8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-Has theVicePresident ofthe Executive Oouncil replies to the questions that I have asked about the value of certain importations?
– The replies will take some time to prepare, and are not yet to hand ; but I shall let the honorable senator have them as soon as they are ready.
In Committee: Consideration resumed from 28th July (vide page 10650). divisioniii.-sugar.
Item 29 (Invert sugar) agreed to.
Item . 30-
Sugar n.e.i., percwt. 10s.
– I direct the attention of Senator Crawford to this item, because the duty is in excess of the duty of £9 a ton for which he has asked. It is an old impost upon importations of beet sugar, and I hope that its continuance may have some effect in fostering the production of beet sugar in Australia. We have gone a little way towards supplying ourselves with beet sugar, and I hope that we shall go much further. I think that it will be all to the good if the very important cane sugar supplies of Queensland and New South Wales can be adequately supplemented with supplies of beet sugar.
– The duty under discussion was imposed by the first Customs Tariff Act, at a time when Germany and other European countries were paying high bounties forthe export of beet sugar ; it was, in effect, a countervailing duty. It has not, however, had any effect for a number of years upon the situation in Australia. A large production of beet sugar affects the price of sugar generally in the markets of the world; but the import duty of £6 per ton is really the only protection given to the Australian sugar industry, to which it would not make any difference if the beet sugar duty were removed.
– Does the honorable senator say that he does not desire the continuance of the beet sugar duty, and that it is of no use?
– I did not say that. There is a possibility of the dumping of beet sugar when, the European beet industry has revived, just as there is the possibility of the dumping of German beer, which was referred to last night, and there may be a re-establishment of the European bounties.
– Does the honorable senator admit the possibility of increasing the production of beet sugar in Australia ?
– I think there is every possibility of increasing the production of beet sugar in Australia, and that all encouragement should be given to the industry, which has been established in a small way in Victoria. There is no reason why .beet sugar should not be produced in practically every State of the Commonwealth. In the United States of America, whose labour conditions approximate those of Australia at the present time, about 1,000,000 tons of beet sugar are produced annually, and so far as I can see there is no reason, except the price of beet sugar, why a flourishing beet sugar industry should not exist in Australia. I should like to see such an industry here, because I do not know of anything which would have a more stabilizing influence on the Australian sugar industry generally than the production of considerable quantities of beet sugar in all the States. I do not think that the Government of Victoria is very sincere in its desire to establish the beet sugar industry on a firm basis,, because last year it made a profit of £16,000 at the Maffra beet factory, and did not allow the beet-growers to share in it. While the present agreement affecting cane sugar remains in force, the beet sugar of Victoria is bringing over £7 per ton more than the producers of New South/Wales and Queensland are receiving for cane sugar, because it does not go into the Pool, and the Victorian. Government gets for it the full market price of £49 per ton less discounts, while on the cane sugar, which all goes into the Pool, the Commonwealth Government makes a net profit of between £6 and £7 per ton, which helps to reduce the loss incurred by the importations of sugar.
– How much beet sugar is being manufactured now as compared with ten years ago?
– I have not the exact figures, but I think that the estimate for 1920-21 was about 4,500,000 tons, and that the production in 1913-14 was about 8,000,000 tons. I do not think the annual beet sugar production of Australia has ever amounted to 2,000 tons. Last year it was about 1,200 tons.
– And ten years ago there was no production.
– The Maffra beet factory was established more than ten years ago, but was closed for some years.
– Does it manufacture for Victoria only?
– Beet sugar is not manufactured in any of the other States.
– This State has spent a lot of money in establishing the beet sugar industry.
– Yes. They have made a considerable loss in doing so.
– There is no doubt that the sugar produced from cane grown in the northern parts of Australia is probably the best in the world, but the beet-sugar industry established in Victoria at considerable expense to the State Government has had a very rough spin, and is certainly one that ought to be fostered. Despite what some newspapers have said, we practically all stand for the production of Australian goods for consumption by Australian people, not only in regard to growing the raw product, but also in respect to turning it into the manufactured article. My attitude is that we should manufacture all the requirements of Australia by Australian labour for Australian people. I strongly support a duty which has been imposed for the purpose of fostering the beet-sugar industry in Australia.
Item agreed t~.
Item 31 (Golden syrup and sugar syrups,n.e.i.) agreed to.
SenatorPRATTEN (New South Wales) [11.12]. - Before we pass this item I would like to know whether any. molasses are imported?
– We imported £19,000 worth of molasses from Fiji last year.
SenatorPRATTEN.- The fact that we are importing molasses while, as I am informed, molasses are going to waste in Queensland, owing to the expense of getting it to the markets where it could be used, raises a doubt as to whether we should agree to this item; but probably Senator Crawford could give the Committee some information on the point.
SenatorCRAWFORD (Queensland) [11.13]. - For a number of years it has been the practice of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to import considerable quantities of molasses from Fiji - the cash value of this molasses may not actually be great, but the quantity is considerable - and use them in their New South Wales distillery for the manufacture of methylated and other spirits. During the war a great many of our establishments were assisted to keep going by reason of the fact that the Bundaberg distillery and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s distillery, at Sydney, were producing various forms of commercial spirits. However, I doubt whether the imposition of a duty would tend to the utilization of the molasses, which, unfortunately, are at present going to waste in Queensland because of the very low price at which the products derived from it have to be sold in Australia in competition with imports. Of course, the position was somewhat different during the war, and still is, but I can assure senators that the question of applying the whole of the molasses output of the Queensland mills to some use is not escaping the attention of those engaged in the sugar industry. While the imposition of a duty would not assist that industry at the present time it would probably have the effect of increasing the price of methylated spirit and the spirits used for chemical preparations.
– I do not know whether Senator
Pratten has not the protectionist microbe to almost a self-destructive point. Molasses has been found to be very useful for stock-feeding purposes, yet in some parts of Western Australia it is almost unprocurable, even at a price which is over £20 per ton. Yet the honorable senator wants to put a duty on it.
SenatorCrawford. - There is no market for molasses for stock-feeding purposes except during a drought.
– Even when there is no drought the graziers are asked to pay £2 10s. per 2-cwt. cask for it, and even when they are willing to pay this price they cannot get it. Yet this insane cry for a duty is raised. What advantage can be derived by placing a duty on a commodity which cannot be supplied, although those who require it are willing to pay cash for it?
SenatorPRATTEN (New South Wales) [11.18]. - I am surprised at the inability of Senator Lynch to look all around this question. I am as fully aware as he is of the value and necessity of molasses for feeding stock in times of drought. My previous remarks upon this subject were directed to an inquiry from Senator Crawford as to the position in Queensland, and as a result of that inquiry we have been informed that considerable quantities of molasses go to waste in that State. But I now know that an effort is now being made to utilize what has hitherto been a waste material.
SenatorCrawford. - A considerable quantity of molasses is now being used in the Commonwealth Acetate of Lime Factory in Brisbane.
SenatorPRATTEN. - Quite so. Another inquiry has elicited the fact that in the last financial year Australia imported £19,000 worth of molasses. Thus, while we are importing molasses from a black-labour country, we are also wasting molasses in Queensland. My only reason for speaking upon this item was because I thought it was a matter we might discuss fully, and with all due deference to Senator Lynch I believe that the little discussion we have had already has elicited some facts of which many honorable senators were not cognisant. I would favour a small duty on Fijian molasses if it would lead to preventing the waste of molasses in Queensland. If the byproducts of the industry can be sold at reasonable prices the result must be to lower the manufacturing cost of sugar, and its price to the consumer.
– It has not been established that molasses is being wasted in Queensland.
SenatorPRATTEN. - Senator Crawford has informed the Committee that it is not all being used, and that a considerable portion of it is being wasted.
– And there are buyers of molasses in the market at £20 per ton.
SenatorPRATTEN. - I do not know anything about that. I do know that when in New SouthWales molasses has been required for the feeding of stock the price has been more like £3 per ton free on rail plus packages than £20 per ton.
– The Queensland mills would be very glad to get £1 per ton for it.
SenatorPRATTEN.- I am unable to say whethermy honorable friend from the Cinderella State has been misinformed, or whether there is something going on over there in connexion with the sale of molasses that is wrong.
– We are at the mercy of the rest of Australia in that regard as we are in connexion with most other matters.
– The honorable senator should know that molasses is obtained from sugar beet as well as from sugar cane.
SenatorPRATTEN.- Senator Crawford has said that steps are being taken to utilize molasses in Queensland, and as I initiated the discussion in order to obtain information, I am content to let the item go.
– The real difficulty in the utilization of molasses is the high cost of transport, combined with the high cost of containers, which have, of course, to be returned empty to the different sugar ports.
– To obviate that difficulty we had to get a steamer specially fitted up with tanks.
SenatorCRAWFORD. - Molasses is imported from Fiji in a tank steamer specially built for the purpose. It is moored alongside the sugar mill wharfs, the molasses is poured into the tanks, and when the vessel arrives at Sydney it is pumped out again. The only way in which the molasses that is at present going to waste in Queensland can be profitably utilized is by establishing distilleries in the sugar districts, and that requires considerable capital. It was found impracticable to raise the necessary capital for that purpose during the war when there was a good market for methylated spirits and other products of molasses. Ican assure honorable senators that it is not due to any lack of consideration of the matter by those engaged in the sugar industry that a profitable use has not so far been found for molasses.
– What do they do with it in Queensland. Do they pump it into the rivers?
SenatorCRAWFORD. - No, it is used chiefly as a fuel, of which very large quantities are required in the process of the manufacture of sugar.
Item agreed to. division iv.- agricultural products and groceries.
Animal foods n.e.i. per cental, 2s.
– I should like some information as to the foods which are covered by this item.
– The item covers medicinal foods used for stock.
– Which can be made here?
SenatorRUSSELL.-Yes. It does not refer to chaff and oats and other foods of that description. The foods included in the item are by-products resulting from the treatment of grain, sometimes mixed with molasses. The importations are negligible, and have no effect upon the Australian production. No increase is contemplated in the duty. The item is not separately referred to in the export statistics. The exports for 1918-19 were valued at £13,000.
Item agreed to.
Item 34 -
Animals, living (except for stud purposes), viz.: -
– I am against these duties, because they are of no use to the producers of Australia. We import sheep, pigs, and cattle, chiefly from New Zealand, and only in times of severe drought, when there is an insufficient supply of edible meat in Australia to meet the requirements of the people. The only effect of the duty in such cases is to increase the cost of meat to the consumer totheextent of the duty charged, and at a time when local prices are at a very inflated level. During the 1914 drought, when I sold my own Corriedale wethers, at as high as £5 per head, I also imported sheep from New Zealand. The price to which I have referred was an exorbitant price for the food of the people.
– Was the honorable senator profiteering?
– No ; I sold the wethers I have referred to by public auction at Newmarket. I was not responsible for the price they brought, and I would have accepted £2 per head had that been the last bid. In that year I imported several thousand head of fat sheep, which I obtained from New Zealand at from 35s. to £2 per head; and, after paying 7s. freight and 2s. duty, I made a small profit on them, but I brought meat into the Victorian market when it was very much needed. This duty is absolutely useless, and only tends to increase the price of meat to the people at times when it is already high. To-day the producers are not receiving payable prices. Beef up north is fetching2½d. per lb., mutton 3d., and lamb 5d. to5½d., whilst butchers are charging retail prices of1s. to1s. 3d. per lb. To-day beef is being sold at from 27s. 6d.to35s. per 100 lbs., and mutton at 3d. per lb. ; and yet, think of the exorbitantprices which, the people are being charged by the retailers. Meat prices are one subject upon which I can agree with the Age, which published an excellent article upon the meat trade yesterday. I move -
That the House of Representatives berequested to make sub-item (a), sheep, free.
. - A certain amount of revenue is derived from the importation of animals, but stock imported for stud purposes are admitted free; therefore, this item refers to only importations for commercial purposes. I do not know of any time when Australia,as a whole, has been subject to drought which has created a shortage of cattle and sheep.
– In 1902-3 there was a general drought.
– But there was no time when the whole of Australia was simultaneously suffering from drought. For the protection of Australian flocks and herds, imported stock is subject to inspection and quarantine, in order to prevent the introduction of diseases from abroad. This Work involves a certain amount of expense,whichis not covered by the revenue derived from these duties.
– Are there not quarantine charges?
– Yes. Valuable horses imported from England, and worth £2,000 or £3,000 each, are quarantined for a short period.
– The sheep I imported from New Zealand were not quarantined. They were imported without any restrictions, although I had to pay a number of charges.
SenatorRUSSELL - If there had been any suspicion that the sheep were not clean, they would have been quarantined. I was referring to valuable stock imported from England-
– But they are stud stock, and the Minister has already admitted that they come in free.
– Yes, but that leads to an improvement in our stock. The importations of sheep have been - 1913, 8,448 head, valued at £28,508; 1914- 15, 6,140, valued at £23,600; 1915- 16,6,597, valued at £36,511; 1616-17, 3,809, valued at £12,470; 1917- 18, 1,719, valued at £9,850; 1918- 19, 607, valued at £4,776; and 1919- 20, 269, valued at £6,258.
– From what countries were they imported ?
– Most of the cattle imported came from New Zealand. In 1919-20, two were imported from Great Britain, and were valued at £15, and 13 from New Zealand, valued at £2,860.
– I do not think any beef has ever been imported, hut mutton has been. The other stock is for stud purposes, and is imported from -Great Britain, ‘New Zealand, and occasionally America.
– I think Australia can grow all its own mutton.
– Not in drought years. In 1902-3, mutton was so scarce that the people were eating skeletons.
– Only in time of drought does the consumer get cheap meat. In 1913, because of drought conditions, there was a record export of mutton from- Victoria.
– There was no drought in 1913, but there was in 1914-15.
– Whenever a dry season threatens, the market quickens, and the consumer gets a chance. Where there is a possibility of drought, stock is rushed to the market. Where there is a good season, the stock are kept in the country.
– The Minister has overlooked the period between the threatened drought and the good season. It is during the actual drought, when there is no meat worth eating, that some has to be imported.
– It is not worth while keeping sheep on drought-stricken country, and that is avoided by exporting a large proportion of the sheep.
– Do not forget that we lost 15,000,000 sheep in the last drought.
– In 1913-14 the number of sheep imported from the United Kingdom was twenty-seven, and their value was £130. The following year thirty-three were imported, valued at £143. From New Zealand there were imported that year thirty-*three sheep, valued at £109, and later on the number imported in the various years was 18, 21, 1C and 19. They were probably all stud stock. We do not desire to unnecessarily throw open our market.
– I do not think that the honorable gentleman understands the position at all. I am a grower of sheep, and while the Tariff will protect me it will increase the price of meat to the people .of Australia at a time when its price will be already too high.
– That’ may be so. But, speaking generally, it is possible at all times to get plenty of meat from some part or other of Australia.
– That is just where the honorable senator is entirely wrong. In 1913, and again in 1915, during the prevalence of drought, the people could not get meat. They were eating skin and’ bone.
– After all the duty is purely a revenue duty.
– Upon the Minister’s own showing there is not much revenue derived from it.
– In the discussion of the various items contained in the schedule to this Bill the Committee should be guided st’ all events partially by pronouncements from specialists. We all know, that Senator Crawford is a specialist in connexion with the sugar industry and its subsidiary industries. We know, too, that upon matters relating to stock- and wool Senator Guthrie is a specialist by virtue, not merely of the position which he holds, but of his life-long experience. Consequently, I think that the Committee should pay some attention to his statements in regard to these duties. He has stated that the proposed duties will be of no assistance to the primary producer, whilst their abolition may possibly he of value to the consumer. He has pointed out that if they remain in force they * will be prejudicial to the interests of the consumer in time of drought.
– Are not those statements rather inconsistent? I do not see how they can he reconciled.
– I shall endeavour to convey to the honorable senator the impression which I gained from Senator Guthrie’s speech. The honorable senator informed us that these duties will be of no assistance whatever to our primary producers - that they are merely so much camouflage. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) has shown that, in good years, there are practically no importations of sheep into Australia, with the exception of stud stock, which are admitted free. It has been further demonstrated that there have been considerable importations for food in periods when meat was scarce and dear. Clearly these importations were made for the meat-eaters of this country, and they certainly tended to relieve the local market.
– In what year was that?
– I imported some thousands from New Zealand in 1913-14.
– There were only about 6,000 imported during that year.
– Senator Guthrie has referred to two periods, namely, 1902 and 1914-15, when disastrous droughts were experienced in Australia, and when meat was dear, and almost unobtainable. It is inevitable that similar periods will be experienced again. Let us suppose that at such a time New Zealand is, figuratively speaking, overflowing with milk and honey. Let us assume that the grass there is green, that water is plentiful, and that the lambs are fat. In such circumstances is it not reasonable to suppose that these duties will be passed on to the consumer ? I am merely putting the position as I view it. I am not an expert upon this matter, and I do not possess the technical knowledge which is possessed by Senator Guthrie, but I am inclined to accept his statements as a true reflex of the views that are generally held by our primary producers.
– I am afraid that Senator Guthrie is making rather too much of this matter. Of course, I can understand an honorable senator who sees a possibility of helping the consumer taking up a very strong stand upon any item. My own impression is that if the duty upon sheep be abolished the consumer will not be assisted one iota. Striking an average, that duty does not represent more than a farthing per lb. According to Senator Guthrie’s own statement, although stock in Australia to-day are being sold at very low prices, the consumer is still being obliged to pay very high prices for his meat. That statement knocks the honorable senator’s argument to pieces.
Here to-day the fat-stock market prices are low, yet one has to pay the butcher a high price for a piece of meat.
– Because we have been exploited.
– And we shall be exploited in the same way even if we remove this duty.
– This is not a big question, but to a man who is familiar with the position this duty appears to be a stupid one. It is of no use to the producer, and, if anything,isinimical to the interests of the consumer. In the year to which I have already referred many thousands of fat sheep would have been brought from New Zealand but for the duty of 2s.
– The duty on sheep must produce some revenue.
– - Itproduces very little. In 1914 it yielded only £217, and no revenue has been obtained from it since then.
– I am taking up this attitude, not merely in the interests of the producers, but because I think it folly to allow sheep to come in free when we know that by removing the duty we shall not benefit the consumer. The Government require every pound they can get by way of revenue. In respect of many Tariff items huge sacrifices of revenue are being made, and, even if this item yields only £200 a year, I think it should be retained. I am prepared to help the consumer wherever possible, but the removal of this duty would grant him no relief.
– I would not take up the time of the Committee in discussing this question but that it relates to what is more or less my profession, and I am, therefore, thoroughly familiar with the position. In urging the removal of the duty I am opposing my own personal interests. I am a stockfattener, and can fatten sheep during even the biggest drought period, because I have partially irrigated lucerne. But why should I be able to charge people who are already paying too much! for meat an extra 2s. per sheep because of the existence of this stupid duty, which is designed, perhaps, to prevent sheep being brought in from New Zealand, a country where drought is unknown and where there is every year a huge surplus of fat stock? In the year to which I have referred, but for this duty many thousands moye sheep would have been brought from Dunedin to Melbourne, and the price of prime mutton to the people would thus have been reduced at least a little. I maintain, as a fattener of stock, that the duty is of no value, and I trust the Minister will agree to request the House of Representatives to remove it.
– Theoretically, Protectionists do not favour revenue duties, since they are’ inconsistent with the policy of Protection, but we must not forget that our enormous war expenditure renders it urgently necessary that we should obtain as much revenue as possible. A duty amounting to, perhaps, 2s. 6d. per lb. has been imposed on tobacco, so that, to be consistent, honorable senators who sup- . port the removal of this duty on the ground that they desire to benefit the consumer should have asked for the removal of the duty on tobacco. I claim to be a strong Protectionist, and there are in the Tariff at least 100 items which, as a Protectionist, I could not in ordinary circumstances support; but, recognising that revenue must be raised either in this or some other way, I feel bound to accept them. There are in the Tariff many items similar to that now under consideration the duties on which yield very little revenue, but the aggregate return from them is considerable, so that if the whole of those duties were removed we should have to increase taxation in some other direction. I do not claim to be a sheep expert, but I have heard that the majority of the sheep in New Zealand are of the Corriedale type.
– I wish they were. There are not more than 3 per cent. About 2 per cent, are merinoes, and the rest are all British breeds.
– I understand that, sheep that are brought here .from New Zealand for breeding purposes do not do very well, but revert quickly to type.
– That is not so.
– This is not a national question, but I hope we shall not have the same demand made in. respect of other items the revenue from which is relatively small. If every duty that yields only a small amount of revenue were removed the total loss to the Treasury would be very considerable, and we should have to make good that loss by taxation in other directions. All the animals imported into Australia have to undergo a period of quarantine,” and that involves the Government in considerable expenditure.
– No quarantine is imposed in respect of sheep from New Zealand.
– Very well. I hope that whatever may be the decision of honorable senators in this case they will not request that every duty on commodities that are not made in Australia shall be removed. I have often voted to put such commodities on the free list, but owing to the urgent need of revenue I must now vote for the imposition of duties on them.
– When Senator Guthrie rose to draw attention to this question I was about to ask the Minister (Senator Russell) why a duty on sheep had been imposed. I come from a State where there are millions of sheep and cattle, and I am convinced that this item will not be of any benefit to the industry. Senator Guthrie, who speaks as one who knows, has clearly shown that a duty of this kind is not calculated to encourage breeding or to improve our stock. The imposition of such a duty, suggesting as it does that we are trying to keep stock out of the country, is a rather bad advertisement for Australia. I shall support the placing of this sub-item on the free list. As to the supply of fat stock on the market, we must not lose sight of the fact that with better railway facilities there would have been no shortage during previous droughts. There are parts of Queensland where enormous quantities of fat stock are produced, and if during the last drought there had been reasonable railway facilities stock could have been brought from those districts to the southern markets. As it was, they could not be travelled because of the long stages without water. Since then our railway facilities have been improved, and I do not think we shall suffer in future as much as we have done. In the interests of the consumer this duty should be removed. I do not know to what extent he will benefit, because, after all, those who import fat sheep will get the price prevailing for mutton in Australia.
– But that price would be plus this duty.
– That is so. The Minister (Senator Russell) has emphasized the fact that the revenue raised from the duty imposed in connexion with the importation of stock has helped to pay quarantine expenses. According to Senator Guthrie, it was only during the 1914-15 drought that sheep were imported fromNew Zealand, and the Customs revenue raised from that source was practically negligible. Apparently, it will be only during drought periods that the Government will derive revenue under this item; and, seeing that the effect of the duty will obviously be to add a little to the price of meat during periods of scarcity, I think the imposition might well be wiped out.
.- I ‘shall stand by the item as it appears in the schedule. From what Senator Guthrie has said, sheep are only occasionally imported from New Zealand ; and the effect of the duty imposed, when the stockis put up for auction, is so slight as not to influence the price.
– If the duty had not been imposed, I can only say that I and other importers would have secured thousands more sheep from New Zealand, and would have given the people more and better-quality meat at amore reasonable price than they were paying at the time.
– A New Zealand sheep averages about 60 lbs. The addition of 2s. per bead by way of duty would make very little difference to the retail price per pound, and surely would have no influence upon the activities of importers.
SenatorLYNCH (Western Australia) [12.4]. - Bearing in mind the extent of the sheep-raising industry in Australia, this small amount of duty is an absurdity. Why this sudden spasm on the part of the Government to raise a few shillings on the total head of stock imported to Australia?
– This is not a sudden spasm; the duty has existed for years.
– And it is the laughingstock of Australia.
– Upon reference to the 1908 Tariff I find that the duty was first imposed under the schedule of that year. I admit that it is ridiculous for me to quote from the (particulars which were then made available to members of Parliament; but, since nothing of the kind has been provided to-day, I may mention that the importations in 1906 were 161 head of horned cattle, 11,000 sheep, 24 pigs, and 426 horses. Those totals are, of course, too trivial to be worth considering as a means of raising revenue by way of duty. Applied to the number of sheep imported during the year in question, the duty would be, roughly, equivalent to 10 per cent., and upon the total number of horses imported, equal to about 3 per cent. Will any one say that those rates are likely to protect and encourage the raising of sheep and horses in Australia ? Do sheepfarmers and horse-breeders want any such encouragement? Do they need any Customs protection whatever? This item is only so much surplusage, and should be wiped off the schedule. It affords protection where none is sought, and imposes a penalty in times when all such impositions mean additional hardship. I take the opportunity to re-state my intention to refrain from supporting any substantial item in the schedule except those having to do with the importation of luxuries. I appeal to honorable senators to assist in framing a schedule which will stand as a credit to the Federal Parliament. When the opportunity arises to impose essentially Protective duties I shall, where they are wanted, give my hearty assistance in that direction. But the cattle and sheep raisers of Australia can hold their own, without assistance, against all competition. They do not ask to be sheltered behind a Tariff schedule so that they may grow fat and lazy. When people appeal for high rates of duty, my attitude is that they are not entitled to excessive protection. Let them have such a fair measure of encouragement as will insure success for their industry, at the same time, however, forcing them, for their own good, to keep their noses down to the grindstone, just as other folk have to do who neither want nor seek coddling assistance.
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [12.10]. - Senator Lynch assumes that the Government are imposing this duty on the protective principle, but the first words that fell from my lips were that the principal object of this and a number of other similar duties was to raise revenue. I do not say that the loss of revenue involved in this item will ruin the Commonwealth, but I emphasize the fact that if, throughout this schedule, we adopted the principle - which I believe in, and would gladly vote to carry out if it could be applied - that no article which cannot be manufactured in Australia ought to be dutiable, we should be up against a number of unforeseen consequences. I admit that, under true Protection, such articles should be as free as air, and that the protection on the natural key industries of Australia should be high. That is the theory, but the Committee must remember that this is not purely a protective schedule. We have to keep our eye on the revenue, and if the Committee picked out a number of little items which bear duties running from 2 to 5 per cent., and of which the object is to raise revenue, and delete them, they would reduce the Treasurer’s Budget by £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. Then we should be up against the necessity of taxing the community to make up the deficit - the most unpopular thing that we could possibly do.
– How much revenue have we received from this source during the last ten years?
– Not much; but we have distributed small duties over a number of articles which, in normal times, would not be taxed. The Committee must keep in mind the fact that the Government must raise, by one means or another, a certain amount of revenue. It is not worth the while of the Committee to bother about cutting down duties that have existed for twenty or thirty years. I leave the matter to the judgment of the Committee, but I hope the principle of reduction or abolition will not be generally applied, because it will seriously reduce the revenue.
– I do not think the Minister can show us half-a-dozen similar items in the whole schedule.
– There are numbers of them.
SenatorGuthrie. - I guarantee that the Minister could not show us another such stupid one.
– Perhaps the honorable senator has picked out the most stupid. Honorable senators “surely would not claim thattobaccowas a great luxury, yet we have put on it a heavy duty, which must be borne by the working men of Australia. We do not produce tobacco leaf in Australia in sufficient quantities for good smoking, so that Senator Guthrie’s principle is not applied to that item. To be consistent, the honorable senator should advocate the reduction of the charges on tobacco by about 5s. per lb. Where should we end if we started on that principle? I quite see the force of the theoretical principle, but we cannot afford to adopt it. I urge the Committee not to cut the revenue too low, because we require a considerable amount to carry on the government of the Commonwealth.
SenatorPRATTEN (New South Wales) [12.14]. - The Minister appeals to the Committee not to cut down too many revenue duties, because otherwise the revenue from the Tariff will fall considerably short of the Commonwealth’s requirements. The only action taken so far by the Committee is in the direction of raising duties. We have asked another place to do so in four specific directions, in one very considerably. The effect of raising the duties on foreign lager beer, if the importations keep up to the average of the years before the embargo was imposed, will be to produce an extra revenue from that one source alone of from £50,000 to £100,000 in the year.
– If the increased duty on lager is effective it will be prohibitive, and there will be no imports.
– I must ask honorable senators not to make more than a passing allusion to items which have already been dealt with.
– I am endeavouring to deal only with the financial effect of the request before the Committee. Let us assume, to be on the safe side, that the effect of the increase which the Committee has already requested another place to make, will be to swell the revenue approximately by £50,000, entirely from foreign beers. The duty on animals, which we want to abolish, and which the Minister appeals to us to retain for revenue purposes, will not amount, in any one year, on his own showing, on the average importations which have taken place, to more than about £1,000.
– The amount is not important to me at all, but I am worrying about the general application of the principle of admitting free all articles that we do not produce in Australia.
– I admit it. I was merely replying to the Minister’s appeal to the Committee to retain the duty for revenue purposes. It is clear that, already, the receipts from the Tariff, if our requests are accepted, will be considerably more than the Government anticipated. We have, therefore, an ample margin for a reduction on some of what Senator Guthrie has described as stupid duties.
Question - That the request (Senator Guthrie’s) be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Request (by Senator Guthrie) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-items (b), (c), and (d) free.
Item agreed to subject to requests.
Item 35 (Annatto).
– Annatto is vegetable dye, used chiefly for the purpose of colouring cheese and butter, and is the product of a plant cultivated in the West Indies.
Item agreed to.
Item 36 (Arrowroot).
– Will the Minister give us some idea of the importations of arrowroot in recent years from overseas?
– The importations of arrowroot were- 10,860 lbs. in 1913, 19,680 lbs. in 1914-15, 136,493 lbs. in 1915-16, 97,563 lbs. in 1916-17, 99,425 lbs. in 1917-18, 1,689 lbs. in 1918-19, and 4,352 lbs. in 1919-20. The value of these importations was- £230 in 1913, £266 in 1914-15, £1,722 in 1915-16, £1,363 in 1916-17, £1,529 in 1917-18, £88 in 1918-19, and £259 in 1919-20. Arrowroot is grown in Australia, chiefly in Queensland, and the figures refer to the root as taken out of the ground, not the prepared root ready for use. The Australian production was - 10,823,680 lbs. in 1913-14, 7,257,600 lbs. in 1914-15, 4,856,320 lbs. in 1915-16, 8,180,480 lbs. in 1916-17, 9,101,120 lbs. in 1917-18, and in 1918-19, the last year for which I have figures, it was 12,429,760 lbs.
– Do the figures represent the production of Queensland?
– They represent the production in Australia, but mostly in Queensland, and they show a very fine development over that period of years.
– The figures must be extremely satisfactory to the arrowroot-growers of Queensland, and are conclusive evidence that the proposed duty should stand.
Item agreed to.
Item 37 (Bacon and ham).
SenatorPRATTEN (New South Wales) [12.28]. - We now come to one of the duties, of which there aremany, that I think can be described as quiescent ; that is. to say, the development of the industry has been such that, practically, duties do not apply. The bacon and ham industry in Australia in recent years has attained such dimensions that I believe the home market is already supplied, and there is considerable export trade, largely, again, from Queensland. I regard such duties as these as purely nominal, having no effect on the cost of the commodity, and no. protective effect.
– Then why not remove this duty? We have decided to let in pigs free - why not bacon?
– I am not prepared to support the reduction of duties which, in essence, afford some cover for the primary producer.
– Large quantities of bacon used to be imported from Germany.
– That was so before the duties were raised. This and similar duties particularly affect the primary producer, and help him as well as other people.
– Germany will send pigs instead of bacon !
Item agreed to.
Item 38 (Biscuits).
– This is another of those duties which I have described as quiescent. This duty does not affect the price of biscuits in Australia; and as a result of the imposition of duties in the past the industry is now one of which we may well be proud. There will always be some who will prefer imported biscuits, but they are consumed only by those who think that those manufactured in Australia are not good enough. Generally speaking, the biscuit industry has been established in Australia by virtue of the duties imposed in previous years.
Item agreed to.
Item 39 (Blue, laundry).
-Will the Minister (Senator Russell) supply the Committee with some information concerning the importations of laundry blue?
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria-Vice- President of the Executive Council) [12.32]. - The values of the importations were- 1913, £3,363; 1914-15, £2,624; 1915-16, £2,168; 1916-17, £2,090; 1917- 18, £1,274; 1918-19, £2,742; 1919-20, £2,387. Laundry blue is composed of ultramarine blue, bi-carbonate of soda, and dextrine. The usual proportions are 55 per cent. of ultramarine blue, 45 per cent of bi-carbonate of soda, and the proportion of dextrine, which merelyserves as a binding agent, is immaterial. The Federal Analyst, Mr. Wilkinson, states that in samples of imported blue examined the colouring matter consists of analine dye. No application has been received for increased duties on laundry blue, and it is evident that the rates on the materials will tend to increase the cost of manufacture in Australia. The chief manufacturers in the Commonwealth are Lewis and Whitty, and A. C. Parkin and Company, of Melbourne, and Reckitts Limited, of Sydney. Lewis and Whitty are making ultramarine blue, and expect that eventually they will be ableto manufacture all their requirements. At present they make about 25 per cent. of what they need, and import the balance. The firm is in favour of the new. duty on ultramarine blue, although at present it will be a handicap. Their supplies of bi-carbonate of soda are imported. These firms are producing all our requirements, and are also producing more of the raw material necessary for the manufacture of laundry blue.
– I am glad the Minister has given that information. When the chlorine is removed from salt sodium remains, and from sodium, we obtain soda ash, carbonate of soda, caustic soda, and bi-carbonate of soda. The major portion of these commodities can be produced in Australia, including ultramarine blue. A short time ago I visited Longwood, in South Australia, where china clay or kaolin is found, and from which I saw a very good sample - one of the best I have ever handled - of ultramarine blue produced. This product was manufactured without the assistance of any extensive plant; but it was of a very satisfactory quality, and proved conclusively what can be done in Australia. We should by all means at our disposal encourage the production of raw materials required in local manufactures, and as these products are used in connexion with the manufacture of laundry blue the industry should receive every encouragement. For these reasons I support the proposed duties.
– Although the article under discussion is not of great importance, if clearly illustrates the necessity of having further information on some of the more important items with which we shall have to deal before the Tariff is disposed of. I therefore ask the Minister (Senator Russell) if it is not possible to arrange for the old duties, and the importations in quantities and values to be set out in tabular form so that honorable senators may be able to record an intelligent vote. I understand the type is still standing, and it will be an easy and inexpensive matter to insert an additional column or two , giving the information I desire. When I returned from Western Australia’ there was sufficient correspondence on these subjects in myletter-box to fill a horse stall, and I appeal to the Minister, if we are to do justice to this task, to supply further particulars. I realize that he is doing his utmost to give us all the information at his disposal; but we cannot do justice to our work if we are compelled to give summary decisions after endeavouring to digest facts and figures which are beingheaved at us, quite respectfully, I admit. Before some of the more important items are reached we should be supplied with the duties imposed in 1908, and information concerning the effect of such impositions. Above all, we should be enabled to find out the range of duty. No one knows in this instance what a duty of 2d. per lb. means per cent.
– The honorable senator mentioned this matter yesterday, and I told him that a book had been sent to him which contained the information that he desired.
– I am not in possession of the information which I regard as necessary.
– There is a book which gives the information that the honorable senator wants, and I shall procure it for him.
– It is unfair to ask us suddenly to arrive at a determination on these proposals without proper information.
Item agreed to.
Item 40 (Broom-corn millet and rice straw).
– The duty on broom millet and rice straw first proposed was 4s. per cental on importations from Great Britain; but, on the motion of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) in another place, it was increased to 8s. per centalbecause of certain representations by the local growers. This doubling of the duty was agreed to because it was considered that all the broom millet that Australia needs can be produced within the Commonwealth, and the Minister’s amendment was supported by the representatives of the primary producers. I shall support the increased duty.
Item agreed to.
Item 41 (Butter and cheese, &c.) agreed to.
Candles, tapers, . and night-lights : -
Wax. . . per lb, British,1½d.; intermediate, 2d.; general, . . . 2½d.
N.E.I., per lb., British,1d.; intermediate, lid.; general, . . . 2d.
– These duties should be carefully considered by the Committee from several angles. We have first to consider how they affect those whom I may call the growers of tallow, from which is manufactured stearine, which is the material of which most candles are made. By the retention of the duties now proposed a very grave injustice will be done to theAustralian manufacturers of wax candles. I wish also to direct attention to the fact that, if the item is passed as it stands, there is grave danger, not only that the local manufacture of wax candles may be destroyed, but that the local manufacture of stearine candles may be seriously prejudiced by the importation of wax candles, chiefly from Rangoon, in Burmah, where they are made in very large quantities with black labour from a by-product of crude oil under monopolistic control. During the past decade, the soap and candle-making industry has largely developed in Australia, and at the present time almost all the soap and candles used in the Commonwealth are of local manufacture and made almost entirely of local products. Therefore, to open a door to cheap Asiatic candles would be a serious matter. I can safely say that the plants which have been erected in Australia for the manufacture of stearine from tallow have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, and, of course, it is obvious that it is advantageous to our primary producers to have this demand for their tallow. But although a very large quantity of candles is made from stearine, there is also a local manufacture of wax candles made from imported wax. I understand that there is some demand for wax candles in preference to stearine candles.
– A big demand.
– I wish to state my case moderately.Whatever we may do in fixing the duties on candles, we shall not be’ able to abolish the use of wax candles. But what is the position in which the decision of the House of Representatives has placed the local manufacture of wax candles? What is the position forced upon the manufacfacturers of wax candles in Australia through the insufficient consideration of this item? In 1911 the Tariff imposed a duty of1d. per lb. on’ imported wax, and 2d. per lb. on imported wax candles made by black labour, and the same rates were adhered to in the 1914 Tariff, but for some reason or other, possibly through an oversight, the Tariff introduced in 1920 placed a duty of lid. per lb. on wax, and only 2d. per lb. on wax candles made by black labour, thereby reducing the Protection afforded to the wax candle maker of Australia by 50 per cent. Then another place, in order to protect the Australian manufacturers of candles who make their candles from stearine, increased the duty on imported wax to 2d. per lb., and perpetrated again the injustice contained in the Tariff as introduced by adhering to the small margin of id. per lb. between the duty on imported wax and the higherrateon imported wax candles made by blacklabour. If we do not increase the duty on wax candles made by black labour we shall have a lot of these candles dumped into Australia to the injury of everybody. I have in my hand a copy of an order given for Burmah wax candles, duty paid, delivery in Sydney, at7½d. per lb. The duty included in the price is the existing rate of2½d. per lb. The present price of stearine candles in Australia is 9d. per lb., and they cannot be produced under 8d. per lb. I ask the
Committee to give careful consideration to this glaring anomaly, and I hope that as the debate progresses it will be rectified.
– The Customs returns show that no candles have been imported from Burmah for the past ten years. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) made a complete investigation into the position of wax. No wax candles are manufactured outside Australia except by black labour. The manufacture of stearine candles is a natural Australian industry, and I believe that in point of quality and suitability the Australian candle is equal to any imported article. But we have to bear in mind that the process of extracting stearine from tallow also provides a quantity of glycerine, which is so essential in munition making. Early in the recent war, when the British Government were seeking for glycerine from all parts of the world, Australia sent them all the copra produced inour islands. Copra contains a large percentage of glycerine. We also, at the request of the Imperial Government, placed an embargo on the importation of soaps and candles, the idea being to have these articles manufactured in Australia, so that we could secure the by-product, glycerine, and send it to the Old Country. We have now an opportunity of extending this business, and at the same time turning out a glycerine of excellent quality, which will be essential in our defence preparations when we undertake the manufacture of munitions. The overwhelming superiority of the claim that we should make use of our own raw materials in this way is perfectly obvious, and I hope nothing will be done to assist in the importation of wax produced by cheap black labour at the expense of a commodity, which is wholly produced in Australia under Australian labour conditions.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
.- This item is worthy of discussion, inasmuch as on the decision of Parliament will depend to a very great extent the future success of an industry which has been in operation in Australia for a good many years and has made fair strides. Unless we do what is right in fixing the duties on candles^ it is probable that this industry, in which a considerable amount of capital is invested, will be lost to Australia, and those concerned in it will lose the money they have invested.
– I understand that something like £11,000,000 is involved.
– I do not know the exact amount of the. capital invested in the industry.^ Senator Pratten put the position very clearly, but he took no definite action. I can understand that the reason is that the duty to be imposed on paraffine wax must be taken into consideration when deciding an adequate duty “on candles. Those who ‘are- engaged in the manufacture of wax candles in Australia rightly contend that their industry has been almost entirely dependent on their being able to secure paraffine wax, which can only be obtained in large quantities from Rangoon. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) made a statement to the effect that we are not justified in taking action for the protection of an industry if the basis of it is a raw material produced by black labour. It has to.be borne in mind that the candlemanufacturing industry was first established in Australia when the raw material it required was obtainable only from countries in which black labour is employed. In those countries very little attention has been given in the past to the manufacture of candles. Recently noting the opportunities offering in Australia, people in those countries have had their attention directed to the matter, and it has occurred to them that a very large trade might be done with Australia in candles. I have no doubt that the information given by Senator Pratten- on this matter is absolutely correct. It goes to show that within the last fortnight a contract’ has been entered into for the purchase of a very large supply of candles, with the option of quadrupling the first order, to be landed in Australia at a price which would absolutely prevent the Australian product being marketed at a rate which would give a reasonable return for the cost of labour involved in its manufacture.
– The price quoted is 74d. per lb. delivered duty paid in Australia.
– Yes. The information I have is. in these terms: -
Only this week wo have been offered from Rangoon 16-oz. wax candles, 125 melting point, duty paid, delivered at our store for 7id. net. We have taken advantage of this offer, and have ordered, which has. been accepted, 1,000 cases of these candles at the above price, with the option of buying another 10,000 cases at the same figure.
One cannot discuss this question properly without discussing at the same time the cost of the raw material to the industry here. In the circumstances, I suggest the postponement of this item until after- we( have dealt with the duty on wax. That is a business-like proposition to make. After ‘we have, considered on its merits a request for a reduction in the duty on the raw material of this industry we shall he in a position, should that request be agreed to, to decide what would be a reasonable duty to impose on the manufactured article. I hope that the Minister will consent to a postponement of this item.
– I shall have no objection to do so. I should like to make further inquiries into the matter myself.
– If the course which I suggest is not adopted, we might increase the duties on candles, and later on might deal with the duty on wax in such a way as to make the action taken in respect of candles absolutely absurd. The two items require to be considered together. “We can discuss the whole industry when dealing with the raw material, and the decision then arrived at should govern to a great extent the course to be followed by the Committee when dealing with the duties on candles. I do not know that anything is to be gained by a lengthy discussion on the candle industry on this item in view of the reasons - I have advanced for its postponement.
– Believing, as I do, in Australian goods for Australian people, and knowing that the candle-manufacturing industry employs about 1,000 of our people under good conditions, and makes use of some raw products of Australia, such as tallow, it was my intention at this, stage to move for an increase in the duties on candles. But I think it would be far better if Senator Russell would agree to defer the consideration of this item until after we have dealtwith the duties to be imposed on wax.
– The Minister (Senator Russell) has taken some” exception to a statement made by me that Rangoon candles had been offered at7½d. per lb., delivered in Sydney, duty paid. In proof of my statement I submit the following letter : -
Sydney, 19th July, 1921.
DearSir. - Referring to our conversation re Rangoon candles, we shall be glad to cable for your requirements for shipment to be specified by you, at7½d. per lb., duty paid and delivered net, based on present rate of duty of 2½d. per lb., net cash against documents . on presentation.
We shall be glad to have your instructions.
– I did not challenge the honorable senator’s statement, but no importations of Rangoon candles have been recorded by the Customs Department for more than ten years. The letter which the honorable senator has read apparently indicates a new move, and that is why I favour the postponement of the item to allow of further inquiry being made.
Coffee and chicory -
– Some years ago I had the pleasure of drinking coffee grown in Queensland, and I should like some information as to how the duties hitherto imposed have operated in the encouragement of coffee cultivation in Australia?
– The value of the importations of raw coffee in the last seven years have been:-1913, £97,756; 1914-15, £78,755; 1915-16, £84,348; 1916-17, £96,846; 1917- 18, £67,304; 1918-19, £95,380. No increases in respect of this item are proposed, the Inter-State Commission having reported -
The present duties (i.e. 1908-11 Tariff) are sufficient for this industry, which is capable of considerable development, and its failure is not due to the Tariff, hut to the avoidable causes to which attention has been invited. The onlyefficient means of promoting coffee cultivation in Australia is, in the opinion of the Commission, ‘ by setting apart large areas in suitable localities and concentrating the industry so that growers may obtain the substantial benefits of co-operation. . . . It is considered that the bounty of1d. per lb., which expired on 30th June last (1915), should be renewed.
In the 1902 Tariff the duty, on coffee, raw and kiln dried, was 3d. per lb., and on roasted or prepared coffee 5d. per lb. In the 1908 Tariff the rates were 3d. and 6d. respectively; the latter rates are continued in the present schedule. The 1907 Bounties Act provided for a bounty of 1d. per lb. on coffee grown in Australia by white labour, and bounties were paid as follow:- 1909-10, £117; 1910-11, £112; 1911-12, £68; 1912-13, £125; 1913-14, £73; 1914-15, £71; 1915-16, £3. The period of the bounties expired on the 30th June, 1915. The position of the coffeegrowing industry in Australia is set out in the following extract from the Commonwealth Year-Book, 1918: -
Queensland is the only State of the Commonwealth in which coffee-growing has been at all extensively tried, and here the result has, up to the present time, been far from satisfactory. The total area devoted to this crop reached its highest point in the season of 1901- 2, when an area of 547 acres was recorded. The area then continued to decline to 1907-8, when it was as low as 256 acres. In subsequent seasons the area fluctuated somewhat, but on the whole there was a downward tendency, and in 1917-18 only 51 acres were recorded, with a yield of 16,242 lbs.
– We may judge from the figures quoted by the Minister that the duty has been of no value in encouraging the cultivation of coffee in Australia. That being so, the duty becomes purely a revenue one, and the Committee should consider whether or not it should be reduced. Tea is admitted free of duty; coffee is an almost equally popular drink, and is used for exactly the same purpose. If the duties in the schedule are agreed to, we shall not be helping primary production, and there does seem to be a good case for the reduction of the duty.
– Or its abolition.
– Or its abolition, if necessary. I do not wish to impose unnecessarily heavy taxes upon the consumers.
– It is quite clear that the sums paid in bounties for coffee production did not exhaust the amount which Parliament voted for that purpose, and that
Parliament failed in its laudable endeavour to establish the coffee industry in Australia. The time has come when we should consider whether or not this duty should continue, having regard” to the fact that so far it and a respectable bounty have failed to establish the industry. If SenatorPratten does not move for the abolition of the duty upon this household commodity, I shall do so.
– I think that the removal of the duty upon coffee would inflict an injustice upon those persons who, in the face of great difficulties, have persisted for years in their effort to establish the industry of coffee production in Australia. The additional amount which coffee will cost the people of the Commonwealth, by reason of the imposition of this duty, will be comparatively small, and the revenue will benefit to an equal extent. Coffee is not a beverage which is in such common use as is tea.
– It is a luxury, and not. a necessity.
– It is the drink of the more or less well-to-do people. More coffee is consumed in the cafes and after sumptuous lunches in leading hotels than is consumed in the houses of the poorer classes of people in Australia. The production of coffee has decreased because its price has not increased in thesame ratio as has the cost of production. The growing and harvesting of this commodity involves a great deal of labour. Next to tea, there is probably no industry in which so much labour is required. The production of coffee is still a long way from the vanishing point, and I understand that in one district in Queensland - I refer to Buderim Mountain, which is about 70 or 80 miles from Brisbane - there has recently been an increase in the production of this article. We shall be doing a gross injustice if we give the happy despatch to this industry byabolishing the small measure of protection that it at present enjoys.
– How many growers are there in the industry?
– I cannot say offhand, because I did not for a moment imagine that this Committee would at tack a struggling industry in one of the remote States of the Commonwealth. Senator Pratten. - Upon the figures it looks as if the industry has failed.
– It has not failed completely. The latest statistics disclose a production of 16,000 lbs. of coffee. The industry is still yielding a livelihood to a few people in another State. I appeal to honorable senators to allow the existing duty to stand. It is a small protection as compared with the protection, which has been afforded to other industries which do not employ anything like the same amount of labour. It is a white man’s industry, and it is, therefore, entitled to all the encouragement which will be given to it under the present duty.
– I indorse the views which have been expressed by Senator Crawford, and I think that Senator Pratten will be acting quite consistently with the principles which he has laid down for his own guidance if he supports this item. I agree with him that it is from luxuries that we should derive our revenue. Coffee is not an absolute necessity. We can get along perfectly well without it, and consequently it is an item from which we should receive revenue. If at the same time we can assist an industry which has been established in Queensland, although it is merely a struggling industry, we shall be killing two birds with the one stone.
– I happen to have visited the only district in Queensland in which coffee is being grown, and. I propose to relate my experiences there to honorable senators. At a place called Kuranda there were formerly thirty coffee planters. At the time of my visit there was only one. Some hundreds of acres had been placed under coffee cultivation, and the gentleman who was in charge of the plantation there was good enough to show me the whole of the processes of coffee production from the picking of the berriesup to the drying, cleansing and grinding of the coffee itself. He also showed me a photograph of a magnificent exhibit which he had had at various agricultural shows. When I inquired what had become of the twenty-nine other growers who had been in the district, he replied that they had failed through not having been granted a sufficient measure of protection. He then went on to say that, although splendid coffee could be grow in that locality, its production there was unprofitable. He added, “I import coffee and sell it as coffee which has been grown in Queensland.” If honorable senators think that this industry requires further encouragement, by all means let us increase the duty upon the article. I submit, however, that coffee is as much a necessity with many people as is tea. As a matter of fact, tea is a luxury. All the people who come from Central Europe and some parts of Asia are heavy coffee drinkers, and there are many of them in Queensland.
– Does the honorable senator wish .to give them cheap coffee ?
– I am surprised that some honorable senators should regard coffee as a luxury. So far as the production of this commodity in Queensland is concerned, the bounty has not been successful in establishing the industry. At Kuranda, the plantation which I visited had been almost destroyed.
.- The statements made ‘by Senator Senior in regard to the Queensland coffee industry are more or less correct. One of the greatest troubles with which coffeegrowers have to contend is the cost of the labour involved in picking the berries, the union rates making the cost almost prohibitive. This duty by no means equalizes the difference between the cost of labour here and in the cheap-labour countries in which coffee is largely produced. In Queensland in many cases coffee plantations, which when in full bearing are a beautiful sight, have been replaced by sugar farms. In urging the Committee to agree to the duty as it stands, I would point cut that coffeegrowing may properly be described as a family industry. I know of a family, the members of which make a very good living by growing coffee, just outside Maryborough, in the south of Queensland. They grow, pick, and grind their own berries, and put on the market a really excellent coffee. I do not ask that the duty be increased, but there is certainly no reason why it should be re moved. Special efforts are being made to induce people to settle on the land, and many men would be inclined to do so if they knew that in connexion with their industry employment, that would not be attended by any injurious effect, could be found for their children. The process of picking coffee berries is very simple, and school children during their holidays could he so employed with advantage to their own health and to the improvement of the industry. Coffee is not a luxury - it is a more or less common ‘beverage - and I ask the Committee to allow the duty to remain.
– The argument advanced by Senator Drake-Brockman that coffee is a luxury is completely answered ‘by the figures quoted by Senator Russell showing that nearly 2,500,000 lbs. of coffee were imported last year; the duty yielding a revenue of £29,000. There are few people engaged in the industry, and al-, though it has had the advantage of both a protective duty and a bounty, we find that, like the ‘ old horse under the auctioneer’s hammer, it is “ Going, going, almost gone!” It is for the Committee to say whether we should allow the Treasury to benefit to the extent of £29,000 a year by continuing this duty and to that extent adding to the cost of a very necessary household -requirement while at the same time there is no immediate prospect of encouraging the industry.
– Think of the poor, . struggling citizens who call for coffee at the Hotel Australia!
– In Senator Pearce we have a Daniel come to judgment. On entering any humble caravanserai in the Commonwealth a man is invariably asked, “Will you have coffee or tea?” but a visitor to the Hotel Australia ie never asked that question. With him it is a matter of champagne or beer. The honorable senator’s suggestion is “ too thin.” It would be better, as Senator Duncan has said, to reduce the duty by one-half and to set aside £15,000 per annum to provide an annuity for those who are at present engaged in the industry. Even then we should be £15,000 a year to the good, in so far as effecting a reduction in this wholesome article of diet is concerned. We are not here to make the Tariff a mere tax-raising device. Our object should be to frame a Tariff that will encourage industries which stand in need of encouragement and not to support any wild-cat scheme for raising revenue without the compensating advantage of establishing an industry. That is the position in this case.
– Unless coffee is a luxury.
– .Senator DrakeBrockman’s argument in that respect falls to the ground. Even in the most humble restaurants in his own State a man is asked whether he will have coffee or tea. I am sure no honorable senator desires to destroy an industry that has the least chance of succes, but it has been shown that this industry, although given every chance, is steadily declining. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (a) free.
Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW (Queensland) [3.8]. - I support the request made by my colleague from Queensland, that the duty as fixed by another place should stand. I recognise that the statistics which have been quoted show that the industry has not progressed, but I have to inform honorable senators that only recently a move has been made to increase the production -of” coffee on the Buderim Mountain, in Queensland. A good many tropical products are grown in that district, and I know that coffeeplanting there is. on the increase.
– I desire to know whether the subitem relating to coffee and chicory could be dealt with separately? Chicory is grown in Australia, and I assume very little is imported.
– Chicory is grown very extensively on Phillip Island. If the coffee duty goes the chicory duty must go.
– South Australia grows sufficient chicory to meet its own meeds. The non-success of coffee-growing in Australia ‘hitherto is not a factor which is applicable to chicory-growing. Unless the Minister can show that some of the States are importing chicory largely-
– About 99 per cent, of the coffee imported has chicory mixed with it.
– About 99 per cent, of the coffee imported arrives here in the green state, and is roasted here. I repeat that the growing of chicory in South Australia is sufficiently extensive to have done away with the need for the importation of any of that product. I do not want the duty to be removed, seeing that the industry is prosperous.
.- So far as I know, Tasmania has not grown a single coffee plant, but I cannot give my approval to the abolition of the duty upon coffee. Information supplied to honorable senators this afternoon was sufficient to convince me of the wisdom of retaining, the duty of 3d. per lb. on raw coffee. I refer to the statement that the growing of coffee on large areas has not, so far, proved a success in Queensland, but that it has been successful when engaged in under conditions where a family of growing children can be employed in picking the crop. I have been influenced, further,- by the statements of Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow,’ that the cultivation of coffee is about to be considerably increased in a certain locality in Queensland. Anything tending to induce people to go out on the land and rear families on small holdings shall always have my support. One other consideration for the retention of the duty is that the Commonwealth Treasury must have revenue. The rate, in this instance, is not a heavy one. I regard it, indeed, as quite reasonable, and a fair means of adding to the revenue of the country.
– In view of the statements of several honorable senators, particularly those of Senator Reid and Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow, concerning the prospects of coffee-growing in Queensland, I ask leave to withdraw my requested amendment.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
Item agreed to.
Item 44 -
Confectionery, cocoa and chocolate, viz. : -
. . . .
– I wish to raise the question of the relative incidence of sugar to-day at 6d. per lb. as compared with its bearing upon previous Tariffs, when the price was one-third of that which has been fixed for the present, and to cover the next two years. The confectionery industry is entirely dependent for its raw material upon sugar, and so far as its export is concerned, it has been practically placed - -owing to the regulations of the price of the raw material - upon the basis of the world’s parity. If the world’s parity for sugar is 3d. per lb., and the Australian price now, and for a long while ahead, is 6d. per lb., these duties do very little more than make up the balance. The protection, therefore, is really very slight.
– The present price of sugar in Great Britain is about £55 per ton.
– That is not the world’s parity. The price is due to the costly accumulated stocks in Great Britain having not yet been worked off. But, as for sugar grown in Cuba and Java–
– Confectionery is not made in Cuba and Java.
– Whether that be so or not, the honorable senator must know that confectionery is made on the Continent and in America from the raw material grown in Cuba and Java. I should say that the world’s parity for sugar, new crop, is now about £25 per ton. Consequently, the world’s parity for the manufacturer, provided that old stocks are worked off, is about £25 per ton, or a little more than half the price that the Australian manufacturers have to pay. This industry will, therefore, be subjected to competition from America, Holland, and England, so far as sweets and chocolates and things of that sort are concerned. Has the Minister (Senator Russell) any information upon the incidence of the present control price of sugar in Australia on these duties? In 1914, there was a fixed duty of 3d., or an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent., whichever was the greater. In 1920, there was a fixed duty of 3d., or an alternative ad valorem duty of 35 per cent. It is clear that if in 1914 Australian manufacturers could make confectionery from sugarobtained at the world’s parity price plus the duty of £6 a ton, and will have to pay in 1921 as much as £45 per ton for sugar for manufacture, while the world’s parity is only £25, the incidence of the sugar position is that these duties afford very little if any protection to the Australian manufacturer. I know that Cadburys have come here, and are erecting a very fine factory at Hobart. I am not prepared to advocate the extraordinarily high duties which are justified by the present sugar position.
– How long will it remain? That is the trouble.
– Last night Senator Crawford appealed to the Committee to increase the duty on sugar by 50 per cent. The Minister rightly said that it would be time enough to raise the whole question of the incidence of the sugar duties when the present sugar agreement expired, as that agreement practically displaces the duties provided in the schedule. Great Britain deliberately sacrificed her sugar industry for the sake of cultivating the subsidiary industries based on sugar as a raw material.
– Are you suggesting that that is an example which can well be followed in Australia, which has a large tropical area?
– I am not suggesting anything. Iam putting the facts of the position as I see them. If manufacturers of confectionery and sweets in other countries are able during the next eighteen months, which is, roughly, the currency of the sugar agreement, to get raw sugar for manufacture for export to Australia at about £20, or even £25 per ton, and the local manufacturer has to pay £45 a ton for sugar to be made into manufactures for consumption within the Commonwealth, these duties are no protection, and approximately only make up the difference.
– Is that why Cadburys came here?
– I believe the temporary sugar arrangement was not taken into consideration when those British manufacturers came to Australia. If they had been certain that they would always have to pay £45 a ton for sugar for the manufacture of chocolates and sweets for consumption within Australia, while they could manufacture them at Bourneville, in Birmingham, with sugar at £20 a ton, and only pay these duties, there would have been no hesitation about what they would do.
– “When they decided, they had the prospect of falling prices.
– Yes ; but the decision was made probably nearly two years ago, when sugar in Great Britain was at its maximum, and when pessimists like Senator Crawford thought that that maximum price for sugar would be sustained for a long time owing to sugar going out of cultivation. I merely raise this question, and if the Minister has any information as to the representations made to him by the confectioners, I should like to hear it.
– During the war we put an embargo on the importation of confectionery. That is rather a brigand’s method of dealing with trade, but it was more than justified in war time. Under it we have built up the industry so successfully that it is practically selfsupporting; and although we have removed the embargo, very little importation of confectionery is taking place. Excuses and apologies may be made, but I have never met any of those innocent men who “ do not quite understand the position “ before they put £50,000 into a business. The world is not run on those lines. Men with capital look around and decide carefully whether they will go into an enterprise. Pour of the biggest firms, Nestles, Cadburys,Frys, and Pascalls, have started business in Australia. They may have misjudged the time at which the contract expires, but I am sure they looked two or three years ahead. By putting an embargo on imports, Australia learned what could be done in regard to confectionery, and I have no hesitation in saying that those firms thought they would be better off for certain portions of their confectionery manufacture by coming to Australia than by remaining in England. To-day, despite the cost of sugar, manufacturers in Australia are turning out confectionery effectively under existing conditions.
– I think sweets are cheaper to-day than they were when sugar was selling at 3d. per lb.
– We all know that they are profitable, and that the retailers, especially about the theatres and concert halls, are, I will not say profiteering, but charging very high prices.
– If the price of sugar is doubled, the price of sweets must be doubled.
– That is so; but the retail confectioners are in many cases charging more than 100 per cent. profit. I do not know who gets all the profit, but it should be limited. We cannot do better than leave the Tariff as it stands, because. , little or no confectionery is being imported owing to the successful development of the industry in Australia.
– The price of sugar must make some difference in the cost of production of confectionery; but, after all, in the case of a great deal of confectionery on the market at present, the cost of the sugar is a very small item indeed. In any confectionery shop it is impossible to get sweets under about 2s. 6d. a pound, and if a person desires to purchase a box of the best Australian chocolates, the price is 25s., although in those chocolates there is not more than 3 lbs. ofsugar. I have been supplied with some figures showing the progress that has been made in the confectionery industry. In 1914 the value of the output was £1,657,045, and the value of the materials was £1,570,902. The difference between the value of the output and the value of the materials was just about £600,000. In 1918 the value ofthe output was £2,969,573, and the value of the materials used, £1,894,187, showing that the value added by manufacture was over £1,100,000. During the war, owing to the exceedingly reasonable price at which confectionery manufacturers were able to obtain sugar, and to their having practically the monopoly of the market, they were able to increase their output by over £1,250,000.
– Put the figures into pounds weight.
– I have not the figures showing the pounds weight. At any rate, we know that there was no
shortage of confectionery - that, instead of decreasing, the business increased, and very large profits were made, not only by the manufacturers, but by the retailers as well.
– They were bound to progress, seeing that they had the market to themselves.
– Yes; and they got their raw material at a very low price. I understand that the majority of -honorable senators have been simply deluged by requests from the producers of different commodities for increases in duty. I must confess, on the other hand, that I have received no communication from the confectionery trade complaining that the import duties are too low. The fact is that the confectionery business, on both the manufacturing and the retail sides, is particularly prosperous to-day. But even if the profits diminish a little for a few months, on account of the price of sugar, surely the low price at which sugar has been sold for the past six or seven years ought to count for something. After all, the cost of sugar is a very small proportion of the price at which confectionery is retailed in Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia.
– Not more than half.
– I have not seen any sweets sold under about 2s. 6d. a lb., though the sugar in those sweets does not cost 5d. I suppose that the sugar in the sweets does not represent, on an average, 10 per cent, of the price at which the sweets are retailed in this city. What is the cost of the sugar in a 25s. box of chocolates? These boxes are to be seen, in nearly every confectioner’s window, and the presumption is that some people buy them, though I confess I have not done so. We must remember that in chocolates and other sweets glucose is sometimes used instead of sugar, and there is an import duty of 12s. per cwt. on glucose, or exactly twice the duty imposed on sugar.
– The honorable senator would sooner that sugar was used, although it is at a high price.
– No. There are certain classes of confectionery for which glucose is necessary - for which there must be some sweet material which will not crystallize or harden. Thus glu cose is used in many cases where ordinary sugar is not suitable.
– From the remarks of Senator Crawford I thought he would conclude with a proposal for a reduction of the duty. The honorable senator is an acknowledged authority on sugar production; he knows that the confectionery industry depends in a great’ measure, if not absolutely, on a supply of cheap sugar, and he tells us plainly and unequivocally that the chocolate manufacturers are having a right royal time with profits. We are informed that the value of the finished product is ever so much more than that of the sugar used, to the extent of something like 400 or 500 per cent. We all know the extraordinarily high prices at which chocolates are sold; but Senator Crawford touched on this phase of the question very lightly - not even with a feather duster - because the confectioners are good customers of the sugar-grower. But where does the consumer “ come in “ ? We have a proposal to impose duties of 3d. and 3$d., ot, alternatively, 30 and 40 per cent., whichever returns the higher rate, according to the proviso always inserted for the benefit of the revenue. It may be assumed that a duty of 40 per cent, is lower than 3W. per lb., so that we have an impost in the neighbourhood of 45 or 50. per cent. All this shows that we are imposing altogether uncalled-for duties in the name of Protection - duties which- are eventually reflected in an increased cost to the consumer on many necessaries of life. In the United States of America, in the colonial days, a very modest commencement was made; but subsequently there was the McKinley Tariff - which shocked the world, and shut out many manufacturers, including British - with duties running from 30 to 40 per cent. Then came the Dingley Tariff, with even higher rates of about 50 per cent. Here in Australia, with a population of 5,000,000, and an undeveloped industrial organization, we are creeping quite close to the standard attained by America, with a population of about 100,000,000. That, in my opinion, is running Protectionmad, arid I speak as a Protectionist. In support of the view I take, I could not call more incontestable evidence than the speech ofSenator Crawford, who proved that the manufacturing of sweets is a highly profitable industry, but sat down without submitting any proposal. With a view of entering a protest, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend section (2) of sub-item
– Can the Minister give the price per lb. of imported unsweetened cocoa paste?
– I am unable to supply the information, as no separate record is kept of the quantity imported.
– Does sub-item e include lemon peel?
Item agreed to.
Item 45 (Copra) agreed to.
Item 46 (Egg albumen, dry).
.- Items 47, 48, 49, and 50 are associated with this item, and as I desire to refer to the importation of Chinese eggs, will the Minister report progress at this stage.
The following papers were presented : -
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired in New South Wales at - Mayfield East;
West Maitland; Weston.
– In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I wish to read a statement which has been received from the Commissioner of Railways, through the Minister for Works and Railways, in reply to some remarks made by Senator Wilson during the discussion of the Supply Bill. The Commissioner says -
In returning the attached extract from
Hansard, No. 83, of 22nd inst. (your
R.21/278), in which Senator Wilson directs attention to -
alleged lax administration of this Department in failing to realize on used construction machinery and material lying at Port Augusta, and that a gentleman he met had been unable topurchase certain trucks he required;
hundreds of picks and a number of railway motor tricycles exposed to the weather; 1 have to advise in regard to No. (1) that shortly after the opening of the line for traffic a schedule was prepared of all surplus plant and material. This schedule was circulated throughout Australia, hundreds of copies being posted to likely buyers and users of such plant and material, and, in addition, advertisements were inserted in all the leading papers of Australia inviting attention to the material available for sale. As a result of this and subsequent action taken, plant and material have been sold to the value of £31,195. The greater portion still on hand has been specially retained for our own requirements, or consists of construction plant, such as tracklaying machinery, rail presses, adzing and boring machines, which cannot be disposed of, but arc available for further construction work. There is also other plant on hand, such as motor tractors, for which a reasonable offer could not be obtained.
So far as the sale of trucks mentioned is concerned, it was decided to retain a certain number for departmental use, and the remainder - to the number of several hundred - were readilysold.
The buyer presumably referred to by Senator Wilson desired to purchase a number of trucks which had been specially fitted for the carriage of firewood on narrow-gauge lines. He was informed that they could not be sold, and others somewhat similar were eventually built for him by the Department.
In regard to No. (2), during my recent inspection ‘of the line I instructed that all surplus picks in excess of the number each gang required for their work should be sent to Port Augusta. It was probably these picks that Senator Wilson saw.
Although I do not know yet the exact number so returned, I doubt whether the total would exceed 100. Even if it were a greater number, seeing that the Trans-Australian Railway is over 1,000 miles in length a fact which honorable members often overlook - the stock would not be excessive.
In connexion with motor tricycles: it is possible that one or two, either worn out or awaiting repairs, may have been lying in the maintenance yard. There are no motor tricycles along the railway, gangs being equipped with a four-wheel motor trolly, which is constantly in use, as well as hand tricycles, and trollies. It is probably the hand tricycle to which Senator de Largie refers.
Copies of schedules containing particulars of plant and material offered for sale are attached for the information of the honorable the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 July 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210729_senate_8_96/>.