3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
.- I desire, for the information of the Senate, to read a copy of a cablegram from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to His Excellency the Governor-General. It is as follows : -
Please inform your Ministers that His Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve the appointment of -‘ the Earl of Dudley, G.C.V.O., as Governor-General of the Commonwealth in succession to Your Excellency.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he is in a position to state when the new Governor-General will enter upon the duties of his office? .
– No; not yet.
Senator Colonel NEILD presented a petition from forty-two photographers of New South Wales, praying for a reduction of the proposed duty on sensitized photographic paper.
Petition received and read.
VARDON v. O’LOGHLIN.
– The honorable senator may ask a question.
– I desire to ask the Chairman of the Printing Committee a question with reference to one of the papers in respect of which no recommendation was made in their last report, and that is the judgment of the High Court in the case of Joseph Vardon versus James Vincent O’Loghlin, on a reference by the Senate. I have no doubt that there was a good reason, but I should like to know why no recommendation was made.
– No recommendation was made, because’ the Printing Committee took the view that inasmuch as the judgment, which was incomplete, would, when completed, be published in the Law Reports, every honorable senator would have the opportunity to see it.
– Some time ago, when a report from the Printing Committee was presented, the Vice-President of the Executive Council promised the Senate that he would try to arrange for the Papua Ordinances - which I understood him to say were printed - to be circulated amongst honorable senators. So far I have not yet received any copies, and I should like to know whether he has made an arrangement to have copies circulated as the Ordinances are printed?
– In accordance with my promise, I made the necessary representations to the Department of External Affairs, which I understand has undertaken to carry it out.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to -
That the report from the Printing Committee, presented to the Senate on the19th March, 1908, be adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th March, vide page 9297) :
Division X. - Wood, Wicker, and Cane -
Item 299. Furniture -…….
And on and after5th December, 1907 -
Furniture n.e.i., including any article of wood, or partly of wood, wholly or partly made up or finished and used in any building or premises, including hospitals; also show figures of all kinds, ad val. (General Tariff), 35 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 25 per cent.
– In accordance with the notice I gave, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 299 (imports from the United Kingdom), ad val. 30 per cent.
The object of the request is to bring the preferential duty on this item into harmony with the duty on item 306. At the present time there is a little difficulty in distinguishing between furniture and articles the manufacture of wood, which, under item 306, are dutiable at 35 and 30 per cent.
– Has the Committee passed the duty in the first column?
– Yes. I asked whether there was any request in respect to the duty in the first column, but no honorable senator responded, and so I declared that duty to be passed, whereupon the Minister moved a request to make the duty in the second column 30 per cent.
– I only wish to say that in my opinion the duty is far too high.
– No reason has been given by the Minister or any one else for increasing the rate of duty and thereby lessening, the preference to Great Britain. It should be remembered that we have been cutting down the preferences to the Mother Country as we have been going along. I think that the Minister will find that the preferences are less now than they were when the Committee entered upon its work. I was in hopes that we should enlarge the policy of preference. I understand that we are now considering the -duty in the preference column.
– No; the other is the preference column.
– My honorable friend evidently intends to support the request to increase the duty in order to give more and more protection, and so decrease the preference and any chance we have of reciprocal trade with the Mother Country, and eventually, I hope, with the Empire. It ought to be borne in mind that the natural protection on furniture - in freight and charges - is enormous. I understand that cheap shoddy furniture does not come from Great Britain, because the expenses are so great that it would not pay to export it; but from Continental countries, and from Japan. ‘ We all know that’ many magnificent articles of furniture of various descriptions come from the Mother Country. Many of us have been accustomed to use them, and I . hope that’ we shall use more of the locally-made articles. I do not consider that this enormous duty on British-made furniture ought to be approved. I submit that the Minister of Home Affairs ought to be true to the policy of the Prime Minister, and that we should ‘ make this preference a reality and not a mockery.
– It is true that the Minister gave notice of his intention to move a request in connexion with this item, but surely the Committee is entitled .to some reason, not only for the proposal to increase the duty, but for the action of the Government in departing from the duty proposed elsewhere by the Treasurer, and assented to after a very long discussion. T ask honorable senators to consider whether thetime has not gone by when the mere launching of a proposal in this Chamber should be considered sufficient to secure its acceptance. Apart from merely formal motions every proposal submitted here should be supported by reasons. We should not be asked to increase this duty from 25 to 30 per cent, merely because the Minister thinks it necessary and without any justification for it being stated.
– I regret exceedingly that Senator Millen should have been called away just before I moved the request, and that at the time Senator Dobson should evidently have been engaged upon something else. I pointed out’ that the reason for proposing that the duty on imports from the United Kingdom under this item should be 30 per cent.,- is-, that later on in the Tariff under section 306, “Wood, all materials made of, n.e.i., whether partly or wholly finished,” duties of 35 per cent, under the general Tariff, and 30 ‘ per cent, on imports from, the United Kingdom are imposed, and’ that in some instances it has been found difficult to say whether imports should comeunder the latter item or be admitted asarticles of furniture. It will be agreed that it is extremely desirable that the ratesof duty in respect of both these items; should be the same.
– But the Government, always adopt the higher duty.
– It is in accordance with the universal practice of the Customs Department in cases of doubt as to the proper description .of imports, to levy the higher duty. Honorable senatorswill see that if there were any dispute with importers as to whether articles came under item 306 or the item now under discussion, the importers would be very much- dissatisfied if the decision of the’ Department was that they came under item 306,. and were therefore liable to a higher duty. A considerable impetus has been given to the furniture trade since theintroduction of this Tariff in another place, but there is still a very considerable importation of furniture from the United!
Kingdom, and a very much, larger importation in the aggregate from other countries. I do not think that honorable senators cam disagree with me that it is desirable that articles coming under both of the items to which I have referred, should be made dutiable at the same rate.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) £11.20]. - I have not heard a single word from the Minister that explains the extraordinary attitude of the Government in connexion with this proposal. Senator Keating proposes to increase a duty agreed to in another place without a division. This is another of those cases in which it would appear that Ministers seek to chloroform honorable senators into doing something of which they shall not be conscious. I have here a copy of the notice issued by the Minister in connexion with this item, and it states .that it is the intention of the Minister to propose that the duty under the general Tariff shall be 30 per cent. That’ is to say, honorable senators were informed that it was the intention of the Government to submit a request for a reduction of the duty under the general Tariff ; and now the Minister comes forward and proposes an increase of the duty on imports from the United Kingdom. I ask whether that is fair t’o honorable senators^ What was the purpose of the notice? Was it to entirely mislead the Committee ?
– No, it was not. As a matter of fact my attention was not drawn to the error in the notice’ until Senator Macfarlane pointed it out just now. I do not know whether the error is due to the printer or the clerks, but I do know that the proposal I intended to give notice of was to make the duty 30 per cent, on “imports from the United .Kingdom,
– Because of the character of the notice with which honorable senators were supplied, I did not 1)other to look into the details of the” item. It seemed to me that Ministers would not be disposed to aid any effort to increase the duties. In the circumstances the proposal which has been submitted has found me all unprepared. The least the Minister can do is to agree to the postponement of the item. I cannot believe that the Committee will permit Ministers to play fast and loose in this way. Practically all that the honorable senator has said is this, - “ My honorable- colleague elsewhere agreed to a certain duty which appears in the schedule. I issued a notice to honorable senators the effect of which must have been to mislead them, but in spite of that I ask you now to agree to increase the duty on imports from the United Kingdom from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent.” If the Minister had been able to show that his colleague was under some misapprehension in dealing with the matter elsewhere, or that the industry would be imperilled if the duty were not made higher than 25 per cent., there would have been some justification for the proposal. The whole of the facts connected with the industry go to show that it is established on fairly sound lines. In view of the fact that furniture enters into the requirements of every household in the country, we should hesitate before we arbitrarily impose an additional 5 per cent, of duty on articles included in this item, and especially under the circumstances to which I have referred. I cannot believe that Senator Keating will press his request at this stage in view of the mistake which has been made.
– I have here a carbon copy of the notice as it was sent to the printer. I find that the mistake is due to a printer’s error.
– It does not matter whose error if is.
– Who is hurt by it ?
– I am, and I need speak for no one else. Assuming from the notice issued by the Minister that it was proposed to reduce the duty under the general Tariff, I have failed to make myself acquainted with the facts connected with the industry, as I should .certainly have done if I had known that the proposal was to increase the duty on imports from the United Kingdom. In the circumstances, to tolerate such a proposal as is now made “ would be to sanction and invite the adoption of any and every misleading device. Of course, I accept the assurance of the Minister of Home Affairs that in this case the difficulty is due to an error, but that does not affect the result as far as the Committee is concerned. We came here believing that the Minister intended to propose a reduction of duty, and that at tha worst the Tariff as it stands would be adhered to. Instead of that, we find the honorable senator, without saying a word about the industry, proposing an increase of the duty on imports from the United Kingdom, merely in order to consult the convenience of the Customs Department.
– Because there is a higher duty on an item further on.
– Yes. Let me summarize the facts again. The duty of 25 per cent, on imports from the United Kingdom was proposed by the Government and accepted without ‘ demur elsewhere. Following that we had this misleading notice issued by the Minister, which necessarily disarmed honorable senators on this side, and following that again, the Minister of Home Affairs comes forward to-day and proposes an increase of the duty without any reason or justification. In view of the facts the least the Government could have done was to have looked into the condition of the industry to see whether it disclosed anything that would justify the- increased duty now proposed. The one reason put forward by the Minister for Home Affairs is. that it will simplify Customs administration. Surely there are ways in which that might be done other than by increasing a duty proposed by his own colleague and agreed to in another place. I hope that the Minister will consent to postpone the item, and that if he does not do so the Committee will mark its appreciation of the action which has been taken by rejecting the proposal.
– I regret exceedingly the error which occurred in the notice referred to. I can only say that when my attention was called to it a’ few minutes ago, I called upon an officer to produce the carbon copy of the1 notice sent to the printer. It does not warrant the printing of the notice in the form in which it was circulated. It is a ‘notice of the intention of the Government to request to alter the duty on imports from the United Kingdom to 30 per cent. That being the case, I hope that Senator Millen does not wish to associate the members of the Government with any attempt to blindfold honorable senators. I should like to point out that there has been a great and growing increase in the importations of furniture. I give the total value of the importations for four years commencing with 1903. In 1963 it was £I 43,129; in T904-7 £i79>37o; i» 1905, £196,927; and in 1906, £212,526.
– Has the honorable senator . the figures with respect to local production ?
– I do not think I have figures giving the value of the furniture locally manufactured, but I can give the number of hands employed in the in dustry and the approximate value of the land, buildings, and machinery during the years referred to. The average number of hands” employed in the industry during 1903 was 5,297; in 1904, 5,214; in 1905, 5,422; and in 1906, - 5,890.
– Those figures show a larger increase than -the increase in imports.
– The figures should show an increase, but while there has been a small increase in the number of hands. employed from 5,297 in 1903 to 5,890 in 1906, there was a drop in the number employed in the interval.
– Do’ those figures include Chinese?
– I cannot say. The approximate value of plant and buildings was in 1903 .£90,279 ; in 1904, £81,687; in 1905, £83,824; and in 1906, £86,448.
– It is a magnificent industry, . and yet honorable senators are not content.
– I am pointing out to the honorable senator that’ whereas in 1903 the approximate value -of plant and buildings was- £90,279, in 1906 it had dropped to £86,448. The number of factories in operation was 453. in i9°3> 454 in 1904, 441 in 1905, and in 1906 418. That does .not look as though the industry has been upon the up-grade. To say the very best of it, it has -been stationary.
– With an increase of 600 hands ?
– And a drop in the value of plant and machinery employed, in the value of land and buildings, and in the number of factories in operation, while imports have gone up steadily in four years, from £143,000 to £212,000 in value. Those are facts which honorable senators will,. I am sure, appreciate at their proper value. They will realize that it is necessary to afford adequate p’rotection to this most desirable industry. I hope that honorable senators will not be influenced, as Senator Dobson seems- to be, by the fact that an error has occurred in the notice of motion,- for which neither the officers nor the members of the Ministry are responsible, but will be disposed to make the duty 30 per cent, in the second column, and so bring the rates in respect of furniture into harmony with those in regard to manufactures of wood generally.
– No one can fairly attach to what has been clearly shown to be a printer’s error, the importance that Senator Millen seems to attach to it. lt is peculiar that when the duty in the first column came before the Committee, although the notice of request had been circulated in that erroneous form, no one made any demur, and the duty was passed.
– I did.
– The honorable senator rose after the duty had been passed. He must have been so engrossed in the peculiarities of the notice that he failed to rise at the right time. If there was so great an eagerness to reduce the duty in the first column, every member of the Opposition who desired to see that reduced duty carried should have been ready to jump up and move it when the Minister did not, but they sat still until the thing was done. The Minister now desires to remove an anomaly, which will be created if we agree to -a 25 per cent, duty in the second column, on this item, unless something is done in regard to item 306. I have had the figures read out by the Minister, with regard to the great increase in the value of importations, in mind for a long time, and I am convinced that it is our duty, in the interests of the furniture trade of Australia, to increase rather than diminish the protection given. The only alternative to increasing the duty in the second column from 25 to 30 per cent, is to reduce the corresponding duty on item 306 from 30 to 25 per cent. In view of the figures that have been placed before the Committee, I ask honorable senators who are protectionists whether they will still further increase the possibilities of importation by refusing! to raise this duty, or take the course which the Minister now advocates. I leave the position at that.
– I hope the Minister will have the good sense not to press the request. I, in common with several other honorable senators, was misled by the notice issued in his name.
– The honorable senator made no manifestation that he was misled, because when he was on his feet he only said that the duty was far too high.
– I admit that I was inattentive, but I thought the Minister had already moved the request. Now he does not move that of which he gave notice, but another, because there is an anomaly further on. The proper . place to remedy that anomaly is in item 306. Another good reason why the Minister should not press the request is to be found in the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. The recommendation of the protectionist section as summarized in the papers before us is “ Crumb trays, and Brushes, 25 per cent, j Balance, 30 per cent.” The free-trade section recommend 20 .per cent. Surely the Minister could accept 25 per cent, as the duty against Great Britain, having secured 35 per cent, against the rest of the world. Thirty-five per cent, is not an ordinary duty, but is enormously high on first cost. A great increase of exports is a great help to manufacturers in this country. As some, if not all, of us have been misled by the mistake which -was made by the Government they should not press the request.
Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) [11.37J. - The duty, if it accomplishes the object which it is designed to accomplish, will lead to the expenditure of at least another £150,000 a year in wages in Australia. Even Senator Dobson will admit, that that is an important consideration.
– The duty proposed will not do it.
– I think it will. If it will not, that is a reason why we should make it higher. The honorable senator cannot say that there is anything in furniture, or other wood-work, that cannot be done in Australia as well as anywhere else in the world.
– Under a lower duty the New South Wales factories got on better than did the Victorian.
– ‘I am delighted to know that the New South Wales factories have got on well, but the figures show that we are importing over ^200,000 worth of furniture, the major portion of the cost of production of which is labour. A duty that would preclude that importation, and lead to the production. locally of duplicates of it, should cause at least another ;£i 50,000 per annum to be expended in wages in the Commonwealth.
– Has not the Minister shown that the number of hands has increased ?
– Yes, but the fact that we could spend another ^150,000 each year in wages is a proof that they have not increased sufficiently.
– Who says that that extra money will be spent?
– I do not state it as an ascertained fact, but it is a reasonable computation from our knowledge that furniture becomes excessively high in price only because of the highly skilled and expensive labour employed upon it. The mere wood in high-class furniture is a very small consideration in the aggregate cost. It is, therefore, a reasonable assumption that at least two-thirds of the value of high-class furniture is represented. by wages of one sort or another. This session is being devoted to creating a Tariff that will lead to the increase of employment of our own people.
– Should not the consumer be considered?
– I do not now propose to discuss that aspect of the question. I have done it frequently, and honorable senators opposite are never able to show how the consumer suffers. They continually declare that he must, and that a duty is a tax which he must bear. There is no justification for that declaration, and no person has ever attempted to prove that it is true.
– As some honorable senators have sought to raise a quibble about the fact that no one raised an objection in regard to the duty in the first column, may I point out that at that- time I received a card from a gentleman from London who was just passing through and wished to see me? I should not have gone out even then but for the fact that the notice of request circulated by the Minister was in my hand. I assumed that he would move it in regard to the first column, and th.at as some little time would be occupied on it I could safely leave the Chamber. But for that notice I should have waited a little longer before going out.
– It is admitted that you were misled.
– Then, in the circumstances, the least the Minister can do is to postpone the item. He has given us no information. This duty was imposed elsewhere on the proposition of the Minister’s own colleague. This is another of the cases where the Government have made an arrangement elsewhere and flagrantly broken it here. The Vice-President of the Executive Council assured the Committee the other day that where an arrangement of that kind had been arrived at he would not depart from it. The Minister of Home Affairs is departing from this arrangement now. If he had looked to see what actually happened elsewhere, I am sure he would not have proposed to increase the duty. He has done it, on his own showing, with the one object of simplifying departmental administration. There are three ways in. which that could be done. The fact that he has taken only this way leads me to doubt altogether the sincerity of his declaration that he has done it for departmental reasons. The three ways are the way the Minister has taken, the bringing of the duty down to 25 per cent, in item 306, and the splitting of the difference. If the real reason was an honest desire merely to overcome a departmental difficulty, the Minister could have shown the Committee that the difficulty existed and asked it tobring the two items into uniformity by splitting the difference. That would have been a fair, honest, and reasonable course to pursue, involving a reduction of 2J per cent, in one case and an increase of 2L per cent, in the other. The Minister, instead of doing that, has moved to raise the already high duty of 25 per cent. to> 30 per cent, on these articles when imported from the United Kingdom.
– Not a cent teo high.
– It is interesting to hear that declaration, because the sooner the people of Australia understand that the professed advocates of Australian in,dustries regard duties of 25, 30, and even 40 per cent, as a mere bagatelle, the better.’
– When imports are increasing, the duty must be too small.
– They are increasing; for the very simple and satisfactory reason” that we have had abnormally prosperous times during the last three or four years. The demand which sprang from every household in the country consequent on that measure of prosperity was more than the local manufacturers could supply.
– I say no, emphati-ca 11 y . Furniture makers have been out of employment during the whole time.
– That may be true in the case of this Chinese-infested city of Melbourne, but the reason for that is not far to seek. The cabinet-making trade of Victoria is in the hands of the Chinese, through the action of the manufacturing; furniture makers themselves in the days of’ the old Victorian Tariff. The manufacturers are responsible for all the trouble from which they are suffering. They were given by the State Parliament a high measure of protection.. What did they do theo? Did they keep their faith with the State? No. Instead of saying “The State has treated us generously by giving us a high measure of protection, and we will see that the white workers share that benefit,” they became the instigators of the employment of Chinese in the trade in order that the whole of the benefit resulting from the high Tariff might be turned into their own pockets, leaving the white workers to walk the streets unemployed. Having introduced the Chinese into the industry, they are now suffering from the competition which the Chinese themselves have set up.
– We will remedy that.
– This duty will not remedy that. It will have the effect of giving more employment to the Chinese.
– The Chinese will soon die off.
– But we have honorable senators saying that the Chinese are still pouring into Australia notwithstanding the efforts made to keep them out. If we may judge from the allegations made here, there is still a constant influx of them to this country. But I come back to my original point. It is this. It is affirmed that the duty of 25 per cent, is not high enough. Yet this industry has, in my own State, made more progress than in any other State, in the Union, and it took its start and commenced to develop there without any duty at all. We have to-day in Sydney, I am proud to say, the soundest, most progressive and most up-to-date furniture industry in the whole Commonwealth. It has never depended upon the Chinese either at its commencement or during its growth.
– There are no Chinese in Sydney, I suppose?
– I never said that. We know perfectly well that, as in regard to other undesirable products, the Chinese have over-spilled into other States from Victoria. It is a pleasure to pass through such a great establishment as Hordern’s and to know that it has been built up without any resort to Tariffs or to the labour of underpaid Chinamen.
– They underpay white workers, though.
– And’ they import from Japan.
– If the honorable senator would look at the figures he would be surprised, as I was when I consulted them, to find that he has made a mistake. I assumed that the imports were tremendous, but unlike the honorable senator I did not rest upon an assumption; I looked up the figures for myself.
– Hordern ‘s get their printing done in Japan.
– Their advertising matter is printed in Japan.
– The honorable senator might as well say that he gets his clothes made in the Straits Settlements. The one statement is just as much to the point as the other. We are dealing now with a proposal made by the Government under questionable circumstances, and have to determine whether a duty of 25 per cent, is high enough. No one has ventured to say that under a duty of 20 per cent, the industry has not been doing well. If it can be shown, as undoubtedly it can be, that the industry is making steady and satisfactory progress, I ask honorable senators to say whether we are justified in putting an impost on every home in the country by giving an additional 5 per cent, to men who are already doing very well indeed. The effect of this increased duty will undoubtedly .be to do exactly what Senator Trenwith wants - that is, to shut out imports. But, more “than that, it will have the effect of creating higher prices.
– We have heard all that before.
– And it is admitted.
– Even if ‘it did, would that be a great pity?
– The honorable senator does not think it is a pity to put on a tax which will undoubtedly increase the price of the furniture used in every home in this country. The sooner the people of this country understand the extent of the burdens that are being placed upon them the sooner will this Tariff be torn up.. Here are proposed duties of 25 per cent, and 35 per cent, on furniture, an advantage for the local manufacturers of 5s. in the £1, taking the lower rate of duty. Surely when we say to the trade in Australia”. “ We will give you 5s. in every pound advantage over your competitors oversea,” that ought to satisfy them. I do not believe that honorable senators who are struggling for these higher duties on an industry that is concentrated in the big cities of this Commonwealth realize all that they are doing. It is neither fair to the States nor is it fair to the cities themselves. The people in the back country are already sufficiently handicapped by this Tariff.
– They are handicapped in other ways,, and we want to make their handicap less.
– I know that the honorable senator contends that the effect of every duty is to lower the price of the article on which it is placed. But there are other honorable senators, just as strong protectionists as he is, but more clearsighted and more candid, who know that such is not the case.
– They, perhaps, do not know enough.
– The honorable senator knows more about that kind of stuff that pays on the public platform, but the other honorable senators to whom I refer probably know more than he does about economic principles. Many even of the strong protectionists in this Chamber have said candidly that they do not hold the doctrine that duties lower prices. Many of them have admitted that the effect of duties is to” increase prices, though they contend that advantages are secured in other directions. As they admit that the effect of duties is to raise prices on the 298 items of the Tariff we have so far dealt with, is it not a fair assumption that an increased duty will raise prices also on the item under discussion? If it could be shown that the industry was suffering under the present duty there might be reason for the increase. But we have had no opportunity of judging of what the effect of a 25 per cent, duty would be. The duty hitherto has been 20 per cent. Now it is proposed to give the manufacturers the benefit of another 5 per cent. - surely a reasonable and sufficient advance, seeing that under the old rate the industry has been progressing. I ask the Committee to get away from the idea that even protectionists are bound to vote for the highest duty every time. Is there no limit to the figure to which some of my honorable friends opposite will go? Of course, I am well aware that Senator Trenwith would accept a duty of 40 per cent, if any one would propose it. He would support 35 per cent, if he could get that, and he would only consent to 30 per cent, if he could get no more.
– ‘ The honorable senator is quite right.
– No matter what duties are proposed, the honorable senator will always vote for the highest.
– And the honorable senator will always vote for the lowest.
– Quite true; in fact, I regard these duties as an unjust impost.
– Except in regard to steel rails.
– The honorable senator goes as far as he can on the other side and I do on this.
– My’ honorable friend is quite right, but whilst there is a limit beyond which I cannot go there is no limit with him.
– The honorable senator cannot go beyond nothing, of course.
– I am .limited in the direction in which I want to go, whereas the honorable senator has practically an unlimited field to roam over.
– The honorable senator’s limit is bounded by a circle.
– Around which Senator Trenwith frequently winds. I ask the Committee to say that duties of 25 per cent, and 30 per cent, are quite sufficient for an industry which has progressed admirably under a 20 per cent. duty. But we are now asked to make the rates 35 per cent, and 30 per cent. If honorable senators think with the Minister that it is desirable to bring items 299 and 306 into uniformity, and are not prepared to reduce item 306, as I should like to do, let them- take a fair and reasonable course and split the difference. Let them increase the duty before us by 2 *</inline> per cent.- and reduce the other by
– That is the way they buy horses and cows.
– There is just as much to bc said’, if we are discussing this matter from the stand-point of arriving at a fair duty, for reducing the one as for increasing the other. I can quite understand that if I proposed to reduce the duty on item 306 in order to remove the departmental difficulty I should be met by an objection from honorable senators opposite. I say now, therefore, that the proper way to get over the difficulty would be to split the difference, and I am suggesting tothose who wish to assist the Ministry that they should propose a modification of the present duty, increasing item 299 bv i per cent, and decreasing item 306 by the same amount.
– I hope that the Government will stand by their request. To Senator Millen I extend my sympathy in respect to what has occurred this morning. Owing to an unfortunate little bit of pasteboard being handed in to him - I suppose by some British manufacturer or other; I do not suppose it was from the new Governor-General - the honorable senator left the chamber for a few minutes. During the time he was absent it appears that there was no one in his party who was competent to attend to the business. Consequently he has complained that the request was sprung upon the Committee by the Government.
– Sprung upon a misled Committee.
– Sitting alongside the honorable senator is Senator Macfarlane, the deputy leader of the same party.
– Close to his elbow is another honorable senator who is always ready to do his duty, Senator Dobson. Yet in Senator Millen’s absence things will go slap-bang - everything all wrong ! I really hope that Senator Millen is not becoming egotistical. With regard to the duty itself I contend, from information that I have received, that the increase proposed will result in an increase of employment, whilst it will not increase the price of furniture. I, therefore, support it, and I do so on principle. I hope that Senator Millen will see his way clear to apologize to some members of his party whom he treats as mere weaklings that cannot be trusted during his absence, of even two minutes at a time. I trust that he will cool down and see himself as others see him.
– I am in favour of a reasonable duty being imposed on furniture. There is no industry to which we can put our young people that is more appropriate and more fit for this country than is that of woodwork. In all the State schools the authorities are introducing the Sloyd system of using tools, but it is not sufficient to teach the lads the use of tools unless we find them some work on which they can operate later on. The State schools exist for the purpose of training the young people in everything which will help to build up the Commonwealth - not merely to teachthem the three R’s, but to teach them how to make their liv ing after they have left school. Unfortunately, the encouragement which is being given to the manufacture of furniture by duties, more especially in Victoria, has brought about deplorable results in that the trade is almost monopolized by the Chinese. I do not know what is the position in Melbourne warehouses, but in every country warehouse one visits he will find for one article of furniture made by Europeans, thirty or forty articles made by Chinese.
– Not in Adelaide.
– In fact,one cannot get European-made articles if he wants them. The warehousemen will not do business with the Europeans because they say, “ We cannot sell the goods at a profit on the price which we have to pay for them,” and consequently thewhole of Victoria is supplied with Chinese-made furniture. To that extent, therefore, this is really a Chinese duty. It is helping the Chinese’ to a much greater extent than it is helping the white men. That is the position of affairs into which we have fallen. We cannot help ourselves. How it has come about it is hard to say. When I was in Adelaide a few months ago I had the pleasure of making an examination of Pengelley’s factory. It charmed me to go through the place, see the work which was done, and observe the conditions under which the men work.
– Do they want more protection ?
– No; they told me that they were not particular about the duties. They said, “ We have not been crying out for duties at all, because we simply command the market. Chinamen cannot live in Adelaide in competition with us.” But things are quite different in Victoria, and to a certain extent in Sydney, though perhaps, not so bad there as here. Pengelley’s firm command the market in Adelaide simply because they have secured the most uptodate machinery which is to be had. Whenever a new tool is invented their factory is equipped with one. The work which they do is first class ; they pay most excellent wages, and Chinamen cannot live there. There is another phase of this question to be considered, and that is the volume of imports. I am in favour of leaving the preferential duty as it is, because I find that out of the £2 12,526 worth of importations in 1906, £118,561 came from three countries, namely, from Germany, £60,357 worth; from Japan; , £13,851 worth; and from the United States, £44,353 worth. It will be seen that if we bring the duties in the two columns close together we shall be helping the foreigner as against the Old Country.
– Oh, no. We are giving the British maker a 5 per cent, preference which he never had before.
– I do not care what rate of duty is put in the first column ; honorable senators can increase that duty by 5 per cent, if they like ; but I want to see the duty in the preferential column left as it is, so that the work may be divided as much as possible between the Old Land and Australia. I trust that the Committee will negative the request. But Ido not anticipate that it will, because most unfortunately we have an anti-preference party here who vote anti-preference every time they are asked to vote preference.
– We have an antiAustralian party here.
– We have not.
– Yes, we have.
– That cock will not light. The honorable senator jars and jibes; he is the “ Snarley Yow “ of the Senate.
– The honorable senator was sent here to legislate for Australia.
– My votes will show that I legislate for Australia, and do not run away from my principles when it is a question affecting Western Australia. The honorable senator is absolutely the most geographical protectionist in the chamber. I never interrupt honorable senators when they are speaking, but one or two honorable senators seem to have a fancy for interrupting me when I am speaking. I desire to secure a preference to the Old Land, and of course we have here a section - the anti-British party - who have not that desire, and no doubt they will carry the motion. I trust that if the duty is altered another place will rectify our mistake. I am prepared to help the woodworkers of this country as much as I possibly can. At the same time, when I help them I want to help the Old Country. I do not want to help either the foreigner outside or the Chinaman inside, but unfortunately we have to do it.
.- Every time that Senator McColl gets an opportunity he charges certain members of the Committee with being anti-British in the belief probably that his statement will be paraded far and wide, particularly in respect to members of the Labour Party.
– The honorable senator has only to look to the votes to see that it is correct.
– The honorable senator is playing to the voters of Victoria, or, to use the vernacular, to the gallery, and he has played the tune so long in this chamber that honorable senators must be sick and tired of hearing it.
– It is as good as the anti-Australian cry, anyhow.
– There is not a member of the Labour Party who is not first and foremost, from head to heel, in regard to fiscalism, a patriotic Australian. There are certain senators of the type of Senator McColl who breaks away from the Australian policy, and in order to cover up his tracks–
– Order ! The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the question before the Committee.
– I will. In order to cover up his tracks the honorable senator made an attack upon honorable senators sitting on this side, charging them with being anti-British.
– I am not breaking away now, because I am supporting the duty.
– The honorable senator can support the duty without making an incorrect statement, and manifestly unfair un-British and un-Australian charges.
– It is men of the McColl type whom we have to thank for so many Chinese being in Victoria to-day.
– That is an absolute lie.
– If it had not been for the Labour Party, the Chinese would have had a monopoly of the furniture trade in Victoria to-day.
– They have nearly all the trade.
– Unfortunately, they have a large command of the trade. Some honorable senators would make certain persons believe that they extremely regret that the Chinese have such a large command of this trade to-day. They use expressions of regret here and yet, when they had opportunities to try to prevent inroads so far as Chinese competition was concerned they did not lift a helping hand or raise their voices until a strong and vigorous agitation was started by the Labour Party, some of whom are designated by Senator McColl as anti-British.
– Is the honorable senator speaking in regard to the importation of Chinese?
– I am.
– When the honorable senator was toddling about the nursery, men had dealt with the. Chinese problem.
– In what way?
– Sir Henry Parkes set aside the Constitution in order to stop them coming in.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the Chinese question, except in so far as it affects furniture. I ask him to connect his remarks with the item.
– It has been said, sir, that I was in my infantile days–
– Second childhood.
– The honorable senator has already reached that stage ; but no one takes any serious notice of him, either in or out of the Committee.
– Order !
– The honorable senator makes a consummate ass of himself on most occasions.
– I rise to order. I want to know, sir, whether such phraseology is parliamentary? I request a withdrawal of the words.
- Senator Findley is out of order in referring to an honorable senator in those terms, and I ask him to withdraw them.
– I withdraw the words, but I still think that the honorable senator does it occasionally.
– The remark was evoked by the same sort of interjection.
– I suggest to honorable senators that they should refrain from making interjections, because every one will have a full opportunity to express his opinion. If interjections are made especially with a view to interrupt a speaker, and not to elucidate some point, they will only cause exhibitions of temper, and result in both sides being inconvenienced. I hope that honorable senators will extend to each other that courtesy which they all have a right to claim.
– All interjections are, I know, disorderly, but I was replying to one which was made by Senator Millen to the effect that Sir Henry Parkes, a prominent Australian politician for many years, did much to prevent the introduction of Chinese into different parts of the Continent I have not heard of. Sir Henry Parkes, or any member of his party - after the Chinese had arrived in different parts of Australia - having passed any kind of legislation that restricted them, in respect to the hours during which they might employ themselves, or the conditions under which they might be engaged. So far as my memory serves me, it was not until the members of the Labour Party started an agitation against the manifestly unfair and acute competition of the Chinese in the furniture and other lines of industry, that certain sympathizers came along, so to speak, at the flood-tide of the agitation. It is true, unfortunately, that in Victoria there is a considerable army of Chinese, who are fully employed year in and year out in connexion with the making of furniture, whilst a number of highly-skilled well-trained white men, are unable to find employment. It is said that in another State the European manufacturers have driven the Chinese out of that particular line. When one asks the reasons why the Europeans have triumphed over the Chinese in. South Australia, he is told that it is because the furniture manufacturers in that State have more up-to-date appliances and machinery. If that statement be true, it is, I think,a very severe reflection upon the Victorian manufacturers. But I can hardly believe that it is true.
– But in South Australia they have only one furniture factory.
– In Victoria they have none.
– In Victoria they have only the Chinese shops in Little Bourkestreet.
– What is the good of my honorable friends saying that in Victoria the furniture-makers are all Chinese and that we have not a European factory.
– Where is there one ?
– I should say that. Foy and. Gibson are extensive makers of furniture.
– Chinese make most of their furniture for them.
– I should say that Chas. Johnstone and Sons, of Fitzroy, who advertise, their wares, and proclaim broadcast that all their furniture is made by white men under white men’s conditions, are as much up-to-date as are the manufacturers in South Australia.
– And Tye and Company.
– I am not sure that all the furniture which is retailed by Tye and Company is made by union men under union conditions. But I cannot, by any stretch of imagination, believe that in Australia there is only one up-to-date furnituremaking factory. Nor can .1 believe the statement which has been made that the South Australian manufacturer is sending his wares into Victoria, underselling the local manufacturer, and obtaining a market which Victorian makers have not yet succeeded in capturing. I agree with Senator McColl that this is an industry which deserves, and should receive, ample encouragement. We have Chinese competition to face within, and we can in a measure control and supervise it. But unless we impose the highest duties on imported furniture, we shall also have to face the competition of Chinese and Japanese and of white labour in other countries which, unfortunately, is poorly paid. The large importations of furniture which are made every year should convince those who are in a state of indecision that the factories in existence to-day in Australia are not working as fully as they might be, or as they would under higher import duties. I venture to say that there is no article of furniture imported which could not be matched by furniture made in Australia.
– And there is no furniture imported that competes with locally-made furniture manufactured by Chinese.
– The high-class furniture turned out by Australian workmen has won the admiration of people who have travelled in various parts of the world. For workmanship and durability the furniture made by Australian workmen cannot be excelled. I agree that it is in. connexion with the cheaper furniture that the competition of the Chinese is most severely felt, and it is an unfortunate thing that’ people without information are often “ taken down “ by being induced to purchase Chinese-made furniture, which has all the outward appearance of the superior article. Not long ago I required a small suite for a bedroom. I went to a sixstoried Victorian warehouse,” and although every flat was well-stocked with furniture of various kinds, the salesman attending me, knowing that on principle I would not purchase any furniture made by Chinese, told me that in the whole of that building there was only one suite made by white men under white men’s conditions. I purchased that suite of three pieces for £13, but. alongside of it there was a suite simi lar in appearance made by Chinese, and saleable at £8 15s. The average purchaser with a limited purse entering such a warehouse might not take the trouble to inquire whether the furniture he proposed to buy was made by Europeans or Chinese, and if he did inquire it is probable that his purse would not enable him to obtain the kind of furniture that I purchased. Another thing which might be mentioned is that locally-made furniture must bear a stamp. “
– It is a very small one.
– It is, indeed ; and what is more, it can be easily erased. I venture to say that if any one were to inspect the furniture in some of our hotels they would scarcely find a stamp on any of it to show whether it was made by Chinese or Europeans. I hope the Committee will agree to the duty now proposed. This should be one of the finest industries in Australia, but unfortunately it is not. For a long period of time there have been very few if any apprentices indentured to the trade. In Victoria the industry has been severely handicapped by the acute competition of the Chinese, but as a result of restrictive legislation passed a few years ago it is now in a better condition than it was for a considerable period of time before. With the measure of protection now proposed, and the exercise of a little more patriotism by Australian people in the purchase of Australian commodities made by Australian workmen under Australian conditions, a new vista should be opened up to this industry, which has too long had to suffer from the competition of Chinese-made furniture within and the large importations of cheaply-made furniture from abroad.
– Whilst on general principles I am prepared to support a reasonable preference to the manufacturers of the Old Country, I think that a preference of 10 per cent, on this item is so high as to amount to a forcing of the principle of protection on people who at the most recent general elections in Great Britain, repudiated that policy. In the circumstances, we are not justified in forcing upon the Old Country a preference of 10 per cent. A preference of 5 per cent, is the highest preference I am prepared to support. I wish here to say that if certain honorable senators continue the practice of hurling insults at those who differ from them as to the amount of preference which should be accorded to the United Kingdom and speaking of them as being “anti-British,” they must expect that we shall on every such occasion taunt them in return with being “ anti- Australian. “
– One taunt is as bad as the other.
– I am giving’ cer-. tain honorable senators, a hint that if they are going to be so free in their language they can look out for retaliation.
– That is to say, the honorable senator wants freedom, but no one else is to have it.
– Not at all. The little friction that was caused here a few moments ago was due to the remarks of the honorable senator who was addressing the Committee at the time, and’ to the fact that he taunted honorable senators who are not prepared to vote for a higher preference than 5 per cent, with being “ antiBritish.”
– And when we ask for more than 5 per cent, preference honorable senators on the other side call us “ anti-Australian.” What is the difference ?
– I wish just to say that if honorable senators continue to indulge in these epithets I shall retaliate. I am sorry that the honorable senator to whom I am specially referring is not in his place. If he were I should probably say something more to the point. In this matter, if we legislate for Australia, we shall have done our duty, but by extending the principle of preference too far we shall be legislating against their will for people in the United Kingdom, for whom we are not called upon to legislate. Honorable senators are aware that some time ago representations were made by a section of members of the British Parliament begging us not to force the principle of protection upon the United Kingdom. That should not be forgotten, and as- apparently the people of the Old Country do not desire preference for their manufactures, why should we force upon them a preference to the extent of 10 per cent. ?
– It is the Prime Minister’s policy.
– It is not the Prime Minister’s policy. The honorable gentleman’s policy is before us at the present time in the proposal to make the preference 5 per cent.
– That is not so, because Sir William Lyne, in another place, submitted the duty which Ministers here are seeking to alter.
– I dare say that Ministers have discovered good reasons for reducing the preference to 5 per cent. -I am with them in what is now proposed, because I think a preference of 5 per cent, on this item is reasonable. With regard to the employment of Chinese in this industry in Australia, it is unfortunate that we cannot deal with the matter. I hope that the new protection policy will afford us the opportunity to deal with it which so many of us desire. We shall then see how far honorable senators are prepared to go in wiping out the alien curse which we all deplore. I have heard that manufacturers of furniture in South Australia are able, after paying freight on their furniture from Adelaide to Melbourne, to compete successfully here with furniture made bv Chinese in this city.
– Is the- honorable senator referring to Mr. Matthias’ factory?
– No, I am referring to Pengelley’s factory in Adelaide. I understand that, although in that factory union rates of wages are paid, they are able to send furniture to Melbourne and compete on the spot with Chinese-made furniture. If that is so, it is clear that the Melbourne manufacturers must bring their business more up-to-date by adopting new ideas and better machinery. If they do not take advantage of up-to-date ideas, their trade .will go to makers in other States, and rightly so. A fair amount of protection must be given to the industry. The pity is that there are so many Chinese in the trade, but we must try to keep the work in Australia as much as possible. There is a large importation of foreignmade furniture to- Western Australia, but I hope that with an increased duty, and an extension of the principles of the new protection, we shall be able in that State to keep “that foreign-made furniture out. Tho industry of furniture making is one that will stand a great deal of expansion in Australia, particular.lv amongst the white section of the population. I shall support the- Government’s proposal to reduce the margin of preference to 5 per cent.
– One important factor which” may determine some honorable senators to vote with the Government on this matter is the quotation by the Minister’ of the increase of importations in the years 1903-6. The Minister played that argument as his strongest card, but honorable senatorson this side have pointed out continuously by interjection that importations, not only of furniture, but of other articles, were bound to increase, because those were years of exceptional prosperity. If we have four or five more such years, as we may all fervently hope, the importations of furniture, and of many other articles which might be called the necessaries, or utilities, or even the luxuries of life, will continue to increase. That was never more signally demonstrated than during the last six or seven years of the operation of the McKinley Tariff in the United States of America. Although that Tariff was remarkably high, and was intended to prohibit, as far as possible, the importation from abroad of goods which could be manufactured in America, the importations into the United States increased during those years ofprosperity. Therefore, the argument that the duty should be increased in order to stop importations is fallacious. Given prosperity in Australia, the importations of furniture will increase no matter what duty is imposed. The question of preference has been introduced into this argument. On the other side of the Chamber there is not a very marked regard for British preference, while on this side there is,perhaps, a fairly strong one. I do not wish to use the terms “anti-British” and “antiAustralian.” I hope they will be buried. They have already been too much used in this Chamber by those who get into theunfortunate habit of calling their opponent’s names when arguments are lacking. The Prime Minister went to Great Britain, and stated that he had a mandate from the people of Australia to ask the people there to consider the desirability of our introducing a special column in the Tariff to assist the industries of the United Kingdom. He received the answer that it was the business of Australia to make its own Tariff. The Prime Minister asked the people of Australia to indorse that policy, and there is a strong party in this Parliament who support his scheme of preference. In regard to this item, a large portion of the £220,000 worth of imported furniture comes from Great Britain, and we can - not settle the duties in the two columnson this item without having a general regard to the whole preference policy of the Government. When we are told by honorable senators opposite that it is not our duty to consider our relationship to Great Britain on this or any other item, our answer to that is that the Prime Minister has asked us to do so. Another strong argument advanced on the other side fort he increase of this duty is that Victoria in particular is suffering in this trade from the competition of Chinese.
– This increase of duty is to protect the Chinese.
– I should have thought so. I believe the question was dealt with in the reports of the Tariff Commission, and certainly in another place it was pointed out that the imposition of a high duty on furniture would result in increasing the profits of the Chinese makers or of the sellers of Chinese-made furniture. I object to increasing the duty upon furniture on account of a social condition which, if what Victorian senators say is true, is deplorable. The Committee should not be asked to saddle the whole of, Australia with a burden in order to overcome a difficulty of that kind, especially when we have reason and common-sense on our side in claiming that even if that deplorable social condition exists, the imposition of an increased duty will not relieve, but will rather aggravate it. Victorian senators are not legislating wisely for the Commonwealth, or even for Victoria, in voting for an increase of this duty. They are not even assisting the white workers in the trade, for it will simply accentuate the undesirable conditions which every one of us would seek to avoid. It has been suggested that Victoria could be relieved of this special difficulty by the imposition of an Excise duty on these particular articles. That would raise an important question, one aspect of which is now under the consideration of the High Court.
– Are there not proportionately as many Chinese furniture-makers in Queensland as in Victoria?
– I doubt it very much. If the honorable senator wishes to drag his own State into an unenviable comparison, he can do so, for there is no abler exponent of that policy than he is. I never was an advocate of Chinese competition, I would like to relieve the white men everywhere as much as I can from competition with a more or less deplorable class of labour. If it is necessary to take some steps on account of the position of the Chinese in the Victorian furniture trade, let us deal with that exceptional difficulty by itself, and in an exceptional way, just as we dealt with another difficulty in another Victorian industry. It may have to be decided whether constitutionally such legislation is within our power, . but that consideration did not prevent this Parliament from attempting to deal with the other case to which I have referred. The competition of the Chinese in the furniture trade is the main reason now adduced, especially by Victorian senators, for the proposed increase of duty.
– Which’ Victorian urged that?
– It would be invidious to particularize, but I believe that all of them did. I thought that Senator Trenwith was an especial sinner in that respect.
– Unfortunately I always forget Victoria when I am speaking. I have a broader outlook.
– I will pay the honorable senator the compliment of saying that what he forgets about Victoria when dealing with a protective Tariff, is not worth remembering. I would suggest that before this item is finally disposed of, if Chinese competition is the principal difficulty in Victoria, and if Senator Turley thinks that it is also the difficulty in Queensland, we might ascertain whether we have the power to deal with it in a special way. Surely we can so frame the item if the Committee desires it, but I protest strongly against imposing a large duty upon what are utilities, and almost necessaries of life, on account of that admittedly important social factor. The Minister urged as another reason for the request the convenience of the Department in the administration of the Tariff. The convenience of a public Department will always receive proper attention from Parliament, but must give way to the enormous interests involved in this item, the importations of furniture amounting in value to ^212,000 per annum. We must either give the Government sufficient officials to enable the difficulty to be got over, or find other officials who can get over it. Any departmental difficulty must give way to the great interests of the public. I have received communications from Queensland with reference to this matter, and I dare say other honorable senators have received similar documents from every large importing firm in Australia. I shall read one or two rather significant extracts from the letter of Messrs. Laycock, Littledike, and Company.
They are furniture manufacturers and importers, and have been carrying on a fairly extensive business in Brisbane. Writing to me as far back as 27 th August of last year, they say -
In the past we have always considered chairs as amply protected with a duty of 20 per cent., taking into consideration the fact that there was additional protection to the extent of 50 per cent, in ocean freights and shipping charges, making in all a protection equal to 75 per cent.
– Is that a fair statement to make?
– I am not identifying’ myself with the statement, but it comes from a reputable firm.
– Does the honorable senator think that it is a reputable statement?
– I think it is a fair statement. It certainly is significant that these manufacturers consider that a duty of 20 per cent, is very high, and that the cumulative effect of it is 75 per cent. If we increase the duties to 35 and 30 per cent, the total protection must run up to nearly too per cent. I am not aware that any large manufacturers of furniture have made a strong demand, either to the Tariff Commission or to Parliament, for such increases of duty. Senator Guthrie himself, in the early part of the debate, pointed out that one firm in South Australia have been so successful in furniture making that they are able to export to other States.
– The explanation is that there is no Wages Board in the trade there.
– The explanation is simply that enterprise and improved machinery can beat the Chinaman every time.
– I should think so. If our industries are not able to beat the Chinaman on his own ground, they will have to go down.
– Why did the honorable senator want a duty on bananas then?
– The banana is made to serve the purposes of a redherring by honorable senators opposite. I always feel comforted when I am addressing myself to a question, and am doubting whether I am getting to the heart of it, byrne wail about bananas from the other side. When honorable senators show a disposition to cram bananas down my throat, I feel that I am getting home. Another statement in this letter is -
Had we the necessary labour here with the above protection -
That is20 per cent. - we could have manufactured some classes of chairs, but certainly not Austrian chairs, and at the same time paid good wages.But this lack of suitable labour has prevented us from doing so.
There is a great deal of force in that contention. One of the difficulties in dealing with furniture is that we have not sufficient skilled labour in Australia.
– Would the honorable senator put one of his sons to the furniture trade to compete with Chinese?
– My answer must be that my son’s intelligence and industry will probably determine the occupation to which he will go ; and if he is, as I hope he is, possessed of the same grit as his father, he will not be afraid of competition from black, white, or yellow people.
– And the same crawlsomeness.
– Will the honorable senator kindly repeat that?
– I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that Senator Turley, when I stated that I hoped that my son would show the same grit as his father, interjected, “ And the same crawlsomeness. “
– I thought the honorable senator did not hear it.
– I heard it, and I ask that the remark shall be withdrawn.
– If Senator Turley used that word, he must withdraw it.
– I used the word, and, in compliance with the Standing Orders, I will withdraw it.
– It is almost unpardonable that such insulting language should be used. If the honorable senator enters upon a game of this kind, he will find that he is meeting a foeman worthy of his steel. I was pointing out that one way of developing our industries, such as the furniture-making trade, would be for the Commonwealth Government, or the States Governments, to apply themselves to the question of the immigration of skilled or unskilled labour. I must compliment the writer of the letter from which I have been quoting on taking advantage of the opportunity of pointing out what I believe to be the real difficulty. It is not by means of duties alone that we shall solve our difficulties, but by giving close attention to such arguments as have been adduced from this side of the Chamber. I venture to think that our arguments, so far as the question of competition from the Chinese are concerned, are absolutely unanswerable.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I think that honorable senators on this side of the chamber have made out a very strong case for not making the duty on this item, notwithstanding the wish of the Minister, higher than was agreed to in another place. Let me point out that what has happened oh many others is happening on this item. The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, after earnest consideration, recommended what in their opinion was an adequate protective duty. I feel quite sure that both sections of that body considered the competition from abroad and also the competition which seems to be so intense in Victoria. That factor must also have engaged close consideration in another place. When we find all these factors co-operating in one direction and a fairly strong case made out against the imposition of excessive duties, it is time for the Committee to pause and consider whether it will exceed the rate recommended by the a section of the Tariff Commission and settled by the other House. I do not know that there has been a single argument advanced from the other side in favour of this extraordinary increase of the duty which, as I have shown by quoting the opinion of a furniture manufacturer, even on a 20 per cent, basis, amounts to a protection of 70 per cent. Surely if furniture is protected to an extent varying from 70 to 100 per cent, that should be sufficient to satisfy the protectionists here ! I understand that the item before the Committee includes the vast majority of the articles of furniture which are to be found in every home throughout the land. This side of the chamber is not advocating a small duty, but is willing to give some assistance to the artisan if a protective duty is a help to him. When it is remembered that we on this side are in the mood to concede a fairly large amount of protection, and that the whole Tariff both elsewhere and here has been very largely a matter of compromise, it will be generally recognised that our case for letting the duty stand as it was recommended by two responsible bodies is very strong indeed. I think, to use a favorite expression, that we are playing on a pretty strong wicket in arguing for the retention of the duty as proposed. Senator W. Russell has employed an expression which, although used good-humouredly, ought not to have been used. He has said that we on this side were, so to speak, worms following our very worthy leader, Senator Millen. There is nothing of the worm about us. We know where we are and where we have been throughout the consideration of the Tariff.
– What I said was that Senator Millen regretted that during his temporary absence from the chamber a certain thing was done.
– I did not say that, or anything which will bear that interpretation. ‘ The honorable senator has put that into my mouth, as he usually does.
– The honorable senator said that because he was away the thing was done.’
– No; I said that it was done in my absence.
– We were taunted by Senator W. Russell with having allowed an item to pass as if Senator Millen had imposed upon us a command to remain quiet when he could not speak. When Senator W. .Russell puts the position in that way’ he is unjust not only to Senator Millen but also to the members of the Opposition. I think that in the best interests of not only the artisans but the whole community, poor and rich alike, the Committee ought to pause before it disturbs the deliberate decision arrived at by two responsible bodies. There is no disguising the fact that the imposition of the duty will cause temporarily, as the protectionists themselves admit, an increase in the cost of articles of furniture, and I believe that it will continue for some time to come, as furniture makers are not in this business for the mere good of their health. I am willing to concede something to help the workers of Australia.
– Only on carbide of calcium.
– I make the assertion boldly that on the whole I have conceded every consideration to the workers through the Tariff. I wish to emphasize the fact that on this side of the chamber moderation is displayed. We are joining in the plea for moderation, not to benefit the wealthier classes, but to improve the condition of the Australian worker. He is looking for a higher standard of com fort in his home and everywhere else. I wish to give him every reasonable assistance, because in improving his own condition he is strengthening the social fabric. To some extent, I am largely in sympathy with him, and am inclined, as I have been all along, to assist him through the medium of this item, which is of the utmost importance to him, because it embraces all the articles which go to furnish his- home. But when we find that a duty is wanted up to 60 or 80 or 100 per cent, we have a right to ask the Committee to pause. This item affects over ^200,000 worth of the people’s money. I hope that the Minister will yield to our contention. The very arguments which he has adduced are insufficient to justify the increase of the duty which he has proposed. Stronger arguments ought to be advanced on the other side before the Committee assents to the imposition of duties which cumulatively will amount to/probably 70 or 100 per cent., and which it is admitted, even by protectionists, must be a burden for a long time to .come. We ask that the burden should noL be imposed, especially on the working classes, and that the duty should be kept at the rate which was recommended by the A section of the Tariff Commission, and adopted by the other House..
– I find that’ on item 299, as it was originally submitted to the other House, a preference of 10 per cent, was given to furniture from tha United Kingdom, and that- under the item as recast elsewhere that rate of preference is maintained. I purposely waited to see if any honorable senator would take some action with regard to the original item, because, as it includes type cabinets and cases, I might have been taunted with being actuated by a personal motive if I had spoken. Under the old Tariff type cases and cabinets were free ; crumb trays and brushes dutiable at 25 per cent., and the balance of tha articles in item 299 dutiable at 20 per cent. So that in the new Tariff we have a difference of 15 per cent, as regards foreign manufactures, and 5 per cent, as regards British imports. I am not opposed- in any way to giving that additional 5 per cent.
I am willing to grant a duty sufficient to enable the industry to be carried on. I have said, and shall continue to say, that if any evidence can be shown that the old duty was not sufficient to enable an industry to be carried on, and that the industry is worth encouraging, I shall be quite prepared to give it further protection in this way.
– It is proposed to give the industry of making type cabinets and cases some assistance, because under the old Tariff those articles were free.
– That is what I said, and I did not oppose the proposal, simply because I was somewhat personally interested, though I might add that, so far as type cases are concerned, I do not think that the duty will be worth anything. There are thousands of pairs of secondhand type cases to be had in the Commonwealth for next to nothing, as a result of the introduction of type-setting machines. I have said that I want some evidence that under the old duty the industry is not being carried on profitably in Australia.
– Do not the increasing importations give evidence that it is not doing all that it might?
– If the honorable senator wished to impose duties that would be absolutely prohibitive, he might advance the increase in the importations as an argument, but I think that the question we have to consider is whether those engaged in this industry are able to carry on their operations profitably under the old duty ?
– Two might be carrying on profitably where there might be 2,000 engaged in the industry.
– If Senator Trenwith can give me any evidence that 2,000 factories in the Commonwealth are being carried on unprofitably, I shall be prepared to admit that there should be an increase in the duty. So far as I can learn, the evidence is all the other way. In South Australia, this industry is carried on largely. Pengelley’s establishment in Adelaide is a very large furniture factory, in which it is admitted that fair wages are paid.
– I was there a year and a half ago, and the manager expressed a strong desire for an increased duty.
– What duty did he ask for? Let the honorable senator tell the rest of the story.
– He did not specifically mention any duty.
– He gave evidence that a duty of 25 per cent, would satisfy him.
– I think that Senator Trenwith must be mistaken. I know the manager of Pengelley’s factory, and he told me that he was prepared to work under a Wages Board.
– He wants increased protection.
– I do not think that he does.
– Does Senator Trenwith say that the industry is not a flourishing one at the present time?
– I think that it is a good industry.
– When the manager of Pengelley’s factory is able, not merely to supply South Australia, but to export furniture to the other States, it is fair evidence that he is finding very profitable employment for all the hands engaged in his establishment.
– Will the honorable senator permit me to give an illustration from what occurred at Pengelley’s place? The manager complained that when he started to make an article of sanitary work for which 7s. 6d. had previously been charged, the Americans brought down the price to 5s. 6d., in order to crush him out.
– I do not suppose that they succeeded. He is too enterprising a man.
– Butought he not to be protected from that kind of thing?
– He is one of the smartest men I have known, and I do not think that he would be beaten in such a case. The secret of success in the industry is to be found in utilizing the very best machinery that can be obtained. I remind honorable senators that Foy and Gibson, of Melbourne, who are working under a Wages Board, and paying fair wages, did not come before the Tariff Commission to give evidence that they were unable to carry on the industry.
– Should we allow every industry to get into that condition before we help it?
– It is reasonable to assume that if the industry were languishing, or was under any disability because the duties under the old Tariff were not sufficiently high, those engaged in it would have availed themselves of the opportunity to present their case to the Tariff Commission. It would have been suicidal on their part not to have done so.
– Furniture making is not the only business carried on by Messrs. Foy and Gibson.
– I am aware of that, but I do not think they would continue to carry on the business of furniture making unless they found it profitable.
– They might sell furniture at a loss and make it good on something else.
– I have been in business now for a large number of years, and I do not think that many people manufacture goods for sale at a loss.
– But the honorable senator must know that in many businesses articles are often sold at a loss.
– That might be the case in respect of a few catch lines. In Sydney, where I assume the industry is carried on by men who are paid wages in accordance with an Arbitration Court award, there is a good deal of furniture manufactured. My contention is that we should have some evidence that this industry cannot be carried on profitably under the duties previously existing before we are asked to increase them. I have said that I am willing to agree to an advance of 5 per cent, on the old duty of 20 per Lent. , but I am not prepared to vote for a duty of 30 per cent, in the absence of any evidence to justify such an increase.
– The honorable senator will not look at the evidence when it is put before him.
– I am willing to wait for Senator Needham’s evidence if he has any to give on the subject. I am quite sure that the proposed increase of the duty will not have the effect of destroying Chinese competition in Melbourne. It is said that the furniture industry in thiscity has got altogether into the hands of the Chinese.
– That was not said by Victorians.
– If Senator Trenwith will tell me that the industry in Victoria is not in the hands of the Chinese I will accept his word for it.
– I say that there is a large number of Chinese in the industry, but the trade is not altogether in their hands.
– Will this increase of the duty do away with the Chinese competition ?
– No; who said it would ?
– There is one way in which such competition might be coped with, and that is by Victorian manufacturers having the enterprise to lay down the latest machinery. It is our experience in South Australia that they would be able to knock out the Chinaman if they did that.
– It may be information to the honorable senator that since the imposition of these duties one of the most up-to-date factories in Australia has been established by Messrs. Buckley and Nunn.
– That is evidence that the duties previously existing were sufficiently high to justify the enterprise of the firm referred to.
– No; this was done under the new duties.
– Then the honorable senator contends that the additional 5 per cent, made all the difference? I look upon a pledge as a sacred thing, and I told the people of South Australia thatI was prepared to stand by the Tariff of 1902, unless it could be shown that it imposed hardship upon any particular industry. That has certainly not been shown in this case. All the evidence, so far as I know, goes to show that this industry could be carried on profitably under the old duties. I admit that it is one which should be given every encouragement, as it provides agreeable employment for many men and boys. If its existence as a profitable industry were endangered in any way because the duty previously existing was not sufficiently high, I should be willing to vote for the increase proposed, but since that has not been shown, whilst I am willing to increase the duty on imports from the United Kingdom by 5 per cent., I am not willing to support the increase proposed. It has been said that the request is submitted to make the duty on this item uniform with the duty on item 306, which gives a 10 per cent, preference to British imports, but to my mind the proposal in connexion with item 306 is worse than that now before the Committee, because under the 1902 Tariff that item was dutiable at 20 per cent., and it is now proposed that it should be dutiable at 40 per cent, under the general Tariff - an advance of 100 per cent, on the old duty - and at 30 per cent, on imports from the United Kingdom. This is altogether unwarrantable without strong evidence to support it. In the absenceof evidence that the industry is languishing in any way, and in view of the pledges I gave at my election, I am unable to vote in this instance for the higher duty proposed.
– I suppose that Senator Vardon has not formed an opinion on this matter without a good look round at what has been happening during the last four years, and I am sure it cannot have been very comforting to him to have found that in the last four years there has been an increase in the value of the importations of furniture alone to the extent of something like £80,000.
– That was due to the general prosperity of the people.
– At once we have the explanation that the good times that have prevailed are responsible for that. The opponents of reasonable protective duties are never at a loss for an excuse. Sometimes it is the poverty of the people, the suffering widow or poor washerwoman, but in this case it is the prosperity of the people which supplies them with a reason for opposing a reasonable protective duty. I am now addressing those who claim, as Senator Vardon has done before the electors, that they are reasonable protectionists, and I ask them whether they can view the increase in importations of furniture during the last four years with anything like satisfaction? In 1903 the value of the furniture imported was £167,000, and in 1906 it had increased to £244,000, an increase of nearly 50 per cent. Senator Vardon proposes to remedy that by an increase of 5 per cent, in the duty.
– Where does the honorable senator get the 50 per cent, increase in the value of imports?
– I refer Senator Millen to page 301 of part II. of the Customs returns. He will find it stated there that in 1903 the value of the importations of furniture was £167,000. The importations for 1906 were valued at £244,000, so that the increase was 50 per cent, within a fraction.
– There has been no increase of 50 per cent. Taking the last three years, the imports are diminishing.
– The honorable senator may be taking the figures for last year. The figures I have are as follow : - 1903, £167,000; 1904, £207,000; 1905, £219,000; and 1906, £244,000, so that they are in a gradually ascending scale.
– The book which I have shows a total importation of only £212,000 in 1906. The honorable senator is including articles which are embraced in other items in the Tariff.
– I Have quoted the figures given in the official statistics of Customs and Excise. Apparently the figures which the honorable senator has agree as to the years 1903, 1904, and 1905. It is strange that they should differ in respect of 1906.
– There has never been an increase of 50 per cent., or anything like it, even on the figures which the honorable senator has quoted.
– I have quoted the total importations under the heading of furniture for the last four years.
– What were the figures for 1902 ?
– Three hundred and one thousand pounds.
– Exactly; or 50 per cent, more than the importations to-day.
– That was for a single year, when probably abnormal conditions prevailed.
– They were importing to evade the Tariff which they knew was coming - mainly in New South Wales.
SenatorLYNCH. - Honorable senators should take the figures for a reasonable period, and not pick out one abnormal year. I ask Senator Vardon in all seriousness how he can justify the assumption that a thin barrier of1s. in the £1 upon importations will cause things to improve in the future.
– There is the evidence of the increase in the number of hands employed in Australia.
– That brings me to Senator Vardon’s argument about the success of the Adelaide firm. It is quite possible that a firm engaged in only one special class of work in Australia may find the old Tariff sufficient, but if that firm in Adelaide undertook some of the finer classes of cabinet-making, it is very questionable if they could achieve their present success under the old rate of duty. As a result of the old Tariff, the number of cabinetmakers in Australia has been on the decline, and cabinet-making of a superior kind is now something in the nature of a lost art in Australia, principally because there has not been a sufficiently high duty to encourage men to undertake it.
– They say that they could get the orders, but cannot get skilled workmen. It is stated that there are not six skilled workmen in Australia.
– I know that one witness stated that he could search Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide in vain to find a high-class cabinetmaker. It is all very well for Senator Vardon to pin his faith to the success of the Adelaide firm, but it was quite possible for a person to make a success of one or two special classes of work under the old rate of duty.
– The Adelaide firm do not. confine themselves to special classes of work.
– I can only assume from the sworn evidence as to the. scarcity of high-class cabinetmakers in Australia that the highest class of work is not undertaken here, but forms the bulk of the importations. As this class of manufacture can well be made in Australia, it will be a most foolish policy to adhere longer to a rate of duty which has proved wholly insufficient, and under the operation Of which ^244,000 worth of furniture was imported in one year. The figures are nothing short of a scandal in the ‘eyes of those who desire to foster Australian industries. It has been stated that the principal effect of this duty will be to benefit the Chinese in the furniture-making trade, but that is riot, a fact or anything resembling it. The furniture trade of Victoria is not in the hands of the Chinese. According to the reports of the Victorian Inspector of Factories, while the Chinese form a large, and even alarming, proportion of the workers in the trade, it is not by any means exclusively in their hands. In 1906 the number of Europeans in the furniture and upholstering trades of Victoria was 1,076, and of Chinese 698. In 1905 the Europeans numbered 1,012, and the Chinese 768. Therefore, even in that short period the number of Europeans increased by over sixty, while the number of Chinese decreased by ten. It is a mistake to say that this duty is meant to give protection to the Chinese. That as:sertion shows the extreme length to which’ the opponents of a decently protective Tariff will go to bring discredit upon it and to influence votes in this chamber. The furniture trade iri Victoria gave employment in 1906 to- 1,774 hands, of whom 698 were Chinese.
– Far too many.
– I recognise that,’ but I am dealing with the argument that the principal benefit of the duty will go to the Chinese.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the increased duty will not assist the Chinese?
– Probably it will, but it will also give greater and muchneeded assistance to the white men. The figures I have quoted show that while some Chinese are employed in tha furniture trade of Victoria, a very large number of Europeans are dependent upon it, and enjoy much higher wages than the Chinese do. ‘ I support’ the proposed increase of the duty, which is little enough to put the furniture-making industry of Australia on a proper basis.. As we are now framing a Tariff that will last for some time, I do not see the wisdom of depending upon possible future developments to come to the aid of this any more than of any other industry. The only remedy is an adequate duty, especially in view of the increasing importations, and of the fact that we can well make these articles in Australia, without handicapping any other industry or imposing a burden upon the people.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [2.57].- The Ministry are to. be congratulated upon the further measure of protection which they are offering to the Chinese residents of Australia. They have already amply provided for the Chinese in Queensland in respect’ to the banana duty, and it is only fair that the Chinese cabinetmakers of Victoria should have protection also. It is only reasonable and proper. It would not be right to give to the aliens in one part of the Commonwealth these fiscal advantages and deny them to others. On the other hand, what exact advantage the proposal is going to be to the white workers, I do not know. We are ‘told that since the Tariff was introduced a Victorian firm has established a large furniture factory. I am glad to hear, it, but unfortunately that’ fact, if it is a fact, is the best possible answer to the Ministerial demand for an increase of duty, because it shows that the Victorian factory proprietors and investors are willing to accept the chances offered by the Tariff as it passed another place, and that therefore there is no possible excuse for asking this chamber to enter into a conflict with another place by raising a duty -over its head.
– The curious thing is that they waited until the high Victorian Tariff was removed and the lower Federal one imposed before they started those works.
– It must not be forgotten that under the lower Commonwealth Tariff a manufacturer in> any part of the Commonwealth hasa great advantage over the position which he held as a State manufacturer even with the State Tariff, because his market is now the whole Commonwealth, whereas then it was merely his own State, except that New South Wales was the only State that before Federation threw its Customs doors open to the manufacturers of the rest of’ Australia. It is extraordinary that the representatives of a State which alone offered advantages of trade to every other State in Australia in those days, should now be accused of lacking “ the true Federal spirit.” Before I sit down, I contemplate moving a request in the body of the item, and, therefore, I shall ask that the request now before the Chair may be withdrawn. It will be seen that my request is by no means a captious one, but one which the Committee may well accept. I desire that invalids’ furniture and chairs on wheels, and aseptic hospital furniture, including trollies, stretchers, and the like, be removed from the body of the item, and made a separate paragraph, to be called item
– We have already passed the body of the item in respect of the first column.
– I thought the whole item was under discussion. Apparently then, it is not possible for me to submit such a request.
– I think it would be quite possible, after we have dealt with the second column, for the honorable senator to move a request for a fresh item.
– Thank you, sir.
– I mean that I think it would be possible for the honorable senator to move to take out any articles not specifically mentioned in the amended item 299, and embody them in a new paragraph.
– I am rather afraid that the articles of furniture to which I have referred, would come under the heading of furniture for buildings, “including hospitals.” I have not much hope of carrying a request, but I shall certainly use the matter of hospital furniture as an argument why the Committee should not increase the duty in the manner proposed. It seems to me to be a pitiable thing to increase already abnormally high duties on goods which are required by those who are the victims of illness or disease.
It may be a good thing to advantage the strong man at his work-bench; but if that advantage to him is only to be gained by penalizing the afflicted, I do not believe that the whole of Australia contains one cabinetmaker, one artisan, who would wish to have the duty raised at the expense of the suffering and the afflicted, merely on the off chance that he might make an extra few shillings a year. I do not believe that the Commonwealth contains one man so miserably low in the scale of humanity as to make a demand such as is made to us in an official manner to-day. If I were a member of the Cabinet, I would throw any portfolio to the winds rather than be a party to such a proposal. I would not sit here and vote for it. I would rather resign my seat than vote for a proposal of this kind, because I think it isthe cruelest, most unmanly, and most cowardly proposal that could be submitted. It is enough that the Committee have tried to strangle the children of the community with taxed drugs and taxed foods. But to make the lot of the sick more unendurable, and the pains and sufferings of illness more sorrowful, by increasing the price of everything that we can find to put a tax upon, that could be used to alleviate such sufferings, is still worse. Here is actually a proposal to tax cripples. It is an infamy. It is intolerable. It is unendurable. And it is the great, noble, humane nation of Australia that seeks to enhance a miserable duty by the taxation of cripples ! I am astounded that there should be a Ministry to submit such a proposal, or any one calling himself a man with the hardihood to support it. I have noticed, Mr. Chairman, with a great deal of regret, and of contempt, that the subject of human suffering and sorrow is too commonly a subject for jocularity in this Chamber; and it is a jocularity that, strangely enough, emanates from those who make the strongest professions of their desire to benefit mankind.
– It is a good subject for advertisement by some, too.
– There is a great anxiety on the part of some members of this Committee to advertise themselves as possessing harder hearts than I believe that in their heart of hearts they do possess. This question of furniture is one that we must look at sensibly. One of the reasons why a great deal of furniture is imported into Australia is not because there is any lack of skill on the part of our artisans. I suppose that the artisans of this country are as good as you will find in any part of the world.
– And the honorable senator will not give them a chance.
– A’ chance - with duties of 25 and 35 per cent., whilst the cost of importing furniture is anywhere between 60 and 70 per cent. ! One of the. difficulties that beset the furniture-making trade in Australia, is the fact that a large quantity, if not the majority, of the timbers requisite for the trade have to be imported. Australian timbers are the best in the world for certain purposes, but there are only a few of them, comparatively, that adapt themselves to cabinet and furniture-making. Some of the Australian timbers are admirable, but, unfortunately, they are to be found only in small quantities in more or less inaccessible positions on the mountains on the east” of Australia. Another difficulty is that they are to be found, unfortunately, largely in small-sized ‘ trees. We have a great number of trees on the east coast of Australia - in New South Wales, for instance, - splendidly adapted for furniture making, if you could get a suitable supply of suitable sizes.
– And suitable protection.
– Protection would not affect the matter a bit. Protection would not make the trees grow larger than Providence intended them to grow.
– Why did not the honorable senator use such an argument when dealing with steel rails?
– This old gag has been travelling around the Chamber for several days. . If ever there was a case of tedious repetition - or “ vain repetition as the heathen do ‘ ‘ - the honorable senator who interrupts me furnishes an example. He is rapidly becoming a verbal nuisance. I remind the honorable senator, too, that the duty on steel rails is only’ 15 per cent., and- that I tried to make it 12 J per cent. But he, and those who agree with him, are clamouring for a duty of 35 per cent., under the plea that it is a British preference. It is intolerable ! I suppose that the relative costs of importing furniture and steel rails are hardly to be compared. Rails are brought from the Old Country for next to nothing, and ships are glad to get them .for stiffening I have known of cases where a ship has paid for permission to take rails back to London and fetch them out a second time because it was cheaper to pay a small sum on the rails than to buy ballast and handle it.
– That shows how much the honorable senator knows about stowing.
– My honorable friend Senator Guthrie is an acknowledged . authority on navigation. Indeed,. I* believe that Admiral “ Jackie” Fisher is not a circumstance to him in the handling of fleets. But when it comes to the handling of merchandise, he must not suppose that he is the .only person present who has an acquaintance with such’ matters. I do not pretend to know as much about the steward’s pantry as the honorable senator does, but I know something of what ships’ holds are used for. But I want to discuss, not steel rails, but furniture ; and I say that what is commonly called the natural protection in respect of freight on goods of this description, runs as high as 60 and 70 per cent. Furniture is notoriously about the most bulky article of commerce that can be handled. It occu-pies more space than almost anything else of equal value. That being so, the natural protection, as the phrase goes, is enormous. Therefore, we have in the proposition now submitted to us, one which will make the cost of importing furniture about 100 per cent, on its value.
– Furniture has been imported for a freight of £1 per ton.
– That is pure nonsense.
– Some have got freight for less than that.
– Order !
– These propositions are really very ludicrous, and it is rather painful to listen to them, because there seems to me to be positive recklessness on the part of those who are supporting high duties. They will use any assertion, and, God knows, not one argument in favour of high duties. According to them at one time a high duty will raise the price of the article and advantage the local maker, and at another time it will lower the price and advantage the local consumer. At one time one story will do, and at another time another story will do, until the changes have been rung on nearly as many assertions as there, are letters in the alphabet. But is there any possible excuse for the proposed increase of this duty ? I point out - and this is only an incidental .reference, sir - that almost the next item includes chairs. It is a fact that another place deliberately wiped out the preposterous duty which was placed on chairs, in order that they might come under the head of furniture at the rate of duty specified there. But now there is a proposal to put 10 per cent, more duty on chairs than was agreed upon by another place. I ask honorable senators just to let their minds wander back a few months. It is well-known that in every newspaper it has been alleged- I do not know how often - that there was no desire on the part of the Ministry to get this Tariff put through, because so long as it was, like Mahomet’s coffin, hanging between earth and heaven, so long was the position of the Ministry secure.
– Order !
– The honorable senator ought to hurry them up.
– I knew that that would fetch them.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the position of the Government towards the Tariff, except in regard to this one item.
– Exactly, sir; and I am going to make my remarks positively pertinent to the item. I point out that this extraordinary unexpected proposal is at variance with the printed notice which has been in circulation for months, and which we are now told was a printer’s error. It is an extraordinary thing that Ministers have been so careless of their own propositions filed in the Senate that they only now discover a printer’s error made a month or two ago.
– No, it was only circulated last night.
– Let us get on and settle this Government.
– That is about the last thing in the world which the honorable senator wants to do, because he knows that if they were settled there would be such a chaos that he would not feel comfortable. He has 600 reasons for not wishing the Government to be disturbed. Here we have nearly thirty-six pages of printed amendments filed by the Ministry, and yet this proposal has been sprung upon us in this remarkable manner. In my. view it is distinctly designed to create difficulties between the Houses, and to prolong a settlement of the Tariff. I believe honestly that it is designed, as a great many other requests proposed here have been designed, to create trouble between the Houses, and to produce a prolonged conflict, in which each Chamber will be compelled to seek the maintenance of its own rights. Because we have already found, as proof of the object of this request, that time after time the Government here have proposed amendments at distinct variance with the actions of their colleagues in another place, and where, if they have not proposed such requests, they have secured the complacent help of some of their masters to do so for them. They are the instigators of the requests, if they do not move them.
– I suppose that the honorable senator has moved over 100 requests.
– The honorable senator has ignored his leader.
– Were they moved to produce chaos between the Houses?
– Every one of my requests has been in the one direction, and that is to’ assist the Government to carry out their alleged policy of British preference.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the trend of his requests.
– The preference request before the Committee is in exactly the opposite direction. It has just occurred to me that all the requests I have moved have not been preference requests. I have moved only 100 in all ; but my honorable friends cannot expect me to go back upon all that I have been attempting to do here for the last two months and to vote for a request to cut the throat of the Government’s own policy - a policy which was the rallying cry, if there was a rally in Great Britain, after the. Prime Minister and Sir William Lyne, then Minister of Trade and Customs, were in England. Would they have been able to stand before a British audience and claim its esteem and approbation when they were proposing a duty of 35 per cent, on British-made furniture? If that is the Government’s idea of British preference, I can only say that their policy is no better than “ sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.” The item under discussion includes billiard and bagatelle tables, with boards and accessories. I do not object to the proposed duty on articles such as those, because if people have enough time to waste to play billiards I think they ought to be able to pay for their fun. But the item also includes trays. These are required in every household, especially in sick rooms, and I object to the proposed duty on them. We know, of course, that there are metal trays, but those in common use are the wooden ones which have convenient handles, and are to be found everywhere. The item also includes crumb trays and brushes. I cannot understand how brushes, although enumerated in the first item 299, can come under the head of “Wood, Wicker, and Cane.”
– Are they enumerated there ?
– Yes ; but they also come in under another item, and we may be sure that whichever duty is the higher will be claimed. If the duty on brushes is lower than the duty on furniture, the Department will call them furniture. The item also includes mattresses. How can these articles be made of wood, wicker, and cane? Fancy any one sleeping on a mattress made nicely of turned hardwood knobs ! What a happy time he would have !
– Fancy a man sleeping on a mattress made of three-ply wire and wood rims.
– But that is not the proposition. The wire mattress has come to stay, and it is one of the greatest advantages which have been conferred upon the domestic circle for a very long time.
– And it is included in this- item.
– No ; it comes under another item. This item also includes bolsters and pillows. Fancy such articles being constructed of wood, wicker, and cane ! It is really intolerable to have such rubbish put into the schedule.
– But the item deals with “ furniture (except of metal, wicker, bamboo, and cane).”
– My honorable friend thinks that he has “struck it rich,” but he really has not, because if we leave out the words which he has quoted the item reads in this way -
Furniture n.e.i., in parts, or finished; including Billiard and Bagatelle Tables and Boards and Accessories; Trays; Crumb Trays and Brushes; Mattresses; Bolsters; Pillows;
All these articles, my honorable friend will see, occur in an item under the heading of “ wood, wicker, and cane.”
– Be absolutely fair by including the word “ metal.”
– I am not talking about metal, but only suggesting what a pleasant “ snooze “ my honorable friend could have on a pillow constructed of wood or wicker or cane, or of the three articles combined. It simply shows that the thing has been strung together in a manner which is not worthy of a great Government.
– The honorable senator is absolutely unfair to another place.
– The item reads “furniture n.e.i., in parts or finished.”
– I. am reading the item as it is, and displacing nothing. Just think of having a bolster made of wood or- wicker, and a mattress made of cane ! The item also includes “ window shade or blind rollers, rollers with blinds, screens-, portieres, dress stands, and show figures for draping or other purposes, writing desks or cabinets, stationery cabinets, type cabinets and cases, mirrors, framed or not, n.e.i.” If mirrors are not framed, how can they be alleged to be constructed of wood, wicker, or cane? How can an unframed mirror have anything to do with wood, wicker, or cane? Have these highly intellectual gentlemen discovered some variety of material in which they can see all their virtues mirrored, and which is to be constructed of wood, wicker, or cane. Then we have blinds not being textile, panels for incorporating into furniture, ice chests, or refrigerators, meat and other household safes, and housemaids’ boxes. How preposterous and stupid this is. Why did they not provide for housemaid’s knee as well. Then we have bath cabinets, the sort of thing we see depicted in the advertisements at the end of a magazine. I have already referred to invalid furniture, chairs on wheels and aseptic hospital furniture. Why some articles of furniture should be specially mentioned in this paragraph I do not know. Why did not the Government introduce a Tariff with an item “Furniture” at one rate of duty, and leave it to the Customs House officers to determine what was furniture? If that course had been adopted instead of having 435 . items in this schedule, we might have been able to do with half-a-dozen. I think it was Senator Lynch who said that we were passing a Tariff that was to have a long life - the honorable senator did not say that it would have a happy end - but I venture to saythat in this item under the proposal now submitted we shall create a number of anomalies to take the place of the comparatively few alleged to have been contained in the old Tariff. But this new Tariff was not introduced to remove anomalies, but solely in the interests of the secondaryindustries of Australia.
– In ninetynine cases out of every hundred in the interests of Victorian manufacturers. Years ago I publicly stated what I state now, that Federation is a Victorian institution conducted in Victoria-
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing Federation.
– If you, sir, had permitted me to finish the sentence you would have seen that what I proposed to say was perfectly in order. I intended to say that Federation was a Victorian institution, conducted in Victoria for the benefit of Victorian manufacturers. The whole scheme from beginning to end and its administration have been for the benefit of Victorian manufacturers. I have referred to the articles of furniture included in this item, but if honorable senators will look at the next they will find that lounges and settees are dealt with specially. If it is necessary to differentiate between settees and lounges and other kinds of furniture, why was not hospital furniture also dealt with separately? The injured artisan suffering from an accident due to the risks of his calling must under this Tariff be carried to the hospital on a stretcher dutiable at 40 or 35 per cent.. When he gets to the hospital he is laid on an operating table which is also dutiable at 40 per cent. As he recovers somewhat he is removed to an invalid chair, on which the same duties must be paid. Could anything more inhuman, more cruel, or more objectionable be submitted by any Government to any Parliament in any part of the world ?
– Honorable senators who propose to support the request for a higher duty on this item have had a very unhappy time at the hands of the gallant colonel who has just resumed his seat. Whilst the honorable senator may differwith us in opinion as to the duties which ought to be imposed, he should not go so far as to characterize any honorable senator who is prepared to support a higherduty on this item as inhuman or as a coward.
– The honorable senator will pardon me. I never made any such accusation. I spoke of the proposition.
– Yes, and the honorable senator described it as inhuman and said that the man who would support it was a coward.
– I did not use any such phrase.
– Let the honorable senator wait until he sees the Hansard report of his speech. He will probably be very much surprised at what he has said. Those who have been listening to him have been very much surprised at the frivolity which characterized his remarks during the last twenty minutes.
– “ Having no case abuse the other side.”
– The honorable senator’s appeals in connexion with hospital furniture may influence the unthinking, but he knows that they are as hollow as a drum, and also that his statements on the subject were inaccurate. No member of the Committee has any desire to impose duties which would injure the invalid or the man impaired in health.
– Then why support these duties?
– The honorable senator knows that it is not the invalid who will have to pay these duties. Our hospitals are provided for not by the invalid, the weak and the sick, but by those who are hale and hearty, strong and capable, and willing to pay their share to establish and maintain such institutions. Senator Neild should have been content to deal with the question fairly, and should not have stigmatized, as he has done, the action of honorable senators who are prepared to support the request. I have too much common-sense not to know that the duties imposed under this Tariff will do no injury to the invalid, and I support them solely because I believe they will tend to conserve Australian trade for Australian workmen. When I find that furniture to the value of £212,000 is imported into Australia in a single year, I am satisfied that it is my duty to do what I can to reduce those importations. Why should furniture be imported to that extent when we have so many capable and willing cabinetmakers in Australia preparedto manufacture what we require? By interjection Senator Gray has told us that in respect of this industry there is not a capable man in the Commonwealth. Whatever the honorable senator may have been told, I know men in Australia who are as capable in
I this business as any man who ever handled a cabinetmaker’s tool.
– I have said nothing to the contrary.
– It may be that there is not room in Australia for the most skilled workmen in this industry, because local, manufacturers have never been given sufficient inducement to manufacture the highest class of furniture. Very many people are prepared to purchase from local manufacturers furniture that might be made * hy* a bush carpenter. I have as much respect for the dear old Motherland as most men.
– The honorable senator votes against it every time he gets a chance.
– But I am not here to legislate for the dear old Motherland. Her people can do that for themselves. It is our duty to legislate for Australia, and I intend to support the request.
– - Senator Henderson has unintentionally, no doubt, misrepresented a statement made by me. , I never said that Australian workmen were not as well qualified as the workmen of the United Kingdom. I directed attention to the fact that one of the witnesses who appeared before the Tariff Commission stated that he could not obtain six highly-skilled artisans in this trade throughout Australia. I gathered from his evidence that he could produce artistic furniture equal to anything that could be made elsewhere if he could only get the workmen, and he complained that he could not get them. Senator Henderson has built up upon my reference to that evidence the statement that I had said that the workmen of Australia are not equal to the workmen elsewhere. I never said anything of the kind, and the honorable senator has, I believe, unintentionally misrepresented me. I am as anxious to get rid. of this Tariff in the interests of Australia generally as well as in our own interests, as the Minister of Home Affairs can possibly be, but when the honorable senator submits a request for a duty which represents a considerable increase upon that agreed to in another place he cannot expect that we shall agree to it unless he can produce some evidence to show that an increased duty is necessary. During the whole of this debate I have not gained one tittle- of information from the Minister or any other honorable senator.
– Information or no information you are against the duty.
– From a fiscal point of view, I am ; but I recognise that the policy of this Chamber has now a protectionist tendency. I am putting my -arguments as concisely as possible, in order that we may speedily get rid of the Tariff, realizing as I do that my views have not much chance of being given practical effect to. Not one solid reason has been given for the proposed increase. One statement has been repeated over and over’ again regarding the increase in the value of the importations of furniture to over ,£200,000, but we have a population of over 4,000,000 people, and have enjoyed’ during the last four or five years an era of prosperity such as we never had before. In comparison with the increasing requirements of the Australian people that sum is after all not very large. As against that increase of importations there must be set the fact that the number of hands employed in the trade has gone up by from 600’ to 800, and there has been recently a great advance in the high-class machinery used in the manufacture of furniture. That in itself is equivalent to another 600 or 800 hands. Therefore, during the last six or seven years the condition of affairs has been most satisfactory. In New South Wales without a duty the manufacture of furniture was carried on to a considerable extent, although the competition of the Chinese had to be faced, and also the competition of the other States, which at the same time barred the New South Wales article with high Tariffs of their own.’ New South Wales on the other hand put up no duty against the other States. Victoria at one time had a 40 per cent, duty, and yet” exported practically no furniture to New South Wales. What was the reason of that ? It must have been that the people of Victoria, although naturally hard-headed and possessing all the qualities necessary to build up commercial prosperity, had been so coddled by a protective policy that they did not adapt themselves to modern conditions by obtaining the up-to-date machinery which manufacturers in other States had to get. Consequently New. South Wales without a dutyprogressed quite as well as did Victoria, with an extraordinarily high duty of 40 per cent. To the duty of 35 per cent, in this schedule must be added a natural protection of at least from 25 to 30 per cent, in the freightage charges. That means a large in: crease in the cost of the imported goods, and therefore the total protection offered will be equal to at least 60. or 70 per cent.
I regret that honorable senators opposite should make such a ‘serious charge against the Australian workman as to say, as they do in effect, that he cannot, with the timber available and all the conditions favorable to the industry, make furniture for the requirements of the Commonwealth .without the aid of high duties. If the Australian manufacturers and workers will only adapt themselves to modern machinery, they ought, even with the old duty, to be able not only to exclude all imports, but also to export themselves. No one on this side has ever made such a damaging charge against the workmen of Australia as has been made today by honorable senators opposite, in the statement that they cannot live and ‘compete against the labour of the Old Country, which in this trade is not lower paid than much of the labour in Australia. In New South Wales Messrs. Anthony Hordern and Sons have for years manufactured every class of furniture. They did not appear before the Tariff Commission to plead that the- old duty was not sufficient, nor did any other New South Wales manufacturer in a large way of business. Why then should the Government go out of their way to impose this increased duty upon the people of Australia, on no other ground than that some furniture is still imported ? Only one interpretation can be placed upon proposals for duties such as this. It is that the old cry of protection, having served its purpose, is now dead, and that what honorable senators opposite are really aiming at is prohibition. It cannot be shown that the difference between the labour conditions here and in other parts of the world is as high as 35 per cent. No honorable senator has shown that the old duty of 20 per cent, was insufficient. The whole argument has been that so long as there ‘are any importations duties must still be increased. To put it plainly, the object aimed at is prohibition. The effect of that will be that ships which come to Australia for our produce will have to come out in ballast, and the Australian producers will be compelled to pay extra freights. Honorable senators opposite had better candidly abandon the old cry of -protection and admit that all these duties are meant to be prohibitive. No one gainsays the fact that we can make furniture and many other things in the Commonwealth, but those who first enunciated the principles of protection never intended that their policy should be carried to the extreme length of excluding absolutely all imports. If there ever was a duty which meant increased protection to the Chinese it is this one, for the Chinese have established themselves in the furniture trade both in Melbourne and Sydney. I know that no words of. mine will influence, honorable senators on the other side, but it cannot be too strongly emphasized that the duty now asked.for is simply prohibition, and goes beyond all the principles upon which the policy of protection was originally based.
.- I simply desire to say that I cannot support the duties proposed by the Government. In my own State, I heard no greater outcry than on the subject of this heavy tax on furniture. Honorable senators opposite profess a desire to keep up wages in the trade. But surely we do not need a duty of this description for that purpose. The natural protection alone on imported furniture is- more than sufficient. If the hour were not so late I should have more to say, but under the circumstances, I must strongly protest against the course taken by the Government. I am pleased to hear that there is in South Australia a furniture factory which, by means of up-to-date machinery, and enterprising management, has become very successful, and I am also delighted to know that those who are responsible for that factory are also satisfied with duties of 30 per cent, and 25 per cent. No reason has been shown why higher duties should be agreed to. But unfortunately the Government appear to have the numbers behind them, and therefore I suppose we shall have to swallow their proposition. My only hope is that another place will not accept the request.
– I am not going to follow all the wild statements that have been made during the debate, but a few of them seem to me to be worthy of a little attention. Senator Lynch quoted some figures with the object of showing that the imports of furniture have increased. I draw attention to this fact as showing the sort of argument put forward bv some of the advocates of prohibition. He took the figures for 1903, and said that the imports .were £167,000, and he went on to- say that there had been an increase of 50 per cent, in the imports since then. The thing is ridiculous. The total imports last vear were £212,000, which is only an increase of 30 per cent. But if the honorable senator- took the figures for 1902 he would find that the imports were £300,000. So that there was practically a diminution of nearly one-third.
The honorable senator might at least have been candid with the Committee when he sought to show what the imports were. Early this morning, while Senator Best was out of the Chamber, I made a suggestion to Senator Keating which appeared to me to be entirely reasonable. The object of the request moved by the Government is said to be to bring this item into conformity with item 306. The Minister, in moving it, did not suggest that a duty of 30 per cent, was either necessary or desirable. His sole object, he said, was to consult the interests of departmental administration, and to equalize the two items.
– I also pointed out the increased Customs returns.
– The honorable senator did not attempt to defend the increased duty.
– I did.
– Then it is a gross reflection on his colleague, Sir William Lyne, that he put forward the duties now embodied in the Tariff. The mainobject of the increase was said to be to bring items 299 and 306 into line. I suggested then and I suggest again now, for the consideration of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that the best and fairest way to achieve that object would be to raise this duty by2½ per cent.- making it 27½ per cent. - and to reduce the duty on item 306 to 27½ per cent. That would overcome the difficulty with which the Department is confronted. I ask my honorable friend now whether he can see his way to accept that suggestion?
– After having the whole day wasted ? Not at all !
– That is not a fair statement to make, because I put forward this suggested compromise this morning. If the Minister had been present he would have known about it, and would have recognised that it was offered as a fair solution of the difficulty. I ask him to accept the suggestion now. It cannot be denied that it is a fair one, and I put it forward with the view of terminating this somewhat lengthy debate. Do I understand that the Minister is not going to accept it?
– No; I am not.
– My honorable friend yesterday asked us to expedite the passage of the Tariff. He now makes it abundantly clear that he means to expedite it by altering it entirely on his own terms. When I put forward a proposition for dividing the difference between these two items it was one that a reasonable man could not refuse, if he desired to expedite the Tariff. If the Minister does not desire that it is another matter. He makes it quite clear now that when he asks the Committee to assist him in getting the Tariff through he means to deal with it just as he likes - alter it as he likes, or let it alone as he likes. But he forgets that this is a deliberative Chamber. If the Minister refuses to accept a reasonable proposition of this kind he must take the responsibility for the delay occasioned in bringing these debatesto a conclusion.
– The honorable senator cannot speak for many senators.
– It is so abundantly obvious that what I am saying is the correct thing that in this case I venture to assert that I can speak for the whole Chamber. If the Ministeris not prepared to do something to assist the passage of the Tariff he must not complain if we take a long time to get through with it. If Senator W. Russell and I were conducting a matter of private business, and I put before him such a reasonable proposition as this–
– The honorable senator would have to have his own way, or he would not go on with it.
– I have not attempted to say that. I have not occupied much time in connexion with this item.
– This is the honorable senator’s third speech.
– That statement is only inaccurate to the extent of 50 per cent.
– That is not true, and the honorable senator knows it.
– I do not ask that that remark shall be withdrawn, because it serves to reveal the character, or lack of character, of the honorable senator who makes it to a greater degree than was apparent when he first came here. I have shown the Committee that there is a way out of the difficulty. I have also shown that honorable senators on this side of the Chamber are not responsible for any delay that has occurred. When the Minister of Home Affairs sought to increase the duty, I immediately made what I think was a fair and reasonable proposition. The Minister, having declined to accept it, must take the responsibility for the fact that, so far, we have made no progress to-day.
– I have not uttered a word to-day by way. of interjection or otherwise. But, like other honorable senators, I find that the proceedings in relation to the duty under consideration have assumed an unexpected phase. We are dealing with the item in the Tariff on which there is the greatest amount of natural protection. The furniture industry is the one industry throughout Australia that ought to be prepared to stand on its own merits. It is a successful industry. It is rightly said that furniture is being well and cheaply produced in Australia. What necessity there is, therefore, for imposing an extraordinary increase on the duty I really do not know. The importations for the whole of Australia amount to only £212,000. Some honorable senators talk as though that were a phenomenal quantity for a country in which there are 4,000,000 of people. It is not phenomenal at all, especially in view of the fact that . a great deal of the furniture we are importing consists of articles such as chairs, which will still be imported even if we impose a 50 per cent, duty on them, far the simple reason that they are made much more successfully in some foreign countries. I say here, as a firm protectionist, that the greatest enemies to protection in this country to-day are the protectionists themselves.
– The honorable senator isnot in order in making remarks on the general matter of protection.
– I desire to apply the remarks to the item as to furniture. The industry is admittedly an important one, but we have the assurance of men in a large way of business in one of the States of Australia that they do not require more than a 20 per cent. duty. They are entitled to speak with some authority. But what do we see now? We see a sudden jump from 25 per cent., which is a great increase on the protection hitherto enjoyed bythe furniture manufacturers, to 30 per cent. Why ? For the absurd reason that it is desired to bring this item into conformity with another equally unreasonable proposition. The leader of the Opposition, with a disposition to bring parties into accord, and to advance public business, has suggested that we should increase the duty by2½ per cent. We are now dealing with a matter which affects very largely the domestic comfort and welfare of all classes of people in Australia. We are endeavouring to reduce the importations of furniture. But do honorable senators look at the practical side of the question ? Is it really possible to reduce the importations, of certain kinds of furniture? Can we hope by any duty which might be agreed to by both Houses to prevent entirely the introduction of furniture ? I venture to say that there is no rate of duty likely to receive parliamentary sanction which could achieve that object. Surely it must be apparent to all honorable senators that no duty which Parliament is likely to impose will prevent wealthy persons from introducing expensive articles of artistic furniture - sometimes articles which have an historic as well as an artistic value. Before resuming my seat, I wish again to express a very strong protest at the way in which the leader of the Senate and his colleague are treating the Opposition when they show a proper and fair disposition to compromise, where a very little yielding would not affect any matter of broad principle, and where it would bring about a satisfactory settlement of the duties on important items like this one, and assist the Committee to finish the Tariff. How can the Minister, when he puts forward a request from time to time, and asks the Opposition and honorable senators generally to assist the Government, be sincere when there is no disposition to compromise, even when a perfectly fair suggestion has been made?
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 299, “ Furniture n.e.i.” (imports from the United Kingdom), ad val. 30 per cent. (Senator Keating’ s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Item 300. Lounges and Settees - up to and including 4th December, 1907, each, 10s., or ad val.. 30 per cent. ; whichever rate returns the higher duty.
– Since articles made ot wicker, bamboo, and cane are imported largely from China, Japan, and the Straits Settlements, I ask honorable senators to deal socially with them. I move-r-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 300 by inserting the following new paragraph: - “b.” Lounges and .Settecs of Wicker, Bamboo, or Cane (General Tariff), each, ros., or ad val. 45 per cent.; (United Kingdom), each, Ss. gr!., or ad val. 40 j.cr cent. ; whichever rale returns the higher duty.”
Persons who come from Eastern countries experience very great difficulty in landing in Australia; but, by means of a low duty, their products and manufactures have found their Way here very ‘easily. I wish an increased duty to be imposed for the purpose of giving our workmen a reasonable chance of competing with Chinamen, Japanese, and Malays, whose rate of pay ranges from 4d. to 6d., or, at the most, lod. per day. Those who have observed how the industry has fared here must have come to the conclusion that wicker-work makers find it very hard to get employment. Their wares - settees and lounges - have to compete in the market with the products of China and Japan ; and. unfortunately, employers have failed in their business. I have visited some of the factories in Melbourne, where I found that the prices of articles imported from China and Japan, and really excellent to look at, were out of proportion to the prices of the locallymade articles. A lounge or settee is invoiced in Japan at 5s., and, after paying the freight and landing charges, it can be sold here at from 12s. 6d. to 17s. In this country, however, it would take at least three days to make a lounge, and the cost of the material has to be added to the labour cost. On the very face of it, it is impossible for our workers in this industry to hold their own against the cheaper labour of China and Japan.
– Not with a duty of 30 per cent. ?
– Not with a duty of 40 per cent. I am not disposed to measure the remedy in this case by any percentage. If it should need a duty of roo, or 200, or 500 per cent., I am prepared to ask the Committee to agree to it. I quite recognise the doctrine of cheapness, to which the honorable senator is attached. His policy is to buy whatever articles he wants in the cheapest market, quite irrespective of what conditions are observed in their production. I am no longer content to allow the industry of wicker-work making to struggle along in the haphazard way in which it has done. T believe that the time has come when it should be put on a reasonable footing. The importations of this class of furniture have been on the increase, and it is only reasonable that those who are engaged in the industry here should receive that ample measure of protection which has been afforded to other industries. There is another aspect of this industry which should not be lost sight of. It is not one which will easily fall into the hands of a combine. It can be started in a very humble way by. any person with a knowledge of the trade. A man possessed of a few pounds can start the industry with the aid of a few lads of about sixteen years of age. By protecting the industry we shall provide a means of employment for youths who at present have very great difficulty indeed in securing it.Chairs made of wicker-work, bamboo, and cane can be imported as easily as can lounges and settees. I find that they are all included under item 299. If it is necessary to make provision for safeguarding the industry for the manufacture df lounges and settees it is equally necessary to protect the industry for the manufacture of wicker-work, bamboo, and cane chairs. T am asking for a duty of 7s. 6d. each on these chairs or an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent, under the General Tariff and 40 per cent, on imports from the United Kingdom. In this case it cannot be said that this is the request of an interested employer, because at a conference of employers and employes in this industry the duties to which I’ have referred were unanimously agreed to as those for which they should, ask. I have every confidence that honorable senators will support the request, because the duties asked for are those required by the people interested in the trade, because 40 per cent, is the duty which the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission considered necessary if the industry was to be continued in a flourishing condition, and also because the duties 1 propose are necessary also to protect the local industry from the inferior goods of this description which are imported from China and Japan. There is a very strong reason for preventing the importation of these goods from China and Japan. It has been found that a particular species of weevil has been introduced in imported furniture of this description which has destroyed the willow industry in a great measure and is working destruction in our cane furniture. I am not sure that under the Customs Act we have not already the power to prohibit importations of furniture affected by this weevil, but if for no other reason I ask that thesehigh but necessary duties should be imposed to prevent the importation of insect-infested furniture from China, Japan, and the Straits Settlements.
.- I trust that the majority of the Committee will agree to the request submitted by Senator Lynch. There may be some doubt as to the accuracy of the honorable senator’s statement that lounges and settees made from cane and bamboo are invoiced at 5s. and sold retail at prices varying from 15s. to £1 I have known them to be sold for from 27s. 6d. up to 30s.
– I think we should have a quorum present to listen to the honorable senator. [Quorum formed.]
– It is possible that even some Customs officials might doubt that these articles are invoiced at 5s., but I can speak with some authority on the subject. When I was in the East some time agoI wasbesieged in Hong Kong by a number of Chinese, who surround boats visiting the place in order to sell lounges and settees. I bought a lounge and a settee for 4½ dollars. The dollar in Hong Kong at the time was worth about1s.10d., so that I gave about 9s. 2d.for the two articles. After I had made my purchase the captain of the boat asked me what I had paid for the furniture. When I told him that I had paid 4½ dollars he said that I had paid a dollar’ too much, because the Chinese always ask for considerably more than they expect to get, and that he had bought a number of lounges and settees similar to the articles I had purchased for a dollar less than I had paid for them.
– I hope the honorable senator did not bring them to Australia.
– As there were not too many conveniences on the boat on which I travelled I brought them with me, and when I returned to Australia I took them to my home.
– Then the honorable senator will have the weevil in his place.
– I can bear out the statement made by Senator Lynch that much of this imported cane-work is infested by a parasite. A week or so after the articles were placed in my house my mother called my attention to a peculiar noise in the furniture. It resembled the noise made by an ordinary Australian cricket. I listened for a time thinking that it was merely imagination on my mother’s part, but there could be no doubt about the noise, and it continued until I put the furniture outside. It was almost worn through by the ravages of these insects. I mentioned the matter to a man who had been many years in the furniture business,, and he told me that if is a common thing to find furniture of that description so infected, that the parasite had been introduced many years ago in Chinese furniture, and that it has such a hold on furniture made of material of this kind that it has become very difficult to cope with it. In dealing with this question we must have regard to the wages paid in Australia in the furniture trade as compared with those paid in other countries. I got information on the subject at first-hand in Hong Kong and Canton, and I found that the average wages paid to Chinese workmen engaged in the manufacture of these articles was from 4d. to 5d. per day. Some highly skilled workmen considered themselves well paid if they got1s. or1s.1d. per day. Of course, they all work every day in the week, and for as many hours each day as they feel disposed to work, and under most insanitary conditions. The average Australian workmen would earn 6d. for every thirty minutes he is at work, whilst a Chinaman in his own country works for ten or twelve hours for that sum. How is it possible in these circumstances to establish the industry in Australia without the highest measure of protection ? If the advocates of cheapness want this imported furniture, I could understand them saying that there should be. no duty imposed upon it at all, but on the other hand honorable senators who are protectionists must, if they desire to be true to the principles of protection and to the White Australia, policy, not only keep out Chinese and Japanese, but all the goods, wares and commodities made by those people which would come into competition with goods made in Australia. We know the wages that are paid in the several Australian States for this kind of work.
– I feel that I shall assist the honorable senator if I ask that a quorum should be present to hear him. [Quorum formed.]
– I have to thank Senator Mulcahy for his attention and consideration. I hope that those who are in a state of indecision as to which way they will vote on Senator Lynch’s request will come in in response to Senator Mulcahy ‘s call for a quorum.
– Why do not you put it through ?
– I understood that earlier in the proceedings when a request for a slightly higher protective duty was submitted, honorable senators opposite desired fuller and more complete information as to why it was put forward. I can assure Senator Mulcahy that he is no more anxious than we are to’ hasten the passage of the Tariff.
– Get this division through to-night. You are not game to do it.
– We have not started yet. Probably the Committee will be better tempered and more vigorous after tea. There was much ‘ comment this afternoon, on a previous item, with respect to the competition of the Chinese in the Victorian furniture trade. Even those who opposed the suggested increase expressed their regret that the Chinese had got such a strong foothold in the business. If they are sincere in their regrets, they ought now, to be consistent, to refuse to give any encouragement to the introduction of furniture made by Chinese outside the Commonwealth. Owing mainly to the acute competition of the Chinese in the furniture trade in Victoria, there went on for nearly two decades an agitation into which the best life work of some of the finest trade unionists in Victoria was put, and thousands of pounds were expended by organizations’, particularly the Furniture Trade Society, in the endeavour to focus public attention on the injury that was being done to the white furniture-makers. Only after that long period of time was the public conscience awakened to the importance of the agitation. Then the newspapers lent a hand to the movement, and the State Parliament, although composed mostly of men of a conservative turn of mind, enacted special legislation .to meet the crisis. So strong was the agitation with regard to the Chinese, who were working all hours of the day and night, disregarding Sunday, paying little or no attention to sanitary by-laws, and living almost on one another’s breaths, that the Victorian Parliament was moved to enact factory legislation, and create a special Wages Board.
– This is a question of duty,, not of conditions of labour.
– The duty asked for is imperative, because of the disparity between the wages paid to Chinese and white men in the furniture trade, and because of the different conditions under which the Chinese work. A Wages Board was created specially to deal with the acute competition of the Chinese. Its determination stipulated that the Chinese should be paid so much per hour, observe certain conditions of living, and not be employed for more than a certain number of. hours per week. But in spite of these . provisions, and of the strictest supervision, it is” common knowledge that Chinese evade the law almost every day of the week; and that is proved by the fact that Chinese furniture, made almost the same as European furniture, can in some cases be purchased at almost half the price of the latter. It is because the law is evaded in this way, and because there is no legislation regarding hours and conditions of labour in those foreign countries whence this furniture comes, that I ask the Committee to agree to the request that has been moved.
– The Tariff, as introduced in another place, provided for a duty of 10s., or, in the alternative, an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent, on lounges and settees. On the 4th December, 1907, it was decided to strike out that duty; but it may be noted that lounges and settees of all kinds were originally made dutiable at the rates I have mentioned. As a matter of fact, in the consideration of the item elsewhere, stress was not laid on the circumstance that lounges and settees made from wicker, bamboo, or cane come into competition with locally-made articles, and that they come chiefly from the Straits Settlements, China, and other Eastern countries. The Tariff Commission gave a very graphic account of the inferior conditions in the East as compared with those which prevail in Australia, and under the circumstances I think we. might well ask the House of Representatives to impose a stiff specific duty, or, in the alternative, a high ad valorem duty. It is probable that the House of Representatives, knowing that ordinary lounges and settees of wood will come under the previous item, will see the necessity for a differentiation in respect to these in the interests of those engaged in the trade in Australia.
– Do the Government intend to go on with business later this evening?
– We must get some of these items through.
– Is it intended to continue sitting this evening?
– My question is to the Government, but probably it is quite right for members of the Labour Party to reply, because they are the Government.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that Senator Mulcahy is out of order in asking a question in reference to the conduct of business, in the midst of a discussion on an item in the Tariff.
– I am asking for information, to which, as a member of the Senate, I have a right. I wished to know whether the Government intend to proceed further with business this evening, and I am informed that they do. I only desire to point out that whatever requests may be decided upon from this time forth will hardly go to another place as requests from the Senate of Australia, but rather as requests from a few individuals who have allowed themselves to get into a temper–
– Who have stayed to look after public business.
– Be it so, then, they may remain and look after public business ; and, in order to afford them every opportunity of even passing the Tariff through if they like, I personally have decided to retire from the Chamber. Whatever the object may be in continuing business after this hour, I leave it to the members of the responsible Government - or of the irresponsible Government, who are answering for the supposed responsible Government - to explain to their constituents. If business proceeds further after what has occurred this afternoon I shall leave the so-called Government and the real Government to share the honour and the responsibility between them.
– Mr. Dobson, I desire to know–
– Is the honorable senator going away, too ? Good-bye !
– I ask the Minister if it has to be “Good-bye”?
– What does the hon- orable senator mean?.
– Is it intended to continue the discussion further this evening?
– I propose to continue the discussion for some time yet.
- Senator Mulcahy has indicated the position very clearly. Honorable senators opposite may do with the Tariff what they like, now that senators from the other States have gone–
– No, they have not.
– Some of them have gone.
– Then it is their fault that they are not here.
– Is it the wish to put through this Tariff by the bruteforce of the majority of numbers?
– Is the honorable senator in order in referring to brutal majorities, and to the question whether or not we should proceed further with the business?
– I believe I have authority to say that the word “brutal” is not in order. The honorable senator must address himself to the amendment before the Chair.
– I did not speak of a “ brutal “ majority, but of the brute force of a majority .
– I must ask the honorable senator to address himself to the item.
– Honorable senators opposite have made a piece de resistance of lounges and similar furniture imported into Australia from Japan, and no doubt there is reason for objecting to their importation, although there is a great deal to be said on both sides of the question. Personally, I had no idea that the Government would take advantage of the absence of honorable senators to force their proposals through. The question is, how far are they going on? Is the Opposition to have no voice in the settlement of the Tariff? However, as the whisper has gone round the Government benches that the party opposite will have its way, and as many honorable senators have left for their homes, I shall content myself with protesting against these proceedings.
– In reply to remarks of Senator Mulcahy, I wish to say that I have been sitting here continuously, except for an interval of three or four minutes, since we met at 11 o’clock this morning, my honorable colleague being busy in connexion with other items in the division in regard to which honorable senators have made representations to him. At 4 o’clock we had done nothing, and surely the Government is entitled to ask the Committee to make some progress each day. If we adjourn now, on reassembling on Tuesday afternoon, we shall be in the position where we were this morning, and speakers will rise on both sides to go over again the arguments which have already been stated at length, I propose to proceed as far with this division as item 303. That will dispose of the duty relating to furniture. The items relating to timber are comprehensive and complicated, and new proposals are to be submitted in. regard to them which I wish honorable members to have an opportunity of considering beforehand.
– I think that it would be well not to go on very much further. Personally, I . had no wish that any honorable senator should lose histrain, and did not speak for longer than a couple of minutes. The wrangling which we have had this afternoon does not lookwell, and therefore I hope honorable senators will let this little dispute blow over, and come to some amicable arrangement.
Request agreed to.
Request (by Senator Lynch) put -
That the House of Representatives be requested to further amend item 300 by adding the following new paragraph : - “ (c) Chairs of Wicker, Bamboo, orCane (General Tariff), each, 7s. 6d., or ad val. 45. per cent. ; (United Kingdom), each, 6s.9d., or ad val. 40 per cent. ; whichever rate returns the higher duty.”
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Item 301 (Chairs); and item 302 (Billiard Balls) agreed to.
Item 303. Timber. * *
– This is a somewhat comprehensive and complicated item, and, as I intimated to honorable senators, it is probable that they will be asked to request another place’ to make certain alterations. Whilst 1 have been in the Chamber, my honorable colleague has been engaged upon them, and I hope that anything of the kind will be ready for circulation before honorable senators again meet. I understand also that some important requests with regard to the division, which have already received the consideration of the Department, are to be moved, and, as I intimated before, I shall not ask the Committee in these circumstances to proceed further to-day. When on occasions of this kind certain honorable senators occupy a great deal of the time of the Committee, and very little if any progress is made, they will have only themselves to blame if, when they choose, to suit their own convenience, to leave the Chamber in order that they may attend to other matters, those who remain determine to go on with the public business in their absence.
Senate adjourned at 5.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 March 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19080320_senate_3_44/>.