8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Representation Act. - Determination by the Chief Electoral Officer of the Representation of the States in the House of Representatives.
Representation Act. - Certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer as to the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth and of the several States.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act. - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 5 of 1921 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers Union of Australia.
Public Service Act. - Appointments - J.G. McMillan and E.F. Youngman, Department of Trade and Customs.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether inquiries have been made in regard to the question which I put to him on the 16th inst. relative to a German ex-military officer, and, if so, with what result ?
SenatorE. D. MILLEN.- On the date named the honorable senator asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister the following question : -
It was at the time intimated that inquiries were being made into the matter. I am now in a position to advise the honorable senator that -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister -
– The answersare -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 26th August, vide page 11364) :
DIVISION IX.- DRUGS AND CHEMICALS.
Item 275 (Sulphur, &c.) agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 276 (Salt cake and soda crystals).
– I rise only to draw attention to the fact that this item, the first sub-item of which affects land-owners and stock-raisers, carries high duties. Everything required by the land-owners is taxed by the Government to the highest rate.
– I desire some information from the Minister as to what industries in Australia are manufacturing soda crystals.
– I do not know what industries are engaged in the production of soda crystals, but the quantity imported is very small. The imports in 1913 consisted of 311 cwt., valued at £95, and last year only 516 cwt. were imported.
– Those figures show that large quantities of soda crystals must be made here.
– The deduction is that the Australian requirements are practically being made here.
Item agreed to.
Item 277 (Carbonic acid gas) agreed to.
On and after 1st October, 1921, per ton.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (b) by leaving out “ October, 1921.” and inserting in lieu thereof “ January, 1922.”
– Apparently the whole of the chemicals covered by the sub-items a, b, and c were free before the imposition of the deferred duties which came into force on 1st January last. I understand that they were deliberately imposed for the purpose of creating a big chemical industry in Australia. I further understand that certain negotiations went on between the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) and the great firm of chemical manufacturers in England, Brunner, Mond, and Company; and, apparently, from what we see in the daily press, that firm is still talking about starting, I believe, in Western Australia. The duties are now in operation, but the chemical industry has not come into being. Senator E. D. Millen’s request has reference to the present duty on caustic soda only. Can the honorable gentleman give the Committee any information as to what this firm proposes to do? The Minister will see that the new duty to be imposed on the 1st January includes the whole item. If his request is passed by the Committee, it will mean that the duty on caustic soda only will be deferred from the time mentioned in that request. This will make caustic soda duty free, while sub-items a and c will stillbe dutiable.
– The honorable senator, naturally, it seems to me, asks for some information as to the present position regarding the assurance given to the Government that works will be established. The honorable senator seems to think that this duty is being imposed in consequence of such an assurance. I understand from the officers of the Department that this firm has had experts in Australia for fifteen or eighteen months who have been placing themselves in a position to report. Their report has now been despatched to their principals in London, and that is where the matter stands. There is, however, every reason to believe that this firm intends business, and that success will follow their efforts.
.- I submit that a reasonable course to adopt would be to include sub-item a with sub-item b. If this commodity is not being manufactured here, why penalize the consumers of it?
– My request is to bring sub-item b into line with sub-item a.
– Can Senator E. D. Millen give us some idea as to the importations of carbonate and bicarbonate of soda.
– Necessarily there were great fluctuations in the importations during the war. In 1918-19 the importations amounted to 493 cwt., and in 1919-20 to 325 cwt.
– I take it that this item was designed to encourage the establishment of large chemical works in Australia. I see that sub-item a does not come into operation until the 1st January next at the earliest, and that the second part does not come into operation until October next year at the earliest. Senator E. D. Millen has now moved to include the first part of sub-item b with soda ash in the preceding paragraph, and I assume that the second part of sub-item b will also be altered in conformity with the others; that is to say, all these deferred duties, which are imposed to encourage the establishment of big chemical works, will come into operation when these works are established.
– Some of these items are already being made here.
Request agreed to.
– As to bleaching powder and chlorine, the duty on which is operative on and from the 1st January this year, I desire to know whether this duty is for the purpose of protecting an already es- tablished industry, which is supplying a reasonable proportion of the whole requirements of the Commonwealth?
– In the case of bleaching powder there was originally a postponed duty. The reason for differentiating this from the other sub-item was that, as in the case already mentioned, a company came forward with proposals, while in the other case with the earlier duties, manufacturing operations have already been commenced. I am not in a position to say what quantities are being turned out, but I understand that the industry established in South Australia is expanding. Beyond that I have no information.
– I think these duties should be made to synchronize. Carbonate and bicarbonate of soda, bleaching powder, and chlorine are all extracts from salt. When the chlorine is taken out, the soda crystal and soda ash are left, the latter being used in the manufacture of glass.
– That treatment is being carried out now, whereas in regard to the other sub-item preparations are only being made for treatment.
– In any case, the duties, I say, ought to be made to synchronize in order to encourage the progressive manufacture of these products from the one element.
– I have but little more to add to the information which I have already given the Committee. The reason for the difference in the dates is that bleaching powder and chlorine, for example, are already being manufactured in commercial quantities in Australia, so that it is not thought desirable to postpone the date from which the manufacturers of those products should receive the benefits of the Tariff. But with respect to other processes - the production of caustic soda, for instance. - it is not deemed well to impose the duties until the industry has been sufficiently established to produce commercial quantities.
Item agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 279 -
Citric acid, ad val., British, free; in termediate, 5 per cent; general, 10 per cent.
And on and after 1st January, 1922 -
– The new duties imposed on citric acid will date from 1st January, 1922. If the impositions are for the purpose of establishing the manufacture of citric acid in Australia - principally, as I understand it will be, from Australian lemons - the item will have my support; that is to say, if there is a reasonable chance of a factory or factories being established. One reason why the production of such a commodity should be encouraged is that growers of the citrus fruits will be materially benefited. With respect to tartaric acid and cream of tartar, honorable senators know that the latter commodity is used by almost every householder in the country. I have been informed that practically the only factory making cream of tartar in Australia has been closed down. If that is so, I am inclined to think that the Tariff should be reviewed, particularly so far as concerns the general rate. I am informed, further, that British manufacturers of tartaric acid produce the commodity in England from ingredients obtained on the Continent. They are therefore in a position to be able to export favorably to Australia, as against outside competitors, and the British public is able to make up home consumption requirements by importations of the manufactured article itself from the Continent. I would like to know what information the Minister has upon the subject.
– The information in my possession discloses that the firm of Crompton and Son, of Adelaide, is producing genuine cream of tartar to the value of £20,000 per annum, and that another South Australian company, known as the Commonwealth. Chemicals, Adelaide, last year produced cream of tartar substitutes worth £23,000. Those figures provide a sufficient answer to the remark of Senator Pratten concerning the closing down of “ practically the only Australian factory manufacturing cream of tartar.” The honorable senator alluded, I take it, to a mill in the neighbourhood of this city. Both of the Adelaide companies are looking forward to large increases in their output, as raw materials are available in abundance. Neither has asked for increased duties.
Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) [3.27). - I can scarcely reconcile the statement of the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) with information which has been furnished to me concerning the quantity of cream of tartar produced in Australia compared with the total amount consumed. Until recently the whole of the cream of tartar used in this country was imported .
– Until the war began.
– The fact remains that the British commodity came in free of duty, and that there was a preference of only 5 per cent. - that being the ad valorem rate upon the foreign product prior to the framing of the present Tariff. In common with other honorable senators, I have been furnished with a statement which is alleged to have been taken from a bulletin published in Adelaide under date 8th August. From a cursory glance through the document, it does not appear to me that the industry of making cream of tartar is sufficiently large and flourishing, or that it was so during the war - when there was very little of the .commodity imported compared with the total amount used - to meet the demands of the local market.In the war years a ^substitute was used, but the head of every house knows the domestic difficulties that had to be contended with in using “ the next best thing.” The imports for the year ended 30th June, 1920, amounted to 1,062 tons. Of that total, 115 tons came from the United Kingdom; 628 tons from the Continent ; and 319 tons from the United States of America. I suggest that the duty on cream of tartar be deferred; it is reasonable to propose that in view of the action taken by the Committee on the item just dealt with. I am convinced that the needs of the people are not being supplied by Australian manufacturers of cream of tartar. I have received some informative particulars concerning the actual total of manufacture and the quantity likely to be produced.
-brockman. - I know that some of the alleged facts contained in the document from which the honorable senator is quoting are not correct; in view of which knowledge I am naturally led to doubt certain of the other particulars.
– Naturally ! I emphasize that cream of tartar is essential to every householder. The Committee should be careful,, in view of the fact that the proposed rates of duty are veryhigh.
– The question arising for decision is a simple one. The purpose of the duty is to encourage the manufacture in Australia of the commodities comprised within the item. Cream of tartar is being made here to the extent which I have already indicated. The industry having been established, it should be encouraged, even although it does not pretend that it can supply the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth. The further fact that the raw material is available in Australia suggests that the National Parliament will do well to further assist the production of the local article, and keep out exports from foreign countries. There is provided here a means of assisting the primary producer. I look with confidence, therefore, to the support of those honorable senators who have said so much, and striven so hard, in the interests of the man on the land.
– I am with you on this occasion.
– This is one of the ways in which it is possible to give value to a by-product which to-day is valueless. Apart from that, there i3 a desire on the part of honorable senators to encourage the production in Australia of those articles which are required, and while doing that we are conferring some benefit upon the wine-growers, as this product is manufactured from the lees of wine.
– What about citric acid?
– The purpose of the duty has been correctly stated by the honorable senator. It is to encourage the production of citric acid from lemons grown iu Australia, and with the imposition of this duty that result will be obtained.
– I appreciate the morsel of comfort extended to the primary producers for the first time, although it comes in a negative form. This proposal to impose a duty on cream of tartar is quite novel. I do not know when the factory, which, I understand, has been established, will be in full operation; but it must have been going somewhat to have produced 20 tons. That is only a fractional portion of the Commonwealth’s requirements, and Ave do not know how long the opera- tions of this industry are likely to continue. I suppose it will go on producing so long as it receives protection in this form, and, in the meantime, the consumers will be saddled with an unreasonable burden. The duties are very high, indeed, particularly the general duty, when we consider that 300 tons of this commodity were imported from the United States of America. It is time we considered whether we are warranted in imposing such a heavy tax on an article which is used in every household throughout Australia, particularly in the backblocks, where baker’s bread cannot be obtained, and consumers have to use this ingredient in producing a suitable substitute. In the interests of this “ tinpot” industry in Adelaide, which is now turning out only a fractional part of our requirements, we are asked to impose the duties.
– It is not a “ tinpot” industry.
– According to the quantity produced it cannot be regarded as anything else. Allwe seem to be doing is imposing stiff duties to protect ‘some industry that is producing one-thirtieth of our requirements, andwe are not justified in doing that. In connexion with other industries, we have been jumping likekangaroos from one standard to another. We have had the pronouncement from the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs that certain dutieswould not be imposed until 60 per cent. of our requirements were being produced locally. That information was given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), and it has been repeated over and over again when the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has been reading from the recommendations of the Inter-State Com mission, which recommendations he quotes when it suits his case, and which he leaves severely alone when they do not.
– That was in connexionwith deferred duties.
– It is absurd for Senator Lynch to suggest such a thing.
– In dealing with the Tariff anything is absurd in the eyes of Senator Earle unless the duties are inordinately heavy. When an industry is producing one-third of our requirements it is getting on its feet, butwhen one is producing such a small portion of our requirements as this one is it is not, and we are piling up the cost of this article unnecessarily. I suggest that the advice tendered by* Senator Payne should be accepted, and the duties imposed from some day next year or the year following, when we shall be able to see how this company is behaving, andwhether it is likely to be a real live or progressive concern. I suggest that Senator Payne should submit a request - if I submitted one the Ministerwould not accept it - for con si deration by the Minister.
– The honorable senator must remember that the duty will be of assistance to the grape-growers.
– The grape-growers can look after themselves. The activities of Mr. Da Garis prove that. When this industry shows unmistakable signs of progress we should impose a duty, and not before.
– I do not know that I am competent either by early training; or otherwise, to enlighten Senator Lynch on the effects or merits of the Protective policy; but it seems to me that he is a little illogical in the view he has enunciated. If my memory serves m© aright, I believe I have heard staunch Protectionists, such as Senator Lynch, explain that protection was required for nursing infant industries ; but he now says that struggling industries should be allowed to fight for their existence. Such a remark might have been made by a Free Trader. If the infant industries do not require protection, and those that arewell established do not require assistance,what do we need a Tariff for ?
– I am simply adopting the Government standard.
– This Tariff is being presented because it embodies the policy of this country, whose industries should be protected. If that is the policy of the country - and I believe the Government have correctly interpreted it - and there are industries that require protection, it is those in their infant stages which should be assisted. Here is one which is growing, and which produced £20,000 worth of this commodity last year.
– It is only a fraction of our requirements.
– Yes, and because it is small this duty is being imposed. I suggest to Senator Lynch, in all seriousness, that he cannot have it both ways.
– I am putting the Ministerial practice to the test, and asking them to do the same on this as they are doing on other items.
– Assurance has been given that deferred duties will not be imposed until a certain proportion of Australia’s requirements have been met, and in those cases Parliament was asked for power to impose the duties on certain specified dates. In this instance Parliament is being asked to impose the duty, and it is for us to decide whether this infant industry needs protection. Are we to say, “ This is an infant industry which can sink or swim, or it is robust and grown up, and- we do not care whether it succeeds or not ‘ ‘ 1
Senator PAYNE (tasmania) [3.40).- I am prepared to accept the figures submitted by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) as absolutely correct. He has said that £20,000 worth of this commodity is manufactured in the Commonwealth. I am in a position to inform the Committee that on the basis of the imports of the article last year, the amount paid in duty by the people of Australia was £37,482. So that the amount collected in duty oh this article is almost double the total value of the commodity turned out in Australia. It should be borne in mind that the production of cream of tartar took place m Australia before these heavy duties were imposed. Although it might be essential to impose a heavy duty when an article can be made in sufficient quantities in Australia, that argument can scarcely apply in this instance in view of the fact that the industry was established without the advantage of a heavy duty.
– I submit that the honorable senator is not entitled to say in one breath that the industry is established, and in the next that it is an insignificant and struggling industry.-
– It is an industry which turns out £20,000 worth of the commodity annually according to the Minister’s figures. I suggest, for-his consideration, the reduction of the duties to Id., 2d., and 3d. per lb., and the proposal of deferred duties equal to those set out in the schedule. The adoption of that course would give those concerned in this industry encouragement to progress. Immediately it assumes anything like reasonable dimensions, and is in a position to supply 40 or 50 per cent, of the local requirements, the higher duties might be imposed.
– That is to say, when the industry no longer needs protection, the honorable senator will be prepared to give it protection.
– What is the object of deferred duties? Time after time we have agreed to- deferred duties for the protection of industries that have just been started.
– That was before the industries affected were turning out products, but in this case the product made dutiable is being turned out.
– It seems to me that to draw from the people £37,000 annually in the shape of Customs duties on this commodity is to inflict upon them an unnecessarily heavy penalty for the protection of an industry which is only producing £20,000 worth of the article annually.
– I think the honorable senator should make some allowance for the substitutes that are produced.
– I am not suggesting that the substitutes should be admitted at a lower duty. Surely a duty of 3d. per lb. upon imports of this commodity from America is very heavy protection .
.- This is an industry in which I am not personally interested, but I had an opportunity, on a trip through vineyards in New South Wales and South Australia, of noting the possibility of the starting of such an industry. Senator Payne was altogether wrong in saying that this industry was started without protection. It had the protection of total prohibition of im ports during the war.
– I meant Tariff protection.
– What is the need of Tariff protection if imports are prohibited from any other reason? During the war tartaric acid could not be imported except under very great difficulties. I am informed that previous to the war the bulk of the importations came from Belgium. The continental countries producing tartaric acid had something else to think about during the war, and so this industry was started in South Australia toconvert wine lees, the waste product of the vineyards, into tartaric acid.
– So it took a European war to give us this industry?
– That is so. The honorable senator should use a little common sense. Up to that time wine lees were exported from. Australia at a very low price to Germany, where the tartaric acid was extracted and sent back to us, some probably through Belgium. I admit that the duties proposed are fairly high, but if they are necessary for the stabilizing of the industry, by all means let us make some sacrifice so that this very necessary commodity may be produced in Australia from our own raw material. This will assist our vineyards, . and will secure to the community a stable source of supply within our own country. I suppose that several companies will undertake the manufacture of this article. I quite recognise that until they are able to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements housekeepers in Australia will have to make some sacrifice. Some honorable senators seem to have the idea that anything which the people of Australia are called upon to pay under a Tariff is absolutely lost. They probably do not believe in obtaining any revenue through the Customs House. I have no objection to obtaining some revenue in an equitable way through the Customs House. Some honorable senators work themselves up into a passion in discussing these questions as though a Protective duty represented a direct tax completely lost to the people of Australia. That is not so. By collecting revenue in this way, we are helping to build up indus tries in the country, and are thus rendering great service. The time will come when there will be no revenue derived from the duties on these commodities, since Australian requirements of them will be met by local manufacturers. Senator Lynch’s idea of taxing only established industries has been very ably answered by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen). If Senator Lynch proceeds on those lines he will become as famous as the late Sir George Reid was in connexion with the “ dry dog.” Sir George Reid suggested throwing the “ dog “ into the river, and if it did not swim he would let it drown. That seems to be Senator Lynch’s policy. If an industry is able to fight its own way to maturity, it does not then require protection. Now is the time, when it is struggling, that we should protect this industry. Who would invest money in it if it were understood that they must produce two-thirds of the requirements of Australia at a loss before they would receive the benefit of protection through the Customs ? The industry requires protection now, and when it is sufficiently establishedt o be able to compete with the world it will be quite reasonable for Senator Lynch to advise then that the duty should be removed.
– I have never known that stage to be reached yet in any protected industry.
– If the honorable senator lives as long as I have, and is still as staunch a Protectionist, he will be able to look back and say that he is pleased with the effect of the policy, because Australia will then be a self-contained country. I am quite sure the honorable senator is supporting this duty because it is important to protect land workers in the closer settled districts of New South Wales and South Australia. One thing that has been exercising my mind of late is what are we going to do with the product of those closer settled areas. I am satisfied that returned soldiers in the irrigation areas will do well if they can successfully dispose of their products, and this industry will help in one direction, because it will create a demand for the residue of the vineyards. Like other honorable senators, I have had some correspondence in connexion with the matter, showing that a large quantity of tartaric acid is being produced in Australia, and advocating the deferred duties. I have the assurance of the Minister that the industry is now working, and that last year it produced £20,000 worth of this commodity. It is reasonable to suppose that, in the near future, it will produce £100.000 worth. In view ofthe Minister’s assurance, and the outlook for the industry, I propose to vote for the duties.
Senator GARDINER (New South
Wales) [3.53]. - I am not at all surprised to hear Senator Earle say that he is going to vote for these duties; but I think honorable senators should inquire into the position. It is quite true that the industry will take a considerable quantity of what are at present the waste products of our vineyards ; but I understand that the amount of these waste products is so limited that the industrywill be unable to meet the needs of this country. Senator Earle’s reference to the late Sir George Reid’s “ dry dog “ brings to recollection certain incidents which, perhaps, I may be permitted to mention. As I remember the circumstances, the late Sir George Reid was piloting a Tariff through the New South Wales Parliament, and in defence of his policy he said. that infant industries were like puppy dogs - they had to be thrown into the stream and be taught to swim by themselves. As the Tariff debate proceeded it became apparent that Sir George Reid was depending, for his majority, upon the vote of Mr. R. D. Meagher, a representative, of the cane-fields in northern New South Wales, and by some means or other one of the puppy dogs that did not have to swim was the cane-sugar industry. It got protection to the amount of £6 per ton .
– The honorable senator is a little wrong in his figures. The duty was £6 per ton. Sir George Reid reduced it by instalments.
– But the sugar duties got through, and Hopkins, then a well-known caricaturist of the Sydney Bulletin, thereafter pictured the late Sir George Reid with a little dry dog following him about New South Wales. Now the industry dealt with in sub-item b is one of the little puppies that can never grow up, and yet the people of Australia are to be called upon to pay, by way of Customs duty, for its protection. I should like Senator Payne to alter his request to make the British product free, and impose½d. per lb. in the intermediate
Tariff, and1d. in the general Tariff. There ought not to be a heavy impost on what Senator Pratten has shown to be an article of everyday use in Australian households. If necessary, the Government could encourage the industry by means of a bounty.
– If I thought for a moment that there was any possibility of this industry becoming large enough to supply the whole of the needs of Australia, I might be prepared to vote for the duty proposed by the Government, but I have in my hand an interesting booklet concerning the position of the industry in South Australia. It was issued by the Department of Chemistry in South Australia, of which Mr. W. A. Hargreaves is director. This booklet states -
As will be seen from the foregoing, the total possible production of cream of tartar from wine is not very large, and it is small in proportion to the quantity imported into Australia. It is not sufficient to supply the needs of South Australia. It is not, therefore, a promising field for a large industry; but, nevertheless, the tartar that is available should not be allowed to go to waste. If the winemakers will undertake their part of the work, there will be no difficulty in finding manufacturers able and willing to install the outfit necessary for the refining of the tartar and the production of the best quality cream of tartar. It may be stated that one manufacturer in this State is already making cream of tartar, and another is prepared to establish a plant for the extraction of cream of tartar from lees, provided he is assured of a constant supply of lees from the wine-makers.
Here is evidence from the South Australian Government experts that the total amount of the wine lees from the grape crop will not be sufficient to meet the needs of South Australia alone.
– What is the date of that publication ?
– It is Bulletin No. 3 issued in 1916.
– But there has been a considerable increase in acreage under vines since then.
– The crop in South Australia has been doubled.
– My information is that the vignerons of South Australia are not prepared to supply the lees and stone in any very great quantity for the manufacture of tartaric acid. I have also correspondence from Messrs. Abel and
Lemon, a well-known firm of Sydney merchants, in which it is stated -
The experience my firm had was that in prewar days we were unable to obtain any quantity of the wine lees and wine stone from the wine-growers to make it worth while our proceeding with the matter. The method employed in France and in other wine-producing countries of saving all the lees and all the stone has never appealed to thepeople of Australia, and evidently never will.
– It all depends on what they get for the waste products.
– At all events, these are the facts. This Sydney firm were prepared to manufacture this commodity if they could be assured of a sufficient supply of the raw material, and the South Australian Government expert has shown that there is not sufficient available there to manufacture on a scale to meet South Australian requirements, let alone the needs of the whole of Australia.
– And South Australia is the leading wine-growing State.
– Even if the acreage under vines in South Australia has been doubled, the State might expect to supply the whole of its own requirements, but it will certainly not be in a position to supply those of the other States. The principal of the firm which I have just mentioned, who has only recently returned from Great Britain, assures me that the British manufacturers are exporting almost the whole of their output of tartaric acid to Australia. The operation of our preferential Tariff in this regard is that Great Britain finds it better to export almost the whole of her manufactures to this country, and import her own requirements from France. The total importations of cream of tartar for the year ending the 30th June last were: - United Kingdom, 115 tons, covering nearly the whole of the production of that country; the continent of Europe, 628 tons; and the United States of America, 319 tons. The annual consumption of Australia is about 1,000 tons. Every time a housewife makes a batch of scones she will be called upon to pay a tax to the Commonwealth Government, not for the purpose of building up a big local industry - the facts I have given show that it is impossible to do so - but merely in order to permit a small quantity of cream of tartar to be retailed at a higher price. The latest quotation, c.i.f. Sydney, is 1s. 2d. per lb. Before the war the price was 10d. per lb. Is it wise for us to ask the housewives to continue paying this high price in order that a small industry may be partially established to partially meet the needs of the whole of Australia? I think not.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (b), general, per lb., 3d.
I am asking for a reduction of1d. per lb. I would move for a bigger reduction, but I know that I would have no hope of carrying it.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Drugs and chemicals; viz.: -
SenatorROWELL (South Australia) [4.9]. - The proposed duties on saccharin and other similar substitutes for sugar seem to be a heavy impost on invalids who are not able to take sugar. Saccharin is not a substance that is likely to come into competition with sugar. No person who is able to take the latter would dream of using saccharin as a substitute. Perhaps the Minister (Senator Millen) would give the Committee some idea of the quantity of saccharin manufactured in Australia?
SenatorE. D. MILLEN (New South. Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [4.10]. - The duties previously in operation in respect of saccharin have not been varied except that an additional 5s. per lb. has been imposed under the general Tariff. Saccharin is assumed to be chemically 550 times as sweet as sugar, and the duty of 30s. per lb. under the British preferential Tariff represents in round figures 550 times the duty per lb. on cane sugar.
– I think I am correct in saying that my honorable colleague (Senator Russell) so described it. Here we have admitted proof of that statement. It is quite clear that if saccharin, for the purposes mentioned by Senator Rowell, were allowed to come in free it would undoubtedly compete with cane sugar. In relation to its sweetening contents, it would be cheaper than sugar, and to that extent would compete with it. I am rather surprised that this question has been raised, since even under the old State Tariffs there was a duty on saccharin.
– Why perpetuate the mistakes of the States?
– I do not ask the Committee to do so; but there is no reason why we should not follow their wisdom. I hope that my honorable friend’s broad Commonwealth view of public questions will not cause him to be so prejudiced as to refuse to learn anything from the States. In this case, we are continuing a practice that has been approved practically from time immemorial.
– Having regard to the fact that saccharin comes into competition with sugar, I think we have reason to congratulate ourselves that those interested in the sugar industry are prepared to let us off with these light duties. It seems to me that we had better deal quickly with the item, lest the sugar people come forward with a request for a still higher duty. They naturally do not want to see on the Australian market anything that can be used as a substitute for their product.
– On the grounds advanced by Senator Rowell, I urge the serious consideration of the question of the duties on saccharin. Those who are suffering from bodily ills deserve some sympathy at the hands of Parliament. It seems to me that after this Tariff has been finally disposed of we may have a lot more sickness in Australia. It is necessary that we should prepare to cope with such a contingency. I should not be surprised if we had an epidemic of fainting fits and bodily weaknesses when the Tariff becomes law. I suggest to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) that he should agree to a request to amend subitemd by providing for the free admission of saccharin for medicinal purposes generally, or, at all events, for use in hospitals.
– With all due respect to honorable senators, I think we are wasting time on what, having regard to the imports under the sub-item, is a rather insignificant question.
– With such a duty, I should not expect the imports to be heavy.
– The duty amounts to £4,480 per ton.
– Senator Thomas, then, admits the efficacy of the Tariff. There was admitted into this country last year only 1,000 lbs., or less than half a ton of saccharin. The quantity consumed is very small, and, in the circumstances, the Committee might well dispose of the item without further discussion. There was a duty on saccharin under the New South Wales Tariff. These duties go back to the Commonwealth Tariff of 1908, with the exception that we are imposing an additional duty of5s. per lb. under the general Tariff.
– Is saccharin made here?
– I understand that it is not made here.
– I suggest’ to the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) that he accept my proposal that saccharin for medicinal purposes be free.
– I am told that it is impossible to distinguish between saccharin imported for medicinal purposes only and that devoted to other uses.
– Under subsequent items we allow surgical instruments and other things required for hospitals to come in free. Saccharin is largely used by persons suffering from diabetes. Why should hospitals be called upon to pay a duty of 30s. per lb. on it? As Senator Rowell has suggested, this means the taxation of human infirmities. I propose to move a request that saccharin for use in public hospitals be admitted free.
– Make it “ subject to departmental by-laws,” and I will support the request.
– Very well; I. will do so.
– Would not the honorable senator extend his proposal so as to cover all imports of saccharin for medicinal purposes?
– I am afraid that that would be too wide. It might lead to an abuse of the privilege.
– But is not saccharin used only for medicinal purposes?
– If it is used exclusively for medicinal purposes, there is no reason why we should tax it, particularly if it is not produced in this country. I want at all hazards to avail myself of the support volunteered by Senator Earle. The sky seems to be brightening in his quarter, and we do not know what may happen later on. If saccharin is not made in Australia, I hope the Minister will agree to its free admission for medicinal purposes.
– Saccharin is not made here, but that does not dispose of the whole matter. The point is that if it were admitted free it would come into competition with sugar as a sweetening substance. These duties are part of the Protective policy adopted in regard to the sugar industry. As to the honorable senator’s suggestion that saccharin for medicinal purposes should be free, I am advised that it would not be possible to “ police” such imports, so that if we made saccharin free of duty it would undoubtedly become a competitor of sugar. If the Committee desires the protection of the sugar industry to be effective, it will support the sub-item as it stands; if, on the other hand, it is prepared to expose the sugar industry to unfair competition, it will remove the duty.
– I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that under items 410, 411, and 412 various things, when imported for public institutions, are allowed to come in free, and I fail to see why saccharin, when required for use in public hospitals, should not be free.
– If the honorable senator will limit his request to the free admission of saccharin for use in hospitals, instead of proposing that it should be free when used for medicinal purposes generally, I will agree to it. If he imposed the condition that it should be free only for use in hospitals, we could “police” such importations.
– That was my original intention. I am. prepared to move to that effect.
– I will accept such a request.
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (d) read as follows : -
(1) Saccharin, n.e.i., and other similar substitutes for sugar, and substances capable of conversion into such substitutes for sugar, per lb., British, 30s. ; intermediate, 35s. ; general, 40s.
– Under the British preferential Tariff we have a duty of 30s. per. lb., which, according to the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen), has been in operation for many years. Heavy duties on saccharin, we are told, were also imposed under the old State Tariffs. The argument generally advanced in support of high duties is that they lead to the creation of industries. Here we have an exceptionally high duty, which has been in operation for many years, but has not led to the creation of an industry.
– The sugar industry has been established.
– But the high duty on saccharin has not led to the production of saccharin in Australia.
– I am not quite satisfied with the request that has been moved. It seems to penalize sick people outside hospitals, while, very rightly, giving an advantage to sick inside those institutions. My experience does not go very far with these particular commodities, but it is obvious that if only half a ton of saccharin is imported in a year, pretty well the whole of it is used for medicinal purposes. or for sick people; that is, for people who, unfortunatey, suffer from some physical disease for which sugar is a poison. I. feel that the request should he enlarged to include medicinal purposes both inside and outside hospitals. A man may be walking about, and need no hospital treatment whatever, and yet be suffering from an extremely serious disease, and be taking saccharin tablets at every one of his three meals a day. I understand the Minister’s objection to the request is that saccharin for medicinal purposes cannot be “ policed”; but I fail to see how these said-to-be very effective departmental by-laws cannot “police” saccharin for medicinal purposes, just as they “ police “ many other things, not, so far as I can see, more difficult to deal with. After all, the drug trade of Australia is in the hands of a dozen or so reputable firms, which will have to give certain guarantees and bonds to the Customs Department in connexion with such an item.
. Senator Pratten desires to widen Senator Lynch’s request so as to include saccharin for all medicinal purposes. Saccharin will be used and handled by chemists, and, while I do not desire to make the slightest reflection on chemists as a body, it is well known that in those countries where there are stringent liquor laws, chemists have been the means of liquor finding its way into surreptitious consumption.
– Only for medicinal purposes !
– I thank the honorable senator for that interjection, for it. contains the reason for our recognising, that we could not “ police “ this item.I understand from verbal information, that the blessed word “ medicinal “ covers a lot of thirst in certain countries. For this reason I ask the Committee to adopt the request as submitted by Senator. Lynch.
Request agreed to.
Item agreed to, subject to a request.
Drugs and Chemicals, viz. : -
And on and after 22nd June, 1921 -
Arsenic, arsenious chloride, arsenic sul phide, arsenates of calcium, lead and soda, arsenites of soda and zinc, ad val., British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.
Lactose, ad val., British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.
And on and after 22nd June, 1921 -
– This item covers, amongst other chemicals, arsenates and arsenical preparations, including arsenate of lead. The duties proposed by the Government represent a very heavy increase on previous duties. Under the old Tariff, arsenate of lead was free from Great Britain, and subject to a duty of 5 per cent. in the case of the American and other foreign products. There is no real need for the large increases proposed, when we compare the price of Australian arsenate of lead with the prices of the British and American. Australian arsenate of lead is sold at10d. per. lb., British at1s. 8d., and American at1s. 9d. It will be seen that the British product is just twice the price of the Australian product. . Perhaps the British product may not be twice as effective, but certain it is that the fruit-growers, by whom it is used principally as a spray, prefer the British or the American article, and for reasons that’ appear good’ to themselves. Evidently, after years of careful experiment and close observation, the orchardists of Australia, and fruit-growers generally, are convinced that they get very much better results from the imported article. If that be so, then the imposition of these increased duties places a handicap on a section of our primary producers, who are certainly not able’ to pass the duties on. We all know the ravages that the codlin moth works in our orchards; and it has been estimated by some growers that from this pest alone their losses represent from 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. Probably the most effective spray is arsenate of lead, and it must be used if such pests are to be successfully combated. In the face of these facts, it is seriously proposed to place this handicap on our orchardists even before they produce their crop. These duties will mean a heavier additional charge per acre in the production of apples, and Tasmanian senators will agree that the apple industry, not only should not be handicapped,but should be fostered as far as possible.
– Is arsenate of lead made in Australia?
– Yes, some of it is, and as the price of the local article is only half that of the imported, the imposition of the proposed duties will not assist the Australian industry in any way whatever. The object of a duty on a locally-made article is to enable it to compete with importations. To reason that the proposed duties are necessary to protect the local article is to reason backward ; and I hope that they will be reduced. It may not be desirable, in view of the fact that there is a local industry, to revert to the original duties of British free, and general, 5 per cent.
– Under which the arsenate of lead industry came into existence.
– I do not forget that point, and I think the jump from 5 per cent. to 35 per cent. is altogether too big under the circumstances. Some figures that have been supplied to me show that the total area under orchards and gardens in New South Wales is 67,432 acres; Queensland, 24,250; Tasmania, 37,432; South Australia, 30,085; Western Australia, 20,412;Victoria, 85,130- a total of 264,741 acres. Theindustry of these fruit-growers ought not to be harassed in any way; and certainly they should not be forced to pay a greatly increased price for what they regard as the most efficient and effective spray. It is for the local manufacturers to so improve the locally-made article as to demonstrate that it is as effective as the imported article. Even if it does cost a little more per lb. to produce, and to arrive at that happy result, the local manufacturer will still be able to undersell the imported article. Honorable senators, I hope, will not forget that the Government have settled many returned soldiers on orchards, and wo ought not to startby farcing them to use what is regarded as an inferior spray. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties on arsenate of lead. ad val., British, 10 per cent. ; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20per cent.
– My sympathies go out to the Australian manufacturer. He cannot do right, whatever he does. If he charges a low price it must be because his article is inferior. If he raises his price it must be because he is taking advantage of the Tariff. Why should it be assumed that the Australian article is inferior?
SenatorRowell. - Because it is. I know that from practical experience.
– On the other hand, I have considerable evidence from men of practical as well as scientificexperience. One of these is an expert who, I am sure, Senator Rowell and other honorable senators will at once admit should be taken full notice of. I refer to Mr. George Quinn, who is Horticultural Expert in South Australia, and a very competent judge. Large quantities of arsenate of lead are made in the Commonwealth. Among the producing firms are Bickford and Company, of Adelaide, and Harry Blyth and Company, Victor Leggo and Company, and Jaques Proprietary Limited, in Melbourne. The objection of many Australian orchardists to the Australian spray amounts, I think, to a mere prejudice. The local lines are new to the market, and the assumption has grown and been disseminated that it is inferior. The prejudice has been examined, however, and has been found to be without foundation. I shall quote from the South Australian Journal of Agriculture, in respect of analyses made by the Director of Chemistry. The date ofthis publication is January, 1921. The article begins -
The following report by the Director of Chemistry contains the results of chemical and physical analyses made under his supervision of samples comprising the undermentioned brands of arsenate of lead on sale in South Australia this season. In a covering’ note the Horticultural Instructor (Mr. George Quinn) observes -
Before drawing upon Mr. Quinn’s abservations, I might inform honorable senators who are not familiar with the fact that Mr. Quinn’s book on horticulture is regarded as a text-book throughout the Commonwealth. He is a foremost authority. Mr. Quinn states -
These samples were purchased from Adelaide shops without the purchaser or the purpose of the purchaser being known to the sellers. These arsenates are sold in paste or powder form. The paste in the first table will bo at once detected by the high percentage of moisture revealed in each. In all of the samples tested, the percentage of water soluble arsenic - the form which causes burning of foliage - is well within what is deemed to be the safety limit. In so far as their chemical composition is concerned, every one of these samples may be claimed to represent an article of good average quality. The attention of orchardists, however, is specially drawn to the suspension tests. The power of remaining in suspension has a most important bearing upon securing an even and effective coating of the poison over the surface of the fruits or foliage. The power of remaining suspended in water indicates the degree of fineness of subdivision of the particles of which the compound is composed, and it should be borne in mind that no amount of stirring or agitating in the spraying tank can bring a more coarsely ground arsenate of lead which is equally insoluble in water to a condition capable of performing so complete a protective film.
The following ten samples were analyzed -
Blyth -s “Bluebell,” Bickfords “Aero,” Berger’s, Cooper’s, “ Electro “ paste, “ Electro “ powder, “ Greencross,” Jaques Proprietary Limited, Swift’s, “Vallo.”
As the particulars are of a highly technical character, I do not propose to quote them; but the facts officially set out comprise something more definite than the mere assertion of a prejudice on the part of orchardists. I chance to be interested in this subject, personally, in a small way. Fruit-growers in the district with, which I am concerned made representations to me some time ago upon this very matter. When I questioned the orchardists I found that their objection to the Australian spray amounted merely to a sort of superstition, which had been passed on from one individual to the other.
– The Australasian Conference of Fruit-growers was much concerned over the matter. Surely that body cannot be said to have been swayed by mere prejudice?
– Very often a resolution of a conference is based upon no real proof in the minds of all the delegates. I shall quote now from a periodical known as Australian Farming, which is dated 16th May, 1921. Under the heading of “ Orchard notes from . Tasmania “ there appears the following concerning the codlin moth: -
The codlin moth grub has been very prevalent in some of Mie apple districts of Tasmania during the past season, and growers have been under the impression that the arsenate of lead used is inferior in quality to that of former years. They have been loud in their complaints against it. The Department of Agriculture being responsible for the quality of the material sold to growers, the fruit expert, Mr. J. M. Ward, had samples of the various brands on the Tasmanian market analyzed, and in every instance the percentage of arsenic pentoxide was shown to be above the standard required under the regulations of the Insecticides Act. This Act states that arsenic of lead must contain 25 per cent, of arsenic pentoxide. The fruit division of the Department has been conducting experiments in regard to spraying for various fungoid and insect pests, and the following are some of the results of spraying for codlin moth.
The article proceeds to set out these results; and, summing up the conclusions regarding the tests, it says -
When spraying, for the codlin moth, thoroughness of application is all important. In addressing a meeting at Franklin on spraying for the moth, Mr. Ward informed growers that in his opinion the cause of the increase of the moth was to a very great extent duo to careless spraying. In that he was supported by such leading growers as Mr. T. A. Frank.comb who produces something like 30,000 cases of apples per annum, and Mr. N. B. Barnett, and others. With careful spraying (every apple or pear should receive a covering of arsenate of lead), growers will find they will have very little codlin moth in their fruit.
I have a sheaf of testimonials before me also, from such well known and representative firms and persons as Messrs. George McEwin and Son Limited, of South. Australia; Mr. Charles Ling, of Tasmania; Mr. Thomas Sutton, of Bowenfels, New South Wales; Mr. W. R. Worsley, of Tasmania; Mr. J. D. Couper, of Victoria; and Messrs. Neil and Buchanan, of Uralla, New South Wales. All these testify to having used Australian arsenate of lead and to hav- ‘ ing found it perfectly satisfactory. In the face of such evidence, it is not fair to assert that the Australian article is inferior.
– Can the. Minister quote the quantities imported, and the total amount used ?
– I am unable to do so at the moment, but I understand that it has been stated that the Australian manufacturers will produce 50 per cent, of requirements this year.
– How long has the industry been established ?
– Since the early days df the war, when oversea supplies were first cut off.
.- I do not suggest that the Australian product is inferior to the imported, but I do know that at a conference recently held in Sydney, at which all the fruitgrowing States were represented, it was unanimously resolved, after full discussion, that, apart from the question of duty, the imported article is placed under a heavy handicap. Most of the fruitgrowers who prefer to use the imported arsenate do so because they believe in its especial efficacy as applied to their particular districts. The delegates to the Sydney conference would be specially chosen representatives: men who knew what they were dealing with, and who would not come to any decision upon insufficient data or without excellent reason. They know that the imported article has to be used to-day because there are not sufficient quantities of the local arsenates on the market to meet the demand. It means that at least 50 per cent. of requirements must consist of imported brands. Those who are compelled to use the latter naturally object to being penalized, in the circumstances, by the imposition of such heavy rates of duty. It should not be forgotten that these sprays were imported free prior to the operation of the present Tariff. The Australian arsenate of lead is placed on the market at a considerably lower price than the imported brands. And, seeing that local manufacturers can supply only 50 per cent. of Australian fruit-growers’ needs, why should the users of the remaining 50 per cent. be penalized ? It is not their fault that they cannot use the local makes. Many men engaged in the fruit-growing industry for years are of opinion that they can get better results from the British article. The request of Senator Duncan is eminently fair. The present Tariff cannot be regarded as a Protective duty. It goes far beyond that, because, at present - as I have just mentioned - Australian arsenate of lead is being supplied for considerably less than imported brands. The difference amounts practically to the local lines being sold for half the price. What objection can be raised, then, to reducing the duties? If the reduction is agreed to, the orchardists growing fruit upon 50 per cent. of the area now under apple trees in Australia, instead of being penalized to the extent of 35 per cent. in the case of foreign brands and 25 per cent. in respect of British arsenate of lead, will be handicapped only to the extent of 20. per cent. and 10 per cent. respectively. At the same time, no percentage of the degree of protection afforded to the Australian industry will be withdrawn. I shall support the request.
– Upon arsenic the proposed rates of duty are 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. I understand that there have been several new developments regarding the mining of metal from which this product is obtained in Australia. At the Queensland State Government mine there is a large amount of accumulated stock which could not be sold. Some statistics concerning the total importations of arsenic would guide the Committee. Arsenic, I understand, is a key metal used in connexion with the manufacture of munitions and poisonous gases, and I would like to know whether these duties are sufficient in view of the accumulated stocks now lying at the Queensland State mine, and of the possible developments that have come under my personal knowledge in regard to the production of arsenic within Australia.
– I cannot give the importations as they are all grouped together under “ Chemicals, n.e.i.”, which was the old subdivision. Arsenic is produced in ample quantities in Australia; in fact, we have been exporting it.
– Are these duties sufficient?
– I think they are.
– I intend to support the request submitted by Senator Duncan. In connexion with the analyses read by the Minister (Senator Pearce) as to the quality of arsenate of lime and arsenate of lead produced in Australia, I believe that Mr. Quinn was quite right in all he said. Three or four years ago I used the Australian article with very great success in my own orchard, andI was then under the impression that I had obtained the right article. But the following year, although I was using the same material, the results were very unsatisfactory, and I suppose one-third of the crop was lost owing to the ravages . of codl in moth. That is why a large number of Australian fruit-growers will not use the locallyproduced article, and whatever duties may be imposed they will use the imported arsenate of lead, because they have lost faith in the quality of the Australian production. The imposition of the duties shown in the schedule means placing an extra burden on those fruit-growers who feel compelled to use the imported commodity.
– Was the spraying done at the same time of the year ?
– Yes, and in the same way. Until a few years ago fruitgrowers had only toprune and spray their trees once ayear to achieve success, but now it is necessary to spray at least four times a year in order to harvest a clean crop. First of all, a fruit-grower has to spray with Milestone or Bordeaux mixture before the trees bud to keep his crop free from blackspot, and as soon as the petals begin to drop he has to spray for codlin moth. If he wishes to be successful, he has to repeat the spraying in another ten days, and, in all, has to do the work of spraying four or five times to keep his trees free from pests. A member of the Victorian Fruit-growers Association informed me that spraying materials cost him 4s. per acre, and if the chemical is ineffective, that expenditure is incurred without any beneficial result. Most honorable senators are aware of the difficulty confronting fruit-growers in respect of the coming season, which is likely to be one of the worst they have had to face, as there are large stocks of jam pulp and canned fruits held in Australia, which means that thousands of bushels of fruit will be wasted, or sold at a price which will not pay expenses. A co-operative jam-making factory in South Australia, which lost £25,000 last year, has now gone into liquidation, and it is impossible to “say what is going to happen during the coming season. Senator Duncan mentioned the area at present under apples; but it must be remembered that the home market cannot absorb our surplus production. We have a short season, and can only place a limited supply on the market in Great Britain. If the season were longer the Australian production would not matter much. When in London, in 1916, I was in conversation with a Covent Garden fruit salesman, and when I informed him that we were producing 6,000,000 bushels annually, he said it would never do to place that quantity on the market, as we could not possibly get a satisfactory return. It has been said that the manufacturers of the Australian product are selling it at one-half the price of the im ported article; but, as I have mentioned, there is a number of fruit-growers who use the imported arsenate of lead whatever the price may be, because they have lost faith in the local product. In view of these circumstances, I trust the Committee will support the request submitted by Senator Duncan.
.- This is an occasion on which I can justify my action in agreeing with those honorable senators who are advocating a reduction in duties because the local product is not dependent upon Customs duties for protection. It has been shown that arsenate of lead produced in Australia is selling at considerably less than the imported commodity, and even if that were not the case, I would be strongly tempted to advocate lower duties, because this commodity is used by the orchardists throughout Australia under compulsion. I suppose other Australian fruit-growers are controlled by similar by-laws to those which operate in Tasmania, where they have to spray three times a year whether they like it or not. That being so, they should have a free selection in the material they require. I was very interested to hear the details of the analyses read by the Minister (Senator Pearce), which prove that objection to the local article is based on prejudice, because it is equally effective. It therefore behoves the manufacturers of the Australian product to break down the prejudice which exists in the minds of orchardists when the cheaper article will no doubt be more largely used. This is an instance in which a commodity is produced at a cheaper rate under Protection than it would be supplied under a policy of Free Trade, and therefore the duties should be moderate. I shall support the request submitted by Senator Duncan to reduce the duties on arsenate of lead to 10 per cent., 15 per cent., and 20 per cent., respectively, as that will give the users a. freer selection, and at the same time afford the Australian industry adequate protection.
– I have listened with interest to the debate on this item, and when Senator Duncan was submitting his request I asked whether he could give the market price of the imported and locallyproduced commodities, and he reiterated what he had earlier stated - but which I was not sure I had correctly understood - that the price of the imported article was 1s. 8d., and that of the local10d. per lb. I think he said that importations from America cost1s. 9d. per lb. The article produced locally can be purchased at less than one-half the price at which users can obtain the imported article. I doubt if there has before been a single instance in which there has been such a disparity between the price of the locally-produced and the imported article; but I am not going to say if that is a result of Protection. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has said that the Australian industry only grew up during the period of the war, and it has been pointed out that unless the Tariff becomes operative - it must be remembered that these duties have been in operation for some considerable time - the industry cannotbe expected to progress. Before the war a duty of 5 per cent. was imposed on importations from foreign countries, whilst those from the United Kingdom were admitted free. It was under those conditions, plus the conditions arising in consequence of the war, that the Australian industry was established, and so far has progressed so successfully that it can now supply 50 per cent. of our requirements, notwithstanding the prejudice there is against it. I was pleased to hear what the Minister said in connexion with the local product, because, in common with other honorable senators, I have received communications from fruit-growers, from which one would gather that the imported article is immeasurably superior to that produced locally. In fact, some have said that the Australian arsenate of lead is of no use at all. From what the Minister has told us, it would appear that the Australian product is all that could be desired. The Minister has quoted the opinion of Mr. George Quinn, who is held in very high esteem by the orchardists in South Australia, an esteem which is shared by orchardists in other States, including Tasmania. In fact, I know of no one in the fruit-growing world who is held in higher estimation by orchardists generally than Mr. Quinn. He has conducted investigations concerning the local product, and the Minister has quoted the results, which make one believe and hope that the prejudice against the local article will shortly disappear. In the meantime there is the fact that the local industry can stand up against that prejudice, and undersell the imported article by something like 50 per cent., and has captured 50 per cent. of the Australian market. In these circumstances we need some justification for these relatively high duties. I believe that the duties proposed by Senator Duncan would give the industry adequate protection, and that under them it would overcome the prejudice against the local article, and would continue to hold its own. For these reasons I support the request.
.- The Minister (Senator Pearce) has quoted the opinions of experts in connexion with this item, and whilst I do not wish to question the value of expert evidence, I suppose I must include myself amongst the ignorant people of the community who are prepared, in this matter, to put the practical experience of the fruitgrowers of Australia against the opinion of the best experts who can be secured. I venture to say that the fruit-growers are the best judges in this matter. There is very great danger in spraying if the best possible article is not used. A man may loose the whole value of his crop, and his orchard may be in a worse condition next year if he uses an ineffective spray. The orchardists have put their case very well, and I have been surprised that Senator Duncan did not propose a return to the conditions under which the arsenate of lead industry was established in Australia. The debate on the schedule has continued now for some time, and I am getting a little tired of it, but I occasionally derive some little encouragement from the remarks of honorable senators. When I find Senator Earle proposing a reduction of the duties in a matter in which the people of his own State are interested, it is not strange that I should make a note of the fact. It has been encouragement to me to find this hard-shell Protectionist from Tasmania, who I thought was unrelenting in his determination to impose high duties, on the ground that protective duties make things cheaper-
– Here we have an evidence of it.
– If so, why does not the honorable senator move for higher instead of for lower duties? The evidence we have is that Senator Earle is going to make things dearer in Tasmania by lowering these duties. These things are very encouraging to me, because they make it clear that when a proposal is made to impose duties which will have to be paid by the people whom they represent, the Protectionists in the Committee are all Free Traders.
– That is human nature.
– It is certainly Protectionist human nature.
– We do notbegrudge the poor old Free Traders a little crumb of comfort now and again.
– The Free Trader can claim that Free Trade costs the community nothing, whilst we know that Protection costs this community in duties alone £32,000,000 a year. I venture to say that it costs the community another £32,000,000 a year in the shape of increased prices. So that our people have to pay £64,000,000 a year as a result of this glorious policy of Protection. When I find such an enthusiastic, wellinformed, and earnest Protectionist as Senator Earle saying that he will vote for lower duties on this item on the ground that from the experience of fruit-growers in Tasmania as to the value of the local arsenate of lead for spraying purposes, and their desire to secure the imported article as cheaply as possible, I say that I have voted for the reduction of all the duties in this Tariff for a similar reason. The only difference between Senator Earle and myself is that I am treating the whole of the people of Australia as my constituents, whilst he treats only the people of Tasmania in that way.
– That is not fair.
– It may not appear to be fair to the honorable senator but that is how it appears to me.
– My vote on the previous item gives that statement a contradiction, because there are no grapes grown in Tasmania.
– I remind the honorable senator that he voted for the higher duty on the last item, and he is proposing to vote for a lower duty on the item now under consideration. I have no desire to be unfair to the honorable senator, but I note the fact that when a
Tasmanian industry desires to be able to use this commodity at a cheap rate he joins Senator Duncan in proposing a reduction of the duties. He does so because the people whom he represents will thus obtain the article they require more cheaply. His action in the circumstances is legitimate and in accord with what he was sent here to do, but I have been supporting a reduction of duty on every item in the interests of the whole of Australia, whilst the honorable senator pleads only for Tasmania.
– All the fruit-growers do not live in Tasmania. There are a few in New South Wales.
– That is so, but I have been dealingwith Senator Earle’s constituents. I quite realize that, so far as the future of the orchard industry is concerned, New South Wales is the home of the apple-grower, and will quite overshadow Tasmania in this regard. One reason is that the best of the Tasmanians are leaving that State and going to New South Wales and to Queensland.
– As the honorable senator has the numbers, why prolong the discussion ?
– If the Minister is prepared to let the request go to a division, I shall not delay the matter further.
Request agreed to.
– Like my friend, Senator Earle, I feel that in connexion with sub-item e, covering the duty on lactose, I am called upon to make a change in my policy. I have been advocating a reduction of duties on very many items in the schedule, and I am. now called upon to use all the influence I possess with the Committee to secure a reduction of the duties proposed on lactose. We should do everything possible to assist the dairying industry in this country. It has not been making the strides that it should have made.
– People are paying enough for their milk.
– That is so, and it is a reason why these by-products of the dairying industry should be turned to good account. I am informed that in the intense-culture districts of the River Murray, where Federal and State moneys are being spent to settle returned soldiers in the dairying industry, it is estimated that at no distant date there will be 12,000 cows milked daily.
– In how many years did the honorable senator say?
– I said at no distant date. The number at the present time runs into thousands. A co-operative society of South Australia is prepared to establish a milk factory on modern lines at Murray Bridge, at a cost of over £20,000. They are prepared to spend £15,000 more to carry on the manufacture of lactose. They inform me that -
On making inquiries we find that there are only two customers for sugar of milk, lactose, in Australia. The Bacchus Marsh Company buy the whole of the Colac Co-operative Factory’s supply and use it for their baby food. The Glaxo Company, Nathan and Company, Limited, use it for their food, Glaxo, and are at present importing their requirements.
This co-operative society is prepared to spend £15,000 in. order to manufacture this article if they are given the advantage of reasonable duties. During the war the price of lactose went up to 4s. 6d. per lb., and on a price approaching anything like that the duties set out in the schedule of 20, 25, and 30 per cent. would be very fair. In order that the industry may be fully developed, and we may utilize to the full the efforts of the men who are settled on the Murray lands, some consideration should be given to it. The duty that is asked for in the general column is1s. 3d. per lb. There would be no increase in the price of sugar of milk. Even if war prices were again charged, the company would be prepared to continue to sell at1s. 9d. per lb. They have offered to supply. Nathan and Company, subject to the imposition of a reasonable duty, with the article at1s. 9d. per lb. for five years, basing the price on the cost of manufacture at the Colac Dairy Company’s factory. They have had two years’ experience, and their price is based on the recovery of 2½ per cent. of sugar of milk. The company has further offered Nathan and Company to reduce their price if at any time they can recover a greater percentage. This proposal is put forward by a co-operative society, of which all the men engaged in the dairying industry on the River Murray might be shareholders. I, personally, see no objection to the business proposition as placed before me. Manufacturers in other parts of the world are prepared to dump their product into Australia at a price which will make it impossible for this co-operative society to tackle the proposition, without a sufficient margin of protection. The manager states that if no additional protection is . provided they will be unable to make contracts, and the opportunity for establishing a sugar-milk lactose factory will have been lost, as they will devote their attention to the manufacture of dried milk and cheese. The duty of 30 per cent. was ample when sugar of milk was 4s. and 4s. 6d. per lb., but at present prices it is of no value. The Tariff is intended to encourage the building up of new indus- . tries in this country, and here is a proposition intended to benefit, not individuals, but shareholders in a co-operative concern which will handle the produce from these dairy farms along the River Murray, and therefore, make the position of the settlers more secure. The Minister will realize that the society would not be justified in spending £15,000 of shareholders’ money in the industry without some such assurance as is now being requested. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (e) by adding the words “or per lb., British, 6d.; intermediate, 9d. ; general,1s. 3d., whichever rate returns the higher duty.”
– If the honorable senator will amend his request to 6d., British; 9d., intermediate; and1s., general Tariff, I will accept it. The ad valorem, duty may stand.
– I cannot set myself up as an expert in this matter; but I should like the Minister to agree to 3d. more.
– No. The fixed duties I suggest are ample, and with the ad valorem duties operating, should prevent dumping, as the general Tariff will be1s. , and Great Britain is not an exporter of this commodity.
– With the permission of the Committee I shall accept the Minister’s suggestion.
Request, by leave, amended accordingly.
– I am glad that Senator Wilson has moved in this matter. It is essential that manufacturers, in the earlier stages of their business, should be protected in this way. It is important to remember that we are encouraging the settlement of a large number of returned soldiers on Murray River lands, and that the proposed fatcory will handle their produce. Lactose or sugar of milk enters into the manufacture of many patent food preparations that are largely used throughout the Commonwealth. I am glad that the ad valorem duties are to be retained, because if prices rise, this will be the operative Tariff, and thus be of some real assistance to the manufacturers. I understand that United States of America manufacturers are at present prepared to dump this commodity in Australia at 6 cents per lb. below cost of production. This will have the effect of reducing the Tariff against the United States to the level of the intermediate fixed duty of 9d. Therefore, the Minister (Senator Pearce) would have been well advised if he had accepted Senator Wilson’s request for a general duty of1s. 3d., especially in view of the fact that the Tariff Board will have an opportunity of inquiring into the effect of these duties, and if it were found that the Tariff on lactose was too high, it could make a recommendation for a decrease to1s. per lb. I have much pleasure in supporting Senator Wilson’s request.
Request, as amended, agreed to.
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (J) to read -
Drugs, crude, viz. : - Roots, barks, leaves, seeds, and flowers; ergot, pyrethrum flowers in packages containing not less than 28 lbs. net, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, free.
These things are not produced in Australia, and I understand it is the desire of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that they should be free. As framed, the sub-item appears to limit roots, barks, and leaves to certain specified varieties.
– I understand that the suggested alteration has been submitted to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and meets with his approval.
– If these items are to be picked out as free of duty, will others besu bject to the payment of duty?
– My proposal is a drag-net, which will include everything of the character not grown in Australia.
Request agreed to.
Item agreed to, subject to requests.
Opium for medicinal purposes only, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, ad val., British, free; intermediate, free; general, 15 per cent.
– I would like to seethe words “ for medicinal purposes only “ omitted. Many people use opium as others use whisky, the only difference being that while opium sends the smoker to sleep, whisky may cause the drinker to be violent in his conduct. At any rate, the man who smokes opium does not proceed to kick pieces out of his fellows as he passes along a street. I could never understand why the white races, who are so generous in regard to their own vices, should impose such drastic legislation upon the users of opium.
– We already have sufficient vices of our own without encouraging indulgence in others.
– Possibly the Minister is right, and we should not permit the spread of an Eastern vice. As his interjection indicates, the Committee is now dealing with a serious subject, and it would, perhaps, be better for me to let the matter go instead of seeking the omission of the words which I had intended moving to strike out.
Item agreed to.
Sulphate of copper, . . . per ton, British, £3; intermediate, £7; general, £10.
– I should like to know what quantity of sulphate of copper is imported.
– Last year the quantity imported was 820 cwt.
– It is not a large quantity. The delegates to the last Farmers’ Conference held in Sydney visited the works at Port Kembla, where sulphate of copper is manufactured, and I assume that, in view of the fact that the duty has been reduced from £5, £10, and £10, as originally proposed, to £3, £7, and £10, the Minister for Trade and Customs(Mr. Greene) considers that the lower rates are ample protection for this industry.
– Under the rates now proposed, Australia will be able to supply the whole of the local market.
Item agreed to.
– I notice that under sub-item a, bacteriological products and sera, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, are admitted free under the British preferential and intermediate columns, and at a duty of 10 per cent, ad valorem under the general column, and I take it that sub-item b, which provides ad valorem rates of 30 percent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent., is designed to prevent undue competition with bacteriological products made in Australia: I should like some explanation with regard to the administration by the Department of this item, which is of so much importance to the medical profession.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia -
Minister for Defence) [5.48]. - The value of the importations of bacteriological products and sera in 1919-20 was £37,833. In March, 1919, the Director of Quarantine reported to the ComptrollerGeneral that almost all products listed under the item - bacteriological products and sera, free-could be manufactured at the Serum Laboratories which form a part of the activities of the Quarantine Department, and, in order’ to protect the local industry, a duty of 30 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent. on the lines manufactured at those laboratories is’ now proposed in sub-item. b, while sub-item a will apply to those products which cannot be made locally, with a 10 per cent. preference to British manufacturers over those of other countries. The British trade with us fell away somewhat during the period of the war.
In May, 1920, the Premier of New South Waleswrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to the effect that the Minister for Public Health of New South Wales was anxious to have the duties on diphtheria antitoxin removed on the ground that the serum supplied by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories was as good as, and perhaps better than, that imported from Great Britain of the United States of
America., and that the Commonwealth institution’s published prices were low, about equal to the pre-war prices of the’ imported antitoxin. The State Minister remarked, “ It seems apity to have artificially protected a business apparently quite capable of standing on its own merits.” Messrs. Potter and Birks, of Sydney, have also taken up this question, and have forwarded to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) an extract from the Medical Journal of Australia, in which a protest is made against this duty on bacteriological products. The chief contention in this complaint is that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories need no protection, seeing that their products are being placed on the market at a much lower price than the imported. However, the Quarantine Department pointed out that when their laboratories were in a position to supply the best quality products at low prices, there was no reason for admitting imported sera free of duty, and that if the local production should happen to fail, sub-item a could be applied. That is to say, the particular serum required could be admitted under departmental by-laws free from. Great Britain or at 10 per cent. from other countries. The production of bacteriological products and sera in Australia is a very important factor in safeguarding the health of the community. As the growth of population in the large cities has increased the possibility of contagious diseases reaching serious proportions, it is very desirable that an adequate supply off the purest bacteriological products and sera should be readily available to meet the emergency of an outbreak, while also providing for daily requirements under normal conditions. The war has shown how dangerous it is for any country to be’ dependent on outside sources for such commodities. During the war the Defence Department had, for the protection of the health of the soldiers in camp, to establish its own serum laboratories. Instead of the Health Departments of the States having their own establishments for supplying sera, we had the singular spectacle of a Military Department, formed for the purpose of providing an Army, supplying these State Departments with sera. However the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have now entered fully into the production of these bacteriological products and sera, and with the duties proposed they should be able to supply the full requirements of the Commonwealth.
– But no duty would be charged on sera not made in the Commonwealth.
– That is so.
Item agreed to.
– Sub-item b is mixed up with postponed items 8 (Perfumed spirits) and 9 (Spirituous preparations), and affects the total duties, Excise and ad valorem Customs, payable by the Australian manufacturer in respect to some of the goods he uses in his process of manufacture and the total ad valorem duties charged to the importer. I have a considerable amount of matter touching this issue, particularly inrelation to items 8 and 9, and I have arrived at the conclusion that the words “medicines” and “ toilet-preparations “ should be deleted fromitem 9, and included in this sub-item b. I hope that the Minister (Senator Pearce) will agree to the recommittal of item 285 when the postponed items 8 and 9 are being considered, if, in his opinion, and that of the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs, a case is made out for an alteration.
– I can see the relation between the sub-item and item 9, to which Senator Pratten has referred; and I readily say that if, after the reconsideration of item 9, good cause can be shown for the recommittal of this item, I shall agree to that course being adopted.
Request (by Senator Gardiner) negatived -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (b), British, free.
Item agreed to.
Item 286 (Plasters, and medicated wools) ; item 287 (Essential oils) ; item 288 (Materials used in manufacture of perfumes); and item 289 (Glycerine, wool fat, camphor) agreed to.
Item 290 -
– Fuller’s earth, which is made from kaolin, is being produced in several States, and I think we should give the industry a little more encouragement. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (b), general, per cwt., 2s.
By increasing the duty from1s. 3d. to 2s per cwt., we shall give encouragement to. the industry, and at the same time will not add to the cost to the consumer. I had occasion, in connexion with an earlier item, to refer to the many products of kaolin clay. Fuller’s earth and French chalk are among the number, and I hope my request will be agreed to.
– I do not think an increased duty is necessary. The imports of Fuller’s earth are comparatively small, and, owing to the increased local production, have been falling off. Fuller’s earth is a by-product, and I appeal to the honorable senator not. to press his request. The local article is capturing the market, as shown by the fact that in 1913 our imports of Fuller’s earth amounted to 17 cwt. per annum, whereas last year we imported only 8 cwt., and in the previous year only 6 cwt.
– Even if, as Senator Pearce says,. Fuller’s earth is only a by-product, there is no reason why we should not give this little additional encouragement to its production’ here. The increased duty which I have proposed’ amounts to only 9d.per cwt.
– Who would have to pay that additional 9d. per cwt?
– The general public, I presume, so far as imports are concerned; but Fuller’s earth can be manufactured here, and. put up at a very reasonable price, so that there is no reason why the imported article should be purchased. By encouraging its production here, we shall assist, not only those immediately associated with the industry, but those engaged in the production of containers and the printing of labels. The Minister suggests that I should not press my request.
– The pre-war price of Fuller’s earth was only 3s. per cwt.
– But we have not yet returned to pre-war prices. Why should we not give some little additional encouragement to those who are producing Fuller’s earth, French chalk, and other relatively small preparations, as well as to those interested in large industries.
.- I should like to know what Senator Senior has in view. The preparation of Fuller’s earth does not require the use of much machinery, nor give room for the employment of many hands, but it is essential to the whole community, and I fail to see why, merely to benefit some particular company, we should tax the community to the extent proposed by him. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has said that the pre-war price of Fuller’s earth was 3s. per cwt., so that the present duty of1s. per cwt. under the British preferential Tariff is equal to 33 per cent. on that value. Even if the present price is double that prevailing before the war the Tariff as it stands provides for a duty of practically 16½ per cent., which is a very high one. The honorable senator desires, not merely to protect the product of the main industry, but to protect all its by-products. This is no time for imposing irritating taxation or for increasing the cost of living.
– Senator Gardiner appears to hold the view that Fuller’s earth is a byproduct of an industry that is already heavily protected. That is not so. I tried to induce the Committee to pass a request for a higher duty on kalsomine, which is made from kaolin, but I failed. The honorable senator was present when I spoke of the many things made out of our kaolin clays, but not one of the duties in respect of those products has been increased. Here is an opportunity to foster an industry which has an important bearing on, not only those engaged in the painting trade, but lithographers, paper makers, and druggists. My request is a very modest one, and while, if agreed to, it would not amount to the one-hundredth part of a farthing by way of additional taxation on every householder, it would give assistance to those who are carrying out the policy of “Australian products for Australians.” Senator Gardiner, however, would have people in other countries producing all our requirements.
– Senator Senior has told us that Fuller’s earth is a by-product of an industry which is already highly protected.
– That is not so.
– It is obtained in connexion with the production of gypsum, plaster of paris - -
– Fuller’s earth is not obtained in the manufacture of gypsum or plaster of paris.
– The honorable senator recently delivered a most interesting address, in which he dealt with the industry of which Fuller’s earth and face powders are by-products. He displayed a knowledge of face powders which rather astonished me. I remember Senator Senior impressing on my mind how this by-product was collected and put on the market. That being so, I do not think that the duty ought to be increased, but that the request ought to be withdrawn.
Question - That the request (Senator Senior’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Sub-itemc and sub-item e - perfumery and perfumes - have relation in their incidence to Excise duties and the import duties on preparations from abroad which come into competition with our manufactures here. May I ask the Minister to postpone these two sub-items?
– Yes, subject to the promise I previously gave. When we come to consider postponed items 8 and 9, if a good case be shown why these subitems should be recommitted, I shall move accordingly.
– That is to say, if in considering items 8 and 9 it is shown that the incidence of these duties is unfair to the local manufacturer, they will be recommitted .
– I do not go so far as that. We have postponed items 8 and 9, and I have said that, in the case of all those related items, if on the consideration of the postponed items it can be shown that there is a good case for further consideration, I shall move for recommittal on behalf of the Government. This, of course, will be governed by the attitude that the Committee take up, and what is elicited in the discussion on the postponed items 8 and 9. It may be there will be no necessity to recommit.
– Should this item be passed on that understanding, I take it that it will be within the province of any honorable senator, on the postponed items 8 and 9, to refer to the matters relating to those postponed items on the items now under consideration.
– So that the passing of the items before us will not smother discussion so long as it is related to items 8 and 9
– The honorable senator may refer to them, but everything depends on the degree of relationship. The honorable senator will not be able to discuss these items all over again.
– I am not discussing them now, or I should take up considerable time. It will be seen that in items 285 and 290, item 9 is specifically referred to in several cases.
– If item 9 is referred to, the relationship will certainly be fairly well established.
– I shall content myself with the assurance of the Minister.
.- I thought the Minister was going to postpone the sub-items now before us.
– We will proceed with the discussion of the postponed items 8 and 9. and then, if any action taken by the Committee justifies us in doing so, the Government will agree to a reconsideration of the sub-items now before us.
– I quite understand that; but, at the same time, I see a difficulty which tie Minister; apparently, has lost sight of. We cannot possibly have a recommittal until the report stage, and then there will have to be a motion for recommittal.
– Honorable senators may reconsider the item before going out of Committee.
– With respect to sub-iteme. I object that a tax of 3s. 9d. upon a fluid ounce makes the purchase of perfume almost prohibitive.
– Perfume is a luxury.
– Of course, but I want my constituents to have luxuries, and to be able to get them cheaply. Why should certain things be made expensive in order that they shall be within the means only of the very rich? Why should the use of perfume be prohibited to the family of a working man? I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (e), British, free.
Item agreed to. division x.-Wood, wicker, and cane.
Timber, vis.: -
Logs, not sawn, ad val., British, 5 per cent.; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 10 per cent.
New Zealand white pine, undressed, n.e.i., for use in the manufacture of butter boxes, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, per 100 super. feet, British,1s.; intermediate,1s.; general,1s.
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes of 12 in. x 6 in. (or its equivalent) and over, per 100 super. feet, . . British, 3s.; intermediate, 3s.; general, 4s.
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes of 7 in. x 2½ in. (or its equivalent) and upwards, and less than 12 in. x C” in. (or its equivalent), per 100 super feet . . . British, 4s. 6d.; intermediate, 4s. 6d.; general, 5s. 6d.
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes less than 7 in. x 2½ in. (or its equivalent), per 100 super, feet . . . British, 5s.; intermediate, 5s.; general, 6s.
Timber, undressed, cut to size for making boxes, per 100 super, feet, British, 5s. ; intermediate, 5s. ; general, 5s.
Timber, for making boxes, being cut to size, and dressed or partly dressed, per 100 super, feet, British,6s. ; intermediate,6s. ; general, 6s.
Timber, dressed, n.e.i., per 100 super, feet . . . British,6s. ; intermediate, (is.; general,6s.
Plywood, veneered or otherwise, per 100 square feet, British, is.; intermediate, 4s.; general, as.; and on and after 29th June, 1921, per 100 square feet, British,6s. ; intermediate, 6s.; general, 7s.
– Sub-item c deals with logs, not sawn, and the British and general duties are 5 per cent, and 10 per cent. It would bo advisable at this stage if the Committee were to discuss first what happened in another place with respect to the timber duties, and it would facilitate debate if the Minister (Senator Pearce) could give some indication of the Government’s proposals. So far as I can see, the timber duties are “up in the air.” The Tariff on undressed timber has been left, as the outcome of consideration elsewhere upon the whole division dealing with timber, at rates which are higher than those upon imported dressed timber. Considerable time would be saved if the Government were to indicate in what direction, and how they propose to rectify the anomalies existing in the division.
– I do not know that the Government are to be told by Senator Pratten what they shall do. I have no objection to good advice, but I rather resent the tone in which the suggestion of Senator Pratten has been given. The increases made elsewhere were accepted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). If, in the opinion’ of Senator Pratten and of other honorable senators, the various duties are improper, the ordinary procedure should be adopted.
Honorable senators should be prepared to. indicate how mistakes and anomalies, if any, should be rectified. I do not propose to invite, or to set an example in the matter of, a general discussion upon the timber duties.
Request (by Senator Pratten) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item(c), British and intermediate, free; general, ad. val.,5 per cent.
– For the purpose of clarity in debate, the Committee will proceed to deal first with the requested amendment of the general duty.
– I notice that, in another sub-item, the duty upon undressed timber in sizes of 12 inches by 6 inches and over has been advanced from1s. per 100 super, feet to 3s. British, and 4s. general. These logs do not require handling, yet the duty upon the sawn timber is less than that on unsawn logs.
.- I am inclined to support the request. Senator Gardiner’s contention is correct. I may cite, as an example, Oregon timber, quoted at 20s. per 100 super, feet. A duty of 10 per cent, upon that means an additional 2s. per 100 super, feet, which is equivalent to double the amount imposed on New Zealand white pine.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– In connexion with imposts on timber, this may be regarded as a primary duty, because the logs are imported in the whole, and are subsequently dressed. If we reduce the duty on logs we shall reduce the protection of one of our primary industries, that of timber-getting. I do not pretend to say that for all our timbers we require protection, as I do not suppose there is any danger of hardwood being imported into the Commonwealth; but some of our soft timbers have to compete against those imported from abroad. Before the war no less than 14,000,000 super, feet of the timber mentioned in sub-item o was imported from Japan and 8,000,000’ super, feet” from Russia; but during the war period Australia was thrown on its own resources and her timber trade developed probably to . a greater, extent than-, any other. Before the war it was an unusual sight -to see suites of furniture made from Australian timber; but now one seldom sees any others. If we are to use Australian timber - if we admit that Protection is right, and I take it that the majority have - I cannot see any reason why we should attempt to destroy the protection afforded to the timber-getter. His work is certainly the hardest of those engaged in the timber trade, because it has to be done in the back country, and a fairly large- amount of capital has to be invested. There are in Queensland, Tasmania, and New South Wales timbers although not technically soft timbers when compared with jarrah and karri - which enter into competition with those imported from Japan, Russia, or Siberia, and if they are displaced the earnings of our timber-getters will be decreased. If we are to be consistent in imposing timberduties, and admit that the timber-getters have as much right to protection from foreign competition as any other section of the timber trade, wo must support these rates. Our hoop pine and silky oak are equal to anything obtained elsewhere; but the cost of labour, and the distance logs have to be hauled make it difficult for the Australian producer to stand up to the competition of other countries. We are hoping that under, a policy of reafforestation our future supplies will be fully assured. We are imposing a duty of only 10 per’cent., which Senator Pratten suggests reducing to 5 per cent. I do not know what the natural protection is; but I do not think it is great, because logs can be loaded into ships and carried long distances at a comparatively Tow rate. I am not talking simply by the book when I say that we have large supplies of suitable timber, because I have Seen the forests in the north-west of Tasmania and in the northern parts of Queensland, where I was assured that what I saw was only a fraction of what actually existed. I appeal to the Committee to leave the duty as it is. It is not high, but it affords some protection to the primary industry of timber-getting in Australia.
Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) T8.5]. - I intend to support the Minister (Senator Pearce) in connexion with the general duty in this particular sub-item. Representations have been made to me by timber-getters and saw-millers who have plants in the back country and dress the timber in the preliminary stages. The dost of getting logs out of the forests is increasing in consequence of the extra distance they have to be hauled. In one part of New South Wales which has’ produced a quantity of timber in the log and in the rough, to-day, very ‘ largely as a result of the competition of timber from other parts of the world, a number of the saw -mills are closed down. One man, who was conducting about eighty mills in the New England district, has been compelled to close down fully one-half in consequence of the competition from outside. This gentleman explained to me that as the timber is cut out the mills have to be moved, further back, the haulage is greater, the distance to be travelled longer, and the cost9 of working correspondingly increase. Our timber-getters experience very many disadvantages as compared with those of other countries. Many of our imported timbers come from America and Canada, where the cost of haulage is not great,, because in many instances the logs are merely thrown into the river and allowed to drift. Australian timber has to be hauled long distances before it reaches the first mill, and afterwards has to be transported by rail. Although the distance from the forest to the market may not appear great when compared with the sea carriage of imported timber, the cost is much heavier, and the natural protection is, therefore, not of great importance. Considering all these circumstances, it is fair to. say thatsome degree of protection is necessary . even on logs, and the proposed duty of 10 per cent, is not excessive. It is certainly not sufficient to increase to any appreciable extent the cost of timber to the consumer, and it is not likely to add considerably to the price which the sawmiller will have to pay. For these reasons we ought to extend to the timber industry the same measure of protection that we are giving to other industries. I am not so much concerned about giving protection to the big timber importers in the cities, because they are able to look after themselves, and in the past I am convinced that they were largely responsible for the tremendous increase in building costs. The price at which timber was supplied by the Timber Importers Ring, was inflated to an unreasonable extent. If by encouraging timber-getters in various areas we can .assist in reducing prices, and. enable men to construct homes or factories more cheaply, we shall be doing good.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) T8.10]. - It is so seldom during the discussion of the Tariff that- we have had am opportunity of doing anything to assist country industries or men who work in the back-blocks that I feel sure honorable senators will be prepared to give this duty favorable consideration. It is to be regretted that specimens of the Western Australian timbers, such as are at present being exhibited in that State, are not now on viewin Melbourne. If honorable senators were able to see the native timbers, dressed and made up into various articles of furniture, I feel sure this sub-item would pass without much discussion. When this question was before another place, samples of Victorian timbers were displayed in the Queen’s Hall, and honorable senators had an opportunity of seeing the various uses to which they can be put. We know something concerning the wonderful timbers of Queensland and Tasmania, and as useful timbers are being produced in every State in the Commonwealth, the industry of timber-getting is one that should be encouraged. We have been showing consideration to all and sundry, and the timber-getter is as much entitled to consideration as any one else, and I trust honorable senators will bear that in mind in discussing this sub-item.
– In discussing tha request of which I have given notice, I desire to deal generally, as I think I can on this sub-item, with the incidence pf the timber duties. I shall speak first of their alteration in another place, and secondly, of what is good for the timber industry. In the House of Representatives the duty on undressed timber in sizes 12 x 6, or its equivalent, and over, was increased by 2s. per 100 feet in the British’ and intermediate schedule, and by 3s. per 100 feet in the general Tariff. The 7 by 2$ inch timber, or its equivalent, was increased by ls. 6d. per 100 feet in the British and intermediate schedules, and 2s. 6d. per 100 feet in the general schedule. Timber less than 7 by 2^ inches waa increased ls. 6d.. per 100 feet in the British and intermediate schedules, arid 2s. 6d. per 100 feet in the - general - schedule. The original rates proposed by tha Government were practically doubled. In my opinion, for what it is worth, the imported softwood timbers do not come into competition with Australian hardwoods at all.
– Do they not?
– I repeat that they do not. To go back to what occurred before the war, let ma say that Australian hardwood was considerably cheaper than imported Oregon, which was - then sold retail in Sydney at from 18s. to 20s. per 100 super, feet. During the war, as the Minister has reminded the Committee, we were, to some extent, thrown on our own resources, and had to submit to pro-, fiteering by people abroad. As a result pf that and high freights, imported Oregon rose .to a phenomenal price, bub was it not used all the same as building material practically all over Australia in spite of its. increased price? The fact is, that Oregon must be used in the construction of certain parts of houses, and no duty imposed upon it will prevent its importation for that purpose. Consequently, every additional ls. per 100 super, feet imposed in the way of duty upon Oregon has to bo paid by the consumer. Here is another aspect of the case. In Queensland and in New South Wales the State Governments have imposed royalties on timber in accordance with the price it brings. So far as I can see, if, by tha imposition of timber duties, wa raise the price of Australian hardwood^ the State Governments referred to will retaliate by increasing their royalties. These timber duties affect the owners and builders of practically every house going up in Australia. In my opinion they are not in any shape or form Protective duties. We read from time to time forestry reports which tell us that the supply of Australian hardwood and Australian pine is limited, and will be cut out very largely, perhaps during the life-time of another generation. If, then, we oan get cheap soft timber from other countries, perhaps at a lower price than that at which we can supply it ourselves, is it not to the advantage of Australia that we should continue to import that timber, and supplement home supplies, particularly as it is better suited t’han is Australian hardwood for certain classes of building construction? I would remind honorable senators that before the war a large business had’ been created in the export of Australian hardwood to other countries,where it is worth very much more to us than itis here tocompete . with importedoregon at normal prices. The hardwoodused locally for buildingpurposes while the export trade was going on, was only the offcuts from large sizes for export orders, and it was consequently sold here at a low price.I am trying bymy request to restore the duties to those imposed under the Tariff as introduced in March, 1920. I would further remind the Committee that sub-items a and h are really the key items of all those imposing duties on timber. Whether it be the will of the Committee that the duties as they appear in the schedule on these subitems be retained, reduced to the rates imposed before they were increased in another place, or still further increased, all the rest of the duties should bear a- reasonable relation to those which we decide to impose on the timber covered by these basic sub -items. I disagree with the view suggested by one honorable senator in dealing with the duties upon logs. If we are going to import soft timber,and I assume we shall do so, it is much better that we should import it in the log than in the piece. I have deliberately attempted, by my request,to secure the importation of softtimber in the log in order that the work of sawing it may be done by our own workmen. If the duty is left as it stands at 10 per cent., it will work out in some cases at 5s.71/2d . per . 100 super, fact, which is altogether unfair as compared even with the duties we are now considering. In support . of this statement, I refer to an actual case . of the measurement of 162 logs, giving a total of 54,000 super. feet.
– Is the honorable senator referring to hardwood or to softwood ?
-i am referring to. pine. The loss in sawing amounts to at least 25 per cent. Any honorable senator who is at all familiar withthe timber trade will agree that there is a big loss in sawing. I once owned a sawmill, and I thought I got off fairly lucky when my loss was 381/3 per cent. The loss I am allowing for on this tabulationis 25 per cent., and that reduces the measurement of the logs to which I have referred to 40,000 super, feet. The duty was £114. Clearly, these figures show that the effective duty on the sawn boards, which alone go into consumption, and not the saw-dust, amounted to about 5s. 71/2d. per 100 super feet. Seeing that we must import softwood timber, I contend that it is & fair thing to offer a premium for the importation of logs, in order that theymay be cut up here.
Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (West ern Australia) . [8.24]. -I am glad, on this comparatively rare occasion, to find myself in complete agreement with the Government.
– What about the pioneer?
– I am still speaking up for the pioneer, as ray gallant and distinguished . friend knows is my constant habit. If he has road the various reports which have appeared upon forestry in Australia, he will realize that the stupidity of the Australian people in dealing with their forests has been simply colossal. We have regarded our forests as mines to be worked out and exhausted.
– Is there any occasion for adding to that stupidity?
-No, there is not. I think it is time that the various Governments of’ Australia, Federal and State, ceased to add to that stupidity. All the State Governments are attempting to put their houses in order, so far as the preservation of their forests is concerned. The only Government in Australia that has done nothing up to the present in thatregard is the Federal Government, . and being in controlof the Customs it holds the key to the whole situation.
– They are doing a little at Canberra. They are starting a forest there.
– I am speaking broadly of the forestsof Australia. The Federal Government are setting a very good example in their attempt at re-afforestation at Canberra, but that can only be regarded as a very minor item in view of the importance, of the forests of Australia as a whole. Broadly speaking, up to the present the Federal Government have done nothing to assist in the preservation of the wonderful heritage of nature represented by our forests. During the war we could not obtainthe softwoods which were previously imported from abroad, and people in Australia were very much amazed to discover that they could get along very well without them, I know more of the timber industry in Western Australia than of the industry in the other States, and I am able to. say that people in Victoria and in South Australia found that jarrah and karri scantlings were perfectly good and useful for practically all purposes for which oregon had formerly been used. I want honorable senators to realize what that means to the mills in Western Australia, whose forests constitute a very important part of the forestsof the Commonwealth. As soon as a saw-mill is erected and in going order in Western Australia, those controlling it start a. bonfire, which is constantly supplied from cuttings, and scantlings in fact, from the mill. A tremendous amount of timber is burned every year in this way, which might be used for building purposes throughout Australia. Only 35 per cent. of a jarrah log goes into timber of the sizes ordered from abroad, principally from, India, and South Africa. In dealing with jarrah, it is found that 35 per. cent. is sound timber, 10 per cent. saw-dust, rotten hearts and sap represent 15 per cent., and engine fuel 10 per cent. The sound timber burned for lack of a market represents 30” per cent. The amount of waste that goes on in the mills in Western Australia in connexion with the treatment of jarrah alone is perfectly appalling. We found during the war, when foreign softwoods could not be obtained, that quite a large proportion of scantlings which previously were burned could be utilized in Victoria and South . Australia for practically every purpose for which oregon had. formerly been used. Is it not a perfectly sound proposition that we should use this) valuable asset represented by these scantlings which otherwise must continue to be used to feed the huge bonfires that are burning at every mill in Western Australia’? Is it not a sound proposition that we should establish a market for the 30 per cent. of. jarrah timber cut in our mills which is now destroyed?
– Would it not pay to market that timber at the price which now has to be paid for oregon ?
– I am not, at the moment, prepared to say at what price it would pay to. market that timber, but I understand that this duty is just sufficient to enable. it to come into competition on favorable terms with the imported article. If that be so, then it seems to be a sound reason for retaining; the duty on this item. I have seen the destruction of huge stacks of timber goingon in Western Australia. Prior to the war I was like the average Australian, who regards the timber areas of this country as something to be cut out and done with. It was not until I got to Europe and realized what on extraordinary shortage of timber there was in the world, that I began to appreciate and value our own forests. Not a fractionof a log is allowed to go to waste in Belgium or France. They even preserve and use all the bark. In fact, they get 100 per cent. of use out of every log cut, whereas in Australia we get only 35 percent. Therefore, it seems tome that our methods of handling our forests, to put it mildly, require to be revolutionized.
– Does this duty make it more costly to build a house?
– No. The Protectionist argument is that it will make the article cheaper. We have had this statement rammed down our throats continually during this Tariff debate: If we do make use of all these waste timber products we shall be doing something to obtain greater revenue for the various State Governments that are now trying, rather late in the day, to preserve our forests. Senator de Largie mentioned an exhibition of Australian timbers which he had recently seen in Perth. It is a pity that that exhibition could not be made available to honorable senators during this debate. I never fully appreciated the beauty of our Australian timbers until I got to Belgium, for, curiously enough; I say in Brussels the finest collection of Australian timbers that I have ever seen. Indeed, I have not yet seen some of the varieties that were included in that collection. In Melbourne and the other cities of the Commonwealth office fittings prior to the war were constructed of oregon coloured to look like some other limber. How many offices, I wonder, could any honorable senator name that, before 1914, were furnished with Australian timber? But what a change has been made since then. Office fittings now arc usually carried out in stringy-bark, silky oak, Tasmanian oak, swamp gum, blackwood, jarrah - the most beautiful of the lot - karri, salmon gum, and many other varieties. It is well, therefore, that we should, by every possible means, further the use of our Australian timbers, and encourage the preservation of our forests, which have been deplorably neglected hitherto. Let us support the action of the State Governments in this matter, and, by imposing the duties in the schedule, do something of a practical, nature to preserve the remnants of our forests.
.- I think honorable senators will agree with me when I say that during the war period we were able to do a great deal for the proper utilization of our forests that ought to be of incalculable benefit to Australia as a whole. Any one who has had anything to do with land settlement knows, that for many years millions of pounds’ worth of timber - I speak advisedly - have been destroyed to make way for the settler. When war broke out, and we were thrown upon our own resources, saw-mills sprang up in timber areas all over Australia, with the result that land which had originally been taken up for timber purposes is now being’ occupied by the settler, and instead of hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of valuable timber having been destroyed in the process of settlement, the marketable timber has been rescued from that fate. The people engaged in the timber industry outnumber by ten to one those engaged in it prior to tho war. When dealing with this matter in another place, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) distinctly stated that the policy of the Government was to encourage industries which had been in existence prior to the war, as well as industries which had sprung up because of war conditions. If we are going to adopt that policy now, and it appears to me to be a reasonable one, I cannot understand this effort being made, right at the beginning of the debate on this division of the Tariff, to reduce the duties in this schedule. The honorable senator who has moved in this direction made no reference whatever to the altered conditions in the timber .industry. If he had taken the trouble to look up statistics and ascertain from those engaged in the business the cost of producing timber as compared with pro-war days, he must have come to the conclusion that without adequate protection the industry must be abandoned. And if that should happen, what would be our position? Of necessity, many thousands of men must be thrown out of employment, and land settlement retarded for a great length of time, because the saw-milling industry has been of the greatest assistance to land settlement in recent years. An honorable senator has suggested that if we continue to use Australian timbers for commercial purposes our forests will disappear during the next generation. That is all “bunkum.” The taking of marketable timber off timber areas that are not suitable for land settlement gives the younger trees a chance of growing into timber of commercial sizes.
– But, unfortunately, timber-getters frequently destroy the young growth while getting out the mature timber.
– That is true, but the-State Governments have already taken steps to prevent it, as far as possible, and to’ encourage the growth of the smaller trees. If this policy is continued we shall find in the course of a few years that timber areas which have been worked over will again be available ,to sawmillers.
– Does the honorable senator say that’ we can produce all the softwoods we require for making butter boxes and other commercial purposes.
– I do not say that, but I shall have a word or two to say with regard to the suggestion made by Senator Pratten that we must cf necessity use Oregon for building operations. I do not know where he gets his information from, but I may tell him that Australian hardwoods half the size of Oregon beams will stand up to a greater test, so that even if Australian timber is heavier it is only necessary to use beams of half the size in order to get the same result.
– I am afraid the honorable senator is not correct.
– I have records of tests made by Mr. James .Mann, of the Melbourne University. These show that oregon 12 x 12 x 6 weighing 85 lbs. breaks with a strain of 9,000 lbs., while stringybark 12 x 6 x 3, and weighing 95 lbs., breaks at 10,944 lbs. In other words, it takes a strain of 1,944 lbs. more to break a . stringybark beam 12 x 6 x 3 than to break an oregon beam 12 x 6 x 6.
Senatorde Largie. - If the test had been with karri or ironbark the difference would have been still greater.
– Possibly it would have been. Ishould like to give honorable senators an idea of the increase in the cost of marketing timber to-day as compared with a few years ago, and I shall quote three States. In Victoria, in’ 1908, the cost was 5s. 2d. per 100 super. feet as compared with 17s.8d. in 1921. In Queensland the cost for hardwood was 16s. 9d. in 1908 as against 34s. 5d. in 1921, and in Tasmania for hardwood the cost was 8s. 8d. in 1908 compared with 23s.10d. in 1921.
– Whose figures are those?
– They are the records taken, by those engaged in the industry. Honorable senators are quite aware that the wages paid to mem engaged in this hazardous industry of timber getting are now more than twice what they were in the year I first quoted, and if some people had their way they would be four times as much. The figures I quoted are based on the last log, which came into operation a few months ago, but a further claim was put forward immediately that log came into operation, and demanded increases of 50 per cent., and in some cases 100 per cent. The log now in force provides for retrospective pay, and for the payment of wages whether men are working or not. Wet weather no longer counts against the employee. If a man is on the job he has to be paid, and in the bush it is almost impossible to carry on operations in wet weather. Other conditions contained in the log make timber-getting very expensive today.
– All our timber is found in wet country.
– Yes. In Tasmania the best timber comes from the West Coast, which is the wettest portion of the State. I am pleased that Senator Pratten is determined to see that a fair ratio is observed between the various classes of timber as described in the schedule in proportion to the basic rate of duty per 100 super feet, and I know thatI shall pet his support when I move later on for the removal of two anomalies which I shall point out.
Senator GARDINER (New South
Wales)[8.48]. - Senator Payne, in comparing Australian hardwood with oregon for building purposes, quotes the breaking strain of two samples, and imagines that he has completed his case. If that were all to be considered there would be nothing, more to be said on the subject, but’ as a practical builder, with many years experience, I know that for roofing purposes, and for ceiling joists, we have no timbers in Australia equal to oregon. A 7-inch by 2½-inch hardwood joist, stretching from wall to wall, would by its own weight sink and buckle, and the ceiling plaster, no matter what workmanship was put into it, would crack in no time, whereas an oregon beam would remain firm and straight.
– No Sydney architect would specify Australian hardwood for such a position.
– I resent very much Senator Drake-Brookman’s statement that the war brought our Australian furnishing timbers into use. I could take the honorable senator into churches, business places, banks, and shipping offices, which were’ beautifully furnished with Australian woods prior to the war.
– There would be mighty few of them.
– In benighted Western Australia there might be few, but in enlightened Sydney they were the coming timbers for furnishing purposes fifteen years ago.
– Can the honorable senator mention half-a-dozen places in Sydney fitted with jarrah, which is the most beautiful of Australian hardwoods?
– I am aware of the beauties of jarrah, but it cannot’ be compared in regard to suitability far furnishing purposes with Queensland maple. Our cedars, our blackwoods, and our Tasmanian oak, as it is called, although it is really not an oak, make beautiful and excellent furniture. The two gentlemen in charge of the Sydney Technical College, fifteen years ago. published a book on Australian furnishing timbers containing plates depicting, not only the beauties of these timbers for that particular purpose, but also different establishments already fitted up with them. However, for practical building and mining purposes, oregon is much superior to Australian hardwood.
– For strength ?
– For general uses. Oregon will creak and give warning when a stress is telling on it, whereas hardwood breaks suddenly without giving warning. But if. any honorable senator is anxious to test the comparative values of timber formining purposes, let him go to Broken Hill and see what the astute mining companies use there. He will find that it is oregon. Senator Pratten’s proposal that the log should come in at the rate of 5 per cent. will not interfere very much with bush workers. The labour employed in getting a log is simply the cutting downof the tree, trimming it, and hauling it to a mill. Therefore, one cannot claim that the difference on a log is the difference between good wages paid here and poor wages paid elsewhere. My main contention is that although we ought to be proud of our very fine timbers, we must also pay. regard to the fact that Australia is rather poorly supplied in respect of quantity. Australia is a rapidly-growing nation, but. when we see how scarce our timbers are getting already, while our numbers are few, what will be. the position in a. few years when our numbers are great. Is it wise for- us to deplete our forests now when we can get timber elsewhere at a reasonably cheap price? I suppose that by the time our timber is cleaned up we will be just about making arrangements for growing further supplies. Our timbers have been wasted, extravagantly used, carelessly handled, and poorly marketed. Senator Drake-Brockman was quite right when he said that they had been stupidly wasted. But we are becoming gradually wiser. Let us also look at the matter from the builder’s point of view. Could there be a worse time for making timber dear than the present? Just when the Federal Government are spending millions of pounds on building, why should they propose to make oregon 4s; 6d. per 100 super. feet dearer ? Returned soldiers, for whom we are buildinghomes, will have to pay it. Although the amount of timber used in a house is not all in all, nevertheless it is an item, and if we could keep the price down to bedrock, thus saving 4s. per 100 super. feet on every house, it would make a considerable difference. It would not doany injury to Australia, because our forests ore nothing like what they should be. We can import cheaply from other countries timber which will not come into competition with our own hardwoods, and which for many purposes are more serviceable than our hardwoods.
– I am a little surprised, and somewhat sorry, that Senator Pratten has proposed this request, because it is rather inconsistent with his general attitude towards the schedule. Protectionists complain very often that unless wo adopt a Protectionist policy there is a possibility that our population will be returned to the positions of hewers of wood and drawers of water; but if the honorable senator’s request were to be adopted here, and accepted elsewhere, we would be taking up the position that we would hardly let our bush population be even hewers of wood.
SenatordeLargie. - They would merely be burners of wood.
– Yes, burners of their own wood and converters of imported logs into usable timber. The importation of timber in the log free of duty was a policy we followed for many years in the States and in the earlier days of the Commonwealth, and while it prevailed there was throughout Australia an utter lock of recognition of the serviceableness and value of our own native timbers. Reference has been made by Senator Pearce and Senator’ Payne to the north-west coast of Tasmania. Honorable senators have seen Tasmanian blackwood used very largely for figured, ornamental; and furnishing work, and for interior fittings of houses, and it is always recognised, when it is so worked up and used, as a most valuable timber ; but since the establishment of the Commonwealth I have seen within sight of the north-west coast of Tasmania blackwood logs, which would be serviceable if cut up for household decorations and furnishing purposes, ruthlessly burnt on the’ ground, not in the manner Senator Drake-Brockman has described, as refuse of timber mills, but simply burnt in. the log in the process of clearing land for agricultural purposes. I have seen logs up to 10 feet long, with a. diameter of from. 2 ft. 6 in. to 3 ft. as they can be seen at the present day, used in chock-and-log fences. In those days when blackwood logs were put into those fences and ruthlessly burnt as I have described, timber in logs was coming into Australia from overseas countries duty free for milling purposes here.
Insuch circumstances, what chance had this veryvaluable asset of the Commonwealth?H owever, later on came the war, and, although a considerable amount of blackwood had been used previously, it was but a fraction of what was actually produced in Tasmania. There has been more blackwood burnt off and ruthlessly destroyed than has been marketed from that State. But since the war there has been a little recovery in the output for commercial purposes, and the timber has been used fairly freely for such purposes as have been indicated by Senator Drake-Brockman. There has grown up amongthe people of Australia a greater appreciation of their own native timbers, and I think it is desirable that their use should be encouraged by the imposition of a small duty such as we are now considering.
Reference has been made by some honorable senators to the serviceableness of our timbers and their recognition abroad. I claim some credit for the use of them in Australia House, because years ago, when I was Minister for Home Affairs, I established the policy of utilizing, as far as practicable, Australian timbers for Commonwealth Government requirements. To that end, the Department of which I was the Ministerial head communicated with the authorities in the several States with the object of obtaining, year after year, from each of them a certain quantity of its most suitable timbers for joinery and furniture-making purposes, and laying them. aside, so thatwhen they were actually required for our use they would be thoroughly seasoned, and so do themselves justice. A great many timbers were thus laid aside while I was Minister for Home Affairs, and later on the present Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) availed himself of these stocks for use in connexion with the first rifles manufactured at the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, for service abroad in the great war. More of the timbers were also used for other purposes. The Commonwealth was in a better position than ; any private millowner to allow its capital to remain idle in this way, but in reality improving all the time through the natural processes of seasoning. By-and-bye, when Australia House was being erected, more of these timbers, typical of each State, were utilized in connexion with its furnishings and fittings.
I think that, for reasons that I have given,we ought to promote the useof Australian timbers. The step thatSenator Pratten asks us to take of agreeing to a request for a reduction of these duties, would be a backward and nota forward one. During the debate, it has been said thatoregon is essential for building purposes. I have had the honour and privilege of being associated with every Tariff passed through this Chamber, and in connexion with every one ofthem the necessity for allowing oregon to come infree has been strongly urged. So far as I can remember, however, the case for its free admission -was never put - unless it was during my temporary absence - on the ground of itsbeing indispensable for building purposes. The plea advanced - was that which Senator Gardiner has just put - that oregon was more serviceable for mining purposes than any of our own hardwoods. On every occasion, the Broken Hill mining companies were cited, as Senator Gardiner has referred to them to-night, as shrewd companies which prefer oregon to any Australian timber. One of the reasons why it was said to be preferable to any other was not that it would stand a greater strain than Australian hardwood - It was admitted that it would not - but that when an undue strain came upon it it creaked, and so gave warning to those employed in the underground workings, who were thus not likely to be taken suddenly byany falling in of the timbering. That was the chief claim made for oregon in connexion with all previous Tariffs. I do notremember thatit was ever claimed that it was indispensableforbuilding construction, and that we had no Australian timbers that could take its place for such a purpose. Reference has also been made to the limited timber supplies of Australia. It is said that our forests have their limits. No doubt they have; but for some time therehas been a growing recognition of this circumstance by all the States, and something in the nature of re-afforestation has been engaging the attention of the several State Governments. The matter is receiving the consideration of the Tasmanian State Government, and I have no doubt that other States have gone as far as, if not further than, Tasmania has done in that direction. Those who are best qualified to advise the State Governments have from time to time drawn their attention to the necessity for re-afforestation. We are aware, also, of what was done in this regard by Ger- many, Sweden, and other Continental nations for many years before the war, and the lessons they have taught us will not go unheeded. It is complained by the mover of this request that the States collect timber royalties. Tasmania, although Senator Pratten did not mention the fact, is one of the States that collects royalties upon timber cut on Crown lands. In 1919 the State Go- vernment, I think, collected between £3,000 and £4,000 by way of royalties, but in the following year, owing not only to the increased royalties, but also to an increased output, the revenue so obtained jumped from something like £3,000 to £14,000 or £15,000. I see nothing in that to cavil at.
– It is quite legitimate.
– Undoubtedly. The timber is on Crown lands, and if the Crown licenses certain individuals to cut that timber and to turn it to their own monetary profit and advantage, surely it is entitled to insist, amongst other conditions, that a portion of the profits so derived, shall go to the State. I find reason, rather, to complain of the failure of the States in past years to require those who cut timber to refrain from interfering with the young immature growing trees. In many instances, owing to recklessness on the part of those engaged in timbergetting, young immature timber has been ruthlessly destroyed, so that even had there been a policy of re-afforestation in operation, it would have been to that extent nullified. I hope that the Committee will reject the request and retain the duties as proposed in the schedule, since by doing so we shall lead, not only to the maintenance of that appreciation of our own timbers which is now more prevalent, but also to its encouragement and growth.
.- My honorable friend Senator de Largie has said that we have in Australia ample supplies of timber for certain purposes, and that there is no need to import any. I havebefore me the report of the Inter state Conference on Forestry which was held in Hobart last year, and which, as setting out the opinions of experts on this matter, deserves our serious consideration. In this report there appears an interesting table showing clearly how Australia’ stands as compared withother countries so far as its timber supplies are concerned. It shows that 52 per cent. of the total area of Sweden is. forested, and that the proportion in the case of other countries is as follows: - Japan, 48 per cent.; Russia, 39 per cent.; Austria, 31 per cent. ;. Hungary, 29 per cent. ; Germany, 25 per cent.; France, 18 per cent.; and Australia only 5 per cent.
– But compare the total area of Australia with that of France.
– Five per cent. of the total area of Australia would be more than the total area of some of the countries named.
– Only 5 per cent. of the total area of Australia is timber country. The quantities of timber available in each of these countries is also set out in the report. As to this item, it is a case of protection which is not protection, but rather the destruction of a very valuable and very limited asset. It is set out here that there are 5,000,000 residents in Australia who consume annually 1,800,000,000 feet of logs, and that at the end of sixty or seventy years a population of 25,000,000 must be provided for, and to do so a log yield of 10,000,000,000 feet will be needed. Then, assuming that we can produce an average annual increment of 400 super. feet per acre the extent of re-afforestation necessary to produce this log yield will be 25,000,000 acres, and to accomplish this task we shall have to spend at least £4,000,000 a year. If our resources are so limited as to need this tremendous expenditure to overtake our consumption, it seems very desirable, as suggested, that we should conserve our timber supplies, and be rather gladthat we can doso.
– Get cheaper timber from abroad while we have the chance.
– Yes. Two motions were placed before the Conference, and what was done with them is rather significant. The first motion was -
That this conference urge upon the Commonwealth Government the advisability of subsidizing the forestry operations of the States and of guaranteeing, in addition, adequate loan funds for the purpose.
That motion was debated and carried, but the second resolution was not carried. Is was this -
That the Commonwealth Government bc urged, firstly, to impose a Tarin” upon timber sufficient to maintain the present market prices; and, secondly, to fund the proceeds for the purpose of subsidy and loan to the States for the carrying on of forestry operation.
It was decided after discussion that it was not opportune to advise the Government to put into force any such thing as a Tariff on imported timber. I think this shows very clearly that those experts, who were sent by each State to consider the timber resources of Australia, had come to the conclusion that Ave have a very limited supply, and that, having regard to future generations and their needs, heavy expenditure would have to be undertaken in carrying out a system of reafforestation to adequately meet those needs. It lias been said that during the war circumstances compelled us in Australia not only to realize the value of our local timber, but to very much increase its use. According to the returns the local production of hardwood timber in Australia in 1915 was 669,000,000 feet, whereas the local production in 1919 was 472,000,000 feet, u reduction of 197,000,000 feet. This is rather a contradiction of the statement that war conditions compelled the Australian people to realize the advantage of using their own timber.
– The imports of logs fell from 23,000,000 super, feet to 278,000 super, feet.
– We all know the difficulty there has been of late years in housing the people of Australia. This is really one of our national problems; and we find some very significant information in the figures relating to the imports of timber during the last few years. We find that in 1915 there were 17,000,000 feet of dressed timber imported into Australia from Norway, whereas in 1919 not a single foot wa3 imported. Then, in 1915, we imported 7,000,000 feet of dressed timber from Sweden, whereas in 19.19 we imported only 500,000 feet. In 1915 there was used altogether in Australia something like 925,000,000 feet of timber for building purposes, and that had been reduced in 1919 to 600,000,000 feet, a difference of 300,000,000 feet, and that at a tune when timber was never in greater demand for building purposes. These facts show that there is something wrong in the arguments used by honorable senators against the proposed request of Senator Pratten. As I said before, this is a protection which is no protection ; real protection means the protecting of a valuable asset for the use of future generations. We are wasting a great deal of our local timbers on purposes for which they are really not suited. Much of our timber is cut down only half matured, and great effort and expense are involved in. treating it artificially in order to make it acceptable to the builder. If this timber were allowed to grow to maturity it would ‘bring bigger prices as an article of export than can be realized by its use in Australia. Quite recent returns show that our export trade with the United States of America, has been growing wonderfully during the last two years. We are wasting a. valuable asset in using our timber for ordinary purposes of construction instead of putting it to uses for which it is eminently more suited.
.- One or two statements by Senator Rowell are worthy of reply.
– Why answer everything that comes along 1
– I desire to have the position put as fairly as possible, and if the statement of Senator Bolton remain unanswered, it may be taken that he has said the last word that can be said. Senator Bolton has referred to a conference of gentlemen interested in reafforestation held in Tasmania, some time ago, and has conveyed the idea, that at that conference the further utilization of our timber for commercial purposes, was deprecated. I shall read for the information of the Committee the opinion of Mr. L. G. Irby Conservator of Forests in Tasmania -
We are pre-eminently’ a forest State, and our forest industries must be protected from excessive importations of cheap timbers (for most purposes inferior to our own), or one of our greatest national assets must continue to be sacrificed in the future as it has been during much of the past, without any adequate return to the Department in compensation for parting with our heritage - the forest. If these importations ure allowed to go on unrestricted, much of the timber on our existing timber reserves and State forests, as well as that on the wooded lands on which settlement is inevitably encroaching, must be scrapped and go up in lire and smoke.
That opinion indorses what 1 said earlier in the evening. It would be a crime to fail to use our commercial timbers, and to permit them to be destroyed as in years past, when we have the opportunity to give employment to thousands of men, and to put on the market woods which are second to none for house building. In support of my statements, I have before mo the opinions of leading Victorian architects, among whom one says -
The timber (stringybark) is found to be a satisfactory substitute for oregon formerly used for the framing of cool stores erected in the various fruit-growing districts. There is an advantage in respect of.cost, while there can be no question as to its greater durability when used both above and below ground.
Surely such a testimonial refutes the statement that the timbers grown so freely in Australia are not a commercial asset.
– I was referring to immature timber. The mature wood is all right.
– That criticism can easily be obviated ; it does not suggest any fault in the timber itself.
– The timber schedule imposes only very slight increases upon the previous Tariff. In respect of some varieties, and having to do with certain stages of their preparation, no increases have been imposed. Is it right to single out the timber industry for such unsympathetic treatment, especially in view of the fact that it is a country activity ? I have no fear for the future of our forests, remembering the fertility of Australia’s soil and the recuperative powers of our forests. In Swain’s valuable work on Australian timbers, having to do particularly with Queensland forests, the writer testifies to a growth on Fraser Island of 40 feet of bole in the short space of five years. Professor Wilson, of Harvard University, in the United States of America, who recently visited Australia, favorably commented upon this remarkable feature of our forest growths; he remarked that very few of the timbers of the United States of America could equal them in that respect. It is good to know that, while, on the one hand, we hear of the destruction of our forest areas, our timbers have such recuperative qualities. The hardwoods, of course, do not grow so rapidly. I under stand that to re-stock a hardwood forest after it has been cleared takes from forty to fifty years.
– The Jarrahdale forest, within 50 miles of Perth, is being cut over for the second time in fifty years.
– We can face the situation, then, without apprehension. I trust that the Government will assist in placing the Australian timber industry upon a footing at least approaching the favorable circumstances in which city industries have been established. Imports of timber have been formidable in point of value. In 1913 the value of timber brought into Australia was £2,800,000; in 1921, the value was £5,000,000. Values have increased enormously, but actual quantities have decreased. As for the variously argued effects of a Protective Tariff upon prices, so far as the timber industry is concerned - even without the slight increases proposed elsewhere - the quotations of several years ago were the same as to-day. According to Melbourne merchants’ latest price list, the cost of oregon in 1914 was 17s. per 100 super. feet; in 1917 the price was 40s.; in 1920, 70s. ; in April of this year, 55s. ; and, during the present month, 40s. per 100 super. feet. That is to say, the price of oregon at this moment is the same as it was four years ago, although the duties in 1917 were a shade lower than the present rates. The imposition of higher rates has not Had the effect of increasing quotations.
– The effect has been to decrease the quantities imported.
– We need to decrease the quantities even more markedly, because we have the timber here; it is only cumbering the landscape to-day, while there are very many hundreds of men idle. Statistics concerning the local industry, as furnished byKnibbs for 1919, show that it has reached very considerable proportions. The number of men employed in timber-getting was 22,000 ; the value ofplant and machinery was £2,700,000; wages paid amounted to £2,800,000; and the output was worth £9,000,000. The industry cannot be said to be an infant. It possesses added importance because it provides a livelihood for men, not upon the coastal fringe, but in our inland forests. I trust that requests for further slight increases will be accepted in order more adequately to cover the cost of converting growing timber into a commercial commodity.
Question - That the request (Senator Pratten’ s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Questi on so resolved in the negative
– I intended submitting a request in connexion with sub-item, d, similar to that proposed on sub-item c, but in view of the decision of the Committee I do not propose to proceed with it. I take it that the decision at which we have just arrived leaves the basic timber duties unaltered.
– Of course, it does.
– Attention will now have to be given to rectifying anomalies where they exist. In connexion with sub-item e, I desire to discuss a comparatively small matter, but one which is of great importance to ‘the bee-keeping industry. Apiarists must use white pine or some soft timber - New Zealand pine for preference - in the manufacture of their beehives and honeycomb boxes. I am informed by those who use Queensland hoop pine that it is unsuitable, because it twists and warps, and becomes useless under certain climatic conditions. Under sub-item e, New Zealand white pine, undressed, for use in the manufacture of butter boxes, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, is dutiable at1s. per 100 super. feet. It is obvious to any one who knows anything about the bee-keeping industry that apiarists must have timber for their beehives and honeycomb boxes similar to New Zealand white pine, and I, therefore, ask the Minister (Senator Pearce) whether he will agree to insert after the words “ butter boxes,” in sub-item e, the words “ and the bee-keeping industry.”
– But it is only required for beehives.
– Yes, and for frames and appurtenances.
.- I trust the honorable senator will not press his request, because there are other uses to which New Zealand white pine could advantageously be put. The butter industry stands out prominently in this connexion, because our surplus has to be disposed of in the markets of the world, and that is why this concession has been made. If we were to give similar treatment to other industries in which New Zealand white pine could be used to greater advantage than something else, numerous exceptions would have to be made. After all, how much timber is used in the making of beehives? The insertion of the words suggested would make the sub-item extremely difficult to administer because it would not be easy to trace the timber after it had been admitted.
– In view of what the Minister has stated, I shall not press my request, especially as I realize that, if carried, it would give considerable trouble to the Trade and Customs Department. I raised the matter for discussion at the request of thoseengaged in the bee-keeping industry in my own State. I think that subitems f,g, and h ought really to be taken together. It seems to me that the duties imposed under sub-item h must be increased if the duties imposed under subitem f are not reduced. Otherwise, the relation between these two items will not be preserved in accordance with the principle guiding the Committee in making a reasonable difference between the duties on imported timber according to the work put into it.
-I understand that Senator Payne intends to submit a request in connexion with sub-item h.
– What occurred in another place was that in the general Tariff the duty on sub-itemf was increased from1s. to 4s. per 100 super. feet. The duty on sub-item g was increased from 3s. to 5s. 6d., reducing in that case the relative difference between the sub-items, and the duty on sub-itemh was increased from 3s. 6d. to 6s. The increase in the case of sub-item f was 3s., in the case of sub-item g 2s. 6d., and in. the case of sub-item h 2s. 6d. per 100 super. feet.
– There is still a sufficient margin between sub-items f and g ; the discrepancy is between sub-items f and h.
– I agree with the Minister. I say that the duties on subitem f should be reduced, or those on subitem h should be increased.
– We would prefer that the duties on sub-item h should be increased.
– If we pass subitem f as it stands, the duties on subitem h may not be increased.
– They will.
– I am not prepared to vote for any increase in these timber duties, but if a reduction in the duties on sub-item f is not carried, I shall be able consistently to vote for increased duties on sub-item.h. I move -
That theHouse of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (f), per 100 super, feet, British, 2s., intermediate, 2s. ; general, 3s.
– I fail to see why the duty imposed in the British preferential column on sub-item g is not a little lower. Whoever designed these items did so apparently with a view to reciprocal arrangements being made with New Zealand or Canada.
– The duty in the British preferential column is not operative.
– We have, time after time, passed British preferential duties which are not operative in any shape or form., but which we were told might become operative by reciprocal arrangement. .
– Not a foot of timber has been imported from Great Britain in the last seven years, so why waste time over the matter?
– I am perfectly aware that any duty imposed in the British preferential column would not be operative, because no timber is being imported from Great Britain ; but we have already passed many duties in the British preferential column which are also inoperative.
– Rather than waste time over the matter, I will agree to a request for a reduction of the duty in the British preferential column.
Request (by Senator Pratten) agreed to-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (g), per 100 super. feet, British, 3s.
.- 1 have given notice of my intention to submit a request in connexion with subitem h, but, in view of the request just agreed to, and in order to maintain the proper proportion, I must make an alteration of the duties as I originally intended to submit them. I think that, in the circumstances, the duty in the British preferential column should remain as it stands. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (h), per 100 super. feet, intermediate, 6s. ; general, 7s.
It is necessary that these duties should be increased to preserve the proportional increase sin the case of timber of these small sizes.
– I am prepared to agree to that request.
Request agreed to.
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (i), general, 10s.
The Committee has requested another place to increase the duty in sub-item h to 7s. per 100 super. feet, and there is now an anomaly in sub-itemi, which deals with timber used not so much for the making of boxes as for the actual boxes themselves; that is to say, timber imported cut up ready to be nailed together to make the complete box used for shipping merchandise to and from Australian ports and other parts of the world. Unless something is done to rectify the anomaly by increasing the duties in this item, it. will pay merchants to obtain their boxes from the other side of the world already cut up for nailing together rather than to obtain timber in the roughfor cutting up here. Already one of the largest boxmakers in my own State, the Austral Box and Timber Company, has lost large orders, even with the duty at 6s., and there is now a request to increase it to 7s. A large number of firms have cancelled orders with the
Austral Company because it pays them to import boxes ready cut up for nailing together. We should rectify this anomaly by increasing the duties in this item.
– I feel certain the Committee will not request the duties suggested by the honorable senator. In the 1908-11 Tariff the duty was only 4s., and in the 1914-15 Tariff it was 5s. The Inter-State Commission, which inquired into this industry, recommended a duty of 4s. We must not forget that the Australian export trade is affected, because rabbit crates, fruit boxes, and other containers for our produce would come under this item.
– But those crates and boxes are made out of local timbers.
– Yes, but the fact that there is a possible competitor must have a steadying effect upon local prices. There is such a thing as a combination possible, and reasonable duties are the best check we can have against any such understanding. This industry has been carried on under a duty of 4s.
– The duty of 7s. fixed for undressed timber in sizes less than 7 in. by 2½ in. should govern the duty on timber undressed cut to size for making boxes, which is usually 6 in. or 7 in. wide by ½ in. to 1 in. thick. Senator Pearce has mentioned that the Inter-State Commission has recommended a difference of at least 4s. between the two, and, speaking from memory, in the last Tariff there was a difference of 5s., but the real relative difference between these box shooks and duty on undressed timber just agreed to should be at least 4s., 5s., or 6s. A boxmaker who imports a cargo of boards in various lengths for the purpose of making boxes finds that there is a fair amount of waste when they are cut up, and it would be only fair for the Minister (Senator Pearce) to indicate some reasonable amount he is willing to accept on this sub-item.
– I stand by the rate of 5s.
– It is less than the duty on undressed timber n.e.i. we have just agreed to. It has never previously been less.
– No; it will pay now to import the boxes.
– I think the Minister is under some misapprehension about the matter. This is a relative duty that, on his own showing, should be increased by 5s. to keep it in line with previous Tariffs.
– The local timber used for this purpose is waste timber.
– There is a boxmaking industry in Sydney.
– And it was there when they had a duty of 4s.
– But when the duty was 4s. the duty on undressed timber n.e.i. was 2s. 6d.
– The people engaged in this industry are now handicapped by the last decision of the Committee to the extent of 2s. per 100 super. feet. I impress on the Minister the importance of maintaining a reasonable difference between the timber and the actual boxes.
– Last year there was only £2,000 worth of this timber imported, and the value was11s. 4d. per 100 super. feet.
– I think the Minister misunderstands the position. As the matter now stands there is a premium on the importation of boxes. Already one big importer has ordered 1,000,000 boxes on the duties as they were passed by another place. It is the most glaring anomaly in the timber duties to allow cutup boxes to come in at a cheaper rate than ordinary timber. I think it will be seen that a duty of at least 12s. per 100 super. feet is required on this sub-item, with a similar increase on the next. It would only be fair to the boxmakers of Australia. In New South Wales the number of employees directly or indirectly engaged in boxmaking is no less than 1,000, and the amount of capital invested in the industry in that State is £150,000. Seeing that the users of boxes and cases have ample protection for their manufactured articles, they cannot object to a reasonable amount of protection being given to boxmakers.
– One of the largest boxmakers was consulted by the Department, and expressed himself satisfied with this duty of 5s.
– I would like the Minister to give me the name of that boxmaker if it is not confidential.
There was a protection given under the old duties,but as the result of the vote just given that protection has been taken away. The position now is, that the duty on timber cut to sizes for making boxes is 2s. per 100 super. feet less than the duty which has to be paid by the boxmaker on boards imported by him for the making of boxes. Will the Minister endeavour to meet that position somewhat reasonably ?
– I agree with the principle of the requests made by my honorable friends, Senators Duncan and Pratten, although I donot indorse all the arguments that have been adduced by the last speaker. He said, for instance, that since the users of boxes made in the Commonwealth have protection for their commodities, the manufacturers of the boxes themselves are also entitled to reasonable protection. If he means what he says - if he wants “ reasonable “ protection for them. - I can agree with that view, but if he wishes to imply that the manufacturers of the boxes are entitled to the same measure of protection that is given to the varying contents of those boxes, I cannot. I agree with Senator Pratten for the reason that so far as I can see, in all our Tariff legislation, a distinction has always been made between this sub-itemi and the immediately preceding sub-item. In the Australian Tariff Hand-Book for 1919, which has been circulated amongst honorable senators to facilitate their consideration of this schedule, we find on page 95 the corresponding sub-items. I shall read them so that honorable senators may compare them with those in the. schedule before us: - 291. (h) Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes less than 7-in. x 2½-in (or its equivalent) -
That agrees with sub-item h of item 291 now before us. Then we have -
Timber, undressed, cut to size for making boxes.
Thatcorresponds with the sub-itemi we are now considering. Under the Tariff of 1902 the former sub-item was dutiable at1s. 6d. per 100 super. feet, and the latter - which corresponds with that now being discussed - at the same rate. In the 1908 Tariff the former sub-item was dutiable at 2s. 6d. per 100 super. feet, and the latter at 4s. per 100 super. feet, which gave the boxmaker a protection of 1s. 6d. per 100 super. feet. Under the 1914 Tariff the duty on the former subitem was raised to 3s. 6d. per 100 super. feet, and on the latter to 5s. per 100 super. feet, still giving by way of protection to the boxmaker, a margin of1s. 6d. per 100 super. feet. We have just passed a sub-item, which corresponds with the former of these sub-items in the previous Tariffs, but under which the duties now are - British, 5s. ; intermediate, 6s.; and general, 7s. per 100 super. feet. We are now asked to make sub-itemi dutiable at a flat rate of 5s. per 100 super. feet.
– But the two sub-items which the honorable senator has just named are quite distinct.
– Undoubtedly they are; they always have been.
– One relates to what is practically a waste product, and the other to a special class of timber.
– That is the case sofar as manufacturers from local timbers are concerned .
SenatorEarle. - It is argued that subitemi relates to a kind of waste timber.
– The sub-item does not relate to the timber that is used for box making.
– Then why do we have in the sub-item the words “ timber undressed, cut to size for boxmaking “ Surely it isnot suggested that the timber described in sub-item as “ undressed, cut to size for making boxes “ is not for boxmaking.
– What I meant to convey was that the timber dealt with in sub-item h is not used for making boxes.
– It might be so used.
– But it is not.
– Ever since the Tariff of 1908, at all events, we have always recognised that the timber dealt with in the sub-item is used for making boxes, and a differential duty has been imposed. There should be some explanation as to why we have departed from the traditional practice of the Department with regard to these two subitems. Under the 1908 Tariff there was a difference of1s. per 100 super. feet between the two sub-items, and in the later Tariffs a difference of1s. 6d. per 100 super. feet. We now find that, without any apparent justification, the two sub- items are not even dutiable at the same rate. The former sub-item is made dutiable at a higher rate than the latter, which, if therewas any justification forthe differentiation made in earlier Tariffs, would go to show that what we are asked now to do is to impose a higher duty on the raw material of the box manufacturer than is imposed on the finished product. All that remains to be done when this timber, cut to size, for boxmaking is imported is to assemble the parts and nail them together. As I understand the position, sub-item i covers the parts required for making a box, so that when they are imported all that remains to he done here is to nail them together. The next sub-item relates to the like parts, but dressed and complete. It should be our desire to enocurage, as far as possible, the carrying out of the complete operations of boxmaking within the Commonwealth. We do not want to encourage the bringing in of the parts so that they may be merely assembled here by any one who can use a hammer and nails. That will not lead to the development of anything in the shape of a big industry.
– Most of the work is done by machinery.
– Machines are used for planing, trimming, and cutting, and it is better that that work should be done for us in the Commonwealth rather than abroad. I think that the Minister will recognise that, having regard to the vote just taken, further consideration should be given to this sub-item. I am not prepared to say that the amount indicated by Senator Duncan, or that named by Senator Pratten, is the measure of difference between the two sub-items. But I do think that we ought to follow our policy of the past with regard to the two sub-items, and mark our sense of their relation to one another by some differential duty. What that difference ought to be, I am not in a position to say; but if we are not going to follow that policy, it is desirable that the Committee should have from the Minister something more than what I have described as a mere interjection that the timber contained in the preceding item is not the timber likely to be imported for use in making boxes, which will come into competition with boxes made wholly within the Commonwealth.
– If Senator Keating’s premises , were all right, then of course his argument would be all right, but his premises are all wrong. Honorable senators have seen the logs sawn up, and they know there are certain flitches not of sufficient size to be cut up into box timber. Senator DrakeBrockman has told us of the waste timber there is in the case of jarrah, and how, owing to the exigencies of the war, it was usedup for small purposes. Thatis exactly what happens in regard to boxmaking. Sizes of 7 x2½ inches or less are not imported to cut up, but the waste and surplus timber of the log-cutting is used for box-making within the Commonwealth. That those concerned are able to compete is shown by the fact that during last year only £2,000 worth of material under this head was imported into the Commonwealth. The value of the importation is only11s. 4d. per 100 super. feet, so that this 5s., we have to bear in mind, represents a duty on that value of nearly 50 per cent. If we wish to know what protection the local manufacturer gets we must not take subitems i and h but must have regard to the difference between sub -items i and c. That the duty is adequate is shown by the fact that the box-making industry has been able to progress under a lower rate of duty. One of the leading manufacturers has been interrogated by the departmental officials, and has expressed himself as satisfied .
– That was before our last vote.
– Yes, but it was in regard to the duty as it stands here; in any case, the position is not affected by our last vote, because this is not the timber with which we were then dealing. I cannot give that manufacturer’s name without his permission, and I cannot get his permission at this hour of the night. I am assured, however, by the departmental officials that he is one of our leading box-makers, and that he is satisfied with the duty. I ask the Committee to accept that assurance, which I give for what it is worth. I submit that there is no necessity to increase the duty, and I remind the Committee that by increasing it we should only be giving an opportunity to increase the cost of the boxes - a result which would affect our export trade in the direction I have indicated.
– After what Senator Pearce has said, I propose proceeding with this matter so far as to absolutely exhaust it. It is one of the most astounding experiences I have had in connexion with the Tariff, when we hear honorable senators talk of relativity-
– That is a very difficult doctrine!
– It is one of the most astounding experiences, when we hear honorable senators talk of relativity in regard to the timber duties, and then, when we come to the most important item, so far as relativity is concerned, in connexion with our home box-making industry, to find the Minister agreeing to an increase of1s. per 100 feet on timber, and leaving the anomaly greater than ever. I can tell the Minister, from my own persona] knowledge, that it was recognised in another place that these imported box timbers were left in a very anomalous position ; and if we do not rectify the anomaly I hope it will be rectified elsewhere. Let me state the position of the box-making industry in my own State, which employs 1,000 people, and has invested in it a capital of £150,000.
– Are all these people employed in making boxes?
– Yes, in Sydney alone.
– I doubt that.
– Here is a copy of a letter sent to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) by the Austral Box and Timber Company Limited, of Pyrmont, Sydney, when the timber duties were raised in another place -
Timber Cut to Sizes for Making Boxes.
It was with consternation that we noticed in the next Customs duties which are to be brought before the House that no alteration was suggested in the Tariff on. the item No. 293b. Under this item we consider the Aus - tralian box and case manufacturers have no protection against imported articles. Prior to the war timber cut to sizes and length for making boxes was imported to a considerable extent. It whs cut to exact lengths, widths, and thicknesses, and in some instances already branded with the necessary advertising matter to suit the particular manufacturer for which they were imported, and in this state no work in the Commonwealth was required on this timber except the actual nailing together. The boxes in snooks cut to sizes pay a freight less than the timber to be convertedinto boxes.
These boxes in shocks were produced from waste ends of timber in various countries, and exported to Australia, and such waste can be sold at a much lower price than the sellers obtain for deals or timber from the local box- makers, who have to re-saw and makecases of the timber.
– Made from waste in foreign countries?
– I agree. Why not let oregon waste come in free to cheapen houses? If you. are talking about waste, there is quite sufficient waste on the Pacific littoral in and about Seattle - why not let it come in free and cheapen houses to the people ? To continue the letter -
Moreover, we have to pay freight, duty and charges on the timber which is lost in converting to the sizes required for the boxes. As a further argument for an increased duly, we must point out that some of the manufacturers who use these imported boxes in shooks have adequate protection granted by the Tariff on the lines of merchandise they manufacture, and that, in our opinion, to be consistent these manufacturers should be compelled to purchase their cases and boxes from the local makers, who cater for their requirements. Since 1914 to date we have had little to complain of in regard to the importation of boxes in shooks, but that was on account of the war, which stopped imports. To-day, however, we are again faced with the great probability that boxes in shooks will be brought in. especially as the present Tariff is so lenient in its charges on them. As previously pointed out, these imported boxes are in many instances branded with advertising matter and the name of the commodity they will contain when the cases are put together. This branded matter does not come under “ advertising matter,” and, therefore, is not dutiable. In all fairness, we think this practice should be stopped, as all the branding necessary can be done locally on the many expensive plants especially installed by the various local box manufacturers for this purpose. To give you some idea of the waste in converting timber to the sizes requisite for boxes, in a case containing 5 feet super. of timber there is a waste of 26½ per cent. in converting timber to the necessary size, and on this waste the local boxmakers have to pay duty, freight, cartage and other charges to the mills.
The position set out in this letter is what it was when the original schedule was introduced. An increase was made in another place upon the timber itself. Thus the position became anomalous; but a still further anomaly has been created by the vote of this Committee. The Minister (Senator Pearce) says, however, that he will not meet the position .
– I stand by the rates at present existing.
– I ask the Minister at least to agree to some protection being given to Australian boxmakers by way of the duty upon undressed timber.
– When this Tariff was introduced elsewhere this sub-item bore a duty of ls. 6d. per 100 super, feet more than that in connexion with the sub-item immediately preceding it. An amendment was made in another place, however, and a further amendment has now been requested by this Committee. There must have been some definite reason for the margin of ls. 6d., and I suggest that it be adhered to. It was made, no doubt, in recognition of the fact that the timber dealt with in the sub-item immediately under discussion is cut into lengths for the specific purpose for which it will be eventually employed.
– The Minister knows my attitude upon practically all proposed increases of duty, but it is only fair that I should support an increase in respect of timber for boxmaking. Why should one industry, be singled out? Why should protection be refused in this lone instance? Had Senator Pratten’s request for an increase upon the raw material for boxmaking been agreed to, I would not have advocated an increase in connexion with the partly prepared wood. When the amendment was made in another place, Australian firms naturally, and rightly enough, cabled forthwith to have their orders delivered so that full advantage might be taken of the alteration in the Tariff.
– It is a great disadvantage that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) may not be consulted in order to assist this Committee in its deliberations. The Minister in charge (Senator Pearce) is, for some reason not apparent to myself, adopting an adamant attitude.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) desires that the timber duties shall remain as at present.
– I cannot believe that it is his wish that the one rate of duty shall be 5s. and the other 7s. Does the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) know that 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 feet of timber, in the board, is imported into Sydney every year for cutting up into boxes, and that the money for manufacturing those boxes is paid to about 1,000 workmen, whose occupations will be gone if matters are not adjusted?
– The importation of those quantities proceeded while the duty was 4s. The rate is now 5s. per 100 feet.
– I know; but at that time the duty on undressed timber was ls. to 2s. lower. Now the rate works out at 2s. higher.
– Not on the log.
– I repeat that from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 feet of timber, in the board, has been annually imported into Sydney for the manufacture of boxes, and that that material will now have to come into handicapped competition with timber which requires merely to be nailed together to complete the boxes.
– There is a fundamental difference between the view-point of the honorable senator and mine. Senator Pratten says that timber is imported, under sub-item h, for the manufacture of boxes. I say that that is not so.
– If that can be proved to be wrong, will the Minister review the case of the boxmakers
– If the Minister is prepared to sit there and do nothing, I shall stand here and continue to put the position. I have received a further communication from the boxmakers of Sydney in connexion with sub-items i and J, in which it is stated that the duties on imported boxes in shooks have not been increased at all. That was before the Tariff reached us. They also say that the material mentioned in sub-item h is the raw material used in connexion with the manufacture of boxes here, which shows that the Minister is quite wrong. Had he accepted my challenge, the position could have been reviewed. The letter also mentions that the duties imposed under sub-item h have been increased, and that tha timber mentioned in’ that sub-item is the’ raw material used for the manufacture of these boxes. The duty has been increased from 3s. 6d. to 7s. per 100 super, feet under the general Tariff, and the amended duty will compel the local box manufacturers to pay increased duties on the New Zealand white pine and rimu, which is largely used in the manufacture of boxes and cases. They say that the position is absolutely unfair, because under present conditions imported boxes, with the exception of the nailing together, come in at a lower rate. The work of cutting, sawing, branding, and carting is done in foreign countries instead of being performed in Australia. The letter also says that the Minister in charge of the Tariff in another place admitted that there had been an oversight, and promised that the duties in sub-itemsi andj would be adjusted when the Tariff was before the Senate. If a reputable firm, such as the Austral Box and Timber Company Limited write to say that it has been informed that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) admits there had been an oversight, and that the matter would be adjusted when the Tariff was before this Chamber, and if the raw material that the manufacturers used is dutiable under sub-item h, surely something should be done.
– They say it is dutiable.
– How in the world can the Minister maintain the contention that the raw material is to be dutiable at 7s. per 100, when the boxes can come in at 5s. per 100 super. feet ? It is an impossible position, and I wish the Minister would at this late hour agree that something must be done on behalf of the Australian boxmakers. The Minister must admit that it is the policy of the Government to keep as much work as we can within the country, because if this protection is not given, the Sydney industry will be ruined. The trade will go to foreigners. It is an extraordinary situation, and one I cannot understand. Does the Minister persist?
– I do; I have already said so.
– Is the Minister agreeable to a compromise?
– The Minister does not appear to be agreeable to do anything. He does not, will not, or cannot realize the position. I am giving him evidence concerning the true situation, and he will allow an anomaly which the merest tyro can see will go to another place, and it must be altered in some way.
– I do not wish to labour this question ; but it seems to me that the Min ister (Senator Pearce), and those urging him to give this matter further consideration are at cross purposes, because of the difference between the information received by each. The Minister has received certain particulars which lead him to form one opinion, and we have received others which are so vital as to lead us to an entirely different conclusion. I have just had an opportunity of conferring with two of the largest box manufacturers in Melbourne, a representative of a boxmaking industry in Sydney, and other gentlemen interested in the trade, who assure me that the information given to the Minister that the boxes made in Australia are manufactured almost entirely from waste material is entirely incorrect. These gentlemen would like the opportunity of conferring with the Minister or his officers in order to place some facts before him. I therefore suggest that this sub-item be postponed, and in view of the definite and clear clash of opinion, I trust the Minister will adopt my suggestion. If it is true, as the Minister has stated, that only waste material is used in the manufacture of these boxes, I am prepared to admit that there is no necessity for increasing the duties. But if enormous quantities of white pine and rimu are imported for the manufacture of these boxes, the Minister must admit that the position which he is taking up is untenable. Will he consent to postpone the sub-item?
– I cannot.
– We shall make better progress if the course I suggest is adopted.
– If honorable senators are given their own way they will make progress.
– We are not asking that we should be given our own way in this matter, but that an opportunity should be afforded for securing further information. Perhaps as the result of further information we should be in a position when we came to consider it again to arrive in a few minutes at a conclusion as to the duties which should be imposed under this sub-item. What I ask has already been conceded in connexion with several previous items when Senator Russell and Senator E. D. Millen have been in charge of the Bill. I suggest a way out of the present difficulty, and the Minister might meet us so far. Will the honorable senator consent to postpone the consideration of the item ?
– No; I will not.
– That settles the hon orable senator’s argument.
-No ; it only shows the hostility of the Minister in charge of the Bill to the adoption of a reasonable course of action. It has been clearly shown that it is impossible for the boxmakers of Australia to continue their industry, in which a very large number of people are employed and a very great deal of capital is invested, under the duties imposed in the schedule. We have made their position impossible by increasing the duty on the raw material which they assert that they use. In connexion with the timber used by boxmakers here, the waste material is left in America.
– It is made up into shooks and sent to Australia in that form.
– We are giving those who import the timber in shooks a decided advantage over those who import the timber and give employment here in making it up into boxes. We are confronted in connexion with this item with about the most anomalous proposal in the schedule. I have always been under the impression that one of the principal objects of a Tariff is to give employment.
– The duty on this item gives employment abroad.
– What we have been most concerned about hitherto has been the giving of employment in the Commonwealth under good Australian conditions. Here is a deliberate proposal to give employment to people in other countries, bring about unemployment in Australia, and drive reputable Australian manufacturers out of business. If that is to be the incidence of the Tariff, it is just as well that we should know. If that is the attitude which the Government intend to take up it will not be conducive to smooth progress in the further consideration of the schedule. There should be some give and take in considering it, and I am surprised that we cannot induce the Minister to defer the consideration of this sub-item.
– It is in the hands of theCommittee. The Committee can decide the question.
– The Committtee is not in a position to decide it, because the Minister has given information which is challenged and altogether denied by those engaged in the manufacture of boxes in Australia.
– Let the Committee decide which statement it will accept. I shall not complain of its decision.
– Honorable senators believe that the Minister and the officials of the Trade and Customs Department have received in good faith the information which he has given to the Committee.
– The Minister must back down, and the honorable senator must not.
– It is not a question of backing down, but of deferring’ the consideration of the sub-item until further information concerning it is received. If it is found that we are being misled by the box manufacturers I shall be the first to admit that we are wrong. If it can be shown that the information supplied to the Minister has led him into an impossible position he will surely not be surrendering his honour or dignity in any way by admitting that the position he has taken up to-night is a wrong one.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to dictate when we shall rise.
– I am not presuming to do that. I have said that we are prepared to go on with the consideration of other sub-items.
– I am in charge of the business.
– There is no occasion for the Minister to become heated over the matter. I have suggested a certain course of action.
– The usual procedure is for the Committee to decide whether an item shall stand. I am prepared to accept the decision of the Committee, but I am not prepared to have the business taken out of the hands of the Government.
– I have made merely a request for the postponement of a sub-item, but one would think that I was moving a vote of censure on the
Government. When Senators Russell and E. D. Millen were in charge of the Bill they consented to the postponement of items on several occasions. I am myself concerned in the matter of the duty on kapok, which has been hanging over for some time at the request of the Minister and the departmental officers in order that they may obtain further information. It is only a fair thing that the item now under consideration should be postponed for a similar reason. I cannot stand for the continuation of such a gross anomaly in the schedule as is now proposed.
.- I hope the Minister will not think that I am assisting my colleagues from New South Wales inorder to delay, a vote on this matter. I think that a vote should be taken. I suggest a compromise, because I realize that an increase from 5s. to 10s. per 100 super, feet is a big jump. The increase in the duty on the raw material imported for boxmaking has entirely altered the position of this particular business.
– I have already said that I cannot do what is asked. I must stand by the Tariff.
– Why not postpone the item ?
– Why not take a vote on it? Because the honorable senator cannot get his own way he thinks we should wind up the business at once, but other people have some rights.
– I am prepared to take a vote, though I think that the Minister would be well advised to agree to a compromise. I shall not say any more.
– There are means of putting an end to the discussion if honorable senators persist in “ stonewalling.”
– Let the honorable senator make use of those means if he pleases. When honorable senators, with good cause, have hitherto approached the Minister in charge of the Bill to postpone the consideration of an item, they have been usually met in the way in which one who is in earnest in the performance of his duty should be met. I have answered every interjection and argument that the Minister has used in connexion with the duties proposed on timber imported for boxes.
– Let the honorable senator sit down and let us take a vote.
– I do not propose to sit down.
– All right. We shall put the honorable senator down directly.
– We do not want any of the honorable senator’s militarism here. The Minister evidently is adamant. I want to give the Minister further information about the boxmaking industry in Melbourne. I am informed that the capital invested in Victoria amounts to £243,000, that the number of men employed is 600, and the wages paid over £100,000 per year. Owing to the importation of a large quantity of timber into Victoria, and the fact that the House of Representatives increased the rates on junk and cut sizes of timber without increasing the duties in subitemi, the industry is in danger of being wiped out. Of course, like Saul on the journey from Damascus, one cannot kick against the pricks. Honorable senators, many of them, are otherwise engaged in ascertaining the results of the Victorian elections to-day. There is not a quorum present, and even if we asked the Minister for an adjournment of the Committee we would not get it, notwithstanding that many of us have been all night in the train. I think the Minister has misconceived the position in regard to this industry. Even if the sub-item goes through as it stands, an alteration must be made subsequently if we are going to be consistent in our policy of protecting Australian workers.
– It appears to me that not much encouragement is given to honorable senators to inform their minds in connexion with the various items in this schedule.. In company with Senator Pratten, I have endeavoured to-day, so far as the comparatively limited time at my disposal permitted, to get as much information concerning these items as possible. There appears to be a mistake somewhere. We have certain advice, and the Minister has other information. In the circumstances, the Minister would be well advised to accept the request made by Senator Duncan to postpone consideration of this sub-item.
– Why does the honorable senator say that he is not given much encouragement to obtain information?
– Because the Minister has repeatedly stated that he intends to get a vote on this sub-item, and I am quite sure that if we took a vote tonight a considerable number of members who have not heard the debate would vote in the dark.
– I hope the Minister will not accuse me of trying to hold up the Tariff schedule, because probably no other honorable senator has spoken less than I have. I have been anxious to see the schedule dealt with as expeditiously as possible. When I spoke before, the Minister said that my conclusions would have been all right if my premises had been correct, but that, unfortunately for me, my premises were unsound, and therefore my conclusions were erroneous. My premises were, in fact, based upon what Parliament has always done, namely, treating this particular sub-item as dependent on the sub-item immediately preceding it. That was the attitude taken by Parliament in respect of the last Tariff, and the Tariff before that : but to-day we are asked to believe that the raw material mentioned in the preceding sub-item, the duty on which, by the way, we have requested to be raised to 7s. in the general Tariff, is not the raw material used for boxes mentioned in sub-item i. I said it was. I assumed it was, and, as I have shown, Parliament has assumed that it was.
– And the manufacturers say that it is.
– But the Min- iister said that my assumption was wrong, and that, therefore, my conclusions, which otherwise would have been right, were also wrong. Since then I have had volunteered to me, quite unsolicitedly, information showing that my premises were right. I did not seek that information. I have not before been in communication with the gentlemen who tendered it to me. They have told me that my statement was absolutely correct and that the material for the manufacture of these boxes under sub-item i is imported; not ^merely to the extent of £2,000 worth, as stated by the Minister, but in large quantities. The duty in the sub-item is a flat rate of 5s. upon the undressed timber cut to sizes ready to manufacture into boxes, whereas in the pre vious item for undressed timber 7 by 2j the duties are 5s. British, 6s. intermediate, and 7s. general. This is an anomaly according to all the canons and practice of this and former Tariffs. I feel sure, from my information - I know it to be reliable - that if we pass this sub-item as it stands, we shall be taking the first step towards the obsequies of this particular industry, or else sooner or later the Tariff Board, if that body be appointed, will be asked to make recommendations with respect to several Tariff amendments of which this will be one of the most important. Senator Duncan’s request that tie Minister should follow the practice of his colleagues and postpone consideration of the item is not unreasona’ble. I do not think it was made with the object of obstructing the passage of the schedule.
– Nothing was further from my thoughts.
– If the suggestion were accepted I feel sure it would facilitate the passage of the schedule. Why could not this sub-item be put down as the last of the timber duties to be considered, and dealt with in the light of further and fuller information? We are being asked to reverse the established policy of the Commonwealth of years. We are expected to believe that these boxes are made out qf waste material. I am told that this is true to the extent that “ shooks “ are manufactured out of waste material in other countries and sent in here, and that foreign manufacturers will send in material under sub-item h, paying at the rate of 5s., 6s., and 7s., but that the waste off that material will be introduced at the lower rate of duty under this subitem as “shooks,” and made up into boxes. I hope that the Committee will not make a mistake, but I feel sure that if we agree to the duties in the schedule, we shall be doing so, and that, unless we very soon rectify it, we shall have to say good-bye to this industry. In view of the protective character claimed for this Tariff, I do not think that we should recklessly, or from want of fullest consideration and thought, let this come about.
– 1 think that the Minister (Senator Pearce^ should favorably consider retaining the principle followed in every Federal Tariff that the duty on timber for boxmaking should exceed the duty on timber undressed, cut in sizes less than 7 inches by 2½ inches. I propose to move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (i), general, per 100 super. feet, 8s. 6d.
This will retain the same differentiation between the two classes of imports.
– The honorable senator’s request can only be submitted if Senator Duncan’s request is negatived.
– It is gratifying to me to have the support of Senators Vardon, Keating, and Payne in this matter. Having listened to the arguments advanced, they can see the anomaly which the Minister cannot perceive in this, the most inconsistent and tragic sub-item of the Tariff. Even now I appeal to the Minister to postpone its consideration, or promise a recommittal after consultation with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). I appeal to him to stay short of finalizing the matter.
-The item will not be finalized, because we are already sending a request relating to one of the sub-items to the House of Representatives. But I am not going to give way to the honorable senator, even if he talks all night.
– If we submit a request to the House of Representatives in relation to one sub-item, will it be open to them to deal with other sub-items?
– It was frequently done when the first Tariff was under consideration. Our requests were agreed to subject to alterations in other items.
– I do not deserve the innuendo in the Minister’s remarks when he said that he was not going to give way to me however long I spoke or whatever I did.
– You will not wear me down by persistence.
– I do not wish to do so. I am endeavouring to talk reasonably and clearly on the timber duties. I am extremely sorry that the Minister has taken up this attitude in view of the courtesy disolayed to him in the past, and even on this item. When he askedme to withdraw my request in connexion with the bee-keeping industry I did so, but now that an absolutely conclusive case has been put forward for further consideration of a sub-item he adopts the attitude of “ take it or leave it.” I hope that he will suggest some way out of the difficulty.
– The way out of the difficulty is to take a vote of the Committee.
– I am afraid to do so. I am afraid to take a vote of senators who have not heard the discussion. Senators Gardiner, Payne, Vardon, and Keating, have all heard the debate, and realize the position pointed out by Senator Duncan and myself. Not one honorable senator has defended the attitude of the Minister. He is like a voice crying in the wilderness.
– Then the honorable senator ought to be all the more ready to take a vote.
– No doubt the request will find support from honorable senators who have been listening to the debate, but it may also be opposed by honorable senators who have not heard the debate.
– You are responsible for that, because they have tired of listening to you.
– SometimesI have tired of listening to the Minister wrongly applying information in respect of one item to quite a different item. At all events, I know what I am talking about on this subject. I have taken some trouble and time to arrive at a conclusion as to what is a fair thing. I have not the advantage the Minister has in having at my back the chief official and another high officer of the Customs Department, and also a Ministerial secretary to feed me, sometimes with wrong information, such as the Minister has given to-night. I extremely regret the attitude of the Minister. It is not reasonable. I could describe it as something else. However, I can do no more. I hope that the Committee will see eye to eye with the reasonable request put forward by Senator Duncan. When a division was taken on the duty on log timber, there was a recognition all round that anomalies would be rectified. The only rectification of any anomaly has been an increase of1s. per 100 super. feet in the duty on undressed timber. I believe that it was generally recognised that there was an anomaly in respect of box timbers before that, and I am greatly surprised to find that the Minister has taken up an adamant position.
– I am one of the offenders who have not heard the whole of the debate, but I commend, to Senator Duncan the suggestion made by Senator Payne that he should amend his request by proposing a duty of 8s. 6d. instead of 10s. per 100 super. feet under the general Tariff, and a duty of 7s. 6d. per 100 feet super, in the other case.
– The Minister (Senator Pearce) will not accept that suggestion.
– I think he is prepared to leave the matter to the Committee. That is a very proper position for him to take up. Having regard to the extent to which the question has been discussed, honorable senators might well be expected to give a reasonable vote. There is no reason why any ill-feeling should be engendered. I have had many defeats on Tariff items, but have had to submit to them, and I think Senator Duncan would do well to accept the proposal that the duty should be increased on a pro rata basis. I do not think the Minister would offer any serious objection to a request on the lines I have mentioned. I do not pose as an expert on every Tariff item; but I bring to bear on these questions the judgment of an average man. I have heard some of the debate, and have read the whole of the correspondence on this subject which has been addressed to honorable senators. We must not lose sight of the fact that the writers of such letters are advocating their own cause, and might very easily mislead us. In dealing with items of this kind we should be prepared to accept the happy medium. I ask Senator Duncan to do so by amending his request so as to provide for a duty of 8s. 6d. instead of 10s. per 100 super, feet under the general Tariff.
– I have discussed this question with Senator Wilson, and having regard to the attitude adopted by the Minister (Senator Pearce), and the apparent impossibility of carrying my original request, which provides for what after all would be a very inadequate duty, it seems to me that I must accept the suggestion that has been made. A duty of 8s. 6d. per 100 super. feet under the general Tariff would be grossly inadequate, but we seem, so to speak, to be running our heads against a stone wall, and to be unable to get any “ forrader.”
– How many bushel boxes can be made out of 100 feet of this timber ?
– I do not know. We do not want these boxes to be made elsewhere, but are trying to find employment for our own people. We have made our protest as strongly and vigorously as possible; we have pointed out the possible consequences of the action now being taken by the Government; we have done our duty, and cannot do more. I shall, therefore, accept the suggestion that has been made, and, with the consent of the Committee, will amend my request so as to provide for a duty of 8s. 6d. instead of 10s. per 100 super, feet under the general Tariff.
Request, by leave, amended accordingly.
– I have here a. paragraph dealing with the effect of duties generally on trade, and the opinions of leading British bankers on the subject. It reads -
The leading bankers of London have all joined in a public statement in which they have laid down very cogently the arguments in favour of public economy and a minimum of governmental interference with trade. It is worth reading, for it lays down general principles which apply to one country as well as another. The full statement with signatures is appended herewith: -
– The honorable senator will recognise that it is impossible to permit on this subitem a general discussion of the principles ofFree Trade and protection.
– I do not think I have made myself quite clear. The paragraph I was proceeding to read deals with questions of public economy and governmental interference with trade. I think, however, that the Committee is ready to proceed to a division, and I shall not delay it.
Question - That the request, as amended (Senator Duncan’s), be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Request (by Senator Duncan) agreed to-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (i), intermediate, 7s.6d.
– Sub-item j is in exactly the same position as the previous item, and I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty sub-item (j), general, 9s. 6d.
Question put. The Committee divided.
– How that vote was accomplished, I do not know, but I understand that now no further increase may be moved.
– Any increase moved must be between 9s. 6d. and 6s.
– I do not propose to stultify myself by attempting to obtain anything further. I think it ad visable to leave thematter where it is, so that when it gets to another place, there will appear clearly and glaringly a most extraordinary anomaly.
Request (by Senator Payne) agreed to-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (l), general, per 100 super, feet, 8s. 6d.
Request (by Senator Payne) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (l) , intermediate, per 100 super, feet, 7s. 6d.
– I have a most important document which will demonstrate to the Minister (Senator Pearce) that his interference with trade in this country, as indicated by his acceptance of requests for increases of timber duties, must stop. The document proceeds: -
One hundred years ago, in a. time of depression following a great war, the merchants of London presented to Parliament a memorable petition against the “ anti-commercial principles “ of the restriction system then in force. To-day, moved by the same anxieties, weighed down by far heavier taxation, and face to face with proposals intended to renew the restrictive methods of the past, “we submit that it is essential to a revival of confidence that no legislative or administrative measures should be taken which would diminish the total output of British industry or check the free exchange of British goods.
– Order! General discussion cannot be permitted in the course of the Committee’s consideration of a particular sub-item. I cannot permit the honorable senator to continue to quote from the document which he has been reading.
– I am very sorry; but if you will not permit me to do so, sir, you cannot prevent me from clothing the facts contained therein in my own language, the effect of which will be not only to rob those facts of much of their point, but to delay the Committee.
– Order! I shall be the judge of the relevancy or otherwise of the honorable senator’s language.
– I have been reading that, 100 years ago, at a time of depression-
– Order! I ask the honorable senator not to repeat matter which he has already quoted, particularly since it is not specifically relevant to subitemi.
– I repeat that, 100 years ago, following a great war, in a time of great depression, a memorable petition was presented against the anticommercial principles introduced at that period. To-day, moved by the same forces, weighed down with heavier taxation, and face to face with proposals intended to renew the restrictions of those days, the people find that the position is really identical. Are we not face to face with heavier taxation than ever before? While such is the case, why should the Minister (Senator Pearce) accept requests for increases of duty upon timbers, thus only adding to the burdens of the people ? The futility of taxation and the attempts of public economy to relieve the present position
– Order ! The honorable senator’s remarks are too general to permit of their application at the present stage.
– They may be in your opinion, sir; but I intend to apply them to this specific proposal for increased duties.
– If the honorable senator will not proceed to address himself to the direct subject-matter of subitem l, I shall be compelled to rule him out of order.
– I shall be pleased if you will do so. You, sir, may have taught school in your day, but you will find that I am a pretty old schoolboy. If you have not sufficient interest in conducting this debate as it should proceed, I have; and I shall not be interrupted by you while I am perfectly in order. I was discussing the futility of attempting to secure relief from the position in which the war has left Australia by the absurd method of adding 2s. per 100 super, feet to the duties on imported dressed timbers. This of all is, perhaps, the most important item in the whole Tariff, as it affects so many of our industries. Although the rate originally imposed was 4s. per 100 feet, it was increased in another place by some irresponsible person to 6s., and it has now been increased to 8s. 6d. per 100 super. feet merely by an honorable senator submitting a request to that effect. Let us consider the uses to which this material is put. It is chiefly utilized in the making of chairs, tables, the fixtures in houses, and even in coffins, and can, therefore, be regarded as being in use from the cradle to the grave. I believe it is also used in the manufacture of confectionery boxes, fruit cases, and for the erection of shelves on which fruit is stored ; but notwithstanding all this, the rate of duty is to be increased. Are we to submit to such an increase without question or reason? The increase is enormous. Is it reasonable that material which every one must use should be taxed to this extent, particularly when our own supply is totally inadequate? In addition to the purposes which I have mentioned, this timber is also extensively used in the linings of cottages, occupied principally by the poorer section of the community. The Minister referred to the falling off in the supplies of timber from the northern countries during the war period owing to the absence of shipping. In pre-war days dressed spruce and Baltic pine, with which many dwellings are lined, was imported in very large quantities, and an increase in duty is not needed to increase the price, because the rates have gone up from 10s. to 50s. or 60s. per 100 super. feet.
– Not so much as that.
– I invite the honorable senator to produce a price-list of Baltic and spruce timbers, and he will find that the increase has been as great as that I have mentioned. This is light timber, which is tied up in five or six boards to the bundle, according to the thickness. It is easily transported, and it is used extensively in lining the homes of the people I represent. But merely because there are a few huon pine trees growing in Tasmania, an idiotic proposal such as that submitted is to be accepted.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Request agreed to.
– I feel disposed to move that the preferential duty, sub-item l, be reduced to 4s. I do not think Great Britain possesses many pines, although there may be some in Scotland; they do not export timber to Australia. In following the policy I have adopted since I have been in the Senate of giving absolute preference to Great Britain, I would meet the Government on their own ground if I moved that the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item l,
British, free. It is quite possible that Great Britain has very little dressed timber to export to Australia. I do not know to what extent her forests have been developed in late years, but possibly almost every ridge in the north of England has been turned into a forest area, and pines may be reaching the stage of development at which it may be profitable to export the timber to this country. I do not, however, think the timber industry has reached the same stage of development there as it has in the northern countries of Europe, where the timber grows freely, and where the machinery employed is of the latest type. In such matters as this,, we should .try to show by our legislation that we are in earnest, in giving preference to Great Britain. The particular types of timber are not specified in this sub-item; but as the Government accepted the proposal without a debate or vote to increase the- general rate in the sub-item from 6s. to Ss. 6d., and the intermediate from 6s. to 7s. 6d., perhaps they will agree to a reduction in the British preferential rate from 6s. to is. Are all attempts to make this Tariff acceptable to another place to depend on whether duties are made higher or lower? I do not think that much timber is likely to ‘be imported from Great Britain, though we might get some dressed ash for wheel-making.
– I wish to submit a request for an increase in the duty on sub-item m. I am in receipt of representations from the Ply-wood Manufacturing Company of Sydney. I understand that ply-wood manufacturing companies are operating also in Brisbane and Melbourne. This promises to bc a very important industry, but it is claimed that the degree of protection given in the schedule is somewhat insufficient. The company to which I have referred has written a letter to the Minister for Trade and Customs on the subject of the duty on ply-wood. In that letter the request is made that the duty on foreign-made plywood should be increased to l’Os. per 100 square feet.
– The duty in the schedule is equivalent to 35s. per 100 super, feet.
– We cannot reckon this on the same basis as ordinary timber. However, 1 shall quote the letter sent to the Minister for Trade and Customs by the company and will leave the matter at that. It reads -
By instructions of my hoard of directors a telegram was addressed to you yesterday, of which a copy is attached hereto: - “In view of the concern of the Tariff coming before Parliament at an early date the directors of this company discussed yesterday the matter of taking steps to protect the industry from unfair foreign competition, and I am instructed to lay before you the situation as it exists. This company is Australian-owned, with a factory at Leichhardt, Sydney. Approximately £25,000 has been expended in acquiring site, in building factory, and in equipping the same with the most up-to-date plant for the manufacture of first-grade plywood. Employment will be given to about fifty men in the works, and our pay-roll will be from £15,000 to £20,000 per annum. A very considerable in: direct employment is afforded by this industry in the direction of procuring raw material, felling of logs, haulage, shipment, and cartage from point of ship’s discharge.’’ Incidentally it may be noted that revenue is due to the Crown for timber secured from Government areas. The industry is an established one, and factories are operating in Brisbane and Melbourne. This company will commence the manufacture of plywood next week and strive to place on the market a product of the finest possible quality. The present duty on the commodity of 7s. per 100 square feet is insufficient to constitute adequate protection. This is proved by the fact that very large quantities of American and Scandinavian plywood are being now dumped on to the Australian market, and we are informed it is being sold at prices below those charged in the countries of origin. At the same time it is clear that a heavy demand exists for ‘the article, and this company has made allowance for a duplication of plant if it is found that conditions warrant such expansion.5’
I shall leave the case there, and I now move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (m), per 100 square feet, general, 10s.
– I ask the Committee not to agree to the request, because the duty proposed in the schedule is equivalent to 35s. per 100 super, feet as against the previous duty of 7s. 6d. per 100 super, feet. Surely that is a big enough increase.
Item agreed to, subject to requests.
Senate adjourned at 12.8 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 August 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210830_senate_8_97/>.