8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took thechair at3 p.m., and read prayers.
-I ask the leader oftheGovernment in the Senate if his attention has been directed to the following statement published in theSydney Morning Herald, of 18 thSeptember, 1922:-
The Prime Minister(Mr. Hughes),discussing the Federal political . situation to-day, said the Nationalists’position wouldbe greatly strengthened ifthe Near-Eastern situation continued to develop so threateningly. “ The British Government,”he said, “ has communicated with the Dominions on the question of sending contingents toprotect their interests. These interests no doubt are the graves of our glorious dead onGallipoli. This sounds like a renewalof the national danger which enabled the Nationalist Government to remain in power so long in the Federal arena. Who would vote for a Labour party which has flirted with Communists at a time when the national interests are endangered! The world outlook at present will greatly assist Nationalism ifan early appeal is made to the country. This, combined with the improved position locally, willdoubtless result in an increased Nationalmajority.”
Iask if that statementhas been noticed by the Government, if it was made by the Prime Minister, and if it is. supported by the Government?
– The Prime Minister hasdenounced those who have placed these words inhis monthas guilty of a deliberate lie.
– The Sydney Morning Herald has apologized for their publication.
– I was going to say that I have heard that the Sydney Morning Herald had done as the honorable senator has mentioned, though I have not seen the correction. It is sufficient to say that the Prime Minister denounces the statement as a deliberate lie.
– What happened was that the Melbourne representative of the Sydney Morning Herald sentthe statement across to Sydney, and the newspaper published it as though it were part of an interview with Mr. Hughes.
– Those of us who have had any experience can detect in the published statement the mixing up of two things. There is first a statement which was possibly made by the Prime Minister concerning certain events, and there is coupled with that the comments of the representative of the Sydney Morning Herald in Melbourne.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if it is a fact, as reported in a Melbourne newspaper, that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard has been sold to a syndicate, and the transfer is to take place immediately? If so, who are the persons constituting the syndicate, and what was the price paid? If not, is it a fact that negotiations of this nature are proceeding?
– I can say at once that there is no justification for the statement that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard has been sold. As other matters are involved in the honorable senator’s questions, perhaps it would be bettor if he gave notice of them.
Prizes to Encourage
SenatorFOLL.-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether, in order to encourage civil aviationin Australia, the Government will consider the advisability of offering a further prize for a flight to or from England and Australia, the competitors to be limited to Australia, and also a prize for a flight around Australia!
– It is not possible for me to answer the honorable senator’s questions at once; but, rather than ask him to give notice of them, I suggest’ that he should be content if I undertake to bring them under the notice of the Prime Minister.
– That will satisfy me.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if he will cause to be laid on the table of the Senate, or otherwise made available to honorable senators, a report on trade between the Commonwealth and China furnished by Senator Bakhap, with whom I happen to be in close association ?
– And in entire agreement.
– Yes, in entire agreement. I have heard adjectives of a mixed character applied to the report, and I think it should be made available to honorable senators.
– It is not possible for me to say offhand whether the report is to be tabled ; but, if the honorable senator will give me an opportunity of inquiring, and will repeat his question after a day or two’s time, I shall give him an answer,
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea - Ordinance No. 28 of 1922- Public Service (No. 2).
Trade between the Commonwealth and China - Report by Senator T. J. K. Bakhap.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
– I have to announce for the information of honorable senators, that His Excellency the Governor-General has appointed the hour of half-past 11 a.m. to-morrow as the time when he will receive, at Government House, the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Opening Speech.
-(Senator the Hon. T. Givens). - In connexion with the announcement made by the Minister for Repatriation, I desire to intimate to honorable senators that to-morrow I propose to suspend the sitting at a quarter past 11 o’clock for the purpose of proceeding to Government House to present the AddressinReply.I shall be glad if as many honorable senators as possible will accompany me to make the presentation.
Report by Mr. Hesketh.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with amendments.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is necessary to carry out one of the proposals of the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), indicated in the Budget Speech, which was to exempt from taxation entertainment charges up to, but not including,1s. The present tax is as follows: - Not exceeding 5d. (for admission toa continuous place of entertainment of persons apparently over the age of sixteen years),?d. ; 6d.,?d. ; exceeding 6d., but not exceeding1s.,1d.; exceeding1s.,1d. for first1s., and?d. for each additional 6d. or part of 6d. The rates now proposed in the Bill are - Under1s., exempt;1s.,1d.; exceeding 1s.,1d. for first1s., and?d. for each additional 6d. or part of 6d. The estimated loss of revenue by the proposed reduction of taxation is approximately ?100,000. The tax collected in previous years was as follows: - 1916-17, ?112,000 (part year only); 1917-18, ?238,000; 1918-19, ?355,000; 1919-20, ?551,000; 1920-21, ?644,000; 1921-22, ?675,000. I do not deem it necessary on the second reading of the Bill to amplify the particulars I have just supplied.
). - There does not appear to be anything very objectionable in the Bill, but it might have gone a little further. I think the Government are displaying an anti-Federal spiritin interfering in taxation in small matters of this nature.
– Have you forgotten the origin of the tax?
– No. The Government of which I was a member were responsible for it, but surely one may be permitted to benefit by experience. It is beneath the dignity of the Federal Government to collect small taxes of this kind. I would prefer that the Federal Government should keep to the higher forms of taxation, and act purely in a Federal spirit. I welcome the proposed reduction of taxation, and I wish it was greater. The present Government, on a previous occasion, brought down a proposal relating to the entertainments tax after the Treasurer had submitted his financial arrangements for the year, and the Senate forced the Government to take a higher revenue than the Government had asked for - quitean unheard of thing.
I do not know whether that will occur again. If so, this Bill is only a pretence.
– You would say that in any case.
– It will look like it if this occurs twice. The Government should be able to interpret the feeling of its own party in a small House like the Senate.
– This is not a party House.
– I cannot believe that. We act and speak as the representatives of various parties. I hope that if the Senate insists on altering this Bill the Government will regard it as a national matter, and have a double dissolution. I not only hold the opinion that it is not in keeping with the spirit of Federation for the Commonwealth to interfere in small matters such as the entertainments tax, but I object to the whole of this taxation.
– I oppose the Bill. When we set out to reduce taxation the very least we might do is to commence in connexion with matters of necessity. I have not forgotten the methods: adopted for taxation last year. Having regard to the large sum gathered by the Commonwealth through the medium of the entertainments tax, and also the big amount exacted from the producers by reason of the high Tariff placed upon everything needed in connexion with production, I consider that the Senate should have a right of review in matters of this sort. We are asked to abolish a tax which, I believe, works out at about 5d. per head of the population of Australia. I ask honorable senators to consider, if we are going to reduce taxation, whether we should not first relieve the producers of the wealth of this country, who are carrying a heavy burden. I take it that if a man can afford to spend1s. for his family, or anybody else, to go to a picture show, he can afford to pay a. tax of1d.
– He will still pay that tax if the Bill is passed..
– What would happen if the charge for admission was11½d. ?
– It would be exempt from: tax.
– I think I know the picture-show people well enough to say that the charge for admission will then be11½d.
– That would be no benefit to them;, they would lose½d.
– It would make a lot of difference to them. Every draper knows the difference between charging 2s.11d. and 3s. a yard for cloth.
– The picture-show proprietors say that the tax makes no difference to them.
– I cannot accept that statement, because the picture-show proprietors have come to me and asked me to endeavour toget the tax removed. A little reduction in the cost of the articles used in the homes of this country would make a great difference to the people. Picture shows have in many instances become a curse to this country.
-They are a most desirable form of entertainment for people who cannot afford anything better.
-Perhaps so, but they are a form. of. entertainment which has been shockingly abused. I know people who go to picture- shows two or three times a week, and if they can afford to do that, they can afford to pay something towards the taxation of this country. Picture shows are positive luxuries.
– They are positive necessities in country districts.
– The honorable senator is entitled to take that view, because he sometimes gives free picture shows which are not taxed. Before removing taxation from city luxuries, we should remove it from the man who is working double the hours of the people in the city. I shall oppose the Bill for the reasons I have stated.
. -When this proposal came before the Senateona previous occasion I opposed it, and I propose to take the same course now. In the main I agree with what has been said by Senator Wilson regarding pictureshows. This Bill mainly concerns picture shows, which, despite the assertions to the contrary, are undoubtedly luxuries. I would not deprive those who desire to go to picture shows of the right to do so, however much I might dislike such shows personally. I do not want to set my judgment up against that of the rest of the community. If people desire to go to picture shows, that is their concern; but we cannot get away from the fact that picture shows are luxuries. No one can suggest that they are necessi- ties, or that the tax which now exists keeps people away from them; One has only to walk down a. main street in Melbourne any afternoon or evening to see crowds of people pouring out of picture shows, and in the suburbs of this city there are huge palaces which have been built during the last few years, while the tax has been in existence. Can it be suggested, when we look at these highlyprofitable places for the indulgence of this particular class of luxury, that the tax is an unfair one, or that it interferes with people going to picture shows ? The people who want to go to picture shows go to them, and the picture palaces throughout this continent are filled every day. It will not make any difference to the picture shows if the tax is removed, but it will make a difference to the community asi a whole. The proceeds of a small tax imposed on a very large number of people who can afford to pay it, could be used for relieving taxation in other directions where it bears very heavilyand very harshly. I do not want to enumerate the many ways in which relief might properly be given to the taxpayers in this community. The primary producer represents one class in this community that is entitled to some consideration. If we were to take from the taxation imposed upon the primary producers through the Customs, or other means, a sum of £250,000, it would make a great deal of difference to them.
SenatorE. D. Millen. - The amount involved under this Bill is only £100,000.
– I remember that when the question was discussed previously the Senate was informed that it had made a present to the Treasurer of £250,000, but whether the sum is £250,000 or £100,000 does not matter much, except that if it is £100,000 it strengthens my argument. A sum of £100,000 could be usefully employed in giving relief where relief is necessary. Many of the picture shows are run without proper control, and they are not only a luxury, but a pernicious luxury. I do not refer to the type of picture which Senator Garling takes about the country, far that serves a very useful, educative purpose. The whole question of the control of picture shows ought to be considered and the censorship tightened up. We might then be able to get a type of picture which would be of some use to the community, instead of the kind that pro duces criminals in our Courts every day. I am constantly in the Criminal Courts of the State of Victoria, and I know perfectly well the most abominable influence that these wretched pictures have upon the unfortunate youths of this community. In the Criminal Court yesterday I saw a small child of eight - a little girl - giving evidence in a very horrible case. In the whole of her actions and her attitude she was obviously influenced by these wretched pictures.She entered with a handkerchief in her hand, which she twisted with her fingers, just as I have seen Mary Pickford do. When the child was asked how often she attended picture shows, she said she went three times a week. She was one of a family of six, whose mother is a war widow, living on a pension, but she is able to attend cinema shows at least three times a week. I am opposed to the proposed reduction in the tax, and shall vote against the second reading of the Bill.
– It is not often that the Government submit a measure for a remission of taxation, and, on principle, I shall support the Bill. I shall never assist in giving any Government more money than they ask for.
-brockman. - We can reduce the Budget in some other way.
– We. could tell the Government that we will support this remission if a similar reduction be made in other directions. If the Bill is defeated we shall be giving the Government £100,000 more than they ask for. I did not have an opportunity of voting when a similar measure was before the Senate last year, and when the Government were presented with £250,000 by the rejection of their proposal. When the Government definitely announced that they are prepared tot remit taxation they will have my support, because I shall never assist in giving them more than they actually require. The Senate madie a great mistake some time ago when the Post and Telegraph Bill waa before theSenate by increasing the rate on telegrams from1s. 3d. to1s. 4d. for sixteen words, which gave the Government an additional £12,000 per. annum to play with.
– That was to make the calculation easy, and was worth it.
– It may have had its advantages, but it placed a large additional sum at the disposal of the Government hy unnecessarily taxing the people.
– Would’ it not strengthen our hands later if we were able to tell the Government that we, had given them £100,000 additional revenue by rejecting this Bill?
– I would not trust any Government.
– Would it not be better to remit Customs duties on, say, agricultural implements?
– There are many directions in which I would prefer a remission to be made. If we had to decide whether a reduction should be made on agricultural implements or in the entertainments tax I would naturally support the former. Although the Government are prepared to carry on with £100,000 less, some honorable senators are prepared to give them that additional amount to handle, which, of course, they would spend. I cannot recall an instance where any second Chamber, with the exception of the Senate, has ever given a Government more money than they asked for. I support the Bill.
– I am in accord with the sentiments expressed by Senator Wilson and Senator Drake-Brockman. On a previous occasion when a similar Bill was before the Senate I opposed it, and I intend to vote against this Bill. It seems monstrous that we should remit taxation on what undoubtedly is a luxury. I believe, with Senator Drake-Brockman, that the influence of picture shows on our community is vicious and pernicious. Some little time ago I took my boy to a picture show-
– Do not place the responsibility on the boy.
– I am not doing that. I took him to see Huckleberry Finn, which, in my opinion, is the only American literary production of any merit, and we enjoyed it very much. Following that was a picture which was described as instructive and educational, and was entitled “How we Won the War.” It portrayed the Ninth Washington Fusiliers, and “ the greatest general of modern times,” who was, of course, General Pershing. That is not the sort of- thing we wish our children to see, and we should discourage them to the utmost extent. We should endeavour to prevent American sentiment influencing our children, because that is what is being done, and some pictures are simply propaganda for encouraging American sentiment in the minds of Australian children. We ought to instil in their minds healthy Australian sentiment. I am opposing the Bill because there is no justification for remitting taxation on what is essentially a luxury.
– In the interests of the children of Australia I must oppose the second, reading of this measure. I have consulted a number of medical men, who have assured me that picture shows have a very injurious effect on the eyesight of children, especially those who attend, as many do, night after night. A large proportion of the pictures displayed have also a very detrimental effect on the morals of children, and this can be proved by the records of our Law Courts. The majority of the pictures shown in Australia are of American production, and are simply propaganda for encouraging American sentiment. It has been said by one honorable senator that picture shows are of benefit to our outback settlers. That is absolutely ridiculous, because those in the backblocks engaged in production rarely or never have an opportunity, of attending such exhibitions. When they do come to our cities and towns, which is once in a blue moon, they can very well afford to pay the extra halfpenny, or one penny, for tickets under a shilling if they wish to go to a picture show. Certainly they have never protested against this form of taxation, and some picture show proprietors informed me the other day that they had never felt any ill-effects from the tax.
– Nevertheless, they have been very active in pressing for its removal.
– I understand that some members of their association have been asking for ite removal. I am only saying that some picture show proprietors have informed me that they have not experienced any ill-effects from the operation of the tax. I am not against picture shows for adult people and for children in moderation. ‘So long as children do not attend picture shows so frequently as to injure their eyesight and interfere with their health, well and good, but I would press for a stricter supervision of the films that are shown. That is the crux of the whole trouble. If the films were of an educational character they would be beneficial in moderation; but when children establish the habit of going too frequently to picture shows their health undoubtedly suffers. I am speaking entirely in the interests of the children themselves, and not as a kill-joy.. I like my own form of entertainment, and I have no desire to lessen the opportunities of other people for the entertainments which they desire; but so far as children are concerned, attendance at picture shows should not be too frequent.
– Senator Wilson only goes to picture shows because the lights are turned down.
– I do not believe that of Senator Wilson. I would sooner believe it of Senator Gardiner. I urge the Government, whether this Bill is carried or not, to take some steps to insure stricter supervision of the films. I see no necessity whatever for the remission of this tax, which, because it is spread over such a large number of people, is hardly felt at all. If they can afford to go to picture shows four times a week, as many children do, it would be a very good thing if the tax were heavy enough to prevent thom from going more than twice a week. I intend to vote against the Bill, not because I am antagonistic to the picture show form of entertainment, but mainly in the belief that it is injurious to the eyesight of children, that v it exercises a pernicious influence on their moral well-being, and also because I wish to combat the theory that the people out-back are in any way interested in its remission. Those most concerned in the lifting of this tax are the people who flock day and night to the picture palaces that are to be seen in almost every street of our big cities, and which show pictures suggestive of American propaganda, and not at all suitable for children.
.- I intended to support the second reading of the Bill mainly for the reasons given by Senator Thomas. I would be prepared to support any Bill for the remission of taxation.
– Any Bill?
– I am referring to taxtion Bills.
– I also am referring to a taxation Bill.
– Most of the objections urged during this debate have nothing to do with the principle of this Bill at all. Senator Drake-Brockman says he does not think the remission of the tax will make any difference in the attendance at picture shows generally, but other honorable senators object to the Bill, because the retention of the tax would help to keep children from going to picture shows too often, and some say that the pictures shown are not suitable for Australian children. These objections have nothing to do with the principle of the Bill. If the Commonwealth Censorship Board is not doing its work properly, then it is the duty of honorable senators to bring the matter up in this Parliament on a motion, and urge the Government to take action. I agree with other honorable senators on these matters. I think that very many of the picture films shown daily throughout Australia are quite unsuitable for Australian audiences. Many of thebiggest advertisements in the newspapers and onthe boards outside the picture palaces areof a suggestive nature. One has only to look at the Saturday edition of the MelbourneHer ald or the Sunday newspapers published in other cities of the Commonwealth to realize that the picture show proprietors are catering for this class of patrons. These huge full-page advertisements generally have something very spicy in them to attractthe attention of those people who are in thehabit of attending picture shows.
– The picture show proprietors can afford to pay for those big advertisements in spite of the tax.
– I agree with the honorable senator that the remission of the tax is not likely to make a great deal of difference.
– If you agree with him, why do you not vote with him?
– I intend to support the Bill, because its purpose is to bring about a remission of taxation. On the question of film censorship, I think it would be advisable to appoint a woman or women on the Board.
– We have women on the Censorship Board in South Australia.
– I think that is wise. I do not know whether there is a woman member of the Commonwealth Censorship Board, but it would be as well if we had one, because, after all, women are often the best judges as to what class of pictures shouldbe shown togirls andthe young men of this country.
SenatorWilson. - Does not the honorable senator think it would bebetter if they bought more sweetsand consumed more sugar?
– Now that the honorable senator has toucheduponthe question of sugar I shouldlike to state that when I was in Bundaberg recently I saw a film of work on the Bingera plantation, and showing the operations of the sugar industry pretty well from start to finish. Other films have ‘been prepared to ‘educate the people upon the importance of the sugar industry in Queensland. It would be wise if more of that class of film were shown in order to educate the people upon the moreimportant industries of theCommonwealth.
– They will only show that class of film as an advertisement.
– That is so. This question has already received some attention in certain quarters, including the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association in Brisbane. At present the Australian picture theatre patrons get too few films from Australian or British sources. Generally speaking, the young Australian knows infinitely more about American affairs, and recognises more easily White House at Washington than the Federal Parliament House in Melbourne. He knows much more about Niagara Falls in the United States of America than about our own beautiful Barron Falls in Queensland. All this, of course, does not touch the question of the remission of taxation on entertainment tickets, which is the subject of the Bill now under consideration, and whilst these reforms are very desirable, I do not see how we are to give effect to them in this measure. I cannot agree with Senator Guthrie and other honorable senators who hold that picture shows play no part- in the life of country districts. There is hardly a town in any part of Australia that has any sort of a population where a picture show is not provided at least once a week. I recently visited a small town in North Queensland 600 miles west of Townsville, and found that there was a picture show there.
-brockman . -The entertainments tax did not prevent it.
SenatorFOLL. - That is so; ibut one honorable senator after another would have us believe that ithe moving picture is a form of entertainment which cannot be enjoyed in the country districts. As a matter of fact, it is one of the fewforms of entertainmentwhich can be provided in thecountry districts. Performances fey dramaticcompaniesand musical comedy companies are notto be seen in the small towns of Australia.Senator DrakeBrockman has isaid that the moving-picture show is a luxury, and as such should be taxed ; but life wouldbe very dull indeed if people were deprived of all luxuries. Why should not the workers of the country and their children be able to go to a picture show tohave a little entertainment when there is nobar greater than that they have to face upon the indulgence in pleasure by those who can pay 10s. for a seat in a theatre and drive to the place of entertainment in a taxi cab ? If, as some honorablesenators suggest, improper pictures are exhibited, they should take steps to see that the Board of Censors is changed, and that decent pictures only are exhibited.
– This is a very small Bill, but it gives honorable senatorsan opportunity to express an opinion on one ofthe most important functions of Parliament, and that is the equitable adjustment of the buiirden of taxation. It is quite clear that any proposalto remit taxation in -one direction must of necessity involve the continued imposition of other forms of taxation, which maybe more burdensome than that which it is proposed toremit. It is suggested that the loss of revenue involvedin this proposal is about £100,000 ; and, while the amount is insignificant, there is a vital principle at stake. This isa proposalto remit taxation on a form of entertainmentthat might well be asked to carry alittle burden. Noone will question thatthere is anover-indulgence by our population in sport and pastime. That is clear if we visit thesuburbs of the various cities of theCommonwealth and compare them with what they were twenty years ago. There are many picture palaces to be found in them, and there were none twenty years ago. That is an indication that themoving-picture business is one of the most prosperous forms of enterprise, if it is not the mostprosperous, bar none, in the Commonwealth.
– The tax is not levied on the proprietors of picture shows.
– We know the fight which those engaged in this enterprise put up when the entertainments tax was first proposed. The vigorous protests with which they bombarded this Parliament showed that the tax would touch them where they . would feel it most keenly, and that is in their pockets. Whilst this is not a measure about which we need become overheated, I have said that it involves an important principle. The worker who receives £3 per week has first of all to provide foodand raiment. It is an accepted canon of taxation that there should be no taxation on the necessaries of life. The workers’ children have to be given, at least, anordinary education, and it would be well if he had an opportunity to give them higher education. We did not need Senator DrakeBrockman to tell us that the workers’ children are to be seen in picture shows. We know that children are sent to picture shows from homes which can ill-afford to pay for that form of amusement for them, and often only because the temptation to take advantage of it is presented on every hand. It was said during the war period that the profits on the picture show business represented as much as 100 per cent., and that statement was not challenged . The way in which this country is plastered with picture shows proves that it is one of the most profitable forms of enterprise.
– It is largely in the hands of a monopoly.
– I was going to refer to the monopoly which title American manufacturers of picture films have in this country. They command nearly the whole of the business.
– Is that not due, to a great extent, to the f ailureof British film manufacturers to turn out films which meet the public taste?
– If British film manufacturers fail in that direction, so much the worse for them; but wherever you go in this country, you will find men who have embarked theircapital in the business complaining that they cannot stand upagainst the huge Americancombination which controls 90 per cent. of the business. If we remit this taxation, it will be for the benefit of this cormorant corporation, and will enable films from America to be seen withgreater facility in the future. Senator Thomas would have us believe that he would support any proposal submitted by the Government for the remission of taxation, but I doubt whether he would be foundsupporting a proposal for the remission of dutieson whisky or beer.
– I would tsupport such a proposal.
– Thehonorable senator is very confident that no Government would introduce sucha proposal.
-Itis contended that this is a measure to relieve thesection of the community that has the least money in its pockets, but we knowthatthese people have gone to picture shows in the past, and will do so again ;andthe remission of this taxation willincrease the facilities for presenting to the people a form of entertainment which many consider is not in the interestsof the moral advancement of therising generation. Honorable senators may throw the blame onthe Board ofCensors, and, while I agree that the members of the Board should do their work properly, we may do a little by taxation to preventover-indulgence in this sort of entertainment. It is hypocrisy to contend that this measure willgive relief to people of small means. I am concerned about the principleinvolved and the fact that the remission ofthis taxation to the extent of £100,000 per annum must necessitate the maintenanceof other forms of taxation. When we were considering the Tariff, it was suggested that by reducing the duty proposed on cotton piece goods we could give some real relief to the people whom we are nowconcerning ourselves about,and I remind honorable senatorsthat the remission of the duty on entertainments must serve to maintain the duty oncotton piece goods.
This proposal is not warranted by the facts of the case. It deals with a tax on what is, after all, a luxury. The human being must first of all findthe wherewithall to feed,clothe, and educate hischildren. Speaking for the majorityof men, if they do thatthey cannot afford to : send their children three times a week toa picture show. In my opinion, it is possible to give more pleasure to some people than is for theirown good. I am opposed to this make-believe proposition. It is intended to reducetaxation for the benefit of a class that does not need such relief. The Bill would certainly help the great millionaire film company that fills the minds of children with the glories of the UnitedStates of America and western life. They are the first people who would rub theirhands with glee if this remission of taxation took place. As it would be betterto reduce other forms of taxation, I oppose the Bill.
– When the Government proposed to remit the entertainments tax altogether, I opposed them. I thought that I had very good reasons at that time for doing it, and I still think so. The Senate declared on that occasion that the Government would give more relief to a large section by increasing the exemptions for children under the Income Tax Act than by means of a reduction of this special amusements taxation. It was expected that the Government would at the earliest opportunity make an addition to those exemptions, but they have failed to observe the wish then expressed by the Senate, and they now practically say that they cannot do so. They ask the Senate again to remit some of the taxation levied under the Entertainments Tax Act. If that is the position, I am not going to say that the people should be forced to continue to pay taxation when the Government have declared that that taxation is unnecessary. I realize that the Senate was in a somewhat invidious position on the last occasion, but it had every justification for taking the stand that it did, and if the Government could be induced to follow the other course of action, I would be prepared to vote against this Bill. The Government, however, are not proposing to go as far as I would like.
– We are doing a lot more than is represented by this reduction of £100,000.
– Yes, I admit that; but the Government do not propose to remit as much as is derived from the whole of the Entertainments Tax Act.
– The increase in the exemption under the Income Tax Act to £200 represents a reduction in taxation of £600,000.
– The Government have had for twelve months the additional taxation from amusements, and they have not given anything in return for it. I realize that in many respects the picture shows are not all that might be desired. Some of them doubtless are of a vicious nature, but that is not a matter that can be regulated by means of a taxation measure. I object to any taxation measure being used for that purpose. Unquestionably there is need for greater regulation of picture shows. A more stringent censorship is required, and the censorship throughout the Commonwealth should be coordinated. A certain picture may be permitted to be shown in one State, while in another part of Australia it is prohibited. I object to any attempt being made to use this Billin the way suggested by certain honorable senators. I hope the second reading will be carried, and that the small measure of relief represented by it will be afforded to the people of the Commonwealth.
– In my opinion the wholequestion of the taxation of amusements should be reviewed. Representations were made to me recently by the Institutes Association of South Australia, a body which does an immense amount of educational work throughout the State, and it has pointed out what a lot of bother has been occasioned by the entertainments tax. I am at a loss to understand why the Bill has been introduced. I suppose it is intended to benefit the poorer sections of the community, but the proposed increased exemption under the Income Tax Act from £156 to £200 will benefit those classes very considerably. Everybody should realize that it is a duty to contribute towards the cost of the government of the country. One hundred thousand pounds is a comparatively small amount, but it is one-half the total deficiency of last year, and it represents only 4¾ d. per head of the population of the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, I shall vote against the Bill.
Senator GARLING (New South Wales) [4.151. - Judging by the attacks made on the Government by a number of honorable senators, one would assume that all Parliament is to be asked to do is to remit £100,000 in taxation. This is really the smallest amount of relief to be given to any section, because the measures we are about to consider involve about £3,000,000. The talk as to why measures have not been brought in to deal with the primary producers, and the household expenses of the people, is all beside the mark. These sections are being dealt with in other measures to be brought forward. We are now considering the particular matter of the entertainments tax only. This taxation was imposed as a war-time measure. That Act was of a most unusual nature, and the tax was imposed under most unusual circumstances. In my opinion, those unusual circumstances have disappeared, and I regard the present Bill as a step in the direction of returning to the natural order of things, because I believe that the amusements of the people should not be taxed. It is important to have a contented population in our inland towns. I have lived almost all my life in inland towns, and when I hear an honorable senator saying that in the small -country town,s picture shows are not to be found-
– You are talking about inland cities. You cannot have been outback.
– Would the honorable senator call Wentworth, Tocumwal, Finley, Berrigan, Whitton, Yanko, or Ganmain inland cities? I have been among the people of such towns, and I know that a picture show is not a luxury, but an urgent necessity. People should be induced to settle in country districts, and they should have an opportunity of experiencing some of the pleasures of life. There is always talk about the drift to the cities, and it is largely due to the fact that the cities can attract the people by means of the variety of entertainment. In the eighteen months ended 31st December last, the population of Sydney and suburbs increased by no less than 186,000 at the expense of the small country towns. The present reduction in taxation, although small, represents a step in the direction of the entire disappearance of the tax. I have always urged that we can best secure decentralization by increasing the attractiveness of country life. The fact that the pictures sometimes shown are not of the class that we should like to see has nothing to do with the case. I sometimes think that the increase in taxation in the shape of the entertainments tax has had the effect of reducing the quality of the pictures shown in Australia. Judging by the remarks of some honorable senators, their attitude towards picture shows should take the form of supporting a campaign against these pictures. I say, however, that the moving picture, in its essence, is something that we should harness in for greater good. It is capable of almost endless good in this community. I would suggest that we- might, if it could be done,0 meet the objections of some honorable senators to the type of picture that is shown by providing in this Bill that picture shows shall not be entitled to the remission of taxation allowed in the Bill unless they exhibit not less than a certain number . of feet of an educational picture, preferably an Australian one, at every exhibition. That would be a step in the right direction. I doubt very much whether it would be competent for us to add such a request to the Bill. I shall vote in favour of the Bill because the Treasurer, in seeking where he can make remissions of taxation,’ has in this instance provided relief for a very large body of people. Smallthough the relief is, it is spread over probably a larger section of the community than any other form of taxation reaches. My other reason for supporting the Bill is that this taxation is one of the extraordinary war-time provisions which I hope to see gradually removed from the statute-book. Several honorable senators have spoken in favour of a remission of some of the taxation imposed upon the primary producer. We know, although no such proposal is before us at the present time, that the primary producer is being considered in connexion with the general remission of taxation. When these proposals come forward it will be for those honorable senators to join with me in seeing whether we cannot get even a greater measure of relief for the primary producer than that proposed.
.- I am entirely opposed to the entertainments tax. Although the tax was put on to tickets of admission to picture shows and other amusements, the proprietors of those shows pass it on. We do not reach the people who ought to be taxed. About £50000,000 is invested in picture shows in Victoria, and if we could reach the proprietors, instead of taxing the people who patronize the shows, I would be in favour of a tax of 20 per cent. We ought to get more, instead of less, revenue from this source. The Bill proposes to exempt from taxation tickets costing up to 11½d., but the Government is rather contemptible in this matter, because it will not allow a man to go to a picture show and pay a shilling without charging him a tax. In my opinion we ought to tax the buildings and the wealth of those who own the houses of entertainment, instead of the general community. We say that we are taxing the picture industry, but we are not. Some honorable senators have complained about the type of picture that is being shown. My opinion is that the pictures are very fine, and I think Senator Guthrie was unfair to them-. I can remember that in the early days of the picture theatre I used to get a “ wobbly “ feeling, and could not sit them out. To-day the pictures are quite different. Owing to the increased speed at which they are taken they do not flicker on the screen.. Many educational pictures can be seen, such as those depicting; Australian, industries, and scenery in this and. other parts of. the world. There is a theatre in my town, and children are not admitted to it at night, but a special entertainment is provided for them on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Thus the children, see only those pictures which are specially chosen for them.. Instead of taxing the punter we should tax the race-course, and instead of taxing the person who pays for a shilling seat at a picture show, we should tax the picture palaces and the theatres. I have paid a 3s.; 6d. tax in order to get a seat in the stalls of a theatre: We ought to get ten times as much by way of taxation out of the race-courses and theatres as we get- at present, and it would be< quite possible to take £1,000,000 out of the £50,000,000 invested in the picture shows of Victoria. Over the whole of Australia at least £250,000,000 is invested in the picture show business. It is foolish to tax the kiddie who wants, to see a picture show that may be educational. The picture show proprietors are becoming millionaires, and they ought to be heavily taxed. We could make the ,tax fairer, and get ten times as much from it. On one occasion when I was going to the races at Rosehill, I saw a notice that the State tax on a ticket for the stand was 8s. 4d., and the Commonwealth tax ls.. 8d. The ticket cost me 16s. 6d. I believe itv taxing race-courses, picture palaces, theatres, and ether places’ of amusement, including, per-‘ naps, cricket and football grounds, but
.- Much has been said about picture shows and how they should be run. It is obvious’ that those honorable senators who have been talking’ on this subject have not made much inquiry, or they would not have indulged in the wild assertions- that they made. I went out of my way to investigate the subject, because I believe that picture shows are one of “the best influences that we have, though it may be desirable to improve them. They are one of the best means of educating the people, and there is no doubt that those who go to them, while they see much that is more or less useless, and something that ‘ is vicious, learn a good deal- about world, affairs and about the scenery of the world. The remission of this tax will not affect the picture shows’ one way or the other. They charge fixed prices, and the person who patronizes, them pays the tax. What class of person is it who goes to a picture show and: pays less than ls. ? It is members of the working class, who live in crowded homes, or in one or two rooms, and do not know what home life, really is. With them it is a case of going to a picture show or being crowded out into: the street. Their condition is due very largely to the scarcity and sub-letting of houses. Those honorable senators who have had so much to say about the morals of children seem to think that parents have less concern for their children than we have. I do not suggest that every parent knows the best way in which to bring up children, but the average mother or father is always anxious to do what is best in their interests. Senator Guthrie suggested that there were picture shows only in the cities’ and suburbs, and if that is the honorable senator’s opinion, he either has not travelled, or if he has, it has been with his eyes closed, because there is not a country town of any importance in Victoria or Queensland which does not have a picture show at least once a week.
– I was referring to the out-back portions of the Commonwealth.
– I am speaking of places some distance from the railways.
– Do settlers in isolated spots have any opportunity of attending a cinema show ?
– Yes. The farmers and pastoralists have that opportunity, and there is scarcely a town of any importance in Queensland which does not have a show of its own.
– Will the people drive 20 miles?
– Yes. Settlers in the out-back portions of the Commonwealth will come into the towns’ on horseback’, in buggies, or in motor cars.
– They are not the people to whom I referred.
– There are many who travel long distances to see a picture show in a country town, particularly on a Saturday night, and the shows are instructive and amusing to many who are compelled to live in the bush. Many outback settlers have to work far removed from the conveniences and amusements which others enjoy, and these people regard pictures as an* absolute godsend.
– Persons who are able to drive into a town in a motor car would not mind paying an extra penny in the form of taxation.
– The rates charged in country towns are not under a shilling, and it is generally the poorer class in the cities who patronize the cheaper shows. I am not very much concerned as to whether this tax is remitted or not; but the proposals of the Government, if adopted, will be the means of relieving the poorer section of the community of some slightburden when they seek a little relaxation and healthy amusement. I have given close attention to picture production, and I know that there are two fairly wealthy companies, in Australia whian started producing pictures, and which were eventually ruined. The number of times an Australian production can be screened is comparatively small,’ and consequently Australian pictures: do not pay to produce. One. company lost £32,000 for the reasons I have mentioned.
– Was it not because an Australian company is not in a position to stand up against the American companies?
– That was not the reason. There are, however, seven or eight American corporations that do their utmost to oppose Australian productions. One of the companies to which I have referred was J. C. Williamson Limited, which is well known in the theatrical world, and the name of the other I need not mention. The Sentimental Bloke was a profitable venture, and I think there was only one other Australian production which was a success. American pictures largely predominate owing to the lack of enterprise on the part of British producers, whose pictures are, in the main, abominable, and the Board of Censors has rejected the majority of British productions owing to their unsuitability.. The French pictures are even- worse than, the British, and those of Italian production axe worse than the French. Senator Guthrie poses as a Puritan, and endeavours to create the impression that he is the only one in this Chamber who is anxious to protect the morals of the people, but I would remind him that there are others- who are just as anxious as he is to do what is right in the interests of the community..
– If the honorable senator will peruse the advertisement in this evening’s Herald, which I have placed before him, he will see that the picture advertised has not been produced with the idea of improving the morals of the people.
– I am just as anxious as he is to do what is right.
– But the honorable senator will not glance at the advertisement, and express his opinion on the impression it conveys.
– I am not dealing with that particular advertisement; but the business generally. Generally speaking, those engaged in the industry have high ideals; but, naturally, they have to exhibit pictures, which suit their audiences. A friend of mine invested a fairly large sum of money in the picture business, and started off by screening educational films in a suburban theatre. He put on the best films at his disposal, but- he very soon found that the venture was nob paying, when he informed the operator that he would have to close up. The operator said to him, “ You do not put on the pictures that the people want. You leave it to me for a month, and I will show you what can be done.” The result was that the operator selected films of the type Australian audiences are accustomed to, and within! a month the hall was crowded to the door, and seats could not be found for patrons.
– What was the secret?
– He gave the public what it wanted. It is the duty of the picture show proprietor to educate the people to appreciate good pictures. This man introduced films similar to those which were being screened at other thea.tr es.
– Were they good for the morals of the children?
– That is not the question at present.
– It is the main question.
– There is a great future for the picture industry and it is the duty of every one, particularly those who are producing pictures, to improve them in every way. It is useless denouncing and howling down those engaged in the business, because I believe the proprietors are as anxious as any one in the Senate is to improve the pictures which they display. I have shown how one man tried, and how he failed. Those who incur losses by showing clean and instructive pictures sometimes lose money and have to recoup themselves by displaying ordinary films.
– Are such pictures of any educational value to the community?
– The majority of the pictures are educational; but I have seen some modern ones which are an abomination and which are anti-British in sentiment. Picture show proprietors naturally have to meet the wishes of their patrons, and it is the duty of preachers, teachers, and honorable senators, to educate the people to appreciate that which is good. Last year I made inquiries concerning the profits made by picture show proprietors, arid when a number of them produced their balance-sheets I was aston.ished to find the amounts which had been lost by big companies. One big American corporation of producers could only meet its expenditure because it had under its control a number of theatres in which it could display its productions, and if it had not been for that it would have lost thousands of pounds. Some of the big companies have such a monopoly that they are able to select the best artists in any part of the world, and then take them to America, where their services are utilized in connexion with American pro,duction. So far as I have been able to ascertain from the balance-sheets, many of the Australian picture show proprietors are only getting a fair return on their capital, and are not making thehuge profits which some imagine. The buildings in most oases are costly, and the amounts which they have to pay for the films are in some cases very heavy. It has been suggested during the course of the deba’te that some people attend picture1 shows at least three times a week, but that is hardly likely, because most city and suburban theatres submit only two programmes weekly, and it is, therefore, very unlikely that people would attend the one theatre more than twice a week unless the programme was very attractive. A women’s organization in New Zealand, established for the protection of women and children, exhibited a particular picture throughout that Dominion. The New Zealand Women’s Union wrote to the Australian branch, asking them to have the picture shown in Australia, and they applied to the censor for its release. They attended a private screening, and were in favour of the picture being shown in Australia. All of them were interested in women’s work, and they believed the picture would be valuable from that point of view. The censor, however, did not see it in that light, and turned the proposal down. That picture has not yet been released in Australia. I am mentioning this incident to show how difficult it is to secure unanimity as to the class of films to be shown. On behalf of the Women’s Union. I interviewed the censor to ascertain why he refused to allow the film to be shown, and I found that he had many good reasons, from his point of view. It was his business, and so I did not question his authority or say anything further in the matter.
– Probably it was one of the borderline productions.
– Just so. I have nothing at all to say against the censor. I can only repeat’ that the women who saw the picture screened in Melbourne thought it ought to be shown. The censor held a different view. From this it will be seen that the work of censorship is by no means so easy as it appears to be.
– It would be an easy matter to wipe out a lot of the pictures, at all events.
– I admit that, but what would be substituted for them ?
– The trouble would be to decide which pictures to eliminate.
– I agree with the Minister. I have interviewed quite a number of men interested in picture shows, and I have been told that they are doing their very best to have a better class of pictures screened in Aus-‘ tralia. They point out that it would not matter to them what pictures were shown so long as the public would patronize them. I know that many have lost a good deal of money through trying to induce the people to patronize educational pictures.
There is one other matter which I should like now to mention, and although I may be out of order, I trust I shall be allowed to bring it under the notice of the Minister. I have been approached by the amateur sports clubs in Queensland to ask the Government to release them from the obligation of paying income taxation. Those connected with these clubs are not out to make a profit. Their only object is the promotion of sport, pure and simple.
– A very good idea.
– The Queensland Government does not tax these clubs, and they feel that it is unjust that the Federal Government should step in to collect income taxation. The Brisbane Rowing Association is particularly concerned. Not long ago that association decided to send an eight-oar team to compete in the Inter-State rowing matches in either Melbourne or Adelaide, and in order to raise funds it held a carnival in Brisbane. It is a body entirely supported by the subscriptions from its members and contributions from the public. It does not seek to make any profit at all, and yet it was taxed upon its profits on the carnival.
– Will they get relief under this Bill?
– No, and I am asking the Government to exempt all such clubs under the Income Tax Act. The Brisbane Rowing Association is com posed entirely of amateurs, and has no paid officer. The men, when they travel, are only refunded their fares and expenses; but, on the other hand, they lose their wages while away.. Nobody gets any benefit at all.
– Where is the tax levied ?
– Income tax was collected upon the profits from the carnival. I have been asked to bring this matter under the notice of the Minister, and I trust that all amateur sporting associations entirely devoted to the promotion of sport will be relieved from income taxation.
.- The debate this afternoon with regard to the merits and demerits of picture shows has been most interesting. We are asked to consider whether we are in favour of abolishing a tax on all entertainment tickets under1s. The great bulk of the entertainments for which the charge of admission is under1s. are picture shows, and I feel that the remission in taxation of½d. or1d. on tickets for admission will have no appreciable effect upon the attendance. It will not induce onemore individual to become a. regular attendant at picture shows. On the other hand, if we added another½d. to the tax it would not have the effect of decreasing attendances. I have come to the conclusion that, instead of the tax resulting in diminished attendances, from the day it was imposed there has been a material increase in the patrons of picture shows throughout Australia. People will go whether there is a tax or not. Any one who argues that the remission of this tax will result in increased attendances at picture shows is arguing upon wrong premises. In my opinion the Federal Government are not justified in imposing a tax of this nature onthe people at all. This field of taxation should, in normal circumstances, be left entirely to the State Governments. I admit that when we were faced with heavy obligations during the war, and when our revenue was apparently decreasing, it was essential for us to search out every avenue of taxation; but we are gradually getting back, day by day, to more normal conditions. The statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) recently shows that Australia is in a much more satisfactory condition financially to-day than a year or two ago. That being so, it is timethe wholequestion of taxation was reviewed. A tax of this character ought tobe left entirely to the States. It ought to be obliterated as quickly as possible from the statute-bookof theCommonwealth. Honorable senators willagree that in very few country towns throughout Australia is the charge for admission to entertainments less than ls. Consequently, this proposed remission of ½d. or.1d. will applyalmost entirely tothe cities of the Commonwealth. Country patrons of picture shows and otherforms ofentertainment will getno relief whatever. Whether this phase of the question has been considered by the Government or not I cannot say, but it ought to have been. In all the cities of theCommonwealth there are tobe found sixpenny picture shows. In our country towns the charge generally is much higher. But I am not going to oppose the Bill on that ground. I intend tosupport it, and I want to point out why it is necessary, in myopinion, for the Government to give still further relief asspeedilyas possible. I would not haveargued in this way last year, for more than one reason. I am actuated now by the knowledge that much heavier taxation, indirectly, has been imposed upon the poorer people of Australia during the last twelve months in the shape of additional Customs duties on the necessaries of life. Therefore remission of taxation in other directions is desirable.
– Butthey say that protection makes things cheaper.
– It does not, and it is because Iknow this that I have altered my views with regard to theremission of the entertainmentstax.
I should like now to say a word or two with regard to the necessity for a better censorship ofalms to be screened in Australia. I agree with Senator Reid that educational films are very desirable. Through my friendship with oneor two picture theatre proprietors, I have some knowledge of theirdifficulty in catering for the tastes of the public who patronize their shows. I spoke to one proprietor some time ago and urged him to endeavour to include in each session of his programme at leastone short film of an industrial or scenic character, such as those that were shown in the earlier history of pictureshows. Then it was possible for persons who could not afford to travel toobtain some knowledge of scenic conditions in other countries, and to learn something of the manufacturing processes of certain commodities used in Australia and manufactured overseas. He told me, however, that he had tried to do what I had suggested, and that if he had continued it would have spelled ruin to his venture. Senator Reid has urged to-day that the public should be educated to an appreciation of something better in the character of the picture shows. In my opinion this can only be accomplished by the Censorship Board.
– Pictures might be shown in the schools.
– Iagree that the Education Departments might do a great deal in that direction. When it is said that good films will alwaysattract the public, I can refer to the fact that one film, the name of which is “ Over the Hill,” was recently exhibited in Melbourne. It wasa good film, and the theatre at which it wasexhibited was crowded day after day, and might after night, until the management were in a position to claim that the picture had had a record run, which had never previously been approached in any city in the Commonwealth. That experience should be an encouragement to the proprietors of picture shows to secure good pictures. I believe that there is not a sufficient supply of really good films, and that accounts for the fact that picture show programmes are often filled in with pictures of a very questionable character. I give place to no man in my desire that many of the wretched productions whichare shown on the screen should not be exhibited, especially to young people, but no one can take exception to the exhibition of films which are calculated to elevate and instruct the people. We can well afford, I think, to give the people, and especially thepoorer people, the concession proposed by this Bill. Although it will benefit chiefly the people of the cities, I do not begrudge them the concession. I hope that lateron the Federal Parliament will vacatethis field of taxation and leave it entirely to the State Parliaments.
– I have been somewhatsurprised that tins simple Bill, which I anticipated would receive a very cordial welcome, has occasioned asomewhatprotracted debate. It : has ibeen discussed mainly under two headings - slightly as a fiscal proposition, which is its main purpose, and at great length as to its moral, ethical, and educational effects. It is not put forward as a Bill to censor public morals, nor is it a measure dealing with the possible effects of these pictures. Their exhibition is an accomplished fact, and there is overwhelming evidence of public support and approval of them. Some time ago, a Government proposed to levy a tax upon those who patronized picture shows. Senator Gardiner informed us to-day that it was iniquitous that we should enter upon this form of taxation, and that we ought to leave it to the State Parliaments. In reply to an interjection of mine he admitted that he was a member of the Government who introduced the original Bill imposing this taxation. Apparently that is no reason why he should not now denounce this form of raising revenue. It is very curious that honorable senators who, in season and out of season, contend that there should be a reduction of taxation, have been loudest in their protest against the remission of taxation proposed by this Bill.
– There are many other forms of taxation which might be remitted.
– As set out in the Budget, the Government found themselves in a position to come to the relief of the community by the remission of taxation. They naturally looked round to see how that relief could be most equitably given. They came to the conclusion that it would not be fair to afford relief entirely in one direction, and they set out to distribute it over the various sections of which the community is composed. They proposed the remission of income tax in three directions - first by raising the exemption all round, which distinctly benefits the smaller taxpayer; then by lowering the general range of taxation by 10 per cent., and further by proposing a reduced company rate. They proceeded then to deal with another group of taxpayers, andproposed the removal of the surcharge onland tax. These proposals account for the remission of taxation to the extent of £3,200,000. Seeing that most of this- taxation is being remitted for the benefit of a very large body of taxpayers is there anything very iniquitous in a proposal to remove taxation to the extent of £100,000from the shoulders of people who patronize picture theatres? They may be wrong in going to such places, but they have as much right to the exercise of their taste as have their critics in this Chamiber. I am not ashamed to say that I patronize the picture shows, and I fail to see what objection can be urged to this proposal. Every one will agree that taxation is objectionable, but it is a necessary evil. Naturally the Government desire, as does every taxpayer, that taxation should be as light as possible. I venture to say that in view of the way in which the Government propose to distribute relief from taxation, which they are in a position to propose, £100,000 is an equitable, if a small, concession to this particular section of the community.
– Will the public get the benefit of it ?
– I think they will. This entertainments tax was levied directly on the public. Every person who goes to a picture theatre pays the tax when purchasing a ticket, and it is collected by the taxation officers afterwards. There is nothing to pass on.
– The proprietors of picture shows may raise the price of tickets.
– They will not raise them by one halfpenny.
– They might raise them by more than one halfpenny.
– If they are in a position to raise the price of a ticket by more than one halfpenny if we remit the tax of one halfpenny, they will raise the price now. They are not keeping their prices low out of kindly consideration for their patrons, but as a pure business arrangement. If we take off this tax the proprietors of picture shows can still charge it, but they are not likely to do so. They are not likely to make their sixpenny tickets 6½d. tickets in future. If they can raise the price of their tickets in that way they could do so now. I am not aware that any one is. controlled in the price he fixes for the things he has to sell, or the services he renders, except by consideration of the way in. which the price he fixes will affect his business.
– Some picture show proprietors might, for business purposes, issue11½d. tickets, and so save the tax of one penny.
– Then the public would save 1½d. on each ticket.
– Senator Rowell’s interjection is an answer to Senator Keating. Senator Keating fears that picture show proprietors may increase the price of their tickets, and Senator Rowell says that in order to deprive the revenue of one penny on each ticket, picture show proprietors will give up one halfpenny. If they do so the citizen who goes to buy a ticket now priced at one shilling will save 1½d. - > one halfpenny provided by the picture show proprietor, and one penny lost to the revenue. I do not think that we need break our hearts over that.
This brings me to a matter mentioned by Senator Russell. He thinks that we might raise a revenue of £10,000,000 from the amusements of Australia, but he does not think that we should do so by taxing the patrons of amusements. Somehow or other he would get the revenue out of the proprietors of picture theatres, race-courses and others controlling forms of amusements. He would levy the tax on them; but the honorable senator does not seem to. see that if we did so, it would not be. the proprietors who would pay. Does the licensee of a hotel pay his licence-fee? No, it is paid by those of my fellow senators who patronize him.
– He does not pay the Excise on beer.
– Of course he’ does not. It is paid by the consumers of the beer. Senator Russell’s proposal to extract such an enormous sum out of a limited section of the community would defeat itself, and there would soon be no proprietors to tax.
Reference has been made to the Board of Censors. I have been to these pictureshows, and cannot take vip the lofty attitude of knowing nothing about them, and then instituting comparisons based upon a knowledge of them. Some time ago a film was shown throughout Australia entitled “Damaged Goods,” and there waa the fiercest controversy concerning that picture. One section considered it highly educational, and another claimed that it was disgusting and pernicious. I venture to say that if we took a poll concerning that picture in this chamber honorable senators would not be found to be in agreement about it. Many of the pictures which honorable senators might condemn are the very pictures which might appeal to other people. After all is said and done, the real censorship of pictures will be exercised by the public. In any case this is not a Bill dealing with the censorship of pictures. It is a measure which the Government find themselves happily in a position to submit to give definite relief to certain taxpayers 1 They are in this way meeting to some extent the insistent demand of Senator Vardon and others that taxation should be cut down.
– I believe in every one paying his fair share of taxation.
– The honorable senator was not present just now when I pointed out that the Government intended to relieve taxation to the extent of £3,200,000.
– Quite right, too.
– It is quite right, and’ the bulk of the relief is given in connexion with income tax, land tax, and company taxation. If that is quite right, what makes it wrong to relieve the patrons of picture theatres to the extent of £100,000 ?
– What is the extent of the relief given by raising the amount exempted from income tax from £156 to £200?
– It amounts bo £600,000. There is relief given to the extent, of £1,300,000 by the general reduction of 10 per cent.; £200,000 by the reduction of the company rate; and £400,000 by the removal of the surcharge on land .tax. Let me also mention that a reduction is proposed on the duties on farmers’ implements, about which Senator Wilson has said so much, to the extent of £350,000, and, in addition to that, the Government are proposing to pay £250,000 as bonus in order to enable the farmer to obtain many of his implements more cheaply than he does to-day. Can any one logically contend that to take £100,000 off the £600,000 now paid by way of entertainment tax is an unfair distribution of the relief from taxation which the Government now happily can promise? I believe my views will meet with the approval of a majority of honorable senators, and I hope they will support this measure.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Entertainments Tax).
– I have considerable doubt as to whether the amendment I desire to propose would be in order. I wish to move that section 2 of the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act be amended by adding after “ sport,” in the definition of “entertainment,” the words “ except in relation to swimming.” The important art of swimming should be encouraged in every possible way, and there should be no taxation levied in connexion with swimming exhibitions.
-(Senator Buzacott). -Such an amendment would be out of order, because it would not be applicable to the Bill before the Committee. Section 55 of the Constitution provides -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be Of no effect.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Anticipating the pleasure that the introduction of this Bill will give to some honorable senators, and anticipating also that there may be an erroneous idea in the minds of some of them as to the object of the Government in introducing the measure, it may be wise for me to make a short explanatory speech - although it is unnecessary to those honorable senators who have studied the Budget speech - relating to the genesis of this Bill, and one or two other measures referred to in connexion therewith. I shall take honorable senators into my confidence, even to the extent of giving away some Cabinet secrets, which, I am sure, will be appreciated, and will certainly cause honorable senators to discuss the measure with considerable sympathy, and pass it into law with commendable alacrity. The Government, through frugal administration and strict economy, found themselves in possession of an accumulated surplus amounting to ?6,408,000. The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), who, I maysay in passing, is a genius in finance - for I have not met any one with greater experience and greater ability to place financial questions before a body of men - at once explained that it was a bad policy for the Government to withdraw from the community the use of such an enormous amount of wealth.
– That money is not held in inactivity.
– Yes, it is, if it remains in the hands of the Government in the form of an accumulated surplus. The Treasurer said that it was unwise to keep such a large sum from being devoted to general purposes. Then the Government took into serious consideration the question of to what extent, and how best, this amount of wealth could be put into use for the benefit of the nation. It decided - and here I am giving away Cabinet secrets - to release, practically for the benefit of the whole people, half this accumulated surplus, amounting to ?3,200,000. It then became a question of deciding how we could most equitably disperse this amount of money. As the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), in a previous discussion, has already explained, the general exemption from income tax was increased. That caused an absorption of ?600,000, and other relief decided upon was: Ten per cent. reduction all round in the income tax, ?1,300,000; reduction in companies’ rates of income tax, ?200,000; removal of the surcharge on land tax, which was the super-charge initiated during the war, ?400,000; and remission of entertainments tax, ?100,000. Recognising that it is desirable to assist to the greatest possible extent the land-workers of Australia; that the principles of Protection have not yet succeeded in building up those industries by which all the requirements of Australia can be met; that the lack of sufficient development of those industries has caused inflated prices to be charged for articles which have to be im- ported; that the land-workers particularly are beset with one well-known pest of Australia, to cope with which money has to be spent that is not reproductive; and that it is desirable to encourage the exploitation of the potentialities of the land of Australia, the Government decided to allow a remission of duties on goods used in this direction to the extent of £350,000. It is admitted that the best method by which farmers and landowners can cope with the rabbit pest is by wire-netting their holdings, and it is imperative upon the land-worker to expend very large sums of money for the purchase of netting in order, not to increase his income, but to preserve what he has. ^ I hope my Protectionist friends - particularly those from New South Wales - will not imagine that industries will now be neglected, or that the Government is in any way relaxing its policy of Protection for the promotion of Australian industries. The remission of duties under this BiH will probably amount to about £300,000, but the Government proposes that, following the Bill, there shall be. a Bounties Bill which will provide for bounties to be paid upon those articles produced in Australia which are in competition with the articles which will be imported at a reduced duty under this Bill.
To show the necessity for giving some consideration to this particular class of importation, I would make a comparison between the prices charged for these different articles in 1913 and 1920-21. We Protectionists always look forward to the day when, by the policy of Protection, industries will be established so firmly in the country that local industries will compete without protection with the products of other countries. I admit that while the standard of living is higher in one country than in another, if the manufactured goods of the country with the lower standard are allowed to be imported into the other country, the standard of living there must come down. Common sense prompts that view. The only protection which local industries have, apart from the Tariff, is the cost of freight and handling between the country of manufacture and the country of entry.
– Does not the Minister think that the standard of living in England is as high as in Italy ?
– The standard of living in England has very much improved since the war. In the years before the war there were very few countries where the standard of life was lower than in England ‘. It is a disgrace to our race that such was the fact.
– In what country in Europe was the standard of living higher than in England?
– I would not like to make any comparisons. I doubt whether there was very much difference. In 1913 we imported 65,785 tons of wire, at a cost of £9 16s. 4d. per ton. In 1921-22, we imported only 12,525 tons, but we had to pay £23 14s. per ton for it, which was a very considerable increase. Of corrugated iron we imported, in 1913, 54,610 tons, at a cost- of £17 3s. per ton; while in 1921-22 we imported 42,551 tons, at £28 12s. per ton. Of plain galvanized sheet iron we imported, in 1913, 55,233 tons, at £18 4s. per ton, and in 1921-22 we imported only 10,615 tons, at £29 4s. per ton. These, figures show that the prices of these articles are abnormally high. The object of the Bill is to reduce the duties now charged on wire netting from 68s. British preferential, 85s. intermediate, and 105s. per ton general, to free, 5 per cent., and 10 per cent, respectively. The duty on wire for fencing at present is 52s. British preferential, 72s. 6d. intermediate, and 90s. general per ton, and it will be reduced under the Bill to free British preferential, 5 per cent, intermediate, and 10 per cent, general. The duty on galvanized iron stands at present at 72s., 90s., and 110s., and it will be reduced to 20s., 27s. 6d., and 30s. respectively.
There is also a provision relating to traction engines, which are another very important implement in the agricultural life of Australia. The duty on traction engines at present is 274, per cent., 35 per cent., and ‘40 per cent, ad valorem, which will be reduced under the Bill to free, 5 per cent., and 10 per cent.
– Cannot traction engines be made in this country?
– They are not made to the extent which would be necessary to meet the requirements of the land-workers of Australia. Some are made here, but unfortunately the industry has not progressed as I would like towards a condition where we would .be able to manufacture all our own requirements in Australia. The bounty will be paid on the same conditions as are set out in the Bounties Act 1918.
The Bill further contains a proposal for imposing duties on electrical meters. In this connexion I do not think I can do better than read the report of the Tariff Board upon this matter. Honorable senators will remember that when the Tariff was being discussed in this Chamber it was represented’ by the strongest advocates of Protection that, if there was any instance where it .appeared wise to remove a duty or impose a duty, the proper course would be to have a report made by the Tariff Board, which was then about to come into existence, for the guidance of honorable senators in dealing with such propositions. .The report of the Tariff Board is as follows: -
An urgent request has been received from the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company, Sydney, for a duty to be imposed on electric meters as manufactured by them.’
When in Sydney recently, the Tariff Board visited the factory where the meters are being manufactured, and were particularly impressed with the excellent work being turned out by the company, and which, in the opinion of the Board, fully justified protection being given by Parliament.
It was ascertained that when Parliament was considering the Tariff, the question of duty being imposed on these instruments was considered, but in view of the fact that the industry had not developed, the request for duty was not persevered with.
The Department, however, gave the manufacturers a note, stating that should their manufacture continue and increase, consideration would be given to the imposition of a duty on similar imported meters. With this the company have been able to obtain the business of the * Sydney City ‘Council, and have materially increased their output.
Owing to changes and the great reduction in the price of imported goods, the company now finds that they have to compete on even terms, that is, without any protection, with importing firms.
The Sydney City Council has informed the firm that unless a duty is to be imposed on foreign meters, no more orders can be placed with Australian manufacturers. As the City Council is now calling for orders for ‘33,-000 meters, the company requests that immediate action be taken to impose a duty, so that they may be successful in .obtaining this large contract, which will keep them going with a full staff for some time.
Further, the company states that owing to the want of a duty, their business has considerably decreased, and, in addition to losing a considerable sum of money on last year’s operations, they have also, at present, a large overdraft at their bank in Sydney. They further point out that they have been forced to reduce their employees in the last three months from sixty-six to forty-four, and that they are being undersold at a few shillings by importers.
The Tariff Board has checked the information given, and finds that the statement as to loss, overdraft, and reduction of employees is correct. The Board has also ascertained that the bank will not advance any further amount, and in fact, they are pressing the company to reduce the present overdraft.
From the evidence available, there is no doubt that, owing to wages, hours, and absence of protective duty, the local company is unable to compete with English and foreign manufacturers.
The Board has no hesitation in recommending that this industry deserves protection, in the same manner as Parliament has granted protection to other industries, and it would recommend that these instruments should receive a duty of 35 per cent. (British preferential Tariff), 40 per cent, (intermediate Tariff), and 45 per cent, (general Tariff). This is in keeping with the rate imposed on the more intricate electrical appliances. Meters .are a complicated and technical manufacture with much labour involved, and the rate stated, which is slightly higher than electrical and gas appliances n.e.i. rate of- 27£ per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent., seems fully justified.
The Board also desires to stress the urgency involved in this application. From the inquiries made, there seems little doubt, unless some action is immediately taken, that this industry will receive serious damage.
When asked why application had not been made for a deferred duty, the reply was made that it was understood when the Tariff Board was appointed, matters of this kind could be readily adjusted.
While the Tariff Board has under consideration several matters which it proposes to recommend as early as possible, it believes that the withholding of this item until the others are ready, will very seriously prejudice the firm, lose this very large order now under consideration, and probably lead to the firm giving up business for the present.
In view of the fact that electricity is making such inroads into our business control, it seems essential to encourage in every possible way such an industry as that under consideration, and, in view of the urgency involved, the Board would suggest for favorable consideration’ that a resolution be laid on the table of the House, which would have the effect of bringing the duty at once into operation. This would not involve any delay in the business of the House, and, perhaps, it would be approved that this resolution stand until the other resolution is brought forward, dealing with the other items of the Tariff.
The report is signed by R. McR. Oakley, Chairman, and Mr. Walter Leitch and Mr. Herbert Brookes, members of the Board. It will be seen that the report submitted to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) advises him to take certain action in the interests of the industry. The Minister, therefore, submitted a motion in another place embodying the suggestions contained in the report, which are included in the Bill before the Senate.
– Must Parliament ratify recommendations of the Board?
– This is, I believe, the first report the Board has presented. Parliament must ratify; the Board can only recommend.
– I was under the impression that the Board could act without reference to Parliament.
– No; the Act provides that the Board shall investigate and recommend to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and if the Government believe that effectshould be given to its recommendation, a Bill is introduced for that purpose. This matter has been very fully dealt with by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) in his Budget speech, and the Bill is to give effect to the proposals he outlined. The measure provides for a considerable reduction in the duty on fencing wire, wire-netting, galvanized iron, and traction engines, and the imposition of aduty on electrical meters. When a measure such as this is before Parliament there is necessarily some disorganization in commerce, and I therefore trust that it will have a speedy passage.
– These proposed remissions will not be retrospective?
– I would be more than human if I did not gloat over the fact that the reforms which Senator Lynch, Senator Thomas, Senator DrakeBrockman and myself advocated so strongly when the Tariff was before this Chamber are now being given effect to by the Government. We pointed out very forcibly at the time the wrong the Government were doing by imposing heavy duties on implements and material required by our primary producers. I am not, however, going to waste the time of the Senate gloating over the fact that the Government have at last admitted that we were right and they were wrong, but they are to be congratulated upon the action which has been taken to make it easier for the man on the land. As far as wire-netting is concerned, I may give a simple illustration to show how destructive rabbits are. In a particular locality which I was visiting a little time ago, there had been a fall of snow, and the bark on all the limbs of trees, which had fallen to the ground, had been stripped by the rabbits, because their ordinary food was covered. When one realizes the enormous destruction done in that direction, one can easily form an opinion as to the damage which would have been caused if the crops and grass had been consumed. Having regard to the present cost of these materials, as compared with 1913, the suggested protection is surely high enough to enable the industries to prosper, particularly when we remember that the manufacturers in Australia have a substantial natural protection owing to the high cost of production in other countries. I would like to know from the Minister (Senator Earle) whether it is the intention of the Government to give any real help to the man on the land by allowing him to obtain wirenetting at a reasonable rate? Although provision has been made for the imposition of certain duties, the Tariff Board has still the power to say that foreign manufacturers are dumping material here. By doing so they would prevent farmers from obtaining supplies at reasonable rates. If foreign manufacturers dumped thousands of miles of wire-netting into this country it would be good business for Australia. In the Bounties Bill, which the Government intend to subsequently introduce, provision should be made for paying a bounty of £5 per mile to every farmer for the wirenetting he uses on his property.
– I would submit such a proposition to the State Premiers.
– If we are to encourage Australian industries by imposing a duty of 15 per cent. on wirenetting, I am sure it would be equally good business to pay farmers at least £3 per mile for the netting they use in protecting their properties. The duty would assist the manufacturer, and the bounty would be of immense advantage to the farmer in successfully combating pests, and developing his property to the fullest extent. When the Tariff was before the Senate I drew special attention to the necessity of primary producers using traction engines. I take it that tractors are going to play a mare important part in farming operations throughout Australia in the near future, and the sooner they are brought into more general use the better.
Coming back again to the Tariff Board, I do not know under what conditions it will wark, and so I have given notice of questions to be placed on the businesspaper for the purpose of obtaining this information. Having been vested with authority to deal with applications from interested firms asking for increased duties or a restriction of imports - because the Board is empowered to recommend the Minister to restrict imports - it is materially usurping the functions of Parliament. It would be well, therefore, if the Minister provided by regulation that all applications should, be made in open court, and all sittings of the Tariff Board open to the general public.
– There would be very grave difficulties then in getting the necessary, information.
-No doubt. There would be difficulty in getting a lot of things if the applications had to be made in open court. ‘ The’ Tariff Board is vested with such extra-, ordinary powers that its recommendations must practically be accepted by the Minister, so it is essential that all applications should be dealt with openly. No Minister will appoint a Board of three experts to deal with a question, and then, without having himself inquired into the matter, veto what the Board may recommend. I always act on the principle of safety first, and so I say that it is for the safety of the people of Australia that Parliament itself should know the reasons that may actuate the Tariff Board in making a particular recommendation. Let us suppose that there are two interests in conflict - the importing interest and the manufacturing in- .terest. I am sure the Government would hold the balance equally between the two. No matter how unreasonable a Government may be in other respects, their responsibility to the people would require them to hold evenly the balances between the warring interests of importers and manufacturers. If at any time the manufacturing interests pressed the Tariff Board for increased duties, which of course would mean increased difficulties for the importing interests, it would not be unfair to require the application to be made, and the reasons given, openly. It is wise to take this stand in the early stages of the development and growth of this new power, because every new system, if it lasts, must grow. I realize, of course, that there are difficulties in the way, but the principle of an open inquiry has always been observed in our Courts, and, no matter how objectionable this may have proved on certain occasions to some sections of the community, the principle itself is so sound that we have not thought it wise to depart from it. Parliament has a responsibility in this matter, because Parliament will be expected to give the final decision upon any recommendation. Therefore, it would be wise at this stage in the history of the Tariff Board if the Minister, by means of a regulation, required ali applicants and evidence for alteration of the duties to be considered in the full light of day.
– That is not always done even in connexion with our Parliamentary Committees. A Select Committee, for instance, does not always take evidence in open court. It reserves the right to hear evidence in camera.
– There is this difference between a Parliamentary Select Committee and a body such ‘as the Tariff Board : All members of a Parliamentary Select Committee are responsible to Parliament; they are not a permanent body, and are not continually dealing with interests that clash. The same could not be said for the Tariff Board. I have already had evidence of these clashing interests, and I do not claim originality for my suggestion. Interested people have asked me to” ascertain why certain things are being done. It was a letter I received that prompted me to put the questions to which 1 have referred on the business-paper. There is much to be gained, and nothing to be lost, by requiring all applications, either for an increase or a decrease in Tariff duties, to be made openly, and a record of the evidence to be kept so that it may be available to the Minister, and, if necessary, be laid before Parliament for the information of members.
Now, with regard to the duties themselves. We had a very strenuous fight over these Tariff items when the Tariff was last under discussion. Apparently the Government have been convinced by experience that the farming interests; which they claimed would have relief under the schedule of duties imposed, have to pay more than ever, because some firms are not so prosperous as it was hoped they would be under the operation of the new Tariff. I was rather glad to learn that an overdraft, and difficulty in the matter of getting further bank advances, have come to be regarded as reasons why there should be increased duties in certain items. I am wondering whether this condition will help me personally, for I think I have some of the qualifications. But speaking quite seriously, I was astonished at the Minister (‘Senator Earle) saying that, because certain manufacturing companies had not been very successful, the Government have to come to their aid with higher duties. I am wondering if those companies, when they attain to a position of prosperity, will return to the people some portion of the higher duties that are now being extracted from them.
– Yes, by means of the income tax.
– I could not refrain from smiling when the Minister in all seriousness, and, may I add, with the earnestness of forty years’ experience of Protection, declared that, when our secondary industries had reached the proper producing stage, we might expect a reduction in prices. That was the. sort of argument that was used in the United States of America 100 years ago on behalf of certain manufacturing concerns, but experience has shown that as the industries, grow so are the duties increased. Just as under Protection you create a business concern that can make a huge profit at the expense of the people, so you may be sure that those concerned will take very good care that the means to the end - the measure of Protection imposed-shall not diminish, but rather, as the influence of the manufacturing industry increases, so will the levelof duty increase correspondingly.
I want now to utter a word of warning to Protectionists. If there is one thing that will injure the policy of Protection in this country more than another, it is the fact that, during the last two years, the manufacturers have kept the prices of their products up to the highest level allowed by the duties which Parliament imposed in the last. Tariff.
– Has this been done only during the. last two years ?
– I am referring particularly to what has happened under the new Tariff. If protected interests, having secured a monopoly in the local market, keep prices up to the highest possible level, they weaken their cause in the eyes of the general community. They should be in a position to manufacture and sell at a reasonable price.. I have discussed this matter at other times, and on one occasion I was obliged to mention the name of one particular firm, not because I am opposed to the policy of Protection so much as that I desired to speak candidly: Subsequently the manager of the firm referred to interviewed me, and placed their position before me. He pointed out they had been compelled to buy all their machinery during war time, and had to pay war-time prices. “ But,” he said, “ if Parliament will allow these duties to stand for a year or two we shall havethe whole of our plant paid for.” I should like to be in a company like that. If I were a business man I should like to think that a concern in which I was interested would pay off entirely the cost of its machinery in a year or two, because then it would be free of debt and in a position to make a great deal of money by, let us say, dipping into the pockets of the people by means of the high prices made possible under our existing Tariff.
Bounties in themselves are objectionable, but they are preferable to protectionist duties, because they permit of free importation, and free importation means competition, which, to some extent, will keep prices down. On the other hand exorbitant protectionist duties make monopolies possible and lead to high prices. I take it that we have no desire to prohibit trade with Great Britain, or to prevent the British manufacturer from competing with the Australian manufacturer. At least I have not, and I do not think many Protectionists have either. The argument which Protectionists always used was that owing to the higher wage level in Australia as compared with Britain, protective duties were necessary until, at all events, the wages in both countries were approximately the’ same. We have reached that position now, and as freight between Britain and Australia is very heavy, the duties we have imposed are sufficiently high. I sincerely hope the Minister has no intention of making Protection prohibition, so far as importation from Great Britain is concerned. The duties on electric meters will be felt most iby the citizens of towns electrically lit. And all this is being done to enable a firm that is not too stable to get into a better position financially. We should not alter our Tariff to suit a company that probably is speculating in the manufacture of certain articles.
– The Tariff Board is satisfied that it is not so in this case.
– I am glad to know that the Tariff Board is satisfied. I would like to be as easily satisfied myself. I should like to know the evidence upon which the Tariff Board has acted. It would not injure the company concerned any more if this information were given, because it must have been injured to a certain extent by the bald statement already made as to its position. I realize, of course, that the new duties become operative from the moment this Tariff schedule was laid upon the table in another place, and in order to expedite its passage through this Chamber, I spoke following the Minister. I welcome the proposed reductions of duty in the interests of the primary producers, who are most concerned.
Debate (on motion by Senator Drake- brockman) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.20 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 7th September (vide page 1985), on motion by Senator Lynch -
That the Senate is of opinion that in order to insure the more active development of the rural areas of the Commonwealth, prevent double banking in the function of collecting taxes, and properly delimit revenue-raising spheres as between the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth Government, except in case of national emergency, should leave the field of land taxation to be exclusively exploited by the State Governments.
– I seconded this motion when it was moved by Senator Lynch out of courtesy to the honorable senator. Having looked into it and given it some consideration, it appears to me that it involves a great principle. It is an abstract principle certainly, but one which, I think, can probably be better dealt with in the atmosphere of this Chamber than in another place. We all know that the land tax is bringing into the Commonwealth revenue at the present time something like £2,000,000 annually. If this motion were directed to the sudden cessation of that taxation, thereby embarrassing the Treasurer and the Government, I should not support it. But believing as I do that it is intended by the motion to submit for consideration a principle which we, as representatives of the States, are better qualified than are others to deal with, and which, in fact, it is our duty to deal with, I am supporting the motion. We have to look back tq 1910 to ascertain what was the object of Parliament in passing a measure imposing taxation on the lands of the various States. It has been said that the object was to raise revenue.
– That was not given as the main reason for it.
– I stated that that has been said, not that I said it. I have heard it said myself in this chamber by honorable senators who were members of this Parliament when the Land’ Tax Bill was passed, that one of its principal objects was to raise revenue. I have looked up the records of the past, as I was not in the enviable position of honorable senators who spoke for and against the Land Tax Bill at the time it was introduced, and I find that it had one chief object, though the raising of revenue was certainly mentioned.
– It was never mentioned so far as I can remember.
– I would not say that Senator de Largie did not himself support the Land Tax Bill as a measure for raising revenue. There is no doubt that that was one of the reasons given for it at the time.
– Can the honorable senator mention the name of any one who advocated the passing of the Bill as a revenue producer?
– I have not the whole of the Hansard volumes containing the debates on the measure with me, but I know that certain members of this Parliament put forward as an argument in support of the Land Tax that it would raise revenue much needed by the Commonwealth at the time. If, however, we look at the speech delivered by the then Leader of the Government, Mr. Andrew Fisher, we shall discover the real principle involved. Referring to the necessity for increasing the population of the Commonwealth and the number of persons settled on the land, he said - lt al) goes to show that this is a country which any native might reasonably be proud of, and which any body of men ought to be proud to become citizens of. If, in carrying out the will of the people, we can bring these facts before the world, and do anything by our .legislation and administration to induce persons living in more densely populated countries to come here and throw in their lot with us, we shall do something worthy of this Parliament.
I need not quote other portions of Mr. Fisher’s speech, or the speeches of other members of the Parliament who supported the .bill,. My quotation from Mr. Fisher’s speech distinctly shows that the purpose of the imposition of the land tax was to burst up large estates.
– Then why were city properties taxed ?
– I could not say. I was not responsible for the measure. The honorable senator’s question is a very pertinent one to address to those who were responsible for its introduction. I was opposed to it, and I am not in favour of it to-day. I have made my quotation because of the statement that the Land Tax Bill was a purely revenue measure. 1 find that it was never estimated to bring in any more than £1,000,000 annually, so the raising of revenue could not have been the real object, though it might have been used at the time as an argument in support of the Bill.
The object was the bursting up of large estates, and it is interesting to see the effect it has had in that direction. Senator Lynch quoted certain statistics, but T have proceeded along somewhat different lines, and I find that this is the position : Whereas in 1911, the first year in which the Act wa3 in operation, there were 15,271 persons who sent in returns, and they represented estates of the unimproved value of £178,000,000, so far from the Act having the effect that was intended of bursting up the big estates - because if it had that effect we should naturally look to see the number of persons rendering returns reduced from time to time - I find that in 1918, after practically eight years’ operation of the land tax, the big estates had not been burst up, but on the contrary there were 17,628 persons paying the tax.
– Might not that have been accounted for to some extent, by an increase in the value of land bringing additional estates under the operation of the tax ?
– That might be so to some extent, but not tol anything like the extent indicated by the difference between 15,271 taxpayers in 1911 and 17,628 taxpayers in 1918. There has been an increase in the unimproved value of land in certain areas, but there has also been a decrease in the unimproved value in other areas. We might have expected, if the Act. carried out the “object for which it was passed, to see, instead of an increase, a decrease in the number of persons paying land tax. Even a slight decrease in the number would be an indication that the object of the Act was being effected. The Act has not effected its object. On the contrary, it ‘has increased its effect as a measure for the raising of revenue to such an extent that while the revenue anticipated from the land tax was £1,000,000 in 1918, the amount received from this form of taxation was £1,971,000.
The lands of the States axe in the first instance the peculiar care of the State Parliaments. They should be left in the hands of the State Parliaments for the purpose of raising the revenue necessary for the construction in out-lying districts of roads, railways, and other means of communication in order to increase the settlement of people on the land. It would be infinitely better to leave this particular function of government in the hands of the State Parliaments. They could exercise it infinitely more effectively nhan it can be exercised by the Federal Parliament. For this reason I consider that the Land Tax Bill should never have been introduced into this Parliament, but, having been introduced, I say that it has failed entirely in its object.
– What was the object for which it was introduced?
– The bursting up of large estates.
Senator Thomas. Who said sot?
– I have just quoted from a speech by Mr. Andrew Fisher to show that was the object for which the measure was introduced.
– I was a member of the Government at the time, and we introduced it in order to raise revenue.
– The honorable senator’s interjection is rather interesting to me in view of what I have said, and I must leave the honorable senator and Senator de Largie to fight the matter out between themselves. 1 shall not occupy a great deal of time in discussing the abstract principle involved in the motion, but I direct attention to the fact that one of the objects for which the Land Tax Bill was introduced was to encourage immigration by forcing land-owners to subdivide their holdings. That was an argument used in support of it by more than one member of the then Labour party. I am going to suggest that one of the purposes for which the State Parliaments might use the proceeds of land taxation in the event of the Commonwealth Parliament deciding ‘to hand over the raising of such taxation to the States would be to ear-mark the revenue so produced in aid of the object so well expressed by Mr. Fisher, namely, that of offering inducements to many people from congested countries abroad to come here and settle on our lands. I so fully agree with that policy that in view of the fact that the States will presently have to incur large liabilities in the shape of loams for the settlement of immigrants’ - and the sooner that work is set about the better - the revenue from land taxation, if remitted to the States, would make an excellent sinking fund for the purpose of the gradual redemption of loans which will have to be raised for land settlement.
– Does the honorable senator think that the State Governments would apply the money to that purpose ?
– I take it that if the Commonwealth Parliament decide that the right to levy land taxation should be left to the State Parliaments, that might be made one of the conditions of the support the Commonwealth will give to the States in connexion with the raising of moneys for immigrant settle ment. In any case, the State Parliaments are the proper authorities for the raising of taxation of this kind, and I have made a suggestion as to the way in which the States might be induced to use money raised in this way.
It has been charged against the Commonwealth Parliament, and against the present Government, very frequently of recent times, that they have taken no practical measures so far as immigration and immigrant settlement are concerned.
– Does the honorable senator not think that immigration is primarily a State matter.?
– I wish to say, in reply to the charge to which I have referred, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), when in conference with the Premiers of the States, had it’ made clear to him by the Premiers that he could not expect to be given the slightest control over their lands. They would not budge an inch. They would not permit anything in the nature of joint control. They said that the lands were theirs, and they were the persons to arrange how money should be borrowed, and the terms and conditions on which their lands should be settled. They will find themselves saddled with heavy responsibilities soon, in view of the fact that they will have to negotiate large Joans if . they are going to make immigrant settlement a success. My suggestion will, at least, afford them a sinking fund for the purpose of gradually reducing loan liabilities. I have endeavoured to show that the motion is one that the Senate should readily pass. It is not directed to some immediate action that would plunge the Government into financial difficulties because of the withdrawal of a large amount of revenue, but it concerns a principle that will have to be decided sooner or later, and this Chamber is one in which that principle ought to be discussed, representing, as it does, the several States as such.
[8. 17f. - I move -
That the debate be’ now adjourned.
I ask Senator Lynch if he will agree to the adjournment?
– I would prefer to have a vote taken on the motion to-night. An adjournment means shelving the question.
Motion agreed to ; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 2521).
– Like Senator Gardiner, I cannot let this opportunity pass without, to a certain extent, gloating over the changed attitude of the Commonwealth with respect to the few items in the schedule of this Bill. It pleases me exceedingly to realize that the Government of Australia are so amenable to reason on this occasion that they have listened to the claims put forward on behalf of the primary producers of Australia, and are now giving to them, a measure of relief, at all events. It is moTe significant, perhaps, of the conversion of the Government that the Minister who introduced the Bill (Senator Earle) was described, during the course of the Tariff debates, as the “high priest of Protection.” As a matter of fact, he went even further than that. According to his own utterances in this Chamber he was virtually a prohibitionist, and now, in common with the other members of the Government,” who have responded to the logical appeals of those honorable senators who have advocated the claims of the primary producers, he urges us to put this Bill through without undue delay. I congratulate him upon his conversion from prohibition to Free Trade in a few months - truly a wonderful conversion - and it says a great deal for the broadmindedness of that honorable gentleman that he is capable of such a complete somersault with regard to these particular items. I shall not be unkind enough to recall to him his utterances when he opposed my point of view on a previous occasion, but I shall be generous enough to concede that he has been converted, that he has responded to reason, and that the description ‘ ‘ the high priest of Protection “ is no longer applicable to him. I hope that this Bill is indicative of repentance by the Government with regard to many more items in the Tariff, and that it is an earnest of their intention to give further relief, as soon as the finances of the country will permit, to the primary producers’ of the Commonwealth.
– What about the pledges given to the manufacturers for the re-establishment of’ their works ?
– I ami not dealing with them at present. The manufacturers have had a very big “ cut “ from the Parliament. I am pleased to say that the Government are broad-minded enough to see that they made a mistake in giving so much to the manufacturers, and are now handing back to the primary producers a little of their own.
– Casting our minds back to the attitude of the Western Australian senators when the Tariff was before us, it is not difficult to foresee that those of us who come from the western State, at all events, will enthusiastically support, the Bill. I re-echo the remark of Senator Drake-Brockrnan in expressing the’ hope that, as soon as the finances will allow it, more relief should be extended to the primary producers. Unless we can make profitable use of our land, so as to permit of a decent living to the producers, Australia cannot be prosperous for any great length of time. We could create a fictitious prosperity by forcing our secondary industries to such an extent that it would practically mean living by taking in one another’s washing. When it comes to a matter of export, however, we must look to our primary producers, if we are to be in a position to pay our annual interest bill.
I recognise, of course, that neither Australia, nor any other country, can be prosperous unless its industries are of a varied nature. A people cannot devote themselves exclusively to agriculture and at the same time have a large and prosperous population. So far as I know, history furnishes few, if any, instances where that has happened. Agriculture is an essential industry, in that it results in the production of the food necessary to a country’s existence, and at the same time it is the least remunerative industry to those engaged in it. In such countries’ as Egypt, Russia, and Ireland, where agriculture is practically the sole industry, the amount of poverty, with its attendant evils, is notorious. The manufacturing countries, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States of America, are striking proofs of prosperity. It is only from secondary industries that prosperity comes. Australia, therefore, must do something to create and encourage those industries, and we must ask ourselves by what methods we can best do what is necessary. The number of people who could obtain profitable employment on the land in Australia is far below the population necessary to hold this country, and, consequently, diverse industries are essential. We should ask ourselves whether the sys-tern of Protection, which has been given a good trial in Australia, achieves the desired result. Personally, I think we should give the bounty system a trial, because I believe it would produce that result without placing an undue load upon the primary producer. If it is recognised as a national necessity that secondary industries should be encouraged, it is only common sense to strive to distribute the burden over the whole of the community, instead of placing it upon a section of the people. I hold that the bounty system would do that in a fairer and better way than Protection does. Under our system of Protection one section of the community had to pay for bringing these secondary industries into existence and keeping them going. Many of them are very admirable industries, and one of them in particular I would be very loath to injure. I feel sure that the Free Traders would think twice before they would take action to sweep away every means of encouraging our secondary industries, if they believed that the men engaged in those industries would thereby become unemployed. If we did such a thing an outcry would go up from every city and from all the States. Free Trade is a totally impossible policy in a country like this. I think it is impossible anywhere in the world, and even in England the people seem to be abandoning their Free Trade ideas and have anti-dumping laws in operation. Recognising that the one Free Trade country in the world is not so enamoured of Free Trade as it was in the past, we may be quite sure that it would be unwise, in a high-wage country like Australia, even to think of Free Trade. I am in favour of establishing and supporting secondary industries, and I am endeavouring to face the problem of the best way to bring them into existence. The whole of the people, as far as I can judge, would pay the bounties, and the burden of creating and fostering secondary industries, such as wire-making, netmaking, the building of tractors, and so forth, would not fall entirely upon the farmers and other users of those commodities, but upon the whole community.
– The community would not have to contribute anything, because there would be nothing to contribute to. The industries would be dead.
– I cannot agree with that statement. If the bounty were big enough it would suffice. If the whole community had to pay for supporting a secondary industry, the Government and Parliament would be more careful to see that the industry acted fairly towards other industries that received no help. I am quite sure that Senator Elliott has not thought out this matter, or he would not ask the farmers in the Wimmera and the Mallee, who are: working for twelve hours a day, to pay extra taxes in order to provide a high rate of wage and short hours for the workers in the cities.
– I have used that asa Free Trade argument.
– 1> am using ifr as an argument in favour of the payment of bounties, and I think it is a logical argument. It is a matter of common justice as between one worker and another, and the question is whether it is fair to impose a greater burden upon one section of the community than upon another in order to create what w« all recognise as necessary industries. I think we can give this measure a wel-“ come and a trial, in the hope that it will do for Australian industries all that is expected of it.
The Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Earle), in his second-reading speech, referred to the rabbit pest in Australia. As one who has a farm - or as Senator Lynch would say, the farm has me - and has financed it for a decade or more, I can. speak from experience of the difficulties of keeping land free from this notorious pest. In order to cope with the evil properly one not only requires the articles referred to in the Bill, but must be at work continuously destroying the rabbits within the fences. The western State was at one time free from the pest, and we thought that it would always be free, unless the rabbits were imported over the sea. This little animal, with such hardy habits, was able, however, to work its way over the dry interior of Australia to the more fertile western coast. It was thought at one time that that was impossible. I am farming in one of the eastern parts of the wheat belt of Western Australia, and I can speak with some experience of what the rabbit pest means there. Senator DrakeBrockman’s land, I understand, is farther west, and is free from the pest, so he has not yet experienced what those in the eastern portions of the State have suffered for a number of years, and must continue to suffer in the future unless they can get wire netting at a. reasonable price. The farmer of Western Australia will undoubtedly welcome this measure of relief in a very grateful and proper manner. It comes very well from a Chamber that d’oes not include any members of the Country party. The Senate consists, with two exceptions, of Nationalist members and we can say that we have done a great deal more for the man on the land than has the so-called Country party in the other House. The fact should be put on record that the Government is. proving its claim that it is representative of all sections of the community that it does not exist simply for the manufacturers, that its eye is not fixed, only on the town workers, and that it does not represent the capitalist or the worker alone, but stands for the whole community. I think the various measures that have been brought in from time to time show that claim to be a genuine and an earnest one. If the bounty system proves successful, as I anticipate it will, I hope it will be extended as soon as possible.
– Is there not a bounty on the production of oil in New South Wales?
– Yes, but that is hardly a fair example of the working of a bounty. The shale oil produced in New South Wales has to come into competition with kerosene from the oil wells of various countries. The oil from the wells is produced very much more cheaply than oil from shale, and, therefore, shale oil has a very hard struggle in any country to compete with well oil.
Reference has been made to the granting of a bounty on. the manufacture of tractors, and to the part that tractors may reasonably be expected to play in the development of agricultural industry in this State. I would like to give the Senate some information which has come to me through being the possessor of a tractor, which is working on my farm in Western Australia. I do so because I recognise that there is a profound lack of information on this subject, and becauseI want to say a word for the makers of tractors in Australia, with a view to showing that our engineers are by no manner of means inferior to the engineers of other countries. In nothing that I know of have they demonstrated their ability beyond any manner of doubt so much as in the making of tractors. That may sound a somewhat presumptuous or ambitious claim to put forward when we remember the standing of. the great engineering countries of the world, and particularly when we consider the position of Great Britain in that connexion, and the achievements of American andFrench engineers.
-Some of the men holding the biggest positions in several of those concerns are Australians.
-I am glad to hear that ; but we have proof here in Victoria of the quality of the work of the Australian engineer.. It cannot be said in. this connexion that I am actuated by a desire to “boost” my own particular State, because I am referring to Victoria. Engineers in Victoria have demonstrated their ability to build this complicated machine, and have proved, beyond doubt, in open competition, that they are second to none in this business! Some years ago I made inquiries regarding the making of tractors. Six years ago I went to Europe, and, while in France,where tractors were much in use in connexion with the war, I took every opportunity available to gather information. I had in my mind the purchase of a tractor, and I was anxious to get the best possible make. Knowing how much older the engineering industry and engine building were in other countries than inAustralia, I was anxious to see all that was to be seen at the battle front. I knew that France was well advanced in the motor industry. I saw a number of different makes of tractors both in France and England. Later I continued my investigations in America. I went to various manufactories, and I again had a good opportunity of seeing what engineering firms in that country could do in the way of building tractors. When I came back to Australia I saw the various makers of tractors here, and I want to say that right in the State of Victoria we have builders of tractors who are second to none. At Burnley a man named MacDonald makes a splendid machine which, in open competition, did itself great credit when pitted against engines from other countries, including Great Britain and America. The Jelbart tractor, which is manufactured at Ballarat, was successful when competing against American and British machines at Werribee in a test conducted under very strict conditions, and supervised by Government officials. Everything was done in an open manner, and every opportunity “was given for the competing machines to demonstrate their general utility. The Australian machine undoubtedly proved its superiority over those manufactured in. other countries, and I am glad to know that the Government have recognised the necessity of doing everything possible to encourage the industry by removing the duty and paying a bounty in order that Australian machines may be placed on the market at a reasonable price. When in Western Australia recently, in company with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), a visit was paid to soldier settlements, and we found that American, and not Australian, machines were employed in cultivating the land. It is difficult to understand why preference should have been given to imported tractors when the Australian machines clearly demonstrated their superi ority at the Werribee test. The American machine on that occasion was so unsatisfactory that it did not complete the work which it was supposed to do.
– Machines are usedin tree-pulling in the south-western portion of Western Australia.
– I am not dealing with tree-pulling machines, but with those used in cultivating the soil. Treepulling machines are different in construction, and I am speaking of agricultural implements with internal combustion engines which are used in place of horse teams. The proper and patrictio course for us to pursue is to encourage our secondary industries, as is proposedunder this Bill, which provides that, instead of making one section of the community bear the whole burden, the cost shall be shared by the community., When the test of tractors was made at Werribee, Mr. Darbyshire, who was the resident engineer at Kalgoorlie in connexionwith the Trans-Australian railway, was asked to report on the test. His report, which is dated 2nd October, 1918, was submitted to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and reads -
Trial of Tractors : State Experimental Farm, Werribee, 19th and 20th September, 1918.
In accordance with your instructions I attended at these trials, and have to advise as fol lows: -
Nine tractors were entered for competition : -
Out of the nine types of tractors only two, viz., Bates Steel Mule and the Cleveland tractor, were new varieties, all the others being various adaptations of those previously seen.
The only one that I consider suitable for useon railway construction is that made by Jelbart Company, Ballarat; this, I am certain, could be made of great use on a job large enough to justify the initial cost. (Signed) John Darbysiiire,
Five Australian, three American, and one British machine competed. Two of the Australian machines were made by Mr. McDonald, of Burnley, Victoria, two by the Sunshine Harvester Company, also of Victoria, and one by Jelbart Limited, of Ballarat. The competing machines were of different weight, and mightbe termed light tractors suitable for cultivation. The full particulars of the test are as follow: -
Motor Tractor Ploughing.
A preliminary report of the motor tractor ploughing held at Werribee on 19th and 20th inst. has been handed to the secretary of the society. The total time taken up in ploughing includes turning at each end, but not delays due to accident stoppages. Further tests are to be made at the University Engineering School next week. The result is as follows: -
The Jelbart, an Australian-made machine, was first, and a machine manufactured bv Mr. McDonald, of Burnley, second, whilst the American machine was a poor third, although the American makers had three in the competition.
– Was the test based on general utility or oil consumption?
– Everything was taken into consideration, and points were awarded on acres ploughed, ploughing time, fuel consumption, water consumption, acres ploughed per hour, and fuel per acre gallon. It will be seen, therefore, that Australian manufacturers have done something of which we should all be proud; but they cannot be expected to go to tremendous expense in perfecting machines and placing them on the market unless they receive some encouragement.
– How do the prices compare ?
– I am not in a position to give the latest quotations; but the price I paid for my machine was reasonable when compared with those quoted by other makers.
– Was it dearer?
– Buying a tractor is like buying a motor car, as the purchaser of a motor has to pay considerably more for a Rolls-Royce than for a Ford. But taking everything into consideration, I was quite prepared to pay what I did for an Australian machine which, after five years’ work, has proved to me that I received good value for my money.
– Is the Australian machine the Rolls-Royce in tractors?
– Yes; that is a good name for it.
– And the honorable senator believes in wiping them out?
– I do not advocate anything of the kind, and I hope Senator Elliott will do as much as I have done in supporting Australian manufactures.
– Will the honorable senator still continue to purchase them?
– I am not likely to need another for a long time. I have one now. I speak of my own experience with this desirable Australian invention. I am satisfied that it will be of the greatest assistance to the primary producers of Australia, and will be specially valuable at the two busy seasons of the year when the crop is being put in, and when it is being taken off; work that has to be done as quickly as possible.
– With certain honorable senators, I welcome the change that has taken place from the Government point of view. It is only a few months ago, comparatively speaking, since I had the honour to present to this Senate a petition from certain organizations in New South Wales representing the primary producing interests, praying the Government to take into consideration the effect of the high Tariff duties imposed by the Government upon those interests.I regretted exceedingly at the time that, despite the efforts made by myself and other (honorable senators, a reduction of duties was not secured, owing to the hostility displayed by the Government towards the prayer of the petition. The items enumerated in the schedule to the present Bill were only some of those mentioned by the petitioners, and on which lower duties were asked for. Whilst I welcome this belated conversion of the Government to the necessity of reducing the duties on these particular items, I regret that the Government have not seen fit to go a good deal further, and reduce the duties upon a number of other items that are equally important from the point of view of the primary interests of the Commonwealth. If the Government think that adequate protection can be given by -means of bounties to these industries, they might extend similar treatment to the other industries I have mentioned. For my part I do not altogether like the bounty system, although I recognise that it, at- least, enables the people of Australia to know just how much they are paying for the degree of protection given, whereas under a high protective Tariff there is no means of ascertaining in any circumstances how much the people have to pay. It is an easy matter for a Parliament to impose duties of 30, 40, or 50 per cent, on a particular commodity, but it is quite impossible to say what proportion pf a duty is passed on as added cost to the consumer.
– At one time we used to hear that it was the foreigner who paid the duty.
– We have all heard that, but at last Protectionists even of the calibre of the Minister in charge of this Bill (Senator Earle) have come to recognise that, after all, it is the consumer and not the foreigner, who pays. Under the bounty system it is possible to estimate almost to a shilling what the protection is costing the people, and what is the effect in the way of increased prices on the consumer.
– Who pays under the bounty system ?
– The whole of the people of the country, whereas under a protective Tariff the duty is passed on to the unfortunate consumer or user of a particular commodity. The Minister in charge recognises that any system of Protection must increase the price to the consumer. It is because of this that the
Government now propose to reduce the duties upon the items mentioned in the schedule to this Bill; otherwise there would be no reason .for this measure at all. The fact is that the farmers want to obtain these particular articles at a lower cost than is possible under the present protective’ Tariff, and the Government are anxious, and properly so, to meet their wishes. And that the manufacturers may not be called upon to meet unfair competition from overseas they are now to be helped by means of a bounty. The proposal has my undivided support. I congratulate the Government upon the step which they are now taking. I believe that our. primary producers will be able to get some of their requirements a,t a much cheapen rate than has been possible hitherto. I believe also that the Australian manufacturers will not suffer in any way, because they will be adequately protected by the bounties. Even at this late season I congratulate the Ministry and those who stood so manfully by the Government when others of us were attempting to secure a reduction of these duties in accordance with the prayer of the petition which I had the honour to present, and I congratulate particularly the Minister in charge, who then was the most bitter opponent of those unfortunate petitioners. In the circumstances, like Senator Drake-Brook - man, I cannot refrain from gloating a little over the change that has come over the situation, brought about, no doubt, by the necessities of the times.
– I was turning over in my mind’ just now whether I would waste the time* of the Senate for a single moment,,, while this Bill is being dealt with, because.I have a very vivid recollection that while the Tariff schedule was going through the; Senate, when the honorable senator who used to sit in the seat lower than yours, Mr. President, used to say, “The ‘Ayes’ will pass to the right and the ‘Noes’ to the left,” supporter’s of the Government would always cross over to the left, and I am a little bit fearful that if I delay the Bill by speaking now honorable senators will rush across and defeat this’ Bill through’ sheer habit of mind. So I am in fear and trembling as to what may happen ; yet I am tempted to speak. It is a real and genuine pleasure to think that, at last, we have got into the position of being able to say, “I told you so.”
Some people are wise after the event. We who in those days spoke for the unfortunate primary producers were in the position of being- wise both before and after the event. We are glad to think that the Government have come to the conclusion that, after all, our statement of the case was right. The position of the consumers to-day is the same as it was last year. There is no difference. Why, then, this change on the part of the Government? Is it because there is the phantom of the ballot-box in sight? Is it because that, in the case of some honorable senators, there is the vision of their own political funeral procession ? Is. that the reason? There must be some reason, because, ‘as I have stated, the case for the producers to-day is no stronger than it was last year. I do not know really what has happened., but I am thankful, even at this late hour, to be able to lick up the crumbs that fall from Dives’ table. That is all. I will not say anything about the change that has come over Senator Earle. Nor shall I speak of the remorse of a stricken conscience. I have been struck by that kind of thing myself. A tender conscience is always a good sign. There is always hope for the man who is genuinely sorry for his past shortcomings. It is only for the braggart who knows he is wrong, but will not confess, that there is no hope. But, of course, I have no desire to “ rub it in.” There is light coming. At last the consumers are going to get a chance. This Bill is going to help the man with the hoe; the man who, last session, was burdened so heavily under the tariff which my friend, Senator E. D. Millen, felt obliged to refer to in the third person singular as “ It is said,” not “ I say so.” Even Senator Pearce adopted the same attitude:’ “ It has been suggested,” not “ I said so” or “What I said in 1907.” If they did that, they would put the show away. I am pleased and glad to see bur vindication in this measure, even if only in part. I am afraid that the Government have been induced to introduce it chiefly because the phantom of the ballot-box has appeared before them. They have seen that they must come to heel at last. They have seen that there is some reason in the contention put up by a small but sturdy section in the Senate. It has had to be listened to, but J believe it has been listened to by the Government with the ballot-box illuminating their imagination.
I do not know that I would be in order, except, perhaps, in a very indirect way, in pointing out who is primarily responsible for this proposal. It may be said that the Tariff Board is responsible for it. Its recommendation is only what it should be, but it does not go far enough. I consider that the Tariff Board is wrongly constituted. There is a representative of the Government on it, a representative of the manufacturers, and lo and behold, a representative of the commercial community or commercial activities. Where is the consumer represented on the Board ? Yet this Bill is brought down to help;- what? The commercial activities of the country? Not much! The Government would not introduce a Bill with that avowed object. They bring down this Bill, and they tell us plainly and pride themselves on the fact that it is to help the consumers of these articles. But the consumers and producers of the country are not represented on the Tariff Board. Why? Their interests, apparently, are not considered worth while. Speaking comparatively we could count the people representing the commercial activities of the country on our fingers and toes, yet the consumers, who are the overwhelming majority of the people, did not get a look in when the Tariff Board was being constituted. That is why I say that this proposal coming from the Government is one for which we should be thankful, even in the attenuated shape in which it appears. I accept it as an indication and warrant of the beginning o£ better things. I do not hope for very much from the Tariff Board, because there are two avowed Protectionists on it to-day. If honorable senators will look at the Tariff schedule they will find that there are duties of 40 and 50 per cent, on articles which, as Senator DrakeBrockman has pointed out, are just as necessary for the expansion of the internal industries of the country, as are wire, wire netting, and tractors. The Government have not a word to say about the reduction of duties on those articles. Why? Because the Tariff Board stands in the way.
I welcome this measure as an evidence of something better to come. When we were considering the Tariff, I was informed by the Census Department that the number of persons engaged in primary production, in the Commonwealth was 235,000, and of that number the wheatgrowers represent 80 per cent. These are the men who are trying to wring a living out of the lighter and drier soils of the country. It is proposed to help them to the extent of three items. The proposal with respect to wire netting and wire will help them a little, but the men engaged in a large way will be helped most. Who, amongst the small men, can buy a tractor ? How many returned soldiers can buy a tractor? The Government have recognised for the first time the necessity of giving the rural industries of the country a chance. There are 200,000 people in this country engaged in the production of wheat alone. This is the largest section, bar none, engaged in any one industry in Australia. I have been hammering for years in this Chamber to secure succour and support for them, because I know something of the game, at least- I think I do, considering I have lost so much over it. Let these people step up to the ballot-box, and let us hear what they will have to say to the present Government. It is no wonder that the Country party is strong in the Parliament of this country. There would be no room for such a party if only the Government did the fair thing to the men who are hard up against it. I do not refer to those who are living in established centres on good land, but to those who are hard up against it on the vast areas on the frontiers of civilization in this country; the men who are living in lean-to shanties, and have to face the difficulties of the pioneer. The only relief they will get under this measure will be in connexion with wire and wire netting. They will not buy any tractors. Let the Government go a step further, and say that duties on farm implements coming from America and Canada shall be revised, and they will do some good. Take, for instance, harvesters. The 5-ft. harvester is the lowest in price. It cost £75 twelve or fourteen years ago. Its price to-day is £130. The price of an 8-ft. or 10-ft. harvester to-day is about £250 - the price of a farm itself. On that machine, the producer has to pay nearly £100 in duty. What is the Government going to do about that? We can never hold our own in the production of when i unless the cost of production is reduced to such a point as will enable our wheatfarmers to live and thrive, and, above all, to be contented. The essence of the success of an industry is content. When we find grumbling and murmuring in any industry, there is always something wrong, and especially if the workers are industrious. Who will dare to say that the farmers of the country are not industrious? They are the only people who are working without clocks or watches. The farmer’s only clock is, the time it takes him to rest sufficiently to turn out and have another go at his work. There are some fortunate ones amongst the farmers, but the men who are making this country, and particularly in the areas to which I have referred, are men for whom clocks and watches were never made nor intended. I have said that it is not to be wondered at that there “is a Country party in this Parliament. Things do not happen in this country by accident. The Government will say to the farmers, “We have done this for you,” and the reply will be, “It was scarcely worth your while. Do something decent.”
My proposition is that a trade arrangement should be entered into at once with Canada and with America to allow farming machines made in those countries to come in here, Canada and America at the same time permitting the entry of our staple products, such as wool, hides, &c. What is wrong with our directors of industry if they cannot stand up against Canadian and American competition? Our manufactures are protected to the extent of from 40 to 70 and 80 per cent, effective protection. I say that the man who claims that he must have an effective rate of duty of 70 or 80 per cent, is fooling the people, or he does not know what he is talking about. He is fooling the people when he says that the Australian workman is the equal or the superior of any other and at the same time thathis industry must be protected to the. extent of 70 per cent, against competitors in- Canada or America. The two statements contradict each other. The time has come when the Government - and they have no time to lose - should do something substantial in this matter. They have shown that they have relented. The Senate has had many knocks in its time, and many allegations levelled against it, but it appears that we may begin to enjoy the pleasurable sensation of having some regard paid to the views of this Chamber. The Government have been brought to their knees, and show a desire to modify the Tariff. Let them go a bit further. They will be asked, having done -.so much, to do what remains to be done. “The farmers are the men who stand be- hind the ballot-box, and one of them will say, “ I got a bit of black wire ; you will gee it in the shed, there.” He will then point to one machine and another, and so on, and will ask, “What have the Government done in connexion with these machines, where a saving worth while could be effected?” The Government must be ready with an answer. The farmer will say, “You are not going to get my vote until you have done something substantial. I have to stand up against the American, Canadian, and even Chinese, competition in the production of wheat for sale in the markets of the world, and smooth words and palaver will suit me no longer. Why should you want to shield these men in Sydney, Melbourne, and other cities?” That is a question which will loudly demand an answer. I ask why the Government should do this. I saw Mr. McKay and others come here when the Tariff was under consideration, but no farmer came here. He had too much to do. He had no time to come here; but the well-to-do men to whom I have referred had plenty of time
This proposal indicates that the Government are relenting, and see that they were wrong in passing our extortionately high Tariff. It will afford a little relief ; but it will provoke the question from those who have votes, “ Why not go further and give us something substantial?” I welcome the Bill, and hope it will be carried. I have no reason to doubt that it will . be the forerunner of something more substantial to come. Without hazarding or injuring the prospects or destiny of any individual workman or director of industry in this country, I want to see a lower Tariff, because I wish to put these men on their mettle. We are not going to bear their burden for ever. If they choose to be lazy and shiftless, and shelter themselves behind an unnecessarily high Tariff wall, and grow flabby at the expense of the people on the frontier, they will not do so with my vote. I shall put them on their mettle as I have been put on my mettle.- I want the Government to take the hint, because if they do not they will know where I stand in this regard. The Government will have the chance of sizing up the popularity of the move they have made. But it will open wider the eyes of people in the country, and the ballot-boxes will have their effect on any party in this country that will not treat the workers on the land, sympathetically. If Mr. McKay were in America or in Canada he would get no protection, or only a trifling amount of protection-. Those countries have practically abolished the forms of protection that we are keeping up here. I say that at is time we reviewed our policy. The time has come for us to resolve in our minds whether on not we should adhere to the old maxims. As a political neophyte in this country, I put a certain faith in that chapter in Genesis, “ Let industry be protected, and let the country prosper.” But I never went mad over it. The time has gone by for us to say to ourselves, “ Put on a high duty, and let the country prosper.” What unadulterated hog-wash! How can the people on the land employ men and pay decent wages when they have to give £100 for an agricultural machine? The Bill indicates a death-bed repentance on the Government’s part. I was pleased to see the beaming smile on the face of Senator Gardiner when he looked across the chamber at Senator de Largie, realizing that the good old cause for which he has fought was being revived. I welcome the Bill, and I hope that the Government regard it as only one instalment of the relief that they must give to the people whose interests they set out in this Bill to serve.
– I cannot resist the temptation to remind Senator Lynch that it would not ‘be the first occasion on which he has made converts. He has taken a part in the framing of several Tariffs, and I well remember the honorable senator and his attitude in the debate on the 1907 Tariff. Let us see what he said on that occasion. I turn to Hansard of the 5th July, 1907, and I notice that in the course of the
Address-in-Reply debate, Senator Lynch said -
The Tariff we have had in the past has not satisfied the adherents of either shade of fiscal belief. It has not been a decent sample either of fish, flesh, or good red herring. I therefore welcome the announcement of the intention of the Government to introduce a Tariff which will give real protection to the Australian people in their industrial enterprises, which will be the means of providing much employment, and will, at the same time, secure an increased rate of wages to those engaged in carrying on the industries of the Commonwealth.
I was heretic enough to interject, “ The Tariff alone would not do that,” and Senator Lynch went on -
I am aware of that. …I am indifferent as to where new industriesare started as a result of an improved Tariff. For my part, they may be started at Cunnamulla, Port Darwin, Sydney, or Melbourne, so long as they are started on Australian soil. I want to see a start made in this direction without further delay, though I recognise that Western Australia cannot gain, and may lose to some extent by their establishment in other States.
When one turns to the item, “Agricultural implements,” he finds that honorable senators moved to make them free, but Senator Lynch merely made an interjection. It was remarked by Senator McGregor that the Committee had become accustomed to the eloquence of the appeal on behalf of the agriculturist, the widow, and the washerwoman, and Senator Lynch added, “ And the poor importer.” I look in vain to find him voting among the “Ayes.” He did not vote for those articles to be admitted free. When the Government tried to impose a lower duty he voted for that. Even when it was proposed to make the poor washerwoman’s mangle free, the honorable senator wanted to put a duty on it!
– Was he farming then?
– I do not know. If some honorable senators have stumbled by. the way since that time, Senator Lynch should not be the first to throw stones, because we have probably only followed his example. The adjuration he gave in 1907 has had effect.
– At times during this debate, I have almost wondered whether I had been transported to those upper regions where there is more joy over one sinner that repents than over the ninety and nine that need no repentance. But what 1 cannot understand is that, rejoicing in the conversion of the Minister, honorable senators have nevertheless gone out of their way to trounce the Government for lowering the duties. One would think, to hear them speak, that the Government’s hands have been forced. I was not aware that any of those honorable senators had hitherto worked themselves into a passion on behalf of the primary producers. On the 28th June, I moved the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. It was clearly laid down in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government had decided that the primary producer needed more support, and was going to get it. The measure before us is the first that it has been possible to introduce to give effect to that policy. Speaking on behalf of the many primary producers in New South Wales, I express gratitude for this measure, but since gratitude has been defined as “a lively sense of favours to come,” I urge upon the Minister (Senator Earle) that before the debate closes he should assure us that the Government intend to go further than they have already gone in this direction. We are embarking upon an immigration movement for the purpose of settling men on the land, and it is necessary first to consider the question of the cost of engaging in primary production, because unquestionably the cost of agricultural machinery at present is so great that, combined with high freights and other high costs, men are leaving the land.
– If that is the case, how can you urge “ a million people for a million farms”?
– Because I am inspired with hope that these burdens will be lessened.
– They cannot live on hope.
– The Government are bringing the immigrants out, and the responsibility rests on the Ministry of the day to so frame their taxation policy that these heavy burdens will disappear. In New South Wales, since 1911, the number of persons engaged in industrial pursuits has decreased by no less than 13,000. This year there are 300 less holdings in New South Wales than there were last year, and at a recent meeting of farmers - men qualified to apeak upon the subject, and representing the most .reliable parts of New South Wales as far as wheat-growing is concerned - the opinion was expressed that it will be impossible to carry on wheatfarming on a large scale so long as the present high cost of agricultural machinery continues. The position is largely due to the taxation that the Commonwealth has imposed, not only upon the items on which duties are to be reduced, but on many others of greater importance to the men on the land, in the shape of cultivators, harrows, ploughs, reapers, threshers, harvesters, cheese presses, dairy coolers, refrigerators, &c. I hope that the Minister will remember that these are factors that have to be dealt with in order to encourage primary producers. There must be a reduction of that class of taxation which hits them and nobody else.
– I do not propose to discuss the merits or demerits of the proposed alterations in the Tariff, but the general policy of Tariff alteration at very’ short intervals. During the discussion on the New Zealand reciprocity treaty I happened to be in a position that precluded me from making any remarks at all, and I happened to be in the chair during the long discussion on the Tariff which was adopted as recently as last year.- That Tariff contained an innovation in the shape of an intermediate column, and it was avowed that it was for the purpose of enabling negotiations to be carried on with other countries on a reciprocal basis. We found in one case that came before us quite recently that the intermediate column was departed from, and that a new set of Tariff conditions was set up in connexion with a certain Dominion. I am under the disadvantage of not having been present during the introductory remarks of the Minister (Senator Earle), but here we have an absolute shaking down of the Tariff in some respects, and no guarantee that there will be no further breaches of the Tariff wall at very short intervals indeed. The Tariff - Board, it is true, was created at the instance of the Australian Parliament, and, I think, with the general concurrence of members of this Chamber; but- if the activities of that Board are to result in the adoption of a principle by virtue of which we are to have no stable Tariff conditions,.. a policy will have been embarked upon that will make ordinary commercial enterprise almost impossible. Honorable senators know how I have stood for stability in regard to the very instrument by virtue of which this Parliament exists, and how’ I have set my face against frequent breaches and alterations in the Constitution. In regard to the Tariff policy of the Commonwealth some almost similar element .of stability is necessary. If we are to have a revision of duties every’ session, what is going to be the fiscal policy of Australia, and what are enterprising manufacturers to do? Business men would have to look forward to a chronic state of instability, and ordinary commercial activities would be paralyzed.
– There is no indication of it.
– The policy which has been’ so readily adopted indicates to me that very frequent breaches will be made in the Tariff wall, which, I understood, was set up with the general concurrence of members of this Parliament.
– What was the Tariff Board created for?
– It was not created with any intention on my part that it should be constantly assaulting the Tariff erected by the Parliament of Australia.
– That is just the thing for which it was called into existence.
– If that is so, then I made a mistake in giving it my support, for I certainly did not believe that I was calling into existence an instrumentality which would have for its object an unstable fiscal policy for the Commonwealth.
– The Board brings the matter back to Parliament.
– With all due deference to the honorable senator, if Parliament is going to consent to constant revisions of the Tariff, it will be taking a retrograde step. Frequent alterations in our Tariff will introduce into our commercial and manufacturing life elements of instability which will make, not for progress, but for a condition of things which will paralyze industry and enterprise, with a consequent stagnation in regard to employment and national development. I do not intend to discuss the particular items in the schedule which are subject to revision of duties if this Chamber happens to give its consent. When the New Zealand Reciprocity
Treaty was before this Chamber I was precluded from making these remarks because I was occupying, temporarily, the President’s chair. My friend and colleague Senator Payne then addressed himself to this Chamber with regard to representations which had been made that the practical destruction of an Australian industry would be effected by the adoption of that Treaty. To show how necessary it is for us. to have stable conditions in regard to our fiscal policy, let me say, as Senator Payne is very well aware, that the Tasmanian members have, during the past week, been in receipt of representations in regard to that reciprocal Tariff from responsible public bodies which did not know that it was contemplated to make such a substantial -alteration in the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth. They have made representations to their members after the accomplished fact. I appeal for a policy of fiscal stability. The Australian Tariff was passed, with the assistance of this Chamber, as recently as December of last year, and already we have made one substantial breach in it, and are about to make ‘another. I will riot say that those breaches cannot be justified by arguments which certain honorable senators may adduce; but although I would willingly profess myself a Free Trader if we could be assured of fifty years of absolutely world-wide peace, I believe that in the interests of all sections of the producing community of Australia it is desirable to have manufactured within the territories of this Commonwealth all that the primary industries require for the preservation of those activities which are so beneficial to our national life. Where could we have obtained wire, wire netting, and ploughs during the war if we had not manufactured them ? It is necessary to have certain things in this busy and stricken world manufactured within the territory of the Commonwealth, and although Free Trade might give us cheap wire, cheap ploughs, cheap harvesters, and cheap tractors in times of peace, where could we obtain them in times of war? And we seem to be in a chronic state of war. Give me fifty years of peace tomorrow, and I will be a Free Trader; but who will guarantee me even five years of peace? I appeal to this Parliament to recognise the fact that in connexion with these industries, which are so necessary to Australia’s welfare’, we ought. to have some semblance of observance of the principle of Tariff stability.
.- I have listened with very much interest to Senator Bakhap, and although I cannot go so far as he, I agree that there should be reasonable stability in our fiscal policy. But it must be remembered that when Parliament, after very careful consideration, agreed to the creation of a Tariff, it was recognised that certain duties were more or less experimental. The war had so altered our conditions in Australia that, of necessity, when a big question like the Tariff came up for review, some items had to be introduced which were to a certain extent experimental, and if the Tariff Board had not been brought into existence, we might have been saddled with duties which, for many years, would have been a great hardship, especially to the producing sections of the community. I welcome the new departure in the Bill because of tlie relief it will give to the man on the land. If honorable senators will cast their minds back to the last session of this Parliament they will remember that many senators, I among them, fought very strongly against the imposition of very high duties on those things which are absolutely essential to the development of our land. Wire netting, barbed wire, and plain wire were recognised as three of the essentials in the development of the rural parts of Australia. I travel a good deal about Australia when I get the opportunity, and -I do not confine my travels to the towns and the cities, but try to get into the back-blocks. I have lived in a district where I have been in close touch with men who were the pioneers of that district, which is the wealthiest portion of the island of Tasmania. I know their . troubles, trials, and hardships, and it appals me, after an absence of two or three years from some of the outlying settlements, that when I go back to inspect them I find that, instead of progressing, they have either remained in the same position or, as happens in many cases, have got into a worse condition. On making inquiries as to the cause, I have found that on the limited means at their disposal, because of the excessive cost of wire netting and fencing, wire, they have been precluded from using the land to the best advantage. They have been unable to enclose their holdings and to reap the benefit that they should reasonably expect. I do not know so much about the outlying portions of the mainland as I do about my own State, but I will Bay of that State that there is only one hope for the reclamation of the land there, which is second to none when compared with any other land in Australia. It is now being rendered valueless by the depredations of rabbits, and the only remedy is to give the landholders an opportunity to get all the wire netting they require at a reasonable price, so that they may rabbit-proof their holdings and put a stop to the scourge from which they are suffering. It is difficult country to work. It is not like the huge areas that are free from timber on. the mainland. It was dense forest land when taken up, and the difficulties of the settlers are much greater than they would be on more open country on the mainland. We want to do all we can to insure that in the near future the men who have taken up land shall have an opportunity to so protect their holdings that they will be able to use them as nature intended, and produce something for the benefit of the people. Nothing will encourage the development of the country more than the cheapening of these requirements of the man on the land. The same statement applies, I know, tol the mainland, but I have been looking at the question mainly from the point of view of the men with whom I am acquainted in Tasmania, who have been battling ineffectively during the last few years because they have been handicapped by not being able to get these materials at a reasonable price. I think this measure is a step in the right direction.
– It is the thin edge of -the wedge.
– If the honorable senator can prove to me that it is the thin edge of a wedge that is going to be driven into :those portions of the Tariff that prevent the proper development of this country, I hope the wedge will be driven right home, but I take it he considers that the introduction of a wedge means danger to Australia. I cannot see any danger in this Bill. We know it is necessary that the lands of Australia should be utilized, for otherwise we cannot sup port a larger population than we have. How can we utilize these lands to lae fullest possible extent except by making provision for settlers to obtain commodities necessary for development at a price which they can afford to pay? If they cannot get these commodities at a price which they can afford to pay, the land will remain undeveloped. We ought not to impose heavy duties or legislative restrictions on commodities necessary for the development of the land, and we cannot do so without seriously retarding the progress of the Commonwealth. I would have welcomed the inclusion of one or two other items in the Bill, but I have to be content with what I find in the schedule. Personally, I think the Government have acted wisely. Although those who spoke in the same strain as I were not in a majority when the Tariff was being considered last year, yet their numbers were sufficient to cause the Government to think, and the result of consideration by the Government is seen in the schedule of the Bill. I heartily support the Bill and hope it will be productive of the good that can reasonably be expected from it.
.- I note the introduction of this measure with sorrow as a retrograde step on the part of the Government. When we agreed to the creation of a Tariff Board for the purpose of reviewing the Tariff, I certainly never contemplated anything of this nature. If ohe Tariff Board reported that any duties - even the duties on the commodities referred to in this Bill - were too high, and that the duties now proposed would be a proper measure of protection, I would unhesitatingly support the decision of the Board; but it has not come to the conclusion that there is too great a measure of protection given to these particular industries, because we are told that the difference is to toe made up toy a bounty. It is quite evident that the duties proposed in the schedule of the Bill are deliberately regarded both by the Board and the Government as an insufficient measure of protection. That was not what was contemplated by the creation of the Board.
– Why was the Board appointed?
– To conduct investigations in order to ascertain if the duties in the schedule were either too high or too low, and to make adjustments. It has not done so in this instance.
– How does the honorable senator know?
– If it has, why pay a bounty? It is quite clear that the Government and the Board have recognised that the duties are insufficient, and they proposeto meet the situation by paying a bounty. It was found during the war that the primary producers were in a difficult position, because they were practically unable to obtain at any price the articles they required, and an inducement was, therefore, held out by the Government for firms to establish industries on the understanding that if they did so they would receive adequate protection. The promises of politicians, however, axe as brittle as the proverbial pie-crust, and we have an example of that in this instance. Huge sums of money have been invested in industries, and within six months of the passing of the Tariff, which the Government considered was adequate to protect those industries, they have shown a complete change of front.
– That is not so.
– Manufacturers who established new industries in countries such as Australia are confronted with many difficulties. They are exposed to the danger of being crushed out of existence by the manufacturers in other oountries, who will sell at a loss or without a profit in order to compete with them. They have also to fight against the prejudice which some people have against local manufactures. We have been assured by Senator de Largie that Australianmade tractors, for instance, are excellent machines, that their quality is unsurpassed, and, probably because they are superior to imported machines, the prices are somewhat higher. The chief advantage of Protection in the form of Customs duties is that it tends to secure the whole ofthe home market to the local manufacturer. Under Protection a local manufacturer can accurately estimate the market he has to supply, and can reduce his overhead expenses by spreading them over a larger production; but when he has to compete with goods from abroad his overhead costs increase,because he has not the whole home market in which to operate. If he has the local market entirely at his disposal he knows what to expect in the form of bounties if such a system is in vogue. Under this proposal, however, he is absolutely in the dark, because he does not know what his market will be, or how many articles will be met with competition from outside. He cannot form any estimate of the bounties he will receive, because that will necessarily depend upon the quantity of goods he produces. How is manufacturing to be carried on on such a basis? It has been said that the primary producer has to carry on operations without any protection, but it must not be forgotten that in some directions he has advantages over other countries.
– Our wheat yield is below that of the Argentine.
– In what other country can wool equal to the Australian product be produced? In freights alone the outside manufacturer has a great advantage, because ships come to Australia sometimes in ballast to take back our wheat and wool. In some instances vessels are prepared to accept freight for the outward trip at a rate that is altogether unprofitable, and goods from America and Europe are shipped to Australia at lower rates than are sometimes charged on the products of Australian manufacturers shipped from Victoria to Western Australia or Queensland. In addition to that, we are saddling them with the burden of our Industrial Courts, and it is impossible for them to compete with foreign manufacturers if they have such difficulties to contend with without protective duties. It is assumed by some that this proposal will be the means of enabling primary producers to obtain their requirements at a lower cost; but I wouldremind honorable senators that the country which was threatening to capture the trade supremacy of the whole world was a Protectionist country. The manufacturers of Germany were able, under a system of high Protection, to establish their industries, and yet they produced not only sufficient to meet their own requirements, but to develop foreign trade to such an extent that it was practically impossible for any other country to compete with them. It is admitted that our products are as good as those of other countries, and it seems to me that exactly the same process of development should be expected here. The manufacture of traction, engines is not confined to one particular firm, as Senator de Largie has pointed out that there are at least eight firms in Victoria alone producing similar articles, and the competition which follows must lead to a reduction in price to the consumers.
– To what is the honorable senator referring?
– The production of our factories. Our local output cannot increase if we allow the market to be flooded with foreign manufactures. Our manufacturers have not had an opportunity to prove what they could accomplish in the way of reducing costs under a system of Protection. I say that it has not been shown to the satisfaction of the Tariff Board or the Government that the measure of protection we gave them was excessive. If it were shown, I would, without hesitation, support a reduction.
– Have the manufacturers ever admitted that?
– The Board has to decide what is a fair thing, and it has said that the original proposition was fair.’ The duties have, notwithstanding, been reduced in certain directions, and an attempt is to be made to meet the situation by the payment of bounties. It is an unfair and fraudulent way in which to treat those who, on the Government’s assurance that adequate protection would be given in the form of Customs duties, have sunk hundreds of thousands of pounds in establishing works for the production of these commodities.
– If time permitted I should like to deal somewhat at length with the points raised by honorable senators; but as the Government are anxious to pass the Bill, I shall deal only briefly with a few of the matters which have been raised during the debate. Senator Gardiner referred to the desirableness of the investigations by the Tariff Board being open to the public; but I think, on reflection, he will realize that that would be quite impracticable. Business firms having trade secrets naturally do not wish them to be disclosed, and would certainly refuse to place all the facts concerning their industries before the Board if the inquiry were to be open to the public. The Board has, therefore, the power to conduct its investigations in camera in order to obtain all the information necessary. Senator Drake-Brockman was fairly consistent during the Tariff debate in this Chamber in his advocacy of low Customs duties, and I do not think exception can be taken to his criticism of theBill. Senator de Largie is in favour of the substitution of bounties for protective duties, but that is a very debatable topic and one which I cannot deal with at length. The honorable senator will realize that to pay bounties generally would involve the expenditure of tens of millions of pounds.
– Why make a change of policy in this instance?
– I am afraid the honorable senator did not hear, what I said in. moving the second reading of the Bill, because I mentioned that bounties were to be paid from accumulated surplus revenue. The Government, in this instance, will be distributing ?3,200,000 which has been taken from that source, and the primary producers of Australia will benefit to the extent of approximately ?500,000. Senator Duncan, I think, takes the proverbial “ bun “ for inconsistency on Tariff matters. He is always most, jubilant if he thinks he can see some change of opinion on the part of those who consistently advocate Protection, and yet the honorable senator, of all men in this Chamber, when the Tariff schedule was under discussion, was the most extravagant in asking for Protection.
– That statement is deliberately untrue.
-(Senator the Hon. T. Givens).- Order! The honorable senator must withdraw that remark.
– Mr. President, if I am to be charged with having done something which I did not do-
– The honorable senator must not argue with the Chair.
– Very well, Mr. President, I withdraw the statement, but I hope the Minister will stick to the truth all the same.
– Senator Duncan is very sensitive where his own feelings are concerned. If he had the same regard for other honorable senators’ feelings there would be no occasion to disturb him about his own. During the Tariff debate he was an extravagant advocate of heavy duties upon the manufacture of those commodities in which his electors were particularly interested. He wanted the Government to impose a duty of6d. per lb. on kapok, a material used in the manufacture of the poor man’s bed.
– I always try to assist the primary producer.
– If the primary producer depended upon the honorable senator’s efforts I am afraid he would be very much neglected. Of all requests that was the most extraordinary I have ever heard. The honorable senator wanted a duty of 6d. per lb. on kapok, in order that a few of his electors might obtain a little extra benefit through the disposal of their scouredwool.
– I have always been under the impression that wool was the product of the whole of Australia.
– Another honorable senator who has been most pronounced in his denunciation and, shallI say, misrepresentation of the attitude of the Government is Senator Lynch, who has charged the Government with a change of front and hacking down, which, of course is not true. The Government, while giving relief in respect of certain Tariff items in this Bill, propose to substitute bounties, which will adequately protect the local industry. If honorable senators could only forget their personal interests for a few moments, and look at this question from thepoint of view of the nation, their criticism would be much more beneficial.
– I hope the Minister is not imputing personal motives to me.
– The honorable senator was once a pronounced Protectionist, but he went on to the land. Since then he has become a Free Trader, and wants agricultural machinery and all farm implements to be admitted free.
– I must ask the Minister to withdraw that imputation. In the course of my speeches I have never urged, or even hinted at, the necessity of bringing inagricultural implements free.
-The honorable senator must not proceed to argue the question. If he considers the remark of the Minister offensive, I must ask the Minister to withdraw it. I cannot be the judge of whether a statement is correct or otherwise. I shouldbe sorry if I were to he placed in that position.
– Then I ask that the Minister be required to -withdraw the in correct imputation thatI was in favour of the free importation of agricultural, implements.
– If the honorable senator objects to my saying that he was in favour of removing the duty on agricultural machinery, I withdraw the statement.
– You have no option.
– if he objects to that statement, then I am afraid I have misunderstood his attitnde in this Chamber.One phase of the debate that rather interested me was the attitude of those honorable senators who spoke on behalf of the rural interests. How they can ask people to go out upon the land is a puzzle to me, because they are forever representing that life upon the land is something to be avoided at all costs. They are continually declaring that the rural industry must be most carefully nursed, and that it demands from the Government more consideration than any other industry. I say that is a wrong policy. The land workers have received very considerable assistance at the hands of the Government all through. Even within the last few months the Government have voted £250,000 conditionally on the States spending a similar amount for the construction of roads in the several States. There is £500,000 in one direction alone. We have also decided to pay about £150,000 to assist the beef industry. In this Bill we are providing for a remission of duties to the amount of about £350,000, and in a Bill to follow another £200,000 for bounties to allow agricultural workers to obtain wire, wire netting, galvanized iron, and tractor engines as cheaply as they can be manufactured in foreign countries. I take an entirely different view of the position of the man on the land. I only wish I had a fine tract of country of my own. I would be much happier and more contented than I am at the present time, for I would have something to look forward to when I had finished with public life. Senator Bakhap seemed to have some perturbation concerning the possibility of periodical alterations of the Tariff. I think I can assure the honorable ‘ senator, and the manufacturers of Australia, that no interference or alteration will be lightly permitted. The present alterations are fully justified. I have the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) that the manufacturers who will be affected by this Bill are satisfied that they will be in exactly the same position as if the protective duties had remained untouched.
– In other words, we are cutting off a piece from the bottom of the blanket in order to sew it on the top.
– This is being done for the benefit of the agricultural workers. We are, in effect, giving them £200,000 in order to assist them to carry on their industry. In the face of these facts I cannot understand why honorable senators should protest. m
– We are all congratulating the Government.
- ‘Senator Elliott appeared to take the view that there was a breach of good’ faith on the part of the Government with the manufacturers of Australia. That is not the case at all. I have the Minister’s assurance that, in all the negotiations that have taken place, the manufacturers have expressed themselves as being satisfied that the bounties proposed will place them in the same position as they would have been in if these Tariff items had been .left untouched. Some honorable senators have not been too charitable in their references to the Government. Senator lynch, of course, is never charitable. During the last six months I have not heard him say anything that was not condemnatory of the Ministry, and I am quite sure that, during the coming election, his speeches will he most extensively quoted throughout Australia hy opponents of the Government as evidence that the Government should not hold office any longer. His speech to-night, therefore, has been nothing new.
– Then you do not want an expression of independent opinion.
– We do not want unfair condemnation of legitimate acts by the Administration. I submit the Bill with every confidence, and I hope it will be speedily carried into law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without request ; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220921_senate_8_100/>.