14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Nauru - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Nauru during the year 1935.
New Guinea - Report to the Council of the League of Nations . on the Administration of the Territory, of New Guinea for the year 1934-35.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1936 -
No. 3 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 4-CommonweaIth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for 1935.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the next Premiers Conference will discuss the question of uniformity of industrial laws throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in regard to the subjects of wages and hours?
– I am unable to say at this juncture whether or not that will be so, but I shall look into the matter.
– Has the Prime
Minister seen reports of the Shires Conference held this week in. Sydney, at which resolutions were carried suggesting that the Commonwealth Government should not reduce the petrol tax but should apply a greater portion of the proceeds from it to grants to the States for road purposes? Will the right honorable gentleman take that proposal into consideration when the next budget is being prepared?
– The matter will be -discussed with the representatives of the different States at the next Premiers Conference.
Radio Beacon at Canberra.
– In view of the fact that a few days ago the air mail plane from Sydney to Melbourne was delayed for an hour and threequarters flying round this capital city in an endeavour to penetrate the fog which hung over it, in order to effect a landing, and of the importance of maintaining air communications, will the Minister for Defence consider the erection of a radio beacon at Canberra at the earliest possible date?
– That matter is now under the consideration of the Air Board.
– .Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has given any consideration to its right under the agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to take over the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited at the expiration of fifteen years from the date when the agreement was made?
– No consideration has been given to the matter.
– In view of the fact that the annual report of tha Postal Department reveals marked profiteering, in that during the period under review a profit of £500,000 was made on the telephone service alone, will the Prime Minister ask the Tariff Board to ascertain whether the department is over-capitalized, is making excessive profits, and could provide a better service at a cheaper rate?
– I am afraid that the operations of the Post Office cannot be regarded as a subject that may bo referred to the Tariff Board.
– In view of the substantial profits made by the telephone branch of the Postal Department, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral request that gentleman to liberalize the conditions imposed in connexion with rural services instead of compelling potential subscribers to contribute largely to the cost of installation and to pay full rates for a period of years before even a partial refund is made to them?
– In view of the profit disclosed in the report of the Postal Department, I am sure that thorn will be a unanimous desire for the reduction of charges. I shall be very glad to bring to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the honorable member’s proposition and the many others which doubtless will be submitted.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether it is a function of the Commonwealth Forestry Department to give advice to State Forestry Departments on forestry policy ?
– 4 should” say that it would be, if the advice were sought.
– In view of the enormous amounts of Commonwealth money that have ‘been wasted by the Queensland Forestry Department in the past in seeking to solve re-afforestation problems -
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question without including in it an expression of opinion.
– Will the Treasurer arrange for a senior Commonwealth forest officer to visit Queensland, to assist in placing the forest service of that State upon a proper basis and in directing Commonwealth advances into the right channels ?
– Should the Queensland Government make a request to the Commonwealth Government in those terms, serious consideration will bo given to it.
– In view of the fact that Commonwealth moneys have been made available to the States for Forestry purposes, will the Minister for the Interior find out what States have sought the advice of Commonwealth forestry experts in regard to their forestry operations, and will he extend to the States which have not done so a cordial invitation to take advantage of this assistance?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be considered.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to state when a conference will be held for the purpose of reconsidering the CanadianAustralian trade agreement?
– That is a matter of policy which, as the honorable member is aware, it is not usual to indicate in reply to questions.
Supplies of Fuel Oil
– Pending the implementation of the Government’s policy with respect to measures to obtain adequate supplies of fuel oil from local sources in Australia, has the Department of Defence taken steps to store supplies of petrol which would meet its requirements for a period of at least twelve months in the event of supplies from outside sources being unobtainable in an emergency ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.This important aspect, of measures for the defence of Australia is always closely watched. The Department of Defence at present has supplies sufficient to last for a much longer period than the honorable member has mentioned. It is not advisable to give further details.
Standardization of Gauge
– Will the Prime Minister note for consideration by the Cabinet and the next Premiers Conference, the advisability of an extension of the 4 ft. 8½ in. railway gauge from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle?
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether it is a fact that licences to establish B class broadcasting stations were issued some considerable time ago in respect of the towns of Bega and Griffith ? If so, will he have inquiry made as to the cause of the delay which has occurred in their establishment, and, if necessary, have the licences transferred to other applicants who are prepared to commence operations almost immediately?
-I shall have inquiries made into the matter and, when the information is obtained, advise the honorable member by letter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to the Press report of a statement by MajorGeneral Brand, that the voluntary system of enlistment in the defence forces of the Commonwealth has been a complete failure? If so, are his views in agreement with it ?
– I read in the local newspaper the paragraph which attributed this statement to Senator Brand, and have no hesitation in saying that I am in total disagreement with him. I consider that he spoke without having sufficient knowledge of all the facts. I am led to this conclusion by the ill-balanced view upon national defence which has been given expression in the statement.
– I remind honorable members that questions regarding statements made in the Senate are not in order.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether consideration has been given to the suggestion to increase the payments made to members of the Militia?
– The Government’s scheme for the encouragement of recruiting in the Militia will come before Parliament shortly. It will contain provisions which I am not now at liberty to disclose.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to the statement in last night’s Melbourne Herald that a Mr. Tracey, who claims tobe a leader of the Nazi party in
Western Australia, declares that he will meet force with force? Does the honorable gentleman intend to permit the formation of such an organization in Australia? If not, what steps does he propose to take to suppress Nazi-ism in Western Australia?
– My parliamentary duties having prevented me from keeping abreast of current affairs by a perusal of all the important journals, I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has directed attention. Certain inquiries were made recently as to Nazi activity in the Commonwealth, and the information was obtained that the rumours were without foundation and that at present there was no organization of this nature in existence. I shall, however, institute further inquiries.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has been officially advised of the date of the coronation of His Majesty, King Edward VIII., and whether an invitation has been extended to Australia to be officially represented at the ceremony?
– The answer to each part of the honorable member’s question is “No.”
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth will be represented at the Copyright Convention which is to be held towards the end of this year? If not. have instructions been given to the British delegate to express the views of the Commonwealth?
– I can only say that the matter is being considered by the Government at the present time.
– Under the Repatria tion Act, in order to obtain educational benefits for their children, returned soldiers must be totally and permanently incapacitated and be in receipt of a special form of war pension, while a tubercular soldier’s children do not receive educational benefits until he has been in receipt of a pension at the special rate of two guineas for at least three years. Will the Minister for Repatriation favorably consider the alteration of the act in the direction of providing greater and earlier educational assistance in the case of the children of these returned soldiers?
– In the absence of the Minister, I promise to have full inquiries made and to advise the honorable member at a later date.
Burns Philp Shipping Services
– Have any adverse reports been received from planters or other interested parties regarding the shipping regulations recently approved by this House, which the Opposition at the time claimed would give a monopoly to the Burns Philp Company?
– I am not aware that any complaints of the kind have been received, but I shall make inquiries, and notify the honorable member by letter.
– Some time ago, the
Minister in charge of War Service Homes promised that he would visit South Australia to inquire into matters relating to his department. Is he yet able to say when that visit is likely to be made?
– I propose to honour that promise, and will visit South Australia and Western Australia, probably during July next.
– In common with other honorable members, I have forwarded to the department during the last twelve months a number of applications for new war service homes, but have always been informed that the applications must await their turn. I have heard nothing more about them, and, apparently, never will. Can the Minister say whether the accumulation of unconsidered applications is being reduced to any extent?
– It is true that the department is about two years in arrears in dealing with applications for new homes, but it is hoped that sufficient funds will be allotted in next year’s Estimates to permit of those arrears being substantially reduced.
– Will the Minister take immediate and urgent steps to protect from victimization the unfortunate wife of a returned soldier living in the Nambour district, who has been threatened by the department with eviction unless she pays arrears extending over twelve months? The woman’s husband is an invalid, but he has been denied a pension because he cannot prove that his disability is due to his war service.
– This is the first I have heard of the case, but full inquiries will be made before any further action is taken.
– Will the Government place upon the Estimates sufficient money to enable the occupiers of war service homes to have their premises connected with sewerage mains, so that they may not have to continue paying sanitary dues to local municipalities?
– That is a matter for consideration by Cabinet, and it will receive attention in due course.
– Will the Treasurer make public the number of subscribers to Commonwealth loans issued in Australia during the last three or four years, and will he from time to time make available information regarding the number of holders of Commonwealth securities in their various categories?
– I shall take steps to comply with the first portion of the honorable member’s request. As to the second part of his question, I am not aware that statistics are kept from which the information desired can be obtained, hut I shall make inquiries.
– Does the Government propose to take any action to meet the unfortunate situation that would arise if the appeal now being argued before the Privy Council regarding the interpretation of section 92 of the Constitution is decided against the interests of the primary producers?
– The Government cannot anticipate a decision by the Privy Council, but, whatever happens, the Government will do the right thing.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) inquired regarding the distribution of funds under the provisions of the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act, and I supplied him with figures relating to distributions up to the 28th February. I have now been informed that the States have advised the Treasury that their estimated requirements up to the 30th June, 1936, will be as follows: -
– Is the Commonwealth Government satisfied with the rate at which the State Governments are proceeding with the distribution of funds under the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act?
– Although the figures I have given are comparatively small compared with the total of £12,000,000 provided for in the act, honorable members must understand that some of the States were unable to operate under their own legislation, because it did not conform to the requirements of the federal act, and it was only during this session that the Commonwealth act was amended to enable the States to come into line. It is hoped that, during the next financial year, large sums will be distributed through the agency of the States.
– In view of the fact that the Government will have a substantial surplus at the end of this financial year, wilt the Prime Minister state whether any provision is being made in the next budget for the restoration of invalid and old-age pensions to the full amount of £1 a week?
– All matters concerning the budget will receive careful consideration by the Government.
– Has the Prime Minister received from the Invalid and Old-age Pensioners Association a request that he shall meet representatives of the association to discuss the restoration of their pensions to the former level of fi a week?
– I am not aware of any invitation, but perhaps it has been overlooked by .me. I shall make inquiries into the matter. I may add that I shall be only too glad to receive such a deputation at a suitable time.
– Yesterday, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) inquired regarding certain press reports dealing with the rates charged for advances by the trading banks. I have made inquiries, and find that no official statement has been made by the associated banks on this subject. I do not know the origin of the statement to which the honorable member referred, nor can I vouch for its truth.
School Accommodation for “White Children.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state whether provision has been made for separate accommodation in schools for white children at Darwin and other towns in the north, or are they still compelled to share the same classrooms with coloured children?
– Separate accommodation has been provided at Pine Creek, but I do not know what the position is elsewhere.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether favorable consideration will be given to the request for the erection of a new post office in South Brisbane on the site purchased by the department many years ago?
– I assure the honorable member that the Postmaster-General will give full consideration to the request.
– In view of the inconvenience caused to country telephone subscribers by the fact that telephone direc tories supplied to them are published only once a year, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider the suggestion that country directories be published twice a year as is done in the cities ?
– I shall ask the Postmaster-General to take the honorable member’s suggestion into consideration.
– I ask if it is a fact that the Commonwealth Bank is desirous of obtaining^ for the purposes of erecting a banking premises, a portion of a property in Brisbane controlled by the Postal Department and that the Postal Department is holding the matter up and whether the Postmaster-General will go into the matter with a view to settling the trouble thus enabling the erection of the proposed new bank building to be proceeded with?
– I shall bc glad to have inquiries made respecting the matter raised.
– In view of the fact that the oil storage tanks at Darwin are on the surface and aerial photographs have been taken which are on sale in the town, will the Minister for Defence consider the advisability of decentralizing oil storage by having future tanks constructed 30 miles westward at Bynoe Harbour, which has been favorably reported on as a site for oil tanks?
– I informed the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) yesterday that full inquiries would be made into the location of oil tanks and the nature of their construction.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs when he anticipates that the Government will take action radically to. alter the newspaper ordinance at Norfolk Island as was promised some time ago? Is the Minister aware that the existing ordinance was responsible for closing down the only newspaper at Norfolk Island and that the advisory council of Norfolk Island unanimously agreed to ask the Minister to amend it?
– My information is not complete on the matter but, such as it is, it shows that there is a great deal more “behind the matter than might be inferred from the honorable gentleman’s question. However, I shall get in touch with the Minister for External Affairs and see what can be done in the direction of amending the ordinance.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-<General endeavour to have placed on next year’s Estimates sufficient money to build a new post office on land already owned by the Commonwealth Government at Mortdale?
– The matter will have consideration.
– In the preparation of the budget, will a review be made of the estimates of costs prepared by the Royal Commission on National Insurance 1928 and by the Royal Commission on Family Endowment somewhere about the same time of the two schemes? The various recommendations contained in those two reports should be reviewed so that we may have within our knowledge some approximate idea of what any schemes similar to those then proposed would cost.
– I shall be glad to endeavour to obtain the information sought by the honorable gentleman.
– Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that the House Committee or officers of the House Committee refused certain officers of the departments to partake of lunch in a room set aside for parliamentary officers and the Press, and in view of your endorsement of that last week, when the matter was raised by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), will you explain why last “night Captain Bracegirdle was taken into the members’ dining-room and partook of supper with yourself and ministerial members ?
The matter referred to was inquired into by myself last night immediately after supper because my attention had been directed to it. The official mentioned by the honorable gentleman is the Military Secretary to the Governor-General. I noticed his presence but he was not having supper with me. When I inquired as to which honorable member had invited him, I was told that the honorable member understood that Captain Bracegirdle had the permission of the President of the Senate to use the refreshment rooms.
– He was here on official business with myself.
– The question of the gentleman being on official duty does not influence the case. The members’ diningroom is set apart for honorable members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, for members of the State Parliaments, and for former members of the Commonwealth Parliament. I shall consult the President of the Senate upon the matter and the objection made by the honorable member for Hunter. I think, however, honorable members will agree that the President of the Senate and the Speaker should have discretionary powers to give permission to any one on special occasions, if they think that it should be granted.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Government finds itself in the position of having a considerable surplus, it is intended, in the preparation of the next budget, to make provision for the restoration of maternity allowances to their former level ?
– I can only reply, as I did to an earlier question asked by the honorable gentleman, that this matter also will be taken into serious consideration in the presentation of the budget.
– by leave - Subsequent to the debate in this House in regard to the question of the desirability of the introduction into Australia of reduced working hours, and to the decision of the G’Overnment not to proceed in the absence of representatives of labour with the convening of the proposed- conference, the matter has received the fullest consideration of the Government.
The subject is regarded as of such importance that some method alternative to the proposed conference must be adopted to enable the whole question to be fully considered.
A consultation has been held with His Honour Chief Judge Dethridge, Chief Fudge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, as to the best method of having the matter investigated from the point of view of all interests concerned, and the conclusion has been reached that, if a plaint were filed in the Arbitration Court in which the claim, or one of the claims, was for a shorter working week, the whole question of the effect on Australian industry of the introduction of a shorter working week could be fully investigated.
In the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, provision is made for the full consideration by the court of any question of standard hours in industry where that question is the subject of a plaint filed in the court. In such cases the act permits any person or organization or association of employers or employees to apply to the court for liberty to be heard, and to examine and cross-examine witnesses. In order that, if any such hearing takes place, it should be thoroughly comprehensive, the Commonwealth Government would welcome the application to the court by all organizations interested.
Such a plaint, it is realized, could be filed only on the application by one or more organizations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If such a plaint is filed, the Commonwealth Government will do everything in its power to facilitate the proceedings and the presentation to the court of all relevant evidence.
It is necessary that the Full Court Bench of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration hear such a plaint. In the absence abroad of Mr. Justice Beeby, who is at present on leave, the case could not be dealt with until towards the end of the year. I am assured, however, by Chief Judge Dethridge that the hearing should not occupy a greater period than six weeks.
.- by leave - The statement which the right honorable gentleman has just made to the House does not in any way advance the situation beyond action which the unions had a right to take without that statement being made. The Government has not in the statement intimated the essential contribution which it could make towards the settlement of this question ; that is, it has not said whether at the proceedings it will be represented and will intimate to the court that, as a matter of policy, the Government is in favour of a shorter working week.
– Would that be proper?
– Those who appear before the court are entitled to urge the court to grant the claims which they believe to be proper, and if the Government believes in a shorter working week it should bring before the court evidence justifying its belief. The unions, in this instance, will have the greater burden of the preparation of the case for a shorter working week. In view of the belief in the principle of a shorter working week, which has animated it from time to time, the Government should be prepared to assist the unions to compilerelevant evidence which would justify the court in reducing .standard hours. One further point - and I do not want tomake this too controversial - is that I feel the Commonwealth Court of Conciliationand Arbitration has very limited authority with respect to the fixing of standard hours for industry in general.’ Before the court is asked to make a-, decision, this Parliament should, therefore, indicate what it believes to be rightprinciples to apply in connexion with areduction of hours. I say this because this-. Parliament has been directly represented on what is practically an international parliament, by which a draft convention for a 40-hour week has been adopted. At the present moment Australia is. represented on a conference, the purposeof which is to decide whether or not draft conventions applying the shorter working- week to specific industries should be made. The Government is responsible in this matter to . a far greater extent than’ merely facilitating the hearing of the case in the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. As a matter of actual fact, the Government cannot resist the court hearing such a claim, and the course it has taken to-day, while it has the virtue of keeping the issue alive, does not in any way identify the Government in Australia with the principle with which it desired to he identified internationally.
Message reported recommending appropriation.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message).
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for on act to make provision for improving the quality and increasing the production and use of wool.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
As this hill will be followed by two other measures which will fix the amount of the proposed tax and provide for the assessment and collection of it, I ask leave to discuss the three measures together.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).As this hill is one of three cognate measures, it will be permissible for honorable members to debate all three on the Minister’s motion.
– This bill provides for the establishment of an Australian Wool Board which will control wool publicity and research in Australia and overseas. It will consist of six members nominated by the Australian Woolgrowers Council and one representative of the Commonwealth Government, and will be financed by a levy on all wool shorn in Australia after the 1st June, 1936. It has been suggested that the proposed date be amended to the 1st July, 1936, which is the beginning of the financial year.
It is unnecessary for me to emphasize the importance of the wool industry in Australia or the need to give woolgrowers the power provided in this bill to raise funds for a world-wide publicity campaign; to finance further scientific research to discover new uses for wool and improved methods of manufacture, to improve the quality of the wool grown in Australia. With more than 110,000,000 sheep in Australia the sheep-breeders provide in excess of half of Australia’s exports, in point of value, and although we produce the bulk of the fine wool of the world, considerable improvement may still be effected in the quality of our clip. It is also possible to increase considerably the carrying capacity of many of our pastures. In addition, many of the millions of sheep lost annually through drought and disease could he saved if proper control methods were thoroughly understood and applied by the stock-owners.
It is impossible to forecast what the scientists may be able to discover in the future by research activities, and it would be difficult to indicate what benefits may accrue to the wool industry from a carefully planned world-wide publicity scheme.
While I was abroad last year with the Prime Minister’s delegation, I was privileged to represent Australia at the International Wool Conference held in Berlin in June, 1935, and I had an opportunity to secure first-hand information respecting the development of the artificial fibre industry of Germany and to meet representatives of all the important wool manufacturing firms of Europe and the United Kingdom. Subsequently, I paid a visit to the Wool Research Station at Torridon, near Leeds in England, and the Woollen Textile Technical College at Bradford, and I had the opportunity to see and appreciate the valuable research work of the scientific officers at both centres. I was amazed to find that no satisfactory arrangements had been made to provide the necessary finance to enable the Torridon Research Station to continue its investigations for any length of time.
Upon my return to London the High Commissioner for Australia, Mr. Bruce, called a ‘conference of representatives of the British wool manufacturing interests, the New Zealand and South African Governments, and the expert officers attached to Australia House, at which many problems confronting the wool industry of the British Empire were fully discussed. The South African representatives pointed out that they already had a fund derived from a levy on wool which had been in operation for some years, and that they were prepared to cooperate with Australia and New Zealand in an extensive wool publicity campaign and to contribute to a fund to place the research work on a permanent and satisfactory footing. The New Zealand representatives indicated that they would be prepared to recommend to the Dominion Government the necessity for similar action, and we agreed, on behalf of Australia, to urge the Australian woolgrowers to agree to a levy to obtain the necessary funds to undertake the kind of work indicated in this bill. A strong committee, representative of the wool interests, was formed in England, first to secure the co-operation of the growers and, secondly, to urge the dominions to adopt an Empire-wide publicity plan to combat the ill-effects being suffered by the woollen industry through the development of artificial fibres in various parts of the world which were gradually robbing the wool-growers of part of their world market. I have in mind not only the artificial fibre being manufactured in Germany under the name of Vistra, but also many other fibres which are coming on the market and competing with our wool. Lord Barnby had several interviews with us in London oh this subject and subsequently visited New Zealand and Australia to urge the necessity for further publicity and research. Later the matter was taken up by the various graziers’ associations of the Commonwealth. The scheme was strongly supported by Mr. R. Wilson, a visitor from overseas, who, under the auspices of theAustralian Woolgrowers Council, and accompanied by its President, Mr. Dalziel Kelly, addressed meetings throughout the Commonwealth, with the result that the proposals now before the House obtained almost unanimous support.
The Australian Woolgrowers Council is a thoroughly representative body, consisting of delegates from the great majority of the woolgrowers’ organizations throughout the Commonwealth. Among the organizations represented on it are the following: -
The Pastoralists: Association of Western Australia;
The Primary Producers Association of Western Australia;
The Stockowners Association of South Australia ;
The United Graziers Association of Queensland ;
The Graziers Association of Victoria;
The Victorian Country Party which, absorbed the Victorian Farmers’ Union;
The Victorian Chamber of Agriculture ;
The Tasmanian Farmers Stockowners and Orchardists Association;
The Graziers Association of Southern River in a;
The Pastoralists Association of the West Darling of New South Wales;
The Graziers Association of New South Wales;
The Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales.
The last two mentioned associations represent the Primary Producers Central Council of New South Wales, which is an organization representative of all the sheep-breeders’ associations. Any organization associated with the wool-growing industry not already represented on thecouncil, may obtain representation by merely applying for it.
– But it does not follow that it would get direct representation on the wool board itself.
– Once an already organized or a newly organized association affiliates with the Australian Woolgrowers Council, it will have representation on the board, for six direct nominees of the council will sit on the board. Obviously it will not be possible for one person from every separate organization affiliated with the council to be a member of the board.
– What are the conditions of affiliation with the council?
– The body concerned must represent stockowners in some way. The graziers’ associations alone represent considerably more than 55,000,000 sheep, which is in excess of half the sheep of the Commonwealth.
– Is the Minister referring to stock or only sheep?
– Only sheep. It is proposed to provide for a maximum levy of 6d. a bale, 3d. a butt, and Id. a bag. These will be the maximum amounts in each case. It is estimated that the levy will yield between £60,000 and £80,000 a year, according to the clip. The average will probably be £70,000 a year, but the exact amount will be subject to seasonal and price conditions. The levy will be collected through the wool-brokers’ and dealers’ organizations by deductions from, the woolgrowers’ returns, which will avoid the necessity for the wool-growers individually to furnish returns or pay the tax. I emphasize that only a limited number of persons will be required to furnish returns in connexion with this tax. Definitely, the wool-growers themselves will not be burdened with the necessity to furnish returns or pay the tax as individuals. This will be done through the wool-brokers, dealers or banks, as I have indicated.
I emphasize that while the three bills relating to this proposal will create a statutory board with power to receive the levy from the Commissioner for Taxation, they will in no way cause Government control or interference with the wool industry. Six of the seven members of the board will be direct representatives of the wool-growers’ own organizations, and they will completely control the work to be carried out in the interests of their own industry in close co-operation with the wool-growers of New Zealand and South Africa and all the wool interests of the United Kingdom. Later, the board will, in all probability, extend its activities and influence beyond the Empire, widening existing markets and seeking new avenues and uses for our wool.
Honorable members must surely agree that the passage of this legislation will give the wool-growers of Australia power to establish an organization with sufficient funds to confer untold benefits upon our greatest primary industry, and this, in turn, will react to the advantage of all sections of the community.
It should be remembered that the Australian wool-growers are almost the only large section of exporters who have not asked the Government for any form of bounty or financial assistance to enable them to maintain their exports, and in this instance they are merely asking the Commonwealth Government to provide them with the statutory powers to raise the necessary funds to help themselves to further organize and improve their industry.
I do not desire to go into unnecessary detail in connexion with these measures, but the scheme that is being implemented is very necessary in the best interests not only of the wool industry itself but also of the Commonwealth. Realizing the vast amount of wealth derived in Australia from the sale of wool and the dependence of the country on the absorption by the overseas market of our surplus wool clip, the Government feels that everything possible should be done to promote scientific research into the industry. Research workers will undoubtedly plan operations for years ahead when they know that sufficient funds will be forthcoming to give continuity of operations.
The assessment bill which will follow this one is merely a machinery measure.
I intend to move several amendments to this measure at the committee stage. One amendment will provide for the deletion of the words “ the quality “ from the title of the bill. Another will provide that after the fourth year of the operation of the scheme the Minister for Commerce may, on the presentation of a petition, authorize the taking of a ballot of wool-growers of the Commonwealth to determine whether the Wool Board shall continue in operation after the end of the fifth year.
– Why not give the growers that privilege before the scheme is put into operation?
– Because, in the first place, I am satisfied that the request is almost unanimously supported by the wool-growers of Australia. In addition, this measure is in the interests of every woolgrower as well as in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. In the circumstances, we are justified in passing the bill without taking a poll to authorize the inauguration of the scheme. Such a poll would cause great delay; it would require the creation of a complete set of special electoral machinery throughout Australia. At a low estimate, it would cost £10,000 or £12,000 for the compilation of the rolls alone. In all, about a year’s revenue - £70,000 - would be absorbed. Rolls would have to be compiled showing every wool-grower in Australia. There would have to be a postal ballot, and the rolls would have to be exhibited throughout the Commonwealth for a certain period. They would then have to be revised, and the necessary machinery would have to be provided to enable objections to be lodged. Review courts would have to be established to consider objections, and to enable the names of growers who had not been enrolled to be included. We should lose the benefit of the proposed organization for at least a year.
No poll was taken as to whether the Australian Meat Board should be established, yet the meat producers have raised no protest against the constitution of that body.
– They have had no chance.
– They had every opportunity to do so. That board has statutory powers, and collects levies. In a number of other instances, no preliminary ballot was taken. I propose to submit an amendment to give the woolgrowers of Australia an opportunity, by presenting a petition supported by the necessary number of growers, and representing the necessary number of sheep, to demand a poll to be taken throughout the Commonwealth during the first five years of the operation of the scheme; and, if the growers so desire, they can terminate the scheme within five years. Although provision will be made for the collection of a certain levy, a maximum amount only is specified in the bill. Until the Wool Board has been established, its recommendations have been received, and the regulations prescribing the amount of the levy have been gazetted.- no money will be collected. It will be in the power of the woolgrowers’ own representative on the board to make recommendations to the Minister to reduce the levy to any figure desired, or to eliminate it entirely.
– This body will represent 9,000 growers, but 40,000 will have no opportunity to say whether they agree to it or not.
– That statement is entirely inaccurate.
– The small growers will not be represented.
– Yes, they will.
– It is necessary to check up all the Minister’s statements in regard to both wool and wheat.
– In reply to that impudent interjection, all I have to say is that any observations by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) are more likely to mislead those who read my speech than assist them to understand it. The matter will be entirely in the hands of the Wool Board, which can reduce or eliminate the levy at any time. It will not be necessary for it to wait five years, so long as the levy does not exceed the maximum amount mentioned in the bill.
.- I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for a ballot of all Australian wool-growers as to whether they favour the proposed levy on wool, and the proposed method of administration of the fund.”
I do not wish it to be considered that the Opposition is hostile to any organization calculated to benefit such an important industry as the wool industry of Australia; but I hope to be able to show that there is a very substantial number of growers who are opposed to this measure being put into operation, if they are to be deprived of an opportunity to express their view upon it. The Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Thorby) said that the Australian meat growers had not protested against the establishment of the Australian Meat Board. He endeavoured to lead honorable members to believe that he was anxious to provide in legislation of this kind for the taking of a ballot of the producers in the industry. I refer him to the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924, section 2 of which reads -
Provided that a proclamation under this section shall not issue unless’ and until, at a poll of producers taken in the prescribed manner throughout the Commonwealth, a majority of votes have been given in favour of the act being brought into operation.
Section 4 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1935 shows how the members of the board appointed under that measure are to be elected. I draw attention to the following paragraphs of that section : -
I could give further instances in which primary producers have been given an opportunity to cast a vote as to whether they favour a levy of the kind contemplated under this bill.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has received the following telegram from Mr. W. G. Mott of the Quilpie branch of the Selectors Association of Queensland: -
We emphatically protest against legislation in its present form to collect wool levy. Suggest you move amendment to take postal ballot of all Australian wool growers on levy awl administration thereof. This should fall in with the views expressed by primary producers’ association in your own State.
– How many members has that association?
– It has more than the Pastoralists Association in South Australia. The Selectors Association of Queensland telegraphed to me as follows : -
On behalf ofgrazing selectors, Queensland, we beg to protest strongly againstsemisectional wool levy without taking postal ballot of Australian wool growers. Letter following.
Numerous graziers have been writing on this subject to the daily press in the capital cities. Mr. John Grills, writing from Moree, has contributed the following letter to the Sydney Morning Herald: -
Sir, - In the Sydney Morning Herald to-day, the statement is made that legislation is to be introduced into the Federal Parliament covering a levy for sales tax on every bale of wool for the purpose of publicity and research. As a wool-grower of this State. I would advise the Federal Government to delay action in this matter. The request for legislation has been made by the Graziers Association, but that body cannot speak for the majority of sheep-owners, as its membership does not represent half the number of sheep-owners in. New South Wales.
Many individual members of the Graziers Association, as well as non-members, are opposed to the levy. In justice to the opinions of those men, a referendum should be taken to definitely settle whether the majority of sheep-owners are in favour of the proposed campaign. My experience, by conversation with many men interested, is that they are opposed to the proposal. No substantial evidence has yet been produced that wool consumption is decreasing. The evidence available is rather to the contrary.
Mr. A. S. Wheatley, of Ootha, wrote as follows : -
The proposal certainly requires somewhat more examination than was given to it at the Graziers Association Conference, where discussion was limited by the standing orders. In thefirst place, as the Graziers Association does not represent by any means all the woolgrowers of the State, the Government can scarcely assume that a vote by an association properly represents the views of the woolgrowers in such an important matter as the imposition of a levy of this character.
The Selectors Association of Queensland, . in a letter dated the 11th May, dealing with pastoral research, said -
With reference to the application of portion of the levy to . scientific research, we feel that this may not bo objected to if the fund were placed directly within the control of those who will be asked to contribute. We think that pastoral research should be conducted in each State under a State authority, preferably the Minister for Agriculture of each State.
I have received a communication from the General Secretary of the United Graziers Association of Queensland, dated the 8th May, which reads as follows -
There is one phase of the proposal which I wish to bring before your attention, that is, that so far as we are concerned, we are adamant that whatever is done by the Federal Government in providing legislation for the collection of this levy, the control of the fund must be in the hands of the growers themselves; otherwise we would be opposed to legislative action if it is to be taken out of the control of those who are providing the funds.
Fear is expressed by the woolgrowers of Australia that persons may be selected to serve on the Wool Board who may represent the interests of the big concerns, and that the smaller woolgrowers may not be given adequate representation. It is feared by the small woolgrowers that the directors of big companies such as Mooreheads Limited, the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Limited, and Dalgety’s, or large pastoralists whose interests are interwoven with those of such companies, may be appointed to the board.
– They are not members of the Wool Council.
– That is so, but there is nothing in the bill to prevent the inclusion of certain wool-growers who would be the nominees of those big interests. The small producers contend that there is a vast difference between the farmer who conducts his own business on the land as a family asset, and the man who invests money in the pastoral industry whose main concern is the profits which he can derive from that investment. Why should Pitt-street, Sydney have greater representation on the board than wool-growers? I ask that the bill be withdrawn until such time as a poll of the wool-growers has been taken to ascertain their wishes, as was done in the case of the dairy-farmers before the Dairy Export Control Board was appointed.
– This is not an export control board.
– Nevertheless, I consider that the same opportunity to express their views should be extended to woolgrowers as was given to dairy-farmers under other legislation. What reason can the Government advance for its refusal to consider the request of the small selectors that no action be taken to appoint the board until a poll of woolgrowers has been held? The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) has admitted that he is willing to agree to the taking of a poll, after this legislation has been in operation for four years ; but why should the taking of the poll be delayed? What is the reason for this undue haste to place this legislation on the statute-book? This Government has been in office- for nearly five years, and now in the dying hours of this session it asks honorable members to agree to the speedy passage of this bill on the ground that it is extremely urgent and must be put into operation at once. The opposition of the Queensland Selectors Association to this bill is, briefly, that the grazing selectors of Queensland object to the collection of a levy until all wool producers have had an opportunity to vote on the matter, and they consider that the fund should be placed under grower control. The Labour party is not at all unfriendly to the woolgrowers of Australia; on the contrary it is, and always has been, most sympathetic with them. We realize that the primary and exporting industries are the very basis of Australia’s existence, and that the wool industry is the chief export industry. With the trade balance constantly drifting to the bad, we realize the necessity for encouraging our export industries so that credits overseas may be built up to meet our heavy commitments for interest, and to pay for necessary imports. Our wool exports comprise about 40 per cent, of the total exports from Australia, and anything that will tend towards popularizing the use of wool will be of immense advantage to Australia. We agree with the majority of the woolgrowers, particularly the smaller growers, that, before they are subjected to this levy, they should have some say as to whether they approve of it, and of the proposed method of administration of the fund.
There is, I think, an unduly optimistic view as to the benefits that may accrue from the proposed advertising campaign. Australia’s wool cheque for last season amounted to £52,000,000. The average price was 14d. per lb., or £17 10s. a bale, which represented an increase of 4d. per lb., or £4 17s. a bale over the figures for the previous season. This additional money has brought about increased employment, increased spending and taxation buoyancy. No doubt this Government claims credit for these increased prices, and the increased buoyancy of the revenue, but we know that they are due, not to the Government’s legislation or administration, but rather to world conditions. All wool produced last year was saleable, not only at a good price, but also in the right quarters. Britain was our best customer, and took over 1,000,000 bales of wool and 6,000,000 carcasses of mutton and lamb. Japan bought over 600,000 bales of wool, and I believe the time will come when it will increase its purchases to over 1,000,000 bales. The lines of wool purchased by the Japanese manufacturers are the staple of Australia’s world trade, for which there is strong competition; and their operations in the Australian market have a substantial effect upon prices. Every now and then freetrade interests in this country dangle the spectre of artificial fibres before the graziers, as if it threatened their existence; as a matter of fact it does nothing of the kind. Australia’s wool production is 50 per cent, higher-than before the war. That is something of which we may be justifiably proud. In the last pre-war year the average price of wool was 4£d. per lb. less than in the season which has just closed, and the total value of our exports in that year was only £26,277,000. Local purchases in that year were very small. Rayon and other artificial fibres were then practically unheard of. The production of artificial fibres on a large scale did not commence until 1924-25, and the output increased every season. Nevertheless, Australia is selling 1,000,000 bales of wool more to-day than in 1924-25. The fact that Japan’s rayon output increased by nearly 50 per cent, last year did not prevent Japan from buying more wool. The expansion of the use of western clothing in that country has increased to such an extent that, at the present time, eight out of every ten Japanese wear western attire. Japanese manufacturers buy our wool’ because it suits their purpose, and we appreciate their patronage.
Our own Australian wool manufacturing and treating industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and the purchases by the local factories have a considerable effect in bringing about an increase of the pr;ce of wool. During last season the mills in the Commonwealth were the best buyers of fair to good length spinning wools, their purchases amounting to over 300,000 bales. Notwithstanding the facts which I have set out, the Australian “Wool Council has become panicky with the result that the Government has decided to indulge in an expensive advertising campaign costing £100,000 per annum for five years at the expense of the wool-grower. This campaign has the approval of the British manufacturers who will gain an indirect benefit from it. The money is to be expended in advertising in. various ways. The advertising campaign will he conducted per medium of the newspapers, posters,, films, and exhibitions in an effort to make people wool-minded. A representative of British manufacturers told the graziers recently that the industry refused to be beaten by the chemists, and pleaded with his hearers to make the wool campaign, a reality. There is, however, much work that could with greater profit be done within Australia. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is starved for funds. During 1934-35, out of a total Commonwealth revenue of £76,000,000 only £94,915 was spent on scientific and industrial research. The Government should be more generousin that respect. Research is necessary to prevent the extension of the ravages of blowflies, and to inquire into the diminishing of bore water supplies and the preventing of soil erosion. Immense losses of sheep and wool, which are surely preventable, are sorry features of every drought. I hope the board to be constituted under this bill will give consideration to these suggestions.
In asking that a poll be taken, I am merely asking for a privilege which was granted to the dairyfarmersof Australia when legislation was. introduced to benefit them, not after a precipitated campaign but, as the Minister has stated, as the result of concerted action extending over a period of ten years. Before that legislation wasbrought into operation, they were given the opportunity to say whether they were in favour of it or opposed to it.
– That was because control was taken of the marketing of their butter.
– The wool-growers are to be asked to pay a levy, and to support a board in the election of which, according to a big section of them, they will have no voice. They say that they should not be subjected to taxation without having representation. If the Minister will agree to the taking of a ballot, not after four years, but immediately, the Opposition will allow the measure to pass on the voices.
.- With a certain amount, but only a very little, of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has said, 1 can agree.
The purport of this measure is the institution of a wool board, which will administer a fund for advertising purposes, biological research, and research into the manufacturing side of the industry. I am particularly pleased that its introduction affords an opportunity to discuss, in this national Parliament, Australia’s greatest national industry.
I was glad to hear from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he realizes that the prosperity of Australia depends very largely upon the prosperity of the Australian wool industry. “Wool hat. been the foundation of the prosperity of many nations, almost since the dawn of history. The progress of Great Britain itself in the middle ages was associated with wool. In the past, the governments of other countries have done all that they could to popularize the use of wool and to promote the advancement of the industry. In the middle ages, burial in a shroud of wool was compulsory in Great Britain. Until the beginning of this century, Australia was almost entirely dependent upon wool for its prosperity, and even since then it has exercised a tremendous influence upon our financial stability. It is an amazing fact that during the last 35 years the sale of wool has brought into Australia the enormous sum of over £1,4130,000,000, an amount greater than the whole of the national debt. That this House should do everything in its power to assist this industry, which is of such vital importance to the nation, is therefore evident. Within the last few days the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has expressed the opinion that borrowing has had a great deal to do with the increase of prosperity during the last few years. I maintain that the wool industry has had a much greater effect.
More widespread biological research seems essential. In spite of the enormous increase of the area devoted to dairying, wheat-growing and fat lamb production during the last few years, the Australian wool clip has increased remarkably, even though it has been grown on an area considerably less than was formerly utilized. That means that a larger number of sheep to the acre has been carried. As a matter of fact, due to the skill of our stud masters, Australian sheep have given a bigger clip to each unit. But additional problems have arisen for solution. A strain has been imposed upon our pastures and upon the constitution of our sheep, which have developed in more marked degree diseases which are making the existence of the graziers more difficult than it was a few years ago. I speak with particular knowledge of the State of Victoria. The number of parasites, particularly worms, among stock, makes well nigh impossible the rearing of sheep on certain of the. areas of that State. There is also the problem of fluke, and the disease which ensues - black disease. The disease, foot-rot, also has developed very considerably, brought about to a certain extent by additional top dressing and better pastures. We have always had with us, of course, the blow-fly pest, one of the worst with which the industry has had to contend. The State Departments of Agriculture are most efficient, and to the best of their ability assist the stock producers to cope with their problems. I was rather disappointed at the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that some of his advisers in this matter had suggested to him that the departments of the States could best administer any research fund. If he will give further consideration to the matter I believe he will come to the conclusion that that would be a wrong principle to adopt.
– I quoted the opinions of representative associations to illustrate the diversity of the views that are held.
– There would be divided effort, and money would be spent by the different governments in an attack upon the same problem. That would be a waste of both money and effort. Concentration under one central administration would be very much better both for Australia and for the industry. I am quite prepared to admit that problems may arise in one State which are not encountered in another. I maintain, however, that there should he a central coordinating authority. The trouble is, that the State departments are starved for funds and have not sufficiently large staffs to enable officers to visit and advise producers who need their assistance. Upon more than one occasion’ sheep have died from a certain disease in my district, and the producer has endeavoured to have animals examined before death, but lias failed to do so, and, consequently, has not been able to obtain necessary advice. A central co-ordinating authority would enable us to do on a large scale what is now done in Victoria on a small scale. In that State, an officer is subsidized by the Pastoral Research Trust. If action along these lines were taken, the industry would be able to cope with its veterinary troubles much more easily.
I am prepared to admit that, in Australian currency, wool prices are now good. After the return to Australia last year of the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) and the Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), these gentlemen said in this House, in reply to questions, that in their opinion artificial fibres did not constitute a very grave danger to the Australian wool clip. Those who, because of the nature of their work over a number of years, have come into close contact with the industry, disagree with them, and rightly maintain that artificial substitutes are a very grave danger to wool. The production of substitutes has increased enormously during the last few years. It must be obvious that, if they were not used, there would be a better market for the natural product. In 1922 the manufacture of artificial fibres totalled 78,000,000 lb. In 1934 that figure had increased to 795,000,000 lb., and last year it amounted to 943,000,000 lb. That must have a marked effect on the use and, consequently, on the price, of wool. So worried have been the graziers of Australia, that the Federal Graziers Council invited a representative of the British wool manufacturers to visit Australia to inform the wool-growers generally of the steps he considered necessary to counter this growth of the manufacture of artificial fibres, and also theenormous advertising campaign of the manufacturers of the fibres. Mr. Wilson, who was sent in response to that invitation, is the representative of a manufacturing firm in Scotland, which has a tremendous connexion throughout the world in woollen manufactures.
In an address to graziers, Mr. Wilson said that summer sales of woollen underwear in Scotland had practically disappeared. In Leicester, he said, the manufacturers at one time had manufactured 90 per cent, of woollen goods, but were now producing 90 per cent, of their goods from anything but wool. Mr. Wilson had the greatest trouble in getting the National Hosiery Association to endorse his coming to Australia, so little interested in wool was it. He pointed out that in the summer months in the biggest stores in London, women’s underwear departments, so far as wool was concerned, did not exist. Any woollen underwear in the store was sold in another department. Underwear for summer use is made from artificial fibres. Mr. Wilson declares that the British public is no longer as wool-minded as it used to be, but I think that is only natural when one considers that artificial fibres are being manufactured on such an enormous scale. In Mr. Wilson’s own district, Hawick, in Scotland, in recent years, woollen underwear shops have had to be shut. The manufacturers fortunately have been able to exist by the making of woollen pullovers and outer gar ments. Mr. Wilson pointed out, however, that, on the vessel on which he came to Australia, most of the women wore outer garments made from artificial fibres. He. says that we have to fight these substitutes from the point of view of health. It is most important that his advice should be followed. Artificial fibre manufacturers have concentrated on a very intense advertising campaign, and not only have they advertised the claims of their own goods, but also they have attacked wool. I do not propose to be an advertiser myself for these fibres by reading out all the things that the manufacturers say, but it is necessary for me to cite one or two examples. Regarding linen mesh underwear, the artificial wool manufacturers say, “ This is a vegetable product made from a clean, sweet flax “. Regarding woollen underwear, they say, “ This is> a product of animals very susceptible to diseases - tuberculosis, rheumatism, &c”. That sort of advertising would possibly appeal to ignorant people, but not to members of this House. It is inconceivable that tuberculosis and rheumatism could be transferred, from a sheep to its wool, yet, that is the type of advertising we have to put up with. Mr. Wilson points out that, in America, an advertising campaign in favour of wool was carried out, and that, as the result, the use of wool was increased in that country in one year by more than 20 per cent. Advertising and biological research are necessary, but it is all-essential to have research, made into the technical end of manufacture. It is necessary to make woollen articles more attractive in appearance and handling to compete with the artificial substitute. Some of the money which will be made available by this levy will undoubtedly bc used for this purpose.
As a wool-grower, and as a representative of wool-growers, I regret that it has been necessary to come to this Parliament for authority to carry out this scheme. The industry attempted, by voluntary means, to get finances to carry it on. We attempted years ago, through the Pastoral Research Trust, to get funds, and then, more recently, we attempted to induce the wool-selling brokers to collect a levy for us. Any grower could have objected that he did not want to pay it. I do not believe that any grower would have been short-sighted enough to refuse, but, unfortunately, two brokers in Sydney refused to come in with their colleagues and help to collect this money. Therefore, it has been necessary for the industry to come to this House to ask for statutory authority to levy upon themselves. It is generally admitted, I think,, that the wool industry is the best organized primary industry in Australia. Its organization is the envy of every other wool-growing country.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), speaking in favour of a poll to be taken to show whether all the graziers were in favour of the levy, said that the organizations mentioned by the Minister as being represented on the Woolgrowers Council did not represent more than 55,000,000 sheep. I should like to correct him. I feel that his statement was either a clerical error or a slip of the tongue. The Graziers Association alone represents 55,000,000 .sheep, and the other organizations represented on the Wool- growers Council, added to the Graziers Association probably represent S5 per cent, or 90 per. cent, of all the sheep .in Australia. However, I believe that it would be a good thing, for a poll to bc taken in four years’ time. It is essential that the scheme be enforced for at least five years, because it would be impossible to tell in one, two or three years, what the result would be. After rive . years, we should have some idea whether advertising or research is of benefit or not. I have shown the increase of the manufacture of artificial fibres, and I have tried to show the lack of interest in Great Britain in the sale of wool. The problem should be tackled now while- prices are good and not be delayed until prices recede. If there is some small opposition to this, what a trivial thing it is ! The growers are asked to contribute one-seventh of 1 per cent, of the wool cheque, that is £1 in every £700. If they are not prepared to do that, to help themselves, this industry and Australia, I do not think they are very much consequence in Australia. In the interests of the industry and Australia generally, this levy should, he made before it is too late, as it will contribute to. the graziers’ retaining prosperity for themselves and for Australia.
.- I support this bill because it is necessary and equitable. Its object as has been pointed out is to provide’ finances for publicity, technical research and biological research - publicity to increase the popularity of wool, technical research to improve the treatment of wool, and biological research to improve the work already carried out in connexion with the prevention and curing of disease. The care and health of sheep are important to Australia. It is expected that the result of the expenditure of the money which this Government has been asked to collect from the growers will bring advantages, not only to Australia in the increase of the wool cheque which will, with the velocity of money, circulate t11 rough the community, but also directly to the growers themselves. If every grower is to get the advantage of sustained demand for wool and increased prices, then it is equitable that every grower should contribute in a small way towards the cost of producing such results and the proposed levy is the simplest way to secure it. It was pointed out by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) that efforts have been made previously to obtain funds from the growers on a voluntary basis, when the Pastoral Research Trust was instituted and the graziers were asked to contribute 2s. a bale. The scheme resulted in the collection of less than £30,000, and there were thousands of graziers who would receive equal advantage from the work who did not contribute one penny. There were many very generous donations from brokers and other persons interested in the industry, but after a period of nine years, it is realized that it is futile to expect to be able to collect the finances necessary for these purposes on a voluntary basis. A request was made to the brokers that they should deduct from the sales returns of graziers a trifling amount on each bale sold to be contributed to this fund, but that also failed. The graziers and the brokers are conservative, and they object to coming to the Government. Most of them were prepared to agree to the proposal, but two or three brokers stood, out. Consequently, as it would prejudice the business of those who proposed to collect the levy against those who did not, the whole scheme fell through. Since then we have had a visit to Australia by Mr. Wilson, the representative of British manufacturers, who are indirectly concerned with the position of the wool industry. It is all very well for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to say that more wool is being used to-day than ever before. That is not correct; the fact is that the production of wool is at a stand-still.
– I have had made available to me an international publication which shows that Australia is increasing its production of wool.
– Notwithstanding the statement of the honorable gentleman, I repeat that the world production of wool is declining. It must, therefore, follow that the use of wool is also declining for its use cannot exceed its production.
The following figures showing the world production of wool are enlightening: -
And there has been a decrease in the current yea]”. One result of this decline of production has been an increase of the price of wool. Although the world’s population has increased there has not been a corresponding increased use of wool. These figures cannot bis disputed. The decline in the use of wool is due to the enormous increase in the use of the wool substitutes which have been put on the market, in recent years. Having realized the futility of the voluntary efforts that have been made to increase the use of wool, mainly because a few brokers have refused to co-operate in it, graziers are now seeking the co-operation of the Government to enable them to collect the levy and put into force a plan to achieve the desired ends. They are prepared to tax themselves to provide the money necessary. The levy proposed will amount to only 6d. in every £17 worth of wool. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the position of small woolgrowers, but I point out- to him that a mau who markets ten bales of wool a year will be required to contribute only 5s. annually by means of this levy. That is surely a trifling amount.
– The rates which I mentioned are the maximum.
– That is so. I should also like to remind honorable gentlemen that the wool manufacturers of Great Britain regard the position so seriously that th;;y too are prepared to co-operate in the scheme. Their heavy overhead charges and huge capitalizations have made them realize that their decreased output makes it essential for them to do something to attempt to regain their business, so they have voluntarily agreed to co-operate with the graziers of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and contribute on a £1 for £1 basis to an amount of £50,000 to implement this campaign of publicity and research. This shows f their bona fides. There is a. general recognition of the fact that if our wool industry is to he stabilized, the use of wool must be popularized. It would, of course, be quite inequitable for the South African graziers to have to bear the cost of a wide publicity campaign to popularize the use of wool, when a considerable proportion of the improved trade would inevitably come to Australia, but organizations have already been established in South Africa and New Zealand to assist in financing a scheme of this kind, and it is only reasonable that the graziers of Australia and those interested in the wool industry in Great Britain should co-operate in an Empire-wide campaign.
Certain figures were submitted by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) to show that in mills in Leicester, where 90 per cent, of the goods handled were once woollen, only 10 per cent, of them now consist of wool. The National Federation of Hosiery Makers of Great Britain has converted many big plants to rayon, linen fibre and cotton production. A special inquiry made recently in the drapery departments of many London stores to ascertain the position in regard to woollens, showed that summer woollen underwear simply did not exist. In fact, seven-eighths of the fixtures previously occupied by woollen fabrics now hold goods manufactured from synthetic fibres. The high price of wool which followed the war and also the subsequent depression of world trade had a serious effect on the wool industry. Woollen goods were expensive, and cotton and artificial silk products took their place. The people of Great Britain are now no longer WOO minded, and shop assistants know practically nothing of the history of wool and its virtues. There is no sentiment, in business. Manufacturers will make the goods required by retailers, and retailers do not care two hoots what they sell as long as they make a “rake-off” or at least a satisfactory profit. They will supply the goods that the people want. It is vitally important, therefore, to the wool industry and to Australia that an education campaign shall be set on foot to recover the trade previously done in woollen goods. We must, if possible, recover the ground that has been lo3t in the last ten years.
I have already referred to the excessive overhead costs of woollen manufacturers resulting from reduced output compared with the high amount of capital invested in their industries. I now propose to refer to the great strides that have been made during late years by the rayon and artificial silk manufacturing industries. Last years’ production of wool represented about 2,000,000,000 lb. of scoured wool. The output of rayon and artificial silk in 1922 was 7,800,000 lb., in 1934 it, was 700,000,000 lb., and it is forecast that the output for 1936 will be 1,000,000,000.’ When it is realized that the average weight of garments made of artificial silk and rayon is only half that of garments made of wool, it will be appreciated that the 1,000,000,000 lb. of rayon and artificial silk fabric will make the same number of garments as 2,000,000,000 lb. of scoured wool. The amazing demand for rayon and artificial silk has been caused by widespread publicity and advertising campaigns. In the last five years, two firms alone have spent £336,441 in press publicity. Undoubtedly advertising pays.
– Has the honorable member any figures to indicate the aggregate quantity of cotton material sold ?
– I have not. What I have said reveals beyond question that while the production of wool has remained almost stationary, the production of rayon and substitutes for wool has increased enormously. Every extra £1 received from our wool as the result of the proposed campaign multiplies the purchasing power of the people of Australia, and every section of the community will reap the advantage if the output of wool or’ its price can be increased. We must advertise the virtues of wool. We must tell the world to “ wear wool for warmth “. We must emphasize the elasticity and softness, the strength and durability of wool. We must advocate the use of wool, because it. absorbs moisture, and reduces risks from burning. Every one who has seen a child dressed in a muslin frock, and another child dressed in a woollen garment play=ing near the fire must have realized that the child in the muslin frock is in much more danger from a flying spark than the child in the woollen dress. ‘We must advocate the use of wool for long-term economy, and as the natural and ideal textile for human clothing. The woollen manufacturers of Great Britain, as I have already said, have been thoroughly convinced of the need for the campaign now proposed, and have promised their £1 for £1 subsidy to an amount of £50,000 for five years. The levy of ls. a bale being imposed in New Zealand and South Africa will allow them to contribute £15,000 annually, and it is expected that into the jointly controlled fund for use in Britain, Australia will put £35,000 a year. Some people may ask why the imposition of this levy is necessary, but we must be guided by experience. In the United States of America, the trade in summer wool suits gradually slipped until it fell to only 40 per cent, of the normal figure. An advertising campaign was set on foot throughout the United States of America and, in less than three years, the trade increased to 81 per cent, of the normal output. One result has been that American competition is again noticeable in the Australian wool market. This is what we want.
The value of advertising has been demonstrated in connexion with many other commodities, particularly in Great Britain. Take gas as an example. In the eleven years before 1914, the average increased annual consumption of gas in the United Kingdom was 800,000,000 cubic feet. I do not, suppose that it would be contended that one gas company could be expected to set out on an advertising campaign to increase the use of gas, but, in view of the largely increased use of electricty, the gas companies of Great Britain cooperated in a. national advertising campaign to boost their product. The result was that in the subsequent 21 years the average increased consumption of gas in the United Kingdom advanced by 5,967,000,000 cubic feet per annum. The cost of this advertising campaign worked out at. 2-Jd. for each extra 1,000 cubicfeet of gas sold - a huge increase of business at a cost of less than 5 per cent. This- was a remarkable result to achieve in a period when the use of electricitywas advancing so rapidly. The advertising campaign inaugurated by the Fruit Federation in 1923 to increase the sale of fruit in Great. Britain was also most successful. For six years, £30,000 a year was spent to advertise imported fruit, and in that period sales increased by £17,000,000. In the first, year, the increase was £1,000,000; in the second and third year.-; it was £3,000,000 a year, and in the sixyears the aggregate was £17,000,000. The cost of the campaign was £180,000, which represented about 1 per cent, of the increased sales.
– What about beer?
– Yes, I have the figures about beer.. The sales in Great Britain in 1925 amounted to 20,863,000 barrels. The demand annually decreased, until, in 1932, the sales had dropped to 13,228,401 barrels. For seven years the average decrease was at the rate of 1,000,000 barrels a year; but, after an advertising campaign had been carried on for two years, the business recovered and the sales have since increased at the rate of over 1,000,000 barrels a year. Tea and telephones were also advertised to great advantage. The campaign was so effective in regard to telephones that the department was unable to cope with the demand for instruments, and, for a time, the advertising had. to be suspended.
The proposal put before the House to-day provides also for research. In Great Britain technical research is being carried on at Torridon, and there is a Wool Industry Research Association at Leeds, which deals, not only with the improved methods of growing wool, but also with its weaving and manufacturing. In the past, a prejudice against woollen garments has arisen, because of their susceptibility to shrinkage. We now find that a process has been perfected, whereby woollen garments can be made totally unshrinkable. This represents a big step forward, and will tend materially to popularize their use. Serious difficulties were formerly experienced in connexion with the dyeing. of woollen cloth. It was not possible to print patterns on wool in such a way that they would last, hut that difficulty has now been overcome. Another trouble complained of is the tendency of woollen clothing to cause itching or tickling in the case of the wearer with a particularly sensitive skin. This aspect is being seriously studied, and, it is hoped, that a remedy will be discovered. Many people have suggested that all our wool should bc scoured before it is sent abroad. Some say it would cost too much, but this is only part of the reason. Serious mistakes can be made in the treatment of wool through the scour, and, after it has been scoured in Australia and pressed into bales for shipment, it has been found liable to felting, which is a serious disadvantage for many manufacturing purposes. The Research Association is trying to solve these problems, and any improvements which increase the sale and demand for wool must react to the advantage of the Australian growers. These associations have and use both chemical and biological laboratories. The cause of unsatisfactory cloth has been traced to its being woven in too damp a condition, or to the use of machinery of the wrong type. It is certain that many mistakes of this kind can be avoided by scientific research.
The honorable member for Ballarat also referred to the need for biological work in connexion with the wool industry. The grasshopper and blowfly problems, and the foot-rot trouble, have not yet been solved’. Hoven, resulti ng . from putting sheep on frost-covered green oat.s, has caused serious losses, the cause of which owners are only now realizing and can avoid. Pulpy kidney iri lambs, and worm and parasitic troubles in sheep, are still demanding research. Much has been done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to find a remedy for these troubles, and finance has been provided by the Pastoral Research Trust; but, more is needed, so that these problems may bc solved as quickly as possible, and the continuous heavy losses avoided.
A levy of 6d. a bale, 6d. on every £17 worth of wool, is such a trifle, and so many associations representing a huge majority of the woolgrowers have approved of it. that a preliminary ballot of the woolgrowers is quite unnecessary. and unjustified.. Another objection to the ballot is its cost.’ We object to wasting on ballots ifr. Nock, money which could be used to. much better purpose. More than that, the matter is urgent., A ballot would delay things for twelve months. An offer of a subsidy of £1 for £1 has been made by the British manufacturers. Let us take it, and get on with the job. Why wait, and let staple fibre and artificial silks further supplant wool? Let us boost it, and increase .the demand. We can increase the supply. From the roof of this building can be seen thousands of acres, the sheep-carrying capacity of which could be doubled by superphosphates, and the introduction of subterranean clover and other grasses. Between Canberra and Sydney are . to be seen millions of acres of scrub that has never felt the axe. That land could carry large numbers of sheep. There are thousands of miles of good rainfall- country along the Queensland coast awaiting improvement and stocking. Australia could, if the price warranted it, increase its wool clip by 50 per cent., bringing an extra £25,000,000 per annum into this country’ from overseas. This sum, multiplied by five - by the velocity of money - would, mean- an extra £125)000,000 of purchasing . power annually permeating, the community. With this we could carry many more settlers, or have a higher living standard for the present population.
The only objection which the Opposition has to this ‘hill, is that it does not provide for a ballot before the schema comes into operation. I point out that the Wool Board will represent from 75 per cent, to 80 per cent, of the growers, and SO per cent, of the sheep in Australia, and also that growers’ representatives will control the expenditure of the money collected. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) suggested that only 9,000 growers would be represented by the Wool Board, but. that is absurd. The members of the Fanners and Settlers Association of New South’ Wales alone number 9,000. and there are S,000 members of- the Graziers Association of New South Wah;s. The Farmers and Settlers-Association has agreed to the levy of 6d. They represent small growers, and there should be no objection- to the scheme being put into operation as soon as possible. The trifling levy, which, to many, will amount to but a few shillings a year, is not sufficient to justify opposition to the measure. The need for action and the prospective advantages are so great that I commend the proposal to the House.
– I support the bill, and oppose the amendment which has been submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). Ordinarily, it would be advantageous and wise to take a ballot of the growers before imposing a levy upon them; but, as has been pointed out, the woolgrowers have expressed opinions, which show that immediate action is necessary, and, therefore, I fail to see any justification for a preliminary ballot, which would be a costly process. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition read a commnunication for the purpose of suggesting that the small growers in Western Australia had expressed similar views to those held in Queensland. The Primary Producers Association of Western Australia has expressed its approval of the scheme. [Quorum formed.] There should be no objection to this bill. The Government is not asked to provide the necessary funds. The woolgrowers of Australia seek legislative power to put a levy upon themselves. The scheme will be controlled by the growers, of whom 95 per cent. produce 50 per cent. of the wool and 5 per cent, grow the other half of it, but the representation on the Wool Board will be such that it will embrace both small and large growers. I have received the following telegram from the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia : -
Wool executive agreed to levy for research publicity and collection statistics all matters pertaining advancement wool consumption and production. Also believe assurance should he obtained from all Status for legislation abolition draft allowance.
The Government, . 1. think, should take separate action to remove the draft allowance. All growers in Western Australia support the bill, and feel that they ought to have the right to control their own affairs, particularly as they will provide the money necessary to give effect to the scheme.
Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 1 . 45 p.m..
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clark) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to-day to advise the House of certain important decisions which have been made by the Government, with the object of increasing our exports of primary produce, expanding secondary industry, and bringing about a considerable increase of rural and industrial employment.
TheGovernment proposes to proceed towards these desirable national developments by a series of steps intended to bring about a diversion of carefully selected portions of our overseas trade. The effect of these diversions will be, in the first place, to widen and strengthen Australian secondary industries by halting some imports of commodities with a view to their manufacture in the Commonwealth. The chief of these commodities is the motor chassis, which we hope will be manufactured in Australiaon a large scale within a very few years. In the case of other imports, which we intend to divert from their present source of origin, we are aiming in future to draw our supplies from countries which are already great customers of ours, and which we may confidently expect will become greater customers if we increase our purchases from them. In this way we expect substantially to increase our export trade, and so clear the way for increased production over a wide range of people employed in country industry. The decisions arrived at will mark the first step of a considered trading policy to place our overseas financial affairs in a sound and enduring position. They will give great impetus to engineering and to the iron and steel industries; they will make a significant indirect contribution to defence; and, by reducing unemployment, they will hasten the day when immigration can be resumed on a basis not harmful, but helpful, to every industry and worker in this country. Finally, they aim to maintain the Australian standard of living, and keep the way clear for its steady advancement. In view of these claims I need scarcely say that, before arriving at its conclusions, the ‘ Government has given long and detailed consideration to the general condition of the Commonwealth, which, as we see .it, is both satisfactory and unsatisfactory. Compared with our position during the depth of the depression, and with the position in which most other countries still find themselves, we must consider ourselves in happy circumstances. In the mind of the Government, lion/ever, and, J. am sure, in the minds of all members of this House, and of the people of this country, we have still to make up a good deal of leeway before we shall find ourselves in a condition which we can contemplate with complete satisfaction.
This is the third administration led by the Right Honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). The aim of these three administrations has been, without ceasing”, to rehabilitate national finance, and to restore tolerable prosperity to primary and secondary industry, and by that means to bring employment back to normal. The achievement of that aim so far has been, by common consent, considerable. The steps we are now proposing are in direct succession to the steps already taken. In some respects they may appear somewhat unusual, but if wc are departing from the beaten track in our resolution to show a lead in industrial, trading, and financial problems, in these days of unprecedented difficulty, we are only following in the footsteps of most of the other governments of the world. While the Government fully subscribes to the pringle that, in Australia, primary and secondary industries are each essential to the welfare of the other, it clearly recognizes that general prosperity and development must, in this, young country, for a long time to come, have their origin in the prosperity of the man on the land. If the farmer, to use the term comprehensively, and tb( pastoralist, enjoy fair seasons, and sufficient profitable export trade to ensure a sound local price level, then in a material sense all is well with the nation. As our rural industries are, in the main, producing more than Australia can consume, overseas markets for the surplus arc vital to our welfare. Recognizing this fact, the Government entered wholeheartedly into the Ottawa agreement, which keeps open to us, on preferential terms, the only great market in the world for our primary produce, with the exception of wool, and the market, which is still the largest individual buyer of wool.
Owing to causes upon which I need not dwell, our dependence upon the market of the United Kingdom has increased in the four years since the Ottawa agreement was made. With the exception of wool, speaking broadly, agricultural products during those years have been increasingly excluded from all, or nearly all, foreign countries, and in some countries even the sale of our wool has been severely restricted. The British market has served us greatly in clearing the surplus of many of our great primary products, as well as those of less importance, and in providing profitable price levels for that surplus. Those price levels have ‘been reflected in higher prices in our home markets, and have played a great part indeed in our general national recovery. At the moment there is no immediate prospect of recapturing our old position for primary produce in foreign markets. If we are not to come to a national standstill, primary production must be increased, and the only way it can be increased is by selling more of our rural output in the British market. Happily that market, although perhaps approaching a state of surfeit in some primary commodities, has still room for further supplies from the dominions. These additional supplies, however, can only ‘be furnished by the displacement of foreign supplies.
It is desirable that we should clearly recognize the position of the British Government in its policy of external trade. The very strength of Britain depends upon its widely diverse secondary industries and its export of manufactured goods. Roughly speaking, one-half of the total exports from the United Kingdom find their market within the Empire, and the other half in foreign countries. In the main, Britain’s capacity to sell to the Empire and to foreign countries, depends upon her capacity to purchase the exports of those countries. Putting it plainly, there is room for a substantial increase of Australian exports of primary produce to Britain provided we arc able to- give to Britain an increased share in the Australian market. If we would sell to the United Kingdom more of those things which we can sell nowhere else, we must buy more from the United Kingdom. A disproportionate share of our imports is obtained from countries which take relatively small quantities of our exporta.ble surplus. Obviously it would brighten our trading position with our good customers if a larger share of our imports were purchased from them instead of from countries which have very little capacity for the absorption of Australian products.
The Government has had these simple facts in mind in its recent deliberations. lt is aiming simultaneously to increase our exports, to expand industry and employment, and also to guard and enhance our financial credit abroad. From the survey we have made we have decided that circumstance compels us, however, reluctantly, to follow the policy adopted by a large number of countries throughout the world, and divert a certain amount of our import trade from countries which are very indifferent purchasers of Australian exports, first as far as practicable with respect to Australian secondary industry, and next to countries which are, or recently have been, heavy purchasers of our exports. In other words, we have resolved to give more room in this market to those who are our great buyers, and somewhat less room to those who are indifferent buyers. To achieve this object the Government has decided to proceed in two ways, first, by the adoption of a licensing system over a limited range of imports, and secondly, by the imposition of higher duties where this course appears more desirable. With the exception of motor chassis, all goods of British Empire origin will be excepted from the licensing proposals. The restriction, however, will not apply to motor chassis from the United Kingdom. Under the licensing scheme, with the exceptions mentioned, the importation of specified commodities will be prohibited except with the consent of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and from the date of its operation, importers of those commodities must receive a licence before the goods will be permitted importation. These licences, however, will be freely granted upon application, in respect of the imports of all countries with which we have a favorable balance of trade, and all other countries in regard to which, although the balance may be adverse to the Commonwealth, the Government is satisfied with the position.
The Government has decided at once to enter into conversations with the Canadian Government to endeavour to bring about a friendly arrangement by which the supply of imports of the goods subject to licence control will not he diverted from their present source of supply to Canada. In view of our large adverse balance of trade with Canada, if this occurred, it would completely defeat the Government’s object of diversion. If friendly arrangements cannot be reached upon the matter with the Government of Canada, the Commonwealth Government will give the matter further consideration. I wish to emphasize that the Government is not adopting the principle of bilateral balances with individual countries as its trade policy, but is seeking to divert imports into channels which will confer most benefit upon the national economy. We have perforce to look to our exports to pay for our imports, and in the national interest we cannot allow our market for imports to be absorbed by countries which fail to extend a fair measure of reciprocity to the products of our export industries. With respect to those countries against which licences to import may bc refused, such refusal will apply not to the whole of the imports from such countries, but only to the commodities named in a selected and limited list. Commodities not included in the selected list will be freely admitted without restriction as at present. The Customs Department is satisfied that such a licensing scheme can bo administered without difficulty, and with but slight, if any, work or embarrassment to Australian importers.
– By what means was the discrimination fixed ?
– By a most thorough and painstaking examination of the whole position. In the case of countries from which imports will be restricted under the licensing system, the Government will be prepared to consider a modification of the restrictions in proportion to increased purchases from Australia, which such countries may make from this time forward.
The total value of our import trade, which we anticipate will be diverted almost immediately by both the licensing system and the increased duties, will be £2,290,000. Of the goods represented by this amount, it is estimated, after a very thorough investigation, that Australian manufacturers will benefit by an increased output to the value of £S45,000 sterling, the manufacturers of the United Kingdom by £1,310,000, and good-customer foreign countries by £135,000. The aim throughout was to give the benefit to Australian industry. Details of the diversion to be brought about under duty proposals will be disclosed by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) at a later stage of the sitting.
The figures I have just mentioned do not take into account the larger diversion to Australia of motor chassis manufacture to the value of over £4,000,000 stterling
While the licensing system will reduce by a substantial amount, our adverse balance of trade with some countries, it will nevertheless still leave to those countries a very heavy favorable balance. In giving consideration to the adoption of this licensing system by Australia, we must beaT in mind that a similar scheme is in operation against practically all of our exports, not excepting wool in some cases, in many parts of the world. We are in actual fact compelled to take this action because it has been so generally adopted against us. Where actual licensing is not in practice against us, we have been more or less completely excluded^ by tariff and other barriers equally hostile to our exports. I need scarcely say that, despite all the circumstances, which I think the House will agree make the restrictive measures decided upon unavoidable, the Government takes these steps with the deepest regret. We could have wished that, although Australia has suffered so much from restrictions by other countries upon its exports, we might have escaped the necessity for this action, which, at first sight, may be regarded with disfavour by the governments of the countries affected. We feel confident, however, that when the problem, which we have had to face is fairly and fully pondered, it will be recognized that we are acting in no spirit of retaliation, but are unwillingly driven by very pressing national interest.
I now come to the matter of certain textiles, and to the great depreciation which has taken place in this, the most important item of the trade of the United Kingdom with this country, owing to the extraordinary growth of imports from foreign sources at prices which defy all competition. These low prices necessitate some action to preserve a reasonable proportion of the trade for the United Kingdom.
Honorable members are already aware of the prominent position which textiles assume in the total exports from the United Kingdom to the Australian market. At Ottawa, we found that the Government of the United Kingdom attached the greatest possible importance to the preferences which we proposed to accord on cottons and artificial silk piece goods. The real significance of these textiles to the trade of the United Kingdom with Australia is discernible from the following figures : In 1931-32, the Ottawa year, imports into Australia of cottons and artificial silk piece goods from the United Kingdom amounted to £4,098,000, or 23 per cent, of the total ‘ imports from the United Kingdom. In 1934-35, notwith-standing the improved position in Australia and tlie general upward movement of trade, this figure only slightly increased to £4,284,000, representing 13 per cent, of the total imports from the United Kingdom. Values do not truly reflect the trend of the trade. I, therefore, place before honorable members a picture of the trade in terms of quantities. In 1932, Australia’s imports of cotton piece goods from the United Kingdom were 167,000,000 square yards, .and in 1935, they were 118,000,000 square yards - a falling off of 49,000,000 square yards. Imports from foreign sources were 40,000,000 square yards in 1932, and 90,000,000 square yards in 1935, an increase of 50,000,000 square yards. In artificial silk, the United Kingdom supplied approximately 8,000,000 square yards in 1932, and 7,250,000 square yards in 1935, while foreign countries supplied 13,000,000 square yards in 1932, and 68,500,000 square yards in 1935, a gain of 58,000,000 square yards. The imports of artificial silk from foreign sources in 1935 represented almost 90 per cent. of our total imports of artificial silk piece goods. Due to the extraordinary price reductions for foreign textiles, the position is not far distant when the cotton trade of the United Kingdom, with Australia, will become practically insignificant, and foreign suppliers will demonstrate their capacity to absorb that trade as they have already absorbed the trade in artificial silk. Under the existing duties, foreign artificial silk can be purchased in Australia to-day at prices lower than those of cotton textiles.
The Government, after many months of deep and close consideration of the development of these low-priced foreign textiles, and after very thorough investigations by the Customs Department, has decided that it can no longer look with indifference to the effect upon the Australian interest of these swollen and still swelling arrivals of cotton piece and artificial silk piece goods. It has reluctantly come to the conclusion, based solely upon the necessity to grant protection to British industry, and our complete reliance on the market of the United Kingdom for the absorption of our exportable surplus of all difficult selling commodities, that the imports of these low-priced foreign textiles cannot continue unchecked.
– What guarantee has the Minister that Australia will have an expanding share of the market in the United Kingdom?
– We have always obtained it so far, and have every reason to believe that we shall continue to obtain it.
As the principal foreign supplier of these textiles is Japan, exhaustive attempts were made by the Government to make a friendly arrangement with the Japanese Government, whereby the exports to Australia would be curtailed to a basis agreed upon. After many weeks of negotiations, agreement between the two governments could not be achieved.
The Government is, therefore, compelled to move by means of duty impositions. The present duties on artificial silk piece goods are 20 per cent. British, and 40 per cent. general tariff, plus 10 per cent. primage in both cases. It is now proposed that new specific duties in place of the old ad valorem duties on these textiles should be fixed as follows : -
with provision for by-law admission at the rates of -
Primage duty will be removed under the British preferential tariff and reduced from 10 per cent. to 5 per cent on foreign supplies. The by-law admission at the lower rates will be applied to artificial silk ordered before the 15th March last, and entered by the 30th November next in respect of goods the value for duty of which is not more than 7d. a square yard.
It is scarcely necessary to mention that under the existing duties the British preference on artificial silk has long since disappeared. The average duty a square yard now being paid on the product from the principal foreign supplier is considerably less than that being paid on British goods.
The effect of the existing ad valorem duties is readily discernible in the following average weighted f.o.b. value of artificial silk imported during the month of February last from various countries -
I should mention that these imports, other than those from Japan and the United Kingdom, were nominal in quantity.
The action now proposed against lowpriced foreign textiles is in no sense exceptional. As far as I am able to discover, practically all countries of any importance have been compelled to control these imports either by quota restrictions, exchange control, or high specific duties. It is interesting to observe that in Japan the duty on artificial silk is 100 per cent. In the case of the weighted average price of 14d. a square yard of the United Kingdom just given, the Japanese duty would be equivalent to 14d. sterling a square yard.
On cotton piece goods, the present duties are ad valorem 5 per cent. British, and 25 per cent, foreign, together with a primage duty of 5 per cent, and 10 per cent, respectively. The Government is under an obligation to remove primage on British goods as the finances permit. The proposed new duties will be -
Primage duty on British cottons will be abolished, and the foreign rate will be reduced from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent.
It is not possible to give a sound estimate of the effects of the new duties upon the imports of rayons and cotton piece goods. Japan, even under the new duties, will continue to be the principal supplier of our market in rayon. In cottons, there should be a considerable increase of imports from the United Kingdom, but Japan will still continue to supply a substantial portion of our imports.
It must be admitted that for a time these new duties will cause some dislocation of the soft-goods trade. It should be remembered, however, that the enjoyment of the present great flood of low-priced foreign artificial silk and cottons has prevailed only for the last year or two.
I wish to dissipate any apprehension which may exist in the minds of honorable members that the duties which will be introduced by my honorable colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, will in any way be discriminatory. They will apply equally to all foreign countries. Most-favoured-nation principles will be observed in their application. Lower rates have been established under the intermediate tariff, and these have been inserted for the specific purpose of enabling us to carry on treaty negotiations with the many good customer countries which are interested in supplying the Australian market with these textiles.
A supplementary factor, which weighed with the Government, was that we did not consider we could stand aside and see any great section of this Australian market entirely absorbed by goods of relatively low and completely non-competitive levels. Only with the greatest reluctance has the Government felt compelled to take this action. But irrespective of country of origin, we could not observe these import levels without serious thoughts of ourAustralian standards. If such shattering price levels in a competitive sense can be adopted for any one industry, they may he at any time adopted in others. It appeared to us that the stand we are making had to be taken sooner or later, and we would be lacking in courage and in our duty if we failed to take it now.
I come now to the manufacture of the motor chassis. The magnitude of the value of the trade to be diverted to the Commonwealth in this particular industry will be gathered from the fact that, the imports of chassis for the year ended December, 1935, reached a value of £4,500,000 sterling. The determination of the Government to give strong, and as we intend, decisive encouragement to the establishment of this industry in the Commonwealth is in our mind separate from, and independent of, the general scheme of trade diversion which I have outlined. In our view, the time has arrived - indeed it may be overdue - when this great industry should be established locally as a contribution to our existing protected industries. We have the market; we have the raw materials; we have engineering direction and artisans second to none in the world. Honorable members, who may have doubts as to our engineering capacity to make economically and efficiently our varied requirements in motor car and truck engines, may be reminded that already Australia, is manufacturing upwards of 80 per cent, of many types of the complete car now on the Australian market. Four-fifths of almost every car on the Australian roads to-day is already the product of Australian material and Australian labour. Indeed, it may confidently be laid down that in the manufacture of motor car bodies and the wide range of parts and accessories already being produced in the Commonwealth, we have overcome the larger part of the task of complete motor car achievement. We have every reason to believe that the engine and the chassis frame, together with accessories such as radiator cores, gear boxes, and petrol tanks, which arc now imported as part of the chassis, can be fashioned in the Commonwealth at least as efficiently and as economically as the 80 per cent, which our specialized industrialists are now contributing to the complete car. I would go further, and say that there is sound evidence to lead to the conclusion that the motor vehicle engine can he produced within Australia on a basis fully as economic as that of our other Australian products of engineering. Other countries with a lower motor vehicle registration than Australia have successfully engaged in complete motor car manufacture, a notable example beingItaly. Italy to-day has a number of world-famous cars on the market, despite the fact that its output is small in comparison with the number of motor vehicles registered in this country.
– What will be the position in regard to prices?
– The only increase of prices that can take place is limited to the 20 per cent, of the finished car, which is not now being made in the Commonwealth, and, to my mind, any increase would he small.
The Government anticipates that satisfactory engine production can be commenced within two years, and that within five or six years Australia should be producing 80 per cent, of its engine requirements. At this stage, I do not propose to exhaust the House with excessive details, as these can be announced from time to time as progress is made.
– Does the Government propose to follow a policy similar to this in the development of the shipbuilding industry in this country?
– Within the course of time it may be possible to do so; I hope so. We intend to offer a bounty to local manufacturers of motor engines, and to give the undertaking that, with respect to the accessories now being imported as part of the chassis, the Tariff Board will be asked, as soon as it becomes necessary, to investigate the position with a view to the imposition of protective duties to encourage their manufacture within the Commonwealth. This will place these accessories upon the same protective basis as the wide range of accessories now being made here.
To provide the funds needed to encourage the Australian manufacture of engines, steps will be taken forthwith. It is proposed to impose an additional duty of .7d. per lb. upon all imported motor chassis and parts. Generally speaking, this additional impost will average over the range of imported chassis at approximately £5 each.
– Will the duty apply to imports of British motor chassis?
– Yes, it will apply to all imports of motor chassis. The Minister for Trade and Customs will cover the matter of preferential duties to the United Kingdom subsequently. Simultaneously, the Government commits itself to the undertaking to submit to Parliament a bounty proposal for local engine production. The scale of bounty which will be proposed is as follows : - 1938 (or 1st year of production) - £30. 1939 (or 2nd year of production) - £26. 1940 (or 3rd vear of production) - £8. 1941 (or 4th year of production) - £3 15s.
It is not possible with any close degree of accuracy to lay down the rate of progress which will be brought about in the manufacture of the Australian engine, but we estimate that production will commence with, say, 5,000 units in 1938, increasing; to 15,000 in 1939, 30,000 in 1.940, and 40,000 in 1941.
The collection from the additional impost of .7d. per lb. will for this period exceed the estimated payment of bounty, but in our view we should play on the safe side. Moreover, the question of the exact bounty required will be submitted at an early date to the Tariff Board, but the Government will not hesitate in an industrial development of such magnitude and significance to Australia to submit to Parliament that the bounty shall not be less than £30 for the first year, and £26 for the second year of- manufacture. The additional duty imposed to pay bounty will serve as a further measure of encouragement upon overseas manufacturers of chassis to enter into production within the Commonwealth. Moreover, the determination to proceed by bounty rather than by duty with respect to the new industry will enable this Parliament to impose the condition that a proper and very substantial measure of the capital required shall be of Australian or United Kingdom origin. The Government welcomes the intervention of foreign industry and capital into the development of Australian industry, but wc do not think it desirable that the absolute control of a great industry, such as this is surely destined to become, should fall into foreign hands, or that the profits arising from it should in the main be derived by foreign countries.
In the opinion of the Government, reached after considerable investigation, there is room in the Commonwealth for the profitable working of at least three separate units of motor car manufacture. It is intended, however, not to limit the number of units, but rather to invite engine manufacturers who are now supplying the Australian trade to participate in this great new venture in secondary industry.
Honorable members need scarcely be reminded that the value of this industry to Australia is not to be measured merely by the capital and employment given by the direct making of engines and of additional accessories.’ As this great modern industry is increasingly transferred to Australia, it will call for increased activity and employment in the iron and steel industry, and the coalmining industry, and in many other directions.
A further decision by the Government is that, in order to treat the motor car industry of the United Kingdom as fairly as possible, and at the same time to expedite engine manufacture in Australia, the imports of chassis from the principal suppliers other than the United Kingdom, will be restricted to the same level of imports of chassis as for the year ended the 30th April, 1936. About 60,000 chassis a year are imported into thi3 country at present.
– Does the Ministry regard the 1936 importations as the peak?
– No; my view, for what it is worth, is that imports would probably rise substantially over the next few years.
British manufacturers will be particularly invited to participate in the new manufacture within the Commonwealth, and during the period of progressive diversion to Australian manufacture existing British interests will be preferentially considered. The plans outlined are not, of course, of a cast-iron nature, and will be open to reconsideration and re-adjustment as circumstances arise. This must not be taken to mean, however, that the Government will depart from its determination to use all the means within its power to bring about upon an economic basis the early manufacture in the Commonwealth of by far the greater part of its requirements in the complete motor car.
I assure honorable members that these proposals are submitted in complete sincerity, and that they have been devised entirely free of any party political outlook. I ask honorable members to consider them in the same spirit. Their aim is to promote the general welfare of the nation.
I express my deepest appreciation of the remarkably able assistance, and the complete co-operation, I have had from my honorable friend the Minister for Trade and Customs, from the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and from his tariff and treaty-making staff. In mentioning the staff, I make special reference to Mr. Arthur Moore.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests or amendment -
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and
Buildings) Bill 1934-35.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1936. Appropriation (Unemployment Relief) Bill
– I move -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19360522_reps_14_150/>.