1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON presented a petition from 78 shareholders of the Marian Central Mill Company at Mackay, in the State of Queensland, praying the Senate to restore to the petitioners the excise duty on sugars in stock on8th October, 1901.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 12th June, vide page 13595).
Division V.- Appareland textiles.
Item66 - Piece goods, viz., Woollen, or containing wool, n.o.i. , ad valorem, 15 per cent.
Coatings, Vestings, Trouserings, n.e. i. , Flannels, and Flannelettes, ad valorem, 15 per cent.
Silk, or containing silk or having silk worked thereon, advolorem, 15 per cent.
Velvets, Velveteens, Plushes, Ribbons, Galloons, Lace, Lace Flouncings, Millinery Nets, and Veilings - all kinds and materials,ad valorem, 15 per cent.
Cottons and Linens . . , ad valorem, 5 per cent.
Corduroy, Imitation Moleskins, Zephyrs, Galateas, Shirtingsnot beingFlannelette, and Denims, advolorem, 5 per cent.
Cotton and Liuen Piece Goods, n.e.i., ad valorem, 5 per cent.
Cotton and Linen Piece Goods, n.e.i. (including Dungaree, Denim, and Moleskin), ad valorem, per cent. upon which Senator Millen had moved - .
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 06 by adding to the duty - “ Piece goods, viz., Woollen, or containing wool, n.e.i., ad valorem, 15 per cent.,” the words “ and on and after 1st July, 1902, 10 per cent.”
– After the exceedingly careful and forcible remarks of SenatorMillen in submitting this motion, I do not intend to take more than a few minutes in expressing the hope that the reduction in the duty will be carried. We have now come to items in which a very small difference in the percentage of the duty, one way or the other, may make a very considerable difference to the revenue. I quite recognise what Senator O’Connor has said - that this is one of the duties which are intended to effect a double purpose. The less we make the protection the higher, I would almost say the infinitely higher, will bo the revenue. The expansiveness of the revenue is very much greater m proportion by the diminutionof the protective duty on a line like piece goods than any possible prejudice that may be incurred to protection. That arises from the fact that we are dealing with a line which concerns every section of the commu nity more or less, but concerns the great masses of, I shall not say the poorer, but the less well-to-do classes, more intimately than any other. It is portion of the great category of goods which may be included in the general description of the clothing of the people. The two great considerations we have to keep in view are - First, the interests of the users of all these commodities; and secondly, the requirements of the revenue. It would be absurd for me to put as a proposition that the clothing of the people is an absolute necessity. On the other hand, it would be equally absurd to say that where we have a fair general duty, the more reasonableit is the larger revenue it will yield. I do not think that it requires any argument to establish that proposition in the minds of honorable senators. I regard, particularly in a line like this, the clement of protection as a secondary consideration. At the same time, Istill apply the principle that we do not wish to cut it down to the bare bones so as to in any way interfere with or prejudice the interests of the manufacturers. There is a well of information on this subject in the debates in the other House, and I think that among experts there is a very wide conviction that 10 per cent. is a very fair and reasonable duty to impose from the protectionist point of view. It certainly is a high duty from the revenue point of view. If we reduce the duty from 15 to 10 per cent., we shall very greatly aid the revenue without seriously, or in any way prejudicially, affecting the protection that has subsisted. It must bo remembered, too, that that protection has subsisted for a very long time ; that the woollen industry ought to be thoroughly well established, and that the inauguration of the Commonwealth affords an enlarged market, which is equal to a very considerable percentage in the nature of protection. Probably71/2 per cent. would be enough from the protective point of view, but we are quite willing that the duty should be 10 per cent. Goods of this character are more or less bulky, and the cost of import is about 10 per cent., while the raw material - thewool - is on the spot. We are very apt to forget that enormous advantage.
– How much would it be on a suit of clothes ?
– I leave my honorable friend to make the calculation, but I think it will be found that in a family of eight or ten 6d. or1s. on a suit of clothes makes a considerable inroad on the weekly wage. My honorable friend seems to think that the whole matter is disposed of by asking how much will the duty come to on a waistcoat or a pair of trousers. It is the number of the increases of cost that tell. I know what it is to have a good many little backs to clothe and feet to shoe, and it is not one suit of clothes that lasts for twelve months. While it is quite right to look at the increased cost of such articles of clothing, at the same time the matter is not to be got rid of in that way. We are to look at the total expense for the year. In the case of a workman who is earning £75 or £100 a year, and has a family of eight or ten to provide for all these increases will make a very serious inroad on his purse. Whenever a careful housekeeper learns from a grocer’s pricelist that a packet of some article she needs costs 31/2d., but that she can buy a dozen packets for 3s., she promptly buys a dozen, even to save 6d. So, in regard to clothing, it is notorious that every poor woman who is a good housewife calculates where she can save 6d. here or1s. there. My honorable friend’s interjection merely points the argument still more, and shows thatit is all these littles which aggregate a very great deal, and may be a burden on a small wage-earning family. If to the duty of 10 per cent. we add 10 per cent. for the cost of importation we get a 20 per cent. advantage in favour of the local manufacturer as against the imported goods. That is a very important matter. Even my protectionist friends ought to bow a little to the necessities of the case. They say that they only want what is fair and reasonable. The difficulty we have is to arrive at what is fair and reasonable. This is not a matter to call for the introduction of any. heat or strong feeling, and if we can arrive at what is fair and reasonable so much the better. Then, again, the difficulty is that it is next to impossible by means of the figures at our disposal to arrive at a mathematical conclusion on the subject. We can only do our best. But I ask honorable senators to yield a little to the necessities of the case in regard to commodities which are absolutely necessaries of such extraordinary general consumption, that the figures quoted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council show an estimate of revenue for a normal year of £774,875. So that from the point of view of protection we may fairly regard 10 per cent. as ample. I think that 71/2 per cent. would be sufficient, but in order to be liberal, and to satisfy our friends who take a different view, I am quite willing that the duty should be 10 per cent. From the point of view of revenue, we have some very valuable figures in the papers which have been laid upon the table of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Senator O’Connor referred to them yesterday, and drew inferences from which I ratherdissent, and must submit to some qualification. On the whole line we have an estimate of revenue in a normal year of £774,875. That includes duties on. woollen piece goods, silks, and cotton, and linen piece goods. Unfortunately, the papers laid upon the table do not subdivide the different lines. They only give us the total. But that total affords usa fair basis for the inference which I suggest to honorable senators. The total collections for six months were, on the whole line, £263,413. Taking that as a basis, the collections for the year would be £526,826. If that is the revenue collected in an abnormal year, we shall be able to agree that the £774,875 estimated by the Treasurer for a normal year is very much in excess of what the collections will amount to. Of course, we all recognise the difficulties the Treasurer was placed in. No one can complain for a moment of estimates of this kind. No mortal man could possibly make an accurate estimate. But when we find that in an abnormal year, when the duties all over the Commonwealth were for three months of the period collected at the rate of 20 per cent., and for the remaining three months at a reduced rate, only the amount I have stated was collected, is it not certain that we shall get nothing like the £774,875 in a normal year, and that the collections will be more likely to be £250,000 less? Not only were the duties for the Commonwealth 20 per cent. up to the 5th of December, but previous to the imposition of this Tariff there were no such duties in New -South Wales. In Western Australia the duties were previously 10 per cent. As I have said, the revenue of £265,413, which was collected for three months at 20 per cent, and for three months at 15 per cent., and of which New South Wales contributed £9S,S35, represents, assuming that the contributions were at the same rate for the whole of the abnormal year, £526,826. What does that show 1 It shows that the imposition of these high duties has produced a result greatly short of the Treasurer’s estimate, and will greatly diminish the revenue of the whole Commonwealth. It cannot be said that that result is due to loading up. It was certainly not due to loading up in New South Wales, because the duties collected there for the six m’onths were £98,835, a total infinitely greater than the collections in any other State except Victoria, where £105,824 was collected. In Victoria that collection took place because there was, not a loading up, but an absention from clearing goods in the belief that the former Victorian duties would be reduced. It is evident that the future revenue must be greatly reduced, and, therefore, the effect of high duties is conclusively shown from the figures before us to be in the direction of diminishing revenue. I wish to point out another consideration. It is a marvellous thing that during the first three months the duties collected for each month were very much less than they were during the next three months. Take November, for instance. The total collections for that month were £28,095. In December the total collections were £20,210. But in the month of January the collections were nearly three times as much - £55,174. What does that mean ? It means that during the first three months, when the higher duties prevailed, goods were either not imported or were left in bond. The Tariff was laid on the table in October. Is it to be supposed that merchants would bring their goods here under the higher duties. It must be supposed that at least half of the goods were brought out under orders that were fulfilled by shipments arriving in January, February and March. The inference is that the lesser duty tempted larger shipments ; and that will always be the case. But even if honorable senators do not base their inference upon that consideration there is still the position that the duties even under all these conditions show in actual collections more than £250,000 less than the Treasurer’s estimate for a normal year. These figures seem to me to be conclusive as to what the position will be in regard to the revenue generally. It is of the greatest importance to remember that New South Wales was previously a free-trade country, and that Western Australia had only a duty of 1 per cent.; and that the receipts collected during the first three months under a duty of 20 per cent, were enormously swollen by reason of those facts. Now comes the question of the smaller States. It is true that there are woollen mills of greater or lesser extent in various places. There is one at Ipswich, in Queensland. There is one in South Australia, in which I, in my endeavour - as many of us do sometimes - to assist an industry out of my own pocket, rather than out of the pockets of the people, had some interest. It was never a success. The duty was high enough - 15 per cent. The failure was due to other reasons. The industry carried on a struggling existence for about 25 years, and, so far as I am aware, it has very little prospect of success. In Tasmania, with a less duty, there was also, as there is still, a woollen industry. Of course, the conditions there are more favorable in respect to climate and water supply. In South Australia one of the chief difficulties was the water supply. The manufacturers could not fix the dye. A suit of clothes that was meant to be brown, became green after a little while.
– It became a kind of Home Rule suit !
– Exactly ; one appeared to be wearing the flag of old Ireland ! However, I am sorry and I think that South Australia is sorrY that difficulties of that kind arose. In Tasmania, where similar difficulties do not exist, the industry has become a fairly flourishing one. No doubt, giving to all these things due consideration, Victoria is the State which has enjoyed whatever fair measure of success there has been in regard to this industry.
– And she has had the largest amount of protection.
– That is her misfortune. We condole with her, and now we propose to relieve her of some of that burden. I trust that the industry will progress in Victoria, but the more it progresses of course the less revenue we shall have. If
South Australia and Western Australia are supplied with woollen goods from Victoria or Queensland so much less revenue will be received by them. On all these grounds I trust that the 10 per cent. duty, which is fair and reasonable, certainly from the point of view of continuing to shelter the local manufacturer, will be adopted. It will greatly promote the revenue and probably enable the Treasurer’s estimate of . £750,000 in a normal year to be reached - if not absolutely, at least approximately.
– In the course of his remarks Senator Symon has referred to that well of information which I presume is the official report of the debate upon this item in another place. It was admitted by even7 one there that, if the amendment which was moved to reduce the duty by one-half were carried, the amount of revenue estimated to be received under the original duty could only be raised by the doubling of the importations. The amendment was unsuccessful, but the party of which Senator Symon is a member succeeded in reducing the duty by one-fourth. Under these circumstances it is perfectly clear that, to obtain the estimated revenue under the original duty, importations must be increased by at least 25 per cent. Senator Symon is now putting forward the proposal which was made originally by his party in another place, and, if he succeeds, the position will be exactly as it was when the amendment to which I have referred was moved : that in order to keep the revenue up to the estimate there will have to be an importation of double the normal extent. We know that any reduction of prices that might follow would not account for anything like that amount of increased importation ; that increased importations to that extent must mean decreased local production, and, in fact, the shutting up of existing mills. It is all very well for honorable senators to talk very glibly about this as if it were a matter of small concern; but, if we shut up the existing factories, and turn the people out of employment, where are they to go ? If the motion is carried, either the revenue must be reduced by at least 25 per cent. or local production must be restricted. Is it not useless to say that the people who will be thrown out of work should grow wool? That industry, at the present time, is choked, and the people, instead of going on the land to grow wool, are flocking into the towns. Then we are told that they should grow wheat. We know, however, that the seasons have not been favorable. What would be the advantage of turning people out of factories, and placing them on the land in order to increase the congestion of that employment. If we take action of this kind it will have the effect of injuring the few manufacturing industries established in Australia, and we shall certainly intensify the evil of want of employment. Senator Symon has put forward what seems to me to be a very curious argument relative to the collection of revenue since these duties came into operation. I suppose that, on the bulk of the importations under this line, the State duties were 20 per cent. when the Tariff was first introduced. The honorable and learned senator gives us the collections during October, November, and December, and shows that under that Tariff they were comparatively light, but that they increased in January. His statement is that the increase was due to the lowering of the duty, and consequently that if the duty is reduced as now proposed we shall obtain more revenue from increased importations. But is not the true explanation this : The Tariff as introduced proposed a duty of 20 per cent., but it was well known that the party of which Senator Symon is a distinguished member, intended to fight for a reduction, and the importers would naturally delay clearing as long as possible, when they knew that there was a prospect of the duty being reduced by half. On the 5th of December the party succeeded in carrying an amendment reducing the duty by 25 per cent., and the clearances in January were correspondingly large.
– The goods were cleared in January because the season commenced in that month.
– Even that statement blows Senator Symon’s argument sky high. Whichever explanation we take, itis perfectly clear that we cannot draw the inference from these clearances that we shall obtain more revenue if the duty is reduced. This item will produce a considerable amount of revenue, and at the same time afford incidental protection. Is it not well to fix a duty something like that levied hitherto in most of the States, so that the manufacture of articles which we have been accustomed to make will be continued, while the larger amount of duty will still be collected in respect of importations of other lines, which we do not produce in such excellence or abundance. Senator Pulsford quoted last night figures to prove that the average duties on woollens in Australia had been Si per cent., but in order to arrive at that average he had to include a large quantity of goods which had been imported free, and imported free in order to facilitate the manufacture of these particular articles. The figures quoted by him in regard to the Victorian returns for 1900 showed that the quantity of these goods imported free of duty was nearly equal to the quantity of dutiable goods imported. To properly estimate the average amount of duty levied in Victoria the honorable senator should not have included in his calculation goods that were imported free.
– If the honorable senator could show that the Tariff was arranged in a similar way that might be so, but the Tariff proposes to tax all woollen piece goods.
– It certainly proposes a duty of 5 per cent, on a great number of piece-goods which previously came in free. But if £299,340 worth of goods imported into Victoria paid a duty of 25 per cent., and £50,137 worth paid 15 per cent., the average duty for the purpose of this argument has certainly been 20 per cent. It is not affected by the fact that a large quantity of goods amounting to £300,517 worth were admitted free. In Queensland, a duty of 15 per cent, was levied for a great number of years, and it is admitted that, under that duty, a most valuable factory, turning out splendid cloth, has been established. I mention that as showing that on the test of experience a duty of 15 per cent., without being oppressive, was found to be sufficient to establish the industry.
– “Was there a duty upon yarns ?
– I think there was a duty of 5 per cent, upon yarns. I object entirely to looking to these industries as being the industries of this or that State. If we have a Tariff that is reasonably protective there is no reason why these woollen industries, which may fairly be classed as natural industries, should not be established in every State of the Commonwealth. I hope they will be. If that is the result of the imposition of these duties, and there should be a falling-off of the revenue eventually upon the establishment of these factories in the different States, I, for one, shall not deplore it, because, as has been pointed out before, if we do not get the revenue from the duty upon the imported article we shall get its equivalent over and over again in the consumption of other dutiable goods by those engaged in these industries.
– This item must be carefully considered in its relation to other items which appear on the Tariff. We find that the Government proposal is to tax apparel at 25 - per cent., and to allow these woollen piece goods to come in at 15 per cent. The intention, therefore, is to give -a protection of only 10 per cent, to the manufacture of apparel from woollen piece goods. Surely, to be fair, we should reduce the duty upon woollen piece goods from 15 per cent, to 1 0 per cent. There are many protectionists who believe that a reasonable amount of assistance should be given to local industries ; but they fix the limit at 20 per cent. Here we have two industries to deal with, and we should divide the protection equitably between them. We have the manufacture of apparel from the raw material, and if we place a duty of 20 per cent, upon apparel, surely it is right that we should make a reduction upon the raw material - woollen piece goods ? There is another item in the Tariff,, which must be considered in connexion with this. There is a duty of 10 per cent, proposed upon yarns, and if we take 5 per cent, off the duty proposed upon woollen piece goods we can compensate the industry for that reduction by an attack upon the duty upon yarns. I understand that the yarn industry, even in Victoria, is a very paltry one, and that the yarn made is not of a very good quality. If we reduce the duty upon woollen piece goods from 15 to lOper cent., and then reduce- the duty upon yarns from lU per cent, to 5 per cent., it is manifest that we shall be doing no injustice to the woollen piece goods industry. We shall have secured a reduction of taxation while the amount of protection to the manufacturer will remain the same. Senator Drake has pointed Out that in Queensland there has been a duty of 15 per cent, upon woollen piece goods, and he says that the duty upon yarns was 5 per cent. I think the duty in Queensland upon yarns ranged from 15 per cent, to free, and that would be an average of 7h percent. Assuming the duty to be 5 per cent., as Senator Drake suggests, the Queensland duty upon woollen piece goods is only 10 per cent, in favour of the manufacturer. I urge most strongly that any reduction made in the duty upon this item can be more than compensated for by making a reduction in the duty upon yarns.
– Why does the honorable and learned senator desire that yarns should be admitted free ?
– Because, substantially, there is no local manufacture of yarns, and they are the raw material for the manufacture of woollen piece goods. There are two grades of raw material in the manufacture of the finished article in this case. The first is yarns, and the Government propose a duty of 10 per cent, upon that. The next is woollen piece goods, on which a duty of 15 per cent, is proposed, and that is rea l 1 v only giving the manufacturer of woollen piece goods a protection to the extent of 5 per cent. Surely the best plan is to begin at the foundation, and make yarns, which are the raw material, either free or 5 per cent., and then rise from that, giving an additional 5 per cent, protection for woollen piece goods and the same increase of protection upon the manufacture of apparel.
– I find that yarns for manufacturing purposes were duty free in Queensland-
– To deal logically with the matter, we should get down to the foundation, and put a duty of 5 per cent, upon yarns- the raw material. We should then reduce the duty here proposed upon woollen piece goods by 5 per cent., and the duty proposed upon the manufactured article by 5 per cent. We shall by that means reduce taxation by 5 per cent., while the protection afforded to each branch of the industry will be exactly the same.
– We should bear in mind that, while endeavouring to protect the manufacture of woollens, we may be doing a serious injury to another industry which is employing a far larger number of operatives, and in which a larger amount of capital is invested. I refer to the manufacture of apparel from woollen piece goods, which are the raw material used by tailors and others. I find from the Government statistics of Victoria, compiled from the census returns of 1891, that the number of individuals employed throughout the Commonwealth in the manufacture of textile and dress fabrics is given at 80,360, and in 1901 the number of persons employed in the manufacture of woollen piece goods - the raw material - :was only 1,509.
– -What is the raw material ? Do we not grow wool here ?
– Certainly : but the product of the woollen mills is the rawmaterial of the manufacture of apparel. I draw the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that we are not debating a duty upon wool, but upon woollen piece goods. It would not help the wool industry to impose a duty upon wool. I find that under very high duties the woollen industry languished, and it benefited by a decrease in the duty.
– Where was that ?
– That was in Victoria. They had high duties, running up to 50 per cent, in some cases, in Victoria; and in 1889, under these high duties, the number of persons employed in Victorian woollen mills was 810. Those duties continued until 1 S94. ‘ They had not only protection, but almost prohibition, upon woollen stuffs, and yet in 1894 the number employed in the woollen mills had decreased to 690.
– Better machinery.
– If that is contended I can give the output also. In 1SS9 the output was 1,039,168 yards, and in 1894 it was 1,579,379 yards. There is an increase shown in the production, but Senator Stewart will see that it is not a proportionate increase. In 1S95 the duties were, in many cases, reduced by 20 per cent. It was contended by the woollen manufacturers, and by the employes engaged in the mills, that that would result in the closing down of the woollen mills. That was the contention placed before the Tariff commission, and it will be found in their report. In 1895 the duties were reduced, in many cases 20 per cent. With the improved machinery the employes had increased from 690 in 1894 to 917 in 1S99. The decreased duties benefited the manufacturers of woollen stuff, simply because the local manufacturer of tweed suits and slop clothes could compete with foreign manufacturers when he got his raw material at cheaper rates. That increase has continued. In 1901, according to the figures laid on the table of the other House, there were 1,013 employes in the woollen mills. With the decreased duties they continued to increase their output, and increased the number of their hands, although during that time a large amount of labour-saving machinery was introduced. The -woollen industry has not been wiped out by the substantial reduction made on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Their report contains most valuable evidence on this question, and great attention should be paid both to its recommendations and to the. statements made by -witnesses. In its second report, at page 38, the board states that some of the manufacturers of clothing made from free material asserted that they required no protective duty, that the abolition of duty would not lead to an increase of importations, and that they were able to compete with British firms. The board points out that two proposals to assist the manufacturer were made - first, that the material which could not be made in the colony should be admitted duty free, and a fair rate maintained on those which could be manufactured here; and secondly, that the duty on all woollen piece goods be reduced, in which case there should be a corresponding decrease made in the duty on apparel. The board recommended the first- proposal. It elicited from the witnesses a list of the articles which, in the opinion of the tailors and the slopclothes makers, could not be made here, and from the manufacturers of woollens a list of the articles which they contended could not be made here. The tailors and slopclothes makers contend that Melton cloths, Astrachans, beaver cloths, serges, cheap tweeds, broadcloths, witneys, naps, fancy vestings, worsteds, mantle cloths, livery plushes, stockingettes, vicunas, doeskins, overcoatings, Devon, supers, valencias, buck, carriage cloths, cloakings, and ulsterings could not be made successfully in the Commonwealth, and that therefore they should be admitted free. The manufacturers and the employes at the woollen mills cornbatted that statement, contending that the only lines which should be exempt from duty should be Astrachans, curl cloakings, lambskins, bearskins, ripplains, and white naps, and that as regards the other lines, some of them could be successfully made, while others, if not at the same price as the imported articles, at any rate could be made here. The board drew up a list of exemptions. With some exceptions, it was subsequently accepted by the Victorian Parliament, but it does not find a place in the Federal Tariff. I would refer honorable senators to the figures quoted by .Senator Pulsford, which pointed out this fact : that of the importation of woollen goods into Victoria £300,000 worth came in free. In its report the board says -
With regard to woollens not included in above list there is overwhelming preponderance of evidence in favour of a reduction of duty. It has been stated that with every increase of duty there kas been a decrease of wages in the clothing trade. As a matter of fact, the employes have suffered with every increase of duty, and, it is stated, will benefit by every decrease. It has also been proved to us that the effect of the high duty has been to bring into consumption an inferior class of goods.
When Senator Sargood made that statement in his second-reading speech, it was contradicted by various honorable senators. It was also made by this board, as the result of its investigation.
The manufacturers (woollen mills) and their employes still maintain that 40 per cent, is necessary, and any material reduction they claim, would close down the mills.
The board make this comment, that after ten years the woollen mills had made no substantial progress under the high duties^ bearing out the figures which I quoted just now. A statement is made in the report that the high duties led to sweating in the clothing trade. When the local manufacturers had to pay 50 per cent, more for their raw material than manufacturers elsewhere had to pay, they were compelled to look round to discover some way of making a saving.
– Could they not get raw material in Australia ?
– The price of the raw material was increased to them by the imposition of the high duties, and, in the interests of the clothing trade, the board recommended that the duties on the raw material should be substantially reduced. Finding that he could not decrease the price of his raw material, the manufacturer at once attempted to reduce the rate of wages to his employes, in order to be able to compete with the foreign manufacturer. That is what caused most glaring instances of sweating; and I am sure that Senator Barrett will admit that no trade was associated with a greater amount of sweating than was the clothing trade.
– The same condition existed in Sydney, where they had all their raw material duty free.
– I am dealing with the clothing trade in Victoria at present, because it is claimed that by protection we can abolish sweating. Although it enjoyed a higher percentage of duties than any other trade in Victoria, yet sweating was rampant, and the industry was going back until the duties were reduced, when, of course, a substantial increase in the output took place. In 1893 a Factories Act Inquiry Board was appointed, and in 1S95 it gave in its report. Although it was not appointed to go into the question of the Tariff, its attention was drawn, and drawn very strongly, to the pressure of the Tariff on the manufacturers of woollen apparel. In its first report, in paragraph 46, one expert witness on tailoring is quoted as saying that the greater the amount of duty on woollens the less the price for manufacturing. In paragraph 43, at page 15, the board states that one of the alleged causes of the depression was the large increase imposed a year before in the duties on woollen goods, and a large number of witnesses are mentioned as supporting this contention. In regard to low-priced tweeds the board states, in paragraph 45, that evidence was given . that the Victorian mills made no substitute for this line, and that a number of witnesses claimed that it should be free. The prices of cheap imported tweeds, and of the cheapest Victorian tweeds, were given in evidence. It was pointed out that a large number of people used clothes made of cheap tweeds, that the high duty on cheap tweeds raised the price of clothes to the consumer, and that, therefore, it was not a protectionist but a revenue tax. In regard to the low priced tweeds evidence was given, as stated in paragraph 45, that the Victorian mills made no substitute for this line, and a number of witnesses claimed that it should be free. Paragraph 48 states that the assertion of the workmen was strongly supported by warehousemen, who were a!so manufacturers. It further states that evidence was given from the workers’ point of. view showing that the high price of these goods was one of the principal causes of sweating. That is a significant fact that should be borne in mind by honorable senators. The unfortunate operatives were the chief sufferers, as the manufacturers tried to make up for the high duties by reducing the wages of their employes. That was the case, not when the duty was reduced to 25 per cent., but when it stood at 44 per cent. The trade now comes under the operation of a wages board, and notwithstanding the reduced duty, the operatives in the clothing trade get higher wages, and there are more people employed in the woollen mills. I believe also that a greater number of people are employed in the tailors’ shops and clothing shops of Melbourne, now that they are under a wages board, and that decent wages are paid even with a lesser protection on the raw material than existed in 1894. These significant facts go to show that it is for the benefit of the greater number of people that the duties on woollen goods should be reduced. I atn willing to admit that the woollen industry has been established in some places, and should have some .consideration, but I believe that Senator Millen’s proposal will give them all the protection that is necessary. The manufacturers now have the whole Commonwealth for their market. The protection which Senator Millen proposes to give is ample. If we increase the duty it must be remembered that we increase the price of clothing, which is almost as , much a necessity as tea or kerosene. We must have consideration for the great mass of the people who are consumers. If the price of these articles is increased to the workmen, we decrease their wages just as surely as if we took a shilling or two shillings per week off the amount they receive. What does it matter to me whether I get £5 a week and it costs me £5 to live, or £2 a week in another place where it costs me £2 to live if I live as well in each place? It is the purchasing power of wages that is the important consideration ; and if we increase the cost of living we injure the workman, just as much ‘ as if we directly reduce his wages. By increasing the price of this article we shall virtually reduce the wages ruling throughout Australia. Furthermore, we shall injure the clothing trade, which is even of greater importance than the woollen industry, and affects a far greater number of people. The experience of Victoria shows that the increase of this duty increased the cost of clothing to the general public. I make the statement on the authority of the Victorian Tariff Board, that the workers of Victoria were worse clothed than the people of any other part of Australia. For these reasons, I support Senator Millen’s. motion.
– I do not think “ Senator Pearce is well acquainted with the facts concerning the Victorian Tariff Board. Something can be said on the other side as a set-off to the arguments he has advanced. I would remind Senator Pearce of the statement I have made more than once on the floor of this chamber, to the effect that the Tariff Board was very much divided in opinion. The protectionist portion of the board refused to indorse or sign the report. They not only repudiated the findings of the board, but in .a joint- report of their own, gave reasons for’ their action. Honorable senators who have been members of parliamentary boards know perfectly well that the opinion of the board is to a large extent the opinion of the chairman ; and although in this case the chairman was the late Mr. A. L. Tucker, who was a professed protectionist, yet the findings of the board and his statements on the floor of the Legislative Assembly were such as to prove to me that he certainly was not a very strong protectionist. If there were time it would be, possible to find evidence from the protectionist standpoint to prove that the statements of Senator Pearce were wrong. I was a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1S95 when the revision of the Tariff took place, and there was a long discussion on the board’s report. Although I . have not looked up the document recently, I know the main points of the discussion and understand exactly what took place.
– Did Parliament indorse the recommendations of the board’ by reducing the duties to some extent 1
– It did to some extent. Senator Pearce has occupied some portion of his speech with an error which has been frequently contradicted. He said that the sweating in Victoria was largely due to the high duties.
– I stated that the board said so.
– Inferentially I suppose the honorable senator indorsed the opinion of the Tariff Board in that respect. I would remind the honorable senator who has talked about sweating that the evil is not confined to protectionist countries, but that it is to be found in a greater degree in free-trade lands. I. have something here which I think will open the eyes of the committee. I have before me an English price-list, for which I am indebted to an employe of one of the largest firms, in Melbourne, giving some idea of what can and will be done if the motion is carried. The price-list is issued by a very large firm, Wacks Brothers, Limited, clothing manufacturers, of Burlington, Leicester. A very large factory is shown on the cover, together with a statement that Wacks Brothers, Limited, are “ Contractors to His Majesty’s Government and Waroffice’.” Some beautiful samples of shoddy are shown in the . price-list, and they should be sufficient to satisfy any one who deals in that article. The manufacturers state that these goods will be sent to any part of the world, and they promise “ highclass fit and finish. Sound workmanship. Prompt despatch.” The circular is as follows : -
Gents., - We have pleasure in handing herewith a small selection of patterns for gents, suits, which we think will be of interest to you. We shall be glad to send sample garments to any part of the world. We give a first-class fit, combined with the latest’ style, sound workmanship, and sterling value. We issue a large shipping pattern- book, also a special bespoke pattern -book, each containing over 500 patterns, and shall be pleased to mail either, or both, free of charge. Soliciting your esteemed commands. - Wacks Bros., Lin.
A statement is given of the various sizes, for which prices are quoted, and the point is this, that these suits for adult males are supplied complete for 10s. 6d.
– I saw suits marked, up . at lis. 6d. each in a shop window in Melbourne to-day.
– I am not defending that. I am showing that if we reduce the duty, stuff like this will be’ imported.
– It is unnecessary to import it when it is made locally.
– I deny the statement, and challenge Senator Millen or any of his free-trade friends to prove it. , ,
– The report of the Tariff Board is my proof.
– That document is over seven years old. The statements that we hear to-day were- made by the freetrade party, and they have to resurrect things seven years old in their efforts to prove their assertions. But here we have the fact that an English firm is prepared to supply a so-called tweed suit for 10s. 6d. What can the unfortunate people who make up. this clothing receive 1 Are we to -have
I anything of that kind here 1 Samples are also supplied by this firm, showing that gentlemen’s “ sacs “ can be sold for 5s. 11d., and gentleman’s trousers, of “ high-class fit and finish and sound workmanship,” supplied at 4s. 6d. a pair.
– High duties make it necessary for that sort of stuff to come in.
– I have heard that statement before, but it has never been proved. Senator Millen has said that we produce shoddy of this kind in Victoria. I hope that before the item has been disposed of, he will give us some evidence in support of his assertion. If he does, I shall probably have something to say on the other side. I challenge him to prove his statement.
– The stuff shown in that price-list is not made in Victoria.
– I know that. It is a class of low-grade goods which is made in England, and honorable senators of the free-trade party propose to enable it to be imported into the Commonwealth by reducing this duty. The first woollen mill established in Victoria commenced operations under a duty of 10 per cent., or exactly the same protection as that proposed in the motion. It found, however, that it could not prosper, and in a very short time it was compelled to close. It was only when the duty was increased to 30 per cent. that the industry was able to make any headway, and to show, as it has shown, that we canmake cloths second to none in the world. Senator Pearce referred to the number of persons engaged in the mills from time to time, and said very correctly that it was a fluctuating quantity. But as I have shown in dealing with another item, these fluctuations cannot be put against the duties imposed. It is unfair to attribute them to one set of circumstances. There are increases in manufacturing industries, the causes of which we are not always able to determine. I think the honorable senator was also wrong in his figures, because the latest returns show that in Victoria, there are nine mills, employing 866 persons. The wages paid in Australia are considerably higher than those given in Great Britain, and I think we ought to have some regard to that fact in dealing with this duty. I know that, until wages boards had been created in Victoria, the wages paid in many branches were not satisfactory. But we have now a wages board that provides for the payment of a very fair remuneration, which I hope to see increased, and the existence of that board is a further guarantee that the worker will receive greater consideration in the future. Looking at the history of the woollen industry in the past, and considering what we have done, I believe that under the duty proposed by Senator Symon our mills will not be able to compete with the mills in other parts of the world, and the effect of the honorable and learned senator’s proposal will be to destroy an industry which is now assuming fair proportions. I cannot, therefore, support the proposal made, and, indeed, I think the duty submitted by the Government might well be increased to 30 per cent.
– Senator Barrett is consistent in his advocacy of high duties under all circumstances. His constant cry is that we should keep up the duty, and the higher the better. The honorable senator fails to realize that the more costly he makes living, the less distance will people’s wages go in procuring the necessaries of life. It seems natural with those advocating protection to ridicule or cast upon one side any report, even though it comes from their own chosen people, which tells against them in any way. The report quoted by Senator Pearce must carry weight with any unbiased person, but naturally Senator Barrett has attempted to discount it as far as possible. However the honorable senator may try to discount it, there is the fact that it was a report, made after inquiry by persons appointed, by the Parliament of Victoria, and it had. the effect upon that Parliament of bringing about a reduction in duties, with the result, as Senator Pearce has shown by reference to statistics, that the work of these woollen mills has increased, and not. decreased. Mention has been made of the fact that there has been a good deal of sweating in Victoria. That is admitted upon all hands, and the reply is that there is sweating also in free-trade countries. I dare say that sweating may be found in every country in the world, but I deny that there is more sweating in free-trade than in protectionist countries. I refer honorable senators to the fact that inquiries made in this State in connexion with wages have shown that the wages paid in New South Wales have been higher than the wages paid in Victoria in similar industries. It was in consequence of this that the people of Victoria found themselves confronted with the necessity of passing factory legislation in order to protect working men.
– What about compulsory arbitration in New South Wales 1
– That is intended to meet other circumstances. Under the Factories and Shops Act in Victoria wages have been raised, I presume, to a reasonable living rate. I should like to make some allusion to- the remarks made by Senator Barrett about the material he has exhibited to the committee, and from which suits are made at a very ridiculous price. We recognise at once that that material is comparatively worthless, and no doubt the’ people engaged in the manufacture of apparel from it are sweated.
– That is the sort of stuff which is imported to a free port.
– I remind the honorable senator that Senator Sargood has told us that, as an importer for many years in New South Wales, as well as Victoria, he has found that the demand in the freetrade State of New South Wales is for a ^better class of goods than is demanded in Victoria.
– I have my own opinion about that.
– No doubt ; hut the honorable senator has not the experience that Senator Sargood has had, and I prefer to take Senator Sargood’s statement before that of any honorable senator here, in the absence of substantial proof to the contrary from nien in similar positions and with the same experience. If we, by an artificial Tariff, increase the cost of clothing, we reduce the opportunities given to people to clothe themselves well. They will be naturally compelled to clothe themselves as -cheaply as possible, and’ it is in that way that these shoddy materials come into the market, because working men are unable to get a suit of clothes made from good material, at a moderate rate. That there is a demand for the shoddy article in Victoria. is proved by the prices which are exhibited in the Bourke-street shops, because it is clear that these goods would not be imported if there was not a sale for them. The woollen industry has been established in New South Wales, but not, I admit, to the same extent as in Victoria. That is due, no doubt, to the high duties which have been in existence in Victoria ; but, as a consequence, people in the latter State, receiving small wages, have had to- deprive themselves, to a great extent, of the class of clothing they would like to have worn. I am not one of those who would care to see industries destroyed. I should be glad to see them preserved ; but I have to consider also the consumers, and we should not allow them to be robbed in order to make fortunes for the few men who are manufacturers, or for the benefit of the men employed by them. Senator Drake suggested that the primary industries of the country are altogether over-manned, and he considers it a mistake to drive people into the country instead of bringing them into the town to be- employed in manufacturing industries.
– I did not say that. What I said was that there are more people in the country now than country industries can maintain.
– The honorable and learned senator said something about the restriction of local production throwing people out of employment.
– If we shut up the factories what are they to do ?
– And he asked us why we should turn people on to the land to increase an already congested employment. I deny that the avenues for the occupation of people, on the land are congested in any way. Considering the area of the Commonwealth, if, with a population of four millions, the country districts are to be considered as too full of people the outlook for Australia is a very poor one. One of the great mistakes which has been made in our country, and it has been made, I dare say, in other countries, has been the offering of inducements to people to come to the larger cities and towns. This has led to a congested population in the cities and towns and a sparse population in the country.
– The bulk of the Victorian mills are not in the big cities, they are about Geelong.
– Geelong is a fair-sized city, and, at any rate, the men engaged in these town industries are, in many cases, taken away from employment which they might follow with much greater benefit to the Commonwealth. We know that the cities are dependent upon the country for their support, and if we are to have no back-country industries, we cannot have prosperous cities and towns. We talk from time to time about putting people on the land, and now we are told by Senator Drake that it is a mistake to send them to an occupation that is already conjested. Looking at this matter from the revenue point of view we believe that a reduction of the duty of 15 per cent. to 10 per cent. will not materially interfere with the revenue. We believe also that by lessening the cost of living, we shall be assisting the people to expend more money in other dutiable articles than they would otherwise be able to do. It cannot be too strongly impressed upon honorable senators that clothing is as absolutely a necessary of life as is that which a man eats and drinks. In New South Wales, we got ‘on very well indeed with a free-trade policy, and it is a very great wrench for honorable senators coming from New South Wales to give way as strong free-traders, as we have done, in order to get a Tariff which will yield revenue, and at the same time afford more assistance than we deem necessary to industries already established under an artificial and coddling process. It is, as I say, a great wrench for free-trade senators from New South Wales to assist in framing a Tariff which seeks rather to burden the people, than to relieve them of burdens which ought not to be placed upon them. When the Prime Minister said that he was going to adopt a system which, while producing revenue would not bring about destruction, the people of New South Wales were prepared to agree to the policy indicated ; but instead of that, we find ouselves confronted in this Tariff with high duties in every direction. The duty imposed originally upon woollen piece-goods has been reduced to 15 per cent., and that is itself a very high duty, but when we come to deal with apparel we shall find the people interested in that industry looking for a proportionately high duty. So the system goes on. A comparatively small duty is imposed upon some article of primary production, and as it goes through two or three hands in different branches of trade, each looks for an increase of duty upon the article in the manufacture of which he is concerned. Instead of building up a great Commonwealth, we are taking a coursethat will throw us back for many years. I hope that the motion will be accepted. I do not believe it will have the effect of closing a single mill. I believe it will be the means of stirring up the woollen manufacturers to obtain the latest and best appliances, and so enable themselves to compete against the products of the outside world. An import duty of 10 per cent., combined with this natural protection, is sufficient to enable the woollen industry to prosper to a greater extent than it has done.
– I amopposed to both the proposition of the Government and to that of the Opposition. Fifteen per cent. is not a protective duty, but merely a revenue duty. As I am opposed to the levying of taxation for revenue purposes upon articles of apparel or the material of which they are made, I am compelled to vote against a 10 per cent. duty. I do not believe in taxing people’s clothing. Whatever tax on clothing I favour will be one for purely protective purposes, so that we may encourage a primary industry. We have been told that a 15 per cent. duty is absolute protection. In Queensland we had a good experience of a 15 per cent. duty. In1887, when the duty was 71/2per cent., we obtained a revenue of £7,269 from imports valued at £96,000. In1888 the duty was increased to 15 per cent. According to our freetrade friends, 15 per cent. is so purely a protectionist tax that it prohibits importations, but in Queensland it did not, for in 1900 the imports amounted to £130,000, yielding a revenue of £20,000. In1887 the population was 366,000, while at the end of 1900 it was, roughly, 500,000, so that the imports grew in the same ratio as did the population, without any reference to the duty. As large a quantity of piece goods were imported under a 15 per cent. duty as under a71/2 per cent. duty.
– Then it was a tax on the people’s clothes?
– It was a revenue tax. I wish these duties either to be sufficiently high to encourage local industries or to be swept away. The freetraders seem to be very anxious about the revenue, yet here is Senator Symon proposing to throw away 33 per cent. of the revenue from a particular article.
– Not at all. Throwing away 33 per cent. of the duty and increasing the revenue.
– The honorable and learned senator expects that the imports will be largely increased if the duty is reduced from 15 to 10 per cent., but I have proved that in Queensland the importation was not increased when the duty was raised from 71/2 to 15 per cent. I have not examined the figures for the other States, but I believe the same results will follow in each case. It is expected that the revenue from the importation of these goodswill amount to £750,000, yet the honorable and learned senator proposes to throw away 33 per cent. of it.
– I do not do anything of the sort. The actual collections show a revenue of over half a million.
– The revenue will be very large in any case. No wonder the honorable and learned senator was desirous of reserving tea and one or two other articles, seeing that every day he is making an additional assault on our revenue producing commodities. A State ought to be something more than a mere tax-gathering machine. It ought to be an aid to the development of every industry which is capable of sustaining the human family.
– But the honorable senator said just now that he would like the thing swept off altogether.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that I did not believe in taxing clothing for revenue purposes. If I favour a tax on clothing it is to prohibit the importation of the articles, with the view of encouraging their production in our own territory.
– The honorable senator wants a prohibitive duty.
– I do not wish the duty to be entirely prohibitive. I believe it is a good policy to have the importer and the manufacturer competing with each other, but I am not desirous of giving either a very material advantage. We have heard a good deal about protecting the raw material. In England the raw material of a large quantity of the stuff which is manufactured is not wool. Like the raisin in the pudding, wool is merely the seasoning of the article. In the manufacture of cloths a very small portion of wool and a very large quantity of rags and other rubbish are used, and the product is known by the name of shoddy. Of course, England uses a considerable quantity of wool, about £30,000,000 worth per annum, I think, but that represents only a very small proportion of the output of tweed. If there is any industry which can be called a native industry it is the woollen industry. Australia is the finest wool-growing country in the world.
– Has not England also been making the best woollen goods that we can get?
– Perhaps the best in the world. I have read that the English climate is more suitable than any other for the manufacture of these goods, and when I was in Tasmania it occurred to me that in that respect that State might at some future period become the Britain of the southern hemisphere. I hope that any action I take will encourage the industry, but the action of the free-trade party will injure it. Their intentions may be good, but we have heard that the way to a certain very warm and very undesirable place is “ paved with good intentions.” Though the free-traders may be perfectly sincere, I am convinced that their policy is wrong, and is not likely to promote the development of Australia, or lead to the establishment of industries that will conduce to the happiness of our people. As we grow the wool which is the raw material of the clothmaking industry, why should we not follow the example of other wool-growing countries of the world and make our own cloth 1 The English people grew their own wool for five or six centuries and sent it to the continent of Europe to be manufactured, never dreaming of establishing manufactories of their own. But by-and-by they became more enlightened, and by means of a protective policy England commenced to manufacture her own wool. The industry was protected until England found herself in a position to throw her goods upon the markets of the world and defy competition from any quarter. If we desire to do anything of that character, my belief is that we must follow England’s example. It is quite possible for us to produce more wool than we can reasonably find a market for. In some seasons there is a glut of wool in the English market, and the squatters cannot get anything like a reasonable price for it. If the whole of our people were compelled to direct their energies to the primary industries, the result would be that in a few years the production would be so great that there would be a tremendous fall in prices, and our last condition would be worse than our first. It is a wise national policy to foster the development in our midst of as many industries as possible. That has not been done anywhere without protection. Can any honorable senator point a case in the history of the world of any country building up large industries without a protective policy ?
– Was there a duty on boats when Noah built the ark?
– That is the sort of conundrum one expects from a freetrader. But can Senator Pearce point to a single case where a community has established within its borders great industries without a protective policy? If he can I will give way to him. Great Britain, the United States, and Germany have not done it, and no country that I have ever read about has been able to do without protection. I am not averse to making experiments if good reasons can be shown why a change of policy should be adopted, but I see no reason for adopting a free-trade policy in this case. The cry of the freetraders is for cheapness in every direction. I prefer to give the people better wages. Let us have a more equal distribution of the wealth we produce, and then, instead of our people buying rubbish like the stuff that Senator Barrett has shown, they will be able to buy the best of tweed woven from the best of Australian wool. They will be well clothed, well shod, and well fed, instead of eating adulterated food, wearing adulterated cloth, and leading adulterated lives in every particular.
– I am not anxious to go into this subject at great length, because, if we have any more wearying debates such as we have had for the last two days, I believe I shall soon become a raving lunatic. In this in- . stance, I cannot see my way to support Senator Milieu’s motion, and for the very opposite reason to that which he gave in moving it. It seems to me that 15 per cent. is a fair compromise between the Tariffs which prevailed in the various States. A duty of 12 or 13 per cent. would be fairer than 10 per cent., but I see no reason to depart from the Tariff. I have received certain requests from commercial bodies in Tasmania, such as the Chamber of Commerce of Hobart, and the Drapers’ Association, but none of them have asked me to interfere with this duty. In supporting a duty of 15 per cent., I am voting to give the woollen industry in my own State 5 per cent. less protection than it has had in the past. Under a moderate duty of a protectionist character, the mills in Tasmania have been making exceedingly good cloth, and a duty of 15 per cent. is one which they are well entitled to. If I supported 10 per cent. I should vote for a duty of a little less than I think they are entitled to. Therefore, I shall accept the compromise which comes from another place.
– I desire to say a few words in order to explain the vote which I propose to give upon this item. On general principles, I incline very much to the policy of protection, although I am afraid that the vote which I propose to give in this instance will not please my protectionist friends. I find that the employes in the woollen industry here are paid very poorly and treated badly by the employers. It will be within the memory of honorable senators who visited Geelong some eight or nine months ago in order to inspect the industries of that district, that after viewing the woollen mills and other factories there, the party were entertained, and that a speech was delivered by the chairman of the committee whose guests we were. That gentleman, I understand, has been in the gallery to-day, and I am sorry that he is not present to hear why I propose to vote against this item. On that occasion he expressed the hope that the Commonwealth Parliament would give substantial protection to the woollen industry, but at a later stage he referred to the establishment of wages boards, and said that their creation was very unfair. He expressed the opinion that the employers were the best judges of the remuneration which their employes should receive. I interjected at the time that if he wanted freetrade in labour we should also allow freetrade in regard to the importations of woollens ; that if there was to be no protection for the workers there should not be any for the manufacturers. I find that this gentleman and those associated with him have been acting upon that principle ever since. Under the determination of the Woollen Trade Board, the wages paid are so small that it is hardly worth while to protect an industry of this kind at the cost of the consumer. According to this determination, wool scourers receive from 30s. to 36s. per week ; labourers employed in the finishing department, milling and scouring and tentering, receive wages varying from 27s. 6d. per week to 34s. per week ; spinners are paid wages ranging from 30s. to 36s. per week, while pattern weavers, who are skilled workmen, receive from 30s. to 40s. per week. I think it is agreed that £2 per week is too low a wage for a skilled worker, especially in a protected industry. All (these wages are so small that the employes have just cause for dissatisfaction. The Australian Storekeepers’ Journal, of 28th April last, publishes the following protest, handed to the chairman of the Woollen Trade Board by the employes representatives : -
Sir, - We, as the representatives of the era’ployes on the above board, respectfully make this protest against the unjust and harsh decision of the board in the matter of wages, some of which will not be sufficient to give a living wage to the workers, and will lead to want and poverty among the employes in the mills. We have pointed this out time after time, but have been over-ruled by you, as chairman, almost continually voting with the employers, and, upon occasions, reversing your ruling to their advantage. We shall regard it as our duty to those who sent ns here to take such public or other steps as we can to vary the position, unless the board is prepared to reconsider and modify the decisions to a just and equitable wage.
That protest is signed by five representatives of the employes on the board. Honorable senators will see that the employes have just cause for complaint. Apparently the employers exercise such influence over the chairman of the board that he will do what they please. If I find any of these temporary bodies acting in such a way that the employes will receive no protection under their determinations, I shall certainly refuse to give protection to the manufacturers concerned. I wish to see moderate protection given to local industries, because, like Senator Stewart, I fully recognise that no country has ever been able to build up its industries without protection ; but I will not give protection to one side if the other and more important section are refused it. On several occasions I have said in public that when the Senate dealt with the Tariff I should certainly set my face against’ giving protection to any industry in which I found that the employes were not receiving justice. I shall vote against this duty as a protest against the treatment extended to the workers in the trade, by those who should ‘be more considerate for others, when they themselves ask for consideration through the Custom-house.
– I entirely concur with the remarks made by Senator De Largie in relation to the desirability of protecting labour. I would not support any policy which would merely protect the manufacturers, and afford no protection to those employed by them. But I do not agree altogether with my honorable friend upon the question of wages, for both in Victoria and Queensland higher wages are paid in the production of these articles than in England. I have a letter from an English manufacturer of woollen goods, whose name, I am sorry to say, I cannot use, stating that I could assert without hesitation that the wages paid in the weaving department of this industry in Huddersfield, and some of the other manufacturing towns of England, were 80 per cent, lower ‘than those paid at Ballarat. The reduction will be correspondingly low in other departments of the industry. I am sure Senator De Largie will agree with me that not only are the wages lower, but that the conditions in England are also inferior to those which prevail here. In Ballarat those engaged in the industry work 48 hours per week, while in Great Britain they work 56 hours per week, or equal to one day per week more. Our people work under infinitely superior conditions, both in regard to wages, hours, and sanitary arrangements, and I do not believe that any honorable senator would have the courage to say that we should bring down the conditions of labour in this country to the miserable level which exists in Great Britain. Yet if we open our ports, or impose so low a duty that it will have no protective effect, that will be the result. Are honorable senators prepared to do that 1 Certainly, I am not. As long as I have a seat in this or any Legislature in the Commonwealth, I shall endeavour to establish a policy which will protect our people against the unfair competition of the cheap labour of the world. I am not prepared merely to protect the manufacturer and the merchant. They should certainly obtain a reasonable return for their enterprise, but they should not obtain it at the expense of their workers. Senator Sargood has told us that some of the cheap articles of clothing referred to by Senator Barrett are imported into Australia in consequence of the high duty. He says that more cheap articles are imported where high duties are imposed. Is that the case ?
– Does the honorable senator know that a larger proportion of cheap cloth was imported to free-trade Sydney than to Melbourne ? That is a statement which can be borne out by facts. I do not question the honorable senator’s statements made from his own experience, but will he say that he speaks for importers generally ?
– I do.
– And that more cheap material was imported to Melbourne under high duties than was imported to Sydney under free-trade?
– I did not say that. I said that high duties caused the quality of the goods imported to be lowered.
– If it were worth while, I should like to have a commission of inquiry upon the question, and I venture to say that the decision would be that Sydney has been the dumping-ground for all the cheapest material coming from every part of the world. It was inevitably so. Do honorable senators not think that those who produce extremely low-class articles will preferto send them to ports at which they will have to pay no duty rather than to ports at which they must pay a high duty? The thing is as logical as life. I take the experience of a manufacturer who sends his woollens all over the Commonwealth, and he tells me that far more cheap woollens are sold in Sydney than in Melbourne. To deal now with the wages paid in this industry, I find that in this trade in Huddersfield, where the employes work 56 hours a week, the highest wages paid for teasers is one guinea. This is for men, not women, boys, or girls. The next rate is 1 8s. per week. Fettlers get from 22s. to 24s.; spinners (working two mules), from 30s. to 35s. Machine warpers, women and men, get from 15s. to 18s. per week. Now what do similar employes get in Ballarat, in a factory and industry belonging to the Commonwealth, not merely to Victoria? I brush absolutely to one side this miserable feeling I see exhibited that Victoria is a State to be dreaded, and that we must do something to prevent her flooding our markets with her products. I say we should take the higher ground and legislate for the whole
Commonwealth and not for any particular part. I have known Senator De Largie for many years, not merely as a sound protectionist, but as a perfectly honorable and reliable man. I can sympathize with him as the representative of a free-trade State, and as the only protectionist amongst the six senators returned for that State. But the honorable senator has not been correct as to the wages paid in this industry. I have given the wages paid to employes in the industry at Huddersfield for a week of 56 hours. I now give the wages paid to similar employes at Ballarat for a week of 48 hours, or one day less : - Teasers, £21s ; fettlers, 36s. ; spinners, working one mule and not two mules, or frames, £2 5s. per week.
– The wages board’s decision is £2 per week.
– I have got this statement direct from the manufacturer. Machine warpers are paid at Ballarat from £21s. to £2 8s. These comparisons of figures cannot be treated lightly. They show that the wages paid in the local factories run to 80 per cent higher than the wages paid at Huddersfield, while the hours of labour run to one working day more per week in Great Britain than here. So much for wages.
– But the honorable senator’s figures are wrong.
– I have quoted the figures from a document brought to me recently, by Mr. Deakin, direct from the factory at Ballarat. An importer and manufacturer has supplied me with reliable information in support of my views, though he knew me to be a protectionist, and knew that I would support a reasonable protective duty. I do not think a duty of 15 per cent. upon these materials is a high duty. I think it should not be less than 25 per cent. My aim is first of all to protect our own people and next to consider the question of revenue.
– Which section of our people does the honorable senator desire to protect?
– I desire to protect the whole of the people, and especially the working people.
– Then the honorable senator should give them cheap clothing.
– They certainly cannot get as cheap clothing in Sydney as they can in Melbourne.
– They can get a better article.
– The honorable and learned senator is wrong. I have put the matter to the test, and I have found that I could notget the same class of goods, made up in the same way, as cheaply in Sydney as in either Melbourne or Brisbane. The everlasting cheapness, which we hear so much about in Sydney, has no existence, except in connexion with the most wretched shoddy material to be found in any part of the world.
– We were talking of quality. Does the honorable senator know anything of the quality?
– I spent the first five years of my industrial life in a factory, and I think I ought to know something about the quality. Let us look at these wonderfully cheap materials. I have some samples of them here. All these goods are imported as woollen piece goods. I have here a sample of broadcloth, 54 inches wide, supposed to be 19 ounces of material to the yard. It looks first-class, and what do honorable senators think it is worth ? It is sold for the handsome sum of 101/2d. per yard, and, irrespective of the 15 per cent. duty, about 3s.1d. will provide a man with enough of this material to make him a suit of clothes. Will Senator Sargood say that as much of this article is imported to Melbourne as to Sydney? I challenge the honorable senator on the point. Here is another sample 56 inches wide, 3.V yards of which will make a man a suit of clothes. It runs 18 ounces of material to the yard, and it is sold for the handsome price of1s. per yard. Is there more of this coming to Melbourne than to Sydney? My friend, the manufacturer and importer, tells me that he can sell three yards of this in Sydney for every yard he can sell in Melbourne. These materials look splendid, but what are they ? They are not wool, but are so much rotten stuff which I decline to dignify even by the name of “ shoddy.” I have another sample of material here, 54 inches wide, 21 ounces per yard, and sold at 1s. 51/2d per yard.
– Is there any wool in it?
– I can hardly say that it is decent rags. The bulk of it is probably composed of grass, jute, and the rubbish which is gathered from the rubbish heaps all over Great Britain and on the Continent.
– Then it is not woollen piece goods.
– It comes in as woollen piece goods. Here is another sample, 54 inches wide, 20 ounces to the yard, and sold at1s.10d. per yard. Here is a lighter and better material - 54 inches wide and 22 ozs., part wool - at 2s.10d. per yard. On all these samples, which are sold as wool, the duty is 15 per cent. I now come to the best qualities of serges which are imported. This sample, which is 56 inches wide, contains 1 3 ozs. of pure wool, and is supposed to be a good indigo dye, costs 3s. 4d. a yard. I wonder what the wholesale price would be in some of the warehouses in Melbourne and Sydney. My honorable friends on the other side are not advocating cheap materials for the masses, but high profits for the importers and traders. Whether it is their intention or not, that is the principle line of their advocacy. I shall now take a sample of firstclass material. It is 56 inches wide, contains 1 4 ozs. of wool to the yard, and costs 3s. 6d. per yard. Here is another sample of first-class serge of the best indigo dye, but of heavier make. It is 56 inches wide, contains 16 ozs. of wool to the yard, and costs 4s. per yard. There is far more of that better class material than of the inferior kinds I have mentioned sold. There is certainly as much, if not more, of that quality sold in Melbourne than in Sydney. When Senator Sargood speaks broadly and generally on behalf of the importers, I must accept his statements with some degree of doubt. In proposing the motion last night Senator Millen spoke of the unrest that existed in New South Wales in consequence of this duty, and he warned the committee and the Commonwealth that the unrest would increase. Why is the agitation carried on ? For the purpose of inducing the people of the other States to agree to a freetrade policy. Does he and his friends imagine that the other States are likely to abandon the policy of protection, which has been highly useful and beneficial from the manufacturing and producing points of view in the past, simply to satisfy the people of New South Wales’?
– No ; but if you had been reasonable you could have obtained a greater degree of permanence ?
– I do not agree that 15 per cent, is much protection, but it is something, and it will return a substantial sum to the Treasury, and in that way assist the smaller States, especially Queensland. Does the honorable senator imagine that we in Queensland can abandon the protective policy we have had for some years for the purpose of protecting our producers, and, though in a limited degree, our manufacturers ? Does he think that we, or the people of Australia, are likely to abandon that policy, which has been so useful and beneficial in the past,merely to satisfy the claims of free-trade New South Wales? If we impose any duties, the people of New South Wales will get the benefit of those duties, and, at the same time, other States will derive equal benefit from that source, and their industries will be protected. I should like to see the duty on woollen piece goods made much higher than 15 per cent., because I think it is impossible for the woollen industry to expand to any extent under that comparatively small duty. We are told, of course, that there is always a natural protection. It is said that the cost of exporting the wool is a considerable item. What does it average? About -id. per lb. Last night I was anxious to ascertain from Senator Pulsford what the cost of export and ‘import represented on a yard of cloth. According to the most enlightened authorities I have been able to consult, the cost of export and import is represented at about 8£d. on a yard of cloth. It is not the best, but the worst materials that we have to compete against, and these are palmed off on the people as woollen goods. The great danger we have to fear is the unreasonable competition of the outside world with our own workers and the manufacturers of articles such as these in the different States. Senator Pearce attaches wonderful importance to the protection of those who make the apparel, and talks about the sweating which exists in “Victoria. Does he attach more importance to those who work up the material into apparel than to those who manufacture the material ? I certainly attach far more importance to the latter class than to the former. At the same time I do not desire sweating to exist in any part of the Commonwealth. Speaking broadly, there is no country in which more sweating is carried on than in Great Britain. I give my honorable friend full credit for his desire to promote the welfare of the masses, but I think that the policy he advocates would be absolutely destructive of the interests of the masses who are engaged in producing articles of any kind, or in the making of garments. If that policy is ever adopted in the Commonwealth, woe-betide our workers, our producers, and our manufacturers. It is with the view of avoiding such a wretched condition of things as prevails in the old country that I am extremely anxious that fairly high protective duties shall be imposed. The small cost of importing the woollens, combined with the import duty, is not sufficient to protect our people from the unfair competition to which they must be subjected if this motion is carried. From both the protectionist and the revenue point of view I hope that it will not be carried. In Queensland, we derive a revenue of £20,000 a year from a 15 per cent, duty on these articles, and we want that duty to be continued. Does Senator Millen think that we can afford to lose a portion of that revenue ? Notwithstanding the strong free -trade opinions he holds, I ask him to cast his eye over some of these items, to consider the financial condition of Queensland, and to say whether he thinks that we are likely to allow these destructive proposals to be carried without entering a reasonable protest.
– I did not intend to speak on this question, but- Senator Glassey has somewhat misrepresented - unintentionally, I know - what I stated. I said nothing whatever as to the quantity of any material imported into either Sydney or Melbourne. What I said was that, taking the same quality of the same article, the price is lower in Sydney than in Melbourne.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that high duties always encouraged the importation of cheap articles.
– I said nothing whatever about the quantity. I said that the imposition of high duties necessarily increased the prices of the goods.
– That was not what the honorable senator said.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon ; it is all reported in Hansa/rd. It seems to me that necessarily it must be so. What. happens when the duty on any goods which have been imported is increased? On the following day telegrams are sent home to reduce the quality of the goods, for the simple reason that I pointed out in my second reading speech. The buyers here - the great masses of the people - cannot afford to pay more for a suit of clothes simply because a duty has been imposed. Supposing, for instance, that they have been in the habit of paying 14s. 6d. for a garment. If a duty is imposed, either the price of the article must be increased here, or the quality of the article must be reduced.
– Or the profits of the importers.
SenatorSir FREDERICK SARGOOD. - If the honorable senator knew as much as I do about the profits, he would see that he has been talking the most arrant nonsense, if he will excuse me for saying so. Take that very article which was referred to by Senator Barrett, and which, I understand, was sold here at 14s. 6d. If the duty were taken off, it necessarily follows that instantly the price would go down; and instead of telegrams being sent home to to reduce the quality of imports, telegrams would be sent to increase the quality. It stands to reason that it is impossible go impose a duty of 10 per cent. on an article, and expect that it will be sold at the same price as before. It is so utterly absurd, that I am amazed that honorable senators should think it possible.
– I do not think that the actual position in which we find ourselves has been sufficiently accentuated. We want to get at the duty upon apparel ; that is our ultimate object. When that question is considered, it will be seen that it is absolutely impossible to leave the duty on piece goods alone. For my own part, I should be prepared to support the maintenance of the same ratio of progression in duties that the Government have adopted. Upon yarns they have put a 10 per cent. duty ; upon piece goods they have imposed a duty of 15 per cent. ; and from that point they go to apparel, upon which they impose a duty of 25 per cent. If I were acting in this matter alone I should appeal to Senator Barrett - who is apparently amenable to argument when the interests of manufacturers are at stake - and should say to him, “Make yarns free, then give to the man who makes up piece goods a duty of 5 per cent., and then- adopting the rate of progress that the Government have adopted - make the duty on apparel 15 per cent.” Then the manufacturers, both of piece goods and apparel, would not have much to complain at. But what is the position now ? There seems to be a strong objection to reducing the duty on piece goods, and if the duty on woollen piece goods is carried at 15 percent., we are certain when we come to apparel, to reduce the duty of 25 per cent., which is exceedingly burdensome on the people, as is generally admitted.
– Who admits it?
– The four millions of consumers in the Commonwealth whose interests are persistently neglected by the honorable senator and his friends, who only consider the interests of a few manufacturers. The consumer is never mentioned in these debates, except by some one like myself on such an item as milk. Honorable senators opposite mention the interests of the manufacturers and the necessity of maintaining the Tariff as it stands, but do they consider the consumer? Never ! Indeed, they cannot, because if they began to consider the consumer their arguments would be knocked on the head at once. The consumer never benefits by any possible chance from any of these imposts which honorable senators opposite wish to put on. It is certainly not in the interests of the consumer that a duty of 25 per cent. should be imposed on apparel. No person in his senses outside Parliament would pretend that the consumer was benefited by such a duty. It is only in Parliament, where people have to talk to support a party, that they pretend to believe things when they don’t !
– Perhaps that is why the honorable senator is talking in that way now.
– No, I do believe what I say ; I am fortunate in sitting behind a party who are able to talk common sense, because they believe it. They are not called to order when they speak in the interests of a certain industry, norare they denounced because they vote against a party. If those with whom I vote lose this division on woollen piece-goods it is absolutely certain, from what I know of the views of honorable senators, that we shall carry a reductionon apparel, because a large majority of honorable senators are convinced that the duty is too high. The action of our protectionist friends will produce this result - that the protection afforded to the manufacturers of garments will be reduced below what the Government consider to be a proper ratio ; for they give an advantage of 10 per cent. to the manufacturer of clothing. All through, honorable senators opposite have considered the interests of the manufacturers, and if they do not support the motion before the Chair, they will assist in reducing the protection to some very much lower rate than the Government consider proper, and lower than even the free-traders are willing to give. There will then be no inducement to reduce the duty on yarns. Why should we reduce the duty on yarns if we fail to secure a reduction on piece goods ? Yet, at the same time, we are absolutely certain to secure a reduction on apparel. That is the point to which I ask honorable senators to give attention ; because they will find it difficult to defend their action later on, when the manufacturers crowd round them in the lobbies, as they are in the habit of doing, and ask them what they mean by their votes.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has told the committee that those who vote with him have common sense and good judgment. They certainly have the numbers in a good many cases, and that is what they are acting on now. It should be remembered that the article in question is the output of an Australian natural industry. I should like to know whether any honorable senator can tell us that the price of these articles has been reduced to the consumer by the reduction of the duty from 25 per cent. to 15 per cent. I am certain that there has been no reduction.
– Does the honorable senator know that as a fact?
– Yes. The honorable senator cannot give an illustration of where the cost has been reduced in consequence of the reduction of the duty. Senator Sargood tells us that when a duty is increased, the importers send home for an inferior article and charge the consumer the same price as before.
– No !
– At any rate, if a duty is increased 10 per cent. they sell a 10 per cent. worse article.
– Perfectly true.
– In that case, duty will be paid on a 10 per cent. worse article. The leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives showed clearly enough, when addressing a meeting at the Melbourne Town Hall, in November, 1900, how nicely the unsophisticated importer gets the best of the consumer. As a protectionist I wish not only to protect the consumer, but also the manufacturer, and to find employment for our people. What would happen if the woollen industry were closed up all over Australia - and, in my opinion, a duty of 10 per cent. would wipe the factories out? The whole of the woollen trade would fall into the hands of the importers. There would be no internal competition, and the importers would be able to form a ring.
– Utterly impossible !
– I wonder how many importers there are in this country. Not many, and they are nearly all wealthy men.
– But how many exporters are there in the old country ?
– If the woollen factories are closed up, anymanof sense will know what will happen to the consumer. That is an aspect of the matter that even the leader of the Opposition might take into consideration. I do not say that any other set of men would not do the same thing, because people go into the importing business to make money, just as they enter upon any other enterprise. I am only pointing out what I think will happen, and what it is the duty of Parliament to prevent. It has been asserted that there have been combinations amongst manufacturers ; but that statement has never been proved. It has been proved, however, that combinations have taken place amongst importers. Let us check them by imposing a duty on woollen piece goods which will enable our factories to carry on. I am certain that if this motion is carried, and the suggested amendment adopted in another place, the result will be the extinction of the woollen industry in Victoria.
– I should like to say a few words upon this item as some reference has been made to the position of the industry in Tasmania. It was pointed out by Senator Millen that, under the limited possibilities offered to it, the industry had thrived fairly well in Tasmania ; but he was incorrect in saying that it had grown tip under a protection of 15 per cent., although he readily accepted a correction of the statement by way of interjection. As a matter of fact the woollen industry in Tasmania was brought into existence under what was known as the Manufacturers Encouragement Act, which was passed about 1869 or 1S70, and under which a bonus was offered to any persons who would produce in any year woollen goods of a certain value. Under that stimulus certain individuals in the northern part of Tasmania started the industry, and succeeded in securing the bonus. After it had been established under that form a protective duty ranging up to 15 per cent, was levied in its favour. But as the result of representations made by those who were induced to enter into the industry, the duty was raised some eight years ago from 15 to 20 per cent. It may be that the other side will contend that the increased progress which followed was not due to the raising of the duty, but in 1S90 the quantity of wool used by the woollen manufacturers there was 16S,600 lbs. A few years later the higher duty was imposed, and in 1900, 727,000 lbs. of wool were used by the local woollen manufacturers. The capital invested in buildings and machinery and plant, in 1S90, was something like £1S,000, but in 1900 it had increased to £27,300. It has been pointed out by Senator Millen that the Tasmanian industry has succeeded in putting its products on the mainland markets, not only of New South Wales, but even of Victoria. One significant fact in connexion with the industry is that we have been to considerable expense in establishing it. Some experts tell us that it is the quality of the water which enables us to clean wool f ar more efficiently than it can be cleaned in any of the mainland States. I should like to tell the committee that when the people of Tasmania were invited to enter into federation the most vehement opponents to the acceptance of the Constitution were the woollen manufacturers of that State. They said that although the mainland markets would be thrown open to them, the competition to which they would be subjected, even in their uwu market, would more than balance any advantage they might receive by entering federation. That clearly shows that the manufacturers there did not feel satisfied that if the then existing measure of protection extended all over the Commonweal th, with Inter-State free-trad e thhroughout Australia, it would enable them to thrive as they had thrived’ before. So strong was this feeling that two days before the Constitution Bill was submitted to the people, the strongest free-trade newspaper which we have in Tasmania actually commenced its leading article in these words : -
The old orv has been raised that federation will ruin the Tasmanian manufacturer. A similar cry has been heard in the other colonies, and yet it is difficult to understand how union will ruin them all round, seeing that they will have Australia for a market, which they now have not, and that the)’ will be protected from the outside world.
That was published in a free-trade paper on the 25th July, 1899. At that time it was pointed out even by the free-trade advocates that the manufacturers would have all Australia for their market, and that they would be protected against the outside world. We have nearly 200 persons engaged in the woollen industry in Tasmania. Two years ago there were 177 so employed, and since we have entered the union, and have had some prospect of protection for the industry against the outside world, one at least of our woollen manufacturers has put up what is perhaps the largest factory in Tasmania. The woollen manufacturers there have been unanimous in their disapproval of the reduction made by another place. Having regard to . the duties in existence prior to federation the Government proposal is not such an unfair compromise as has been suggested by Senator Millen. It may be that, taking into consideration the pre-existing duties and the altered circumstances, it appears to be a little above the average ; but if we are to err at all it is better that we should err to a slight extent in that direction rather than in the other way. It is not alone for revenue that we are framing this Tariff; we are seeking to secure revenue as far as possible, consistent with the requirements of the community and the conserving of industries which have come into existence. I earnestly hope that the committee will view the whole of the circumstances which have led to the establishment of this industry, not merely in Tasmania but in Victoria, and afford at least the measure of protection fixed in the Tariff. According to representatives of the free-trade party, both political and press, 15 per cent! was considered to be a fair duty to impose on articles from the importation of which we hope to obtain revenue, and the local production of which we hope to stimulate to a certain extent. Not long ago we heard people approving of the attitude of a certain member of the Cabinet. They said he had intimated that duties amounting to something like 15 per cent. would be levied, and that if that limit had been observed it would have been regarded asaveryfairduty to impose. It is no more than 15 per cent. that we are proposing in this case, and 15 per cent. duties seem to have been accepted pretty generally by the free-trade party, as a rate which might fairly be levied consistent with the revenue requirements of the Commonwealth, and with the obligations, moral or legal, to those interested in industries which have grown up in Australia as the result of the stimulating effects of either bonuses or Tariffs.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 66 by adding to the duty, “Piece goods, viz., Woollen, or containing wool, n.e.i., 15 per cent.” the words “ and on and after 1st July, 1 902, 10 per cent.” - put. The committee divided -
Question so resolvedin the negative.
– The remainder of this item consists of seven sub-clauses, each of which has been more or less altered in another place, but they are still so complicated and involved as to render it practically impossible to collect the duty sought to be imposed with accuracy and fairness. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 66 by substituting for all the dutiable goodsand duties after “ Woollen, or containing wool, n.e.i. “ the following : -
Silk, or containing silk, or having silk worked thereon, ad valorem, 15 per cent.
Made of Cotton, Linen, Jute, or of a combination of any or either of these materials, ad valorem, 5 per cent.
Velvets, Velveteens, Plushes, Ribbons, Galloons, Lace, Lace Flouncings, Millinery Nets, and Veilings - all kinds and materials, ad valorem, 15 per cent.
Honorable senators reading through the items will of course have seen that the object is to deal practically with woollen piece goods, silk piece goods, and cotton piece goods, and to provide that the duty upon woollen and silk piece goods shall be 15 per cent., and upon cotton piece goods 5 per cent. I do not propose to alter these duties in the slightest degree, with the exception of that upon flannelettes, which are really piece cottons. I take it that our object in framing a Tariff should be to collect the duties imposed with the least inconvenience to traders and Custom-house officers. All difficulties placed in their way necessarily mean loss of time and increase in the ultimate cost to the consumer. Again, our object should be to place all traders upon an exact equality in the matter of the duty they are called upon to pay upon the same class of goods, and further that the Tariff should be so clearly expressed as to prevent fraud or evasion, as far as it is possible to do so. I do not hesitate to say that the seven subdivisions as they stand at present in this Tariff, violate all three of the rules I have stated. I have said that it is notmy intention to alter the rate of duty proposed, with the exception of that upon flannelettes. They are piece cottons, and as such should come in at a 5 per cent. duty. I am aware that it has been represented that they take the place of flannel, but I can assure honorable senators, that such is not the case. Flannelette is nothing more or less than cotton shirting teazed up to produce a soft face upon the material to make it more smooth and comfortable for wear by women and children. If the article had been called “ soft shirting “ instead of “ flannelette,” none of the present misapprehension upon the subject would have been created. This flannelette is largely used in the making up of apparel for women and children, and with even the present duty of 25 per cent, upon apparel it is very difficult for the local manufacturer of apparel to hold his own against flannelette apparel imported from Great Britain and especially from the continent. If we place a duty of 15 per cent, upon flannelette piece goods, which are really the raw material of the local manufacturer of apparel, I do not hesitate to say that we shall completely destroy the local manufacture of apparel from this material. I have mentioned that the subdivisions in the schedule are exceedingly complicated. I am probably justified in saying that during the last thirty years we, in Victoria, have had a wider experience in dealing with a complicated Tariff than the people in any of the other States have had. It appears to me very desirable that the committee should take advantage of that experience in the framing of this Tariff. With many years’ experience of Victorian Tariffs, I can assure honorable senators that the present schedule repeats to- a very large extent the errors of the past, which landed merchants and Customs officers in interminable disputes, which did not place all traders on the same footing, and which certainly encouraged fraud to a very large extent. Exactly .the same kind of thing has been occurring since this Tariff came into operation in October ; and, although we have now had six months’ experience of it, the friction between Customs officers and traders is greater to-day than when the Tariff was first introduced. I speak with an intimate knowledge of the subject, when I say that it is utterly impossible to prevent that kind of thing taking place, owing to the wording of these subdivisions of the schedule. As a matter of fact in some cases merchants have had to pay 1-5 per cent, on flannelettes, and other merchants have been able to get them in free as “shirtings.” I utterly fail to see how under this schedule that difficulty can possibly be avoided. I appeal to honorable senators to assist in so framing the Tariff that whatever may be the rate of duty imposed, at least all traders shall be treated alike. The merchants are merely middlemen, and it practically does not matter to -them what rate of duty is charged, but honorable senators will see that it matters to them materially if a merchant is charged 15 per cent, upon goods which his neighbour is permitted to import free. That kind of thing is happening frequently in Victoria, where we have had all this experience of the operation of the Tariff, and the difficulties are known to occur to a greater extent in some of the other States, and notably in New South Wales where merchants and Customs officers have not had similar experience.
– Is it happening now 1
– It is happening now. It has happened within the last few days. The whole of the Chambers of Commerce in South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, and the associated Chambers of Commerce who met at Sydney yesterday, are calling attention to this. In addition, I may say that there are Warehousemen’s Associations dealing with this class of goods particularly, in South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, and I am now speaking as their authorized mouth-piece when I urge the committee to adopt the alteration which I suggest, and which will not in the slightest degree interfere with the amount of revenue to be derived except with respect to flannelettes. I venture to say that, though perhaps not to a very large extent, it will increase the revenue, because it will prevent evasions and frauds which are certain to arise under the schedule as it stands.
– The importers would not defraud anybody?
– I expect that importers are very much like other persons. If an importer desires to land certain goods, and the landing waiter tells him that those goods are free, I think that even Senator McGregor, in such a case, would be disposed to accept the landing waiter’s decision. Referring specially to flannelettes, what we object to is that one landing waiter will say that they are free, honestly believing them to be free, and another will say that they are dutiable, honestly believing them to be dutiable. That has been the experience of neighbouring firms in the city of Melbourne. I give honorable senators the benefit not only of my own experience in the matter, but of the experience of experts throughout the States, and as men of common sense we should pay some little attention to the opinions expressed by those who know what they are talking about, who have had many years’ experience in these matters, and who at the same time are as strongly in favour of supporting honest administration as any member of the committee. If honorable senators will look at the second subdivision of this item they will see mentioned “ coatings, vestings, trouserings.” Those who are conversant with the trade know perfectly well what is meant, but the Custom-house officers, and in this case even the Minister, take a much wider view of the meaning of these words than they are held to cover in the trade. Honorable senators will see in another sub-division, dealing with cotton piece goods, that denims are dutiable at 5 per cent., and that is the duty they should pay as cotton goods, but because these goods are made into trousers the Customs officers treat them as trouserings and consider that they are liable to a duty of 15 per cent. As a matter of fact, a shipment of these goods has been detained for over three weeks on that account, though ultimately, it has been decided that they shall pay duty at 5 per cent. I mention the matter to show the difficulties which arise from the wording of the schedule, and honorable senators will understand, that a detention for three weeks of a shipment of those goods is a serious matter to the merchant. Take the case of corduroys, ordinary material used for trousers for the working classes. These piece goods have been detained on two grounds, first, that theyare “trouserings,”and secondly, that they are “ velveteens.” It is because of these difficulties that I urge the committee to accept the amendment I suggest in lieu of the complicated and confusing schedule submitted by the Government. I do not wish to go into more details at present, but if any point arises in connexion with any item, I shall be very pleased to place before honorable senators information, which, I venture to hope, ought to satisfy them as to the justice of the claim I put in, and as to the wisdom of adopting the course suggested by the whole of the merchants throughout the States.
– The skill, the experience, and the knowledge of my honorable friend have always been fairly placed at the disposal of the Senate whenever we have had to discuss Customs matters, and I can assure him that I do not wish to undervalue his usefulness in the suggestions he is making, or the spirit in which he is making them. But there are several considerations which I think will appeal to most of us in coming to a decision. In the first place, I am altogether at issue with my honorable friend as to the working of the Tariff in respect of these items. I have made very special inquiries into this question since it was brought under my notice by him many days ago. I have ascertained from the officers of the department that there is really no ground for the statement that there have been frictions over these items. I am informed that the Customs officials and the representatives of the merchants have been carrying on their business quite smoothly, except during the first few weeks, in which necessarily some questions arose as to the meaning of particular terms. I do not admit, therefore, that there has been the confusion which my honorable friend has alleged.
– Who ought to be the best judge of that - the sufferers or others ?
– My honorable friend will see that the importer, no matter how honest he is, is always in the attitude of trying to get his goods put through on payment of the lowest possible amount of duty.
– The correct amount of duty.
– I am taking now the case of an absolutely honest trader, like my honorable friend, who wishes to give the State what it is entitled to, but who, on the other hand, does not wish - and he is quite right in that respect - to pay the State a farthing more than it is entitled to. Why? Because each importer wishes to make the best trade arrangement he can for himself, not desiring to be placed at a disadvantagewith any other importer, as is perfectly right. The whole business of the importers, as a class, is, and must be, to try to get their goods put through the Customshouse at the cheapest rate possible.
– That is a very wrong way of putting it.
– I think it is an I absolutely right way. I should not have made this reference, but for Senator Sargood asking me to say who ought to be the best judges, and my answer is that neither the Customs officers nor the importers can be allowed to judge in this matter. We who sit in Parliament, and who in most things are not experts, have to form the best opinion we can and do what we think is right in the interests of the Commonwealth. It would not do if we were to listen entirely to a statement which is put forward by the importers, who, no doubt, have their grievances. Let us examine what the statement of my honorable friend means. In the early days of a Tariff there must be a certain amount of friction and misunderstanding. When we have the Customs-house officers struggling- to get the most revenue they can and the importers trying to give the least duty possible, we must have disputes as to the meaning of terras, particularly when we discriminate between woollen piece-‘ goods and cotton piece-goods. Disputes cannot be helped where we have flannelettes, imitation tweeds, and other articles of that sort which are as near as possible to one or the other of the items. The mere fact that there are disputes does not show that the Tariff is working improperly, or that it is badly drawn. It simply shows that that is taking place which we must expect to happen under any new Tariff. Until all the terms are well known and have a clear meaning in the mind of the Customs officer and the importer, it is impossible to have absolutely smooth working. Excepting discussions of that kind, and anomalies which may arise - perhaps from the decisions of officers in different places before there has been time to get a uniform decision - nothing has taken place. My honorable friend has mentioned the case of denims, which are practically the same as dungarees. An officer wished to charge duty on the higher scale of 15 per cent., because he was under the impression that they were intended or were fit to be made into trousers. He did not give full effect to the item in which denims are named ; but when the matter was brought before the Minister, of course a decision was given at once that they were to be admitted on the lower scale of 5 per cent. I do not think that my honorable friend will be able to point to any case in which a dispute has arisen simply by reason of the form in which the article is named in the Tariff. Under his own proposal there would be disputes. There must be disputes wherever you have to deal with those goods which are imitations, and which may be on the border-line of one or other of the items to which different duties are attached.
– It should be settled instantly
– I do not know in what way it was settled, but I do know that as soon as it was brought under the notice of the officials who have the responsibility of dealing with these disputes it was settled.
– Threeweeks elapsed.
– That is a complaint against the administration, but it does not bear on the question I am discussing. A delay of three weeks might equally take place if there was a discussion as to whether certain goods were or were not cotton goods,- or flannelette, within the meaning of my honorable friend’s proposal.
– No, because the samples would be sent at once to the Government Analyst, who would decide instantly whether there was or was not wool in them.
– I shall not make any further reference to that question, because it bears on Customs administration rather than on the framing of the Tariff. My honorable friend’s proposal, according to his own view, makes no substantial difference in the items, or the rates of duty, except that it puts flannelette on a lower scale. That is a matter which could be settled in another way. Is it a desirable thing, merely for the sake of making an alteration in form, to make a very substantial alteration in the shape of the schedule under which duties -have been collected since the Sth October last? The duties have been collected in the form of this schedule. The honorable senator proposes to make no difference in the actual incidence of the collection, except in one particular ; and yet he asks us to change the present form into a new one altogether. What is the position ? A number of decisions have been given under the Tariff as it exists, and a number of questions have been settled. If Senator Sargood’s proposal were agreed to, all those questions would be re-opened, and decisions would have to be given on a new schedule altogether. The honorable senator says that his proposal does not really differ in substance from the schedule of the Bill. I assume that to be so. But surely the same disputes and questions would arise over again, and the same difficulties would come up for settlement. It would be a most unwise thing for the
– I join, as we all should, in what’ my honorable and learned friend, Senator O’Connor, has said as to the indebtedness of the committee toSenator Sargood for giving us the benefit of bis very great experience, not only during the discussions of the Customs Act, but also during the debates on the Tariff in reference to all practical matters. But I am afraid I cannot support this proposal, and I wish to state why, in one or two sentences. The proposal is one practically to redraft item 66 of the Tariff as a matter of form. No change of substance is proposed. If I may say so, I think that Senator Sargood’s form is superior, but it would cover substantially the same lines as are included in the Bill. It would compress into four subdivisions what the Tariff puts into eight. At the same time my object’ is, as has been correctly stated by the Vice-President.of the Executive Council, to have relation, chiefly at all events, to the incidence and rates of duty. If the committee were to undertake the task of redrafting this Tariff with a view to simplicity, it would involve, first of all, the issue whichhas been put by Senator O’Connor. We should be increasing the possibility of disputes. I do not feel disposed, as the matter does not involve either incidence or rates, to enter upon a debate which might last for hours or for a day, as to matters of form or wording, although the alterations might lead to facility of interpretation.. I think that at this stage, as the matter does not affect incidence or rates of duties in anyway, it would be outside the main purpose for which we are here. Ofcourse, Ican understandthat if we were dealing with a rate in a specified item, in which a word appeared that was plainly ambiguous, or if’ some article like flannelette were included in. the item when it belonged to another category, we should strike it out. But if we are going to re-draft the whole page, simply as a matter of form, without altering the substance, we might as well redraft the whole schedule. The position which the Vice-President has put in vindicating the the administration of the Customs in matters of detail - and I think it needs a great deal of vindication - showswhat we should bo launchedinto if we were to deal with comprehensive motions of this kind, which are really matters of drafting. We have dealt with the first item of woollens from my point of view, and we have not been successful in reducing it as we had hoped to do, although I believe that it would have been a great advantage to the Tariff and the people. That being the case, I Ido not propose to move any other motion so far as the rates of duty in item 66 are concerned, except, perhaps, in regard to flannelettes, which, it has been pointed out, should really be included in the lower category of duties and made liable to the impost of 5 per cent. Even if I took a stronger view of the improvement which the suggested amendment would make in the phraseology of this line, I do not think I should be justified in joining in an invitation to the committee to a long debate upon it, when in substance there would be no change. It might be a better form, but no one can predict that it would lessen the differences of opinion between the importers and the Custom-house officials. The responsibility for this Tariff is with those who drafted it. The Government have laid it before the committee in this shape. If it is a muddle, they are responsible. We are not, and I do not think we ought to be too ready, even from that point of view, to relieve them of that muddle. Much as I like to undertake vicarious suffering, I do not think that we are called upon - especially as my honorable and learned friend does not desire it - to accept the responsibility for the shaping of the Tariff, when the Government are alone, and properly, responsible. “Viewing the matter in that way, I am unable to support the motion.
– In consequence of a remark incidentally made by Senator Symon, I wish to point out to the committee that either the acceptance or rejection of this motion would mean practically the passage of the first two columns relating to the dutiable goods and the duties, exclusive of course of the. list of exemptions.
– I have not risen specially for the purpose of suggesting that an alteration should be made, but I would remind honorable senators that, under this item, flannelettes, which consist entirely ofcotton, are liable to a duty of 15 per cent., although the duty upon cotton goods is 5 per cent. I do not care what muddle the Government make of the Tariff, but when I see them making a muddleI feel that I must point it out.
Senator Sir FREDERICK SARGOOD (Victoria). - As a matter of fact, if a vote is taken, the whole of this item will stand as it is, whether my motion is carried or not. But as the question of flannelettes has come up, I wish to withdraw my motion, in order to enable any honorable senator to move that flannelettes be made liable to a duty of 5 per cent. If no one else will do so, I will move in that direction myself, in the interests of those who import and consume these goods.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Sir Frederick Sargood) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 66 by adding to the duty, “Flannels and flanneletes ad valorem 16 per cent,” the words “and on and after 1st July, 1902, flannelettes 5 per cent,”
– I hope this motion will not be carried, but as it may lead to a discussion I think that at this stage it would be well to report progress.
. -By leave, perhaps I may be permitted to make a statement in regard to the adjournment in connexion with the Coronation celebrations. I propose to ask the Senate to adjourn on the Friday before Coronation week,, until the following Monday week. On re-assembling I hope that honorable senators will be prepared to meet every Monday until the Tariff shall have been dealt with.
Senate adjourned at 4.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 June 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020613_senate_1_10/>.