3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at m a.m., and read prayers.
Maitland Coal Miners : PostmasterGeneral.
– I have received an intimation from Senator Colonel Neild,, to the effect that he desires to move theadjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a matter , of urgency, viz.,. “The charges of drunkenness made by the Postmaster-General against .the coal minersof the Maitland district of New South. Wales.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South. Wales) [n. 2]. - I move -
That the . Senate at its rising adjourn until midnight to-morrow.
– This is merely a formal motion to enable me to obtain an opportunity to debate the question of which I have given notice. ‘ The subject with which I wish to deal seems to call for very few remarks from me, and to demand rather that 1 should bring forward evidence to disprove a gross slander upon a very large body of .my constituents. The charges made by the Postmaster-General are well known. I must consider them, not as charges made by Mr. Mauger in his. private capacity, or as a private member of Parliament, but as slanders by a Minister of the Crown, whose position increases the wrong done to a large body of honorable men. - 1 know something of the miners of New South Wales, my Connexion with them haying been fairly close. Two companies of my regiment consist exclusively of coal-miners, and I know the honorable and” sober character of these men. Although they do not live’ in the Maitland district, they are, I take it, a fair sample of the mining population of New South Wales.
– Maitland .and Newcastle constitute practically one- district.
– The men inthe companies of which I speak live in the South Coast district; but there is a consi- derable interchange of miners between that .and the Newcastle and Maitland districts. Of the men who have been slandered, many, while working in the Maitland district, have their homes in the Newcastle district, travelling between their homes and the mines by train. The Postmaster-General visited the Maitland district, was handsomely received there, being welcomed by the playing of brass bands, and with other demonstrations of good will ; but, on his return to Sydney, he thought fit - prompted by some anonymous informant - to slander those who had entertained him, by stating that, of the 3,000 men in the district, one out of every five became so intoxicated on Pay Saturday that he could not resume work before the following Wednesday, and went back then only because, if he did not do so, he would lose . his place in the mine. That was equivalent to saying that 600 men in the district are wretched drunkards, who indulge in excesses every fortnight, and was ;a most offensive calumny to be uttered by a Minister of the Crown on no better authority than the alleged statement of a policeman. I have not acted hurriedly in this matter, having patiently, day after day, asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council if reparation would be made, and, finally, if the Government “would agree to the appointment, of a Select Committee to investigate the charge. As I could not get the promise of either, I asked yesterday if Ministers approved or disapproved of the statement of their colleague, and again received no reply. As the old north country saying has it, “there are more ways of killing a dog than choking him with butter,” and I am taking a new way in this instance, by moving the adjournment. I am proud to say that I am not acting alone in the matter, having been asked by several honorable senators to take this course. Not being satisfied with the utterances to which I have taken exception, the Postmaster-General has :since, at a “ Pleasant Sunday Afternoon,” or some other gathering in Melbourne, repeated his slanders, again on the authority of some one who prefers to remain anonymous. Surely, there is. some limit to a man’s right to slander his fellows, or, if not, there must be some redress for those who are slandered. I, therefore, ask the representatives of the States assembled in this Chamber to indicate by some expression of opinion their disapproval of the wholesale slandering by the Postmaster-
General of electors of the Commonwealth. What would be the position had I c:>me to Melbourne and uttered a similar slander in reference to 3,000 gold miners in the Bendigo district? There would not be enough printer’s ink to smother me, or enough blue metal in the streets to pelt me, and I should have deserved both had I done such a thing. But, in the opinion of some persons here, the people of New South Wales may be abused as much as they please. I do not -think that that is the view of the Senate, and I cannot believe that the Ministry, whatever its initial sympathies may be, has fallen so low as to unitedly approve of such a slander of human beings by one of their number. I am a temperate man, and approve of the principle of temperance, but I am afraid that I cannot, be quite so temperate in speech when dealing with such a matter as this as I should like to be. I certainly do not want to fall into the error which Mr. Mauger made, of using outrageous language in discussing a subject which deserves very different treatment. However much the Postmaster-General may represent the dignity and purity of temperance in respect of the use of liquor, in this instance, at least, he has not represented the purity of temperance in his language. I have some evidence of how his comments are regarded by the people against whom they were made. I shall read, in the first instance, resolutions adopted by the Committee of Management of the Collieries Employes’ Federation of the Newcastle District -
That this Committee repudiates the unjustifiable imputation conveyed by the Commonwealth Postmaster-General in his public remarks as reported in the Newcastle Morning Herald, of nth February, as being absolutely false.
The second resolution reads as follows : -
That this Committee views with indignation the attitude of Mr. Mauger in permitting himself to be made- the disseminator of a one-sided statement conveying a serious charge against a reputable body of men, without first ascertaining its correctness or otherwise, by a stringent investigation, and holds that such action imperils the dignity of the Postmaster-General’s office, and that the tenor of the Committee’s views, in conjunction with the foregoing resolutions, be conveyed to Mr. Mauger by the General Secretary.
Those resolutions are framed with most commendable care, and are free from any extravagance or wildness of phraseology. They might have come from persons occupying a more prominent official position than the members of this Committee do. I have some other statements by persons whose opinions in respect of this matter ought surely to be entitled to respect. First of all, I quote the views of PoliceSuperintendent Saunders, a gentleman known to me for upwards of twenty years as a very highclass police officer, who years ago had charge of the Broken Hill district. I was present at the opening of the railway to Broken Hill, twenty years ago, when I saw probably 8.000 or 10,000 miners in the streets after a long holiday of jolification, and neither at night-fall, nor at it p.m., when I was on my way to the train, did I see a drunken man amongst them. Superintendent Saunders, when interviewed on this subject, said he - could not express any opinion about the miners of the Maitland coal-field, but from what he knew of miners generally, and he had spent the best part of his life amongst them, he could certainly say that, as a class, they were no more addicted to drinking than any other body of workmen. He had not gone into the matter, but he firmly believed that if the police court records were examined, it would be found that miners did not figure more prominently than any other class of men in fines for drunkenness.
– They figure to advantage in that comparison.
– I believe that they do. Superintendent Saunders went on to say -
He had no hesitation in saying that Mr. Mauger’s statement was an exaggeration.
I now come to the views of an officer a little more closely connected with the matter -
Inspector Sykes, who is Licensing Inspector for the Maitland district, indorsed the opinion given by his chief. He, too, had spent much of his life in south-coast and northern mining districts, and could honestly say that for sobriety the miners compared favorably with any other class of workmen. One had only to walk through tlie streets of West Maitland on a pay Saturday, when hundreds of miners from the coal-field could be seen. There was almost an entire absence of drunkenness. The miner, like many other men, was fond of his glass, but because he went to the hotel for a drink on or after pay-day, that was no reason why he should be classed as an excessive drinker. The statement that one out of every five of the miners on the Maitland coal-field was an excessive drinker after pay-day, could not be borne out by evidence.
Then I find that-
Sergeant Sunshall, of Kurri Kurri, also contends that miners as a class are no more given to excessive drinking than any other class, and he had a life-long experience with them. . The percentage of excessive drinkers in the towns of the coal-field was very small, in fact, if asked to fix a maximum percentage, he would say i£.
That is very different from 20 per cent. -
It was a gross exaggeration for any one to saythat one out of every five miners was an excessive drinker after pay-day.
I am now going to quote a gentleman who, I believe, is as staunch a teetotaller as Mr. Mauger is, and who, although he has not the advantage, or disadvantage, of being a Minister of the Crown, has been a total abstainer quite as long as has the. PostmasterGeneral.
– But let us hope that he is a far more temperate temperance man.
Senator Colonel NEILD. I should hope he was -
Mr. A. S. Brown, J. P., of Kurri Kurri, who has been a prominent member of the Good Templars for many years, and a total abstainer for 29 years, is still a vigorous temperance advocate, but he regards the statement quoted by Mr. Mauger as an exaggeration. No mart who had any experience on the coal-field, and who was an observer of men, could honestly make such a sweeping assertion. It was true that a large number of men would assemble at an hotel on pay-day, but only a very small percentage, perhaps one in thirty, would drink to excess. No man in the district was better qualified to express an opinion on such a matter than he, and no man would more fearlessly denounce drunkenness than he would.
One other opinion I will quote -
Mr. Henry Jenkins, Chairman of the StanfordMerthyr Miners’ Lodge, who is a total abstainer, repudiates the assertion made by Mr. Mauger. The miners could afford to laugh at such an unfounded statement, but for the fact that prominence had been given to it by the office held by Mr. Mauger. It “ was necessary to overtake such a lie, and to have the truth made known. Regarding the loss ‘of shifts by some men after pay-day, that arose from the fact that they lived in Newcastle district and batched at Kurri Kurri or elsewhere on the field. On pay-day, they went home to Newcastle, and on Monday took a day off.
Those who know anything about coal mining in New South Wales are aware that this statement is true; it is a rational and easily comprehensible one. These men, living in more or less discomfort twenty miles from home for a fortnight at a stretch, on the Saturday following pay day return, to their families, and, not unnaturally, take a day off on the Monday. I suppose that there is no enormity in taking a day off. Even honorable senators commit that crime, if it be a crime. But dare any one accuse them of being drunk because they occasionally take a day off?
– We take every’ Monday off.
– Exactly. I have in my possession several other opinions of men living in the Maitland district - opinions which have been obtained by the representative of a Sydney newspaper in which they have been published - but I do not know that it is necessary I should read them. As evidencing that this matter has evoked some comment in New South Wales I would direct the attention of honorable senators to the size of the headlines which appear in the journal in question - The Australian Star. They read “Not drunkards.” “The Maitland Coal Miners,” “Mr. Mauger’ s baseless statements,” “Indignation on the coal fields.” When a Sydney newspaper takes the trouble to send a reporter 120 or 130 miles in order to obtain authoritative replies to Mr. Mauger’s allegations it is evidence that they have attracted ‘ considerable attention in the Maitland district, and that they merit consideration at the hands of this Chamber. I suppose that the reporter in question is quite as reliable an authority, upon this matter - having made inquiries- in the district - as is Mr. Mauger, who merely ran through the locality in a motor car. The reporter writes -
Several colliery managers were consulted by the Star’s representative, and asked for “expressions of opinion on Mr. Mauger’s statements, but were not inclined to enter into any formal discussions. One manager considered that, after all, there might be something in what Mr. Mauger had stated. He was asked to give the names of some of the men who missed work for a shift after pay-day, and, to his astonishment, was convinced that the majority of them were total abstainers.
– It is a very common practice for men upon piece work to take a day off in all- trades.
– I am very glad to have the honorable senator’s assurance. The report continues -
Many miners and wheelers live in the Newcastle district, and “ batchelorise “ near their colliery for the fortnight. At the end of the fortnight, or pay Saturday, they leave Newcastle, and make a three days’ stay in their own homes, thus losing a shift each. It would be grossly unfair to attribute the loss of the shift under such conditions to excessive drinking.
I do not think it is necessary for me to say any more upon the subject. As far as I am able to do so, I am speaking on behalf of my absent constituents, and every honorable senator has a right to do that. Indeed, it is not only his right, but his duty to do it, seeing that his constituents are not here to speak for themselves. As far as I can, I am voicing the opinions of my. constitu ents in thus reprobating the most unwarrantable attack that’ has ever been made by a Minister of the Crown upon any body of Australian workmen. I very much regret that I should have had to occupy the time of the Senate even to the extent of ten minutes or a quarter of an hour in dealing with this matter. I feel sure that some debate will follow. The large number of honorable senators who rose to indorse my action in seeking to move the adjournment of the Senate is plain proof that a good deal of feeling upon this question exists in the- Chamber. I hope that the discussion will lead to such a refraction on the part of the Postmaster-General as will be satisfactory alike to the miners whose characters have been assailed., to the PostmasterGeneral himself, and to the Ministry whom his indiscretion has seriously’ besmirched. There is no member of the Cabinet who has not to bear some share of responsibility for the utterances of his colleagues unless he chooses to repudiate them. I hope that the Prime Minister will repudiate the allegations of the Postmaster-General, and thus lift his colleagues out of the unpleasant position in which they have been placed by being associated with reckless slanders against a body of men in respect of whom there is no justification for alleging that they are less temperate or less well conducted than is any other body of workers in the Commonwealth.
– As an old Newcastle miner, and one who for many years represented the miners of that district both in private and public affairs, I cannot allow this occasion to pass without making a few observations. I am sorry that’ there should be’ any occasion for a question of this kind to be raised in the Senate. I regret the public manner in which charges against the Newcastle miners have been made by the PostmasterGeneral, and repeated by him. Of course I can understand any public man making a mistake, and afterwards, when he discovered how groundless was his accusation, withdrawing it. But in the present instance Mr. Mauger has seen fit to repeat what I know from personal knowledge to be a gross calumny upon the .Newcastle miners. Under such circumstances if I’ were to remain silent my silence would beinterpreted as giving consent to allegations which I know to be as far removed from the truth as it is possible for them to be. I do not for a moment claim that all the
Newcastle miners are saints. I dare say that they contain a fair share of sinners. But I have never lived in any mining community where there was a larger percentage of steady, sober men than- is to be found in the Newcastle district. In no mining district that I know of will there be found so large a percentage of men who are their own landlords, owning their own homes and their own plots of ground, on which they spend their spare time. No body of men in any district take greater pride in having decent homes than do the Newcastle miners. If the charge which Mr. Mauger has seen fit to make against them were true, those things would not be so evident in the Newcastle district as they undoubtedly are- to those who have visited the district and know the lives of the miners. When he saw that objection was taken to his remarks, Mr. Mauger should have made inquiries, and then, if he found that the objection was well-founded, he should have withdrawn the charges. Until he knew that they were true, his duty, “in view of the high position that he occupies in the public life of the Commonwealth, was not to repeat mere tattling that had come to him second-hand from a policeman. If he had been fully seized of the importance of the question and his own position, he would have turned a deaf ear to those remarks rather than re-hash them at other gatherings ‘ away from. the district in which he had heard them. I dare say that there is in the Newcastle district the same amount of drinking as will be found in most big communities. In Newcastle proper, which is a seaport, visited principally by oversea ships, most of them manned by foreigners, I dare say a great deal of drunkenness will be found. But it is not in the city of Newcastle that the Newcastle miner dwells, nor does he even visit it very often. He lives in- the subordinate townships, which extend for twenty or thirty miles around Newcastle. In any of those townships will be found as steady and sober a set of men as are to be found in the Commonwealth. Knowing the Newcastle miner as I do, I am obliged to give expression to these views now that the question has cropped up in the Senate in this public manner. I wish to make all due allowances- for Mr. Mauger. We know that for some time a certain epidemic has been passing over Victoria, and no doubt’ Mr. Mauger has become inoculated with the microbe. Like many an- other good man, he has gone wrong. We are all sorry for it, and it is our duty to bring him back to the right track. There seems to be a wave of intemperate language passing over this community in reference to the drink question.
– The Judkinsmicrobe seems to be getting into the blood of ever so many good men. I hope that the lesson which we are giving them to-day will- bring them back to a more temperate frame” of mind, especially when they are referring to people at a distance. Statistics, compiled by the Victorian Statistician show that the people of New South Wales are a more sober lot than those of Victoria, ira that the drink bill per head of the population of New South Wales is 5s. rod. less, than that of Victoria. Therefore, Mr. Mauger, if he wishes to do good in the way of lessening the amount of drink consumed, need not go out of his own State to find work. I know that there is a great deal of agitation going on in connexion with the drink traffic in and around Melbourne. Much of it I do not agree with, and much of the language indulged in by these agitators does a great deal more harm than good. The statements made by the Postmaster-General will not raise him in the estimation of the community, or be supported by those who know the real state of affairs in Newcastle and the Maitland district. I am sorry to have to make these remarks with reference to Mr. Mauger, but he -should be more careful of his langauge when he visits distant parts of the Commonwealth on business connected with, his Ministerial office. He should, as far. as possible, confine his work and hisspeeches to his duties as PostmasterGeneral, and to what is going on in his great Department. I am sure he has plenty of scope for the exercise of his talentsthere. There is no need for him to goout preaching to the Newcastle miners about their weakness for drink.
– Unfortunately, he did not preach to them. He went somewhereelse and made his statements.
– That makesthem all the more offensive. He made them first in Sydney. Not satisfied with ‘ that, he came to Melbourne and repeated . them. That is very indiscreet conduct for . any gentleman who occupies the responsible position of Postmaster-General. I hope.’ that, for his own credit, and in justice to> the Newcastle miners, he will see his way to put the matter right before it goes anyfurther.
– I regret that Senator Colonel Neild has seen fit to bring this matter before the Chamber.
– He ought to be complimented.
– If every personal ex pression of opinion is to be made the subject of debate in Parliament, the time of Parliament will be largely taken up in unprofitable discussions.
– That depends upon the number of indiscretions that Ministers commit.
– It must not be forgotten, that Mr. Mauger is a Minister of the Crown.
– Honorable senators must draw some distinction between the expressions of opinion uttered in the discharge of ministerial duties and the mere private expressions of opinion of an individual. With many other honorable senators, I am at a disadvantage in this matter, in that I do not pretend to know with any degree of accuracy what statements were really made by Mr. Mauger, or how far they have been correctly reported in the press.
– They were repeated here.
– That may be; but honorable senators can readily understand that other Ministers do not devote their attention to the mere private expressions of the opinion of a colleague. I have only the general idea that at some temperance gathering my colleague saw fit to make certain statements. I do not hesitate to speak in the highest terras of ‘the miners as a class. I have had the privilege of association with them from time to time. I feel that they are entitled to the most generous consideration, and’ to be regarded as amongst the most worthy of our citizens. That is my personal view; but I ask honorable senators to consider dispassionately whether the matter which has been brought before the Chamber is, after all, not really a personal issue as between the PostmasterGeneral and the miners themselves.
– The Miners’ Association are not making a private affair of it.
– The Miners’ Association are justified in repudiating what they regard as slanders upon their character. They have taken the proper course. I have been given to understand by Senator Neild that the various lodges have also repudiated the allegations. But surely this is a. matter’ between the Postmaster-General and the miners.
– Not the PostmasterGeneral, but Mr. Mauger.
– I should have said’ that it was a matter between my colleague, Mr. Mauger, and the miners.
– If Mr. Mauger were not Postmaster-General, nobody would take any notice of him.
– That may be; but it was not in the capacity of PostmasterGeneral that Mr. Mauger made the statements. How is it possible to make the Government responsible for a private expression of opinion by an individual member ?
– It was a private expression of opinion on a public occasion.
– At any rate it was not a Ministerial occasion, but a temperance gathering.
– Where the Postmaster General used intemperate language.
– Thaf may be; I dp not pretend to say whether that is the fact or not ; but, assuming the language to have been used, it is unreasonable to attempt to make the Ministry responsible. From that stand-point I deny any right of Senator Neild. to regard the statement made as any more than a private statement by Mr. Mauger. I do not pretend to know the merits of the case, though, like other honorable senators, I have seen various statements in the press. Supposing the. statement were true - which I do not suggest for one moment - is a member of the Government not at liberty to assert what he believes to be true, and is the responsibility to be cast upon the Government of proving the truth? Surely that is a most unreasonable contention. Mr. Mauger is responsible for his action in his private capacity, and the time of the Senate ought not to be occupied in dealing with a matter which lies between Mr. Mauger and the miners - a matter which mav be decided in the Law Courts if the miners feel aggrieved because of any slanderous statements, or as to which, as has been done, they may repudiate the allegation. No Government can be regarded as responsible for the private . expression of opinion by a gentleman : who happens to be a member of the Ministry. No doubt Mr. Mauger is prepared to take all responsibility ; and he may be called upon either to prove or withdraw his statement. That is a matter for Mr. Mauger, not for the Ministry. Moreover, I may say that Senator Neild did not emphasize the courtesy which is characteristic of him, and mention to me his intention to move the adjournment of the Senate.
-I regret that I forgot in the hurry of the early meeting.
– However, as a number of honorable senators rose and so made this debate a matter of urgency, I have no right to complain. I do claim, however, that the view I have presented is the right one under the circumstances.
– Iamsure that honorable senators sympathize with the Vice-President of the Executive Council in his somewhat unfortunate position- rthe honorable gentleman is between the deep sea and a historical personage. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, should he attempt in any way to approve of the utterances of Mr. Mauger, would have to share the lesponsi-‘ bility which, as he says, at present rests on that gentleman himself. On the other hand it would be uncomfortable for him, with other honorable senators, to express disapprobation of the utterances of Mr. Mauger; and, under the circumstances, every, one must sympathize with the VicePresident, of the Executive Council. However, as briefly as I can, I should like to refer to one or. two reasons which the honorablegentleman put forward for “the view he has pressed on the Senate. He has made the best Of a rather bad case;’ but I claim indulgence while I look a little closer into the matter. First of all, the VicePresident of the Executive Council overlooks one fact. He tried to draw a distinction - and I admit that it is a distinction that can be drawn - rbetween Mr. Mauger as Mr. Mauger,. and Mr. Mauger as the Postmaster-General. It must not be overlooked, how.ever - and to my mind this is one of the serious aspects of the case - that it was not Mr. Mauger who visited the Newcastle district and got his information - it was not Mr. Mauger, one of Melbourne’s citizens, as a private individual, who was made the guest of a large number of people in the locality, and was enabled to obtain material for statements which he gave to the world at- large - but it was the PostmasterGeneral. Further, when Mr. Mauger wasannounced to speak in Sydney, it was not merely Mr. Mauger who was billed, but Mr. Mauger, Postmaster-General. The attempt made by the Vice-President of the’ Executive Council to dissociate Mr. Mauger from the Postmaster-General recalls to our mind Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado. In that opera the Lord High. Executioner holds many offices, in one of which he sentences himself to death, and in another of which he formally reprieves himself. Mr. Mauger may have many capacities, and probably in one he will sentence himself for his utterances, and in another will give himself a free pardon. Senator Best says that it is not possible for, him to determine the merits of the dispute ; but I point out that it is possible to see whether there is any justification for the libel by looking into the statistics. There are something like 15,000 coalminers in New South Wales, though whatpercentage is in the Newcastle district I cannot say.
– Rather over half.
– I should say that it is a safe estimate that at least half of the coal-miners of New South Wales are in Newcastle. ‘ If we take the percentage of coal-miners who are said by Mr. Mauger to give way to intemperance, it will be seen at once that not all the paid magistracy, not all the honorary magistracy, and certainly not the very insignificant police force in Newcastle, would be sufficient to control the alleged deluge of intemperance. I have not actual figures, but sometime ago I looked into this drink question as affecting various trades and callings within the Commonwealth, and to my surprise and pleasure I found that, so far as the information was available, the Newcastle coai miners need not fear comparispn with any other body of men in New South Wales. That being so, it is not only regrettable but reprehensible that any one occupying a position like that of Postmaster-General should, on the public platform, make statements of the kind, without being absolutely assured of their accuracy. It is, to my mind, a serious breach of the rules of hospitality that such a statement was made, and if Mr. Mauger’s desire was to do good, and not merely make a sensational speech for the purpose of pleasing his particular hearers, it would have been much more manly to have addressed the miners them- selves, and pointed out how it was possible for them to lead better lives as men and citizens. On the contrary, Mr. Mauger parted with the Newcastle people on the best of terms, and then proceeded to Sydney, where he made the speech of which complaint is made.
– Whom could Mr. Mauger please by making statements of this kind?
– I do not think he could please any one; but, knowing something of the coal miners, I am convinced they would have honoured Mr. Mauger, where . to-day they blame him, if, seeing, as he thought, an evil, he had called them together and said, “Men, I tell you of the evil course you are following, and urge that, in justice to yourselves, you ought to do belter in the future.” The miners would respect a man who thus spoke; but, instead, Mr. Mauger parted from them without a word, and afterwards made the speech which he repeated on the first public occasion in Melbourne. There was ample time between the original statement and its repetition, seeing that it was challenged, for ‘ Mr. Mauger to have sought for further information. If he had sought for thar information he would, I am convinced, have found that he had . been, led astray bv possibly one or two intemperate men like himself. His proper course, if he found out that he was wrong, would have been to take the earliest opportunity to withdraw the reflection, and to apologize. If, on the -other hand, he found that he was right, he should have given the source of the information which presumably he thought justified him in repeating the statement.
– He said that he made the statement on the authority of a policeman, but he did not disclose the name of his informant.
– I have no doubt that the Postmaster- General told the truth so far as he was concerned, but seeing that the statement was challenged in the first instance, it was due to the miners of Newcastle, as well as to himself, that he should have immediately set to work to obtain official and other information to enable him to determine whether or not he had libelled that body of men. If he had. . his course was clear, but without further inquiry he blindly repeated the statement, and to that extent seriously increased the enormitv ot the offence of which, I think, he has been guilty.
– In the first place,I desire to complimentt Senator Neild for having taken the wise course of offering a protest to the Senate, in the interests of a large concourse of his constituents. I donot intend to speak for many minutes, because Senator Millen has anticipated very largely what I had intended to say. Isincerely hope that the protest which hasbeen made here this morning, and which) I indorse, will be sufficiently strong: to induce the . Postmaster-General to apologize, not only to the Newcastle miners, but: to the whole of the Commonwealth, for having, in an intoxicated moment, made an exaggerated statement. That it was an intoxicated moment we may well believe, because I think, that a cool, clear-headed man like Mr. Mauger would, were he not iptoxicated by the position which he then occupied, have reasoned more closely with himself, and would not have been led away by the influences of the place in which he stood. It is quite evident that in the WorrallJudkinsMauger fraternity there is a desire on the part of the members to vie with each other in certain statements. I think that those men ought not to be allowed to publicly denounce large bodies of respectable men - men about whom they know nothing personally, and with whom they have had no connexion other than by means of a flying visit, such as Mr. Mauger paid to Newcastle. It grates on the ears of men who, like myself, have lived and worked the better part of a life-time. in mining communities, and know thousands of miners personally, to hear of such an exaggerated statement as was made by Mr. Mauger. Like Senator Millen, I can say that there is. not in Australia to-day a more upright body of men than the miners - certainly there are no men who are more jealous of their integrity and good name, or more ready to listen to wise counsels than they are. Had Mr. Mauger had a spark of gentlemanliness about him, had he even shown a desire to manifest true manhood, had he gone out to the Newcastle miners and said to them, “Now, T have something to say to voii that will be for your welfare here, and for the betterment of your children,” I could have appreciated his action, sympathized with him, and probably indorsed most of what he might have said. . But having gone into Newcastle and seen the men. I think that it ill became a Minister of the Crown to go to another place and mingle with an intoxicated, intemperate Crowd for the purpose of merely creating a sort of counter-sensation to the utterances of a . Worrall or a Judkins. I sincerely hope that the protest uttered here this morning will be sufficiently strong to at least recall Mr. Mauger to earth, and let him know that he is Postmaster-General, that he was introduced to the Newcastle district, and also spoke there as a public man, and that the discharge of his public responsibilities ought to be of greater moment to him than a mere desire to flaunt any principle which for his personal welfare he may have adopted. I hope that in future he- will express his views without attempting to insult other people.
– Iamglad that Senator Neild has brought this matter before the Senate, though, of course, I regret vecy much the necessity for his action. I recognise that Mr. Mauger is a man who has devoted a great part of his life to the study of social questions. I realize that, in availing himself of an opportunity to speak against the liquor traffic, he was acting consistently with his previous conduct. If, as Senator Henderson aptly put it, he became intoxicated when he was speaking, and was deceived as regards the peculiar conditions of the Newcastle “miners, I could perhaps forgive him for using that extravagant language which is sometimes indulged in by all of us who are saturated with an ideal. But what I cannot forgive the Postmaster-General for is that when he learned that a protest, and a very legitimate protest, had been made by those who represent the men Whom he attacked - if he had any knowledge of the environment of the miners he must have known that his words were exaggerated - he, being a responsible Minister of the Crown, did not at once publicly announce that he was mistaken in his views. It is quite clear to me that he had not looked very deeply into. the facts before he spoke. My knowledge of the working classes of the Old Country and of the Commonwealth is pretty extensive. I have moved among them all my life, and I think that I. understand them. I believe that, man for man, there is less drinking amongst the working classes of Australia, among whom I include the miners, than there is in any other class. I venture to say that even in New South Wales there is no more and no less drinking - human nature being very much the same in all classes - in the higher walks of life than in the lower walks. If there is a body of men who are healthy, sturdy, and independent, and who, despite the social conditions in which they live, are good fathers and good citizens, I believe that it is the workers in the mines of Newcastle and other districts. It should always be remembered that the social life of the miner is a very hard one. Wherever such conditions exist, it will be found that at the end of a term,” say, fourteen days, when regular payments are made, there” is a little demonstration, just as occurs when a ship’s crew is paid off. But even that is not characteristic of the average of the men. A noisy few may often be assumed to represent a great many more than is the case. It is so in this instance. I feel sure that Mr. Mauger will regret having made his statement without sufficient evidence, but having made it, and it- having been proved to him that it has given pain to a very large number of people in the Commonwealth - because his remarks apply not only to the miners of Newcastle but to the miners throughout Australia, who regard it as an attack upon them generally - I do hope that he will tender to these workmen what is their due, namely, either a full exposure of the evidence upon which he made his assertions, or an entire withdrawal of them.
Senator St. LEDGER (Queensland) [12.1]. - I think that the debate will do all the good that it was intended to-bring about. The statement attributed to Mr. Mauger is a libel and a slander upon a certain class 01 men, and, as Senator Gray has pointed out, it reflects not merely upon those who were the immediate object of attack, but upon the whole manhood of Australia. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has pointed out the distinction that the statement was made by Mr. Mauger, and not by the Postmaster-General. We may admit that within certain limitations. But, ‘ on the other hand, we must remember that the statement will go forth to the world as that of a Commonwealth Minister, whohas had the audacity or worse to stand up and libel a certain section of the manhood of. Australia. The country has hostile critics enough outside as well as within its borders, and we are naturally inclined to put our foot down very heavily against those who slander our good name. I do not think it needs anything by way of asseveration from me to show that the manhood of this country compares with the very best manhood of humanity in social and in other virtues. But when we find a Minister of the Crown identified with a statement thatreflects most unjustly upon a particular class’ of individuals, and when we know that the reflection may be extended against the whole of our manhood, we are perfectly justified in drawing special attention to it. If Mr. Mauger had made his statement merely as Mr. Mauger the miners of Newcastle could have allowed it to pass unnoticed, and would have done so. It is because Mr. Mauger happens by grace of somebody to be a Minister that his words and actions have been brought up in the Senate. I have said that sometimes our public men make very rash statements with regard to Australia. I have seen in our literature, historical and otherwise, some statements with regard to this country which have fallen from the lips and pens of Australian leaders of thought, that have made me blush- for them and express my indignation. I believe that. Senator Neild will have not! only the support of every man in- the Senate in his criticism, but will be supported by every decent man and woman in Australia.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [12.5]. - I think that the only matter to which I need refer in reply is the statement made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in insisting upon distinction between his colleague as Mr. Mauger and his colleague as Postmaster-General. Now, sir, I have not, of course, had the opportunity 10 hunt up precedents or warranties for what I am going to say, but I am sure that the recollection of every member of the Senate will support me.
– Remember there was an incident as to which a distinction was made between Colonel Neild who acted as a legislator and Colonel Neild as a volunteer officer.
– Well, I am that now. I merely wish to say a word or two in reply to the Minister’s allegation that a Minister of the Crown has a right’ to say and do practically anything in his private capacity without its coming within the purview of his official life. I beg to doubt that altogether. There have been numerous instances of Ministers, by their indiscretions, involving the whole of their colleagues; and there- have been still more numerous instances in which Ministers, by their indiscretions as individuals, have had to quit a Cabinet ot which they were proved unworthy.
– Those are not cases of private .expressions of opinion. I am aware of cases of the kind mentioned bv the honorable senator, but they were not cases where a mere private expression of opinion was in question.
– If the. honorable senator’s contention be right, it amounts to this - that it would be a matter of indifference to a Cabinet if one of its members committed burglary. I know that that is a reductio ad absurdum, but it is the logical sequence of the honorable senator’s assertion that a Cabinet has no possible connexion with the alleged private utterances of one of its members, so that a Minister may, in claiming that he is acting in ‘his private capacity, say or do anything. The position is not a tolerable one. If the remarks by Mr. Mauger had been said privately it would have been quite a different, matter, but they were uttered at a meeting, called by advertisement, to hear an address by the Honorable Samuel Mauger, Postmaster-General of the Commonwealth. It is simply impossible for a member of the Ministry to go on to a public platform under such circumstances and dissociate his utterances from his position. If his had been the utterance ot a private member of either House of Parliament should I have dreamed of bringing it before the Senate? Certainly not. If Mr. Mauger did not occupy the position of -Postmaster-General I should not have troubled the Senate by bringing the matter up for consideration. It is because of the high position that that gentleman occupies that importance is added to his very intemperate and unworthy assertions. I- am quite sure that it is unnecessary for me to pursue the matter further. Of course, I do not intend to call for a division upon the motion. I did not seek to do anything more than afford an opportunity for myself, and other honorable senators, to say what is appropriate in behalf of men whose case could not otherwise be heard here. It is all very well for lodges to pass resolutions, and send them to the Postmaster-General, but these resolutions have not received the publicity which his charges obtained, or which will be given to this debate. I do not think that honorable senators consider justifiable the strictures passed on me bv the VicePresident of the Executive Council, for :having brought the matter before them. I -recognise the awkwardness of the position “.to him, to his colleagues, and to the Post.masterGeneral, and have no wish to “rub it in.” Indeed, I did not attempt to do so. I should not have said what I did in regard to Ministerial responsibility, had it not been for the remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. Although, in supporting the motion, I may have made some incidental references to the public position of the PostmasterGeneral, I did not attempt to carry the debate so far as it has been carried by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I thank honorable senators for the support which they have given to me. I am sure that this brief discussion will afford great satisfaction to the large body of honorable men on whose behalf I have ventured to speak, as one of their representatives. With the leave of the Senate, I wish now to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon, notice -
Whether, in connexion with a published statement that the Postmaster-General intended asking a certain Tasmanian banking institution to further assist him in connexion with the prevention of applications passing through the bank to Tattersalls, the Government are aware that the bank, in question had about three years ago asked the Postmaster-General of the day for the co-operation and assistance of the Postal Department for the very same purpose, and that the request had been recently renewed to the present Minister?
– The answer To the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Government is aware that the bank in question has made proposals to the PostmasterGeneral. The Postmaster-General has, however, been advised that he has no right to lake the action suggested by the bank.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
To what extent the manufacturers of Victoria have up to the present time shown’ an intention to avail themselves of the provisions of the Excise Tariff Act 1906, with regard to the lower Excise duties therein imposed upon the best grades of spirits, subject to storage in wood for nol less than two years?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Victorian distillers have shown an intention to avail themselves as far as possible- of the pro”vision of the Excise -Tariff Act 1906.
Distillation almost ceased in “ Victoria from 1901 until the Excise Tariff 1906 was passed.
From January, 1907, to December, 1907, 143,052 bushels of barley malt have been used in’ Victorian distilleries. The spirit produced therefrom is intended for Australian standard malt whisky, and is now being matured in wood for at least two years.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice - ‘
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following replies : -
– Will Senator Keating lay a copy of the correspondence on the table?
– I shall ask the Commissioner for a copy j but I wish to point out that in this case he is making a departure from a well established principle, one which assails the efficiency of administration’, as it may be that officers, if they felt that their confidential recommendations were liable to be laid on the table, might not report as freely as they would otherwise do.
– But the Commissioner states that there is no objection to doing what I ask.
– - As a general principle he has an objection, but, as in this case, the matter has been several times referred to in Parliament, he is inclined to think that if the papers were withheld, his action might be misconstrued. I feel certain that, he would have no objection to allowing any honorable senator to see the papers for his own information ; but, of course, if the honorable senator desires that they be laid on the table, I shall ask for their production.
– In a case permitting an appeal against a classification or a salary, would not the whole of the documents be laid before an Appeal Board, and should not public servants, feeling themselves aggrieved, be entitled to see these so-called confidential documents, in order to make a short cut and avoid an. appeal ?
– I do not think that this is such a case. The papers concern the reclassification of an office.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Has the reported proposal to establish a Federal Bureau or Department of Agriculture received the consideration of the Government? If so, has a decision been arrived at, and what is it? Is there any justification for the report in the Argus of the” 25th February, that Dr. W. M. Maxwell is likely to be appointed Chief or Director of. such Bureau or Department?
– Yes. A Bill is in preparation for the establishment of the Bureau. Until it is passed, no appointments will be taken into consideration.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice-
New South Wales and Victoria on this question, will the Government appoint sufficient Customs Officers to prevent this loss of revenue to the States of Tasmania and Western Australia ?
– The answers to the hon- ‘orable senator’s questions are -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 25th February, vide page 8354) :
Division VII. - Oils, Paints, and Varnishes.
Item 230. Blacking : including Dressings, Pastes, and Polishes for Leather; Furniture Oils, Pastes, and Polishes; and Bronzing and Metal Liquids; ad val. (General Tariff) 40 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 35 per cent.
– It seems to me that in no division of the Tariff are increases in duty, more regular and excessive than in this. There are items in other divisions in connexion with which there may be bigger increases, but the average increase is bigger in connexion with the items of this division than in connexion with those of the other divisions. It is proposed to increase the duty on blacking from 20 to 40 and 35 per cent. As is natural, the recommendations of the free-trade and protectionist sections of the Tariff Commission in regard to this item differ ; but I feel it my duty to draw attention to very curious and regrettable omissions in the summary of’ evidence put forward by the latter. On page 234 of the report of the protectionist section, it is stated that -
A South Australian manufacturer complained of the insufficiency of the duty on harness and leather polishes, compositions, boot blacking, polishes, and creams, floor-cloth and linoleum polishes, grate polishes, zebra polish, furniture polish and reviver, and all others in bottles or tins, and asked for an increase to 50 per cent.
That statement is correct so far as it goes; but the witness added something which entirely destroyed its value, but to which there is no reference in the paragraph from which I have quoted. Having complained of the insufficiency of the duty, he went on to say, according to the report of the free-trade section - “We are doing a fair trade, considering that we have just started.” There were two or three other makers in South Australia, but he was early in the market. He could sell his goods at the same price as the imported article, but wanted the duly to increase the price of the latter, or to shut it out, when he could do a splendid trade.
To place the matter fairly before the public, the protectionist section should have printed those remarks, which put quite a. different complexion on the evidence. The experience of the last few weeks shows the uselessness of going into details in discussing these proposals; but ‘my duty, to those who sent me here will not permit me to allow them to go unopposed. I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 230 (imports under General Tariff), 25 per cent.
If my request be agreed to, I shall move a request that the duty in respect of imports from the United Kingdom be 20 per cent.
– What may be regarded as the corresponding item in the Tariff of 1902, and in respect of which a duty of 20 per cent, prevailed, was far more comprehensive than that now under consideration. It embraced-
Blacking, including dressings, soaps, oils, inks, pastes, polishes, stains and varnishes for leather; Berlin and Brunswick blacks, furniture oil ‘ paste and polish, and bronzing and metal liquids and powders.
– But the goods iri the item now before us were embodied in that item.
– That is so. The duty on all those goods was 20 per cent., and the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended the imposition of a duty of 35 per cent. The Government, however, divided the item as it originally stood, and has included in the item now before us -
Blacking, including dressings, pastes amC polishes for leather ; .furniture oils, pastes, anc polishes and bronzing and metal liquids in respect of which a duty of 40 per cent, has been imposed under the General Tariff,., and a duty of 35 per cent, on imports from the United Kingdom. Honorable senators, will find in other parts of this schedule theother articles included in the original item in the first Federal Tariff. Oils for leather are covered by item 234. Ink and stainsfor leather have been embodied in a separate item - item 425 - and we do not adopt’ with regard to them the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff” Commission that a duty of 35 per cent, be imposed. We have imposed a duty of merely 20 per cent. Varnishes for leather have been allowed to fall under the general heading of “Varnishes,” item 237. The Government proposed in respect of that item a duty of 30 per cent., or, in the alternative, a duty of 2s. per gallon. Another place, however, determined to impose a. fixed duty of 2s. 6d. per gallon. Berlin’ and Brunswick blacks have also been removed from the compass of the original^ item and placed under item 237, since they more properly belong to the varnish class.
– That is to say, the Government have placed them in an item under which a higher duty will be collected.
– No; because we imposed a duty of 40 per cent, in respect of the item now before us, whereas on item 237 we proposed a duty of 30 per cent., or 2s. per gallon. That proposition was amended by another place, a fixed duty of 2s. 6d. per gallon being imposed. What I wish specially to point out, however, is that the corresponding item under the old Tariff was far more comprehensive, and that the Tariff Commission recommended that a duty of 35 per cent, should be imposed on the goods covered by it. Instead of adopting that recommendation, we have cut up the item, and some goods which were formerly included in it are now appearing, at a lower duty, in other portions’ of the Tariff. In addition .to those already mentioned by me, bronzing and mer.-r powders, which appeared in the corresponding item in the old Tariff have been takenout, and made a separate item- - item 232- - dutiable at 20 per cent. I think that honorable senators will see that we have not increased the old Tariff bv 100 per cent, in respect- of all these articles. We have done so only in regard to those mentioned in item 230. The imports of blacking, including dressings, in 1903 were of the value of £41,180. In 1904 they were valued at £46,501; in 1905, £56,372; and in 1906,
– They have been increasing every year.
– Increasing very rapidly every year. I understand that we have in the Commonwealth all the materials necessary for making these goods, and in view of the steady increase in imports one cannot help wondering whether the protection hitherto afforded the manufacturers of these goods was adequate. The fact that the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission has been exceeded in respect of one or two lines is compensated for, to some extent, by many other articles which appeared in the cor-, responding item in the old Tariff being subjected to a lower duty.
– A lower duty than was recommended by the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission. Nor a lower rate than prevailed under the Tariff of 1902.
– That is so, although some of the goods appear at the old rate of 20 per cent. In the circumstances I hope honorable senators will recognise that a very fair compromise has been arrived at.
– I failed to mention when 1 spoke a few moments ago, a quotation from the evidence given before the Tariff Commission which I think ought to be brought under notice. In the report of the protectionist section of the Commission it is stated that -
A Victorian manufacturer of boot and leather dressings, whose business was established under the Tariff of that State, and profitably conducted up to 1903-4, complained of the impossibility of competing against imported lines.
That statement is put forward without any intimation that other statements were made by this witness, and to that extent it is distinctly misleading. The actual facts are that-
Under cross-examination, this witness admitted that at present imported- boot polishes in tins were sold to the public at 3d. to4½id. per tin. If a proper duty were put on to make the cost of the imported article7d., the public would pay 6d. for the Australian; thus, if the public were forced to buy the latter, they would pay more than they do now.
The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission were extremely careful to omit that statement from their summary of the evidence. It is a most important point, throwing an interesting light on a question that is continually cropping up, as to whether these duties are or are not going to increase prices. This witness candidly admitted that if his request were granted- and it is proposed now to accede to it - the public would pay more than they now do. He did not in any way say that he was not selling his goods; he gave evidence that his industry was a growing one. What lie pointed out was the obvious fact that if we imposed such a duty as would prohibit the sale of the imported article, under 7d. per tin, he could sell his polishes at 6d. per tin, as against 3d. and 4jd. per tin, the market price of the imported polishes under the old Tariff. If honorable senators are content to impose this duty in order to enable this gentleman to put 3d. per tin on the price of his goods, notwithstanding that under the old Tariff he was able to carry on a profitable business, and despite the warning given by the man . himself that he intends to increase . prices if this step be taken, the responsibility must rest with them.
Question- That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 230, “Blacking, &c.” (imports under General Tariff), 25 per cent. (Senator Millen’ s request)- put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Perhaps the request with which we have just dealt involved in the opinion of some honorable senators too great a reduction. I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 230 (imports under General Tariff) 30 per cent.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 230 (imports under General Tariff), 35 per cent.
I need scarcely point out that an ad valorem dutv of 30 per cent, upon this item represents an addition of 15 per cent, to the old rate, or an increase of 75 per cent.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 231. Graphite or Plumbago, Black Lead, and Foundry Black in bulk, free ; and on and after 3rd December, 1907, ad vol., 20 per cent.
– I wish to point out that under the ‘old Tariff this item was included in the free list, and also that in the form in which the present Tariff was introduced into the House of Representatives it was not dutiable. The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission declare that no advantage is to be derived from retaining the duty upon graphite or plumbago, as the two or three individuals’ in the Commonwealth who have used locally produced plumbago had to discard it on account of its unsuitability for their purposes. I think that the Committee are entitled to know upon what information the Government have reversed their former decision “to admit this article free.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 231 by leaving out the words “in bulk.”
In reply to Senator Millen I may say that in the form in which this schedule was introduced in another place this item was free. If honorable senators will look at the fourth column of the tabulated statement supplied to them they will see that the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended the imposition of a duty of 35 per cent, upon graphite and plumbago. Through an inadvertence, however, a pro posal was submitted to the other Chamber tn admit these articles free. The Government,, through the Treasurer, pointed out that a mistake had occurred, and proceeded to rectify it by asking the Committee to impose a duty of . is per cent., which was the rate recommended by the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission. That is the whole explanation of what1 has occurred; in connexion with this item. It was really not the intention of the Government that it should be included in the free list. I am informed that graphite and plumbago are produced in considerable quantities in South Australia. Large deposits exist there, and also in other parts of the Commonwealth - deposits which I understand can be worked to commercial advantage. With regard to black lead and foundry black both these articles are manufactured in Australia in fairly large quantities. Despite this fact, however, a considerable quantity has been imported. There is no separate record of these imports except in the case of black lead, of which we imported ,£4,227 worth in !9°3> ;£3>°68 worth in 1904, .£3,091 worth in 1905, and j£i,55i worth from the United Kingdom in 1906. We have exported a few small consignments of black lead to the South Sea Islands,- but that product has come from abroad. None of the black lead made in Australia has been exported. Seeing that we can successfully produce plumbago and graphite in Queensland and South Australia, and that we are producing black lead and foundry black, a duty of 20 per cent, is not too high a rate to impose upon this item, especially iri view of the fact that the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended an ad valorem duty of 35 per cent.
.- r-The Minister affirms that the article can be produced locally. The evidence of those who have to use it is that owing to some difference in the grain, or for some other reason, it is not suitable for their particular work. Let us assume for the sake of argument that it is suitable. We are asked to impose a duty of 20 per cent, because we are told it will stimulate a local industry. The consumption of this article in Australia is about 600 tons. I am credibly informed that two or three men. in a suitable mine, could knock that stuff out in about a month. That is the big industry we are asked to stimulate !
– We might, start exporting by-and-by.
– Does the honorable senator know the value of this stuff?- It runs from about £6 to .£9 per ton. The article is turned out in Ceylon, and is purchased now by our own’ manufacturers as they say it is a superior article for the fine castings. Can we produce it in Australia to compete with the Ceylon article?
– We might.
– There is a certain animal which might fly, but no one believes that it will do so. If we produce this article, and have to pay trainage- the only two mines I know of in Australia would have to pay some trainage, one of them a considerable amount - and then pay freight to Europe, we shall not be able to compete with the, at least, equal, and most people allege superior, article from Ceylon.
– Nothing produced in Australia can be as good as the foreign article, I suppose.
– That is a ridiculous statement. Unfortunately, the honorable senator claims for Australia superiority in everything.
– The honorable senator claims for it inferiority in everything.
– I have said that I will admit for the sake of argument that it is equal.
– It is superior. Look at Trumper.
– It is a matter for jest to honorable senators who have the numbers whether they impose 20 or 50 per cent.; but it is a serious business to me. Every duty ought to have some justification. I have shown that the industry which is to be coddled is not worth a moment’s consideration. Then I am told that we can export. The man who talks about exporting this stuff under present conditions is simply showing himself to be a comic artist of a very high order.
Request agreed to.
Request (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make item 231 free.
.- The fact that the word “free” appears against this item is no indication that it was the intention of the Government to introduce it in that form. That was purely an error, rectified on the motion of the Minister. The Tariff Commission recommended 35 per cent. I hope that the Committee will retain the. duty of 20 per cent.
– The item was not introduced in the Tariff as free as the result of a mistake, because the Treasurer, at’ whose instance the alteration was made, said he took that course because he had received subsequent information. It was made free in the Tariff originally, because that was in conformity with the inquiries of the Tariff Commission.
– They recommend 35 per cent.
– And the Government, for very good reasons, overrode their recommendation. They saw that the evidence did not support it. But after proposing to make it free, the Government drew upon those apparently inexhaustible but secret sources of information, which have marred the Tariff all through. They took action simply because some one came along and told them that some one else was likely to mine the stuff.
– - I hope that the Committee will not be misled by Senator Millen. He has adopted the usual method of trying to belittle and poke fun at the industry, in order to make the Committee believe that it is not worth protecting. He also said that the material was inferior, but fie produced not the slightest evidence to prove that that was so.
– Then I will read the evidence.
– I am not in possession of evidence to the contrary, but I remember reading, a few months ago, testimonials from people, stating that the Australian article was equal in every respect to that imported from Ceylon. There are almost unlimited quantities of it in South Australia and Queensland. The industry’ at present is not very large, but it is not so small as Senator Millen endeavoured to make out, when he said that a few men could produce the whole quantity required for Australia in about a month. He omitted to mention that after it has been mined it must go through other processes before it becomes fit for use in the various in’dustries in which it is required.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I should like to know what is the difference between graphite and plumbago. Further, can the material which is found in Australia be prepared for general use?
– The two terms only represent different stages of manufacture.
– Before lunch I was invited by Senator Story to give some evidence to justify my statement that the local commodity is not viewed with favour by those who have to use it for castings. In reply, I intended to quote from page 187 of the report of the free-trade section of the Tariff Commission ; and it will be noticed that the opinions expressed are not those of the Commissioners, but those of witnesses.
– -Free-trade witnesses !
– Seeing that the witnesses were asking for pretty stiff duties, I do not know how the honorable senator can so dismiss them. The interjection of the honorable senator almost relieves me from the necessity of reading the extract from the report of the Tariff Commission. If the inuendo of the honorable senator has any force, it would have saved a lot of trouble if, when a man came before trie Tariff Commission, he had been asked whether he was a free-trader or a protectionist. If the witness happened to be a protectionist, he could have been told to go ahead as much as he liked, but, if he were a free-trader,, he might as well have been asked to step down, because he was convicted before he opened his mouth. The witnesses to whom I refer were, however, not free-traders; and the interjection by Senator Story only means that, no matter what the evidence, he is prepared to accept only what suits him, the rest, although given on oath, being dismissed.
– That is the honorable senator’s interpretation of my interjection.
– What, then, does the honorable senator mean by his interjection? I do not often detain honorable senators by telling a story, but I think I may on the present occasion, just in order to illustrate- the honorable senator’s contention. Some time ago, at an election in New South Wales, a candidate was confronted by a quotation from a speech which he had made in Parliament. The candidate immediately demanded to see a copy, and, when he saw it, he exclaimed, “Why, this is Hansard; it is a free-trade publication ! “ That suggestion quite sufficed to relieve the candidate of his difficulty ; and in a similar way we may accept the interjection of Senator Story, by which we are invited to reject sworn evidence, simply because it is that of free-trade witnesses. Although the evidence was given subject to examination by protectionist Commissioners, the following is from the report of the Tariff Commission : -
The manufacturer of black lead in Melbourne admitted that plumbago, graphite, foundry black, and black lead were all practically the same material. Graphite was an inferior quality of plumbago. He imported the latter from Ceylon of varying quantities and values, £8 to per ton, and to make foundry blacks simply blended and ground it. so as to make an even sample at a medium price, ^’13 to £14 per lon. There was no possibility, he thought, of using the local plumbago. Nearly every week samples were offered to him, but none of them were good enough. The Australian product was not fit for his purposes; it was a rough, hard kind of stone, and could not be treated here, while that which he imported from Ceylon was a soft lubricator. He- admitted that .foundry black, as plumbago so treated is called, was supplied to foundries for casting purposes, and was indispensable to them. Black lead was plumbago’ in bulk or made up into blocks, packets, &c, for retail trade. He asked for 100 per cent, duty, which he considered would be equal to 2s. 6d. per box of 1 gross of i-oz. packets. He did not want 100 per cent, to cover cost of wages, but to shut out the imported article and compel consumers to take the colonially-put-up article. He admitted that some qualities of his black lead were sold at is. per gross less than the imported makes. The witness desired plumbago free as his raw material, and in that he was supported by a witness in Adelaide.
The evidence was given, not by free-traders, but by very strong protectionists.
– Many protectionists are free-traders so far as their own raw material is concerned.
– The honorable senator is now endeavouring to escape from a difficulty he has created. Before he even knew the names of the witnesses, he was prepared to dismiss their evidence as that of unworthy free-traders. Thank Heaven, the honorable senator has not sufficient power to prevent the formation of independent judgment in fiscal matters ! One of the witnesses, who, so far as we can judge, spoke honestly, said that nearly every week he was offered samples of this commodity, but that if was not good enough for his purpose. There is no reason to suppose that this manufacturer would continue to import the commodity at a high price if he could obtain it at the same or a lower price locally. I can understand a protectionist contending that a little more stimulus would encourage the production of this mineral, or whatever it may be called ; but we must remember that the consumption is so small that this industry is not worth considering, in view of the injury which might thereby be done to other and more important trades. This commodity is used very largely in the making of castings.
– Did any of the witnesses say that the local production is inferior for that purpose?
– As regards its preparation or its grain - I am not clear which - there is some objection to the use of the local production for the finer castings.
This industry is comparatively very small, and employs few hands, and, further, the total imports are only some 500 tons; worth £8 or £9 a ton. Under the circumstances, we must carefully consider whether, in imposing a duty, we are not handicapping unduly some other industry. The iron industry, for .instance, I should place before all others as one which we reasonably might be called upon to encourage. If the duty on the item under consideration hampered the iron industry, even to a small extent, we should be nullifying the work we shall be asked to do in extending some measure of assistance, byTariff or otherwise, to the latter.
– Senator Millen has, I am sure innocently, misrepresented some evidence which was given. I remember reading that evidence, which was to the effect that the material was used for fine castings - not that it was unsuitable for such castings. We hope, under the new Tariff, to see a very large development in the iron industry, which will lead to an increased demand for this material for the purpose I have indicated: and that, I think, meets the argument of Senator Millen that the item under consideration is only a small one. There is every probability in the near future, when the iron industry has developed, of a very much increased demand for this material.
– The question whether this commodity is or is not of use in the making of fine castings is of very serious importance. We all know how delicate an operation is- required to obtain castings which are good and clean ; how the smallest flaw ot mistake may destroy days of work of great value. The object of all foundries is to obtain a good skin on the casting, so that it may look clean and bright instead of rough.
– - Common sand is ordinarily used ; the commodity under consideration is used only for the finer castings.
– I may claim to have some little experience, because I -was for a. good many years in a foundry, although, not in the moulding shop. I have every desire to give .this industry fair play ; and, during the lunch hour, I rang up a friend, who is the proprietor of a foundry, and asked for any information he could giveme. He took a quarter of an hour to make inquiries from the proprietors of otherfoundries, and also from the merchants, and the answer I received was that the-
South Australian stuff is no good for castings - that he never used it himself, and that manufacturers with whom he had communicated had found it utterly useless for that purpose.
– Did he say anything about the Queensland stuff?
– Yes; he said ‘that the Queensland stuff was no good. The merchants with whom he communicated informed him that for i cwt. of South Australian stuff they sold 10 tons of the imported. Unless we are to do damage to an industry of infinitely greater importance we must be careful ‘ how” we proceed ; and I think that, under all the circumstances, this item ought to be free.
– This article is used on such a small scale that I think we are beating the air when we give it such importance in connexion with the iron industry. It is only for, perhaps, one casting out of twenty that plumbago is used, and the object is to give a fine plain surface on work of an ornamental kind. The use of the commodity does not add to the solidity of the casting in any way, but is merely intended to give a good finish.
– Is not the cylinder of an engine one of the finest pieces of work that can be turned out?
– The cylinder of an engine is not usually cast in sand, but in loam, and therefore this duty will not be a great tax on the industry no matter how heavy it may be made. ‘ Only a pound or two is put into the blacking bag to be dusted over the ‘ surface. There is so very little . of the article used that I suppose ironfounders have not considered the question of cost at all. There are several other things which can be- used, as well as that article. For. instance, ordinary pease meal if ground up sufficiently can be used. I have seen it used time and’ again for that purpose. It puts on a different complexion and gives an equally smooth surface. It is only to a few of our natural industries that we can extend any form of protection. Here is a natural industry which can be helped. Consequently, I should like to see the duty retained at its present rate.- From my knowledge of iron work I feel sure that it would be a vetv slight’ burden indeed.
– From the report of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, I propose to quote the evidence of another witness in
Melbourne as against the evidence quoted by Senator Millen.
– But Mr. Lewis is dealing with the article only for use in his trade and not for castings at all.
– Referring to the evidence of Mr. Lewis, the report says -
In Melbourne, a witness stated that he had manufactured black lead for many years, and had been told by those in the trade that the quality was equal to the imported. Nevertheless, owing to prejudice, they found a difficulty in obtaining a market against the English manufacturer, even when prices were equal, or nearly so. . He also nrepared, foundry black, and sold it in large quantitites, but met with powerful opposition from . the large English firms. He asked that 33 per cent, duty be imposed on foundry black, while he suggested a prohibitive duty, even 100 per cent., on black lead.
I am just quoting this extract to show that witnesses gave evidence in favour of protecting the article as well as of making it free. The report continues -
A hundred people might be employed in the trade, were it not for the imported’ article. He contended that bulk black lead, or the material from which black lead was made, should be admitted free, and 100 per cent, duty imposed on prepared black lead ready for use in blocks, packages or tins. That would force consumers into the use of the Australian put-up article.
That proves that, at any rate, some of the witnesses and the Commission were of the opinion that it was desirable to protect this industry. Otherwise they would not have recommended the imposition of the duty which appears at the end of their report.
– I want to show that there is no discrepancy between the statement quoted by the honorable senator and my statement. The Commission was dealing there with the evidence given by a gentleman who was making black lead, which, I suppose, is sold for ordinary domestic purposes. I referred particularly to the use of this article in foundries - a very different thing. Therefore, there is no discrepancy between that evidence and what I referred to. Seeing that the honorable senator has cited the evidence of Mr. Lewis, let me point to a discrepancy therein. This witness admits that he is selling large quantities, but he says that he has met with powerful opposition. I should imagine that where a man met with, powerful opposition he would be able to sell only small quantities. On the other hand, if he was selling large quantities, it is quite clear that the opposition was not very powerful.
– Suppose that a man is selling large quantities, and that the opposition is selling twice as much?
– If a witness says that he is selling large quantifies, we may assume that he is doing a fairly good business. In his evidence, Mr. Lewis said -
A hundred people might be employed in the trade were it not for the imported article.
Now, the total value of the importations is not quite £5,000. Suppose that we succeed in stopping the importations, which we are not likely to do because there is sure to be a special branch which, for some rea-. son or other, will require the article, and suppose that the local industry should employ 100 people. The net gain to the 100 workers would be so small that we could not say that they would be receiving decent wages.
– The honorable senator is going on the assumption that we are not likely to increase our moulding.
– Senator de Largie has answered the point. He has practically said that this work is so small that we need not bother about it. I thought that it- was more important until I listened to his remarks.
– Black lead is not used for more than one casting out of a dozen.
– I think that the proportion varies in the different factories. At a factory in Balmain, I saw, not one, but a dozen castings - certainly small ones - and in every case black lead or plumbago was used.
– . Black sand, not plumbago.
– It was not black sand, I think.
– The cylinder is the only part of a stationary engine in connexion with which black lead is used.
– In this age of specialization the use of the article mayvery in the different factories. In the absence of any information to show that there is an industry to be developed, we ought not to impose a duty which is distinctly going to be a tax and a handicap on a more important industry.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to make item 231, “Graphite or Plumbago, &c,” free (Senator Millen’ s request) - put.The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [2.40]. - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 231 5 per cent.
I know something about this article. As far back as 1872 I took up, in New South Wales, a mineral selection for graphite. From then until now I have paid attention to the matter, and I have never heard of the discovery, in Australia; of graphite, which would fulfil all the conditions, of commerce. There is graphite of a rather low grade which is useful for some purposes. In one large case, where the mine- was in Queensland, and the shares held principally, if not exclusively, in Sydney, contracts were entered into for the supply of the article to a number of manufacturers in the full belief that it was all that was required, but the stuff was not up to the market requirements. It was not so useful for commercial purposes as had been anticipated, and, like many other mining ventures, that one came to an end. I do not know of a quality of graphite for a great many of the manufactures which will meet the requirements of the market. This is the raw material requisite for a great many manufactures, and the lowest duty which can be imposed will be in the interests of local industry, namely “ 5 per cent.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request (by Senator Colonel Neild) put -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 231 10 per cent.
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request (by Senator Colonel Neild) put -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 231 15 per cent.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item 232. Bronzing and metal powders, ad val., 20 per cent.
– These are articles which I think might reasonably be placed on the free list. They are used in what might be called the smaller departments of many trades. I do not say that they affect a big industry, nor am I prepared to say that the retention of the duty would crush out or even seriously handicap the industries in which bronzing and metal powders are used - still the duty represents a tax on the users of these powders, and if, as I think can be shown, they are not being made in Australia, it becomes not merely a revenue duty - an expression which I was told I should not use - but an unnecessary tax on the industries in which they are employed. At page 234 of the report of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, I find this statement made - “
A Sydney printer and box manufacturer complained that bronze powders were liable to . 1 revenue duty of 20 per cent. which was too much for the industry to stand. They could not possibly >e made in Australia, and as a raw material, should be admitted free. A Sydney stationerj representing the Association of Master Printers and Allied Trades, agreed with this contention, and pointed out that the ‘importation of bronze powders did not affect any Australian industry ; they were a highly specialized manufacture, and were a necessary raw material, of the trade. 1 do not pretend to have read the whole of the evidence given before the Tariff Commission, but I have read the reports, and can discover no evidence contrary to this statement, and I do not think I have’ overlooked any paragraph in the reports which contradicts that which I have read. If any contrary view had been put forward I feel certain that the members of the protectionist section of the Commission would not have allowed the paragraph I have read to remain uncontradicted. They would at least have said that other wit- nesses contradicted .this view, or would have quoted evidence given, to the ‘contrary. As they have not done so, I think it is a reasonable assumption that these powders are not made in Australia, and I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make item 232 free.
– To be perfectly frank with the honorable senator who has submitted this request, I will go so far as to say that no evidence contrary to that which the honorable senator has quoted was submitted to the Tariff Commission, but I do not think that that should necessarily conclude the matter. It was stated by the particular witness referred to, who no doubt is interested in the free admission of these powders, that they should be placed on the free list.
– One of the witnesses referred to spoke in a representative capacity for an Association of Master Printers.
– His evidence was to the effect that these powders were not being made, and were not likely to be made, in Australia. I do not think that we should conclude from such a statement that it is not possible to produce in Australia such articles as bronzing and metal powders. In any case, I remind Senator Millen, and I think this argument should have weight with the honorable senator, that the duty of 20 per cent, at present imposed is that which has been in force since the Tariff of 1901. The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended that the 20 per cent, duty should continue in force, and the free-trade section of the Commission recommended a duty of 10 per cent. I speak subject to the qualification which I have previously admitted as to the absolute accuracy of the entries in the column containing the recommendations of the freetrade section of the Commission. In the circumstances, I hope that honorable senators will not depart so far from the recommendations of both sections of the Commission, and the duty imposed under the old Tariff, as to agree now to make the item free.
– Are these powders being made in Australia?
– It does not follow that if they are not being made here at the present time, they cannot be made here. Surely honorable senators do not believe that we have reached the limit of our capacity of production, and that we shall never produce in Australia what we are not producing to-day. Honorable senators are aware that the existence of a duty on articles which were not produced in the country has led to their production being commenced after a time.
– The duty of 20 per cent, now proposed has been in existence since 1 90 1, and, according to the honorable senator, the production of these powders in Australia has not yet commenced.
– I have not said that. If the honorable senator had listened carefully to my reply to Senator Millen, he would have heard me say that so far as I knew, no evidence was brought before the Tariff Commission to contradict the paragraph quoted by the honorable senator; but that the absence of any such evidence did not conclude the case. We have had from members of the Tariff Commission statements that in regard to certain items, no specific evidence has been forthcoming, and they have, therefore, in such cases made no recommendation. There are many items in respect of which there was no specific evidence. The fact that no witnesses came forward, however, does not prove anything.
– The Minister is hot affirming that this article is made in Australia.
– I am not in a position to do so. I candidly admit that. The argument which I address to the mover of the request is, that the duty hasbeen 20 per cent., that the continuance of that duty is recommended bv the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, and that an impost of 10 per cent, has been recommended by the free- tra de section. Again, I remind the honorable senator that he has .stated that he does not intend to move for the reduction of duties which are already in existence, except in the case of food items.
– And revenue items ; I said, with regard to revenue duties, that I was not prepared to maintain the Tariff of 1902.
– I understood that the honorable senator said that he was not going to make any attempt to reduce duties other than food duties in existence under the previous Tariff. I ask honorable senators, in all these circumstances, to adhere to the’2o per cent. duty.
– The Minister has not attempted to show that these commodities are made in Australia. He admits that there is evidence to show that they are not made here. Senator Mulcahy has handed me a memorandum sent out by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, in which they say that bronze and metal powders are only manufactured at Nuremberg, in Germany, and cannot even be obtained from Great Britain.
– I thought that the honorable senator said, last night, that he did not pay any attention to such representations ?
– Since when has the ‘ honorable senator commenced to think at all? There is, therefore, some support for the lack of evidence on this point taken bv the Tariff Commission. The Minister has not ventured to suggest that the industry is being carried, on here, so that the lack of evidence represents the position of affairs to-day.
– Senator Millenlast night made an impassioned speech against honorable senators paying any attention to representations made to them by manufacturers in Victoria. Now, however, we find him quoting a statement made by the Sydney Chamber, of Commerce.
– It was not made in the lobby, outside, but in a document, a copy of which every member of the Committee can have.
– What is the difference? In his very heated speech last night Senator Millen said that this was no longer a deliberative Chamber, owing to attention being paid to representations made by people outside - who, however, know more about such matters than Senator Millen or many of us can do. Now we have him deliberately quoting a statement” from a member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce.
– Put into the. letterbox, so that we cannot cross-examine the authority.
– The honorable senator has asked me when I started to think. I wonder when he will start to be consistent.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to make item 232, “Bronzing md metal powders,” free (Sena tor Millen’s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Item 233. Tallow and greases -
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales; [3.9]. - Honorable senators will notice that we have- tallow’ mentioned in this item. I do not know whether it is inserted for the sake of uniformity, seeing that we are taxing live stock, and other things. But it does seem to me to be ludicrous to put a duty on tallow, a commodity which we export very largely. It is only in case of an absolute dearth in this country, owing to drought, that the soap and other manu-> facturers are under the necessity of importing it. It does seem to me that if there were a time. of necessity when our manufacturers have to import, tallow largely, it would be ridiculous to have this duty on it. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 233 by leaving out the words “Tallow and,” line1.
– I wish to confirm the . view submitted by Senator Millen. As a matter of fact, Australia is the largest exporter of tallow in the world. The tallow that comes into this country is largely for reexport purposes. It comes m from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands in small quantities, either- to be used in Australia, or to be transhipped to European ports. Therefore the duty appears to be to me to be one. of those which have no value. It is impossible that it can ever be operative.
– Then why bother about it?
– As business men, we do not want to make ourselves ludicrous by imposing such a duty.
– I hope the Committee will not agree to the request. Surely honorable senators know that, in many instances, tallow is imported in spite of the fact that we are great exporters of that commodity. In many years imports are received from New Zealand, and it is not at all desirable that our own farmers and cattle-raisers should be submitted to competition from that Dominion, any more than they are submitted to competition in regard to other lines in the Tariff.
– The remarks of Senator Keating simply show that he really knows very little about the question - and naturally so. The fact is that every week tallow comes in from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. It comes in for sale, and shipment to Europe, because the largest tallow market in the world is in Sydney. Surely the Minister does not wish to legislate against the development of an industry which is wholly beneficial to the Commonwealth ? In the twenty years during which I have been in Australia, not one cask of tallow has been imported, except for sale and re-exportation. At the time of the biggest drought that we ever had, our exportation of tallow was the largest on record, because so many cattle were boiled down to prevent them from dying from starvation. The tallow which is imported from New Zealand and the Pacific. Islands comes here to be sold in a market where it is likely to bring good prices; but the effect of the dutv will be to cause it to be shipped direct to- Marseilles, London, or Liverpool.
– Do the imports of tallow affect prices locally?
– Only to ah infinitesimal degree, if at all. No advantage will accrue to the Commonwealth from the imposition of the duty, while, on the other hand, it may prevent a large amount of business from- being done in Sydney and elsewhere, in the sale and re-exportation of tallow. . Sydney is the centre of the tallow trade, iust as London is the centre of the tea trade, and Bradford of the woollen trade.’
– A duty has to be paid on all tea imported into England.
– But there is a rebate on exportation.
– The tallow from the Pacific Islands comes largely in small tins, and is melted down and run into casks. Do honorable senators wish’ to kill that trade?
– After hearing the arguments of Senators Millen and Gray, I was at first disposed to regard it as of little consequence whether tallow is admitted free or not ; but, looking more closely at the item, I see that the duty is on greases and tallow unrefined, imported in packages of less than 4 lbs. The intention of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission and of the Government is to- prevent the importation of greases, or unrefined tallow which can be used for the same purposes. No doubt honorable senators have seen unrefined tallow used for the greasing of dray axles, for example. But there are other antifriction greases of a very high value, costing sometimes almost £100 a ton, which a duty of 4s. per cwt. will not keep out of the market, and therefore, when the proper time comes, I intend to ask for an alternative duty of 25 per cent., whichever will return the higher rate. I think that, except for an amendment protecting our manufacturers of axle grease from importations of the anti-friction greases to -which I have referred, the item might well be left as it is.
– Sena’tor McGregor has misunderstood Senator Gray. The tallow imported from the Pacific Islands does not come here in saleable form, but mainly in kerosene tins having the top cut off.
– Cooks’ slush tins.
– Yes. In every kitchen in the back country there is such a tin, and when it is full, the fat it contains is sent to the nearest tallow works..
– Is tallow sent in such tins from the South Sea Islands?
– Yes. It is purchased in Sydney, put into casks, and reexported. We do not wish to discourage that business.
– A kerosene tin of tallow would contain over 30 lbs.
– And the contents would be dutiable at 2s. a cwt. My amendment affects both paragraphs of the item.
– Tallow imported in that way would be regarded as imported in bulk.-
– Tallow imported in bulk is dutiable under the item.
– So it should be, seeing that it can be used as grease.
– In reply to the statements of Senator Gray as to the importance to the Sydney market of the import trade in tallow, 1 would point out that in 1906, according to the Government Statistician, only 1 ton of tallow was imported into the Commonwealth from the South Sea Islands. Mv experience is that cattle will never fatten well enough in the islands to create any tallow trade. To ascertain the true reason for this request, we must look behind the scenes. I find at page 180 of the freetraders’ Koran, the report of the freetrade section of the Tariff Commission, this summary of the evidence of a Mr. Vider of New South Wales -
The principal object of asking for a removal of the duty on tallow was to supply the local demand of soap and candle-makers. There was a shortage during the recent drought.
I shall show that that is not so. This was an attempt on the part of Mr. Vider to mislead the Commission. The report also sets forth that Mr. Upton -
A candle manufacturer in Sydney asked that the existing duty on tallow should be struck .out, as it was a raw material, pure and simple, of his industry, the same as palm oil and cocoanut oil, which were free.
The managing director of the Sydney Soap, and Candle Company Ltd. staled ‘that during the drought, and for probably a -year before Federation, they were importing mutton tallow from New Zealand, which could not be purchased here.
Then comes the most pregnant statement of all–
They had to take one or two shipments after the Tariff had been adopted.
What happened in Australia in that year ?
– During a drought plenty of tallow is available, but it is not of the necessary quality.
– Although Mr. Clarke, of the Sydney Soap and Candle Company, said that it was compelled to take one or two shipments of tallow after the adoption of the Federal Tariff of 1902, we find that in 1901-2 ,£468,034 worth of tallow was exported, and that during the following year our exports of tallow were valued at £308,465.
– What were the imports ?
– They were insignificant. I desire to give an emphatic contradiction to the statement of this witness that we had to import one or two shipments of mutton tallow’ from New Zealand after the adoption of the Tariff of 1902.
– It is perfectly correct.
– The fact that during the same year we exported a very large quantity of tallow shows that the statement was valueless. Those who urge the abolition of the duty on tallow have one of the best markets in the world in which to t secure their raw material. But .like most manufacturers, whether they be freetraders or protectionists, they desire to obtain their raw material in the cheapest market. That is a matter which concerns themselves, but we ought not to expose the Australian tallow market to outside competition. I am not’ going, by my vote, to assist in doing so, since the official statistics show that we produce more tallow than is necessary’ to satisfy our own requirements.
– One would imagine, considering the number of times that the national policy of Australia has been stated for the benefit of our free-trade friends, that they would at least begin to understand it. Unhappily, .they do not seem to grasp it. Senator Gray is very anxious to know why we impose a duty upon tallow, an article which we export in very large quantities. Why do we impose a “ duty .on wheat, butter, and a ‘number of agricultural products?
– The Lord only knows !
– He probably does know j but the free-trade party unfortunately does not, and does not want to know. Wishing, as I do, to be of some service to that party, I shall try to give it a glimmering of an idea of the reason, why these duties are levied. We impose a duty upon ‘wheat to encourage its production in the Commonwealth. Honorable senators will reply that we are now producing more than sufficient to supply our own needs. That is perfectly true, and in such circumstances the duty on wheat is inoperative. But there are years when even in Australia we do not produce enough wheat for our own requirements. “ That is the very time,” says the freetrader, “ when the duty is a severe impost upon .the people of the Commonwealth.” But why do we collect the duty during a drought? For the reason that we want to make Australia independent of every outride country so far as her food supplies are concerned. We make the duty operative in times of drought, as a stimulant to agriculturists in overcoming the dry spells from which we suffer.
– I suppose that the honorable senator will acknowledge that tallow is the raw material of several manufactures ?
– I am now giving reasons why we impose a duty on wheat, and almost every other agricultural product. Let me come to the duty on tallow. Senator Gray himself supplied the reason why we should impose this duty, when he said that no doubt in years of drought there was plenty of tallow available in Australia, but not tallow of the requisite quality. We desire to encourage the production of tallow of the very best quality, and one way of Stimulating its production is to protect, our people against the competition of other countries.’ That is why the duty is imposed. It is part of the national policy of Australia. Senator Gray was very much concerned about the people who produce tallow in the South . Sea Islands and New Caledonia.
– And New Zealand and elsewhere.
– He was very much afraid that those people would not be allowed to send , their tallow to Europe through Sydney. If tallow is imported into Sydnev from New Zealand, or any other part of the globe, and after duty has been paid on it, re-exported, I should imagine that a rebate is obtainable.
– It cannot be identified. It goes into the sales rooms and is resold.
– If it cannot be identified, and the duty is paid upon it, I cannot help it. If I have to choose between developing the trade of New Zealand, New Caledonia, and the South Sea Islands generally, and developing that of Australia, I am going to try to assist our own trade. Senator Lynch quoted the imports of tallow from the South Sea Islands during last year. We imported one ton.
– The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission points out that the old duty prevented the tallow coming in.
– Very well. I have shown why, from my point of view, the duty has been imposed. We want to foster the production of the very best kind of tallow, and can do that only by imposing a duty.
– Does the honorable senator think that the grazing industry of Australia would be affected by the abolition of the duty ?
– I do not say that the industry as a whole would be affected ; but surely it ought to be our ambition to produce not only tallow but tallow of the very best quality.
– It is a matter of climatic influence.
– Then we have in Australia all climates; we have the temperate climate of Tasmania and the tropical climate of Northern Australia. If we cannot produce tallow sufficiently good for any purpose under heaven, we had better “ throw up the sponge.”
– If the honorable senator thinks the duty will stimulate the grazing industry of Australia, let him take it, and allow us to get on.
– I did not begin the discussion, but since it had been started, I failed to see why I should not take part in it.
– I hope that Senator Millen will not object to my speaking. Having regard to the time that he occupies in addressing the Committee, I think his objection to hear the other side comes with very bad grace. This is a question which affects the primary producers, of whom I am a representative. Our New South Wales friends - ‘the contingent calling themselves free-traders - seem to draw their inspiration from the press, the Chambers of .Commerce, or the importers ; the primary producer is not considered. We ought not to speak disparagingly of the various States which we represent. Since the little State of. South Australia alone sent to England this year through the produce depot some 270,000 lambs, surely it should not be necessary for Australia to import tallow. If it is, there must be something wrong. It would appear that Senator Gray is raising an outcry because of a little bit of business which the abolition of the duty would bring to the Sydney merchants.
– Is that why the honorable senator is opposed to its abolition?
– No. The duty, in my opinion, is in the interests of our primary producers. Australia can satisfy her own requirements in the matter of tallow, and if it is right to apply protection to other branches of industry, it is certainly right to apply it to this. I hope that Senator Millen, who objects so strongly to hear the other side, will be good enough in the interests of the public to slightly curtail his remarks.
– I should like to know whether the Minister of Home Affairs is in a position to place before, the Committee a statement showing the revenue collected in respect of the duty on tallow as distinct from the amount raised by the duty on greases. I do not understand grease to be a primary product, and, that being so, 1 fail to understand how a duty upon it affects the primary producer.
– It undoubtedly does.
– I should be glad if the Minister could supply us with the information for which I have asked. Under the old Tariff tallow’ and greases were grouped under the one heading.
– That being so,, no separate records would be kept.
– - Senators Stewart and W. Russell have been distinctly unjust to me in their remarks. When I interposed during Senator Stewart’s observations, it was with a view to informing him that I recognised that the sense ,of the Committee was against me, and, in order to save time, I was prepared to allow the matter to go. But the moment I indicated my feeling in the matter, both he and Senator Russell commenced to rend me to pieces. I have therefore come to the conclusion that it is utterly useless to attempt to do anything to expedite the transaction of business.
– - I would remind Senator Millen that actions speak louder than words. Where was the honorable senator’s desire to save time when he insisted upon taking half-a-dozen divisions to-day with no prospect of success?
– I was not saying a word.
– But the honorable senator was assisting others, and he is a recognised leader.
– Where was the honorable senator himself?
– I was here to protect the country from the injury that Senator Millen and his party were trying to inflict upon it. I am sure that if the honorable senator could only see himself as others see him, he would act differently.
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 233, paragraph A, by making the duty 4s. per cwt., or 25 per cent, ad val., whichever rate returns the higher duly.
I have already given, my reasons for this proposal. I desire to protect the manufacturer of greases against the competition of anti-friction greases, which sometimes range in value up to £100 per ton. Upon such greases a duty of 4s. per cwt. would have no protective incidence whatever. As we have already adopted alternative duties in respect of other items, I hope that, my request will commend itself to the Committee.
– The honorable senator has asked the Committee to agree to a very high alternative duty. It is quite true - as he has mentioned - that greases range in value over a very wide area. Some are comparatively cheap, whilst others are very dear. Upon some of the greases imported a duty of 25 per cent, would amount to as much as £,2 and £2 5s. per cwt. If Senator McGregor persists in his proposal, I ask him to accept a lower alternative ad valorem rate, and the Government may then .be disposed to meet him.
– If the Minister of Home Affairs believes that a lower ad valorem duty will afford sufficient protection to our manufacturers, I have no objection to accepting a duty of 20 per cent. To my mind, that is a sufficiently low rate to levy as an alternative to the fixed duty, seeing that in some . instances the value of these antifriction greases is so high that the specific duty would have no protective incidence whatever.
– I understood that the honorable senator proposed to differentiate between tallow and greases?
– No. The ad valorem rate would not apply to tallow, because in such cases the fixed duty of 2s. per cwt. would represent more than 20 per cent.
– Make it 15 per cent.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania) [3-52J- - 1 move -
That the request be amended by leaving out the figures “ 25 “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “ 10.”
Many of the greases imported are mineral greases which cannot be produced in the Commonwealth.
– We can manufacture them here.
– They are not manufactured in Australia, and consequently 25 per cent, would be an unduly high rate to levy upon them.
– I desire to move a prior request, and to enable me to do so I ask Senator McGregor to temporarily withdraw his proposal.
Request and amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 233, paragraph a, by leaving out the words “ in packages not exceeding 4 lbs. in weight.”
– If that request be carried we shall have to eliminate paragraph b.
– My ‘ object is to secure the imposition of only one duty upon all tallow and greases. The packing of these articles should - be undertaken in the Commonwealth.
– I see no objection whatever to the -principle underlying the honorable senator’s request for the imposition of one duty upon tallow and greases, irrespective of whether they are imported in large or small quantities. In regard to Senator McGregor’s proposal, I would point out that 20 per cent, is a very high rate to levy, inasmuch as it would be applicable only to greases of a very high price, and would then be out of all proportion to the 4s. per cwt. which would be levied upon the lower class of greases. But the Government offer no opposition to . the two divisions being fused in the way proposed bv Senator Stewart.
– The object of the original proposals of the Government in respect of tallows and greases was to encourage the importation of axle and other greases in bulk, with a view to having them made up into smaller packages here. But Senator Stewart now proposes to levy only one duty upon them, which will be an inducement for the packing to be undertaken outside the Commonwealth. As I do not think that is hisdesire, I ask him’ whether he recognises the effect of his proposal? He said just now that free-traders seemed slow to understand what protectionists aim at. If what I havepointed out is what he is aiming at, I do not understand his action. But I question whether he voices the protectionist idea in regard to this matter. . I certainly prefer the Tariff as it stands to his proposal.
– I hope that Senator Millen is not deliberately seeking to throw a little dust into the eyes of the Committee. As far as packages, under 4 lbs. in weight are concerned, Senator Stewart’s proposal will not make any difference to them. If tallow or greases are imported in . packages under 4 lbs. in “ weight, they will be charged 4s. per cwt., or the alternative ad valorem rate, and the same duty will also be applicable to these goods if they are imported in bulk. The intention of protectionists is that they shall not be introduced at all if they can be manufactured locally.- Seeing that ‘ Senator Stewart’s proposal will not. make the position in respect of paragraph? a any worse from a protectionist standpoint, but will make the position in respectof paragraph b very much better, I shall support it.
– - I ask Senator Stewart to withdraw his proposal, because there are practically no parcels imported under 4 lbs. in weight-
– There are thousands of them.
– There may be thousands of parcels of axle grease, but my remark had reference -to tallow. I ask the Government not to agree to the proposal of Senator McGregor, which, if carried, will inflict injury upon the Commonwealth without any industry gaining the slightest benefit from a protective stand-point. The’ importations of tallow, especially, from New .Zealand, where it is produced in large quantities, come to Sydney, when there are profitable freight opportunities. The New Zealand exporters send it to Sydney in order’ that it may be re-exported. Australia is benefited by that means, because work is given at the wharfs in unloading, and to carriers ; commissions are also earned in Australia, storage charges- have to be paid here, and the loading of the tallow again on to the ships for Europe gives more work. Consequently, a considerable amount of money is spent in the Commonwealth through the importation of tallow. Any effect that it has on the local price, from a manufacturing point of view, is infinitesimal. I can assure Senator W. Russell, who represents the farmers, that he will in no way be doing them a kindness by voting for the duty, because it will have no incidence whatever from either a protectionist or free-trade point of view, whereas we should be very foolish to do anything to prevent one part of the Commonwealth at any rate being a market for the tallow industry, as it is now. A duty of 2o- per cent, will absolutely prohibit every cask of tallow coming into the Common wen 1th from New. Caledonia, New Zealand, or Fiji for re-export, and all the charges which the Commonwealth gets as profit will be absolutely killed. It would be ridiculous with a 20 per cent, duty to expect any one to import tallow, which now averages £23 a ton, for re-export. The proposed duty will do no good, while it will do a great deal of harm from a business point of view. The Committee will be committing a legislative injustice to the best interests of the Commonwealth by adopting it. The trade now may be comparatively small, but it is developing, and we ought to be proud that we can have in Australia the largest tallow market in the world. We ought to do all we can 10 develop that market, seeing that at the same time we shall in no wise weaken or injure any of our existing industries.
Senator McCOLL (Victoria) [4.5!.- The requests put forward by Senator Stewart and Senator McGregor have only one object - the putting up of the duty. Those attempts are connived at by the Government, who have not the pluck or manliness to move the requests themselves. I have never before -seen deliberations upon a Tariff conducted in this way. The representatives of the Government sit quietly in their seats-
– We are improving as we go along.
– It is degrading for any Government to do its business in the way adopted by this Government with regard to the Tariff. When I contrast the way in which Mr. Kingston and Sir George Turner conducted the business of the pre vious Tariff in another Chamber, I feel ashamed-
– The honorable senator has a right to feel ashamed himself. .
– I have not. The conduct of the representatives of the Government in this Chamber is simply contemptible.
– There is not a word of accuracy in the honorable senator’s remarks.
– We had the same thing last night on the question of wigs. We have it again to-day in a proposal to double the duty without regard to the persons who use the article. These greases are used by an enormous number of people in a great many industries. The tanning industry, for instance; is progressing extremely well in Australia, and turning out excellent leather, which is becoming almost equal to the English. One of the main ingredients used by the fellmongers is grease. A number of the constituents of the grease are not obtainable here, and have to be secured outside Australia. The imposition of this tax will be of no benefit to the farmers - the primary producers whom Senator W. Russell is always trotting out but never helping. It will, at the same time, press hardly on a large number of industries which use grease. The item ought to stand as it is. We were told when the. Tarin0 was brought into this Chamber that the Government intended to stand bv it as it was, but they are running away from it on almost every other item.
– :I cannot listen to the empty denunciations uttered by Senator McColl without mentioning a few fact’s about what has happened within the last few weeks. When the honorable .senator moved successfully with regard to the duty on corsets, for instance, there was no prouder man in the Chamber. He regarded that request as a perfectly legitimate one for a private member to propose. He had it carried with his tongue in his cheek, but .now, according to the logic of this sage of the Senate, it is entirely wrong for another honorable senator to move to alter a duty.
– It was Senator Findley who brought forward the question of the duty on corsets.
– And Senator McColl jumped Senator Findley’s claim in a way which reflected no credit upon him. He saw that the Committee was with him, and seized the opportunity of giving himself an advertisement - an art at which he is an adept. His suggestion was accepted, and not a word of complaint came from him. But now, if other honorable senators indulge in the same practice, and give voice to their opinions, the honorable senator says that everything is wrong. He is incorrect in stating that an attempt is being made to increase the duties on tallow.
– By. five times.
– The honorable senator is. welcome to his contention if he can prove it. The importations of greases in 1906 amounted to 21,5-26 cwt., valued at £19,446, or an average value of about 17 s. 6d. a cwt.
– Senator McGregor says that some of it is worth £100 a tc
– Some of it is worth far less. A duty of 4s. a cwt.
– Senator McGregor asks for a 20 per cent, ad valorem duty. .
– Twenty per cent., or 4s. per cwt., whichever is the higher.
- Senator McGregor asked tentatively for 25 per cent. and later on expressed his willingness to support 15 per cent. The figures do not bear out Senator McColl’s wild statement that a large and unjustifiable increase of duty is proposed.
– What is the good of talking of the average price being 17s. 6d. per cwt., when the proposal is aimed at the higher- priced greases?
– It is proposed for a good purpose, because nearly two-thirds of the greases imported come from the United States, which possibly have to import some of their raw materials. There is no attempt to saddle this commodity with a higher duty than others which have already been agreed to. Even the 25 per cent, tentatively suggested by Senator McGregor is only about- 4s. 4d. per cwt.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 233, paragraph a, by leaving out the words “ in packages not exceeding 4 lbs. in weight “ (Senator Stewart’s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in tlie negative.
Request (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 233, paragraph a, 4s. per cwt. or 20 per cent, ad valorem, whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Amendment . (by Senator Macfarlane) proposed -
That the request be amended by leaving unl the figures “26” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “‘10. “
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.15]. - I am not going to take the useless course of making a long speech in opposition to a proposal which in my belief is degrading to responsible government. I must, however, make my protest, which will be printed in Hansard, if nowhere else. The Government cannot in trodiice proposals for taxation without obtaining a message from the GovernorGeneral. Such a message has been obtained, and, under it, proposals for taxation have been introduced. Yet the Government are, time after time, allowing private members, with’ no share of Ministerial responsibility, to take the financial’ affairs of the Commonwealth under their control, while Ministers sit supinely by, knowing all the time that, itthe requests proposed be agreed to, another message will be necessary for their adoption elsewhere.
Ministerial policy or Ministerial proposals, but to the irresponsible proposals of private members. I suppose, however, that the drivers of the Government - the stockwhip drivers o.f the Government - have the numbers. I must enter my protest’ against this unconstitutional method of taxing the “ people - taxing the people, not by any recognised authority, but by individual freebooting fiscalists, who are, unfortunately, provided with seats in this Chamber. . .Having entered that protest, I shall not’ delay matters, but, following the policy advocated by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I shall, as far as possible, maintain a good solid voting attitude and leave to the fiscal freebooters the joy of being eternally eloquent.
– I hope that Senator Neild will reconsider his attitude, if only for the purpose of maintaining a moderate degree of consistency. There is no doubt that it is possible to manufacture a greasy substance that is very useful in making the joints limber, and rendering men acrobatic, politically or otherwise, even though they be advanced in years. There was a law-giver in New South Wales, who, at one part of his career, was perfectly solid on the question of tallow.- The people believed in that gentleman as an ardent free-trader, who, in view of the pastoral industries of New South Wales, would always be in favour of reducing the duty on tallow as much as possible. But the time came when that well known politician changed his views remarkably. I may, in passing, say that the honorable gentleman could take his hand at poetry, and was also a kind of secondhand warrior. However, the time came when this well-known supporter of . freedom for tallow changed his opinions; and yet, when he unfortunately happened to get into “the Federal Parliament, he sought, and has since sought, to impress people with his firm belief in free-trade.
– Does the honorable senator propose to connect his remarks with the item before the Chair ?
– The honorable gentleman to whom I refer was a believer in a duty on tallow in some part of his career; but later, for some reasons best known to himself, he changed his’ mind. ‘ I do not think that the State that I represent is much concerned about a duty on tallow, but my duty is to see that a duty is imposed in the interest of those who manufacture the many greases required in Australian industries.
New South Wales is a large pastoral State ; but, unfortunately, there is no consistency in this connexion, so far as one of its representatives is concerned, as the following letter, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, will show -
Sir, - It is universally recognised that the financial difficulties constitute the chief obstacle to the accomplishment of the desired union ; second, that the free-trade policy of this colony is the cause of the financial difficulty ; and third, that with Federation we must accept protection.
As all advocates of Federation deem unity and protection mme advantageous than disunion and free-trade, why postpone the accomplishment of the advantageous change?
I suggest that the Convention adjourn for, say, two weeks Let our Parliament be called together. Let the Right Hon. the Premier bold lv submit a proposal for a good high protective Tariff, and, this being adopted, on the re-assembling of the Convention there will be no financial difficulty to bar the way to the achievement of a splendid and happy Federation. - I am, &c., Jno. C. Neild. Assembly, 6th September, T897.
That was the opinion held by Senator Neild at that time ; arid in view of his frequent fulminations in this chamber, ought we to attach any serious importance to a man who can show himself in so many lights?
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.28]. - It is the highest proof of my consistency as a politician that a broad joke levelled, I do not hesitate to say, at the head of the party to which I belonged, and with, whom I was at some serious difference on the question of Federation - a satire so broad that I doubted whether the Sydney Morning Herald would give it room - should be the only thing that can be charged against me during my parliamentary career of twenty-five years. At the time that letter was written I was working night and day in opposition to the form of Federation then proposed.
Senator Trenwith. Nobodv would have detected it.
– IfI can get an opportunity , sir, I desire to move that the House of Representatives be requested to make paragraph a free.
– Before_ the honorable senator can submit that request, it will be necessary for the request of Senator McGregor and the amendment of Senator Macfarlane to be withdrawn temporarily.
Request and amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make item 233, paragraph A, . free.
I do not propose to traverse the arguments which have been used on a previous request. I simply want to call attention to the fact that already tallow is sufficiently protected.
– Who made the honorable senator believe that?
– My own com mon sense has taught me so. The fact that we export tallow proves my statement conclusively. According to the statistics, in 1906 we imported over 19,000 cwt. of this article, yielding a revenue of a little more than . £2,000. In face of our production of tallow, I think it must be clear to anv one that there is something connected with this article which does not appear on the surface. I believe that a good deal of mineral composition is used in the making up of these greases, and no matter what we may do with tallow or anything else, that article will be imported for making greases for use in connexion with certain forms of machinery here. ‘ This is undoubtedly a revenue duty, and on that, ground, especially as the revenue therefrom is not very much, it can very well be repealed.
– I point out to Senator Henderson that the manufacture of lubricating greases has been fostered by protection, and has been established here in some degree.
– We have the mineral oils to make it.
– We admit some forms of mineral oil free.
– We have them here.
– We have tallow -the main base of such lubricants - in practically unlimited quantities, and if it is necessary for some purposes to mix mineral oils, we have local mineral oils, and admit some mineral oils free, the others being subject to a very low duty. It would be a disastrous thing from a protectionist point of view to allow the free importation of an article when its production here has been fostered and encouraged by a protective duty. To my mind a dutv of 4s. per cwt. is a low one. Senator McGregor, I understand, purposes to move for an alternative ad valorem duty of 20 per cent. That is, I think, a very much wiser course. We should insist, so far as we can by a protective duty, that this commodity, even if we have not all the raw material, ought to be made in the ‘Commonwealth, where it is used.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to make item 233, paragraph a, “ Greases,” free - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– As a number of honorable senators think that 20 per cent, is too high a duty, I propose, on reconsideration, to ask the Committee to reduce the rate to 15 per cent. That will, to a great extent, meet the objection of Senator Macfarlane, who favored a duty of 10 per cent. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 233, paragraph a, 4s. per cwt. or 15 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
I submit the request not because I altogether agree with a duty of 15 per cent., but because a number of honorable senators think that it is the best thing to do.
– I regard 15 per cent, as an excessive duty, but in order to save time I am willing to accept the proposal as a compromise.
Request agreed to.
– In order to bring this paragraph into line with the previous paragraph,I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested 10 make the duty on item 233, paragraph n, 2S. per cwt. or 15 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.44]. - I hope that the request will not be passed in that form. Senator Macfarlane, I believe, withdrew an amendment to enable a request to be submitted, and I give way.
– This is a different paragraph.
– The object of my request is only to bring paragraph b, . of item 233, into line with’ paragraph a.
– What I desired to do was to make provision for a preference on imports from the United Kingdom, but as, apparently, we have permitted paragraph a to pass without such a provision I shall not waste time in moving a request for a preferential duty as applied to paragraph b, though I regret very much, that I am prevented from doing so.
– I wish to remind honorable senators that Senator McGregor’s proposal would not bring these sub-items into lineThe request he has carried in connexion with paragraph a is to make the duty 4s., with, an alternative ad valorem duty of 15 per cent. If the duty applicable to paragraph. b is to be 2S., and the alternative ad valorem duty 15 per cent., it must be clear that, should the ad valorem principle beapplied, we are doubling the proportiopaterate of duty as compared with paragraph a. I suggest that Senator McGregor might amend his request by providing for an alternative duty of 10 per cent.
– I understand the principle on which Senator Millen is acting, and I donot wish to be opposing the honorable senator all the time. I agree with him that if the ad valorem duty, were fixed at 15 per cent, on both these paragraphs, it would come into operation twice as often wherethe fixed duty was 2s. I shall therefore be satisfied with an ad valorem duty on these bulk packages of 10 per cent., and ask leave to so amend my request.’
Request amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Item 234. Oils -
In vessels not exceeding one gallon, viz. : -
Half-pints and over quarter-pints, per doz. (General Tariff), 3s. ; and oa and after 3rd December, 1907, 2S. ; (United Kingdom), 3s. ; and on and’ after 3rd December, 1907, is. 6d.
Tariff), 4s. ; and on and after 3rd December, 1907, 2s. 8d. ; (United Kingdom), 4s.; and ‘ on and after 3rd December, 1907, 2s.
In vessels exceeding one gallon, viz. : -
Cotton Seed, and China, per gal. (General Tariff), 2s.
*An admixture not exceeding 2 per cent, of any vegetable or animal oil or other foreign matter shall not be deemed to render the oil liable to any higher duty.
– I propose to move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 234 by inserting the following new paragraph : - “ Linseed, when denaturated as prescribed by departmental by-law, provided that in the opinion of the Minister sufficient linseed oil for manufacturing purposes is not produced in Australia, free.”
It is not, I think, necessary to support such a request by argument. I have been asked to move it by persons who wish to be put on the same level as other manufacturers who are enabled to denature the oils thev resquire for manufacturing purposes. It is well known that linseed oil is one of the elements of paints which are universally used in Australia. If China and other oils may be denatured for manufacturing purposes, there is no reason why linseed oil should not be treated in the same way.
– There will be mo objection on the part of the Government to the insertion of a new paragraph under this item, providing for the admission, duty free, of linseed oil denatured under the conditions suggested by the honorable senator. But I point out that paragraphs a, b, c, d, and e of this item refer to the introduction of oils in vessels containing quantities not exceeding 1 gallon, whilst linseed oil to be used for the purpose to which the honorable senator refers would naturally be imported in larger quantities. In the circumstances, I . suggest to the honorable senator that it would be well for him to delav moving his request until the Committee has dealt with paragraph 1, in which he will see that provision is made for a duty upon linseed oil.
– I accept the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– Honorable senators will notice that under item 234 we have a number of subitems that are practically governed by the same principle. Feeling that the increased duties proposed are unwise and unwarranted, I propose so far as I am concerned to take one division only on a proposal which I shall submit to the Committee, and to be satisfied with the result of that division as a test vote. I mention this in order to show that I have no desire to waste time. The duty under’ the old Tariff on oils introduced in quarter-pints and smaller sizes was 6d. per dozen ; under the Tariff with which we are now dealing the. duty on imports under the general Tariff has been fixed at is. per dozen, an increase of 100 per cent. Bearing in mind that provision has been made for a preferential duty, I intend to submit a request for a duty of 9d. per dozen on imports under the general Tariff, and should that be agreed to, I shall move requests for a duty of 6d. per dozen on imports from the United Kingdom with corresponding reductions in the subsequent paragraphs. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 234, paragraph A (imports under General Tariff), per dozen, ad.
– Senator Millen is quite right in saying that paragraphs a, b, c, d, and e bear a relation to one another in respect of the rates of duty imposed, but it will be observed that the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission . made certain specific recommendations’ with regard to the imports covered by these paragraphs. The Government in their original proposals submitted duties ‘ in accordance with those recommendations, and these were afterwards reduced in another place. For instance, on paragraph a, covering oils imported in quarter-pints and smaller sizes, the Government submitted for consideration a duty of is. 6d. per dozen, and the House of Representatives decided that on and after the 3rd December, 1907, the duty should be is. per dozen, as against the Government proposal and the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission. In the same way it will be observed that the duty on paragraph b was reduced from 3s. to 2s., on paragraph c from 6s. to 4s., on paragraph d from 12s. to 8s. per dozen, and on paragraph e from 4s. to 2s. 8d. per gallon. Honorable senators will see that with the exception of the duty on paragraph e these are duties at per dozen, and if they consult the report of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission they will find that very good reasons are there given why the rates of duty previously in force should be raised in any new proposals submitted to Parliament. They show that there is some necessity for an increased protection against the importation of these oils, and I hope the Committee will agree that we are not proposing too great a measure of protection when we ask for a duty of is. per dozen under paragraph a, where the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended a dutv of is. 6d.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I find that we import a large quantity of castor, colza, and linseed oils. Every year about £35,000 is paid in duty on lubricating oil. It therefore appears to me that the item as it stands is simply revenue producing, and that the duty is not sufficient to be protective. It has not encouraged local production. There is no doubl that all of these oils can be. produced in Australia: I beg to move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 234, paragraph 1, is. per gallon.
– It is just as well that the Committee should understand the position. The old duty . was 6d. per gallon. The same dutv is recommended by the Tariff Commission, and stands in the schedule now before us.
– It has not been effective.
– The onus is- upon honorable senators opposite to show that a higher duty would be effective. But Senator Stewart has not done that. He has simply asked the Committee to impose a duty 100 per cent, higher than that recommended by the Tariff Commission.
– I remind the Committee that Parliament has- granted a bounty for the production of linseed oil, which will considerably help its production. Is it advisable to have a higher duty as’ well as a bounty?
.- It has been said that this is purely a revenue item. When I interjected that the duty under the old Tariff had not been effective, Senator Millen replied that it was for us to show that that was so. If it had been effective the importations of oils would not be so considerable. I find that in 1906 we imported about 1,500,000 gallons of colza, castor, and linseed oils. There is no earthly reason’ why we shouFd not produce in Australia all the linseed oil that we require. Again, castor oil is made from a plant that flourishes wonderfully well in most of the desert places of Australia. It is a useful plant to grow on arid land that is valueless for other purposes. As to the growing of ‘ flax, from which linseed is made, I wish to read a passage from the official organ of the Farmers’ League. This is a Victorian newspaper, published at Geelong, and the number from which I quote is dated 20th February, 1908. It is well to show what has been done in. the matter of the production of flax in Australia. The paragraph says -
As a result of profits made last season, certain Gippsland farmers cultivated increased areas of flax for harvesting this season. There were also others who, during iqo7, were induced to grow flax ctods for the first time. About Warfagul most of the growers sold the last crop to the Penal Department at prices ranging fiom £3 10 £3 17s. 6d. per ton, and the average yield was probably over 2 tons to the acre. This season, owing to the Fentridge flax treating plant having been burnt, the Penal Department is not operating on the market to anything like the same extent, and a number of growers, . being without an outlet, ‘are obliged to stack the crop. Two growers, near Warragul, have plants of their own, but the increasing areas they plant keep their machines fully occupied. Unless an outlet is provided for what others grow, a promising and developing industry will receive a serious set back.
Mr. Sargent, ex M.L.C, of Carbethon, War-‘ ragul, who himself has been growing flax for about three years, states that, with the use of a plant for extracting the fibre, he considers there is a profit of about ?i per acre in cultivating flax. The fibre is always worth per ton in Melbourne, whilst in the North of Ireland, about ?60 could probably be obtained for it. A fair average crop would yield about 5 cwt. of fibre to the acre. Besides this, the seed is ? prolific souice cf profit. The expensive method of pulling the flax by the roots, in use in England, is found unnecessary here.
It goes on to say -
Parts of Gippsland and the Western District are specially suited, on account of the regular rainfall, for flax growing, and certain farmers have been gradually increasing their areas under this crop, till this season they are harvesting some 60 acres each.
This newspaper represents what I suppose is a conservative organization, and, therefore, the conservative senators opposite, who profess to take, a special interest in farmers, should pay attention to it. It is stated that the flax growing industry is likely to become a very promising one in certain parts of Victoria. There is any quantity of land in Southern Australia that is suitable for the production of flax. Although I do not represent a southern constituency, I am just as anxious to afford protection to the industries that can be made to flourish here as I am for the industries of my own State.
– The producers have not asked for the duty.
– That does not matter from my point of view. If I can see an opportunity of supporting a policy that is likely to promote the progress of Australia, I shall do so whether what is proposed be. asked for or not. We want to have as many industries in Australia as we can promote j in other words, we do not want to put all our eggs into one basket. I shall vote for the request.
Question- That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 234, Oils, paragraph 1, “ Castor,. Colza, Linseed,” is. per gallon (Senator
Stewart’s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority .. … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request (by Senator Gray) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 234 by inserting the following new paragraph : - “II., Linseed, when denaturated as prescribed by departmental bylaw, provided that in the opinion of the Minister sufficient linseed oil for manufacturing purposes is not produced in Australia, free.”
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 234, paragraph j (imports under General Tariff), 6d. per gallon.
Last year we imported nearly 3,000,000 gallons of lubricating oil, on which ?35, 000. was paid in duty. These figures show that the Tariff is now not protective, but merely revenue producing. I think, however, thatwe can produce in Australia all the oil we require for lubricating purposes, and I wish to give the industry the necessary stimulus by increasing the duty to 6d. per gallon.
.- The figures given by Senator Stewart show what an enormous quantity of lubricating oil is used in this country. Indeed, it is an absolute necessity in most of our industries. Surely, then, the Government should have some information to give us in regard to the possibilities of its manufacture here. Senator Stewart says he believes that Australia can produce all the lubricating oil she requires.
– The Commonwealth Oil Corporation can produce all the oil that we need.
– I do not think that it is producing this oil. I would rather stimulate the industry by the’granting of a bounty in the first place, instead of taxing all users of machinery in the Commonwealth, and when the local production was sufficiently large, I should be willing to pro-^ tect it by the imposition of a stiff duty. I shall not object to the proposal of Senator Stewart if it is made clear that this oil can be produced in Australia and sold here at the prices now being charged for lubricating oil ; but I hope that we shall receive more information on the subject.
– As Senator Stewart has pointed out, Australia imports nearly 3,000,000 gallons of lubricating oil, and the Commonwealth Oil Corporation of New. South Wales is to-day producing at the same rate, and is increasing its plant with a view to making its output 6,000,000 gallons a year. It is evident that the present duty is not sufficient to protect the local industry against the competition of the Standard Oil Company.
– What does the Commonwealth Oil Corporation do with the oil it produces?
– I presume that that oil is used in Australia; it is certainly not kept at the corporation’s works. The Standard Oil Company has a practical monopoly in regard to nearly every kind of oil, and we should protect our manufacturers” from the competition of foreign combines. Senator Stewart’s proposal is not unreasonable, and those who believe in effectively protecting Australian industries should support it.
– According to Senator Needham, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is producing as much lubricating oil as is imported, and is going to increase its output. That being so, I cannot understand why it needs an additional protection of 100 per cent. Every user of machinery in the Commonwealth has to pay the duty on lubricating oil, and if effect were given to Senator Stewart’s proposal, the cost of this oil would be increased by nearly one-third. The position would be different if it were shown that the local company cannot compete against foreign imports; but, as it is doubling its output, it cannot really need a higher duty,, and if we raise the duty to 6d. per gallon, we shall be giving it a handsome present at the expense of our mining arid’ manufacturing industries. I look upon theproposal as preposterous.
.. - Senator McColl has stated that he would be inclined to support the proposal of Senator Stewart if he were satisfied that lubricating oil can be produced in Australia. in sufficient quantities to meet the demand, so that those who use it would not haveto pay more for it because of the duty. Even free-traders will agree that it is theaccepted policy of the country to encourage the investment of capital in manufacturingby the imposition of import duties. The leader of the Free-trade Party has admitted that. Now, there is in New South Wales, where the free-traders come from, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, which has invested nearly £950,000 in developing theshaleoil industry. It has constructed a. railway to connect its shale -deposits with the western line, at a point 87 miles from Sydney, this connexion costing about £200,000. The corporation has sixty-four retorts for distilling oil, which are almost completed, and it is intended to have altogether twice, that number, as well as a refinery.- Experimental coke ovens have been built at Wolgan, and arrangements have been made for the erection of. others. The present output of the company in solar, residual, and lubricating oils is equivalent to 3,000,000 gallons per annum, and will be increased within a few weeks to 6,000,000 gallons per annum, while it is thought that before the end of the present year its total output of oil of all kinds will be equivalent to 12,000.000 gallons per annum. Therefore the corporation will soon be producing enough oil to meet the requirements of Australia. Should it then be. called upon to withstand the unscrupulous competition of the Standard OiT Comrjany, which has unlimited millions at its disposal, and whose chairman at a recent meeting of shareholders said that itsforeign market should be protected at any cost ?
– Does the Commonwealth Oil Corporation make kerosene oil ?
– It is expected that by the end of the present year its output of oil of all kinds will be equivalent to 12,000,000 gallons per annum.
– It is not now making kerosene oil.
– It is at present producing oil at a rate equivalent to 3,000,000 gallons per annum.
– The question is as to the quality of. some of the oil.
– I am sick of hearing little Australians run down the quality of local productions. They speak as though Australia is such a wretched country that it cannot produce anything of better than second or third quality. We must bring foreigners to do our electrical and mining engineering .work, while our own men go abroad to obtain positions such as they cannot get at home because of the stinking-fish cry of the “comic coterie “ opposite, to use the words of Senator Neild. I can view this proposal from an impartial stand-point because the- industry has not yet been started in the State of which I am a representative. This corporation proposes to expend something like .£950,000 in establishing in New South Wales a purely Australian industry, and why should we not afford it a little encouragement? Honorable senators opposite will say, as they have said again and again during our consideration of the Tariff, that those engaged in other industries in which lubricating oils are used will have to pay “ this inordinate tax.” I contend that they will not have to pay one farthing of it. In the first place, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is pledged not to increase its prices to the consumer; and, secondly, it will have such a large output that it will not pay it to raise prices. Then, again, we. know that the Standard Oil Trust, which is one of the greatest monopolistic syndicates in the world, will be rushing in large shipments of oil with a view to preserve its Australian trade and stamp out competition.
– The honorable senator hopes that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation will be a .great monopoly ?
– I hope that it will be successful in establishing in Australia a new industry. If, like the Standard Oil Trust, it spreads1 out its tentacles so as to be in .any way injurious to the people, we shall be able to deal with it; whereas we have no power to deal with the American Trust. Apparently some honorable senators opposite would leave Australia for all time at the mercy of that corporation. If we are to grant protection, let it be effective. What is the value of a duty of 3 Jd’. ‘ per gallon when we can impose what would be a really effective impost? A duty, that will not preserve the local market to
Australian manufacturers is simply a revenue tax. I am therefore in favour of the proposal made by Senator Stewart, and hope that the Committee will agree to it.
– The duty under the old Tariff was 3d. per gallon, and the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission was that that- duty should be continued. Reference has been made to the establishment in New South Wales of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation. I understand that when the Tariff Commission was taking evidence, it was not possible for the corporation to put before the Commission its position with regard to the production of oils in Australia.
– No; it was then only opening up its works.
– That will account satisfactorily for the fact that there was no evidence forthcoming before the Commission.
– Was not- that the very, time when the corporation should have asked for assistance?
– I understand that it was either .not completely formed or was not carrying on operations when the Commission was taking evidence. Since the Tariff was submitted to another place, inquiries’ made by the Government have satisfied us that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, as the result of the work that it has done and is doing, should be in’ a position to supply the Australian demand for various oils which under this Tariff have -imposed upon them duties which are at present of a revenue, and not of a protective, character. The duty of 3d. per gallon, which has been in operation since j 902, has been in effect a revenue impost. When the first Federal Tariff was under consideration, representations were made that an enterprise which was then being entered upon in Tasmania was likely to re: suit in the supply of the local demand for some of these oils.. It was thought, however, that the parties concerned were not proceeding on a scale large enough to warrant the imposition of a protective duty. In the present instance, the Government have been satisfied by the inquiries they have made that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is sufficiently strong financially to be able, with adequate protection, to do what it hopes to do to fight in Australia the Standard Oil Trust as suppliers of the local demand for these oils. In this instance, we see no objection to affording an opportunity to them by the aid of the Tariff to carry out what they intend to do in the production of these oils. The duty on kerosene will be considered later on. I understand that kerosene in a cruder state than the oil used for domestic purposes is now being supplied by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, although not to a very large extent, to the Australian Gaslight Company of New South Wales. That kerosene is devoted to the Gas Company’s own purposes, but the Corporation intends to take steps to supply the Australian market with its requirements in respect of kerosene. The Government have every reason to believe that the Australian market for the oils now under consideration can be supplied by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation and other Australian enterprises.
– Can the honorable senator give us the information that the Government have received ? The matter is important.
– We have received information as to the present output of the Corporation, and. its estimated output” for 1909, 1910, and, I think, for 1911.
– When the honorable senator says that they are taking steps to supply the local market, does he refer to the supply of all oils, including kerosene?
– Yes. I understand that the Corporation is taking up the enterprise with a capital of something like £95°<°°o-
– Have the Government considered the question of whether the company can do what it intends to do?
– We have.
– Can the honorable senator give us any facts in relation to that matter ?
– I - I can only give the Committee a statement as to the estimated output.
– The honorable senator does not define its output.
– I am not in a position to define every item. I am informed, however, that its “output of black and blue oils - which are equivalent to solar, residual and lubricating oils - at the present time is at the rate of about 3,000,000 gallons per annum, and that it is rapidly increasing. It is estimated that about the end of 1908 the output will be at the rate of about 16,000,000 gallons per annum instead of 3,000,000 gallons as at pre sent, and that in 1909 it will be able to supply. Australia’s demand in this regard.
– Including the demand for kerosene ? .
– No ; I am speaking now only of solar, residual and lubricating oils. The Corporation has already demonstrated its belief in its own capacity to supply the market by the expenditure of a very large sum in the acquisition of properties in New South Wales. If has either completed, or ‘has in course of construction, a railway line some 70 or 80 miles in length to connect its works with the main system. I know, too, that.it is taking steps to connect its works directly with the Sydney Telephone Exchange, something . like too miles distant, and in every way its expenditure of capital in .New South Wales seems to indicate that it is in the enterprise for business, and that the directors have the utmost confidence in their capacity to carry out what they propose to do.
– Under a duty of 3d. per gallon?
– It would appear so.
– As many honorable senators are aware, when the first Federal Tariff . was under consideration it was stated that a duty of 3d. per gallon was really a revenue impost; that there was in Australia no enterprise of sufficient magnitude or promise to warrant Parliament in imposing a protective duty. Every honorable senator knows that there must inevitably be associated” with every local effort to supply our requirements in regard to oil a tremendous handicap in the shape of the keenest competition that it is possible to bring forward. We all know what the competition of the Standard Oil Trust means.
– There is the competition of another company, the British Imperial Oil Company.
– That may be; but it must be patent that the Standard Oil Trust will not relinquish its’ hold upon, the Commonwealth market, small though it may be in proportion to its total operations, without one of those characteristic fights which it has put up in different paris of the world. In the circumstances, seeing that those interested in the Commonwealth Oil Corporation have invested their capital to develop natural resources of the Commonwealth, we shall Be justified in- giving them the measure of protection that is now proposed.
– I understand that the Government propose to support the request for an increased duty.
– I hope that’ the Committee will reject it; I have a plea to make on behalf of the mining industry which is affected by this duty.
– And so is every other industry in which there is a wheel going round.
– Quite so, but the mining industry is peculiarly affected by this proposal. Lubricating oil figures very largely among the stores consumed by a mining company, and especially by those which have very large plants running. The mining companies of Western Australia more particularly would be very hard hit by an increased duty. Honorable . senators will perhaps be surprised to learn the value of the stores which one of our large mines consumes. I intend to give only two illustrations. The Golden Horseshoe mine, carrying on . operations in Western Australia and employing 855 men, last year consumed , £95,552 worth of stores, apart altogether from the cost of water, firewood, round timber and jarrah.
– Dynamite and fuse would account for a large portion of that expenditure.
– Undoubtedly. Let me take as another example the value of stores consumed by a smaller mining company - the Associated Northern. That company employs 125 men, and in one year, on the basis I have mentioned, consumed stores of the value of £11,302. Honorable senators who are aware of the extensive plants employed by large mining comnanies do not need to be told what a heavy consumption of lubricating oil takes place, especially as the larger plants run at high speed. Of course, we all desire to encourage the manufacturing’ industrv. but we must be careful that in doing so we do not strike a death blow at industries which are already established, andl which . are emolovinj: large numbers of men at high rates of wages.
– And which are paying very large dividends.
– There are mines in the well-known “Golden Mile,” Kalgoorlie.’ which to-day are employing upwards of 500 or 600 men, and to which the addition* of a . thousand pounds or’ two annually to the cost of their stores will mean the cessation of operations.
– Because the eyes havebeen picked out of them.
– Not at all. Those mines have been managed better than haveany other mines in Australia. In the State which I represent we have the cleverestmine managers in the world.
– If miners-, would work for 2s. 6d. per day they could’ develop a lot of other country.-
– The miners of Western Australia produce gold- at a cheaper rate than do those of any other part of the world. I mean to extend some consideration to the thousands of men who are employed upon mines which are barely paying, and which, if an additional duty be levied upon their stores, will be compelled to close down. There are a large number of mines in Western Australia which are just on the verge of being unremuherative, and I should not be doing my duty to that State if I did hot seek IP extend some consideration to them.
– The Golden Horseshoe, for instance?
– I did not quote the Golden Horseshoe as a mine which was on the verge of being unremunerative, ‘ but as one which consumes upwards of £100,000 worth of stores annually.
– It can well afford to do so.
– I did not mention it as one of the mines which, might be crushed as the result of an increase in the cost of its stores. But there are mines in WesternAustralia which employ ouite as many menas does the Golden Horseshoe, and towhich the imposition of an increased dutv upon their stores will make all the difference in the world, inasmuch as it will necessitate a suspension of their operations.
– Is it certain that an increased duty will mean an increase in the cost of their stores?
– If it does not. the dutv will be absolutely useless. If local competitors will not increase their prices as the resuU of an increased import, they do not reouire it. In other words, ifthey can make a profit at existing pricesthey do not need the proposed enhanced duty.
– What about the ‘ ‘ dumping ‘ 1 on the part of the Standard Oil Company, which has sold its product in AustraIia at less than cost price ?
– So far that company has not developed such a philanthropic tendency.
– It did so in New South Wales.
– As one who is required to pay the household accounts, I know that I have not benefited from any “ dumping “ operations on the part of the Standard Oil Company. But we are all aware that that company is not the only supplier of oil in Australia. There is, in addition, the British Borneo Company, and other companies.- I welcome the advent of the local competitor, but I say that he is already sufficiently protected. Were it not for the local competitor, I should vote for free-trade in the matter of lubricating oils. Some honorable senators have been most assiduous in endeavouring to secure the free admission of the raw materials of the manufacturer. Here is the raw material of the mining industry and of the manufacturer. But I do not ask that it shall be admitted free. I merely claim that an undue burden should not be levied upon it. That the old rate of duty was sufficient from a protective stand-point is evidenced by the fact that a company invested in the industry the colossal sum of nearly £1,000,000, without any guarantee that’ it would receive a higher measure of protection - indeed, without any guarantee that it would receive even the protection which it was afforded by the old rate. That capital was subscribed very shortly after the first Commonwealth Tariff was enacted. It’ is clear, therefore, that this company of wealthy men was satisfied to accept a lower duty than that which is now proposed. Under these circumstances, how can it be argued that an additional measure of protection must be accorded to the industry ? If honorable senators could make out a case for an additional measure of protection, there might be some excuse for placing this increased burden upon the mining, and manufacturing industries of Australia. But I ask them to pause before lending an ear to the request of the Commonwealth Oil Company for additional protection, seeing that by granting it we shall penalize and perhaps destroy some of the other industries to which I have alluded. We cannot forget’ that this company is making representations to individual senators. I know that it has its agent in the parliamentary lobbies.
– So has the Standard Oil Company.
– So has the Standard Oil Company. . Information has also been forwarded to honorable senators by means of circulars, but, of course, as an honorable senator interjects, that is a perfectly legitimate thing, to do. I do not blame the Commonwealth Oil Corporation for asking for an increased duty. But the mere fact that they ask for it is no reason why we should grant it. We have to pay some regard, not merely to the Oil and Shale Company, of New South Wales, but to the mining industry of Western Australia, the manufacturing industry of Victoria, and the sugar-milling industry of Queensland. All these enterprises have an equal right to our consideration. Consequently, my vote will be cast against any increase in the duty set out in the schedule. I ask the Committee not to jeopardize the employment of thousands of men throughout the Commonwealth by endeavouring to extend further protection to an industry which does not require it.
– If there has been any “ lobbying/’ either by the Standard Oil Company or by the representatives of the manufacturing company to which allusion has been made, I have not heard of it. Senator Givens appeared to think that because 3,000,000 gallons of oil are annually produced in the Commonwealth, and because our consumption approximates to 3,000,006 gallons, we are therefore- producing the oil required for lubricating purposes. But I presume that the 3,000,000 gallons that’ we are producing consist of crude oil. Of course, I wish the industry to progress as rapidly as possible, and I speak as one who has some knowledge of its possibilities, because in Tasmania we have large deposits of shale material in connexion with which various experiments have been made from time to time, and from which it is possible to extract lubricating oil, so that in time an industry may be established.
– Then let us accord it some measure of protection.
– The oil with which we are now dealing is an absolute essential to every industry that we are en- deavouring to protect. That is why I marvelled when I heard the Minister of Home Affairs, as’ the representative of a protectionist Government, stand up to assist in a proposal to pull down with one hand what the Ministry with the other are endeavouring to build up.
– The honorable senator might say that in regard to every other duty.
– No, this question stands upon a plane of its own. I need scarcely point out that over £35,000 has been annually collected in duty upon lubricating oils. Who pays that duty? Obviously it is the industry and enterprise of Australia, whether it be in the form of a’ mine or of a sewing-machine factor)1. Now Ave are asked to increase that impost from £35,000 to £70,000.
– But we should not collect the duty if the higher rate were imposed.
– Does Senator Givens believe that the manufacture’ of this enormous quantity of lubricating oil can be undertaken in a year? If we wish to stimulate the industry let us offer a bounty for the production of lubricating oil. But in the meantime do not let us levy a heavy impost upon all manufacturing enterprises. . The proposal before the Committee seems almost an insane one, and I am- surprised that the Government should entertain it.
Senator GIVENS (Queensland) [5.59!- - The plea has been raised that the increased duty proposed upon lubricating oils would constitute an inordinately heavy tax upon other industries in the Commonwealth. Those who assume that, however, are assuming altogether too much.
– They did not assume it in regard to other items of the Tariff.
– Exactly. As a matter of fact there are many industries in Australia which have been established under protective duties and which are today supplying the consumer with a. cheaper article than he was able to obtain previously. I wish to show the effect which the removal of the protective duty had upon the company which was producing oil in Australia- previously. Senator Pearce stated that it was not necessary to give any protection at all. because a powerful company, with a capital of nearly £1,000,000, has undertaken the development of the industry on a largecale. and should be satisfied with a small duty. This com pany was formed to take over the business of a previous company, which had become defunct.
– According to a sworn declaration which I hold in my hand, the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company “ceased producing illuminating oils.” ft gave up the ghost at any rate, even if the death certificate had not been signed by the Registrar of Companies in New South Wales. It ceased to manufacture and to live. Talk about sending: circulars ! Is it not a fact that the Standard Oil Company sent circulars to certain honorable senators, and not to others? The Commonwealth Oil Corporation are challenging that company to name solicitors who will accept service of a writ for gross and malicious libel. This sworn declaration is a reply to the lying statements contained in that circular, to the effect that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation could not manufacture anything but crude oil, which was suitable only for fuel, and that thev did not require any protection for oil of that class. I shall show from this sworn declaration; and by other facts which honorable senators can easily. verify, whether that statement is true or not. Mr. William John Hall, of Sydney, declares in this document that-
For upwards of twenty-three- years I was general manager of the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company, and .continued in that position until the business of that company was taken over by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation.
– On a point of order, I submit that the document from which the honorable “senator is reading is not relevant to the item. If the honorable senator is allowed to go into the construction of the two companies, we may be here till midnight. My view is backed up by what happened in another place, where the Chairman would not allow honorable members to go into the question of the construction and position of the companies.
– The honorable senator should be allowed to show at a reasonable length that the company in question are able to carry out what they profess to do.
– I shall only quote n few pertinent facts, which honorable senators opposite seem anxious to burk.
– I shall welcome tr>° reading of the declaration if its object is to show what the company- can do. If that is not its purpose, I submit that it is irrelevant. Is it in accordance with the “Temporary Chairman’s . ruling ?
– Undoubtedly it is. 71 shall read only a few extracts from it at present. The New South Wales Shale and Oil Company was practically defunct. It was resuscitated because it was bought out by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, which had a large capital, and thought that this enterprise offered a field for profitable investment. I shall show from this declaration why the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company failed -
Tlie New South Wales Shale and Oil Company ceased producing illuminating oils in the year 1897. The company decided to abandon the manufacture of illuminating oils not because there was any difficulty in disposing of the product, but because at this period the duties on kerosene were removed and the Standard Oil Company cut prices to a point which did not enable the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company to manufacture at a profit.
– Does the honorable senator intend to vote for the duty on kerosene ?
– I shall tell the honorable senator when I come to that part of the item. This company does not ask for a duty on kerosene.
– Is the honorable senator going to ask it for them?
– Then thev will be where- they were.
– They will not, in the case of lubricating oil. I intend to show from this declaration the action which the Standard Oil Company took once ‘ the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company was shut up. Immediately the Standard Oil Company had forced the local company out of production by reducing its prices, it put up its prices again higher than they were before.
– Was there not a duty of 6d. in New South Wales for some years?
– Yes, and it was taken off. That caused the New South Wales company to cease operations.’ Mr. Hall, in his sworn declaration, states -
At the period just prior to the company ceasing operations and prior to the rescission of the duty the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company had been selling its illuminating oils at
I lid. less trade discount of z£ per cent. The Standard Oil Company in competition with the Shale and Oil Company at this period commenced to sell its oils at from 8d. to gd. The’ company, recognising the futility of fighting such a powerful Corporation, abandoned the manufacture of illuminating oils, and were forced practically to leave the business in the hands of their more wealthy opponents. Almost immediately after the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company abandoned the manufacture of illuminating oils the Standard Oil Company raised the price of its article.
When I was speaking before, it was urged from- the other side that the lubricating oils produced by the local company, and in fact its general product, were so inferior that they should not be given much protection, as they would not be suitable for use for illuminating, lubricating, or any other purposes. In fact, Senator Gray was very strong in the assertion that they were second-class, or at any rate very inferior oils.
– I hope I made it clear that they were inferior in one respect only.
– According to some honorable senators everything made in Australia must necessarily be inferior, because it is not imported. With regard to the illuminating quality, of the oil which the Standard Oil Company in their circular allege that the local company could not produce at all, Mr. Hall states -
The quality of the illuminating oils manufactured by the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company was of the highest class,- in fact, taking the flash point, which is the true test, the illuminating oil produced by the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company would be ranked as one of the first illuminating oils manufactured in the world. This statement is borne out by the various analyses which were from time to time taken by the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company, and is also borne out by the fact that the New South Wales Railway Commissioners selected the oils of the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company for their signal lamps. The contract for the supply of oils to the Railway Commissioners extended right up to the date of the abandonment of manufacture by the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company.
That shows that the local oil only was used for the signal lamps on the New South Wales railways, where it is most important that the illuminant should be of the best quality, as the safety of thousands of lives may depend upon it. It was not -urged that the New South Wales Railway Commissioners were using second-grade or inferior oil. The local company were producing the very best illuminating oil, notwithstanding interested statements that thev were producing only very inferior oil. May that .not be equally true in the case of the lubricating oil? This “stinking-fish” cry, running down Australian productions and trying to prove that they should not be encouraged or get protection because of their inferiority, is enough to make any true Australian heartily sick. It is alleged that the duty will increase the cost to other manufacturers. It will not increase the cost in any way, because ‘the local company have given a pledge, or are prepared to enter into any bond, that they will not increase the price at all. If we refuse them protection, it is almost certain that what happened before in the case of illuminating oils will happen again in this case. The Standard Oil Company will put their product on the market, reduce prices to such an extent as to force the local company out of production, . and then bleed the users, of lubricating oils in Australia.. For that opportunity they will have our free-trade friends on the other side of the Chamber to thank. Those who argue that to increase the duty will increase the price to the consumer or to other industries, when we have every facility to produce the article ourselves, are putting forward a statement for which there is no warranty , in fact or probability. I hope we shall give this young Australian industry, which was previously crushed out by foreign competition, such a measure of effective protection, as will enable it to stagger on to its feet, and by-and-by to stand alone. I intend to vote to give it all the encouragement I can.
.- Senator Givens would have been fairer in his arguments, bad as they were, if he had not imputed to honorable senators on this side a desire to give no protection to the company whose interests he has been supporting. We all recognise that we are fixing up a protectionist Tariff, and protection is supposed to be the policy of .the country. I believe that every honorable senator is willing to give a fair and just measure of protection to this good, strong, and, I hope, honorable company. But the Government appear to be supporting a higher duty, which means 100 per cent, more than the A section of the Tariff Commission recommended, and Senator Givens says there will be no burden on other industries, although the impost! which he suggests is about 50 per cent, of the cost of the article. What would the honorable senator think if I suggested that his friend who is briefing him on behalf of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation has been guilty of perjury in that sworn declaration? Did not that gentleman depose that when the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company got into difficulties and could not produce oil, because the protection of 6d. under which it did nothing for four or five years had been taken away, it was finally wiped out by the Standard Oil Company? Does Senator Givens remember the date at which the local company are said to have been wiped out by the Standard Oil Company?
– The New South Wales Shale and .Oil Company ceased production in 1897.
– Then would the honorable senator be surprised to hear that the Standard Oil Company was not known in the Commonwealth in those days, but commenced business here in 1901 ? We have now an instance of what may happen in a legislative chamber, which, to a great extent, exercises judicial functions, when honorable senators listen to statements made by lobbyists, who did not think it worth while to give evidence before the Tariff Commission. The Vice-President, of the Executive Council has made a most lame attempt to explain the absence of the representatives of this company as witnesses.
– Did I not say that the representatives of the company were not in a position to go before the Tariff Commission ?
– Not a word that the Minister can say can justify their absence; and I deny that they were not in a position to give evidence. Does the Minister mean to say that the company was not registered, and knew all the conditions a month or two before the Commission ceased to take- evidence? Is it fair for a great company like this not to submit their requests’ then, and now to brief people with declarations, which, although made on oath, I contend are absolutely incorrect.
– The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission signed their report on the 26th. March, 1907, when the company had been at work for two years.
– The company was formed in London, and it was some time before they “ proceeded to operate in Australia. .
– The company was registered in 1906.
– From that time onwards, almost every week until the middle of 1907, the Tariff Commission was hearing evidence, and there was. an opportunity for the company, if it had a case, to place it before the country. The conclusion at which we must arrive is that the company regarded a protection of 25 per cent, as fair, and that they knew they had not a case to place before the Commission, where they would have to be examined on oath.
– Does the company not produce oil?
– We have an affidavit to the effect that this company was wiped out by the Standard Oil Company in 1897, although they did not start business until 1901. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council votes for every increase of duty, I wish him joy of his policy, because the general consumers will ‘curse the Deakin Government for raising the price of all they eat, drink, and wear, and thus imposing an enormous burden upon the primary industries of the country. It was refreshing to hear the statesmanlike speeches of Senator Pearce and Senator Mulcahy ; and it is to be regretted that the great apostle of protection, Senator Trenwith, was not present, because it would do him and Senator Findley a great deal of good if they sat at the feet of men better informed than themselves in the A.B.C. of economic law. Senator Pearce has shown the position in which every honorable senator must be placed again and again in connexion with this Tariff. On the one hand we have the protectionist policy, and, on the other hand, the interests of the primary industries ; and we know that on the latter Australia depends for her credit. I happened to read a short time ago a most in’structive article in this connexion, in the commercial supplement of the London Times, dealing more particularly with, the tin-plate industry of Canada. We know the great fight England has had to retain this industry ; how America has absorbed about half, and how Germany is making encroachments. All the manufacturers of tinned plate in Canada, combined in a large deputation to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and asked him either to impose a duty or to increase the duty, I forget which.
– Here we are asked to recognise not only tin plate but “ tinpot “ industries.
– Sir Wilfrid Laurier declined to accede to the request of the deputation, pointing out that, however great and important the tinplate industry might be, he had to consider the interests of the primary industries. He pointed out that tin plate was required in the meat, fruit, jam. and fish preserving industries, all of which were great, and made for the progress of” Canada; that however much he would liketo assist the tin-plate industry it was nothing as compared with the other industrieswhich he had indicated, and which gave an enormous amount of employment from oneend of Canada to the. other. It would appear that the Government and some honorable senators prefer to follow Sir William Lyne, who can “ bullock “ anything, through, rather than accept the policy of statesmen who know something of the play . and trend of economic laws. We shall Defaced with a similar position when dealing with the machinery division and every page in the Tariff ; and if we disregard the importance of the primary industries in favour of what Senator Neild has called: “ tinpot “ industries, the Deakin Government will be cursed by the people of the . Commonwealth. Honorable senators are perfectly willing to give fair and evert generous protection to this company.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– The duty has already been increased beyond the recommendation of the TarifF . Commission ; and I think that, in almost every case, I should feel inclined to follow the recommendations, of that body. If present events could have been foreseen, I believe that even Mr. Deakin would have made a rule that no man or company could be listened to who did not give evidence before the Tariff Commission. As it is, the Commission has been made a fool of, and Ministers are stultifying themselves ; but there is no reasonwhy a rule such as I have suggested should not be made now.
– What was the duty in Tasmania before Federation ?
– There was 6d. per gallon on kerosene.
– For many years kerosene was free. I am willing to grant, as I say, a moderate or even generous duty, such as that recommended by the Tariff Commission.
– I desire to correct an impressionon the part of Senator Dobson and others as to the possibility of the CommonwealthOil Company giving evidence before the Tariff Commission. We have been told that the Commission continued to take evidence until’ the middle of 1907 j but, as a matter of fact, it ceased to take evidence about the middle of 1906, and advertised to that effect. This company was registered in
London in 1906, and, therefore, I do not see how it could be expected under the circumstances to give evidence. From June, 1906, until July, 1907, the members of the Tariff Commission were engaged in considering the reports, and any one seeking to give evidence during that period would have been ruled out of court. Although the company, in going into the details of production and so forth, may have based many calculations on the operations of the previous company, yet, as 1 have pointed out, there was no opportunity to give evidence.
– I shall show that there was.
– I am merely pointing out the exact position of affairs. Since the Tariff Commission ceased to take evidence, this company has demonstrated that it is possible to economically produce, not only the particular oils under discussion, but also kerosene; and, in view of the facts, I shall not be bound by the recommendations of the Tariff Commission.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m. “ Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania) [7.45]. - I wish to draw attention to the most extraordinary spectacle of the Government not seeking to uphold its own duty, but trying to raise it by 100 per cent, at the instigation of some supporters and without giving any good reason therefor. If it be alleged that it will support or help the Commonwealth Oil Company, my reply is that that company was floated with an authorized capital of £800,000 long before any proposal of this kind came before the Senate. That is a very important point. The money was subscribed, and the company were prepared to carry on their business at a stated duty, but now it is proposed to give them too per cent, more protection.
– They tried, but failed because the duty was not high enough.
– That is not so, because the company have npt failed in making lubricating oils. I’ cannot understand why we should give to a company who have the money, and are prepared to go on with a smaller duty, more protection then they asked for. There must be some reason for the action of the Government, and they ought to show why the additional protection should be given.
– Senator Givens, as usual, delivered a tirade against the free-traders, practically charging us with being disloyal to the in terests of the Commonwealth. We on this side consider ourselves just as patriotic and as anxious to promote the welfare of the industries of Australia as are the most ardent senators on his side.
– Order. I ask honorable senators not to converse in loud tones.
– The oil industry is one which we would all be glad to see carried on permanently and successfully in the Commonwealth. I feel proud that in New South Wales we have not only minerals, but a company with a large capital who have had the pluck to invest their money in an undertaking of that kind.
– Honorable senators on the other side will not help them, though.
– I venture to say that we on this side will do as much to help the company in a fair and equitable business deal as will those on the other side. The difference between us lies in this fact : that honorable senators opposite when they receive from gentlemen in the lobby and elsewhere glowing accounts of the possibilities of industries they take everything that is said to them for granted, and come here, not prepared to discuss the why and the wherefore, to compare the advantages with the disadvantages, but to propose increases of duty recklessly. It is gratifying to hear that a large number of men have invested their money in an undertaking in the State I represent, and if I could qualify as a geographical protectionist, or a geographical free-trader, I might be induced to do more to develop this industry than I should consider to be consistent with the well-being of the people at large. But I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that the Commonwealth Oil Company was established with an absolute knowledge of the conditions not only in New South Wales, but throughout Australia. The company accepted all the responsibilities connected with the industry, and knew the fiscal position.
– But did not all Australia, at that time, expect a change in the direction of more protection ?
– That might have been a question for thoughtful consideration by a business concern. Before incurring a large expenditure, the company might have considered the propriety of sending out to Australia representatives to find out under what conditions the’ industry was going to be developed and carried on.
– They knew the results of the elections.
– They knew perfectly well the fiscal conditions of the country at that time, and it may be assumed that as business men they were prepared to carry on the industry under those conditions. Honorable senators on the other side have’ laid great stress on the statement that the fear of opposition by the Standard Oil Company of America warrants us in giving increased protection to this industry. But I for one cannot understand why my honorable friends should dare to use that argument. Because it is not very long since we heard them, with all tlie earnestness and eloquence they could command, calling upon the Government to carry through the Senate a Bill which would put a stop to any unfair competition by any outsiders either in America or elsewhere. Surely if the Standard Oil Company are going to throttle this new industry the powers which are contained in the Anti-Trust Act could be brought into force? We have not had one iota of evidence that the Government intend to exercise any of those powers. These honorable senators came here this afternoon and spoke of the clangers which ‘ie ahead, owing to the competition of the Standard Oil Company, although they are the very persons who brought into existence that splendid piece of machinery which no one has heard of since it was_ created, and which, to judge from their speeches, they now regard as a dead letter.
– I never had any faith in the measure.
– I fail to see that the interests of the Standard Oil Company will be advanced in any way by crushing out the Commonwealth Oil Company, especially as the party who formulated the Anti-Trust Bill have the power to prevent any such thing from happening, if thev see fit.
– What party does the honorable senator say formulated the AntiTrust Bill?
– The Labour crowd.
– Thev did not do anything of the kind, as the honorable senator knows.
– I was very pleased indeed, Mr. Chairman, to listen to your very able speech on this question. It was a plain statement of facts. No one who realizes the position df affair1; throughout America, Europe, and Australia can fail to see the handwriting on the wall concerning the immediate future. When we recall the great fall in the price of metals, and the marked change in industrial conditions in America, England, and Germany, it is absolutely impossible for us not to realize that we in Australia must in time feel their effects.
– Poor old Jeremiah !
– My honorable friends on the other side may mock and make fun of the financial calamities in those countries, but I venture’ to say that before long those whom they represent here will feel the effects of them. I believe that we unfortunately may realize in part what the people in those countries are going through.
– The honorable senator is getting rather far away from the question.
– Mr. Chairman, I am trying to follow up your argument that the additional taxation which is now ‘being imposed upon the mining and other industries of Australia will make it incumbent upon their conductors to save every’ penny-piece if they hope to keep their mines and mills in working order. Every handicap imposed upon industries renders it more difficult to carry them on profitably, and if they are not carried on profitably, it is absolutely certain that that will not be in the interests of the workers of Australia.
– Certainly not.
– Arid does not the honorable senator know that at certain times and under certain conditions the difference in the returns between the profitable and unprofitable prosecution of industries is very small ? Everybody should know that, and should know that the alarming conditions to which I have referred must re-act upon Australian industries. Whilst I am proud that this industry has been established in New South Wales, and hope that it will be permanently developed, and while I should be prepared to vote for a bounty to secure its permanent development, if that were considered necessary, because I think it is an industry to which the bounty principle is applicable, I contend that double the previously existing duty should afford quite sufficient protection to the local company to secure the profitable development of their mines, if, as they believe, they contain the raw materials they require. The only question I have not satisfactorily solved is whether the quality of one of the products of the local works is equal to that of the imported article.
– The honorable senator has said that it is inferior.
– That question can only be solved by time, and the authorities of the company have acknowledged that one of their products is lacking in quality.
– If the honorable senator is prepared to grant a bonus to this industry, why does he deny it a measure of protection ?
– Because I consider that the protection it enjoyed under the old Tariff is quite sufficient, and more than I should personally have been prepared to vote for.
– Then why offer a bonus to the industry?
– Because I realize that the industry cannot be permanently established without some form of outside assistance. I do not, however, see why, on the mere assertion that it is necessary, we should give this industry a greater measure of assistance than is afforded to other Australian industries.
– Will the honorable senator vote for a protective duty?
– I shall vote for a duty which I consider fair and equitable, but I cannot say that I should be prepared to vote for such duties as Senator Givens would like to impose for the protection of various industries, because in my opinion the honorable senator is altogether too extravagant when dealing” with other people’s money.
– But does not the honorable senator think that kerosene should be free of duty ?
– If I thought that the local industry could be carried on under that condition, I should be only too pleased, but there are exceptions to every rule, and while I believe that the duty now proposed ‘is too high, I am not so dishonest to my own convictions as to say that I would not vote for any duty. If Senator Givens thought to catch me on that hop,, he has failed. I am prepared to do what I believe to be right, and then put up with the consequences. If Senator Givens does the same, his constituents will appreciate his. action, as I hope my constituents appreciate mine. In the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole, I believe that the duty at present imposed, being double what it was before, is more than ample to meet all the requirements of the local industry, and that to impose a higher duty would be to waste the people’s money.
– A great deal of stress has from time to time been laid on the argument put forward as to the desirability of conserving the primary industries, and particularly the mining industry. I should like to ask honorable senators whether the production of gold, silver, copper, or any other metal from mines in Australia can be considered as representing a primary industry anymore than the production of different qualities of oil from shale. I see no difference between the two.
– Perhaps in so far as they are both primary industries; bur’ there is no comparison between them all the same.
– There is not at the present time in Australia, but when we consider the millions handled by the Standard Oil Trust of America, we see that in some parts of the world even gold mining is put into the background as compared with oil when the results of primary production are considered.
– Surely the honorable senator does not object to wealth being, derived from the production of oil.
– I do not object to wealth being made in any way, so long as in the making of it all industries are considered on their merits. You,- sir, according to Senators Gray and Dobson, have made a very eloquent appeal to the Committee. May I, in passing, direct your attention to the fact that when a member of the Labour Party is eulogized by the honorable senators to whom I have referred it is very possible that he has been on the. wrong track. I consider that your appeal was of a very eloquent character, and no doubt has had a considerable effect upon some members of the Committee, but I complain that your references to the enormous sums spent by mining companies on stores were not sufficiently definite. You said, for instance, that the Golden Horseshoe spent £100,000 a vear on stores, but there was nothing .in your statement to indicate what proportion of that amount was spent on lubricating oils. The stores entered on the books of a mining company are of a multifarious character. I have known nearly £350 worth of whisky to be entered amongst mining stores as disinfectants.
– It is a very good disinfectant.
– It is, but when an argument is .based upon a certain statement there should be something definite in the statement. I should expect to find amongst the most important items in the stores bill of a mining company such things as blasting materials, dynamite and other explosives, fuse, candles, and matches - and if mining companies are treated by match manufacturers and importers as the Commonwealth Government has been treated by those persons a considerable amount of money must be wasted by the companies in that direction. Amongst mining stores I should also expect to find ropes, belting,’ and a hundred and one other articles of that kind. We know also that the stores bill of a mining company includes provision for the entertainment of directors and their friends on visits to the mine, and every member of the Committee must know something of the extent to which this kind of hospitality on the part of mining companies is sometimes carried. In view of these facts to say that because £100,000 is spent on stores by a mining company the company will be ruined if it is called upon to pay 2d. or 3d. per gallon extra on lubricating oil is stretching things a little too far. With respect to the proposed increase of duty on this item, it has been clearly stated that those who are asking for it are prepared to give any reasonable guarantee that the price of lubricating oil will not be increased to the’ consumer.
– How can they, give such a guarantee?
– How can anybody give a guarantee ? If Senator Millen is not prepared to take the word ot business people, is he prepared to take the word of the representative of the Standard Oil Trust?
– I wish to know how any one can give a guarantee in a matter of this kind.
– If the Standard Oil Trust, as the result of inadequate protection afforded to the local industry, is enabled to crush it out of existence, I ask Senator Millen to say what guarantee we should have that the Trust would not double the price for their products in the very near future. I ask honorable senators to say whether it would be wise for us to place the primary industries or the secondary industries in Australia at the mercy of the Standard Oil Trust of America. I suppose that every member of the Committee has some knowledge of the history of that Trust and the way in which it operates, and knows very well. that from its inception it has followed a course of crushing out every one opposed to it, and when it has succeeded of turning about and fleecing the public.
– Oil is cheaper now than it ever was before.
– It is sold cheaply or dearly just as it suits the interests of the Standard Oil Trust. In America the trusts have actually been fined millions of dollars for their trickery and scheming - fines which they never will pay. Honorable senators may be assured of that. The Standard Oil Trust never pays a penny if it can help it.
– It will have to pay if the Supreme Court of the United States upholds the verdict.
– The Trust will put other machinery into operation- to defeat -the laws of the United States. Every honorable senator who has studied the operations of the Trust must know that. Is it better to place the primary and secondary interests of Australia at the mercy of a Trust of that description, or to keep in existence, by granting a reasonable amount of protection, an industry in our own country, capable of keeping that Trust in check in some direction or another?
– Then the honorable senator acknowledges that the Anti-Trust Act is a failure? He is arguing that the Standard Oil Trust can do as it likes, and that there is no law in operation to prevent it.
– The only thing that can check the Standard Oil ‘ Trust is either the existence of a competing company sufficiently protected to be beyond its power, or the nationalization of an industry such as is being carried on by the Commonwealth Oil Company at the present time. As it is not possible to secure the nationalization of anything while senators holding the same opinions as Senator Gray are here, we are thrown back on the alternative of giving the Commonwealth Oil Company and other companies a chance of operating alongside the Standard Oil Trust. That can only be done by granting them sufficient protection. . I am prepared to do that, “and I hope that a majority of honorable senators will be of the same opinion. Of course, I know that Senator Gray and those who vote with him are always in favour of trusts, and during the history of the Senate, every time a word has been said against any trust, whether it has been the Sugar Trust, the Tobacco Trust, the Standard Oil Trust, or any other, the honorable senator has been up in arms in their defence. He and his friends are doing the same thing at the present time.
– We have to defend them against the honorable senator’s gross slanders.
– There is no slander in what I have said. The honorable senator knows that all I have said is public property.
– Nothing of the kind.
– We have only to look at the operations of the Standard Oil Trust in America to recognise the truth of every word that I have said. It is because I have no desire to place either the mining or any other industry in Australia at the mercy of the Standard Oil Trust, that I am prepared to increase this duty in order to maintain a competing . company in the Commonwealth.
– I have to admit that I approach this subject with some handicap, in having been deprived of the opportunity to look into many of the statements which have been made. Apparently - I gather this from listening to the debate - the Commonwealth Oil Company which has been referred to so frequently has, through its representative, furnished some honorable senators with its view of the position.
– So has the Standard Oil Company.
– But it is _ rather curious that I have to speak on this’ subject without the advantage of having been supplied with information either by the Commonwealth Oil Company or any other company ; and that is more particularly curious with regard to the Commonwealth Oil Company in view of the fact that I especially offered the representative of that, company an opportunity to place before me anything that he desired me to consider in connexion with this matter.
– But he selected Senator Dobson.
– I gave that gentleman a definite opportunity of doing so. He sent in It’s card to me. evidently seekinff an interview, and I informed him that I was unable to grant him that, because of a rule I have laid down, and not because of anv disrespect to the individual in question. But I requested him to place before me in writing anything that he chose in connexion with the Tariff. I have never heard from that gentleman since. Had the information which has been furnished to other honorable senators ‘been supplied- to me, it would have been in my hands a few days ago, so that I should have been able to look into the statements. But the company had apparently some objection to placing those who are thought to be not favorable to its pretensions in the position of being able to investigate the case for themselves. Therefore I can come to no other conclusion than that the company did not want such an investigation to be made. I am supported in that view by the fact that they did not. give evidence before the Tariff Commission. The statement has been made that the company was not in a position to present its case before the Commission. In answer to that, I refer to the fact that the members of the Tariff Commission did not sign their report till some time after the company commenced operations. Senator McGregor has pointed out that the last day on which the Tariff Commission was open to receive evidence was in June. 1906. Now, the second annual meeting of this company was held on the 18th December,1 907.
– The ordinary meeting.
– No, the second annual meeting. That is one evidence which I can give- that the company was then in existence. But in furnishing this evidence I should like to point out to honorable senators that a big company of this kind is not formed on the day when it is registered. People are not going to put together a million of money for operations of this kind without a great deal of previous negotiation.
– A company does not start operations on the day when it is. registered,’ either.
– That is so. We have under our New South Wales companv law a provision by which a syndicate - as being the preliminary to a company - can secure registration; and’ that is practicallv the form in which our large companies are started. They secure registration as a syndicate inthe first instance, and get to work as a legal entity, afterwards compIetinT their arrangements for the formation of the company. Whether that was done qr not inthis instance.I do not know, but I shall’ quote a statement from the Melbourne Ape to show that this company was born,in existence, and at work before- the date on which the Tariff Commission ceased to receive evidence. In a recent issue of the Age there is a very long report - threequarters of a column in length - as to the operations, past history, and future prospects of this company. I have not the slightest doubt after reading it carefully that this article was inspired by the company themselves, because the” details given by the writer are such as could only have been - supplied by some one quite familiar with the company’s work. I am not saying that as being in any sense objectionable; but it is evidence that the article is not the result of mere guessing on the part of the writer in the columns of the Age. It is stated here -
It was decided to construct a railway from Clarence Siding, on the Great Western line, into the Wolgan Valley, a distance, of 33 miles. This work has just been finished, at a cost, inclusive of engines and rolling-stock, of about £ 200,000. The construction of the line has given employment to 1,500 men for nearly two years.
Now, T submit that as further proof that before ‘the date of the annual meeting of this company those connected with it were in a position, if they wished to do so, to approach the Tariff Commission. That they did not do so is evidence, to my mind, together with other reasons to which I shall refer, that they were perfectly willing, to start operations under the Tariff as it then existed. It does not require much inducement for any one to approach the Tariff Commission and say, “ We have a company in a state of formation, although not registered to-day,” and to point out that if the promoters are given a duty higher than the duty formerly on the Tariffthey would be able to get to work immediately. In other instances interested parties did not wait for a company to be formed and registered. They said, “ Put the duty on, and Ave will get to work.” It Avas quite competent for those associated Avith the Commonwealth Oil Company to do exactly the same thing e’en if the registration had not taken place. I should like the Committee to know who the gentlemen controlling, or at any rate directing, this company are. I will mention their names in order to show that it is not in the hands of inexperienced people, that they are not novices in big financial operations; but that thev may be assumed to know enough to look after their own interests and the interests of their shareholders. Not that I object to that; but I venture to say that these gentlemen were not likely to lose the slightest chance of advancing what they believed to be the interests of their company. Certainly they have not been slow, to come here and place their case before honorable senators. Surely if they were of opinion that an increased duty Avas necessary at the time they would ha’e approached the Tariff Commission. But it appears to me that it is merely at the eleventh hour, and after having seen how other people can come here and get concessions - having noticed that it only meant’ “ Ask and ve shall receive “ - that they naturally said, “ Although we were prepared to go to work on a duty of 3d., still if Ave can get more from the Senate, we are going to get it.” And so they have come here.
– There is a great deal more than that in the operations of the company. They have shown their bona fides in other ways
– I am not doubting the bona fides of the company. I think it is an absolutely sound and reputable company. But I say that their action in this matter is rather an argument against the plea that it is necessary to give them a higher duty than- that proposed in the Tariff. I do not wish to be misunderstood. The whole of my remarks have tended to show that the company already had the conditions that they thought were essential to success, when they put their money into the venture and started. They were perfectly satisfied Avith the prospects at that time. If they had come to us and said that there Avas some error in their original calculations, or that there had been some disturbance in the conditions, which had upset their arrangements, they might hav had a better case for asking Parliament for a greater measure of protection than
Avas contained in the original Tariff. Now the names of the directors of this company are - Sir George Newnes, B’art., M.P. ; Sir W. B. Avery, Bart. ; Mr. R. L. Harmsworth, M.P. ; Mr. D. E. Alves, and Mr. William Blythe. Two of the names I have mentioned are those of gentlemen who stand high in the journalistic world of Great Britain. I am not taking exception to the fact that the company is controlled by a London directory. No one would be so shortsighted and ‘ foolish as to suppose that all the great natural industries of this company are going to be exploited by Australian capital. No one welcomes the investment of capital in Australia more heartily than I do j and I am especially pleased that the control of this big venture, if it is to be outside Australia, , is centred in Great Britain. But I refer to these facts to show that the company is not controlled by inexperienced men, but by men with plenty of experience of big companies, who knew what they were doing when they invested their money in this venture and invited the investing public of Great Britain to put their capital into the investment under a duty of 3d. per gallon on oil.
– They knew the trend of public opinion in Australia.
– Does my honorable friend mean to say that these gentlemen put up £800,000 on the prospect of an increased duty? I should like to see the prospectus which they issued to .those whom they invited to take shares. I should like to know whether they attempted to float this company on the plea that there was a prospect of an increased duty. We may safely assume that when they put their’ prospectus forward they gave facts and figures to induce their fellow citizens in Great Britain to invest their money in the venture on the understanding that they were to work under a duty of 3d. per gallon.
– Which they knew could be either increased or decreased.
– Exactly;, they had to take their chance.
– And they had the chance of an increase.
– Just so; but did they invest their money under a duty of 3d. if they thought that they could not carry on their ‘industry under a 3d. duty ? The names of the gentlemen I have read are a sufficient guarantee for- the fact that they would never have put their money into it at all unless they were satisfied that they could carry on under that duty. They would not have asked the people of England to subscribe £800,000 for a ven.ture which depended for its success wholly on the increasing of a protective duty.
– Is this a question for us to consider? Are we not concerned merely with the effect of the duty on the welfare of the Commonwealth?
– An appeal has been made to the Committee to increase the duty, and I am reviewing the position of the company to ascertain what justification there is for doing so. If I found a justifi cation, I should vote for a higher duty, but I have not done so yet. According to Mr. Nash’s latest book dealing with registered companies, published in 1906, the authorized capital of the company is £800,000, though it is possible that that capital” may have since been increased. Of that capital there have been issued 500,000 preference shares and 225,000 deferred, each of £1 in value, the deferred shares being fully paid up and the preference shares being paid up .to 8s. each. Of course the deferred shares issued as fully paid up may not have contributed to the working capital of the company. They may have been given in payment for the assets of the old New South Wales company, and possibly some of them went to those who filled the useful and necessary role of promoters. But the company is not small and struggling ; its means are not circumscribed. Everything in its circumstances suggests that those who direct it obtained, in the first instance, the fullest information regarding the resources to be exploited, the possibilities of the market, and, above all, the probabilities of the Tariff. I wish them Godspeed in their undertaking. It would be a curious thing if, being a New South Welshman, I tried to in any way hamper their enterprise.
– But the honorable senator will not give them assistance.
– I am prepared to give them a duty of .25 per cent.
– The duty is equivalent to 50 and even 100 per cent, on some of the low value lubricating oil’s.
– All are agreed that a duty should be imposed, the only question being whether we should vote for the rate of 3d. proposed by the Government, or that of 6d. proposed by Senator Stewart, which would allow the company to levy tribute on every owner of an engine, whether in mine, factory, workshop, or steamboat. We have had read to lis a statutorydeclaration by a gentleman connected with the old New South Wales company containing statements clearly designed to show that it failed because of the removal of the New South Wales duty on oil ; but I deny that that was the sole or the main cause of the company’s non-success. According to Coghlan’s Wealth and Progress of New South Wales for 1898-99 the company failed chiefly because of the steady fall in the price of the shale which it was exporting. The price fell at one time over £3, hovering for a number of years between £2 5s. and £2 9s. a ton. After 189 1 it fell, first, to £1 18s. 9d., and afterwards to fi is. 6d., a figure which made, the company’s operations unprofitable. The New South Wales duty was 6d., but that was subsequently, reduced to 3d., and disappeared gradually at the end of a year or two. If there is any journal in Australia which is keen to attribute to Tariff defects the failure of a company like this it is the Age j- but in the article to which- 1 have referred it is stated that there were several reasons why the company failed, these being enumerated as insufficiency of capital, the rugged nature of the country to be worked, and the assiduous assaults of the Standard Oil Trust. If the Tariff and the competition of the Standard Oil Trust are advanced as the reasons for the failure of that company, I ask what was happening while the duty of 6d. per gallon was still in force? Notwithstanding the existence of that duty, the company diminished its production of petroleum until it had brought it to vanishing point. But every one knows that the company was never robust, and that its failure was due largely to the insufficiency of its capital, and to the nature of the country which had to be worked.
– It is npt. very often that the honorable senator quotes the Age.
– I am not suggesting that I have any particular faith in its opinions. I quoted it in this case because I thought that my honorable friend would accept its views without demur.
– The honorable senator quotes it because it suits him to do so.
– If I were to quote statements from the Sydney Morning Herald, or the Sydney Daily Telegraph, my honorable friends would brush them asideas an honorable senator did this afternoon - with the remark that they were the views of prejudiced free-trade organs. Therefore, I hope to save time, and to have a little better chance of carrying conviction to the minds of my honorable friends opposite by quoting from a newspaper which, if at all biased, leans towards their way of thinking. I wish now -to deal ‘ with the tremendous bogy that is put forward to frighten timid senators. We are told that unless we double the “duty the Standard Oil Trust will crush out of existence the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, with its capital of nearly ;£i, 000,000.
Do my honorable friends suppose that the promoters of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, when they commenced operations, had never heard of the existence of the Trust? Do they imagine that they set out for New South Wales with an immense capital, and did not discover that an Oil Trust existed in the United States of America until they had commenced operations? We may depend upon it that they knew more about the operations of that Trust than any honorable senator knows. But they said, in effect, “ Trust or no Trust, Tariff or no Tariff, we are strong enough to exploit the shale deposits in the mountains of New South Wales.” Let us go a little further. I want to show that if we imposed a duty of even is. per gallon, or double that rate, the local corporation would still have to face the competition of the American Trust. If the company carries out its project, no power on earth can save it from having to compete with the Trust, not only at its own doors, but in the markets of the world. If its claim be correct, that it is producing oil at the rate of 3,000,000 gallons per annum, and will shortly be producing something like 12,000,000 gallons per annum, there is only one place where it can dispose of its surplus output,’ and that is in the markets of the world. If, therefore, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is strong enough to produce oil in New South Wales and send it abroad to compete in the open market with that of the Standard Oil Trust, iB need hot be frightened to meet that combination within Australia, where it will be protected to the extent of a duty of 25 per cent.
– Surely protection in respect of a population of 4,000.000 would enable it to compete more successfully with the Trust? .
– lt would enable it to charge the people of Australia a higher price for its oils than it obtained abroad.
– Then it would be in the same position as is the Standard Oil Trust.
– Does- the honorable senator want to build up another trust here?
– Better have two than one.
– When we have one evil - and a trust is an evil - I do not want to convert that one into two ; I desire to obliterate ‘ the one that already exists. Senator Trenwith’s interjection is an ad- mission that if we imposed this duty, and so shut out the competitor from abroad, we should enable the local company to become a potent trust in Australia, charging the people who gave it that generous measure of State assistance one price, and selling its surplus oil to the people oforeign nations at a lower figure.
– If it did become a monopoly, it would be within our control, but the Standard Oil Trust is not.
– I shall have a great deal more faith in- that statement, which we hear so often, when I see, on the part of the Government, a movement to control some of the trusts already in existence here. I am not suggesting that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is a trust; I am dealing now with the abstract question. Do honorable senators suppose that any trust is going to be frightened by such a Ministerial declaration as we have just heard? Legal action alone will frighten a trust, and the Government seem very slow to take proceedings.
– The Bill has not yet been passed bv another place.
– One Bill has been passed.
– I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the question immediately before the Chair.
– You, sir, have inferentially drawn my attention to the fact that it is wrong for the .Vice-President of the Executive Council to endeavour to lead me astray. It is easy to slip from the path of grace, but with your Assistance I shall endeavour to return to it.
– I have not seen any evidence that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is operating as a trust in Australia.
– I have just disclaimed any desire to suggest that it is. There is one other matter to which I desire to refer. Senator McGregor stated -that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation was prepared to give a guarantee that it would not raise its prices.
– Such a guarantee is not worth the paper it is written on.
– I do not know thai we have a written guarantee. There is one way, and one way only, in which a company could give a guarantee of the kind, and that would be by depositing in the Treasury a substantial sum, to be forfeited at any time it attempted to charge a higher price. Nearly every witness who came be fore the Tariff Commission said he would guarantee that if a duty were imposed to protect his industry he would not increase his prices. The only exceptions were one or two simple, honest men, who said that with the imposition of a higher duty prices would be raised. It is easy to make such promises, and if’ later, it were found that prices had increased, we should probably be told that the cost of production had increased. But there is something more involved than the mere question of increased prices. Allowing for fluctuations which take place, whether due to increased prosperity or other reasons, there ought to be, over . a long period of time, a steady diminution in the prices of articles of this kind. That being so, when a company with every evidence of a long life before it gives a promise that it will not increase prices, I want something more. In such circumstances, I should look for a guarantee that prices would fall in sympathy with values outside.
– Would the honorable senator accept a bond like that given in connexion with the cancelled mail contract ?
– The difficulty of obtaining a bond from a company is too obvious to be stated. I am not now referring to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation ; but the ease with which a company can avoid the fulfilment of a bond must be apparent to every one. If a. promise is made by one board of directors - and I am not aware that the directors of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation have ever made the promise of which we have heard so much - another board of directors may refuse to be bound by it. We have no regal evidence that the company has ever made such a promise.
– So tar as I know the promise has been made to every honorable senator.
– By whom?
– By means of circulars distributed amongst honorable senators.
– A company can bind itself only by an agreement given under its seal. If my honorable friend assures me that he has a document signed and sealed by. the company in accordance with the Companies Act, I shall accept his assurance.
– The promise made in the circulars distributed by the .company would be sufficient evidence for Parliament if we had to deal with it under our antitrust legislation.
– That would depend upon whether or not the Anti-Trust Act contained any special provision in regard to what should be accepted as evidence. I believe that in the Bill we have passed there are some special provisions of the kind. But the point I wish to make is that it is easy for promises of this kind to be made without the sanction of the directors. Very frequently, zealous representatives of a company will allow their zeal to carry them a little further than they ought to go.
– Swindling syndicates in America started operations with a promise that they would not charge more than a certain price for gas and water. We know that is an historical fact.
– I regard the statement that the Commonwealth Oil Company will guarantee not to increase the price of its product as the “ trimmings “ put around the dish that we are invited to swallow. Senator McGregor has affirmed that the oil industry is as much a primary industry as is the gold industry. That statement is perfectly true, but the honorable senator did not carry his parallel as far as he should have done. The position is that the oil industry, which is a primary industry, is seeking permission to tax the gold-mining industry - which is another primary industry. What would be said if the gold-miners of Australia approached Parliament with a request to enable them to take 5 per cent., 30 per cent., 15 per cent., 25 per cent., or 50 per cent, of the product of the oil mines? Yet the proposal now under consideration is that” the oil industry shall be permitted to levy a tax of 50 per cent, upon its product, which is largely used by the mining industry. I think we are all too apt to forget that for every Broken Hill, Golden Horseshoe, or Great Cobar mine that is discovered there are hundreds of ventures which prove failures, which are abandoned for want of sufficient capital to develop them, and that there are thousands of men at present prospecting small shows, the success of which depends. entirely upon the economy with which operations can be conducted. I am hot pleading for the large mines–
– It is the large mines which- mop up the capital.
– Of course it is.
– Every one of the big mines has “ watered “ its capital.
– But they can only do that after they have become profitable concerns. In Western Australia, many mines have recently had to cease operations because it was found that the cost of production was greater than the value of their output.
– The increased cost of the oil used in lubricating their machinery would not produce that result.
– But Senator Stewart forgets that it is the last straw which breaks the camel’s back. ‘ This is hot the only article used by the industry upon which we are levying a duty. If it .were, the item might very well be allowed to pass without discussion. But there is scarcely an article used by the mining industry which Senator Stewart is not anxious to tax.
– Quite true. The big mines waste more money in directors’ and promoters’ fees .than would suffice to’ supply them with lubricating oil for a dozen years.
– That may or may not be true.
– It is true.
– But it does not seem to me to be material to my argument. The position presents itself to me in two ways.- First, I am impelled to ask, “ Has any case been made out why the Commonwealth Oil Company should be granted a protection in excess of the 25 per cent, originally proposed?” In the second place, “ Is there any justification for enabling this company, which has every prospect of doing well, to levy tribute upon the equally deserving and very much more important mines, factories and other industries which require to use lubricants to carry on their daily operations?”
– Would not the imposition of a duty of 3d. per gallon be levying tribute upon them? After all, it is only a question of degree.
– I have previously said that I am not prepared to discuss this Tariff from the abstract point of view of free-trade versus protection. I am endeavouring to deal with it from a practical stand-point, and I am unable to see the slightest justification for extending to this company a single point more protection than was afforded it by the 25 per cent, duty which was originally proposed. But even if such a justification existed one would still be entitled to consider the other industries of the Commonwealth which will be injuriously affected to the extent that we subsidize this great and wealthy corporation.
– The industry which we have in our mind’s eye in discussing this item is one which has been languishing for a very long period indeed. Had the shale deposits upon which it is based been located in any State other than New South Wales I believe that its success or otherwise would have been determined two generations ago. The industry has existed in New South Wales in a very tame and lame form for the last twenty years.
– Until within the past few years it has enjoyed a protective duty of 66. per gallon.
– No. It was only during the operation of the Dibbs Tariff that any protection was extended to it. Had the industry been centred in a protectionist State like Victoria its success or failure would have been established years ago. Senator Millen has addressed himself chiefly to the present position of the Commonwealth Oil Company. He has pointed out that that company was formed under free-trade conditions and without any guarantee that the industry would be afforded any measure of protection whatever. In making that statement I think that he slightly over-drew the picture, because since the advent of Federation it has 1”>een well known that, whether for good or for ill, the electors of the Commonwealth have unmistakably declared in favour’ of a protective policy.- Consequently, those who are interested in the company to which T have alluded must have realized that when the Tariff was revised the industry would very probably be extended a reasonable measure of protection. Whilst I have never been personally engaged in this industry 1 may mention that nearly twenty years ago I was invited by a gentleman to prospect the very country which now forms a portion of the territory belonging to the Commonwealth Oil Company - I refer to the district surrounding Capertee. That gentleman prospected the district, and sold out to the company that afterwards sold out to the present big corporation. The. industry has been struggling ici New South Wales for twenty years or more. In the other districts which the corporation has now secured the right to mine in, it has been known for a long time that kerosene shale exists, although its quality or .quantity was uncertain. It was only by prospecting that anything de finite could be known. I give credit to the company for having. done a great deal of that prospecting work, and, so far as I can judge, as one who has some knowledge of mining,- they have splendid prospects of success. If any company can possibly make the oil industry a success they can. They have enormous capital to work upon, with a great extent of territory, containing what I believe to be a fair quality of shale, and, leaving kerosene out of consideration, they have excellent prospects of doing well with the by-products, which the Standard and other . oil companies now exporting to Australia cannot produce. We should approach this subject with those facts in mind, remembering that we are now framing a Tariff for the purpose of extending Australian industries. We should deal with the question irrespective of whether we have free-trade or protectionist ideas. I would remind free-trade senators that we - are now considering a protective and not a revenue or free-trade Tariff.
– We are fair traders, which is better.
– I see that Senator Dobson is still on the fence. He was there1 during the passage of the last Tariff, and I believe he will stay there until the end of the chapter. This Australian, company will probably meet with very keen competition from the beginning. A most powerful company to compete against is the Standard Oil Company of America. Knowing that the local company will have to meet straightaway with the keen competition of so powerful a rival, we must be prepared to give it a certain amount of encouragement, especially as it has already shown its bona fides by coming here, getting together capital, building a fairly lengthy railway, opening up shale mines, and erecting retorts to treat the shale. Bearing in mind the amount of protection we have given to other industries, we cannot do other than grant a fair measure of protection to the company which proposes to produce oil in Australia.
– Give them 25 per cent. Is not that enough?
– A little more than 25 per cent, would be a fair compromise. I have risen to make a proposal which I hope the Committee will accept. By it we shall not be taxing any existing industries. The State which I represent depends for its existence on the mining industry, which is and always will be an enormous consumer of lubricating oil. I am, therefore, to a great extent, proposing to tax the industries of my own State in order to give a fair share of protection to the Commonwealrh Oil Corporation. There are a number of other industries besides mining that will be taxed to supply a market for this oil, and therefore I wish every safeguard to be provided in order that those industries may not be taken advantage of in the meantime, because, after all, the operations of this oil corporation are a thing of the future. Whether it will be a. success or not is a matter of speculation. If we frame the Tariff so as to give a fair measure of protection to the company, and, at the same time, place no tax upon existing industries, we shall have come to a settlement with which no reasonable man can find fault. For that reason I intend to move a request that the duty be increased from 3½d. to 4d. per gallon (General Tariff), and from 3d. to 3¾d. (United Kingdom), but that those increases shall not come into force except by proclamation issued on the authority of a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. By that means the duty will stand as it is now in the Tariff - our free-trade friends cannot object to that - until the company has shown itself capable of supplying the whole of the Commonwealth markets by its own efforfsl. That is so eminently sensible and reasonable a proposition that no one should be able to take exception to if. I cannot agree to Senator Stewart’s request to increase the duty to 6d. per gallon. The Committee will do well to accept my suggestion as a settlement of the dispute.
– The request which the honorable senator has indicated cannot be moved as an amendment of Senator Stewart’s request, which is now before the Committee. It can be moved when Senator Stewart’s request has been disposed of, as an additional sub-paragraph to paragraph j.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [9.10]. - Before we adjourned for dinner, I, in the course of an interjection, made reference to the great interest shown in certain quarters in support of “ tinpot “ industries, and I understand that an impression prevails that my remark had reference to the Commonwealth Oil Company. I desire to disabuse any honorable senator of such an idea. The Common wealth Oil Company, I have every reason to believe, is a well-founded, competent corporation, and will be able to carry out the objeets for which it was formed. It may seem very unusual that, after sitting ihere for weeks assisting in passing duties, and sometimes in attempting to retard the imposition of what I regard as excessive duties, in respect of the industries of every State in the Commonwealth except my own, I should not rise for the purpose of offering support to a proposal that seeks, nominally, to enhance the benefit which the Tariff confers oh a great industry in New South Wales. This is an industry that does not exist, and is not likely to exist, in any of the other States, because in New South W,ales alone are to be found beds of shale of sufficient richness to supply the kerosene and lubricants which form the subject of our present discussion. But while I do not intend to occupy any length of time in stating the case as I regard it, I shall be compelled to take five or ten minutes- in dealing with a matter which Senator Millen so lavishly explained in the course of an hour’s oration. I can sum up very quickly, I think, the facts as they strike me. The Commonwealth Oil Company was formed with a full knowledge of the terms and conditions of the old Tariff ; and those who subscribed the funds could not_ have dreamt of proposals such as are now before the Committee. I am sure I am well grounded in the belief that they made their calculations carefully, with a full knowledge of the existing circumstances ; and the large sum of money, approximating to nearlv£1,000,000, which this company raised, is sufficient to satisfy me that it was not subscribed recklessly. The gentleman at the head of this company in Australia enjoys the confidence and respect at any rate of every one who knows him in New South Wales, and I believe he is wellknown and respected throughout the Commonwealth. I do not for an instant suppose that this large capital was invested with the idea that profits could not be made under the then existing Tariff, and that some other Tariff proposals would be necessary for success. If I am correct, why should the whole community of Australia be taxed in order to increase the earnings of a company, the members of which determined that they could operate successfully under the old Customs rates ? I should like to see this company a success, and I think it will be, even -without the higher duties for which some ^honorable senators are clamouring. I believe that at least some of those who are seeking higher duties are doing so bond fide - that they are not. seeking to benefit their own States. I make no .charge, such as has been frequently made in the course of the Tariff discussion, about geographical free-traders or geographical protectionists. “This is simply and solely a New South “Wales industry ; and I pay honorable senators from other States, who support a higher duty, the compliment of believing that thev are seeking no personal advantage for themselves or for their constituents. On the other hand, if I tate a course which is unusual with a large majority in the chamber, in opposing a duty peculiarly applicable to an industry in my own State, I cannot be charged with seeking any advantage for myself or any section of my constituents. The effort I am now putting forth must surely be in the interests of those higher aims which transcend localism and State interests, and are for the good of the whole community. Week after week, while higher duties on coffee, arrowroot, tapioca, and other tropical produce have been fought for persistently, and. let me say,’ successfully by honorable senators, representing Queensland-
– Little thanks to the honorable senator for that.
– The honorable senator need not say that, because, if I have not voted for higher duties on some tropical products, the honorable senator’s excellent memory will inform him that, in the case of the Bounties Bill at least, I strongly supported the inclusion of Oueensland items. And what of Victoria? It has only been necessary for some honorable senator to say that in some unnamed street in the vicinity of Melbourne, some one is occasionally making a pair of gloves or a pair of socks, to raise an enthusiastic demand for high duties. I have never asked for a duty. or sought to support a duty, applicable to my own State.
– Will the honorable senator not (rive credit for a little patriotism on the part of those honorable senators who are now proposing a higher duty for a New South Wales product?
– I have already paid those honorable senators the compliment of acknowledging that, in common parlance* they are not attempting to grind any axe of their own. I have only to make my position quite clear. I believe that this is a strong and capable company, certain to produce good results, and that those good results, which were calculated on the basis of the late comparatively low duty, will be to the advantage of the whole of- Australia, and not of New South Wales alone. As the calculations have been based on a lower duty there is no possible reason why this or the other House should impose a higher burden of taxation upon the entire people of the Commonwealth, when the gentlemen concerned, by their own acts - by their subscription of funds, their securing of a large area, and their developmental operations - have given the strongest evidence to the world that they have every justification for believing that with the duty in the old Tariff they can carry on successfully a development of industry and a production sufficiently large to materially enhance the well-being of those who have happily invested their money in this great enterprise. I may be regarded as remarkable in my opposition to a duty for a local industry. If I am remarkable in that regard, at least it is not a reflection upon myself. It might possibly be a reflection upon honorable gentlemen who have sought for their States local advantages, while I do not believe that the State from which I come, with its splendid resources and its large invested wealth, needs to beg at the hands of the people of Australia.
.- It is clear that the debate has brought out this fact, that. there has been formed a powerful reputable company to promote or exploit an industry in Australia. The Commonwealth Oil Company appeals to the whole community for an immunity from competition. .It asks us to increase the duty on this item ; to give a protection which will be almost the equivalent of a subsidy amounting to 100 per cent, by taxation.
– A subsidy of 100 per cent. ?
– The company asks for a protection against competition, which is almost equivalent to a subsidy. Although it is not a subsidy in terms, it will almost have the effect of a subsidy in assisting its operations.
– How does the honorable senator arrive at the 100 per cent.?
– The company asks that in order to carry out its operations it may be protected to the extent of an increase of 100 per cent, in the taxation on its product.
– That is quite different from the statement which the honorable senator first made.
– The last statement will, I hope, be taken as more nearly expressing what I intended to convey. The company wishes to obtain a certain amount of immunity from competition ; . and, directly or indirectly, to have a State guarantee. I do not know that it is our duty when framing a Tariff to guarantee, directly or indirectly, any company, however reputable or. strong it may be, at the expense or risk of the taxpayers. I wish to carry the memories of my Socialist friends back to the time when, if a man spoke in Parliament of a syndicate or large company, and talked of guaranteeing syndicates and companies by means of State assistance, he was accused of betraying the public interests, and of desiring to run the country in the interests of monopolies and wealthy syndicates. I fancy that the Socialist’s are weakening very strongly in that direction. From time to time I have received circulars which pointed out that if increases of duties were granted, certain companies would be formed to work industries in the Commonwealth. I put the circulars on one side after reading them. I intend tq investigate the statements very carefully, because I think that it is somewhat suspicious when we have company promoters or company prospectuses lying about Parliament, and are asked by circular to consider the promotion of some company.
– Did not the honorable senator, on Friday last, in order to buttress his argument, quote lengthily from a circular on another matter ? Why does he condemn a particular circular ?
– I am not condemning anybody.
– Why does the honorable senator treat the circular with suspicion ?
– If my memory serves me correctly, I was quoting on Friday last from the circular of a company which was asking for, not an increased duty, but a decreased duty.
– Exactly so.
– But that, is the reverse of what the honorable senator implied. In this case, we are asked by a company to increase the duty on an article to the extent of 100 per cent. When we receive a circular from company promoters, we are perfectly justified’ in scrutinizing their statements very carefully, and in ascertaining, if we can, who are behind them.
– The honorable senator has just said that he has received the prospectus of a company.
– No, that I received a circular from company promoters, as I believe many other honorable senators have done. I have received a circular in which it is held out to me, as an inducement to vote for increased duties, that if they are granted certain companies will be formed. I do not intend to trouble the Committee further with it now, but when the proposals are submitted I intend to make a- very close investigation of the statements that have been made. I wish to make it quite clear that every syndicate in America that approached Congress in order to secure city franchises, and, as it ultimately turned our in very many cases, in order to exploit the citizens, submitted a guarantee that if the water, gas, or transportation franchise for which they asked were granted, it would result in no increased cost to the citizens.
– Is the honorable senator imputing corrupt practices of that kind to the local company in this case?
– Whilst I direct attention to a coincidence in the similarity in the form of application to Parliament, I impute no corrupt practices to any local company. In referring to the peculiar way in which the request for’ an increase of this duty has been put before honorable senators, I have no wish to cast the slightest reflection. I assume that, so far as this local industry is concerned, it is in the hands of bond fide men, who intend to work it for national purposes, but I still think that the protection asked for is too high, and I cannot vote for such an increase in this duty as has been suggested. I am glad to find that Senator de Largie sees clearly that the company is asking too much.
– Then the honorable senator will support my proposal ?
– No; I should prefer a ‘ lower duty than that which the honorable senator has suggested. 1 think that Senator Millen has put his case admirably, and that there is no answer to his argument that the company has been able to do so much under the former duty. In the interests of the taxpayers’ I feel that the prudent course to pursue is to let this company “ paddle its own canoe.” The company commands large capital, its operations are, apparently, promising very well, and, in the circumstances, I do not feel inclined to give it any further assistance than that afforded by the existing duties.
– We have heard a great deal of more or less irrelevant talk this afternoon. The case for the duty in this instance can be stated in a very few words. Those of us who favour an increase of the duty have been accused of desiring to levy tribute upon every industry in Australia. If honorable senators who made that charge had given the matter the slightest consideration, had dived ‘a few inches below the surface of the question, they would have discovered that, so far from attempting to levy tribute from every industry in Australia, our object is to save Australian industries from having to pay tribute to a foreign company. That is exactly the position. I ask honorable senators to say whether it is better, in the interests of Australian industries, that the supply of lubricating oils should be a monopoly in the hands of the Standard Oil Company, or that there should be a company within the confines of Australia supplying those oils to our various industries in competition with the Standard Oil Company, and keeping its operations under control. That appears to me to be the whole question in a nutshell. I have no desire to see the mining industry, about which some honorable senators appear to be so anxious,- handed over to the tender, mercies of the Standard Oil Company. At the last annual meeting of that company the chairman stated in distinct and definite terms that the company was determined at all costs to retain its hold of its foreign markets. What did that mean? It meant that the company was prepared to spend, not thousands, but millions, of . pounds in exterminating opposition wherever it might be found. Here we have a company trying to raise its infant head in New South Wales, a powerful company, as we have been told, having command of a great deal of capital and floated by some of the sharpest men in Great Britain. We have been told that this company established itself in Australia under the old Tariff, and yet, with all the acumen, financial stability, and knowledge of affairs possessed by those who control it”, what is the result ? It comes to the Senate, and asks for our assistance in its conflict with the Standard Oil Company. That is the position. If these men were men of straw, who did not know their business, and were not anxious to promote this industry, we might discount their statements, but their position in the financial world, and the fact that they have embarked their money in this enterprise, is surely a sufficient guarantee to honorable senators not only that they ‘ are anxious to promote this industry, but that the danger of their extermination at the hands of the Standard Oil Company is not a mere dream, but a reality. Are we going to help this company or to assist the Standard Oil Company? That is the question which honorable senators must answer to-night. I do not care how some honorable senators may attempt to cloud the issue by words, nor do I care a . single straw for their lengthy effusions, which, for the most part, had nothing whatever to do with the question.
– Does the honorable senator not care for the industries of the country ?
– Dees Senator Dobson wish the industries of the country to be at the mercy of the Standard Oil Company ?
– Nothing of the kind i and they are not.
– I wish to establish this industry within our own boundaries. We can control the Commonwealth Oil Company, but we cannot control tne Standard Oil Company. We have plenty of shale in Australia, and we should be able to manufacture all the lubricating oil, kerosene oil, and every other kind of oil that we require. I believe we shall yet do so. I have no wish to keep the Committee longer, and finding, very much to my disgust, I may say, that a majority of honorable senators are opposed to my request, I beg leave to withdraw it.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
Request (by Senator de Largie) put-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 234 by inserting the fol- . lowing new paragraph : - “(jj) Lubricating (mineral)* - to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. Proclamation to issue so soon as a joint address has been passed on the motion of Ministers by both Houses of the Parliament staling that such manufacture is sufficiently established in the Commonwealth - per gallon (General Tariff), 4d. ; (United Kingdom), 3¾d.”
The Committee divided.
Majority … ….5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
– Honorable senators will notice that further down in the item we make provision for oils in vessels exceeding 1 gallon, n.e.i. In paragraph k we also have the term “ Mineral n.e.i.” followed by “ Naphtha, benzine, benzoline, gasoline, pentane, petrol, turpentine substitutes and the like.” It is unnecessary that the letters “n.e.i.” should appear here, because we deal elsewhere with all oils which can’ be so classified. This paragraph should be more specific. It relates only to the oils mentioned in it. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 234, paragraph k, by leaving out the letters “ n.e.i.” and inserting in lieu thereof the word “being,’’ and by leaving out the words “ and the like.”
Request agreed to.
Request (by Senator Stewart) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to further amend item 234, paragraph k, by inserting after the word “ substitutes “ the words “ and all petroleum spirit under . 790 gravity.”
– The fact that an honorable senator considers it unnecessary to give reasons for a proposal of this kind shows into what a condition the Committee has fallen.
Is this another request launched with the Ministerial benediction ?
– The proposals for amending this item were brought under my notice only a little time before they came under the notice of other honorable senators. In this case the insertion of the words “ and all petroleum spirit under 790 gravity “ will materially simplify administration, because it will provide a standard which will enable the Customs authorities to easily distinguish kerosene imported as an illuminant from oil imported under the guise of kerosene, and intended to be used, not as an illuminant, but for the purposes for which the other oils mentioned in paragraph k are used.
– If the amendment is made it will not affect ordinarv kerosene ?
– No. ‘
– This is a technical matter in regard to which I cannot pretend to any knowledge. We have the assurance of the Minister that if the amendment is made, it will not affect ordinary kerosene, or make dutiable what is now on the free list ; but will simplify administration. That being so, I do not offer any opposition to the request. It is, however, very strange that such a request has come, not from the responsible Minister, but from a private senator.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [9.57]. - I too, am more than surprised that a request of this kind, brought forward in the interests of the Customs administration, was submitted, not by Ministers, but by a private senator.
– Has not a private senator the same right as a Minister in these matters?
– The honorable senator forgets that what is going on here is absolutely without precedent in any Parliament in the world. In other Legislatures it is Ministers alone who propose taxation; but here any senator is allowed to do so, by moving for increases of duty, Ministers supporting their requests, although they know that they cannot be considered in another place unless covered by a message from the Governor-General. The proceedings in this Committee are unparalleled in the history of Parliaments. Who is responsible? The Ministry can afterwards turn round and say, “ We did not propose this. Senator So-and-so did . and Senator So-and-so proposed something else.” And so they go on until we have a Government that does not govern ; a Ministry that does not administer.
-I do not think that that matter has anything to do with the question immediatelybefore the Chair.
– With the greatest possible respect for your ruling, sir,I claim the right to reflect on the attitude of the Government in allowing the taxation of the people to be taken out of their hands and, ordered by any one who has a political kite to fly. I have no need to elaborate the matter, and I think that you will admit, Mr. Chairman, that so far as I have gone I have not exceeded in the slightest degree the latitude which must necessarily be permitted in the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves. I have taken part in another place in the framing of a considerable number of Tariffs, and have never heard of private members of Parliament proposing a tax on the people.
– I ask the honorable senator not to discuss that -question. I do not think it can be said to arise from the item itself.
– I hope, sir, that you will not adhere to that expression of opinion. I beg you to understand that I am not seeking in the slightest degree to go behind your opinion; but if I cannot discuss the question here, I am absolutely debarred from dealing with it. I cannot discuss it in the Senate except on a reference to the President, and that I do not wish to make.
– If I were to permit the honorable senator to discuss the matter it would be open to other’ honorable senators to raise all sorts of questions in connexion with every item.
– Then, sir, I shall accept your ruling, and” at the proper time debate the matter before the electors of New South Wales, where my mouth will not be closed and where I shall have an opportunity of telling the truth to the people of Australia.
– Order !
– I abide by your ruling. I must oppose this proposal, because I regard it as absolutely unconstitutional. It has not been submitted by the Government, nor is it covered by message from the Crown, and, therefore, it is not properly before the Committee. -I do not wish to go behind your ruling, and am not attempting to do so. I am simply stating why, apart from the increased tax which it is proposed to place on the people of the Commonwealth, I object to the request. There is a well-known rule that governs taxation in all constitutionally directed Legislatures-
– Order !
– If, sir, you are going to prevent my discussing matters of this kind I shall have most regretfully to refer the question by motion to the President.
– Might I. remind the honorable senator that at present a request for an increased duty is not before the Committee? The honorable senator has probably overlooked the fact that the request which he has in mind has been temporarily withdrawn.
– There has been so much cross-firing that I was not aware that it had been withdrawn. I thank the honorable- senator for the information. It is difficult to closely follow what is going on in view of the many requests proposed and then temporarily withdrawn, in accordance with the general custom, to accommodate other honorable senators. I hope, Mr. Chairman, you will not think that what I said just now had the slightest tinge of discourtesy to yourself, but I most respectfully claim, with the greatest deference to you personally, and to your position, that at the proper time I should have the right to discuss the matter that I have referred to. There is, however, in view of what Senator Millen has pointed out, no need to raise that question now.
– When I stated that the request moved by Senator Stewart was acceptable to the Government, I hope that I was not misunderstood by many honorable senators, as I appear to have been by some. I said then that I had not seen the requested amendments until, at all events, some little time before any other member of the. Committee had seen them. This particular request, which it is competent for any honorable senator to submit, was brought under my notice before it was moved. That is a courtesy which I, as a Minister, appreciate very much, because it affords me an opportunity, before I give expression to the Government’s attitude with regard to the matter, to consult those who know far better than I do the actual working of a Tariff. It was some time during the forenoon that it was brought before my notice that a request of this kind was to be moved. I then consulted the Customs officials who are in attendance here, and who have been of great service to Ministers and to other senators who have had requests to propose. I was informed by them that if it were agreed to it would enable them to dp what I said - to distinguish between oils brought in to be used for purposes such . as those to which the oils mentioned in these sub-items are put, and oils which might, for those purposes, be introduced fraudulently, as kerosene. That will explain that this request is not being moved at the instigation of the Government or in the interest of the Department of Trade and Customs. Finding, as I have said, that the requested amendment would be acceptable and advantageous, I informed the Committee, as I deemed it my duty to do in such circumstances, that that was the view which, the practised officials of the Customs Department took of it, and that the Government would accept it. Instead of the Government wishing to evade the responsibility of submitting requests for amendments which the Department desire, the position is entirely different.
– Did I understand the honorable senator to suggest that he was afraid that but for this request a dutiable article might be introduced as kerosene, which is free?
– Petroleum oils, such as naphtha and benzine, which have a gravity of less than . 790 per cent., are used for industrial purposes. It was because of this that I informed the Committee that the requested amendment would simplify the work of the Department, and be accej3table to the Government.. But I did not suggest for a moment that the Customs Department had asked that the specific gravity of petroleum oil should be reduced. That is the position, and I hope that the Committee did not misunderstand me, as one honorable senator, at least, appears to have done.
– I must apologize for again troubling the Committee, but this is such a technical matter, that one may be pardoned for having some doubt as to the effect of the request proposed. IfI understand the position aright, ordinary kerosene has a specific gravity of over . 8, and in order that petroleum spirit may not- be admitted free under the name of kerosene, it is now proposed to limit the specific gravity of petroleum spirit to . 790:
– That is so.
Request agreed to.
Request (by Senator Stewart) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 234, paragraph k (imports under General Tariff), 3d. per gallon.
– The tabulated statement in the hands of the Committee shows that the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended the imposition of a duty of 6d. per gallon upon naphtha and benzine, of 3d. per gallon upon mineral oil n.e.i., of½d. per gallon upon” other” oils, and of¼d. per gallon when those “other” oils were methylated. I am not in a position to say at the moment what is meant by “ other “ oils, but it seems to me that naphtha and benzine, in the light “of the recommendation to which I have referred, have some claim to a larger duty than¼d. per gallon.
– The proposal of Senator Stewart involves an increase in the duty upon the articles enumerated in this paragraph from fd. per gallon - the amount proposed by the Government - to 3d. per gallon. In ether words, it means an increase in the rate of 300 per cent. I do not propose to labour the question, but it seems to me that we are asked to sanction this increase without any sufficient reason, other than that these oils can be manufactured in the C ommonwealth.
– Is not that a good and sufficient reason?
– No. The obligation is upon those who speak on behalf of the Commonwealth Oil Company to show that the increase is necessary to enable it to carry on operations. I need scarcely point out that we are now dealing with the question of the duty which should be levied upon liquid fuel. We. know that there is every likelihood that such fuel will be much more freely used in the future than ithas been in the past.
– That is. why we want to build up a big Australian industry.
– And Senator Givens proposes to achieve his purpose by quadrupling the duty which was originally proposed by the Government themselves. I can only protest and vote against such a proposal.
Question put. The Committee divided
Ayes … … … 13
Noes … … … 14
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 234, paragraph K (imports under General Tariff), 2d. per gallon.
I wish to point out the anpmaly of oils used by motor-car men, cyclists and others being allowed to come in at a lower rate than are the oils used by the mining and manufacturing industries.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative:
Request (by Senator Needham) negatived -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 234, paragraph K (imports under General Tariff), id. per gallon.
– The Minister made a statement just now, which I accepted as being made in good faith, that the gravitation standard which the Committee had inserted in the item would not affect kerosene. I have been informed, however, that certain brands of kerosene imported are of a specific gravity of as low as . 783. If so, the Committee have unconsciously passed an amendment which will affect kerosene.
– Did the honorable senator get the information by letter?
– I . did not. I am not so dense as not to understand the honorable senator’s meaning, but I do not, because of that information,, ask the Committee to take action. I simply desire the Minister to inquire whether the information given to me is correct or not. If it is correct, will he. give the- Committee an opportunity by recommittal of reconsidering the item, seeing that the Committee allowed the requested amendment to go through’ on his assurance?
– What I told the Committee was the information given to me by the Customs officials. They have ascertained, upon inquiry, that . 790 is a degree of specific gravity below which will be found oils that may be introduced as kerosene oils, but that are invariably used for other purposes than illuminating. In that way, oil which should pay duty, coming in for industrial purposes, may be introduced as free through being designated kerosene, and afterwards be turned to other purposes than illuminating. The 790 standard has been adopted by the Customs Department afier inquiries made by them. I have just ascertained, since Senator Millen raised the point, that they are assured that . 790 is the correct degree of specific gravity above which all oils claiming to be kerosene should stand. I shall pursue inquiries further, and if I am satisfied that oil of “as low a specific gravity as . 783 is used commercially, generally, or in most cases, as a kerosene illuminant, as Senator Millen implies, I shall be prepared to give the Committee another opportunity of reconsidering what they have already- determined upon the voices.
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed
That the Seaate do now adjourn.
– I ask the indulgence of honorable senators to bring under their notice on . the motion for the adjournment a matter of considerable public importance. I take the present opportunity because I did not . desire to occupy time by moving the formal adjournment of the Senate. I refer to the compulsory retirement of a post-office official from the membership of a Roads Board in Western Australia. On the 9th November, 1905, this question was raised by me in the following motion - .
That, in the opinion of the Senate, members of the Commonwealth Public Service should be permitted to hold elected positions on municipal and other local governing bodies, so long as such positions do not interfere with the proper performance of their duties as public servants.
A general discussion took place, and the motion met with support from honorable senators on all sides. Senator Millen spoke in favour of the proposal, and the representatives of the Government, Senators Playford and Keating, in asking that the motion should be withdrawn, pointed out that a minute had been issued to the heads of Departments to the effect. that the Government would not approve of public servants taking such positions. After the debate had gone on for a time, Senator Playford, who was Minister of Defence, said he was in sympathy with the motion - that the issue of the minute was a mistake, and it would” be withdrawn. That distinct, promise will be found recorded in Hansard of 9th November, 1905, pages 4805-6. The following is a further extract from the report of that debate -
– I understand that the position of Ministers is that they aTC prepared to go back to what is= laid, down in the Public Service Act.
– Hear, hear; that is my view.
The. motion was then withdrawn. On the 14th June, 1906,I asked the following questions -
In reply to the above, Senator Playford! said -
Let me briefly indicate how the Public Service Act deals with the matter. Section 8, sub-section 2, sets out the powers of theCommissioner as follows -
After considering any such report the Com- ‘ missioner may propose to the Governor-General any particular disposition of officers and officesand the division or class sub-division of classor grade of every officer and re-arrangement or improved method of carrying out any work which appears to the Commissioner necessary or expedient for the more economic, efficient, or convenient working of any Department, and1 such proposal shall be considered and dealt with> by the Governor-General.
Section 41 provides -
The Governor-General may, on recommendation of the Commissioner, after obtaining a report from the Permanent Head -
create a new office in any division in any Department; or,
abolish any office in’ any Department; or
raise or lower the classification or grad ing of any office the duties of whichi have been materially changed ; or,
with the consent of any officer transfer or promote him from any one division, to any other division, and in the case of transfer or promotion from theGeneral to the Clerical Division after such examination as may be prescribed.
These are the complete powers of the Commissioner, and I direct the attention of honorable ‘ senators to the fact that the importance of the question lies, not in the case of this individual officer, but in the fact that a weak Minister has given to the Commissioner a power which was denied to him by the Public Service Act.
– Is there any section in the Act which lays a restriction on members of the Public Service in this connexion ?
– Yes; section 79 which was quoted by Senator Playford when the debate took place on my motion. The section provides as follows -
Except with the express permission of the GovernorGeneral which permission may at any time by Order in Council be withdrawn no officer shall -
Accept or continue to hold an office in or under the Government of any State or in or under any public or municipal corporation.
It will be seen that the permission lies with the Governor-General in Council, and in this respect we find a difference from any Other part of the Public Service Act. The point is that the power is reserved to the Governor-General.
– And it is being exercised bv the Commissioner?
– In this case it has been exercised by the Commissioner with the tacit consent of the Postmaster-General or his secretary.
– Was this an office of profit ?
– No, there is no payment attached to a membership of a Roads Board. On the 10th June, 1907, a person named Jones wrote the Postmaster-General in Melbourne as follows -
To the Postmaster-General,
I wish to bring under your notice that one of your employes, Thos. J. Myers, in the Mailroom at the G.P.O., Perth, is a member of the Claremont Roads Board, which, I think, is against the laws of the Commonwealth Civil Service. Will you please take such action to get him to resign his position on the Claremont Roads Board.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) H. Jones.
This is indorsed -
Referred to D.P.M.G., Perth, for report. (Sgd.) J.O.
That letter was referred to the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth for report, and he sent the following letter to Myers -
It has been reported to the Central Office that you are a member of the Claremont Roads Board. I would direct your attention to Regulation 73, which reads -
That no officer, except on the recommendation of the Commissioner, after report from the Permanent Head, and with the express permission of the GovernorGeneral, shall’ accept or continue to hold any office in or under the Government of any State or in or under any Public or Municipal Corporation. I am to request you to furnish a report in connexion with the matter. (Sgd.) R. Hardman,
If such a regulation exists it is in direct contradiction to the statement made by Senator Playford, and, at any rate, the letter of the Deputy Postmaster-General is in. conflict with section 79 of the Public Service Act. Myers replied as follows -
Yours dated the 6th inst. to hand yesterday, “re mv being a member of the Claremont Roads Board.”
In connexion with the above, I shall be obliged if you will allow me to see a copy of the report sent to the Central Office before I submit my report.
I would also like to know whether “office” in Regulation 73 refers to members of a Board (who receive no remuneration), or only to paid officials.
The Deputy Postmaster- General replied -
I am unable to afford any reply to Mr. Myers’ question. When his report or reply is to hand, the matter will be dealt with. I cannot see that an inspection of the report is necessary to enable him to answer the question whether or not he is a member of the Board.
This was indorsed -
The above has been read to Mr. Myers. (Sgd.) Thos. J. Beatty,
Myers then wrote as follows -
In reply to yours re my being a member of the Claremont Roads Board, I have to inform you that I have been a member of the above for over three years, and was under the impression that Regulation 73 referred to paid officials, and not to members who receive no remuneration, but as I understand that the Department has ruled that it refers to members as well as officials, I beg most respectfully to apply for the consent of the Governor-General to be allowed to ixntinue to hold my position on the Board.
I hope honorable senators will observe that Myers applies, not for the consent of the Public Service Commissioner, but for the consent of the Governor-General -
I can readily understand that there may be some positions in the service where it would not be convenient for an officer of the Department to be associated with a Roads Board without in some way interfering with his duties, but in my present position you will doubtless know that my duties have not suffered in any way through my connexion with the Claremont Roads Board, and, under the circumstances, I shall be obliged if you can see your way clear to recommend the Commissioner to ask the Governor-General to consent to my being allowed to retain my seat.
Hoping you will favorably consider the above. The Deputy Postmaster -General . then wrote -
I am unable to recommend approval of the request of Mr: Myers, on the g founds that there is no scarcity of able men in C/aremont to fill such positions.
This is indorsed -
Inform accordingly and reply to Head Office. The Public Service Act simply sets down that the holding of such offices shall not interfere with the public servant’s duties, but the Deputy Postmaster-General takes it on himself to send such a letter as that. On the ist August, 1907, the following memorandum was forwarded, from Perth to the Secretary to the Postmaster-General’s Department -
With reference to your W.A., 1S75, dated ist ultimo, dealing with this subject, I beg to inform you that inquiry has been made into the matter, with the result that Myers admits he is a member of the Board referred to, and submits the attached application for permission to retain the position.
I am unable to recommend Mr. Myers’ request for approval, as there is no. doubt a number of men in Claremont capable and probably desirous of filling the position.
On the 14th August that memorandum was forwarded to the Secretary to the Public Service Commissioner by Mr. Scott. When this recommendation came before Mr. Scott did he refer it to the Pos master-General with a view to get an Order in Council ? No; he referred it to the Commissioner. On the 20th August, 1907, Mr. Reddin, Secretary to the Commissioner, forwarded this minute to Mr. Scott -
The Public Service Commissioner will be glad to have the report of ths Permanent Head upon this request.
Then on the 4th November, 1907, Mr. Reddin addressed the following memorandum to Mr. Scott -
Adverting to minute from this office, dated 20/S/07, with reference to the application of T. J. Myers, letter-carrier, Perth, W.A., tq be allowed to continue to act as a member of the Claremont Roads Board, I am directed by the Public Service Commissioner to ask that he may be furnished with the desired report by the Permanent Head.
Here is the letter which Mr. Scott addressed on the 2nd December, 1907, to the Secretary to the Public Service Commissioner -
With reference to your communication of 4th ultimo. No. J.474S, relative to the application made by Mr. T. J. Myers, letter-carrier, Perth, W.A., to be allowed to continue to act as a member qf the Claremont Roads Board, I have the honour to inform you that for the same reasons as apply in the case of the application made by Mr. F. Knowles, letter-carrier, Burwood, N.S.W.,’ in November, 1906, for permission to stand for election as alderman in the Enfield Municipality (viz., that one of the main objects in connexion with letter-carriers’, work is to secure prompt delivery of all letters, and that an officer holding the position of alderman would be likely to be delayed on his round by ratepayers engaging his attention on municipal subjects), it is considered that the application of Mr. Myers should be declined.
Although Myers is classified as a letter carrier he does not deliver letters within the boundaries of the Claremont Roads Board, but in a district which is 6 miles distant therefrom, so that there is no possibility of any electors questioning him 011 any public subject. .He informed the Deputy Postmaster-General of that fact in a letter which he sent on the 12th February, 1908. The Public Service Commissioner’s minute on Mr. Myers’ request to the Secretary to the Postmaster- General’s Department reads as follows -
Mr. Myers should be informed that the permission sought by him cannot be granted.
There is no reference to an Order in Council ; it is not a question of the GovernorGeneral, but of the Public Service Commissioner. Subsequent letters deal with the request which was afterwards submitted by the members of the Roads Board that, in order to avoid the expense of a special election, Myers should be allowed to retain his seat until that event, and the Deputy Postmaster-General extended the term.
– I wished to -elicit whether that permission was given by the Commissioner alone.
– Yes, the decision was given by .the Commissioner alone. In the papers there is no mention of the Minister having minuted that he confirmed the Commissioner’s opinion. It has been minuted by the Deputy Postmaster-General, but not by the Minister. In the papers there is no reference to an Order in Council having been obtained. I find that the letter which the Deputy PostmasterGeneral sent to the Roads Board permitting Myers to retain his seat until the general election was held concludes with this statement -
I beg to inform you that in the circumstances the Public Service Commissioner’s decision will be given effect to by Mr. Myers withdrawing from the position so soon as the election has been held.
So that the Public Service Commissioner has not approved of the extension, and the Deputy Postmaster-General will not apply his decision until the election has been held. When we passed the Public Service Bill we gave up the control .of the Public Service so far as certain things were concerned to the Public Service Commissioner, but retained certain other matters within the control of the Minister, subject to the approval of Parliament. The - Deputy Postmaster-General, the Public Service Commissioner, and the Secretary to the Post and Telegraph Department have apparently, without remitting the matter to the Minister, and because of some regulation which I contend is ultra vires or which, at any rate, is in direct contradiction to a distinct promise made to the Senate by a former Minister that the direction issued to heads of Departments would be withdrawn, have assumed for the Commissioner a power which the Act did not give and was not intended to give him. I consider that the question is an important one. I submit to the Minister who represents the PostmasterGeneral that he should ask his colleague to retain the power which Parliament intended that he should exercise, and not allow the Commissioner to assume a power which was not given and was not intended to be given to him by the Act, and, furthermore, to see that the will of this Chamber which was recorded on that occasion, and which the Ministers promised to obey, is obeyed, and that these positions shall be open to members of the’ Public Service always subject to the limitation in the Act, that their occupancy of them does not conflict with the performance of their public duties.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [10.50]. - I think it is well recognised’ that municipal’ government is the foundation of the parliamentary government of the- Empire,, and the public servants of the Commonwealth can in their spare time be no better employed than in rendering public service in connexion with municipal and other local institutions. I followed with care and quite appreciate the position submitted by Senator Pearce. It does appear to me to be absolutely outside the risk of cavil that by some extraordinary means the Secretary, to the Postal Department, Mr’. Scott, has assumed a position and exercised a power which undoubtedly he does not possess, and which appertains to the Minister. If the latter is too busy in matters which have already been discussed here’ to attend to his duties, and neglects them, or leaves them to the permanent head of the Department, it is quite time that Parliament intervened.
– They all do that.
– I hope they do not all do that, but clearly something has gone very much astray in this case. In addition to what I have said about the permanent head of the Post and Telegraph Department, I cannot help thinking that the Public Service Commissioner, whom I have known for very many years, and who I believe to be a most valuable public officer, has by some extraordinary process been led astray, and induced to take up a position which, according to law, as shown by Senator Pearce, is clearly untenable. The public servants of the country are surely to be permitted to discharge the duties of citizen-, ship so long as their discharge does not interfere with the proper discharge. of their duties under the Public Service Acf. They should be in a position to give their services to municipalities and to the whole community without this extraordinary attempt lu establish a bureaucratic autocracy. Here we find one or two public officials assuming duties which belong to the Minister and the Governor-General in Council, and the right to order that which can alone be ordered by the Minister and the GovernorGeneral in Council. I agree with Senator Pearce that Parliament has not parted with the -right to interfere in such cases. I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs, in whose hands I believe the administration of the Public Service Act is placed,, will give such attention to the matter brought under his notice as will bring about what appears to be a much needed reform in its administration. The case to which Senator Pearce has directed attention may perhaps be only one indication of a canker that is eating into the heart of the Public Service. If this kind of thing can take place in connexion with membership of a Roads Board, goodness knows what may be going on in other directions, and to what extent’ the faithful and proper administration of the Act is being warped. The Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia may be a very good man, but if the men under him cannot deliver letters within a few hundred yards of the post-office to which they are attached, I do not think we can regard him as a very reliable guide in this matter. . In my opinion, Senator Pearce has discharged a valuable public duty in bringing this matter forward, and I feel sure that at the hands of Senator Keating the needed intervention will be readily accorded and justice done.
– I wish to say just a few brief words in reply. It was not until I heard what Senator Pearce has had to say just now that I was personally informed of the facts connected with this particular case. Although inquiries were made of me some time since in the Senate, and I gave replies to them as furnished by the Department, I was not personally cognisant of the circumstances of the case. I am not quite sure, even now, after learning something of the nature of the correspondence, that the case is quite So bad as my honorable friend is inclined to think. I intend as early as possible to go into the whole of the correspondence, and to see my honorable colleague, the Postmaster-General, with regard- to it, when perhaps there may be discovered a very satisfactory explanation of the matters of which Senator Pearce has complained. ‘I was under the impression when the honorable senator was reading through the papers that he read a. minute- by the PostmasterGeneral to “ inform the applicant Myers accordingly,” but on looking at the papers I cannot find that, and the honorable senator now assures me that the minute to that effect was written by the Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia.
– So far as I can see the Minister does not appear in the matter.
– I can quite understand that in many instances, in order to expedite the settlement of matters of this kind, the permanent head of a Department might send on a communication to’ the Public Service Commissioner. In the ordinary course a Minister on receipt of an application of this kind would probably refer it to the Public Service Commissioner for the courtesy of an expression of his opinion. If the Minister, through pressure of other work, did not happen to be in his office whensuch an application was received the permanent head of the Department might, in order that the matter with which it dealt should be expedited, take the responsibility on behalf of the Minister of sending trie communication to the Public Service Commissioner for the favour of his advice and recommendation, which the Minister might subsequently consider and act upon. I was under the impression that at such a stage the Postmaster-General, Mr. Mauger, did deal with this matter, and after considering the advice tendered, gave instructions that the applicant should be informed that his application could not be granted. I have failed to find that impression sub’stantiated by the papers, and Senator Pearce assures me that his recollection is that it was the Deputy Postmaster-General ot Western Australia who minuted the papers to that effect. As I have already said, I shall make further inquiries as to the Minister’s attitude with respect to the application, and I hope I shall be able toput some more satisfactory view of thereafter before the honorable senator than that which has been presented by him thisevening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjournedat 10.55p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 February 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19080226_senate_3_43/>.