flasks, jars, heat-resisting glassware and glassware, n.e.i. The duties imposed by the Scullin Government have been reduced, and it is only because of the protection of the exchange that the industry is able to continue. It is extraordinary that in dealing with cut glass the Minister has once more repeated the expression “ uneconomic “, which has been so freely used by the Tariff Board.
– That refers only to particular lines.
– I admit that the Minister applied that term to some of the lesser used articles. The report of the Tariff Board is several years old. The industry has made extraordinary progress. The Minister, when he is next in Sydney, should take the opportunity to see the out glass that is now being made in Australia. It is. not only of great beauty, but also covers an exceedingly large range. I am sure that when he views the locallymade articles he will not apply the term “ uneconomic “ to the industry. After all, it is quite different from other industries. It has much to do with the culture of the nation. Cut glass serves to adorn many humble homes in this country. The industry is of a highly artistic character, and it deserves all the protection that we can give to it. The Minister has admitted that the report of the Tariff Board is two years old. About seven years ago, I saw this industry in its initial stages. Two foreigners were teaching the trade to five Australians. In a comparatively small room, these men were laying the foundation of what has become an important industry to Australia. At that time, seven men were employed in it, but, to-day, employment is given to over 200 persons. The Australian product is of greater beauty than the imported article, whether it be made in Great Britain, France, or Belgium; and in workmanship is equal to it. That has been discovered, although belatedly, by those who are engaged in this particular line of business. The local raw materials which are used by this industry are apparently the main factor in giving to the locally-manufactured glass the clarity and beauty that it possesses. Some years ago, a Belgium barque came to Australia to load wheat, and those chartering the vessel thought that if would be an excellent proposition, to load it with Belgium sand for disposal to the glass manufacturers here. But when the sand ballast from Belgium was analysed and tested, it was found to be inferior to the Botany sand which was available in unlimited quantities at the door of the glassworks in Sydney. What applies to cut glass applies also to window and pressed glassware, and to the many ether lines produced in the glass factories of New South Wales. Even the Tariff Board, which in my opinion, has a biased and anti-Australian outlook, has conceded in its report that the Australian raw material and manufactured glass is just as good, from the point of view of texture and strength, as the imported article. The Minister stated that it would be uneconomic to produce the whole of our requirements in Australia. I do not pose as an expert, nor, I suppose, does the Minister, but after seeing the way in which the local industry has expanded from the manufacture of six or seven lines to the many hundreds it now makes, it seems evident that there is no line of cut glass for which a demand exists in Australia, which cannot be made here. If the 10 per cent, duty were restored, the company would be encouraged to expand its operations, and supply everything that the market could possibly require, from the elaborate bowls referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), on which the cost of labour is probably £10 or £12, down to a simple little butter bowl or candlestick. I cannot conceive of any ordinary article which cannot be manufactured in Australia. There is an army of men in the fitting shop and blacksmith shop of the factory, men who are artists in their way at the making of dies. Some are moulded, and some are cut with chisels. No matter what dies are required, they can be provided. No matter how small the order, dies can be cut to execute it at a cost which does not make the finished article prohibitive. I remind the Minister that this is a clean and healthy industry, employing men, youths and girls at good wages, under excellent conditions. I cannot agree with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who said that we should not offend other countries by declining to take their manufactures. Other countries desire to employ their own people, and we wish to do the same. I ask the Minister to postpone the item, with a view to re-imposing the 10 per cent. duty.
.- The Minister, in opposing the suggestion for the re-imposition of the duty, quoted portions of the Tariff Board’s report, and particularly stressed the statement that this industry had tried to cover the whole field, rather than confine itself to one particular line. The company set out to develop the industry. The extent to which its business can develop depends, naturally, on the population, and the ‘ demand for the articles which it produces. As the population of Australia is relatively 3maLl, the company had to install plant and equipment sufficient to produce a greater output than the Australian market can absorb. Therefore, it was necessary for the company to launch out in many directions in order to recoup itself. That is necessary in any industry, if wisely directed. In such circumstances, to depend on one line, especially when competition has to be faced, would be fatal. I believe that, if an industry is observing proper conditions of labour, it should be encouraged to expand until it can supply the whole of the Australian market, and if it does so, rather than being condemned, it should be commended and helped.
It has been said that the commodity turned out by this factory is a luxury, that it produces something which the bulk of the people do not need. If that be so, it seems to me that there is all the more reason why the Government should not hesitate to grant it sufficient protection to enable it to supply the Australian market. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) referred to Belgium, and said that we should not antagonize that country because it buys large quantities of our produce. But the more I study such matters, the more I am convinced that the policy of the various countries is dictated by economic factors.
– Less than 3 per cent, of our consumption of cut glass comes from Belgium.
– That may be so. Still every country is striving to protect the interest of its own people in economic matters, and I believe that Australia should do the same, both in regard to primary and to secondary industries. It has been said that Belgium takes from us large quantities of our primary products. As a matter of fact, she takes from us only what it pays her commercially to buy. If she could get her requirements more cheaply and of a satisfactory quality from the Argentine or from Russia, or elsewhere, she would do so. Belgium has no particular liking for us. Her trade with us is a purely business matter, and she will continue to buy from us only so long as it may suit her to do so. It is not likely that we shall be able to increase our exports to Belgium by agreeing to buy glass from her, because the markets of the world are already over stocked with the commodities we produce. We read almost daily of proposals for restricting the export of butter, eggs, wheat, &c. The object of those putting forward such proposals is to prevent market gluts, and to stabilize prices at a level which will cover the cost of production.
Another argument advanced by some honorable members opposite is that the importation of goods from overseas assists our revenue through the duties paid upon them. We should not have single-track minds in regard to revenue, any more than in regard to other things. What is the use of getting revenue through customs duties if we have to pay out all of it and more by way of food relief? Revenue is collected from many sources, and I think that it is better that it should be collected from our own thriving industries than on overseas goods if our own people are to be thrown out of employment as a consequence. Employment must be stimulated if the economic life of the country is to be healthy, and to stimulate employment we must encourage local industry. It is clear, therefore, that, from all points of view, this industry should be protected, perhaps more than many others which have received consideration in this chamber.
The company itself has admitted that certain lines are not yet manufactured in this country, and that is only natural.
– They will be manufactured if the company is given a chance.
– That is so. If an industry is not given sufficient protection to enable it to expand and develop, it will never have any incentive to produce all that is necessary to supply the local market. Recently, some members of my family made a careful examination in the shops of’ cut-glass goods, and agreed that the Australian product was equal to, if not better than, anything imported. That is a tribute to the local manufacturers, a tribute to their workmanship, and to their designing. One honorable member said that -we should regard these matters from the point of view of £ s. and that there was no sentiment in business. I think that we may fairly claim that there is a great deal of sentiment in these matters, that most of us are prepared even to make some sacrifice to encourage Australian industry. In my opinion, a case has been made out for a protective duty on these goods, and I urge the Minister to give consideration to it.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
. -A good case has been made out for retaining the duty on cut glass. Those who invest large sums of money in new manufacturing enterprises have to overcome many obstacles before their industries are established, and it is the duty of Parliament to give to them reasonable consideration. Germany and America, by the protection of their industries, have become two of the most important trading nations. Over £500,000,000 is invested in Australian secondary industries, and it is well to remember that Ave rely on them for the major portion of taxation, and for the continuation of employment. Approximately £2,000,000 has been invested in the development of the glass industry. Prior to the depression, it employed about 2,400 persons. At present, the number is reduced to 2,000, but when normal conditions return, it is expected that the industry will employ 3,000 hands, and pay in wages approximately £600,000 a year. The glass industry deserves support because 95 per cent, of the materials it uses are of Australian origin. Of the quality of its products there can be no doubt. Australian cut glass compares favorably with the imported, and, as invariably happens, Australian production has brought about a reduction of prices. I have seen many fancy containers manufactured by the Australian firm, which has helped other industries to obtain the local market for their products. British industries are asking Australia to lower .the duties on their products. That is a legitimate request, but the United Kingdom is itself busy erecting tariff walls. British manufacturers are asking that the duties on pottery imported into the United Kingdom be raised from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent., and on hats, they want a duty of 50 per cent. While we are reducing the duties on British goods, Great Britain is increasing the rates on those commodities which compete with its manufacturers. There is an agitation for a tariff truce throughout the world, but Australia must not take the risk of being slaughtered for the sake of economic peace. If honorable members will inspect the glass works in Sydney, they will be impressed with the quality of the articles produced there. These products are obliged to compete with goods from countries where wages are lower, and labour conditions are not governed by arbitration courts. If the former duty of 35 per cent, is restored, the Australian industry will have a chance to become firmly established, maintain employment, and keep in circulation the money invested in it.
.- A display of cut glass, which I witnessed in Sydney recently, was one of the most delightful exhibitions of Australian craftsmanship that I have been privileged to see. The samples were proof of technical skill and artistic taste of a high order. We should do nothing that will impede the development of an industry that affords scope for the artistic capabilities of our artisans. If the Government persists in reducing the tariff protection by 10 per cent., this new industry will suffer seriously. Those who have been sufficiently enterprising to invest their money in cut glass production, regarded it at first as only a side line to the main glass industry, and the maximum number of persons employed was 17 ; but. when adequate protection was given in the Scullin schedule, the industry developed rapidly, and the number of persons engaged in the production of crystal ware increased first to 100, and later to 200. If the duties are reduced by 10 per cent., this valuable industry may be lost to Australia. We can ill afford to lose a craft which will provide an opportunity for our young people to express both their skill and their artistry. Belgium has won world-wide appreciation of the skill of its people in the production of cut glass, which has become one of the important industries of that country. I hope that the Minister will not be unmindful of the special features of this enterprise, especially the fact that it calls for a high degree of skill and aesthetic expression. I ask him to assure the committee that he will relieve the manufacturers of their present feeling of insecurity and encourage them to extend their enterprise.
– I also urge the Minister to reconsider the duties on this item. The production of cut glass is a comparatively minor phase of a large industry, but often the subsidiary industries help to make the major enterprises with which they are associated profitable by lowering the overhead costs, keeping the staff employed, and obviating broken time. Apart from that, the production of crystalware is a very artistic craft. There are in every community persons who are unfitted for arduous toil. Those who have had industrial experience will admit that it is difficult to find outlets for males and females who, though not physically strong, have a capacity for the skilled and artistic crafts. This industry provides openings of a kind that are needed, and we should develop it. It is an enterprise that can be encouraged without prejudice to the general tariff policy to which the Government is pledged. I appreciate the views of those who resist highly protective duties which make more costly the implements of primary production, and the raw materials of other industries. But crystalware is not a tool of trade, it has no bearing upon the production costs of the farmer, and it is not the raw material of other manufactures. The Minister has not been as generous to the cut glass industry as he might have been. For instance, he based his case on the state of the industry two or three years ago, when it was still in its infancy. How could those who were then embarking upon it boast of what they might be able to do in a few years ? The Minister should judge the industry by its present stage of development and its possibilities. He might also ask whether it has detrimentally affected any other industry. Some erroneous statements have been made regarding the prices of the local product. Many people believe that if imports were allowed in free of duty, prices would be lower than when the Government is trying to protect a struggling local industry. That certainly is not true of the cut glass industry. I am certain that prior to the commencement of local production, cut glass was much more expensive than it is to-day. We have had similar experience of many other commodities, especially those which are a luxury rather than a necessity. If we compare a cut-glass price-list of two or three years ago with a current price-list, we shall find that prices were higher when we were at the mercy of the importers than they are to-day. We should be proud of the cut-glass industry of New South Wales. I have not been through the factories of that State, but in Melbourne showrooms I have seen some of the articles made in those factories, and they are of very high quality. If a little additional protection for this industry would be prejudicial to any other industry I could understand the attitude of the Minister; but that is not the case. The Minister has frequently said - and in 99 cases out of 100 I would agree with him - that industry cannot be conducted on the basis of sentiment. An industry which supplies the raw material of some other industry, or articles which are necessaries of life, cannot, of course, be conducted on sentiment; but, in this case, there is room for a little sentiment. Our chief competitors are the cut-glass manufacturers of Czechoslovakia and other European countries. I have sat at conference tables, and in banqueting halls, with the representatives of other nations, and I have frequently heard it said of the United States of America, “ What price 100 per cent. U.S.A.?” Canadians have said the same thing. To-day it is common for German artisans to say, “ What price 100 per cent. Germany ?” The same thing is being said by Italians. In these circumstances I ask, particularly as we are dealing with an industry which is developing the artistic taste of our people, “What price 100 per cent. Australia ?” I agree with the view that has been expressed that it is desirable to encourage trade among the nations which comprise the British Commonwealth; but I do not see any reason why we should not also give a little additional encouragement to our cut-glass industry, which, after several years of struggle, has demonstrated its capacity to provide a highgrade article. There is no reason why we should reduce the duty by 10 per cent., in order to placate a small minority who are insistent that the terms of the Ottawa agreement shall be rigidly applied to every industry, irrespective of its circumstances. The competition we meet from the British manufacturers of cut glass is not dangerous; but that which we have to face from Czechoslovakian, Belgian, and Swedish manufacturers is serious. If we could obtain the products of those people in Australia at anything like, the cost of manufacture in the country of origin, I could understand the opposition to a restoration of this duty to the old figure ; but that is not the case. We know very well that the products of countries which specialize in certain lines are not available in other countries as a general rule, except on a competitive basis. If we are not manufacturing these articles in Australia we have to pay the price that it would cost to make them here. The Minister has remarked several times during this debate that this small industry is efficient and progressive. Why, therefore, should he run the risk of hindering its progress? The shareholders who invested their money in these enterprises are surely worthy of some consideration ! No argument has been used which really justifies a reduction of the British duty from 35 per cent, to 25 per cent. This industry has passed through a probationary period, and proved itself. A few years ago I protested against the admission into Australia of a number of Czechoslovakian crystal-glass experts and their families because of the state of tha local unemployment market. These tradesmen were being brought to Australia to teach our people this industry. I freely admit now that I was short-sighted in objecting to their admission, for they have taught our own workmen this trade, and have found them to be such apt students that the ordinary layman would not bc able to distinguish goblets cut by Australian tradesmen from those cut by the Czechoslovakians. In these circumstances, I urge the Minister to reconsider this duty. If the reduction of 10 per cent, is restored, no one will be injured, and the industry itself will be helped. The reduction of the duty cannot be interpreted as a gesture of friendliness towards Great Britain Canada, Newfoundland, or .South Africa, for we do not obtain our imported cut glass from those countries. In these circumstances, I plead with the Minister to accept the slogan, “ What price 100 per cent. Australia ?” in this instance. The honorable gentleman has in the past shown that he is a good Australian. His deeds have proved it. I ask him, therefore, to display a little sentiment in favour of this artistic industry. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has on several occasions during the debate on this schedule argued that it is not fair to protect small secondary industries at the cost of large primary industries, particularly when the small industries are producing commodities which are necessary to the large industries ; but that is not the case in this instance.
– But the Belgian trade with Australia, which amounts to £9,000,000 per annum, is worth something to us.
– No one is suggesting that we buy £9,000,000 worth of crystal glassware from Belgium every year. I appeal to the Minister to show himself to be a big Australian by restoring the 10 per cent, which has been taken off the British duty on cut glass.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has based a good deal of his argument on the statement that we should not allow cut glass made in foreign countries to compete against the Australian article. I remind him that the foreign duty is the same now as it was when the Scullin Government was in office. It is useless for him, therefore, to discuss this industry from that aspect. The honorable member observed that my criticism of the industry was based on a statement of the managing director of a company which did not have relation to the cut-glass section, because the statement was made some years before this industry was born. I remind him that the statement of the managing director which I quoted begins with the words -
The commercial manufacture of cut glassware in Australia is rendered difficult by the wide range of designs and patterns called for and the very limited demand for many of these.
The report of the Tariff Board states -
In the opinion of the Tariff Board, it is not an economic proposition for a local manufacturer with a restricted market at his disposal to endeavour to produce all the lines for which there might arise a demand.
The honorable member will, I think, admit that I said that the industry has made some progress since that report was furnished. I do not desire my remarks to be misinterpreted. I said that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) had made an eloquent speech, in the course of which he had observed that we should consider the artistic nature of this industry. I did not use the word “sentiment”: but since the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has used it, I shall say that sentiment should enter into trade considerations. If it were not for sentiment this Government would not be seeking to give such full effect to the Ottawa agreement, which also is soundly based commercially. It would be a good thing if honorable members opposite displayed a little more sentiment in their consideration of tariff matters and trade generally.
– Does the Minister think that we should put Australia last?
– Certainly not. The honorable member asked me to be a big Australian. Does he suggest that I am a little Australian? It must be recognized in these days that it is a fallacy for any nation to think that it can live to itself. The United States of America, with all its wealth and resources, tried to do so, and is to-day paying the price of its economic folly. Apparently, the lesson which the United States of America has learnt has not yet been mastered by some honorable gentlemen opposite.
Telling hard-luck stories about this or any other industry and expecting the Government to be influenced by them is useless. We shall not suddenly reverse our tariff policy in response to special pleading of that nature. The Tariff Board has made an inquiry into this industry, and the duties now proposed have been determined in consequence of its report. I remind honorable members that no protest has been made by. this industry against the reduction of 10 per cent, in the British duty. If the industry were in jeopardy, it would undoubtedly utter a protest. If circumstances have altered to any extent recently, and this is proved to the satisfaction of the Customs Department, the Tariff Board will be asked to reconsider the duties.
.- I desire to reply briefly to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who made some comment about the value of the goods we purchase from certain countries and the value of the goods we sell to them. When it suits the honorable gentleman, he uses arguments of that kind to advance his extraordinarily narrow freetrade views;, but he sat silently behind a government which, for many years, was satisfied to sell four or five times as much to Belgium, for instance, as we bought from her. Yet the honorable gentleman is now prepared to criticize that policy. It gives him, of course!; an opportunity to express his peculiarly warped ideas in regard to Australian industry generally. The honorable member now suggests that any increase in the duty on cut glass might seriously affect the trade relations between Belgium and Australia. That suggestion is absurd, because most of thecut glass imported into Australia comes, not from Belgium, but from the United Kingdom, Germany and Czechoslovakia. This industry can be given adequate protection without there being any risk of incurring the displeasure of Belgium ; but whether or not our action offends Belgium, I believe in protecting Australian industries. The members of the Australian Imperial Force rendered a great service to Belgium not many years ago, and I feel sure that that country docs not expect that we should break down our tariff barriers and injure our industries and the workers therein. The Crown Crystal Glass Company, which does practically the whole of the cut glass work performed in Australia, is located in my electorate, but I am not interested in this industry solely on that account. I am as ready to assist the wheat-growers in the electorate of Forrest as I am to protect an’ industry in my own electorate. I prefer to take a broad view of Australian industries rather than adopt the pettifogging attitude of the honorable, member for Forrest. The glass industry in Australia has made great progress as a result of the Scullin duties ; it has provided employment for hundreds of Australian bread-winners, as well as for scores of young people of both sexes. I endorse the remarks of honorablemembers on this side of the chamber in relation to this industry, and, like them, I hope that the Minister will restore the duties to the rates which operated under the Scullin tariff.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 251 (a) and 262 (b1) (c) (d) agreed to.
Division 9. - Drugs and Chemicals
Item 281, sub-item (a3) agreed to.
Division 10. - Wood, Wicker and Cane
Items 298 (b) and 299 (b) agreed to. Item 306-
Photograph frames, stands for pictures, and picture frames, on pictures or otherwise, of any material -
Amendment (by Mr. Guy) agreed to -
That that portion of the Tariff Resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to item 306 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of item 306 of the Tariff Resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
– I shouldbe glad if the Minister would explain this big reduction in the duties. Why should the duties on picture frames be reduced by 20 per cent. since these goods can be manufactured in Australia? I fear that the lowering of the duties will injure the local industry.
.- The ad valorem rates of duty proposed are based on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, but the fixed rate margin of1s. each, operating at the time that the Ottawa agreement was signed on those frames the value of which for duty exceeds1s. 6d. each, has been maintained. That is a protection which is not apparent at first sight. These goods cost from 6d. to a few shillings each wholesale, so that a fixed duty of 3s. each British, and 4s. foreign, was altogether too high; in some cases, it represented 315 per cent. There is no reason why the manufacturers of metal picture frames should be granted a greater measure of protection than is given to other metal manufacturers, in whose case the duties are from 35 per cent. to 45 per cent. against British manufacturers. The rates of duty previously in operation in respect of these sub-items were altogether out of proportion. The Tariff Board investigated this matter, and recommended duties which I consider are adequate.
– What is the position in respect of wooden frames?
– The Tariff Board does not anticipate that there is any danger there. The metal frames are stamped.
.- I challenge the concluding remarks of the Minister (Mr. White) for I have figures which justify the fears of those engaged in the manufacture of photograph frames and picture frames. For the three years ended June, 1930, frames to the f.o.b. value of over £20,000 were imported from the United States of America. In view of the low price at which they were invoiced, it is evident that we imported not less than 200,000 frames, which, if made in Australia, would have provided continuous employment for at least 100 operatives at an average wage of £3 10s. a week. The Minister was wrong when he said that this industry need not fear overseas competition.
– What was the duty during the years referred to?
– The rates were practically the same as now proposed; they were lower than those imposed under the Scullin Government’s tariff. This industry should be safeguarded. Although the Australian manufacturers of picture frames informed the Tariff Board that competitors in the United States of America were making a strong bid for the Australian market, their appeal for adequate protection fell on deaf ears. The competition of British manufacturers has been confined almost entirely to metal frames. Britain cannot have it both ways. Australian metal frame makers use British raw materials, such as tin plates, steel and rivets. The claim of this industry for a continuance of the protection it received in the past should be recognized.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) should bring his information up to date. The Tariff Board’s report on this item contains figures which should convince the honorable member. Why is it that the people concerned supply figures to honorable members but not to the Tariff Board?
– Why are we here?
– Figures quoted almost at random at the last moment are not likely to influence the Government. In February of this year the Tariff Board reported -
No evidence was given at either place of hearing in support of higher duties in respect of the frames other than oval in shape. In Melbourne, no witness supported higher duties in respect of any frames other than metal. . . The board considers that there is no justification for the imposition of duties higher than45 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and65 per cent. (general tariff). These rates exceed by 10 per cent. under the British preferential tariff, and15 per cent. under the general tariff the duties under which the furniture industry has for many years been successfully operating.
The inquiry conducted by the Tariff Board was most thorough, and it is now somewhat late for honorable members to bring forward such arguments as are now being advanced.
– We have just arrived at a decision on a report of the Tariff Board two years old.
– If the industry would furnish statements sufficient to establish a prima facie case the question could again be referred to the Tariff Board, but in this instance the board’s inquiry has been held only recently.
– It would appear that the representations put forward by honorable members are of no avail.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Division 11. - Jewellery and Fancy Goods
Item 319 (a5, 6) agreed to.
Division 12. - Hides, Leather, and Rubber
Item 332, sub-items (a) (b) - as to part- (c) (f) (g)-
Amendments (by Mr. Guy) agreed to -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the8th March. 1933, relating to sub-item (a) of item 332, be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of sub-item (a) of item 332 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
That sub-item (b) be amended by adding the following: - “and on and after the 9th March, 1933 -
Infants’ soothers and teats; valves and nipples for bottles, ad valorem - British, 25 per cent.; general, 424 per cent.”
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the8th March,1933. relating to sub-item (c) of item 332he incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of sub-item (c) of item 332 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 8th March, 1933. relating to sub-item (g) of item 332 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933. in lieu of sub-item (g) of item 332 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
Sub-items, as amended, agreed to.
Item 333, sub-item (a1) (Pneumatic rubber tyres and tubes).
.- In the case of pneumatic rubber tyres and tubes, fixed rates of duty are imposed, or, alternatively, ad valorem duties, whichever return the higher amount. I do not know why the Government has agreed to the imposition of these duties, which, in my opinion, will mean an increase of prices. When the committee of economists was appointed by the Bruce-Page Government, it made special investigations regarding the effect of the tariff in Australia, and one of the appendices published at the end of the economists’ report dealt with the value of the duties and the amount paid in wages and salaries in the rubber-manufacturing industry. It was pointed out that the salaries and wages amounted to £1,300,000, and that the value of the duties imposed was £2,100,000. In other words, the value of the duties, assuming that advantage was taken of them, was £800,000 greater than the total amount spent in salaries and wages. I notice that heavy duties are to be imposed on all rubber goods that may be required for medical purposes. Of course, the poor people will be called upon to pay. A considerable reduction has taken place in the cost of labour in the rubber-manufacturing industry, and the general impression that I have gathered from the reports of the Perth Chamber of Manufactures is that agreements have been made among the manufacturers in regard to the prices charged by them, and that most of the profits made in the industry go out of the country. It seems strange that, something cannot be done in the direction of reducing the duties, and placing the industry on a competitive basis.
.- The provisions in the Industries Preservation Act have been applied to bicycle tyres and tubes, the importation of which is practically prohibited. The fixed duties of 9d. and1s. 3d. apply if they are higher than the ad valorem duties, and the particularly unreasonable tariff of 25 per cent. is given to the local manufacturer against the British manufacturer, and a duty of 42½ per cent. is provided against , the foreigner. But, with that prohibition, through the tariff, bringing in its train combines and monopolies in the industry, I wish to know if the Minister can say if there is any provision for the control of prices, or for protecting the public from exploitation. In spite of the Low price of rubber, and the reduction of wages and of interest rates, the prices of tubes were recently raised by from 48 per cent. to 50 per cent. It is this prohibition by means of a “ tariff which allows the local monopoly to obtain, by the fixation of prices, higher rates than are reasonable. The local prices are above those at which similar goods could be imported were it not for the tariff. In March, 1932, certain tubes were sold at 8s. 6d. each, and in August of that year, the price was raised to 12s. The price of other tubes that were 9s. 9d. was raised to 13s. 6d., and the price of 13s. tubes was increased to 19s. 6d. In some other cases, the increase was 15 per cent. Increases of 48 per cent. and 50 per cent. in the price of tubes, which is possible because of the tariff, ought to be looked into, and the Government, which is the custodian of the rights of the people, should see that the manufacturers do not combine and exploit the public.
– It should be remembered that the manufacturers have to pay a duty of 4d. per lb. on crude rubber, a commodity which is not produced in Australia; and the fact has also to be remembered that the overseas competitors of the Australian manufacturers obtain their raw material free of duty. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) mentioned that the Australian rubber industry paid £800,000 a year less on salaries and wages than the value of the duties imposed on rubber goods ; but I point out that one of the companies pays to the Commonwealth, in taxation alone, £400,000 a year, a great proportion of which consists of customs duties.
– Honorable members have apparently overlooked the fact that this sub-item refers only to bicycle tyres and tubes, and not to motor tyres and tubes. The manufacture of the tubes referred to constitutes a branch of anexceedingly large industry. As the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) has remarked, it shouldbe remembered that a revenue duty of 4d. per lb. is payed on the crude rubber used by the industry in Australia.
– But it does not require a duty of 9d. per lb. to protect a thing which costs 4d. per lb.
– But does one pound of crude rubber go into a bicycle tyre? For the benefit of honorable members who think that the duty is not low enough, I point out that, compared with the previous Government’s proposals, the proposed rates represent a 50 per cent. reduction, the previous Government’s proposed rates being1s. 6d. per lb. British preferential, and 2s. 6d. per lb. general. Prior to the imposition of the additional duties, the local manufacturers were experiencing competition from low-priced cycle covers from Holland, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom. The covers imported from those countries were unguaranteed, and, in order to meet such competition, the local manufacturers brought out an unguaranteed cover, which was retailed at from 4s. 6d. to 5s. each. The price of the imported unguaranteed tyro was slightly less, and the Australian manufacturer was losing business. With the advent of the prohibitive duties, the manufacture of the unguaranteed cycle cover in Australia ceased, and the lowest price at which a cover could be purchased was 7s. A substantial demand had existed for the cheaper type of cover, and the opportunity previously afforded to the public making their purchases between guaranteed and unguaranteed covers no longer existed. The trade in those covers became monopolized, and this state of affairs is directly attributable to the increased duty. In summing up against the increased duties imposed by the last Administration, the Tariff Board states that the Australian manufacturers have secured over 80 per cent. of the local market for the tyres under consideration, with the ad valorem duties operating previous to the tariff resolution of the 19th June, 1930. The board states that the duties are scientifically worked out, and are adequate to place the industry on a competitive basis.
Sub-item agreed to.
Division 13. - Paper and Stationery.
Item 341 agreed to.
Black printing ink, the current domestic value of which in the country of export does not exceed6d. per lb., in packages containing not less than1 cwt., per lb., British, 2d.; general, 3d.; or ad valorem, British, 50 per cent.; general, 70 per cent.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Amendment (by Mr. Guy) agreed to -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 8th March, 1933, relating toitem 342,. be incorporated in the present proposals as and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of item 342 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
.- This item covers black printing ink, commonly known as news ink, which is used by the daily and other newspapers in various types of newspaper printing machines. It was not until June, 1930, that an alternative basis of protection was provided, and it was effective particularly against the United States of America, which was previously the principal competitor of Australian ink manufacturers. For a period of ten years, the local industry has been carried on; but it was not until effect was given to the last Government’s tariff proposals that the industry was able so to establish itself as to be able to supply practically the whole of the requirements of the Australian market. No complaint is made concerning the quality of the ink supplied by the local manufacturers, or regarding their ability to meet Australia’s requirements of this class of ink. It is remarkable that the Government should seek to imperil an industry that has proved itself capable of supplying Australian requirements when assisted by the duties provided in the Scullin schedule. There is grave doubt whether it can continue to do so with lowered duties, and every prospect that manufacturers of the United States of America will encroach upon our market, to the disadvantage of Australian manufacturers. I remind the Minister that, in addition to the principal industry, allied trades will be affected, such as those which supply containers for the ink, also oil and varnish manufacturers who supply commodities required in the manufacture of containers. The alteration will affect quite a number who depend upon the industry for employment. The manufacture of printing ink can be carried on successfully only under bulk production conditions, which will not be possible if the Government opens the door to competition from abroad. The finding of the Tariff Board seems to me to be illogical for, while admitting that the previous rate of duty had enabled the industry to become established and supply a satisfactory article without increasing the price to the consumer, it recommended a reduction of duty, fearing that the higher rate might result in increased prices to the consumer! The action of the Government is a poor compliment to the enterprise and service of those connected with the industry.
.- The Tariff Board is satisfied that the high rate of duty proposed by the Scullin Government was not required to protect the industry. In the opening paragraph of its report the board states that it considers that customs duties should not be required to protect an efficient manufacturer. In this instance local manufacturers enjoy 98 per cent, of the available trade, for which 75 per cent, of the materials that are needed are imported. Consequently, the labour involved is small.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 343 (Printing and stencilling inks, n.e.i.).
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) on the last item, apply equally well to this one. The Minister suggested that importations of these commodities are so small that the matter is not worth bothering about. The trouble is that if we encourage such importations they will amount, in the aggregate, to a substantial volume, and we shall find ourselves reverting to the wicked old days when our imports greatly exceeded our exports. The Australian requirements of printing and stencil ink amount, roughly, to about £2,000 per annum, and there are at least twelve firms engaged in the manufacture of these inks in this country, one of which has been established over 60 years; therefore, healthy competition exists. ‘ Notwithstanding the increase of duty there has been no increase in the price of these commodities. When the Tariff Board inquired into the matter some time back no evidence was advanced against the Scullin duties either by the importers or consumers, which suggests that both parties are satisfied with the quality and price of the local product. We should not encourage unnecessary importations, for the consequences will be serious. I. hope that the Minister will consider the advisability of reverting to the duties provided in the Scullin schedule.
– Australian manufacturers are supplying approximately 77 per cent, of the local requirements of printing and stencilling inks, and the investigations of the Tariff Board indicated that the same position existed under the 1921-30 rates, showing that the prohibitive duties imposed by the last Government did not stimulate the industry. The board’s examination of the balance-sheets of a group of Australian companies engaged in the production of ink revealed that the prices at which the ink was sold enabled the group, taken collectively, to earn net profits amounting to 24 per cent, in 1928-29 on the aggregate capital employed in the ink section of that business. The board, therefore, concluded that if manufacturers were prepared to reduce their selling prices they could serve a greater proportion of the market and still earn good profits. The attitude of manufacturers of stencilling ink towards the inquiry of the Tariff Board led that body to conclude that they were satisfied with the protection afforded by the duties under the 1929-30 tariff. In considering these matters, the board bears in mind the price to consumers as well as the all-important factor of the value of these industries to Australia.
Item agreed to.
Division 14.- Vehicles.
Item 359, sub-item (b2) agreed to.
Division 16. - Miscellaneous.
Item 374, sub-item (d2, 3) -
Packings, viz.: -
Amendment (by Mr. Guy) agreed to -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on8th March, 1933, relating to paragraphs 2 and 3 of sub-item (d) of item 374, be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of paragraphs 2 and 3 of sub-item (d) of item 374 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
Paragraphs, as amended, agreed to.
Item 376, sub-items (b) (e) (f) -
Bags, baskets, boxes, cases, trunks, purses, wallets, with or without fittings, viz.: -
Bags, hand, n.e.i., sporting, travelling, baskets, sporting, travelling, picnic; cases, toilet, dressing, travelling; trunks, travelling; companions, reticules, satchels, valises - ad val., British 50 per cent.; general, 70 per cent.
Amendment (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to sub-item (b) of item 376 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of sub-item (b) of item 376 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
.- The manufacture of travelling bags falls into two categ6ries, one consisting of fibre cases and the other of leather cases and trunks. Fibre sheets needed for the manufacture of suit-cases became available in Australia twenty years ago. Previously great quantities of matting hampers and suit-cases were imported from Japan. The industry has developed quickly in Australia, and it must be said to its credit that, by sheer merit, it has established a reputation for the superior appearance and excellent wearing quality of its manufactures and for comparative cheapness as against the imported article. It is believed that if the proposed reduction of duties is made the travel goods industry will receive a serious setback. For a period of years the industry has had a lean time, and now, when there is every hope of a revival of trade, there is tobe a reversion to the duties of 1928-29, with the result that orders will be diverted to overseas manufacturers. There are 23 firms manufacturing these goods in Australia, so that the importance of the industry will be recognized. The likelihood of Japan endeavouring to reestablish itself on the Australian market in this connexion is not mythical or uncertain. It is definite that that will be the result if this amendment is accepted, for Japan will have the advantage of lower duties coupled with the added advantage of the rate of exchange and the suspension of the 50 per cent. surcharge. Those who desire to retain Australian trade within the Commonwealth will view the proposal with concern, for the industry offers a suitable opening for many Australians to secure a desirable class of employment. I ask the Minister to assure the committee that he will do everything he can to discourage the foreign importation of these articles, and that he will have the item reviewed should that competition become a serious menace to Australian industry. The departmental ruling that shopping bags are to be classified under sub-item b, has created a glaring anomaly which I desire to bring to the notice of the Minister. They are essentially hand bags, but some are made in combination form. Japanese shopping bags are being dumped on the Australian market at prices which, if unchecked, will ruin this side of the Australian bag industry. It is contended that if they are classified, as they should be, under sub-item a, Japanese imports will be met satisfactorily. I, therefore, strongly urge that the present departmental ruling be altered, and that shopping bags be classified in the manner suggested; also that Japanese prices be checked, and that such goods be entered for customs at their correct market value. I shall be glad if the Minister will give me an assurance that the departmental ruling will be reviewed along the lines suggested so that unfair competition from Japan may be met.
– This sub-item deals with a most important branch of the Australian bag industry. I am informed that 23 firms are engaged in the manufacture of these bags, and that their wages bill is approximately £250,000 a year. The manufacturers quite fairly ask that wardrobe trunk fitting3 should be admitted under departmental by-law, in view of the fact that they are not made in this country, or in the United Kingdom, and their further request, that shopping bags be classified under 376 a, is also a reasonable one.
Amendment agreed to.
– As the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) touches an important side of the bag industry, I remind the committee that certain lines of bags were dealt with in group 5. If honorable members will turn to that portion of the schedule, they will find that the local industry is adequately protected, the ad valorem duties being 50 per cent. British, and 70 per cent, general. The only lines that come under this heading are suit and attache cases, fibre-board cases, and wardrobe trunks, some of which are made only to a limited extent in Australia. An investigation by the board disclosed that the selling price of Australian cases was two and a half times higher than the price for similar cases in England, without taking in to account the exchange and wages conditions. With regard to wardrobe trunks, it was found that the Australian cost of production was 240 per cent, more than the English selling price. The board, therefore, considered that a satisfactory industry in that line could not be established with the cost of production at such a high level. Subitem b covers many other classes of bags and cases than those just mentioned ; and as the local manufacturers did not attend the inquiry, the board assumed that they were satisfied with the duties imposed under the 1921-30 tariff. The honorable member for Hindmarsh mentioned certain classes of goods that were being imported under a wrong classification. I shall inquire into that matter, and if I find that the classification is wrong, I shall have it corrected. I would, however, point out that, by currency depreciation, any nation can get under practically any tariff. This was proved in the case of gum boots from Japan, with the result that we were obliged to take the necessary measures to safeguard the Australian industry.
Sub-items, as amended, agreed to.
Item 392, sub-item (c) (Yarns, woollen or containing wool).
– I direct the attention of the Minister to a matter which was mentioned before the Tariff Board by one or two witnesses, but was not considered by that body when framing its report. I refer to the conditions existing in spinning mills handling percentage yarns, containing wool. At the outset, I pay a tribute to the efficiency of the Australian spinning-mills as a whole. They supply Australian users with yarns which are equal in quality, finish and colour to the best English, and I understand give complete satisfaction to the trade. In this connexion I especially mention the pioneering firm of Paton and Baldwin, Launceston, who are very jealous as to the maintenance of standards in their products. Since percentage yarns containing a proportion of wool are used for the manufacture of the cheaper grades of underwear, one would, naturally, expect them to be cheaper than average woollen yarns ; but that is not the case in Australia, because, so I am informed, the spinning-mills handling percentage yarns are taking advantage of the duties offering, and, in some cases, are charging 2d, per lb. more than for the same quality of woollen yarn.
– What is the difference in the manufacturing processes?
– The difference, I understand, is very small. The wool and cotton being combed together, manufacturing costs are not increased ; but it is a slight departure from the straight-out processes used in t.h manufacture of all woollen yarns. In England, percentage yarns are always considerably lower in price than pure woollen yarns; but, as I have stated, the position in Australia is different. Until recently only one spinning mill, the Australian Cotton and Silk Company, was manufacturing percentage yarns, and it would handle only large orders which would justify the necessary alterations in the frames. Latterly, the Bradford Spinning Mills have entered this branch of the trade, and is now producing percentage yarns at a more satisfactory price. I suggest that the Minister consider the separation of this item. Objection is not taken by the spinning industry to the reduction of the duties from ls. per lb. British to 6d. ; but the average knitter takes the view that if Australian percentage yarns are not available here at a satisfactory price there should be opportunity to import so that’ the people of this country may obtain the cheaper grades of underwear at a more reasonable cost. This item affects an important industry. In 1929-30, the output of woollen yarn was 7,658,849 lb., of a total value of £1,992,269. This included only a small proportion of percentage yarn, because the trade, as a whole, found it more convenient to purchase the local woollen yarns than to pay the extraordinary prices asked by this particular spinner for percentage yarns. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to this matter, and see if the item can be divided so as to enable Australian users to obtain cheaper underwear garments containing a fair percentage of wool.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) has asked that consideration be given to this sub-item with a view to its separation. This request, I understand, was not advanced previously by the. trade, but the facts which the honorable gentleman has brought to my notice are deserving of consideration, and some good may come of the proposal. I am prepared to have an analysis made of the articles affected by this sub-item, and will see what can be done. ‘The reduction of the duties is not a drastic one. Australian spinners secured 84 per cent, of the trade when the duty on British yarn was only 20 per cent, ad valorem, and I suggest that they can hold it with the duties now proposed, which are in accordance with the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
– The only other point to which I would direct the attention of the Minister is this : The spinning mill, which is charging 2d. per lb. more for percentage yarn than for woollen yarn of equal quality, is associated with many companies in Australia, including knitting mills. It seems rather peculiar that the knitting mill associated with it at the present time has practically a monopoly of union underwear. It is believed that this spinning mill is cutting out other manufacturers and giving a distinct advantage to its own mill, so that it may enjoy a monopoly of the trade in this type of underwear. That, in itself, calls for some investigation.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 394, sub-item (d1, 2) (Compressed or agglomerated corkboard).
– Unless there is a later Tariff Board report than that dated the 23rd July, 1931, I am at a loss to understand why this sub-item is in this group, which is supposed to include only amendments made by the present Government which are supported by Tariff Board reports. I was informed a few weeks ago by a responsible officer of the department that the 1931 report was the latest on this subject issued by the board. If that is so, this sub-item should not have been included in this group, because, certainly, the duties proposed are not supported by the board. Perhaps the Minister can inform me if there is a later report than the one which I have mentioned. This sub-item deals with corkboards, a substance used for insulating freezing chambers in butter factories and other similar establishments. Under the Pratten tariff, the duty on corkboard was 30 per cent. British, and 40 per cent, general. These rates were increased by the Scullin Government to 2-Jd. a square foot British, and 3d. general, for board of 1 inch in thickness. They have now been reduced to lid. a square foot British, and 2d. a square foot general. That is entirely out of harmony with the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which reads -
That no alteration be made in the rates provided by the Customs Tariff 1921-30, in respect of any of the goods under review, namely, corks, crown seals, cork insets for crown seals, and corkboard.
The following statement appears iu the report of the board: -
According to figures given to the board, the f.o.b. prices of 2-in. corkboard from overseas ranged from 3s.1/8d. to 7d. per square foot. Taking 5d. per square foot as an average f.o.b. price, the duty payable at 40 per cent. under the Customs Tariff 1921-1930, would represent considerably more than the direct labour cost given by the manufacturer referred to in the preceding paragraph, while the rate of 3d. per super. foot provided in Tariff Resolution of 11th December, 1929, would cover direct labour, overhead, and portion of administration and selling.
The point that I particularly wish to make is, that if the Tariff Board is correct in its statement that 5d. a square foot, 2 inches thick, is the average price of imported corkboard, then this duty of 2d. a square foot, 1 inch thick, which is equal to 4d. a square foot, 2 inches thick, would represent 80 per cent.; because 4d. is 80 per cent. of the5d. which the Tariff Board says is the average f.o.b. price. That means that, instead of having duties of 30 per cent. and 40 per cent., as recommended by the Tariff Board, we have on corkboard, 2 inches thick, duties that are the equivalent of 60 per cent. and 80 per cent.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has quoted from the latest printed report of the Tariff Board; but as further facts were advanced by the manufacturers of corkboard a year ago, the matter was re-submitted to the board.
– We have not received that later report.
– No. As is frequently the case when a report is sent back, it was furnished in memorandum form. This occurred before I became Minister for Trade and Customs. The further review has brought to light additional information. At the time of the board’s latest report the f.o.b. price of 2-in. corkboard was 3.25d. a square foot, and the landed-into-store price, with 40 per cent. customs duty, primage and current exchange, was 8.25d. a square foot.
The local manufacturer has been able to reduce his manufacturing costs for 2-in. corkboard from 13.59d. a square foot in May, 1931, to 9.089d. a square foot. This reduction in price is attributable mainly to the fall in the price of cork products generally, reduced cost of raw materials brought about by arrangements for better purchasing facilities, and improved factory efficiency.
As regards prices, the company has given a definite undertaking to sell 2-in. corkboard at a uniform price not exceeding 10¾d. c.i.f. main Australian ports, subject to the continuance of the existing conditions as to cost of raw materials and other factors which enter into costs of production and distribution. The local manufacturer has promised also that users will receive the benefit of any reduction of cost. Although the present landed-into-store price of 8.25d. a square foot for imported corkboard is somewhat less than the selling price of the local line, such landed cost only applies where corkboard is indented and not bought through a wholesaler. In other cases, the merchants’ or distributors’ profit will increase the landed price. In very many instances, little or no added cost will be incurred by the use of the local corkboard, as the Australian manufacturer sells direct to the users, and such sales will not have to hear the merchants’ profit or the distributors’ commission. It is as well to state at this juncture that over 90 per cent. of the orders received by the local manufacturer are for lots of less than 3,000 square feet, and that the material is required at short notice. If the direct supply facilities provided by the local manufacturer were not available, purchasers would be compelled to obtain their requirements from the middleman, at prices very much in advance of those at which the material could be indented. The results of tests of the local corkboard, conducted at the Brisbane University, show that it compares favorably in quality with the imported article.
In summarizing the position, the Tariff Board states that if the facts now advanced had been placed before it at the time of the inquiry in May, 1931, it would have recommended the proposed rates on corkboard. I trust that that explanation will suffice.
– I believe that very good corkboard is being manufactured in Australia, and sold at a reasonable price. The Minister must admit, however, that in the circumstances I was justified in the inquiry that I made. Honorable members ought to have been in possession of the subsequent report of the Tariff Board, in order that they might understand the position.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 424, sub-item (b2) -
Vessels, n.e.i., trading intra-state or interstate for any continuous period of three months or otherwise employed in Australian waters for any continuous period of three months -
Amendment (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 8th March, 1933, relating to paragraph (2) of sub-item (b) of Item 424 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of paragraph (2) of sub-item (b) of Item 424 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
– I should like to hear the reason which actuated the Government in making the alteration to this item. It appears to me that this action supports the view that the Government intends that, so far as it is concerned, there shall be no shipbuilding in this country in the future. This must naturally excite the interest of a large number of men who follow such avocations as those of boiler-makers and shipwrights. Even in ordinary times, the amount of employment offering in connexion with ship-building is restricted. One can, therefore, appreciate the extent to which the chances of these men of again obtaining such employment will be prejudiced by this action of the Government. There are ship-building yards in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, in which punts for vehicular and passenger traffic, tugs, lighthouse tenders, &c., could be constructed; and until recently, this Government possessed a most modern shipyard. It has now been handed over to private enterprise. When these yards were functioning, they provided an avenue of employment for a considerable section of our artisans, but since they have been closed down those men have had absolutely nothing to do, and have been compelled to walk the streets of Sydney, and, I suppose, of the other capital cities. They probably hoped that circumstances would arise that would restore to them their former employment but it now looks as though they are doomed to disappointment in that respect. The Government should give serious consideration to the question of what these men are to do. After all, those who are trained in this particular line cannot easily be absorbed in other walks of life. The free entry under the British tariff may be a concession that was agreed upon at Ottawa; but the change is so radical compared with the conditions that prevailed under the last Government that the Minister ought to give the reasons for it.
.- At one time, the ship-building industry was well established and in a flourishing condition in the electorate that I have the honour to represent. Men of skill and enterprise were then able to demonstrate that it was possible to turn out this class of work in Australia. I understand that their workmanship was unequalled. But the whole of the machinery at Port Adelaide has now been dismantled, and the artisans have gone to other parts, many of them having returned to the United Kingdom. The abandonment of the enterprise that was carried on by Poole andSteele has deprived us of a valuable adjunct to our secondary industries. I deprecate strongly any action that might have the effect of repeating in other States what has happened in this case.I do not say that the policy ofthis Government was responsible for the abandonment of the South Australian project; but I do contend that this industry did not receive in times gone by the encouragement that would have enabled it to preserve for Australia this valuable secondary project. The Government would do well to recognize that every encouragement must be given to industries of this description. South Australia was unfortunate in the loss of its ship-building industry, and, in that respect, it still believes that it did not receive a fair deal.
Although men with enterprise were prepared to put their capital into the undertaking, unfortunately, there were no orders for vessels forthcoming, and the State Government was not in the position^ to assist the industry. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will either by tariff protection, or by the provision of work, help to place this Australian industry on a more secure basis. If a prohibitive tariff were placed on this class of vessel, I have no doubt that the industry in South Australia would be revived.
– I associate myself with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) in support of their plea that something should be done to give employment to some thousands of men who, during the war, were busily engaged on the construction and repair of vessels, and the fitting out of transports. The decision of the Government to follow blindly the recommendation of the Tariff Board, based on the Ottawa agreement, is likely to place this important industry in a serious position, and if another war occurs, we shall have to depend upon oversea establishments for the supply of whatever vessels we require for the maintenance of essential services. Some months ago, this Government decided to free itself of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and leased it to a private company. There is in the southern hemisphere no better equipped establishment than that dockyard, and on national grounds, and in fairness to the people as a whole, the Government should do everything in its power to assist those in control of the dockyard, who have undertaken no small task indeed. At the last election, the statement was made by members of the United Australia Party that if returned to power, their party would find jobs for all. I have been waiting patiently for sixteen or eighteen months for an announcement by this Government of the programme of .works which it intends to put in hand in order to give employment for our people. The ship-building industry provides a golden opportunity for employment; yet the Government is not prepared to lend a helping hand to encourage and foster it. I have perused the report of the Tariff Board, and I find that only one witness gave evidence in support of the previous duty on vessels of 500 tons gross register, and that was the chief draughtsman of Morts Dock and Engineering Company of Balmain, Sydney. Had that inquiry taken place a month or so ago, when the Cockatoo Island Dockyard was placed under the control of a private company noted for its organizing ability,, and its wonderful success in other branches of industry, I feel sure that that company would have been well represented at the inquiry advancing cogent reasons for giving adequate protection to the shipbuilding industry. The Tariff Board, in making its recommendations, was largely influenced by the evidence tendered by representatives of interstate steamship companies; Those companies are anxious to be protected against the competition of oversea companies, yet they are not prepared to take a broad outlook, and to encourage an. Australian industry so as to provide employment for our own people. They derive their profit from the carriage of Australian passengers and cargoes. The policy of this Government in establishing secondary industries has given a great fillip to interstate shipping by providing cargoes for interstate vessels which would otherwise have been conveyed in foreign bottoms. No doubt the members of the Country party will contend that any assistance given to the ship-building industry will tend to increase freights.
– There is no reference to that in the report of the Tariff Board.
– During the last twenty years, there has been a considerable increase of oversea freights, which, of course, cannot be attributed to the high cost of local construction, because the oversea vessels are not built in this country. The trouble is that we have on the United KingdomAustralia berth, vessels such as the Strathaird and the Strathnaver, which are. luxurious liners of 22,000 tons. Their employment in the Australian trade is not justified, and the Australian importers and exporters are at present paying for their lavish and extravagant construction. If we can afford to have such luxurious liners trading to Australia, surely we can afford to encourage our local ship-building industry, even though it may lead to a slight increase of freights. I am anxious to provide as much employment as possible for our own people, and particularly, for the thousands of men who, during the war, were enticed to Australia with a view to training Australian workmen in ship-building activities. Many of these men were previously shipyard workers at Belfast and the Clyde. For many months .1 have been hopeful that the Government would come forward with some proposal to provide employment for our own people, but while it follows blindly the recommendations of the Tariff Board, the unemployed can expect little or no relief.
Amendment agreed to.
– I understand that on all vessels over 500 and. up to 1,000 tons, the previous duty was 50 per cent. British preferential and 70 per cent, foreign, and that it has now been reduced to - free, British preferential, and 15 per cent, foreign. One would naturally have expected that the protection taken from the Australian ship-building industry would have been given to the British shipbuilder as against the foreign shipbuilder; but it seems to me that we have reduced the preference to Great Britain in favour of the foreigner. The British ship-builder has had a bad time during the last few years. The tonnage list shows that some foreign companies are progressing, while British companies are retrogressing.
– The present duties are in accordance with the Ottawa formula, the object of which is to enable “British, industries to compete with foreign industries.
– I did not know that the Ottawa formula could work out in such a way as to take some preference from Great Britain in favour of foreign nations. Prior to this alteration of duties, there was a protection of 50 per cent, to Australian ship-builders as against Great Britain, and of 70 per cent, as against the foreigner. That gave the British ship-builder an advantage of 20 per cent., which has now been reduced to 15 per cent. The present duties will be of great advantage to one section of the community only, and that is not the shipbuilders, but the ship-owners. I want to know whether in return for this advantage any compensation is to be given to the primary producers and other shippers of goods throughout Australia. They are certainly entitled to some compensa-tion. I should like the Minister to make some inquiries on that aspect of the matter.
.- With reference to the preference that is being given to Great Britain under this item, paragraph a of schedule f of the Ottawa agreement states -
When goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom are free of duty or are liable to duties of customs not exceeding 1!) per cent, ad valorem, the difference between the British preferential tariff rate and the rate upon similar goods from the most favoured foreign countries, shall be at least 13 per cant, ad valorem.
One would imagine from the speeches of some honorable members that the shipbuilding industry of Australia is likely to be destroyed as a result of the imposition of these duties; but that is not so. On the contrary, the duties of 50 per cent. British preferential, and 70 per cent, foreign, apply to vessels of up to 500 tons, a class of vessel which for many years, although not recent years, was built in Australia. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has said that the ship-building industry in his electorate has closed down because of the lack of orders. Let me point out that that happened at a time when the duty was much higher than it is at present. This industry is languishing, not because of the tariff, but because no orders are forthcoming. The Tariff Board has submitted two reports on this industry, one in respect of vessels exceeding 1,000 tons gross register, and the other in respect of vessels of over 500 tons, up to and including 1,000 tons. I shall first deal with vessels of 1,000 tons. These vessels of British manufacture have always been free of duty, and the board, after carefully investigating the question of imposing duties, was satisfied that a duty of at least 75 per cent, would be necessary to secure a considerable portion of shipbuilding to Australian dockyards. Should such a duty he applied the added cost would be so serious that for some considerable period there would be no purchases of new boats for the Australian trade. I put it to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who are interested in those engaged in the shipbuilding industry: Are they not also concerned that employment should be provided for seamen? If the number of ships engaged in the coastal trade is reduced, many seamen will lose their employment. Should, however, some purchases be made at the increased rate, the increase of freight charges which would have to be made to offset the additional capital required would seriously affect other industries. We know that freights are already the subject of complaint, shippers believing them to be too high. The local companies protest against British competition, and any proposal to suspend the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act is strenuously fought in Parliament. Even with such a duty it is exceedingly doubtful whether the orders for new vessels would be placed in Australia as the board was convinced that the commercial manufacture of vessels over 1,000 tons was not likely to eventuate in the near future.
In connexion with vessels from 500 tons to 1,000 tons, the board stated that the position was similar to that in respect of those over 1,000 tons, and that any advantage gained by the shipyards by reason of a duty would be far exceeded by the disadvantages to the community in general. The reduced demand for new vessels would have a serious effect on the efficiency of the Australian coastal fleet. At the present time, when the primary producer has to accept such low prices for his products, it is imperative that his charges be kept at as low a level as possible. Any increase of freights, however small, would have a serious effect on the already low net returns received by him.
– Can the Minister give us any hope that freights will be reduced ?
– The Government is doing what it can to have them reduced. The Tariff Board has inquired into these matters carefully, and the Government believes that its recommendations, if given effect to, will assist the shipping industry in Australia. Honorable members have said that the industry has faded out in spite of the protection afforded. The Government has now reduced the duty so that ships may be obtained from Britain at reasonable prices, thus enabling freights to be reduced, both overseas and inter- and intra-state. No injury has been done to the Australian shipbuilding trade, because the protection has been allowed to remain in respect of that class of building for which the local trade can cater.
Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.
Item 433 agreed to.
Group 2. - Items which have been amended in accordance with the Ottawa agreement, but not otherwise amended.
Division 12. - Hides, Leather and Rubber.
Item 331, sub-item (c), postponed paragraph (2) (Rubber thread, boot and apparel elastics).
.- I move -
That the sub-item be further postponed.
Honorable members will recollect that the item was postponed to enable the Tariff Board’s report on apparel elastic to be considered by the Government. Careful attention has been paid to the report, but no final conclusion has yet been arrived at. Inquiries have been made of certain companies, and replies are awaited.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-item further postponed.
Group 6. - Amendments made by the present Government which are supported by Tariff Board reports.
Division 8. - Earthenware, Cement, China, Glass and Stone.
Item 242, postponed sub-items (b) (c) (Glass, sheet).
– I move -
That the sub-items be further postponed.
This item was postponed in order to give certain interests an opportunity to send a deputation to the Minister. That deputation will not he heard before to-morrow morning.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-items further postponed.
– I move -
That the consideration of the remaining items other than those specified in group 7 in the customs tariff memorandum (showing rates of duty under various tariff proposals) circulated by the Minister for Trade and Customs, be postponed until after the consideration of the items specified in group 7.
This is the last time that an amendment of this kind will be moved, because it will not be necessary on group 8. Group 7 consists of items amended by the last Government, and not supported by Tariff Board reports. I am hopeful that the group may be taken as a whole. If the committee agrees to that, certain amendments will be brought down in another place; otherwise they will be moved as the debate proceeds.
– Would I be in order at this stage in moving for the postponement of the whole group ?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).The motion by the Minister for Trade andCustoms (Mr. White) is to postpone items that are not in group 7. An amendment such as that referred to by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) would have to be moved when the group itself was under consideration.
Motion agreed to.
Group 7. - Items amended by the Scullin Government which are not supported by Tariff Board reports.
Division 3. - Sugar.
Item 27 agreed to.
Division 4. - Agricultural Products and Groceries.
Item 38 (Biscuits).
– I propose to avail myself of this opportunity to move for the postponement of the item, because this is an item in which Britain may conceivably be interested, and I desire to protest against the ratification of this and the other items coming within the group. I realize that I can make my amendment apply only to this item, but anything I have to say in regard to it applies also to the other items. Some time ago, during the general debate on the tariff, I protested against the ratification of those items on which the duty had been increased when the increases had not been supported by Tariff Board reports. This item with which we are now dealing is one of a group amended by the Scullin Government, and not supported by Tariff Board reports. We have undertaken to have the items examined and reported upon by the Tariff Board, and the duties amended at the earliest possible opportunity in accordance with the board’s recommendations. When the duty on any item is increased by a resolution tabled in this Parliament, the increase becomes operative immediately. That cannot be said of reductions unless they apply to items which have not been ratified. The increased rates in item 38 and succeeding items have not yet been ratified ; therefore, any reduction recommended by the Tariff Board can take effect immediately upon the tabling of a resolution, provided that the reduction is not below the previously ratified rate in the. 1921-30 schedule. Ratification now of the items in group 7 will thus raise an unnecessary obstacle to giving immediate effect to such reductions as the Tariff Board may from time to time recommend. Every item in the group could, therefore, be well left in its present state of suspension, the collection of duties by the Customs Department meanwhile continuing uninterrupted. All that we shall achieve by ratification will be to delay the implementing of recommendations for reductions; for if we ratify the items and the board subsequently makes the recommendations which we expect it to make, and which the Ottawa agreement requires, and the Minister tables a schedule containing them, the reductions cannot take effect until they are passed by both Houses of Parliament. That may involve a delay of six or twelve months - possibly until the eve of the next general election. The Government’s attitude in this regard will be a test of its good faith in regard to giving effect as soon as possible to recommendations which may be made by the Tariff Board from time to time. We cannot claim that we are observing the spirit of the Ottawa agreement if we deliberately create any obstacle to the prompt carrying out of recommendations for reductions of duty. The Sydney Morning Herald, of the 22nd of November, 1932, published a leading article under the heading “A Test of Good Faith “. From it I quote the following : -
The bill to ratify the Ottawa treaty with Britain is in passage through the Senate still without any ministerial statement to clear up the doubts to which theHerald has more than once drawn attention. We refer to the plans - if any - of the Cabinet for carrying into effect the treaty articles 8 to 13, which embody the Australian undertaking to reduce the present high tariff, and article 10, which postulates “ necessary legislative or. other action being taken as soon as may be practicable “ after the signing of the treaty.
After referring to an announcement from Canberra that the Government intended that after the Christmas adjournment Parliament should assemble on the 1st February, specially to validate the present tariff schedule, the article continued -
This announcement becomes significant in the light of the speech by the Deputy Leader of the Country party, Mr. Paterson, during the second reading of the treaty bill. Mr. Paterson pointed out that duties can be raised merely by tabling a tariff schedule, but they cannot be reduced below the level approved by Parliament without the consent of both Houses. Actually, Parliament ratified no tariff, said Mr. Paterson, later than the Pratten tariff. Upon the expiry of a temporary validation of the Scullin tariff before the late elections, the Lyons Government tabled a new schedule which included the previous Scullin schedule. Mr. Paterson’s point was that, if the Government means to play fair by the Ottawa treaty, it should refrain from asking Parliament to validate the present tariff. In the absence of validation, the Government can reduce currently ruling duties by tabling such reductions as the Tariff Board may recommend, but if the existing high duties should be approved by Parliament such a course would not bo possible, and the delay in ratifying the treaty will be indefinitely prolonged. Mr. Paterson declared that its action in this matter would provide a test of the Government’s good faith towards its treaty obligations, and in our opinion he was entitled to say so. He did not add, as he might have done, that it will also test the Prime Minister’s good faith towards his election policy for scientific revision of the tariff towards a competitive basis in order to bring about reduction of working costs, the policy which several Ministers have explicitly declared was maintained, expressed and underlined by the Ottawa treaty articles . . . The Minister for Trade and Customs, explaining the agreement to Parliament, said that, among other prospective advantages to Britain, would be “the progressive benefit … as the Tariff Board proceeds with its work of revision, and there is a general return to a normal tariff level “. Mr. Bruce has stated in London that there will be “ a gradual adaptation of Australian tariff policy to the principles agreed upon at Ottawa “. If the Government is sincere in such statements, why does it propose to tie its hands by ratifying the current tariff, thus preserving the treaty articles as merely an expression of pious sentiments?
That is a strong expression of opinion by a newspaper of high standing. The item relating to biscuits has.no special significance in this connexion, but, being the first item in the group in which the United Kingdom may conceivably be interested, I make my protest upon it. I therefore move -
That the item be postponed.
This will afford the committee an opportunity to express its view regarding the desirability of postponing all the remaining items in this group, instead of, by ratifying them, deliberately placing an unnecessary obstacle in the way of the prompt implementing of such recommendations as the Tariff Board may make for reductions in conformity with the Ottawa treaty.
– Before dealing with this item I ask you, Mr. Chairman, for a definite ruling whether an amendment may be moved to provide that all the items appearing in this group may be amended to conform with the rates of duty appearing in the only properly considered tariff schedule which thisParliament has passed for many years, namely, the1921-30 schedule.
The’ CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).- The committee is dealing with item 38, and any amendment must relate to that item. An amendment to embrace the whole of the items in this group may not be moved.
– That being so, I support the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). The last customs tariff which this Parliament properly considered item by item was the Pratten tariff of 1925. At that time Parliament determined that the rates of duty oil the various items in that schedule should he those which appeared in the fourth column of the memorandum furnished to honorable members to assist them in this debate. While the Scullin Government was in office some consideration was given to the subject of biscuits, and it was pointed out at that time by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) that the Australian biscuit manufacturers were supplying 98 per cent, of our requirements, and that the other 2 per cent, were medicinal, or diabetic, biscuits. It was also admitted then that the Australian biscuit manufacturers had not asked for an increase of duty. Yet the Government increased the duties per lb. from l£d. British and 2d. foreign to 3d. British and 4d. foreign. This increase surprised the reputable biscuit manufacturers of Australia. I am glad that the Acting Leader of the Country party has selected this item for the purpose of a test vote. This is my first speech during the debate on this schedule, and I express the hope that common sense will mark the decision of the committee in dealing with this item. When the previous Government was in office a number of honorable members who are supporting the present Government joined with members of the Country party, including myself, in strenuously opposing the increase of duty on biscuits; but now those honorable gentlemen are just as strenuously fighting for the validation of this duty. On what grounds can they possibly justify the granting of an increased duty of 100 per cent, on biscuits which was not asked for by the biscuit manufacturers? The granting of this duty will amount to backsheesh to the biscuit manufacturers. Many changes have occurred in our financial position since the Pratten tariff was under discussion. At that time primage was unknown, and the exchange was not against us. To-day primage and exchange are both important protective factors. Yet the Government is seeking to validate an increase of 100 per cent.’ in the duty on biscuits. I sincerely trust that the amendment will be agreed to, and that Parliament will insist on a reversion to the duty on biscuits provided in the 1921-30 schedule.
.- I support the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) from the point.3 of view of both that honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). The proposed increase of 100 per cent, in the duty on biscuits was not asked for, and is not required. The Tariff Board has not recommended this duty. It is not long since the direct supporters of the Government and the members of the Country party combined to pass the Ottawa agreement through this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and his followers could find no virtue whatever in the agreement; but those who supported it were enthusiastic about it, because they thought it would hearten industry and benefit both Australia and Great Britain. I support the amendment, because I believe that it is in accordance with article 11 of the Ottawa agreement, which reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
If we are genuine in our approval of this article, and if we are really desirous of stimulating inter-Empire trade for the benefit of both Australia and Great Britain, we will accept this opportunity to refrain from validating such items of the schedule as are contained in the group now before us. If consideration of this item is postponed pending the receipt of the Tariff Board report upon it, the Government will be able to give effect to the recommendations of the board immediately they come to hand; but, if Parliament validates the item, it will deliberately postpone the only real opportunity afforded it of giving reasonably early effect to the Ottawa agreement. Already more than six months have passed since the agreement was entered into so that only a little more than four years remain before k will expire. At the rate at which Parliament is dealing with this tariff schedule and the other business of the country, it is possible that very little, if anything, will he done by this Parliament to give effect to articles 9 to 12 of the Ottawa agreement. Here is an opportunity for. the Minister and the Government, by the simple process of delaying the validation of this group of items not reported on by the Tariff Board, to do something to implement article 11 at an early date.
Mr.White. - How could that be done by delaying matters?
– I support the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), who made it clear that his amendment referred to all the items in this group. I fail to understand why the Government has brought forward these excessive duties, which, in some cases, provide for increases of over 100 per cent. The Minister spoke of obtaining reports from the Tariff Board, yet he asked the committee to validate these duties, adding that when the board’s reports came to hand, the Government could then take further action if it saw fit. Instead of inquiring into those duties which affect principally the trade between Australia and the United Kingdom, the Tariff Board has dealt with the duties on all sorts of tiddly-winking industries. It may be years before the hoard can report on these items. Article 12 of the Ottawa agreement reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed, and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the tariff tribunal.
The duties in this group have never been approved or ratified by Parliament.For not one of these increases is there parliamentary sanction. Were Parliament to strike out the increased duties without carrying forward the date from which the reductions would operate, the Government would be compelled to refund any excess sums of money paid. In the true sense of the term, the duties which have been collected are not the existing duties, because they have not been approved by the Parliament. The Government has collected these duties without parliamentary authority. I empha size the remarks of the Acting Leafier of the Country party, and I endorse every word in the leader in the Sydney Morning Herald, extracts from which have been read to-night. I agree that the Government should give an exhibition of its faith in the agreement into which it has entered.
– The honorable gentleman makes some most extravagant statements.
– They are at least truthful. Is there any keen desire on the part of the Government or the Tariff Board to make complete the agreement entered into between the Governments of Australia and Great Britain?
– Has the Tariff Board ever inquired into these items?
– If honorable members had shown less impatience, they would have known by now that the Tariff Board had recommended amendments to the duties on some of the items in this group.
– The charge that I have made extravagant statements comes with ill grace from a Minister who talks of loading invoices. The Government should have the report of the Tariff Board before it asks the Parliament to approve of these duties. Another opportunity may never come to us to deal with these items. I am not of that trusting disposition which accepts every statement of a Minister. We anticipated that the Government would make an earnest attempt to comply with the Ottawa agreement, but I, unhesitatingly, say that it has not shown any keen desire to do so. I want to see something done to place the trade between Australia and the Old Country on a more equitable basis.
.- I do not thiuk that it would be possible to satisfy the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in regard to any tariff matter. He has told us that this group contains a list of items, the duties on which have never been approved by Parliament. His whole speech was directed to that point. He said that unless there was an alteration in the date from which reduced duties would operate, merchants could demand a refund of duties collected without authority. Then he said that he supported the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland further to postpone the ratification of the schedules. Apparently, the members of the Country party do not desire the Parliament to ratify the duties. They have wailed for months, and, I believe, for years, for ratification of tariff proposals by the present and past governments ; yet, when the present Minister is taking steps to have them ratified, they object.
– For a very logical reason.
– They find themselves in the illogical position which I have indicated, and no amount of argument or sophistry will enable them to escape from that position. Of course, they have a motive, which is to get duties reduced as rapidly as possible; but the effect of their amendment would be to postpone the ratification of the schedules which have been on the table for many months.
– The duties are still being collected.
– Of course. The argument of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is that the duties have been collected without parliamentary ratification of the schedules; but when a Minister comes along to ratify the duties, the Country party tables an amendment which provides that the ratification shall be postponed for a long while, the result being that we shall go on collecting revenue under duties that have not been ratified. The reason for that attitude on the part of the Country party is that it desires to strangle more of our Australian industries, and the first item it selects for its attack is one that protects a primary industry. It objects to the duties on biscuits, which are made from a primary product.
– Why did the Government led by the right honorable member table these duties on biscuits?
– Because we desired the whole of the market to be secured to the Australian manufacturers, and we have succeeded. The British firm of Peek, Frean’s, which formerly exported biscuits to Australia, now manufactures them in Sydney, giving employment to Australians, and using Australian products. Peek, Frean’s biscuits were im ported into Australia until the duties imposed by the last Government were introduced. The importations of biscuits prior to the imposition of those duties were not heavy in comparison with the Australian consumption, but they were substantial. In 1928-29, the imports were valued at £39,000, Australia was then bordering on financial collapse, and, despite its adverse trade balance, the people were buying imported biscuits. I contend that if we are not satisfied with biscuits made in our own country,we ought to go without them, because the quality of the locally-made article is, undoubtedly, high. My Government not only tabled high duties on imported biscuits, but also placed a prohibition on their importation, and that position should have been maintained. The importation of luxury lines such as tinned fruits, tinned vegetables, and tinned meats helped to put Australia in a position approaching bankruptcy. Had this country defaulted, honorable members of the Country party would have been quick to condemn the Government that had permitted such a calamity to happen; but, because the last Government saved Australia from default, its actions are sneered at. The Country party wishes to lift the duties on all things that are imported, whether they are luxury lines or not.
– We do not desire to do anything of the kind.
– That is the only inference to be drawn from the party’s attitude. By interjection, I asked the honorable member why he did not make his protest on the first item, and he said, “Because it does not affect Britain “. I know that it does not; but does the honorable member now say that the creed of the Country party is to reduce duties only to give increased preference to Britain ?
– But the Ottawa agreement deals with these items.
– We are discussing items in respect of which there are increased duties against both British and foreign competitors of the local manufacturers. The honorable member for Gippsland now tells us that the Country party is concerned only about amending the items in this group, in order to carry out the Ottawa agreement. I am glad to know that members of that party are half converted. He said that he was not moving his amendment on the first item, because that did not affect the Ottawa agreement or British imports. We may take it the the only reductions of duties that the Country party wants relate to the British list.
– The right honorable gentleman is going a little too fast.
– Otherwise there is no logic in the attitude of the Country party. The honorable member for Gippsland quoted an article from the Sydney Morning Herald, and gave us a long lecture on the test of good faith. I am not here to support the faith, good or bad, of the present Government, nor am I responsible for the Ottawa agreement. Whatever case the Country party may be able to present against the Government for breaking faith in regard to the Ottawa agreement will be all to the good, because it will help to remove an agreement which cannot, and will not, last. No agreement which takes away a nation’s right to local autonomy in the matter of protecting its own industries can last, and the present Government cannot maintain good faith under such an agreement. The honorable member stated that this and succeding items will be dealt with by the Tariff Board, and he practically assumed that, in most instances, the duties would be reduced. He believes that the Government will accept slavishly the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and he wants them applied as rapidly as possible. I fear that the honorable gentleman’s prophecy may be fulfilled, for, judging from its reports, the Tariff Board will recommend in a downward direction, irrespective of the harm that will result to Australian industries. I also fear that the Government will accept its recommendations. Because of that, I am glad of the early opportunity to ratify these duties so that before they can be altered there will be a delay, I hope, for. the twelve months anticipated by the honorable member for Gippsland; for then we shall be nearer to the time when there will be a change of government and policy, in the interests of Australian industry.
– The ratification of this group is essential if we are to make a comprehensive tariff law. I made that perfectly clear when I introduced the schedule. There has not been a comprehensive tariff passed by Parliament since 1922. Various resolutions have been brought down, and amendments have been made. The purpose of the Government is to put this schedule through in order to implement the Ottawa agreement as quickly as possible. I am surprised that the Country party should adopt such a selfish attitude. Its members have constantly alleged that the Government is not implementing Ottawa, and have allowed statements to go abroad to the effect that this Government is guilty of a breach of faith. The Tariff Board has worked very hard indeed, and produced innumerable reports; I believe that this year it has submitted more than in any previous year. In order to put this schedule through, not one member of the Government has spared himself, while officers of the Customs Department have worked unceasingly, too hard in fact. Yet honorable members of the Country party are constantly quibbling, raising questions of privilege, and threadbare arguments about by-laws, and so on. as if the Government had been guilty of dishonesty. They merely want some random, slipshod amendments of the tariff to suit themselves, not worrying about the interests of the rest of the community. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) declared that the action of the Government is .not in accordance with article 11 of the Ottawa trade agreement. I give that a flat denial. That article provides’ that the Tariff Board shall be invited -
To vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
It is easy to be a critic, but it is rather better to do something that is for the benefit of Australia generally ; not merely for a section. The Government is alive to the position of the man on the land, and has shown its earnest desire to help him by removing sales tax from certain articles, and reducing land tax, and super tax; also by tariff reductions, which no other government would have dared to do. Yet, to-morrow, members of the Country party, who profess that they desire to have that Ottawa agreement implemented as quickly as possible, intend to move the adjournment of tlie House in order that they may tell us the same old thing over again. These duties are in accord with the policy of the Government, which was made clear at the election. In that connexion I shall quote from the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), which was applauded by the Country party. The right honorable gentleman said -
As to the future, the United Australia Party would not, even where it has any disagreement with particular tariff items, engage in sudden, drastic changes upon ministerial initiative, and without investigation by the Tariff Board. We believe that tariff changes of such a character may easily prove bad for industry and business generally, and, consequently, for employment. Where the tariff has been raised to what may be considered excessive levels without reference to the Tariff Board, we would submit cases for hearing as soon as practicable, and we would, in broad principal, abide by the recommendation of the board.
The whole of the tariff has been submitted to tlie Tariff Board, in accordance with the Ottawa agreement, and the board is carrying out its task magnificently. It is up to the Country party, which professes to stand for the implementing of the Ottawa agreement, to support the Government in carrying out the recommendations made by the Tariff Board, and not seek to effect reductions merely to serve its own ends. I suggest that we should proceed with the items in this group, upon some of which amendments will be moved in accordance with reports received from the. Tariff Board. The Government does not intend to depart from its policy of having inquiries made by the Tariff Board before it effects duties.
.- Despite the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the Minister, I am not disposed to change my intention to vote with the Country party in this matter. When the Scullin Government imposed these duties, I well remember the agitation that was made by honorable gentlemen who now occupy the ministerial bench. They said that it was a slipshod way of doing things. Yet they ure now prepared to ratify that slipshod method for an indefinite period. The then Prime Minister intimated that the duties were imposed purely to rectify the adverse balance of trade, and, in reply to the complaints of the Opposition, he admitted that they were not scientifically designed. In the circumstances the claims of the Country party for a revision of these unscientific duties is most reasonable. But there are other grounds for asking that this item should be reduced.
Honorable members on both sides of the chamber speak glibly about equality of sacrifice. Biscuits are manufactured from a product of wheat. When the Pratten tariff of lid., 2d., and 2d., was imposed on this item, the price of wheat was twice as much as it is at present, and the price of flour was also higher. Seeing that the price of wheat is now so low it is inconsistent to preserve such a high rate of duty; in no way does it carry out the principle of equality of sacrifice. The capacity of the people to buy biscuits has been lessened, so that these duties become a levy on the food of the people. I am astounded that those who so strongly opposed the Scullin duties, and, apparently, sincerely, should now desire to ratify them. . When the Pratten tariff existed the Australian biscuit manufacturers were successfully exporting their product. Why, then, is there any need for continuing heavy duties, which were imposed for revenue purposes?
I do not admit that the present Leader of the Opposition did such great things for Australia when Prime Minister. In the application of these duties he did rectify the balance of trade somewhat, but he exported a terrific amount of our gold. The net effect of the imposition, by the Scullin Government, of the higher duties on biscuits and other items was to increase the taxation of the people by 30 per cent. As for the general effect of its tariff and industrial policy, it would not be wide of the truth to say that for every four minutes of the right honorable gentleman’s term of office, one man in this country lost his job. This Government should not ratify the tariff legislation of its predecessor. The successful appeal to the people turned on the condemnation, by the then Opposition, of the Scullin Government’s general policy, and on the distinct understanding that, if returned to power, it would reduce duties which had been imposed without recommendations by the Tariff Board. There is no evidence, except this tardy announcement of the Minister, of the intention now to submit to the board the items covered by this group. It would be a physical impossibility for the members of the board to review within a year all the items included in the group ; and in view of the attitude of the Government and its supporters, when in opposition, to these duties, honorable members should not now be asked to ratify them. It is a reflection on the manufacturers of this country to suggest that they require this additional protection. I most heartily support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [11.4].- I listened carefully to the remarks of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and also to the Minister (Mr. White), and noted that both entirely ignored the item before the committee. Apparently, they had entered into an unholy alliance to omit any mention whatever of biscuits, the one subject to which, at the moment, the committee should give its attention. The Minister omitted to reply to my allegation that this item had not been referred to the Tariff Board by the Scullin Government, and that the manufacturers had not asked for this additional protection of 100 per cent. Nor did he reply to the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), who commented on the attitude of Government supporters, when in opposition, to these duties. The Leader of the Opposition has made it plain that the higher duties in this group were imposed, not for protective purposes, but to rectify our adverse trade balance at the time. Clearly, the additional protection was not required, because even then our biscuit manufacturers were supplying 98 per cent. of Australia’s requirements, and in addition were doing a fairly active export trade. I shall be glad if the Minister will state definitely whether a request has been made by the manufacturers for this additional protection, also whether the proposal has ever been considered by the Tariff Board. I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition that the post ponement of this item will prejudice the revenue position. It is well known that whenever a government is making an appeal to the country, as was the case when the Scullin Government, fortunately, was suddenly defeated in this House, all sections of the Parliament agree to validate tariff proposals so as to protect the revenue.Following the usual practice, the many tariff schedules brought down by the Scullin Administration were validated on the eve of the general election solely for the purpose of conserving the Commonwealth revenue. The postponement of this item will not affect the revenue, and the Leader of the Opposition must have been well aware of that fact when he indulged in his usual display of histrionic acrobatics this evening. The Scullin Government made a good deal of capital out of the alleged protectionist “tendency of the people of Australia. While Country party members in this House represent primarily our rural producing interests, they also pay regard to the general position of our secondary industries. Honorable members arewell aware that the standard attained by the different Australian manufacturers of biscuits is a particularly high one. They are able not only to supply 98 per cent. of the local market, but also to export a proportion of their output. The question of quality or of efficiency does not arise. I pay a well-deserved tribute to the manufacturers in regard to both the quality and the price of their product. Because they were well satisfied with those factors, as well as with their marketing arrangements, they were perfectly content with the original duty, which the last Government raised by 100 per cent. The predecessor of the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has definitely stated that they did not ask for that increase, and that the matter was never referred to the Tariff Board. As honorable members on the Government benches fought this duty when they sat in opposition, I appeal to them to be consistent by fighting it now, even though their own Minister has brought it forward.
– I am very much exercised in my mind as to how I should vote on the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). I am asked by the Government to vote for a duty that, on its face, appears to me to be exorbitant and unnecessary. I waited anxiously for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to explain why I should vote for such a duty. The honorable gentleman, however, merely quoted from the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), to the effect that, even though existing duties which had been imposed by the previous Government were exorbitant, his party would make no drastic change without an investigation and a recommendation by the Tariff Board. Although I am asked to vote for what I consider an exorbitant duty, I am given no assistance by that body. I understand that it has not made any report in connexion with this particular item. It is now suggested that the item should be postponed. That strikes me as a reasonable request ; because, as has been pointed out, even though the duty is not ratified to-night, its collection will continue, and, in due course, we shall receive assistance from the Tariff Board when it has had an opportunity to investigate the matter and report upon it. It seems to me, too, that there is a good deal of force in the contention of the honorable member for Gippsland, that the postponement of this and similar items would facilitate the giving effect to the Ottawa agreement. But leaving that on one side, the mere fact that a postponement of the item would not in any way affect the revenue of the country, and that on its face the duty is exorbitant, makes me feel that I cannot vote for its validation until the report of the Tariff Board is before us for our guidance.
.- I support the amendment, for two reasons: First, as a matter of principle; and, secondly, because the duty is so extremely exorbitant. As a matter of principle, I consider that the Ottawa agreement comes into the picture. That agreement provides that full opportunities for reasonable competition shall be given to British manufacturers, allowance being made for relative costs of production in Australia. Yet the protection given on some of these items amounts to as much as 100 per cent.
It is futile to propose amendments for reductions of duty. The Government appears to be determined to bludgeon this schedule through in spite of the most reasonable requests, supported by the most cogent arguments, in support of alterations of the duties proposed. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has requested the Country party to assist the Government to implement the Ottawa agreement. We desire to do that. The acceptance of this amendment, we believe, would have the effect of hastening the implementing of the agreement. The price of flour is approximately1d. per lb., while that of biscuits is from 7d. upwards. A tariff of 3d. per lb. against Great Britain, and 4d. per lb. against foreign countries, on a commodity that is made from a primary product, the price of which is in the vicinity of1d. per lb., must be admitted to be exorbitant.
– I cannot see my way to support the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). We have to look at this matter from the point of view of the whole of the Commonwealth, and of those who are engaged in industry, trade and commerce in it. We have before us a tariff schedule which covers the whole range of industries in Australia, and there is a keen desire to have a general tariff act placed on the statute-book. Last year, honorable members who sit in the corner opposite argued very strongly that the Government should press forward with the tariff, and not countenance long delays. Acting upon that advice, the Government called honorable members together well before theusual time. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has pointed out, strong objection has been taken to the practice of having a series of tariff resolutions unratified for a number of years. Objection has also been raised to the failure to prorogue Parliament each year. That has led to a departure from the constitutional practice of having annual sessions with, at the beginning of each session, a Governor-General’s Speech containing a proper presentation of policy, followed by a motion for the adoption of an Address-in-Reply, which afferds honorable members an opportunity to criticize acts of administration. The object should be to revert to normal conditions, with a session lasting six months, and a recess of a similar period, during which Ministers might devote themselves to the administration of their departments. The Government early in this year summoned honorable members from all parts of the Commonwealth, at considerable inconvenience to them, to Canberra, so that this tariff schedule might be passed by Parliament. The Country party now proposes, in effect, to hold up the whole of the items, although most of them have been considered by the Tariff Board.
– None of these items which we are discussing has been investigated by the board.
– The honorable member wishes to hold up the whole of the tariff until the last investigation is made. According to the Ottawa agreement, the revision of the tariff is to be continuous during the period of its operation. That means, of course, that Parliament will, in the usual way, revise the tariff from time to time. Business people who are concerned with the tariff know that the whole of the items depend upon the passing of the schedule. It is desirable, in the interests of Australian trade, that there should be a definite law on the statute-book in respect of the tariff, so as to enable the people generally to know what duties have been imposed. At present, there is an incomplete schedule, containing proposed certain duties, but that is not satisfactory to those engaged in trade and commerce both in Australia and abroad. Under the circumstances, the proper course to take is to proceed with the schedule and complete it. There should be no objection to that. The Country party proposes to hold up the tariff until certain Tariff Board reports have been presented. How long will it be before those reports are presented? If, in accordance with the Ottawa agreement, reports are to be made continuously, the investigations of the board, if made on proper lines, are likely to be continuous throughout the year. It is desirable that we should place a tariff law on the statute-book, and follow the normal parliamentary practice, which is to allow the Tariff Board to continue its investigations, and after the presentation of reports to the Government, for the Minister to introduce amending schedules into this House from time to time.
– How many months will elapse before effect is given to the board’s recommendations ?
– It is much better todeal immediately with the tariff, rather than allow the whole of the commercial world to remain ina state of uncertainty because of the tariff not being placed on the statute-book.
– Are we to vote for this exorbitant duty?
– Before this schedule was brought down, the tariff upon the statute-book was the law of the land. At the time of the elections, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) promised that if his party were returned to power, it would not alter existing duties without inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, even though the duties were considered to be high. Therefore, if we place these duties upon the statute-book, we shall be only carrying out the promise of the Government that it would not alter existing duties without an investigation by the Tariff Board.
– We are not asking for these duties to be altered without reference to the Tariff Board.
– I am answering the query of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), whether we should vote for these duties which, in his opinion, are exorbitant. As the Government is carrying out its election promise, I think that it is better to place the complete tariff on the statutebook as the Government is now proposing to do. I do not think that it has any intention notto fulfil the terms of the Ottawa agreement.
– It has shown little sign of fulfilling them up to the present.
– The Government has enacted the Ottawa agreement, and has already referred a number of items to the Tariff Board, and has therefore shown that it is honestly carrying out the Ottawa agreement. Under the circumstances, I must stand by the Government.
– I do not mean to add much to what I have already said on this item. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) was most unfortunate in using the argument that, if the tariff were not completed immediately, the commercial world would be left in a state of uncertainty, inasmuch as the particular part of the commercial world which is interested in biscuits did riot’ ask for ‘this duty, did not want it, and certainly is not concerned if the duties should revert to what they were previously. But the point is that we are not asking for a reduction of these duties. We are merely asking the Government to refrain from unnecessarily ratifying this item until the Tariff Board has had an opportunity to make a recommendation regarding it. The honorable member for Darling Downs has referred to the necessity for placing this tariff schedule on the statute-book, but I ask what necessity is there for that to be done immediately? Had the honorable gentleman been in the last Parliament, he would have recalled the picture of honorable gentlemen who are now occupying leading positions in the Government, opposing these duties because of their extreme height, and because of the fact that those who are concerned did not ask for them, and did not require them. This particular group of the tariff schedule embraces duties which the Government and its supporters have led us to suppose that they were temporarily tolerating until such time as the items could be reviewed by the Tariff Board. They admitted thai, in most instances, the duties were too high, and in the last Parliament they condemned them wholeheartedly. Now we are told that the items must be ratified in order to put at rest the fear3 of the commercial community. If we refrain from ratifying this item and succeeding items, immediate effect can be given to the recommendations of the Tariff Board as they are tabled by the Minister; but immediate effect cannot be given to recommended reductions if the Government now insists upon ratifying the present rates. The Minister (Mr. White) himself was no more happy in his reply than the honorable member for Darling Downs. Prom time to time during this tariff debate, I have admired his imperturbability, but on this occasion he became quite violent; in fact, he was more violent than logical. He used no real argument in reply to my statement. He did, it is true, quote part of the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), but was unhappy even in that instance, because he quoted the promise of the Prime Minister that the Government would not depart from its policy of acting upon the reports of the Tariff Board. We are not asking the Government to depart from that policy. We wish it to carry on tha* policy by not ratifying these duties until the reports of the Tariff Board are available. Our attitude on this question is more in conformity with the Prime’ Minister’s policy speech than is that of the Minister. The Government has declared that it believes in Tariff Board reports. If that is so, why does it accept a pig in a poke? Why does it accept something which has not been investigated by the board? Why does it ask us to carry out. in a slipshod way the passage of the tariff without the assistance of the recommendations of the Tariff Board ? The Minister charged us with making random shots at tariff improvement; but I maintain that that Ls what the Minister himself is doing when he asks us to ratify duties which were imposed, in the first place, in a slipshod and random way, without any Tariff Board investigation. I agree with what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said, and I am glad to have the support of his logical mind. The Minister has not replied to the charge I made that, by the ratification of these duties, we shall deliberately place an obstacle in the way of giving immediate effect to such recommendations as the Tariff Board may make.
– I think that most honorable members who investigate this item must come to the conclusion that some alteration of the Government’s tariff policy in connexion with it is called for. I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who told us, in his usual flamboyant style, that Peek, Frean’s had opened up in Australia, because they could not, under the tariff, import the kind of biscuits which their customers required. That remark moved me to investigate the facts, and I found that the biscuit industry which, under the Scullin tariff, had its protection increased by 100 per cent., was able, in the year 1927-28, before that increase took place, to export biscuits to the value of £147,306. That proves that the industry does not want the extra protection.
– It merely proves that the industry is worthy of protection.
– If it was able to compete with the manufacturers of the whole world, and sell its product on the world’s market, it proves that the industry was efficient; and if it was able to sell its product on the outside market, surely it was able to hold the local market without this enormous protection !
– Before the duty was imposed, £39,000. worth of biscuits was imported annually into Australia; after the imposition of the duty, only £2,000 worth was imported.
– I agree; but that merely proves that the local factories did not manufacture certain fancy kinds of biscuits which a section of the public demanded. Some people are prepared to pay a big price merely for the sake of seeing the name “ Peek,Frean “ on their biscuits. I agree with what was said by the honorable member for Fawkner. The Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) said that, should the Tariff Board recommend a reduction of duty on this item, immediate effect should be given to the recommendation. That would be in the spirit of the Ottawa agreement, and with that contention I agree. I feel that the Minister should give some indication to honorable members regarding what he intends to do if, after these items have been validated, the board recommends a reduction of duty. Is it his intention immediately to introduce a schedule to give effect to the board’s recommendations?
– But there might be a long delay before the duties are ratified in another place.
– I recognize that, but if the Minister will give us an assurance that there will be no undue delay, I feel confident that the honorable member for Gippsland will withdraw his amendment.
Mr.White. - The whole group is before the board now.
– If the Minister will give the assurance for which I have asked, I am sure it will satisfy the honorable member for Fawkner, as it will satisfy me. If the Minister cannot give such an assurance I shall not be satisfied.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the duty on biscuits was not increased by his government at the request of the manufacturers, but was done in order to adjust finances and restore the balance of trade.
– And now the honorable member wishes to upset that balance again.
– I do not, but no one can justify the present duty when we remember that, under the duties operating from 1921 to 1930, the Australian biscuit manufacturers were, in one year, able to export £147,000 worth of biscuits. I must support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland, unless the Minister is able to give me the assurance for which I have asked.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), speaking on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), described the Country party as a sectional movement. It is always rather amusing to hear that reference to proposals emanating from this party. It is an easy gibe, and, on almost every occasion that it is made, it is as ignorant as it is easy. No one who has followed the debate on this item can justifiably accuse the members of the Country party of supporting sectional interests. The primary producers as such do not come into the matter at all. The action which has been taken in this respect arises out of a desire to give effect as early as possible to the terms of the Ottawa agreement.
The Minister further characterized the amendment as an effort to deal with the tariff schedule in a slipshod manner, whereas we desire to do nothing of the kind, merely seeking to ensure that Parliament shall be guided by the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
My third objection is that the Minister did me the injustice of contradicting a statement I did not make. He flatly denied that the Government did not propose to carry out article 11 of the Ottawa agreement. I desire to make it quite clear that I did not make any such accusation against the Government. I merely said that, if our proposal were accepted, the result would be to hasten the implementing of article 11. There was nothing in my statement for the Minister to deny. I am sorry to say that his anger at the moment rather clouded his reason, and made him misrepresent an old friend.
– Biscuits have scarcely been mentioned, but upon this item a general principle is being discussed. If, as the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) has said, I have shown less imperturbability than usual, it is because I believe that this amendment is political rather than economic.
– That is unfair.
– Very often a person does not see in a proposal what is very apparent to people viewing it from a different angle. As I pointed out when this schedule was introduced, group 7 consists solely of items -upon which the Tariff Board has not reported. The long list of reductions in group 6 was an earnest of the Government’s intention to observe the principle of the Ottawa agreement, under the guidance of the Tariff Board. Since the March schedule was introduced the Tariff Board has taken evidence on 26 of the items included in group 7. It will be apparent to the committee that the .board has lost no time. As those items are reached, amendments will be proposed if the Government considers them necessary. The ratification of group 7 at this stage does not imply approval of the rates contained in it.
– What does it imply?
– For convenience we are ratifying the duties in the schedule until the Tariff Board has dealt with the items contained in it. As recommendations are received from the board amendments will be proposed in the Senate.
– But they will not be immediately effective.
– They would not be effective any sooner if the items in this group were postponed. The tariff would merely be split into sections and a separate bill covering this postponed group would be necessary. If, however, these items are ratified a complete bill can be sent to the Senate, amended there, and returned to this chamber. That will be the most expeditious procedure. The items in group 7 have been placed there merely for convenience in debate, and I ask the committee to accept all of them. In reply to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), I point out that the whole of this group is under the consideration of the Tariff Board. I believe that no application for higher duties on biscuits was made by the manufacturers. The duties may have ‘been increased as a means of helping to rectify the trade balance in accordance with the policy of the last Government, but most of the super taxes and prohibitions have since, been removed.’
– In the event of additional recommendations being received from the Tariff Board after these items have been validated, what action will the Minister take to expedite the implementing of the recommendations ?
– Any amendments considered necessary will be moved in the Senate.
– Will reports from the Tariff Board on all the items in this group be available before the bill has been dealt with by the Senate?
– That will depend’ upon the time occupied in the consideration of- the schedule in this chamber and in the Senate.
– I was afraid that, by voting for the ratification of these items I would bo committing myself to approval of the duties. If it is understood that ratification of the items in group 7 is merely a matter of convenience, and . that before
Jong all the items will be reviewed in the light of recommendations by the Tariff Board, I shall support the Minister.
– That is exactly the intention.
.- if the amendment proposed by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) were carried, how would the collection of duties be affected?
– The collection would continue as at present.
– That being the case, nothing would be gained by the adoption of the amendment. For the sake of convenience, 52 items have been grouped in this schedule, and the Minister has assured the committee that 26 of them have already been inquired into by the Tariff Board. Presumably, the recommendations of the board will he received at an early date, and amendments to give effect to them will he moved in the Senate.
– If we do not ratify these items, any reductions tabled in this wiamber in accordance with the board s recommendations will take effect immediately. If, however, we ratify these items, many months may elapse before effect is given to the board’s recommendations. ,
– If the Minister will give me his assurance that at the earliest possible moment the Government will give effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Board I shall be satisfied.
– Under the resolution a complete tariff schedule is before the committee, and when its details have been dealt with a bill embodying them will be introduced, and in due course, will be sent to the Senate. If any of the items in group 7 are not dealt with, but postponed, the bill, which has to be based on the resolution, cannot be brought before this House and then pass to the Senate. If, however, we pass these items, the bill can be sent to the Senate, and, meanwhile, the investigations of the Tariff Board will continue. The Senate may not amend it taxing measure,but it may request this chamber to make amendments. On Tariff Board reports being presented to the Government, steps may bo taken in the Senate, if necessary, for requests to be made for the amendment of the bill. It will be possible, in such circumstances, for this chamber to consider the effect of any recommendations by the board. It takes a long time for a tariff measure to pass through all the stages that I have indicated, but it is much better for Parliament to pursue the normal course than to adopt the procedure proposed by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) which, while allowing the reports to be considered a little earlier in this chamber, would delay the presentation of business to the Senate and the enactment as law of the whole tariff. The Government’s procedure will actually result in effect being given to the Ottawa agreement earlier than would be possible if the procedure suggested by the honorable member were followed. The Minister may receive reports before this committee has concluded its consideration of this group.
– Shall we be given an opportunity to consider the Tariff Board’s reports before requests by the other place for amendments are presented tous?
– In these circumstances, it is better for us to follow the ordinary procedure which will enable us honorably to fulfil our obligations under the Ottawa agreement.
Question - That the item be postponed (Mr. Paterson ‘s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Repatriation Department: Anonymous Letters on Files.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– This afternoon I asked a question of the Minister acting for the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Francis)concerning the placing of anonymous letters on the files of returned soldiers, and the Minister, in reply, said that, so far as he was personally concerned, he would see that the practice was continued.
-That was not my answer.
– It was the effect of the honorable gentleman’s answer. I do not desire to misrepresent what he said, and he may clarify the position later if he wishes to do so. Cases have come under my notice of anonymous letters having been written to the department respecting returned soldiers. On making inquiries in the department as to whether such letters are still on the files of the returned soldiers concerned, I have found that it is the general practice in the department, owing to the lack of any instruction for the destruction of such letters, to allow them to remain on the files. This practice is reprehensible from every point of view.
– I agree that, when such a letter has been received, the charges made in it should be investigated. That, I understand, is the practice of the department. If, after investigation, the charges are proved to be without foundation, no good purpose is served by keeping the letter on the file. On the other hand, should the investigation prove that the charges are well founded, there is still no need to retain the anonymous letter, because the department, from its own inquiries, knows that the charges are true. Therefore, whether thecharges are true or false, the letters containing them should be destroyed. A few days ago I had occasion to communicate with the Repatriation Department in New SouthWales, which admitted that two anonymous letters concerning a returned soldier were still on his file. That was admitted by two successive Ministers - the ex-member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) and the present Minister (Mr. Marr). The letters are in an envelope attached to the file. I submit that such letters have no. right whatever to be on the file after a period sufficient to prove or disprove the allegations contained in them. When an investigation has been made the department has its own records, and there is no need to keep these anonymous letters. In no circumstances should anonymous letters be kept on the file of a returned soldier, or any one else. I am surprised at the Minister’s reply to my question to-day, that the practice would be continued, and I ask him to reconsider hia decision.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has incorrectly stated my answer to his question this afternoon. I said that I would give careful consideration to his representations, and I added that my inclination was not to accede to hie request. That is not what he has said to-night. The matter will, as I promised this afternoon, be carefully considered. When the statements contained in anonymous letters are investigated, and tie charges disproved, both the letter and the report obtained on it are on the file, so that, should any subsequent charges be made, there is evidence that no further investigation need take place. In that case, the record is complete, as I believe all departmental records should be. Similarly, if a charge contained in an anonymous letter is investigated, and proved to be well-founded, there is a record to support any action taken. Although I do not agree with the writing of anonymous letters, I submit that the official files should be complete. That is my present view, but I shall give the matter careful consideration, and see what can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.5 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s. - The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has asked a series of questions, upon notice, in regard to the finances and profits of the Commonwealth Bank. The bank has been asked for the information, which will be supplied to the honorable member as soon as possible.
j - The Commonwealth Bank is being asked for information in reply to questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), in regard to the export of the gold reserve.
Duty on Concentrated Grape Must.
– Information is being obtained in reply to questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), in regard to concentrated grape must.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
When will the retrospective payment be made of wages due to Commonwealth employees as a result of the action of the High Court in ruling against a recent award made by Judge Drake-Brockman ?
– The question of the basic wage of Commonwealth railway employees has been listed for hearing by the Full Arbitration Court on Monday, the 15th May, at Melbourne.
s. - On the 28th April, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I now desire to advise him as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 May 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330504_reps_13_139/>.