3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Delivery of Newspapers - Undermanning
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral why newspapers which arrived from Sydney mid-day yesterday were not delivered until this morning? If it is due to the undermanning of the Melbourne Post Office, I ask whether the Government think it justifiable to allow this state of things to continue, seeing that during the past six . years the Commonwealth has returned to the States , £6,000,000 more than the Constitution required to be paid?
– I hope to be able to furnish a reply on Tuesday next.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from . 6th February, vide page 7894):
Division IV. - Agricultural Products and Groceries.
Item 65. Grain and Pulse, prepared or manufactured, viz. : -
Upon which Senator Clemons had moved -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by making Corn Flour free.
– I am greatly disappointed at the little progress which has been made with the schedule during the past fortnight. Honorable senators must admit that the public has a right to expect that we shall have finished with the Tariff by the nth March, a date which, in my judgment, gives us ample time within which to do the work. I wish to avoid night sittings, and therefore give notice that next week I shall ask the Senate to meet at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Should that expedient fail there will be no alternative but to sit very much later from time to time ; because the work must be got through.
– Why not sit all night ?
– Or on Mondays.
– We can hardly sit day, and night, too. I acknowledge that I am powerless without the cordial cooperation of honorable senators.
– When does the honorable gentleman suggest that we should rise each night?
– At 11 p.m., provided that we have made good progress-. During the past fortnight we have been very dilatory, not having done more work than should have been done in half-an-hour. I do not propose any alteration of the hours of meeting next week; but I think. that we should, by Thursday, have dealt with Divisions IV. and V. If we have not done so, I shall invite honorable senators not to terminate the sitting until the consideration of Division V. has been finished. I think, however, that with the cooperation of honorable” senators we can get through our work without sitting unduly long. What we should do is to vote, and not to talk.
– If necessary, I shall confine my, remarks to the request now before the Committee; but I feel that in this matter even Senator Clemons will not think that I am unduly trespassing. I am sure that he is anxious to proceed with our work as expeditiously as possible. I should not have risen except that the later utterances of the Vice-Plresident of the Executive Council seemed to suggest in some way that a certain section of honorable senators were to blame.
– I made no reference to any section at all.
– If it was intended
– It was not.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber would have every reason to resent it. If, on the other hand, the Minister’s remarks merely conveyed a regret that more progress had not been made, we can indorse therm I also want to point out, as I have done before, that it is hardly reasonable for one side to plead for expedition on the part of the other side unless they are also prepared to set a good example in that direction ; and in that respect the Government have hopelessly and manifestly failed.
Senator Sir ‘JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [10.42]. - Mr. Chairman–
– I do not propose to allow any discussion on the statement madeby. the Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil.
– I do not think that we are bound to sit here and be lashed with a whip by the VicePresident of the Executive Council in the manner of a schoolmaster, and say nothing in self-defence.
– I intend to ask the Committee to support me in confining the discussion to the leaders of the respective parties.-
– That is not the point. .
– It has been the practice, when a Ministerial statement has been made, to allow the leaders of the various parties to make statements, and then the Senate or th.e .Committee, as the case may be, resumes its business.
– Who are the leaders?
– The Committee itself may decide to allow a general discussion, but my intention, unless otherwise directed, is not to allow a debate on the question whether the hours of meeting shall be changed. A request has been submitted to the Senate with regard to the item under consideration.
– A proposal has been indicated to the Senate by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that it is proposed that our hours of meeting-
– I ask the honorable senator to speak to the item, corn flour.
– But I claim the right -to enter my emphatic protest as a member of this Senate against being lectured for dilatory conduct in relation to this Tariff.
– Does the honorable senator say that we are going too fast?.
– That is not the point:
– I rise to order. My point is this - that there is no motion before the Chair in respect to. the hours of meeting, and that any discussion on the remarks which fell from the VicePresident of the Executive Council is out of order.
– I have already ruled to that effect.
– I should like to know on ‘what principle you are ruling that only the. leaders of the respective parties are in order in discussing this matter, seeing that it. is one affecting the whole Senate.
– I am ruling on what has been the established practice both in the Senate and in Committee. I now ask honorable senators to confine their remarks to the -item.
– I am not entering into any discussion of the Vice-President’s remarks. I merely desire to exercise my right as a member of the Senate to protest against not merely a reflection, but a censure passed upon me.
– I again, rise to order. My point is this - that you have ruled that only the leaders of the respective parties will be in order in- discussing the statement made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– That ruling is not a good one it is based on nothing.
– It is a ruling of the Chairman. As we. understand that the leader of the Opposition is Senator Millen, and the leader of the Labour Party is Senator McGregor, I want to know whether Senator Symon - who apparently is not “the leader of any party on the opposite side of the Chamber - is in order in discussing the matter?
– My honorable friend need not say that.
– I have already asked Senator Symon to confine his remarks to the item - corn flour- and I intend to ask the Committee to support me in having my ruling carried out:
– Then I take exception to your ruling.
– I ask the honorable senator to put his objection in writing.
– I will put it in writing.
– The Minister himself was out of order. He should have made his remarks in the Senate, not in the Committee. He has no right to bully the Committee, and ought not to have been allowed to do it.
– I ‘ have now received, in writing, a dissent from my ru. ing by Senator Symon in the following terms : -
The Vice-President of the Executive Council having, in terms of censure, rebuked the members of the Senate generally for being dilatory in proceeding with the considerationof the Tariff, Senator Symon claimed the right to protest individually against that censure. The Chairman ruled himout of order, and Senator Symon objects to that ruling.
– That is not a fair statement - not a fair statement at all.
– Order ! It . is now my duty to report the matter to the President.
– The objection is not a statement of fact.
– Before you leave the chair, Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask a question.
– I cannot hear a point of order now.
– What is it? Let us know what it is.
– The honorable senator should wait a bit. He may try to bully other people, but he cannot bully me. It appears tome that the point stated in Senator Symon’s objection is not quite the point which I understood him to take in the first instance. To my mind, the point which the honorable senator was raising was more important, and one more in need of a definite and final decision, than that which he hasstated in writing. As the matter presents itself to my mind, it is a question as to whether, a Ministerial statement having been made-
– Order ! I must ask the honorable senator to resume his seat. I would draw the attention of honorable senators to standing order 258, under which I cannot even receive a point of order after objection has been taken to my decision. It provides that -
If any objection is taken to a decision of the Chairman of Committees, such objection must be stated at once in writing. The Chairman shall thereupon leave the chair, and the Senate resume
In the Senate:
The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report, Mr. President, that in Committee on the Customs Tariff Bill, item 65, paragraph c, “Corn Flour,” the VicePresident of the Executive. Council made a certain statement as to the progress of the Committee on the Tariff in general. I allowed him to make thai statement, believing it to have been the general practice to permit a Minister, either in Committee or in the Senate, to make an announcement with regard to Government policy or the conduct of business. I also allowed Senator Millen, as the announced leader of one of the parties in this Chamber, to comment on the statement. Senator Symon then rose and also proceeded to comment on the remarks of the. Minister, but I asked him to desist. I did so because, whilst standing order 405, which provides that no senator shall digress from the subject-matter of any question under discussion, has frequently been allowed to remain in abeyance so far as. a Ministerial statement is concerned, on no occasion, so. far as I am aware, has it not been applied in this connexion to all other senators, save leaders of parties. Senator Symon has dissented from my rulingin the following terms -
The Vice-President of the Executive Council having, in terms of censure, rebuked the members of the Senate generally for being dilatory in proceeding with the consideration of the Tariff, Senator Symon claimed the right to protest individually against that censure. The Chairman ruled him out of order, and Senator Symon objects to that ruling.
I wouldremind you, Mr. President, that proceedings in Committee are governed by the proceedings in the Senate, and that a Minister has always been permitted to digress from the subject immediately before the Chair for the purpose of making a general statement. In accordance with that practice, I allowedthe Vice-President of the Executive Council to make a statement, although it was not germane to the item “Corn Flour” then under consideration. Following another recognised practice in not only the Senate, but, I believe, almost all legislative assemblies, I permitted Senator Millen, as leader of one of the parties in this Chamber, to comment on the remarks of the Minister. It was announced in the Senate some time ago that Senator Millen was the leader of one of the parties, and, so far as I am aware, that announcement was made with the consent of a majority of honorable senators of the Opposition. It was stated at the same time that Senator Symon had ceased to be the leader of that party, and that intimation, I believe, was received without dissent. In conformity with standing order 405, I refused to allow any further discussion by individual senators.
– The position that has given rise to this appeal to you, Mr. President, has for the most part been as correctly stated by the Chairman of Committees, as one could expect; but in respect of one or two points on which I desire, on behalf of the Senate, your decision, he has not accurately represented it.
– I think that Senator Pearce made a very fair statement of what took place.
– I wish, in the first place, to say that the question of leadership is not involved in any shape or form. I did not assert my right to protest because of pretending to be, or claiming to occupy the position of, a leader in this Chamber. In the next place the question involved is not whether a Minister is entitled to make a statement with regard to the business of the Senate. Itake no exception to the invariable practice in this and every other Parliament as to Ministerial statements, nor do I take exception to the right of any honorable senator, whatever position he may occupy or be assumed to occupy, to discuss any statement - if he is in order in doing so - made by the Minister. The point which I have raised, however, is one of the highest importance as affecting the individual rights and liberties of the Senate. That is my position. If I am wrong, Mr. President, you will so intimate to the Senate, and. no one will yield a more ready obedience than I shall. The point that arises is this : The Minister, in a statement which ought to have been in every respect judicial, fair, and free from reflections on any one, reflected on honorable senators generally. I listened with respect - if I may use the expression - and approval to the resentment expressed by Senator Millen. I was not alone in feeling that the Minister took advantage of the opportunity to censure honorable senators generally. In the course of a statement, if properly made when it was, which ought to have been confined simply to an announcement with regard to business, and the intentions of the Government with respect to the present position, Senator Best addressed to honorable senators on all sides -he said that he did not confine his remarks to any one section - words of censure of the severest kind. He spoke of waste of time, and said that during the last fortnight we had practically done no work.
– He had a right to express his own opinion.
– That is what he said ; that for the last fortnight the Senate - that is every member of it, irrespective of parties - had done no work.
I do not say whether he was or was not justified, but I contend that he ought not to have made that statement under cover of what ought to have been a plain, businesslike, non-provocative announcement. I did not rise for the purpose of offering any general comment upon his statement at all. I expressly disclaimed any desire to do so. All that I said was that, as an individual member of the Senate, I protested against being censured in that way when I was not guilty.
– If the honorable senator was not guilty, nobody else was.
– If honorable senators think that I am deserving of blame, I concede to them a perfect right to entertain that opinion. But I have an equal right to protest against it, if I regard the charge as unjust. The point which I put to the Chairman, who listened to me with courtesy, was that, whatever conventions there may be to which allusion has been made, they do not prevent an individual member of the Senate, who resents a censure thathas been passed upon him for the part he has taken in the conduct of public business, from protesting against it. We are not obliged to sit here dumb. There is no standing order which would prevent any member of Senator McGregor’s party from rising in his place - Notwithstanding what might be said by Senator McGregor himself - and protesting against a reflection which he felt had been made upon himself individually.
– The remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council were not in the nature of comments upon individuals.
– They were remarks which applied to every member of the Senate. I am endeavouring to put the matter as impartially and as free from heat as possible. We are each entitled if we feel aggrieved to rise and . protest against those remarks. Senator Millen has protested against them. I felt them keenly, because I do not think that the Senate is deserving of censure, seeing that the debate upon the second reading of the Customs Tariff Bill was agreed to within one or two days, and that the Committee has been engaged upon the details of the schedule only about a fortnight. This, however, is not the questionwhich is now at issue. The point is whether there is any standing order or rule of Parliament which prevents any member of the
Senate, who feels that he has been unjustly censured, from rising in his place and protesting’ against it.
– Upon an occasion like the present I think that whatever rules may be in force in regard to the general conduct of business, may, to a certain extent, be departed from. The Vice-President of the Executive Council rose in- his place, and made a general charge against the Committee. He declared that during recent sittings it had failed to do its duty, that it had wasted a number of sittings-
– He said nothing of the sort.
– He said that it had wasted valuable time in doing business which might have been transacted in halfanhour, and he wound up by saying that we were here to vote and not to talk. I wish to know who the Vice-President of the Executive Council is that he should get up and lecture honorable senators?
– I would point out that the honorable senator cannot make an attack upon the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– Then I will put it in this way : One member of the Senate, who has no more rights and privileges than has any other honorable senator, has risen in his place and levelled a general charge which embraced every member of this Chamber. If we are not to be allowed to reply to a charge of that character, what will be the result? The accusation will go forth to the public. They will be informed that a certain member of the Senate, holding an official position, has made a general charge against honorable senators, none of whom has resented it. In other words, every honorable senator will have pleaded guilty to it, and the country will at once come to the conclusion that the charge is true. I resent any honorable senator telling me what I ought to do, whether I ought to vote and not talk, whether I ought to talk and not to vote.
– I would point out that the honorable senator is now commenting on the action of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, which is not the point that we have to consider just now. The question which is before the Chair is whether the Chairman of Committees was right in ruling that, under standing order 405, it was not in order for any honorable senator to reply to a general censure levelled against the Senate.
– Very well. If the ruling be correct I wish to know why the Chairman of Committees permitted one member of the Senate to make a general charge against honorable senators, and then refused to allow honorable senators to reply to it?
– At the present moment we are not concerned with whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council was properly, allowed to speak as he did.
– Surely we are concerned about the honour and position of every member of the Senate’. The crux of this question is that one member of this Chamber has levelled a damaging charge against every other honorable senator, and honorable senators are not to be permitted to reply to him. He has in effect said, “You are ‘a lazy, incompetent, useless lot. You are mere cumberers of the ground and ought to be cut down.” That is the substance of what he has said, and we are expected to take it lying down like lambs.
– If Senator de Largie thinks that he has neglected his duty during the past fortnight, that is a matter for him to decide.
– I ask the honorable senator not to refer to- that subject.
– Let me -put the position again. A charge of neglecting his duty has been made against every honorable senator. That is one of the most serious allegations which can be made against a senator. What light does it put him in before his constituents? They say, “We sent this man down to attend to the business of the country “ - - .
– That is not the question now before the Chair. The terms of the question are very simple. It is put before me in this way-
The Vice-President of the Executive Council having, in terms of censure, rebuked the members of the Senate generally for being dilatory in proceeding with the consideration nf the Tariff, Senator Symon claimed the right to protest individually against that censure.
I am thereupon asked to decide whether Senator Symon was justified in claiming that right. Of course, if Senator Symon had that right every other individual senator impliedly had an equal right. I desire Senator ‘ Stewart not to comment upon the effect of the censure on his own position before the people of the country, but to deal with the question of whether he had the right at the particular time mentioned to enter a protest.
– I thought I was commenting very closely on that question.
– The honorable senator was commenting upon the effect of the censure. I am not concerned with that at present.
– 1 do not care two straws what the Vice-President of the Executive Council or any other honorable senator says about me, except with regard to the effect that that statement may have upon my constituents.
– And that is not pertinent to the question which I have to decide.
– If that is the case, apparently a Minister can from his place make the most serious charges against every other honorable senator’ and they have no right to reply. If that is the standing order the sooner it is done away with the better.
– I have not said that that is the effect of the standing order.
– I am more than surprised at the storm which has arisen in regard to a mere innocent expression of opinion which every honorable senator is entitled to hold.’ I must take exception, Mr. President, to the terms of the question submitted to you. The whole matter is based upon the ‘ assumption that I attempted to censure and rebuke the Senate. I utterly and totally disclaim any such intention.
– If the honorable senator withdraws the censure- ‘
– I cannot withdraw what I never made. I can only’ assure my honorable friend and every other honorable senator that nothing that I said was intended by way of censure or rebuke. The position was simply this : the usual practice was resorted to by me of making a preliminary statement as to the course of business.
– On a point of order, sir, you have ruled that other honorable senators could not address themselves to the question of the action of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. He is now proceeding to explain and defend his action. Personally, I have no objection to that, but if the Vice-President of the Executive Council can go behind your ruling, shall I be permitted to do the same, because I wish to refer to the same matter?
– I did not understand that the Vice-President of the Executive Council was endeavouring to go behind the terms of my ruling. I thought that he was offering to the Senate, with . the concurrence of . senators, an explanation that he had no desire to censure them. I had no objection to his doing so, but if the point of order is raised as to whether he has the right to go beyond the terms of the question placed in my hands, my reply is that he has no more right to do so than has any other honorable senator, nor shall I permit him to do it when the Senate takes exception to it. I thought it only fair to give him, as the Minister charged with making the original statement, an opportunity of saying something explanatory as to his intentions when making that statement.
– My only reason for referring to that matter was that the whole objection . taken in writing is based upon the assumption that I did certain things, which I disclaim doing.
– Not the assumption, but the fact.
– It is based upon the assumption that I attempted to censure and rebuke the Senate. I utterly disclaim anything of the kind. The position is that I made to the. Chamber the usual statement as to the course of business, and pointed out what would be necessary to be done in order to get through the Tariff by a particular date. The Chairman permitted me to make that statement. The leader of the Opposition rose and commented upon my statement. I most distinctly understood that the Chairman - having ruled that, according to the practice of Parliament it was usual to hear the Minister as to. the conduct of business, and to hear also the leaders of other parties - could not thenhear anybody else. I submit that that is an ordinary and, indeed, the usual practice, which, if it were not adhered to, would prevent the disclosure by Ministers of valuable public information which the Senate has the right to hear.. If the Minister’s mouth is closed, and he is prevented from making statements of that character, the Senate itself must ultimately be the sufferer.
– There is no suggestian that the Minister should be prevented from making a statement.
– That is what I understood the point of order to be.
– The point of order is that under cover of that statement, the honorable senator has no right to censure the Senate without protest.
-i did not attempt to censure the Senate. I simply, drew its attention to facts, and at the same time indulged in an expression of opinion - which every honorable senator has a right to make - that we have not made the progress we should have made.
– When has every honorable senator a right to express that opinion ?
– At any time.
– And every honorable senator has the right to protest against it.
– Every honorable senator has the right to express the same opinion.
– Or the contrary.
– Or the contrary.
– That is all I claim.
– I am afraid that our premises are not common. In the circumstances, I hope that an innocent statement will not be so magnified as to develop any heat or misunderstanding, particularly in view of the expression whichI used, and the intent of which I thought was obvious to nearly every honorable senator.
– I find myself in the peculiar position of being able, asthe question was put before us by Senator Symon, to indorse the conclusion which he has drawn, and also, as the statement was made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, of being in agreement with that honorable senator also. There is, however, a divergence in the two statements, and therein lies thewhole point, Mr. President, which now awaits your decision. The ordinary practice of a Ministerial statement is absolutely in violation of our Standing Orders. Consequently if a Minister violates a standing order when he makes a speech in the absence of a motion, it follows that every other honorable senator who attempts to speak must equally break that standing order. But, outside of written laws, it is frequently, both inside and outside of Parliament, found necessary to have an unwritten law. Such an unwritten law. has been evolved in this case, in order to meet the convenience of the Senate and to tend to the expedition of business. That was the view put forward bythe Vice-President of the Executive
Council. I quite indorse it, but it is not thepoint beforeus now. The point was stated by Senator Symon much more accurately than by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. It is one thing, for the convenience of the Senate, for a Minister to make a Ministerial statement so long as the discussion is limited, as has been the practice in the past; and I think the decision of the Chairman of Committees was absolutely correct. I ask honorable senators to believe that I am trying to express myself on the point without, so far asone can, any personal bias. But there is a big distinction between the old sound, judicious practice of a Ministerial statement, and a Minister using the privilege and the courtesy extended to him by the Senate, for the purpose of making what may be regarded as a reflection on any section of the Chamber.
– If the Minister was not in order in the first place, how can he be in order in making further remarks qualifying what he has already said ?
– I have said that the Minister was out of order all the time.
– Then how could any subsequent speaker be in order?
– I am not saying that any subsequent speaker was in order.
– Order ! This is not a discussion between honorable senators; arguments are addressed to the Chair.
– While I admit that a Ministerial statement is against the Standing Orders, there is a distinction, which, I think, ought to be drawn between a purely Ministerial statement and socalled Ministerial statements which may be used for the purpose of reflecting on any section of senators, or on the Senate as a whole. It seems to me that if we allow a Minister to break the Standing Orders for the purpose of making a reflection on members of the Senate-
– That was not the intention.
– I do not say that it was ; I am merely endeavouring to place, before honorable senators the point which I think is involved. I am not affirming that the Vice-President of the Executive Council made any attack, but trying to discuss the matter as a purely abstract one. It is one thing to allow a Minister, in order to expedite business, to acquaint us with the intentions of the Government, and it is quite another thing for a/ Minister to use the opportunity, it may be from mere want of tact, to convey some censure on any section of senators, or on the Senate as a whole. Unless this distinction is kept clearly in view, it is quite- possible that the decision given to-day in a particular case, may later on be interpreted as having a general application. I .specially invite your attention, Mr. President, to the fact that the Minister is stated to have censured the House.
– Which I disclaim.
– I think- 1 am correct in saying that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is affirmed to have charged honorable senators with dilatoriness; and it does not require any special imagination to see that if a Minister may be permitted to do this, some one else may go a little further and accuse honorable senators of absolute laziness, or wilful neglect. The objection laid may be taken as affirming that the Minister did censure the Senate; and, to my mind, that is the whole point. If a Minister, having used the courtesy extended to him, not for the purpose of making a Ministerial statement, but for the purpose of censuring the Senate, is any other honorable senator, irrespective of the position he may occupy, to be barred from defending himself? The Standing Orders having been broken to enable one individual to make what, is regarded as an attack on another, ought the latter to be allowed to reply or not? That is the point which awaits decision. On the general principle that on a Ministerial statement discussion shall be limited as in the past, I am with the Chairman of Committees, but I do not think that this is one of those cases embraced by that principle.
– The question before us now is not whether the VicePresident of the Executive Council was in order, assuming for argument’s sake feat he did censure the Senate.- It seems to me that the question is whether a member of the Committee may discuss other than the ques- ‘ tion before the Chair.
– That is not the question.
– That is the question on which the Chairman ruled.
– Does the honorable senator concede that the Vice-President of the Executive Council could not discuss any other question than that before the Chair ?
– I am positive that if the Chairman of Committees had objected, the Vice-President of the Executive Council could not have made the statement he did. .
– No doubt the VicePresident of the Executive Council was out of order.
– But, as has been pointed out, wC have, for our own convenience, adopted an unwritten law - a law that we can put our finger on and squelch at any moment– namely, that leaders, under special circumstances, may be permitted to make statements. It is urged that. Senator Symon might flout the Standing Orders and discuss a subject not before us, on the ground that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has censured honorable senators. I submit that if an honorable senator, in speaking to the subject before the Chair, censured honorable senators he would be out of -order, and that honorable senators would have redress in the right to rise to a point of order, and compel the withdrawal of any improper censure. Therefore, it is inaccurate to say that honorable_ senators have no redress. I am referring to the! argument presented by Senator Stewart that honorable senators, may be libelled and censured, and have no redress, if it be ruled that Senator Symon was out of order. In addition to the redress I have indicated, honorable senators, on the motion for the adjournment of .the Senate, may discuss any subject that seems to them fit in the interests of the community or of the Chamber. It is, therefore, obviously incorrect to state that there is no redress if wrong has been done by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I submit that, under the rule quoted by the Chairman of Committees, Senator ‘ Symon was digressing.
– I was not digressing at all.
– I submit that the honorable senator was digressing on grounds that seemed bo him justifiable, but which did hot justify him in digressing. The provocation may have been extremely great, but it does not justify the honorable senator in adopting this means of resenting it. It does not affect the matter that the Vice-President of the Executive Council and Senator Millen had previously been out of order.
– Senator Millen was not ruled out of order, and he resented what the Vice-President of the Executive Council said.
– I venture to say that, under the Standing Orders, the Chairman might have ruled that Senator Millen could not speak, quite irrespective of the fact that the Vice-President of the Executive Council had spoken. However, it does not affect the issue that two or more senators have been out of order; the question we have to decide is whether the Chairman was right in ruling Senator Symon out of order at the time he did so. There is no doubt in my mind that the Chairman of Committees, when he ruled Senator Symori out of order, was strictly within the standing order - that Senator Symon had no right to persist in discussing any subject or question but that strictly before the Chair at the time.
– I think the ruling of the Chairman was wrong. Honorable senators are under a misapprehension when they accept the statement that iit has been the practice - the unwritten law for Ministers to make statements under such circumstances as the Vice-President of the Executive Council made a statement this morning; Such Ministerial statements are made, not in Committee on an item of the Tariff - such a thing never happened before - but in the Senate, except, of course, it be a Ministerial statement necessarily connected with the subject actually before the Committee. Now, this Ministerial statement was not connected with corn flour, but with the whole of the Tariff.
– The whole Tariff was before the Committee.
– On that point I think that the decision of the Chairman was wrong. Until a few weeks ago, when Senator Millen announced his election as the leader of an Opposition, there never had been a person on this side of the chamber who was warranted- in speaking for every one else here. I submit - and it is a well-known fact, as shown by Senator Symon’s attitude this morning, and as shown by my present attitude - that Senator Millen was not entitled to speak on behalf of all senators on this side of the’ Chamber. If the ruling of the Chairman be correct, it produces this result : that a member of the Senate, elected by a vast constituency, and representative of an immense number of electors, is either to have his mouth shut or to be forced to acknowledge membership of a party with which he may be entirely out of sympathy. And, further, if the matter be carried to its logical conclusion, what in the world is to happen to every senator on this side when Senator Millen is away ?
– Order. I ask the honorable senator not to debate that matter, as it is not pertinent to the question before the Chair, though, of course, an incidental allusion may be made.
– I am pointing out that if no one but an acknowledged leader may dare to reply to a Ministerial castigation, the Chairman of Committees is equally entitled to refuse to any honorable senator the right of speech in the absence of a known leader, as in the circumstances which Senator Symon has brought forth, a most serious state of affairs will arise. I submit that parliamentary rules and standing orders are made for the protection, not of Ministers, but of minorities.
– There is nothing more absolutely rudimentary in the working of parliamentary institutions than the fact that standing orders and rules of procedure are made, not for the benefit of Ministers, but for the protection of minorities. Senator Symon is apparently in a minority, and I am in the same category. I object to any ruling that makes me a dumb dog, or seeks to force me into membership of a party with which I have no sympathy. A party that exists to-day may not exist to-morrow ; a party that exists to-day may not have existed yesterday, and how can it be a correct ruling that prohibits a member of the Chamber from replying when attacked? Of course he may seek to reply in the form of a personal explanation, but that, I suppose, would be ruled out of order, because it would have nothing to do with corn, flour. I maintain that you, sir, as the custodian of the rights of the Senate, should not confirm a ruling which closes the mouth ‘of a representative of a State under the circumstances which have been disclosed by the proceedings in the Committee this morning.
– It is generally admitted that the Vice-President of the Executive Council was out of order in making even the announcement which he did.
– Of course he was.
– If that be admitted, he was altogether out of order in, as has been alleged, rebuking members of the
Senate. It is remarkable that all those who now take exception to the Chairman’s ruling did not rise at an opportune time to a point of order. My contention is that as the Minister was out of order, no member of the Senate could by any stretch of imagination make himself in order by’ replying to the statements which had been made. If any particular senators were permitted tq make such a reply, then every other member of the Senate would have the right to pass comment and judgment on the Minister; and, although we are desirous, I understand, of completing the Tariff by the 11th March, it’ would be within the province of every honorable senator to talk up to that date on the point of order raised by Senator Symon. No finality could be arrived at. I maintain that, as Senator Best was in the first place out of order, Senator Symon could not make himself in order on the grounds on which he disagreed with the Chairman’s ruling. As we have’ recognised that an unwritten rule acquires the force of a standing order, the Chairman was right in the first place in permitting an announcement to be made, and when’ Senator Best did probably go outside the announcement-
– And” make an attack.
– Well, allowing that Senator Best made an attack, that was the time when a protest should have been lodged by those who are now taking exception to it.
– I think, sir, that you have hardly ever had a more’ simple point to determine than the present one, for I can see no ground for differing from the ruling of the Chairman of Committees. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, finding, as most of us have admitted, that we were not making very good progress with the Tariff, took occasion - by the courtesy of the Chairman, .and outside the Standing Orders’ - to make a statement as to what he should have to do with regard to the sittings of the Senate unless more progress were made, and if, incidentally, he did say a few words too many, or did use the language of exaggeration, I think that it is using the language of exaggeration far more for any one tq, say that he made a censure upon us, or that every individual senator was attacked, or anything of that sort.
– Senator Millen resented it.
– My honorable and learned friend got more than indignant when I ventured to make a. certain statement, and now he would like to interrupt me to make another speech.
– I merely said that Senator Millen resented it; so that it was a censure.
– As a fair-dealing man I wish to say that I think no attack was made on the Committee by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. He may have used one or two sentences which, in the opinion of some honorable senators, contained exaggerated language, but what has been put before you, Mr. President, gives a very unfair description of what took place. Senator- Findley has hit the nail on the head. The whole discussion was out of order. Senator Best, by the courtesy of the Chairman, and in accordance with the practice of Parliament, was allowed to make a Ministerial statement, and had’ honorable senators thought that they were being censured, they should have protested at once. That they did not do so shows how very’ mild the censure, if any, must have been. Following Senator Best came Senator Millen, who is recognised as the duly appointed leader of the Opposition. . He, too, was allowed to make a statement ; but will it be contended that the Chairman was obliged to allow the remaining thirty-four senators, had they chosen to do so, to join in a general debate on the Ministerial statement? The whole discussion was out of order : but I contend that the Chairman was right in stopping it when he did, because he could not allow other honorable senators to speak without violating the Standing Orders.
– I wish to draw your attention, Mr. President, to what, I think, is the exact point upon which your decision is needed. The Question ‘you are asked to decide is, what are the rights of private senators when a Ministerial statement has been made in Committee, and that statement contains reflections on the conduct of honorable senators generally.?
– I hope that Senator Symon will withdraw his motion. While I, with other senators on this side of the chamber, indorse the remarks that have fallen from him, I think that he ought to accept the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that ‘he did not intend to censure honorable senators.
– The discussion’ which has taken place has gone somewhat beyond the question. referred to me; but it appeared necessary to allow it to do so, to enable honorable senators to explain clearly their views of what took place in Committee. The position, as formally placed before me, is this -
The Vice-President of the Executive Council having, in terms of censure, rebuked the members of the Senate generally for being dilatory in proceeding with the consideration of the Tariff, Senator Symon claimed the right to Protest individually against that censure. The Chairman ruled him out of order.
The Chairman of Committees has explained that when he took the chair - a request in connexion with the duty on corn flour being before the Committee- -the VicePresident of the Executive Council made a statement. That statement, I gather from the speeches which I have heard, contained remarks which, in the minds of some honorable senators, amounted to a severe censure upon their conduct in connexion with the discussion of the Tariff. Ministerial statements are usually delivered in the Senate; but it is often convenient to permit a. Minister to make in Committee a statement of his intentions regarding the business under consideration.. Such a statement can be made only with the consent and concurrence of honorable senators, to any one of whom it is open to take exception to its delivery. But it is generally regarded as convenient to give . a Minister this opportunity to make known the wishes or intentions of his Government. As to the question whether, if such a statement contained terms of censure on honorable senators, they are entitled to reply to it, I would say that no Ministerial statement should contain such censure ; but if senators thought that they were being censured, thev should at once take exception to the language used. The second question which has arisen is whether honorable senators, not having thought fit .to take exception to the Minister’s language until his statement was concluded, were entitled individually to protest against the censure administered to them. The standing order clearly lays it down that honorable senators are not to digress from the subject under consideration. The question strictly before the Committee was, I understand, a request in regard to the dutv on corn flour. I do not think that, the Minister having made a statement, other honorable senators had the right to individually protest against the censure which it is said to have contained. Had they the right to do so, and were such a right exercised by the whole thirty-five remaining senators, expedition in the despatch of public business would be impossible. A Minister making a statement should be as careful as he can not to convey a censure on his fellow senators, ‘ and I am pleased to know that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has absolutely disclaimed the intention to do so
– He has nol withdrawn the censure complained of.
– I did not utter censure, and therefore cannot withdraw any. No exception was taken while I was speaking to the remarks that were made.
– In my opinion,, the Chairman of Committees acted strictly in accordance with the standing order, which requires that an honorable senator shall not digress from the subject under consideration. As to tha digression permitted in connexion with Senator Best’s statement, as no member of the Committee saw fit to take exception to it, I do not think that there was any cause for complaint. It is open to any honorable senator to take exception at any time to such a digression. Senator Millen, too, was permitted to speak only by the courtesy ofthe Committee. He had no right under the standing order to reply to Senator Best. The rule laid down in May. noon which our standing order is based, is that -
A member must direct his speech to the question then under discussion, or to a motion 01 amendment he intends to move, or to -a point of order.
The question before the Chair was a request relating to the duty on corn flour, and it would, have been irregular to permit an honorable senator to reply to Senator Best as Senator Symon desired to do. The reference to me from the Committee affirms that the Vice-President of the Executive Council in terms of censure rebuked the members of the Senate. The honorable senator has disclaimed any intention to do so; but, in any case, I do not consider that what took place entitled every senator, if he chose, to debate the matter : and when exception was taken to such action the Chairman of Committees was right in ruling it out of order.
– I wish to ask. sir, whether we are to understand that a senator who does not belong to an acknowledged party does not possess the rights and privileges which a so-called leader is permitted to possess?
– I recognise the Vice-President of the Executive Council as leader of the Senate; but in my ruling I did not allude to any other senator as a leader or representative of any party. When as Ministerial statement is made, under circumstances like these, it is done by the courtesy of the Chair and of honorable senators, who can prevent it if they see fit. I said that if, in the course of such a statement, censure was cast on other senators, they should take exception to it at the time, so that the Minister might be at once called upon to withdraw the words complained of.
– A Ministerial statement is in itself out of order unless founded upon a motion in the ordinary way?
– A Ministerial statement such as has been referred to can be made only by the courtesy and with the consent of honorable senators.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65, paragraph c, by making corn flour free (Senator Clemons’ request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority …… 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I propose later on to submit a request for a preference duty on corn flour. I should be very glad to secure a reduction in the duty under the general Tariff, but I cannot see the wisdom of havingunnecessary divisions, and putting forward propositions which recent divisions have shown to have very little chance of success. I do not wish to block any other honorable senator from moving for a reduction in the duty under the general Tariff, but it is not unfair that I should tell the Committee what I propose to move in regard to the preference Tariff. I intend to propose a preference duty of1d. per lb.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing thatnow.
– I am simply indicating what I propose to do, in order that honorable senators, if any other requests are submitted, may see the alternative between those proposals and that which I intend to submit.
– I am extremely sorry that the request upon which the Committee last divided was not carried, and it is because corn flour has not been made free that I intend to move that the duty shouldbe what it was under the old Tariff. I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by making the duty on “Corn Flour”½d. per lb.
The manufacture of corn flour in Australia depends entirely upon the supply of. maize. Our own crop of maize is admitted to be extremely intermittent and hazardous. In some years a very fair amount of maize is grown in Australia. In other years practically there is none. In those years when little or no maize is grown in this country, according to the sworn evidence of the one corn flour manufacturer who appeared before the Tariff Commission, very little maize, or none at all, is imported in order to convert it into corn flour. As the manufacturers themselves say, unless they get a sufficiency of Australian-grown maize, and that at a reasonable price andquality, they do not care to go into the business. The only, evidence we had on the subject was from Mr. Walter Francis, a com flour manufacturer. I quote the following questions and answersfrom his evidence-
Do you sell for 2½d. per lb. ? - Yes.
Here is the point as to the cost of manufacture and the conditions under which the article is made -
Does 2½d. per lb. pay you? - No it does not.
Do you lose money on that? - We lose money when maize goes over 2s. per bushel.
What is the present market price of maize? - 2s.4d. in Brisbane.
When the price of maize is 2s. a bushelyou can sell corn flour at 2½d. per lb. ; and when the price of maize goes up you lose money? - That is the case.
I can assure the Committee that when maize has to be imported the price certainly goes up, and the duty is of no use to this manufacturer, unless, of course, we impose such a duty as will enable him to get a considerably enhanced price for his corn flour.
– Maize is selling at 5s. per bushel now.
– With maize at 5s. a bushel, this manufacturer would not dream of making corn flour.
– He can buy when maize is cheaper, and make it then.
– There is not a corn flour manufacturer in Australia who would think of making corn flour with maize at 5s. per bushel - unless he could charge the people more than he had been charging them before.
– That is what he is doing.
– If we leave this duty at 2d. per lb., he will go on doing it. Of what benefit will that be to the people of Australia, except that some one will be importing maize and converting it into corn flour by the employment of a very small amount of labour? Is it desirable that we should encourage the importation of maize, on which we put a duty, and then add to the price deliberately to enable some one to convert maize into corn flour and sell it to people for at least double the price that they ought to give? The witness was asked -
Why did you import maize from America?In consequence of the drought.
Was none procurable here? - None was fit for corn flour making.
The question of labour is one that naturally interests many honorable senators. This witness was asked how many hands he employed. He replied that he employed six hand’s constantly throughout the year - four men and two girls. That is all the labour that is involved in this item.
– That was the labour employed under a½d. duty.
– The honorable senator can put it how he likes. Summing up the evidence that this man gave, it was, “ If maize is cheap in Australia, I can make corn flour; if maize is dear, I cannot, and do not ; and if it is cheap, and I can convert it into corn flour, I employ four men and two girls.”
– The heavy importation accounts for the small amount of labour employed.
– I take it that the price will be put up to the full extent of the duty in many years ; because every one knows that the crop of maize in Australia is erratic, and determined by factors over which we . have no control. When the supply of locally-grown maize is small, maize must be imported; and when it is imported, it must be considerably enhanced in price, and the manufacturer of com flour will put the price on to the consumer. A duty of 2d. will necessarily be added in its entirety to the price of the imported corn flour. The duty is almost entirely a revenue duty, whilst the labour involved in the manufacture does not justify any duty at all. I do not blame this man because he employs only four men and two girls, but that is a matter which we ought to take into consideration, and which we have to put in juxtaposition with the fact that the number of people who buy and eat corn flour is, of course, out of all proportion to the number employed in making it.
– The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended, with regard to corn flour, a duty of 2d. per lb. The reason why the Government proposed a duty of 2d. was to bring the item somewhat into harmony with another proposal which will be dealt with by this Committee, and has been passed by another place, namely, item 104 - Starch flour - upon which the duty is 2½d. per lb.
– Why not bring it into harmony with Infants’ food - free?
– I am informed by the Customs officers . that it is a. matter of extreme difficulty, if not of impossibility, to distinguish between corn flour, starch flour, and starch in powdered form.
– Oh !
– My honorable friend may doubt that statement, but I have it from Customs authorities who have been working the Tariff since 1902.
– Let us have a uniform duty of½d. per lb. on all the articles mentioned.
– The practical working of the Tariff by officers of the Department has shown that it is impossible 10 distinguish between corn flour, starch flour, and starch in powdered form.
– It should not be impossible. Starch flours are not fed to infants.
– I do not know whether an analyst can distinguish between them. I was informedlast night by a competent officer of the Department that an analyst could not. To check that information, I asked another officer this morning whether that was so, and was informed by him that he couldnot say.
– How will an increased duty enable the authorities to distinguish between the different flours?
– It will prevent persons bringing in as corn flour flours subject to the higher duty, and thus evading the payment of the legitimate rate of 2d. per lb.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that there are no means by which the Commerce Act can be applied to any one who attempts to import starch flour as corn flour?
– That is a very different matter.
– If analyses are useless in the one case, they must be useless in the other.
– These flours are not always imported in wrappings or packages as they are retailed.
– Who said they were?
– The point is that starch flours are brought out in bulk, and that if the importers endeavoured to land them as corn flour, dutiable at only½d. per lb., we should have no means of preventing their doing so. So far as the deception of the public is concerned, there is the domestic law of the States to prevent it, and there is also the Commonwealth Commerce Act to prevent the introduction of powdered starch or starch flours in packages designated as containing corn flour.
– If the analyst is impotent, how is the Department going to proceed ?
– In that case we could not. The rate of duty on corn flour has been brought above that proposed by the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, because starch flours and powdered starch subject to the higher rate of duty are brought in in bulk, and since they cannot be effectively checked the Customs maybe defrauded.
– Why not bring down the rates applying to the other flours?
– We have the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Commission that the duty should be raised from½d. to 2d. per lb. As to that we say “ So far so good,” but we have also provided that another article, which cannot be distinguished from corn flour, shall be dutiable at 2½d. per lb. If we left this duty at½d. an article which should pay a duty of 2d. per lb. could be introduced in many instances under the lower duty, and the revenue would consequently be defrauded.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [12.15]. -I stood aghast at the statement just made by the Minister that the officers of a great Department do not know the difference between starch and corn flour. If there is no authority in the Customs Department, let a laundress be engaged; she will be able very quickly, to distinguish between the two. No competent laundress would use corn flour in mistake for starch when she proceeded to launder a man’s linen.
– I question whether she could tell the difference if the starch were in powdered form.
– I am rather protesting against the misapprehension of the Minister. I do not believe for one moment that he would make a statement that he did not think had been communicated to him, and I defend the Customs Department from the accusation of hopeless imbecility which his assertion involves. There must have been some misapprehension. The Ministerial objection does not seem to be in the interest of the struggling little industry that is alleged to exist, somewhere in New South Wales, as an occasional going concern, when maize is cheap. If we bring down the duty we will, perforce, do injury from the protectionist stand-point to some of the flourishing, historical, and much discussed starch factories of Victoria. It is not the starch factories of Victoria,but the consumers of the Commonwealth, that have to be Considered with respect to an article of such very general consumption as is corn flour.I protest against this trotting out on every possible occasion of some Victorian industry as being the sole reason and only excuse for burdening the consumers of the Commonwealth with preposterously heavy duties.
– It seems to me that we are suffering under the tyranny of a majority. The protectionists, having a majority, are going to insert in the Tariff a few items that are utterly indefensible. Are we to consider on one hand this factory with its two girls and four men, of the thousands of men, women, and children in the Commonwealth who consume corn flour ? If honorable senators deem protection to be a good’ thing why should they make an absurdity of it by going to extremes ? Under the old duty of £d. per lb. an annual revenue of ,£4,000 was obtained. It is proposed that that revenue shall be increased to 6,000, and it will be drawn from those who can least afford to pay it. . .
– Lorn flour was never so cheap as it is.
– The trade lists do not show that.
– The evidence taken by the Commission is unanswerable, and it shows that we ought to give up the idea of protecting this industry. It is not worth protecting. I admit that there is a difficulty in distinguishing between these several flours. The other day I met a mother who said that any woman who fed her baby on corn flour ought to be shot. I suppose she had in mind the fact that corn flour is liable to adulteration, but there are thousands of other mothers who use corn flour and who I dare say must use it. The Minister should therefore prosecute his inquiries and ascertain whether the analysts really cannot distinguish between the various flours. We have made infants’ foods free, and 1 fail to understand why this enormous duty should be imposed on corn flour. If there is any difficulty in distinguishing between these several classes of flour, why should we not make them all subject to a duty of Jd. instead of 2 id. per lb. ? “
– Senator Dobson has just furnished a very admirable reason - apart altogether from the question of protection - why this duty should be made so high as to insure the manufacture of corn flour here. He said that corn flour is very liable to adulteration, that careful mothers would not feed their children with it, but that nevertheless there were thousands who did use it. That being so, is it not extremely important that it should be made under our own supervision ? As a matter of fact, in some of the States great attention is being given to the purity of our food supplies. In Victoria we have very stringent pure food laws at present, and the people are asking for still more stringent laws with reference to the adulteration of foods.
– The Minister says that in this case the law is useless, because the article cannot be analyzed.
– If that is so we must watch the actual processes of manufacture, and see that only corn is ground. At all events, my point is that, if our children are very largely fed on what is alleged to be corn flour, we ought to take every possible precaution to see that t’he article is what it is alleged to be. A duty on the manufactured article - even if I admit, lor a moment, the correctness of the contention that it will raise the price - must tend, at all events, to its local production, and local production gives us a Letter opportunity to secure a pure food supply. If the peculiarities of the article are such that it is difficult to discover impurities in it, it is less difficult to detect local adulteration and imposition than adulteration and’ imposition outside our jurisdiction.
– Will a duty prevent adulteration?
– I am not urging that it will. My contention is that the duty will lead to local production. Then, again, corn flour is made from maize which can be grown in abundance here, and therefore we ought to have absolute control over our own operations. Surely if there is any industry with which we ought to be able to cope it is that of the manufacture Of corn flour and maize ‘flour, just as we have been able to cope with the production of wheaten flour and other ground cereals. The health point of view - a very strong consideration, if there were no other - is sufficient to my mind to induce us to impose this duty, whilst the protectionist argument is also a very strong one.
.- I do not know whether the Committee is aware that this is a children’s food, and therefore ought to be classified with sago, which is free. The difference between corn flour and starch flour can easily be discovered by a mother when she is making puddings, and requires to use the different brands. That is the reason why a good brand of corn flour commands a good price. The industry is one which has increased enormously under the operation of a duty of Jd. per lb.- to the extent indeed that we are now exporting corn flour - and yet it is proposed to increase that duty by” 300 per. cent. Who will be required to pay the impost? Obviously it will be the consumer. To me, it seems to be one of the scandals of the Commonwealth, that legislators think more of the interests of two or three manufacturers than they do of those of the general public. A duty of½d. per lb. is a very high one to levy upon an article of this kind, especially as the industry has developed to such an extent that corn flour is now an article of export. To increase the duty to 2d. would be unjustifiable.
– I wish to correct Senator Dobson’s statement that the tyranny exercised by a majority is responsible for the time occupied in disposing of the items in this schedule. The real cause why we do not arrive at a clear understanding more quickly is the presence of the disease of political inconsistency. When dealing with potatoes or onions, which are the products of Tasmania, Senator Dobson was quite solid in regard to the duties that he desired, and quite insistent that he should obtain them. But when he is asked to deal with the maize-growers of New South Wales and Queensland’ he gets into an entirely different frame of mind. He seems to be afflicted with chronic inconsistency. If we admit corn flour free, the trade will certainly be thrown into the hands of the people of older countries, and the production of maize in the black-labour countries so adjacent to the Commonwealth will be encouraged. When a drought occurs in Australia, the production of maize decreases, whilst in normal years it increases.
– The position is exactly the reverse.
– The production of maize is more likely to suffer from drought than is the production of wheat.
– The records show that during 1902-3, whenwe had to import wheat, we also had to import maize. But in 1904-5-6, which were normal years, Australia was self-supporting in the matter of theproduction of maize, even to the extent of exporting about 15,000 centals. During those three years the imports of maize were approximately 7,000 or 8,000 centals. It is clear therefore that in normal seasons we can produce sufficient maize for our own requirements. We are not asked, I presume, to deal with those erratic forms of climate to which Australia is subject.
-The honorable senator’s side has the numbers, so why cannot we take a division ?
– I hold that during ordinary seasons we can produce sufficient maize for our own consumption. Regarding the manufacture of corn flour, it is just as well that I should quote the evidence tendered to the Tariff Commission by Mr. Francis, who declared that when the duty of½d. per lb. was imposed on corn flour under the Commonwealth Tariff, he was obligedto close his factory.
– He closed his factory because he could not get maize at a reasonable price.
– Mr. Francis toldthe Commission that he was compelled to close his factory because of the reduction of the duty upon corn flour from 2d. per lb. under the old Queensland Tariff to½d. per lb. under the Commonwealth Tariff. That fact in itself should be sufficient to induce us to increase the price of this article in order that we may enable him to reopen his establishment.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [12.32]. - I do not know that I should have interposed before a division, but for the very candid statement of Senator Lynch, who declared that the proposed duty of 2d. per lb. is intended to increase the price of the article to the consumer.
– He never said anything of the kind.
– He did say so.
– It was a slip. He meant “ increase the duty.”
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well what he had in his mind.
– I know that he had the truth in his mind. Senator McGregor has taken it upon himself to interpret what Senator Lynch intended to convey. Senator Clemons has declared that Mr. Francis said he was obliged to close his factory because he could not get maize at a reasonable price.
– Senator Clemons did not quote from the main body of his evidence.
– I quoted from his cross-examination, where the truth is most likely to be revealed.
– All I wish to point out is that it is proposed to increase the duty which has been in existence for six years, and under which the industry, according to Senator Macfarlane, has thriven.
– He is not an authority upon the matter.
– He is a better authority than is the honorable senator, who knows nothing whatever about trade and commerce.
– That is only the honorable senator’s opinion.
– If Senator McGregor can controvert the statement of Senator Macfarlane let him do so. But the figures show that we have been exporting corn flour during the six years that the duty of½d. per lb. has been operative.
– Exporting corn flour?.
– And importing it too.
– We import it because it suits us to obtain the better article which comes from England.
– Why does the best brand of imported corn flour command twice the price of the Australian article?
– Exactly. Surely honorable senators will not say that Australians will not consume their own corn flour ! There must be some trade reason why this commodity is imported. During the six years that the duty of½d. per lb. has been operative, the Commonwealth has been making and exporting corn flour. Yet it is now proposed to increase the duty by 300 per cent.
– That represents a decent measure of protection.
– From my honorable friend’s point of view it does, but from Senator Dobson’s point of view - which I re-echo - it is indecent and absolutely indefensible. It is a scandal that such a duty should be proposed. I venture to submit that we are not justified in levying a rate of that, kind in order to increase the price to be obtained for corn flour by dealers here, no matter what may have been the reason which led to the closing of Mr. Francis’ factory.
– There is no certainty that the price will be raised.
– The honorable senator himself admitted that it would, but if he wishes to withdraw that statement,he is at liberty to do so. Senator Trenwith did not deny that the price of corn flour would be increased by the imposition of the duty proposed, but he affirmed that by means of the prohibition we should be afforded an opportunity of exercising greater supervision, over the purity of the article.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting me when he says that I did not deny that its price would be increased.
– The honorable senator stated that if corn flour were produced locally, it would enable us to exercise greater care over its purity.
– I said, “ If we admit for the sake of argument that the price of the article will be raised by the operation of the duty.” That is a very different thing.
– The honorable senator is now twisting his own words. I did not say that he admitted that the price of the article would be raised. I said that he did not deny it. He maintained that the prohibition would be a good thing because it would enable greater supervision, to be exercised over the production of the article locally. Corn flour is an infant’s food. It is a most excellent food, and the argument that there are difficulties in the way of detecting any adulteration in it applies equally to all sorts of commodities. But we cannot deal with that question - as has been, already pointed out - in tihe Tariff. Duties should not be increased for that purpose. In addition tobeing complicated with elements of that sort, this question has also been mixed up with that of preference. Nearly the whole of the corn flour imported comes from England - nearly 1,600,000 lbs. Only about one-eighth of the entire importation into Australia comes from any other country. I ask the Committee to revert to the old Tariff. Where we are in doubt as to the amount of duty that should be fixed, we have a reliable guide in the old Tariff, in which the rate on this item was ½d. The protectionist side of the Tariff Commission recommended the increase proposed, but there is nothing to justify it. We shall be giving a preference to England if we reduce the duty on general imports of this article, because England is the main exporter of the article to us. The United Kingdom would therefore get the benefit of a reduction to a½d. I shall not, however, vote for it on that ground. Anything of the kind is, as I have said, a sham, and I am utterly opposed to these sham preferences in the Tariff.
– Does the honorable senator think he can get it lower for any other reason ?
– I do not want to get the duty lowered by a pretext. I am entirely opposed to these specious sham preferences. England does not require them. There is no necessity for. them. We should make the reduction, if at all, in the interests of the consumer of corn flour, from whatever country it comes. - We should do that openly, .and not under the disguise of giving preference to the United Kingdom. Senator Trenwith used very powerful arguments in support of the duty. One of his reasons was the securing of the purity of the article - a question which we do not require to go into - while the other was protection run mad. He asks us to add 300 per cent, to a duty which, if Senator Macfarlane’s figures are correct, was already efficacious.
– The proposed duty is equal to an increase of 300 per cent, upon an article of food which is an absolute necessity for children, invalids, and elderly people generally. The food must be of the very best quality. Whilst I believe that we in Australia are improving in our methods of manufacture, we have not reached the stage when we can compare the goods we produce for quality with those made in England by business houses whose reputations are above reproach, and who would not endanger their good name by selling an inferior article. There is a difference of 40 per cent, between the price of the ‘ best corn flour imported from England and the best made in Australia. Surely the wishes of the consumers should be consulted. So large an increase in the duty must mean an increase in the price. We are asked to regard corn flour, not as a food which is urgently needed by children and invalids, but simply as an article the . manufacture of which should be a protected industry, and which must be sold to the consumers irrespective of their own tastes. Medical men frequently advise their patients to buy certain brands’ of foods because they have confidence in the makers, and know that they can safely recommend them on account of their purity. It is ‘becoming to me more and more of a problem as to how long the consuming public of Australia will continue to be gulled into the belief that the Labour Party are the only men who desire to see their conditions improved. I wonder how long they will be content to allow the members of that party in this Parliament to pile up duties that must have a direct influence upon the purchasing power of their wages. Year by year the cost of living in Australia is increasing, and if this goes on it is questionable how far wages, which now at least are sufficient to keep body and _soul together, will go in buying the necessaries of life. I enter my strongest protest against the continually increasing taxation of the food of the people, under the pretext that it is going to encourage some miserably small manufacturer, who may be a thoroughly honest man-
– But the honorable senator objects that he is miserable and small.
– He is small in many cases when his output and the wages that he pays are compared with the - taxation imposed on the people of the Commonwealth to keep him going. It is an absolute burlesque upon fiscal principles. At one time protection was advocated because it was urged that the conditions here and in other countries were not equal. It was said that all that was desired was such a duty as would represent the difference between the wages conditions in England and in Australia, and give a fair opportunity to our own manufacturers ; but honorable senators who are supposed to represent the Labour Party, throw .that idea to the winds, and say that they do not desire any importations whatever.’
– Who said that ?
– That has been said over and over again by honorable senators.
– Name one.
– There are so many who expressed that opinion that it is somewhat difficult to single them out.
– I hope the honorable senator will not enter into a general discussion on the Tariff, but confine himself to the item before us.
– In my opinion it is a serious mistake to propose an increase of duty to the extent of 300 per cent, on an article which is used by the people not only as a food, but as a medicine.
– The remarks of Senator Gray have brought me to my feet. To impose duties on the necessaries of life is very much against my inclination, but. I recognise that, if men and women cannot get employment, they are unable to purchase necessaries, however cheap they may be. I beg to resent such statements as those made by Senator Gray, who ought to be fair enough to give the names of those to whom he refers.
– Their name is legion.
– The honorable senator evidently desires to pose as the friend of the working man.
– I ask the honorable senator not to pursue a general argument, but to confine himself to the item before us.
– I look upon this as not only a protective duty, but also a revenue duty. We are told that the Tariff is expected to result in a revenue of £10,000,000.
– A long way more than that !
– I desire to avoid extremes. If revenue is not to be obtained in this way, where do those who pose as the friends of the working man intend to obtain it?
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [12.56]. - As one of the elected representatives of the consumer I should like to say a word. It is all very well to consider the wages and general prosperity of the few who can possibly be employed in any one of these petty industries - I am not now referring particularly to corn flour - but we ought not to penalize every other human being throughout the Commonwealth by imposing a duty 300 per cent, higher than that which previously obtained.
– This cannot be described as a struggling industry, seeing that it is carried on by the Harpers and the Parsons, the merchant princes of Australia.
– As I interjected previously, when the Minister of Home Affairs was dealing with the subject, this is not so much a duty on corn flour, as the protection of another industry which is peculiarly Victorian. It is an industry which, after all, to a large extent is foreign - it is another of those Chinese industries in which the present Government take an .interest, seeing that the material is grown in China, and only made up here.
– Maize is grown on the Richmond River.
– Maize has to be imported in bad seasons, and the honorable senator knows that the factories do not get their supplies from the Richmond River. The people in that part of New South Wales are flourishing enough to consume their own output, and a little more - they do not struggle along on secondary industries, but flourish on the primary industries. On behalf of the great mass of consumers, at any rate in New South
Wales, I protest, and will give my vote, against the scandalous, needless, and altogether reprehensible proposed increase of duty.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [2.0]. - I do not want to speak at any length. I have often noticed that if a division is taken immediately after an adjournment for a meal, some honorable senators are deprived of the opportunity of voting, and therefore I shall be glad if we could have from the Minister a little more information on this item. He promised that before we came to a division he would make an effort to ascertain if the Department of Trade and Customs had an officer or could find a person who . knew the difference between starch made from rice and corn flour made from rice. It will ‘be remembered that he informed the Committee that in the Department there was no officer who could tell the difference between the two articles, and I suggested a reference of the matter to a laundress, because she would not -attempt to starch any one’s shirts with corn flour. That I look upon us as a “ dead cert.”- - even more a certainty that any_ possibility connected with the test match, in respect of which I think that the Minister, in view of the great progress made this morning, ought to agree to an adjournment. I consider that a test ‘match is quite as good a subject for an adjournment as was an election in South Australia. I suggest that we might be let off to-day for a) couple of hours.
– Order !
– I admit, sir, that I have strayed a little from the track, but that has been owing to the extraordinary difficulty on the part of the Minister in regard to describing the difference between the product of rice and the product of maize ; the difference between an article used in the polishing of a- shirt front and the feeding of an infant. Surely by this time he. has discovered in the Department some officer who knows the difference between ah article used in the laundry and an article used in the rearing of infants. ^ I should be glad if, before we go to a division, he will tell us whether he has obtained the promised information.
– I never promised such information.
– Good Lord ! What are we to do with this Ministry? I am afraid that they have become corrupted under the influence of these heavy duties. Apparently they cannot rely upon their memories, and we cannot rely upon their promises. I ask the Minister to reconsider the statement which he has just made. We all appreciatehis undeviating courtesy in the Chamber, and I do not think that he, in his ordinary condition of humour, if not of mind, would have made such a reply, to me as he has just uttered.
– If I had made a promise of any kind I would, when I resumed my seat, have at once set an inquiry in motion.
– I can only regret that I formed a wrong impression from an expression of the honorable senator. Will he consent to a postponement of this item until the whole or at least some portion of the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs have discovered the difference between a laundry article and Infant’s food?
.- I am in a position to give a little information to my honorable friend. At my lodgings there lives an exceedingly clever chemist, who has assured me that there is not the slightest difficulty in telling whether starches have been made from potatoes or rice or maize. He explained thatthe services of an analyst were not needed, but that there were certain physical conditions which would enable any chemist or other informed man to discriminate, most easily. I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs, if he intends to speak again, will try to justify the imposition of a duty of 2d. per lb. on this article. I ask him to see if we cannot come to a compromise.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by making the duty on “Corn Flour.”½d. per lb. (Senator Clemons’ request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request (by Senator Colonel Neild) put -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by making the duty on “Corn Flour”1d. per lb.
The Committee divided.
Majority. … … 3
Question, so resolved in the negative.
Request (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by making the duty on “ Corn Flour “ (imports from the United Kingdom),1d. per lb.
– I intend to vote against this request. It appears to me that the Committee is determined to insist upon a protective duty of 2d. per lb. England grows no grain from which corn flour can be manufactured. Surely if the grain is exported to England and sent back in the form of corn flour either the consumers in
Australia, or the unfortunate employes engaged in the manufacture of the product in England have to suffer. To me the position taken up by Senator Millen seems to be illogical, and therefore I shall record a vote against a preference being granted to the United Kingdom.
– I have not said a word upon this itemhitherto, and should have been content to submit my request without comment. But if there is to be a discussion on every item in the Tariff, I shall consider that there is no obligation upon me to economize time.
– I do not trouble the Committee very much.
– I am not saying that the honorable senator does. But I have abstained from discussing any of these matters.
– So have many of us.
– But still the debate goes on. Who is doing it? Nearly an hour before lunch was taken up by the Government whip. We were on the eve of a division when Senator Trenwith came in and delivered one of his stump protectionist speeches.
– What are we here for, except to discuss matters?
– I just want to deal with the point raised by Senator Croft. He says that the Committee has decided in favour of a duty of 2d. It has decided nothing of the kind. It has decided against proposals put forward by various members of the Committee but it has not yet decided that 2d. is the correct duty to impose. It is quite true, as Senator Croft says, that the great bulk of the imports of corn flour come from the United Kingdom, which the Government desire to assist in some way by means of trade facilities. Whether England gets its raw material from anywhere else is quite outside the policy of the Government. If honorable senators look at item after item in this Tariff they will see that preference duties are proposed on goods the raw material of which is not produced in Great Britain. Take cotton piece goods. Does Great Britain grow cotton? She is dependent upon the growers of India. Yet the Government propose to give a preference on that item.
– We do not grow cotton here either.
– Whether we do or not, I am trying to point out to the Com mittee that the mere fact that Great Britain does not produce the raw material of corn flour cannot be regarded as an argument against a preference duty, because England is entirely dependent for her raw material on other parts of the worldin respect of other commodities, just as she is in respect of maize. But English merchants send us the great bulk of our imports in this particular commodity. Now we have a. chance of doing, as I believe, two things at the same time - that is, of giving some slight preference to the manufacturers in the United Kingdom, whilst bringing down the duties at any rate upon a portion of our imports to a more reasonable figure. A great deal was said before lunch about some small struggling industry employing a few hands. This is not a small struggling industry. It is one of the best established industries in the Commonwealth. It supplies somewhere about fourfifths of the entire consumption of the Commonwealth; and that quantity of corn flour is not manufactured by one small struggling maker, in Queensland, but by rich merchant princes like Messrs. Robert Harper and Company, and Messrs. Parsons, in Melbourne. These are the men for whom my honorable friends opposite are making such a strong fight to-day. Local production is strong enough to supply Australia with 5,000,000 lbs., against importations to the extent of 1,750,000 lbs., using round figures. What is more, the production has been steadily increasing under the old Tariff of½d. per lb.
– Too steadily.
– I do not know what more any one could desire. Senator Trenwith has denied with indignation the statement of Senator Gray that he and his party desire to stop all imports. Nevertheless, he is not satisfied with the fact that the local producers of corn flour have overtaken the market to the extent of about four-fifths. I am not seeking to reduce the measure of protection the manufacturers have hitherto enjoyed. But the proposal I have made is to double the duty - to give them 100 per cent. more protection than they have had as against the United Kingdom. If ever there was a case of an industry that has grown under a duty this is one, and yet it is proposed to increase the duty from½d. to 2d. It requires something more than a mere block majority vote to justify the imposition to which we are asked to agree.
– (New South Wales) [2.21.]. - It is objected that the proposal of Senator Millen- is unjustifiable because maize is not grown in England. What particular preference duties have been agreed to at the instance of the Government under this schedule that apply to articles grown in England? Take the case of chocolate and cocoa. The raw material is imported into England in the form of beans to be manufactured, just as maize is imported in the sack to be manufactured into corn flour. If the Government were justified in giving a preference to the cocoa and chocolate manufacturers of England, and to the working men and women employed in that- industry, thev are just as much justified in assenting to Senator Mi lien’s proposal for a preference duty in respect to corn flour. May I be allowed also to congratulate my honorable friend, Senator Millen, on his accession to the ranks of the preferentialists? I understood some time ago that he was opposed to the iniquitous thing. Indeed, I think that he has given a few votes against me when I have proposed preference duties. But I am very happy to be able to support the honorable senator in a proposal which I was on the point of making myself, and which I am very glad that he has made.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.22]. - The Committee iri its wisdom has just decided not to reduce the duty on corn flour in the first column of the schedule to id: per lb. The duty proposed by the Government amounts to an increase of 300 per cent. It has been submitted that an increase of 100 per cent, would be quite adequate. The Committee has said no, and that a duty of id. is too low. Inferentially it is said that the duty .ought to be retained at 2d. Substantially seveneighths of the entire importations of corn flour come from England. Therefore I regard the last vote as establishing the duty as against England, which is the largest exporter of this commodity. Now we are asked - and I can quite understand the motive - to again vote upon the matter - to reverse the vote on the pretence of giving a preference to England. I dislike that very much. I think that a straightout vote upon the General Tariff is the proper way to arrive at the right duty to impose. But, of course, I look at this question simply from the point of view of the consumer of an article of food which is generally used. From that point of view - this being a necessary and universally required article of diet - I .shall vote for the duty of id. as I did before, but I distinctly do it with the strongest protest. It is doing it under a hollow pretext, and I think is likely to do great harm. This is not a substantial preference. It is not a real preference of any description. I quite admit that it may afford an excuse for some to vote for id. who would not vote for that as a straight-out reduction pf duty, ‘but the excuse is, all the same - a sham. I merely rose to say that as this is an universally consumed article of nutritious diet, and for the reasons that I have already given for a reduction, I shall vote’ for the request, but with the greatest reluctance and with the strongest possible protest against the pretence - I do not use that word in any way as a reflection’ upon those who hold a different opinion - for reducing a duty which the Committee has recognised as a proper one to be imposed upon an article of food.
– This is a typical instance of the preference policy of the Government. If Ave analyze the proposal it means this : Under the Tariff with which we have been working for six years, the manufacturers of England who wanted to send corn flour into the Commonwealth could send it under a duty of Jd. per lb. We are now asked to tell England ‘ seriously and solemnly that we will give her a preference as to corn flour. In other words, we are invited to say - “ Whereas you have sent in your corn flour and faced the competition of local production during the past six years at Jd. per lb., the preference we now propose to give you is to put up the duty from Jd. to id.” I have to vote for this request, although I regard the preference as a sham. But I am- not going to forego any opportunity to protect the interests of the Australian consumer in regard to an article of food which is to some extent a necessary. I shall take even this opportunity of reducing the burden of taxation.
– The honorable senator regards this as an evidence of the sincerity of the Government as to preference ?
– So far as it is a proposal for preference to Great Britain it is nothing to us. I am thinking of the Australian consumer. I am not even thinking of the Australian consumer with regard to everything. If this were an article of luxury my attitude would be very different.
For instance, take the case of fancy jewellery. If I am asked to give a preference on such goods as that, I shall say at once that the Australian consumer is not much concerned as to whether ‘fancy jewellery is cheap or dear. The only thing left for me to consider in that case is - does the proposed duty represent some magnificent effort on the part of Australia to help England in her industrial work ? I do not thinkthat England wants any help from us in her industrial work. But I do think that the Australian consumer wants to be saved from some of his so-called friends. We are now dealing with a food, and if I can only secure a reduction of duty by means of a pretext - rotten though it is - I shall jump at it at once.
.-‘ I can hardly understand the strong efforts made to raise this duty from Jd. to 2d., per lb. I always thought there was a certain amount of common sense amongst honorable senators opposite. But it is acknowledged that in this case we have captured the trade under a duty of £d. per lb. What is going to be the effect on the consumer of increasing the duty to 2d. ? We shall simply put it in the power of one or two firms to raise their prices by 1½d. per lb. The thing seems to me to be so absurd that it is not worth talking about. Surely to goodness honorable senators must look at the interest of the people who use this commodity. If the manufacture of corn flour in Australia, without the protection of the high duty, were shown to be impossible, the position would be different; but the. fact is that, under a duty of Jd. per lb., we have manufactured over 4,060,000 lbs. of corn flour annually, and have had to import only something over 1,000,000 lbs. What reason, then, is there for increasing the price of corn flour to the general public?
– The honorable senator had little sympathy with the general public when the duty on bananas was under discuss:01. I like consistency.
– No one is more inconsistent than the honorable senator, who sometimes makes excellent speeches, and then gives his whole case away by saying that he intends to support the Government. Certain honorable senators are never tired of telling us that the capitalists are grinding the people to the dust; but they are the men who are endeavouring to remove all opposition out of the path of these capitalists. Ths local manufacturers hav ing captured, under a duty of d., fourfilths of the corn flour business ought, under a duty of id., to be able to capture the whole of it; but a duty of 2d. will enable them to increase their prices by 1½d. without fear of competition from abroad. I am surprised that those who profess to specially represent the workers are willing to vote for what will practically give a monopoly to two Victorian firms, and lead to an increase in the price of corn flour.
– There are some honorable senators who say that the proposed preference is largely a sham, because five-sixths of the weight of com flour imported to Australia comes from the United Kingdom ; but they will find that the value is only two-thirds of the whole, most of the balance coming from the United States.
– If the Committee agrees to the proposed preference, it will raise the duty on corn flour, so far as British importations are concerned, ‘by 100 per cent. Senator Gray. - In regard to other importations it has been increased 300 per cent.
– This raising of the duty, which will mean an increase of price, is being forced on the public largely by a section of honorable senators who, night after night, denounced the conditions of the workers in the corn flour industry. Now, however, the Government, supported by the Socialists, are forcing through a proposal which means increased, taxation on the food of the poor and of children. If under the previous Tariff the people were lashed with whips, the Government and the Socialists say that they shall row. _be lashed with scorpions. Senator Millen’s proposal is designed to mitigate a very bad position. The debate has served to accentuate the hollowness of the Government’s preference proposals. Senator Trenwith, who so ably puts the protectionist view, often speaks the mind of the Government better than Ministers can, and He has made it clear that he will prohibit the importation of all goods which can be made in Australia, even though the importation may be from the United Kingdom. Therefore he should in practice substitute prohibition in the preference column in all cases where there has been importation from Great Britain. It behoves us then to accentuate the hypocrisy of the Government’s preferential proposals. It should be known that the responsibility for the increase of taxation which has taken place lies upon them and upon their supporters, and that there are some of us who are conscious of the hypocrisy and fiscal tyranny which now is asked for.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by making the duty on Corn Flour (imports from the United Kingdom)1d. per lb. (Senator Millen’s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Does paragraph d include oatmeal ?
– It is a pity that the Tariff should be so framed that it is onlyby careful scrutiny one can ascertain exactly what is included in an item. I think that oatmeal should be admitted free of duty, and I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by making “ Grain andPulse n.e.i., including Phosphorized Wheat,” free.
In New Zealand, on the 9th January, oats were quoted, according to the New Zealand Trade Review, at 3s. 5d. and 3s. 8d. a bushel, and oatmeal at£15 a ton, whereas in Melbourne on the 25th January - I take this date because the price of oats here was then nearest to the New Zealand price - oats were quoted at 3s. 2½d. and 3s. 3d. a bushel, and oatmeal at £2010s. a ton. To those in the inner ring these facts are not surprising. In respect of this item just as in the case of corn flour there is a combine which controls prices in Melbourne to-day. Every manufacturer of oatmeal charges the same price. The price is pre-arranged and adhered to, and has very little reference to the cost of the raw material. The price of oatmeal in Melbourne, where it is chiefly manufactured, is regulated almost entirely by the men who make it, and largely irrespective of the price of oats. Whether honorable senators are prepared to vote for revenue or for protective duties, it is well that they should recognise what the consumer has to pay in spite of these duties or, if honorable senators like, because of them.
– Oatmeal is a lot cheaper now than when we had to import it.
-I suppose that I am to be told that it is good to have to pay£19 a ton for oatmeal simply and solely because it is not imported.
– I say that oatmeal is now cheaper in Australia than when we had to import it.
– It is not. But for the duty it would be imported at a lower rate than that ruling here to-day.
– We could not get from abroad the oatmeal that we want.
– Of course that which is produced abroad must be better than that which is locally manufactured !
– I have not said so.
– I was referring to Senator Neild’s interjection.
– We can express merely what is our own opinion ; none of us can seriously lay down a dictum as to. the quality of oatmeal.
– A duty of ½d. per lb. amounts to between £4 and£5 a ton.
– The Melbourne price of oatmeal is as nearly as possible the price at which it can be imported plus the duty. That is what we have to face, and for what object? To help what men? Is it to help men engaged in the manufacture of oatmeal when there is no reason why they should not go on producing it irrespective of what the duty is? We have to consider of course .the question of freights which I do not desire to discuss at this stage, but surely we in Australia are sufficiently self-reliant and capable to be able to manufacture oatmeal without protection ? And protection against whom ? Must we be protected against the New Zealand workmen? We grow oats, and sometimes export them in enormous quantities ; yet we say that we need to be heavily protected against some one in New .Zealand or elsewhere with the inevitable result - because this is the curse of the whole thing - that the price is put up to the level of the duty.
– Never mind that; let us get to a vote.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to talk in this idle way, but it is an established fact that the duty is simply an added price to the consumer. That I hold is a scandal.
– I know that it is not added, and I buy more, oatmeal than does, any other honorable senator.
– I should not like to see- the whole item made free, and it seems to me that it should have been set out with greater detail. We do not know how many articles the paragraph “ n.e.i.” covers. I, in common no doubt with many honorable senators, had overlooked the fact that that paragraph includes oatmeal, and it seems to me that if the Minister would tell us what it covers, he would assist us materially in arriving at a decision and enable jus to improve the Tariff. I think that oatmeal ought to be free, and if Senator Clemons will move accordingly I shall be glad to support him.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
Request (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by inserting the following new paragraph : - “ cc Oatmeal, free.”
– According to the return before ‘us, oatmeal, wheatmeal, and rolled oats all come under the same heading, and I fail to see why we should make oatmeal free and leave wheatmeal dutiable.
– And rolled oats.
– Quite so. I think all three should be included.
– - It is simply a question of Customs in terpretation ; but my desire is that all shall come under the one heading. By leave I shall amend my request by moving as Senator Chataway suggests -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by inserting the following new paragraph : - “ cc. Oatmeal, Wheatmeal, -and Rolled Oats, free.
Request, by leave, amended accordingly.
– Paragraph d would include not only oatmeal, wheatmeal, and rolled oats, but such things as force, grape’ nuts, germea, and granula, the equal of any of which can be made in the Commonwealth. Senator Clemons has said that it is necessary that the duty should be taken off oatmeal, wheatmeal, and rolled oats, and has pointed out that when the price of oats in’ New Zealand was about 6d. per bushel more than it was in Australia, the price of oatmeal in the Dominion was less than it was in Melbourne, about the same time, by some £4 or ,£5 per ton. .1 do not think that that matter would be regulated and governed entirely by the duty. New Zealand has an import duty on oatmeal.
– But the oatmeal to which I referred was made in New Zealand.
– And the oatmeal sold in Melbourne was made in this State.
– The difference between the price ruling in New Zealand and that in Melbourne was the difference of the duty.
– Then why did not the duty in New Zealand raise the price there ?
– If the increased price in Melbourne was due to the fact that we had granted the local manufacturers a protection of a duty of id. per lb., why did not the duty in New Zealand have the same effect there ?
– First of all it did not, and secondly they did not have in New Zealand the sort of combine that is notorious here.
– The difference in price cannot be due entirely to the existence of a Tariff.
– It is due also to the fact .that the prices are agreed upon by the manufacturers here.
– Assuming that that is correct - and! I do not admit that it is - the fact remains that in the absence of the local manufacturers the same arrange- ment would probably be made by the importers. They could bring in as much or as little as they pleased, and could swamp out of competition the smaller man. Under the old Tariff the duty was½d. per lb. As originally introduced the Federal Tariff of 1902 provided for a duty of1d. per lb. on oatmeal, rolled oats, wheatmeal,pearl barley, Scotch barley, maizena, and corn flour; but theduty was reduced to½d. per lb. So far as the other items included under grain and pulse n.e.i., are concerned, the duty was 2s. 6d. per cental, and as the duty on the items dealt with by Senator Clemons has been½d. per lb. since 1901, I hope that honorable senators will see fit not to disturb it.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by inserting the following new paragraph “ (cc), Oatmeal; wheatmeal, and rolled oats, free” - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … ….. 5
Question, so resolved in the negative.
.- I really cannot understand why a majority of the Committee voted against the last proposal. It could not have been from a desire to give effect to a protective policy, but must have been from a desire to tax the food of the people. Now, I cannot believe that a majority of the Committee wish to impose such a heavy tax as½d. per lb. upon the people’s food. In regard to all other similar commodities the duties have been fixed at somuch per cental and not so much per lb. I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 65 by inserting the following new paragraph: - “ cc. Oatmeal, wheatmeal, and rolled oats, per cental,2s.”
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.4]. - I should like Senator Clemons to include in his proposal that interesting article of diet, which I have frequently seen at long range, and which is known as “ Force.” It seems to me to be one of those miscellaneous breakfast mysteries which ought to be included. If he can see his way to do as I suggest, I shall vote with him.
– If I included “ Force” I should then have to include a long list of miscellaneous articles.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 66. Animal food’s, n.e.i., per cental, 2s.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.10]. - This is a fitting opportunity for me to make a comment which it was not possible to make at an earlier stage of the debate. In respect of this item I charge the Government with delaying the passage of the Tariff by proposing an increased duty which in comparison with the former rate which was operative will produce an additional revenue annually of only£2 10s. Last year the revenue collected from this item amounted to £10, and the duty now operative will therefore yield £12 10s.
-That is true wit.
– Possibly it may include “ the husks upon which the swine did eat,” and which are admirably adaptedfor the sustenance of political prodigals. I shall be delighted, in the interests of some supporters of the Government, to do my best to relieve them from the tax imposed in respect of those two articles under this item. The increase proposed is 25 per cent., and worse, because under the Tariff of 1902 these articles were dutiable at1s. 6d., and free. I wonder what part of this item was free ? It is of no use to apply to the Minister for information as to how this £10 duty was divided, because the Customs Department were not able to tell the difference between corn flour pudding and a starched shirt front. They cannot, therefore be expected to know how the duty was divided between prodigal husks and thistles and the few small items that went to make up this momentous addition to the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth. Talk about parish politics ! Some honorable gentlemen imagine that they are so superior to State, politicians-
– I ask the honorable senator not to pursue that line of argument.
– These little items are paltry in the extreme for a Government, professing to be a great one, to propose. It is a matter that, a State Government might well be ashamed of. What articles were free, and what were dutiable at1s. 6d. ? Clearly if the 2s. duty is passed we shall see an improvement in the revenue to the extent of1s. a week. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 661s. 6d. per cental.
– If the desire of the Government was to raise more revenue by increasing this duty, they were somewhat illogical in removing the duty from hay and chaff, which brought in ^39 of revenue last vear, and increasing the duty on animal foods n.e.i., which only returned ;£io.
– The Government did not strike the duty off hay and chaff. It was removed by the House of Representatives.
– It is remarkable that in a country like this, where we can grow anything in the nature of animal foods, we should proclaim to the world by the presence of this item in. the Tariff that we may not be able to grow them at some time in the future. The presence of this item in the schedule is equivalent to a cry of “ stinking fish.” I fail to see that it is necessary to give any protection to the wellknown primary industries which must be covered by this item. I shall vote against the item, because it is ridiculous to impose a dutv of this kind. It is an admission of our inability to supply our own market with products of which large quantities are rotting all over the place.
Item agreed to.
Item 67. Hay and Chaff, per cwt. is., and on and after -31st October, 1907, free.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 67 is. per cwt.
In giving my reasons for taking this action, I shall follow the example set by Senator Millen in approaching subjects of this kind. I was elected as an out-and-out protectionist - a protectionist farmer - and stated that questions that would affect the farming interest would have my first concern, i intend to claim Senator Millen’ s vote on this question. When he was before his electors, he said that he recognised that protection had come to stay, and did not intend to advocate increases or reductions in duties, but would simply remove anomalies. He said that he was prepared, as far as possible, to stand by the Tariff of 1902. A duty of is. per cwt. appeared in that Tariff on this item. The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended that that dutv should be. retained, and the free-trade section did not advocate any alteration. Seeing that it is admitted on all sides that protection is the settled policy of Australia, I desire to know why one class of the community should be deprived of the. privileges that protection confers.
– Can the honorable senator prove that they will be deprived of anything ?
– I am well able to prove that. I have heard lately^ especially from Senator Neild, what a grand country New South Wales is. I have travelled over it frequently during the last twelve months, and am sorry to say that, judging from appearances, the farmers there have had a bad time. When the rain did not fall as plentifully as usual in that State, this question was before the House of Representatives, and it happened that there were in that Chamber a number of what Senator Millen characterizes as geographical protectionists. I admit that New South Wales has been greatly affected by the drought, and that Victoria has been affected to some extent. But in every year there is a drought in some part or other of this great continent. Even in South Australia there is a limit tq the cultivation of the soil. In certain parts of that State the farmers had poor crops this year, but. taking the State as a whole, they have had an abundant harvest. So in New South Wales, while in large areas the crops have been poor, in other portions of the State they have been excellent. I desire to give encouragement to the farming community. In South Australia now, and even before the recent harvest, thousands of tons of hay were held from last year or the year before.
– Hay was selling at from ^7 to /~.8 per ton in Sydney. Why did thev not send it over there?
– That is a matter that I have nothing to do with. Since the world began there have been times of drought. Any honorable senator who has read his Bible will recollect a seven years’ drought recorded on one occasion. In advocating this duty, I am moving for what I believe to be right, fair, and just. We ought to encourage men who, during years of plenty, reap and . stack abundant harvests in order that these may be available in poor seasons. It may be said that there is some selfishness in such a policy, but, at the same time, the men who take that course do their duty to the country. I do not expect much support from Queensland, and I look for opposition from New South Wales; but I remind Senator Neild that during a recent visit to Western Australia, I saw a great deal of hay in the paddocks and in stacks; and quite a number of the electors and farmers of that State were of opinion that they had not received fair treatment from the Commonwealth Parliament. In the past Western Australia has provided a market for much of the surplus produce of the eastern States; and now, when there is a year of plenty, several boats, I understand, have been chartered on the part of New South Wales in order to obtain supplies from Western Australia.
– Is that a crime ?
– No; it is a grand thing to do, and we ought to encourage such trade. We have often heard it said that under Federation there was to be free-trade amongst the various States with protection against the outside world, and I see no reason why the farming community should be debarred from the advantages of such a policy. If I may refer to certain of the divisions taken a day or two ago, when an attempt was made by some free-trade conservative ‘senators to do away with advantages to which the farming community are entitled- -
– Can the honorable senator .give a single illustration of the farming community having suffered in consequence of chaff coming in free?
– There is not time, and I am not called upon to do so at the present moment. At the same time, I can say that there are thousands of tons of hay waiting for a market. After visiting Dalgety and some other places in New South Wales - which, in my opinion, did not look up to much - I told my farming friends of South Australia that I was afraid the hay crop there would to some extent prove a- failure, and advised them, as wise men, to cut a larger supply. An occasion is now presented of extending some of the advantages of protection, to the farmer.
– When the boot is on the other foot, how will the honorable senator argue then ?
– The honorable senator gauges me by himself ; and that is a very poor political standard. Senator St. Ledger cannot see beyond his own State, whereas this is the first occasion on which I have referred directly to South Australia, and I only do so on principle. I have been connected with farming practically the whole of mv life, though I may not be regarded by certain farming electors as a reliable representative. Some of those electors are horror-stricken to think that a Labour man should ever dare to represent the farming community; and, indeed, I think there £re honorable senators here who do not regard me as in earnest in this connexion. At every meeting I addressed during my political campaign, even in the city of Adelaide, I told my electors that my first and last concern would be the interests of the primary producers ; and I should not be doing my duty this afternoon if I refrained from frankly and fully expressing my opinion. Several honorable senators are apparently shocked at the course I take, and declare that I am trying to injure the farmer; but I ask Senator Millen dr any other honorable senator to justify such an idea.
– I shall try to.
- Senator Millen has first to reconcile his statements with his pledges’ that he would, as far as possible, remedy the anomalies in the Tariff. The honorable senator has said that he was not prepared to reduce the duty, and neither would he care to increase it. Why ? Is it because of the geographical position of the State he represents? Why should New Zealand be placed on the same footing as South Australia or Western Australia on the Australian market? I speak as a Labour man and as a farmer, and I mean every word I say.
– The honorable senator might give some instance where the farming community has suffered.
– I could very easily do that, and refer to the State Bank and other subjects, only that the Chairman would call me to order. I appeal for support, particularly to those who belong to the same political faith as myself. During the last few days we have heard of Western Australia and Queensland being in trouble in connexion with their products, but now it is New South Wales ; and, in a discussion in another place in this connexion, the representatives of the- latter State expressed themselves as great freetraders. In this Chamber Senator Millen claims to be a free-trader, but really he is not. ‘ I have the greatest respect for Senator Millen, who always expresses himself in perfectly clear language, but, in this instance, I think he is in an awkward fix, and I should like to hear his reply before I leave for Adelaide this afternoon. Senator Millen and Senator Gray were elected to oppose the Labour Party.
– We were elected to do our duty to the Commonwealth.
– I ask honorable senators by their votes to say that the protectionist policy shall not be applied to ninety-nine industries, and refused to the hundredth. I have submitted a request which I regard as just and reasonable, and I have had much pleasure in speaking in support of it.
– In order to shorten the discussion as much as possible, I propose to grapple at once with the main argument which I know will be advanced against the restoration of this duty, and that is that if it is restored it will place a tax upon the struggling settlers and further starve their starving stock.
– Senator W. Russell has proved that.
– According to the official figures which have been published for our information and guidance there is not a shred of groundwork for such an argument. Let me deal first in round figures with the exports of hay and chaff from the. Commonwealth to other countries. In 1902 the value of those exports was £252,000; in 1903, £44.000; in 1904, £28,000; in 1905, £21,000; and in 1906, £9,000. During the same period we exported compressed fodder. In 1902 the value of these exports, in round figures, was £73,000; in 1903, £93.000; in 1904, £142,000 ; in- 1905, £62,000 ; and in 1906, ,£29,000. I will now give the total value of our exports of hay and chaff and compressed fodder for that period. In 1902 the total value, in round figures, was £325,000; in 1903, £137,000; -in 1904, £1:70,000; in 1905, £83,000; and in 1906, £38,000. Now in 1903 we had one of the severest droughts that have marked the history of the Commonwealth.
– No; in 1902.
– It has been acknowledged, and the record of imports shows that the severest drought in the Commonwealth during the last decade occurred in 1903. During that drought-stricken year, when there were, according to those who oppose the restoration of this duty, starving stock and raving settlers, we imported only £3,000 worth of hay and chaff.
– Because the prices were so high.
– In the year of which the honorable senator speaks we had the record crop in New South Wales. He has got wrong with his figures.
– New South Wales- is only a part of the Commonwealth.
– It is a fairly large part of the continent.
– I am not speaking of 1 particular’ State, but of the Commonwealth’s exports and imports of certain articles. We are discussing a proposition which affects the whole of the States, and if wo allowed ourselves to be influenced by what had happened in a particular State our judgment would be warped considerably. .
– Cannot the honorable senator quote the price of fodder at those particular times?
– It is not my purpose to take up the time of the Committee very long. I simply rose to point out the fallacy which underlies the contention that it we restore this duty we shall slaughter so many cattle in the back country and destroy the prospects of the settlers. Surely in view of the fact that in the droughtstricken year of 1903 we exported £137,000 worth of fodder, it cannot be urged that we are in such a desperate condition that we cannot support our own stock.
– I - think that in Queensland the drought was at “its greatest intensity in 1902, and apparently in New South Wales they were not so badly off in 190^? as in 1902, so that the figures may be easily made misleading.
– I think that the most reliable barometer of the Australian climate is the wheat yield, and 1903 stands out most prominently as a year when the yield of wheat in the Commonwealth was as low as 12,000,000 bushels.
– There is likely to be confusion if the honorable, senator takes the wheat year a.nd a calendar rain year, because while the latter runs from January to December the former starts from a different month.
– The honorable senator was claiming just now that in 1903 we had a particularly good season, and yet the total wheat yield for the Commonwealth was about 12,000,000 bushels, whilst the imports for that year were enormous; in fact, record imports. Now getting down to actual facts, in a year of drought and alleged hardship-
– Yes, and it is just as well to face fallacies .when they are advanced.
– The poor settlers did not think so.
– During 1903. the Commonwealth exported£137,000 worth of hay and chaff and compressed fodder, so. that the allegation that Australia was in need of those articles during that year is a fallacy, an untruth. It is not borne out by the records of the State Departments.
– What good will the duty do if nothing is imported?
– The purpose of this Tariff is to establish a policy of protection pure and simple. We have recognised that the growers of potatoes and onions in Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales are deserving of protection. I contend that the man who goes into the wheat belts is equally deserving of encouragement as is the man who grows potatoes or onions in perhaps the most temperate climate. If we do not give the man who goes into the drier zones protection what willbe the result? We will open the Australian market to the products of adjacent countries - New Zealand, for example.
– How is a protective duty on chaff going to help our growers when there is no importation ?
– The imports of hay and chaff are lumped together.
– If there is no importation how is a duty going to help our growers ?
– I deny utterly that there is any necessity for importation, because here with a barrier of £1 per ton. or1s. a cental we imported only £3,000 worth during a year of hardship.
– At the same lime the honorable senator says that the duty will do no good because there is no importation.
– In all seriousness I ask how much stock would , £3,000 worth of fodder support? I forget at the moment how much fodder is required to sustain a beast for a given time; but I venture to say that the £3,000 worth of fodder imported during a year of alleged hardship would only sustain, an insignificant number of stock. I shall cordially support the restoration of a duty which will give a measure of protection to the wheat-growers, who have pushed out into the drier cultivable areas of Australia.
Senate adjourned at 3.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 February 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19080207_senate_3_43/>.