13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state when the representatives of the Commonwealth Government, and the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, are likely to confer on the question of an agreement that would enable work on the Mitta Mitta Junction Reservoir to he continued, thus avoiding the dismissal of men who havegiven, long service on these construction works?
– A definite date has not been fixed, but it is possible that the representatives of the States concerned will assemble in Canberra to-morrow. Representations would have to be made to cabinet before a decision could be arrived at.
” B “ Class Stations.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether there is any foundation for the report that is freely circulating in wireless broadcasting circles, that the Government is contemplating the placing of “ B “ class stations under the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission ?
– There is nofoundation for such a report.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence able to say whether a report has ‘been received from the committee appointed recently by the Government to examine a new type of machine gun invented by an Australian, with a view to having it exhibited at the forthcoming manoeuvres to be conducted by the English authorities?
– This matter is under the consideration of the Inventions Board. So soon as a decision is arrived at, I shall be glad to notify the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for the Interior in a position to make a statement regarding the suggested peace mission to Arnheim Land? Is he aware that the wet season has commenced in that area, and that it is impossible to travel during such a period? Will the Government incur expense in despatching a rescue party when the mission becomes marooned ? Will it also extend a similar privilege to prospectors, by allowing them to proceed to Arnheim Land to establish friendly relations with the natives and for other purposes?
– The two leaders of the expedition have a good local knowledge of the country that has to be traversed, having lived in the district for many years. They arc aware that the wet season has commenced, -but are, - nevertheless, prepared to go ahead with their venture. The financial aspect of the matter has not yet been gone into. The other question raised by the honorable member will receive consideration.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is a fact that employees in the Federal Capital Territory do not come under the control of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? If they do not, what is the reason for it?
– Certain federal awards apply in the Federal Capital Territory,but there is also a special industrial ordinance under which an industrial board determines the rates and conditions of employment of a large number of employees. This special provision was made years ago on account, I presume, of the physical separation of the Territory from the other main centres of population.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation read the remarks of a coroner in ‘Sydney concerning the circumstances surrounding the death of a double amputee named Lamph, who was recently drowned, and his comment that, had this man not had his legs strapped to his body, he would have been able to save himself, as he was a strong swimmer ? In the light of that fact, will the honorable gentleman instruct the department to regard the death of this man as having been directly due to injuries received by him while on war service?
– This matter has “not been officially brought to my notice, but I have read in the press the remarks of the Sydney coroner. I shall have the honorable member’s suggestion considered, and inform him later of the result.
– I have received from the Queensland branch of the Workers Educational Association a communication complaining of the banning of certain literature by the Board of Censors attached to the Department of Trade and Customs. Will the Minister state what books have been placed on the banned list by this board since its appointment?
– If the honorable member is referring to seditious literature, 1 may inform him that that is dealt with by the Attorney-General’s Department. A list of books adjudicated upon by the voluntary board of censors is not issued, because it has been found that banning is sometimes sought as an advertising medium, and the department considers it inadvisable to countenance such a practice.
Destroyers from Great Britain.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence inform the House of the age oi the destroyers which are being sent to Australia from Great Britain, the number of years of useful service they will be capable of giving before being deemed obsolete, and the estimated annual cost to Australia ofkeeping these vessels in commission? Will he also have inquiries made to ascertain whether they are of the same type as certain vessels which were unable to participate in the British Fleet manoeuvres because it was feared that, they might crack up in heavy seas?
– The reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question is definitely in the negative. I ask him to give notice of the remainder.
Imports of Australian Barley
– Can the Minister for Commerce say whether Belgium, which usually imports about five-sixths of the surplus of Australian barley, has imposed an embargo upon imports from this country? If so, will he ascertain whether this is in consequence of the action of the Commonwealth Government in connexionwith imports of glass into Australia?
– My answer to a similar question yesterday will be found in the parliamentary records.
– Oan the Minister inform the House whether the action of Belgium in restricting the import of Australian barley has any connexion with tho failure of the Commonwealth Government to adopt the Tariff Board’s report on glass ?
– When replying to the honorable member yesterday, I indicated that representations from interested parties had not been made to the Government. We have no official knowledge that these circumstances are actually existent; much less can we suggest thu cause of the alleged circumstances.
– What plan has the Government arrived at for the purpose of dealing with the wheat harvest of this arid next year, under the International Wheat Agreement; and what is the purpose of calling a conference of wheatgrowers’ representatives on Tuesday of next week?
– The Government’s plan was fully outlined to this House the week before last. The conference is being held in Canberra next week with the view to implementing the Government’s plan, and setting the whole of (he machinery in motion. »
– Will the House be informed of any proposals that are put forward at the conference before a final decision is arrived at by the Govern ment?
– As I have already indicated, the full scheme as propounded by the Government has already been explained to the House. The object of the conference to be held next week is not “to devise various schemes or any amendment of the original scheme, but is merely to set in motion machinery for the carrying out of the plan already outlined to the House.
– Has the Minister for Commerce yet formulated or considered any plan for the expenditure of the £125,000 which was placed on the Estimates for the purpose of assisting the fred, fruits industry, and will he give an assurance to the House that the unfortunate delay-which attended the granting of assistance to the citrus fruit-growers will not be repeated on this occasion ?
– Plans are now being considered, hut I might remind the honorable member that the amount to which he has referred is merely a budgetary item, and that, until Parliament finally passes the budget, no proposal for the distribution of that money can be given effect.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral lay on the table of the House all papers relating to dictaphone facilities which are enjoyed by the press of this country, and showing the extent to which such facilities affect the working and financial results of the telephone and telegraph branches of the department?
– I shall look into the matter, but I think that it is unlikely that the papers referred to will disclose the information required by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether the Tariff Board, in its report on primage and exchange, referred, to a recommendation made la3t August twelve months to the effect that primage duty should be removed from the protected items in the tariff schedule? If so, will that recommendation be made available to the House before the debate on the Government’s primage proposals begins ?
– I have no knowledge of sue li a recommendation. If it exists it w7as made prior to my appointment as Minister. If it is in the form of a memorandum, which is likely, it would not be available to honorable members. But if it is in the form of a report the Government will consider whether it can be laid on the table of the House.
– In view of the very slow progress which is being made in the conversion of Australian overseas indebtedness at’ reduced rates of interest, will the Prime Minister- say what is the obstacle in the way of a substantial conversion being made? Will he also inform honorable members of the latest reply that he has received from the High Commissioner on the subject?
– Had the honorable member referred to the “rapid progress of conversions “ he would have been nearer the mark, because substantial progress has been made in the conversion of Australian loans overseas, as is recognized by those who represent the various State Governments on the Loan Council ; because they have expressed appreciation of the work of the Australian representative in London, Mr. Bruce. Any future progress is, of course, a matter for negotiation by Mr. Bruce. Any statement in this House on the subject might be embarrassing, but certainly no opportunity is being lost by the Government or by Mr. Bruce, backed of course, by the Loan Council, to proceed with the conversion of our loans as rapidly as possible.
– I have received the following communication from the Annandale Municipal Council: -
At its last meeting, my council directedme to request you to use your best endeavour to secure a grant from the Federal . Government for the relief of unemployed, particularly at Christmas time.
In view of the willingness, and ability of municipal councils to provide work, and of the serious apprehension in commercial circles regarding the effect of the recent reduction of the basic wage in New South Wales upon trade and unemployment, will the Prime Minister give further consideration to the question of making a substantial grant to local governing bodies to assist the unemployed before Christmas?
– The Government this year is practically doubling the amount of money to be spent from revenue on works which will provide employment, and in addition is making provision, which has not been done for the last couple of years, for a further substantial amount from loan for a similar purpose. These amounts, as I pointed out the other day, can. assist in the relief of unemployment at Christmas time if the work is -pushed on and authority is given by this Parliament for the whole of the amount involved. There is a total amount, approaching £2,500,000, the bulk of which will be expended in providing employment, and some portion of that can be u tili zed before Christmas. It is not the intention of the Government to make grants to local governing bodies. That is a matter for the State Governments. As I have pointed out previously, the Commonwealth Government definitely refrained from entering into the field of loan flotation in competition with the States in order that ‘they might have that field to themselves to enable them to carry out their full works programme for the relief of unemployment and for other purposes involved.
– In consequence of a telegram I have received, I direct attention of the Prime Minister to a report which appears in a section of to-day’s press to the effect that of the £20,000 which the Government proposes to make available for the assistance of the tobacco industry, £10,000 is to be spent in providing instructors in tobacco-growing in Victoria, New South “Wales and Queensland, £2,500 being allocated to each State for this purpose. If the report is correct, will the Prime Minister say how much is to be made available to provide instructors for Western Australia?
– A conference is at present being held of representatives of the tobacco industry from each State, but no finality has been reached, and no definite recommendations have been made to the Government as to how the proposed vote should be expended. Such recommendations are expected at an early date.
Value of Commonwealth Concessions
– Will the Prime Minister supply honorable members with a statement showing the particulars of the privileges and concessions granted to the press of Australia by this Parliament, particularly in relation to parliamentary, telegraphic, telephonic, postal, railway and fiscal facilities, showing the cost of each item ?
-The provision of the information might entail a large amount of research and involve considerable expense, but I shall see whether it can be furnished.
– Will the Postmaster-General inform me of the annual cash value of the concessions granted by his department to the press of Australia ?
– When a discussion was taking place with the Country Press Association some time ago regarding the use of dictaphoneSj it was estimated that the postal, telegraphic and telephonic concessions granted to the press of Australia were valued at £500.000 a year.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet able to make a statement respecting the progress being made by the Government in connexion with the Suggested granting of a charter to a private company to develop the Northern Territory?
– I cannot make a statement on the subject at present.
The following papers were presented : -
Bankruptcy Act - Fifth Annual Report by the Attorney-General for period 1st August, 1932, to 31st July, 1933.
Ordered to be printed.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure from Trust Fund for the Federal Capital Territory for the year 1932-33 (in subsitution for that attached to Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Federal. Capital Territory, for the year 1932-33, tabled on the 4th October, 1933.)
– I have received from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The circumstances surrounding- the calling for tenders by the Government for the Australian section of the England-Australia air mail service.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The Federal Government has created an unhealthy atmosphere around the calling for tenders: for the SingaporeAustralia section of the England to Australia air mail service. The more we probe into the circumstances surrounding this subject the- more satisfied we become that the Australian people are likely to be exploited by a group of oversea financiers, and that the Government, wittingly or unwittingly, is lending itself to this purpose. The Commonwealth Auditor-
General, as the guardian of the public purse, warned the Scullin Government that a move was ‘“being made by certain vested interests to foist an Imperial air service on Australia. Each year since then the Auditor-General has reiterated that warning, and stressed the fact that the country is unable to bear the burden that would be involved in such a service. He has also stated that, if any money was available for this purpose, it should be used for’ the development of our internal air services!. The Scullin Government accepted the advice of the AuditorGeneral, but immediately after it left office”- fresh negotiations were opened up with this Government–
– What did the Auditor-General say?
– I have already indicated what he said. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) dealt in a very cavalier fashion in the Senate with the statement of the Auditor-General. He said -
As an authority on aviation, or air mail services, I pay him only so much respect as I would give to anybody else. He lias expressed the view that the Commonwealth is not justified in spending money on air mail services. As an individual,he is entitled to that opinion; but his statement does not carry special weight because the opinion happens to be that of the Auditor-General. Every honorable senator, and every member of the public, is entitled to his opinioninthis matter, and that of the Auditor-General is no more weighty.
It appears to me that, if the AuditorGeneral’s opinion is not of any value’ to the Government, the sooner- the taxpayers are saved the salary of this- officer, ‘the better it will be. The Auditor-General should not be retained in his position if his advice is of no value and is to be disregarded. There is no doubt, as the Auditor-General has intimated, that if this air mail contract is entered upon, certain -vested interests, whose identification with this Government is notorious, will strengthen their grip on Australia. This House knows only too well the influence exercised on the policy of thisGovernment by the Baillieu group. Wealso know that ‘the alliance between the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham)-, was born in the sanctum of the Baillieu-Fink-Murcloch-Merbourne
Herald. The ex-Assistant Treasurer, Senator Massy-Greene, has now resigned his position in the Ministry to become u director of several Baillieu companies. An inter-departmental committee was appointed to investigate the LondonSingapore air mail service, but about that time Imperial Airways Limited began to display an unusual interest in the matter, and sent its special representative, M.r. A. E. Rudder, to Australia to look after its interests. The inter-departmental committee submitted its report on the 5th December, 1932,. and at the same time the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) announced that tenders for the Austraiian section of the service would be called. It is interesting to note that at the time the committee’s report was submitted - the 8th September - Senator Hardy asked the Minister for Defence the following question : -
Would honorable senators have an opportunity to discuss any proposal that may bo formulated by the Government of the Commonwealth in connexion with the England to Australia, air service?
The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) replied, “ Certainly “. But shortly afterwards the Prime Minister intimated that immediate steps would lie taken to establish the service, and that tenders would be called. On this question, which we consider vital, Parliament will not have an opportunity tq discuss the conditions of the tenders and the details surrounding the service. Doubtless it’ will’ all be done by regulation, and honorable members will not have an opportunity to discuss the Government’s proposal in any way. From what has happened, it would appear that we can totally disregard the reply given bv the Minister for Defence to Senator Hardy that an opportunity would be afforded to discuss this important subject. The personnel of the inter-departmental committee did not, in our opinion, warrant the confidence placed in it by some persons, because all the evidence had to be submitted in writing, cross-examination was not permitted, and the whole of the proceedings were held in camera. On the other hand, the Air Convention, comprised those entitled to speak with authority on this subject. Tt said that tenders should not be called, and that the offer of the Dutch for an extension of their service should have been accepted, because it would have beer conducted without a subsidy, and the whole scheme would have been given a proper trial without cost to the Government. It also asked, without avail, that the Minister for Defence should supply it with, the following information: - (1) The source of the estimates upon which the gross revenue and expenditure of the service was based ; and (2) the estimated profit or loss on the service. That information was not given. It also requested that no subsidy be paid in excess of the earnings. ‘ Mr. Hudson Fysh, managing director of Qantas, in a press statement last December, opposed -sectional contracting, and suggested that the contract should operate for five yearsinstead of two years. At the same timer The Aeroplane, a leading British trade journal, complimented Westralian Airways, an Australian company, upon its speed and regularity, and added that its service was the fastest in the Empire. On the 27th January, AirCommodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who announced that ho would tender for this service, said that -
He hoped to do the job each way in a fortnight, reducing the time later to eight days, using four 3-ciu/iue planes of the Southern Cross type.
But the Government has secured a knighthood for Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, and apparently expects that he should be satisfied with that tag and with barnstorming for a living. The Government has now made him a grant of £3,000 and possibly feels that he is not likely to enter into the business again. The New England Airways and British International Airline Limited, the latter company floated! by Flight-Lieutenant C. T. P. Ulm, arealso in the field with Australian labour and with equipment made, as far as possible, in Australia. On the 8th February last, according to a London cable, the British Under-Secretary for Air, SirPhillip Sassoon, announced in the Houseof Commons that the England-Australia, air service would be operating late in thecoming summer. We were informed by the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 10th Februa ry, that “ surprise was expressed’ at the Defence Department at the report, of Sir Phillip’s statement “. Within week, however, of the announcement, it. was revealed in Sydney that Australian Empire Airways Limited was registered there with a capital of £200,000. The new company was stated to be agents of Imperial Airways Limited. The first directors were Sir Eric Geddes, Mr. G. E. Woods-Humphrey, Sir Thomas Bavin, Mr. F. J. Smith, and Mr. A. E. Rudder. On the company’s behalf, Mr. Rudder announced that it was sponsored by Imperial Airways Limited, and although not exactly a subsidiary company, it had Sir Eric Geddes as chairman, and Mr. Woods-Humphrey, managing director of Imperial Airways Limited, as a director. Mr. Rudder said that Imperial Airways Limited was extending its operations throughout the world and to Australia. Imperial Airways Limited, according to the British Stock Exchange Intelligence, is a private company with a paid up capital of £624,080. The British Government holds 25,000 deferred shares on account of certain moneys paid in as subsidies. It received an annual subsidy from the British Government, which this year amounted to £365,000. The chairman of directors is Sir Eric Geddes, who is also chairman of the huge Dunlop combine. The commercial world remembers the case in 1923 with which the Dunlop company was associated, resulting in its capital being written down from £19,000,000 to £9,000,000. Another director is Sir J. G. Beharell, whose name significantly appears in the Dunlop directorate, and in a majority of other holding interests with which the Dunlop company is associated. The connecting link in Australia is Mr. T. L. Baillieu, who, while not a director.of Imperial Airways Limited, is a director of the Dunlop Rubber Company, and of the British-owned English, Scottish and Australian Bank, and. is also in control of the Melbourne Herald chain of newspapers with which Sir Keith Murdoch is prominently associated. In addition, he is the recognized “ cabinet-maker.” Mr. Baillieu’s servant, Sir Keith Murdoch, has been knighted by the Government, but mere titles are insufficient for the Baillieu interests. The GeddesBeharellBaillieu group are after big game. Mr. F. J. Smith is another interesting member of the first board of Australian
Empire Airways Limited. He is associated with Dunlop-Perdriau, Australian Glass Manufacturers, Union Theatres,* and Thornycroft (Australia) Limited. According to the Money Maker, Buzacott’s Investment Guide, Sir Eric Geddes and Mr. Woods-Humphreys have retired from the board of Australian Airways Limited, and in their place we have Mr. W. A. Watt, chairman of directors of Dunlop-Perdriau Limited, who was Treasurer in a Nationalist government, and the Baillieu representative in this group. We, therefore, see the Dunlop interests at work. In the first place, they establish a dummy company, and then install a directorate, upon which Sir Thomas Bavin is the only member not directly representative of their interests. On the 17th February the Sydney Morning Herald published the following cable : -
It is understood that the company -with which Imperial Airways Limited is associated wider the new organization registered in Sydney, is Qantas. The arrangement is due to the desire of Imperial Airways Limited for an Australian link for political, economic, and business reasons.
We are entitled to ask the political reasons for establishing this link. We find that Sir Thomas Bavin and Mr. W. A. Watt might well be regarded as the Australian political link, but with whom was this link established? Together with the cable just quoted, the Melbourne Herald published an interview with the Australian representative of Imperial Airways Limited, Mr. A. E. Rudder, who said, “ He had no knowledge of any negotiations between his company and Qantas.” The managing-director of Qantas, Mr. Hudson Fysh, was also interviewed. That gentleman said that the cable could be taken only as one jumping inaccurately at a premature conclusion, but he added. “As the conditions of tender for the Singapore-Darwin service were expected to stipulate that tendering companies must be registered in Australia, the formation of a new company was only natural. If a combination of Imperial Airways Limited and Australian aviation interests, could be effected there was no doubt that the result would be highly beneficial. “Plans has been so. well prepared that the Australian company was registered prior to tenders being called, while even the local representative did not know of the Qantas arrangement when it was announced in London. On the 28th February, a formal’ announcement was made, that Australian Empire Airways Limited had united with Qantas. The Sydney Morning Herald published an official statement as follows : -
Hie main object of the merger is to bring together interests closely allied in connexion with offers which will shortly be invited by the Commonwealth Government for operating the air mail link between Singapore and Australia. Imperial Airways Limited considers it essential that the link between Singapore and Australia should be the complement in _ every respect of the existing line. This could not be secured if a different class of aircraft was used, and without close unity of control and co-operation. For these reasons Imperial Airways Limited has been anxious to ally itself with the established and responsible interests in Australia.
On the next day, the 1st March, the Minister for Defence, Senator Pearce, refused permission to the Royal Dutch air mail to land passengers and mail at Darwin, contending that there was no connecting service, also that there was a landing ground but no aerodrome there. He suggested that the request could be repeated later. On the next day, Senator Pearce went to considerable trouble to try to prove that Darwin did not possess an aerodrome, although he knew that the facilities available constituted an aerodrome, in the technical sense of the word. In reply to those statements, Mr. W. R. Garrett, the honorary secretary of the Air Convention, said that an acceptance of the offer of the company would not prejudice the advance of Australian aviation. Mr. Garrett went on -
It is again apparent that Sir George has been misinformed by his aeronautical advisors. There has been so much delay from the Government in reply to the offers of the Royal Dutch Air Mail that in aviation circles it has been interpreted as deliberately obstructive tactics.
He also pointed out that the interdepartmental committee, which had been set up by Sir George himself, had reported that the Darwin aerodrome was fit to be used by aircraft likely to be operating the mail service. A reply was also made by Mr. A. Bakker, of the Royal Packet Navigation Company, who represents the Royal Dutch Airways in Australia, and is reported in the Herald of the 2nd March as having said -
It is obvious Sir George Pearce has been misinformed. There is an airdrome in Darwin, publicly licensed by his department on 1st December, 1929, for all types of land planes. We are prepared to use this airdrome as it stands. There is an air service to Daly Waters, with which wo are prepared to arrange air connexion with Darwin. My company seeks only permission to land in Australia and to arrange its own connexion with existing Australian air lines. Our request to land in Australia must not be interpreted as hostile to the ‘introduction of an all-British service, which we realize is the ultimate aim of the Australian Government.
Two facts emerge from the position, first that, the Government was determined deliberately to reject the advice tendered by the Auditor-General ; and, second, that Sir George Pearce had trifled with the offer of the Royal Dutch Airways Company to give Australia a link with Europe without expense to the Government.
On the 21st March, Sir Philip Sassoon, British Under-Secretary for Air, informed the House of Commons -
Extremely satisfactory progress had been made during the past few months with the Imperial air route to Australia, and it was hoped that, if no unforeseen difficulties occurred, the service would start not later than September or October of this year.
The only unforeseen difficulty that might arise of course was that Imperial Airways Limited might not obtain the Commonwealth subsidy. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st March appeared the following cable despatched from London by the Australian Press Association : -
There is some surprise in aviation circles in London at the consistency with which British spokesmen, including the Secretary for Air, Lord Londonderry, and the UnderSecretary for Air, Sir Philip Sassoon, refer to the opening of the Anglo-Australian air mail in the autumn, seeing that Australia has not yet called for tenders for the SingaporeCootamundra section. The official forecasts are believed to refer to the date when Imperial Airways Limited will be ready to extend the service from India to Singapore. But, assuming that other tenderers are successful for the remainder of the route, it seems unlikely that the latter’s new multi-engined aircraft and ground organization could be available by September or October. On the other hand,Imperial Airways Limited are sufficiently well equipped to carry the mails to Darwin or beyond, without additional machines. In this regard, it is significant that high officials of Imperial Airways Limited arc reported to feel highly confident of receiving at least the Singapore-Darwin section.
That message certainly “ spills the beans.” Obviously, the calling of tenders is a mere formality. The British airplane company was so confident about the matter that it arranged to send a leading -“Jupiter” technician to Australia to service its machines. Originally the plans of the Imperial Airways Limited took in only Singapore-Darwin, but, apparently, sufficient progress had been made by March to justify a merger with Qantas, and to take in the entire route.
The next move was the sending to Australia of the Imperial Airways liner Astraea, Official patronage was extended to its crew when in Australia, and the national broadcasting chain of stations afforded its commander, Major H. G. Brackley, every opportunity to advance the claims of his company for the contract. When the Astraea arrived at Canberra the time of meeting of the Senate was altered from 11 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. in order that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and the then Assistant Treasurer (Senator MassyGreene) might accompany Mr. Crutchley, the representative of the British Government in Australia, to Duntroon to extend a welcome to the crew of the air liner. Sir George Pearce broke away from his usual phlegmatic pose to call for three cheers for Major Brackley and his colleagues, and he declared that “the flight was an epoch in the development of communications between Britain and her dominions. “
On the 1st July. there appeared in the Melbourne Age a report of a speech that had been broadcast by Major Brackley over 3LO in which he said -
When the England-Australia service began, passengers would make the journey in comfort in fourteen days. Faster trips could be made, but it was the policy of Imperial Airways Limited not to discourage flying by long, tedious, tiring flights. A mail service, on its own, would not pay.
Again on the 5th July, a propaganda statement appeared in the Sydney Morning ‘Herald, which read as follows -
If the Federal Government should decide to sectionalise all the contracts from Singapore onwards, Imperial Airways Limited has definitely decided that it will not tender. Consultations that have taken place with representatives of the British Government, the
Federal Government and directors of Imperial Airways Limited have all related to the establishment of a direct aerial trunk service between London and Sydney.
Those statements were designed to bluff the Commonwealth Government, and recent events have shown that the bluff was not called. In its report the interdepartmental committee that had been appointed by the Government stated that in its opinion the carrying of passengers by air-mail planes was not desirable.
Now I come to the climax of the attempt to leave Australian airmen “ on the beach” and to hand over this lucrative contract to British interests. The terms of the tender for the Australian end of the service call for a cruising speed of only 90 miles per hour, whereas most air-mail planes in other parts of the world average 120 miles an hour. The department has allowed for a journey of seventeen days from Syndey to London, while the Royal Dutch Airways machines do the Holland-Java trip in eight days, and plan to reduce the time to four days. The Federal Government also requires the successful tenderers to carry 1,000 lb. of mail matter. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith finds that the new plane, which he has designed for the service, and which is being built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, is too fast for those specifications and carries only a moderate load. It is apparent that in framing the conditions of the tender the Government has endeavoured to exclude Australian companies in favour of Imperial Airways Limited. The report and recommendations of its own inter-departmental committee were practically disregarded. Apparently, Imperial Airways Limited did not approve of them. Major H. T. Shaw, chairman of the Air Convention, stated recently that the conditions under which the tenders had been called constituted a bare-faced farce, and were calculated to bluff Australian taxpayers. “ They are a treacherous betrayal of the Australian aviation industry, “ he declared. One of the principal recommendations by the interdepartmental committee, to the effect that preference should be given to Australianmade aircraft, has been omitted from the tender form. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith has admitted that the conditions of the tender for the SingaporeDarwin section have made it impossible for him to compete for the contract. My colleagues and I consider that the conditions of the contract do not give Australian airmen any chance. In the circumstances, we ask that all tenders received for the Singapore-Darwin section shall be reported upon by a committee representative of every party in this House, and that the final choice shall be made by this Parliament. Further, we ask that in the event of the Government giving the tender to any company not definitely and completely Australian, the Government shall inform that company that any future Labour Governmentreserves the right to cancel its contract. We request that a new set of tender forms shall be drawn up by a joint committee comprising representatives nominated by the Defence Department, the PostmasterGeneral’s Departmemnt, Australian aircraft owners and operators, Australian commercial pilots, Australian licensed ground engineers, aircraft and aeroplane engine importers, and Australian chambers of commerce and manufacturers.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In reply to the extraordinary statements that have been made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), I should like to point out that he has not made a real charge against the Government, nor offered any definite criticism of its actions, but has merely indulged in generalizations and innuendoes. He claims that the terms ‘of’ the contract in regard to the speed of machines and weight of mail to be carried indicate that they are designed to hamper Australian tenderers. He has made sweeping statements without giving specific details in support of his contentions. He has apparently relied principally on a communication received by him from the Air Convention, which body, he claims, has ample authority to speak on this important subject. Later, I shall explain to the House exactly what constituted that Air Convention, but I first wish to deal with the steps that were taken by the Government to make certain that when tenders were called they would be the best and fairest that could be devised. The Government appointed a departmental committee on which were the Acting Controller of Civil Aviation, the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, the Chief Inspector of Postal Services, and an accountant from the Treasury Department. That committee investigated the problem from every angle, and was guided hy Australia’s experience of civil aviation since its inception here. The committee was asked to submit a report on the development of air communication between Australia and the United Kingdom and within Australia. A report was submitted and, when examined by Cabinet, was accepted except in minor details. I remind honorable members that this committee, consisting of disinterested officers, public servants, who are always giving of their best to the country, formulated the conditions of the tender which, the honorable member for West Sydney claims, are designed to hamper Australian aviation. The tender forms have been issued for some considerable time now, and their text has met with general approval both in Australia and abroad,, except by this so-called Air Convention. What is the genesis of this body? As far back a* May, 1932, a small party of persons in Melbourne issued invitations for what they termed an air convention, the meeting being convened by two little known pilots, one of whom was employed by the Larkin company, the other having previously been in the employ of that organization. The preliminary meeting was attended by various Victorian civil aviation interests, and a subsequent general meeting was arranged, the invitations for which were more widely distributed. This second meeting was attended by about 100 persons, including interstate representatives, who took with them a large number of proxies from civil aviation firms and individuals who were unable to attend personally. The meeting decided, however, that proxies would not be admitted. Thus the decisions arrived at could not reflect the views of the many who were unable to attend. When this became known, a large number of those present left the meeting, presumably in the belief that it was unrepresentative and that consequently its decisions could not be regarded as those of the industry. Those who left the meeting were Captain Geoffrey Hughes, 0. T. P. Ulm, Cecil McKay, Captain Rigby, Captain Matthews, Major Murray Jones, Messrs. Keith Gardiner, Prank Roberts, L. Abrahams, T. P. Manifold, E. Chater W. R. Bailey, A. C. Young, SquadronLeader Guy Moore, Major W. Sheldon, Dr. Le Brown, and Mrs. Helen Chambers. These persons represented the following well-known firms and individuals: - Associated Australian Aero Clubs, representing all six States, Ballarat and Bendigo -Aero Clubs, Westralian Airways, Qantas, Australian National Airways, Air Travel Limited, New England Airways, Matthews Aviation Proprietary Limited, De Havilland Aircraft Limited, Hart, Aircraft Services Proprietary Limited, AirCommodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Sir Keith Smith, and a large number of smaller operators, “A” and “B” pilots, ground engineers, and others. In all, representatives of 140 interested firms and individuals left this so-called Air Convention. The British firms represented were - Super Marine Aviation Company, Bristol Aeroplane Company, Spartan AircraftCompany, Aircraft Operating Company, Saunders Roe Limited, and Vickers Aircraft Limited. The meeting then represented only four small Victorian firms, out of the 30 firms in that State. They now describe themselves as the Australian Air Convention, and are the only interests which are opposed to the Government’s proposals. They have bombarded members of Parliament for months with cartoons, dodgers, and other literature demanding action along certain lines. Only last week a circular was distributed intimating that it was proposed to move the adjournment of this House. This small coterie in Victoria has at last found a spokesman in the honorable member for West Sydney. Its claims that it represents the views of the civil aviation organizations of Australia obviously cannot be sustained, because the majority of those organizations have deserted it.
Let me explain the procedure adopted in the drafting of these tenders. Interdepartmental and departmental boards, consisting of officers of wide and lengthy experience, went through the proposals in detail. They were then sent for examination to the various departments concerned. The criticism and comments of those departments were considered by the inter-departmental committee which was appointed to investigate the question. The Attorney-General’s Department examined the contracts minutely, so as to ensure that they were sound, fair and. just. They were considered by Cabinet on several occasions, and were then again returned to the departments, in order to ensure that all possible precautions had been taken to invite suitable tenders. They have been endorsed everywhere as model forms of tender, the only dissentient from that view being this disgruntled section in Victoria, which calls itself the Air Convention.
All that t could gather from the remarks of the honorable member for West. Sydney was that in his opinion Imperial Airways Limited is to receive preferential treatment. My reply to that is that the tender forms have been so designed as to give favorable consideration to local pilots. If a speed limit were not provided for, the owner of the fastest plane might secure the contract, and Australian concerns would be at a disadvantage. There is in Australia to-day a large number of planes with a maximum cruising speed of approximately 95 miles an hour, and it has been made possible for persons or firms with such machines to tender for the first two years, at the expiration of which period, planes having a cruising speed of 110 miles an hour “or more may be submitted for approval. Thus, preference is being given to Australian planes. The planes used by Imperial Airways Limited have a much greater speed. Would the Government have designed the conditions to suit, the capabilities of National Airways Limited New England Airways Limited, Westralian Airways Limited, or Qantas if it had hoped that Imperial Airways Limited would he the only tenderer?
– “What about the carrying capacity ?
– The minimum carrying capacity of the machines is laid down in the tender forms, and the honorable member will notice that varying loads are provided for different sections of the route. That is in accordance with the recommendation of the experts. “ Safety first “ must be the principal consideration in this matter. A disaster in the early stages would be a serious disadvantage to the whole project, as well as to the contractor.
The honorable member for West Sydney referred to the route of the service, against which a great deal of criticism has been offered. I point out that it was designed to shorten the journey between England and Australia, and, vice versa, by one day. If mails from Melbourne had to be picked up in Sydney, the plane would not leave Mascot until well after 11 o’clock in the morning. Picking them up at Cootamundra will enable a departure to be made at daybreak.
– Are penalties to be .imposed if the mails are overdue?
– Every contract provides for a penalty. A contractor cannot be allowed to do what he likes. The small coterie in Melbourne, which calls itself the Air Convention, contends that in this case, the penalties are too low. Its best interests would be served by geting behind this new proposal, which, however, will be a success in spite of it. Civil aviation in Australia has passed through different stages of development. In the light of the experience gained, the Government will, next year, launch out on an entirely new scheme. If those who are striking a discordant note would lend their aid, they would advance the interests of Australian aviation, and benefit themselves as the” further development of aviation in Australia will benefit all sections of the industry. Some manufacturers complain that provision i3 not made in the tenders for the use on this service of planes that have not yet been manufactured. My reply is that new planes will be required to carry on at the end of two years, and that in the meantime, there is nothing to prevent these firms from having other machines manufactured, tested and approved. All planes and pilots must be. licensed in Australia, and the machines must be approved as suitable for Australian conditions. Australian pilots are provided- with even better opportunities than those of other countries.
It has been suggested that Imperial Airways Limited will not be a tenderer. That is entirely a question for that company to decide. The Government’s sole concern is to ‘obtain the best service. A t the inception of civil aviation in Australia, only small planes were used, but the development has been such that many machines in this country to-day have a cruising speed of 95 miles an hour.
I submit that the observations of the honorable member for West Sydney do not support his contention that these proposals are designed against the best interests of Australia. All the efforts of the departmental officers and of the Government have been in the direction of making the tender form such that Australians will receive every consideration. I feel certain that when the service is operating everybody in Australia, even the small coterie which has provided a brief for the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), will be satisfied that the contract has been let fairly and honestly.
.- The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) has not by any means answered the charge of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). What we were particularly anxious to know was not whether Imperial Airways Limited would tender for this contract, but whether the contract had been definitely rigged for it through its subsidiary organization in Australia. The Assistant Minister definitely refrained from answering the charge that outside forces were working in collusion with certain members of the Government in order to rig this contract for that company. The Assistant Minister attacked the Air Convention, to which he referred as a small coterie, but he neglected to state that .Ifr. J. B. Fairbairn, the Government’s nominee in the Flinders by-election, is one of that small coterie, so that if Mr. Fairbairn is elected to this Parliament the Air Convention will at least have another mouthpiece in this chamber unless he yields to the pressure of Government supporters. The Assistant Minister has not explained exactly why the Government advocates the expenditure of a large sum of public money, even before it lias been established that the proposed service can be successfully operated. In any case, the Government has not yet justified its rejection of the offer of a Dutch company to continue its service to Darwin at no expense at all to the taxpayers of this country. Such an extension of the Dutch service would have given our local aviators an opportunity to engage in the service from Darwin, yet the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), backed up by the Assistant Minister, has deliberately refrained from making any explanation of the Government’s action in rejecting that proposal. The Government has definitely gone out of its way to “ nobble “ all opposition to the proposed air service between England and Australia. We are informed that Imperial Airways Limited is making all arrangements to operate the service, actually before the tenders are closed and before the Government has come to a final decision. Evidently that company and the Government are iu close consultation, and honorable members are entitled to know the nature of the negotiations that have taken place between them. On the visit of the air liner Astraea, the members of the Government went out of their way to assist Imperial Airways Limited in its propaganda so as to influence public opinion to the belief that it was the only company which could successfully operate this service. The Assistant Minister has said that Australian aviators and overseas aviation firms had equal opportunity to submit tenders, and that certain penalty clauses would operate in the case of the air liners becoming overdue, but he did not say that they would be allowed to exceed the time limit by 24 hours before being liable to penalty. According to persons who are in a position to know, the tender forms have been drawn up in the interests, not of Australian aviators, but of Imperial Airways Limited, and to such an extent that Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, whom the Government is attempting to “nobble” by giving him a grant of £3,000, has expressed his intention not to tender for the contract.
– Shame !
– That is a disgraceful thing to say.
– The honorable member must not use unparliamentary language.
– The grant to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was made with the deliberate intention of silencing his criticism in the event of the Government letting this contract to Imperial Airways Limited. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith is now endeavouring to establish a service between Australia and New Zealand, knowing that it is useless for him to tender for the service between England and Australia. The policy of the Government is dictated by Sir Keith Murdoch and the Baillieu group in Melbourne. The Assistant Minister has said nothing of the connexion between those persons and the officials and directors of Imperial Airways Limited. It is useless for any Australian aviator or anybody interested in civil aviation here to tender for this service, .because the contract ha3 already been let by the Government to Imperial Airways Limited. This company has carried out its propaganda very effectively, mainly because of the assistance that it has received from members of this Parliament, and because it has at its disposal sufficient financial resources to enable it to stifle all opposition. For instance, it took over Qantas, which was successfully operating an internal service, so as to create the impression that it had a connexion with Australian aviation. The Assistant Minister has made no attempt to answer the charges of the honorable member for West Sydney. He is either inefficient or has deliberately refrained from answering those charges.
– No charges were made.
– He devoted practically the whole of his speech to an attempt to belittle a band of Australian aviators who are anxious to further the interests of aviation in this country. It is illbecoming on the part of any Minister to use his position in this chamber to try to belittle their efforts on behalf of Australian aviation. If everything stated by the Assistant Minister is true, and in view of the pressure that is being exerted on the members of the Cabinet by its wealthy associates in Melbourne, honorable members should have an opportunity to discuss the contract and to decide who should be the successful tenderer; this Parliament, and not the Government, should have the right to decide the issue.
– There is really no case for me to answer, because the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), consisted of nothing but baseless statements and insinuations. The honorable member for West Sydney, in his introductory remarks, made some reference to the statement of the Auditor-General. I asked him to say what the Auditor-General said, but he declined to do so. Therefore, I propose to say a word or two on this subject, which I consider is much more important than anything that has been discussed so far. I have obtained the AuditorGeneral’s reports for the years ended the 30th June, 1930, 1931 and 1932. In the report of 1930, the Auditor-General stated -
The establishment of mi air-mail .service between .England and Australia has been advocated, but a considerable advance in tlie type of machine, as well as a reduction of the risks by means of improved organization, ite, must be made before success can bo hoped for. These matters are apart from the inseparable questions whether such a duplicate sen ice. is necessary, and whether Australia can afford the heavy subsidy which would certainly bc demanded. Tn any case, whether from the point of view of public demand, practicability, security, necessity or cost, present conditions do not seem to warrant such a service.
– He said more than that.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is quite true. In the following year he said -
In last year’s report I criticized the proposal to establish this duplicate service, and expressed the opinion that, whether from the point of view of public demand, practicability, security, necessity or cost, present conditions did not warrant such a service. Although it is perfectly clear that Australia’s financial position is such that it cannot alford the huge subsidy which would lie necessary to maintain such a service, endeavours are being made by certain commercial interests to influence the Commonwealth Government with a view to establishing this service.
Yielding to that pressure, the Government fell in with the project to the extent of incurring some expense in allowing an officer to go abroad for the purpose, so it is stated, of making observations and plans. So many aviators had already flown over the ground that the justification for that expenditure, at the present time, is difficult to understand.
That flight, and the recent air mail test to England, have again unfortunately demonstrated how uncertain aviation still is in every way and indicate that, taken in conjunction with the impossibility of providing tlie necessary subsidy, an air mail service between England and Australia is not likely to be established for many years - if at all.
In his report for 1931-32, he also referred to the subject in the following words : -
Vested interests are still urging the establishment of this service. In my last two reports the justification for this service on any reasonable ground lias been challenged. The principal reason is that we cannot alford it. In Australia, the air mail carried shows a reduction of 10 per cent, over the previous year. Complaints have been made that the heavily-subsidized air mail to India from England is not being used to the extent anticipated.
No real justification (or an EnglandAustralia air mail service has been established.
But let me ask honorable members who should say whether there should- be an air mail service between England and Australia?
– This Parliament.
– That is certainly so. It is quite out of place for the Auditor-General or any other officer of the Commonwealth to usurp the functions of this Parliament and say what shall or shall not be done.
– This is a matter of policy, which has nothing to do with the Auditor-General.
– 1 agree with the right honorable member. That is the point I am making, and in those circumstances the remarks of the Auditor-General on this subject were uncalled-for, unjustifiable, and entirely unwarranted.
The honorable member for West Sydney alleged that there was a connexion between the Baillieu group and certain members of the Government in regard to this subject. In my opinion, it is impossible to read any coherence into the speech of the honorable member, except by the frequent use of certain names which he mentioned. T say most definitely that I know none of the gentlemen referred to by the honorable member, and, as a member of the Ministry, I can say that no concessions whatever have been given to them. In that circumstance, I am perfectly justified in saying that the statements and charges of the honorable gentleman have not the slightest foundation in fact. I ask honorable members generally to accept my word for it that the insinuations of the honorable member in this connexion were unfair criticism made with the object of damaging the reputation, both inside and outside of this chamber, of certain honorable members.
In the course of this discussion reference has been made to a body described as the Air Convention. Some time ago I received, as did, I suppose, other honorable members, quite a number of post cards regarding aviation, of whose origin we had no knowledge whatever. I made inquiries subsequently to ascertain what standing this so-called Air Convention had, and I learned that it was an entirely irresponsible body, which had no real substance. It appears that certain honorable members opposite are in touch with people with .a good deal of financial backing. Otherwise the propaganda that has been maintained in this connexion could not be continued. This socalled Air Convention has no standing whatever among those engaged in civil aviation. There is no general membership, the convention consisting solely of nine individuals, who have no authority to speak for anybody but themselves. It is, therefore, a hollow sham to suggest, that an air convention of any substance can speak or has spoken on the subject referred to by the honorable member.
Reference has also been made to the offer of certain Dutch interests to conduct an international air service; but I say without any hesitation that, in my opinion, it is desirable that any overseas air service operating to Australia should be all-British. The Government was unable to accept the offer made by the Dutch authorities.
The association of my department with the proposed air mail service would be limited to about 1 per cent, of its operations. The department would be concerned only with the carriage of a certain quantity of mail matter. Even the proposed mail charges are tentative at present. That is a -subject which must be dealt with by the governments concerned. My experience in the administration of the Postal Department has led me to the opinion that those sections of the public most interested in postage want the cheapest possible rates, and give no consideration whatever to those who may be called upon to bear any loss that may be entailed by cheap rates. Similarly, those who desire telephone facilities want the service at the lowest possible price, irrespective of whether, a los3 is incurred in operating the system.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We could very well leave further discussion of this subject until the Estimates are under consideration, for it is impossible, in the limited time at our disposal now, to give proper attention to the various points that have been raised. I have looked through the Estimates to see whether any money is being provided for this proposed service, but have been unable to find any indication that the Government intends to make any expenditure of this nature this financial year. I presume, therefore, that it does not expect the new service to become operative until next financial year. But tenders for the service close in January. I put it to the Government, therefore, that Parliament, which, as has been rightly said, is the only authority which should authorize any new financial commitment of this nature, has a perfect right to be consulted before tenders are accepted.
– Hear hear !
– Usually, in a case of this kind, an amount is put on the Estimates to cover the expected expense and Parliament has an opportunity to determine whether the country shall be committed to such expenditure. When I was Prime Minister, I had a good deal to do with the negotiations that were then proceeding for the establishment of an overseas air mail service. Representations were made to me on the subject, both in Australia and in London, by the Imperial Airways Company, and the Dutch Air Companies But at that time our finances were in a very bad state and the Government came to the conclusion that Australia could not afford such a service. It reached this decision on its own consideration of the whole situation, and not on the advice of the Auditor-General. I find myself entirely in accord with the
Postmaster-General’s statement that the Auditor-General exceeds his duty when he expresses opinions on matters of Government policy.
– But the Government has accepted his advice on occasions.
– That does not make it right for the Auditor-General to express his opinion on what are essentially matters of policy. Honorable members should take every care to preserve to this Parliament the right to determine the policy of the country, and should not allow the Auditor-General to usurp this right.
– But the AuditorGeneral merely warned the Government that vested interests were likely to enrich themselves by the expenditure of public money.
– I suggest that the Auditor-General should confine his attention to his own sphere and leave matters of policy to be decided by Parliament. In this case, however, the opinion expressed by the Auditor-General happened to coincide with the opinion of the Government of the day. It was felt at that time that the country could not afford the expense of this proposed air service. I suggest that we should consider long and earnestly before entering into commitments of this nature. Parliament should certainly be given an opportunity to express itself on the subject before any tenders are accepted. As tenders will close in January, a tender may be decided before Parliament meets after the Christmas recess. In this circumstance, it is reasonable that an opportunity should be afforded Parliament to express its mind on the subject. For this reason, no exception can be taken to the action of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in moving this motion, but further consideration should be given to the whole proposal when the Estimates are under consideration.
– There can be no objection to that course.
– The whole proposal should be fully explored, because it involves more than the granting of a subsidy by the Government. We should consider the effect that such a contract would be likely to have on our mailservice by sea, and on the earnings of the shipping companies. The- reduction of these earnings would tend to cause an increase of passenger fares and freight charges for primary products. I raise this issue because of the experience we have had in connexion with the east-west air mail service. I contend that that service should not have been entered upon, because it competes with, and takes a considerable amount of business from, our own railways. I hope that the Government will not renew the subsidy to this service when the present contract expires. My Government was not able to do anything in the matter, because the company operating the service had a firm contract. I certainly think that the expenditure of public money for this purpose is not justified. I also think that an overseas air mail service could be criticized on the same grounds. At any rate, Parliament should consider the whole subject before committing itself. I should be willing to give a good deal more support to this project if I felt that the establishment of such a service would result in the development of civil aviation in Australia. A good deal could be said from many aspects for the development of Australian aviation, even to the extent of paying a subsidy to an unprofitable service commercially, for aviation, as everybody knows, is of tremendous value to our back country. In an emergency, civil aviation might’ also be valuable to the country as an auxiliary to its defence equipment.
Reference has been made to the proposed Dutch service. A proposal was made to my Government to accept such a service. Although the company did not ask for a definite subsidy, it sought’ a guaranteed minimum tonnage, so the effect would have been the same as if a subsidy had been given, for if the guaranteed minimum mail tonnage had not been reached the Government would have had to make up for the deficiency. We could not agree to that proposal. I understand that another offer has been made to this Government, which does not involve the payment of a subsidy or the giving of a guarantee, but provides for such high charges that only the wealthy and privi- leged sections of the community could take advantage of the service. A fee of 2s. 6d. for a letter or ls. 6d. for a quarterounce packet is too high for ordinary people to meet.
I ask honorable members to ponder whether we are not” reaching out too far in our desire to adopt up-to-date methods, I have no desire to hinder progress under reasonable conditions, but sometimes, by acting too hurriedly, this country, and also other countries of the world, have, in my opinion, paid too heavily for up-to-date methods of transport, and also, for that matter, of production. This has had the result of contributing to the difficulties of industry and commerce from which the whole world is at present suffering. In all the circumstances, honorable members should consider carefully all the facts of the case before agreeing to the establishment of the proposed overseas air mail’ service. We can spend too much money in these difficult times on up-to-date methods. We have been able to maintain our existing mail service by sea for many years, and I think that we could carry on the present arrangement at least for some time to come without detriment to the country. I again urge the Government to give Parliament a full opportunity to discuss every aspect of this subject before any tender is accepted.
– I do not desire unduly to criticize the conditions under which tenders for this service have been invited, but I offer my protest against the proposal that the terminal point of the service shall be Cootamundra. Everything possible should be done to attract passenger traffic. In this connexion, I draw attention to the fact that the Government has spent a considerable amount of money in the establishment of up-to-date workshops at Mascot in order that expert mechanical service may be rendered to aviation, and the landing grounds have been so improved that M.ascot can claim to be one of the best aerodromes in the southern hemisphere. The report of the Controller of Civil Aviation, which has just been made available to honorable members, discloses the remarkable growth in the traffic by air between Brisbane and Sydney. Overseas visitors have stated that, owing to the magnificent coastal scenery along the route, the trip by air between those two centres is one of the finest in the world. I suggest that with the large type passenger airplanes employed, the tourist traffic, which should be a great asset to the service, should be exploited with advantage, not only to the service, but also to the whole community. I trust that the Government will seriously consider making Mascot the terminus of the proposed service.
:- I regret that the valuable report of the Controller of Civil . Aviation, which has just been circulated, was not available earlier, as it contains a good deal of information which would be of advantage to honorable members in discussing the subject of tenders for the EnglandAustralia air mail service now before the House. It will always be my desire to assist aviation in every way possible. The development of air services should be a means of ensuring international peace, or, in the event of war, of enabling nations to defend themselves with the assistance of the most mobile force that could be imagined. I trust that, in this instance, the Government will make the conditions of tendering as reasonable as possible, so that even those with small means shall have an opportunity to tender, and that it will ensure that the service will not be under the direction of combines controlled outside Australia. I have bitter memories of the conditions under which the mail service between Great Britain and Australia was conducted, particularly by the Peninsular and Oriental Company, for over 30 years. That company, which received a substantial subsidy from ‘the British Government, was most unjust in its dealings with Australia. Later, mainly in consequence of representations made to the Orient Company by the Victorian Government, the Australian people received greater consideration than they had in the past. At one period English mails, consisting of packages of valuable postal matter, were dumped on the deck and covered with tarpaulins. I trust that every effort will be made to prevent that section of the proposed service between Australia and Singapore from coming under the control of an overseas combine. I should prefer the service to be directly controlled by the Commonwealth Government, so that it would be under the watchful eyes of members of this Parliament. As stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. .Scullin), we should prevent any interference with existing transport services such as is caused by the east- west .air service, which receives a subsidy from the Government, and which is a serious competitor with the transcontinental railway. Whether the Auditor-General interferes unduly in matters of this kind concerns the Government and ,that official ; but if, in fulfilling the duties of his high position, he thinks it necessary to issue a warning to Australia, by saying that there is likely to be a heavy loss in subsidizing a service such as that proposed, I consider that he is justified in saying so, and that the Government should welcome his criticism. At times Ministers feel somewhat annoyed when the administration of their departments is criticized; but, if such criticism is fair, they should have no reason to fear. The bravest act performed by any Australian aviators was that of Parer and Mcintosh, the latter of whom has, unfortunately, joined the great majority. At one time those two men were compelled to engage in flying stunts to enable them to purchase the motor spirit required for their plane, but they received little consideration from the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Bruce, when Prime Minister, said that they had performed one of the bravest feats the world had ever seen, but little was done to assist them. Parer, a brave Australian-born aviator, subsequently went to New Guinea, and materially assisted in the transport of miners and others over very difficult country. If the Government proposes to make any appointments in the civil aviation branch, I trust that it will give serious consideration to the claims of Air-Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who on numerous occasions has risked his valuable life, and whose services should be retained if only in an advisory capacity. I cannot overlook the treatment which was once meted out to ‘the late General Sir John Monash by the tin hats in the Defence Department, who allowed him to stand as an ordinary citizen on the pavement in Collins-street, Melbourne, while the Duke and Duchess of York passed through that city. The greatest soldier Australia has ever produced was prevented by these tin-pot giltspurred roosters who control the department from receiving even fair play.
– The remarks of the honorable member are grossly unfair to the officers of the Defence Department.
– They would be unfair if they were untrue; but, as “they are true, the Assistant Minister dare not criticize them. I once made a remark concerning that distinguished gentleman which, when I found it was inaccurate, I publicly withdrew.
Flight-Lieutenant Ulm, who is an Australian, and who has done splendid work should not be forgotten. When considering the rapid means by which mails are now transported I vividly recall the time when it took four or five months to land letters from England in Australia, and I sometimes wonder if speed is not being cultivated at a rate which .is detrimental to the public interest. I shall render whatever assistance I can to aviation, and I trust that all air services shall be controlled by Australian companies instead of by overseas combines over which this Parliament has no authority. But I believe that all transport services should become a government monopoly, such as the Postal Department is, and should be operated in the interests of the Australian people.
.- If the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has done nothing more than awaken honorable members to the possibility of preference being extended to overseas interests to the detriment of the Australian people, he has rendered a service to Australia, and the time spent by the House in considering this motion has not been wasted. I do not propose to be influenced by the remarks of the Auditor-General, because his comments are often on subjects which do not come within his purview. For instance, in a recent annual report, he dealt with the subject of invalid and old-age pensions, and urged this, Parliament to appoint an army of investigating officers with a view to detecting cases of fraudulent claims for pensions. I am afraid that he spends too much time on. matters that are of no consequence, while allowing major matters to pass unnoticed. In view of the remarks of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) concerning the unwarranted criticism of the Auditor-General, I take this opportunity to bring before honorable members the necessity for transferring that officer to Canberra instead of allowing him to remain in Melbourne where he is too far removed from the Seat of Government. As soon as the Auditor-General is established in Canberra he will probably be able to appreciate to a greater degree the responsibilities of the position which he occupies.
The remarks of the honorable member for “West Sydney concerning the Baillieu group and other influences are timely, and I’ welcome this and other opportunities that will soon be provided to give further consideration to the danger presented by the activities of the Baillieu group which is operating in conjunction with Sir Eric Geddes and our present High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce. With the honorable member for West Sydney, I regret that these influences are at work to place the contract for the service between Australia and Singapore with Imperial Airways Limited, which proposes to hand it over to a subsidiary company known as Australian Empire Airways Limited. I have not met Mr. Shaw, but I read in the press a few days ago, his charge against this Government of having displayed favoritism in connexion with the administration of civil aviation. I am opposed to any such favoritism. This serious charge, made by a person in a responsible position, has not been answered by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis). He has simply said that those who carry out the Australian section of the service must hold Australian licences and that Australian pilots will be employed. We want something more than that. The Australian people are determined that preference shall be given to Australian organizations and Australian aircraft which are capable of carrying on this important service.
– The aircraft must be registered in Australia.
– The Defence Department invites applications for cadetships for the Air Force, and as such positions are filled by Australians, so should Australian pilots, with Australian aircraft, controlled by an Australian organization, conduct the service between Australia and Singapore. Even in recent months the development in aviation has been most pronounced. Quite recently, FlightLiieutenant Ulm was able to break the record of Air-Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith between England and Australia with a plane built in Australia. Surely this justifies the Government in giving first consideration to the claims of Australian organizations. The extraordinary advance that has taken place in aviation will make it necessary to review the whole position when the time comes to consider these tenders. Obviously, too great a period of time is allowed for the journey between Australia and England, and there is definitely an objection to the provision that the terminal point should be Cootamundra and not take in Brisbane and Sydney. The advice of Air-Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith should be accepted, and Brisbane or Sydney made the terminal point. It would be most unattractive if persons journeying on the air mail had to disembark at Cootamundra and then take a slow-moving train, or be obliged to take another plane to convey them to the State capital.
Apropos the flight that has just been completed by Flight-Lieutenant Ulm from England to Australia, we should be proud of the fact that, with the exception of the engines, the Faith in. Australia was constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard and at the works of the Australian National Airways Company at Mascot. The four propellers supplied for the machine were built following upon a consultation between . Flight-Lieutenant Ulm. and Wing-Commander Wackett, and I am pleased to say that it was not found necessary to modify them in the slightest degree. That should encourage the Government to comply with the wishes of the honorable members on this side and the public of Australia and give preference to Australian-built aeroplanes.
The honorable member for “West Sydney has done the right thing in providing an opportunity for the ventilation of this subject, particularly in view of the action of previous Nationalist Governments in handing over Australian services to overseas concerns and in granting contracts for the construction of our naval vessels to British shipyards. On this year’s Estimates, the sum of -£376,000 is provided for the construction of aircraft. Practically none of this money will be spent in Australia. The time has arrived when we should register our protest against such a policy, and do everything possible to ensure that Australian organizations and Australians themselves are entrusted with this work.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of New Zealand in relation to preferential duties of customs and certain other matters.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is the first step towards implementing the new trade agreement between New Zealand and the Commonwealth. At Ottawa a number of trade agreements were made by the United Kingdom with other units of the Empire, and trade agreements were also made between various units of the ‘ Empire. However, owing to the close proximity of Australia and New Zealand, each country dealt with other countries that were less easily accessible, with the result that just prior to Easter of this year, Senator Massy-Greene, now Sir Walter Massy-Greene, was authorized by the Government to proceed to New Zealand with the object of endeavouring to smooth away some of the difficulties which were endangering trade, relations between the two countries.
For many years New Zealand had been importing from Australia large quantities of citrus fruits, but, unfortunately, its Government saw fit towards the end of last year to prohibit the importation of fresh fruits, including citrus fruits from Australia. This was one of the major difficulties that Sir Walter Massy-Greene was commissioned to endeavour to remove so far as Australia was concerned. On the other hand, New Zealand complained that the Australian embargo on New Zealand potatoes had a detrimental effect on New Zealand export trade in potatoes. This embargo had been in force for quite a number of years so that any damage done to the trade of our sister dominion on this score must have been done. a considerable -time ago. Although the Assistant Minister who conducted the negotiations in New Zealand was unable to induce the New Zealand Government to remove the embargo on Australian citrus fruits, that Government, since the details of the agreement were agreed upon, has partially removed the prohibition and now admits oranges from the State of South Australia and also pineapples from Queensland.
Another disadvantage which certain Australian products marketed in New Zealand were suffering was that they were subjected to rates of duty higher than the British preferential rates. In a number of these cases the leader of the delegation was successful in having the disability removed. One line which will be of particular interest to Queensland canners is that of canned pineapple. Previously, a duty of 35 per cent, was paid on Australian canned pineapple entering New Zealand, whilst similar goods from the Malay States were dutiable to the extent of 25 per cent. Under the new agreement Australian canned pineapple will be admitted at 25 per cent.
The following important lines from Australia - hats and caps, cement and asbestos sheets and roofing slates and tiles, and macaroni, will also receive the benefit of the British preferential tariff in New Zealand. Many classes of machi nery which, were at a disadvantage of 5 per cent., as compared with the British product, will now be admitted under the British preferential tariff.
For many years Australia has been endeavouring to persuade the New Zealand Government to place a duty on foreign raisins, and under the agreement which I have tabled to-day, the New Zealand Government has agreed to impose a duty of Id. per lb. which is £9 6s. 8d. a ton, on foreign raisins. In 1931 New Zealand imported raisins to the value of £249,000, of which Australia supplied £]?0j000 worth. With the preference that is now being granted ‘by New Zealand, Australia should be able to oust all foreign competitors, principal among which is the United States of America.
There is a market for canned pineapple valued at £30,000 per annum for Australia to capture.
The course of Australia’s trade with New Zealand since the existing agreement was made in 1922 may be seen from the following figures : -
In common with the fall in the import trade of all countries, New Zealand’s imports fell from £43,000,000 in 1930 to £23,000,000 in 1932. Australia’s share of New Zealand trade declined, but not to the same extent as that of other countries. According to New Zealand statistics, Australia’s trade was as follows: -
New Zealand’s trade with Australia has diminished. In 1927-28 the New Zealand imports into Australia, exclusive of bullion and specie, amounted to £2,945,000, while in 1931-32 they had fallen to £702,000, a decline of £2,243,000 in four years.
About 70 per cent, of the goods which Australia sends to New Zealand are manufactures of secondary industries, and for this trade Australia has to compete with the older countries of the world. The trade is almost wholly dependent on the tariff preferences received in New Zealand. The value of the agreement to Australia -may be gauged from this fact.
The favorable exchange position in which Australia stands towards New Zealand in comparison with Britain and many other countries has obviously assisted our trade with New Zealand, and while it continues it promises to promote an increasing trade. Australia was practically the only country whose exports to New Zealand were higher in 1932 than in 1931, the increase being about £250,000.
I shall deal now with the principal concessions which the agreement gives to the sister dominion. Article 7 exempts New Zealand goods from primage, which on present trade amounts to about £55,000 yearly. In considering this concession it’ is to be noted that New Zealand’s rate of primage is 3 per cent., which applies only to Australian goods which are free under the New Zealand tariff. Goods of Australian origin which are subject to tariff duty pay no primage.
Article 11 provides for a reciprocal arrangement, under which exemption from sales tax is granted where the local goods are exempt from sales tax; that is to say, if any class of New Zealand goods is exempt in New Zealand from sales tax, like Australian goods will also be exempt in New Zealand, and the same prevision will apply reciprocally to New Zealand goods imported into Australia, if like Australian goods are exempt in Australia.
The existing trade agreement has been subjected to a good deal of criticism in New Zealand, on the ground that because the level of the Australian tariff is much higher than that of the New Zealand tariff, the agreement is inequitable so far as it provides for the reciprocal concession of British preferential tariff rates.
Provisions have been made in the new agreement whereby the minimum duty in the Australian or the New Zealand tariff can, upon request by the other dominion, be applied. For instance, if an item carries a rate of 20 per cent, in the New Zealand tariff, and of 30 per cent, in the Australian tariff, the Australian Government must, upon request by New Zealand, reduce the rate to 20 per cent, for New Zealand goods; otherwise New Zealand may increase its rate to 30 per cent, against Australian goods. These provisions, however, apply only to goods not actually specified in the schedules to the agreement. The goods must, of course, be of .a class which is manufactured in New Zealand oi- Australia, as the case may be, and therefore be liable in’ both countries to a protective duty. It may safely be accepted that any protective duty New Zealand imposes to protect a Nev/ Zealand industry will be more than sufficient to protect the Australian industry against New Zealand, because our industries, are older and more highly developed.
Article 10 modifies the conditions of preference between Australia and New Zealand. The effect of the article, broadly speaking, is that, to be eligible for preference, goods of either country must contain not less than 50 per cent, of local material and labour. At, present, New Zealand goods, to obtain preference, must contain at least 75 per cent, of local material and labour. In the case of Australian goods going into New Zealand, the present qualifying percentage is 50 per cent., but may be made up of materials and labour of Empire origin, provided that the final process of manufacture is performed in Australia. The new provision will require the 50 per cent proportion to be composed entirely of Australian material and labour.
Free admission is proposed for linseed, lucerne seed, whale oil, -toheroa and oyster soup, fish paste, floor rugs of wool, pig iron, rust resisting oil, insecticides for agricultural use, liver extracts, and shotgun cartridges. These provisions are reciprocal, except in the case of floor rugs and shot-gun cartridges.
Article 13 provides for the admission of cocoa beans, the produce of Western Samoa, on the same terms as are granted under the Ottawa agreement, to cocoa beans, the produce of British nonself -governing colonies and mandated territories. ‘ Western Samoa is administered by New Zealand under mandate. No cocoa beans have hitherto been imported from Western Samoa.
With the exchange as at present, Australia has an advantage to a certain extent over the United Kingdom in competing for New Zealand trade. This is evident in recent figures showing the import trade df New Zealand. In several classes of trade in which the United Kingdom is interested, imports from the United Kingdom have fallen, while the imports of those goods from Australia have increased. For example -
It will be noted that iron and steel products supplied by Australia increased from £12,303 in 1930 to’ £147,178 in 1932.
This diversion of trade from the United Kingdom to Australia has caused the New Zealand Government much anxiety. The United Kingdom is practically the only market that New Zealand has. In 1932, the value of New Zealand’s exports totalled £37,000,000, of which £32,500,000 worth went to the United Kingdom. This fact, very naturally, leads New Zealand to prefer to obtain its import requirements from the United Kingdom rather than from any other country, including Australia. A. serious diversion of trade from the United Kingdom to Australia would also add substantially to the financial commitments of the New Zealand Government. That Government was convinced that while the exchange position remained as at present, the diversion of trade to Australia would continue, with an increasing momentum. So seriously was the position regarded, that at the time when it was decided to send an Australian delegation to New Zealand, the Government of that dominion was about to notify the Australian Government that it proposed to take steps to impose on Australian goods what amounted to an exchange dumping duty, sufficient to countervail the exchange advantage which Australia has over the United Kingdom. Such action would, of course, have had a ruinous effect on Australian trade, and it was with extreme difficulty that Senator Massy-Greene succeeded in diverting the New Zealand Government from immediate action. The discussion of the* subject resulted in an exchange of notes, the tenor of which is that, if the New Zealand Government is satisfied that after the 31st March, 1933, there has been a substantial diversion of New Zealand’s import trade from the United Kingdom to Australia, the New Zealand Government may make such diversion the subject of a communication to the Australian Government; and both governments undertake to endeavour to devise a satisfactory method of checking the diversion. If no such method is devised within a reasonable time, the New Zealand Government may then adopt such method as it thinks proper to prevent further diversion. For the purpose of the arrangement, a substantial diversion of trade will be deemed to have taken place in respect of any goods only if satisfactory evidence is produced of an appreciable decline in any period in the value of such goods imported from the United Kingdom and of an appreciable increase during the same period in the value of such goods imported from Australia. The basic period for the purpose of comparison is the year 1st April, 1932, to 31st March, 1933. The benefit of this arrangement is that New Zealand is debarred from penalizing Australian trade in this way without first discussing the matter with Australia with a view to suitable measures being adopted. If the occasion for such a discussion ever arises, the Australian Government will have a full opportunity to secure equitable treatment for Australian trade.
The preference granted Australia on raisins is subject to an undertaking by the Commonwealth Government that the Australian industry will supply all the reasonable requirements of New Zealand, and will not take advantage of the duty on foreign fruit to increase prices to New Zealand customers. In the event of this undertaking not being fulfilled, the New Zealand Government has the right to terminate the preference; but should such action be contemplated, the New Zealand Government will give due notice to the Commonwealth Government in order that reasonable opportunities may be available to the Commonwealth Government to make representations, and to offer information for consideration by the New Zealand Government before ‘ definite action is taken.
– Docs that apply only to lex i as?
– I presume that it covers lexias and sultanas.
An additional arrangement has been made in regard to seeded raisins, the effect of which is that the continuance of the preference is subject to the New Zealand. Government being satisfied that the seeded raisins supplied by Australia meet the reasonable requirements of the New Zealand market. The duty of Id. per lb. on foreign seeded raisins will, in any event, be maintained for at least twelve months.
A further benefit for the Australian dried fruit industry is provided for in an undertaking by the New Zealand Government that, if this agreement comes into force, it will take steps not later than the 1st January, 1934, to place Australian dried tree fruits, mainly dried apricots and dried peaches, on as favorable a footing as regards duty as similar fruit from any other country. At present, South African dried tree fruits are admitted into New Zealand free of duty, whereas similar Australian fruits are liable to a duty of 2d. per lb. In 1932, New Zealand imported dried fruits of this class to a value of £30,000. Practically all was supplied by South Africa. On equal terms with ‘South Africa as regards duty, Australia should be able to supply a considerable proportion, if not the whole, of this trade.
Article 10 of the existing agreement prevents any export rebate being allowed in respect of the sugar contained in any goods exported to New Zealand. In the proposed agreement this restriction is modified, by allowing an export rebate to be given provided that the result does not reduce the price, or cost, of such sugar below the New Zealand import parity, including New Zealand import duty, of sugar of a similar type. The effect of this modification will be to allow to Australia’s trade with New Zealand in goods containing sugar the benefit of a rebate, under present conditions, of about from £6 to £8 a ton of sugar, and this will be of material advantage in assisting the industries concerned to compete in the New Zealand market.
It will be noted that article 13 provides for the exclusion of Norfolk Island and Cook Islands from the scope of the agreement. The genesis of this article was a request by the New Zealand Government for an arrangement under which bananas from Cook Islands would be admitted on the same basis as Fijian bananas are admitted.
The proposed agreement embodies a sincere effort to effect as satisfactory a trade arrangement between the two countries as was possible under the condi- tions in which it was negotiated. As in every such arrangement in which compromises have to be made to reach definite results, this or that detail may be open to criticism; but the agreement considered as a whole safeguards Australian trade with New Zealand and offers scope for a reasonable expansion. New Zealand provides one of the very few markets for the manufactures of Australian secondary industries. Much the greater proportion of the trade consists of this class-of goods, and it is quite evident that it depends almost wholly on the preferences which the agreement ensures. It would be very unwise to fail to recognize the fact that in the absence of these preferences Australia’s trade with New Zealand would suffer a very serious setback. The agreement provides substantial and increasing benefits for our secondary industries. It safeguards the interests of our primary industries and offers them valuable advantages. It may be fairly claimed that it represents the maximum amount of benefit which it is possible, under present conditions, to obtain. New Zealand is the British dominion which is most closely related to Australia and with which for natural and obvious reasons a reciprocal flow of trade should exist, first on account of geographical proximity, and secondly on account of its more intimate association with Australia in peace and war. If the two countries could co-operate in war with results so glorious, can they not come together in times of peace and make such friendly arrangements as will promote their mutual interests? To some extent the two countries produce similar primary products, but, nevertheless, there is a sufficient diversity in their production to give scope for the making of a trade agreement which will secure advantages to each country. During the war, Australians and New Zealanders, serving together on Gallipoli in the Australian and New Zealand Expeditionary Forces, formed a bond of comradeship consummated in the imperishable word Anzac, which - was an inspiration for gallant endeavour, not only at the Dardanelles, but also in France, Palestine and Mesopotamia. There is no reason why that Anzac spirit of friendship and mutual support, begun in desperate times, should not continue and develop between the two sister dominions whose interests during the economically difficult days of peace are to co-ordinate in trade in the Empire and in the Pacific.
It is hoped that this agreement may do much towards that objective.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
– I move -
That from and after a time and date to be fixed by Proclamation, there be imposed on the importation into Australia of the goods specified in the Schedule hereto (being the produce or manufacture of New Zealand), when -
Duties of Customs as follows : -
On all’ goods other than those provided for in the last preceding sub-paragraph - duties at the rates in force under the British Preferential Tariff.
upon which, if they had been imported into Australia direct from the country of origin there would have been payable dutiesof Customs at the rates in force under the British Preferential Tariff, shall be imposed at the rates of duty in force under the British Preferential Tariff.
This motion is unusual because it concerns both sales tax and customs matters. It is complementary to the bill which has been introduced, and is merely the necessary machinery, to be approved by this Parliament, to enable the provisions of the agreement to be carried into effectit will be noticed that the provisions of the motion are not operative until a time and date to be fixed by proclamation. That is done to enable the contracting governments to implement their respective sides of the agreement simultaneously, subject of course to its acceptance by both Parliaments. The motion is itself explanatory and the matters referred to therein have already been covered in my secondreading speech on the ratifying bill. I, therefore, do not propose to occupy the time of the committee by a recapitulation of the details of the motion.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 4th October (vide page 3246), on motion by Mr. White -
That, in lieu of the duties of customs which may be levied in pursuance of section eight of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921-1922, there be collected duties of customs in accordance with the following provisions : -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that the exchange value of the currency of the country of origin of any goods has depreciated in relation to Australian currency, and that by reason of such depreciation goods have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at prices which will be detrimental to an Australian industry, the Minister may publish a notice in the Gazette specifying the country as to the exchange value of the currency of which he is so satisfied, and the goods originated in that country to which in his opinion the provisions of this resolution should apply.
Upon the publication of the notice, there shall be charged, collected and paid to the use of the King, for the purpose of the Commonwealth, on all goods specified in the notice and produced or manufactured in the country specified therein, a special duty ascertained as follows: - (a.) From the nominal par value in sterling of a unit of the currency of the country of origin of the goods there shall he deducted the value in Aus- tralian currency of the same unit at date of exportation of the goods.
The amount ascertained under the last preceding paragraph shall be divided by the value in Australian currency of a unit of the currency of the country of origin of the goods at the date of exportation of the goods.
The figure ascertained under the last preceding paragraph shall be multiplied by the value for duty of the goods assessed in accordance with the Customs Act 1901-1930.
– I do not know that it is necessary for me to speak on this motion, because . I fully explained it, on the 4th of October, in my somewhat lengthy speech on the Government’s proposals relating to primage and exchange. This motion could not be included in the bill which, was brought down yesterday implementing the Tariff Board’s recommendations Nos. 1, 2 and 3, because it involves an amendment of the Industries Preservation Act. It is therefore being brought down separately, and the bill is, of course, being prepared. I think that honorable members have read my second-reading speech with a certain amount of interest - puzzled interest perhaps - because of the rather algebraical formula which is to operate. We had to provide a method of dealing with depreciated currencies of foreign countries, and formula A, minus B, over B, is the one recommended by the Tariff Board. Honorable members have had issued to them a memorandum containing half a dozen examples of Spanish, Japanese, and other currencies. Take, for instance, the Japanese example, where A is the mint par value of the yen, and B is the Australian equivalent, the mint par value of the yen being approximately 24d., and the Australian equivalent, at the moment, 17d. We have to subtract 17 from 24, which leaves 7, put that over 17, which is the Australian equivalent, multiply it by 100 to obtain a percentage, and then we arrive at a cost of £41 9s. 4d. That is the symbol by which we may add to the Japanese cost, so as to load the value for duty.
– Is it intended to add this motion to the Industries Preservation Act as a new section ?
– Will honorable members have an. opportunity to discuss this matter- when the bill is brought down?
– Yes. The bill will be prepared when the motion is passed through committee. The motion is to be operated by a reference to the Tariff Board from the Minister, in which it is stated that unfair competition is taking place because of currency depreciation. The Tariff Board will then conduct an inquiry, and on its recommendation this provision’ of the amended Industries Preservation Act will be invoked. Honorable members have from time to time complained that the act does not adequately cover instances of dumping, and this motion will overcome that difficulty. The Government deems it advisable that this provision, instead of applying to all articles imported from a country with a depreciated currency, should apply only in specific instances, and not have general application. In that way, it will not’ apply nationally against any country, but only on specific items in respect of which complaint is made that the depreciated currency of the country in question has uncovered the Australian’ manufacturers to unfair competition.
– Is no other aspect of the Industries Preservation Act dealt with in the motion?
– The Industries Preservation Aci covers many factors, such as consignment and unfair competition with British goods, but the honorable member, as an ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, is well aware of that fact. This motion covers only one aspect of the act, and I ask honorable members to accept it.
.- As the Minister has stated, this motion deals with one aspect only of the Industries Preservation Act. It relates to the difference in currency, and applies only to those countries whose currency has depreciated in relation to Australian currency or sterling, but it does not take into consideration any of the other dumping provisions in the Industries Preservation Act, nor any of the other disabilities of Australian industries, such as industrial conditions, lower wages, and so on. . Obviously, those would have to be dealt with by the application of protective duties. This proposal purports to provide for Australian industries, in respect of any country with a depreciated currency, the rate of protection which Parliament meant them to enjoy. The formula is designed, in other words, to rectify the effect of a depreciated currency. An unkind person has said that doctors learn Latin so that they may write their . prescriptions in a language not understandable to their patients. The same applies to legal practitioners, who frequently use phrases of what one may call “dog” Latin, in order to prevent the ordinary man from understanding what they are saying. The Tariff Board, it seems to me, has emulated the legal and medical profession in adopting the algebraical terms given in this report. While’ reading the report I remembered my experience when I set out to study the Douglas theory of credit. I think the board could have done its work in a much simpler way. Without doubt these formulas have caused honorable members a great deal of difficulty. I am grateful to the Minister for having made available to me some . examples that he or his officers had worked out of the application of the formula. I studied these this morning, but as, in the main, they emphasize points that I had already noted.I shall not . use them on this occasion, though undoubtedly they are valuable.
The point that I wish to make quite definitely is that the formula recommended by the Tariff Board, and . adopted by the Government, does not do what we are told the Government desires to do.
– The right honorable member means that it does not go all the way.
– That is so. The disability of depreciated currency is notprovided against to the extent that it should be provided against. Whatever honorable members generally may think about our protective duties, they will agree, I am sure,, that if Parliament fixes what it regards as a fair rate of duty as a protection against a foreign country, it should not allow that degree of protection to be reduced in consequence of the depreciated currency of any such country. In my opinion, the formula submitted to us will certainly prevent our industries from enjoying the degree of protection against foreign countries that Parliament intended them to have. I, therefore, suggest that the formula should be reviewed.
– And applied both ways ?
– This formula is intended to apply only one way. The recommendation of the board with which we dealt yesterday applied the other way. To-day we are dealing with countries with depreciated currencies ; yesterday we were dealing with countries with appreciated currencies. This recommendation cannot, of course, apply both ways. I think that even the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will agree that if Parliament provides a 50 per cent, protection for Australian goods against foreign goods, that protection should be kept effective. We should not allow it to be whittled down by the depreciated currency of a country. The formula now before us is deficient for the reason that it does not meet the situation adequately. I direct the attention of honorable members to Example 4, which appears on page 10 of the board’s report. -I take this example because the circumstances set out approximate those existing between Australia and Japan. The Minister told us that the nominal or par gold value of the yen is 24d., and that the Australian currency value of it is l7d. Using the formula and deducting 17 from 24, we get 7 over 17, which, multiplied by 100, gives us approximately 41 per cent. Let us take it as 40 per cent. If the difference between Australian currency and the currency of another country were 40 per cent, the situation that I will now outline would apply. Example No. 4 deals with goods the landed cost of which ls valued, in the first place, at £2,100. Where the currency in the country of origin is 40 per cent, the landed cost of those goods in Australia, after adding a 60 per cent, duty, would he £2,220 in Australian currency, instead, of £3,360 if the two countries’ currencies were at par. The difference between the two is £1,140 ; but only £480 would be added under this formula. The shortage would be £660. The formula, therefore, would not make up even half the discrepancy. That is a most serious, fault. I cannot understand why the board did not adequately meet the situation when itset out to do so. If Australia is to be flooded with imported goods from foreign countries with depreciated currencies in comparison with the currency of this country, our industries will find themselves in a desperate position.
I quite agree with the decision of the Government not to apply this formula to any nation as a nation, or to every article of goods from any particular country, but to apply it specifically to specific goods. That is a common-sense attitude. But I quarrel with the Government - if I may use that term - in not doing the job’ properly, and with the Tariff Board in not recommending that it be done completely.
Honorable members may say that, having criticized the Government’s proposal, I should offer on.e in place of it. My Government did consider what could be done to meet the case of countries with appreciated currencies; but the exchanges were so unstable at that time, and the possibility of alterations so likely, that we felt that action would be premature. I am convinced, however, that the first step that the Government should take is to value imported goods in Australian currency, and not in sterling, as is done to-day. In my opinion, it is an accident that our legislation is phrased as it is. When the Customs .Act was passed, sterling and Australian currency were at par, and the general impression was that Australian currency, was sterling. So far as I am aware, the point was not raised at that time. It only emerged when we got away from sterling. We then learned from our legal advisers that Australian currency was not sterling. Now that we have to value imports in sterling, and not in Australian currency, we are in a very difficult position. The effectiveness of our protective policy swings round the point whether goods shall be valued in Australian currency or in sterling. Objection may be taken that, to value imports in Australian currency, would increase the rate of duty.
– It would to-day.
– It need not necessarily do so. It certainly would do so if the rates of duty were not adjusted.
– To give effect to the right honorable member’s proposal, we should have to revise all the British preferential duties in our tariff schedule.
– Even so, that would not be difficult. If it had been taken in hand before the last consolidated schedule was submitted to Parliament, it could have been done almost automatically. Had it been done then, we should have cut the ground from beneath those people who are to-day talking about our high rates of duty. If we valued imports in Australian currency, a duty of 50 per cent, could, without reducing the protection to an Australian industry, be converted into a duty of approximately 40 per cent., which would not look nearly so formidable when we came to deal with foreign countries, or to participate in international conferences.
However, if that proposal be not acceptable to the Government, an addition to the formula recommended by the Tariff Board could be made which would help to relieve the situation. I refer honorable members again to example ‘No. 4 with the object of pointing out that the application of the formula will give countries with depreciated currencies a very great advantage. In the case of Japan, for instance, the existing situation gives importers a double advantage. Because of the depreciated yen, importers can buy Japanese goods with Australian money at a considerable reduction. “When the goods arrive here, the 60 per cent, protective duty, mentioned in example No. 4, is added to the landed cost of goods bought with Australian money. This means that the original duty is based on a much lower cost than the value of the goods in the currency of the country of origin. The addition of 60 per cent, duty to a parcel of goods valued at £2,100 would bring the cost up to £3,360; but where the depreciation of the currency is 40 per cent., the actual landed cost of the goods, plus the duty, is only £2,220. Yet this formula provides for the addition of only £4S0 to the price of the goods. The result, obviously, is that the Australian industry is not being protected.
I do not know that any more need be said on the subject. Honorable members should ask themselves whether they are satisfied with this situation. My opinion is that the adoption of this formula will have extremely undesirable effects, for it will undoubtedly expose Australian industries to unfair competition from countries with depreciated currencies. Let us accept for a moment the argument adduced by the honorable member for Gippsland, who said that he was satisfied with the exchange rate between. Australian currency and sterling, because the Australian manufacturer received at least 12£ per cent, of added protection. I characterize that as his case, and accept it a.3 such for the sake of illustrating my point. Assuming that we impose a duty on an article imported from Great Britain and that the honorable member is right . in saying that the Australian manufacturers are receiving the protection of 40 per cent, against Britain plus 1 2-J- per cent, and 60 per cent, against certain foreign countries plus 25 per cent. That may be said to be a higher protection than Parliament desires. But under the present proposal the duty may prove to be lower against certain foreigners than Parliament agreed upon. Surely that is not intended. I do not object^ to the Australian manufacturers deriving advantage because, as honorable members are aware, I am an uncompromising protectionist; but even if honorable members wish to maintain the margin of preference given by Parliament to Great Britain, they will lose by accepting this formula in its application to foreign countries whose currency in relation to Australian currency is depreciated. We are indebted to the Tariff Board for the examples set out in these mathematical statements, but I submit that the formula could have been ma’de simpler and easier for us to grasp. Take the case of a country whose currency is depreciated by, say, 20 per cent, as against Australian currency, and we find that the landed cost of goods valued at £2,100 would, with a 60 per cent, duty, be £2,590, whereas the landed cost at par would be £3,360, or a difference of £770. That is to say, that the goods purchased from a country in which the currency is depreciated could be landed very much cheaper because of the depreciated currency. The recommended addition to make up for that £770 in the example given in the Tariff Board’s report is £280. The difference between £770 and £2S0 represents the reduced protection to an Australian industry.
– You would not buy an article for the same number of depreciated yen as you would if the yen were at its former value.
– Therefore, the honorable member’s argument about altering the rate falls to the ground.
– The same thing applies to what the right honorable gentleman said yesterday; it cuts both ways.
– It does not cut both ways, because depreciation of currency in the hulk of the countries of the world is a disability to Australian industries. The value of exports from exporting countries is based upon world’s parity, and are raised, in terms of Australian currency, by reason of the rate of exchange. If our imports of raw material are from countries whose currency is appreciated compared with ours, exchange has to be added to the cost of the imported raw material. The assumption of the honorable member that it cuts both ways may stand in theory, but does not in actual practice. We are not protecting Australian industries from importations from foreign countries as we are protecting them from importations from Great Britain. This formula falls far short of what it sets out to do, and that is the gravest criticism that can be levelled against it.
– I have been very interested in the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). I have to admit that in studying this subject, as set out in recommendation No. 4 of the Tariff Board’s report, I had to go through a certain amount of mental anguish before I succeeded in discovering what it meant. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that it might have been possible to set out what is in the minds of the members of the Tariff Board in a much simpler way than by the method chosen. I do not, however, agree with all that has been said by the Leader of the Opposition. It is true that this formula does not set out to impose a sufficient additional burden upon importers from countries whose currency is depreciated to make up the full amount of the currency depreciation ; that is obvious to any one who looks at the examples supplied by the Tariff Board ; but we have to take into consideration the factor which the right honorable gentleman emphasized so well yesterday, that a country with depreciated currency from which we might purchase goods is put to a certain amount of additional expense in purchasing its raw. material. If what the Leader of the Opposition said were absolutely accurate in every detail, it would be equally reasonable to say that the Tariff Board should have brought down a recommendation to deduct the full 25 per cent, from existing duties in order to offset the advantage to Australian manufacturers of the sterling exchange rate; but yesterday the right honorable, member was most particular in showing that Australian manufacturers do not enjoy the full benefit of the exchange rate owing to the additional cost of raw materials and so on. Exactly the same thing applies in connexion with a country like Japan which has been mentioned. Australian wool worth about ls. a lb. in our money, and purchased very freely from us by Japan, costs Japan, with its depreciated currency, about ls. 5d. a lb. Consequently when Japanese manufacturers sell their textiles they must charge more for them expressed in terms pf yen than they would in normal circumstances. The same thing applies to their purchases of cotton, and it is just as necessary that the Tariff Board should not go too far in attempting to make up the whole of the currency leeway between Australia and Japan as it is to refrain from bridging the whole gap between sterling and our own currency in dealing with imports coming here from Britain. The Tariff Board’s recommendation embodied in the measure dealt with yesterday involved a deduction in some cases of 2§ per cent, on a 10 per cent, duty and a deduction of 5 per cent, on a 20 per cent, duty with a. maximum of 12) per cent, on a 50 per cent duty.
– It has not gone even half way in the case of certain foreign countries.
– The Tariff Board only goes half way in offsetting the advantage of the exchange in high rates of duty such as 50 per cent. We have to remember that countries such as Japan, whose currency is depreciated, experience great disabilities when purchasing from other countries the raw materials which form the basis of the goods they manufacture.
– The Tariff Board did not go the whole way in regard to Great Britain, because it wanted to ensure protection for Australian industries. We are also anxious to ensure protection from foreign countries.
– Depreciated currency entails additional cost to the Japanese manufacturer purchasing raw. materials in just the same way as itadds to the cost of imported raw materials for Australian manufacturers. We have to be fair and look at the matter, not only from the viewpoint of Australia, but also from that of the other country concerned. As I understand this formula, it provides this: The duty is imposed in the ordinary way on a sterling basis, and, that being so, it is lower than it would be if the currency were functioning in the ordinary way. After imposing the duty on a sterling basis we then proceed to ascertain to what extent the currency of the exporting country has fallen below our own. If we find that it has fallen to the extent of one-fifth we proceed to add one-fifth to the f.o.b.value of the exporting country’s goods. That is all that this formula sets out to do. By adding that amount to the value of the goods we make up the full difference of the depreciation to the extent of the f.o.b. value; but it does not make up the difference in the case of the duty. I think that the formula goes as far as we can reasonably expect, particularly when we consider the other points that have been stressed concerning . the extra cost of raw materials to the country with a depreciated currency. I do not know whether what I have said is clear, but this is a somewhat complicated question on which I have spoken without preparation. To me the merit of this proposal of the Tariff Board, its moderation, is apparently the very thing which has repelled the Leader of the Opposition. I think that it goes as far as we ought to go when we consider the added costs of manufacturers in countries whose currencies are depreciated when purchasing their raw material.
.- I have no intention of joining in the technical discussion between the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), but I should like to call attention to the principle adopted in this legislation, and to say that I heartily agree with the action of the Government in dealing in this way with these questions and of incorporating a provision in the Industries Preservation Act applying this formula only with respect to Australian industries which are worthy of protection. It seems to me that this is the most important aspect of this question, because although we are concerned with the protection of Australian industries, at the same time, insofar as our purchases from Japan of materials which cannot be economically manufactured in Australia are concerned, we desire to obtain the utmost we can for the goods which we sell to Japan. If goods are cheap in that country because of the depreciated yen, and we are able to obtain more goods for our goods than was previously the case, it will represent a tremendous advantage to Australia. It will enable it to obtain better ‘value from the goods it purchases, and to overcome the low prices that have been obtained for its exportable products. Because of that, I congratulate the Government for having incorporated this proposal in’ the Industries Preservation Act, which is where it should be, as it will confine their operations to specific limits. If the battle of exchanges is continued, it will prove to be even worse than the battle of the tariffs, which has been in progress ever since the war ended. If nations generally are going to use the depreciation of their exchange as a substitute for raising their tariffs to keep up economic nationalism, it is necessary to fight that practice, -and the sooner and more generally it is fought throughout the world, the sooner will the depreciation of exchange come to an end; because it will not be worth while.
I notice from the press that the South African Government recently took action to deal with this matter, by providing that, for exchange purposes, the yen shall be valued at 23.35 pence, whereas its present value is 15 pence. But that is to apply only insofar as six or seven industrial and other products of South Africa are concerned.
– The proposal of this Government will apply to every article that comes from Japan.
– I do not think so: it applies only to industries that are commercial ‘propositions in Australia, and if I am mistaken, I should like the Minister to correct me. The resolution provides that -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that the exchange value of the currency of the country of origin of any goods has depreciated in relation to Australian currency, and that by reason of such depreciation goods have been, or are being, sold to an importer in Australia at prices which will be detrimental to an Australian industry. . . . he may take certain action. The Australian industry specified will have to substantiate its case. I should prefer to see the Government follow the example of the’ South African Government and state the items concerned.
– In reply to an interjection, the Minister said that it would take the Tariff Board no time whatever to find out what would be the difference in the currency of the two countries concerned.
– I should like the Minister to answer my question, because if my conjecture is incorrect, I shall not support the proposal of the Government. I understand that the purpose of these proposals is simply to protect specific industries from unfair competition as a result of the depreciation of currency in other countries, and that it will apply only to specific items. .
– That is so.
– I still express a preference for the system adopted by South Africa in connexion with which the Times Trade and Engineering Supplement, of Saturday, 26th August, 1933, makes the- following statement: -
The goods, which will have to carry an additional 8.35’d. for every yen of their value, are men’s and boys’ hats other than tweeds, bottles and jars other than beer and mineral water types, paints and colours other than artists’ and dry pigments, and matches, though the dumping duties are not to be’ in excess of half the value of the goods. Thus the substantial benefits which Japan has been securing through the depreciated yen are at an end. The Government’s object is to protect local industries, for all the articles mentioned are made in South Africa.
I should like to have at least an assurance from the Government that it intends to deal with specific items only, always for the purpose of benefiting Australian industry.
– The bill will provide that goods shall be dealt with specifically.
.- I have no objection to the proposals of the Government when we have to deal with an exchange, that has been devalued in comparison with our own; but that is only a fair procedure in regard to industry generally. I gathered from an interjection made by the Minister that it was merely a matter of adjusting the value of exchange, that the Tariff Board could quickly report as to the extent by which a currency had depreciated, and the resultant calculation would apply to all importations from the country which had that’ depreciated exchange,
– It will apply only to specified, items. t
– I am sorry that any country has been mentioned during this debate. We are dealing with countries which have a currency that has depreciated to a greater extent than our own; and it is undesirable, especially when those countries arc our good customers, to make any statements that are likely to create friction between them and Australia. We have had too many embargoes and ‘near-embargoes enforced against our wheat, apples, and other primary products, and we should be careful not to do anything that will still further retard Australian export trade.
I must refer to the inconsistency of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who failed yesterday to assist the Country party when it wanted support for an amendment which it had sponsored, relating to countries on the gold standard.
– That proves my consistency.
– Yes, in looking after only one section of the community.
– No, in looking after Australia generally.
– I had intended, when, the bill came before the committee, to move for the insertion of a new clause reading -
Every notice published by the Minister in pursuance of this section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament and shall be subject to disallowance as if it were a resolution.
The Australian Industries Preservation Act gives the Minister considerable powers to increase taxation by proclamation, and I want to ensure that either House of Parliament shall have the opportunity to disallow any such proclamations.
- Mr. Speaker Watt ruled that a bill founded on a resolution of a committee of ways and means could not be extended beyond the scope of that resolution, and that an amendment which added a new clause to a bill, thereby going beyond the scope of the resolution, was not in order. ‘ With that ruling I am in thorough accord.
– In order that the subject may be debated, I move -
That the following- now paragraph be lidded: - (1a.) - “Every notice publisher by the Minister in pursuance of this section shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament and shall be subject to disallowance as if it were a regulation “.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) brought this matter forward on a previous occasion, and it was the intention of the Government to consider the proposal in reference to a small customs bill that was introduced last year. As the amendment is most reasonable, the Government is prepared to accept it.
.- While I do not take exception to the amendment, I wish to avoid any difficulties into which it might lead us. I remind honorable members that regulations which are proclaimed when Parliament is in recess may be disallowed by it within fifteen sitting days after the House meets. In this case, the desire is that any notice published by the Minister shall have the same effect as a regulation and be subject to disallowance by either House.
I should like to be sure on the matter, and suggest that the amendment- be accepted subject to later amendment here or in another place.
– I am assured that, if the Parliament is in recess when a notice is issued, it will be subject to objection at any time within fifteen days of the next meeting of the Parliament.
– We must be careful to see that the amendment i3 properly drafted, so that the intention of the committee will be given effect in the bill that is to be founded upon this resolution.
I sympathize with what the Minister has said, but I should like to have from him a reply to the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). If the Parliament decides that a certain protective duty shall be imposed, and subsequently tlie depreciation of currency in a country from which goods are imported destroys that basis, will it be restored by the application of this formula? Is the Government satisfied that equivalent protection - no more and no less - will ba siiven ?
– The Tariff Board has indicated that it will not be an equivalent.
– As the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) has pointed out, the board may have considered the matter only in relation to the cost of raw materials. But are there not other factors which ought also to be considered? I should like to have the assurance of the Minister that fair and reasonable protection will be given.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has proved conclusively that this provision may absolutely set at nought a decision of Parliament. I should like to know whether the Tariff Board, in considering the case of an Australian industry from the point of view of depreciated currency, will be able to make a recommendation only in accordance with this formula, even though it may have sworn testimony that the effect may be to cause serious injury to, or even to smash, the industry.
– The Government will be absolutely limited to this formula if the Tariff Board recommends that there is a case for its application.
– If we accept the proposition in its present form, we may prevent ourselves from doing an act of justice. Surely this Parliament will not handcuff itself in that way ! I can understand the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), the Deputy Leader (Mr. Paterson), and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) being abundantly satisfied with such a proposition if it will once more open the door to outside competition. The Tariff Board i3 tying its own hands to the extent that it will not be able to apply justly an act that it is sworn to administer fairly. The complicated situation of the world to-day in regard to exchange, currency, and other factors, presents difficulties and intricacies that were not encountered by previous parliaments. This principle has never been applied to any court of law. The Tariff Board, which is in the nature of a court, is supposed to deal out evenhanded justice to all who appear before it. If we tie it down to this proposition, it will not be able to render that justice Which is absolutely essential to prevent Australian industries from being wiped out.
.- The very fine speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) demands an adequate reply by the Minister; because we are assured that, after the Tariff Board has submitted a recommendation, and certain imports, the product of a country with a currency depreciated compared with ours, have been gazetted, safeguarding protection against those products, can be worked out only in accordance with this formula. In the illustrations that he gave, the Leader of the Opposition proved conclusively that this safeguarding protection falls far short of what it should be; that it will leave quite a number of Australian industries vulnerable to outside competition and will whittle away the preference intended to be given to British manufacturers. We shall not be protecting Australian industries against imports from Japan comparatively to the same extent as we are safeguarding them against imports from Great Britain. It was never intended that Japanese manufacturers should be placed on a better footing than those of Great Britain in exploiting the Australian market. I can understand the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Country party being jubilant, because this is in accordance with their fiscal views, in that it whittles away the protectionist policy of Australia.
– It does not; it adds another cost, but not to the extent desired by the honorable member.
– That additional cost falls far short of what should be added to counteract the depreciated currency of the country of production. That was proved conclusively by the figures given by the Leader of the Opposition. The Deputy Leader of the Country party could not successfully challenge those figures. I hope that the Minister will give further consideration to this question. Parliament has agreed to certain protection for Australian industries. In the last twelve months or .so there has been a phenomenal increase of imports from Japan and other, countries.
– Japan buys from us three times as much as we buy from her.
– I appreciate the fact that Japan is a good customer of Australia. I point out, however, that it purchases our merino wool because it realizes that it cannot obtain wool of the same quality in any other country. That Japan understands the Australian viewpoint in regard to the protection of industries is shown by its cabled communication to the Minister. I contend that the general application of recommendation 4 of the Tariff Board would mean a greater imposition on Japanese goods than would its application only when items were gazetted. I take it that Australian manufacturers will have to lodge a complaint with the Minister when depreciation of currency benefits an importer of goods, and that the Minister will then refer the matter to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. Oan the honorable gentleman assure us that he will depute officers of his department to keep a watchful eye on importations, and where it is thought that dumping is taking place, will automatically have an investigation by the Tariff Board? What guarantee have Australian manufacturers that there will not be considerable delay in the investigation of cases that come under notice? Three, four, or five months may elapse before a report is submitted by the Tariff Board. Should that happen, some Australian industries will be placed in jeopardy, and may have to dismiss hundreds of hands. The expeditious handling of this question is absolutely essential. It is known that the Tariff Board is so fully occupied in the investigation of requests for increased duties, that it will find it extremely difficult to deal promptly with applications under this proposal. What alternative does the Minister suggest? What guarantee can he give that there will be no considerable delay on the part of the Tariff Board in investigating the various items that will be referred to it under this amending legislation? Frequently it happens that imports which cause unfair competition continue to enter this country for some considerable time before the Australian manufacturers become aware of the fact, and then only as the result of the loss of large orders from buying firms. In any case, it would probably take three or four months before any investigation by the Tariff Board could be completed, and by that time the damage would be done. The Leader <of the Opposition has , -pointed out that this formula does not go far enough. It will provide some measure of redress against dumping from countries of depreciated currency, but it is not sufficient to safeguard the protection which has been laid down by this Parliament for Australian industries.
Amendment agreed to.
– Honorable members have asked for some further information, because, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has said, the formula of the Tariff Board does not make up the complete leeway of currency depreciation. That was also the case in respect of the recommendation on the British exchange, which only went part of the way.
– For the same reason in both instances.
– The board in its report . considered that a reasonable addition to the duty would be a fraction of the value for duty, the fraction to be determined by a formula which it gave as A minus B over B.
– That is supposed to make up the leeway.
– The board did not say so, but there are other factors such as internal costs which must increase because of currency depreciation in other countries.
– Would that make up for more than half of the landed cost?
– That is difficult to determine. The Industries Preservation Act contains a schedule dating back to 1925, when the German mark was rapidly depreciating. As something definite had to be done, a schedule of additional duties to counteract exchange depreciation in various countries was brought down. In the case of Japan, taking the, yen as depreciated to 16d., the special duty was 21 per cent. Now it is from 31 per cent, to 47-J per cent., representing an increase of nearly 50 per cent. During the regime of the Scullin Government, although the currency of certain countries depreciated, no steps were taken to counteract it.
– Did the yen depreciate to the extent that it has now?
– As a matter of fact, the yen was at par. The Minister cannot name one country in which the currency had at that time depreciated to any extent.
– The Scullin Government took no action to relieve Great Britain, through our own depreciation. Take for instance, Japanese toys which were referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) last night. On those goods, there is a foreign duty of 60 per cent., and a special duty of 30 per cent. Now, on account of depreciation, an additional duty of 40 per cent, may be imposed. Although the Government is taking steps to provide increased duties which will definitely assist the local manufacturer, it does not pretend that they will completely offset the depreciation of currency in other countries. It is a little illogical that we should still use sterling for calculating duties whether they are paid on British or foreign goods. Although the last Government did give consideration to a proposal to base duties on Australian currency, it took no definite action.
– At that time, there was no stability.
– Had such a proposal been given effect, it would have meant a revision of the whole tariff schedule. This has been a tariff year, and the Government has accomplished something which no other Government has attempted since 1’922. It is giving to the Commonwealth a clean schedule, and, at the same time, has seized the opportunity to bring in the consideration of currency depreciation, and to give Great Britain -a benefit at the expense of other countries who are operating unfairly against Australia.
– The Government is not making up the leeway.
– Not completely.
– The benefit of the doubt should be given to Australian industries.
– We do not wish to go further than is necessary. After all, J apan buys about 34 times as much’ as we buy from her. That country’s wool purchases alone from us have increased from 50,000 bales in 1920, to 650,000 bales in 1932. Honorable members opposite talk loosely about the Japanese menace. I say that the word “ menace “ should never be used in relation to that country.
– Who used it to-day?
– It was used last night by one honorable member. We should value our friendship and trade with a nation that is buying so much from us, and should not antagonize it by making ill-considered statements.
– The Minister has no right to imply that any honorable member on this side of the chamber has aroused antagonism against any other country.
– The reference of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) last night to “the J apanese menace “ could be interpreted to be, at any rate, unfriendly to a nation that is friendly with us. Under section 4 of the Industries Preservation Act, any goods sold for export at a price less than the domestic value are subject to a dumping duty. Under section 5, any goods sold below cost may be subject to a dumping duty. Under section 6, any goods sold on consignment may be subject to a dumping duty. Under section 7, a dumping freight duty may be applied. Under section S, with which we are now dealing, a dumping duty may be applied in respect of depreciated currencies. Under section 9, a dumping preference duty may be applied. What more is necessary to protect Australian industries ? I have already admitted that this provision does not make up the complete leeway after the depreciated currency has been converted into sterling, but after all, this is an experimental provision. We have made a great concession to Great Britain, and we shall be able, under this provision, to restrict the imports of any nation which, by reason of its depreciated currency, may be undermining our own manufactures. I am certain that, as a result of the Government’s action, which is based on the recommendation of the Tariff Board relating to the incidence of primage and exchange, Australia will have the benefit of a largely increased trade.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– If the motion is amended as suggested by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) a new principle will be embodied in our legislation. The object of the motion in its original form is to enable the Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, to take certain action in regard to goods imported from countries with depreciated currencies. It is provided that upon the publication of a notice in the Gazette, duties shall be charged on a certain basis. The object of the amendment is to empower either House of the Parliament by resolution to disallow the imposition of such duties. We are, therefore, asked to allow a customs matter to be dealt with as if it were a regulation. The suggestion is that the procedure for the disallowance of a Gazette notice dealing with this subject shall be exactly similar to that followed for the disallowance of a regulation. It may happen, therefore, that at some time when ‘Parliament is in recess the Minister may publish a notice in the Gazette that will have theimmediate effect of increasing a rate of duty. ‘ But, subsequently, when Parliament re-assembles, either House may, by resolution, disallow the imposition of the duty. In the meantime, duties will have been collected and the goods will have passed into general use. The making of any refund of duty would, in such circumstances, be very difficult.
– If the duty were disallowed a refund would have to made.
– I am seeking to indicate the alteration in procedure that we are now asked to endorse. I must say that I prefer the original proposal of the Government. At present duties can be repealed only by the action of both Houses of Parliament. It would be wise to adhere to the Government’s original intention.
.- If the amendment is agreed to the new procedure would not differ materially from that now in vogue. At present increases of duty provided for in schedules tabled by the Government take immediate effect -without parliamentary approval. If the amendment is agreed to the new duties proclaimed would also become operative at once. Itis true that Parliament would have no say in that matter, but it has no say at present.
– Parliament has to ratify all duties.
– It is always very difficult to obtain refunds of revenue if higher duties that have been imposed are not approved by Parliament.
– But if the amendment is agreed to duties may be disallowed by one House.
– I cannot see any substantial difference between the procedure now proposed and that which we already follow.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong)[8.8]. - The honorable member for Darling Downs has raised an important point. The Tariff Board will be called upon to submit a report, and the Minister will act upon it; but either House of the Parliament may subsequently disapprove of the Minister’s action. I have no desire to speak disrespectfully of the Senate, but I suggest that it would be entirely contrary to our procedure in tariff matters to allow the Senate, by its own resolution, to disallow a duty. I can conceive of the most objectionable situations arising if duties are disallowed on the resolution of either House. If one House is to be placed in a more authoritative position than the other in this respect,’ I say, unhesitatingly, that this chamber should take precedence. It is unthinkable surely that the Senate should be allowed to ride roughshod over this House. If the amendment of the honorable member for Swan is retained, extraordinary difficulties will arise for the Parliament, the Government, the Tariff Board, and the customs officers. I hope the Government will revert to its original proposal.
.- Apparently the Minister give his assent too readily to the proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). He seems not to have thought about the difficulties that will arise if refunds of revenue have to be made in consequence of the disallowance of any aetion he may take during a parliamentary recess. Goods on whicli the increased duties have been imposed will have passed into consumption, and it will be impossible to follow them. The members of this chamber are more strongly protectionist in their sentiments than those of the Senate. During the regime of the last Government many tariff proposals approved by this chamber were defeated in another place. It would be unfortunate for any government if. the members of another place could, by the mere carrying of . a motion, disallow duties which had been imposed. I ask the Minister to give an assurance that steps will be taken to safeguard the revenue in the event of the motion being carried in the amended form desired by the honorable member for Swan. It is probable that the position could be met by the immediate introduction of another tariff schedule to restore duties disallowed by another place, but the adoption of that coursewould cut right across the spirit of this amendment.
.- Certainly the honorable member for Darling Downs’ (Sir Littleton Groom) has raised an important point. Unfortunately, the honorable member who moved the amendment is not now in the chamber. When the Government intimated that it would accept the amendment, it was understood that it would be restated in certain respects for greater clarity. A customs bill was introduced into the Senate some time ago with the object of correcting certain anomalies, and the honorable member for Swan was anxious at that time that power should be given to disallow duties which Parliament had not validated. I suggest that the motion be carried in its amended form, and that any amendment found to be necessary be made in another place.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. White and Mr, Guy do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. White, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has admitted, as has every other honorable member who has spoken on the subject, that the proposal of the Government does not adequately meet the situation by protecting Australian industries. On the one hand, it has been claimed that the depreciated currency of a foreign country renders it liable to cer- ‘ tain disabilities with regard to the purchase of its raw materials, but no honorable member who pays regard to the disparity in the figures- that were used this afternoon disclosing that this proposal does not go much more than onethird of the way towards meeting the position, can argue, at any rate with good reason, that the disabilities which’ will be suffered by a manufacturer in a foreign country which has a depreciated currency will anything like balance the disabilities likely to be suffered by the Australian manufacturer by competition from that foreign country. It has been claimed that, taking the cost of a group of articles as £2,100 in the country with the depreciated currency, those articles will be landed here at £1,140 less than if the currency of that country were at par,. And £480 is the only addition that is to be made under the present proposal ! It is absurd to claim that that will offset the disadvantages under which our manufacturers have to labour. The Minister has claimed that there are certain other matters which will offset those difficulties, but he has not been specific. Therefore, I protest against the Government’s proposal, and I doubt whether it will be as effective as the section of the act which it is intended to repeal, although I do not like that section, because its operation is in many cases clumsy, having notification to apply to a specific country. I dislike the present proposal because I regard it as inadequate.
The Minister deprecated the fact that “ Japan “ was mentioned at one stage of the debate by way of illustration, claiming that it might cause enmity between Australia and that country. I do not think one word has been said that could do that.
– Last night the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) referred to “ the Japanese menace “.
– The honorable member referred only to the menace of the loss of trade to that country, and his remark cannot be interpreted in any other way.
– I hope that that is the case.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that that is so. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports would be the last person in this chamber to provoke enmity, and that may also be said of any other member on this side of the chamber. The hope of the world lies in cementing friendships. However, that does not mean that we should allow countries to send their goods to Australia to the detriment of our industries and people. No nation can take umbrage when another country imposes an effective protection for its own industries, and no nation has been more intent upon doing that than the one which has been mentioned. As a matter of fact, documents which were distributed at the World Economic Conference, showing the extent to which various countries have erected tariff barriers, indicate that Australia’s action in this direction pales into insignificance compared with that of many other countries.
Much has been said about the barriers raised by European countries alleged against Australian primary products.
Germany did not raise barriers against our wheat merely to retaliate against Australia, but in order that its farmers should be encouraged to grow more wheat, to preclude any repetition of its experience when it was blockaded during the last war. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) asked the Minister to give an assurance that the proposals of the Government meet the situation adequately - in other words that they give Australian industries that measure of protection which is expressed in the report of the Tariff Board against countries which have depreciated currencies. I submit that the facts and figures which are stated in that report prove conclusively that the action of the Government is inadequate, and the admissions by the Minister afford added proof in that direction. The Government is not even preserving the margin of difference to British industries; therefore, it is only right that a protest should be made against its proposals.
.- But for the protest that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin)’ I should not have spoken again on the subject, as it has been exhaustively debated. The right honorable gentleman bases his criticism on the argument that the proposal of the Government does not bring the costs of an industry in a country which has a depreciated currency up to the level of an industry in a country which is on the gold standard.
– No, on a par with Australia, which is a different thing. The Government ought to introduce a formula that will not cut down our protective duties because of the depreciated currency of another country with which we trade.
– In other words, the right honorable gentleman wants a formula which would completely nullify the effect of the depreciated currency in that other country. He also used a similar argument against the reduction of duties to Great Britain, but in that case Australia was the country with the depreciated currency. If a country like J apan, which has a depreciated currency as compared with our own, has to buy its raw materials outside of its own territory - and Japan has to do that, for she is the second greatest buyer of Australia’s wool, and also has to buy her cotton, rubber and other raw materials abroad - the result is that her internal costs are raised as she buys with a depreciated yen. That must be patent to the right honorable gentleman. It would not, then, be a fair thing to take the full amount of the depreciation on any goods that that country exported any more than it would be fair for us to allow the full depreciation against Great Britain. In the case of Great Britain, we have deducted only onequarter of the duty, or 12^ per cent, of the value of the goods, whichever is the less. The Tariff Board recommends that, when dealing with a country which has a depreciated currency, a reasonable addition to the duty will be a fraction of the value of the duty, that fraction to be determined by a formula which is embodied in its report. In the examples which are given it is clearly shown that the formula does not make up the margin of difference in the costs between the two countries; but as I have pointed out, on toys that are imported from Japan, there is a 60 per cent, duty, plus a further special duty of 30 per cent., plus freight and landing charges. The result is that our industries will not be jeopardized.
– I am very doubtful on that score.
– The honorable gentleman has no monopoly of sympathy for Australian secondary industries. The fact that Australia is much more prosperous now than it was two years ago indicates, not only that the Government appreciates the point of view of the manufacturer, but also that it keeps in mind the great primary industries, on which our prosperity depends. Similar direful prophecies were made when the Ottawa agreement was being considered. If honorable members learn that any industry is suffering as the result of this legislation, let them bring the matter forward in this House. These jeremiads are invariably uttered by honorable members who wish to give effect to their own ideas as to the duties that should be imposed, instead of leaving the matter to a qualified board, which can make a proper survey of the position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Exchange special duty).
.- The bill does not appear to contain the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), which was embodied in the resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, although the Minister assured me that it would. Should it not be inserted now?
.- The opinion seems to be widely held that this matter should be more fully considered. The terms of the amendment are acceptable to the Government, but doubts have arisen as to the accuracy of its drafting and its possible effect.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
.- I move-
That any amendment made in the schedule of the bill by the committee shall have effect on and after the day following the day the amendment is made, excepting where the committee otherwise decides or the contrary intention appears.
This is a formal machinery amendment, and is necessary to obviate the insertion of the date of operation of any requests that are agreed to, or any amendments to requests which may be moved.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 9 (Application of British preferential tariff to the non-self-governing colonies).
Senate’s request -
After sub-clause (2) add the following new sub-clause: -
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
Its aim is to provide an added safeguard to the Australian banana-growing industry against the possibility of unequal competition with imports from other countries, especially those having lower living standards than ours, and enjoying the advantages of cheaper labour.
.- Are concessions to be given only to the eastern States of Australia?
– This is in accordance with the Ottawa agreement.
– Under the Ottawa agreement, preferences are given to other British dominions. I assume that, if Western Australia wished to obtain bananas from any other British nonselfgoverning colony, such as Singapore, it would not be permitted to do so. I contend that there should not be such a restriction.
Motion agreed to.
Spirit’s and spirituous liquors n.e.i. -
Whisky, including liqueur whisky -
When not exceeding the strength of proof, per gallon - British, 45s.; general, 48s.
When exceeding the strength of proof, per proof gallon - British, 45s.; general, 48s.
Senate’s request -
Amend sub-item to make it -
Whisky, including liqueur whisky -
.- I move-
That the requested amendment be made with the following modifications : - And on and after the 5th October, 1933: - per proof gallon, British, 14s.
When not exceeding the strength of proof, per gallon, British, 40s.; general, 43s.
When exceeding the strength of proof, per proof gallon, British, 40s.; general, 43s.
These modifications, which represent reductions, are made for the purpose of adjusting the rates in accordance with the ‘budget proposals. As honorable members know, those proposals reduce the duty on spirits. The amendments give effect to such reductions. The effect of the modifications is to reduce the duties on whisky for blending with Australian whisky by 3s. a gallon, and on other whisky by 5s. a gallon. The reason that the duty on whisky for blending is being reduced by 3s. compared with’ 5s. in the case of other whisky, is that when excise duty is paid on whisky used in blending, the benefit of the excise budget reduction of 2s. a gallon is obtained, thus bringing the total reduction to 5s., which is equal to the reduction on other imported whisky.
.- Is the amount of the duty to be reduced from 45s. to 42s., or to 40s. ? The reduction, as stated in the budget, is 5s., but according to the Minister’s statement, it appears to be 3s.. and I should like him to explain the reason for the alteration.
.- The honorable member is correct in stating that the’ budget proposes a reduction of duty of 5s. in respect of this item; but as I have pointed out, the effect of the modifications is to reduce the duties on whisky for blending with Australian whisky by 3s. a gallon and on other whisky by 5s. a gallon. The reason, for the whisky for blending being reduced by 3s. a gallon as compared with 5s. a gallon in the case of the other whisky is that when excise duty is paid on the whisky used in the blending the benefit of the excise budget reduction of 2s. a gallon is obtained, thus bringing the total reduction to 5s.
– I should like the Minister to explain why whisky for blending purposes, of a strength not exceeding 45 per cent, overproof, can be admitted into this country under a duty of only 17s. a gallon.
– Plus 28s. excise.
– The excise would be paid only on the whisky which is used for blending, and I assume that the whisky in question would not be subject to both customs duty and excise. This seems to be a wonderful concession to certain people who use whisky for blending purposes.
.- I am opposed to this alteration of duty, and I cannot understand why the Minister has not advanced any argument to support it. It will benefit the distilling industry which provides less employment than any other industry in proportion to the money expended. I cannot understand why the Government should be so . ready to accept the Senate’s request. To-day, during the discussion on Imperial Airways, it was suggested by certain, honorable members that pressure had been brought to bear on the Government with a view to giving certain concessions to a company. I should like- to know whether, in this instance, influence has been brought to hear upon the Government so that further concessions may be given to wealthy interests which are really in no need of them. As a matter of fact, during the depression the distilling and brewing industries continued to pay handsome dividends, and we are certainly entitled to certain information before we agree to this proposed alteration of duty.
– I would point out to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis) that the budget statement sets out concessions, not only on whisky and on beer, but also on tea, to the extent of over £250,000. The Government in its budget has tried to make concessions to every class in the community. This concession permits of blending in bond. The Government receives in advance the duty of 14s. a gallon. The distillers are given the concession of blending imported whisky -with Australian whisky in bond, but when the whisky comes out of bond they have to pay the full duty.
Motion agreed to.
On and after 1st . July, 1933, ad valorem - British, 30 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.
Senate’s request -
Leave out “ 1st July, 1933 “ and insert “ 1st July, 1934.”
.- I move-
That the requested amendment be made.
The proposed alteration is to substitute “ 1934 “ in place, of “ 1933 “, so that the deferred duty-will operate as from the 1st July, 1934, instead of from the 1st July, 1933.
– If it. is found that the industry in question has not been able to establish itself by that date, will it be possible to postpone the operation of the duty by executive act?
– The duty can be referred to the Tariff Board, and a recommendation made that the duty be again deferred.
Motion agreed to.
Fruits, dried, viz.: -
) Dates, per Hi., British, ‘Ml.; general. ‘ 3d.
Senate’s request -
Amend sub-item to make it -
Motion (by Mr. Guv) proposed -
That the requested amendment bc made.
.- An important primary industry is seriously threatened by this proposal to reduce the duty on dates from 3d. to Id. per lb. I am opposed, to it because it would cut the ground from under the feet of the dried fruits industries which the Commonwealth as well as the States have already tried to assist by legislation. It aims a serious blow at the dried fruits industry. We have to recognize that some of the governments of Australia have spent a considerable sum of money in settling returned soldiers on fruit-growing areas. There is no justification for a reduction of duty in respect of dates, for which commodity we have many substitutes such as prunes, dried tree fruits and other dried fruits. It must also be remembered that dates are imported from, countries which do not. allow us to have a favorable trade balance with them. I am definitely opposed to the request.
.- I hope that the Government will reconsider its attitude in regard to this request. This matter was investigated by the Tariff Board, which recommended against any increase of duty. When the Scullin Government was in office, the Australian Dried Fruits Association made strong representations for an increased duty, and because it was the policy of that Government to assist primary as well as secondary industries, it was considered advisable to grant the request. According to the report of the Tariff Board dated the 22nd September, 1929, among those in favour of an increased duty were Mr. D. C. Winterbottom, member of the board of management of the Australian Dried Fruits Association; Mr. J. M. Balfour, chairman of the Victorian Dried Fruits Board; Mr. A. McKinnon, director of Redcliffs Co-operative Packing Company; and Mr. H. G. Howie, chairman of the board of management of Australian Dried Fruits Association. Those who were opposed to the increased duty were the representatives of importing interests which import into this Country dates, which are largely used in place of lexias and raisins produced in Australia. A glance at the Tariff Board’s report indicates clearly the country from which we receive most of the dates that are imported. In 1928-29, the latest year quoted by the board in its report, we imported 9,247,763 lb. of dates from Baghdad, Mesopotamia. No one knows better than the Minister (Mr. White) the conditions that prevail in that country, for in his book, Guests of the Unspeakable, he referred to this country in the following graphic language: -
Itinerant carpet sellers, vendors of highlycolored sherberts, noisy water carriers bending under the weight of dripping gout-skins, clamorous shopkeepers, haggling buyers, whining beggars and yelping mongrels make that babul of noise and medley of colour that is ever associated with an Eastern bazaar.
Scribes with reed pens, ink and sand, still squat on the ground writing love-letters at the dictation nf amorous illiterates. Under ragged awnings that shade crate-like benches along the Basra creek, the wiseacres and indulants of the town sit cross-legged, sipping coffee and puffing many-stemmed narquiles just as their eighth-century prototypes did in this same city, when nar,mn el’ Runt-hid held sway in Baghdad.
Yet the honorable gentleman is now asking us to approve of a request by the Senate that the duty on dates from this country be reduced from 3d. to’ Id. per lb. The Scullin Government imposed a duty of 3d. per lb. on dates at the request of the primary producers. The Australian Dried Fruit3 Association made strong representations on the subject. During the last four or five years the production of dried fruits in Australia has varied between 35,000 and 55,000 tons per annum. The last crop harvested yielded 60,000 tons of fruit. The total sales of dried fruits in Australia vary between 12,000 and 13,500 tons annually. This means that about 48,000 tons of last year’s production of 60,000 tons must be exported. Dates compete seriously with lexias and raisins. In support of this contention I direct attention to the following statement made by Mr. D. C. Winterbottom, a member of the board of management of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, in his evidence before the Tariff Board :-
It is felt that dates compete with and appreciably affect the sales of Australian dried fruits. The argument that dates do not compete with raisins and sultanas is wrong, in that dates arc used in cakes and puddings and replace raisins.
Mr. J. M. Balfour, chairman of the Victorian Dried Fruits Board, endorsed the evidence tendered by Mr. Winterbottom, and stated that, after ascertaining the views of the trade and also of housewives, he had formed . the opinion that dates definitely compete with Australian-grown lexias. Yet the Minister is favorable to this reduction of duty which must benefit the country which he so extravagantly described in his book. The average total sales of dates in Australia is between 3,500 and 4,000 tons per annum. If the sales of sultanas and lexias in Australia were increased by 2,000 tons per annum, which is about half the weight of the dates imported in 1927-28, the cash benefit to the growers would be the difference between the return from sales made overseas and those made in Australia - about £25 per ton or a total of £50,000. Although raisins, currants, sultanas, dried apricots, peaches, nectarines, and prunes, are protected by a duty of 6d. per lb., dates, which are produced under the lowest working standards in the world, are admitted into Australia tinder a duty of Id. per lb.
– Dates are not produced here.
– But they enter into competition with lexias and sultanas which are produced here. The duty of 3d. per lb. should be retained. Why has the. Minister altered his attitude on this subject? Is he afraid to ask the committee to disagree with the request of the Senate? Some explanation should be given for this sudden change of front. Our dried fruits industry is one of the most efficiently conducted primary industries of the Commonwealth. As the growers have to export 48,000 tons of their total production of 60,000 tons, and sell at a loss on the overseas market, they should be given some consideration. It is true that they obtain a satisfactory price en the local market, but this is only fair because they are required to subscribe to the protectionist policy for secondary industries. An industry which observes such high standards as does the Australian dried fruits industry deserves the most favorable consideration of the Government. I hope that this request will be rejected.
– I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) for directing attention to my humble literary effort. I am only sorry that the honorable gentleman did not have the same privilege that I had during the war of living in the country referred to by the honorable member. Had he done so he would realize that dates grown there do not compete with the excellent dried fruits produced on the Murray river settlements and in other parts of Australia, but are better fitted for the Arabs. A duty of 3d. per lb. on dates is equivalent to an impost of 278 per cent.
I am surprised that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) should oppose this reduction, for he has very often condemned duties of only 20 per cent, and 25 per cent, on goods produced by secondary industries. I am afraid that geographical considerations have influenced the honorable member to utter his protest. He probably fears that the reduction of this duty may adversely affect the prune-growers in his own electorate. The honorable member wrote to me some time ago in the interests of the prune-growers, and I am interested to find that he can so quickly switch off from prunes to dates.
– I was careful to refer to the dried fruits industry generally.
– The honorable member suggested in his letter to me that there was no reason why the duty on dates should be altered, while the prune-growers were having such a difficult time.
– I still support what I said in my letter.
– The honorable gentleman asked me to suggest to the Government that it should not seriously consider the proposal for a reduction of the duty to Id. per lb. The Tariff Board has recommended a reduction which is equivalent to a reduction of one-third of 27S per cent., .which surely is not a heavy reduction. The Government has not regarded this request lightly ; but has considered all the factors of the situation. The revenue will be affected to an amount of £73,000 per annum by this reduction.
– But the Minister supported the higher duty when the schedule was under consideration in this chamber.
– This particular’ item went through without any discussion. If the honorable member for Calare is insistent in his request, I shall read the letter which he wrote me, but I am prepared to spare his blushes.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister is suggesting that I have written something that should not be read. I therefore ask that he read the letter which I wrote to him.
– That is no point of order.
– I am quite prepared to read the honorable member’s letter. I shall first read a letter written to him by the secretary of the Prune Packers’ Association of New South Wales to the following effect: -
This association has been informed, that there is an extreme probability of the duty of twopence per l’b. on dates being lifted, and as any remission of this nature will certainly have a detrimental effect to the dried fruits industry, and prunes in particular, and in which so many Australians arc engaged, I have been instructed to write and ask you to do your utmost to prevent this alteration to the tariff.
In forwarding that letter to me the honorable member wrote -
The foregoing letter speaks for itself, and I would be pleased to hear from you if there is any suggestion of this taking place. Personally I am oi the opinion that there is no reason to alter this item at present while the prune men are having such a difficult time.
Let me now inform honorable members of the difficult times that these prunegrowers are having. It will then be seen that the reduction of the duty on dates will not adversely affect the prune industry. The reason ‘for this is clear. Dates do not compete against prunes. The dates which are imported by Australia are almost entirely from Iraq, formerly called Mesopotamia, the country which cost Britain 90,000 lives during the- war, and which, recently, Britain has magnanimously given self government. The following figures show the importa- tions of dates from Iraq over a number of years: -
This amounts to one shipment each year.
Honorable members know that the Australian dried fruits industry is on a sound footing. Only to-day I introduced the treaty that has just been made with New Zealand, which gives a concession of Id. per lb. to Australian dried fruits and will further assist the industry. The market for Australian prunes is steadily increasing, sales of the Australian product during the period 1929-30 to 1932-33 having increased from 700 tons to 2,000 tons. This increase is due mainly to the fact that the trees planted by returned soldiers have recently come into bearing. Honorable members should think seriously before they reject the Senate’s request by supporting the strange alliance that has been formed between the honorable member for Calare and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
.- I am rather pleased that the Minister has read the letter from the Prune-growers Association, for I do object to a Minister referring to a document and then failing to read it after giving honorable members to understand that by doing so he would embarrass somebody in the chamber. I strongly support every word that appears in the letter and in the footnote that I inscribed to the Minister in his official capacity. It proves that I am consistent in my attitude.
Regarding the Minister’s criticism of my alleged inconsistency and his reference to my strange alliance with the high-tariff section in this Parliament, I point out that my objection is against the Government specially selecting a small item like this for a reversion to. the 1921-28 tariff. I have in mind also shelled almonds, which caused an interesting position in this chamber some months ago. If the Government were prepared to restore all primary and secondary products to the 1921-2S schedule, I should be quite satisfied; but I do object to its selecting a competitive line and reducing the duty on it from 3d. to Id., leaving the dried fruit-growers in a precarious position, for they still have to pay high duties on practically every article used by them for production purposes.
.- Even at the risk of being criticized for being inconsistent, I ask that the request of the Senate shall not be agreed to. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was quite right when he said that the dried fruits industry made representations to the Scullin. Government to increase duties on dates, for I had something to say on that subject.
The Minister takes the stand that the importation of cheap dates does not compete with Australian dried fruits. Perhaps he will explain away a letter which I have received from the secretary of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and which reads as follows: -
Referring to tlie tariff debate which took place in the Senate on the 12th instant, when a motion was carried recommending that the tariff on dates be reduced from 3d. to Id. per lb., I. have to advise that this matter was considered by my board at their meeting in Melbourne last week, and I was requested to communicate with you and ask for your support when this matter comes up for discussion in the House of Representatives.
My association have always claimed that a higher duty on dates would’ increase the sale of Australian lexias, and this is borne out by the fact that, since the extra duty came into operation, our sales have increased, for whereas in 1930 the sales were 2,170 tons, they were 2,410 tons in 1931 and 2,407 in 1932.
I would also point out that owing to the depreciated currency of the date-producing countries, our industry would be seriously imperilled if the duty were reduced to Id. per lb.- and here it joins issue with the figures supplied by the Minister - for whereas in 1929 the imports of dates were 4,084 tons of a value of £107,1.96, the imports in 1932, amounting to 4,067, were valued at £47,460. You will thus see that if the duty were reduced, dates could be sold in this country at a very low price.
Thanking you in anticipation for your assistance.
The Government cannot honestly deny that the importation of cheap dates brings them into competition with our dried fruits. Had the Minister any knowledge of the grocery trade he would not endeavour to put up such a flimsy argument, for persons will always buy dates at 4d. and 5d. per lb. in preference to raisins at 7d. and lOd. per lb. The Minister declared that a duty of 3d. per lb. represents a duty of 278 per cent. I admit that that nearly makes me ashamed of myself for having to oppose it, but if that is the case what is the initial cost of the dates? Does the Government intend to countenance the admission of dates which cost about Id. per lb. to compete with the products of our dried fruits industries? The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) said that a good deal of government money is invested in Australian dried fruits industries, also that many returned soldiers are engaged in them. I know that that. is. the position in connexion with the irrigation settlements in South Australia. It. is inexplicable to me that a government which has increased duties in many directions should be prepared to uncover our dried fruits industries to any extent to the competition of cheap foreign dates. It is not my nature to make appeals: I would rather give and take hard knocks, but I appeal to the Government to stand by our dried fruits industry. Surely it does not propose to throw in the towel to the Senate, and disregard the interests of our primary producers? I am somewhat disappointed that this industry has obtained a preference of only Id. per lb. and that on raisins only, under the agreement that has been made with New Zealand; at least 2d. per lb. was anticipated. Further, it is not clear from the Minister’s statement whether that preference will apply only to lexias or to all classes of raisins.
– lt will apply to all classes of raisins.
– I appeal to the Country party to support mc in this matter. I remind its members that their leader associated himself with me in the “ battle of the almonds,” when he said that the duty proposed by the Government was not scientific, rallied his forces and saved the day. The Minister said that the dried fruits industry is in ‘good circumstances. It is in better circumstances than some other primary industries, but the credit for that is due to organization. I hope that the Minister will give further encouragement to it by not permitting the competition of cheaply-produced dates. I urge the committee to reject this request.
– Although I have consistently advocated the lowering of the extremely high tariff wall which has been built around this continent, I make no apology for opposing this suggested reduction. My chief reason, generally speaking, for favoring the reduction of our high tariff is that it has the effect of increasing the costs of our export industries. As this reduction, in my opinion, is likely to endanger one of Australia’s export industries, I must oppose it.
Having listened to the speech of the Minister (Mr. White) I believe that there is still hope for him and for Australia. Honorable members must have a vivid recollection of the vigour with which, a few months ago, the honorable gentleman opposed any reductions of the tariff items. It, therefore, comes as a great surprise to me to find him so willing to agree to the request of another place to reduce a duty by one-third. Millions of pounds of the country’s money ha3 been expended on the construction of works to safeguard -the dried fruits industry, apart from the private capital invested in that industry. I am confident that honorable members will agree that if there are any industries in this country which require the special consideration of this Parliament at the moment, they are our export industries, some of “‘1,le h are in a particularly precarious condition.
.- If anything would induce me to vote for a comparatively high duty such as this is, it is the cheap and unjustifiable sneers of the Minister at the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) and other members of the Country party who support the original duty. I propose to support the request of the Senate, however, because I believe that one docs more to help primary industries by acting along consistent lines. But, at the same time, it is absolutely unfair to compare the percentages of a duty in relation to the terrifically low prices of a period of depression, with the percentages of duty on manufactured articles, which maintain an average price in both good and bad times. Primary industries do not maintain prices by reducing production as the price-level falls, and for that reason their prices fluctuate to a much greater extent than do those of secondary industries; and it is always necessary to have a much higher ad valorem duty to provide for them anything like the amount of shelter that is afforded to secondary industries. It appears to me, however, that Id. per lb. is fair protection, because even at the higher prices of normal times, it amounts to between 40 per cent, .and 50 per cent, ad valorem, which I have always contended should be ample to protect any Australian industry. Dates do not enter into devastating competition with Australian dried fruits generally. It is mainly the lexia growers who are concerned about competition from this source. Dates are bought because they are a cheap sweetmeat, and on that account they enter into competition with prunes, crystallized cherries, and other forms of dried fruits which are used for a similar purpose. But they compete with Australian fruits principally in connexion with cake3 and puddings. According to figures submitted by the Australian Dried Fruits Association, the imports of dates have totalled approximately 4,000 tons a year, whether the duty has been Id. or 3d. per lb. Therefore, it does not appear to me that the effect on the sale of lexias has been very great. The sales of that dried fruit on the Australian market have risen from 2,000 to 2,400 tons per annum, in spite of the depression. I find it very difficult to believe, therefore, that the reduction of the duty to Id. per lb. would have a serious effect on Australian dried fruits. On the other hand, however, the revenue would drop to the extent of £73,000, and it would be possible for dates to be purchased more cheaply.
There is a further inconsistency in the attitude adopted by the Minister. The honorable gentleman introduced this schedule with the duty at 3d. per lb. in spite of the report of the Tariff Board, but took no action with respect to raisins, the duty on which was raised from 3d. to 6d. per lb. by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), when Minister for Trade and Customs. I have been told by representatives of the dried fruits industry that they did not ask for the latter increase, and that it has made no difference to them. If the Minister was really concerned about the price of these condiments, one would expect him to refer both items to the Tariff Board; but he did not do so. Apparently he has derived some pleasure from the situation which the Senate has brought to a head, in which he appears to think that certain members of the committee are acting inconsistently. That has not my endorsement. I am. fully aware of the penalties imposed upon export industries by the maintenance of very high duties on items which those industries need to carry on. Although I have considerable sympathy with honorable members who feel that they must defend very high protection of primary products while such high duties are imposed on what primary producers have to buy, I still believe that, in the long run, one can do more good for the export industries by supporting consistently the lowering of duties to a moderate and reasonable level.
.- The Minister (Mr. White) and the Government are at least consistent in their policy of slashing Australian industries. Even on this item the Minister found it advisable to drag in the Ottawa agreement. I have been amused at the dissembling of my friends of the Country party, who are very strong freetraders so far as agricultural implements are concerned, yet go almost mad when mention is made of the prices of such goods as shirts, trousers, and mattocks, and of imposing duties which will enable Australian companies to employ Australian labour and use Australian materials in their manufacture. I cannot follow the extraordinary mental gymnastics of honorable members who have freetrade-.protectionist views. They will fight to the last ditch to protect the onion or the potato industry, but make no effort to protect the secondary industries, some of which use the products of the primary producers. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) was at least reluctantly consistent; but, in order to bring down the cost of production so as to relieve the primary producers of the alleged awful burden of sustaining the secondary industries, he is prepared to support a reduction of duty even though it be to the detriment of the dried-fruit growers. The honorable member, in support of this reduction of duty on dates from 3d. to Id. per lb., stated that some people had acquired a taste for that product. There are p. number of people who like dates as such, and not because they are cheap sweetmeats ; but the honorable member believes that if a person requires dates, he should be allowed to obtain them, and that attitude is, of course, consistent with his freetrade principles. He has consistently stated that the primary producers should be given opportunities to obtain their requirements in the cheapest market. He is prepared to give some preference to Great Britain; but, if the farmers’ requirements cannot be purchased there, he contends that they should be purchased from any foreign country, no matter what the effect may be upon our own manufacturers. If our secondary industries were allowed to go out of existence, I am afraid that the primary producers would soon rise in their wrath and consign the Government to oblivion for leaving them at the mercy of outside competition. If any other country could produce the merino wool and milling wheat that are produced in Australia, the members of the Country party would not he so prone to advocate freetrade. The tariff schedule was considered by the Senate at a time when this House was in recess, and honorable senators having, as it were, the ring to themselves, threw prudence to the winds, and apparently, with little discussion, saw fit to make a request for a decreased duty.
– The honorable member is out of order in reflecting upon the Senate.
– After some discussion, the honorable senators decided to attack an Australian primary industry by leaving it open to foreign competition. The Government is weakly supporting the Senate, but I am pleased to say that the Country party in this chamber is protesting against the weakness of the Minister. I should like to know how a reduction of duty on dates will lower the cost of production in this country. Perhaps the honorable member for Wakefield will enlighten me on that matter. I’ protest against the insistent attacks which are being made directly and indirectly by the Government upon certain Australian industries. Our primary industries cannot exist without our secondary industries, and unless we encourage industries like the dried fruit industry and our secondary industries, unemployment will increase, the purchasing power of the community will be detrimentally affected and little money will be available for the purchase of primary products. We cannot exist exclusively upon our export trade.
.- I believe that if people like dates they should have an opportunity to obtain them at a reasonable .price. . One of the chief complaints -which I have against excessive duties, such as the duty on dates, is that they frequently compel people to purchase cheap and nasty goods which they otherwise would not use. I have several times been associated with the Country party in endeavouring to obtain reductions of duty; and it- is to me rather distressing to find that when some little industry, which affects one or two country constituents, is under consideration, one or two honorable members will depart altogether from their principles in order to obtain some small benefit for the localities which they represent. In obtaining those small advantages they do a great deal of injury to the larger rural interests which they are supposed to represent. For the main part our rural industries are able to take care of themselves and the nominal protection which they receive under the tariff is, in most instances, of little or no value’ to them. Dates are not’ produced in Australia and I do not know of any other fruit which quite meets the same class of taste. It is true that dates may be used as a substitute for raisins, but we do not exclude food items from thi3 country entirely on that ground. Tea is a very useful article of drink, but we would not exclude it merely to encourage the sale of Australian drinks. Dates are a useful and healthy food, and it is desirable that they should be available to the public at a reasonable price. A duty of Id., which represents a protection of nearly 100 per cent., is fair and reasonable.
.- I have consistently opposed the increased duties imposed by the Scullin Government, and I am glad indeed to support the Senate’s request. I agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). I believe that consistent reductions of duties will tend to reduce the cost of living, and a reduction of duty on dates will assist in that direction. The honorable member sympathized with those honorable members who opposed the Scullin tariff and were now opposing this reduction of duty, but that has happened only because of the inconsistency which has been shown in not reducing high tariffs generally. Had the tariff been reduced in accordance with the request of the Country party to the level of the 1921 tariff, there would have been no inconsistency on the part of the Government and members of the Country party, who, on principle, advocate reduced duties. Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all and I am prepared to accept reductions of duty as they are made. I shall continue to fight for such a redaction of duties as will bring our secondary industries to a position of equality with our primary exporting industries. There should be equality of sacrifice and of competition. I am pleased that a reduction of this duty has been requested by the Senate. My constituents use a considerable quantity of dried fruits, but I do not think that they or the other people of Australia wish to be deprived altogether of dates. Figures quoted in this debate have shown that Australia is consuming approximately the same quantity of dates now as in better times. I liken the duty on dates to the duty on soft timbers. We do not produce either article to any extent. There is no cause for us to wear a hair shirt and endure unnecessary discomfort. It is unreasonable to prevent our people from buying dates occasionally if they desire to do so, even though dates may be a luxury, and this heavy duty has not prevented them from doing so. I do not think that it can be argued that the heavy duty on dates has helped the dried fruits industry.
.- I am opposed to this request, but for a different reason from that which actuates certain members of the Country party. The party to which I belong believes in protecting all our primary and secondary industries. Honorable members who speak of dates as a luxury seem to forget that dates are stamped into their packages by thebare feet of the Arabs. I become very tired of hearing honorable members condemn our local industries. It is high time in this Parliament we adopted a national outlook. We should substantially support Australian industries. I shall, therefore, oppose the request of the Senate.
.- I represent an electorate in which a good deal of dried fruit is produced, and I have been requested to oppose this request by the Senate, but 1 do not intend to do so. As the Country party is fighting for moderate tariffs, I. do not think that it would be consistent for its members to oppose a request for a reduction of a duty amounting to 278 per cent. It has been suggested” that an increase in the consumption of dates would adversely affect the consumption of dried fruits, but I have not been convinced on that point. While I was in business years ago, an adjustment made in the duty on dates did not cause people to substitute dried fruits for dates. If they were not able to buy dates because of the higher price, they did not buy more dried fruits. It is interesting to learn that, in spite of the higher rate of duty, our importation of dates was practically the same in 1932 as in 1929. This shows, to my mind, that the tariff has not affected the consumption of these goods. I cannot believe that a reduction of the price of dates by even one penny per lb., in consequence of this’ reduced duty, would adversely affect the dried fruits industry. Consumers who want dates will buy them if they can afford them; but if they cannot afford them they will not buy dried fruits as substitutes. Even under the reduced duty the price of dates will exceed the price at which our dried fruit is exported. I therefore support the Senate’s request.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the question he now put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . 41
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I wish to deal with one or two statements that have been made by honorable members. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that imports of dates into Australia averaged about 4,000 tons. It is true that in 1929 the quantity imported was 4,084 tons, which fell in 1932 to 4,067 tons, but those two sets of figures should not be compared because the depression occurred in the interval, proving conclusively that, in spite of the increased duty, the demand for dates has remained strong.
The increase in the consumption of raisins in Australia - and I presume this refers only to lexias - was 237 tons greater in 1932 than in 1930, proving that, despite the depression, the duties imposed on dates by the Scullin Government assisted the raisin-growing industry.
The Minister has promised to make an effort on behalf of the growers of doradillo grapes. It is possible for a muscat to be grafted on to a doradillo vine, and I ask the honorable gentleman not to do anything that will discourage a move in that direction. Particularly do . I ask the honorable gentleman to preserve the interests of returned soldiers who are engaged in the production of dried fruits.
.- I hope that the committee will not accept the advice of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). Ten years ago when I visited the dried fruits areas on the Murray, I was informed that a month previously a resolution had been adopted providing for the discontinuance of growing doradillo grapes. Apparently, nothing has been done in that direction in the interim.
It is remarkable that the Government should endeavour to compel the poorer sections of the community to buy expensive dried fruits rather than cheap dates. It is impossible to produce dates in Aus tralia on a commercial basis, and as the two articles of diet are quite dissimilar, the honorable member for Angas and those who agree with him on this subject are distorting the issue in drawing comparisons between the two; we should make the rate of duty on dates as low as possible. I remind honorable members that the growers of dried fruits are particularly well organized and, as a result, have reaped considerable benefit from the Government.
– I believe that, excepting the speeches that have been made from the Labour benches, the objections raised to the requests by the Senate have been influenced by geographical rather than economical considerations.
I cannot allow the opening remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) to pass unchallenged. He said that I bad indulged in cheap sneers at the expense of the dried fruits industry. I assure him’ that the misstatement will not damage me in the eyes of returned soldier growers, for whom I have the greatest admiration, and whose properties on the Murray I’ visited recently in company with the honorable gentleman, and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). It is not just a matter of being sympathetic, and wishing those growers well. The honorable member for Wakefield knows what ‘the Government has already done for the wine industry, and the approval which has greeted its action in that direction. He is also aware that a scheme has been submitted to the Government of South Australia in respect of growers of doradillo grapes, the details of which I cannot now disclose, but which, I think, will be acceptable to all concerned. I appreciate some of the difficulties under which the growers of dried fruits labour. For instance, while there was no primage on cornsacks or on hessian used in the manufacture of cornsacks, it was charged on hessian used in the production of dried fruits. Recently I urged upon the Government the desirability of removing that impost, also the primage on caustic soda and other commodities used by growers, with the result that they received concessions to the extent of £37,000. I mention that, because, if I allowed it to go unchallenged, the statement of the honorable member might be believed.
The honorable member for Angas stated that there had been definite increases in the dried fruits industry. That is so and it is hoped that they will continue. The Government has decreased taxation on the industry, and has gained additional advantages for it through the medium of the agreement made with the New Zealand Government. I recently received a deputation at Mildura which put forward the contention that- if dates were admitted at a lower rate of duty they would compete with our dried fruits. It is just as logical to claim that apples compete with oranges, or biscuits with bread. In its report on the subject, the Tariff Board stated -
The evidence submitted on behalf of the applicant association has failed to satisfy the board that dates can be regarded . is competing with sultanas or lexias in the sense that the applicants claim that they are. So far as the figures presented are concerned, these could probably be used with equal force as an argument by either those favouring the request or those opposing it.
The subject has been thoroughly discussed, and, although the Government will be losing £73,000 in revenue by reducing the duty on dates to Id. per lb., I formally ask the committee to agree to the request of the Senate.
– - I rise to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.’ White) declared that I accused him of making cheap sneers at the dried fruits industry. Apparently the honorable member misheard me. I said that he was making cheap sneers at the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) and others. I regret that the Minister so readily possessed himself of the cap which was not really intended for him.
. –I have been waiting patiently for the Minister to advance some reason why he has approved the request that is before the committee. When the matter of the duty on dates last came before this chamber, the Government supported a rate of 3d. per lb. Now it recommends a reduction to1d., and advances no reason for its change of attitude. The Minister says that he does not like to sacrifice £73,000 in revenue. I should prefer to see that amount spent in other directions, for instance, by eliminating the primage duty on all protective items against British goods.
I have never been able to convince myself that the duty on dates has accomplished its object so far as the . dried fruits industry is concerned. The proof is shown in the figures which relate to the importation of dates. In 1929, before.it had fallen into the trough of the depression, Australia imported 10,700,000 lb., of dates. In 1932, though the duty of 3d. had been imposed and the depression had come upon us, the importation of dates was still 9,750,000 lb. So that although Australia has been indescribably poorer during the last three years and the duty on dates has been increased to 3d. per lb., the importations have remained about the same, It is true that they were dearer than previously. In these circumstances, it is hard to believe that the duty has had the effect of improving to any appreciable extent the sales of dried fruits. I am convinced that what we have to do is to reduce as far as possible the cost of living, and the cost of production. That would benefit the dried fruits industry to a greater extent than any other action. Something like80 per cent, of the total quantity of dried fruits produced has to be sent overseas for sale under open competitive conditions. I am not much concerned about this particular item, except from a revenue point of view. If the Government has £73,000 to throw away, I would much sooner it was used in other directions where cost of production would be more directly affected; but failing that I am prepared to vote in such a way that the cost of living, and, consequently, the cost of production, may be reduced.
Question - That the requested amendment be made - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Grain and pulse, prepared or manufactured, viz: -
Senate’s request -
Amend sub-item to make it -
Cornflour: Starch flour derived from maize -
.- I move-
That the requested amendment be made.
This request is made as the result of a recommendation of the Tariff Board dated as late as the 9th June last. If it is agreed to, the following will be the position compared with the Scullin tariff andthe 3 921-30 tariff:-
Com pared with Scullin tariff -
Bulk cornflour - reduction of,per lb., British,1¼d.: foreign,¼d.
Cornflour in packets - reduction of, per lb.. British,1d.; foreign, - .
Compared with 1921-30 tariff-
Bulk cornflour - reduction of¼d. per lb. British, and an increase of¾d. per lb. foreign.
Cornflour in packets - increase of1d. per lb. foreign.
The addition to the item of the words “’ starch flour containing maize “ is designed to overcome an administrative difficulty with regard to the tariff classification of certain commercial grades of cornflour, which are not cornflour as the layman knows it, although it is derived from the same source as, and is similar in appearance to, ordinary cornflour. The amendment of the item along these lines confirms departmental practice with regard to the duty on these commercial grades of cornflour. The Tariff Board found the position to be as follows : -
A duty of1?d. per lb. is equivalent to 90 per cent, ad valorem on the highest, and of 145 per cent, on the lowest price quoted at the Tariff Board inquiry for Scottish cornflour in bulk. The duty of 2d. per lb. on cornflour in packets is equal to 60 per cent, ad valorem on good. brands of English cornflour.
The margin of1d. per lb. between the British and the general tariff rates should enable the United Kingdom to secure any orders which are likely to be placed overseas. A number of other details are included in the report of the board, which I hope that honorable members have read.
.- If the Government- accepts the Senate’s request, it will strike another blow at a large section of primary producers. I hope that this committee, after an examination of the facts, will decide to reject this request because, if carried, it will lead tounemployment in both primary and secondary industries. Thousands of maize-growers will suffer, and hundreds of workers in the maize products factories of- Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide will be put on part-time employment. The only advantage will be gained by the cornflour manufacturers of Scotland, who manufacture their products from black-grown maize. Black-grown maize has been the bugbear of Australian maize producers for many years. Under the South African reciprocal treaty of 1906, the duty on maize from which cornflour is manufactured was1s. per cental, and to protect the maize-growers of Australia, the Commonwealth Government, in 1925, after an investigation by the Tariff Board, decided to increase the duty to 3s. 6d. per cental. Among the witnesses who gave evidence before the Tariff Board, and supported higher duties, was the present Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). He-said -
I must draw your attention towhat must, he a. self evident fact to members of the Tariff Board. With respect to South Africa, it is a question of verycheap black labour as against highly paid Australian labour.
At that time, the duty was1s. 6d. per cental, and the request was for an increase to 3s. 6d. per cental. I ask the honorable member for Gippsland to allow the same considerations as weighed with him then, to weigh with him to-nighl. Subsequently, a duty of 3s. 6d. per cental was imposed by the government of the day, and, at that time, it was considered to be prohibitive. The honorable member for Gippsland submitted to the chairman of the Tariff Board a letter from Mr. W. Cummings of Orbost, portion of. which read -
The cost of producing maize in Orbost districts is 4s. 11d. per bushel. As the selling price in Melbournehas been very much below that for some time, you will recognize the necessity for an increase in the import duty charged on South African maize.as we cannot hope to compete against the cheap labour obtainable in that country.
Mr. Cummings asked for a duty of 3s. 6d. per cental against South African maize. The honorable member for Gippsland said that he bad never known Mr. Cummings to overstate his case, and that his statements were always well within the mark. In other words, he supported an increase of over 100 per cent, on the duty then obtaining. The maize-grower is forced to buy his requirements in a highly protected market, and it would be inequitable to deny him the local market for his products. The Senate’s request, if accepted, will mean a reduction of duty on cornflour from 3d. to1?d. per lb. British, and 2?d per lb. general, plus further reductions under the tariff exchange adjustment proposals, and will thus make the duty lower than it has been at any time during the last two decades.
– That is not correct. The duty was1d. in 1921, and -id. later in that year.
Mr.FORDE.- That was before the 1921-28 tariff to which the members of the Country party are anxious to revert. There are quire a number of manufacturers of cornflour in Australia, among them being Clifford Love and Company Limited, Sydney, Maize Products Proprietary Limited, Melbourne and Sydney, and Parsons Brothers and Company Proprietary Limited, Melbourne. That the old rate of duty is ineffective can be judged from the following list of importations of cornflour: -
In five years approximately 2,000 tons of cornflour were imported, with a corresponding loss to the Australian maizegrowers of the purchase of 160,000 bushels of maize. The great problem of the maize-growers is the disposal of their product in the small local market. If they are forced to ship maize overseas, and to compete with the product of black-labour countries, their industry will become unpayable. Their difficulties can be overcome only when the secondary industries of Australia so develop as to greatly increase the local market. The maize products manufacturers pay a high price for maize, as will be shown by the following prices which were submitted to the board : -
Evidence was also submitted that the price of maize in America, as taken from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 19th January, i933, was as low as 7 cents, or 3½d. a bushel. A fair average price was given at 21 cents, or 10£d. a bushel, as against 5s. Sd. which was paid in Australia by the maize products manufacturers. The Queensland growers, in their evidence before the Tariff Board, stated that their position was so serious that any action tending to reduce the market for; or lower the price of, their product would be a calamity. If the Minister persists in accepting the Senate’s request, he will place a great hardship upon not only the maize-growers, but also the employees in the industry.
– I am surprised at the Minister lightly accepting a recommendation of the Tariff Board. The trouble in connexion with the investigations of the Tariff Board is that the Australian manufacturer has to prove his case to the hilt, whereas the evidence of the importing interests is accepted unless it can be refuted by local interests. The maize industry, in a number of districts throughout the Commonwealth, has reached a high state of efficiency. I speak more particularly of the maize fields of Victoria, and the splendid work that has been done there, although the growers are a considerable distance from their market. Maize is used for many purposes. It is manufactured into cornflour, and there are .many by-products, such as glucose and other articles. In the evidence given before the Tariff Board, it was said that no additional protection was granted to the cornflour manufacturers, and that the conditions being so unequal, the foreign manufacturer marketed no less than 2,000 tons of cornflour in Australia between 1925 and 1829. That was done even after the high duty was imposed for the protection of the local maize-growers. I was glad to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) quote the evidence that was given before the board by the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), That gentleman was certainly able to testify to the accuracy of the evidence given by the maize-growers. It is impossible for the Australian maize-growers successfully to face competition from the maize grown by black labour in South Africa or the similarly poorly-paid labour in the Argentine. The Scottish cornflour manufacturers are able to obtain their supplies of maize from these countries at approximately 2s. 2d. a bushel whereas the average price paid by the Australian cornflour manufacturers is 5s. a bushel. Surely the Government realizes the reasonableness of assisting this industry, which employs a considerable amount of labour.
– What about the consumers?
– The honorable member is probably unaware that 1-lb. packets of the best quality cornflour cost 9d. in Great Britain and only 7d. in Australia. If the manufacturing side of the maize industry is adversely affected by this alteration of duty there is no doubt that the producing side of it will also be badly hit. If the production of cornflour ceases in Australia the price of this article will immediately increase. That has been our experience in connexion with other imported manufactured goods, and it will certainly he so in connexion with cornflour. I sincerely hope that the Government will not force a vote on this issue this evening. It should be remembered that the Tariff Eoard made its recommendation in the face of the strongest support of the maizegrowing interests of Queensland, New South “Wales and Victoria for the maintenance of a duty of 3d. per lb. It was pointed out clearly that even with the duty at that figure the consumers of cornflour in Australia were not penalized. My experience over a long period of years has been that local manufacturers do not fleece the consumers. It has been proved over and over again, that prices of commodities recede when the manufacture of them is undertaken in this country. If adequate protection is denied the cornflour manufacturers, and they are obliged to cease operations, I am . sure that the price of cornflour will immediately advance in Australia. It is stated in the report of the Tariff Board that an exhaustive examination of the manufacturing accounts and balance sheets of the Australian cornflour manufacturers was made. But I point out that no such examination was made by the board of the accounts and balance-sheets of the overseas manufacturers who will benefit so greatly by a reduction of the duty. This is unfair to the Australian industry. It is too late for honorable members to display an interest in this industry after factories have been closed and employees have been, dismissed. If this Government had one dominant desire while I was a member of the Cabinet, it was to prevent the dismissal of workers. Everything possible was done at that time to assist all our manufacturing industries to maintain operations.
– That was where the Government blundered.
– I am astonished to hear that interjection; but I realize that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) cannot be convinced of the wisdom of protection. I have often been surprised that honorable members who sit in this Parliament and, with remarkable persistence, advocate the claims of foreign industries to favorable treatment by Australia, do not seek seats in the parliaments of the countries in the welfare of which they show such concern. Cornflour is a most expensive food product to manufacture. A continuous water process is necessary, extending over ten days from the time the maize is ground and soaked, and an additional three days are required to prepare the cornflour for packing. The Australian cornflour manufacturers have not exploited the consumers. I ask honorable members to consider why it is that Brown and Polsen’s Scotch cornflour, No. 1 quality, is sold in England at 9d. per 1-lb. packet while exactly the same quality of Australian cornflour is sold here at 7d. per 1-lb. packet.
– The figures quoted by the honorable member are out of date.
– I am more inclined to place reliance on my figures than on those which the Minister may have.
– I have had up-to-date figures furnished to me by cable.
– Cabled figures are not always convincing. I am quite satisfied that even if the Minister is able to influence a majority of honorable members to vote in favour of this reduction of duty he will regret it, for he will find that additional unemployment will be caused in the industry.
– We shall see.
– It is too late to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. Why should we allow disaster to overtake this industry? I should like some honorable members of this Parliament to be dependent for a while for their livelihood on the votes . cast in this chamber on tariff matters. It would very greatly influence their future conduct. A reduction of duty such as is now proposed will undoubtedly place the maize-growing industry in a precarious position. A sacrifice of approximately £125,000 will be required by the Australian maize-growers in order to effect a saving of between £16,000 and £20,0.00 in the price of cornflour. The reduction of duty now proposed will involve a loss of employment to not less than 500 persons if the various ramifications of the maize industry are taken into consideration. One member of the Tariff Board, who is himself a grower of cereals other than maize, made repeated references during the inquiry into this industry to the high price obtained for maize compared with that obtained for wheat, barley and oats. Why should a grower of one class of cereals complain because the growers of other classes of cereals obtain fair prices for their products?
We have been told that the members of the Tariff Board are tariff experts - the board is now called a board of experts - but they are not the only experts in Australia, and certainly I do not think that they are so expert .in regard to the cornflour industry as those with whom I have been in touch. In dealing with another industry some little time ago, the board made the following report : -
It might be advanced by the manufacturers in the United Kingdom that the additional duties, if imposed, would have the effect of excluding their product from the Australian market. In this connexion, it is pointed out that the manufacturers concerned are well aware of the policy of the Com,mon.wealth to establish and foster its own industries as far as practicable, and the same opportunity was available to them to establish themselves in Australia as manufacturers as was open to those United Kingdom manufacturers who did so. The board considers it is the duty of the Commonwealth to look after the interests of those who did undertake manufacture in Australia, and who now find additional assistance through the tariff necessary to enable them to maintain business and expand their industry.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– No honorable member is more interested in the welfare of the maize-growers than I am, for I represent an electorate in which 85 per cent, of the maize grown in Victoria is produced. Yet I shall support this request by the Senate for a reduced duty on cornflour. I do not think that the present duties can be justified. The report of the Tariff Board, as a matter of fact, shows them to be indefensible. It is true, as has already been pointed out, that the duty enjoyed by the maize-growers is generous; but even if the duty on cornflour were reduced to the figure now proposed, it would still be more generous to the manufacturers than the duty on maize is to the maizegrowers. Attempts are being made by those interested in the manufacturing side of this industry to stampede the maize-growers into believing that their industry will be ruined unless the duty on cornflour is maintained at the old level. I believe that the cornflour manufacturers are using the maize-growers as catspaws. They want the duty on cornflour maintained at the highest possible level, but I do not believe that any honorable member can pretend to believe that a duty higher than that recommended by the Tariff Board is necessary. The report actually shows that if the manufacturers obtained the maize and the labour they require for making cornflour for nothing, the price of cornflour would not be reduced to a figure which would enable the manufacturers to compete with cornflour imported free of duty. The board says that no satisfactory explanation has been given of the difference between the New York price of cornflour, which is £17 16s. 6d. a ton, and the Australian price, which is nearly £40 a ton. The board sets out figures to the effect that the lowest selling price of Australian cornflour was £39 ,6s. 3d., while the price for the best quality Scotch cornflour was £16 10s., cheaper qualities selling at £10 5s. In its report, the board states: -
The disabilities suffered by the local manufacturers in respect of maize costs is £7 lis. Id. a ton.
That is owing to -the much higher price which they pay for their maize as compared with manufacturers in Scotland. The report continues -
The disability suffered by the local manufacturers in respect of maize costs is, therefore. £7 lis. Id per ton - an amount not nearlysufficient to account for the excess cost of £22 ls. 2d. per ton charged for the local pro-, duct. Neither does the disability lie in wages costs, which do not exceed £5 per ton in some of the Australian factories. In fact, from the figures already given, it will be seen that, if the local manufacturers obtained their maize requirements and the necessary labour for nothing, and passed on the whole of these benefits” to consumers, they would still be unable to compete with importations landed free of duty at a cost of £17 5s. Id., including exchange.
– What does the honorable member mean by “landing free of duty”?
– If Australian cornflour manufacturers obtained their supplies of maize for nothing and got their labour for nothing they would still be unable to compete with the imported product, even with the advantage of exchange, unless they were satisfied to accept smaller profits than they want to-day.
I understand that when considering the desirability of granting a duty to an industry, the Tariff Board regards it as a reasonable test to ascertain whether the cost of the duty will be as great or greater than the amount of wages paid in the industry. If it is discovered that the additional cost imposed upon a product owing to the imposition of a duty is greater than the amount paid in wages, it is naturally regarded as a fairly unsound proposition. In this industry theposition is even worse than that, because even if labour and material are provided for nothing the manufacturer i3 still non-competitive under existing conditions. It seems to me that the last word has been said that need be said in _ that respect by the Tariff Board.
– Would the honorable member reduce the duty on maize?
– It is not necessary to do so. The honorable member should get a proper perspective. The duty on maize is 3s. 6d. per cental, which is under $d. per lb. The Tariff Board informs us that it takes about 1-J tons of maize to produce a ton of cornflour after allowing for by-products. The Tariff Board is recommending a duty on cornflour of 1¾d. British and 2$d. foreign, and, when packed for household use, 2d. and 3d. per lb. respectively, which is from three to five times greater than the amount of protection enjoyed by growers of maize. I am prepared to give the manufacturing end of the industry quite as liberal terms as those accorded to the primary end, but I do not think that any honorable gentleman could justify the retention of the original duty on cornflour in the light of the Tariff Board’s report.
A good deal has been said about what the position of the maize-grower might be if he lost portion of the demand for his product owing to a lowering of the duties, fallowed by the importation of cornflour. Some honorable members appear to think that an immense proportion of the maize crop is used in the production of cornflour. The report of the Tariff Board says that the quantity of maize necessary for the production of the whole of the cornflour manufactured in Australia is about 4 per cent, of the Australian crop, a very small proportion. However, I am anxious that our maize-growers should obtain the whole of that market, and I believe that this duty will enable them to retain it. There is no reason why the manufacturers should not be able to develop an excellent trade and make a substantial profit under these conditions, and I therefore support the request.
.- I am wondering what is to become of the maize-growers if maize products such as cornflour, &c, are to be more or less freed from duty. These words appear at page 7 of the report of the Tariff Board -
Maize-growers more conveniently situated are apparently receiving a price for their product which is out of proportion to the price received for other cereals of equivalent stock food value. The high price is made possible by the duty of 3s. 6cl. per cental on imported maize, and is almost sure to result in an increase in the acreage under maize, which, in turn, will tend to reduce prices. Should this not eventuate, or should climatic conditions curtail yields so that the existing disparity between local and overseas prices is maintained, then, the board considers that the circumstances would justify an inquiry into the question of maintaining the present duty of 3s. 6d. per cental on maize.
I ask the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr. Paterson) where he stands on that issue? Does he think that there should be an inquiry into the duty on maize? And does he agree with the contention of the Tariff Board, particularly when maize is selling at 10½d. a bushel in the United States of America? In 1928, when a duty of 3d. per lb. was imposed on cornflour, maize wa3 selling in that country for 4s. 5d., and in Australia for 4s. 6d. a bushel. Does the honorable gentleman expect to maintain the protection for maize when the protection for maize products is wiped out?
– The duty on cornflour will still be four times as great as that on maize.
– Had the honorable member read the report of the Tariff Board carefully, he would know that in 1924-25, when the duty was 2d. per lb. on cornflour, maize products were imported in large quantities, and that that state of affairs continued until 1928-29, when tlie duty was increased to 3d. per lb. In the intervening period approximately 2-,000 tons of cornflour was imported, which meant the lo3s of .sales of about 160,000 bushels of maize. The honorable member said that only 4 per cent, of our crop is used for the manufacture of cornflour. Definite evidence was given, before the Tariff Board thai the quantity used for the manufacture of cornflour is equal to the whole of the maize production of Victoria, in addition to which over 4,000 tons have been supplied in recent years by soldier settlers on the Atherton Tablelands. Thar is not, likely to continue, for immediately it was notified that there would be a reduction of the duties on cornflour, the manufacturers of maize products in Melbourne declared that they could not renew their contracts for tho purchase of maize at the price previously paid, or even at £1 a ton less than what they had been paying for five years.
Tho Minister cannot claim that no protest has been mace, to his department. The Maize Board, at Atherton, wrote to me on the 14th February last enclosing a. copy of a letter which had been sent to the Minister for Customs, reading -
Enclosed is a ropy of a letter regarding Tariff Board inquiry, which is self-explanatory.
As you arc well acquainted with the effect that this would have on the maize industry we would be extremely obliged if you could see your way clear to represent us at the inquiry, but if, in your opinion, the matter is so serious as to warrant the board sending a representative (which they are reluctant to do if they can avoid the expense) we would like you to advise us immediately at the same time we feel confident that you could successfully represent us.
I advised the board to send down a grower to give evidence before the Tariff Board, saying that he would have more weight than a politician, who might be thought to have an axe to grind. A Mr. Crouch represented the Maize Board, and he stated -
The present position of the Queensland maize-grower is so serious that anything tending to reduce the market for or lower the price on their products spells nothing less than catastrophe. The average price received by the Queensland growers during the last seven years was 2s. lOd. per bushel, delivered at the silos. About (i.000 tons of Queensland maize is used annually in the manufacturing industries. Freight, si;a carriage and handling amount to 2s. Id. per bushel on maize shipped to Sydney, and to 2s. 4d. per bushel on shipments to Melbourne. The present duties are supported, as the Queensland maize-growers do not wish for any further imports of cornflour which will reduce the demand of locally-grown maize.
That is the evidence of a man who was sent from Atherton to represent the maizegrowers of that centre before the Tariff
Board. Yet the board recommended a reduction of the duty, which must have a serious effect on Australian maizegrowers. Other witnesses expressed astonishment at the fact that American and Scotch manufacturers had not engaged in manufacturing operations in Australia. They will not do so because they would have to pay for maize the price which production under White Australia conditions makes necessary. While the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was speaking, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. J. Harrison) interjected “ What about the consumer?” The consumer in Australia is paying for cornflour less per lb. than the purchaser of Scotch cornflour. No 1 quality cornflour is selling in England at 9d. per lb. packet, compared with 7d. per lb. packet for exactly the same quality Australian cornflour. That being the case, what fact emerges from the finding of the Tariff Board that the price of No. 1 Scotch cornflour is £16 10s. a ton, equivalent to approximately 2d. per lb. in bulk, while that of Australian cornflour is £36 a. ton, the equivalent of approximately 4d. per lb. in bulk or 6d. per lb. in packet form? It surely must be obvious to honorable members that considerably greater profits are being made by the Scotch manufacturers. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the consumer in Australia would be’ able to purchase cornflour more cheaply if the duties were reduced. If the committee accepts the recommendation of the Tariff Board, the one thing certain is that there must be an inquiry into the primary industry. The Tariff Board points out on page 1 of its report that the maize-grower is more conveniently situated, and is apparently receiving for his product a price that is out of proportion to that of other cereals of equivalent stock food value. If the price of cornflour is reduced there will be a clamour for the reduction of the price of other maize products, and, in consequence of that, a demand for the lowering of the protection given to the maize industry. The tobacco industry, one of the greatest established in Australia within the last four or five years, has been destroyed as the result of the reduction of the tariff by this Government. Those who claim, to represent the primary producers in this Parliament permitted that to be done. They are now also allowing the thin end of the wedge to be inserted in this case, and it will not be long before the maizegrower is driven out of his occupation. During the last four yeaTs, Maize Products Limited paid out the following sums for wages and salaries : -
In the same period it consumed the following quantities of Australian-grown maize : -
It states -
Whilst the duty has been increased during the past four years our selling price has been decreased. We have no desire to take advantage of high duties in tlie matter of our selling price. Our plant has been built with a capacity to supply the full requirements of Australia, and although our output has been curtailed through the decreased purchases of confectionery by the public, any further decreased output through importations would mean added cost. Therefore, we desire the present rate of -duty to shut out foreign importations, thus enabling us to operate our plant at the highest possible capacity.
I trust that the committee will reject the Senate’s request.
– I strongly stress the view that has been expressed on all sides of the chamber, that if there are secondary industries which depend on primary industries, every reasonable effort should “be made to keep them in operation. The manufacture of cornflour is an industry of that particular description. In the first place, it supplies an article of food that is essential to the people of the Commonwealth; and in the second place it is built up entirely upon the product of a primary industry. Australia is naturally suited to the production of maize. According to the latest figures available, in 1931 the area under cultivation in Queensland was 147,669 acres, and the yield 3,780,000 bushels. The Wide Bay district produced 1,360,000 bushels, the Moreton district 1,274,000 bushels, and the Darling Downs district 492,000 bushels. The problem is to find markets ro absorb the production ; therefore, the disposal of even as little as 4 per cent, of the crop to this secondary industry is not to be despised.
– That refers to only one product from maize. There are several others.
- Mr. Crouch, giving evidence before the Tariff Board on behalf of the Queensland maize-growers, said that 6,000 tons of Queensland maize is used annually in manufacturing industries. Therefore, anything that can be done to expand the industry should be done. The bulk of our importations of cornflour comes from the United States of America. The published returns show that we imported from that country 1,320,000 lb. out of a total of 1,330,000 lb. in 1927-28, 1,022,000 lb. out of a total of 1,032,000 lb. in 1928-29, and 669,000 lb. out of a total of 702,000 lb. in 1929-30. Our importations from Great Britain are comparatively small. Mr. H. F. Parsons, in evidence before the Tariff Board, made the following statement: -
At the present time it is understood that maize can bc purchased by manufacturers in tlie United States of America for 21 cents per bushel, which on .par exchange is equal to 10id. per bushel. ;Thc Australian manufacturers are paying 5s. per bushel for Austraiian maize in Melbourne, and in Sydney the price is reported as being, os. 6d. to os. Od. per bushel.
That is a striking and an astounding difference. President Roosevelt’s schememay lift agricultural prices a little, but whether the increase will be permanent it is not possible to say. Mr. Parsons also said -
Maize is practically the only cereal grown in large quantities in Australia which has maintained a high price compared with the present depressed prices of other grain, and there is no doubt that tlie demand for maize for the manufacture of cornflour and other products made from it, is responsible for the maize-growers throughout the Commonwealth obtaining good prices for their product.
I do not think that it is the desire of any honorable member to reduce the prices of primary products. If this reduction will have that effect, the results to maize-growers will be very serious. I hope that in the circumstances the Minister will agree to such a duty as will not only_secure the secondary industries, but also give confidence to the primary producer.
– I represent, I suppose, the biggest single maize-growing electorate in the Commonwealth. The northern rivers district of New South Wales has long been famed for the immense quantity of maize that it grows. On the Clarence river at one time nearly 3,000,000 bushels per annum, and on the Macleay river an even larger quantity, was grown at one time. I object to this great primary industry being used as n catspaw for the benefit of secondary industries which have npt been as kind to the primary industries as they might have been. I believe that the secondary industries associated with maize can best be expanded by making the prices of cornflour and associated products cheap enough for the people of Australia to buy them more readily. When one examines what has happened one finds that the various companies which use maize have always taken the utmost advantage of the duty; in fact the Tariff Board’s report expressly says so. All the comparisons that are made in the report of the Tariff Board are based on a price of 5s. a bushel for maize in Australia. But leaving the cost of maize out of consideration, the price of Australian cornflour is still £25 19s. 7d. a ton, while the price of Scottish cornflour on the same basis without reference to the cost of maize is £10 14s. 5d. a ton, a difference of 250 per cent. Even at the rate requested by the Senate the duty is still greater than the actual cost of maize to the Australian manufacturer.
– Has the right honorable gentleman the American price ?
– Only the other day I received a National City Bank list which shows that, as the result of the Roosevelt programme, the prices of farm products have risen substantially and are almost two-thirds of the level at which they stood four or five years ago. To-day the price of maize would probably be 3s. a bushel in American currency, which in Australian currency m’ould be, roughly, 6s. a bushel. I admit that a few months ago the position in America was very bad.
– The right honorable member is trying to reduce the wages paid in the industry.
– I am trying to make certain that there will be an increased, quantity of maize used in this country by insisting* that the Australian manufacturer shall not exploit the public by charging exorbitant prices for his products. Could any one suggest that the Australian workman i3 so poor, in comparison with the Scottish workman, that he has to receive a wage 250 per cent, in excess of that paid to the other?
– He does not get it.
– Of course he does not get it, but the manufacturer does. Look, at the position of the Australian manufacturer. The stock exchange figures disclose the fact that the various maize products companies have year after year, despite, the depression, paid dividends of 10 per cent, or even more, while companies in other lines of business have been unable to make any profit at all. The maize products manufacturers are in an extraordinary position. During the last four years there has been very little fluctuation in the prices of the various brands of their products. The prices have been -
In the same period the average annual prices at Sydney for maize were as follow : -
While the wholesale prices have remained practically stationary, the price of maize has fallen from 6s. Id. to 3s. 9d. a bushel. The Tariff Board stated quite frankly and candidly that the Australian manufacturer was taking the utmost advantage of the duty in ‘order to obtain excessive, profits. The board has made an. independent inquiry into this industry. The quantity of maize necessary for the production of the whole of the Australian requirements of cornflour is about 4 per cent, of the average Australian crop. If the manufacturers were using 40 per cent, of the crop it would be doing something to build up its efficiency so as to enable its product to be sold in competition with imported products under a reasonable duty.
– Would the right, honorable member allow the Australian manufacturer to buy maize under freetrade conditions?
– The local manufacturer has the advantage of a duty of l$d. against Great Britain, and 2¾d. against the United States of America. A duty of lid. represents a protection of £.15 per ton, while the cost of maize at 5s. a bushel is about £13 a ton. Therefore, the value of the protection is greater that the value of the raw product. The duty of 2$d. represents a protection of £25 a ton, and the local manufacturer has that advantage over the American manufacturer. The statement of honorable members opposite that it is necessary to protect this secondary industry by way of high duties in the interests of the primary producer, when the manufacturer is using only 4 per cent, of the total quantity of maize produced in Australia, is all bunkum, and that fact is recognized by the producers themselves. They know that they are only being used as a catspaw. This reduction of duty will bring down the price of cornflour in Australia, increase the local consump- tion, and improve the conditions not only of the producers, but also of the workers in the factories.
– It will benefit the producers of maize grown by black labour.
– We produce at most from 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 bushels of maize annually. In the State of Ohio, in the United States of America, the annual productionis 300,000.000 bushels, and it is all consumed in that country. Australia is a continent of an area of 3,000,000 square miles, and hundreds of thousands of acres can be used for the cultivation of maize, yet we are producing only a few paltry million bushels - not nearly so much as is produced by one State in America. By reducing the duty on maize, we shall force the manufacturer to charge a reasonable price for his product. By placing the industry upon a reasonable basis, more employment will be provided, and the manufacturers ultimately will be able to export their product.
.- It has been somewhat amusing to me to hear the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) put the case for the maize-growers, but no mention was made by them of the costs of transport, which increase enormously the costs to the grower. For instance, it. costs the Atherton grower 2s. 3d. to transport his maize to Melbourne where it is sold at os. a bushel. The board in its report stated -
In fact from the figures already given it will be seen that if the local manufacturers: obtained their maize requirements and thenecessary labour fur nothing and passed on the whole of these benefits to the consumers they would still be unable to compete with importations landed free of duty at a cost of f 17 5s. Id., including exchange.
Could there be any more damning indictment than that, either of the incompetency of the local manufacturers or of their greed for preposterous profits ? The community has to pay the bill. In the face of the report of the board, I cannot understand how any honorable member can oppose a reduction of duty. The manufacturers are taking advantage of the existing high duty to charge exorbitant prices, and their profits are used, not to benefit the -workers in the industry, but to swell their own dividends. If the report of the Tariff Board is correct - and there is no evidence to the contrary - there must, be something wrong with the industry. I hope that the Minister will stand to his guns, and reduce the duty in the interests of the community generally.
.- It has been suggested that the Tariff Board’s report is convincing and beyond dispute, but let me quote one , brief passage to show that the board knew very little about the profits of the manufacturers. The report reads -
Even after allowing for tlie fact that the Australian margin includes costs of delivery to purchasers’ stores, it is difficult to believe that in an efficient and economic industry the disparity should be so great as the comparison indicates.
If, on the other hand, the local industry is efficient and economic, then there must be large profits in the margin of £20 ]!)s. 7d. for “ other costs and profits “ in Australia. The board had access to the balance-sheets and profit and loss accounts of the three local manufacturers, but these documents did not contain sufficient detail to enable the board to isolate the profits made from sales of cornflour.
Therefore, the assumption of the board that the local manufacturers were making large profits was merely guess work. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has said that the cost of transport from Atherton Tablelands to Melbourne is 2s. 3d. a bushel. I suggest that the high cost of transport in Australia has been brought about largely by the action of a previous government, which he supported, in disposing of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers to a British shipping monopoly. It is the lack of competition in freights that has brought about high transport costs. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has stated that this reduction of duty will benefit rather than penalize the maize-growers, but he is not worrying at all about their position. I suggest that the people responsible for the production of maize in Atherton can speak for themselves better than the leader of the Country party can speak for them. A representative of these people wrote to the Minister for Trade and Customs on this subject on the 2nd February in the following terms: -
It has been brought under my notice by the chairman of the Atherton Tableland Maize Board that the Tariff Board should hold an inquiry in Sydney on 6th March into the necessity for the present rate of customs duty on cornflour, which, 1 understand, at the present moment, amounts to Hd. per lb. on importations from all other countries.
The Atherton Tableland is vitally concerned in this inquiry, as any reduction in the present protection, on cornflour must reflect itself in the use of Australian-grown maize, and as the primary producer of maize, at the’ present time and for some considerable time past, has been practically growing maize fit less than the cost of production, any further reduction in prices is likely to send the whole of the maize-growers out of business.
Trusting that you will see the interest of the’ maize-grower is protected, and would your department consider the granting of a pass to one of the members of the maize-grower’s organizations to attend the conference in Sydney on 0th March. If so, would you favour me with a wire so that I can get into communication, as they are anxious to know this as early as possible.
I had the honour, during the recess, of visiting the Atherton district in company with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). At an interview, the maizegrowers urged us to do our best to keep the price of maize up to the level that was then in operation, and we intend to do so. Apparently, the Country party, which alleges that it. represents rural interests, is chiefly concerned about destroying our primary industries. Such reductions of duties as that now under consideration will undoubtedly have that effect. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) made some reference to the quantity of maize produced in Australia, and to the difficulties of the growers. I point out to him that not only the maize-growers, but also other primary producers in Australia have caused many of the difficulties under which they are now labouring, by substituting American tractors for horse teams, and buying American oil. At one time, 300 teams of horses were used in the Atherton district for hauling timber to market, but, nowadays, practically all the hauling is done by tractors. In this respect, the primary producers have been their own worst enemies. There can be no doubt that the Tariff Board has made very many definite statements on guesswork.
It has referred, for instance, to the profits made in the cornflour industry; but it has not. supported its contentions with sufficiently strong evidence. The honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), are continually telling us that we are damaging the interests of the workers of this country by restricting imports; but I should like to know what would happen to the primary producers if it were not for the local market they now enjoy. The policy of the Country party will ultimately destroy our primary industries. The dumping here of products manufactured in other countries will result in the destruction of local secondary industries, and this in turn will destroy the home market for the primary producers. Australian industries which have been built up by means of bounties and high tariffs should not now be subjected to unfair competition by wealthy foreign interests with which are associated some of the Australian financial syndicates that support this Government. I hope that this request by the Senate will be rejected.
– I intend to vote against this request. To do otherwise would be to subject an industry which is 100 per cent. Australian to a severe blow, and to damage the maize-growing industry of Australia. In fact, the acceptance of this proposal might easily lead to the dismissal from their employment of 500 or 600 persons. As no maize is grown in the United Kingdom, and as the prices of Australian maize products are regarded as reasonable, I can see no reason why we should reduce this duty.
.The cornflour industry has been responsible for one of the greatest ramps to which Australian consumers have ever been subjected. Persistence in supporting uneconomic industries of this character must inevitably lead to additional unemployment. Such industries are like millstones around the necks of the Australian people. It has been clearly shown in the report of the Tariff Board that if the maize-growers gave their maize to the cornflour manufacturers for nothing, and the workers gave their labour for nothing, it would still be impossible for the cornflour manufacturers to compete against the cornflour manufacturers of the United Kingdom. Honorable members do a disservice, and not a service, to the Commonwealth by supporting high duties under such circumstances. This Parliament should order an exhaustive inquiry into the cornflour industry.
– That would not ensure the corn-growers a reasonable price for their corn.
– The maize-growers of Atherton get only about 2s; 2d. a bushel for their maize. It costs a good deal more than that, however, to get the maize from Atherton to the cornflour factories. Cornflour is a necessary article of daily food, particularly for the infants and invalids of the community. In these circumstances the present position is quite untenable. I believe that industries which are profiteering in consequence of excessive tariff protection should be brought to book. It was shown recently that the match-making industry was profiteering to an enormous extent. The flour-millers are, in my opinion, also making undue profits. The Government should order an inquiry into the flourmilling industry. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who has made a plea for the cornflour manufacturers, is incapable of realizing the uneconomic position of this industry and others of the same type. It would be unjust for us to continue to enforce the high duty on cornflour imposed by the previous Government. When the honorable member for Maribyrnong was tackled on this aspect of the subject he side-stepped it and endeavoured to plead the cause of the maizegrowers ; but the Tariff Board has shown clearly that this duty is not necessary to protect the interests of the maizegrowers. I, therefore, heartily support the Senate’s request.
– I have been requested by the employees of two large factories in my electorate to protest against this reduction of duty. But 1 am concerned about the subject from a much wider aspect. I suppose all honorable members have read recently of the efforts being made in the United States of America to raise price levels. The leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has shown by speeches which he has delivered in this House that he is a student of international economics, and he must know that every country in the world is trying to raise the price of its primary products in order to restore prosperity. Yet the right honorable gentleman is now advocating a reduction of duty which must adversely affect the price of maize. In support of his argument he made some reference to countries where black labour is employed.
– Black labour is not employed in the maize-growing areas of the United States of America.
– I am inclined to believe that the right honorable member is in error in that statement. There are very few American industries in which negro labour is not employed. A great contest is being waged in- America at present between the white and negro workers in regard to membership of the American Federation for Labour. Let me remind the right honorable member that America exports less than 10 per cent, of her primary produce, so that’ the arguments used to bolster up the Country party’s case in Australia do not apply to America. It must be apparent to every honorable member who gives any serious thought to the subject, that a reduction of the duty on cornflour must react disadvantageously on the maize-growers, because it will undoubtedly lessen the demand for maize. A reduction in the demand for maize, or any other primary product, must ultimately result in a. reduction in the price of that product. That is an economic law which nobody would dream of contradicting.
I have been asked to try to persuade the Government to maintain the existing duties. It is claimed that if the Senate’s request is accepted it will make the duty lower than it has been for the last 30 years. During that time there has been no outcry about exploitation, and if there had been there should have been other methods of dealing with it. What happened when the right honorable mem ber for Cowper was Treasurer, and prosperity smiled upon the land? I admit that there are exploiters in our midst, but I feel confident that there are also other legislative methods by which they can be kept in check.
There are 5,000 tons of cornflour manufactured in Australia every year, utilizing 500,000 bushels of maize and necessitating the cultivation of 17,000 or 18,000 acres of land. While that might appear insignificant from the viewpoint of some members of the Country party who represent chiefly pastoralists and wheat and wool-growers, it is a pretty big thing to thousands of small farmers working mixed farms. Surely it is recognized that there is already an alarming shrinkage in the demand for wool and wheat, and that it is criminal to aggravate the position by lessening the scope for the manufacture of product.3 of maize, rice, almonds and the many other small products which help the struggling farmers to make ends meet. When the duty on maize was increased there was an immediate reduction in the amount of cornflour manufactured in Australia, the output falling by 2,000 tons in one year. It is obvious that this is only a beginning and if this request is approved we shall be asked to reduce the duty on confectionery and other by-products of maize, with the result that eventually no maize will be grown in Australia and we shall have to depend on the black-grown product. That is not the solution of the problem. I remind honorable members that under the National Industries Restoration Act the Government of the United States of America has purposely increased the prices of products to restore national prosperity.
During the last three years the Country party, because it holds the balance of power, has been successful in bringing about the reduction of costs generally until we have retrogressed to the level of 30 years ago, when everything was cheap and nasty. As a result the primary producer is worse off than’ ever. We have lower labour costs, lower costs of material and of tools of trade, and that has not meant prosperity to the farmer or anybody else. I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter and reject the request of the Senate, for that chamber has not considered the duty on its merits.
– I sincerely trust that the Government will not accept the Senate’s request. Unfortunately the Senate is prone to reduce tariffs without considering the effect on both primary and secondary industries. Here we are concerned with a great primary industry about which has been developed substantial secondary industries, and a proposal is made to damage both. In times like these we should preserve to the primary industries in particular every available market, for among other things that means additional avenues of employment for our workers. If this request is acceded to there will be a diminution of the market for maize used in subsidiary industries, and a detrimental result to the whole community. If the Government refuses to consider those who are engaged in the maize industry, let it consider those engaged in the manufacture of cornflour and other by-products of maize. I hope that the committee will reject the request, which can have only a damaging effect on both primary and secondary industries.
in expressing the hope that the Government will not take this retrogressive step. To put it mildly, the action of the Senate is an irresponsible one, and indicates that members of that chamber have not given to the maize industry the consideration that it deserves. Eoi- years various byproducts of maize have received adequate tariff protection, with the result that a thriving secondary industry has been built up which directly employs 600 men and women, who are paid good wages and enjoy satisfactory conditions.
The deputy leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) intends to be consistent to his freetrade convictions, and, even though the heavens fall, to vote with the Government in accepting the Senate’s request. His object is to reduce the cost of production, with the result that ultimately we shall be compelled to use cornflour made from African black-grown maize. All this is to be done merely to reduce the price of reapers, binders, mattocks, and other implements used by the man on the land. Like Sarah in Mr. Midshipman Easy, he says that the request is “ Such a little one “, that only 4 per cent, of the total Australian maize crop is used in the manufacture of cornflour. I am not in a position to controvert those figures, but I am not at all diffident’ about questioning their authenticity. At least 500,000 bushels of maize are used each year in the manufacture of cornflour, and I am of the opinion that the figures which were presented by the honorable gentleman do not truly reflect the consumption of maize for this purpose. Members of the Country party intend to cut the fiscal throats of some of their supporters, so that the Australian market will be flooded with cornflour from Scotland, for, on the figures supplied by the deputy leader of that party, Scotland can and will capture the market for the whole of our requirementsof cornflour.
– That is nonsense.
– The honorable member attempted to make good his case by quoting figures which showed that, even if labour and material were free, Australian cornflour .would cost £22 more a ton than cornflour imported from Scotland. To be really consistent he and -his colleagues should remove the protection of 3s. 6d. a cental that is given to maize, for there should be no differentiation in affording protection to the primary and ‘secondary industries. If it is right to have blackgrown cornflour entering into competition with Australian primary and secondary industries, it should be just as right to open our doors to the black-grown maize of -South Africa. Consistent as the Deputy Leader of the Country party is, T venture to say that he would be the first to raise his voice to prevent the maize of South Africa, or of any other country, from entering Australia, and putting our maize-growers out of production. I invite the honorable member to inform this committee and his constituents whether he would or would not maintain that consistency of which he h so proud. Would he vote for every reduction, even if it adversely affected those whom allegedly be represents?
Figures have been quoted to-night by the Minister and by some honorable members in regard to the selling price of cornflour. The statement is very definitely made by Maize Products Limited and Parsons Proprietary Limited that Brown and Polsen’s No. 1 quality Scotch cornflour is selling in England at 9d. per 1-lb packet. The Minister has stated that these figures are incomplete or out of date, and that he has received a cable which gives the current quotations. The economic side, in its application to the maize-grower, is not unimportant. The average price of maize over a period of five years has been os. a bushel.
– Not on the farm.
– None of the prions paid for primary products in the marts or “to brokers are farm prices. The Tariff Board accepts that figure as an average. It represents a sum of from. £100,000 to £125,000 in the pockets of some of the maize-growers.
– Only about one-half of the 5s. reaches the grower.
– The Labour party has always advocated the efficient and proper handling of farm products by pools and such like means, and the exclusion of private enterprise. My honorable friend shrinks with, horror when it is suggested that the handling of his constituents’ products, should be taken from private enterprise and controlled sanely, efficiently and economically. Until the farmers control the marketing, handling and. selling of their own products they will continue to receive only one-half of the mart price. It is the inefficient and uneconomic marketing and distribution of primary products which causes the farmers to receive only 2s. 6d. out of tlie 5s. a ‘bushel that i3 paid. But, whatever be the figure, it denotes the receipt of a large sum of money by those who produce maize. That being so, any constriction of potential markets must inevitably affect prejudicially the majority of maizegrowers in Australia. We should endeavour to keep up the prices of our primary products. During the last four years efforts have been made to increase and to stabilize currency. I shall not embark upon an explanation of the attempt of the Scullin Government to obtain an inflation of currency with a view to raising internal price levels. Iu the United States of America all the efforts of the nation are concentrated upon proposals for increasing the prices of primary commodities, huge sums are being made available, and all kinds of subterfuges are being availed of.
– “ Subterfuges “ is the correct term to apply.
– In my opinion they are merely evading the main issue: they are going all round the question instead of straight at it. The natural corollary of the lowering of the duty on cornflour must be the reduction of the price of maize. The industry is responsible for the employment of such a considerable volume of labour, not only on the farm, but also in connexion with the transport of maize, first to the railway siding and then to the seaport and to manufacturing centres, that in this period of its history Australia cannot afford to lose it. For these reasons I am strongly opposed to the reduction proposed by the Minister in his fiscal retreat.
– Most of the criticism voiced to-night has been based on a circular sent to honorable members by one of the chambers of manufactures.
– Oh, no !
– I quoted a letter from the Atherton maize-growers.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) quoted figures which I know are given in the circular of Maize Products Limited.
– I have several circulars from which I wish to quote.
– This particular circular is full of inaccuracies, and condemns the case of the other side. First, it says that the duty recommended is the lowest since federation was established. I point out that the duty was Id. per lb. in 1901, that it was later reduced to id. per lb., and that in 1907 it was increased to 2d.; at which figure it. stood until 1929. I have been told by honorable members and by deputations that, whatever tlie Tariff Board may say in regard to the wholesale price, the retail price at least is cheaper in Australia than in Great Britain. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) have submitted that the price of Brown and Polsen’s cornflour in the United Kingdom is 9d. per 1-lb. packet, while the Australian price is only 7d. per 1-lb. packet. I cabled to the customs officers in London for confirmation or contradiction of that statement, and my information is that cornflour is retailed in Great Britain at 6d. a packet, while Brown and Polsen’s best is 8d. a packet. The October issue of the Australasian Grocer states that the average ruling price in Melbourne and suburbs for Brown and Polsen’s cornflour is Sd. a packet. It is made in Australia under licence from Brown and Polsen. Three other brands of cornflour - V Globe,” “Kream” and “Ship”- are sold at 8d., and the price of “ Cornina,’ which is made in Melbourne, is lOd. a packet. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, as usual, has submitted that the reduction of the duty would create unemployment. He said that 500 persons might be thrown out of work; but when I referred the matter to the Tariff Board, the reply I received was that the estimated number of persons employed by the three principal manufacturers was 110 males and 29 females, and that in all the factories, the production of cornflour was carried on in conjunction with the manufacture of other maize products. The board added that it had not sufficient particulars on which to base estimates of employment created by the growing of maize and the manufacture of packing material. The circular of the Chamber of Manufacturers states that the employees are paid £4 14s. a week, but information obtained by the department shows that adult males receive 77s. 6d. a week in New South Wales, and 65s. a week in Victoria, while the wage for adult females is 38s. 9d. in New South Wales and 34s. 3d. in Victoria. The Tariff Board states that Australian consumers pay £22 ls. 2d. a ton in excess of the cost at which importations could be landed free of duty. The circular on which honorable members have based their argument is entirely inaccurate.
– It is not.
– The honorable member is still a prohibitionist. The depression should have taught him that he should not dogmatize, and that prohibition would reduce, rather than increase, employment in this country. If we accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board, we shall give adequate protection to the industry, and leave it a substantial margin of profit.
– Why is 8d. a packet charged both in England and Australia for the same brand of cornflour?
– Possibly the English company has a holding in the Australian company, and a price arrangement has been made; but the cost of the other Comparable brand is lOd. a packet.
– In making a plea on behalf of the consumers, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) stated that the retail price of cornflour in Australia was 250 per cent, higher than in Great Britain. When we suggested that the Tariff Board had made no reference to the retail price, and that nobody had said that the quality of Australianmade cornflour was inferior to the English, Scotch or American article, the Minister pointed out that while Brown and Polsen’s cornflour’ was sold at 8d. a packet in England, the same brand made by the same company in Australia was sold at a similar figure.
– The circular showed a difference between the prices.
– In that respect the Minister has gained one victory. Although the prices stated in the circular, were 9d. and 7d., he has shown to the committee that British cornflour of the same standard as the Australian product is being sold in London at exactly the same price. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has said that the price to the consumer in Australia is 250 per cent, higher than the price in Great Britain. It was a very misleading and unfair statement, and was made for the purpose of impressing upon the committee the need for this reduced duty. In making such a .statement, the right honorable member did not act in the interests of the maize producers; in fact, he acted against their wishes, and certainly not in the interests of the consumers.
– I felt sure from the attitude of the Minister that he intended to produce evidence to show the disparity between the prices charged for certain maize products in Great Britain and those charged in Australia; but, instead of doing so, he showed merely that the prices were exactly the same in both countries. The Australian industry is carried on by white people, while in Great Britain the raw material is produced by black labour and is manufactured in the factory by low-paid white labour; yet we are asked by the Government to patronize the British manufacturer in preference to the Australian. If, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has said, hardships are being suffered by the consumer, why did he not. institute some reform when he and five other members of the Country party were members of a government that held office for six and a half years? I should be glad, indeed, to meet the maize-growers on the Clarence or the Snowy rivers and to obtain from them their opinion of the attitude of their socalled representatives in this chamber, the right honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). One of the British companies which will be competing with our Australian company as a result of this reduction of duty is controlled by American capital, and portion of its profits are sent to the United States of America?
– What company is that?
– The Minister should be able to ascertain that from the information at his disposal. In this industry, as well as in many others, foreign companies have established branches in Great Britain in order to obtain preference under our tariff. Although the Country party is extremely anxious to reduce the duty in order to bring about reform in this industry, it failed to bring about any great reform during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. I remind the so-called representatives of the primary producers that the more people we employ in our factories the more we shall develop the local market for primary produce. The men and women employed in our factories have to be fed, clothed, and housed from the land, and every benefit that is conferred upon them is passed on in some form or another to the primary producers. The Minister is not always fair in his statements. When he was reminded of the fact that the price of cornflour was the same in Great Britain as in Australia, he said that he supposed that the Australian company was in some way connected with the British company, and that an arrangement had been entered into with regard to prices. The Minister had not the slightest authority for making that statement, and I give it an absolute denial. The Australian concern is being carried out as honestly as any other concern in Australia. Although the Minister holds a responsible position, he does not hesitate to make irresponsible statements that are unfair and not in accordance with fact. Honorable members who agree to the Senate’s request will vote to give work to coloured people in other parts of the world, and to deny the right to work to their fellow Australians who are having difficulty in making a living. I am not pleased with the manner in which the Government has con- ducted this business, and I promise to give it more trouble in the future because of its behaviour to-night.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [1.6 a.m.]. - Quoting from a price list, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) tried to prove that the Australian manufacturers of cornflour were exploiting the v consuming public. He quoted from the Tariff Board’s report to show that the wholesale price of cornflour in Australia is £39 a ton. ‘
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That, the requested amendment be made - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Ma jority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to by an absolute majority -
That Standing Order No. 70 (eleven o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of this sitting.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
That the foregoing message be taken into consideration, in committee of the wholeHouse forthwith.
Senate’s am endment -
Leave out clause 49 and insert the following new clause: - “49.- (1.) The provisions of Parts VI.. VII., VIII. and IX. of this Act to the extent to which they vary, or authorize the variation of, any periodical payment shall have effect in respect of any periodical payment made on or after the twenty-sixth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-three. (2.) For the purposesof this section periodical payment ‘ means any payment by way of pension., salary, wage, fee or allowance which is ordinarily made at regular weekly, fortnightly, semi-monthly or monthly intervals, but does not include -
– I move: -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Under clause 49 of the bill as it stood, the increase in old-age pensions, salaries, and so forth, did not operate until the pay-day following the day of commencement of the relative clauses. It was the hope of the Government that the bill would be passed by both Houses of Parliament in sufficient time to permit the increases to take effect from the next pensions pay-day, the 26th October. However, it was found impossible to do that, and the Government decided to make an amendment in another place, which will have the effect of making the increases of invalid and oldage pensions retrospective to the 26th October, and the increases of the salaries of civil servants payable from next Friday. Although, by reason of the difficulty of making administrative arrangements, it will not be possible to make either of these increased payments on the clays named, the increases will be paid at the earliest opportunity, probably on the next pay-day.
Ministerial and parliamentary allowances are dealt, with in proposed . subsection 2, but the increases will not. be payable until the pay-day which takes place on the. 30th “.November next. In respect of invalid and old-age pensions, war pensions, Civil Service salaries, and superannuation, exactly the same principle is being adopted as was adopted when reductions took place under the Financial Emergency Act of 1931.
.On a matter of principle I fail to see why there should be any differentiation regarding the restoration of allowances to honorable members. My attitude has been well defined throughout on this subject. I believe that honorable members have not asked for more than they are entitled to and, as restorations are to be made retrospective in the case of civil servants and social services, they should also he made retrospective in respect of parliamentary allowances. Rightly or wronglyI was under the impression that the restoration of parliamentary allowances would take place from the beginning of November.
– Parliamentary allowances are payable in arrears. For that reason the increase will, in effect, date from the 1st November. If that date were named in the bill, the increase would have to date back to the 1st October, and that was not desired.
Mr.Rosevear. - This is the same amendment which the Government refused to accept last week.
– The Government refused to accept it because we tried to get the bill through in time to make the pension payments from the 26th of this month.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
House adjourned at 1.40 a.m. (Thursday).
The followinganswers to questions were circulated: -
MINISTERIAL TRAVELLING ALLOWANCES.
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
Tobacco : Im port ations - Producers.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.White. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Northern Territory School Teachers.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331025_reps_13_141/>.