13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H.Mackay) took thechair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Interest Rates - Governor-General
– Can the Prime Minister give the House an indication of the work in which the Resident Minister in London is engaged, and state whether there has been any progress towards the securing of a lower rate of interest on Australia’s overseas debt?
– Whenthe right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was appointed Resident Minister in London it was arranged that he should carry on the duties usually discharged heretofore by the High Commissioner ; but from the beginning we have had in mind the obtaining of a lower rate of interest on our overseas debt, such as was accepted by our bondholders in Australia. The endeavour to bring that about is a task for which the Resident Minister in London is eminently qualified. He is continually in touch with the financial institutions on the other side of the world as well as withthe Government of Great Britain. But, as I am sure the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) realizes, in matters such as this, the negotiations are of the most delicate character, and great harm might be caused by a premature announcement of the intentions, oreven of the hopes, of the Government. I give the right honorable gentleman the assurance, however, that immediately it is possible to make a statement on the subject, this House will be informed of the intentions of the Government.
-Will the Government instruct the Resident Minister in London to take no part in the agitation in Great Britain for the appointment of a member of the Royal Family as Governor-General of the Commonwealth, and to do all that lies inhis power to discourage the public expression of such a sentiment?
– TheResident Minister in London is a member of the Government, and, as such, acts on its behalf. We have no knowledge that he has associated himself in any way with the agitation to which the honorable member has referred, and I am confident that he has not done so. There is no need to instruct him in the manner indicated.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the report of Mr. Buring on the wine industry has been considered by Cabinet, and if a decision upon it has been arrived at? I should also like to know whether any decisions on the matter will be submitted to the House before the forthcoming adjournment?
– A question on the same subject was asked yesterday by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). The report referred to is a confidential document. It will be considered by the Government next week.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me if the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are members of the United Australia Party? If they are not, will he ask the commission to see that announcers from A class stations refrain from discrimination against the Labour party in their comments on the daily news. Further, will the right honorable gentleman have inquiries made to ascertain whether the announcer from 2FC station, Sydney, in his news comments, has given undue prominence to the antiLabour party, and discriminated against the Labour party, in the New South Wales referendum campaign?
– Before making the appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Government did not inquire what were the political opinions of the various applicants for appointment; the sole consideration was the qualifications of the applicants. If political bias is being displayed by announcers from the national broadcasting network, I undertake to have the matter brought to the notice of the commission. Any national system should be entirely free from political or party bias. As an indication of my own attitude in this matter, I might say that, on a recent occasion, when I felt that some bias was being shown against one from whom I differ politically - Mr. J. T. Lang - I drew the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the fact. I made it clear that what might be said regarding Mr. Lang might be justified in regard to any other public man, and that the broadcasting system should not be used for political ends. If the honorable member will bring to my notice or that of the PostmasterGeneral any definite instance of political bias, the matter will be rectified. So far as lies within our power, we shall see that the national system is kept entirely free from political influence.
Conference of Railway Commissioners
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether a conference of Railway Commissioners is shortly to be held? If it is, will the Government request these gentlemen, but particularly the Commonwealth Commissioner, to present definite proposals for the reduction of railway deficits?
– A conference of Railway Commissioners will begin its sittings in Canberra on the 6th June next. I shall suggest for its consideration the matter raised by the honorable member.
Telephone Rentals in Country Districts - Operating Hours - Rural Automatic Installations.
– Will the Postmaster-General, in preparing the Estimates of his department for the ensuing financial year, consider the possibility of reducing telephone rentals as they affect subscribers in country districts? Will he also endeavour to make such provision as will enable country telephone exchanges to continue to operate between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m., which are the most suitable hours for country subscribers ?
– I shall be pleased to consider both of the matters referred to by the honorable member. I direct his attention, however, to a recently issued statement regarding telephone charges; it may be interesting to him, and indicate to some extent the mind of the Government in this matter.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of installing rural automatic telephones, which give a continuous service, in those districts that are now deprived of the telephone service after 6 p.m.?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.This matter is under consideration at the present time.
Trade Treaties with Denmark and the Argentine.
– Has the Prime Minister read the severe criticism of the action of the British Government in having entered into trade treaties with Denmark and the Argentine, to the disadvantage of Australia and the other dominions, which appears in this morning’s press, such treaties being considered an infringement of the Ottawa agreement? Has the right honorable gentleman yet received the full text of these agreements? If not, when is it likely to be available to honorable members?
– I have not yet had an opportunity to read the newspaper this morning, but I shall inquire into the matter mentioned by the honorable member. The Minister for Commerce informs me that the complete text of these agreements is now on the way to Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Consideration resumed from the 11th
May (vide page 1404), 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).
Postponed item 19 (Tobacco) further postponed.
Group6. - Amendments made by the present Government which are supported by Tariff Board reports.
Item 178, postponed sub-items (p 1, 2, 3) (e)-
Motive power machinery and appliances (except electric), viz. : -
Up to and including 100 horse-power, ad yal., British, 45 per cent.; general,65 per cent.
Exceeding 100 horse-power, ad val., British, free; general,15 per cent.
As prescribed by departmental bylaws, British, free; general, free.
For the purposes of this sub-item horsepower shall be determined as prescribed by departmental by-law.
– The subitem “ crude oil engines “was deferred, at the request of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), because a deputation was on its way to Canberra from different States to place before the Government its case for the retention of the duties on engines over 100 horsepower. These gentlemen were granted the interview that they sought, and the case was very carefully gone into by me and by the officers of the department. The three firms represented were, Walker’s Limited, Maryborough, Queensland; Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett,
Ballarat, Victoria; and A. H. McDonald and Company Proprietary Limited, Richmond, Victoria. It was shown that these companies had attained to a high standard of efficiency in the manufacture of crude oil engines of the smaller horsepower, bur, Walker’s Limited, of Maryborough, Queensland, is the only firm that has made engines of 100 horse-power or over, and I understand that it has manufactured only five of these iii the last twelve months. The Tariff Board went very exhaustively into the question of local manufacture of crude oil engines, and recommended the duties now proposed, with the exception of the Ottawa agreement formula adjustment. The range of crude oil engines required in Australia is from 2 horse-power to 3,000 horsepower. No such engines of over 220 horse-power have been manufactured here, and on a numerical basis 98 per cent, of the engines made in Australia during the year prior to the board’s report were below 50 horse-power. The manufacturers of these engines are adequately protected. It was estimated by the board that, with exchange at normal and excluding primage and duty on casing, a duty of 90 per cent, under the British preferential tariff would be required in order to bring the price of 300 horse-power British engines into line with Australian costs. Similarly, a duty of SO per cent, would be required in the case of engines of 200 horse-power. In view of these facts, it is unreasonable for local manufacturers of engines up to 50 horse-power to claim the whole of the Australian market. There is no doubt that they can meet local requirements in engines up to that horse-power under a reasonable tariff at prices comparable with the price of overseas engines, and that the economic production of engines up to 100 horse-power is capable of being developed; but the board’s report shows that the duties necessary to protect the local manufacture of crude oil engines over 100 horse-power would be unreasonable. The local manufacturers are quite satisfied with the duties on engines up to 100 horse-power, but contend that the protection should be extended to include engines up to 400 horse-power. This would cover the range of machines for which the main demand exists. The manufacturers who waited on me in Canberra on the third of this month pointed out that a considerable amount had been expended in obtaining the necessary equipment, and that a great deal of expenditure had been incurred in ensuring that the engines manufactured would be efficient. They also contended that immediately sales had commenced the protection hitherto afforded to the industry was withdraw ; that the few sales which were made while the duties were in operation were obtained in open competition as regards prices. They further asserted that the board’s conclusion with respect to the duties necessary was based on faulty premises, and that when comparisons were made, like was not compared with like. Prices, they said, had been reduced since the board submitted its report, and if protection were given, prices would continue to drop due to added experience iii manufacture and an increase of sales, as in the case of the smaller engines. The Queensland firm mentioned enjoys a well-deserved reputation for efficiency. Originally it commenced business in Victoria, where it manufactured railway locomotives, but later it transferred to Queensland, where it is now well established.
– To what use are these engines put?
– For the most part they are used in connexion with electric lighting plants in country districts. The deputationists also pointed out that practically the whole of the raw materials used are of Australian origin. The board states that 30 per cent, is imported, but the local manufacturers contend that this quantity was used only in the first engine manufactured. . That, no doubt, is true. It is under tandable that, when a new type of engine is being manufactured, it i3 necessary to import a sample to he used as a model. The board is satisfied that crude oil engines up to 50 horsepower are being efficiently manufactured, in Australia, but the manufacturers contend that, as the larger engines are only multiples of smaller engines, no greater difficulty should be experienced in the making of a fourcylinder 200 horse-power engine than in the manufacture of a single-cylinder 50 horse-power engine. Honorable mem-, bers will see that a strong case was made out on ‘behalf of local manufacturers. But this is not a matter which can be decided on ex parte statements, and, in view of the definite views expressed by the board, it will need to be examined very carefully. I, therefore, ask honorable members to agree to the sub-item as it stands, and allow the schedule to be completed. . I assure the committee that. I will take steps immediately to ascertain whether an amendment of the duties is necessary. The matter will be put in hand at once in order that any subsequent amendments can be provided for while the item is being considered in another place.
– How many sales have been made of the engines of higher horsepower ?
Mr.WHITE. - The following is a list of the crude oil engines admitted under departmental by-laws: -
– An Australianfirm tendered for the supply of certain of those engines. It would not have done so if it could not make them.
– For a firm to say that it can make certain machinery is not the same as the making of it. Frequently these crude oil engines of high horsepower are installed as auxiliary plants in factories and in connexion with electriclighting systems, to be used in the event of a breakdown. As Walkers Limited, of Queeusland, is the only firm making these engines, which are required in all the States, it is selfish on the part of the manufacturers to endeavour to secure control of the Australian market for crude oil engines covering all horse-power ranges.
.- T favour giving every reasonable encouragement to Australian manufacturers of crude oil engines, and, indeed, to the makers of everything that can be manufactured economically in this country. Such engines are used, among other ways, to supply power for creeper, or, as they are sometimes called, caterpillar, tractors. A complete tractor is admitted duty free from Great Britain, and has to pay a 10 per cent, duty under the general tariff. I am advised that the Sydney firm of Armstrong Holland Limited is developing the manufacture of creeper tractors for agricultural purposes, and proposes to use for its power unit a high-speed British diesel engine, which has been admitted under by-law duty-free. But objection to this has been raised by a Melbourne firm, which proposes to manufacture similar tractors to which it intends to apply a diesel engine of a type that is quite unsuited to the Sydney firm’s tractor. Armstrong Holland Limited assert - and I doubt that the statement can be contradicted - that the high-speed diesel engine which they require cannot bc manufactured in Australia. The weight of the engine proposed to be used by the Melbourne firm - a Petter’s 36 horse-power twin-cylinder vortical semi-diesel engine - weighs 61 cwt. net, while the weight of a 31-53 horse-power Dorman Ricardo engine with fly-wheel is approximately only 10 cwt. It should be noted that weight is an important consideration, since a tractor, to be efficient, should not exceed 4^ tons. That being so, obviously a power unit weighing 61 cwt,. would be quite unsuited. to a tractor for use in agriculture.
I have received a copy of a letter from the British Manufacturers Association, of” Melbourne, which strongly support this5 firm in its endeavour to produce these tractors in Australia. It is pointed out in the letter that if any action is taken to prevent them from obtaining this power unit for their tractors, its only alternative will be to import complete tractors from abroad, which, of course, would be admitted duty free. Under the present proposal the tractors produced would be 75 per cent. Australian material and 25 per cent. British material. We must look upon this particular engine as the raw material of this Australian firm. I strongly urge the Minister to continue to admit these engines for this purpose under departmental by-law.
.- I am disappointed at the action of the Minister. The honorable gentleman has said that Walkers Limited has manufactured only five engines of more than a certain horse-power. Apparently, because only one firm is engaged in the manufacture of such engines, the industry is not considered worthy of protection. Mr. Goldsmith, the manager of Walkers Limited explained to the Minister when he was here, that his firm was not manufacturing engines of less than 50 horse-power. It would not go in for the smaller types of engine, which were being successfully manufactured by a firm in Ballarat and a firm in Melbourne. A representative of each of those firms was present at the deputation. The reason why Walkers Limited has manufactured only these five engines is that, when it had got to that point, the Government withdrew the protection which had been afforded the industry. I point out that Walkers Limited set out in its usual businesslike way to manufacture a satisfactory article. The firm went to the expense of sending engineers overseas to obtain complete knowledge of the larger type of diesel engines. After spending a. large amount of money in this way, and keeping the men abroad for twelve months, Walkers Limited installed plant in its Queensland works suitable for the production of these engines locally. In order to ensure that the first, engines produced would be satisfactory, it imported 30 per cent, of the parts required for the first engine manufactured. This was done to ensure that the local workmen would clearly understand the kind of work which they were required to turn out. Just as the firm had got its new plant properly under way, and had produced five engines, varying from 160 to 250 horse-power, the Government reduced the protective duties. This had the immediate result of displacing 40 men who were engaged in this particular work.
I point out that the Tariff Board report deals not with the manufacture of engines of the type turned out by Walkers Limited, but with that of a smaller type. The promise of the Minister to make further inquiry into this business is not satisfactory to me. Mr. Goldsmith definitely told the honorable gentleman that in no circumstances would his firm continue to build these engines unless it was assured of adequate protection. It is pitiable that a fine works like that of Walkers Limited should be thrown out of action by the policy of the Government. This firm has supplied a first class auxiliary engine to the Temperance and General Insurance Company in Brisbane, as a standby to provide electric light and heating in the event of the supply from the ordinary source being cut off. Other engines of a similar type have been installed by the firm. Mr. Goldsmith assured the Government that he was satisfied that there was a market for Australianmade engines of this type of 50 horse-power single unit and over. If the best that the Minister can do is to promise that the Tariff Board will be asked to investigate this matter, I hope that it will lose no time in doing so. The report which the board made in August last deals with engines of from 25 horse-power to 50 horse-power. Walkers Limited are engaged in the manufacture of larger engines. In these circumstances, it is regrettable that the Minister should have acted precipitously. Walkers Limited has proved itself to be a very fine firm. The machinery it has manufactured for the Commonwealth Government and other public bodies has given the utmost satisfaction. Time and again, government officials and other people have congratu- lated the firm on the quality of its products. We all know that it has also done some fine ship-building work. In this particular instance, it has turned out a genuine article for which there is a real need. I hope, therefore, that the Government will yet give it some ray of hope, which will cause it to continue its operations in this direction, and to reemploy the men who have been dismissed.
– No other industry has received such harsh treatment at the hands of the Tariff Board as our diesel engine manufacturing industry. Some years ago, when it appeared that a period of slackness was likely to be experienced in the construction of engines, ships, locomotives, machinery for sugar-mills, and mining machinery, Walkers Limited, having a desire to keep its efficient plant in operation, and its skilled artisans in employment, turned its attention to the possibility of constructing diesel engines in Australia. The government of the day was approached with a request for tariff protection in the event of the firm undertaking work of this description, and the representations made were sympathetically received. The firm thereupon sent its general manager on a world tour with the object of obtaining information that would enable it to manufacture engines suitable for Australian use. A contract was made with the British firm of Mirrlees. Bickerton and Day Limited, under which Walkers Limited obtained access to all drawings and particulars of the Mirrlees engine, a British product which was considered to be the most suitable for Australian requirements. Walkers Limited thereupon sent two engineers from its Maryborough works to England for twelve months’ study and experience in the factory of the firm manufacturing these engines. On their return to Australia, definite steps were taken to begin manufacturing activities locally. The firm has made it quite clear that it does not intend to manufacture diesel engines of the smaller type, for these are already being manufactured by Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited, of Ballarat, and A. H. McDonald and Company Proprietary Limited, of Victoria; and Morts Dock
Engineering Company Limited is prepared to undertake the manufacture of them.
If Walkers Limited were an unsatisfactory firm, the attitude of the Tariff Board could, perhaps, be understood, but that is not the case. This firm has constructed locomotives for the Commonwealth Government, and also for the Governments of South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland, and in every case it has turned out articles that stand to the Credit of the firm to-day. During the war, when Australia required two trading boats of about 7,000 tons, the work was given to Walkers Limited, which constructed the Echuca and Echunga, two vessels which are still giving good service on the high 3eas.
– If war comes again, this
Country will need more than a Tariff Board to rely upon.
– As soon as Walkers Limited intimated its intention of manufacturing diesel engines, the importers of such engines engaged in propaganda to stimulate the sale of engines made overseas. People who, it was thought, might require such engines, were informed in Toowoomba and other parts and also as far afield as Western Australia, that the engines should be imported at once, because there was the possibility of heavy duty being imposed upon them. The result was that the importation increased enormously. The object of the importers was to discourage the development of this branch of industry by Walkers Limited. Australia was actually flooded with engines of this type. The figures quoted by the Minister show that our importations increased enormously after Walkers Limited had commenced manufacturing operations. Steps were then taken by the importers to have the matter inquired into by the Tariff Board, with the object of securing a reduction of duties. The importers, a’t that stage, advised people not to purchase diesel engines because there was a hig probability that the duties would be lifted. This is one of the reasons why Walkers Limited has been able to manufacture only five or six engines. The Tariff Board requested Walkers Limited and the importers to furnish it with prices for different types of engines, but while it published in its report the prices quoted by Walkers Limited, it was not fair enough to publish the prices quoted by the importers. There is, therefore, no possibility of our examining just what is meant by the prices submitted by the importers of diesel engines. A comparison of the value of motor cars cannot be made without a knowledge of the respective makes. The same applies to engines. The product of Walkers Limited is infinitely superior to the imported article. It is specially built for power house requirements, and embodies the latest improvements, which are not to be found in the other productions, these including the maximum equipment and spares for the most exacting power house needs, and an expensive air injecting system. The price given for the product of Walkers Limited is the agent’s selling price ; but what does the importer’s price include? The Tariff Board unfairly published figures supplied by Walkers Limited in confidence, but kept secret the importers’ prices. Walkers Limited has done everything possible to supply the very best. Instead of the Tariff Board being proud of that endeavour, and providing a reasonable duty to protect it, it has supported the importer in enabling him to- secure the admission of large diesel engines free of duty. That is most improper, particularly when it is realized that in Australia we pay more for coal, coke, steel, spelter and iron.
Walkers Limited are apparently branded as criminals for seeking a’ duty which would enable them to provide additional work for first class artisans in the manufacture of a high quality engine for which there is a demand in Australia. Thinking people realize that there is a tremendous future for diesel engines. Their efficiency and economy have been proved overseas in connexion with the propulsion of locomotives, motor cars, and even aeroplanes, and big engineering works overseas arc going more and more into their production. There is a desire in Australia to substitute diesel for other engines now, aud we should get ready to supply the demand. Every big building that is now being constructed in Australia is equipped with an engine to drive its lifts and for emergency lighting purposes, and Walkers Limited have installed diesel engines in the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Temperance and .General buildings in Sydney. A tremendous field awaits development, yet the Tariff Board has done everything possible to discourage the exploitation of this market by Australian companies. The argument that has been used is that the primary producer would suffer if these engines were not admitted duty free- That is not a fact. Primary producers use small, engines of from 4 to 20 horse-power, on which the Tariff Board has approved a protective duty of 45 per cent.; therefore, if .that duty results in higher prices, the burden falls upon the primary producers who use small-powered engines. On the other hand, the board refused to recommend a duty of 45 per cent, on big engines, which do not concern primary producers. As a result of reasonable tariff protection Walkers Limited has constructed diesel engines up to 250 horse-power, against which the imported ‘ article ^cannot compete either in price or quality. How, then, could any disadvantage result from the placing of a duty on larger diesel engines? It is claimed that there is no market in Australia for such engines, yet, the Minister gave- an illustration of how the importers flooded’ the local market with diesels admitted free under by-law. That action was designed to offset the request made by Walkers Limited. While that firm pioneered the work of constructing diesel engines in Australia, other large engineering firms, such as Ronaldson Brothers, Tippett Proprietary Limited, McDonald Proprietary Company, and Morts Dock, are prepared to . launch out in this business and provide healthy competition if the necessary tariff protection is afforted them.. Representatives of those great firms waited on the Minister last week and put their case before him. I thank the Minister for his courtesy in postponing the item to give those gentlemen an opportunity of presenting the ‘Australian point of view. That action was appreciated. But does the honorable gentleman think that those concerns would be prepared to construct diesel engines if no market were available?
The only argument advanced against the imposition of a reasonably protective duty is the malicious report of the Tariff Board, which is based on the statements of the importers.. The manufacturers were not given an opportunity to question these wild statements’. All that is asked now is that a duty should be imposed to enable these firms to construct diesel engines up to 200 horsepower. Unfortunately, the Government has not seen fit to grant that request. I hope that as a result of the information that has been supplied by these firms, which emphasizes the injustice that has been done by the Tariff Board to Australian industry, the Government will give them an opportunity to employ some of our finest artisans for the purpose of building up an industry which will supply Australia’s future requirements at a reasonable price. If, after giving full consideration to the representations that have been made, the Minister requests the Tariff Board to review- the position, he will have done a great service to the community.
.- I believe that Walker’s Limited has endeavoured to make good against overwhelming odds, and that the firm should be given more time, so that it may establish this new branch of its activities upon a firmer foundation. The company possesses an organization and plant capable of undertaking mechanical work of a class such as is carried out by Mort’s Dock and other big engineering firms. On a visit to Maryborough at one time I inspected the work performed by Walker’s Limited, and I must admit that it does credit to Australia, and is equal to that which comes from abroad. While I believe that duties of this character should not be too high, the fact remains that other countries are building up tariff walls, and until there is an international understanding on the subject, Australia cannot afford to allow its industries to be over-, shadowed by foreign competition. In. my opinion, a good case has been made out for this firm. Not only should its efforts be encouraged in the national interests; but we . must remember that big industries’ provide a great amount of revenue both in direct and indirect taxation. I suggest that further, and favorable, consideration should be given to the representations of Walkers Limited, that a reasonably protective duty should be provided on large diesel engines.
– I feel that I must express my disappointment at the decision of the Minister not to allow Australian engineering firms to continue and develop the magnificent work that they have done in the past. There are many Australian firms which are interested in the manufacture of diesel engines. For these engines a wonderful future has been predicted. When electric motors began to supersede steam engines, numbers of engineering firms which were affected directed their attention to the manufacture of diesel engines of various kinds. As a member of the Public Works Committee, and of the Public Accounts Committee, during the war and the immediately succeeding years, I visited a number of these engineering establishments, among them being Walker’s, on the Mary River, at Maryborough, Queensland. I pay my tribute to that firm and its employees for the splendid work they did for the nation during the war. With other engineering establishments throughout the Empire they then did what they could for the nation. Australian engineering firms even undertook the building of ships when bottoms were scarce, and although the vessels they built cost more than similar vessels would have cost if made in the ship-building yards of Great Britain, they merited the highest praise of shipbuilding authorities throughout the world. At the time when those ships were being constructed, the British shipbuilding yards were working at high pressure; so the Australian ship-builders rendered a signal service to their country. In times of peace it is sometimes well to lift the curtain and peer into the future. If we starve our engineering establishments and factories in times of peace, and make it difficult or impossible for them to extend their operations, we shall find in times of national stress and difficulty that we have made a mistake, for they may not then be able to help us. The development of our engineering industries is essential to the nation’sdefence. The firm of A. H. McDonald and Company Proprietary Limited has played an important part in the manufacture of diesel engines. Throughout Australia there are at least 10,000 diesel engines of that firm’s manufacture. The inventive genius of the Australian has found expression in the pioneering work undertaken by many Australian engineering firms. Their understanding of Australian conditions has enabled them to meet Australia’s requirements in a way which most manufacturers overseas would have found impossible. Manufacturers in Great Britain and elsewhere, recognizing what Australian engineers had accomplished in connexion with diesel engines of limited horse-power, directed their efforts towards preventing the expansion of this industry in Australia. The tariff assumes that Australian manufacturers of diesel engines are unable to make engines of more than 100 horse-power, for the protection it affords them is restricted to engines of less than that capacity. Australian engineers can manufacture diesel engines of much greater capacity than 100 horse-power. Moreover, they have made improvements which have led to lower running costs. And they have not increased the prices charged for their engines. In a small way I am engaged in primary production, and I have an oil engine to perform certain work on my holding. I know what a wonderful help it is on the farm ; it is used to drive the chaff-cutter, to cut wood, and to do many other things ; it could, if desired, be utilized to supply electric light and power.
– What make of engine is it?
– It is the manufacture ofRonaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited.
– That company makes good engines.
– The Australian firms which manufacture diesel engines do not necessarily make complete units. For instance, Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited work in conjunction with Thompson’s, of Castlemaine, an engineering firm with a world-wide reputation. Those persons who contend that Australian engineering firms cannot produce satisfactory crank-shafts should see those manufactured by Thompson’s,
Castlemaine. Competent authorities claim that they are equal to the best imported crank-shafts. I cannot understand why we, in this country, should belittle our own manufacturers. A person listening do a tariff ‘ debate in this Australian Parliament would be justified in thinking that he was in a foreign country, because so many honorable members speak depreciatingly of Australian manufacturers, and in glowing terms of the products of other countries. Visitors to Australia, on the other hand, are more willing to give credit where credit is due. lt is time that this Parliament had an Australian outlook, and fostered the development of those industries which will be of value in times of peace and of inestimable worth in the event of war. Any policy which seeks to limit the development of our engineering industries is short-sighted. If there is one section of industry which should he supported to the last ditch, it is the engineering section. We should not allow ourselves to he swayed by the mere cheapness of an article. In a letter which I have received from A. H. McDonald and Company Proprietary Limited, that firm states -
In this matter we have established a leadership. Diesel farm tractors were imported by us from the Continent and sold to wheatgrowers for £095, but we now build crude oil farm tractors of equal capacity, but specially designed for Australian requirements, and are selling same in increasing numbers for £535.
The development of a firm which can supply a better article for £150 less than the price of an imported machine should not be blocked. The letter from which I have quoted continues -
We originally introduced and made a commercial success of diesel road-rollers, and now most of the leading British manufacturers are urging their clients to purchase diesel road-rollers. Many hundreds of these rollers have ‘been sold, weighing from 2 to 10 tons, and are in daily use throughout the Commonwealth, “ making the crooked straight and the rough places plain.” The economy by the use of fuel oil is phenomenally low, viz.: - 2-ton diesel roller costs, approximately, 6d. per day for fuel; 10-ton diesel roller costs, approximately, 2s. per day for fuel.
That is one of the improvements which Australian engineers have made in diesel engines. Although they have provided a better article, they have not taken advantage of their position to raise prices. On the contrary, -they have lowered prices.
An improvement in diesel engines, which is almost solely attributable to Australian engineers, is the decreased cost of operation. A machine which is used throughout the year is judged, not on its capital cost, but on its running costs. A saving of a few pence each day in running costs amounts to a considerable sum over a number of years.
I realize, however, that neither the wisdom of a Solomon, nor the oratory of a Demosthenes, will avail with the Minister. Yet, if he will not yield to persuasion, he will make an awful blunder. I do not know whether the Minister is in possession of a later report from the Tariff Board than that of the 19th August, 1932.. That report is nine months .old, and in nine months, considerable advance can be made in engineering science. Unless the Minister has received a report from the Tariff Board recently, he should refer this matter back again to the board for an up-to-date opinion regarding this industry. I do not wish to indulge in unduly critical language; but I speak strongly, because I realize the seriousness of the position. My mind goes back to the Great War, and to the magnificent service then rendered to their country by the engineering, establishments of Australia. ‘ We shall do a great wi-ong if we injure the engineering industry. Pull protection should ‘ be given to the Australian industry in the manufacture of these engines up .to 200 horse-power. Several firms are engaged in this work, and they are dividing their orders. At Walsh Island,, and at certain other, shipbuilding yards, which -were active during the war period, marine engines built by Thompson’s, of Castlemaine,’ were installed in vessels. Prior to the war, it was said that marine engines could not be manufactured in Australia; but the well-known Castlemaine firm turned them out equal in quality, if not superior, to the best produced in the world. Why should this Parliament place hobbles on this great Australian industry? I hope that the Minister will give a more encouraging reply than has so far come from him to the request of the local manufacturers.” If there are any other ways in which the industry can be assisted, let him inform the committee of them ; but, . seeing that . the local firms have< proved their efficiency, it would he a crime against the nation to limit their operations. Men of the finest types to be found in Australia own and control these engineering works, and those critics who say that these firms are seeking to put their hands into the pockets of the taxpayers are not fit to polish their boots. The actions of these manufacturers duri ug the time when the Empire was in dire trouble show how sterling is their character, and they keenly resent the serious rebuffs that they have received from time to time at the hands of the Tariff Board. We should give them every opportunity to display their engineering genius, by enabling them to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements of these engines.
– The idea of allowing the higher-powered crude oil engines in under by-law is not new. In 3925, engines of 75 horse-power- or over were so admitted. In 1926, they were allowed in when of 50 horse-power; in 192’3, when of 90 horse-power; in 1930, when of 200 horse-power, and, at a later period in 1930, when of 1,000 horsepower. In 1931, a few engines only were admitted by the last, Government. This matter was referred to the Tariff Board in November, 1931, and the board has made its usual judicial inquiry. I do not know why the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) is so concerned about somebody being defamed. I do not think that the board interests itself in individuals at all. It conducts its inquiries in a cann manner, and in. a frame of mind which might well be commended to some members of Parliament. No importations of these engines have been made for stock. The statement that importers are favoured by the present duties is quite wrong. I have read ii list of the importations, and it will be seen that the engines were not brought in for chance sale, but for definite enterprises that have been brought under the notice of this and previous governments by many members of this committee.
– There is an alteration of the duties in the case of engines exceeding 100 horse-power. Under my Government’s tariff, the rates were 55 per cent., British, and 75 per cent., general, and under the Pratten tariff, 45 per cent, and 60 per cent. They are now free and 15 per cent.
– They have been admitted under by-law, and the makers of engines of lower horse-power are adequately protected. In the list that I have read are engines of many different types, and the applications for their entry under by-law have been backed by members of various parties. Therefore, there has not been a flooding of the country with imports of these engines. This action has been taken to help mining and other enterprises in the country, and, in some instances, to assist city factories. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) said that the diesel engine industry was in its infancy, and he mentioned that these engines were even being used for aviation purposes.. We have heard reports to the effect that diesel engines have been built into aeroplanes, but, we have never seen them used in Australia for that purpose. Would the honorable member prevent the importation of diesel engines for use in aeroplanes, simply because a firm in Queensland is making engines of another kind?
– I merely mentioned that to show how popular diesel engines are.
– But would the honorable member place a duty of 45 per cent, and 60 per cent, on aeroplane engines, simply because they were diesels, if their importation would cheapen the cost of aerial transport? The Queensland firm has made only five diesel engines of over 100 horse-power.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) ‘has raised the subject of admission under by-law of engines required in the construction of tractors. I have ascertained that this has been permitted in some cases, and consideration is being given to the request that he has made. The honorable member for Wide Bay has mentioned other pertinent facts, and has enlarged upon some of the points submitted by the manufacturers who visited Canberra last week. Some of these matters, I admit, may demand further exploration. The date of the report of the Tariff Board has been stressed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, and it has been said that unemployment may be brought about as a result of these duties. The Government has no desire to cause unemployment. On the contrary, it wishes to provide the greatest possible amount of employment through the tariff, and, generally speaking, I believe that that will be the result. It has been pointed out that Walkers Limited have spent a great deal of money in sending engineers abroad to obtain information, and have already expended large sums on patterns for their manufactures.
I ask the committee to ratify these duties; but I shall address certain questions to the Tariff Board and ask it to inquire into the matters that I have just mentioned. It may therefore, be necessary for the manufacturers again to appear before the board, if they have anything further to say, or if the board desires additional information. Since the manufacturers are definitely protected in the range of engines that they have been making efficiently, and since few of the engines of large size have been made, it looks like commercial selfishness if one firm wants the whole of the market, and expects engines not made in Australia to be excluded. However, in view of the appeal of the honorable member for Wide Bay, in particular, and of the industry generally, I shall ask for further information on these points. In the meantime, I invite the committee to ratify the duties, and if any alteration is decided upon, it can be made in another place.
.- I attended the deputation which waited upon the Minister (Mr. White) a few days ago, and I have rarely heard a stronger case advanced for a review of duties before their ratification. I fully expected that the Minister would submit a proposal for the retention of the old duties until such time as the matter had been re-investigated, and I think that the members of the deputation expected it too. The Minister has stressed the importance of admitting engines that cannot be made in this country. He said that a diesel engine might be required for an aeroplane. That was a most extraordinary illustration, for there is nothing to prevent the Minister from admitting such an engine under by-law. The Government has already admitted these engines under by-law, notwithstanding the high duties, and no complaint has been made of the admission of any kind of engine under by-law, where it can be shown that similar engines are not made in Australia. The Minister has indulged in special pleading. He claims that the same position exists to-day as formerly; but I point out that under the latest amendment, it is provided that engines of over 100 horse-power shall be free British, and 15 per cent. general.
– What about engines of 2,000 horse-power and 3,000 horse-power, such as those installed at the Wiluna goldfield?
– There is nothing to prevent their admission under by-law. Now the Minister makes a special plea about engines of 1,000 horse-power, which, he does not deny, were admitted under by-law when the high duties operated; but he makes the duties on engines exceeding 100 horse-power free and 15 per cent., which involves a distinct alteration of the position, for under the old tariff, these engines could not come in except under by-law. The Ministerhas read out a list of the engines that have been admitted under by-law, notwithstanding the present duties. The committee should not labour under the false impression that this would prevent the introduction of engines that are required here, andcannot be manufactured in this country. I expected that the Minister would restore the status quo, pending a further investigation which he has undertaken to make, because he was impressed by the case put forward by the deputation. What is the use of referring the matter back to the Tariff Board, if, in the meantime, the country is flooded with diesel engines? The mere suggestion that a restoration of the duties is likely will make the overseas manufacturers speed up their operations, and then they can sit back for another couple of years. This treatment of the local firms is most discouraging to them. If, during an interval of three or four months, engines can be imported practically free, much damage will be done to the local industry. I think that the Minister is impressed by the fact that the report of the Tariff Board is erroneous in many respects.
– I would not say that.
– Then I will. 1 shall have something to say on that point at a later stage. What is the position? One would imagine from listening to some honorable members that this difficulty which- faces the companies, particularly the company in Queensland, is the result of ill-considered duties which were imposed by the previous Government without inquiry. It is true that that Government increased the duties, but I remind honorable members of the fact that the Pratten tariff imposed upon these diesel engines duties of 45 per cent, and 60 per cent., and that they were maintained by the Bruce-Page Government, and subsequently maintained and increased by the Scullin Government. Now the duties are to be free and 15 per cent, on engines of over 100 horse-power. The effect of this reduction of duties is to limit the construction of diesel engines in Australia to those of 50 horse-power.
– -They will be farm engines only.
– The opinion may be held that as the duties relate to engines up to 100 horse-power such engines can be made in Australia ; but that is not so. Those in the trade point out that all that, has to be done by British firms is to make an engine of slightly over 100 horse-power, and it can be brought here free of duty. In order to protect the manufacture in Australia of engines of 50 horse-power, the item must include engines up to 100 horse-power, and in order to protect the manufacture in Australia of engines of 100 horse-power, the item must include engines up to 200 horse-power. This reduction of rates limits the manufacture in Australia to engines of 50 horse-power and under. It is well known that in the manufacture of small engines the same skill is not required as in the manufacture of large engines. One great difficulty facing all countries to-day is the passing away of skilled engineers because improved machinery has been introduced into the engineering industry. Engine construction develops the highest engineering skill, and that applies more to the making of large engines than to the making of small ones. It seems to me that the shadow of Ottawa has been over the Tariff Board in respect of its recommendations. Its report on this item was submitted in August, 1932, when the Ottawa Conference had become an accomplished fact.
– The foreign duty of 15 per cent, will not give sufficient protection even to the British manufacturer.
– The whole idea at the back of the mind of the Government in respect of the Ottawa agreement, was to give away as much of our Australian manufactures as possible. The Government has, at a time when we are looking for an extension of industry and work in this country, given away the very foundation of Australian employment. The following paragraph appears in the report of the board : -
The board is of opinion that the success which has attended the efforts of Australian manufacturers in1 the production of engines up to 50 horse-power justifies the assumption that the economic production of engines up to 100 horse-power is capable of development.
If that is so, why did not the board allow a sufficient margin of protection to enable engines up to 100 horse-power to be made here? Anybody who reads this item, and knows little about it, will say that it encourages the manufacture in Australia of engines up to 100 horsepower. Actually, it does not afford any protection whatever to the manufacturer in respect of engines up. to 100 horsepower.
– The Government thinks that it does.
– The Minister was given evidence the other day by men interested in the industry, and he knows perfectly well that this item will preclude the manufacture in Australia of engines up to 100 horse-power.
– For what reason?
– It will be the simplest thing in the world for British manufacturers to construct an engine of two cylinders, each of 60 horse-power, and to import it free of duty into this coun-try as an engine of 120 horse-power. What opportunity will the Australian manufacturers have of disposing of a locally-made engine of 100 horse-power as against the British engine of 120 horsepower brought in free of duty? A British engine of 101 horse-power could be brought in free of duty. Surely the Minister must be impressed with the facts.
– I understand that 98 per cent, of our crude oil engines are below 50 horse-power.
– That is perfectly true, but the answer to that was given in definite terms to the Minister by the deputation which waited upon him. The Tariff Board in its report said that the greatest development in diesel engines had taken place in Victoria. The principal manufacturers of these engines are in my electorate. I refer to the firm of A. H. McDonald and Company, of Richmond, Melbourne. Messrs. Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited, of Ballarat, are one of our . oldest makers of engines, and their engines, like the McDonald engines, are known all over Australia. When the board made its inquiry nearly a year ago, the price charged by Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited for a 92 horse-power engine was £969, and for a- 120 horse-power engine £1,235, whereas its prices in April, 1933, were £803 and £1,024 respectively. That firm, because of its reduced costs, has reduced its prices and has made no attempt to exploit the public. The position of Walker’s Limited is a striking instance of a breach of faith on the part of the Commonwealth Government with an industry in Australia. The story of the starting and development of this industry in Australia for the manufacture of engines of a large type does not begin with the duty that was imposed by the previous Government. It begins with the Pratten tariff, which was ratified during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. The general manager of Walker’s Limited has pointed out that he interviewed Mr. Pratten, when Minister for Trade and Customs, respecting the development of a crude oil engine of a large type, and that he found the Minister favorably disposed to the venture. I happen to know that that i3 true, because I had many conversations with the late Mr. Pratten, and I know that he was keen on developing engineering works in Australia, probably more keen on that aspect than on any other aspect of Austraiian industry. As a result of the interview with Mr. Pratten, the general manager visited Europe and the United States of America, and, while abroad, arranged with oversea firms for certain licence to obtain information as to the construction of engines, and for the training of Australian engineers. But, before wholly completing arrangements, he returned to Australia, and interviewed the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) in the Bruce-Page Government. The Minister, with the Acting ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, visited the Maryborough works, and subsequently the arrangements with the overseas firms were completed. It is evident that the conversation which the general manager had with the Minister must have encouraged this firm to go on with the project. It immediately set to work to construct jigs and gauges, and to install certain plant for the construction of engines. The firm sent two officers to England for twelve months to learn the construction work. Those officers returned, and in August, 1931, the construction of a demonstration engine of four, cylinders, each of 50-55 horse-power, was begun. It was completed, and sold to a sugar mill in Queensland, where it is now working, and, I understand, giving every satisfaction. The firm then approached the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) in the Scullin Government, and as a result, the duties were increased from 45 per cent, and 60 per cent, to 55 per cent, and 75 per cent. The original duties’ stood for years, and engines that could not be manufactured in Australia, and were required here, were admitted under by-law. The fact that Walker’s Limited has up to the present made only five engines does not prove that its production is limited to that number of engines. As a matter of fact, when this firm started to manufacture, there were in this country large stocks of imported engines.
– There were no stocks, because engines brought in under by-law were ordered for definite schemes.
– I have been informed that, at the time this firm commenced operations, there were stocks of engines on hand.-
– Engines were not admitted under by-law for stock.
– This firm made one engine of 220 horse-power, two engines of 165 horse-power, one engine of 100 horse-power, and another of 50 horsepower. All those engines are doing good work. I am informed that Walker’s Limited worked deliberately on the basis of producing engines of large horse-power. It provided for cylinders of 50 horsepower each, because it is well known that the more cylinders there are in an engine, up to a certain number, the more economically it can be manufactured. So soon as the duties were lowered, orders for local engines ceased. This firm has now on hand stocks worth £4,000 of partly-made machines, which are uselessbecause of the action of this Government in admitting British engines free of duty. In addition, a certain amount of its machinery will now become idle. I contend that this industry has not been treated fairly by the Government. Since 1924, every government, with the exception of this, has encouraged this firm to expand its operations; but this Government has now given it a severe setback. The Minister has asked us to ratify this item until an inquiry has been made by the Tariff Board. I submit that he has a reasonable excuse, without losing prestige, to act on the evidence which hasbeen given to him by those engaged in the industry, and which, to a large extent, has weakened the case of the Tariff Board. The Minister has admitted that he is submitting certain questions to the board, and that it is to review and reconsider the item;but he asks that, in the meantime, the committee should ratify it. I contend that, ifwe ratify this item, we shall open the flood-gates for the importation of these machines, which will be admitted free, and put into stock. If the report of the Tariff Board is favorable to the manufacturers, as we expect it to be, provided that that body acts with intelligence and reasonableness, and the duties are restored, it will be too late to take action to save the local manufacturers, because by that time this country will have been stocked with imported engines.
– Before these engines can be admitted free, the schedule must be ratified by both Houses of Parliament.
– That is true; but it is also true that, since the day of tabling the schedule, the duties have been reduced to 45 per cent. and 60 per cent. Those rates are now operating, but the proposed duties will not operate until they are ratified by Parliament. The board is faced with numerous inquiries, and, if its report on this item is delayed, it is likely that imported machines will flood this country. There is nothing to prevent orders from being placed for engines ready for shipment the moment this item is ratified. The Australian market will be flooded with imported engines, and the Australian manufacturers will be expected, after having borne the initial expense of establishing the industry, to start all over again in face of the competition of accumulated overseas stocks. That is not fair to those who have invested their money in the enterprise. Moreover, how are we to employ our people unless we develop those industries that can be successfully carried on in Australia ?
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) had much to say about what he considered was fair to the one or two manufacturers of engines in Australia, but he completely ignored what was fair to the hundreds of industries that require power to enable them to give employment, and were handicapped during his tenure of office by high duties, and the difficulty of securing the admission of engines under by-law. At one time, the duty was 45 per cent. British, and during the Scullin regime it was increased to 55 per cent. While the duty was 45 per cent., there was no effort actually to make the engines here, though investigations were going on. Therefore, though the British duty was 45 per cent., all engines above 50 horse-power were admitted free under by-law.
I desire to place before honorable members particulars regarding the cost to other industries resulting from the high duty on imported engines, and this burden has been laid, not only on primary industries, but on secondary industries as well. Leaving out of account the 1,100 horse-power engine for which Walkers’ quotation was £2,000 higher than the price of the imported machine, including the duty, wo come to the 300 horsepower engine for which Walkers’ quotation was £3,685, while the price of the imported engine, plus exchange, &c, but. free of duty, would have been £2,238, a difference of £1,347. I know of one instance in which a 250 horsepower engine was required by a butter factory. This engine could be imported free of duty, but, with exchange added, for £2,00S. Walkers’ quotation was £3,132, or £1,124 more than was. asked for the imported article. In this case there was doubt for many months as to whether by-law admission would be conceded. The engine would have been imported whether the concession were granted or not, because, even after paying duty, it would still have been cheaper to import it than to buy a locally-made engine. The duty would have been a direct revenue tax upon the extension of a factory which was giving employment itself, and was catering for a large primary industry as well. The increased price of the engine would have had to be passed on, which would have made it more difficult for the industry to operate, and, in marginal cases, might have caused men to be thrown out of employment. For engines of 100 horse-power, on which the duty was 55 per cent. - enough to induce purchasers to buy the local article - Walkers’ price was £1,350, which was £300 more than the price at which a similar engine could be imported. I submit that, haying regard to those figures, it would be an altogether unreasonable exaction to reimpose this heavy tax on power and employment while the Tariff Board is re-investigating certain points.
– How long will the board take over its investigation.
– Only a few weeks. We shall have its report before the tariff is dealt with in the Senate.
– Engines costing over £1,000 are not stock lines like galvanized iron, or wire, or glass, for which there is a constant demand, and in regard to which it is quite safe for importers to anticipate the demand, and lay in big stocks. To talk of flooding the market with expensive machines like these is to give way to fears that are not justified. The evidence shows that this is a special kind of engine for which there is a limited demand, not sufficient to justify the installation of expensive plant for its manufacture even in one factory, let alone two. There is a possibility that importers might bring in large stocks of smaller engines for which the demand is greater, but the small engines are already amply protected. There is a big demand for them in Australia, and they are being sold at prices not much above those at which they could be imported. In regard to the heavier engines, however, it would be a grave injustice to impose this heavy duty. I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who, I know, has a genuine desire to see that more employment is provided, should ask the committee to reimpose these duties, which constitute a tax on industry, merely on the chance that the board will revise its previous recommendation.
– It is unfortunate that the mistake should have been made originally of encouraging a firm like Walkers in Queensland to embark on an enterprise which the report of the Tariff Board shows must necessarily be uneconomic in so far as the construction of large engines is concerned. That mistake having been made, surely it is better to retrace our steps than to perpetuate the error because some injustice might be done to a firm which has begun construction.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) referred to the difference between the prices of various Australianmade engines and the prices at which similar engines could be imported. There must be some” line of demarcation beyond which we are not prepared to protect local industry; and where is the line to be drawn? According to the figures quoted by the honorable member for Wakefield, the Australian-made 300 horse-power engine is 50 per cent, dearer than similar overseas engines. The same applies to engines of 250 horse-power and 200 horse-power. On the 150 horse-power engine the margin is practically the same, but on the 100 horse-power machines the . price of the imported article, free of duty, is £1,041, while the price of the Australian engine is only £1,350, a difference of 30 per cent. We should ask ourselves what we are prepared to pay in the way of additional expenditure in order to have engines produced in Australia. In view of the higher Australian price, and the advantage of the exchange, I consider that we are making a most generous concession to Australian manufacture. The figures that I have given, which show a difference of 50 per cent, and over in regard to sizes from 150 horse-power upwards, and of 30 per cent, on engines of 100 horse-power, justify the decision of the Tariff Board to draw the line at not more than 100 horse-power.
– It is unfortunate that not only have the manufacturers of these engines to fight the prejudice of some of our own people against Australian industries, and the fear that local manufacture may be more costly, but that they must also suffer as the result of technical mistakes by even the department and the Tariff Board. This morning, the reply given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) by way of interjection to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) proved, if anything, that the board is quite satisfied that these firms can make, and that they should be allowed to make, engines of double the size permitted under the tariff.
– The firms merely state that the industry can be developed.
– The honorable gentleman informed the Leader of the Opposition that, with the advantage of these duties, they can manufacture diesel engines up to 100 horse-power. Those who are acquainted with the technicalities of the business know that that cannot be done.
– What I have said is, that 98 per cent, of the engines used in Australia are of local manufacture.
– If the Minister meant what he said, and the Tariff Board correctly stated what it had in mind, and it is merely a matter of rectification, these firms should be allowed to do what the board says they are able to do. The fears of increased costs resulting from local manufacture seldom have a sound foundation. That was illustrated yesterday in the debate on wire. The figures then quoted showed that year after year, during the last eight or nine years, the price of the local product has been reduced automatically with reductions in overseas prices. I am satisfied that, if the Australian manufacturers of diesel engines are permitted to develop their enterprise a little further, an influence must be exerted on the price of engines imported from overseas. The Tariff’ Board admits that these three or four Australian firms have proved that they can conduct this enterprise successfully, and that, up to 50 horse-power, they can produce an engine comparable in price with the overseas engine. The board agrees that they are justified in believing that they can economically produce engines of twice that size. If that be the case, what is to be feared if these firms are permitted to continue making engines of a larger size ? I am not an engineer, but I have been through these works, and have had something to do with the Apprenticeship Councils that control the training of apprentices. It seems to me that all the big difficulties have already been mastered. The expensive engineering tools required have been purchased at a cost of many thousands of pounds, and are now a part of the equipment of these firms. The necessary basic work has been done, and all that ia now required is duplication, which is possible if wc make the duty cover the duplicated engine as well as the engine of one cylinder. I consider that that ought to be done. These big firms have been encouraged since the war to- bring their plant up to date, and to develop their efficiency. Scotch and other engineers were brought to Australia because it was believed that ship-building operations would be continued in this country. Thousands of engineers in all sections of the engineering industry are unemployed, and many apprentices who are just out of their time will have no hope of obtaining employment at their calling if we prevent the development of this industry. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Minister and the Government have adopted this attitude. Those who attended the deputation thai waited on the Minister this week were satisfied, after the case had been made out by the experts, that the Minister would recant somewhat, and make it possible for the larger engine to be built in
Australia. It was quite simply demonstrated at the deputation that it is only a matter of duplicating the number of cylinders. I should say that if we agreed to the request of these firms, we should take the first step that is necessary towards a lowering of prices. Surely anyone who knows anything about manufacturing industries is aware that overhead costs rise as the volume of work is lessened; and that, as the extent of the work or the number of operations is increased, so are the expenses, and concurrently the price values, reduced. No engineering firm in this or any other country can establish a plant without making it larger than is necessary for the initial operations. But if the plant is not kept running at full capacity, the overhead cost must be higher. The more the cylinders are duplicated, or the engines enlarged, the cheaper must the price become. Since the war, many attempts have been made by arbitration courts and governments to induce engineering firms to modernize their plants and rationalize their industry so as to make it more efficient. To this end, large numbers of firms have spent thousands of pounds in the equipment of their establishments and in the technical education of apprentices. Governments also have, through various technical institutions, spent immense sums of money in this particular work. If now anything is done to retard the development of the engineering industry, all that expenditure will be wasted. I, therefore, appeal to the Minister, even at this late hour, to give these duties further consideration. I believe we shall be doing a wrong thing to employers, employees, and the industry generally if we do not accede to the requests made by the firms which waited on the Minister a few days ago.
– I listened with interest to the arguments of the speakers who have preceded me, and was especially interested in the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that, by way of demarcation between the engines that we can profitably manufacture in Australia and those that we cannot make, we should approve of duties on engines whose cost, if manufactured locally, would not exceed the cost of imported engines by more than 30 per cent. I do not agree with that proposal. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has reminded us that the duties under the Pratten tariff were 45 per cent. British and 60 per cent, general, and since the honorable member for Gippsland as a Minister exercised considerable influence in the Bruce-Page Government which imposed those duties, he can hardly expect us, in the short time that has elapsed since he was in office, to accept the view that duties which appeared to him to be quite satisfactory then, are to-day inappropriate. Any arrangement upon which we may agree now will necessarily be of a tentative nature, because this matter is to bc referred to the Tariff Board, whose recommendation, I take it, will be adopted by the Government. In these circumstances, the proper course is not to disturb the status quo until the board’s report has been presented. In the meantime, we should endeavour to discover a formula which, while protecting the purchasers of crude oil engines and encouraging the development of industries that need these high-powered machines, will also safeguard the engineering industry. It is, I think, the desire of every honorable member to hold the scales evenly between the competing interests. In the debate last evening, my colleague, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), was held up to obloquy because he represents Sydney interests - as if that were a heinous offence. Are we not all agreed that city and country interests are mutually interdependent, and that it is almost impossible to adopt proposals suited to city interests without, at the same time, benefiting in the long run country interests?
– It will be a long time before these duties benefit country districts.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) cannot appreciate the facts of any problem if they are incompatible with his own particular interests, which, by the way, are rather extensive.
– The only difference between the right honorable member and myself is that I can see the facts.
– The honorable member’s comments are as interesting as his speeches. I was about to observe, when interrupted, that it is the desire of every honorable member - I except the honorable member for Forrest, since he makes objection to the statement - to hold the scales fairly between the interests I. have mentioned. By common consent, the engineering industry, above all others, should be encouraged. The honorable member for Barton last night, and other honorable members also, has emphasized the fact that one of the difficulties of the man on the land is to find profitable employment for the members of his family.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– It would be very helpful if we could arrive at a formula which would work out fairly for both the users and the manufacturers of diesel engines, but it does not seem to be easy to- do that. I have read carefully the report of the evidence given before the Tariff Board, as presented- in the report, -and I am bound to say that a case has been made out for the admission of the higher-powered engines either at a low rate of duty or free. I have come to this conclusion reluctantly. It appears that in the present condition of things, the Australian market for the heavier and more expensive engines is comparatively small, and consequently there seems to be no immediate prospect of the profitable and economic manufacture of them in this country. It should be clear that, unless there is a sufficient market- for such engines, it is impossible to manufacture them economically. There appears to be a reasonable prospect of a fair market for the smaller type of engine. Bearing in mind the position in which the Government finds itself, and the necessity for giving effect to paragraph 1.2 of the Ottawa agreement, which provides that no increases of duty shall be made except on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, I have come to the conclusion that the Government is taking the only course that is open to it, and I intend to support its proposals.
.- I am very pleased to know that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has been Converted during the lunch hour. He has shown by the speech that he has just delivered that he has seen the light. Walker’s Limited is, undoubtedly, one of the finest engineering firms in Australia. It did excellent work for this country before heavy -protective duties were provided. But the conditions under which it is now working are not such as will enable it to render such useful service to this country as it rendered formerly. Very few diesel engines of the higher horse-power are required in Australia. Individuals rarely need them. Even municipalities, big flour milling companies, big mining companies engaged in the treatment of low-grade ores, and a few other concerns, require such engines only occasionally. Last week, we discussed in this chamber the desirability of reviving the mining industry, but I suggest that it is foolish to develop one industry at the expense of another. If we impose high duties on the machinery required for the treatment of low-grade ores, we shall undoubtedly hamper the mining industry. Higher duties will also make it impossible for municipalities which desire to modernize their power plants, to do so. We know very well that local governing bodies deliberate long and carefully before they decide on the expenditure of substantial sums of money on machinery. If we increase the price of such machinery by 45 per cent. or 50 per cent., we shall undoubtedly discourage the local governing bodies from modernizing, their plant, and this will have a harmful effect upon the community. If Walker’s Limited, or any other firm, is able to render good service to the community, let it do so under proper conditions. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has suggested that if these heavy-powered engines are manufactured in Australia, the price will eventually be reduced. But Australia is not in a financial position to-day which will allow it to take the long-range view in such matters. In the cost of production we cannot stand even an extra Id. above the absolute minimum. For this reason, I am sorry that the duty proposed by the Government is not lower. When exchange, freight, and other items that go to make up the landed cost are taken into consideration, the conclusion must be reached that our people are paying very much more for the machinery they need than is paid by the people of other more populated countries for the machinery they need. These ate facts and not the fiction indulged in by the right honorable member for North Sydney. I remind the committee that that right honorable gentleman has passed through many changes in the course of his career. He entered this Parliament originally as an ardent freetrader, but, through the years, he has undergone some wonderful changes, including the one that he passed through during the luncheon adjournment.
– Any change in the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) would be a relief to his associates in this Parliament.
– We waited long in anticipation of a change in the right honorable member. Seeing that the duties now before us are the lowest that the Government is prepared to provide, I must support them.
.- I support the item. It is true that great strides have been made in the manufacture of diesel engines in Australia, but that is also true of other parts of the world, and we must remember that we still have a great deal to learn. I am glad, for the sake of such business enterprises as the South Australian Farmers Co-operative Union, that the Government has been able to admit diesel engines of the heavy type under departmental by-law. The Tariff Board has submitted an exhaustive report on the subject, and I think that we should accept its recommendation. Later, when our factories are more thoroughly equipped, we shall probably bc able to help the industry a little more.
.- These duties relate to one of those important Australian industries which have been seriously interfered with by the present Government. The Australian manufacturers of diesel engines have a real grievance against the lack of fiscal stability that has been demonstrated by the Lyons Government. From the facts that were given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) it is evident that the manufacturers were seriously misled as a result of assurances that were given to them by the late Mr. Pratten when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, no doubt in all good faith, and reiterated by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), when he” occupied a similar position. As a result, Walker’s Limited sent two representatives abroad for over a year, at considerable expense, to obtain plans and specifications regarding the construction of diesel engines, and to order plant costing over £4,000 for their construction.
– Why did the honorable member submit the matter to the Tariff Board?
– Section 15 of the Tariff Board Act reads -
The Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report the following matters: -
The necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties.
It will bc noticed that the word “ shall “ is used, so that the reference of these matters to the Tariff Board is obligatory.
– How frequently did the Minister exercise that authority before imposing new duties?
– At that time, Australia was on the eve of a grave financial crisis, and if the Government had done nothing pending the receipt of the Tariff Board’s recommendations, the nation would have been involved in bankruptcy. Therefore, the Government courageously imposed new duties to stem the tide of imports and rectify Australia’s adverse trade. It is cowardly for the present Government to hide behind recommendations of the Tariff Board, a body which is evidently suffering1 from an inferiority complex as a result of its solicitude for British manufacturers who have been assured of an equal opportunity to compete on the Australian market. The instructions which emanated from the Ottawa Conference have clouded the board’s vision, and hamstrung this Government, some of whose supporters would vote for an adequate protective policy for Australian industries did they not feel that they are not now free to exercise their own discretion in this regard.
I do not place any reliance in further consideration being given to this item by the Tariff Board. We are the elected representatives of the people, and should be the ones to make a decision in the matter. I am surprised that the Minister should have raised the point that I referred the item to the Tariff Board, insinuating that, in some mysterious manner, I am responsible for the imposition of the lower duties.
Mr.White. - The honorable member cannot satisfactorily explain his action.
– I have shown that I referred the item to the Tariff Board in accordance with the provisions of section 15 of the Tariff Board Act. However, the Government of which I was a member did not meekly follow the recommendations of the body that Parliament created. The action of the present Government in this regard indicates that it has greater concern for the welfare of British, as against Australian, manufacturers. Is there any crime in a company investing large sums of money in a plant to make Australia’s diesel engine requirements? Those who invest money in industries to supply our requirements are actuated by patriotic motives. Yet this company is held up to scorn, and characterized as a sort of vulture desirous of preying upon dairy-farmers who use diesel engines. Walker’s Limited deserves all the credit for risking its capital in this venture, behind which it has placed its accumulated experience.
The action of the Government in regard to diesel engines is a repercussion of the Ottawa Conference. There is a fear overhanging the Government because of the assurances given by its delegates at that conference. It may truly be said that this is a national industry, for it uses Australian alloy, steel and iron, which are equal to the world’s best. If the protection provided by the Scullin Government, or even that granted by the Pratten tariff is continued, the industry is prepared to use even greater quantities of these raw materials; and it must be remembered that the success of the Australian iron and steel industry is linked up with that of other industries which use its products. I have been assured that there is scope for the employment of 1,000 more men in the making of diesel engines, if we produce Australia’s total requirements. From a national point of view alone it is essential that we should have well equipped modern engineering workshops. We should not confine our activi ties to the manufacture of lightweight equipment, but should employ our skilled artisans manufacturing heavy machinery such as diesel engines. The Bruce-Page Government was fair enough to impose duties of 45 per cent. British and 60 per cent. foreign on diesel engines, irrespective of their horse-power. To-day the Minister raised a bogy when he said that, if we allowed those duties to continue, it would not be possible to import free of duty a diesel engine for an aeroplane. Surely he knows that, in the past, various Ministers have exercised their discretion, and allowed the introduction, under departmental by-law, of diesel engines which could not be manufactured in Australia, and that the same practice can be followed in the future. In its report, the Tariff Board states -
From time to time there have been many instances where crude oil engines of both low and high horse-power ratings have been admitted under by-law to tariff item 174 at the undermentioned rates of duty -
In addition to the isolated instances mentioned above, a general by-law, operating from 21st December, 1922, to1st March, 1925, admitted engines of the full diesel type under item 174 during the period named.
Under a general by-law operating from 25th November, 1925, crude oil engines of 75 horsepower and over were admitted under tariff item 174, and from 1st July, 1926, the concession was limited to all crude oil engines of 50 normal brake horse-power and over. Since the date last quoted, with a view to encouraging the extension in Australia of the manufacture of crude oil engines, the minimum brake horse-power entitling engines to admission under by-law was raised by successive stages as under : -
From 2nd July, 1928, exceeding 90 normal brake horse-power.
From 28th April, 1930, exceeding 200 normal brake horse-power.
From 10th November, 1930, exceeding 1,000 normal brake horse-power.
From 23rd March, 1931, the general concession was withdrawn, and crude oil engines then became dutiable under tariff item 178 (e) at the following rates: -
Since the withdrawal of the general concession, however, individual engines have been admitted in certain instances under tariff item 174.
If the Minister fears that some one who may want to import a diesel oil engine for an aeroplane would be prevented by this duty from doing so, he could arrange for a specific provision to be made in the tariff, should he be of the opinion that the existing power to admit such engines under departmental by-law is not sufficient. The sworn evidence published in the Tariff Board’s report sets out the experience of one Australian manufacturer in the following terms : -
After much experiment in the manufacture df various parts, such as bedplates, crankshafts, cylinders, pistons, cylinder heads, valves, &c., and also in the most suitable mixture for use in the manufacture of such parts as cylinders, cylinder heads and liners, which are subject to great heat and pressure, the company is in a position to produce these parts equal in quality to those manufactured overseas.
Crankshafts have bean successfully manufactured for crude oil engines of 220, 240 and 400 horse-power.
The amount of Australian material used in production is approximately 90 per cent, of the total.
That shows the importance of this industry, not only to the work-shops which manufacture the engines, but also to the subsidiary industries which supply the raw material. On page 11 of its report the Tariff Board states -
In the past Australian production of the engines under review has practically been limited to those of 50 horse-power and under. The evidence indicates that in engines up to f>0 horse-power the Australian manufacturers are in a position to meet local requirements at prices reasonably comparable with the cost of imported engines. This being so, the board considers that protection to the local industry on such engines is justified.
The board realizes, however, that the limiting of protection to engines of 50 horse-power might open the possibility of serious detriment to the local industry by making it more profitable for users, who would otherwise purchase a 50 horse-power engine of local production, to substitute an imported engine of greater capacity.
What will happen will be that a person who wants an oil engine will purchase an imported engine of 120 horse-power, instead of an Australian-made engine of 100 horse-power. The Australian manufacturer will, by that means, be deprived of his market for even the lower-powered engine. The report from which I have quoted goes on to say -
Furthermore, the board is of opinion that the success which has attended the efforts of Australian manufacturers in the production of engines up to 50 horse-power justifies the assumption that the economic production of engines up to 100 horse-power is capable of development.
The Mirrlees type of engine, which is manufactured at Maryborough, is built in units of 50 horse-power. If that factory can manufacture an engine of 50 horse-power or 100 horse-power, it can build an engine of 1,000 horse-power. Let us see who these people were who applied for a reduction of the duties on diesel engines. One of them was Mr. Westmere,1 of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, a leader among those who advocate freetrade and low duties. During the regime of the Scullin Government, he sent to Canberra reams of propaganda opposing the duties imposed by that Administration. Another was Mr. George Trotter, representing the importers of crude oil engines. It was only natural that he should place before the Tariff Board the views of the importers and of the overseas manufacturers of these engines. Surely it is our duty to give preference to local manufacturers, some of whom are nrma which have established branch factories in Australia, and have thus given employment to our own people. The remarks of some honorable members would lead a visitor to this chamber to believe that Australian manufacturers are out to fleece the purchasing public. Another of the gentlemen who gave evidence in support of a reduction of duties was Mr. Samuel Ferguson, the federal secretary of the Australian Association of British manufacturers. I ask honorable members to imagine the nature of the reception which a British board, similar to our Tariff Board, would give to the representatives of Australian manufacturers who tried to compete in Britain against British manufacturers. Unfortunately, the outlook of the Tariff Board has become warped as a’ result of the Ottawa agreement and the propaganda in favour of lower duties and the sharing of the Australian market with British manufacturers. Other witnesses before the Tariff Board were the representatives of British diesel engine manufacturers, who, naturally, do not want diesel engines to be manufactured in Australia. This Parliament has a responsibility to the 100,000 young Australians who each year leave our schools. How will they find employment if we destroy all possibility of new industries being established in this country? When we reflect that, among the makers of diesel engines in Australia are such firms as Walker’s Limited, Maryborough, Queensland ; Mort’s Dock Limited, Sydney; Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited, Ballarat; McDonald and Company Proprietary Limited, Melbourne; the Purcel1 Engineering Company; Chapman and Sherack; J. E. Tilby; the Neptune Ship and Engineering Company Limited ; the Acme Oil Engine Company Limited, it is at once apparent that this industry is> not confined to one or two manufacturers. During the last few years the higher duties have brought about net reductions of 25 to 35 per cent, in the prices of Australian engines. The speeches of the members of the Country party would lead one to conclude that the duties imposed by the Scullin Government have proved a serious impost upon the primary producers, and that by ratifying the substantial reductions proposed by the present Ministry, relief will be afforded to the dairy-farmers and others. We know, however, that nearly all the engines used On dairy farms are of low power, and will still be dutiable at the higher rate under this schedule. Diesel farm tractors are recognized to be a means by which primary producers may substantially reduce their cost of production. A. H. McDonald and Company Proprietary Limited at one time imported these tractors and sold them at £695 each, but is now building tractors of equal capacity and specially designed for Australian requirements, at £535. This is proof that local manufacture has effected a reduction of prices. I am extremely sorry that the Minister is not prepared to allow the previous rates to continue until the Tariff Board has had an opportunity to consider the matter - not that I have much faith in the hoard, because its fiscal outlook has been completely changed since it was reconstituted by the present Government, and since the use of intensive propaganda in regard to the Ottawa agreement, and the need for sharing the Australian market with British manufacturers. Companies which have spent thousands of pounds on the installation of plant for the manufacture of diesel engines are entitled to more consideration than they are receiving from the present Government. A Minister of the same political brand in 1925 first imposed duties of 45 and 60 per cent, on diesel engines of 100 British horse-power and upwards, and, in addition, he reserved to himself discretionary power to admit free of duty any engines that could not he commercially manufactured in Australia. The manufacturers, knowing that the Australian Labour Party was pledged to even higher protection, were justified in expecting a certain degree of tariff stability. Now they find that Mr. Pratten’s assurances have been dishonoured, the decisions of the Bruce-Page Government have been ignored, and the assurances given by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), when Minister for Trade and Customs, that adequate protection would be given to this industry, have been cast aside, because of the fiscal outlook of the present Government, which is afraid to make decisions regarding tariff items, but hands over the responsibility to an outside body, upon which it casts all the blame. Tariffmaking is a responsibility to he borne by the elected representatives of the people and not transferred to any subsidiary outside body. Either the Minister should consent further to postpone this item, or adopt the suggestion of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that the higher rate’s of duty imposed by the Scullin Government should apply until the Tariff Board has had an opportunity to reconsider the matter. I point out to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) that Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited of Ballarat, . have now completed arrangeinents with Messrs. Thompson’s foundry. Castlemaine, to manufacture certain of the larger components of their multi-cylinder engines, and this has enabled them to reduce their selling-prices as follows: - 92 horse-power, £S95; 120 horse-power, £1,120; 150 horse-power, £1,250, the price in each case being f.o.r. Ballarat
– That is not new.
– It is welcome news to me, and I am glad to know also that Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited are sharing their business with other foundries and are reducing the prices of their engines.
Mr.White. - They do not make any big engines.
– The information I have just mentioned was supplied by A. H. McDonald Proprietary Limited, of Richmond, Victoria, in a letter which continues -
These prices compare most favorably with the selling prices of imported engines, even those shown on page 11 of the Tariff Board’s report, and are submitted as evidence to prove that these larger engines are already commercially produced within the Commonwealth, and are, therefore, entitled to reasonable tariff protection to compensate for our higher Australian standards, as compared with countries of lower wages and other values.
In the interests of a great engineering industry, the artisans and engineers engaged in it, and the thousands of boys who are looking for training in workshops, the Minister should reconsider this item instead of persisting with duties lower than those imposed by Mr. Pratten in 1925.
. -The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is evidently conscience stricken, because he referred to the Tariff Board all crude-oil engines, and not only the 2 per cent. of engines in regard to which he has delivered so much “ sob-stuff “ this afternoon. Now he is trying to explain that the report of the Tariff Board is not his fault. He protests too much. The Tariff Board’s report states -
On the6th November, 1931, the Minister for Trade and Customs referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, in accordance with section 15 (1) (d) of the Tariff Board Act, 1921-29, a request by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce for a reduction in the duties on crude-oil engines imported into the Commonwealth of Australia.
Section 15 of the Tariff Board Act provides -
1 ) The Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report, the following matters: -
It is futile for the honorable member to shout at the committee that he acted only as required by the act. I give to that statement a flat denial, for frequently after referring items to the Tariff Board, he completely disregarded the requirements of the act. The honorable member also said that Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited were making these engines, and he tried to embarrass the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) by saying that he was implicated because he recently met the representatives of some of the engineering firms. I gave an interview to those gentlemen recently, and we covered practically the whole of the ground. I asked Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett Proprietary Limited if they had ever made diesel engines of over 100 horse-power, and they admitted that they had not. They said, “We have gone up to 80 horse-power “. All the noise that we have heard to-day is over 2 per cent. of the diesel engines made in Australia. Only one firm is concerned, and it has made five of them. I have no doubt as to the capabilities of this firm; but I have read a list of the engines that have been imported into Australia, and these importions undoubtedly must have assisted employment, principally in country districts, more than it would have been stimulated by the extra work in one engineering firm. The statements that have been made about the need for giving opportunities to the boys that are coming on are, therefore, beside the point. I have told the committee that I do not disagree with anything contained in the recommendations of the Tariff Board; but, seeing that new matter has been brought forward by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), I shall submit some questions about it to the Tariff Board. In the meantime, I urge the committee to ratify the present duties. I do not anticipate that any alterations will be necessary; but, if so, they can be made later.
– As probably one of the few members of this committee who use diesel engines day by day, I have listened with interest to the remarks during the debate. I am satisfied that the diesel engine will come more and more into use throughout the advanced countries of the world, not only on account of its efficiency, but also because of its low running cost. Experiments are being conducted with a view to the use of engines of this type as a motive power for certain road vehicles, and in that regard I can say nothing but good of these engines. I think that the time is rapidly approaching when Australia will have to re-orientate its ideas about the internal combustion engine, as exemplified by the ordinary motor engine of to-day, and turn more to the diesel engine. It is true that some of the more important parts of these engines are made in the foundry that is established in my electorate.I did not stress this fact earlier in the debate, because the reputation of that foundry is second to none in the southern hemisphere. Its operations cover, not only important moving parts of diesel engines, but also almost the whole field of engineering work in this country. No member, except the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), has mentioned the necessity in Australia for having ready to hand, in the event of war, a supply of trained and efficient artisans. If the Minister would accept a suggestion from me, it would help this industry, and I believe that it would also assist in preparing Australia against that dread day, which must come sooner or later, when we shall be forced to face another war. Honorable members on this side, I believe, appreciate the need for preparing for that time. We have practically no workshops in Australia, at the present time, with sufficient artisans trained for the service that would be needed of them in the event of hostilities. In the manufacture of diesel engines, especially some of the more intricate work, we have an opportunity to train men which should not be lost sight of by the Government. I ask the Minister if, when this item is referred back to the Tariff Board, he will ask that a representative of the ControllerGeneral of Munitions be called to give evidence before the board as to the advisability of continuing operations at certain engineering works, even if it should mean a slight extra cost to the community, in order that we might have artisans’ trained in the class of work that they would be called upon to do in the even t of war ?
– I shall do that.
– I am glad to have that promise. The locomotive industry would also provide a very good training-ground for moulders, &c, who could be called upon in the event of trouble. A large and reputable factory such as Thompson’s, of Castlemaine, which was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), should have every encouragement to engage in the class of work that would be required of it in the manufacture of munitions.
Question - That the sub-items be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sub-items agreed to.
That the remaining postponed items be further postponed.
Group4. - Revenue items not included under any other heading.
That item 331, sub-item (a), as amended, be reconsidered.
Item 331, sub-item (a) -
Rubber and rubber manufactures, viz.: -
And on and after 9th March, 1933 -
Crude rubber, rubber waste, mas ticated rubber, powdered or reclaimedrubber - per lb., British, 4d.; general, 4d.
– I move -
That sub-item (a) be further amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 13th May, 1933 -
Provided that the rate of duty on crude rubber being the produce of any territory of the Commonwealth which was in licensed customs warehouse prior to the 9th March, 1933, shall be free.”
The only amendment to this item is the addition of a proviso whereby the duty on any Papuan rubber which was in licensed customs warehouses on the 9th March, 1933 - the date on which the duty of 4d. was imposed on Papuan rubber - shall be admitted free of duty. Honorable members will recollect that when introducing the tariff resolution on the 8th March last, I informed them that the duty was imposed on Papuan rubber for the reason that its admission free of duty subjected the local manufacturers to serious administrative difficulties. One of the principal difficulties was the necessity for a customs officer tobe stationed on the premises of the manufacturer of rubber goods to ascertain how much Papuan and foreign rubber went into the manufacture in order to determine the amount of drawback of duty on crude rubber used in exported rubber goods. The difficulties were regarded by the rubber manufacturers as being so serious that they intimated that they would have to cease purchasing Papuan rubber, but the difficulties were overcome by the imposition of a duty of 4d. per lb. on all crude rubber, Papuan or otherwise, and by increasing the grant to Papua to the extent of the amount collected from the duty of 4d. per lb. on Papuan rubber. That procedure was satisfactory to both rubber manufacturers and growers. Prior to the imposition of the duty of 4d. per lb. on rubber produced in Papua, the growers in that territory had included in their selling price the margin of preference of 4d. per lb. resulting from the fact that Papuan rubber was free of duty, and foreign rubber dutiable at 4d. per lb. The growers still receive the 4d. per lb., because the duty collected on Papuan rubber is remitted to the Papuan Government. It was the intention of the local rubber manufacturers to clear all Papuan rubber from bond before the imposition of the duty, but they inadvertently omitted to clear a quantity of 46 tons. The duty involved on this quantity is approximately £1,700, and the Government is not desirous of requiring payment of duty for the following reasons : -
I ask the committee to accept the amendment. The previous amendment was designed to remove all difficulties, but, unfortunately, this has arisen since and if we insist upon collecting the duty; the growers will be involved in a double payment. The Government could adjust this matter by placing a vote on the Estimates for a refund, but I suggest that as we are now dealing with the schedule my proposal is the simplest way to overcome the trouble.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-item, as further amended, agreed to.
Rabbit-proof Wire Netting : Customs Proclamation - Canberra Hotels : Wages Paid - Invalid and Old-age Pensions : Property Provisions - Northern Territory : Uemployment : Development - Sales Tax.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. - I regret being again compelled to refer to what at least to me is a matter of great importance. I am satisfied that in the interests of certain persons there has been a gross and improper use made of the provisions of an act of Parliament. I attribute no blame to the Minister for
Trade and Customs (Mr. White) for either the attitude that he has adopted or the answers which he has given to my questions. His duty is to give a reasonable protection to his officials. Moreover, occupied as he is at present in his arduous task of piloting the tariff schedule through this chamber, he has had little time to investigate my charge.
As for the officers who have supplied the information to the Minister, I assume they consider it their duty to protect those they have superseded, and one could overlook this had prompt action been taken to correct a wrong. A grievous wrong has been done, and I have no hesitation in saying that, for the past nine years, there ha3 been an illegal restriction on imports of netting from Britain which has enabled the Australian manufacturer to establish an exclusive monopoly and charge the buyers any price, free entirely from possible competition.
We all know what a dreadful menace rabbits are in Australia. Last night I quoted portions of a letter from Meckering iu Western Australia, containing an appeal for remission of duties and charges on netting. In the course of that letter it is stated -
We are of the opinion that the ral,bit not only destroys large areas of crop and stock feed, but through the introduction of a disease known us Toxic Paralysis, or Carrion Poisoning, is to-day causing the death of many thousands of sheep and cattle throughout the State. The mortality is rapidly increasing each year.
In view of the already heavy losses to stockowners which must be a great loss to the State as weil, we urge upon the Government the grave seriousness of the position, and further, as a matter of national emergency, urge the Government to have removed all import and other duties on rabbit netting, to make rabbit netting available to the land-owner i at greatly reduced rates to fence. If this is not done we are of the opinion, basing our ideas on the increase of mortality of stock (luring the past two or three years, that the stock carrying capacity of country districts will bc reduced to such an extent as to cause great monetary loss to land-owners, whilst in many instances comparatively few, if any, stock will be carried throughout the dry period, with consequent serious depletion to State wealth and revenue.
Fencing is an expensive undertaking, particularly in Australia. I have here figures prepared by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) showing that the price of erecting a fence on iron posts, five plain wires and a barbed wire, is £24 Os. 6d. a mile in South Africa, and £41 in Australia, without labour. If the fence had, in addition, to carry wire netting bought at a high price, the cost would be enormous. Moreover, fences in this country have to be protected against rabbits, dogs and kangaroos, which do considerable damage. It is essential that netted fences be erected, constructed of the best material of low cost.
In 1921 the Government put wire netting on the free list, and granted a bounty to the manufacturers. In 1924 a request was made to the Tariff Board for protection, and the board recommended that, under section 4 of the act, a dumping duty be imposed on netting from the United Kingdom. Last night the Minister publicly declared that wire netting was duty free. It is one of those half truths that I have been combating for many years. The Minister knows perfectly well that, although it is set out in the tariff schedule ‘ that British wire netting is duty free, the proclamation of the dumping duty has erected a barrier against its admission to Australia. One might us well say that a bird in a cage is free to fly away; and so it is, unless the door happens to be closed. The proclamation issued by Sir Austin Chapman, when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, made it impossible for British netting to enter Australia in competition with the Australian-made netting. When the Government of Western Australia imported 340 miles of wire netting from Britain in 1924-25, the Trade and Customs Department demanded the payment of £1,970 dumping duty. , I have had letters from Great “Britain stating that the exporters there have raised their prices so that the landed cost in Australia shall not be less than the price at which the Australian manufacturers sell their netting At the inquiry recently by the Tariff Board, I produced British quotations showing that British wire netin g was offered to South Africa and New Zealand at prices from 17 to 20 per cent, less than the Australian price, due. of course, to the imposition of the dumping duties here. The exporters argue that they might as well have the extra money instead of allowing it to go into the Commonwealth Treasury. As I have explained, the Tariff Board recommended the imposition of a dumping duty on wire netting imported from Great Britain under section 4 of the Industries Preservation Act, which gives the Minister power to proclaim such a duty. Section 4 states -
The proclamation issued by the Minister under the authority of this provision applied a dumping duty to netting originating in or exported from the United Kingdom, the landed, duty-paid cost of which was less than the manufacturers’ selling price in Australia. That proclamation, although purporting to be issued under section 4, was not in accordance with the terms of that section. Had the Tariff Board’s recommendation been made under section 6 of the act there would have been something to justify the proclamation, but the language of section 4 is definite and unequivocal. Dumping duty can apply only if the goods are sold at a price which is less than the home consumption price ascertained in the ordinary way of trade. I think the department here knew well when the proclamation was issued that it was not a proper method to take the price of a roll of wire netting sold in Great Britain and compare it with the price of 50 miles of the same article. The wording of the proclamation that the dumping duty should be based on the Australian maker’s price was designed to get over the obvious error of the Tariff Board in declaring that netting was being dumped here. The present Minister has gone so far as to say that section 13 gives him power to specify the goods in any manner he may think fit, and claims that this empowers him to alter the provisions of section 4. Section 13, to which the marginal note is “Power to specify goods,” is as follows : -
The marginal note makes it clear that the power relates to the specification of the commodities affected. Let us look at the return with which the Minister has furnished me, of the dumping duties that are being imposed. In the case of costumes, coats, dresses, and other outer garments for women, children and maids, the particular articles affected are specified, and the dumping duty is applied only in their case instead of being imposed on all garments. Then in the case of iron and steel, the articles specified are steel merchant bars, angles, beams, channels and tees. The Minister has the power to specify the class of goods, and nothing more; yet he has the impertinence to claim, in an answer that he gives in this House, that a section of the act gives him the power to take any action he thinks fit.
– Is not the item specified to which the honorable member has referred ?
– Wire netting is mentioned. But what I am contending is, that the proclamation, which says that the dumping duty shall be imposed on any goods made or originated in the United Kingdom, the landed duty paid cost of which is less than the price charged by the Australian manufacturer, does not comply with the requirements of section 4, and that the action taken is absolutely illegal. Last year, I endeavoured to secure something in the nature of united action in this matter. I wrote to all the Ministers for Agriculture in Australia, asking them to use their influence with the Commonwealth Government to have the dumping duty removed. The Prime Minister was communicated with, and the following reply was sent by his department to the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales: -
Wire netting, when of United Kingdom origin, is admitted free of duty, but if it is 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, a dumping duty is imposed.
That is in accordance with section 4 of the Industries Preservation Act. T am satisfied that the Prime Minister’s Department did not choose that language. The matter must have been referred by it to the Customs Department, and that department must have supplied the answer. But this answer is again a halftruth; because the proclamation says that if the landed cost of any British wire netting that comes into Australia is less than the price charged by the Australian manufacturer, a clumping duty shall be imposed. For nine long years this illegal impost lias been placed on people who cannot afford it. It has acted to their detriment, and in the interests of another section of the community. It is not only unfair, but also unjustifiable. When I first brought this matter up, I was hopeful that the Minister would see that the department was in the wrong, and that the error would be rectified. Had it been, I should have held my tongue. But 1 have been compelled to again raise the question, particularly as the Minister has the arrogance to say-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not use such language.
– The Minister believes that we are stupid enough to accept his claim that section 13 gives him the power to do anything that he thinks fit, no matter what section 4 provides. I trust that the Government will heed my representations, and that as speedily as possible action will be taken to enable the people of Australia to obtain this requirement at the ‘ lowest price.
– I have been asked by representatives of the hotel and caterers’ employees organization in the Federal Capital Territory to request the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) to inquire into the conditions under which they have to work, and the wages that are paid to them. We are told that the policy of the Government is to have the wage3 and conditions of its employees fixed by an industrial tribunal, and that procedure has been adopted. These employees placed their case before the local industrial board, and, in 1929, obtained an agreement which awarded them a wage of £4 5s. a, week, with holiday pay for twelve days and sick pay for six days in the year. Later, the Public Service Board reviewed the decision of the Industrial Board, and withdrew the holiday and the sick pay. Subsequently, under the Financial Emergency legislation, the wages were reduced to £3 17s. 6d. - 10s. a week below the other adult basic rate ruling in the Territory. There has been serious rationing, and many broken weeks are worked by both the male and the female employees, three months being lost by many of them during the year. A cost-of-living reduction brought the wage down to £3 14s. In February of this year, the employees went before the recognized industrial tribunal, which reviewed their wages and fixed the rate of £4 5s. a week, but that rate has never been received. The department administering the Territory has cut the award down to £3 14s. a week, which is considerably below the base rate for other employees in the Territory. This has caused a good deal of dissatisfaction and unrest.
I am also desired to request the Minister to make the conditions uniform for similar work throughout the Territory. Bad feeling is being aroused because the leased hotels are not covered by the agreement that governs the employees in the hotel that is directly controlled by the Government. The lessees of the leased hotels can pay, and are paying, what they like, and there is a big margin between their rates and conditions and those in the hotel controlled by the Government. Naturally, that must cause a lot of envy, discontent, and trouble; and the matter should be straightened out.
I ask the Minister to review the statements that I have made, with a view to paying the adult employees in the hotel controlled by the Government at least the basic rate that is paid to other unskilled workers in the Territory, and having, if possible, the wages and the conditions of the employees in all the hotels placed on a uniform basis.
– A few weeks ago, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), brought before the Commissioner of Pensions, Canberra, the case of a person who lives in my electorate. He dealt with it up to a certain point, and then handful it to me with the request that I should proceed further with it. The mother is a pensioner, and the daughter is the claimant in this particular case, and, to all intents and purposes, is the owner of the dwelling in which both live. The daughter obtained money from the State Advances Corporation of Queensland, and is paying for the home out of her earnings. The following is a copy of the letter which she received from the Commissioner of Pensions, under date 16th March, 1933:-
With reference to recent correspondence,’ in which it is asked that your mother’s property, Belgrave-road, Indooroopilly, Queensland, be exempted from the provisions of the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act 1008-1932, I have to inform you that the requested exemption has been refused by the Commissioner of Pensions. If, however, satisfactory evidence can be furnished of the amount paid by you towards the purchase of the home, and your mother is willing to execute a mortgage in your favour; covering the amounts actually paid to date to protect your interest, application for consent to mortgage will be considered. The mortgage should be free of interest and without the right of sale or foreclosure during your mother’s life.
To that communication the daughter replied on the 5th April, 1933, in the following terms : -
In reply to yours of ]6th Mardi, referring to the property of my mother. The only evidence that I ‘can produce is thu pass book of the State Advances Corporation of Queensland, from whom the money was borrowed to build. That will only show that money has been paid in, hut not from whom. My mother had no income but what the family brought in, and I can only give my own statutory declaration that it was my money which “went to the house. My mother and others will also lie able to do the same.
With regard to executing a mortgage in my favour. How can this be done when the property is at present mortgaged to the State Advances Corporation? And if it were possible, why ask people to go to all that expense when we can ill afford it? All that it appears to me to be necessary is for mc to state the amount* I have already paid, and what I will pay in the future, in order to complete the payment. Is not this sufficient?
Section 52ka of the act enacts that relatives of pensioners may apply for the exemption of parents’ property from the provisions of the law, and these people claim that they should not be put to unnecessary expenditure. A statutory declaration, setting out the facts of the case, and showing how the property has been paid for, should be sufficient. The suggestion that the applicant should execute a mortgage is, in the circum- stances, out of the question. I am sure it was never the intention of Parliament that applicants should be expected to do what these people have been asked to do. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will give this matter his attention so that other unfortunate people in the same circumstances may have some measure of relief. I happen to know the members of this particular family, as also does the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), and I can vouch for their bona fides. I hope that the amending bill which, we understand, is to be introduced shortly, will contain provisions to meet such cases as I have mentioned.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory)
It is a national duty to develop this huge portion of our continent. It’ the Government would undertake a comprehensive developmental policy now while costs are low, instead of holding its hand until costs are again high, it would he wise. I know that the inevitable question will be asked: Where is the money to come from? If a war were to break out, money would immediately become available for war purposes. I submit that the development of* North Australia is necessary for the adequate defence of Australia, and that, therefore, money should be available as freely for this purpose as it would be for the purpose of war. The development of North Australia on proper lines is a. sound proposition. 1 marvel at the reluctance of respective governments to send a committee of properly qualified persons, conversant with pastoral and agricultural conditions, into North Australia to report x upon it. I am satisfied that, if such a committee were to travel through this country, it would submit a report to the Government which would bear out every claim I have made on behalf of North Australia. Every developmental project that is put in hand, whether by private or government enterprise, requires the expenditure of substantial sums of money from either loan or revenue before the reproductive stage is reached. That must necessarily be so with any developmental enterprise that is put in hand in North Australia. It is inescapable; the one precedes the other. It may be said that enough money has already been spent in North Australia; but I remind honorable members that most of that money was spent in the purchase of obsolete railways, and in the payment of compensation to South Australia, or in other extravagant ways. The expenditure of it did not touch the fundamental problem .of development in that huge territory.
If the Government would put in hand a properly designed developmental programme immediately, the money expended upon it would go in the purchase of goods, and, indirectly, in the development of the primary and secondary industries of Australia, and the works that were put in hand would absorb the unemployed of the Commonwealth. I trust that the Government will undertake the development of this area, and also, that it will plug its ears to the schemes of the Administrator of the Northern Territory for the dumping of the unemployed of that area in the other portions of the Commonwealth.
Honorable members may become a little tired of hearing me continually advancing the claims of North Australia, but I am speaking the truth, though it may have been submerged for a long time. It is my intention to direct attention to the facts of this situation as frequently as opportunity is afforded .me to do so. If the claims of the unemployed of North Australia are considered, I believe that an. immediate change will be seen in their methods and interests in life. Nothing is more degrading to unemployed persons who congregate at certain centres than to feel that the Government has no concern in their welfare. It causes them to despise, .and conspire against, the law. This must be particularly so when the Commonwealth Government neglects its unemployed, while the State governments provide for their unemployed. The minds of the workless people of North Australia are becoming seriously cramped by the economic circumstances of their lives, and agitation must be expected from them. If they commit offences or excesses of one kind or another it is entirely due to the poverty from which they suffer. There is an irresistible connexion between poverty and crime. I read in the press as recently as ‘the 6th May the following statement by the Prime Minister of Great Britain : -
If Great Britain tried to make itself economically self-sufficing the population must be reduced by the migration of millions, oven to maintain the present standard of living.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say that “ the alternative was devastating destitution “. That statement bears out what I have frequently said in this House. If the British Commonwealth of Nations is to survive, it will have to take steps to readjust the surplus populations of different parts of the Empire. Australia, and North Australia in particular, offer golden opportunities for the building up of a white race which may, in the course of time, be the only white race to survive. The statement of the Prime Minister of Great Britain should impel every true Britisher to do everything in his power, to bring about the economic readjustment of the surplus populations in different parts of the Empire. A tremendous amount of money is being wasted on doles to the unemployed of the Mother Country. I suggest that a- great amount of this money could be spent with advantage to the manhood of the nation on developmental projects in North Australia, which would absorb a great proportion of the unemployed of the Mother Country. The Commonwealth’ Government should take steps to devise a scheme under which this could be done. Why not invite experts from Great Britain to visit the Northern Territory, and convince themselves that vast areas of Crown land exist which could be made reproductive at no great cost.
– Would it not be well to try first to induce our own unemployed to go there ?
– I agree that that is desirable ; but there is room in the northwest of Western Australia and the Northern Territory for many more than those who comprise our unemployed. The honorable member laughs ; that is because he has no idea of the magnitude of the country. When I tell him that it is possible to travel ‘through 1.100 miles of uninterruptedly beautiful country, will he suggest that that area is insufficient to absorb 300,000 persons?
– My suggestion i3 that the honorable member should try his powers of inducement on our own unemployed before turning overseas.
– As the honorable member is aware, I have endeavoured to induce various governments to develop the Northern Territory, thereby providing employment for our workless. I am again referring to the matter, because a proclamation has been issued which deprives of sustenance those who have been in the territory only for a certain period. Apparently, it is now a crime for persons to go to the territory.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has brought to my notice the matter of the wages paid to employees in the Hotel Canberra and other establishments under the charge of my department. All that I can say is that those rates are as prescribed by the local Industrial Board, which, for a period of years, has fixed wages and conditions for industrial workers in the territory. It is ‘ true that rationing has been severe in the past; but those concerned have assured me that* -they preferred rationing to dismissal. Now that the Hotel Kurrajong is closed as a general guest house, and the Government is con.centrating upon the Hotel Canberra, the employees in that hostel should be engaged almost continuously.
– Do not these employees come under the award of the Federal Arbitration Court?
– No. a special local tribunal fixes their wages and conditions. 1 understand that it has been in force since the inception of the Federal Capital.
– Is it true that male adults working at the Hotel Canberra and other hotels receive from 5s. to 6s. less than the basic wage for New South Wales?
– I shall come to that later. Some of the staff at the Hotel Canberra have been rationed, and will continue to be rationed until the Hotel Kurrajong is occupied by the census staff. They should then be fully occupied. Unfortunately, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said, employees of oilier hotels and similar establishments in Canberra do not work under any award. The department is taking steps to see that they are brought into line with conditions that obtain in hostels conducted by the Government. It is news to me that there is any discontent regarding the wages paid. I thought that those concerned were perfectly satisfied with the award they had obtained from their own tribunal.
– They say that other workers receive from 5s. to 6s. a week more than they do.
– The Industrial Board heard evidence on the subject, and considered all relevant factors. ‘ The Government merely sees that the award is given effect.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) referred to the sustenance granted to the unemployed living in the territory that he represents. My predecessor in office discovered that the Northern Territory was becoming a Mecca for the unemployed, and it was found necessary to pass an ordinance designed to prevent further workless persons settling there. If the Northern -Territory and the Federal
Capital Territory were left open to all who are out of work, there would soon be no unemployed in the States, and the Commonwealth Government would be saddled with the responsibility of providing them with sustenance. I understand that many went to the territory against the advice of the administration, and others, against the laws of the country, as stowaways, and by other illegal means. The majority knew the conditions that were awaiting them. I do not doubt that there are many deserving cases among the unemployed now in the territory, and if the honorable member will bring specific instances to my notice, everything possible will be done to grant them relief.
– Some of these persons were in the territory before the proclamation was made.
– I am assured that many are undesirables who have no regard for King or country, but are merely a disturbing element.
– Such persons constitute the minority.
– It was the minority that was causing the trouble. I am aware that it is difficult to make different laws for different sections, but the honorable member is aware that, because of the presence of undesirables in the territory, it was necessary for the Government to take action.
I assure the honorable member that the Government is giving consideration to the development of the territory, which, in the past, has been a sink into which much money was poured. Still, the Government is aware that these empty spaces constitute a danger to the Commonwealth. The problem, which has baffled previous administrations and still presents difficulties, is receiving attention, and it is reassuring that private companies are interested in the Northern Territory. During the past few weeks some four or five such concerns have considered the possibility of developing the mining industry, and particularly goldmining in that area, and the Government is hopeful that something may come out of those investigations. I assure the honorable member that it will take every opportunity to open up the Northern Territory, and make it the country that it should he.
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) referred to an applicant for an old-age pension who could not obtain a decision from the department. On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) I may state that a legal point regarding a mortgage is involved, but that the department will investigate the subject to see what can be done.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) again mentioned a matter which he has brought up on many previous occasions. I am sorry that he thinks as he does, and I regard as particularly blameworthy his statements reflecting on the officials of the Customs Department. He has exonerated me, but for that I do not thank him. I can look after myself, whereas the officials have no opportunity to defend themselves. The honorable member makes an unfortunate choice of terms when referring to the department’s actions, which at different times he has described as “scandalous” and “contemptible”. It is not the fault of the officials that he cannot understand these things; nor is it my fault, for I have told him several times what I propose now to tell him again. Should he still fail to understand the position, I hope that instead of bringing the matter up again in this House, he will call on the officials or upon me, and we shall endeavour to make the position clear to him.
The honorable gentleman referred to the protection which he said was afforded to wire netting; he described it as an unfair imposition. He enlarged on the ravages of the rabbit pest and the hardships of the man on the land. The Government knows of these things, and is keenly desirous of helping the persons affected. There is no duty on wire netting imported from the United Kingdom, although it is true that section 4 of the Industries Preservation Act applies to this commodity. The last time the honorable member brought up this subject he did not understand the gazettal notice. He said then that if wire netting were landed here at less than the manufacturer’s selling price, a dumping duty was imposed. I pointed out to him that two conditions must exist before a dumping duty is imposed.
– They are complementary.
– The first condition is that the wire netting exported to Australia must be offered for sale at a price which is lower than the domestic price in the countryof origin. That is to say, if the English price of wire netting were, say, £34 a mile, it should not be exported to Australia at £20 a mile, otherwise, in that case, the Industries Preservation Act would apply. The second condition is that the landed cost of the wire netting in Australia is below the manufacturer’s wholesale selling-price of Australian wire netting. Apparently, the honorable member is aware of that; but now he sees something further which he regards as suspicious, for he says that the manufacturer can fix his own price. I regret that some honorable members, particularly those in the corner, complain that Australian wire netting is of inferior quality to imported wire netting, and that the prices charged for it are unreasonable. I, therefore, give the latest prices of both English and Australian wire netting. The English price of wire netting 42 in. x 11/2 in. x 17 g., is £69 16s. 3d., less 591/2 per cent., or a net f.o.b. price of £28 5s. 6d. Landed in Australia c.i.f. and e., the price is £39 12s.11d., compared with £31 12s. 6d. c.i.f. and e. for Australian wire netting, an advantage of £8 0s. 5d. a mile in favour of the Australian article.
– Why is it that the British manufacturer quotes a lower price in New Zealand and South Africa?
– I ask the honorable member to keep to the subject under discussion. The price of British wire netting 42 in. x11/2 in. x 18 gauge is £32 2s. 9d. a mile, c.i.f. and e., compared with £25 7s.6d. a mile for Australian wire netting, a difference of £6 15s. 3d. a mile in favour of the Australian product. Honorable members may contend that that class of wire netting is not largely used in Australia. Let us, therefore, take the prices of wire netting 42 in. x l1/4 in. x 17 gauge, which is largely used in this country. The British price is £49 12s. 6d. a mile c.i.f. and e., and the Australian price £39 10s. a mile c.i.f. and e. Honorable members will see that in the class of netting most used in Australia the difference is £10 2s. 6d. a mile in favour of the Australian article.
Yet the honorable member for Swan tells us that the primary producers of Australia are being fleeced, and that this and previous governments have acted dishonestly. I hope that now that he has heard these figures we shall hear no more from him in that strain.
– What about section 13 of the Industries Preservation Act?
– That section reads-
Thepowers given by this act to the Minister to publish notices specifying goods shall extend to the publication of notices, specifying goods ofany particular class or kind or to any particular shipment of goods or to goods exported by any particular exporter, or to goods specified in such other manner as the Minister thinks fit, and, if the notice so provides, to all or any goods entered for home consumption on or before the date of issue of the notice, us well as to goods entered for home consumption after that date.
That provision is certainly broad; it gives to the Minister power to do more than he litis been blamed for doing. The aim of that section is-
– Shown in the marginal note.
– The marginal note reads, “ Power to specify goods “. That section gives the Minister power to determine when: the detriment comes in, and on what goods. Section 4. of the Industries Preservation Act provides for a dumping duty in cases in which the Minister is satisfied that goods exported to Australia are being sold at an export price which is less than the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry.
– There are two conditions.
– Yes. I hope that the position is now clear to the honorable member for Swan. We have now dealt with the tariff schedule; and, until it reaches another place, no more should be heard of these “Aunt Sallys” and fiscal fallacies regarding the duties on barbed wire, fencing wire and other similar materials. I hope that the honorable member for Swan is now satisfied, and that he will exonerate the officers of the Customs Department from blame. Should he still not understand the position, I hope that he will see me in my office at the department, when I shall endeavour to make the position perfectly plain to him.
– I desire to bring under notice the inequity of the sales tax on sausages, dripping and butchers’ small goods. This is a tax on food, and, therefore, I object to it. It is, moreover, a tax on the labour employed in turning into food something which otherwise would be wasted. If butchers were wasteful and extravagant, no tax would be levied on these meat trimmings, and it is not right that, because they use them in the manufacture of dripping and sausages, they should be liable to taxation. Meat trimmings, if made into sausages, are subject to sales tax; but, if sold with the joint, or thrown away, no tax is leviedon them. This tax seriously affects those small tradesmen who use their trimmings for sausages and dripping. The question of the collection of the tax also arises. Who can check the quantities of trimmings made into sausages and actually sold? I ask that in the preparation of the budget serious consideration be given to ail matters affected by the sales tax. Foodstuffs should certainly be exempted from this tax.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is there an understanding among the members of the Tariff Board that, if a majority is in favour of recommending certain rates of duty to the Minister, the whole of the board’s members shall sign to make the report appear unanimous? 2.If so, will the Minister issue instructions that any member of the board who may differ from the majority shallexpress his opinions in the report?
No. Each member of the board considers himself free to submit a minority report, and on occasions this has been done.
See answer to No. 1.
Federal Capital Territory : Legislation
Is it a factthat no legislation has been provided in the Federal Capital Territory for the -
As these matters are of vital and immediate importance to land-owners and residents in the Territory during this time of crisis, will the Government pass the necessary legislation before the House adjourns?
Public Service Salaries
In view of the judgment of the Arbitration Court and the consequent increase in the basic wage -
is it the intention of the Government to accept the same basis for computation of living adjustments in civil servants’ salaries?; and
will the reduction in civil servants’ salaries, to operate from 1st May. be proceeded with?
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330512_reps_13_139/>.