13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30- a.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - The Financial Emergency Act 1932 provides that, on the death of a pensioner, all pension paid after the 12th October, 1 932, the date of the commencement of the act, shall be a debt due to the Commonwealth and, subject to certain encumbrances, shall be a first charge upon the estate of the pensioner.
It may be remembered that, during the debate on the Financial Relief Bill, it was urged that if pensioners voluntarily surrendered their pensions the Commonwealth charge should not operate. An undertaking was given on behalf of the Government that the matter would be examined, and that if it were found that legislation was necessary, an amendment would be introduced in the Senate to meet the position.
As the Financial Relief Bill was dealt with by the Senate immediately . after its passage through this chamber, it was quite impossible for the Government, having regard to other demands upon its time in the closing hours of the session, to consider the question fully. The matter was subsequently considered, and it was decided that pensioners who surrendered their pensions on or before the 31st December, 1932, would not be required to repay any amounts received by them after the 12th October, 1932. It was then announced that legislation would be introduced to give effect to the Government’s decision, but that in the meantime action would be taken in conformity with the Government’s decision in anticipation of the validating legislation. This has been done.
Representations have since been made by several honorable members that pensioners who died before the 31st December should be placed in the same position as pensioners who surrendered their pensions before that date, and that the Commonwealth charge on the estate of the deceased pensioner should not operate. It was also suggested that, in regard to pensions surrendered after the 31st December, 1932, the Commonwealth charge in respect of pension paid between the 12th October, 1932, and the 31st December, 1932, shall not apply.
The Government has now considered these representations, and has decided that the amending legislation to be submitted to Parliament shall provide that the Commonwealth charge in respect of pensions paid between the 12th October, 1932, and the 31st December, 1932, shall not apply -
Action will be taken by the administration to give immediate effect to these decisions in anticipation of the amending legislation and, where necessary, refunds will be made of pension payments already recovered in respect of pensions paid in cases in which the pensioner surrendered his pension after the 31 st December, 1932, or in which the pensioner died on or before the 31st December, 1932. I may mention that repayments made by pensioners who surrendered their pensions on or before the 31st December, 1932, have already been refunded, the amount of such refunds being £3,343.
– I am not quite clear whether a refund of payments will be made to persons who surrendered their pensions after the 12th October, 1932.
– The Government had determined that the estates of pensioners who surrendered their pensions between the 12th October and the 31st December, 1932, would be relieved of any charge. It has now decided that, in cases in which pensioners have died between the 12th October and the 31st December, or in which pensioners have surrendered their pension at any time after the 12th October, the estates shall be free from any charge. Any surrender after the 31st December will have the effect of freeing the property from any charge due to pension payments made between the 12th October and the 31st December. This decision means that, in the case of any surrendered pension, the amount that was paid between the 12th October and the 3lst December will not be a charge on the estate, but that, in the case of any pension not surrendered after the act was passed, the portion paid between those two dates will be deducted from the estate left by the pensioner on his decease.
– As all pensions are paid in advance, any amount paid in advance would have to be refunded in the case of a pension being surrendered.
– In the case of surrendered pensions, all payments made for the period between the 12th October and the 31st December will be covered.
– by leave - Honorable members will recall my statement in the ]-Iou.s: on the 28th March, with regard to the Government’s determination to maintain the policy of protection in both the primary and secondary phases of the cotton industry in Australia.
I then announced that departmental action would be taken to check the use of partly-mercerized yarn in substitution for protected soft cotton yarns, and that the Government would do its best to close any loopholes in the tariff that might permit evasion of the protective duties on cotton yarns n.e.i.
At that time the cotton-yarn manufacturers had claimed that tariff evasions, and increased imports of cotton yarn, were such that they could not enter into the ‘usual agreement for the purchase of their requirements of raw cotton from the Queensland Cotton Board. Although a conference was held in Sydney on the 21st March between the four Australian cotton-spinners and the Queensland Cotton Board, no definite agreement for the purchase by the spinners of the 1933 raw-cotton production was made. Nevertheless, the Government gave immediate effect to’ such of the recommendations of the conference as it could probably give effect to, and referred all other matters to the Tariff Board for early inquiry and report. In addition, the Government, through its officers in the Customs Department, has since kept in close touch with the spinners for the purpose of encouraging them to purchase the largest possible proportion of the present season’s crop of Queensland raw cotton.
I am now pleased to be able to inform honorable members that I received telegrams yesterday from the four Australian cotton spinners concerning their purchases to date from the current Queensland crop. The quantity so far purchased by all the spinners is 6,800 bales, which is more than half the latest estimate of 12,000 bales for the total production. This is a very satisfactory improvement on the position of six weeks ago, when it appeared that very little, if any, Australian raw cotton would be purchased by the spinners.
The largest individual purchaser stated yesterday that his exceptionally large order to the Cotton Board, of the previous day, was the result of the Government’s action in preventing the dumping of semi-mercerized yarns, and that his order had been confirmed by the Cotton Board
Seeing that so large a proportion of the 1933 crop has now been definitely purchased by the spinners within two months of the commencement of the cotton year, I suggest that the Cotton Board should seriously consider the wisdom of not exporting any more Queensland raw cotton. Raw cotton, sold to the Australian spinners will return approximately 2£d. per lb. more to growers than cotton shipped overseas. It would, therefore, appear to be in the interests of the cotton -growers generally if the Cotton Board would now examine the position very closely, for there are apparently good prospects of disposing of the balance of this year’s production to the Australian spinners.
It is regrettable that early frosts and continued dry weather in the cotton belt have caused the estimate of the crop to fall from the previously anticipated 20,000 bales to something iti the neighbourhood of 12,000 bales. However, if the 12,000 bales can all be sold to local spinners, the higher return thereon will compensate the growers to a considerable extent for the loss of extra crop they expected to harvest, most of which, it seemed, at the beginning of the season, would have to be exported.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen in this morning’s press a report that a sworn statement was made yesterday before the Tariff Board that the duty charged on an article costing 4d. amounted to 7s. 6d., or about 2,200 per cent.? If so, would it not be wise to impose some form of censorship to curb the propensities of the press to expose the effect of the Government’s tariff policy?
– I have’ seen the statement, referred to, but I shall see it in its proper form when it appears in the Tariff Board report. Not only does tilt; press need to be curbed sometimes, but so also do certain politicians who believe in a guess-work tariff, as opposed to a properly designed tariff such as the Government has prepared with the guidance of the Tariff Board.
– I direct the attention of- the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs to a report which appears in a Tasmanian newspaper of a deputation of potato-growers of the north-west coast of Tasmania which waited upon the Assistant .Minister when he was there recently. In the course of his reply to the deputation, the Assistant Minister is reported to have said- -
He would go as far as to say., however, that hi- did not think the fanners had much to fear, mid very good reason to hope for the best.
Will the Assistant Minister explain to the House what he meant when he told the members of the deputation that they had nothing to fear, and could hope for the best.
– I met a deputation of potato-growers at Ulverstone on the northwest coast, of Tasmania, who were justi fiably concerned about the present position. I told them that I was satisfied that both the Parliament and the Government would do everything possible to protect their interests.
Labour Party Attitude to Referendum
– Has the ‘ attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement in this morning’s Canberra Times to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition is in complete accord with Mr. Lang in regard to the referendum relating to the New South Wales Legislative Council? If so, may we take it that complete harmony has’ at last been established in the ranks of this party which consists of a multiplicity of parts?
– The honorable member’s question does not relate to a matter of public administration.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the following paragraph which appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald respecting the intention ‘of the Government of the United States of America in relation to its bonds : -
The Government announced to-day that, despite heated protests from British, French and United States investors in government bonds, the United States has no intention of standing by the letter of its ‘ endorsement to pay these bonds at maturity gold coin of a certain standard weight and fineness. Uncle Sam will pay his bondholders off iu American dollars.
– The honorable gentleman will not be in order in reading a long extract from a newspaper.
– In view of tha statement that I have just read, to the effect that the wealthy government of the United States of America recognizes that something will have to be done to meet its indebtedness, will the Prime Minister consider doing something in this direction, and advise his ‘Ministers accordingly ?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member is complicated, and the issues involved are important. At this juncture it is inadvisable to make a statement in regard to American debts.
– Wi ll the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me when he will make available to honorable members the Tariff Board report on exchange ?
– That report has not yet been considered by Cabinet, but after it has been considered it will, no doubt, he released.
– Will the Prime Minister make inquiries from the Public Service Board to ascertain the reason for the delay regarding the examination for promotion in the clerical division, which was held four months ago, and in connexion with which there were over 1,000 candidates? No information respecting this examination has yet been made available.
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
Mr. GUY laid on the table reports and recommendations by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Brake shoes for motor trucks and omnibuses.
Devices for catching or fastening motor car doors, excluding handles, remote controlled or otherwise.
Gum and wading boots of rubber.
Shock absorbers for vehicles.
Turbo-generators (both steam and water).
Ordered to be printed.
Expansion of Credit
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a recent development in Canada, which aims at the restoration and rehabilitation of its external conditions by an expansion of currency to provide for employment? In view of the fact that this method of rehabilitation is becoming widespread throughout the world, I ask whether the Government feels that it has been somewhat backward in pursuing its present policy?
– The honorable member has entirely overlooked the history of the past few months in Australia when he suggests that provision has not been made for the advance of credit to enable our private industries and public undertakings to be carried on. Had he taken the trouble to observe from time to time what has been done by the Comnon wealth Bank, with the backing of private banks, through their operation in connexion with the governments which, in turn, operate through the Loan Council, in order to provide sufficient credit to carry on essential works, he would realize that it was only the action of this Government in expanding credit on proper, sound and controlled lines that had enabled such an improvement to take place, as has been demonstrated in the last few weeks, by the provision for the relief of unemployment. Had he known the facts, he would not now find it necessary to quote Canada as an example of how a country should be run.
– As the cotton-growers are desirous of preventing certain yarns from entering Australia, what action has the Government taken to ensure that the spinners will purchase the Australian cotton crop from the Cotton Board under the new agreement?
– We have already disposed of a large portion of the crop.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs “was hopeful that the balance of 50 per cent, would be purchased.
– I have already endeavoured to show that the cotton problem has been solved for this year, because, during thefirst two months of the cotton season, more than half of the crop has been bought, and I think that the rest of the crop will be absorbed during the remaining months. If we export raw cotton, it will mean a considerable expenditure by the Govern- * ment in the payment of bounty, and in disposing of the crop locally the Government is saving some of that expense. I think that it can be said that the problem, as between the growers and the spinners, has been solved.
– Certain machinery and parts thereof used in the mining industry are exempt from the sales tax, but while winches, ropes and machinery which are used in hauling trucks to the surface of the mines are exempt, the trucks which are hauled, and the turntables upon which they are turned, are not exempt, according to a decision recently given by the Taxation Department. Will the Prime Minister inquire into this matter with a view to exempting from sales tax all the trucks and turntables used in the mining industry?
– I shall inquire into the matter raised by the honorable member. I take it that the decision of the Taxation Department was arrived at in accordance with the law, and that the articles mentioned cannot be exempted from the sales tax unless the law is amended. When further exemptions from the sales tax are being discussed, I shall give consideration to the question of the honorable member.
– by leave - Yesterday the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) submitted to me a question which suggested some uncertainty on his part as to the possible effect of the treaty between the United Kingdom and the Argentine on the terms of the Ottawa agreement, so far* as they apply to shipments of Australian meat. to Great Britain. Lest there be any doubt in the minds of honorable members on this matter, let me emphasize that none of the parties to the Ottawa Treaty is at liberty to make any other treaty . which impinges in the slightest degree on the terms of Ottawa. The agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia provided that for the 1933 period Australia should not increase certain of its meat shipments to the United Kingdom beyond the figures for the year ended the 30th June, 1932. After this year, during the currency of the agreement, the market in the United Kingdom will be quite unrestricted to dominion meat producers. On the other hand, very heavy restrictions, commencing at 10 per cent., . and ultimately reaching 35 per cent, on the 1932 figures, are imposed under the Ottawa agreement against foreign frozen meatsentering the United Kingdom. Neither of these conditions may be altered without the consent of Australia, and the agreement between the United Kingdom and the Argentine specifically recognizes this position, the United Kingdom Government actually retaining the right to increase the restriction against Argentine beyond the limit mentioned in the Ottawa agreement.
– In view of the probability of early consideration being given to the tariff item of sheet glass, and of the fact that the report of the Tariff Board issued a few days ago is six months . old, will the Minister for Trade and Customs make available to honorable members the weekly reports, say, for the last four weeks, of the customs officer in Sydney, who has investigated the sheet glass industry, so that honorable members may have at their disposal the latest information regarding it?
– I have no knowledge of any recent investigations, but if there have been any, and a report has been submitted, I shall make it available to the honorable member.
– I have received from the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “the danger of substantial collapse of the exporting industries of the Commonwealth.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I move this motion to enable the House to discuss the danger of the substantial collapse of the exporting industries of the Commonwealth. So much has already been said and written in connexion with the unprecedently low prices of exportable products that it is unnecessary for me to waste time in elaborating this well-known feature of the world depression. Suffice it to say that the prices of wool, beef, wheat, butter, zinc and many other exportable products are substantially below pre-war levels, while the cost of the essential requirements of many of those who produce these commodities is to-day very much higher than it was pre-war. Primary producers throughout the world have been put into such a position that a substantial mortgage has very often become an impossible burden, and the equity of the farmer in his farm has, in too many cases, disappeared. It has happened frequently that only readjustment of the terms of the mortgage voluntarily, or in accord with legislation, has prevented the farmer from being dispossessed of his property. In Australia the dryness of the autumn has added to previous difficulties. This is responsible for starving stock, fewer lambs, less wool and that of poorer quality, and the prospect indeed, almost the certainty, of a greatly reduced wheat yield. In the United States of America, the position of the farmers has been even worse than that of farmers in countries with depreciated currencies, and we read this week of the extraordinary powers which have been vested by Congress in the President to provide relief for farmers, scores of thousands of whom have become bankrupt. The amount ‘of 2,000,000,000 dollars has been voted for financing mortgages, and the President has been vested with extraordinary powers to enable him to fix prices, and to make it illegal to pay. to the producer a price below the cost of production. In Australia, our departure from the gold standard, followed as it was by the subsequent adoption by Great Britain of the same policy, saved us from the quickly ruinous prices which obtained in the United States of America and other coun tries which still adhered to the gold standard. But while we in Australia have been enabled, by reason of those, depreciated currencies, to carry on longer than would have been possible on the gold standard, the producers must, in time, be forced out of production unless relief is given to them in one or two directions; either in the way of reduced costs, or by some improvement in world prices. The wheat and wool growers have, for some three years, been receiving prices below production costs. While the collapse of butter prices is much more recent, it is so complete that the dairyman is now receiving about 25 per cent, less for his butter-fat than he received pre-war. It has to be recognized that this Parliament has not the constitutional power to do some of the things that the American Congress has decided to do; for example, it cannot fix the price of any commodity, even if it had the will to do so. Further, even if the State Parliaments, by an exercise of their powers, made it possible for producers to receive higher prices locally - and I believe that they must undertake something of that kind, in view of the difficult position of those who are engaged in the exporting industries -the benefit would not be so great in Australia as in the United States of America, because that great country has a consuming public of 120,000,000, and a relatively small ‘exportable surplus, whereas we have a local consuming public of only 6,500,000. and a relatively large exportable surplus, which must be sold at world prices. Nothing. short of a rise in world prices will again make Australia’s exporting industries prosperous, with costs of production at their present level ; although a lowering of those costs would reduce losses, and would make a much smaller increase in world prices suffice. In the majority of cases, the producer already is making every possible saving, and in some cases is living on his capital. He must look to governments to enable him to reduce his costs still further. There are, I believe, at least three ways in which this Government may take action to assist him: In the first place, on its own authority; in the second place, partly on its own. authority and partly in co-operation with the States; and, in the third place, as participants in the forthcoming world economic conference, at which Australia will be represented by the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce).
The Country party has been extremely disappointed at the small measure of relief in the reduction of producing costs that has been provided in the tariff schedules. But “hope springs eternal in the human breast,” and I, for one, am still hopeful that the report of the Tariff Board in connexion with the protective incidence of exchange and primage will contain some useful recommendation, and that the Government will give prompt effect to it. I trust that, the Government will place that report in the hands of honor- - able members as soon as possible. Of course, I can only make a guess as to what it may contain; but, having read some of the evidence given at the inquiry, I shall be exceedingly disappointed if the board has not recommended a. substantial deduction from existing duties - amounting, perhaps, to 10 per cent, or 15 per cent. - partially to offset the protective incidence of the exchange rate. The land tax provides another avenue in which relief may be given; and exemption from sales tax on such items as butter factory plant, and from primage on butter boxes and wrapping -paper, would assist the dairying-industry to lower its costs.
I come now to the problem created by the immense burden of interest. I realize, of course, that some relief has already been given in this connexion through the operation of the Premiers plan. But, so long as this Parliament, and the Parliaments of the States, perpetuate the tremendous disparity which exists between the taxation imposed upon government bonds, on the one hand, and upon incomes that are derived from mortgages on rural lands, on the other hand, so long will it be impossible to obtain - and unreasonable to expect to obtain - money for mortgages on rural lands at rates of interest round about 4 per- cent. Until money for this purpose can be obtained at about that rate, the interest bill will, in many cases, be beyond the capacity of the mortgagor to pay. I quite recognize that the ^Government has need of revenue, and that there are limits beyond which it cannot go in reducing taxation. But even though the need of revenue makes it impossible to grant all-round heavy reductions in income taxation, I submit that the posi-tion of the primary industries is so critical, and Australia’s dependence upon them is so complete, that there is ample justification for discrimination being shown between the taxation that is levied on incomes derived from mortgages on rural lauds, and that which is levied on ether incomes. The Country party appeals to the Government to secure a prompt lowering of interest rates on rural mortgages, first by abolishing the super tax on incomes obtained from this source, and, secondly, by endeavouring to come to an agreement with the States whereby both the Commonwealth and the States will agree to forgo the tax on incomes from this source, or at- least to limit the total tax, Commonwealth and State, to an amount not greater than is at present levied by the Common wealth upon Commonwealth bonds. If that were done, I am confident .that the rate of interest ou mortgages on rural lands would fall to practically the same level .as the gilt-edged races. Confirmation of that statement is furnished by the offer of . an influential insurance company to. the Government, that it would reduce its mortgage interest rates to 4 per cent, provided that they were free of tax. That proposal is, of course, based upon the condition that interest rates would have to be brought down to a point that the governments considered satisfactory. There is no doubt that the taxation which is levied on incomes derived from mortgages is reflected in the interest, rates that are charged for those mortgages; therefore, it must be the mortgagor rather than the mortgagee who ultimately pays the tax. We appeal to the Government to place this proposal before the Premiers Conference that is shortly to meet.
In 1928, the revenue received from taxation, by all Governments in Australia amounted” to £88,000,000. That was the last year prior to the depression. For the year ended the 30th June. 1932, the amount was £S6,000,000- a ‘decline of over £2,000,000, or 2J per cent., although in the same period the national income dropped by £200,000.000, or more than 30 per cent. During those four years, the public debt of Australia increased by £93,000,000, the larger part of which was represented by short-term indebtedness. Faced as we. are with an almost inevitable shrinkage in our exports for the coming year, on account of climatic conditions, and a continuance of lowworld prices, it is impossible to maintain the present rate of government expenditure.
Just a word concerning the forthcoming World Economic Conference that is to be held in London on the 12th June, at which Australia will be represented by the Resident Minister in Loudon. I think it may be said that, with the single exception of the Lausanne Conference, very little of a useful nature has come out of international conferences; and it is difficult to view with any considerable degree of optimism that which is about to take place. Nevertheless, we must not give “way to despair. At Ottawa, a resolution was passed by, I believe, a finance committee, in favour of world action being taken in the direction of raising prices. If . that can be done by international action, this forthcoming monetary conference affords an opportunity of deciding what are the best means to adopt; but, even so, the realization of the objective must be a slow process. I hope, however, that the Government, through its Resident Minister, will give to this item on the agenda paper the consideration that it deserves. I trust that our representatives will demonstrate that Australia is willing to support proposals that are aimed at calling a halt to restrictions upon world trade for a period of years. There are so many restrictions on world trade to-day that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find markets for our products. But I would emphasize that our exporting industries will be unable to face any scaling down of the currency disparity - in other words, any reduction of the existing exchange rate - until world prices substantially improve.
My time is almost exhausted, and it is impossible for me to deal at any length with what may be accomplished at this world conference.
I should like, however, to make a brief reference to war debts. I trust that it will be found possible to relieve not only the costs of production in Australia, but also those costs in all other countries, and the monetary responsibilities of the different nations, by a satisfactory arrangement in connexion with war debts. I consider that, until that is done, we cannot obtain that confidence in international finance which is necessary before world prices can rise substantially. It makes one proud to remember that Great Britain - that little country on the other side of the world from which we have all sprung - has already wiped out exactly three times as much war debt due to her as she is now asking the United States of America to forgo. The amount that she has wiped off the slate is £2,550,000,000, and she is asking the United States of America to forgo £850,000,000.
In conclusion, I urge the Government to give consideration to the points that I have raised, in view of the very grave position of our primary industries, and of the fact that we are faced with a shrinkage in. our exports as well as a continuance of low prices. So far, Australia has been able to keep its head above water, largely by reason of the fact that extremely prosperous seasons have enabled such a volume to be produced for export that, to some extent, the very great reduction in prices has been offset. But if we are to experience a reduction in volume, together with the continuance of low world prices, we must take every possible step to prevent- these industries from going out of production, and to reduce the burden of government expenditure.
.- The Government must realize how grave is the position of Australia’s exporting industries. As the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) has said, this is not a late development; it has been proceeding for the last three years, and is steadily becoming worse.
It is almost two months since a motion for the adjournment of this House was moved to discuss the position of the wool industry. In the debate that then took place, unchallengeable facts were placed before the House, showing that this major industry is in a most serious condition. That debate received a good deal of publicity throughout Australia, and the facts dwelt upon were not controverted in any direction. Doubtless, the Government will refer to what has been done by it to assist the wheat industry. While I do not decry that assistance, I point out that the position of the wheat-farmer to-day is worse than it was when the bounty was given last season. On the average, the wheat-farmer did not receive more than perhaps £40. His costs are greater than they were then, and no permanent or tangible benefit has accrued to him. Until those major costs over which he has no control are substantially reduced, the position cannot be materially altered. I may describe such assistance as has been given as soothing syrup given to a child to stop it from crying. The Government, apparently, docs not realize that this child is crying, not because it wants to do so, but because it is seriously ill; and unless the ill is remedied, in my opinion the child will expire. We have had many serious warnings concerning the. dangers confronting the nation. Recently at a meeting of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, attended by over 100 delegates, speaker after speaker stressed the perilous position of the wool industry ; but, so far as we have been able to discover, this Government has not taken any steps to improve the lot of the growers. Ministers have opened conference after conference with bright, cheery optimistic words; they have lustily farewelled “goodwill” ships, but, invariably, upon returning to their offices, they have closed the door, apparently convinced that all was right with Australia. Our position as a nation cannot be safe while our important export industries are in a .desperate plight. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), at the Easter Show in Sydney recently, made reference to the debt which Australia owes to our export industries. Is it not time that this Government gave some attention to the payment of that deb’t, especially if action in that direction is calculated to save our primary producers from absolute bankruptcy? The Government can allow almost unlimited time in the tariff debate now in progress for the discussion of the duties on such articles as corsets, picture-frames, and rubber boots, but apparently, it cannot provide sufficient time for the discussion of the grave problems that threaten to overwhelm the Commonwealth. It has given protection to our secondary industries to the extent of approximately £20,000,000, but is content to allow our exporting industries to approach a condition of bankruptcy.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– Time after time, I have suggested the reduction of interest rates, relief from the existing heavy burden of taxation, and the reduction of transport charges. What has the Government done about all these matters? What has it done to relieve our primary producers of some portion of their costs, so as to give them a chance to carry on ? While other countries realize the urgent need for the revision of tariffs, this Government proceeds to implement a tariff which is the highest Australia has ever known. Has this Government any policy for the relief of our great exporting industries? Has any Minister a practical knowledge of the difficulties of our primary producers? The Government can spare a Minister to visit New Zealand with a view to making a trade agreement for the introduction into Australia of, among other things, -potatoes; it can spare a Minister to go to New Guinea to open the newly-constituted Legislative Council for that territory; but, apparently, it cannot spare a Minister to devote his attention to the pressing problems confronting our primary industries with a view to their salvation.
– We spared two Ministers to go to the Ottawa Conference.
– That is so, but with what result? The implementing of a tariff policy which is not in agreement with the spirit of the Ottawa treaty. 1 warn the Government of a growing hostility throughout the country because of its inaction as regards the difficulties of our rural producers. Let me remind the Prime Minister that the Government of New South Wales, which represents the same political party that stands behind his party,. has made earnest endeavour to relieve primary producers in that State from some of the burdens that press so heavily upon them, but, unfortunately, that Government’s activity is limited by the borders of the State. The Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues have in their keeping the welfare of the whole of the people of Australia, and the time has come for practical assistance to be given to our primary producers, the great majority of whom have applied the whole of their financial resources to carry on and meet their obligations. Anything which this Government has done for them up to the present time is hardly worth a “ tuppenny damn “. I appeal to the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues to realize the seriousness of the position, and to do something to save from disaster our farmers and wool-growers, upon whom the financial stability of Australia depends. In this great undertaking the Government should seek the co-operation of all sections of the people. We have not introduced this motion this morning from sectional or party motives. But we represent the country people, and we know their difficulties. Day after day we have brought beforeus evidence of their desperate plight, andwe know that the situation is steadily becoming worse. In this appeal to the Prime Minister, we seek no kudos for the party which we represent, but urge prompt action, and we are prepared to give all the advice and assistance possible to save our rural industries, thus helping to keep Australia solvent.
– I appreciate the spirit in which the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Pater son) approached the consideration ofthe questions raised by this motion. Unlike the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott), he did not ask the Government, not only to perform miracles, but to perforin them immediately. The latter gentleman, apparently, expects this Government to do what no other government in the world up to the present time has succeeded in doing. I assure the House that Ministers are fully alive to the difficulties confronting the primary producers of this country, and since our acceptance of office we have given serious attention to various proposals for their removal.From time to time statements arc made in this chamber and elsewhere about the total value of our exportable products, the purpose being to emphasize the importance of our rural industries. As I have said, the Government appreciates the importance of our rural industries and the value of those industries to Australia. But I would remind the House that in 1930-31 our secondary industries gave employ ment to 339,000 persons as compared with the 450,000 persons engaged in primary production of one kind or another. We are, as I have said, not unmindful of the disastrous fall in the world’s prices of our surplus exportable products. We consider that the position cannot be materially improved until there has been a rise in world prices, but that has not caused us to ignore our responsibilities, as the honorable member for Gwydir has suggested that we have done. That honorable gentleman mentioned the debt which this country owes to its primary producers. I have, on other occasions, made full acknowledgment of that debt, and I repeat that we appreciate what this country owestothe man on the land. The honorable member for Gwydir asked was it not time that some portion of that debt to the man on the land was repaid. Notwithstanding the shortness of the time at my disposal, I hope to remind honorable members of some of the steps which have been taken, not only by this Government, but also by the preceding Administration, to meet the position. All Govern-‘ ments, Commonwealth and State, have, by their acceptance of the Premiers plan, effected economies with a view to balancing their budgets, and have thus been able to stave off additional taxation which, but for that action, would have had to be imposed on our people. Then there is the fact which, apparently, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) has overlooked, that all the Australian governments, including this Administration, have been able to give relief from taxation that was not contemplated at the time of the last federal elections, and with the co-operation of State governments and the banking institutions of this country, we have conferred substantial benefits on our primary producers through the increase in the exchange rate. I, therefore, assert, in reply to the honorable member for Gwydir, that we are paying some of the debt ‘which we owe to our country people. With the cooperation of State governments, the preceding Administration converted the whole of the internal indebtedness of the Commonwealth to a lower rate of interest, which, in turn, is reflected in the reduction of interest charges in respect of private mortgages. The improvement in the credit position, due to the action of the Commonwealth and State Governments in attempting honestly to balance their budgets, has resulted in lowering the rates for short-term loans made available by the Commonwealth Bank to 2^ per cent. I do not pretend that interest charges have been reduced sufficiently to meet fully the present situation. With the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), I hope that there may be a substantial further reduction in the near future. Some people allege that little has been done by the Government to bring about a reduction of production costs. On this point, I remind the House that, through tariff revision, we are doing what we can to give relief in this direction to our primary producers. I am, of course, aware that this has not given satisfaction to all parties, but tariff revision, as well as sales tax exemptions, and the reduction of primage duties, were measures insistently urged by the members of the Country party who now critisize the Government, and claim that it has not done enough. The following is a list of the tariff reductions made by this Government in the interests of our primary industries: -
In addition to what the Commonwealth has tried to do, the State governments also have assisted substantially by passing moratorium acts, under which the primary producers have benefited. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) saw fit to sneer at the Ottawa agreement, but I cannot understand his attitude in that regard. It ha3 undoubtedly conferred benefits on those primary producers who export meat and butter.
– They have not benefited yet.
– Where would we be if it were not for the Ottawa agreement, and if Ave were not, as a result of the agreement, in a position to negotiate with Britain regarding the restriction of imports from foreign countries? How much worse would the position in regard to butter not be but for the duty of 16s. per cwt. imposed by Britain on foreign butter? Benefits are also being derived in regard to fruit, whether fresh, canned, or dried. One honorable member complained that we were able to spare a Minister to go to Kew Zealand to discuss potatoes. I remind him that the Minister went to New Zealand to negotiate an important and beneficial agreement between the two countries for the purpose of developing the trade for which honorable members, are always asking. Now, when we take steps to develop that, trade, we are criticized for so doing. No delegation has ever gone from Australia better equipped than that which represented Australia at Ottawa. Two Ministers accompanied the delegation, so that the case for the primary producers might be effectively put.
The honorable member raised the subject of wool, and I desire to show that the Government has not been idle in regard to wool any more than . in regard to other matters. A special committee of inquiry was set up, representative of the wool-growers themselves, in order to find out what was wrong with the industry. The question of costs was exhaustively dealt with, and the Commonwealth Government, in spite of the difficult financial position, did what no honorable member had dreamed could be done, namely, reduced the land tax by onethird, and special relief was given ir regard to taxation in cases of hardship. Reduction of the super tax on property relieved taxpayers to the extent of £500,000, and the wool-growers share in this relief. The Commonwealth Railways last year made a 10 per cent, reduction in rail freights, and it is hoped to make further concessions this year. The subsidy on fertilizers has proved of benefit to some, at least, of the wool-growers. I do not know how much more can be done, because we must remember that all this is being done by the community. I am not doing it, nor is the Commonwealth or State governments; the whole community is doing it.
I now come to what the Government has done to assist the wheat-growers. Some honorable members complain that little has been done to discharge the community’s debt to that fine body of men on the land who are producing commodities for export; but that charge cannot be upheld. A bounty of 4½d. a bushel was granted on wheat of the 1931-32 crop, sold or delivered for sale, and the amount paid to the wheat-growers in this connexion exceeded £3,400,000. In addition, £250.000 was made available as a subsidy on fertilizers to be used in the production of primary produce other than wheat. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) proposes that taxation should he reduced in order to enable rates of interest to be reduced, and I assure the honorable member that the Government has not been idle in that respect. It has carried on negotiations, and is still negotiating, in order to bring about the very result that the honorable member has mentioned, namely, the reduction of the huge interest burden on the primary producers. The honorable member suggested that the super tax on income from property should be wiped out-
– Not on all property, but only on income from mortgages on rural land.
– The honorable member has not responsibility for the country’s financial position. The States and the Commonwealth must meettheir financial commitments. I would cheerfully have abolished the whole of the super tax, thus bringing about a reduction in the rate of interest on mortgages on rural land, but just as we were about to do this, and to make up the revenue with what surplus funds were available, there arose an insistent demand for a further ‘£2,000,000 to help the wheatgrowers over their immediate difficulties. The money was devoted to that purpose, and I remind honorable members that that £2,000,000 cannot be used twice.
The community is also assisting the primary producers in regard to butter. As honorable members are aware, the Paterson butter scheme, fathered by the honorable member for Gippsland, provides for a levy to be paid by the butter producer on all butter fat delivered by him to a butter factory.From the fund so obtained a bounty is paid on export. This plan has cost the Australian consumer up to £3,000,000 per annum, and is at present costing the community nearly £2,500,000 a year. The community is also assisting those engaged in the sugar industry by paying more for Australian sugar in a protected market.
The Government has also made substantial reductions in the sales tax on goods’ used by primary producers, while, from a long list of such goods, the sales tax has been removed altogether. Practically every concession granted by this Government has been in the direction of assisting the primary producers, and members of the Opposition sometimes complain that those concessions have been made at. the expense of a less fortunate section of the community. The Government, however, hopes to rehabilitate the primary industries as a fundamental step towards the solution of the general employment problem.
Now, as to the future. I agree with the honorable member that our first object should be to raise world prices. A world conference will shortly be held, and the representatives of Australia will play their part there to bring about a better state of affairs. Some new plan for economic rehabilitation will be evolved, whether it provides for reforming the currency, restriction of output, or both. I do not favour the second proposal, because I believe that it would bring all sorts of difficulties in its train. If the world conference is successful in inducing a return to prosperity, there should be no need for any restriction of output. The Government proposes definitely to consider ways and means of affording further relief to the community by reducing taxation as the financial position permits, and this will result in a reduction of rates of interest as they affect primary producers. Revision of the tariff will go on with the object of giving what relief is possible, while, at the same time, the interests of those secondary industries which are so important to the primary producers as providing a market for their products will be conserved. The greater part of the produce from the land is consumed in Australia. When I visited Newcastle recently, I found that practically all the primary products of the district were sold in the town. The output of one large butter factory was entirely consumed in the town itself. We must be careful to maintain the industries of the country as a whole, while doing everything possible to rehabilitate the primary industries.
– The right honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This subject is too big to discuss adequately in ten minutes, but I cannot allow the occasion to pass without expressing some of my opinions upon it. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has moved the adjournment of the House, as has been done before, to draw attention to the serious position of those engaged in primary production. Every honorable member appreciates the seriousness of their position, but mere words cannot dispose of the problem. No general statements about what has been done, or what should have been done, can overcome the fact that, at the present time, a very important section of Australian industry is in a grave plight. It does not give any comfort to those engaged in the industry to know that primary producers in every other part of the world are in a similar position; but it is relevant to point this out when it is suggested that certain restrictions upon trade, and the determinations of certain industrial tribunals, are largely responsible for the unfortunate position in which the primary producers find themselves. It is well to remember that, in other parts of the world, where there are practically no tariff restrictions, and no industrial tribunals, the primary producers are suffering even more than in
Australia. I emphasize that point, because I believe that those honorable members who claim to represent the primary producers - though there are others in this House who represent them just as truly - are doing the farmers no service by making them believe that their troubles are due to tariffs and Arbitration Court awards. The farmers would not be helped by abolishing duties designed to protect the interests of the farmers’ own best customers. Take one item - butter. The butter industry is an important one, and gives employment to a large number of our people. It has been protected by a plan known as the Paterson scheme, under which the primary producers of butter in Australia get a higher price than is paid for butter in practically any other part of the world.
– That statement is a tremendous exaggeration.
– I do not know of any other butter-producing country in which the primary producers receive a better price than that obtained in Australia.
– Butter is sold wholesale in Australia at the same price as that paid for fresh butter in London.
– Then, the Paterson scheme has failed. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has quoted figures to-day that have been given before. He said that the Paterson scheme had, in past years, added £3,000,000 per annum to the expenditure of the Australian consumers of butter, and, at the present time, is increasing the cost of butter in Australia by £2,500,000. Why is the latter amount £500,000 less than that first mentioned? It is because of the large army of unemployed now to be found in Australia. Because industries cannot keep as many men in employment as they should employ, less butter is eaten. Instead of the cost of the butter bounty being £2,500,000 a year to this community, it should now he £3,250,000. But there are 300,000 or 400,000 people in Australia who are unable to buy butter. If we could put them back to work, they would be the best customers of the butter producers of this country. Members of the Country party should be careful not to destroy the home market of the butter producers by their finicky and half-baked freetrade proposals.
The Prime Minister has endeavoured to show what the Government has done for the primary producers. He said, “ We have lifted the prohibitions of the Scullin Administration.” I have a list before me of some of the articles from which the embargoes have been lifted. Prohibition has been lifted against eggs, lard, fats, canned pork, dried and powdered milk, malted milk, onions, soap, cheese, dried fruits, preserved fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies. Practically every one of those commodities is a primary product, and the prohibition imposed by the last Government was so imposed largely because they were luxury lines.’ The Prime Minister, however, claims that the lifting of the prohibitions shows that his Government has given assistance to the primary industries, yet that action has given no relief at all to those industries. Why drag in those prohibitions, and pander to the Country party? The Prime Minister contends that the Government met the Country party by reducing tariffs, and he says that the Government intends to propose greater reductions. It is this that is causing so much trouble. The farmers’ representatives in Parliament tell the farmers that they will get absolute relief if tariffs are wiped out, and the Government is meeting the Country party half way in this matter, and between the two, both the primary and the secondary industries are suffering. The greatest hope for the primary producers is in the existence of a well-paid army of workers in Australia. Then both the primary and secondary industries would prosper. This army would provide a large home market for Australian industries. The Country party declaim against prohibitive tariffs, yet there is scarcely an article produced by the primary industries that has not got a duty on it. Every primary commodity, except wool, carries a duty, and there, is a duty on wool tops. Practically none of the primary products of the soil of Australia are without an import duty of a prohibitive character. A most extraordinary statement was made by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott). He said that every country, except Australia, is calling a halt in tariff restriction-. Yet this Government declares that Australia is the only country in the world that is reducing tariffs. Between those two statements, where does the truth lie? Look at the farmers of Great Britain. They have not had a tariff, except in recent months, yet they are not doing well. In Brazil, the coffee-growers have been burning their coffee, or tipping it into their harbours. In the Netherlands, an effort was made to raise a special fund, and to give the powers of a dictator to the Government to enable it to relieve the awful distress of the farming community.
Let us get down to the basis of this trouble. The whole cause of it is the fall in world prices, lt is of no use to meddle with the super tax, and specially to relieve mortgages on land. In my opinion, such a provision would be impracticable, and of doubtful constitutionality. Such relief, however, may come as time goes on. But, when we survey the whole world, we ask the reason for the collapse in world prices, and for .all this suffering of those on the land, and also by those in secondary industries, .we are forced to the conclusion that the. capitalism and the whole monetary system of the world has failed. Australia should go to the ‘world conference with the determination that there must be reconstruction on a solid foundation, and not on the wretched principle that nothing must be produced except for profit. Why pander any longer to the money lords, who have controlled the world for generations? If we determine that the money masters must give way to the needs of the people, we can correct the fall in world prices, and the collapse of industries, and, when this is done, we shall no more have the spectacle of thousands starving in the midst of plenty.
[11.51’). - I think that everybody will agree that the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) made a very reasonable speech; it might almost have been made from thi3 side of the House. Ho thereby dissociated himself from some of the propaganda of that party which has always been directed to fostering among farmers a sense of injustice and grievance as the only condition which will allow the Country party to continue to exist. The honorable member was very fair in what he said. It is quite impossible to deal with all the aspects of this matter in the ten minutes now available to me; but I should like to say, first, that nobody has yet suggested any method whereby boom values for country or city lands can be maintained. There was an extensive boom in farm lands ‘in Australia some years ago. Honorable members, who are interested, will find in the recent report of the committee appointed in South Australia to deal with debt adjustment, some interesting facts on that subject, and nobody hits yet suggested how extravagant values can be maintained on either city or farm lands.
I suggest that, in discussing this matter, it is very important to arrive at a proper basis for its consideration. It may be of interest- to honorable members, who have heard so much about the disastrous fall in the prices of primary products - which is a very real fact- if I give them some figures which I have recently obtained from the Statistician as to falls of a coraparable nature in the United States of America and Canada. I have endeavoured to compare the relative spreads between prices of farm and secondary products in Australia and other countries; but the Statistician informed me that insufficient data are available to warrant any conclusions in that regard. Certain other figures have been widely circulated, and much used, in Australia, but they are inaccurate. It is, undoubtedly, true that the prices of secondary products have not fallen nearly so much in Australia as in other countries. It is also true that the prices of farm products hove not fallen nearly .so much. Taking 1929 as a. base year, we find that the figures regarding farm products in Australia are fairly reliable, and the fall has. been’ from 1,000 - to employ an index figure - in 1929 to 641 in January, 1933. In Canada, the fall has been from 1,000 in 1929 to 433 in January, 1933. Iu the United States of America, the prices of farm products have fallen from 1,000 in 1929 to 4GS in September, 1932. Therefore, the prices of primary products have fallen more relatively, in comparable countries, than in Australia. In relation to secondary products, if one compares such material as is available. though it is very unreliable, the position of the farmer, having regard to the greater fail in secondary prices elsewhere, appears to be much the same as in Australia. But it is difficult to make a fair comparison.
Another matter which affects the basis of this discussion is, I suggest, the tariff. . I was astonished to hear the statement of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) that other countries are acting in reducing their tariffs, and that Australia is conspicuous in having taken no such action. If the honorable gentleman went to Melbourne, and heard the complaints that are being made there about the so-called tariff -slashing of the Government, he would have cause to change his opinion. 1. shall be interested to know what other countries are now making real reductions of their tariff, as distinct from talking about doing so.
– There is talk of a tariff truce.
– That is merely talk ; Australia is the only country, that is acting. When the United States of America comes along with a reduction of its tariff, in fact, I shall be very interested to see it, and, I may add, to welcome it. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to restrictions of trade. I wish he would use influence with the farmers of France, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Italy, to induce them to admit Australian, wheat into those countries, and abandon their trade restrictions. But we know that that cannot be done. Tanners ail over the world are insisting on restrictions of a prohibitive nature. I have before me a list of primary products, and I wish to show the House how the tariff system works. Some secondary products are imported into Australia, but wo import no primary products. The duty on butter is Gd. per ib., British preferential, and 7d. per lb. general. If a pound of New Zealand butter were imported into Australia, think of the protest that would come from one end of the continent to the other! Here are some other duties : -
If wheat comes here from Great Britain, it is admitted free! Against other countries there is a duty on wheat of 2s. per cental. A bounty was paid last year to the wheat farmers of Australia amounting to £2,000,000, and the year before that the contribution amounted to about £3,400,000, for which the country is still paying at the rate of between £300,000 and £400,000 a year in interest, and will be doing so for the next thirteen or fourteen years. It costs about £6 3s. a ton to land potatoes in Sydney from New Zealand, after paying the duty and such charges as sales tax, primage, and freight, before the grower can get one penny for his produce. There is an embargo on the importation of potatoes. In the case of rice, the duties are Id. and Id. respectively. The effective duty on tobacco is 3s. per lb., or nearly 150 per cent, on the Australian price, and more than 300 per cent, on the foreign price. In the case of sugar there is a complete embargo.
I have referred to. these things for the purpose of showing that it is in respect of primary products that a prohibitive system of restrictions is applied in Australia. The Government hopes that, by degrees, it will be able to deal with a large number o£ these high duties on both primary and secondary products, and thus lift the system of restriction which has largely placed the world in chains. Honorable members who have spoken this morning have not been able to suggest effective remedies; nor am I able to do so now, because of the limited time at my disposal. The relation of tariffs to exchange raises difficult problems, not only in relation to the change of duties by reference to varying factors, such as exchange, but also in reference to the revenue of the country.
– After listening to the Acting Leader and other members of the Country party, the first thought that crossed my mind was the answer given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to a question raised by a member of the Opposition this morning, in which the right honorable gentleman said that there was no need for Australia to go to other countries for advice, because it was obvious that during the past six months conditions in Australia had improved greatly, and that we could now work out our own policy in our own way. So far as he was concerned, the position appeared to be entirely satisfactory. From honorable members in the corner we heard the circumstances of those whom the Country party alleges it represents. They told a harrowing tale of men and women bordering on insolvency. I feel disposed to agree with them, and in such circumstances the Prime Minister’s answer to which I have referred seems all the more strange. This debate will proceed until it is terminated under the Standing Orders; each party will put forward its views, and finally no doubt, we shall all be convinced that the section of the community whose ease is now before us is in the difficult situation in which it has been represented to be. The Prime Minister has already mentioned the relief given to the primary producers in the way of bounties, the removal of tariff restrictions, and so on. But at the end of. the debate the farmer will be no better off than when it started. And so things will continue. If the primary producers are satisfied with such a state of affairs, I can only say that they are easily satisfled. But I do not think that that is the case. During the last few weeks I have come in contact with a number of these men, and I should not be surprised if they took action similar to that taken by the primary producers of the United States of America recently, when they took a judge off the bench and chastised him for endeavouring to allow the moneylenders to seize their property. No one denies that assistance has been given to the primary producers of Australia ; but, after all, that relief has only been a matter of patching things from month to month. They are still in much the same position as they were in before; in fact, their position appears to be even worse. Were it not that the problem is one for which none of the methods which have been suggested is a satisfactory remedy, we should have found by now that the methods adopted had wrought some real improvement, in which case there would have been no necessity either for a motion for the adjournment of the House, or for the statement of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott). That the circumstances of these primary producers to-day are so unsatisfactory is evidence that the methods applied to their problems have not been successful. If prosperity has not been restored to our primary producers in that they are unable to obtain mors for their products than it costs to grow them, it is obvious that the policy put before the country by the party now in power was wrong. In that case, one wonders how long the supporters of the Government, and the members of the Country party, will be willing to continue that wrong policy. That is a question which the farmers of this country want answered. The average farmer is unable to assess at its true value the propaganda which reaches him almost daily by post and over his paddock fence; all that he knows is that he rises early, works all day, and retires to bed late at night; and that, notwithstanding all his efforts, he is in a worse position than he was in before. The position is so serious as to call for frank and straightforward action. If we admit that there are obstacles in the way, let us be candid and admit also that they must be removed. It has been said that the exorbitant interest rates which our primary producers have to pay form one of the greatest of the difficulties confronting them. The men who, three years ago, advocated a reduction of interest rates, were told that they were attempting to break down confidence in the financial system, and that if they succeeded, the country would be ruined.
– There are two ways of doing things.
– We can “square off” to these financial interests until we are black in the face, and get nowhere with them. In a recent speech concerning the wool-growers of Australia, the honorable member for Gwydir advocated a conference with the bankers. During the past three years, there have been hundreds of conferences, . both local and international. I am convinced that the people concerned in this crisis are sick and tired of conferences. They want definite action. Why should we forgo a section of the revenue derived from income taxation in order to compensate money lenders for a reduction of interest rates? Why should these people receive preferential treatment? If our Parliaments are to be of any use at all, they should pass legislation to reduce the interest rates on mortgages in the same way that they legislate to reduce wages. When a reduction of wages is contemplated, conferences are not held. All that is done is to point out that the nation is unable to pay the existing wages, and thereupon, wages come down. How different is the position in regard to interest rates ! Conferences at which efforts are made to “ kid “ the bankers and money lenders are useless. In mixing with a number of small farmers in the Corio district recently, I met one settler who, in August, 1913, contracted to purchase 40 acres of land for £1,080. In addition, he received an advance of £400 to build his home, making his total indebtedness for house and land, £1,480. If he had paid off his principal and interest regularly, he would have paid £710. At the time when I saw him, he had, however, paid only £600 in interest, and he told me that he had received a notice stating that he still owed £1,523 on his block. What hope is there for that man? There is none. Yet his ouse is typical of that of many others with small holdings, and, probably, also of men with larger areas. That man has been on his block for twenty years, and has reared a family. He and his boys rise early to milk cows, and they retire to bed late each night. But what prospect is there before those lads, and what incentive is there for any of them to continue to1 work hard? Unless there is a writing-down of his capital value, that man has no chance of making a success of his holding. He1 has denied himself and his family many privileges, and yet his position is most unenviable. His case is typical of that of many other of our primary producers, and it is the duty of the Government to do something for them. The Acting Leader of the Country party said that we could look forward hopefully to the world economic conference, and that only by raising prices could we find a way out of our difficulties. And then ho added - “ I am not very optimistic about it “. I, too, am not optimistic; nor are the primary producers of Australia.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has brought before the House a matter of great seriousness in that intelligent and courteous manner which one learns to associate with him. The more I listen to the honorable gentleman, the more I am convinced that he is in a most peculiar position as a member of the corner party; he should be on this side of the House, among the true representatives of the primary producers of Australia. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) dealt with this subject in a manner altogether different from that of the mover of the motion. His manner was typical of the propaganda of the Country party, for he attempted to mislead the House.
– The Government is not unaware of the difficulties confronting the primary producers of Australia, for ‘among its members and supporters are to be found as many real primary producers as are in the ranks of any other party. The facts placed before the House this morning are only too well known by the primary producers on this side of the chamber, who, at various times, have placed before the Government proposals for assisting our export industries. As I listened to theremarks of members of the Country party on the tariff, I was led to ask myself what that party did to assist the primary producers of Australia when associated with the Nationalist party in the BrucePage Government. My observations have led me to the conclusion that they have helped forward what might be called the third stage of Australian protection - the all-in stage - which had the effect of making the vicious circle of rising costs and wages revolve faster than before. By so doing they cast a further burden on our exporting industries. If we examine the difficulties confronting our primary producers, we shall find that they fall into two groups. First, there is the calamitous fall in commodity prices - a condition which, unfortunately, is not peculiar to Australia. Over the world position we in Australia have little or no control. The Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) may, possibly, be able to do something to assist in straightening out the tangle at the forthcoming World Economic Conference. The right honorable gentleman has. at various times urged the necessity for raising commodity prices, and the need for international action. The Government is doing everything possible to further international action in this regard.
Turning to difficulties over which Australia has control, I shall describe briefly what the Government has done by reducing costs and by other direct assistance, to relieve the burden on our primary producers. I make the bold assertion that, in its brief term of office, this Government has done more than any other government to remove the burdens placed on primary producers, and reduce their costs. In common with other sections of the community, primary producers have definitely benefited by the removal of the fear of default, the result of action taken by this Government. They have also benefited directly and indirectly by the removal from office of a certain person named Lang, which resulted in the restoration of Australian credit and a reduction in the rates of interest, which would not otherwise have taken place.
I now come to the matter of taxation, which is another cause of the existing high rates of interest. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) referred to the super tax. I well remember attending a meeting in Melbourne last September, which was addressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). The right honorable gentleman introduced the subject of property tax, and stated that it was the intention of his government to remove that vicious imposition at the earliest possible date. I am confident that the Prime Minister expressed what was his genuine desire. Obviously, however, everything depends upon our budgetary position. In common with other taxes, this tax is having its effect on bank advances and mortgage rates generally. It has been ascertained that the burden of taxation on banks is equivalent to an increase of¾ per cent, in the advances rate. The removal of that burden must be effected as soon as practicable.
Land tax has also been referred to. The Bruce-Page Administration made no serious endeavour to reduce the land tax.
– It was reduced several times by that Government.
– In 1927-28, there was what might be regarded as a reduction, but it is a mere pretence to declare that that Government made any serious attempt to reduce this imposition, when we consider the fact that departmental valuations of country properties were constantly increasing. This Government has taken the first real step towards reducing the burden of land taxation, and I am confident that, as the financial positionbecomes easier, further reductions will follow. Reductions in sales tax and primage also represent definite benefits to the man on the land. During the last twelve months’ our wheat-growers have received assistance amounting to £2,000,000, while growers of other primary products have been granted rebates on artificial manures to the extent of £250,000. Practically the whole of the £4,350,000 represented by remissions of taxation and bounties to wheat-growers has gone to primary producers.
It has been said that we should take part in the tariff truce that has been proposed by the United States of America. Australia is doing more than that, for to-day it is the only country in the world that is making a downward revision of tariff. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) declared that the purpose of the proposal of the United States of America is to ensure that no additional tariff burdens will be imposed by the countries of the world. It has not been clearly proposed that any world-wide reduction of tariff should take place; merely that the world should come to an undertaking that the existing trade restrictions should not be further increased. This Government is not only in agreement with that desire, but, as I have indicated, it is doing even more by lessening the trade restrictions of the world by revising its tariff in a downward direction.
The main difference between the Country party and the United Australia party in regard to tariff concerns the speed with which effect is given to these proposals. On different occasions members of the Country party have made it clear that the principles underlying the tariff policy of the Government meet with their approval.
– The honorable, member’s time has expired.
– It must be refreshing to all honorable members to engage in a debate of national importance, even though it be for only a couple of hours, after the humdrum discussion of the last few weeks of the sectional interests affected by the tariff. It is no particular pleasure to me to have to support a motion such as that which has been moved this morning by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) ; but, as the Government does not seem to appreciate the extremely grave position of our export industries, it is, I feel, essential that special action should be taken to impress upon Ministers, and the community generally, the urgent need’ for doing something which will ensure that the industries upon which our economic structure is founded are put on a cost basis before they, and the structure which they support, utterly collapse.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) claim that the Government has done much for the primary producers, the former especially stressing the assistance that has been given to the wheat industry. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) spoke on similar lines. At the risk of indulging in repetition, I remind the Government, in particular, and honorable members generally, of the extent to which the returns for the wool and wheat industries have fallen below the cost of production during the past three years. Last year a committee of inquiry was appointed to investigate the state of our wool industry. It made certain recommendations; but no action has yet been taken to give effect to them. This delay is a further reason for stressing the need for action by the Government. The committee reported that the cost of producing wool in Australia averages 14d. per lb. Honorable members know that the average price received by the growers for their wool during the past three years has been from 7½d. to 8d. per lb. Assuming that the committee’s estimate of the cost of production - 14d. per lb. - to be correct, it exceeds the average return to the growers by 6d. per lb. The wool clip for last season was 3,000,000 bales, weighing 1,000 million lb. The loss, therefore, on the production of that record season’s clip ran into the immense sum of £25,000,000! Judge Beeby, in an estimate he made two years ago, arrived at much the same conclusion. Our wool and wheat industries, the two main export industries of Australia, are the least sheltered of any; consequently, they have felt the full blast of the economic tornado which has been sweeping over the world for the last four years. During the past three years the returns from the wheat industry have fallen below the cost of production to the extent of about £35,000,000. The Prime Minister talks about the assistance given -to the wheat industry. This Parliament granted it a bounty of £2,000,000; but, even taking that into account, the returns from the industry fell below the cost of produc tion by1s. per bushel, or on last year’s crop by an amount of about £10,000,000. When Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) specially appealed to the farmers to “ grow more wheat.” At that time Australia urgently needed credit overseas. The response to the appeal of the right honorable gentleman was magnificent, and resulted in a record crop. The inspiring example set by those engaged in the wheat industry was followed by our wool and other exporting industries ; unfortunately, with disastrous results to all connected with them. During the past three years the return received from wool and wheat has fallen below the cost of production to the extent of over £100,000,000. That is the chief cause of Australia’s present difficulty. In 1927, our wool clip realized £66,000.000, but last year’s clip, although much larger, brought only £32,000,000. Evidently, the Government is gambling upon the prospect of a rise in world price. Should such a rise occur, it will help us out of our difficulties; but the only safe policy for Australia is to assume that world prices will remain somewhere near the present level. Thirty or 40 years ago, this country could produce profitably the products which we now export at a loss, at present prices, or thereabouts, because the costs of production were so much lower.
– What does the honorable member suggest that the Government should do?
– I have two or three remedies to suggest. Honorable members will recall that a few years ago, the wool industry was in a dangerous position, but action was taken by the then Government which had the effect of improving prices, and this assisted it to recover. Interest is an important factor in production costs, and it is imperative that something should be done on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland to relieve the burden in this respect. Although some are managing to pay interest at the existing rates, it is evident that the present interest burden cannot much longer be borne by industry. If steps are not taken to reduce interest rates, interest will ultimately not be paid at all ; but creditors - and’ it is happening already in many instances - will be forced to reduce their rates to what the borrowers are able to pay. Some action should be taken, however, before industry is brought to a state of collapse. Land taxation also should be reduced. When the land tax was originally imposed, it was claimed to be a temporary measure designed to break up the large landed estates; but it has been retained ever since, and is the most iniquitous tax ever placed on the statute-book, for it is a tax on capital, and grievously affects the great rural industries, .upon which all others depend. By retaining this capital tax - for that i3 what a land tax really i3 - a Government is, in effect, forcing the country to commit economic suicide.
Much could be done to assist the wheal industry. A few months ago, the Prime Minister convened a conference of those connected with the wheat industry, at which certain resolutions were carried, and by which certain recommendations were made; but, so far as we know, the Government has taken no notice of them. I think Ministers might have treated honorable members with more respect- in that regard. _
Something could be done to reduce the cost of producing wheat in this country. An orderly system of marketing - Australian wide - would enable the wheatgrowers to obtain a better net return for the grain, and financial assistance to enable the States to institute a hulkhandling system everywhere within their borders would materially reduce handling costs. We already have a partial bulkhandling system in the State of New South Wales; but if the bulk-handling system were extended to cover the area in which the wheat grown is being marketed in bags, a reduction of cost to the extent of £2,000,000 would be achieved, and an amount of £1,750,000 in hard cash, that is at present being sent to India for sacks, could be retained in this country.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I must confess to great disappointment at the efforts put forward by the Country party in this debate. They remind me of a certain, historical figure who at a critical time in his country’s fortunes rose rather unsteadily to his feet, and with a slight but persistent stammer said, “ The time is ripe for something to be done. The question is, what is it ?” That is not an unfair parallel to make with the attitude of the Country party. I personally am just as interested as the members of the Country party in the success of the primary industries of this country, because my personal comfort is dependent upon it to a great extent. Apart from that, every one in Australia to-day with any bowels of compassion must be concerned about what we - are told is a menace to the prospects of our primary industries. I am just as concerned as arc members of the Country party to find the truth, but I must say straight out’ that I cannot accept the large and extravagant figures put forward by the last speaker, who told us that the wheat industry, even taking into account the amount of financial assistance given to it, has lost ground to the extent of £10,000,000 in the last twelve months, and that the wool industry has lost ground to the extent of £35,000,000 in the same period.
– The honorable member should read the reports on the subject.
– I have read the report by the economists and Mr. Colman, and the report of the Wool Committee, and I cannot find in any one of them anything to support figures of the character mentioned by the honorable member. I do not think that the report of the Wool Committee discloses a dead loss of anything like £35,000,000 in the wool industry in the last twelve months. The principal thing that we should be concerned to discover, is whether our great primary industries are faced merely - and I use the word “ merely “ relatively - with the bankruptcy of a certain number of unfortunate individuals in the industry or with something worse. The reports of Mr. Colman and of the economists indicated a gap between present and constant prices of about 20 per cent., and the Wool Committee’s report also indicated a very serious position. Since then we have had reports of almost, or actual, drought conditions in Queensland, which will result in a heavy loss of stock in that State and in an almost certain reduction in the export of wool from this country in the coming year. But I still await an authorative statement of disabilities, and the proposed remedies in respect of the primary industries. Normally, we should look to the members of the Country party for such a statement, in reasonable and measured terms, of the actual position of the wool and wheat industries, and of the future ahead of them. I do not believe that to-day there is a gap of 20 per cent, in prices, or that so many tens of million’s have been lost in these industries as stated by the previous speaker.
I have waited expectantly for some suggestion from members of the Country party as to the action which the Commonwealth Government might take in order to remedy the present state of affairs. The reduction of interest has been pat forward, but if this were granted it would not in itself be anything like sufficient to right the position. As a matter of fact, if the one or two suggestions that have been made by the representatives of the Country party were implemented 100 per cent, they would not anything like bridge the gap. The Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) suggested that there should be a reduction of taxation on rural mortgages. Personally, i do not think that this would get us very far. I am aware that the Australian Mutual Provident Society has stated that it would reduce its interest rates on rural mortgages to 4 per cent, if it were relieved of taxation.
– Does that mean relief from all taxation, State andFederal?
– I believe some suggestion of that kind was made.
– The Australian Mutual Provident Society was generous to offer a rate of 4 per cent, for a concession of that kind !
– Personally, I do not think anything of that kind would he practicable, for complications would arise in every conceivable direction, and other business interests would ask for similar consideration. It has been suggested that freight concessions should be made, but the making of such concessions is a State matter.
– Not in respect to overseas transport.
– We have already taken steps to secure freight concessions.
– I am pleased to hear that.Figures have been furnished to me lately which show that the Queensland Government has heavily increased its transport charges on wool and other primary produce on top of the other increases in recent years. I am brought back to the conclusion reached by the Acting Leader of the Country party that the only real remedy for our troubles is an increase of world prices. In regard to interest rates, I point out that the banking companies are not the only institutions which lend money. The big pastoral companies lend a considerable amount of money to their clients. I know of one big pastoral company, possibly the biggest in Australia, which has made substantial reductions of interest and of capital debt to such of its clients as were most sorely pressed. The chairman of that company has made guarded references to this action by his company, and I have pressed him to givespecific figures to show what has been done. I have seen the figures myself, and I believe that if the other -big pastoral companies of this country could also see them they would be shamed intodoing something of the same kind.
– That this has been done surely shows that the position is serious.
– I do not deny that the position is serious. The company to which Ireferhas not taken this action out of a spirit of altruism, or of love and affection for the particular individuals concerned; it believed it to be good business to do what it has done. It considers that the properties involved can be best managed by the people whoat present control them, and it desires these people to remain in charge of them,, in the hope that in the future they may again obtain some equity in them.
It has been suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) thai there should be a general adjustment of the relations between debtors and creditors.I can hardly see that a statement of that kind is of any help except, perhaps, in a political sense. No country in the world has yet succeeded in evolving any scheme for equating the relations between debtor and creditor in order to ensure a reasonable degree of fairness to both. If the honorable member could suggest a means whereby such relations could bc made more reasonable, the whole world would be indebted to him.
– Suggestions have been put forward in this regard which will be discussed at the world economic conference.
– I understand that that is in relation to international debts.
– The proposals would also apply to personal obligations.
– I shall be interested to hear them.
– One general proposal is that there shall be an increase of prices.
– We come back to that all the time, but that is outside the control of any one country.
– The control of our internal prices is not beyond us.
– The Acting Leader of the Country party, in introducing this debate, had to fall ‘back upon the suggestion that there should be an increase of world prices, and he referred to resolutions arrived at at Ottawa in that regard. I sincerely hope that the world economic conference will be able to do something towards implementing these pious aspirations. I have read all that I can find about the agenda of the world economic conference, and I must admit that I agree with Mr. Keynes, Sir Arthur Salter, and other eminent and. authoritative men-, who have declared that they see no possibility of anything effective coming out of the world economic conference if its problems are to be attacked on the basis of equal sacrifice of al] by way of reductions of tariffs, and the like. Mr. Keynes has put forward a proposal, which has been backed up by other prominent people, that an attempt should be made to remedy the world position by working from the other end, by the introduction of a degree of inflation on a- more or less uniform scale in all countries, by the provision of the immense amount of 5,000,000,000 dollars worth of gold certificates to be distributed as equitably as possible between the nations of the world. That plan- has been developed in great detail, and has been taken up and sponsored by the London Times, Sir Arthur Salter and others. I hope that this proposal, fantastic and novel as it may appear at first sight, will he. thoroughly investigated by the World Economic Conference.
– I desire to address my remarks more particularly to the members of the Country party. I recognize that the welfare of the man on the land is a sure sign of the welfare of the community generally, and that the man who produces food must have first consideration in the community of nations. During the administration of the Scullin Government every member of this House, no matter to what party he belonged, joined with that Government in urging the farmers to grow more wheat. That cry rang throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and it was nobly responded to by the wheatgrowers, who cultivated in that year 4,000,000 acres more than the average area cultivated during the previous three years. J am afraid that in the end the farmers were let down, because they did not receive what they were promised. The call to grow more wheat camo originally from Mr. Joseph Woolf, of Melbourne. The Scullin Government, in an endeavour to assist the farmers, passed through this House a bill providing for a loan of £6,000,000 to the primary producers, and for the expenditure of £3 2,000,000 for the relief of unemployment. Unfortunately, the other chamber refused to pass that measure, and, consequently, the efforts of the Scullin Government to assist the wheat-growers were wasted. At that time I advocated the adoption of the use of silver as a means not on ry of introducing the system of bimetallism, but also of assisting an Australian product, the price of which had declined to ls. an ounce, the Lowest price ruling in the history of the world for silver. Shortly after the war, the management of the Broken Hill Mining Company, through Mr. W. L. Baillieu, offered Mr. Fisher, the then Prime Minister, the whole of the products of the mine at 30 per cent, less than the selling-price in England prior to the declaration of war. Subsequently, Mr. Baillieu offered the Fisher Government the products of the mine at absolute cost price, which, at that time, wa3 ls. 2d. an ounce. A few months ago, when I had the honour of interviewing Mr. W. L. Baillieu, he told me that had Mr. Fisher accepted his offer, the Commonwealth would have made so much profit that the depression could, possibly, have been avoided. He estimated that the profit to the Commonwealth would have been £300,000,000. The members of the Country party have not done justice to their constituents, and I shall show them that they could have assisted the primary producers by bringing about a reduction of interest rates.
– The honorable member should join the Country party.
– I am quite eligible to be a member of that party because I am the oldest settler in this House. About 59 years ago. I took up land in the Gippsland district, in the most heavily timbered part of Australia; but I must admit that the only thing that I developed was my chest. The following table shows the amount of currency that could be provided for £1,000,000 worth ‘of silver at the prices quoted -
The question of silver coinage is to-day uppermost in the mind of every government in the world. I wanted Australia to take advantage of silver currency when the price of silver was at the lowest point on record. On page 1145 of Hansard, volume 128, appear the following questions which I asked regarding the minting of silver currency: -
The then Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) gave the following answers: -
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the subject before the Chair.
– I am showing that at that time, by the use of bi-metallismwe could have paid the farmers 4s. for every bushel of wheat grown in Australia. I am also showing the members of the Country party that by making use of this system it would have been possible to lower the interest rates. I have with me a half-crown belonging to the period of King Edward VII. It contains 925 parts -of pure silver out of 1,000 parts. I have also a half-crown belonging to the period of King George V., the silver content of which, compared with the other coin, has been reduced to 500 parts per 1,000 parts. What I propose is, that honorable members of the Country party should bring pressure to bear on the Government to raise revenue out of the minting of silver. From every £1,000,000 worth of notes the return would be £10,175.000.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is generally admitted that the situation which exists to-day in connexion with our. exporting industries justifies the moving of a motion for the adjournment of this House.
I regret that the three most responsible members of this House should have indulged in what is more a tariff debate than a discussion of this most important question. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has related how his Government imposed an embargo on the importation of jams, so that the local jam manufacturers might make enormous profits. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has given a long list of concessions to primary producers, which, according to him, have considerably increased the cost of living in Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has shown how he has implemented the Ottawa agreement, and he mentioned goods that are being imported from Great Britain at reduced rates of duty. Those who furnished him with that information, however, neglected to advise him that a proclamation under the Industries Preservation Act applies to the bars, angles and tees to which he referred, the object being to prevent that iron from coming into Australia except at the charge put upon it by the Minister for Trade and Customs. It is of no use to lock the stable door after the horse has been stolen. It is about two years since a petition was presented to this Parliament, signed by every big primaryproducing organization in Australia, pointing out that the false premises upon which the Government was acting could only lead to eventual disaster, which had been brought nearer each year, until the inevitable Nemesis was upon this country; that government policy appeared to be founded on the illusion that the primary industries were undrained reservoirs of wealth from which financial salvation might yet be obtained, and that the increased costs of all requirements which resulted from that- policy made it impossible for primary production to be carried on successfully.
All the nations of the world are suffering, and it is hoped that some measure of success will attend the deliberations of the international conference that is to be held in London next month. There are very big questions awaiting a solution, including war debts, reparations, the departure from the gold standard, and the extreme tariffs that have been built up in many countries, particularly since the war. All of these questions have to be solved before action can be taken that will tend towards world reconstruction. That, however, will occupy some years. It is the duty of the Government to put its house in order as speedily as possible. It has not yet made a genuine effort to do so. I take to task the State Governments as well as the Federal Government. The expenditure of the States and the Commonwealth amounted to £199,000,000 in 1930, and to £196,000,000 ‘ in 1931. Nearly £200.000,000 per annum is taken from 6,500,000 people. Different interests are all the time appealing to the Government for some concession or other, with the result that the industries of this country are being destroyed. “We have to get down to bedrock ; we have to reduce the cost of living, the cost of production, and the cost of government in this country. Those are fundamentals. We have no idea of, and cannot judge, when price levels all over the world will rise. Our duty, then, is to see that justice is done to every section of the community. How can that be achieved when this and that firm are allowed to make profits averaging 10 per cent, and 12 per cent.? How often have we heard adduced the argument that certain tilings must be done so that industry may be carried on profitably, good wages be paid, and reasonable conditions be provided? We have to be just and equitable; we must see that those conditions apply to every section of the community. First, taxation must be reduced. Every penny taken by governments from the people is withdrawn from production.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.
The following paper was presented: -
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for Relief from Taxation during theyear 1932.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 4th May (vide page 1229), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167, volume 135) -
And on motion by Mr. White(vide page 29) -
And on further motion by Mr. White (vide page 1094).
Group7. - Items amended by the Scullin Government which are not supported by Tariff Board reports.
Division 4. - Agricultural Products and GROCERIES.
Biscuits, per lb. - British, 3d.; general, 4d.
– I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following:- “ And on and after6th May, 1933 - Biscuits, per lb., British,1½d.; general, 2d.”
The Scullin Government “imposed duties of 3d. and 4d. per lb. apparently as one means of helping to rectify the adverse trade balance. It would be outrageous to impose or continue these duties for protective purposes, and I cannot understand why the Government has allowed them to remain! That overseas manufacturers could successfully compere against efficient Australian manufacturers is inconceivable. Our wheat is sentto the United Kingdom, and ground into flour, which, in turn, is converted into biscuits. Is it seriously contended that these biscuits can be packed in containers, shipped to Australia, and sold at prices below those of the local article? Biscuits are household necessities, and should not be made unduly expensive. If the present duties are retained, and all fear of competition is removed, the local . manufacturers will be able to charge any prices they please. The emergency which might have justified abnormal duties has passed, and the Government should consent to a reduction of the rates to those contained in the 1921-30 schedule.
.- I support the amendment, and I shall bo greatly surprised if it. is not accepted. Both the present Government and its immediate predecessor refused to impose a sales tax on flour, because it might increase the cost of the people’s food. Biscuits which are a product of flour are part -of the food of the people, and the cost of them is being increased by these high duties. The local industry does not need protection to this extent, and Parliament should not hesitate to reduce the duties, which are over 700 per cent. above the value of one pound of wheat. The peculiar political mentality of somehonorable members is revealed by the fact that they refuse to assist primary industries that are of vital importance to the welfare of the country, but are ready to concede anything that is asked for by a secondary industry employing a few people in the cities. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) speaks of the need for creating a local market, and of finding work for the unemployed who are at present unable to buy primary products. The fundamental reason for this state of affairs is that the primary industries areso overburdened that they cannot provide the capital, which, when distributed throughout the community, would increase the purchasing power of the people. The primary industries must prosper if the secondary industries are to succeed.
.- The duties on biscuits were not imposed by my Government, primarily for the purpose of improving the trade balance; that end was sought, by a prohibition against importations. Last night, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) quoted a statement by me when Prime Minister that when the financial and economic crisis had passed emergency duties would be reviewed and prohibitions removed. The duties on biscuits do not come- within that category. They are protective rates designed to secure the local market to the Australian manufacturer, but I am prepared to discuss them in relation to the existing trade balance. The honorable member for Forrest and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) have said that the emergency has passed. Certainly the situation is not so grave as it was when we were on the brink of national default. It is a matter for congratulation that Australia did not default, and no one who has regard for the good name of this country should attempt to belittle any governmental policy that saved Australia from shame and disaster. That was admitted by no less an authority than the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) who was the leader of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) during an important, period of history, when an adverse trade balance of many millions of pounds developed. ‘The right honorable member for Flinders has admitted that the course adopted by my Government was the only course possible in the circumstances. “Wemust think -well before we decide to retrace our steps. Is Australia out of its difficulties? The importations for the expired portion of the financial year show a marked increase above those for the corresponding period of last year. A reduction of the duty on biscuits would increase importations. Prior to the imposition of those rates by ray Government, Australia was importing annually £89.000 worth of biscuits.
– And exporting.
– -Certain lines were being exported, principally to the’ Far East, but surely that isnot an argument against giving the Australian market to the’ local manufacturer. The incessant complaint against the secondary industries is that they do not export; yet, when an industry, after having secured the Australian marker., is able so to reduce its overhead costs that it can export com- . mercially, honorable members urge that as a reason for reducing its protection.
– We do not want to compel our own people to pay too much.
– I ask the honorable member to compare the price lists of biscuits before and after the imposition of these duties, and he will find no evidence that prices have been increased as the result of the prohibitive duties on imports.
– Does the right honorable member say that’ these duties arenecessary?
– They are necessary to give to the . Australian manufacturers the whole of the local market, which they are well able to supply. Under these duties, British biscuit manufacturers, including Peek Frean, established branches of their industry here, and commenced the manufacture of ail those special varieties of biscuits for which therewas a public demand. Is that an argument why the protection should be removed? The honorable member for Forrest said that my Government did not impose a sales tax onflour because of the probability of an increase in the price of a staple article of food, and affirmed that these duties on biscuits are having the same effect, There is no proof that they have resulted in an increase in the price of biscuits.
– And there is no proof that a salt’s tax on flour would increase the price of bread.
– The two classes of foodstuffs are not comparable. Bread is an absolute necessity, whereas biscuits are not, although I admit that biscuits are freely used, and I should like to know that everybody in this country was ina position to purchase them. ButI repeat that there is a fundamental difference between the two classes of foodstuffs. Instead of a sales tax on flour, I should much prefer a more direct- way of assisting the wheat industry. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), and the honorable member for Wentworth. (Mr. E. J. Harrison), . mentioned the export trade in biscuits,’ possibly as a reason why the industry should not enjoy the protection afforded by these duties. Is it not a fact that a prerequisite to an export trade in any commodity is a reduction of overhead costs, and that to secure this, the industry, concerned must have a large output? If then, Australian ‘biscuit manufacturers have the Australian market to themselves and do not exploit it, and if, at the same time, they can develop an export trade, are. they not doing a great service to this country? I fail to see how the lowering of the duties to allow of the importation of biscuits made from ‘wheat grown in other countries can help” our farmers. I should like to have this point explained by some member of the Country party. Up to the present, our friends in . the corner have not been able to show that a reduction of the duties would benefit Australian wheat-growers, and I suggest that they are not speaking in the interests of our farming community when they urge lower duties on biscuits, because the effect would be to lessen the local demand for Australian wheat.
. -I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), not because I consider a reduction of the duties would make any material difference to the industry, but because I am firmly of the opinion that the tariff would be brought more into line with the Ottawa treaty than is possible under the Minister’s proposals. The right honorable the” Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was at some pains to explain that the duties on biscuits, imposed by his Govern-‘ ment, were for protective purposes, and not to prohibit importations. The bottom falls out of his argument when it is realized that, before the higher duties were imposed, this industry had secured practically the whole of the local market, and was doing an export trade. “What may bo sail in criticism of this item can be applied to the whole of the items in this group. Practically every committee appointed in recent years to investigate the protective incidence of the tariff “has advised the need for the scaling down of our extremely high tariff wall. The economists, Professors Brigden, Copland and Giblin, and Messrs. Dyason’ and Wickens, who, in 1929, inquired into the effect of our tariff policy, offered this comment -
The tariff falls with the greatest weight on the export industries. The value of their land and fixed capital is reduced and the expansion of their production is retarded. They are limited to the use of land which can carry the coat imposed.
Elsewhere they said -
The most disquieting effect of the tariff has been the stimulus it has given to demands for government assistance of all kinds, with the consequent demoralizing effect upon selfreliant efficiency throughout all forms of production.
That criticism might be levelled at the whole of the items in this group. I turn now to the following comment of the Economic Committee appointed to report to the Premiers Conference in September last:-
It is apparent from the reports of the Tariff Board -that there are considerable opportunities for reduced costs in secondary industries generally. These are to be found on the side of organization as well as of labour. The opportunities are unlikely to be vigorously exploited, except under the pressure of a downward revision of the tariff.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item before the committee.
– I conclude by repeating thatI intend to support the amendment because what may be said concerning this item applies to the whole of the items in this group.
– I oppose the amendment. The manufacture of biscuits in Australia is an old and a very well established industry. It has been so completely revolutionized in recent years that our manufacturers are able to produce biscuits in every respect equal to what are produced in other countries. Since the people of this country, through their various parliaments, have declared for the adequate protection of secondary industries, and since this industry provides a great deal of employment for Australian workmen, it should not now be interfered with. Every known variety of biscuit is manufactured here, at prices that compare favorably with the cost of similar biscuits made in other countries. No one can suggest that our people are being exploited. Why, then, should the industry be disturbed? The Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), who is always most logical in his arguments, admits that reasonable competition in an industry is a safeguard against the exploitation of the people. In this case there are at least five or six factories which are thoroughly efficient.
-They could form a fine combine.
– There is no evidence of any combine having been formed. The companies spendan immense sum of money every year in advertising. Usually, when a combine is formed, . the parties to it gradually restrict their advertising, but nothing of the kind has occurred in this instance. The manufacturers are continually putring up new lines in an endeavour to make their wares more attractive to the public. If no harm has been done to any one by the present duties, why need they be reduced? Honorable members of the Country party seem to be obsessed with a desire to chop off a head every time they see one. Sometimes there may be reason for their attitude, but not ‘ this time. Biscuits are not a raw material for any other industry, arid the interests of the primary producers are not affected. Thousands of men and women in my own electorate, and in others throughout Australia, are engaged in theindustry, which offers opportunities for employment to those unable to engage in heavy labour with the pick and shovel, or on building construction. No honorable member of the Country party has advanced any reason why the duty should be reduced. No one can produce a price list to show that the manufacturers have taken advantage of the increased duties to raise their prices. Why then should there be any desire to upset something which has worked out very well?
.- I support the amendment, not because I think biscuits are so important, but because an important principle is involved. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked why we should interfere with the existing duty when it is not doing any one any harm, and I shall try to answer him. In 1931-32,’ the last year for which figures are available, we exported from Australia over 2,000,000 lb. of biscuits valued at £65,000, and, in spite of the high duty, we imported 25,000 lb. of biscuits valued at £2,000. Every one who has spoken on this item has admitted that the industry was a flourishing one under the olddutyto which it is proposed we should return. I know, as well as does the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that in his electorate there are big biscuit factories which have been in existence ever since he and I were very young. Throughout Australia there are 29 factories producing biscuits, and the total number of persons employed is 3,114. The duty of l½d. and 2d. per lb. was increased to 3d. and 4d. per lb. by the Scullin Government in order to redress our adverse trade balance, and that was done when Australian manufacturers already supplied between 80 and 90 per cent, of the requirements of the local market. It is clear, therefore, that the duty might just as well have been raised to 5d. or 6d. per lb., because its real purpose was to exclude imports altogether. On the other hand, if the duty be now reduced to1½d. and 2d., it cannot have any effect on the industry, which carried on satisfactorily for the last 30 or 40 years with that amount of protection. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that no one accused the local manufacturers of charging too much, and that the number of factories operating in Australia was sufficient to ensure that prices would be competitive. Why, then, he asked, should the existing duty be interfered with? I remind him that we have undertaken, in the terms of the Ottawa agreement, to give British manufacturers an opportunity to compete on reasonable terms in the Australian market. We assume that, with the duty at1½d. per lb., that opportunity existed, though, even then, the Australian manufacturers were able to hold the local market against all competition. We now see no reason why we should not return to the duty of1½d. per lb., so as to enable the English manufacturers to compete if they can do so. It must be admitted that the reason advanced by the last Administration for increasing the duty has now, in a large measure, ceased to have weight.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Gregory’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 51 (c2), 53 (a) (b) (d), 54 (b1 to 4), 58 (c), 80 and 98 (b), agreed to.
Division 5. - Textiles,Felts and Furs, and Manufactures thereof, and Attire.
Items 106 (d2) (e2) (F2), 107 (a) (b), 109, and 118 (b) agreed to.
Item 120, sub-items (a) (b) -
Articles of furnishing drapery and napery, including quilts n.e.i., table covers, doyleys, tray cloths, sheets, pillow cases and covers, holster cases, counterpanes, bed spreads, table mats, splashers, tablecloths, runners, mantel borders, toilet sets, bags for linen, brush and comb bags, nightdress cases, handkerchief sachets, and the like, cosies and cushions in part or wholly made up -
When containing wool, ad valorem British, 45 per cent.; general,65 per cent.
.- I move-
That sub-item (a) be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after 6th May, 1933 -
Articles of furnishing drapery and napery, including quilts n.e.i., table covers, doyleys, tray cloths, sheets, pillow cases and covers, bolster cases, counterpanes, bed spreads, table mats, splashers, tablecloths, runners, mantel borders, toilet sets, bags for linen, brush and comb bags, nightdress cases, handkerchief sachets, and the like, cosies and cushions in part or wholly madeup -
When not containing wool, ad valorem British, 25 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
When containing wool, ad valorem British, 35 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
This slight reduction in the duties is based on a report by the Tariff Board. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. “White) will give reasons for the
Tariff Board’s recommendations, and explain the Government’s attitude to the duties. ^
.- This amendment brings about a reduction of the Scullin Government’s duties that were operating immediately prior to the amendment by 5 per cent, under paragraph 1 of this sub-item, and by 10 per cent, under paragraph 2. I explained last . night that the Government was asking the committee to validate the whole of this group, and I promised that amendments would be submitted as soon as the Tariff Board’s reports were received. I hope that the explanation will save a good deal of debate on the remaining items of this group. The Scullin Government. rates are also reduced to the following extent: -
Item 120 (a1). Ad valorem - British, 5 per cent. ; general, nil.
Item 120 (a2). Ad valorem - British, 10 per cent.; general, 5 per cent.
Compared with the 1921-30 tariff, the rates just proposed are higher by the following margins : -
Item 120 (A1). British, 5 per cent.; general, 10 per cent.
Item 120 (a2). British, nil; general, 5 per cent.
The reason for the amendment is that the Tariff Board has furnished a report with regard to the goods covered by this subitem, and has recommended the rates now proposed. With respect to the goods covered by item 120, sub-item a1, that is, those which do not contain wool, the board is satisfied that the rates which it has recommended should provide adequate protection to the industry. The raw materials used in the manufacture of the goods covered by this paragraph are all imported, and are admitted at the comparatively low rates of 5 per cent. British and 25 per cent, general. I may. mention, at this juncture, that the duties, on the raw materials are higher by 5 per cent. British and 10 per cent, general than the 1921-30 tariff rates.
As regards tablecloths, sheets, pillowslips, and the like, manufacture in Australia consists only of finishing-off processes, such as cutting, hemming, hemstitching, scalloping, pressing, ticketing, and boxing, where necessary, and the proportion of labour to the total cost of the finished goods is, indeed, small. Considerable evidence was tendered at the Tariff Board’s inquiry as to the competition which was being experienced from embroidered n apery imported from China, where they are produced at very low cost. Specific rates of duty were requested, which were equivalent, in some cases, to over 400 per cent, ad valorem. The local manufacturers admitted that even the high rates requested would be insufficient to prevent importations. As in the case of tablecloths, pillowslips, and the like, the raw materials for the manufacture of traced goods for embroidery are practically all imported, and as labour enters into the completed goods to a relatively small degree, there is no warrant for the imposition of rates of duty such as were requested at the inquiry. The Tariff Board has recommended, duties which will provide the same margin over the duties on raw material as under the 1921-30 tariff, namely, 20 per cent, ad valorem. Considering the nature of the industry, that margin should be ample..
With regard to sub-item 120 a2, no evidence was tendered to the Tariff Board to justify the imposition of rates higher than those in the 1921-30 tariff, in respect of drapery and napery, of wool, or containing wool. It was stated in evidence that piece goods containing wool were not suitable for certain classes of needlework. I regret that in this instance, it was not possible to obtain the report of the Tariff Board earlier. The board is working at high pressure, as is also the Cabinet. When this recommendation came along, the Government felt that it should be dealt with expeditiously.
.- Although’ evidence was submitted to the Tariff Board in connexion with these goods as far back as August last, the committee is still unaware of the reason for the board’s recommendations. I understand that the report also deals with another item, and I realize that, on that account, it could not well be circulated; but there wag nothing to prevent a separate report in regard to these articles being supplied to honorable members, in which case they would have been aware of the reasons underlying the board’s recommendations. So far as I have read the evidence presented to the Tariff Board, a strong case for increased duties was made out; and, therefore, I cannot understand why a reduction of 5 per cent. British and 10 per cent, foreign has been recommended. I am not particularly concerned about the British tariff, although I think that it should have been left where it was; but I am concerned with the reduction of the foreign tariff, because most of our importations of the cheaper goods come from foreign countries. The Australian industry recommended that the British tariff rate should be left undisturbed, and that the duty on foreign goods should be increased ; but, instead of acceding to that request, the Tariff Board has seen fit to recommend a general reduction of duties. These articles come mainly from China; some come from Japan. The material for the napery, tray cloths, doyleys, and supper cloths which are manufactured in Australia is, for the most part, imported ; nevertheless, in the manufacture of these lines alone, employment is provided for about 200 Australians. I see no reason -why they should be injured in the interests of, Chinese or J apanese workers. Our total imports of these goods during 1929-30 were valued at £220,000. As the result of the higher duties imposed by the Scullin Government, that figure subsequently fell to £42,000. The Minister attempted to brush aside all argument by saying that in the manufacture of these goods, comparatively little labour is employed. It is true that this industry employs only about 200 Australians; but if a similar policy is followed in connexion with hundreds of other similar industries, the cumulative effect will be to throw out of employment many thousands of workers. The Minister said that the only work done in Australia in connexion with these lines is cutting, hemming, embroidering, and packing the goods, but he did not tell us that, in the manufacture of the boxes in which they are packed, and ‘ in other ways, this industry indirectly provides employment for many additional workers. It is safe to say that the number of workers directly engaged in an industry can be at least doubled in the case of those whom it indirectly employs. The snowball effect of unemployment is something which should not be overlooked; people who are thrown out of work cannot pay as much for food and clothing as they can when they are in receipt of regular wages. I take it, Mr. Chairman, that honorable members may vote directly against the amendment, although it provides for a reduction of duty.
– The rejection of the amendment would leave the schedule where it stands. I shall press this matter to a division, because the cumulative effect of these attacks on small industries is paralysing. I cannot understand how any honorable member can be pleased to hand over to foreigners work which can be clone by our own people. I hope that the committee will reject the amendment.
– I shall deal with the two matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). In the first place I inform him that the Tariff Board’s report was not received in Canberra until the 24th March; and, secondly, I assure him that there is no gloating over the reduction of duties. This is simply an economic matter. An” investigation has been made by the Tariff Board, from whose report I have read extracts that, in the board’s opinion, the present duties should be adequate, excepting in one case in which it states that a duty of even 400 per cent, would not keep out certain lines. The charge that a reduction of duties will create further unemployment has not been proved, because statistics show that . unemployment has decreased since the present Government came into office. This tariff schedule will provide the maximum amount of employment and prosperity in both primary and secondary industries.
.- I strongly oppose any reduction of the duties on this section of the textile industry. The Minister has shown that he knows nothing about the possibilities of this industry. The misleading statement that unemployment has decreased owing to the tariff policy of the Government has been repeated by him so often that he now believes it. A survey of the industries which have been affected by this tariff would prove that the tariff-slashing policy of the present Government has definitely increased unemployment.
Whenever the Government is unable to justify a reduction of duties on the ground that the Ottawa agreement requires it, it attempts to do so on economic grounds. Where neither of those reasons meets the case, it indulges in misrepresentation, and says that a reduction of duty will create employment. Apparently, this reduction has nothing to do with the Ottawa agreement. During the six months ended 31st, December, 1930, Australia imported apparel to the value of £1,086,837. For the corresponding period of the succeeding year the value of such imports was £986,944. while for the six months ended the 31st December, 1932, the value was £1,430,000, representing an increase of almost £500,000 in our imports of these articles. That is a tragic record, and it is the result of the calamitous policy of a Government, which, because of Ottawa ot other uneconomic reasons, has lowered its tariff barriers, and allowed other countries to take trade away from Australian manufacturers. Admittedly, it would be an excellent policy if we desired to create work in Japan, China, or any other country. Only recently Mr. Cann, a Melbourne business man, visited the East where he had. an opportunity to inspect at close quarters the manner in which industry is carried on there. He found that, at the pottery works in Nogoyaabout 100 employees were engaged, 75 of whom were under the age of ten years, and were paid about 3d. a day. The conditions were scandalous. Honorable members will admit that that is a true statement regarding industry generally in the East, but which of them would claim that this Government has a right to displace Australians by creating employment for the sweated labour of Japan ? Yet, whether the Government appreciates it or not, that is exactly what it proposes to do. I should be loath to think that, if the Government were faced with the alternative of creating employment for Australians, or providing work for the sweated hordes of the East, it would decide against our own countrymen. Yet the fact remains that our imports of textiles, from Japan among other countries, have increased by nearly £500,000. This Parliament should take steps to prevent the continuance of such a policy, which is suicidal to the nation. How can we develop Australia if we are to depend on the sweated labour of other countries to supply us with commodities which can be and are being manufactured here? I support my leader by entering an emphatic protest against the policy of the Government, and shall take every other step to prevent its continuance.
.- I also lodge a protest against any further tariff reduction which is likely to throw Australian workers out of employment. Already we are experiencing difficulty enough in finding work for our people. The Government is taxing producers and everybody in employment to provide a dole for those who are unemployed. If it’ now sets about indiscriminately slashing Australian industries, and displacing those who are in work to give preference to cheap imported articles, the consequences will be disastrous. I was hoping that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) would have continued his narrative regarding the visit of Mr.Cann to the East. That gentleman saw a good deal of the silk and cotton weaving industry in Japan. Admitting that the -Japanese are very efficient, Mr. . Cann is reported to have said -
With the present price of silk it would bo surprising if the continent ever recovered its silk trade at all . . . He was informed that there were five buyers from Manchester buying cotton piece goods in Japan which was a remarkable thing. Working hours in cotton mills were about90 a week, with only two holidays in a month, no Sundays or Saturday afternoons off. A girl had twenty looms to look after, whereas four, eight, and twelve were the allotments to operatives in England. No one to whom he had spoken seemed able to point to any way of competing with the Japanese. Mr. Cann said that he found the ‘ Japanese very honorable and straight, not, as they are generally regarded, running and crafty.
Mr. Cann continued
Japan is a nation famed for its high protection, and going as far as to place a prohibition on the importation of any goods produced in her own country.
When the Scullin Government imposed prohibitions and increased duties, we were told that its action in that respect would drive the Japanese off our market and cause a slump in the price of wool. The higher tariff has now operated for over two years, and there has been no change in the position in regard to wool, but it has been responsible for a falling off in the imports from Japan amounting to over ?2,000,000. That sum has been retained in this country and paid to Australian employees. Now this Government is reverting to old practices, and is yearly sending ?4,000,000 to Japan to purchase goods that can well be made in Australia. We hear a good deal of talk about finding markets for our primary products. The first duty of the Government is to provide work for our people, and so make available a market for a further 28 per cent, of what we produce. When that is done, it will be time enough to consider whether duties should be reduced and to barter with other countries. I regret that throughout this debate the Government has persistently attacked Australian industries. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) claimed that, since his Government assumed office, our manufacturing industries have provided additional employment. The fact is that our imports are increasing by leaps and bounds, and it must necessarily follow that there will be a falling off in the number of Australian employees engaged in manufacturing industries. The making of a gesture of this description to Japan will get us nowhere. The Government would be justified, in existing circumstances, in prohibiting the importation of these goods.
– I regret that the report of the Tariff Board on this item is not available. It is in the hands of the Government, which has seen fit to reduce the duties, but has not seen fit to furnish honorable members with the information which caused it to take this action. The expansion of the cotton industry of Australia would, undoubtedly, have a good effect on other primary industries. If, under existing conditions, we cannot find an export market for our cotton, we should at least do everything possible to preserve the home market for our cotton producers. Consequently, I consider that these duties should be held in abeyance.
– The acting leader of the honorable member’s party thought otherwise on another item last night,
– Fortunately, we can be guided on these matters by our own conscience, and on that occasion I voted against the amendment moved by my leader. We have been told that the Government is negotiating trade agreements with certain other countries. I consider, therefore, that we should not at this stage reduce these duties. Whenever I see people coming out of the factories of Australia, I think of them as consumers of meat, milk, butter, wheat, and other primary products, and, therefore, as helpers of our big primary industries. I realize that, this being so, it is desirable that we should keep as many of them as possible in regular employment If this is done the home market will become increasingly valuable to our producers. We must remember that the Japanese people are able to manufacture textiles of various kinds at a very low price- If we desire to strengthen our local textile industry we must, undoubtedly, protect it from such competition. Great Britain, which recently became a protectionist country after having been a freetrade country for many years, is, iu certain respects, setting an example that we might well follow. According to recent press reports, some of the leading legislators of the United Kingdom have declared that Great Britain should protect its industries to the extent of 100 per cent, if necessary from the importation of cheap goods from Japan. If that is necessary in a country with a large home market, like Great Britain, it is much more necessary in a country with a small home market, like Australia. It is in the best interests of the primary producers that our home market should be preserved for our local manufacturers. We shall do no injustice to any one if we maintain our tariff duties on a reasonable basis. On the other hand, we shall, undoubtedly, benefit the man on the land.
.- It is an obsession of some honorable members like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who encouraged our farmers to grow wheat for export, that Australia should be a selling, but not a buying nation. Australia is essentially a primaryproducing country, and if she is to sell her primary products abroad, she must certainly make her market available for the manufactured goods of other coun tries. It is preposterous to impose prohibitive duties on goods which come from countries that take large quantities of our wool, wheat, and other primary produce. We desire to build up an export trade, not only with Great Britain, but also with other countries overseas such as France, Germany and Italy, which buy our products. Unless we pursue a policy which will protect our primary industries and assure them of a reasonable overseas market, we shall certainly bring disaster upon them.
.- If the Government will not be persuaded that it is undesirable to press its amendment, we should certainly force the committee to a division on it. I have been a protectionist for very many years, and while I recognize that neither protection nor freetrade will remove poverty from the world, I also recognize that a policy of properly-applied protection will banish extreme poverty from our land. Some years ago, while I was in Japan, I visited a number of up-to-date factories there, and was informed that the hours of work in them are not so great as has been stated in this debate; but I accept the word of the gentleman whose remarks have been quoted this afternoon, for he has been in Japan since I was there. I am grateful to the Age newspaper for the splendid article which it published in its issue of yesterday under the headings “ Tariff vandalism; Australian industries iu peril; Japanese importations a menace; Figures steadily growing.” The figures quoted in the article show that our importations of certain classes of goods for the six months ended the 31st December, 1930, were valued at £1,562,833; for the six months ended 31st December, 1931, at £1,291,794; and for the six months ended 31st December, 1932, at £1,953,649. This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. I have been informed on good authority that the Japanese have evolved a very clever plan for avoiding the payment of exchange. They invest in Australia all the money they receive in payment for the goods that they sell here. It would be interesting to ascertain what amount of trade we have done with Japan on certain dates, and what amount of money has been sent to Japan by bank drafts on those dates. The information would be instructive, and would show the Japanese to be an astute and clever people.
.- I am interested in the expressions of opinion from the Opposition. on this item, especially as the proposed duties are still higher than those which were in force from 1921 to 1930. lt cannot reasonably bo expected that the doleful prognostications of honorable members opposite, that this reduction of duty will result in a loss of employment, will eventuate. Briefly, I wish to express my satisfaction with the action of the Government in giving effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Board. That body has, as has always been its custom, inquired most carefully into the various aspects of the industry, and after taking evidence from a number of sources has arrived at a definite conclusion. On the whole, the proposed duties arc a distinct advance upon the prohibitive duties which were previously in force. I support the amendment.
.- I join with those honorable members who oppose tho proposal of the Government, because I feel certain that “if these reductions of duty are agreed to a loss of employment in the industry will result. In August and September of 1932, the Tariff Board heard evidence in Sydney and Melbourne in support of increased foreign duties on certain goods, including napery, produced in China and Japan, but no alteration was suggested by Great Britain. However, the representatives of British interests here supported the request qf the local manufacturers.
– The goods to which the honorable member is referring are covered by the next sub-item, in which it is proposed to provide for a slight increase of duty.
– I oppose this reduction of duty, because of the likelihood of throwing a large number of persons out of employment. There are some hundreds of persons employed in the industry, and this is not the time to deprive any of them of their means of livelihood. If they become unemployed, the Government will be compelled to provide for them by way of the dole or by some other means.
– I wish to reply to the allegations of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that in saying that unemployment had diminished I misrepresented the situation. That statement has been so frequently made both inside and outside of this Parliament, and in certain sections of the press, that it is being believed by some people ; and a large number of employees are developing the fear factor by imagining that the Ottawa agreement is likely to have the effect of throwing them out of employment. That agreement is operating beneficially in respect of the whole of the British Empire, including Australia. I shall submit conclusive official figures to honorable members in the hope that this subject will not be brought up again.
Tho CHAIRMAN - I must ask the Minister whether the figures which he intends to quote have relation to the item before the Chair?
– The figures have relation not only to this industry, but also to every other industry in Australia.
– In that case, I must rule that the Minister would be out of order in quoting them.
– The honorable member for Darling has made a general statement regarding unemployment, and I wish to quote figures to refute it.
– The Minister may not quote figures relating to every industry in Australia.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I shall take the opportunity at some other time to give the figures to honorable members so that the loose statements made by honorable members opposite, about employment will be corrected for all time.
.- I am sorry that the Standing Orders prevent the quoting of the figures referred to by the Minister, because I should have welcomed the opportunity to discuss them. The Minister did make a statement a few moments ago that the accumulative effect of the Government’s tariff policy has been to increase employment. I challenge him to show that one man has been employed as a result of that policy. We can show that hundreds of men have been thrown out of employment as a result of its operation.
– I remind the honorable member that he may not indulge in a general discussion on unemployment. The Minister was called to order, and’ if every honorable member who differs from him replies, a general discussion will follow. I, therefore, ask honorable members to refrain from discussing any matter outside of this item. *
– I rose to issue a challenge to the Minister, and I hope that he will answer it.
– I cannot answer it because the Chair has refused me permission to quote certain figures.
– The Minister seems to be protesting against the ruling of the Chair, but let me remind him that in the references to unemployment he was the first offender.
– This morning the Minister made an interesting statement which, if nothing else, proved the value of this industry to Australia. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) urged that we should use Australian cotton in the manufacture of cloths and napery. The Minister pointed out this morning that the Australian cottongrowers, who were able to sell their cotton in Australia, were receiving a price higher than they would have received had their cotton been exported. I think that the price was 2£d. per lb. That shows the extreme value to Australia of having a secondary industry capable of absorbing local raw material, thus doing away with the necessity for importing into Australia articles manufactured by black-labour countries. A little while ago the use of this raw material in our own factories was not dreamt of by the cotton-growers of Australia. The industry has developed largely in the northern State, but it can never hope to become firmly established unless we place protective duties on cotton yarns and materials. The honorable member for. Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that our opposition to a reduction of duties was based on the belief that we should sell and not buy. That is an absurd statement, which has been repeated again aud again in this chamber. That has never been our policy. We have to pay for imports with exports. But, in some respects, Australia is in a position different from that of other countries.
Being a debtor country, we have to export more than we import, and we should, therefore, so far as possible, prevent importations, particularly from foreign countries, in order to establish industries in Australia. No one has suggested that we should sell without buying. But I have enough common-sense to know that if we are to honour our obligations to the money-lenders abroad, we must buy less and sell more. 1
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and also the member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) have suggested that had the duties remained as previously the cotton industry would have benefited considerably. My answer to that argument is that the whole of the raw material used in this industry is imported.
– It does not follow that the material has to be imported.
– The work in Australia is the cutting out and hemming of materials. It may be that if these duties were increased more work would be given in one section of the industry, but in other sections considerable employment would be lost. That shows how essential it is thai the Tariff Board should inquire into our various industries.
.- The Minister has suggested that, because the raw materials’ used in the manufacture of the articles appearing in this item are imported, the Australian producer of cotton would not benefit by an increase of the duty. Surely we realize that we must develop our own industries so as to create a market for our raw materials. Otherwise, what is the use of our encouraging people to undertake that class of production ?
– The Government has arranged for the sale of the whole of the cotton crop.
– It would be far better for our raw materials to be used in our own factories, thus enabling us to reap the full advantage that may be conferred by a manufacturing industry such as that under review. The statement of the Minister is misleading. I question whether there is any wisdom in his assertion that Australian raw materials may be better disposed of elsewhere. Additional unemployment may result from this action. This industry employs a considerable percentage of the young womanhood of Australia. It is most difficult in these days for our young people to find the openings for employment they should have. We are allying ourselves with a policy of disaster and calamity by impairing the effectiveness of protection in this case.
– The reply of the Minister rather conflicts with his oft-repeated appeal to honorable members to have some faith in the Ottawa agreement. The British manufacturers themselves supported the application of their Australian confreres for an increased duty on foreign napery and handkerchiefs, one of the reasons being that the Australian manufacturer, who largely uses British raw material, would otherwise lose the trade to China and Japan, who use their own raw materials. If the foreign manufacturer of this napery is assisted by a reduction of the duty, a nail will be put in the coffin of the British manufacturer of the raw material. That is not in conformity with the spirit of the Ottawa agreement. But, apart from that, we should encourage the manufacture of these articles in this country, so that we may assist in the development of an industry that we helped to put on its feet. How can we hope to develop the cotton industry if we do not assist the secondary industries that use cotton? The Queensland cotton-growers are concerned, not so much about sales outside Australia as about securing a monopoly of the sales within Australia. I understand that, since these duties were framed, an increase of 5 per cent, has been recommended in the case of the piece goods. If that be so, it furnishes another reason why these duties should not have been interfered with.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Guy’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That sub-item (b) be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after6th May, 1933 - (b)(1) Cotton or linen handkerchiefs, ad valorem, British, 30 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.; or per dozen, British, nil; general,1s.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Cotton or linen serviettes, ad valorem, British, 25 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.”
The amendment varies the rates in operation at the present time. In respect of handkerchiefs, the British rate of 35 per cent, is reduced by 5 per cent., whilst for the general ad valorem rate of 55 per cent, an alternative rate of 50 per cent, ad valorem or1s. a dozen is substituted. As regards serviettes, the present rates, both British and foreign, are reduced by 5 per cent. Compared with the Scullin Government’s schedule, the rates proposed ‘ on British goods are 5 per cent, lower in respect of both handkerchiefs and serviettes, whilst in the general tariff, the only difference is the imposition of alternative rates on handkerchiefs, where previously only ad valorem rates existed. The margins by which the proposed rates exceed those of 1921-30 are, in respect of paragraph 1, 5 per cent, in the British tariff, and in the general tariff 10 per cent, or ls. a dozen, and, in respect of paragraph 2, 5 per cent, and 10 per cent, respectively. The Tariff Board recently inquired into the duty on handkerchiefs and serviettes, and recommended the rates now proposed. “ At the date of the inquiry, manufacturers of handkerchiefs were supplying 65 per cent, of local requirements. They are still successfully holding the trade in the better qualities, but are experiencing very keen competition from Japan in low-priced plain handkerchiefs, even with an ad valorem duty of 55 per cent. The British manufacturers also are apprehensive of this competition, and they associated with the local makers in an application for the imposition of higher specific rates on the foreign article. The specific duties requested were, in some instances, equivalent to 500 per cent, ad valorem. The board considers that such protection is too high for an article for the Australian manufacture of which the raw piece goods are imported. It considered, however, that some measure of protection by specific rates was necessary to afford local manufacturers an opportunity to compete in the lowest quality lines which are being exported from Japan at as low as 6d. a dozen. Accordingly, the board recommended a duty of ls. a dozen in the general tariff as an alternative to the ad valorem rates. The board considers that this specific rate should also apply to embroidered handkerchiefs, which are chiefly supplied from China, as they are in the nature of luxury goods. In regard to the better quality handkerchiefs, the board considers that the margin of 25 per cent, between the duties on the raw materials and those on the finished goods which obtained under the 1921-30 tariff should be sufficient at the present time. The ad valorem rates proposed maintain that margin. As in the case of tablecloths and the like, which are covered by item 120 a, all the raw material for the manufacture of serviettes is imported, and the labour added is small. The board considers, therefore, that a margin of 20 per cent, over the duties on the raw material should provide adequate protection to the local manufacturers.
.- The proposed amendment is somewhat confusing. It represents a reduction of the ad valorem rate, but ‘there is” added a fixed duty of ls. a dozen, which, except in. respect of handkerchiefs of very low price, will not be as effective as the existing ad valorem rates. Certainly on the lines that are being exported from Japan at 6d. a dozen, a duty of ls. a dozen will be a fairly substantial protection; but there are lines, more expensive although not classed as high quality, in respect of which the competition from eastern countries is paralysing Australian industries, and seriously affecting the “British firms that supply the piece goods for Australian* manufacture. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that we should develop the production of both cotton and flax, and the manufacture therefrom of piece goods, which are the raw material of a further stage of manufacture. Although the fixed rate of ls. may represent additional protection in respect of the very low grades of handkerchiefs, it falls far short of what is required. The manufacturers applied to the Tariff Board for a specific rate of 2s. 6d. a dozen in order -to avoid dumping from eastern countries.
– The fixed rate proposed will do that.
– It may, but there is a reduction of the duties on the higher grades of handkerchiefs. I would have preferred the Minister to deal ‘first with the ad valorem rate, and, having decided that, propose separately a specific duty.
– Whilst the Government is to be congratulated on having proposed an alternative fixed rate, the protection thus afforded does not go far enough. Local manufacturers are not afraid of British competition. In fact, British interests have joined with the Australian manufacturers in asking for increased protection against dumping from the Ear East. About 35,000,000 handkerchiefs are used in Australia yearly, and of this number 20,000,000 are manufactured locally. If the existing foreign menace continues, the whole industry may disappear. In view of the fact that about £200,000 is invested in this industry, which pays in wages approximately £20,000 a year, I ask the Minister to give, further consideration to this item with a view to the adequate protection of the local manufacturers-
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-items, as amended, agreed to.
On motion (by Mr. White) - by leave -Order of the Day No. 3.-“ Sales tax, proposed abolition, resumption of debate, on motion by Mr. White,” - was discharged from the notice-paper.
Rabbit-proof Wire Netting : Customs
Proclamation - . Broadcasting Commission: Appointments - Public Service: Reductions under Financial Emergency Acts - Butter Stabilization Scheme - Silver Coinage.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am sorry to detain the House this afternoon, but the matter to which I desire to direct attention is of such grave importance, and, if my assumptions are correct, reflects so seriously upon officials of the Customs Department, that I deem it desirable to offer some comments. I refer to the dumping duty on rabbit-proof wire netting. In 1921 the Government removed the duty and provided a bounty of £3 8s. a ton on the manufacture of Australian wire netting. In 1924, an application was made that netting manufactured in Great Britain should he brought under the anti-dumping provisions of the Industries Preservation Act. The application was referred to the Tariff Board, which, accepting the statement made by Mr. McDougall, an Australian manufacturer, that 75 per cent, of the British netting was used in Great Britain, and taking the price of a roll of netting at so much a mile in Great Britain and comparing it with the export price, agreed that dumping was being practised. Honorable members should notethe peculiar method then obtaining to judge whether dumping was being practised. Accordingly, the board recommended -that a proclamation be issued bringing British netting under the provisions of the act referred to. In its recommendation the board stated that the amount of dumping duty should be, in each case, the difference between the f.o.b. price charged for export and the fair market value of the netting for home consumption at the port of shipping even when invoiced to Australia on a c.i.f. and c. basis. I emphasize this point, because, on the5th April last, I asked the Minister whether the dumping duty which had been imposed was not on the landed dutypaid cost in Australia, and, in his reply, the Minister said -
The amount of dumping duty in each case shall be the sum which represents the difference between the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment, and theexport price.
I would point out that the Tariff Board made its recommendation under section 4 of the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act, which states -
The amount of the dumping duty in each case shall be the sum which represents the difference between the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment and the export price.
There is nothing in that provision empowering the Minister specifically to base a dumping duty on the basis set out; that is, if the landedduty-paid cost is less than the price charged by the Australian manufacturer. Now, the following is a copy of the proclamation published in the Commonwealth Gazette on the 1st May, 1924:-
In pursuance of section 4 of the Customs
Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921-1922, I, Austin Chapman, Minister of State for Trade and Customs, hereby notify that, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, I am satisfied that the under-mentioned goods (which are of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia) have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment, and that by reason of such export prices detriment may result to an Australian industry, and that, in my opinion, the provisions of section 4. of the said act should apply to those goods : -
Wire netting originated in or exported from the United Kingdom the landed duty paid cost of which is less than the manufacturers’ selling price of Australianmade wire netting.
This notice may be cited us “ Industries Preservation Act -Notice No. 183,” and shall have elf vet in relation to such goods entered for home consumption on and after the 11th day of April, 1924. (T. & C. 24/C.753.)
Minister for Trade and Customs
I submit that this proclamation was illegal, as well as a fraud.
– If the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) is so entirely ignorant of the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act, I am afraid I cannot help him. I am endeavouring to show that the act defines the special method to be adopted when assessing the duty on goods brought under its provisions: and I can see nothing in section 4 of the act empowering the Minister to impose a duty on such an extraordinary basis as to enable the local manufacturer to charge any price he likes. I do not know whether a proclamation of later date has been issued, but that which I have just read is the only one that I could find. As I was somewhat dubious about the matter for a long time, I made further inquiries. I saw the Tariff Board’s report a considerable time ago, and, desiring to refresh my memory, I asked to be allowed to see it- again. I was then shown what purported to be a copy of the report. It differed from the original document; in other words, it was not a true copy. I then asked the Minister to have the original report laid on the table of the House. My request was refused; I was advised that I could see the report for myself. An officer of the department waited on me, and told me that -the original report was missing, but when I went to the department, I saw it. A perusal of it confirms what I have said with regard to this matter. Every recommendation made by the Tariff Board should be submitted to Parliament. These reports are the property of Parliament, no less than of the Minister. I have been fighting, for a long time for justice in this respect, because I know that the manufacturers have been obtaining the bounty on netting, and that this dumping duty has enabled them to exploit the purchasers. I know also the dreadful menace rabbits are to the farmers, and the losses among stock due to poisoning. I trust that the Minister will be able to give me a satisfactory explanation.
– I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members certain matters in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Honorable members who were present ‘during the discussion on the bill which provided for the setting up of the commission will remember that the measure was at one stage withdrawn, because supporters of the Government criticized it on the ground that certain of its clauses provided for what they described as too much political control. The bill, after being redrafted by the deletion or amendment of the so-called offending clauses, was again brought before the House. The debate centred mainly around this matter of political control. Honorable members opposite said that, in no circumstances should the commission be subject to political pressure. We on this side of the House listened with interest to the arguments advanced by honorable mem-* hers opposite, knowing that when they spoke of taking steps to ensure that there should be no political control, their real desire was that Labour influence should not be associated with that control.
The bill was passed, and the commission set up. The doubts expressed by honorable members on this side of the House regarding the probable personnel of the commission were proved to be fully justified when the commission was finally selected. Not one of the persona recommended for appointment by the Postal Department and the former PostmasterGeneral (Mr. A. Green), was accepted by the present Government. Cabinet went out of its way to choose members of the commission upon whose political opinions it could rely. First there was Mr. R. B. Orchard, an ex-Nationalist member of this Parliament. Then there was Mrs. Claude Couchman, organizer for the Women’s National League in Victoria. At the time of her appointment, I remarked that this lady would find it useful when, visiting the various States allegedly on broadcasting work, to be able to make that work synchronize with her political activities. I notice that only last week she was at a women’s United Australia Party rally at Lane Cove, it having been found convenient to hold a meeting of the Broadcasting Commission in Sydney at that time. Again, we have Mr. C. Lloyd Jones, a gentleman who led the agitation in favour of a reduced land tax for the benefit of wealthy city land-owners at the expense of old-age pensioners. Finally, there is Mr. Herbert Brooks, who had previously been appointed by a Nationalist Government as Trade Commissioner in the United States of America. . We drew attention to these matters at the time the appointments were made, our purpose being to let the public know just what this cry of non-political control was really worth.
Following the appointment of the commission, the next step on the part of the Government was to see that the various positions associated with the work of the commission were filled by persons holding the right political opinions. The most recent appointment is that of Mrs. John Moore, nee Gladys Owen, daughter of Mr. Justice Owen. She has been appointed as organizer of the women’s programmes. Mrs. Moore is well known for her political activities in the Nationalist cause, and has frequently spoken from the public platform. Such political prominence appears to be a necessary qualification for a position under the commission. Of course, the Government will deny that it was actuated by such motives, and will be backed up by a subsidized press. I do not think that Mrs. Moore can claim to be in necessitous circumstances. Her husband is fairly well off, and she moves in the best circles. Neither do I know that those are qualifications which should necessarily recommend her for the position. I am certain that there are plenty of women in Australia not so well off as she is who could probably carry out the work much better. They, however, are denied the opportunity because their political opinions either are not known, or do not happen to be acceptable to the commission.
I am bringing this matter up now so that the public may know that,’ at every stage of the organization of this commission and its activities, political appointments of a kind have been made.
The same thing happens, of course, in regard to activites other than broadcasting, and I want the public to know how much value to place on the statements of government supporters when they say that they do not desire those activities to be under political control. The Labour party does not complain because its opponents appoint their own people to carry out their policy. Labour has never disguised its belief that, in order to have the Labour policy carried out, it must appoint to key positions persons sympathetic with that policy. The difference between Labour and its opponents is that Labour is open and honest about the matter, while the other side pretends all the time that its appointments are thoroughly impartial. The appointment I have mentioned is the latest of the kind, but there have been others. We know that certain men were drawn from station 2CH because it was recognized that they held suitable political opinions. I hope that when a change of government takes place, the new administration will use the iron broom with these persons. I desire the public to know exactly to what extent we have non-political control of the national undertaking of wireless broadcasting.
.- I have received a letter from a public servant residing in my electorate, and since I know that my correspondent is a man of good character, I am much concerned over the communication. I do not in any way blame the present Government for the position of this public servant. His letter reads as follows: -
Dear Sir, - The West Australian of 27th April states that Commonwealth public servants will suffer a further reduction of £12 per annum as from the 1st of July next. I would like to place the following facts before you for consideration: - Five years ago I owned my own home, and as ti result of my transfer, had to realize on it, and buy a property nearer to my work, and sit a much higher figure. Two years ago, as a result of the Financial Emergency Act, my salary was reduced 20 per cent., and a promise was made by the Government then in power that no further reductions would be made until such time as the cost of living figures had fallen to an extent that would be on a par with the amount of the 20 per cent, reduction. In April last, I suffered a further reduction of £8 per annum, and am now threatened with a further reduction of £12 per annum from the 1st. of July, making a total of £20 reduction, based on the cost of living figures, in addition to the emergency cut of 20 per cent. As a result of my promotion I received an increase of £50 per annum in salary, and increased my commitments accordingly. I am enclosing a list of the last-named, and you will see that, after meeting my liabilities, I have less than 30s. per week left. My normal salary was £307 two years ago, and it was reduced to £240 per annum as a result of the Financial Emergency Act. In July a cost of living adjustment reduced it to £238 per annum, and it appears that a further reduction of £12 will reduce it to £220 per annum from July next, a reduction of £91.
Annual salary from 1st July, after deducting emergency tax and cost of living, £220 per annum, less amount commitments as above, £153 10s.; balance. £72 10s. This leaves an amount of £72 10s. with which to maintain my family in reasonable comfort. The amount of £20 per annum may seem high, hut it makes provision to protect my family from want in the event of my decease. I do not drink, smoke or gamble.
The position of this public servant is typical of that of scores of thousands of persons in Australia, whether primary producers or wage-earners. “What is the way out of the wretched morass into which the inflation of values has lured so many of our worthy wage-earners and primary producers? Does it lie in the direction of still further increasing the volume of our currency and credit and thus still further decreasing its purchasing power? I think not. Does it not lie in the direction of an all round reduction- of costs of commodities and possessions, and a corresponding increase of currency values? I believe that that is the solution. The cost of groceries and other household requisites, and rent, is now more than double what it was in 1895, when I was in business in Fremantle. At that time practically everything that was required in Western Australia had to be imported. In the particular case to which I have directed attention, as in thousands of similar cases, this man must either get more money or his money must be given a greater value, otherwise he must become a defaulter. We must face the position, and either provide for an expansion of currency and credit, or make provision for a reduction of values and costs by at least 50 per cent. Otherwise the position of our wage-earners and primary producers will become - as it has, in fact, already become in scores of thousands of cases - desperate, and the inevitable result will be an utter economic collapse.
.- Growing concern is felt by those associated with the dairying industry in South Australia. The producers of butter complain that the present conditions in the industry have proved most unsatisfactory, because of the application in certain respects of the Australian butter stabilization scheme, which is more commonly known as the Paterson scheme. One of the chief reasons for this anxiety is that no satisfactory explanation is given regarding the discrepancy between London parity and the price actually paid to the dairy-farmer for his butter. I understand that by paying the stabilization levy of 1¾d. per lb., the dairy-farmer has the right to draw a bounty of 3d. per lb. at what is known as parity price, which is London value, less insurance, freight and handling charges, and plus exchange. The price quoted as the London value of butter last week-end was from 64s. to 68s., and, in some instances, 70s. per cwt. Taking the figure as 68s., the price would be 74d. per lb., which, with the exchange of, say, l£d., and the bounty of 3d., would make a total of ls. 0£d. per lb. A deduction must be made for freight, insurance and handling charges. The local price paid to the dairy farmer is ls. l£d. per lb., less a levy of If d., or a net return of 11½d. per lb. That is the wholesale price quoted by Sandford and Company and other produce merchants. There is a difference of fd. between the price calculated on London values, plus exchange and bounty, and the local price as set out in the published lists of those firms which are supposed to set the quotation standard for the Adelaide market. At the beginning of this year that difference was 2-Jd. per lb. Why should this be so? No satisfactory explanation has been offered. The price of butter was then 75s. per cwt., or Sd. per lb., to which must be added 2d. exchange and 3d. bounty, making ls. Id. in all. The price quoted on the Adelaide market at that time was ls. 0¼d. per lb., loss the stabilization levy of l$d., which made the price to the farmer 10-Jd. per lb.
– The total expenses incurred in sending butter overseas amount to 1¾d. per lb.
– The dairy farmers want to know why the difference between the London value price and the price they receive fluctuates so much. There are no export handling charges on the 80,000 tons of butter consumed in Australia, and it appears that the producers do not receive the advantage of this. What I want to know is : who does ?
– The producers of Queensland received only a little over 6d. per lb. for their butter.
– The dairy farmers of South Australia realize the seriousness of lbc position confronting them; they fear for the security of this stabilization scheme. It is evident that the internal consumption of butter must be maintained at a certain figure, otherwise the export bounty cannot be paid. The levy on every 12 lb. of butter produced amounts to about ls. 9d., which is equal to the bounty on 7 lb. of butter at 3d. per lb.; so that for every 12 lb. of butter produced, 5 lb. must be placed on the Australian market if the bounty of 3d. per lb. is still to be paid to the exporters of butter.
– There is slightly more than that ratio going on the market to-day.
– The internal consumption of butter in Australia is generally estimated at about 80,000 tons. For the nine months ended the 8th April last the export was 91,000 tons. On the present rate of bounty, should that figure reach 110,000 tons, the stabilization scheme would collapse.
– Not at all ; the bounty would probably have to be reduced to, say, 2d. per lb.
– The position seems “most unsatisfactory.
– Were it not for the stabilization scheme, the dairy farmers would not get anything.
– I understand that the Honorable J. Cowan, M.L.C., of South Australia, and Mr. Collins, the ex-member for Murray in the South Australian Parliament, both of whom are associated with the dairying industry, are seriously concerned at the present plight of the dairy farmer, and they consider that a thorough investigation should be made into this scheme and into every phase of the industry. The South Australian Government felt sufficiently interested iu this matter to appoint a committee of investigation, comprising Professor Perkins, the South Australian Director of Agriculture, and Mr. Wainwright, of the State AuditorGeneral’s Department; but, in my opinion, this subject is of Australianwide importance, and should be investigated by the Commonwealth Department of Commerce, with a view to ascertaining whether the stabilization scheme gives the Australian dairy farmer that security which he was promised, and to which he is undoubtedly entitled. Those in the dairying industry are wondering whether the method which has been adopted to stabilize the industry has not actually been responsible for depressing the butter market abroad and for lowering the price of butter. The Australian market price of butter is regulated largely by world parity conditions. The price of butter in Australia is generally from 2d. to 4½d. per lb. above world parity prices. I hope that the Government will realize the need for a further investigation into the stabilization scheme, with a view to affording those engaged in this industry a greater measure of protection. The cost of the Scheme to producers and consumers can be arrived at as follows: -
Producers levy, l$d. per lb. on Australian ‘ consumption of 80,(100 tons, export 00,000 tons, a total of 170,000 tons, £2,840,000; Australian consumers 80,000 tons at 2d. a lb. above parity, £2,240,000. Exporters extract from the pool, nt export 3d. per lb. bounty on 90,000 tons. £2.520.000, which gives a total of nearly £8,000,000.
Honorable members will realize exactly what the Australian consumer and producer are paying for a doubtful benefit, the application of which has not worked out to ,the advantage of the dairying industry as has been claimed.
.- I cannot allow some of the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) to go without challenge. Without possessing the figures he quoted, it is impossible for me to attempt to reply in detail and express my opinion upon them. I merely say that I am delighted to hear that the South Australian Government has appointed two men of such standing as Professor Perkins and Mr. Wainwright, because the more the scheme is investigated, the less will be the criticism to which it is subjected mainly by those who do not understand it. Had the honorable member cared to bring some of his alleged facts before my notice for explanation, I should have been only too glad to go into the subject with him, for I believe that I can satisfy him that most of his doubts are without foundation.
– The honorable member has to satisfy the dairy farmers.
– Those dairy farmers who understand1 the scheme are satisfied that it is of great value to them. Under no combination of circumstances can the scheme be other than beneficial to the dairy farmer. It is true that, as our export surplus expands, and the ratio between export and local consumption changes, the benefit attached to the scheme must decrease proportionately. That is common to any scheme under which local prices are sustained higher than export prices. I shall be glad if the honorable member will arrange a time mutually convenient to both of us, so that I may be afforded an opportunity to unravel the problems to which he has referred.
.- Under the excellent rules of this House, I was prevented from concluding what I had to say upon the motion submitted by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) this morning. As I believe that I was the only honorable member who mads a sound suggestion as to how primary producers can be assisted, I purpose to finish the figures with which I was then dealing.
– The honorable member must not con tinue a debate that has expired. He may discuss a new subject.
– It may not- be known to all honorable members that the British Government reduced the silver content of its coins from 925 parts of silver in 1,000 parts to 500 parts’ pure silver in 1,000 parts. Where could we find a better example? If that action were copied, the Government could reduce the rate of interest on mortgages.
– Order ! I direct the attention of the honorable member to the motion which appears on the noticepaper in the name of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and ask him not to anticipate a discussion upon the subject with which that motion will deal.
– I shall keep this information away from the honorable member so that he cannot possibly use it. Any business man is aware that, if £1,000,000 of gold was used to purchase £10,000,000 worth of silver, the Government would be enabled to charge 2 per cent, instead of the prevailing 0 per cent., and that would be equivalent to 12 per cent, on the gold currency employed for the purpose. If it were generous enough to charge only 1 per cent, on advances to producers it would still be no worse off than at present, for that would be. equivalent to 6 per cent. I shall not continue my remarks, a3 I understand that an important deputation is waiting to interview the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons).
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has raised a matter upon which he seeks information. On one occasion he was permitted to examine an original report in the possession of the department. Unfortunately, that report has been mislaid, but he will be able to examine a certified copy of it should he so desire. The honorable member was also kind enough to inform me that he intended to refer to the application of the Industries Preservation Act to wire netting, and he has drawn attention to the relevant section of the act. The honorable member has been unduly suspicious, possibly because the original of the report he required was temporarily not available. I point out to him that it does not matter how much the export price may be below the fair market value in the United Kingdom, so long as the duty-paid landed cost in Australia is not less than the manufacturers’ selling price of the Australian-made wirenetting. The honorable member is assuming that the notice published in the Gazette provides for the collection of a dumping duty in every case where the duty-paid landed cost is less than the manufacturers’ selling price of Australianmade wire-netting, and he is also assuming that, the dumping duty is the sum which will bring the landed cost of the imported article up to the price of the Australian article. This is not so. If the goods are not sold for export at a price which is less than a fair market value at the time of shipment, and the landed cost is less than the manufacturers’ selling price of Australian-made wire-netting, no dumping duty is payable because, as previously explained, the dumping duty under section 4 is the difference between the export price and the fair market value. According to the notice in the Gazette of the 1st May, 1924, two conditions must be satisfied. One is that the goods are being sold” to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment; and secondly, that by reason of such export price, detriment may result to an Australian industry. Sub-section 3 of section 4 of the act prescribes the amount of duty in the following terms : -
The amount of dumping duty in each case shall be the sum which represents the difference between the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment, and the export price.
In order that the honorable member may have the matter quite clearly before him, I direct his attention to the exact terms of the notice which appeared in the Gazette on the 1st May, 1924, which were as follows: -
In pursuance of section 4 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1021- 1022, I, Austin Chapman, Minister of State for Trade and Customs, hereby notify that, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, I am satisfied that the undermentioned goods (which are of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia) have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value of the goods- at the time of shipment, and that by reason of such export prices detriment may result to an Australian industry, and that, in my opinion, the provisions of section 4 of the said act should apply to those goods : -
Wire-netting originated in or exported from the United Kingdom, the landed duty-paid cost of which is less than the manufacturers’ selling price of Australian-made wirenetting.
Dumping duty is not levied if no detriment may result to an Australian industry. The Minister, in the notice, prescribed, therefore, that section 4 should apply to wire netting originated or exported from the United Kingdom the landed duty-paid cost of which was less than the manufacturers selling price of Australian-made wire-netting.- The two conditions which must be present before the dumping duty is leviable under section 4 are: First, that the export price is less than the fair market value at the time of shipment; and secondly, that the duty-paid landed cost is less than the manufacturers’ selling price of Australian wire-netting.
– The duty-paid landed cost may be fixed by the Australian manufacturers !
– Yes, provided that the other condition is satisfied. That is the point which the honorable member has so frequently overlooked. On the 5th April last, the honorable member for Swan asked certain questions in regard to wire netting, amongst which was the following :- -
To this he received the following reply : -
That reply is correct, and .1 hope that the explanation which I have just made will clear the honorable member’s mind of any doubt on this subject.
. - I assure the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that his statements regarding the broadcasting commission will be brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), who is temporarily absent from the chamber. I wish to take this opportunity of stating that the Government has the profoundest confidence in the members, of the broadcasting commission, and, personally, I am glad to express appreciation of the valuable service which they have rendered to the community, in general, and to listeners, in particular, in the brief period since their appointment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.51 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– War debts are a question of international importance and are, as the honorable member is aware, receiving the earnest attention of all countries concerned, including the Commonwealth Government. The Government is being kept in touch with developments by the Resident Minister in London.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
As the financial year of Bonds’ Industries Limited terminated at 3 1st December, 1932, and that company must shortly issue its balance-sheet and hold its general meeting, will the Minister expedite a decision in the matter ? n. 5. (a) Will he state from what date the investigators commenced their investigation into the amount claimed to be due for bounty?
– The matter is at the moment in the hands of the legal advisers to the Government, who are considering the situation. The inquiries made go back to the inception of the present company, and involve debatable questions both of law and of fact. As indicated in the reply I made last week to a question by the honorable member on the same subject, it might prejudice the matter to go into details or express any opinion, but the questions at issue will be finalized at the earliest possible moment.
en asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government give favorable consideration to the establishment of an official hall mark for precious metals?
– Owing to its constitutional limitations, the Commonwealth is unable to establish an official hall mark for precious metals. The necessity for legislation on the subject of hall-marking of jewellery has been discussed at many premiers’ conferences from 1905 onwards. The Attorney-General of Victoria drafted a bill to give effect to the resolution passed at the Sydney conference held in 1915 that uniform legislation be introduced. This bill was circulated among the States on the 15th November, 1915, but’ legislative action has not yet been taken by the States to give effect to it.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the buoyancy of customs revenues, will the Government immediately restore -the amount of the reduction of 2s.6d. which was made by the present Government in all pensions below 17s.6d. per week and in cases where income was being received ?
– The financial policy of the Government will be announced when the budget speech for 1933-34- is delivered, and I am unable to give an undertaking in respect of any phase of the finances which may or may not be affected by that policy.
son asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
What amount of money has already been expended at Newnes in connexion with the shale oil industry -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) The Commonwealth Government expended approximately £31,900 in connexion with the Newnesshale oil undertaking prior to the appointment of the present committee by the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales to investigate certain aspects concerning the economics of the proposition. Each government had undertaken to find a maximum of £5,000, making a total of £10,000 in connexion with the work of this committee. The expenditure andcommitments of the committee up to date amount to about £1,000.
I am not in a position to state the amount expended by private enterprise.
Retorting operations are not being conducted at Newnes at present. Shale Oil Development Committee Limited treated altogether about 4,000 tons of shale during a period of approximately eight months, which yielded on an average approximately98 gallons of nil per ton.
s. - Yesterday the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me a question, without notice, in regard to the payment of gold bounty.
With the returns of actual production now available, approval has been given to the payment of the Commonwealth bounty on gold produced in the first nine months of last year, the actual rate of bounty working out at 4.056 shillings per oz. of fine gold. The actual amount involved in the payment of the bounty is not at present available.
s. - On the 3rd May, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) ask the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
*1. (a) This information is not available. (6) The Commonwealth Bank charges 4¾ per cent, per annum for advances through the
General Banking Department, and 4¼ per cent. per annum for advances through the Rural Credits Department. 2.It is regretted I am not in a position to supply this information.
The profits of the bank for the twelve months ended 31st December, 1932, were -
This information was supplied by the Commonwealth Bank.
s.- On the 27th April, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 May 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330505_reps_13_139/>.