3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I am unable to present the report for which my honorable friend asks. This morning I had an interview on the subject with the officers in the Attorney -General’s Department, and ascertained that certain evidence was required before they would be in a position to go fully into the matter. Moreover, I may explain that at the present juncture they are taxed very severely with a great quantity of work.
– Under the circumstances, sir, and in pursuance of a suggestion which fell from your own lips a fortnight ago, I intend to move that the Standing Orders be suspended to enable me to submit a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee. Perhaps it will be convenient if I now mention the name’s of those honorable senators whom I desire shall be appointed.
– Perhaps it will be well for the honorable senator to wait until the routine business has been dealt with.
Messrs. May and Millar
-I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to the following paragraph, headed “ Strikes at Horsham,” in the Age of the 10th September -
The strikers at May and Millar’s and at Tootell’s foundries ceased work this morning. The men demanded an increase in wages to 6s. 6d. a day. Mav and Millar offered as a compromise 36s. a week to men now earning 32s. 6d., and 33s. to men earning 30s. ; but the offer was declined. The men have been given till 9 o’clock to-morrow, when if they don’t resume work their places will be filled up - and to ask the following questions -
Can the Minister inform the Senate whether May and Millar, of Horsham, being manufacturers of agricultural implements, as specified in the Excise Tariff Act 1906, are paying excise on such implements as are manufactured by them, as set out in the schedule of the Excise Act?
Have Messrs. May and Millar been declared exempt from the provisions of the Excise Tariff Act1906?
If they have not been declared exempt from the provisions of the Excise Tariff Act 1906, why is it that no excise is being collected from them for such manufactures as come within the scope of the Act?
If they have been declared exempt, will the Minister say under what provision 30s. per week has been declared to be a fair remuneration for labourers in this industry?
– I ask my honorable friend to give notice of the questions.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Mail Contract - Guarantee : Copy of Agreement between the Honorable Austin Chapman, Postmaster-General of the Commonwealth, and Barclay and Company Limited, of No. 54 Lombardstreet, London. Dated 13th December, 1906.
Public Service Act 1902 - Amendment of Regulation 104. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 88.
The Acting Clerk laid upon the table the following paper -
Return to Order of the Senate of 22nd August, 1907. - Commonwealth Expenditure in Melbourne for the year 1906-7.
Suspension of Standing Orders : Select Committee
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.6]. - Mr. President, I have been looking up the suggestion which you made from the chair during a recent debate, but no doubt honorable senatorsrecollect that you said that you did not suppose that there would be any objection to a motion to suspend the Standing Orders to permit of the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate any grievance which had arisen in consequence of charges made in the Chamber. I desire the appointment of a Select Committee, as nearly as possible similar in personnel to the Select Committee, which was afterwards converted into a Royal Commission, appointed to investigate matters in connexion with the Tobacco industry. I ask for a suspension of the Standing Orders to enable me to submit a motion to that effect. It would beexceedingly difficult to obtain the appointment of a Select Committee by any other process, inasmuch as the business paper is fairly crowded with private business. 1 am positively informed that no communications have been addressed-
– The honorable senator is not entitled at this stage to discuss the merits of the question.
– I move -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the mover to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into certain charges made’ on the 16th August, 1907, in this Senate against tobacco manufacturing companies of the Commonwealth.
– Under the Standing Orders this motion cannot be resolved in the affirmative, unless it is supported by an absolute majority of the members of the Senate.
.-! think that honorable senators are placed in a false position when a motion of this kind is submitted without notice. In the first place, we have no idea as to the character of the motion which Senator Neild desires to move, and, secondly, before we can consent to an investigation, we need to have a categorical statement of the charges which he wishes to have investigated. I think that the more desirable plan will be for my honorable friend to give notice of a motion, and to allow the matter to be discussed in the ordinary way. I feel quite certain that at all times, the Senate will be anxious to do justice to every section of the community, and to see that all the facts are made public in connexion with any statements which may be made here. The proper course for my honorable friend to adopt is not this unusual one, but to give notice of a motion in the ordinary way. I regret that I cannot in the circumstances support this proposa.1.
– It is not fair to honorable, senators generally for Senator Neild to spring a motion of this description upon the Senate.
– What about an honorable senator moving the adjournment of the Senate without giving notice?
– That is quite a different thing. I am not opposed to the appointment of a Select Committee, if sufficient reasons are advanced and a clear case is made out. But I think it is only due to honorable senators that when any honorable senator wishes to take a step of this kind, he should communicate with them privately or give notice of a motion, so ‘that we might all be prepared to act. I do not know what the attitude of the Senate towards this proposal is likely to be, but unless Senator Neild can give better reasons than he has given I shall certainly oppose a suspension of the Standing Orders for the purpose, though the probability is that I would vote for the appointment of a Select Committee if it were moved for in the ordinary way. At the present time, however, I do not think it is right to suspend the Standing Orders for a purpose which has not been made clear to us.
.- I understand that Senator Neild has moved the suspension of the Standing Orders with a view to enable him to afterwards reply to certain criticisms which were made here against the Tobacco Combine a few weeks ago.
– To investigate those charges.
– So far as my own statements are concerned, I have not the slightest objection to the fullest investigation being made. As a matter of fact, they can be confirmed by the honorable senator himself.
-The honorable senator is only entitled to discuss whether the Standing Orders shall be suspended to enable Senator Neild to submit a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee.’ He cannot go into the merits of the case now.
– I should like to know the particular charges to which Senator Neild has referred. For him to make a statement which to most of us is ambiguous ‘ and indefinite is in my opinion to proceed in the wrong way. If in submitting his motion he had stated “the exact reasons why he desires, the appointment of a Select Committee, I do not suppose that a single objection would have been offered.
– At this stage I cannot do more .than move for a suspension of the Standing Orders, but if that, motion is agreed to I can give full par’ticulars
– The honorable senator desires the Senate to agree to this motion with a view to afterwards submitting -another motion, and he says that he cannot state now what his particular object is or what he desires the Select Committee to do.
– Senator Neild stated that his object was to enable him to propose the appointment of a Select Committee for the purpose of inquiring into alleged charges against the Tobacco Combine. Of course, if the motion before the Senate is agreed to, it will be necessary for Senator Neild to givehis reasons for wishing an inquiry to be made, and honorable senators will then be entitled to discuss the propriety of appointing a Select Committee. It will be seen that honorable senators will get the full particulars which they desire before they are called upon to appoint a Select Committee. The only question before the Senate now is whether it will suspend the Standing Orders in order that a motion may be moved forthwith.
– I submit that we are just as much in need of particulars to guide us now as we would be later on if the Standing Orders were suspended. The object of the suspension, we are informed, is to enable Senator Neild to propose the appointment of a Select Committee for a certain purpose. Unless we first know the purpose of the inquiry-
– I think that Senator Neild has stated that the purposeis to investigate charges which were made in the Senate.
– I do not know what charges have been made. If I knew that any charges of a serious character had been made, I think I would be prepared to suspend the Standing Orders in order to enable them to be dealt with. But I have yet to learn that the Senate knows of any such charges having been made. Certainly we ought to know the exact character of the charges before we suspend the Standing Orders. I must oppose the suspension of the Standing Orders, because the honorable senator has the power to give notice of a definite motion on which the subject canbe discussed. If we suspend the Standing Orders to appoint a Select Committee we must have some definite case to submit to the Committee. They could not be expected to have a by-and-large inquiry on such terms as have been presented to us.
– I shall support Senator Neild’s motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders if it is pressed to a division. Otherwise, it might be alleged that I was trying to prevent inquiry. . I do not wish to do anything of that kind. I challenge inquiry - the more the better. At the same time, I submit that the question could have been brought forward by means of a motion moved in the ordinary way.
Senator.W. RUSSELL (South Australia) [3.18]. - I should like to be satisfied first that the end will justify the extraordinary means proposed. Until I am so satisfied I shall not vote for suspending the Standing Orders.
– This is an occasion when the Senate should be governed by its sense of justice. Every honorable senator knows that within a very recent period the adjournment was moved to bring before the country certain conduct on the part of the Tobacco Combine. Allegations which the Combine declare to be untrue were made about them. If an opportunity is given to any honorable senatorto make allegations about a company or individual, full and early opportunityof replying to or inquiring into those allegations ought to be as freely given to the person or company charged. Senator Neild has intimated to-day that the Combine desire an inquiry into those allegations.
– I do not think they do.
– If the statements made upon the floor of the Senate are true, then those who made them have nothing to fear from an inquiry. If any one made false and injurious statements about myself, I should certainly press for an inquiry at the earliest possible moment. What I claim for myself I am willing to give to others. As Senator Neild very properly said, the notice-paper is so loaded with private members’ business that, unless the Standing Orders are suspended, he will have no opportunity of bringing the subject up within a reasonable time. Honorable senators ought to be governed by their sense of what is right and reasonable in the interests of justice.
– It looks as though Senator Neild would have an excellent opportunity of bringing the subject up to-morrow night.
– In any case, I see no objection to suspending the Standing Orders, and giving Senator Neild and the people who are behind him the earliest opportunity of securing an inquiry into the truth or otherwise of the statements made with regard to their actions. For these reasons, I shall certainly support the suspension of the Standing Orders.
: - I intend to support the motion. Like Senator Stewart, I see no reason for delay. The charges made previously were either true or untrue. I know nothing whatever about them, but if ever I make charges in this Senate, I shall never be afraid of their being inquired into. Like Senator Pearce, I should always be only too willing to have an inquiry. I can see no other course open to Senator Neild than the one he is now taking. He tried to bring the matter up recently, and was ruled out of order. He is taking another opportunity now, and the Senate, in all fairness and justice, should assist him.
– Will not tomorrow do?
– No. If a wrong has been done the remedy should not be delayed an hour. If nowrong has been done, the public at large should know. No honorable senator who is imbued with the spirit of fair play can vote against the motion. I hope not, at any rate. There has been a good deal of discussion about this matter inside and outside the Senate. If the charges can be proved up to the hilt–
– What charges ?
– Your ruling, sir, debars me from discussing them. I shall not commit a breach of the rules of debate to please the honorable senator who interjects. Most honorable senators were here when theadjournment was moved to discuss the question, and I think their memories ought to be as good as mine.
– There is one reason which has not yet been mentioned why the sense of justice of theSenate should lead it to assent to the motion. Immediately after the debate from which the motion springs, the attention of the Government was called very sharply to the case that was made out by Senator Pearce. Even on this side of the Chamber, which is said by its opponents to be a sort of constitutional machine for the oppression of the poor, it was pointed out that there was need for investigation on the part of the Government. The leader of the Government in this Chamber has been repeatedly asked to state what progress has been made with that inquiry, and has had repeatedly to state that no progress has been made. He informed us this afternoon that there is little prospect of his getting any “ forrarder.” If the charges made are not true, a great injustice is being done to the company or Combine in question. If they are true, it is the bounden duty of honorable senators on the other side, and also to their advantage, to see that those charges are properly met. Inasmuch as a month has elapsed since they were made, and the Government have made no progress with their inquiries, although they have had time to do so, surely it will appeal strongly to the sense of justice of the Senate that the motion ought to be carried, in order to give an ample opportunity at the earliest date possible for the Senate and the public to be able to judge of the merits or demerits of the charges.
Senator Major O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [3.27]. - I desire a little information from Senator Neild before I decide, how I shall vote on the motion. The suspension of the Standing Orders is an unusual proceeding. They are made to insure a properly organized procedure, and should only be suspended for very good reasons. Still, they are made for honorable senators and not honorable senators for them, and if a sufficiently forcible case can be shown, I, for one, shall never hesitate to agree to suspend them. Why has not Senator Neild taken the ordinary course of moving for the appointment of a Select Committee during the month that has elapsed since this matter was first mooted? He may have good reasons for all I know, but he has not informed us of them yet. In the second place, will any bar be placed in the way of the investigation of the alleged charges if the honorable senator gives notice of motion for to-morrow ? We are entitled to this information. If the honorable senator can show good reasons for not having moved previously, and prove that he will be placed under a grave disadvantage in the investigation which he requires, by having the matter delayed until he can adopt the usual procedure, I shall vote with him.
– I have no hesitation in supporting the suspension of the Standing Orders, but I should do so with much greater heart if Senator Neild, in reply, would give us an idea of the specific matters with which he intends to deal. Whilstyour ruling, sir, may have prevented him from taking a certain course in submitting the motion, I do not suppose that you, Mr. President, would attempt to prevent him from indicating briefly to the Senate the charges which he desires the Select Com.mittee to investigate. It is due to honorable senators that they should be given some reason for being asked to vote for the suspension of the Standing Orders. It appears that the honorable senator who has moved the motion is the custodia’n for the time being of at least an alleged grievance, and I shall be no party to prevent the suspension of the Standing Orders for the purpose of investigating the grievance. I am with Senator Stewart entirely that if we believe in liberty we should be prepared to extend it to’ every one else. I shall support the motion.
– I feel that it is a pity that Senator Neild in introducing the motion should have been ruled out of order when he endeavoured to give reasons for its introduction, because it does seem necessary that some justification should be shown for asking the Senate to adopt the unusual course of suspending the Standing Orders.
– The honorable senator could have stated the charges.
– The honorable senator had no opportunity to do so, because he was ruled out of order.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that Senator Mulcahy is out of order in asserting that you, sir, ruled that Senator Neild could not state the charges. As I understand what has taken place, you have very properly ruled, not that he could not state the charges, but that he could not discuss them.
– I do not know that Senator Trenwith can raise that as a point of order against Senator Mulcahy, for alluding to the matter in the way he has done. But if Senator Mulcahy will permit me I should like to repeat what I did say. I thought that Senator Neild was disposed to go into the merits of the proposal, and I pointed out to him that the question before the Senate was the suspension of the Standing Orders, and that while he might intimate what he wanted the Standing Orders suspended for, I would not allow him to go into the question of the merits or demerits of the. proposed appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into certain charges.. I thought that as honorable senators had a general knowledge of what the honorable senator desired to do they would be in a position to say whether they thought the Standing Orders should be suspended. If they are suspended, Senator Neild can then submit his motion for the appointment of a Select Committee, and if it does not commend itself to honorable senators they will oppose it. By assenting merely to the suspension of the Standing Orders honorable senators will in no wise be pledged to any particular line of action other -than the discussion of the motion to be subsequently moved by Senator Neild, and they will be at liberty to vote upon it as thev think fit.
– Might I ask, sir, whether you denied to Senator Neild the right to state, though not to discuss, the charges ?
– Certainly not. The honorable senator is at liberty to state the charges, and when he replies to the debate I shall not prevent him giving the information for which honorable senators are asking at the present time, but I shall not allow the honorable senator to discuss the merits of the question. He may say what he wants the Select Committee to inquire into, so that when the motion for its appointment is before the Senate, honorable senators in dealing with it will be able to exercise their own” discretion.
– I had no intention whatever of questioning the President’s ruling’. I merely thought that it was a pity that fuller information should not be given honorable senators than I understood Senator Neild had been able to give. Senator McGregor. - The honorable senator did not even know the date on which the debate took place.
– I know that statements which were made very fully in the -Senate aroused considerable sensation in some of the States, and certainly in Victoria and Tasmania. Their effect might have been to very greatly injure the persons about whom they were made. It, therefore, seemed to me to be a pity that Senator Neild could not impress the Senate with the seriousness of the situation. Another thing that made me rather anxious in the matter was an interjection which I heard “made by the honorable senator who brought the charges forward. I give that honorable senator every credit for bringing them forward if he thought they were justified, but I think he ought not in his place in the Senate to have said, as he did by interjection, that the company against whom the charges have been made do not want an investigation.
– I still think they do not.
– I think that was not worthy of Senator Pearce. If the charges made by the honorable senator are true, . he should be the first to assist in having them inquired into, and if they are not true, he should be the first to insist that their incorrectness shall be demonstrated.
– I still think that the Combine do not want a public inquiry.
– I think that the honorable senator ought not to say so.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.35]. - Briefly, the charges cover no less than twenty pages of Hansard. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to laugh, but I have been asked to give particulars, and the moment I rise to do so some of those who have been prominent in making the charges object to my reference to the fact that I cannot go into the matter very fully because of the length of the charges. The charges which were made are to be found in the report of the proceedings of the Senate on the 16th. August last, appearing in No. 14 of the proof issues of Hansard for this session.
– Cannot the honorable senator epitomize the charges?
– The charges are contained in a debate on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate, which will be found reported at pages 2032. to 2055 of Hansard for this session.
– Can the honorable senator not boil .those charges down?
– - I could have done so long ago if I had been permitted to proceed without interruption. The three headings which I desire an inquiry into are: First, an allegation of the improper discharge of workpeople ; second, an allegation of collusively raising the price of tobacco; and third, an allegation of illicitly obtaining knowledge with regard to the proposed Tariff, and thereupon clearing tobacco from bond.
– Who made those charges ?
– They are to be found in the pages of Hansard to which I have referred.
– Can the honorable senator not say who made them?
– I believe they were made by, amongst others, Senator Pearce, who moved the adjournment of the Senate.
– Not one of them.
– Also bySenator Findley and by Senator Needham..
– I never made anysuch charges during my speech, as the honorable senator will find if he reads thespeech.
– I made a statement that they cleared, and raided the Customs.. I hold to that statement ; and if the honorable senator wants proof of it, he can get. it from the. Customs officials.
– That is precisely the third charge to which I have referred, namely, illicitly obtaining knowledge of the proposed Tariff, and thereupon clearing tobacco from bond. Senator O’Loghlin asked me why I had not taken pr101 action, and said that his vote on this motion would depend on my reply to that question. I point out that the Government promised an inquiry info the matter as far back as the 16th of last month. It will be four weeks ago next Friday since that promise was made, and we have heard today that the Vice-President of the Executive Council can offer no kind of promise as to the making of the inquiry. As a matter of fact, the inquiry has not yet beer* commenced. I am in a position to assert positively that no communication has been made to the firms concerned with a view to obtaining any information whatever as to the facts. As to my not having put a motion dealing with the matter on the paper in the ordinary way, if the suspension of the Standing Orders be permitted; I am prepared with a motion proposing that the Select Committee appointed to investigate the matter shall report on the 1 st’ October. I found that the businesspaper was so full that I could not hope to move in the matter in the ordinary way, until 10th October.
– I see nothing to prevent the honorable senator moving in the matter to-morrow night.
– Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council permit me to bring forward the matter tomorrow night?
– I have not the regulation of private business, but, to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing which would prevent the honorable senator moving in the matter to-morrow night. I shall do nothing to prevent His doing so, and I notice that he is in charge of the first private business on the paper.
– Let the honorable senator go on now that he has started.
– As we have spent practically an hour on this motion, it would be hardly worth our while to go over the same ground for another hour tomorrow night, and the matter has now been as fully debated as it could be tomorrow. I have stated plainly the three charges I desire to have investigated : The improper discharge of employes ; the collusive raising of the price of tobacco ; and the improper clearing of goods from bond on information improperly obtained.
– Nobody made that statement. The honorable senator has strong imaginative powers, and so have the members of the Combine.
– Is it in order for an honorable senator while walking about the chamber to shout at me? Evidently the matter is giving rise to a great deal of heat on the part of some honorable senators, though I have desired to impart no heat into its discussion. I have had no direct personal communication with any of the persons connected with the cornpan ies against whom the charges have been made. All that has reached me has been in the. form of written documents. I have not seen any one of the persons concerned in the charges, nor have I been asked to adopt this particular form of application. With reference to the statement of Senator Pearce that the tobacco people do not wish the matter to be inquired into, I can only say that, according to the written communications sent to me, they are most anxious that it should be inquired into. I hope that, in the interests of that fair play for which Senator Stewart and others have pleaded, and which plea Senator Pearce has indorsed, the Senate will consent to the suspension of the Standing Orders. To show my bona fides in the matter, I suppose I shall be in order in saying that I propose that the Committee shall consist as far as possible of honorable senators who were members of the Committee that previously dealt with the tobacco business. I intend to propose the appointment of Senator Gray, who was on the previous Committee, for New South Wales; and Senator Findley, who was also a member of the previpus Committee, for Victoria
– Though the honorable senator claims that Senator Findley made some of the charges?
– Senator Story, as representing South Australia; and Senator Pearce, who was the prime mover in the matter from the beginning to the end.
– I should be judging my own case.
– I intend to propose, also, the appointment of Senators Macfarlane and Mulcahy. I understand that Senator Keating, who was on the previous Committee, could not attend the meetings of the Committee, and I shall, therefore, submit the name of another honorable senator in his place.
– Why drop Senator Stewart?
Senator- Colonel NEILD. - I have no objection to his appointment if he was a member of the previous Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.46]. - The motion that I beg to move is as follows -
Stewart, Gray, Story, Pearce, Findley, Mulcahy, and the mover.
– The honorable senator must put another name in the place of mine. As he has made a charge against me I cannot sit upon the Committee.
– The honorable senator had better put his pencil through my name also.
– I thought that Senator Pearce would be. glad to be on the Committee.
– The honorable senator says that I have made charges which it is desirable to investigate. How can I sit on the Committee under those circumstances ?
– I am quite willing to submit another name.
– But Senator Pearce says that he is on his defence.
– That is what Senator Neild says.
– Will Senator Trenwith consent to act?
– I have no right to refuse.
– I hope that Senator Pearce will allow himself to be nominated as a member of the Committee.
As Chairman of Committees he is under no obligation to sit. I certainly had no wish for a moment to doubt the good faith of the honorable senator in what he has done. I simply want to get at the truth in this matter, and to have it cleared up.
– Really, this is most indecent.
– Indecent, is it?
– Yes ; most indecent.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator not to interject in that fashion. It is the duty of the President to see that nothing indecent is done in this Chamber, and such a remark is a reflection upon the President.
– I will substitute Senator Trenwith’s name for that of Senator Pearce, and Senator Henderson’s for that of Senator Findley. I submit the motion in the following form -
– I think that the motion conclusively justifies the action that I felt it to be my duty to take in protesting against, the course pursued by Senator Neild. The motion now submitted is that a Committee be appointed to inquire into certain accusations made by certain honorable senators in the course of a debate. In other words, the Committee is to review an important debate which took place three weeks ago, and lasted several hours. I do not think that such a procedure is consonant with the dignity of the Senate. If my honorable friend desires that a Committee be appointed to investigate certain charges, let those charges be formulated, and let them be investigated ; but I do protest that it would be a most unreasonable and improper procedure on our part simply to take Hansard, in which is contained the report of a debate, throw it before a Committee, and say, “Ascertain whether the statements there made are true or not.” My honorable friend must, on reflection, see the impropriety of a course of that kind. I. have suggested that he should take the opportunity of bringing this matter forward to-morrow evening, as I think he would be able to do. The paper to-morrow is fairly clear. I think there can be no doubt that the honorable senator would be able to move. In the meantime, he would be able to formulate the charges to be laid before the Committee, which would be saved from being placed in the most improper position of having practically to review a debate which has taken place in the Senate. I urge my honorable friend to accept the suggestion which I have made.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South’. Wales) [3.51J. - I am quite willing to restrict the matters to be investigated to the three headings which I have already mentioned.
– So long as my honorablefriend formulates certain definite charges,, the procedure will be proper.
– I am willing to restrict the inquiry to (1) improper discharge of work people ; (2) collusive raising of prices ; (3) and illicitly obtaining knowledge which enabled large quantities of tobacco to be cleared in advance of the introduction of the Tariff. I shall Include those three points in the motion by permission of the Senate.
– I have no desire to avoid an inquiry into any statements which. I have made in this Chamber, but if we are going to have Select Committees appointed to inquire into my speeches’, I am afraid I shall lead the Senate a merry dance for the rest of the session. [ am afraid, too, that Senator Neild will lead us a merry dance. But if we are to have an inquiry at all, why not have .it upon the points which I gave as my reasons for moving the adjournment on the 16th August? They; were as follow -
The increase of prices of tobacco, and the throwing out of employment of a large number of workers by the Tobacco Combine, and their allegation that this action has been caused by the new Tariff proposals.
Those were the reasons upon which I moved the adjournment, but they are not the points upon which the honorable senator wishes to have an inquiry. Practically, he desires to have an investigation into the whole debate. As to his statement about the “ improper “ throwing of workmen out of employment - who said that it was improper? I did not, and I do not think that any other speaker in the course of the debate said so. Then as to the “illicit “ obtaining of information - who said that the obtaining of the information was illicit? I cannot remember that a single honorable senator said so. Therefore, Senator Neild’s “ charges “ are based upon something that did not occur in the debate at all. But really the whole procedure is a farce. While I voted for a suspension of the Standing Orders to give the honorable senator an opportunity of moving for the appointment of a Select Committee, I nevertheless think that it would be ridiculous to appoint a Committee to inquire into the accuracy of speeches of honorable senators.
– As one w’ho has interested himself in matters affecting men in the employment of the Tobacco Combine, particularly those in the State of Victoria, I desire’ to say that the statement made by Senator Neild that a member of the Senate had charged somebody with having obtained information in regard to the Tariff, and that somebody had conveyed that information “ illicitly “ to the Tobacco Combine, does not apply to me. I made no such charge against ‘any one - in the Customs Department or outside of it. What I did. say was -
Although it is clearly understood in most circles that Tariff proposals and recommendations are kept sacred and secret, I am inclined to believe that members of the Combine or others interested in the Combine must have received a whisper from some source.
For making use of those words, I am to be V put on the gridiron “ if this Committee is to be appointed, and made to prove up to the hilt my statement that I was “ inclined to believe “ that the Combine had “ received a whisper.” I quoted figures supplied to me by the Customs Department, as to the clearances made by the Combine prior to the Tariff proposals being laid upon the table in another place. I proved conclusively that there were extraordinary clearances.
– Probably heavy clearances were made by Kronheimer Limited to meet the demands of customers who had been making inquiries.
– I know nothing about that.
– Did the honorable senator inquire how much tobacco the Combine had left in Lond?
– I am not here to find out what tobacco they had left in bond. I pointed out what the ordinary clearances of the Combine were year in and year out, and found that the clearances just before the introduction of the Tariff were much in excess of those for any other period. I had, therefore, no hesitation in saying that I was of opinion that the Combine had obtained information from some source.
– It was a gamble.
– They also gambled in reference to the Excise, because they got the unmanufactured tobacco without paying the additional duty, made it up into the manufactured article and paid the old Excise of is., instead of the new Excise of is. 3d., thereby escaping the payment of the extra 3d. The Melbourne distributing house of the Combine, no doubt, passed on the imaginary increase - imaginary, so far as it affected them - to the consumer. The facts that I gave I am prepared to stand “by. But I did not charge any one in the Customs Department with having supplied “illicit information,” nor did I charge the Combine with having obtained illicit information. The Combine anticipated action upon the Tariff, and thereby were enabled to make thousands of pounds at the expense of the public.
– Senator Clemons stated that the Combine controlled “ Perfection “ tobacco. Is the Committee to inquire into that statement also?
– -Well, I have no objection to the Committee inquiring into statements made by me, though I quite agree with Senator Pearce that it would be farcical to appoint Committees to review debates which take place in this Senate. If that is to be done, we had better make the Committee permanent, with power to inquire into statements made by any senator in any debate. Let me point out also that three weeks have elapsed since this subject was ventilated, and Senator Neild has had ample opportunity in the meantime to bring the matter before the Senate.
– He trusted to the Government.
– He had no occasion to trust to the Government. There was no need to ask the Government to do anything, because the honorable senator could, at any time, on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, have risen in his place and replied to the statements made ‘by Senator Pearce and myself in regard to the action of the Combine.
– Would not that be against the Standing Orders?
– On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, it is possible for an honorable senator to bring up any subject in reason, and this matter is supposed to be in reason. As to the discharge of workmen, it was common talk about the city that the men had been discharged.
– I ask the honorable senator not to go into that matter.
– But Senator Neild desires to have a Committee appointed with a view to investigating statements made by Senator Pearce, myself, and other honorable senators; and one of the statements was that certain men had been discharged by the Combine for three or four weeks, and that the reason assigned for their discharge was the Tariff. Am I not in order in discussing that point?
– The honorable senator is in order in showing reasons why a Select Committee should or should not be appointed, but he is not entitled to anticipate a judgment which may or may not be given. Of course, he is allowed to show that he had reasons for making certain statements, but he cannot discuss whether those statements were correct or hot.
– I was simply going to point out that men were thrown out of work, and were idle on the day when the adjournment of the Senate was moved by Senator Pearce to enable him to discuss the unemployment of the men, and other matters incidental to the business of the Tobacco Combine. When the men were walking about the streets of Melbourne, it was commonly said that it was due to the introduction of the new Tariff, and the installation of new machinery by the Combine. Within an hour or two from the initiation of the discussion by Senator Pearce, on that Friday morning, messages were sent to the prominent men in the Tobacco Workers’ Union to the effect that the foreman of the Combine wished to see them. After the receipt of those messages,the men went to one of the factories of the Combine and were told to resume work on the following Monday.
– The honorable senator knows why, too.
– That was done in Adelaide.
– My opinion is that if it had not been for the discussion in the Senate, in all probability the men would have had to walk about the streets for two or three weeks longer, and the public would have been told that it was owing to the new Tariff. Anyhow, the men were sent for, and work was resumed, and’ since that time I understand that they have been given two or three weeks’ holidays on half-pay. The motion of Senator Pearce has had good results. It has enabled the men to be employed; and the public to get an idea of the way in which business is carried on by the Combine when it suits them to increase the price of commodities at the public expense, when there is no occasion to do so.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “and also to inquire into a statement made by a Queensland senator that Mr. J. C. Watson advocated a land tax of1s. in the £1, and that when he found that the proposal was unpopular he hurriedly abandoned it.”
The object of my amendment is to insure that the Select Committee shall have plenty of work to do until the 1st October.
– I have no objection.
– The amendment is irrelevant.
– I have never previously heard of such an extraordinary reason being given for the appointment of a Select Committee. Senator Neild proposes -
That a Select Committee, with power to send for persons and papers, be appointed to inquire into and report upon the accusations made in this Senate on the 16th August, 1907, against the tobacco companies, commonly known as the “ Tobacco Combine.”
It would be a most extraordinary thing if an honorable senator were to ask for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into a specific accusation by a particular senator. But this motion does not specify any accusation or any honorable senator. I participated in the debate on Senator Pearce’s motion because I was interested in the subject with which it dealt, and I suppose that I can be charged with having made strong accusations. Any accusation which I make here I expect to be refuted here, and not by a Select Committee. I hope that Senator Neild, who I am sure wishes to do justice to all sides, will ventilate the matter on the floor of the Chamber, where the accusations - if statements can be so described - were made. MayI suggest what the report of the Select Committee would be if it were appointed and carried out its work? It would either be a vote of censure against certain honorable senators or a finding that they had not been guilty of making any accusations which were unwarrantable. In either case could the result of the inquiry be of any use to any one? Is there any honorable senator who would care whether he was censured or exonerated by a Select Committee? If any of us has made statements here they ought to be refuted here. I venture to think that no honorable senator would pay the slightest attention to the finding of any Select Committee which reported that he deserved censure because he had made strong statements in ‘ regard to the Tobacco Combine or any other industrial enterprise. I believe that Senators Pearce and Find ley do not want a Select Committee to say that they are not guilty ; I am certain that I do not. I sincerely hope that Senator Neild will ask leave to withdraw his motion, and take advantage of an opportunity - and there is no one here who is better able to find an opportunity than he is - to meet the statements that have been made in regard to the Combine.
– When I was asked if I would sit on the Select Committee, I said that I had no right to refuse, as that is a duty. But I feel that it would be a great mistake for the Senate to appoint a Select Committee on this motion. I confess now that I should have very great difficulty indeed if I were called upon to initiate an inquiry on the motion. I should not know where to begin.
– The honorable senator would begin by reading Hansard.
– I should have to read the report in Hansard. I submit that the appointment of a Select Committee, while, of course, under justifiable conditions it is an advantage, should always be avoided if possible. We ought to do all our business, as far as we possibly can, on the floor of the Senate. Of course, there may arise special circumstances which will require the appointment of a Select Committee, but whenever that does happen it is a misfortune. Therefore, I shall vote against the motion.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.10]. - I ask the consent of the Senate - and I hope that there will be no dissent - to vary the terms of my motion, so that it may be a copy of Senator Pearce’ s motion to adjourn the Senate - to inquire into and report upon the allegations made in this Senate on the 16th August, viz., “increasing the prices of tobacco and the throwing out of employment of a large number of workers by the Tobacco Combine, and their allegation that this action has been caused by the new Tariff proposals.”
These are the honorable senator’s own words, to be found within quotation marks in Hansard. It will not be necessary for me to speak at any length if my request is assented to.
– Has the honorable senator leave to amend his motion as he proposes ?
– I object.
– Then it cannot be amended.
– As Senator Findley was allowed to go practically into the whole of the facts, of course, in replying, I am entitled to follow his example, though it may take me two or three hours perhaps. I shall not answer such utterly unwise observations as have fallen from Senator Clemons, because if he. had paid any attention to the progress of business here he would know that this is the third occasion on which I have sought to deal with this matter.
– Why not deal with it then?
– My honorable friend professes to allege that I can do something else than that which. I am doing ?
– When I attempted to move the adjournment of the Senate I was not permitted to do so. Then I dealt with the matter in a supposititious manner on a motion for adjournment, and the President observed that he felt sure that the Senate would not object to the appointment of a Select Committee. Under those circumstances, and acting upon his suggestion, I have moved this motion today. The charges which were made in the twenty pages of Hansard to which I referred come under different headings, but the two main charges are undue increase of prices and inhuman treatment of operatives. As regards the former of these two charges, the allegation was that the new Tariff did not justify the increase in prices by the Combine, and that if it did the price charged greatly exceeded the increased cost caused by the new Tariff.
That proposition is emphatically and absolutely denied by the companies forming the so-called Combine. Speaking now in the Senate, if honorable senators like, on behalf of those companies, just as Senators Pearce and Findley, and others, spoke on behalf of some one who supplied them with information, I say that the companies concerned absolutely deny anything of the kind. The alterations in the Tariff are as follow: - On imported leaf, unstemmed, old duty per lb.,1s. 6d. ; new duty per lb.,1s.9d. That is an increase of threepence. Imported leaf stemmed, old duty is 6d. ; new duty, 2s. ; increase, 6d. Excise on locally manufactured leaf, old duty, is. ; new duty, 1s 3d. ; increase, 3d. The increases, therefore, amount on unstemmed leaf to 6d., comprised of 3d. extra Customs duty, and 3d. extra Excise duty, while on stemmed leaf they amount to9d., made up of 6d. extra Customs duty and 3d. extra Excise duty.
– That would be all right if they had to pay those increased rates.
– The honorable senator knows that they have to pay the increases under the new Tariff.
– They cleared enough stuff to last them a considerable time.
– I shall deal with the question of the clearances later on. It was said in the Senate that the price of tobacco made wholly from imported leaf had been raised9d. per lb. ; of tobacco made partially from imported leaf 6d. per lb., and tobacco made wholly from domestic leaf 3d. per lb. Senator Pearce admits thatthe increase of 3d. per lb. on the last named item is justified by the increase in the Tariff. But to use his own words, he contended that -
No one can say that it - that is the Combine - will import stemmed leaf which is dutiable at 2s. per lb.
Then, to paraphrase the honorable senator’s words, he contended that if unstemmed leaf is used, as he takes for granted will be done, the increased cost will be only 6d. per lb. on first grade and 4½d. per lb. on second grade, inasmuch as the second grade consists of at least 50 per cent. of Australian leaf. The charge of having unduly increased prices rests’ upon the assumption that in future tobacco manufacturers will import and use unstemmed leaf, dutiable at 3d. per lb. less than stemmed leaf.
– Is that an extract ?
– I am quoting; from certain notes with which I have provided myself, in order to put the matter clearly. I necessarily have to use full’ notes, because I cannot carry these details in my mind. No one could, except, perhaps, the manufacturers themselves. Except on that erroneous assumption on the. part of Senator Pearce, the whole allegation falls to the ground. There is also the charge of combining, which means practically conspiring, because it is a breach of the law. An unlawful combination to raise prices is practically a conspiracy under our law. Senator Pearce’s assumption that only unstemmed leaf will be used! is unwarranted for the following reasons : - First, owing to the necessity of maturing the leaf and providing against crop failures, sufficient stocks have always to be kept in bond to provide ahead for from twelve to fifteen months’ consumption. The tobacco crop, whether in this country or any other, is subject to vicissitudes. The commonest crop in the world, ‘ wheat, is subject to vicissitudes, but the supply is so large from different parts of the globe that it is not necessary to provide against defective harvests in the manner in which the tobacco manufacturer has to provide against defective tobacco crops. It is well known that the tobacco crop is very liable to injury from changes in the weather, insects, mil-‘ dew, and other troubles. As a matter of fact, the Tobacco Combine have at the present time in bond and to arrive - and necessarily if it is in bond or to arrive it will be liable to the new duty - about twelve months’ stock of stemmed leaf for the purpose of making plug tobacco. On that stock they will have to pay the Customs duty of 2s. per lb. on stemmed leaf and the Excise duty of1s. 3d. per lb. on manufactured tobacco, or a total of 3s. 3d. That represents an increased duty of9d. per lb.
– The honorable senator must take into consideration the amount of colonial tobacco that is used.
– I am only speaking of the actual goods that these people are importing, and have either in. stock in bond or on the way to Australia. Upon it they will have to pay9d. per lb. additional duty. The leaf is stemmed and treated in Virginia, when it is in a more or less green condition. This is referred to bv Mr. Neville in question No. 28419 of the report of the Tariff Commission, in the following terms - “It [i.e., the stemmed leaf) is put on the market. After that the re-handler gets’ hold of it, and he allows it to hang in his drying-room for two or three months. That tobacco is not taken out until the following spring, say in May or June. Then it is put into hogsheads holding from 1,200 to 1,400 lbs. This continuous handling, with freezing and thawing, and the coming and going of soft and dry weather, eliminates the objectionable qualities of the tobacco and develops its flavour.”
The information which I have obtained in writing states that to import the leaf unstemmed, and do the stemming in Australia, would involve re-handling, re-moistening, and re-packing, and would so injuriously affect the tobacco and reduce the weight as to render the operation, to say the least, injudicious and inexpedient. It is for these reasons that the British Government recently reduced the differential duty of 3d. per lb. against stemmed leaf to the nominal revenue import duty of Jd. per lb: Consequently, whilst we have been raising the duty here, in the United Kingdom it has been reduced to a mere nominal id. per lb. Even assuming that these objections did not exist, and that the companies were in a position to import unstemmed leaf at the lower duty of is. 9d. against 2s. for stemmed leaf, this difference in duty would, it is estimated, be entirely neutralized by the increased cost of stemming under Australian factory conditions as compared with the cheaper . negro labour of Virginia, to which increased cost must be added the cost of the extra freight on unstemmed leaf compared with stemmed, and the interest charge on the capital outlay for plant and buildings in Australia in which to carry on the stemming and rehandling operations. Another matter of consequence that must be considered relates to the alleged untaxed ingredients that are used in tobacco manufacture. I do not know what they are with any degree of certainty, but I believe that sweetening matter of some sort is used. Senator Pearce stated that about 5 per cent’, of untaxed ingredients entered into the manufacture of plug tobacco, but he altogether omitted the consideration that all those alleged untaxed ingredients pay Excise duty. That point has a material influence upon the question of the price of tobacco. I am positively assured - and this is- a point that I should like the Committee to investigate whether the statement is true or not - that all sales made by the
Tobacco Combine are subject to 2 J per cent, discount. That means a discount, not only on the cost of the tobacco, but on the amount paid in Customs and Excise duties. Any one with a knowledge of the tremendous quantities of goods handled by the companies, and the large annual value of the turnover, must recognise that 2J per cent, allowed upon the duty that has been already paid means, in the course of twelve months, a fairly heavy handicap. If the matters that I have been expatiating upon are taken, into consideration, it will be very clearly recognised that the increase in price is absolutely, less than the increased duties that these people are now called upon to pay. Instead of their making money out of it they are actually getting less. That is an assertion which I make in quite as good faith as those honorable senators who made statements in the opposite direction. I should like the Committee to investigate that allegation also. There are certain popular brands, known as Capstan and Vice- Regal. They are made from pure American leaf, and the price has been advanced by 3d. less than the advance in the duties, so that instead of these people having increased their prices and used the Tariff as an excuse to plunder the public - because that is practically the charge- that was made - they are absolutely selling their favourite brands of tobacco at 3d. per lb. less than the additional cost caused by the new Customs charges. The question of competitors’ prices was mentioned and dealt with. From my own knowledge of documents, which I have, had in my possession for the last six weeks, I can state how the prices came to be raised. I make the assertion that an opposition company doing business in Sydney approached the so-called Combine and implored them to consent to raise prices, or otherwise they would have to go insolvent, and their hands would be turned out of employment. The Combine yielded to their solicitations. I ha.ve the company’s letter in my possession. As long ago as the 19th July this letter was written an3 signed by three directors of the Sydney Tobacco Company, and addressed to the managing director, of the British Australasian Tobacco Company. Ltd.
– Is that the 19th July of this year?
– That was before the Tariff was brought in.
– Exactly. The prices were raised before the Tariff was brought in. That is my whole argument. That is the statement I want the Committee to inquire into. This is the letter -
Dear Sir, - The Sydney Tobacco Company, nf which we the undersigned are the Directors, desire to bring under your notice the difficulties which we have to contend with. For a long time past, certainly the last six months, the factory has been working at a heavy loss, the cause of which, as you can readily understand, is primarily the great increase in cost of the raw material, .Colonial leaf costing at least 25 per cent, more, while the prices of imported leaf have enhanced even much more than that. Notwithstanding these great difficulties in prime cost, the selling prices of our manufactured tobaccos have not been increased. The position that faces us now is most serious, there being but two alternatives, viz., the liquidation of our company or an increase in the selling prices of our tobaccos. This we are unable to do by ourselves, and appeal to you, as the larger and stronger company, to take into consideration the desirability of agreeing with us to raise prices at least id. per lb. on the high grade, and 2d. per lb. on the lower grade of tobaccos. If this could be done, and we see no reason why it should not be, as the position is forced upon us by circumstances over which no manufacturer has control, we respectfully ask that you will agree to our proposition, and that such advances take place as from the 1st August next.
We do not think’ that we can say anything further to show you the urgency of the case; it is, as we have already mentioned, life or death with our small company. It would be very hard for our shareholders to have to suffer heavy loss such as would necessarily be the case if the company goes into liquidation when there is a just and reasonable way of avoiding that disaster.
– That is a very useful letter.
Trusting you will give this your immediate and earnest consideration, and that we shall receive a favorable reply from you.
In the event of your complying with the foregoing, we would further suggest a public notice from each company, published simultaneously, setting forth the advance of prices. - We are, yours faithfully.
That letter is signed by three directors, two of whom are personal business friends of my own of long standing. I cannot say that I know the third.
– Does the honorable senator not think that that is a peculiar letter to come from an independent firm?
– I do not think that it is peculiar when it is remembered that the company would have .come absolutely to an end unless something had been done to help it out of its difficulty.
– Does the honorable senator not see who it is to whom the com pany appeals to help it out of their difficulties - an alleged rival?
– The company appealed to a rival, but the honorable senator must admit that whatever action the Combine took upon this letter they would have laid themselves open to his sneer. Had they refused to raise prices, and, as a consequence, this little struggling company had been shut out, it would have been claimed that the Tobacco Combine had destroyed a small competitor. On the other hand, if they agreed to the request to raise prices, then it would have been said that it was a conspiracy to rob the public. The honorable senator must- see that there was no middle course, and that whichever course they took they were liable to the attack that he makes.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will allow me to say that I always had a suspicion that that company was a part of the Trust, and the letter he has read confirms my suspicion.
– Then the honorable senator will, of course, vote for the appointment of a Select Committee that will enable that point to be cleared up.
– I do not think the appointment of a Committee will enable it to be cleared up. The Select Committee, afterwards the Royal Commission, on the Tobacco Industry tried to clear it up before, and could not do so.
– If, as I desire, Senator Pearce is made a member of the Select Committee appointed, he will have an opportunity to ask questions raising the point to which he now refers.
– We had that opportunity before, and could not clear the matter up.
– The correspondence proceeded, and prices were raised. Other letters followed. Dudgeon and Arnell Proprietary Ltd., of Melbourne, approached the Tobacco Combine, and asked for a raising of prices on flat work and twist 2d. per lb., and on curls, i£d. per lb., and they said -
We do not think there would be any difficulty in getting manufacturers in other States to fall into line.
That is from their letter of 30th July last.
– That was pointed out here as an argument against the contention that the Tariff was the cause of” the rise in prices.
– The Combine alleged that the Tariff was the cause.
– On the allegation that the Sydney company were practically plotting, it is rather remarkable to note that two days before their letter of request for a rise of prices was written, the Tobacco Company of South Australia Limited, per “ G. H. Prosser, Chairman of Directors,” on the 17th July, and before ever the Sydney company wrote, made practically the same application for a rise in prices.
– Does not the honorable senator see that these letters destroy his contention that the rise was due to the Tariff?
– The honorable senator, no doubt in good faith, is simply misstating what I have said. I have said in the most emphatic manner, and in as plain English as a man can utter, that the prices were raised on certain lines of tobacco before ever the Tariff was mentioned.
– Still, Kronheimer Limited, the representatives of the Combine, in their letter of 9th August to the retailers, say that the rise was due to the Tariff.
– I do not even remember the date on which the Tariff was introduced.
– It was introduced on the 9th August.
– It is no use to try to catch me in such a really shallow manner, because the meaning of the observations of Senator Pearce must be patent to every member of the Senate. The proposition the honorable senator lays down is that there was practically a fraudulent raising of the prices of tobacco asan alleged consequence of the Tariff. I have made two allegations here this afternoon as plainly as a man can speak.
– Mutually destructive.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will allow me to proceed? One is, that the prices were raised on certain lines of tobacco before the Tariff was heard of. The second is that there has been an all round rise of prices since The rise of prices before the Tariff affected only certain low-class tobaccoes, but since then, in consequence of the increase in duties of Customs and Excise to the extent of 9d. per lb., there has been an increase in price in some cases of 9d., and in other cases of 6d., per lb. ‘
– The honorable senator will find at page 2043 of Hansard that
Senator Story made that statement during the debate.
– That only confirms the accuracy of what I am saying. I do not wish to read the whole of the correspondence. I have in my possession all the letters that passed, and I desire to put them before the Select Committee, that the truth of the statements they contain may be investigated. Surely it cannot be suggested that I wish to make statements here that are not true, or that 1 wish to bolster up any man’s position if he has done wrong. Surely after a quarter of a century of public life in Parliament, in -the blaze of publicity that surrounds’ every man in public life, it is not likely that I would come here to bolster up the reputation of dishonest men. I am putting forward what I believe to be a reply to certain charges which I wish to have investigated. There was a fair chorus demanding that I should specify what the charges were, and when I propose to specify them I find that is the very last thing some honorable senators wish to hear. I suppose they now very much regret that the remarks of some of them tended in a direction that made my present reply lawful and proper, and think that it would have been very much better if the matter had been dealt with without the demand for such particulars as I am giving. All I wish is an investigation to prove whether these things are so. I shall wash my hands of the matter for ever if it is shown that the statements submitted to me are untrue. I am asking for an inquiry, but the honorable senators who made the charges do not want an inquiry, and they say the Combine do not want an inquiry. This is their attitude in the matter: “ Do have an inquiry; we are all in favour of an inquiry; but for God’s sake do not say anything about it. Do not make any reply.” Special reference was made in the course of the debate to tobacco known as “ Perfection.” I was asked about that, and these are the facts -
Now, as to the anticipatory clearances from bond about which I was challenged a few minutes ago, and the insinuation that these charges were made as the result of secret
Information improperly obtained, I should like this point investigated. The Combine state that they cleared only one quarter of their bonded stocks, and the same inference may just as fairly be drawn from the clearances of bonded stocks . by traders throughout the Commonwealth. It is a matter of notoriety that not only in the case of tobacco, but in the case of scores of other kinds of goods,” there were very heavy clearances in anticipation of the Tariff. There never was a Tariff introduced but what there were heavy clearances in advance.
– There were very extraordinary clearances this time in all branches of trade.
– I wish only to make the barest reference to the fact that such clearances were made generally. In the circumstances, why should one firm or company be picked, out of the whole of the traders* of the Commonwealth, and held up to public reprobation as having done something which was, at least, indecent, ‘ if not dishonest and illegal ? The whole tobacco trade - not only the manufacturers, but the retailers - expected an increase in the duties, and laid in stocks.
– They did not get a chance to lay in stocks.
– The honorable senator is making a statement which might very well be made before the Select Committee, but it should not Le made here, because he cannot speak with the knowledge that I am able to lay before- the Senate.
– I can speak with just as much knowledge as the honorable senator has.
– That is not the case; but I shall not “barney” with the honorable senator. I am prepared to have the statements upon- which I . base these allegations probed to the fullest possible extent ; and if I find that I have been misled in one particular, I shall be the first to wash my hands a/f the inquiry, and to be ready to’ report te the Senate against those who have made fallacious misrepresentations. It would be an utter misuse of my opportunities for me to put forward allegations that are untrue. Far- more responsibility lies upon those who supply information, than upon those who use it in good faith, and after an investigation of its reasonable probability. I know that honorable senators opposite, who have made statements on this subject, have done so in good faith. Let them give me equal credit when .1 ask for an inquiry and state the reasons for it. For several weeks ‘ prior to the introduction of the Tariff, there was a very heavy demand upon manufacturers and wholesale dealers for cigars and cigarettes; so much so that, by the 9th of August - I think that was the day on which the Tariff was introduced - the stocks of ‘the Combine were very largely depleted. Their cigarette factory, for instance, was completely depleted of stock. How can it be alleged that there was anything. wrong about the action of a firm which, prior to the introduction of the Tariff, absolutely cleared out every cigarette in stock? If the statements supplied to me that their stocks were entirely cleared out is untrue, I will wash my hands of the whole affair.
– Can the honorable senator state that the retailers got those stocks ? .
– I think they did.
– I believe they did not.
– Kronheimer got them.
– The retailers were refused supplies above their usual quantities.
Senator- Colonel NEILD.- That is a matter to be inquired into by the . Committee. As to the fixing of retail prices, Senator Pearce displayed a handbill showing increased cost under the new Tariff. It was sought to be shown that this handbill, and the increased prices which it proclaimed, were inspired by the Combine’s distributing agents, Kronheimer Limited. The companies state that they are in a position to assert positively that this handbill and the prices listed in it, were the outcome of a meeting of the Semi-wholesale Tobacconists Association, and the Retail Tobacconists Association, and that Kronheimer Limited had no connexion, direct, or indirect, with either of those meetings, nor had they, in any shape or form with either of those associations. The meetings were the natural outcome of the altered duties, as were also the retail prices. With my own eves, I have seen the advertisements published in the Sydney newspapers, calling those meetings. Thev are signed by men whom I know to be in the retail trade. Of course, Senator Pearce will suggest that they were put up to it by the Tobacco Combine.
– The retailers in Melbourne met some days after the list had been in the shop-windows, and adopted it.
– With reference to the treatment of employes the principal allegation was that the Combine suddenly and inconsiderately closed its factory in order to gain time to work off a great superabundance of stocks resulting from having worked its operatives at high pressure and on overtime for many weeks prior to the promulgation of the Tariff. Now what are the facts? There was no exceptional pressure, and comparatively little overtime was worked during the period preceding the declaration of the Tariff. I have been supplied with a table showing what the overtime pay was. It gives exact details of the overtime worked from the 6th of June to 7th August.
– In Sydney. I think the figures apply only to Sydney. It shows that out of 668 hands, 164 males and females worked overtime, averaging 14½ hours each, for the whole period, or1½ hours per week. That was an enormous pressure to put on !
– In Sydney only.
– Yes, in Sydney only.
– Do those figures apply to the operatives only, or do they include those working in the office?
– I cannot say, but the office hands are not very numerous.
– The honorable senator has almost exhausted his time.
– I shall shortly conclude.
– Has the honorable senator figures as to the stocks in hand in the month preceding the introduction of the Tariff?
– I have not. I wish to say a word as to a statement made by Senator E. J. Russell that the companies only paid male adults £111s. 7½d. per week on an average before the recent increase to £2 2s. per week. That statement is positively incorrect.
– Senator E. J. Russell said “ the average wages.” I have his statement before me.
– I will accept the honorable senator’s assurance. Apparently there is an inaccuracy in the statement supplied to me.
– Something more to be inquired into !
– I am perfectly willing to have any possible inquiry. As to the treatment of employes and the alleged callous disregard of their health and well being, I wish to say that the companies provide sick pay and pay half the amount of their work people’s contributions to benefit societies.
– I do not know that that is very pertinent to the question.
– Perhaps not, but I hope I shall be permitted to point out that the companies not only pay to their employes a bonus at Christmas time equal to one week’s salary, but also pay one-half of the contributions of the operatives to any registered Friendly Society to which they may belong. Those facts give the best possible contradiction to the allegation of callous disregard of the well being of the employe’s. I have surely given sufficient information to those honorable senators who have asked me what it was that I wanted to have inquired into. I have asked that the scope of the inquiry should be limited, and point out that, notwithstanding the phraseology of the motion, I pledge my word as a senator of the Commonwealth that I will use my utmost endeavours to restrict the inquiry to the matters mentioned in Senator Pearce’s motion for the adjournment, and will not seek to introduce any other matters whatever. I hope that the Senate, having spent so much time upon the subject, will allow the Committee to be appointed, in order that justice may be done. I wish to elicit nothing but the truth, in. the interests of the public.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th September, vide page 2962).
First Schedule -
Cotton, ginned ; (period), 8 years ; (rate of bounty) 10 per cent, on market value; (maximum payable in any one year) ^’6,000.
Upon which Senator Walker had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “value” the following words be inserted : - “ in the first year of cultivation and thereafter reducible annually by’ ii per cent.”
– I hope that Senator Walker will not persist with his amendment. It seems to me as if the Committee were treating far too lightly the proposal to establish a cotton industry in Australia. Honorable senators probably are not aware that the cotton crop is one- of the largest crops in the world. I believe that at the present moment it is the largest agricultural crop in the United States. It is grown there in a climate which is very similar to that of a large portion of Australia. I believe that it could be grown over two-thirds of this continent. That being the case, honorable senators ought to do everything in their power to encourage its production. When we reflect that we are living within easy distance of China and Japan, populated as those countries are by hundreds of millions of people, of whom a large number are clad almost exclusively in cotton cloth, I think that the prospect held out to us from that point of view is very alluring.
– The honorable senator, although he believes in a White Australia, does not mind selling to the blacks elsewhere.
– Where the black man has been placed by Providence, there let him remain and flourish, if he can. I am not going to do anything to interfere with him.. It is only when persons for their own profit bring the black man here and exploit him that I object. I am sure that the honorable senator would like to see the people of India, China, and Japan, indeed, of the whole of Asia, so well off that they would be able to buy. not only any cotton which might be produced here, but also our wool. We are apt to plume ourselves upon being the greatest wool producers in the world. I believe that we do hold the premier position in that regard, and I do not see any reason why we should not also occupy the same point of advantage with regard to the twin product - cotton. In Australia we have every natural advantage which is required for its cultivation. Some experiments in the growing of cotton no doubt have been made in parts of Australia, and have been partial failures. Why ? Simply because the time was not ripe. Even agriculture itself, up to a certain point, failed in Australia. For what reason? Because people could earn a better living at pastoral work, mining, railway building, timber getting, and so forth. It was only when they were compelled by sheer necessity that a large number of per-, sons turned their attention to the cultivation of the soil. As time goes on, we shall find that many more persons will exert their efforts in that direction, and that cottongrowing on a very extensive scale will be brought about in Australia. I think, therefore, that instead of doing anything to damp the enthusiasm of such persons as may be inclined to experiment with regard to this commodity we ought to help them by every means within our reach. If, however, the amendment is carried there will be very scant inducement for any one to embark in the industry. Indeed, the Government proposal is of such a meagre character that I felt half inclined to vote against it on account of its inadequacy. We have here the germ of a huge industry, and all that the Government proposes to spend is a paltry few thousand pounds per annum.
– Does the honorable senator forget that a Customs duty is levied upon the imported article?
– I forget nothing in that connexion. I know that all these matters must be taken into consideration ; but, as I have pointed out. we have here the possibility of one of the largest industries which have yet been established in Australia, and we ought to strain every nerve to give it a fair start. I find that in the southern States of America consumption is fast overtaking production, and that British cotton spinners are almost at their wits end in obtaining cotton for manufacturing purposes. This ought to appeal to Senator Walker, more especially as he is a very strong loyalist. The Americans are straining every “nerve to take away from Great Britain the cotton industry as well as a number of other industries. To’ that end they are establishing countless manufactories, with the express object of manufacturing all their own native-grown cotton, and in that way driving Great Britain’ out of the cotton industry. Very naturally the latter is turning her eyes towards her own Colonies. This is an industry in which we oan, not only help ourselves very materially, but also give substantial assistance to the mother country. If we can produce a large quantity of cotton - enough not only to meet our own wants, but also to leave a surplus for export - Great Britain will be partially independent of the ‘United States, so far as the raw commodity is concerned.
– Great Britain would get her supply where it could be obtained most cheaply, even were it Timbuctoo.
– Does not the honorable senator see that the United States, in pursuance of their industrial and trade policy, have set out to take the cotton spinning’ industry out of the hands of Great Britain? Undoubtedly, the United States will succeed within a very few years in striking a fatal blow at the cotton industry in Great Britain. On Friday last Senator Clemons urged very strongly that there was nothing in the by-products of cotton. On inquiry, I find that in addition to what may be called the cotton wool, which is used for weaving purposes, there is quite a number of by-products, every one of which is marketable at a very substantial price. Oil and oil-cake are produced from cotton-seed. Kitchen and Sons have established in Brisbane works for that very purpose, and are prepared to buy all the seed produced at a decent price. Joyce Brothers, bag-makers, of New South Wales, have bought up the old cotton mill at Ipswich, which formerly belonged to the Queensland Cotton Manufacturing Company. Apparently they see something ahead of them, and are prepared to take all the cotton that is grown in the State. The Queensland Government are now distributing seed and employing an expert to teach farmers how to grow cotton. If those steps are being taken by private companies and by a State. Government, the Commonwealth Government may very well follow suit and do all it can do to promote the industry. I do not think Senator Walker’s amendment will appeal to the Committee. I believe the majority of honorable senators would very gladly give cotton a very much larger encouragement than is proposed in the schedule if they possibly could. If nine-tenths of the other items could be wiped out, and the money transferred to the bounty for cotton, I believe the Committee would do it, but unfortunately we are not in a position to take that course.
– Under paragraph b of clause 9, the Government have power to make regulations prescribing the proportion in which bounties shall be payable to claimants who have complied with the prescribed conditions, in cases where there is not sufficient money available to pay the full bounties. Consequently, if the bounty for cotton is successful, and encourages production, the amount payable will automatically decrease year by year in proportion to the value of cotton produced, and so Senator Walker’s object will be exactly carried out. That appears to be a complete answer to the arguments in favour of inserting the amendment in the Bill. The opponents of the Bill are really standing on velvet. They can quote the experts’ report when they argue that if an industry is going to be successful there is no need to give it a bounty. They can also quote the experts’ report when they argue that if an industry has no prospects of success it will be a waste of money to give it a bounty. In that way, Senator Clemons and others use the experts’ report against the Bill in both directions. It was interjected that cotton is already protected under the Tariff. It is not. Under the new Tariff, ginned cotton is free. There is a duty on cotton goods, which will benefit the cotton manufacturer, but not the cotton-grower. This proposal is to give a bounty to the grower to induce him to produce cotton. I quite agree with Senator Stewart in the strong stand he is taking in favour of the production of cotton. I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to the following extract from the Queensland Agricultural Journal for August -
The shortage of the American cotton crop is again causing a rise in price of the raw material, and it is questionable whether sufficient supplies from that source will be at any future time forthcoming to keep the Lancashire mills in full work. Cotton mills in the’ southern States of America are still increasing in size and numbers, hence cotton which once found its way to England is now utilized in the former country. In the West Indies, in Africa, and in other parts of the world every effort is being made to create a cotton industry ; yet still Queensland looks on apathetically and continues to make experiments, as if it had not been fully demonstrated many years ago that this State can produce cotton equal to any American cotton.
During my remarks on the second reading, I quoted the comments of the British
Cotton Growing Association on the large number of samples of Queensland cotton v which were sent home a few months ago. The full reports had been received, and I quoted from them at some length. The British Cotton Growing Association declared that the cotton sent from Queensland would readily fetch certain prices in London. Those prices the experts and farmers already engaged in the industry in a small way in Australia agree are remunerative. The September number of the Queensland
Agricultural Journal gives the latest information obtainable as to the prices of the yields of cotton harvested in Queensland in the 1907 season. .Six cases are given of growers who had under cotton cultivation areas varying from 1 to 2 acres. The yield ran from 1,473 ‘Ds- to 4>25? ‘DsThe value of the output varied from ?8 2s. <5d. to ?26 us. 3d., and the value per acre from ?6 10s. to ?11 os. id.
– That is a very handsome return.
– It is. Probably Senator Clemons and others would argue, “ Why, then, give the industry a bounty?” On the other hand, they try to prove that an industry will be an absolute failure, and also ask, “Why give it a bounty?” According to the opponents of the Bill, we are wrong whichever way we argue. A number of instances are given of farmers who are satisfied with the yield they have obtained from the small area cultivated. This is one example -
Mr. Hargrove, an American cotton grower, recently arrived and settled in the’ neighbourhood of Capella, in the Central District, and who is sowing extensively this coming season,, writes : - “There is cotton in many of the yards here that has grown for years without care, and, in many cases, goats and cattle running among it, that seem better samples than ever I saw in America. Tell Mr. Jones he ought to come up. I think there is a fine chance to originate a new cotton here.”
The prospects of the industry have been fully discussed and considered all through Queensland. Cotton growing was attempted over half-a-century ago in the Northern Territory, and only failed there because settlement did not continue, and not because the industry was not successful so far as it ha.d gone. I hope the item will be carried, not only in the interests of Queensland and the northern parts of Australia, but in the interests of the British Empire generally. If we can make a success of cotton growing we shall establish an industry which will help to supply the cotton markets of the world, and to carry out the great object which we all have in view - the settlement of the waste lands in the far North, and the building up of that wall of white flesh and blood which it is often said will be our only protection against an influx of coloured races.
– I shall support the granting of a bounty on cotton, because I believe it would be greatly in the interests of Australia. I wish to deal particularly with Senator Walker’s amendment. I believe he is actuated by the very best motives. His desire is to make the bounty as effective as possible from his point of view ; but Senator Chataway’s argument shows that Senator Walker’s idea is very erroneous as applied to a bounty on cotton. No doubt that is due to the honorable senator’s great familiarity with figures. He deals so much with interest and compound interest that he likes to introduce fractional percentages, forgetting that he ma.y mystify, not onlyhonorable senators, but the public generally. Senator Chataway takes the view that the amendment would begin to operate from the year in which the bounty commenced, but. that is not Senator Walker’s idea. Senator Walker says, “ From the commencement of cultivation.” If one producer of cotton inQueensland began a year or two ‘later than< another, the reduction in his bounty would? not begin until the year after he commenced cultivation. It would be very difficult to administer a bounty on that principle. If there were eight cotton growers, one commencing this year would begin toget the full bounty in’ the first year of cultivation and receive a diminishing quantity up to the end of eight years, so far as hewas concerned. The eighth cotton grower might not start until the eighth vear. He would then begin with a full 10 per cent, and continue to receive a diminishing bounty for the next eight years, so far as he w asconcerned. Consequently, we should have a bounty straggling on for sixteen’ years like a flock of goats scattered over a-‘ wilderness. Senator Walker will see how ridiculous such an idea is. I am sure that Senator Walker, in moving his amendment, has no desire to hamper the growth of’ cotton in Australia. If the only purposeof the amendment is to. defeat the object of. the Bill, I hope the honorable senatorwill withdraw it. He must recognise that the difficulties I have indicated of admin-, istering a a bounty on cotton, in the way heproposes, would be so great that no Go- vernment would undertake the work. The Government are prepared to commence the distribution of the bounty as soon as people begin to produce cotton, and they propose to continue to give the bounty until the term of eight years expires. As Senator Chataway has pointed out, there will be, as production increases,” such a wide area over which the £6, 000 annually set apart to provide a bounty for the growth of cotton will be distributed, that what Senator Walker has in view will take place. I should like to point out to Senator Stewart and others, who seem to be very anxious about this bounty that if, at the end of the period of eight years, it is shown that the expenditure of the ,£48,060 we are now asked to grant for the purpose, has had the effect of proving that there is every prospect of the cotton industry, which is of so much importance to’ the Commonwealth, ultimately becoming successfully established, and that an extension of the bounty is necessary to complete its success, there need be no fear that the Parliament will not grant the extension. I hope that the item will be carried.
– By leave, I desire to amend my amendment by substituting the word “ production “ for the word “ cultivation.”
Amendment amended accordingly.
– - I must admit that I have been very much pleased with the further light thrown upon the subject by Senator Chataway. I aim afraid that I had not noticed that paragraph b of clause 9 will probably have some such effect as I desire. I may point out that if we are to take it for granted that the maximum amount of bounty set out in the fourth column of the 1st . Schedule, viz., £6,000, will be given each year, it will amount to ,£48,000 in the period of eight years. If, in like manner, the maximum amount is granted in respect of all the other items, the total amount expended, instead of being £4I 2,000, will be £533,000. That is a point worthy of consideration.
– The total amount can- not exceed £412,060.
– It .must, if we are to give the maximum bounty in each year in respect of every item, and, apparently, it is desired that the maximum should be given in the case of cotton. I am very much obliged to Senator McGregor for his statement as to the effect of my amendment. Under the amendment, a person producing cotton would get a bounty at the rate of 10 per cent, for the first year, and at the rate of per cent, less annually for the balance of the eight years, until in the last year the bounty would be reduced to 1 1/4 per cent. The objection I have to the proposal in the Bill is that, whilst the grower would get a bounty of ro per cent, for every year during the eight years’ period, he would get nothing in the ninth year. I think the bounty should be . distributed on the tapering principle, just as a father may assist a son in business by lending him money at a low rate of interest, and providing that he should pay off a portion of the loan each year. At the end of a certain period, he might expect the son tcrely upon himself to continue the business. I was in hopes that Senator Dobson would propose an amendment which I could support, but it would appear that Senator Chataway’s arguments have beer* so convincing, that the honorable senator does not feel disposed to move any amendment. In the circumstances, with the permission of the Committee, I shall withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, as amended, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) [S-35l- - In reading the figures just now, my attention was drawn to the fact that if the number of pounds of cotton produced were calculated at 7d. per lb., it would represent a very large sum of money. I wish to make it clear that the yields and values I have quoted are worked out on a basis of ijd. per lb. for cotton in the seed, and not for ginned cotton, worth 7d. per lb.
.- I am not in favour of the giving of bounties as a rule, but I do think that the importance to the Commonwealth of the establishment of the cotton industry cannot be exaggerated. My difficulty in the matter is to decide whether the proposed bounty will accomplish the establishment of the industry. On this, point, I think we have not vet had sufficient information. I have here two reports, one from Mr. J. G. Jenkins, a late Premier of South Australia, and the other from Mr. Bottomley. I find that these gentlemen know all about the experiments which have been made in the growth of cotton, and all about the failure of the bounties which were given on two different occasions in Queensland. They appear to have learned a great deal about cotton-growing, and both refer to. the necessity for further experiments in the growth of the article. At one place Mr. Jenkins says -
It does not do, however, to be too dogmatic about these points, and nothing but actual experimental working, at first on a small scale and then on a large scale, can definitely prove one way or another which is the most desirable cotton to cultivate. . . . Opinions are so conflicting that it is a subject which might be worth the expenditure of some money by the Commonwealth Government to thoroughly test as the laws affecting it have to be made and administered by them.
He also says -
Now, if the Americans only grow half as much per acre as they should, it might be possible with all the up-to-date knowledge for Australia, by the selection of proper seed and locality, to undertake the industry.
Mr. Bottomley devotes much of his report to the question of labour. Referring to the Northern Territory, he says -
I believe that this Territory is well adapted for the physically strong to live in ; but to engage and work in the open fields under a scorching sun would assuredly lead to a breakdown. I do not think that, generally speaking, they could continue at the work for more than two years, and then a change would be imperative. Hence it is desirable, if cotton production is to be carried out on a scale of great magnitude, that plenty of cheap labour should be available to compete with those engaged in the cultivation of colton in other tropical countries on the same terms.
He goes on to suggest that the Federal
Parliament should consider the advisability of introducing coolies from India for the purpose, because, he says, the Indians are natural cotton- growers. He winds up by saying -
I believe that it is only by an arrangement such as I have outlined that this magnificent territory can be properly developed, contributing materially to the “ prosperity and happiness of this continent and of the great Empire to which we are all proud to belong.
In conclusion I would say that it seems to me the Northern Territory possesses unlimited possibilities for the successful cultivation of the highest grades of cotton over a very large area of coastal country, and of Upland varieties further inland, the labour- difficulty alone standing in the way. I trust that this will receive the earnest and serious attention of the Commonwealth Parliament.
I do not think that the labour question has received very serious attention from the experts who have reported. We are being guided almost entirely by the report of the experts, and I do not think Mr. Bottom.ley’s idea is being carried out. I believe that Parliament has not given sufficient attention to this important subject.
– Mr. Bottomley’s proposals are out of the question.
– -At the end of his report, Mr. Bottomley supplies a map showing the cotton-growing countries of the world, from which I find that in seven different places British people have experimental areas. In four other places, the people of other countries have established experimental areas. I point out -that the members of the British Cotton-growing Association, which was started some three years ago, and is intensely interested in the growth of cotton, evidently do not think it wise to invest their capital haphazard in any locality, since they have established experimental areas in seven different parts of the world. I contend that we are not now in a position to grant this bounty. We require not so much the evidence of experts as practical tests before we shall be in a position to select suitable localities and proper seed. Honorable senators will say that that should ‘be left to the growers, but I have pointed out that that is not the opinion of the British Cottongrowing Association, who have made many experiments to discover where they can commence to grow cotton on a large scale. I have read that if there is one industry which more than another must to be successful be carried on on a large scale, it is cotton-growing. In every part of the world where it is grown successfully it is (frown on a verv large scale indeed. In Mr. Jenkins’ report I find this very significant statement -
According to a return furnished from between 3,000 and 4,000 planters in 1901, the actual cost of production per lb. of lint cotton was put down at 85.78. It was stated that 2,600 of these plantations were worked at a profit, and about 700 at a loss.
So that even in America, with suitable land and climate and millions of negroes to supply the necessary labour, 700 plantations out of 4,000 are worked at a loss. Honorable senators must therefore admit that we are undertaking an experiment while we are being asked to vote money as though we had made our experiments and our tests, and favorable results had been obtained. I do not think that this is the right way in which to proceed. If it is the will of the Committee that most of the items in the schedule should pass. I suppose that my opposition will be’ in vain; but I say again that to propose at this time’ to spend nearly ,£500,000 on bounties for the production of seventeen different articles is a very great mistake.
Item agreed to.
Fibres - New Zealand flax ; (period) 10 years ; (rate of bounty) 10 per cent, on market value; (maximum payable in any one year) ^3,000.
– I am glad that this item has been included in the schedule. During .the debate on the second reading of the Bill, Senator Chataway said that the opinion was held in New Zealand that sisal hemp would supersede the New Zealand hemp. New Zealand flax is indigenous to that country ; according to statements made to me it grows practically wild there, and, speaking generally, its cultivation receives very little care and attention.
– It is selling at remarkably high prices this year.
– That is so. As a matter of fact, the experts in their report say that in 1903 the returns per acre ranged from £11 is. sd. on arid hill-tops to £110 4s. 8d. on swampy lands, less cost of cutting and preparation, and the exports from New Zealand for 1903 amounted to 22,653 tons, valued at £595,684, average .£26 5s. nd. per ton. The average was £26 5s. 11d. per ton. I noticed the other. day that the price of sisal hemp in London was over £30 per ton.
– The latest quotation is 33s. per cwt. in Antwerp.
– Last Friday I visited the Agricultural Show, and was especially interested by a visit which I paid to the building occupied by the Agricultural Department of Victoria. I learnt from the experts in charge that experiments are being made in this State in the cultivation of New Zealand flax. Mr. Knight, the Government expert, told me that the Government has planted 50 acres in Gippsland. Further than that, we know that this hemp is being grown in some of the public gardens in Melbourne, though not for commercial purposes. The Victorian Government are anxious to establish the industry, because a ready market can be found for the product, which can be easily converted into rope and binder twine. It must not be understood that New Zealand flax is a plant that can only be grown in the cooler portions of the country. Expert opinion is that it can be grown in almost any part of Australia. As a ready market can be found for it, it is desirable to give it all the encouragement we can. I anr not looking at the matter from a Victorian point of view, however. I am considering it from an Australian aspect. At the same time, the fact that experiments are being conducted in Victoria seems to indicate that those who are now engaged in the cultivation will be stimulated to further efforts by a bounty. It is probable that in a few years the industry will become a valuable and profitable one to the Commonwealth. I have therefore pleasure in supporting the item.
– - O - On the motion for the second reading, I suggested that the item New Zealand flax should be withdrawn from the schedule. My reason was that I thought it was undesirable to give bounties to two kindred industries and to have them trying to knock out each other in the market. I relied upon statements regarding New Zealand flax made by Messrs. Sei.fert and Smith, members of the New Zealand Flax Millers’ Association. Before going further, I would point out that they say - and I suppose they are to be relied upon - that the price of New Zealand flax in London last year was £31 per ton. According to the New South Wales Agricultural Gazette, quoting from- the Public Ledger, the value of sisal hemp, on the 15th March last, was from £18 to £34 jos. per ton. Further reference is made to the views of Messrs. Seifert and Smith in the Agricultural Journal of Queensland for August.- This is an official publication, and the statement may therefore, I suppose, be relied upon. It states that these gentlemen - paid a visit to Major Boyd’s plantation at the Broadwater, and also to Mr. T. H. Wells at Farnbro’, Childers. There they interested it number of Bundaberg farmers in the matter of the production of sisal hemp, and they stated that the abundance of cheap suitable” land for the production of this fibre in Queensland, together with the slight cost of cultivation, and the simple method of cleaning the leaves in a single swift operation, - could go far towards extending this valuable industry, and so render our State a formidable competitor in the world’s fibre trade.
I draw attention to the passage which I am going to read, as it shows that sisal hemp can be treated very much more easily than New Zealand flax -
The New Zealand flax takes as long as sisal to come to maturity, and when one crop has been taken off an interval between that and the second crop of four years more occurs.
I do not know what effect the schedule to this Bill would have upon a crop which takes so long to produce. That is a point that would have to be borne in mind -
The gummy nature of the leaves necessitates two machines to dress the fibre and put it in marketable- condition. Our visitors stated that whilst the last year’s flax crop returned nearly ^750,000 to New Zealand, scarcely any of the product could be brought to the same standard of perfection as the sisal which they saw turned out by the Wilson machine.
That is the machine which treats the leaf in one swift operation.
– Is that machine working in Queensland?
– Yes. That passage sufficiently supports the argument which I used in my second-reading speech. I said that it would be a mistake to set up two rival industries, giving to each of them a bounty to see which could knock the other out. That is what it means.
– Are the two fibres of the same nature? I think they are not.
– They are different fibres.
– In answer to that interjection, I make this further quotation -
A member of Mr. Seifert’s firm, who visited the St. Louis Exhibition a couple of years ago, received pointed evidence that sisal fibre is the great want of manufacturers, for he was assured by one large firm that while that year they had used 4,000 tons of the New Zealand flax product, their preference was for sisal fibre, ofwhich thev purposed using 10,000 tons the following year,’ drawing the supply principally from Yucatan in North Mexico.
That seems to show that the two fibres are used for the same purposes, although probably there are other purposes for which one or the other might have a special adaptability. In suggesting that this item should be left out, I wish it to be understood that I am not opposing a bounty on flax, which is mentioned later on in the- schedule. I think it probable that Senator Findley was referring to. a flax which, I believe, is being grown experimentally both in Victoria and New South Wales.
– I referred to New Zealand flax.
– I think it would be unwise to grow New Zealand flax unless there is evidence that it is likely to be successful. There is evidence to show that the flax growers of New Zealand themselves are inclined to leave New Zealand to grow sisal here, because it is more easily treated. Besides, we know that the market price is slightly higher for sisal. The manufacturers at the St. Louis Exhibition declared themselves in favour of sisal as opposed to New Zealand flax. It would be unwise, in my opinion, to give a bounty on both of these items, and the evidence seems to me to show that it would be better to give the bounty on sisal than on New Zealand flax.
– I do not know that there need be any conflict between sisal hemp and New Zealand hemp to the detriment of either or both. I think we can well afford to provide bounties for the production of products that have not been cultivated to any great extent in Australia, and the production of both of which varieties will be advantageous. With regard to Senator Chataway’s observations concerning New Zealand hemp, I hold in my hand a very interesting article which appears in the Bulletin of the Imperial Institute - a publication issued quarterly.
– The British Government has been experimenting with New’ Zealand flax.
– I know. It has been planted in St. Helena; also at the Azores, as well as in various other parts of the world. The article from which I shall quote deals with New Zealand hemp somewhat extensively for a publication of the kind. It says -
The varieties grown on high and dry lands are smaller, but yield a finer fibre, and are much more easily stripped than the plants grown on marshy land.
I understand that a good deal of New Zealand hemp that has been grown has been produced on marshy ground. That is one of the reasons why success has not always attended its production.. The article goes on to say -
It also grows well on rich, dry, clay soil, with a yellow clay sub-soil, especially if sheltered from the wind, and at the same time provided with plenty of light and aiT. The plant does not give good results on stagnant marshes, but grows well after such swamps have been drained.
Further on the article says -
One Phormium plant yields twenty to thirty roots suitable for transplanting. Some difference of opinion exists as to the number of roots which should be planted together.
Comment is made upon the way in which the plant is grown in New Zealand, and, coming to the question of treating it by machinery, the article says -
There are several machines which are used for extracting New Zealand hemp, but they are all constructed on the same principle. The leaf is introduced between horizontal, fluted, revolving feed-rollers, by which it is crushed and held securely while being scraped. As it passes out, the epidermis and parenchymatous tissue are stripped off by means, of a beating-drum, revolving more rapidly than the feed-rollers, and carrying . flanges on its periphery, which press the leaf against a bar, and thus exert a scraping action. An arrangement is provided for adjust- ing the difference between this bar and the drum so that neither can the leaf pass through unstripped nor the fibres be cut. Vulcanized india rubber cushions or steel springs are placed oyer the journals of the upper feed-roller so as to accommodate the varying thickness of the leaves. The quality of the fibre produced depends largely on the form of the scrapers or beaters and the speed of revolution of the drum, but more on the ease and accuracy with which the machine can be adjusted.
This article was written quite recently for the Imperial Institute Bulletin. It is not confined to what is being done in New Zealand, but describes the efforts which have been made up to date for transplanting and successfully growing this particular product in other parts of the world. It states that, although there are several machines used for extracting New Zealand hemp they are all constructed on the same principle. It goes on to give some details of the machines, and the way in which the fibre is passed through them -
A full description of the principal machines, arid details of the methods employed, are given in Spon’s Encyclo-paedia of the Industrial Arts, Manufactures, and Commercial Products, vol. I, pages 988-992.
I have emphasized the fact that the writer of the article, who appears most up-to-date in his knowledge in regard to New Zealand hemp, has already pointed out that the various machines are built on the one principle.
– The principle may be the same, but one machine may be more costly than another.
– One principle go verns them all, but in detail there may be some difference. I mention that fact because Senator Chataway has referred to the machine which was used in Queensland, andbecause I wish honorable senators to realize the importance of the following note which is contained in a United States Consular Report, 1890, and. which is quoted in this article immediately after the passages I have just read -
To imperfect machinery and carelessness in the selection of green plants may be ascribed the apparent coarseness and the inferiority so often complained of in the flax exported from certain portions of New Zealand. But with improved flax dressing machinery and proper care exercised in the selection of the raw material, a very superior article can be produced. The fibre of Phormium Tenax is susceptible of a much higher degree of preparation than has been bestowed upon it up to the present. This, however, is not altogether the fault’ of those who are engaged in its manufacture ; it is for want of the necessary machinery. The hand-dressed article prepared by the natives is as fine as silk as compared with’ the modern-machine dressed flax of to-day.
This only demonstrates the fact that the fibre may be reduced to a much finer quality, and all that is necessary to do this is an improved machine.
The writer points out that, with improved machinery, the product can be put on the market in a much superior condition to anything which has appeared hitherto. He points out, too, that, although there may be a number of machines in use for the treatment of the article, they are all constructed on the same principle, and that it is defective. After dealing with the Question of machinery, the writer deals with the yield -
The average yield of green leaves from an acre of uncultivated flax is 10 to 15 tons, rich lands sometimes furnishing as much as 25 tons, whilst an acre of cultivated flax grown on good soil yields from 45 to 55 tons.
In the debate on the second reading of the Bill it was stated that New Zealand flax thrives almost as a weed in certain localities. But, according to the last quotation, it is desirable that cultivation should be resorted to in order to obtain the best results. The writer continues -
Moreover, the cultivated plant gives a much higher percentage of fibre; the yield is 1 ton of fibre from 7 tons of leaves of the cultivated plant, and 1 ton from 8 or 9 tons of uncultivated. The fibre from the cultivated plant is also of better quality than that from the uncultivated.
That goes to show the necessity for us to encourage persons to enter upon the cultivation of the plant, and not merely to say that, because it grows wild in certain localities, there is no necessity for an individual to apply his attention to its proper cultivation. Coming to the question of price, the writer says -
The following are the prices at which New Zealand hemp has been quoted in the London market : - July, 1903, £31 to£32 per ton ; July, 1904, £29 to£31 per ton; July, 1905, £24 to £26 per ton; July, 1906,£33 to £35 per ton.
These figures will, I think, bear favorable comparison with the figures quoted by Senator Chataway, concerning sisal hemp -
At the present time very high prices are ruling, the fibre being quoted in February, 1907, at £3710s. to£40 10s. per ton.
That is considerably higher than the price quoted by Senator Chataway for the other hemp. In Tropical Life for July, 1907, we find the following information on the market value of fibre per cwt. -
Sisal, Mexican, 33s. accepted for good in Antwerp. Indian, very quiet. Arrivals and sales small, 14s. to 30s. Central American very quiet ; value. 22s. 6d.
So that the value of sisal hemp in July, 1907, ranged from£14 to£33 per ton. The value of African, Mauritius, Reunion, and New Zealand hemp is also quoted -
New Zealand. - Fairly steady, but in very small demand by consumers. Fair is valued 30s.
I have already stated that in February of this year the fibre was quoted at 10s. to£4010s. per ton. This number of the Imperial Institute Bulletin came out earlier than the July number of Tropical Life. Apparently prices have gone down all round, but, notwithstanding that fact, New Zealand hemp is maintaining a very high price. Going further into the subject, the writer of the article for the Imperial Institute Bulletin says -
New Zealand hemp is a nearly white, lustrous, soft, flexible fibre. A comparison of its strength with that of other kinds of hemp was made some years ago by a firm of rope manufacturers, with the following results, which represent in each case the average strength of fifty yarns, all spun 25-thread by the same machinery : -
Manila. Italian. New Zealand. Sisal. European. 245 221 143128 122
So that it stands third on the list as regards strength, coming only after Manila and Italian hemp. It is to be recollected that much of the hemp which has gone on to the market has not been subjected to the best method of cultivation nor, indeed, to the best method of treatment by machinery. As illustrating the position and the difficulties under which the industry has grown up at all, the writer gives some very interesting information- as to its origin. He says -
When the colonists first arrived in New Zealand the valuable qualities of the Phormium fibre were well known, as it was in constant use by the natives, and constituted the first article of barter in the trade carried on by the Maoris with Europeans. A very considerable trade in the fibre existed as early as 1828, when the Islands were only visited by whalers and Sydney traders, £50,000 worth being sold in Sydney between 1828 and 1832. A factory for the manufacture of articles from New Zealand hemp was established at Grimsby, in Lincolnshire, in 1832, but failed for some unexplained cause, notwithstanding that the results at the time were regarded as satisfactory. From 1853 to1860 the average annual value of the fibre exported was £2,500, reaching as high as £5,000 in 1855; but up to that time the only fibre exported was that prepared by native labour, no machinery of any kind being used. In1860, therefore, when the native disturbances affected the Waikato and other interior districts of the North Island, the production was confined to the native tribes north of Auckland, so that in 1861 the export fell to 2 tons, of value £43.. Attempts were then made to devise machinery by means of which the fibre could be profitably extracted byEuropean labour. About this time the increasing demand for white rope and the limited quantity of Manila hemp available led to a rise in the value of New Zealand hemp from £21 to £56 per ton, and even to £76 in America during the Civil War. These high prices stimulated the endeavour to introduce Phormium to compete with Manila, and several machines were invented for rapidly producing the fibre from the green leaf. With these machines the export trade again increased, so that from1866 to1871 the yearly average was about £56,000. The total quantity exported between 1864 and 1876 amounted to 26,434 tons, valued at £592,218.
Quantity exported in 1878, 622 tons, valued at £10,666; in 1881, 1,308 tons, valued at £26,285 ; and in 1884 1,624 tons, valued at £24,500.
In order to encourage the industry the New Zealand Department of Agriculture has repeatedly offered bonuses for a machine which should be an improvement on the machines or processes in use, and which should be found to reduce materially the cost of production, improve the product, or increase the yield of dressed fibre. Another bonus was offered for a process for utilizing the waste products of the hemp. A considerable number of inquiries were made with regard to these bonuses, but apparently nothing resulted beyond some slight improvements in existing machines, and the adaptation of machines used in the preparation of other fibres.
Owing to the complaints of rope and cordage manufacturers with regard to the lack of uniformity in New Zealand hemp, parcels brought under the same classification and shipped from the same port varying in colour and preparation, the Government passed an Act in 1901 providing for the establishment of a grading station for the compulsory grading of all hemp exported. As a result of this the quality of the fibre rapidly improved, and the confidence of buyers has been secured.
It will be seen that in New Zealand the industry was started in a comparatively casual way, and that it was developed under conditions which were anything but highly favorable. ‘ Apart altogether from those facts, when the. industry had attained to some dimensions, and the hemp was being exported for sale, it still had to go subject to these two very glaring difficulties, first that it had not always been cultivated as well as it might have been, and secondly, that the leaves themselves had not been dressed by the most efficient machinery for the production of the largest quantity and best quality of fibre. Again, superadded to that, the industry has experienced a difficulty, in that many of the shipments from the same port, and of apparently the same quality, opened up in the markets abroad very variously, and it became necessary then for the Legislature to make the grading of hemp for export compulsory. Since then, according to the article in the Bulletin of the Imperial Institute, the quality of the fibre has rapidly improved, and the confidence of the buyers has been secured. Further on appears an interesting table giving the quantity and value of the exports of New Zealand hemp for every fifth year from 1856 to 1896, and for each year from 1897 to 1905. They range from 2 tons in 1861 - the extraordinary year to which reference was made in a quotation I made just now - 22 tons in 1856, and 45 tons in 1866, up to 27,877 tons, of a value of ?696,467, in 1905. In 1904, the total quantity of New Zealand hemp, including tow, exported amounted to 28,137 tons, of the value of ?714,147, and was distributed as follows :-TO the United Kingdom, 19,918 tons, of the value of ?506,832 ; to the United States of America, 3,949 tons, of the value of ?106,872. The rest went to South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and other countries in much smaller proportions. As evidencing the fact that this is a hemp that might with profit be commercially grown outside New Zealand, the article goes on to show what has been done in St. Helena -
Phormium tenax has been planted somewhat largely in St. Helena, and was cultivated successfully during the years 1S76-1S80. The largest amount of fibre exported in any one year was 615 bales in 1879, and the greatest value of the export (^1,890) was reached in 1880. A factory was established at Jamestown for extracting the fibre, but, as this was several .miles distant from the plantations, the cost of transport absorbed all the profit. The question of reviving this industry in St. Helena came to the front in 1904; and in 1905 an attempt was made to extract the fibre on a commercial scale. This effort did not meet with much success, owing partly to the difficulty of raising the necessary capital and partly to the fact that the machinery purchased was not altogether satisfactory. A further endeavour is being made at the present time to Te-establish the industry with Government assistance, and under the guidance of an expert from New Zealand. Samples of the fibre which have been forwarded from St. Helena to the Imperial Institute have been found to be of very good marketable quality.
It then proceeds to deal with the cultivation and production of New Zealand hemp in the Azores. Judging by an article of that kind, appearing in the Bulletin of the
Imperial Institute, we can approach the cultivation of New Zealand hemp with a fair degree of certainty that with proper attention successful results will ensue. It has been stated that the crop is only taken off every four or five years. I hold in my hand a report which was furnished by Mr. Knight, of the Victorian Department of Agriculture, under date 30th July last.
Mr. Knight confirms Senator Findley’s statement that the 50 acres referred to in Gippsland is under New Zealand hemp. After dealing with the ordinary hemp, Mr. Knight speaks of New Zealand hemp in these terms-
New Zealand hemp, or as formerly known New Zealand flax, is quite a different family altogether, is a perennial, and may be seen growing very luxuriantly in our street gardens, and in order to encourage its cultivation in this State I am now engaged in planting 50 acres in the Gippsland district for the purpose of testing its commercial value.
That goes to show that Senator Findley was not confusing New Zealand with other hemps, as Senator Chataway suggested. Later on Mr. Knight says -
From a careful estimation, it is thought that this crop can be made to yield from ^15 to ?20 per acre when properly established. -It will take from 4 to 5 years to become established, but after that an annual cutting may with care be made. In New Zealand, where the plants in their natural state are well and closely established, as much as ?9 or ?10 per acre is given by the millers for the right of cutting, which is done every third year; the plant is then cut down close to the ground, which . is a serious check to its growth, consequently it would not be possible to give any accurate description of what the yield would be when cut annually and the matured leaves only selected.
It is obvious that the method adopted ir? New Zealand does hot commend itself to Mr. Knight, who evidently considers that the plant should not be cut sp. close- to the ground, and that the leaves should not be taken indiscriminately. In spite of the adverse conditions, and the unscientific and crude methods adopted in the past, the industry has thriven remarkably well in New Zealand. We can confidently hope that by encouraging our own people to give proper attention to the cultivation of this plant in the Commonwealth, we may not only rival the New Zealand output, but with our much more extensive territory soon outstrip it, and put upon the markets of the world a very suitable hemp which would hold” its own under ordinary conditions with what are now regarded as the world’s superior productions. I confidently commend to the kindly consideration of the Committee the proposal to give ? bounty for New Zealand hemp.
.- T hardly think that the extracts which Senator Keating has just read, lengthy though they be, have answered the information and facts contained in the extracts read by Senator Chataway, from which J gathered that some difficulty is found ir? preparing New Zealand hemp for market, that the machines used are more costly than those for other fibres, and that some of the flax-growers of New Zealand are actually giving up growing flax there, and proceeding to parts of the Commonwealth, because they can grow sisal hemp” here better - an article which is more easily prepared for market. The extracts read by Senator Chataway confirm the .sentence which J. read to the Senate, during the second reading debate, to the effect that before the New Zealanders made the growing of flax payable they lost about £150,000 over it. Now, after establishing it, they find that another fibre can be more easily prepared, and, in the Commonwealth, more easily grown. All this goes to show that we have hardly entered the experimental stage. The Minister lias reminded us of what Senator Findley said about the Victorian Government planting 50 acres in Gippsland with New Zealand flax, to see if it can be profitably grown here. That bears out my argument that the States Governments ought to tackle this question through their Departments of Agriculture, and plant considerable areas, so that if it is a success they will have a sufficient quantity to use in factories or to export. Bounties amounting to £22,000 a year for four different kinds of fibre are a great deal too much. I hope the Committee will support Senator Chataway in leaving out the first of these four items. One of these flaxes or hemps must be better than others. If New Zealanders are finding out that New Zealand flax is not so good as sisal hemp, and are coming here to grow sisal, that ought to be a warning to us.
– How does the honorable senator account for the increased export from. New Zealand, and the increased prices obtained ?
– .Statistics can prove anything. The New Zealanders lost ;£i 50,000 before they made the industry a success. I do not say for a moment that they are not making a success of it, but they find that they can make a bigger success of sisal hemp. The Committee will be wise in knocking out one of these items. Shall it be New Zealand flax, flax and hemp, jute, or sisal hemp? In the Northern Territory Mr. Holtze, a Government employe, in the Botanical Gardens, has planted over 40 acres of sisal hemo, and is importing a machine to treat it. Are the Government of South Australia entitled to share these bounties? It would be rather a mistake to allow States Governments to take bounties from the Commonwealth, but in this instance 1 am so interested in the Northern Territory that I would have no objection to the South Australian Government getting the bounty. Under .the schedule of the Bill could the Government of South Australia make a claim ? Mr. Holtze is an expert. He is a practical agriculturist, and has picked out sisal hemp because he thinks he has the best chance of making . a success of it.
– Because sisal hemp will grow better in the Northern Territory than will New Zealand hemp.
– The New Zealand f aimers are beginning to see that it. will poy them better to come here to grow sisal hemp. Why throw away £22,000 of the taxpayers’ money to a few people to experiment in four different kinds df fibre? Can Mr. Holtze apply for the bounty?
– He can apply under “ sisal hemp.”
Sitting suspended from 6. JO to 7.4.5 *i.m.
– It is my intention to vote against this item.’ Some very strong reasons against its inclusion in the schedule have already been given. I direct attention to another. If we are to give in every instance the maximum amount in each year during which the bounties are to be payable we shall have to expend altogether £533,000, whereas the Bill appropriates only £412,500. If the full’ amount of the bounty proposed for New Zealand flax were given over the ten years period provided for,- the amount so expended would be £30,000, and if this item be not agreed to so much of the £120,500, . which we are not authorized by the Bill to spend, will be accounted for. I point out that if these items are all agreed to it will be very awkward after a time to say how much should be devoted as bounty in each year with respect to each item. Senator Chataway has stated that New Zealand flax compares unfavorably with sisal hemp. It has been said that what can be grown in New Zealand can equally well be grown here, but it is apparently forgotten that- the New Zealand climate differs from the climate of a very great part of Australia. They have in New Zealand a splendid rainfall, regular seasons, and good soil, and there is one important condition which cannot be found here, and that is that the natives of New Zealand cultivate the flax.
– It does not require cultivation ; it is a weed.
– If it does not require cultivation the Maories at least work up the article. I shall vote for the exclusion of New Zealand flax from the schedule.
.- I am surprised that Senator Walker, who has shown himself to be a level-headed man in dealing with most matters discussed in this Chamber, should consider that the fact that if the maximum amount is granted each year in respect of each “item in the schedule, the expenditure will total £533,000, whilst the total amount appropriated is only £412,500, is a satisfactory reason for voting against the inclusion of New Zealand flax.
– In addition to what
Ave have been told to the effect that New Zealand flax is not as good as sisal hemp.
– The statements made by Senator Chataway with regard to sisal hemp should carry some weight, but surely some importance should also be attached to the statement made by the Minister in reply to Senator Chataway. Conclusive evidence has been given that during the present year New Zealand flax has realized a much higher price in the English market than the sisal hemp, about which so much was said by Senator Chataway. We know that in Victoria, under Government supervision, experiments are now being made in the cultivation of New Zealand flax. In conversation with me the other day, Mr. Knight, one of the Victorian Government experts, stated that because of the manner in which the hemp was being treated in New Zealand there was a growing fear that it would not be very long before the plant would be exterminated from that Colony. It is because of its high quality and the high prices being realized for it that the Government of Victoria, acting on the advice of their experts, are experimenting, with a view to the establishment of the industry in this State. As the Minister has pointed out, the Imperial Government have in the past few years been experimenting in the cultivation of New Zealand flax. The bulk of the evidence goes to prove that the growth of this article is an industry which should be encouraged,- and as I- presume we are anxious to secure the establishment of industries which will be of advantage, not merely to one State, but to the whole of the Commonwealth, . I hope Senator Walker will not persist in his objection to this item.
I believe that after proper and -scientific experiments have been made we shall be led to the conclusion that the proposed expenditure, on this item is justifiable, and that it will lead to the establishment of a profitable industry in the Commonwealth.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [7.53]. - I oppose this item, and I make no secret of the fact that I shall oppose every item in the schedule, because I see no justification for heaping these burdens upon the people. The proposal that the people should be taxed to the tune of 150, 200, and 250 per cent, on articles of every day use in order that a bounty may be paid on the cultivation of a weed is one of the most scandalous outrages which any Ministry in any part of Australia, or of the world, ever mustered sufficient courage to be guilty of. I am not surprised at the outrageousness of the proposition coming from a. Government who have . recently given us an example of their capacity to vote in support of slander, and libel upon people who are not here to defend themselves. A Ministry that can do that sort of thing can vote to tax the people of* Australia, in the interests of wildcat schemes for which there is no justification in fact or sense. My honorable friends opposite may smile, and think that there is no method in my madness, but they will find that there is a great deal of method in my madness if they regard me as mad. As one who lived for some years as a boy in New Zealand, and who knows something about flax, I point out that, so far as Australia is concerned, this article is cultivated only by Chinamen for the tying up of bundles of vegetables. In this proposal the Government are appearing as advocates of Chinese labour. They are advocating the payment of a bounty to Chinamen to grow flax with which to tie up bundles of vegetables, and they gammon that this is establishing a great national industry. Great national industry be hanged !
– Do the Chinese tie up vegetables with rope?
– They would tie up the honorable senator with rope if they could get hold of him. New Zealand flax grows in a part of the Pacific which ought to be, and which would be, Australian waters if the present Government did their duty. I refer to the island of Norfolk, as it was called by Captain Cook, or to Norfolk Island, as it is now called. Honorable senators should be aware that this island is at present administered by one of the States of the Commonwealth - New
South Wales, to wit. This Government, this national Government, this Government that was going to dominate the Pacific, this tin-pot, barbed- wire-taxing Government, have not enough manhood, and not enough of what St. Paul calls “bowels of mercy “ - but to which I might apply a simpler and much more efficacious term, which I will lea.ve to the imagination of honorable senators - to take this little island in the Pacific, which is governed from Australia, under the brooding wings of their protectionist extravagance. Honorable senators will, no doubt, remember in connexion with the history of this interesting island, against which Captain Cook bumped up one morning, that there was some talk of the growing of flax’ there, and as soon as settlement had been made on the mainland of Australia, Lieutenant Philip Gidley King, of the Sirius frigate, was sent in command of the tender brig Supply, with a small party, to occupy Norfolk Island and cultivate the flax to be found there. Lieutenant Philip Gidley King afterwards became Captain Philip Gidley King, and the third Governor of Australia - because New South, Wales at that time was Australia, and it is a pity that it is not Australia today. New South Wales as a State has shown more capacity for developing national interests than the whole of the blessed caboodle called the Commonwealth has done. Lieutenant King’s party expected to find a plant something like the European flax plant, and it was by mere accident that they discovered that the flax they were looking for was what they had described as a plant of the Iris family. This is of importance, because we are dealing now with a proposal to develop an industry which was conceived in infamy and promoted by kidnapping. To the eternal disgrace of certain British officials, a ship was sent, I think* in command of the well-known explorer, Vancouver, to New Zealand to kidnap natives to be carried to Norfolk Island to develop the cultivation of the New Zealand flax - a public nuisance of a weed, the cultivation of which, after a lapse of 120 years or thereabouts we are asked to encourage in Australia by a tax upon the people. They did kidnap a number of natives, and the history of the affair is to be found in the Historical Records of New South Wales, if honorable senators are studious enough to consult them. These people had their little idea as to how to develop the flax industry. Here I must give credit to my honorable friends opposite. They know more -about the matter than did the officersof the British Navy 100 years ago. These officers kidnapped a couple of New Zealand chiefs - -just as if a New Zealand chieftain was such, a miserable slave as to know much about anything but war ! What became of the experiment I do not know, except that after some time these unfortunate kidnapped chiefs were returned to New Zealand; and from that day flax on Norfolk Island has never been recognised as- anything better than a pestilential weed. And here are my honorable friends, who know no more about New Zealand flax than they know about the Solar System as understood by the Grand Llama of Thibet, coming here with the proposal to pick the pockets of the people by means of a schedule for the cultivation of what is no better than a weed in a Chinese market garden !
– Is the Grand Llama of Thibet any relation to Mi Dooley ?
– I think it would suit the case of the honorable senator if the “ D “ in that name were removed, and an “ F “ put in its place. I will be no party to this kind of thing. How is this weed to be cultivated to achieve the bounty ?
– Ropes will be made of it> and the honorable senator knows the use to which they can be out.
– The honorable senator would, perhaps,, be more conveniently provided for with a chair with electrical attachments. I suppose he knows what that means.
– It is a gentlemanly method compared with the other.
– I always appreciate a remark according to the quarter from which it comes, and treat it accordingly. We are taxing the people to the extent of 40 or 50 per cent, on wire netting to keep rabbits out, in order that this bounty may be achieved for the cultivation of a weed. I will be no party to voting a bounty on flax which can only be paid for by raising the money through a tax on fencing wire. We are asked to spend £30,000 to encourage the cultivation of New Zealand flax. How can it be New Zealand flax if it is grown in Australia? Tt will be Australian flax, and I suppose there will be some “ tiddlewinking “ on that point. But to tax the netting which is necessary to protect growing crops to the tune of), hundreds of thousands of pounds, under the pretence of benefiting the people of the Commonwealth by the growth of New Zealand flax, is a proposal that cannot commend itself to any one outside a lunatic asylum. I have before me the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand for Wednesday, 28th June, 1905. An entry ‘ shows that it was resolved -
That Standing Order No. 218 be suspended, arid that a Committee of fourteen members be appointed to consider all matters pertaining to the agricultural and pastoral industries and stock, wilh power to confer and sit together with any similar Committee which may be appointed by the “Legislative Council, and to agree to a joint or a separate report; the Committee to have power to call for persons, papers, and records, three to be a quorum.
That Committee consisted of the following members : -
Messrs. Bollard, Buddo, Hogg, Kidd, Kirkbride, _ Lawry, Lethbridge, T. Mackenzie, McLachlan, Rhodes, Rutherford, Sir W. J. Steward, Symes, and the mover, Mr. Duncan.
They brought up a report from which I shall quote. I may ‘also have occasion to read extracts from the evidence to show that New Zealand flax will grow like weeds in a Chinaman’s garden, and that consequently the proposal to tax the people of this country to the extent of £30,000 is an absolute absurdity which should not be entertained for a single moment. The Committee stated in their report -
The Committee has the honour to report that communications were sent by authority to all the chambers of commerce, flax millers’ associations, and individuals known to be interested in the dax industry in the Colony, inviting witnesses to appear to give evidence.
They further said -
In response to this invitation twenty witnesses appeared before the Committee, which sat eight days taking evidence.
I have no doubt that the members of the Committee themselves, as residents of New Zealand, had some knowledge of N.ew Zealand flax, and understood what they were dealing with. I wonder how many days the Government devoted to this proposal to commit an outrage on the taxpayers of Australia. How long do they expect us to be in dealing with the item? This Committee sat eight days, but I suppose eight minutes would be nearer to the idea of the Government -
The Committee is of opinion that the evidence given is most valuable, and must be of great utility in guiding the Department of Agriculture in framing regulations to meet the requirements of the industry.
Where are the regulations, amended or unamended, to regulate this bounty upon which we are profligately squandering .the people’s money ?
The Committee strongly recommends that the Department be authorized to take immediate steps to promote by all available means the cultivation of flax, the evidence having conclusively shown the necessity of such a course.
Why ? Because land in New Zealand is available for its cultivation. This was a proposal to utilize waste places for the growth of this weed. For that reason it was considered desirable to cultivate it. But is that the proposition before us? Is not this merely a proposal to induce some people to grow New Zealand flax in order that they may scramble for money taken out of the people’s pockets?
The Committee does not feel justified in recommending that the export of inferior fibre should be prohibited.
What has been the whole course of our policy in regard to the export of Australian produce? Whether it be in regard to our butter, our cheese, our lambs, our ducks, our fruit; or even our rabbits, our policy has been to insist upon administrative supervision in order that inferior articles may not be exported to damn the reputation of the country. But here we have a Committee which recommends exactly the contrary course. It sars “ ship off rubbish.”
– What date was that?
– October, 1905.
– Who was chairman of the Committee?
– Mr. A. Lawry. No doubt he was a suitable person, but the Committee most unwisely recommended that any inferior article would do to pelt the mother country with, to the damage of the prospects of the more valuable community. Will any rubbish which is grown under the title of New Zealand flax earn the bounty, and be sent abroad to damage the reputation of Australian textile fibres? The last paragraph reads -
The Committee specially approves of the statement made by the Chief Grader -
It will be seen that they did grade, though the Committee recommended that the grading was doing mischief, and that so long as the article could be called flax it should be shipped - viz., that the Department intended by amended regulations to reduce the difference between the various grades of quality of dressed flax from 15 points to 7.
What all that means. I own/that I do hot know, because there is nothing to show what degree of excellence a point represents. We can imagine that 15 points represent the best article, and 7 points an article of 50 per cent, lower quality. I have had a very large and long experience as a fire and marine underwriter, and I know that there is nothing under Heaven more dangerous than New Zealand flax as an article to put in a ship’s hold, or in a warehouse. How many fine ships have gone to the bottom, burned from truck to water line as the result of carrying a cargo of New Zealand flax? How many fine stores in my own little city on Port Jackson have been destroyed by fire as the result of the stowage of a few bales of New Zealand flax? It is about as dangerous an article to handle as is gunpowder with a box of colonial-made matches in its immediate vicinity, and a few rats to set them alight.
– Notwithstanding that there is a fine export trade done in the article.
– I shall tell my honorable friend of the original export trade of flax from New Zealand, and I dare say that he knows nothing about the subject. It was made in exchange for Tower muskets - I mean- the old Brown Besses.
– They were both equally dangerous. ‘
– The honorable senator will not require anything of the kind. I know that he objects to anything like a deadly weapon. A gentleman who, with a capacity for eloquence unrivalled in the State, could slaughter a great modern newspaper, need not look for any more dangerous weapon than his own eloquence and splendid intellect. The original trade in New Zealand flax led to the destruction of the splendid Polynesian race who inhabited that country. It almost wiped them off the face of the earth. Traders from Australia went over there in the early part of last century, and their great game was to obtain flax. It was not cultivated as is proposed by this bounty, but grew as a weed. The natives worked day and night at dressing the leaves with the shell popularly known as Venus’ ear, and the flax, in bales, was exchanged for old Tower muskets weighing up to 20 lbs., and kicking like a Californian mule. Everything was done to achieve a great production of bales of flax to exchange for the old Brown Besses,- and as soon as a sufficient number of them were obtained off went the flax traders, leaving the natives to make a deadly assault upon the people of the next tribe, just as my honorable friends opposite are making a deadly assault on the pockets of Australians through the medium of this bounty. They are no better than political buccaneers; in fact, they are no better than the semi-piratical traders of the old days on the New Zealand coast, who handed over to the savages thousands of wretched old weapons with which to slaughter their, enemies. Then the next phase of this awful traffic in flax came to the front. The. heads of the natives who were shot with the Tower muskets were carefully cured, and the cured heads became the chief export of New Zealand when flax growing was pretty well at’ an end. That sort of thing has gone on with the knowledge of every man who has any right to be considered an Australian by virtue of knowing what has happened in the country in which he lives. I suppose that only a few persons like myself, who was imported fifty years ago, really know much about these matters. I do not think that the average Australian takes enough interest in the country of his birth ; he would rather read Deadwood Dick novels. There is a good deal to be said about the other kind of flax, but 1 shall deal simply with the question of New Zealand flax. One attribute of that article has not been mentioned in this debate I am quite sure, and that is the splendid cover which it afforded to the natives of New Zealand when they were fighting against the British in the sixties - not because they had any more excuse than that they would not sell any lands of their own, and did not want anybody else to sell. Having had a personal connexion with that war, and knowing something of its history, I can tell honorable senators that the .New Zealand flax affords magnificent cover ‘for infantry troops defending a locality in which it grows. It will grow to a height of quite 15 feet from the ground. Of course I do not mean to suggest that the leaves of the flax are of that length. They are perhaps from 6 to 8 feet long, but they grow from a big tuft of root which has gradually grown up just like a fern or palm tree grows, only that it is less ornate. This big tuft of rough matter grows to a height of from 2 to 3 feet above the ground. I suppose that it could not be battered down with artillery. Australia is taking no adequate steps to defend its shores by present methods, unless it is- by running in small schoolboys. If it is proposed to give
Will you be good enough to place your evidence in as concise a form as possible and afterwards members of the Committee, if they desire, will ask you questions?
Mr. Raymond said
Yes. I might say that I appear here on behalf of the (Invercargill) Chamber of Commerce in the dual capacity of an exporter of fibre and a manufacturer.
That being so, Mr. Raymond was, no doubt, qualified to give evidence -
Last year I was a very large exporter from the south, and had also six mills of my own working in connexion wilh the manufacture nf fibre, so that my evidence will not be in any way biased towards the millers or towards the fibre exporters. I think it would be well if I gave a little information as. to the condition of the industry last year in Southland. I have not travelled in the North island sufficiently extensively to speak about the conditions of the industry there. Last year was the boom year in Southland in so far as the flax industry was concerned, and I am satisfied that unless the replanting of flax is very vigorously pushed forward Southland will never reach the output of last season. There were seventy mills working in Southland last year with an export from the port of Bluff of 6,100 tons - that is, up to the 31st March - while 300 tons went northward, making altogether 6,400 tons of fibre produced in Southland. This represented a value of ?167,000.
That looks like a big industry which is well worthy of attention, but the value of the export was nothing like the value of rabbits exported from Australia, amounting to ?1,000,000 or more. But who will propose a bounty for rabbits? The only one that I know of is the proposal to tax wire-netting in the new Tariff. Large as are the figures I have , quoted, they are’ no proof that the export of flax represents any advantage to New Zealand, any more than the giant size of the Australian rabbit export trade represents anything but a national curse. Mr. Raymond’s evidence continues -
I notice that the Department of Agriculture has placed the value at £26 per ton, and I take it that this information is gleaned from the Customs export entries. Well, it seems to me, if I may say so, an excessive value.
Here is the very first witness denouncing the Government figures as inaccurate. Consequently, the sum of , £167,000 is an excessive estimate in the opinion of a man who is not only a trader but a manufacturer.
– According to the actual market quotations in London from 1903 to 1907, the price quoted in that evidence is very low.
– This witness says it is excessive.
– According to the Bulletin of the Imperial Institute, the actual prices in London in February last ranged from £37 10s. to £40 10s. per ton.
– The Imperial Institute exaggerates. No doubt, inordinately high freight and insurance charges are made for carrying such dangerous combustible stuff.
– The prices were as low asfrom£24 to £26 per ton in 1905, but that was the only year.
– I do not see how the price-list of the Imperial Institute can compare with the figures given by the owner of six mills, and a large exporter, who says -
It seems to me, if I may say so, an excessive value, because a great quantity of the fibre shipped from the port of Bluff was “ fair.”
That port, apparently, is the place from which this proposal took ship. If it did not start from the port of Bluff, I do not think that Jonah ever started from Joppa-
And no “fair” netted £25 per ton f.o.b. A large proportion only reached £23, but that is by the way.-
Which is right - this evidence taken on oath before a large Select Committee of the New Zealand Parliament from a manufacturer and exporter, or some list published in London on the evidence of the highly scientific chemist who rules or used to rule the destinies of the Imperial Institute?
– This information is supplied by the Intelligence Branchof the Board of Trade.
– The honorable senator need not quote the Board of.
Trade, when the Ministry of which he is a member is outraging every idea of that body in connexion with the proposed new Tariff. Mr. Raymond goes on -
There were over 1,200 men employed in the industry, so I think members of the Committee will see that so far as Southlandis concerned it is a very important industry, and apparently a money-making one.
There are over 1,200 men employed in the industry, and it is apparently a moneymaking one. I wish by way of illustration to ask how that compares with the rabbit curse in this country? It gives employment to a. great many more than 1,200 men, and provides a great deal of money for a great many people. . But does any one desire to extend it by the payment of a bounty ? There is a bounty on rabbits in the Tariff proposals, in the duty on wire netting, but none is proposed on the industry. Mr. Raymond proceeds -
However, when I tell the Committee that not more than 15 per cent. of the mills paid -
That is not very attractive. Fifteen mills paid out of 100 and the other eighty-five were a frost. That is a nice kind of industry to start here. When we can grow potatoes instead of importing them it is surely better that our people should be encouraged to do that than that we should induce them to embark on a wild-cat scheme for the growing of flax, and calling it hay, to feed milch cows with.
– Might not the witness referred to have been looking for some concession ?
– I have no doubt that the Chinese market gardeners, who are patronised by the present Administration, will see how much of this£3,000 a year they can secure in the ten years during which the bounty is to be payable. This is Mr. Raymond’s evidence -
However, when I tell the Committee that not more than 15 per cent. of the mills paid, and that no one miller earned over £ 1,000 -
Here we have 85 per cent.. of mills that did not pay, and of the 15 per cent. that did pay, none earned more than£1,000 a year. This is a glorious industry to drag over from New Zealand and start here with a bounty. It is absolutely incredible that any Administration with the smallest excuse for remaining outside the gates of Yarra Bend should put forward such a proposal. The witness goes on to say - - that with a fair approximation, fully £20,000 was lost in milling -
This is a nice proposal to submit as an excuse for a bounty.Ofwhat use will £3,000 a year be to an industry in which, in its own habitat, £20,000 a year is lost? Who instigated this lunatic Administration to propose anything so hairbrained and so utterly comic opera? The witness continued - instead of £20,000 being won - you will see that it is time this Committee or some other Committee took the matter up and endeavoured to stop the leakage.
To stop the leakage ! Why, this is a demand on the pockets of the people to bolster up an absurdity in the name of establishing a national industry. The witness continued - because the expenditure of this money, while very advantageous to the employes and plantmanufacturers, means ruination to the mill-owners, and this falls to some extent on the community.
Of course it does. Every £1 that is not earning a profit or interest is a waste to the community. This loss of £20,000 every year, whilst it falls in the first instance on a few men who are ruined, extends throughout the .community. We lose as much in Australia now in the lost endeavours of Australian energy as is beneficial to us as a community. I call Australia the land of lost endeavour, for there is perhaps no country in the world that is so pock-marked all over with evidences of human failure and loss. We do not want to add to these channels of leakage and to these intolerable assaults on the well-being of the struggling souls on the soil by bringing here a wretched weed and encouraging its cultivation by a bounty. The proposal is unheard of as a public scandal. In most of the States of the Commonwealth, and, to my knowledge, in Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, large sums of money are being spent to instruct the people on the .soil as to the most suitable crops for different belts of country. Money is being expended in experimental crops to act as guides to farmers. Who will afford guidance in connexion with this absurdity? There is no Commonwealth. Department of Agriculture. Only the other day honorable senators rejected a proposal for the establishment of something of the kind which would have been q£ use perhaps in teaching people where to plant this flax, if it is to be planted in Australia. It will not be planted here, with my permission, under these conditions. I am satisfied to leave the Chinamen to tie up their bundles of parsnips with it. Referring to what I said just now of the lost endeavour of men who have, with hardihood unequalled, and courage beyond all praise, attempted the growth of vegetation of one kind or another in different parts of Australia, I suppose that tor one who has succeéded a thousand have failed. One could not travel along some of the main railway lines in New South Wales a few years ago, before the system of . instruction for the growers was in vogue,, without passing vast pipe-clay patches, where men, with all the courage of strong hearts and the energy of strong right hands, had started to grow wheat on a pipe-clay bottom, knowing no better. Who knows any better where to plant flax in Australia? I may be speaking a little more strongly than- usual on this occasion, but surely I have warrant for it? It is impossible to introduce into the country exotics such as New Zealand flax and Angora goats and expect these exotic industries to be carried on with success without instruction. Are we to introduce flax seeds or plants from New Zealand ; and are we to dibble them in the sand down at Scarborough, or whatever the name of the place is? I have seen land on the Brighton line that would be very suitable for the growth, of New’ Zealand flax, but it is at present utilized for market gardens, and market gardening at Brighton pays better than a return of 85 per cent, of failures in the flax industry in New Zealand. New Zealand flax cannot be grown on sand hills or on basalt ridges. You must have damp flats for its cultivation. I quote again from Mr. Raymond’s evidence -
The question naturally arises, what is the cause of this great loss in handling the raw material ?
Here we have, in a concrete form, and in less than a line, the statement that there is great loss in handling the raw material. The witness continued -
I think the primary cause is incompetency in -management.
If in the home of the New Zealand “flax plant after British people have been trained there for 100 years, and have been handling and preparing the article for at least fifty years, we find one of the large operators in the industry admitting that there is great loss in the handling of the raw material, and that that loss is due to incompetency, I ask, where on earth is the element of competency to be found in the Commonwealth? Who is competent to conduct the industry here? Whom are the Government going to get to give useful information to the unhappy people who will venture their all in the hope of scooping some of this £30,000? I denounce this proposal, as I. shall denounce others in the schedule, as a most unworthy effort to lead honest men from endeavours to achieve a competency for themselves and . their families, when these producers of experience in New Zealand, with all the assistance derived from the aboriginal race, are unable to make a success of the industry. When I speak of the aboriginal race of New Zealand, I do not mean that the Maoris are absolutely aboriginal, because the Maoris came as the successors of an earlier race, the remnants of whom are now to be found in the Chatham Islands. The present Maori race probably came, not, as some wiseacres have said, from Central Asia, but from Central America, and are the descendants of the ancient people of Maya.
– I ask the honorable senator not to discuss the origin of the Maoris.
– I did not intend to say any more about them. If the New Zealand people, with the assistance of the natives in New Zealand, who for generations have handled flax, and if the Britishers, who have handled it with all the resources of machinery, cannot produce it successfully, what kind of fate may be expected to overtake those inhabitants of this country who, induced by this miserable, contemptible, degrading little bounty, are likely to be led from reasonable paths of industry into an agricultural gamble to win a stake, not to achieve an industry ? The result will be similar to that which occurred in the case of a factory which was established in Victoria a few years ago, when a bounty of .£5,000 was spent for the production of so many yards of tweed. A factory was expressly built, machinery was put into it, the tweed was made, and the bounty was paid. I suppose that any one could have bought the remnants of that industry a little while after for a few pounds. It went into liquidation. A similar fate overtook the Maffra sugar business. Mr. Raymond also said -
I think the primary cause is incompetency in management, and yet I know - I am speaking from experience - one of the most practical millers I had in my employ - a man who had been fifteen years in the industry, and who could turn out 90 per cent, of “ good fair “ grade - made the greatest loss for me.
So that, after fifteen years of experience, the most competent man employed by the owner of these mills only succeeded in making the greatest loss to his employer -
So there was a case of an experienced miller and yet a man incapable of making a financial success of the undertaking. It may be argued that the Government have nothing to do with a private enterprise such as the fibre industry ; but I take it that it should be considered much on the same lines as the dairy industry, and I am convinced that some steps will have to be taken to remedy the existing condition of things-
Honorable senators will notice that the statements which I am reading abundantly bear out my own personal statements concerning this, industry with which I commenced my remarks -
There are so many matters of detail in the management of a mill, and it is in matters of detail that the losses take place, so I am satisfied that the time has arrived when the Government should appoint, say, two instructors.
The Government are not .doing anything like that in this case. They are simplyputting their hands into the pockets of the people. ‘ And remember that under the Braddon section of the Constitution they have to draw out of those pockets 15s. in the £1 more than is required for these wretched bounties. “So that to raise the £30,000 asked for this miserable vegetable eccentricity we shall have to tax the people of Australia to the tune of £120,000. Such a proposal is an infamy, and I regard it as my bounden duty to oppose it.
– Is the Braddon section going to last for ever?
– It will last longer than the honorable senator will. Will the Minister give me a pledge on behalf of this wild-cat Government that they are going to afford the people who will be inveigled into this misery the benefit of instruction by experts from New Zealand to show them how to make even a decent bid for a share of the. result of this assault upon the taxpayers? Why does not the Government annex Norfolk Island in an orthodox manner, and utilize the New Zealand flax that is growing there ? Perhaps they intend to subsidize a few “ Chinkies “ who have, grown bundles of flax in their market gardens, on the principle that their experience will be sufficient to provide an excuse for taking £120,000 out of the pockets of the1 taxpayers for this miserable eccentricity. Mr. Raymond proceeds -
The men to be appointed should, in addition to being practical men, have made dax milling a financial success on their own account. That is a material point. Of course, to secure such men a substantial salary would have to be given, “because a man who can make a success at milling ought to make his £800 or £1,000 a year. Some of these men may have cut out their areas of flax, and may be devoting their energies in other directions, so the Government might be able to secure such a man at a fair salary. I -do not think the services of good men should be lost for the sake of a few pounds when the life of the industry is to a great extent at stake.’ These instructors should have a full knowledge of the class of fibre or standard of fibre required *by the home or foreign consumers and manufacturers.
These remarks made by an expert show that it is not merely the growing of the plant that is necessary to establish an industry. There must ‘ be large expert knowledge and experience to enable the growers to arrive’ at success. In the light of this information there is only one excuse to be offered for the Government - that they do not care If that is their excuse, God help a country that is governed by a “don’t-care” Administration ! But there is not the smallest evidence that Ministers, either in the Senate or in another place, mean to do anything more than throw out this bait of £3,000 a year for ignorant, incompetent, and unfortunate people to scramble for. These are the people who not many years . ago passed a measure to put a stop to Tattersalls sweeps. My God ! Tattersail’s sweeps are not half as much a fraud upon the people as this wretched piece of humbug. I am astounded that Ministers should have the. audacity to dare to look at themselves in the glass when they shave, after bringing forward a proposal like this. I am ‘perfectly amazed that they dare to pursue such a policy of reckless indifference and spendthrift squandering as is involved in these proposals. Mr. Raymond remarks -
The instructor should be able to go into a mill and inform the man in charge exactly how to set his machine in order to bring out the class of fibre required, and he should also be a thorough master of gearing - that is to say, he should know exactly how to set his machinery to secure the maximum amount of power with the minimum post of fuel.
I dare make the most solemn assertion -that no member of this Ministry knows half as much about New Zealand flax as is contained in those few lines of evidence j but by the time I have read as much of it as appears to be heedful to inform these ignorant Ministers, I hope they will know something about it. I draw attention to the statement of Mr. Raymond about the necessity of conserving the fuel. With a view to curtailing my remarks as far as possible, I shall not discuss where the fuel is to come from beyond saying that if it is to be the brown coal of Victoria, Heaven help the unfortunate people, but that if it is to be the good coal of New South Wales, there may be a chance for them. Mr. Raymond continues -
In the south I am satisfied that thousands have been lost during the last year or two owing to an imperfect knowledge of how to set up the machinery.
Is there one member of the Senate - I dare swear there is no Minister - who has the remotest knowledge of the cost of the machinery suitable to handle a single acre of flax? Here we see the initial difficulties staring us in the face. On those points at least I speak with personal knowledge, although it is a long time since .it was gained. As regards the manufacture of flax, I confess that I know nothing, but I have informed myself, as I hope others have been informed, by the evidence of this manufacturer and exporter. I may tell the Vice-President of the Executive Council that I have been quoting the evidence of the owner of six mills, and a very large exporter, “who told a Select Committee in New Zealand that 85 per cent, of- the mills in Southland have been a failure,- and that not one of the others has earned more than £1,000 a year. Where is the excuse for offering this bounty ? First of all there is the difficulty of soil, climate, and rainfall ; next there is the’ supreme difficulty of knowing how best to grow the plant under exotic- conditions, and then come the questions of. putting .up buildings, purchasing machinery, and running it. We are told here over and over again that only men of large experience who have made a success of the industry are suitable as Government guides to assist the people who live amongst the flax to make a success of its. growth or manufacture. How can it be grown here under conditions of complete novelty, and with no instruction? Mr. Raymond continues -
Such” an instructor would inspect the leaf in connexion with the respective mills-
I suppose that the Ministry do not know the difference between good and bad flax, or even between the male and female plants - and advise the miller of the class of fibre his mill ought to turn out therefrom.
How can we make a success of a new industry under such conditions? Who will. take the risk? We shall have hundreds of persons scrambling for the bounty, and every one of them making a failure. I tell honorable senators that if they pass the Bill and waste public money on the industry it will be a ranker failure than the Maffra sugar beet industry.
– If the growers do not turn out the flax they will get no bounty.
– Hear, hear !
– That shows the recklessness of the Minister and his present supporter. They do not care how many persons are ruined. Here is a bait for political support.’
– That is not correct. We do care.
– I was not referring to my honorable friend, because I believe that he does care for his public responsibility, but to Senators Best and McGregor, whose remarks clearly show that their only concern is that if the experiment is not a success no bounty ‘shall be paid. In the meantime, how many persons will be ruined ? Does not Senator McGregor care for the ruin of honest effort, the de,struction of homes, and the poverty of wives and little children in order that a political bait may be hung out like a bunch of carrots to lure a donkey to ruin? Mr. Raymond proceeds -
A number of “ raw “ millers contract to supply “ good fair “ from diseased or short leaf -
What do the Government know about short leaf? Would they know a diseased leaf when it was shown to them? - with the result that a very large proportion of the fibre goes into the tow-box - to the loss, of course, of the material - which should have gone into fibre. If a miller has an inferior leaf it will never pay to attempt to turn out a high grade fibre. Then there is the setting up of the mills. Suitability of sites as to water, -
There again I come to another phase. Flax cannot be prepared in flax mills without a superabundance of water. The supply must be unlimited, and, of course, it cannot be got in a city. Where is it to be obtained ? Can the Minister tell me that there is land available at a reasonable price - I mean land with damp soil and containing a certain amount of richness - in the immediate vicinity of a large and practically unlimited water supply? Will he say that that sort of accommodation can, be found at a price for an experiment of this sort? Why, sir, it is an imposition upon the credibility or common-sense of any human being. The experiment must end in the most pitiable failure. If Senator* Best will intimate that he is prepared to ,drop the item, I shall refrain’ from further dissertation on the mischief that it will entail. Mr. Raymond says -
Suitability of sites as to water, and paddock ground and carting, is an essential towards the success of milling. In this direction I am satisfied a capable man would be of invaluable assistance to many millers. Some millers may not perhaps desire advice from a Government instructor, but I am satisfied 90 per cent, would be only too glad to have such adviceavailable, provided the right man is appointed. It would be a serious matter if the wrong man, were appointed,’ because millers who have a certain amount of knowledge and experience ia connexion with milling may be wholly guided by such men, and, if incompetent, disaster would1 inevitably follow.
So long as the Government do not lose any money, they do not care a brass farthing how much disaster may ensue to the unfortunate persons who will be inveigled into this agricultural pitch-and-toss, this confidence trick. Here is a glittering, bauble of thirty thousand sovereigns offered for growing a weed. What ought not tofollow to a Ministry which is capable of hoodwinking the people with such a silly, unwarrantable - I was almost going to say, fraudulent - proposal, but the use of that word might not be considered polite or proper. There are things which are worse than frauds. There is a criminal recklessness which very often is worse in its effects than a deliberate imposition. This is one of those pieces of political recklessness which can never do otherwise than redound to the discredit of. the Government. Mr. Raymond proceeds -
The next important reform is the question of arriving at the proper standard of fibre desired by the foreign manufacturers.
Which member of the Ministry knows what standard of New Zealand flax is required by foreign manufacturers? Judging by, their’ Tariff the Government are determined, if possible, to restrict commerce with the very foreign buyers who, according to. this expert authority, require consideration. Where does their policy of preferential trade come in?
– We have a large home market.
– -yes, when we have made an article which can be sold. We have a large home market for rabbits as well as New Zealand flax. Mr. Raymond continues -
I have handled considerable quantities during the last two years, and I have had no complaints :from my foreign buyers on the score of irregularity of grading, or any expression of dissatisfaction with the fibre they have received. They have, however, stated that thev think we aim at too fine a class of fibre - that a coarser fibre would suit their requirements, and would suit them better providing the fibre was entirely free from diseased leaf, knots, and other evidence of imperfect stripping, 4uc.l1 as backs and feather edges. In that connexion I am inclined to think, though a miller, that the. Government Grader should’ seriously penalize the miller who sends in stripped diseased leaf among “good fair” fibre. “As far as my own mills are concerned, I have sent out circulars to the millers, telling them that when the classers find a diseased leaf they should put it to one side, and if it is not seriously destroyed “by worm, it, it could be put through the mill afterwards and used in a lower grade fibre.
The moral of all this is that the industry is a ticklish and pernickety one, and not a simple pursuit such as the production of potatoes or onions. Yet, we are proposing to take a large sum out of the tax-payers’ pockets to support a rackety show of this “kind -
I have been in the grading stores at Bluff, and have seen “ good fair “ fibre come in, and through each bale a quantity of diseased leaf appeared. The grader was thus placed in the position of not knowing what to do with the line.
Again, f quote this to show the intricate character of the industry that is to be entered upon so lightheartedly by people who have no possible means of obtaining any “knowledge in connexion with it -
I now come to the question of re-casting of points. I have always felt that the readjustment of points was an absolute necessity. Personally, I see no reason to retain on the schedule No. 1 grade (“superior”). I am satisfied that only a small proportion of the output of the Colony comes within that category. . . . . I have been asked for the No. 2 grade (“ fine “), but only on rare occasions. I think ten points only between the various grades would te a desirable change. L disagree entirely with the fifteen points now existing between “ fair “ and “ good fair “ - that is between 60 and 74 points.
The varied character of the product is shown by the fact that 74 points are required to adequately express the difference in quality between the different classes of fibre -
In support of this contention, one has only to possess the knowledge of the value assessed by home buyers on “fair” fibre as against “good fair” for the last year or so. Three years ago about £i a ton was considered a fair margin, but latterly from £2 10s. to £3 per ton has been insisted upon, because the home buyer, while buying fair fibre that might reach 70 points or 73 points, stood a chance of receiving fibre that went only 60 points - one point removed from “ common “ - therefore he had to base his calculation on the minimum grade that he might bc supplied’ with. This marginal allowance meant a serious loss to the miller, and I believe the excessive range in points has had a great deal to do with the disinclination of home buyers to operate freely for the “ fair “ grade.
Another difficulty- that will face those who are inveigled into this industry by the Tattersall-sweep inducement of a promised bounty is this: Where are the buyers to come from for the little lots that will be grown here? Will it pay buyers to come from New Zealand ? In some of the earlier years, the quantity raised will be very small. Who will buy it? Mr. Raymond says -
At the Chamber of Commerce, Invercargill, I advocated this re’form some considerable time ago, and I understand now that the De:partment is favorably disposed to such an alteration. While dealing with this question, I think it would be in the interests of the industry if fibre under the “ common “ grade was absolutely prevented from leaving the Colony. “ Common “ is hot sought much after at home, but inter-colonially there is a considerable quantity sold. There is another matter which I air. satisfied, should be given effect to, and that is a reform in the method of tagging. ‘‘At present graders place a tag at one end of the bale denoting the grade, which can easily be removed in transit or at home, and another tag substituted.
Although that evidence was given some years ago, the very thing he refers to is complained about now in the telegraphic news from the old country in regard to other Colonial produce. There are conditions to be considered as to the weight of the bale of flax. The question whether the bales should be z cwt. or 5 cwt. was discussed at length. Mr. Raymond states -
Uniformity is desirable for many reasons. Personally, I think a. bale of 4 cwt is a very fair weight. There is one matter I omitted to mention. I think the grader should place on the tags which he inserts in the bale the number of points that that particular line has reached.
Bearing out my statement about cheap fencing being absolutely necessary for the industry, Mr. -Raymond says -
In Southland, owing to the ravages of stock, the cutting of , flax in the winter time or off season, and the cultivation of the land, I am satisfied we shall never reach within 50 per cent, of last season’s output unless flax planting is vigorously proceeded with. With this object in view I am of opinion that the Government should consider the advisableness of empowering the Land Boards to acquire suitable areas from existing pastoral tenants or small grazing runholders when such! are applied for, because in many such cases the land is not bringing in a halfpenny per acre to the Crown, while it is capable of growing flax suitable for milling and flax containing the least amount of vegetation.
In the south hill-flax will turn out from 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. more fibre than flax off’ river flats. I know of many suitable localities in Southland convenient to railways and roads, the land held by pastoral tenants, with whom of course one cannot deal in the way of making any arrangement about planting, and one has to close down owing to the supply running short.
This gentleman proposed that land owned by the Government of so little value that it did not bring in½d. an acre, should be utilized. There is scarcely an acre of land in any of the settled States that does not bring in more than that. Are the Government in a position to provideone acre of land for the purpose of this industry ? This witness, who is an experienced man, advocates the taking in hand of the industry as a Government affair, but the Minister in charge of this Bill throws down his £30,000 bribe at the expense of the taxpayers, saying, in effect, “ You can scramble for it.” I would sooner put my money into Tattersall’s sweeps, although I have never put a copper into them yet. Mr. Raymond gives particulars of cost, which will givehonorable members some idea of what they are so lightheartedly entering upon -
It may be information to the Committee if I state that the average amount of green leaf to the ton of fibre in the south is about 8 tons. .
If it takes 8 tons of green leaf to produce 1 ton of fibre, then, at the price suggested of about £24 per ton, a man would have to grow leaf for £3 a ton -
Last year it took 9 tons, owing to it being a “ korari “ year, and of course this extra ton meant a cost of fully £1 2s. per ton more on the green leaf.
That does not strike one as being a monumental method ofmakingmoney -
I should assess the cost to the miller in the south last year of green leaf to the ton of fibre -i.e., royalties cutting, and carting - at £10; on paper and on the information supplied by practical men the actual cost of milling and placing f.o.b. should not exceed £9 per ton, or a total of £19, that is allowing a fairmargin for contingencies. The average price for fibre f.o.b. was, say, £25 per ton, so there is an apparent margin of £6 per ton, and, as a fully equipped mill should turn out at least 130 tons, this should represent a profit of £780.
– One hundred and thirty tons in what time?
– I take it that what is meant is that 130 tons are turned but in a season, because this witness speaks of the destruction of flax plants by cutting in the winter. I take it that these figures represent, a season’s work, and that is to say a year’s work. The witness continued -
Some mills sold their outputs at £28 10s. f.o.b. I have a mill where the green leaf costs me only 13s. 6d. delivered…..
Here is a beautiful chance for our people to grow flax as an exotic in Australia for a bounty, and get 13s. 6d. per ton for it. I do not wonder that this information falls with a chill on the Vice-President of the Executive. Council, who is responsible for this proposal as one of half-a-dozen ignorant enthusiasts. I do not use the term “ ignorant “ offensively, and perhaps I had better say that they are enthusiasts lacking knowledge. We are being asked to vote £30,000 as a bounty to induce people to grow flax worth 13s. 6d. per ton. The witness continued - but the royalty is low, the flax is convenient to the mill, and cutting is only 4s. per ton. The average price last year was 5s. 6d. to 6s.
That is evidently the price paid for cutting. Then the witness was asked alarge number of questions, which it would, perhaps, be difficult to convey any knowledge of, because in many cases the questions are about as long as the answers.
– Then the honorable senator should take the next witness.
– I propose to do so. On Thursday, the 28th September, 1905, Edward Charles Frost, flaxmiller, Tuakau, was examined. Amongst other statements he made to the Committee he said -
I just went around to a few of the merchants who are the largest buyers in Auckland as to any complaints they have.
This is a witness from the other end of New Zealand. I should like to have a quorum present, as it is a pity to waste all this good matter. [Quorum formed.] The evidence of the last witness to whom I referred, it will be remembered, was with reference to the condition of affairs in the flax industry in the Middle Island of New Zealand. The witness Frost gave evidence with reference to the state of affairs at Auckland, in the northern part of the Northern Island. He said -
In Auckland the conditions are altogether different from Wellington with flax coming in and going out. At present we have only two grading sheds gazetted in which we can have flax graded.
I point out that not only is there a very great difference in the condition of the flax industry at the northern end of the Northern Island as compared with the conditions at the southern end of the Middle Island,. but this witness says that there is a very great difference between the conditions of the industry at Auckland at one end of the Northern Island and the conditions at Wellington at the southern end of the same island. We have therefore three differences in the condition of the industry within a very small area. These differences will be intensified tenfold here, in view of the differences of climate and rainfall, which will be found in the portions of Australia in which people might unhappily be induced to make useless efforts in pursuit of this ignis fatuus of a bounty. The witness Frost further said -
At present we have only two grading sheds gazetted in which we can have flax graded. A good percentage of it goes away undumped and does not require to go into a shed at all. The merchants and millers feel very keenly where they are compelled to have two or three cartages. Where they are compelled to take it into the dumping shed and out again, they feel that that is a great hardship. At the beginning of ‘this month I determined not to sell my flax, that I would send it into the store. I must cart it to the dumping shed, cart it in and out again, and if I do not want to have it dumped I “have to pay rs. per ton storage for it. My people have a good shed. I have dealt with them for seventeen years.
I am quoting no amateur authority, but aman whose opinion ought to be valued, as I hope it is, by my honorable friends who are fathering this bounty extravaganza. If it were a little nearer Christmas, I should be disposed to describe it as a political harlequinade. The witness further said-
They are large buyers, and they have a shed which will hold a considerable amount of flax. T’he Grader has to pass this shed every morning and go to the other. I gave instructions to put the flax in this shed at the beginning of the month, waiting for a rise. ‘ It goes into the shed, and when it is sold I have to have it carted out to get graded. If it is not going into the shipping company’s vessels, not going to be dumped, I have to pay an extra charge for cartage. What we would ask the Committee to recommend is that within a radius of threequarters of a mile of the shipping any merchant should have the option of putting any quantity of flax he likes in a shed, and have it graded there without any expense of removal attached to it. I often get a telegram, “ Send me down till you have got. Mail steamer in.” I should not be penalized with the . expense of putting it into the grading shed, waiting until the Grader goes round, and taking it out again.
This is evidence of the complex conditions surrounding the industry, and it shows how impossible it is to hope for any success from this bounty experiment, when no pro- vision is made for machinery, for inspection, advice, grading, and all the rest of it. It is indeed impossible to hope for any result but disaster to the people . who, through this bounty, which I oppose, may be induced to put their money and their energy into an enterprise which can bring them only loss and sorrow. There is a great deal in the evidence dealing with the damage to flax left in railway trucks at sidings, and all that sort of thing, but that is probably of little value, because similar difficulties might not be experienced in Australia. There is a great deal on the subject of grading in this gentleman’s evidence, and as there is a wide difference of view between the Minister and this witness, I shall give some further evidence from Mr. Frost to show that Ministers are absolutely being misled, and that they are the blind leading the blind in this business, when they speak of £36 and £40 a ton for flax. Who in the name of common sense led them to entertain such extravagant ideas? Mr. Raymond put the value at £26 f.o.b. We’ shall see what Mr. Frost has to say. He says -
I am ashamed when I look- into the sheds at Auckland and see the flax. I say the grade of flax has gone down seriously. On Monday morning the quotation in Auckland was .£24 for “ F.A.Q.” and £27 for “ G.F.” flax.
I am unable to explain what those figures represent -
Flax at 73 points fetches £24, and flax at 75 points fetches £27. I want to see the man who will show me that there is a difference of £3 a ton in it.
It does seem - a little remarkable that a difference of two points in over 70 points should make a difference of £3 in value, but these figures absolutely contradict the ridiculous estimates which the Government put forward, and on which they are asking the Committee to vote this bounty. They have stated prices of .£30 and £40 per ton, whilst we have witnesses from the extreme southen end, as well as from the extreme northern end of New Zealand, giving the same evidence, and estimating the price of the article at from ,£24 to £26 per ton. Mr. Frost further said -
I can make fine flax, but I do not intend to. It pays me better to. make a low grade. I take it that none of us is here, sir, for the benefit of the country. We are here to make money. I say if we only had five points to work to it would be a far greater inducement to work within those.
He gives a great deal of information with reference to these points by which flax is graded. I should like very much to go into that matter, but, perhaps, it would take me too long. - Senator Keating. - The prices I -gave for 1905 were £24 to £26 per ton. Last
February the prices were from £37 10s. to £40 10s. per ton.
– One reason for the increase of price was the falling off in the supplies from New Zealand.
– That is a reason for commencing the industry in Australia.
– The same argument would apply to the falling off in the supply of rabbits from New Zealand.
– The price has recovered since 1905.
– This witness’ evidence indorses my argument. He goes on to give information with reference to the industry, per se, and says -
An instructor would be a boon to the colony. Incompetent millers mean a loss to the colony as well as the individual. Another matter as to what the Government should do as regards’ an instructor is to instruct those who are desirous of carrying it out as to how to grow the seed.
So that instruction is even required in the growth of seed.’
I know plenty of people who gathered bushels of seed last year, but they cannot make it grow.
I have grown New Zealand flax in my own grounds. I have taken’ the seed from the seed pods, but have never succeeded in germinating one plant.
– Yet the honorable senator says thatthe plant grows wild.
– In its own habitat, and under favorable conditions as to seasons. This witness says that he has. known people who have gathered bushels of seed, but have been unable to make them grow. There are times and seasons affecting plant life, and it is the same in regard to animal life,which militate against success. Plants just like animals and human beings, become sterile under unfavorable conditions. That remark particularly applies to exotics. Is it not a well known fact that in India Europeans become sterilized in four generations? The same applies to plants when the conditions under which they are grown are unfavorable to their perpetuation. Sometimes there will be a plague of mice in a country district, and after a while the mice will disappear with the same suddenness with which they arrive. No one can understand it.. Mr. Frost proceeds -
Some say “scald it,” others, “steam it,” others “boil it.” I think that if the Government were to take it up it would be very valuable, and if they would give us experimental stations I should be very glad.
He also says -
I don’t know how to grow seed. I think that would be very valuable for the industry. The acquisition of land for those willing to plant is another question I should like to bring forward.
This witness wanted the Government to supply land so that people might nothave to grow flax on their own little plots.
There are a good many millers, and if they could get small areas - say 100 acres or so - they would go in for planting it - that is, in suitable places - if the Government would give them lands on suitable terms, leaving it optional if they leased it or bought it. The result would pay the colony. Of course there is a very largeoutlay in planting flax.
I do not believe that the Government have given any attention to that matter.
I believe Mr. Williams has planted about 250. acres at the Waikato. It would cost over £10 an acre to plant it, It has cost him a good deal more. If the Government would help a man to acquire the land as near his mill as possible it would be important. I go 20 miles on the river.. That is a point I would like to urge. Last year out export of flax was about three-quarters of a million.
– Those passages do not confirm the statement made by the honorable senator that the industry was carried on by Chinamen.
– I did not say that it was carried on by Chinamen in New Zealand. I said that the Chinese in Australia grow New Zealand flax, which they use as string for tying up vegetables. Every , one knows that. There are a considerable number of patents for handling flax, and fresh ones are frequently taken out. This witness says on that point -
There is another matter of a patent I wish to bring before the Committee. It is just going to be tried in Auckland. The process catches, washes, and scrapes the hanks uniformly and) leaves them dry, and works automatically.
– I gave the Committee information as to the machinery used.
– I will not make further extracts from the evidence of this witness, but will pass on to Mr. Oswald Gardner, flax miller of Kereru. His remarks are lengthy, and they support the evidence of previous witnesses. He says, for instance- -
Our proposal did not go as far as that made by Mr. Frost, but we make the difference ten. points in a particular grade. Another question referred to by the last witness was the raw material. This is a question that all the millers are anxious about, because undoubtedly the more we cut our flax the weaker it gets-, and we find in time the Quantity obtained per acre is much lower than it was. some years ago. Many in the Manawatu district have, been planting flax-both with seeds and with plants, and we have been fairly successful; but I should like to point out that there are a number of different qualities of flax. Some will produce one ton of fibre from <64 tons of the raw material, while others will produce io tons per ton of’ heap. I do not think that any. millers have made the experiment us to what is the best quality to plant.
What particular quality of flax does the Government propose to grow in Australia? Have they considered that matter? Do they know that whilst one variety produces one ton of fibre from 6J tons of raw material, others will only produce a ton of fibre from 10j tons. Evidently the Government have no information on that, point.
Senate adjourned at 10.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 September 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070911_senate_3_38/>.