10th Parliament · 1st Session
The . President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Adjournment while Censure Motion is Debated.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the
I feel that in justice to the Senate and to honorable senators individually I should make a statement with regard to the events of last week, in view of an attempt that has been made in a section of the press to convey the impression that those who were not then in attendance were neglectful of their public duties. Last Wednesday -week the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives gave notice of a motion of censure. The Prime Minister accepted it, immediately moved the adjournment of the House of Representatives, and notified me, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, of what had’ taken place. When a government is challenged on a motion of censure, if the motion is bona fide and not merely put forward for the purpose of wasting time, the government under challenge does not proceed with legislation or with major acts of administration. That is the time honored custom in all countries where British parliamentary practice obtains, and in accordance , with it I moved the adjournment of the Senate. It was impossible for me to forecast what would be the probable length of the debate in another place; but as it was the desire of the Government that it should not occupy more than a week I moved that the Senate at its rising adjourn until the following Wednesday. The motion was carried and the Senate adjourned. In pursuance of their public duties honorable senators naturally watched proceedings in another place, and before the end of the week was reached it was obvious to them that the debate would extend over the following week, and in the performance of their public duties they took advantage of the opportunity to return to their own States. It must be remembered that all honorable senators do not reside in Canberra, nor do they all live in Melbourne. During the first week-end I received several telegrams from senators asking me if there was any necessity for them to return to Canberra by the following Wednesday. Irealized that if I replied in the affirmative I should be bringing them from their homes only to hoar the same adjournment motion moved - that there would have to be a further adjournment until the present week. That would have meant bringing them from their homes to Canberra although no business could be done. I, therefore, instructed the Government Whip to reply that there was no occasion for honorable senators to come to Canberra last week, and you, Mr. President, were good enough to say that you would not object to attending here each day and, if there was no quorum present, adjourning the Senate . until the following day. Those are the circumstances of last week. It seems to me that there is a desire on the part of some journals in Australia to use every opportunity, no matter how trivial, to belittle and cast aspersions on parliamentary institutions. There are two sections in this country very anxious to do this, and one of them is very anxious to do away with parliamentary government altogether. Journals that lend themselves to petty attacks on members of Parliament are thus doing their best to further the cause of those who believe in the abolition of parliamentary government and the setting up of some form of autocracy. In justice to the Senate and honorable senators individually and in order that the public might know the facts I felt that I should make this statement.
[3.6]. - On the loth December last Senator Sampson asked the following question: -
With reference to the statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate on the 13th instant with regard to Tasmanian shipping communications, will the right honorable gentleman say whether it is the’ intention of the Government, irrespective of the state of the tide and weather conditions, to make it obligatory that the vessels of the shipping company carrying out the proposed new mail contract shall make their terminus a point on the river Tamar, in the vicinity of Rosevears, and not Launceston; and, if so, whether the Government’s decision is in conformity with the report of the Public Accounts Committee?
I pointed out that the question should have been directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, but promised that the information required would be obtained and supplied to Senator Sampson. The matter was duly brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and that department was asked to communicate direct with Senator Sampson. I am now informed that the Postmaster-General duly communicated with Senator Sampson on the 10th January last, and that he intended that this letter should be taken as a reply to the questions asked by Senator Sampson, though, perhaps, this fact was not made as clear as it might have been. The PostmasterGeneral’s letter reads as follows: -
Referring to your recent telegram and to your letter of 21st December, 1927, in connection with the proposed new contract for the Tasmanian mail service, urging that Launceston be specified as the terminus, the Government has given the closest consideration to this feature and to other matters relating to the service and has formed the opinion that much improved facilities could be given if the difficulty in connexion with the tides at Launceston were overcome by terminating the service at some point on the River Tamar near Rosevears, where there is deep water, and provision made for linking such point with the railway system of Tasmania or by road with Launceston. It is, therefore, the intention to adhere to the decision of the Government, which was announced by the Prime Minister in Parliament recently. The new service should considerably improve mail facilities, as it should be possible to give Hobart, as well as Launceston, a delivery of mails on the day of the arrival of the mail steamer.
Senator REID presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed construction of a north-western intercepting sewer at Canberra.
The. following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Aggregate Balancesheet of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, at 31st December, 1927, together with Statement of Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department; and Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
British Phosphate Commission - Report and Accounts for year ended 30th June, 1927.
Commonwealth Shipping Board - Cost of Administration, Salaries Paid, &c, during the years 1924-25, 1925-26 and 1926-27.
International Labour Organization of League of Nations - Reports of Australian delegates to Tenth Conference (25th May to Kith June, 1927).
Audit Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 158.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 16.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of -
Health - J. R. Garnet.
Home and Territories - C. W. Allen.
Works and Railways - E. P. Bayliss, H. W. Crutch, and C. A. Skinner ; W. H. Knight and L. G. Weymouth ; . J. C. Macken zic.
Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory
Rules 1928, No: 11- No. 12.
Public Works Committee Act - Thirteenth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. New Guinea Act - Ordinances -
No. 40 of 1927- Mining (No. 2).
No. 1 of 1928 - Matrimonial Causes Jurisdiction.
No. 2 of 1928- Motor Traffic.
No. 3 of 1928 - Public Service.
Northern Australia Act -
Central Australia - Encouragement of Primary Production Ordinance - Regulations amended.
North Australia - Encouragement of Primary Production Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 83.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 13.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -Ordinance No. 2 of 1928- Standard Time.
Cotton Bounty Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules, 1928, No. 15.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired at Wyong, New South Wales - for Postal purposes.
Spirits Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 14.
Investigations in Queensland.
– Some time ago I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) the conditions under which an area of land was offered by the Queensland Government for the purpose of conducting an investigation in regard to the prevention of droughts, and I was informed that the matter was receiving the careful consideration of the Government. Since then I believe the offer has been refused, and I now desire to ask if the Minister will, for the purpose of public information, give details of the reasons which actuated the Government in refusing it. As I understand that the reasons are sound, I trust that they will be made available to the Senate -
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to debate the matter.
– I do not know whether I can give the honorable Senator the information he desires in replying to a question. I can obtain the papers and allow him to peruse them. If, however, the honorable senator wishes a specific answer to his question, I must ask him to give notice of it.
Erection of Buildings at Alice Springs.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers are:
asked the Min ister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
The answers are: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Use of Preservatives
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Senator ANDREW (through Senator
Elliott) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Dr. G. W. E. Paul, of Kangaroo Point, Queensland, who has recently returned from England after a study of Professor Blair Bell’s treatment of cancer by the intravenous injection of colloidof lead, brought with him a supply of the lead solution for the treatment of cases in the General Hospital, Brisbane, and also at Diamantina Hospital for Incurables?
If so, will the Minister cause inquiries to be made into the effects of the treatment, and, if it was successful, will he arrange for solution, as prepared by Messrs. Crooks, London, to be made available for cancer treatment in various centres of the Commonwealth?
It is understood that Dr. Paul brought from England a supply of colloidal lead.
This preparation is now being tried at the principal hospitals in Adelaide Melbourne and Sydney. The results of these investigations will be awaited with interest.
Senator GUTHRIE (through Senator
Elliott) asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
asked the Minister for Defence -
– The replies are -
Senator VERRAN (through Senator
Foll) asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
What is the policy of the Government in respect to the unemployed in Australia?
Second . Reading.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this hill is to extend to other industries the same measure ofprotection as was approved by the Senate when it passed a tariff schedule in 1926. It also increases the preference given to Great Britain on a number of items, and provides for reduced duties on various articles not manufactured in Australia. Since the passing of the tariff schedule in 1926, the Tariff Board has investigated the circumstances of a number of industries, and the board’s reports concerning the industries dealt with in the schedule to this bill have been made available to honorable senators. The duties proposed cover a wide range of both primary and secondary, industries, some of which are of great national importance. The imports affected by the proposals are valued at £24,000,000 - of which £6,000,000 are British, and the balance, £18,000,000, foreign goods. It is believed that the new duties, if approved by the Senate, will result in a gain to Australian production of £6,000,000 per annum, and that British will displace foreign exports to this country to the value of £5,000,000 a year. It is not expected that any substantial increase in revenue will result from the higher ‘ duties proposed, as the decreased collections due to the reductions on many items must he set off against any increase. These calculations do not include the revenue which will result from the increased duties proposed to raise money for road purposes.
The deferred duties proposed are to encourage the establishment of certain projected industries, the principal being iron and steel tubes, leather cloth and linoleum. Reduced duties are proposed in a number of cases. These relate to goods which are in. everyday use in the household, or to articles of general utility, and which are not manufactured in Australia.
In the schedule now before the Senate, the principle of British preference has been maintained, in some instances amounting to 25 per cent., and averaging about 20 per cent. Preferences previously granted to British manufacturers are worth over £8,000,000 per ‘ annum. This will be increased under the present proposals by approximately £2,000,000. It is frequently alleged that our policy of protection, notwithstanding these substantial preferences, is injurious to British trade. It may be pointed out, however, that in 1901 the value of Australian importations of British goods amounted to £6 per head of population, while in 1925-26 we imported British goods to the value of £11 per head. Our population in the meantime had increased by over 2,000,000.
These figures must not be regarded as indicating a failure of the policy of protection to encourage Australian production, but rather as proof of the prosperity promoted by protection, and the consequent high-purchasing power of the people of this country. Even when adequate protection is afforded, it is not reasonable to expect that our own manufacturers will be in a position to supply forthwith the whole of the country’s requirements. In the case of new industries, before this can be done, capital has to be raised, factories have to be built and equipped, and employees trained. In many instances, consumers’ prejudices against Australianmade articles have to be overcome. The latter frequently is a costly and tedious process. The same difficulties have, in some measure at least, to he surmounted in connexion with the expansion of existing industries. In spite of numerous and serious obstacles, there has been a steady expansion in mo3t of our secondary industries during recent years, as the following figures indicate: -
The value added in process of manufacture during the year 1925-26, (£152,220,554), was equal to the value of over 600,000,000 bushels of wheat at 5s. a bushel.
The 1925 Tariff has stimulated the production of many commodities. In this way it provided employment for additional labour and capital, and kept in Australia much money which otherwise would have been spent overseas at a time when it was most important that it should he retained here. It has also induced British and other overseas firms to establish branch factories in the Commonwealth, thus increasing the working capital of the country and the employment of our people.
When the previous Tariff schedule was before the Senate fears were expressed that higher duties would further increase the cost of living. Investigations made by officers of the customs department have failed to discover any material increase in wholesale prices, while it has been ascertained that substantial reductions have been made in the prices of a number of commodities.
– What are they?
– I shall give the honorable senator the details later.
– The Minister has made a bald statement. We should have the details now.
– It is impossible to give all the details in a second reading speech. It was also contended that the increased duties would impose further handicaps upon the primary producer, but no evidence that this has occurred has been forthcoming. Australia has just passed through a severe drought, which has reduced both agricultural and pastoral production, but in Western Australia, where conditions were normal, last year witnessed the greatest increase in wheat area under cultivation and yield which has ever taken place in that State. So far from protection hampering our primary industries, it substantially contributes to their success by providing a large and profitable home market, the bulk of all our land products, with the exception of wool and wheat, being consumed within the Commonwealth.
In the settlement and development of the Commonwealth our flocks and herds, farms, orchards, vineyards, and mines are all of the utmost importance, but to assure the progress and prosperity of almost any country, it is imperative that primary production should be reinforced and buttressed by such secondary industries as are commercially possible. This is more especially the case where primary production is so much affected as it is in Australia by seasonal variations. Even in favorable circumstances, land industries involve much casual labour, and when production is seriously curtailed by climatic conditions, as sometimes happens, much unemployment ensues. It must be admitted that some of our secondary industries occasionally suffer from periods of depression, hut on the whole they afford fairly continuous employment, and maintain from year to year a steadily increasing volume of production. The value of this constant and increasing flow of work and wealth cannot be overestimated.
Protective duties, however, are not entirely confined to secondary industries. Many of our land products are protected by comparatively high duties, and in some instances also receive the benefit of a bounty on export. Under this bill it is proposed to increase the import duties on rice, potatoes, butter, cheese, and timber. In protecting the iron and steel industry a market is provided for iron ore from South Australia; limestone from Tasmania ; fluorspar from Queensland ; and iron ore, limestone, sandstone, and coal from New South Wales, in the mining and transport of which thousands of men are engaged in addition to the many thousands who are employed in operating the smelters. In such an undertaking it is impossible to separate the interests of the primary from those of the secondary industry, the whole being interwoven and interdependent. The position is very similar in connexion with most of our productive activities. That the Commonwealth’s policy of protection has not retarded the growth of our land industries is abundantly proved by the substantial increases which have taken place in most branches of primary production since federation. It is difficult to make satisfactory comparisons, owing to variations in seasonal conditions, hut the following statement showing maximum yields in a number of industries before and since federation is interesting and informative : -
Prior to Federation.
Butter, 1000, 114,380,780 lb.
Cheese, 1896, 12,105,327 lb.
Wine, 1896-97, 5,336,161 gallons.
Wheat, 1900-1, 48,353,402 bushels (5,566,614 acres ) .
Wool, 1891, 543,495,800 lb.
Bacon and Hams, 1900, 32,388,029 lb.
Sugar, 1898-99, 192,834 tons.
Subsequent to Federation.
Butter, 1924-25, 313,952,291 lb.
Cheese, 1921, 32,053,003 lb.
Wine, 1925-20, 16,231,142 gallons.
Wheat, 1915-10, 179,065,703 bushels (12,484,512 acres).
Wool, 1925-20, 830,459,007 lb.
Bacon and Hams, 1925-26, 74,774,537 lb.
Sugar, 1925-26, 517,970 tons.
A frequent argument against the policy of protecting our secondary industries is that we are unable to sell our manufactured products on the world’s markets, and, therefore, profitable output is limited to home requirements. Unfortunately, this is also the case- with many of our primary products, the exportable surplus having to be sold ata loss. It is a mistaken idea that there, is an assured market at remunerative prices for every form of land production, which is increasing more rapidly than population in many countries. In the official report of the Economic Conference, held at Geneva in May last, appears the following: -
A general impression of the change which has taken place since the war can be gathered from the statistics which have been compiled of the world’s production of foodstuffs and raw materials. The figures show that, whereas in 1925 the world’s population was about 5 per cent, greater than in 1913, production of foodstuffs and of raw materials was from 10 to 18 per cent, greater. In other words, production and consumption, both in total and per head of the world’s population are greater than before the war.
This increased production of food and raw materials has, however, not been accompanied by a corresponding increase of international commerce, for the volume of trade in 1925 was only 5 per cent, higher than before the war.
The following extract from the last annual report by the Secretary of Agriculture in the United States of America describes the agricultural position in a country where conditions are somewhat comparable with those of Australia: -
On fewer acres, and with a farm population of 3,000,000 less than in 1919, the agricultural industry since 1923 has averaged a larger volume of production than in the year immediately following the war. … In the nine years since the world war ended, agriculture has undergone far-reaching changes that have materially increased the output of both land and labour. Tractors have replaced many horses and mules, releasing land -for other uses than the production of feed and forage. Improved harvesting machinery has come into wide use. The size of the average farm has increased. More productive crops have been planted. Livestock of increased productivity has become widely dispersed. Farm management has become more efficient, a better balance has been established amongst agricultural enterprises, and progress has been made in adjusting production to market requirements. The result is an increase in farm production more rapid than the rise in the coun try’s population.
From these official statements, overproduction of foodstuffs appears possible, if not imminent, and in view of such a contingency, it would be criminal folly to depart from the policy of endeavouring to make Australia as far as possible selfsupporting and self-contained.
I have refrained from discussing the details of the schedule, because this can be done more conveniently and usefully as the items come up for consideration in committee. The proposed amendments are the outcome of exhaustive investigation by the Tariff Board, and of most careful consideration by the Minister for Trade and Customs and by the Cabinet. They will, it is believed, if approved by the Senate, as they have been by the other branch. of the legislature, encourage the investment of Australian and overseas capital, stimulate production, and increase employment without adding to the cost of living or the burden of taxation.
.- The Tariff is at all times a very interesting as well as an intricate subject. We have long since passed the stage at which there was any doubt in the minds of the people of Australia as to what should be the fiscal policy of this country. Many years ago the chief question that was debated either in Parliament or outside was that of freetrade versus protection, but for many years the different governments which have held office have, at the direction of the people of Australia, determined that in order to keep this country self-reliant and self-contained it is necessary to pursue a protective policy. My only objection is that our protective policy has not been sufficiently effective, and that the incidence of the different tariffs that have been in operation has not resulted in our being as self-contained and as self-reliant as the people wish.
The Labour party has consistently advocated a form of new protection - protection for manufacturers and their employees as well as for the consumers of the manufactured article. Unfortunately the Constitution presents an obstacle to the attainment of its desire in that direction. It would, however, be wrong for us to depend entirely on imports from overseas. Australia’s policy of protection has added to the number of our manufactories, and increased the number of persons employed therein. Although a young country - as a nation Australia is still in its swaddling clothes, we have made substantial progress, notwithstanding that the progress’ has been slow. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 there were 15,428 factories in Australia in which 331,000 employees were engaged, the annual wages bill being £34,146,000. By 1925-26 the number of factories had increased to 21,242, employing 450,920 persons to whom wages amounting to £86,724,000 were paid. I am reliably informed that in the short period which has elapsed since this amended schedule was tabled in another place four or five new timber mills have been established in Tasmania.
Notwithstanding these evidences of progress the tariff ,is not sufficiently protective, for we find that, despite the splendid increase . in our secondary industries our imports continue to exceed our exports by an increasing amount each year. In the Melbourne Age of yesterday there appeared a paragraph dealing with a report from the Commonwealth Statistician, from which I have taken the following extract : -
Statistics of the oversea trade of Australia with other countries during 1920-27 have been made available by the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. C. H. Wickens. Comparative figures for the year 1925-26 have also been included in the tabulations. The total value of Australia’s oversea trade during 1926-27 was £309,011,777, as compared with £300,200,387. The value of imports increased from £151,638,178 in 1925-26 to £164,716,594 in 1926-27, which is the highest total ever recorded, while exports declined from £148,562,209 in 1925-26 to £144,895,183. Imports thus exceeded exports in 1926-27 by £19,821,411.
– When the Massy Greene tariff was tabled we were told that it would mean a decrease of imports.
– That is because the tariff has not been sufficiently protective in its incidence. The same issue of the Melbourne Age contains the following report of a speech by Mr. Hogan, the Premier of Victoria: -
During 1927 the imports into Australia were valued at £164,000,000, and the exports at £144,000,000, which together with interest on Commonwealth and State loans, amounted to an adverse trade balance of £44,000,000. Mr. Bruce had said that the figures for the lost twelve years were quite satisfactory. He was astounded at the Prime Minister adopting such a shallow and superficial argument. The last twelve years included the war years, when imports were at a minimum and exports at a maximum, so the comparison was not fair. However, he would take those years and show how imports had grown. In 1915-16 the imports were valued at £64,000,000; in 1916-17. £77,000,000; 1917-18, £62,000,000; 1918-19, £102,000,000; 1919-207 £98,000,000; 1920-21, £163,000,000; 1921-22, £103,000,000; 1922-23, £131,000,000; 1923-24, ,£140,000,000; 1924-25, £157,000,000; 1925-26, £151,000,000, and last year, 1926-27, they were £164,000,000, the highest yet recorded. .
At this stage I venture the opinion that a great factor in bringing about the unemployment we have in Australia to-day is the adverse trade balance we have as the result of our borrowing overseas. By borrowing overseas we bring goods, instead of money, into Australia, and these are goods which could and should be made by Australians. We have not only the men and the material, but also the skill to produce them. Instead of being an importing nation to the extent I have just shown, we should be an exporting nation; or at least if we cannot be that, our importations should not be as heavy as they are..
Our manufacturers have to compete with manufacturers in parts of the world where labour is cheap, and where men are working under conditions that, under no consideration, would be tolerated in Australia.
– One of our chief competitors is the United States of America, where wages are higher and the conditions of work better than, they are in Australia.
– In those countries people work longer hours, and receive less wages-
– In America?
– No. It was Senator Duncan who referred to the United States of America. Although they are not as good as I should like to see them - there is still room for improvement - the working conditions which Australians enjoy are entirely due to the fact that there has been, and still is, an Australian Labour party. And if the worker of Australia is not getting the full measure for his labour to which he is entitled, he is, at any rate, in respect to working conditions, considerably in advance of his fellows in other countries from which we import annually millions of pounds worth of goods.
With adequate protection I dare say we might not have in our midst those pernicious trusts and combines which are so evident in other parts of the world, particularly in ‘ that country referred to by Senator Duncan. I am not foolish enough to say that we have no trusts or combines in Australia, but if it had not been for our legislation of the past that evil might be more rampant than it is. Until we have new protection we must do the best we can under our Constitution. Therefore, I welcome an amended tariff schedule which will help to protect the manufacturers of Australia and provide work for Australian citizens. The Minister has said that one of the results of this tariff will be the development of a foreign export to the extent of, approximately, £5,000,000 a year. I hope it will. I should like to see a more pronounced result, because £5,000,000 is a very small proportion of £20,000,000.
While I believe in a protective policy I am not a believer in . what might be termed unlimited protection which might tend to inefficiency on the part of the management of a factory.
– That is a very nice admission.
– I do not say that it will have that tendency, but it might be the means of enabling some managers to postpone the installation of up-to-date machinery in their factories. In my opinion, we could get a larger output at a cheaper cost by the installation of up-to-date machinery in our factories. When in the Arbitration Court the employers were fighting against a proposed reduction of working hours from 48 to 44 a week, they contended that with the proposed reduction in hours the output of their factories would be decreased, but I think evidence was given to show that in many of our factories we did not have up-to-date machinery - an important factor in increasing output and at the same time reducing costs of production.
Some people say that new protection interferes with private enterprise. But private enterprise frequently comes to Parliament for assistance. Time and time again this Parliament has passed bounty bills to give assistance to private enterprise.
– It has passed quite a number of them.
– An almost unlimited number of them. If it is the dutv of this Parliament, as I think it is, to protect the manufacturers of Australia, it is also its duty to protect the people of the country against rapacious prices. On two occasions the Labour party has endeavoured to get the people of Australia to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to deal with new protection, but that power has not been given to .us, and therefore we cannot legislate along the lines that are necessary. If the worker wishes to have his wages increased or his conditions of work improved, he must present a case to the Arbitration Court, and the court will fix his hours of labour and what wages he shall receive for his labour. But I think wc ought to be able to go a step further. Wo ought to be able to tell the people whom this tariff schedule will’ protect from unfair competition from abroad not only that they must pay their workers a proper wage, but also that their consumers shall not be charged exorbitant prices.
– Does the honorable senator say that the consumer is charged exorbitant, prices for goods of Australian manufacture?
– I make no such comprehensive statement, but I do say that there are unfair charges and cases where manufacturers stipulate the prices that shall be demanded for the articles they make. As one instance I may quote the firm of Bond, which sells its goods to retailers subject to the condition that they must charge a certain fixed price for them.
– That is quite correct, but does the honorable senator say thai the price thus fixed is too high?
– All that I am saying is that the firm fixes its price and tells the retailer that he must charge so much for the product of its factory.
– Scores of manufacturers do the same thing.
– I am merely citing one instance to support my case. I might add that unless the retailer sells at the stipulated price he may find himself without the particular product of that factory. If the manufacturer who is given protection by this Parliament can say what the public shall pay for his goods, surely this Parliament ought to be in a position to say at what price he shall sell his goods.
– It is a difficult problem.
– If the people of Australia would clothe this Parliament with the powers that have been sought in this respect, the problem would be easily solved. Under no consideration am I a revenue tariffist
– Is the honorable senator a prohibitionist?
– No. I am an effective protectionist. Briefly, my position is that to any article that can be made in Australia - and I know of very few that cannot-
– ‘Commercially made in Australia.
– To any article that can be made in Australia I am prepared to give effective protection.
– Up to the point of prohibition?
– No. Any article that cannot be made in Australia - and there are very few that cannot be made here - I would admit duty free rather than have a revenue tariff.
The Minister (Senator Crawford) referred to the wheat production of Western Australia. It is true that the Western State has increased its production. In 1903 it was importing . wheat ; but in the 1927 season it had a yield of 35,000,000 bushels. I am not prepared to admit- that this yield is the result of the tariff of the Bruce-Page Government.
– It is in spite of it.
– I say, unhesitatingly, that it is in spite of the tariff that Western Australia has had this yield. I was somewhat surprised to hear the Minister say that the increased wheat yield in Western Australia was one of the results of the tariff schedule that the bill now before us amends.
– I did not say that; I said it was proof that a protective policy is not a handicap to primary industry.
– There may be room for argument in that regard. If in our tariff schedule we imposed a very heavy duty on agricultural machinery, it might handicap a State like Western Australia, which is in its infancy as a primary producing State. The primary producers have to sell their products in the markets of the world, and we should not make their conditions hard, particularly as they have to contend with the adversities which nature arrays against them.
I presume that before this debate concludes we shall have an expression of opinion from the representatives of the Country party in this chamber, and may find that even at this stage there is a freetrader in its ranks, I do not know whether the Country, party is still in existence, as its members are now so closely associated with the Nationalist party that they have almost lost their identity. When a private member the present Treasurer expressed very strong opinions concerning the tariff and its incidence which I shall quote.
– He still holds strong opinions.
– -But he dare not express them, otherwise he would soon lose his present position. Since the Treasurer has been in office the revenue from customs and excise duties has increased to a remarkable extent, as the following figures show: In 1921-22 the revenue from this source was £27,630,000, and in 1926-27 it was £43,552,000, an increase of £15,922,000. During the same period the amount of customs and excise duties paid per head of the population rose from £5 0s. 3£d. to £7 2s. 6id., an increase of £2 2s. 3d. per head. When we remember the strong attitude adopted by the Leader of the Country party before he took office, it is difficult to understand why he should tolerate such a heavy increase of duties. On the 12 th October, 1922, the present Treasurer said : -
We wore told that the tariff was to be definitely protective: but the Treasurer is actually budgeting to secure more revenue from the tariff this year.
Later he said : -
If a protective tariff fulfils its functions the revenue derived must become less and less as industries are established within the country.
Our industries have not developed proportionately, but, as our customs revenue has increased to a remarkable extent, it suggests that the tariff is not sufficiently protective. The present Treasurer as Leader of the Country party also said : -
The Country party fought against these excessive duties all the time, and I regard the action of the Government in reducing the duties on wire netting and galvanized iron and fencing wire as a confession that the policy we advocated last year was a proper one.
The Dr. Page of to-day is entirely different from the Dr. Page of a few years ago.
If Senator Sir George Pearce wishes to honour his compact with the people of Western Australia when he was elected in 1925, he must oppose many of the items in the schedule to this bill. Both he and Senator Carroll agreed then to advocate a low tariff. Senator Pearce may or may not oppose the schedule. If he did, it would probably involve his resignation from the cabinet, and that would be a calamity to the right honorable gentleman himself. According to a paragraph in the Melbourne Age of the 13th March, 1926, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), in dealing with the agreement made by the two parties in Western Australia, said -
Before the last elections an agreement had been made by the National and Country Party that as the present high tariff was inimical to Western Australia the full strength of both parties should be devoted to a substantial reduction in the duties, and that as a reduction could only be secured through united representation, neither party should give endorsement to any candidate who was not in agreement with this policy. The primary producers and united parties agreed to co-operate and the former was to have one representative, for the Senate and the other party two.
I understand that Senator Pearce and Senator Carroll subscribed to that agreement and I am waiting to see the attitude they will adopt towards this bill, particularly as the customs duties have not been reduced since Senator Pearce was returned to this Parliament. I shall watch with interest the progress of the bill through the committee stages, and I hope that the duties adopted will give to Australia more effective protection than we have had in the past. Higher duties are necessary to help manufacturers who are providing employment for many of our people and assisting Australia to become a self-contained and self-reliant nation.
.- If there are still any freetraders in this chamber, which I very much doubt, I suppose they will have something to say concerning the schedule to this bill. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
Needham), I am pleased to be able to call myself a scientific protectionist. There is, however, this difference between us, that whereas the honorable senator will support the highest possible duties on every occasion and for every conceivable industry, I am inclined to the belief that we are pushing the bogy of protection too far. With the advice of the Tariff Board to guide us, and using our own judgment, we should take stock of our position and see if we have not gone far enough. At one time a freetrader could be found in the ranks of the Labour party; but to-day there is not one. A member of the Labour party to-day who -dared to advocate freetrade would find himself cast, like the Roman traitors of old, from the Tarpeian Rock. The Labour party believes in the policy of high protection, because, amongst other things, it gives employment and incidentally increases its voting strength, in industrial electorates. But, instead of bringing about the millennium, as anticipated by some members of the party, the policy of high protection is actually increasing unemployment in the cities. Many of our industries enjoy high protective duties, but the cost of production is so great that it prevents successful competition with the older and more firmly established industries in the old world. This means stagnant and unprofitable industries which are unable to retain their full staff. Instead of high duties decreasing unemployment they have the opposite effect. The Leader of the Opposition directed attention to the fact that our adverse trade balance was about £20,000,000 and pointed out that a large proportion of our imports were coming from countries where cheap labour conditions obtain. I would remind him that our adverse trade balance with the United States of America, a country where the conditions, of employment are quite as good as those in Australia - the wages paid are actually higher- is £25,000,000.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the conditions in America are as good as they are in Australia?
– They are better in some cases. Where are these cheap labour countries? We import from British countries £85,000,000 worth of goods. I do not think the honorable senator will say that these goods come from countries where cheap labour is available.
– Does the honorable senator say that the conditions in Britain are as good as they are here ?
– They are not; but’ wages in Great Britain have in some cases increased by 100 per cent, since the war. Many mechanics in Great Britain are paid as much as they are paid in Australia. We import only £4,000,000 worth of goods per annum from Japan, where labour is cheap, and we sell her over £11,000,000 worth. France sends to Australia goods to the value of £3,750,000 a year and buys from this country goods to the value of £18,000,000. Italy is in much the same position. That country sells us goods to the value of about £1,500,000 a year and buys from us products worth about £5,000,000.
A perusal of the figures relating to imports and exports shows that our most serious competitor with regard to secondary products is America, the country which pays the highest wages in the world. But America is not without its unemployment problem. The cabled reports in the newspapers to-day stated that there are 500,000 workers unemployed in the United States of America. Senator Needham declares that protection provides employment. If what he says be true, how is it that, notwithstanding that our secondary industrieshave enjoyed high protection for many years, unemployment in Australia is more serious to-day than at any other period since federation. Clearly the facts disclose that protection does not ensure continuity of employment, and is no guarantee against an industrial crisis such as that which now confronts us.
I do not propose to deal in detail with the items in the schedule. I shall have an opportunity to do that at the committee stage of the bill. I wish, however, to stress the point that there appears to have been a disposition in certain quarters to over-estimate the value of high protective duties from the point of view of employment, and as a consequence the people of Australia have been penalized in order to protect certain industries which give only a limited amount of employment. Senator Needham admits that protection does not assist the primary producer in his State. Tasmania, possessing few secondary industries, also derives very little benefit from high protection. Only two States, Victoria and New South Wales, have benefited from the imposition of high tariff duties.
– Is the honorable senator a freetrader in regard to timber duties ?
– At the outset I stated that I was a protectionist. I believe that tariff duties are absolutely essential to protect certain industries. I have voted for protection on former occasions and will do so again if I believe protective duties are warranted ; but I do not favour high protection for every little tin pot industry that asks for assistance. I believe in the adequate protection of our natural industries, including our iron and steel products - those industries which have some chance of competing with overseas rivals. Industrial concerns which do not give promise of employing a large number of men should not be protected. It would be far better to allow free competition in respect of such concerns. I hope that before the tariff schedule is passed we shall be able to reduce certain of the items. It is my intention to move for a reduction of duties in respect of one or two industries in which I believe high tariff imposts are working an injury to the producers pf Australia.
– I should not have taken part in this discussion but for the extraordinary statements made by Senator Ogden, who has just resumed his seat. He began by declaring himself to be a scientific protectionist. What does he mean? To me the term is rather ambiguous.
– What is the attitude of the honorable senator’s leader in this chamber?
– My Leader (Senator Needham) has told honorable senators where he stands in respect of tariff duties and also what is the attitude of every member of the Labour party in this chamber. Senator Ogden at one time was a member of the Labour party and subscribed to its platform.
– It was a platform worth subscribing to in those days.
– The platform of the Labour party has always been worthy of the support of every man who believes in the principles of Labour, who believes in human progress, and who wishes to do something for the advancement and devolpment of Australia.
– Have members of the Labour party a monopoly of those virtues ?
– Senator Ogden would have us believe that he is a scientific protectionist. With many other little Australians he is an advocate of the highest possible duties in respect of industries established in his - own State, but is not so keen about protection for industries in other States. He is a fiscal Cyclops - a one-eyed protectionist. If protection is good for Tasmanian industries, surely it is equally good for industries established elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Let me remind the honorable senator that an industry which, speaking figuratively, is a small one to-day, may be giving employment to-morrow to large numbers of men and women. Under the influence of protection, and in spite of the attitude of men like Senator Ogden of today, many industries have been established in the various States of the Commonwealth. Protection which fails to protect, is not protection in the true sense of the word. I believe in a high form of protection. I am Australian from head to heel. I wish to see Australia a self-contained nation. Therefore I am prepared to do all I can to encourage Australian industries. I firmly believe that under a system of protection it is possible to produce in Australia everything required for the needs of our people. To some the value of protection is to be measured by the ability of the industry to which it applies to compete with rivals overseas. It is true that in certain industries we cannot at present compete with manufacturers overseas.
– And will never be able to do so.
– Never is a long time. The man who claims to be able to foretell the future is an optimist. Because of our higher standard of living, and improved conditions of labour, we are not able to compete with overseas manufacturers in certain industries; but it must not be forgotten that we are building up industries under conditions dissimilar from, those obtaining in many other countries.
Senator Ogden says that Labour supports the policy of protection because it means more industries and more workers in the main centres of population, and, consequently, a bigger vote for Labour. What a narrow and restricted vision the honorable senator must have. Surely he knows that the majority of the people have declared emphatically in favour of this policy. In any case, his argument presup.poses the existence of a large number of unemployed in our rural areas before the imposition of tariff duties which have been responsible for the establishment of manufacturing industries in our cities, and since our secondary industries have provided work for unemployed rural workers, it is clear that they have improved their position under protection.
– How does the honorable senator account for the large number of unemployed to-day?
– I shall endeavour to explain what I believe to be the main causes of unemployment, not only in Australia, but throughout the world. I do not claim that protection is a panacea for all the ills that flesh is heir, but I believe it is an immeasurably better fiscal system than freetrade. There are no logical freetraders in this chamber, or in another place now.
– Senator Grant is a freetrader.
- Senator Grant is as logical a freetrader as it is possible for a man to be. The logical freetrader is opposed entirely to the raising of revenue through the Customs House. He believes in absolute freetrade, and in raising by means of a tax on land values all the revenue necessary for the government of a country. A number of honorable senators supporting the Government claim to be revenue tariffists; they are neither flesh, fowl, nor good red herring.
And now as to the cause of unemployment. For every effect there is a cause. Unemployment is not peculiar to Australia; it is as farflung as the world itself. Every observant man knows that in both victorious and vanquished countries today there are many hundreds of thousands df men and women, youths and girls, out of work. What is the principal cause of that unemployment? It is the result of the world war and its aftermath. Europe is more or less in a chaotic state financially, commercially, and industrially. Prior to the war Europe was a potential customer of Great Britain; but the curtailment of her credit by a peace treaty rendered her unable to purchase in quantities equal to those that she purchased before the war. For her own protection Germany resorted to the printing press; but the more paper marks she printed the more depreciated became her currency. Behind that currency, however, she had goods which are now being supplied to her victors by way of indemnity. The consequence is that Great Britain has a large army of unemployed workers and is unable to do much trade with Europe.
We depend for a substantial measure of our prosperity upon the exportable surplus of the goods that we produce. So long as good markets and high prices prevail for our primary products, of which we export large quantities, Australia will be all right. I admit that the nature of the season influences the position slightly.; but I also contend that the markets which we now have are not as profitable to us as those which we had before the war. Despite the assertions of Senator Ogden and others, if it were not for bounties and other forms of financial assistance which primary industries receive, the ‘ position of many a man on the land would be different from what it is to-day. Assistance to primary industries, in the form of either bounties or customs duties, is protection. Throughout the world there is financial stringency. “When the rest of the world is more or less embarrassed financially, Australia must feel the effect. Meanwhile, we must do all that is possible to further the progress of Australia and to open up additional avenues of employment for our workers.
– Tariffs will not do it.
– Tariffs have done and are doing it. If the iron and steel industry in New South Wales, which employs thousands of men, received that measure of protection to which I think it is justly entitled, it would be in a position to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements in steel rails and other goods which to-day are imported.
– Does the honorable senator say that all the steel rails which Australia requires to-day are imported?
– The statement was made not long ago that unless the industry was given the protection for which it asked, the importations would have a very serious effect upon it and in all probability it would have to close down.
– What, in the opinion of the honorable senator, is effective protection ?
– I do not consider any duty effective that does not adequately protect an industry.
– That industry is now protected to the extent of nearly 100 per cent.
– I am prepared, if necessary, to make the duty 200 per cent, or as high as the Government is willing to go. I believe that protection is a good thing and that we cannot have too much of it. It has been said “ If you increase the duty to 200 per cent., you will stop importations.” That is true to a very large extent. But what would happen? Those who now send goods to Australia would establish their industries here. That has been and is being done to-day; the high duties which were imposed for the purpose of stopping importations led to oversea manufacturers setting up in business in different parts of Australia. Is there any reason why we should import -woollen goods?
– The honorable senator and others who think with him are always asking for higher duties.
– That is true. If the woollen industry is such a profit making one, we shall have manufacturers from oversea coming out here and setting up in opposition to those who are already established. Is there any reason why the fullest measure of protection should be withheld from the timber industry ? I ask Senator Ogden, as a scientific protectionist, whether he believes that that industry should be adequately protected.
– The honorable senator comes from Tasmania, which is deeply interested in the timber industry. Australian timbers are the finest in the world; the furniture trade, which specialises in the use of high-class timbers, will supply evidence of that. Millions of feet of our best quality timbers have been ruthlessly destroyed in past years. Why do we want the highest degree of protection for the industry? In the first place, because it is a natural industry which is capable of development; and secondly, because it would, if developed, provide employment for thousands of men. To-day it is in a struggling condition. Mill after mill has had to be closed down. There is to-day, in some quarters, a prejudice against certain Australian timbers, and for this, members - of the “ Get rich quick Wallingford “ brigade are largely responsible. During the war and subsequent to the termination of that conflict, there was an acute shortage of houses, and a building boom was experienced. I built my house, with an unfortunate effect upon my pocket, during that boom period. If one were civil one could get a few bricks, and a little timber and cement. The demand was so great that almost any kind of timber could be sold, not every day, but at different times. Some of it was more or less sap wood, too green to burn. The parasites have a great liking for sap wood. The borer, a diligent worker, who apparently works night and day, caused millions of pounds worth of damage. That will always be the result when timber is not; properly seasoned. Australian hardwoods and other timbers have been seriously handicapped by imports.
– Are there any imported timbers in the honorable senator’s house ?
– There is very little. It was difficult, at one time, to obtain supplies of either imported or Australian timber as required. Better methods are now being employed in the seasoning of our timbers. The boom period having passed, it may be possible to obtain a higher class of timber from the mill; and if those who are engaged in the industry succeed in obtaining the protection which they are seeking, they will no doubt be able to satisfy the demands of the Australian public.
There are other items to which I might refer, but I shall refrain from doing so at this stage. I merely wished to make my position clear. The proposed duties are high, but they do not alarm me in the least. No matter how high they may be, I shall always vote for duties which will stimulate industries in Australia.
– The honorable senator is not a scientific protectionist.
– I am not a scientific protectionist in regard to timber and a revenue tariffist in regard to other industries. I am essentially Australian in my attitude towards protection. Apparently Senator Ogden regards protection mainly from the Tasmanian viewpoint. Although that is an important State, he must not overlook the fact that there are other States in the federation. I believe that, before many years have passed, a number of big industries will be established in Tasmania. One which gives every promise of materialising in the not far distant future will probably be one of the biggest that has so far been established in Australia, and our fiscal policy will have been largely responsible for it. I refer to the paper pulp industry.
– They are not guaranteed a duty; they are starting without one.
– Those who are interested in that proposition would not have gone to the trouble and expense of purchasing at the Wembley Exhibition a paper pulp machine for the making of paper at the rate of a ton a day ; and they would not have had it erected, or engaged experts and scientific men to advise them, if they had not felt certain of obtaining that measure of protection to which every industry is entitled if it is shown to be a commercial proposition.
– They took the chance.
– Those who engage in industry in Australia to-day take little or no chance. The majority of the people of Australia favour a policy of protection.
Senator Needham said that at one time the only question which was seriously discussed in Australia was whether our fiscal policy should be one of freetrade or protection. While I cannot go quite so far as that, it is true that no question has aroused more public interest or caused more bitterness and enmity than Australia’s fiscal policy. I have seen the Melbourne Town Hall crowded to the doors long before the appointed hour for the commencement of meetings to discuss the fiscal policy of the country; I have seen hanging from balconies banners advocating one policy or the other; and sometimes, when the opposing parties got into close quarters, the situation was so tense that I wondered what the outcome would be.
– Now I suppose we are a happy family?
– There is not today that bitterness in regard to fiscal matters that there was in the days of which I speak. More and more the people of Australia have identified themselves with the policy of protection, until to-day there are very few live freetrade organizations in this country. That even the Country party, some of whose members are opposed to protection, seems slowly, but surely, to be giving its support to that policy, is evident by the speeches made in another place by socalled representatives of that party in connexion with the schedule now before us. It would appear that a majority of Government supporters in this chamber favour that policy. It may be that they are not ready to go so far as I am prepared to go to give protection to Australian industries, but, in the main, honorable senators opposite are protectionists. It is true that there are grounds for doubting their wholeheartedness.
That charge cannot, however, be laid against the members of the Labour party. Although opposed to much of the Government’s policy the Labour party will assist the Government to give adequate protection to industries already established and to encourage new industries in Australia, thus providing further avenues of employment for our people. With more and more industries established, and consequently greater opportunities for employment, there should be a greater home market for our primary products. Foi that reason the primary producers and their representatives should do all in their power to establish secondary industries in this country.
, - The Minister in charge of this bill (Senator Crawford) and his colleagues must be gratified at the preans of praise which have come from the Opposition to-day. First, we had the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) singing the praises of the Government, and later Senator Findley, who in his concluding remarks said that however high the duties proposed by the Government the Labour party would support them. Such a position must be unique in the history of parliaments. I well remember the time when the then Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Gardiner) criticized the present Government because of its protectionist policy.’ He assured the Senate that if effect were given to that policy it would spell the ruin of Australian industries. But today those whom he at one time led say that the Government is doing right in increasing duties ; their only complaint is that the duties proposed are not high enough. Senator Findley has declared himself to be in favour of adequate protection. We have heard of scientific protectionists, reasonable protectionists, geographical protectionists, and more recently of new protectionists; but to-day a new brand has appeared - adequate protectionists.
– Senator “Duncan is a freetrader, revenue tariffist, and protectionist combined.
– I shall have pleasure in telling Senator Findley where I stand in fiscal matters and explaining why it gives me a great deal of pleasure to support, almost in their entirety, the recommendations contained in this schedule. I regret that in one or two instances I may have to offer some opposition.
– Why complain?
– I am not complaining; I am supporting this tariff as I was sent here to do.
– Then do it cheerfully.
– I propose to do so. Indeed the task’ is not difficult, because of the lead given by the Opposition, which has made it clear that it finds no fault with the Government.
Having listened to honorable senators opposite, I find that some doubts which 1 previously entertained as to the wisdom of these proposals are disappearing. Like the poor who are always with us, we seem never to get entirely rid of tariff schedules. In the past when tariff schedules were introduced, we were told that the duties proposed were sufficient to establish various industries in our midst, and that no requests for higher duties would be made. But, unfortunately, our experience has been that almost before the ink on the schedule was dry, there was an agitation for further duties.
– To a great extent the States have been responsible for that.
– I do not blame the unfortunate manufacturers for asking for higher duties. They have been forced to do so by reason of circumstances over which they have had no control. Having based their manufacturing costs and the future of their industries upon existing conditions, they have found that conditions in industry change more in Australia than in almost any other country, with the result that they have experienced difficulty in meeting not only the competition from overseas, but also, at times, that from within Australia.
– One of their problems is that every increase in duty is followed by an increase in the wages of their employees.
– That is one of the contributing factors; but other factors need only to be mentioned to show how difficult it is for manufacturers to meet changing conditions. Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Lustre Silk
Hosiery factory, one of the finest factories I have seen in this country, which manufactures a magnificent article. The tariff schedule now before us increased by 20 per cent, the cost of its raw material, notwithstanding that the duty on the finished article with which it has to compete was not increased. That increased duty may mean the difference between success and failure to that industry. Unfortunately, that state of affairs is not confined to the industry I have mentioned. The trouble is that the finished article of one industry is in many instances the ‘ raw material of another, so that any increased cost of the article produced by the one has to be borne by the other. For that reason we should consider carefully some of the proposals contained in this schedule.
Although to-day we have not the fights between freetrade and protection which we had in the past, there is by no means unanimity on fiscal matters. To-day the issue before this chamber is net whether protection should be given or withheld, but what degree of protection should be given to the industries mentioned in the schedule. Protection has become the settled policy of the Commonwealth, and the fight now is for ever and ever-increasing duties. Honorable senators of the Labour party have pointed to statistics which show that the importations of Australia are constantly growing, in spite of an ever-increasing tariff. But why is this so? The goods would not be sent to this country unless there was a sale for them here. Who buys them? The statistics of importations show that they are largely manufactured articles, made, as Senator Needham has said, iu countries whose workers are paid lower wages than are paid in Australia. They are sent here, and bought here because they are cheap, and the people who buy them are those who want cheap goods - the working people of Australia. In any of the 6d., 9d., and ls. shops which are now becoming the vogue, or in any other shops having big sales of imported goods, can be seen long queues of workers and workers’ wives, fighting and struggling to buy cheap imported articles. The muchvaunted policy of protection sounds all right; but unless it has behind it .the actual backing of the people who say they believe in it, it must fail, even if the duties are fixed at the 200 per cent, level supported by Senator Findley. The people who return the honorable senator to this Parliament will buy the imported article if they can get it at -Jd. or Id. cheaper than an article manufactured in Australia under decent conditions of labour.
These are facts which cannot be denied, and if honorable senators opposite have at heart the interests of the manufacturers of Australia to the extent they say they have, I urge upon them the advisability of going among their own people and telling them that they do wrong when they buy other than Australian-made goods, or when they look for cheapness instead of quality. It is not easy to do this. The unfortunate worker’s wife who finds herself at the end of the week with only a trivial sum of money with -which to do a very great deal for herself and her family, buys where she can get the most for what she has to spend. Is she wrong in doing so? She has either to do that or to allow some member of the family to go without something which is required. When one is faced with a problem like that, when one has either to go without something, or to buy imported goods because they are cheap, the scale always has a tendency to fall on the side of the imported article. Are we to blame the worker’s wife for taking a. course of action we should probably take in similar circumstances.
To my mind, the reason for this bigstream of importations to Australia is that we have for the last few years had a larger purchasing capacity than the people in any other part of the world, with probably the exception of America. We have had the ready cash, and have spent it more willingly and more readily perhaps than people in other countries. When we make a purchase, we do not ask whether the article is made in Australia or Germany, or anywhere else. We ask how much it is, or how many articles we can get for a certain sum. People will_ take what they can get the most of for the money they have to spend. Until we bring home to them the realization of the fact that Australia’s industries, despite what Senator Findley may have said, are dependent not so much upon the tariff or the height of our tariff wall, as upon the desire on their part to purchase Australian goods the position in which we find ourselves to-day is not likely to improve to any considerable extent.
– When production exceeds consumption, what is likely to happen?
– I can see with Senator Thompson the dangers of the day when production exceeds our local consumption. We can go on building our tariff wall and establishing factories, but when we have reached the point at which we have not only met all Australia’s requirements, but also built up a huge surplus of products, what are we going to do about it? As Senator Findley knows, that point has already been reached in the case of the boot industry, and the industry has met it by closing factories for certain periods of the year.
– At the same time there were large importations of boots.
– The boots imported were not to any extent similar to those made in the factories which were closed. They were higher quality boots. The trouble was that the boot factories in Australia had reached the point at which it was possible for them to supply all local requirements, and build up a huge surplus of boots, which they found it impossible to export. With the high cost of production in Australia they could not afford to sell their output in other coun- tries at a price which would give them an adequate return on the cost of production. Therefore, they shut down their factories for a time. I think it can be said definitely that it was the policy of protection that compelled them to do so. We held out to the people who put their capital into those establishments the hope that our high tariff wall would give them immunity in Australia from overseas competition, and that there would . be a definite market for everything they might produce here. But because the tariff was so high, or the protection so effective, so many rushed into the boot industry that over-production took place, and as a consequence the industry very largely collapsed. It. would have been infinitely better Ibelieve had it been regulated more effectively by the imposition of an even lower rate of duty than was imposed, leaving it open to the overseas manufacturer to provide a certain amount of competition for the local manufacturer. There would then not have been put into the boot factories in Australia so much capital, and there would not have been that over-production we have had. There would have been a far healthier condition of affairs in the boot industry.
– On that same line of reasoning the more importations we have the better it is for the establishment of industries.
– I am referring not to the establishment, but to the stabilization of industries, in which we are somewhat deficient in Australia.
Another aspect of the tariff before us has given me some little trouble. The parties supporting the Government have from time to time endorsed the policy of protection, and by the adoption of that policy and its application we have been responsible for the building up of a great many vested interests in Australia. We are, therefore, under a definite moral obligation to see that these interests are not permitted to suffer through any neglect of ours. We have to see them through so far as it is possible for us to do so, remembering all the time what is fair, and also what is more than fair. It has been clearly shown to the Tariff Board that many of these interests find that it is almost impossible for them to carry on their industries unless they are given more protection.
The Tariff Board was set up by the Federal Parliament to investigate industries, find out what theyneeded, and what their actual position was, and recommend to the Minister and to Parliament what course of action should be taken. The board relieved legislators of a great deal of work in some respects - it did for Parliament work that it was not possible for Parliament itself to do - but, unfortunately, its recommendations, made after the most searching investigations, have not always been endorsed in the tariff schedule before us. On the contrary, in one or two instances they have been ruthlessly swept aside in another place. For instance, in regard to Oregon, the Tariff Board after the very fullest investigation reported against the course of action that is now set out in the tariff schedule. The Government endorsed the Tariff Board’s recommendations in regard to this matter. But the Minister’s proposals were altered in another place, despite his opposition and that of his colleagues, and this chamber is now asked to endorse what was then done. I shall have a good deal to say about that matter when we are dealing with the schedule in committee. I am opposed to the course of action taken in another place, and I shall not vote for it because I believe that something entirely wrong has been done that will re-act very much upon Australian industry in general, and will have an effect that will perhaps be greater than it is possible for any of us to foretell to-day.
– In what respect does the schedule differ from the recommendations of the Tariff Board?
– The Tariff Board was opposed to the increased duty on
Oregon. Despite that, the Government is now sponsoring a tariff schedule in which it is not proposed to give effect to the Tariff Board’s recommendations.
– The Tariff Board has not the last word in tariff matters.
– It made the fullest investigation.
– Did not the board recommend increased duties on Oregon?
– Not nearly to the extent proposed
On the second reading of a Customs Tariff Bill it is customary for honorable senators to confine their remarks more particularly to general principles, and when the schedule is under consideration, to deal with the items in detail. With most of the proposals I am in entire accord, and with some I differ but I am not to be swayed by cajolery or threats of what may be done by certain individuals and interests if I do not see the light as they see it. In connexion with tariff matters it is most unfortunate that we should find our letter-boxes littered with letters, telegrams and printed matter circulated by certain persons solely in their own financial interest. I am not likely to be influenced in that way. I shall give my close attention to the consideration of the schedule, and trust I shall be able to justify every vote I record on the various items. In concluding I wish to point out that there are some industries to which the general principles I have referred cannot be applied. I have in mind key industries, which are of greater importance than ordinary manufacturing concerns; they are national necessities to any country. The iron and steel industry already mentioned in this debate has been referred to as a New South Wales industry. It is not an industry belonging to any State, but an Australian industry, the existence of which is absolutely essential if this country is to remain under our control. If Ave believe in a definite defence system the iron and steel industry is as essential to us as are battle ships, cruisers or aeroplanes.
– Or primary industries ?
– Yes, but I am now referring ‘to manufacturing industries. If it is necessary to give a greater degree of protection to the iron and steel industry, even though it may mean a temporary increase in the cost of production, we ‘must be prepared to give it for the reasons I have mentioned. I shall have pleasure in supporting increased duties on certain items in the schedule. I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) and Senator Findley in congratulating the Government upon introducing the bill, and am pleased to note that in this instance we are holding the same views - a state of affairs which I trust will long continue.
– I wish to bring before the Government and honorable senators the fact that under the existing act the members of the Tariff Board have not been able to visit the distant States and take evidence to the extent that the residents in such States desire. Persons in South Australia have complained that they have had to come to Melbourne to give evidence, and when the interests of the States are in conflict, those in distant States are at a disadvantage. I understand this is due partly to the constitution of the board. One is almost staggered at the volume of evidence taken and upon which the reports are based.
I congratulate the hoard upon the exhaustive manner in which its investigations are conducted and the information contained in the valuable reports which it issues.
The Tariff Board, in its annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1927, dealt with the difficulty to which I have referred, and pointed out the necessity for amending the act, with a view to materially increasing the efficiency of the Board, particularly by way of expediting its operations. It points out that a sitting of the board has to be called for each occasion on which it is to meet, and that two members constitute a quorum. As honorable senators are aware the full board consists of four members. It has to be recognized that as Australia is a country of vast distances it is difficult to obtain evidence from interested persons in all States. This, indeed, has been found impossible and the board, in dealing with this phase of the question, says -
It is therefore suggested that the Act should be amended so as to make provision for the Board when, it is considered desirable, to be able to divide itself up and for two members, if necessary, to visit distant States and take evidence on oath with all the authority of the full Board. Incidental to this it would be necessary to provide that the members of the Board who remain behind and who would be reporting, and dealing with by-law applications, or preparing reports or inquiry cases already heard, should be able to be paid for their services.
At present the board can be remunerated only when an actual board meeting is held. The board recommends that two of its members should be allowed to take evidence, the other two members to undertake other work, and that they all be remunerated as if the full board had been sitting. As an amendment in this direction would be in the interests of the people resident in distant States, I trust the Government will give early attention to the Board’s recommendation.
It is not my intention to deal at length with the tariff proposals of the Government, as I know there are other honorable senators who have had longer experience in tariff matters than I have had. I wish, however, to touch upon one phase which has not as yet been mentioned in this chamber. I refer to the opinions expressed by the representatives of other nations concerning our tariff. I shall quote from the report of the International Economic Conference held at Geneva, and from the report of the League of Nations, and, in doing so, shall confine myself strictly to the resolutions and the opinions which have a direct bearing upon the Australian tariff. As honorable members are aware, Sir David Gordon, a gentleman highly esteemed in South Australia, and possessing’ extensive commercial, journalistic, and political experience, in company with Mr. Warren Kerr, who is well known to most honorable senators, attended the International Economic Conference in May, 1927, as one of Australia’s delegates. These two gentlemen placed Australia’s position before the conference, which was the greatest gathering of its kind ever held, and was attended by representatives of 50 countries, who were accompanied by 157 experts. There were also over 200 representatives of the world’s press present. At the conference the tariffs of different countries .were discussed. It soon became evident that, apart from other considerations, an earnest appeal was being made to it in the interests of humanity, because it was stated that the unemployed in Europe, with their dependents, numbered nearly 20,000,000.
– From what portion of the report is the. honorable senator quoting?
– From page 5. In opening the conference the President took an early opportunity of indicating that the task before the -delegates was “to conduct a general inquiry, a broad survey of the main aspects of the world’s economic situation,, the economic causes of the present instability, and economic tendencies which may influence the peace of the world.” As the discussion proceeded it was evident that the conference considered that tariffs were a disturbing element in the economic system which might lead to war. Central Europe, it was said, is the cockpit of the economic struggle, but it was soon evident that other nations were vitally interested and must co-operate -in bringing about improved conditions. This was so apparent that Sir David Gordon was forced to state Australia’s viewpoint. It was possible that the League of Nations, as representing international opinion, might pass resolutions which would vitally affect our tariff. The discussion reached a stage at which Sir David Gordon found it necessary to state Australia’s position, and he did so in these words -
During the discussion it lias been urged that many of the European tariffs arc too high, and that in order to encourage interchange it will be necessary not only to reduce them, but to interpret them with more clearness. Several declarations of fiscal faith have been made, and it becomes necessary for me to point out that Australia is committed to a protectionist tariff on at least two grounds - the building up of essential industries in a commercially young country, and for revenue purposes. Whatever may be the necessities of Europe, the requirements of Australia and the policy of that country must be left to
Australians themselves….. Something has been said during the debate about prohibitions, and it was suggested that the resolutions would seek to deal with the practicability of prohibiting imports and exports. The right of prohibition on inward and outward goods was exercised in Australia during the war period, but oven then very sparingly; while at the present time with trifling exceptions, there is no prohibition on imports, while exports are practically free. The tariff applies equally to all countries excepting only certain preferential duties in favour of Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand (all within the Imperial family), and these are mostly reciprocal, and, in many cases, are designed to benefit repatriated soldiers. … An appeal has been made for stability of tariffs, and while, no doubt, this is desirable, and would be a great advantage, it will always prove a. difficult matter to fix tariff rates for a period during which no alterations will take place. The last Australian general tariff was passed by Parliament in 1925, prior to which there had been a period of five years of stability, excepting in those cases where the Tariff Board had exercised its right of recommending alterations. Australia could not regard favourably any attempt at the limitation of its powers, either in respect of a tariff policy or the right to make periodical alterations.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! The honorable senator is not in order in reading extensively from the report of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations. That document does not deal directly with the Tariff Bill now under consideration. It is permissible for the honorable senator to quote from the report, but not. in extenso.
– Very well Mr. President, I shall obey your ruling. Despite the strong protest made by Sir
David Gordon, and his declaration that the imposition of customs duties in Australia was entirely a matter of domestic concern, the conference adopted resolutions expressing the contrary view.
– Australia was not mentioned in those resolutions. They dealt solely with the effect of European customs duties on European nations.
– It is true that the resolutions dealt with the position from the stand-point of European countries, but they declared also that the imposition of customs duties was a matter in which all nations were concerned.
– By whom were those resolutions adopted I
– By the International Economic Conference in May, 1927.
– We are dealing with Australian matters now.
– Exactly, but if 50 nations take the view that the imposition of customs duties is not exclusively a matter of domestic concern, is it not likely that the Australian delegates at the next Assembly of the League of Nations will be placed in an awkward position ?
– Not one of the nations represented at the Assembly subscribed to the policy contained in the resolutions of the Economic Conference.
– I do not agree with the Minister, and in support of my own contention I quote the following conclusions of the conference: -
In view of the fact that harmful effects upon production and trade results from the high and constantly changing tariffs which are applied in many countries;
And since substantial improvement in the economic conditions can be obtained by increased facilities for international trade and commerce;
And in view of the fact that tariffs, though within the sovereign jurisdiction of the separate States, are not a matter of purely domestic interest, but greatly influence the trade of the world;
And in view of the fact that some of the causes which have resulted in the increase of tariffs, and in other trade barriers since the war, have largely disappeared and others are diminishing;
The conference declares that the time has come to put an end to the increase in tariffs and to move in the opposite direction.
The conference recommends: -
That nations should take steps forthwith to remove or diminish those tariff barriers that gravely hamper trade, starting with those which have been imposed to counteract the effects of disturbances arising out of the war.
I have read very carefully the report submitted by Sir David Gordon and I can assure honorable senators that the resolutions of the conference were very far reaching in their character. If eventually they receive the endorsement of the League of Nations they must influence Australia’s tariff legislation.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the discussion at the Economic Conference was highly academic?
– I cannot say that it was; but I do know that Sir George Pearce, the leader of the Australian delegation to the last Assembly of the League, also had to protest strongly against the disposition of the League to interfere with tariff legislation. He, too, urged that it was a matter of domestic concern.
– Does not the honorable senator think so too?
– What matters is not what I think, but what fifty other nations may think. If they declare that in the interests of world peace tariff Avails should be lowered Australia will be in a difficult position if she does not fall into line.
– Let us take that hurdle when we come to it.
– My desire is to indicate the direction in which world opinion is moving, and to suggest that Australia should take notice of what is going on. The eighth Assembly of the League, which Senator Pearce attended, reported that it “ took note of the Report of the Economic Conference, trusts that the recommendations relating to tariff and commercial policy be put into effect, and invites the economic organization to prepare a summary of the replies of the various governments as to their attitude.”
I am much concerned about Australia’s economic position. I view with alarm the rising costs of production, and many recent visitors share my anxiety. The Tariff Board has also issued a warning with regard to the alarming increase in the production costs. Referring to the position in the textile industry, the board states in its report for 1926-27 -
This action of the Textile Workers’ Union seems to have been influenced by the judgment of Mr. Justice Powers, wherein it was laid down that his court could take no cognizance of the capacity of an industry to pay certain wages, but would fix what wage it thought necessary, and the industry would then have recourse to the Tariff Board, which had been created by the Federal Parliament to make recommendations for the granting of whatever protection wasneccssary. In this case the various unions appeared before the Tariff Board to assist the employers in obtaining necessary increases in order to make it possible to work the mills at a profit instead of at a loss, and then immediately approached the Arbitration Court for their share in these increases.
Thus it goes on. Employers and employees work hand in hand. When an industry receives tariff protection the workers engaged in it apply to the Arbitration Court, so as to get their share of the loot, and prices rise higher and higher.
– Does the honorable senator regard tariff duties as “loot”?
– There is no doubt about it. The general public, and particularly the primary producers, are in a most unenviable position. Costs of production are now so high that we are unable to export profitably any of our wholly-manufactured goods.
– That was always the position.
– I disagree with the Minister. Our production of both primary and secondary industries has increased very materially during the last few years; but our exports of whollymanufactured goods are stationary. Ten or fifteen years ago the value of Australian manufactured goods exported was £4,000,000, the figure at which it stands to-day.
It has been urged that our primary producers are not being prejudicially affected by the tariff. That is not the case. Costs of production have increased so materially that, practically with the exception of wool and wheat, our producers are unable to export without financial assistance. They have to pay world’s parity for the goods which they purchase, and, in addition, have to bear the burden of a high tariff, freight, and other charges. They are thus placed at a grave disadvantage.
– There is a very high protective tariff on the products which the honorable senator has mentioned.
– I am referring to the marketing of our surplus production. We have reached the stage at which the primary, as well as the secondary, industries are beginning to feel the effect. In spite of the warning issued by the Tariff Board, it is now proposed to increase the tariff still further. We have been informed that the increased cost of erecting a five-roomed house will amount to only about £7, and that duties on other lines mean only a small increase in prices. The result, however, will be a further appeal by the workers to the Arbitration Court on the ground that, the cost of living having risen, they are entitled to higher wages; and justifiably so. We should heed the advice of the Tariff Board, and take note of the effect of this policy, because it will eventually defeat itself. There is not the slightest doubt that we must rely upon efficiency to a greater extent than upon the tariff. If we continue to place these “ plasters “ on industry, we shall soon be overtaken by economic disaster.
Co-operation between employers and employees along the lines suggested by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) would be the salvation of Australia. The Tariff Board has cited a number of instances of the absence of efficient machinery. One such relates to a manufacturer who asked for a higher tariff. The board said to him, “What about installing efficient machinery?” He appeared to be quite amazed, and replied, “It would cost altogether too much.” We must not encourage such an attitude. In Adelaide, only the other day, a dismissed worker told me that about half of those who had been working for his former employer were put off; and, as those who were left did not wish to lose their jobs they were working at top speed, with the result that 20 were doing more than had previously been done by 40. There is a slackness in some industries; yet the unions deliberately discourage the piece-work system. Industry in Australia will be able to hold its own only if efficiency is secured, and if the men who are engaged give to the utmost of their capacity.
– Like Senator Duncan, I am in agreement, speaking generally, with the tariff proposals of the Government, but I reserve to myself the right, which should be that of every honorable senator, to move for their amendment where I think that is necessary. The great mining industry is in a languishing condition all over Australia; consequently I hoped to find in the tariff schedule a proposal to reduce the duty on mining machinery. When the increase in that duty was brought down in the last amending schedule, I opposed it in the Senate; and if some honorable senators who then agreed with me had been in their places when the vote was taken, the increase would not have been consented to. I am disappointed that there is to be no reduction, and that I shall not have the opportunity to move in that direction. The proposed timber duties may have an affect on the mining industry in Queensland. Two years ago at the instigation of, I think, Tasmania, there was a movement to increase the duty on Oregon pine.
– All of the States joined in it.
– Queensland certainly did not. I was particularly requested to oppose it, in the interest of the mining industry in that State. It was pointed out to me that, although Oregon was not used in the Queensland mines, if a duty were placed upon it, the price of hardwood would rise in sympathy and an extra straw would be added to those which had already been placed on the camel’s back. The position has undergone a change; unfortunately the camel’s back has been broken, and many mines are not now functioning. The question is, whether it is intended to destroy by the imposition of additional duties any chance the camel might have of recovering.
The position in regard to Oregon needs to be very carefully considered, and until I have heard the explanation of the Minister I shall not indicate the way in which my vote will be cast. I merely remind honorable senators that on a previous occasion I considered that it was wrong to impose a duty upon the Oregon which enters Australia.
There is one proposal of the Government with which I am not in sympathy. I refer to the preferential coffee duty. As honorable senators are aware, the duty has been removed from coffee which is imported from within the British Empire.
– The Queensland coffee has not the necessary flavour.
– I am afraid that my honorable friend does not understand the position. We are proposing to cut off our noses to spite our faces. I yield to no one in my desire to give preference to other portions of the British Empire. But we have to consider first the interests of our own people. We shall antagonize a customer in the Dutch East Indies with whom our trade is constantly expanding. At the present time we export to the Dutch East Indies considerable quantities of meat and butter. Queensland shares largely in that trade. There is also an appreciable trade in cattle and flour. I do not know that Queensland will be affected in regard to flour, although she has a large area under wheat. At all events, the disadvantages that are likely to accrue more than counter-balance the problematical benefit which will be derived by India and British East Africa.
I have received from Queensland two telegrams respecting the proposed duty on soya beans. Those who are interested in that commodity are so alarmed at the possible interference with the cotton and peanut industries, that they have sent two representatives to Canberra to express their views regarding the disadvantages that will result to Queensland. After I have heard their case I shall decide whether or not I should ask the Government to review this proposal.
A good deal of complaint is made with respect to the methods that are adopted in the department in the administration of the tariff. I am not now in business, therefore, I have no first-hand knowledge of the matter. Certain articles are not manufactured in this country, and there is no likelihood of their being manufactured here. In some instances they are protected by patents that are held in other countries. Importers of those articles are put to considerable trouble because the maximum duty is imposed, and all sorts of disabilities are placed in their way, when it ought to be possible for the department to come to an immediate decision to charge only the 10 per cent, duty. Although the matter is eventually settled to the satisfaction of the importer, the inconvenience and delay to which he is put are to be deprecated. I should like good feeling to prevail between the department and the importers. We do not want a reversion to the attitude which was adopted during the regime of the late Mr. Kingston, who considered that all importers were dishonest until their honesty was established. I contend that they should be regarded as honest men until the contrary is proved. Very few of them are shown to be dishonest. I take this opportunity to ask the department to exercise a reasonable discretion in dealing with these admittedly difficult matters.
The tariff is at last beginning to bear fruit in the shape of a reduction ir the amount collected by way of customs duties. I have previously voiced the opinion that that should be the result of a protective tariff. The more effective itbecomes, the more apparent should be the reduction. It is highly desirable that the Government should take note of the position and trim its expenditure accordingly. I feel reasonably certain that we shall not in the future obtain from tariff duties the abounding revenues that have poured into the coffers of the Treasury in past years. I shall reserve for the committee stage any additional remarks I have to make on individual items.
.- Probably no measure opens up such a wide field for discussion as does a tariff bill, nor is there upon any subject a wider divergence of opinion. I desire to make a few general remarks on the result of the tariff schedules which have been brought before this chamber during recent years. Honorable senators will remember that last year, when we were dealing with a number of important amendments to the tariff, I contended that in connexion with a number of items there was no justification for such heavy duties as were then proposed. I questioned whether certain industries which had been successfully established in Australia, and were turning out good articles, had applied for increased protection. I have since then learned that they had not done so. That is sufficient to show that the increased duties were not warranted. My prediction last year has been fulfilled ; there has been an all-round increase in the price of commodities since the last increase of customs duties, without any advantage to the community. I believe that Australia should have as many industries, both primary and secondary, as will be useful to her as a nation. Particularly do I believe that every primary industry worthy of the name ought to be encouraged to the fullest extent . possible, because upon the success of our primary industries our national prosperity depends.
– That is true even if we are to become a great manufacturing nation.
– Yes. Last year I was called a freetrader ; but a person who is prepared, as I am, to support high duties when they are necessary is not a freetrader. A young country like Australia should have a tariff sufficiently high to ensure that every business conducted on scientific lines, and in accordance with commercial principles, will be able to pay its way; but there are, unfortunately, a number of secondary industries in Australia which we should be better without. The price that the general public has to pay for the product of those industries is beyond all reason. My opposition to the tariff last year was not to a reasonable measure of protection, but to prohibitive duties - duties which would shut out the product of British factories. I said then that, even if we had a monopoly of the manufacture of certain commodities, it would mean an increase of only £60,000 per annum in the amount paid to Australian workers as wages, whereas the increased cost to Australian workmen for the commodities which would be manufactured would be £200,000 per annum. Australia would be better off without such industries. But there are other industries which are in need of slightly greater protection in order to give them a reasonable chance to compete Avith the products of other countries, and these should be assisted.
I trust that in committee we shall deal with each item on its merits; there should be no block vote merely because the schedule has been introduced by the Government.
I desire to protest against what I consider is the unfair attitude adopted by Australia towards British manufacturers. Each year large quantities of Australian wool are purchased by Great Britain, to be manufactured into goods in that country. We expect that British manufacturers will pay us the highest market price for our WOOl
– They are anxious to get it.
– English manufacturers have a right to expect in the dominions a market for their goods. But by imposing excessive duties we, in effect, say to them that although’ we expect them to pay us high prices for our wool, if they dare to manufacture that wool into goods, we shall erect such a tariff wall that the entry of those goods into Australia will practically be prohibited. It is not British to impose prohibitive duties on articles manufactured in Great Britain.
– Does not the honorable senator think that Australia should manufacture her own woollen goods?
– If that is to be done, we must have protection.
– I mentioned wool by way of illustration. Later, when the items are before us, I propose to refer to the duty on certain goods made of WoOl when I hope to show that my remarks were justified.
– Is it fair to regard articles manufactured in England from Australian Wool as of foreign manufacture ?’
– That is not done.
– From information in my possession it would appear that goods made in Great Britain from Australian wool are regarded as of foreign origin. I brought the matter under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), and he denied that that was so. I have accepted the Minister’s denial. I was interested in the Minister’s statement that the measure of preference given in this amended schedule is similar to that granted last year.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– In some instances the so-called preference to Great Britain, which the Minister claims is extended by the present bill, is not preference at all. If one were to erect two fences, one 8 feet high and the other 10 feet high, knowing that neither the Britisher nor the foreigner could jump over either, could one claim that the British competitor was getting a preference over the foreigner by having an 8-ft. instead of a 10-ft. fence to jump? Of course not. The fence would prove an impossible barrier to both competitors. At this stage I cannot refer to items in detail, but there is one line of goods on which the importer of the British manufactured article who has been paying a duty of 2s. will now he called upon to pay 6s. At the latter rate it will be absolutely impossible for the article to be exported from England and sold in Australia. It is nothing short of absolute prohibition. On another line of goods, where the duty on the British article has been 2s. 9d., it will now be 8s., which will also prohibit the export of the goods to Australia. In the general column the increases on these two lines are from 3s. to 10s., and from 3s. 6d. to 12s. respectively, making their importation impossible. Yet the Minister claims that the principle of preference to British manufacturers is being extended. It is a misnomer to call it preference when it really amounts to prohibition.
– It may not extend the preference on those particular goods, but the concessions given on other items will more than counterbalance the increases referred to by the honorable senator.
– I am taking the items as I find them in the schedule. There is a line of goods in which the British manufacturer has always done a big trade with Australia; but now we say, “ This must cease. No longer will you be permitted to trade with Australia in that line of goods.” That sort of policy does not tend to cement the bonds of Empire, and if it is continued we must inevitably bring disaster upon ourselves.
– The feeling is growing stronger and stronger each year that, in connexion with tariff matters, we should weigh carefully . any suggestion for the prohibition of- the importation of goods from any part of the Empire, or even from other countries, except from a health-preservation point of view.
I notice in the schedule a continuation of what I consider the most pernicious system that can be introduced into a Customs Tariff Bill - the substitution of a flat rate of duty, where the ad valorem rate will not realize as much revenue as the rate. If it becomes necessary for me to move to remove an anomaly which I shall now point out, I hope my Labour friends will help me with their votes. If they fail to do so, they will not be studying the interests of the poorer section of the community. An article in general use and worn only by the working men of Australia is manufactured in Great Britain at an export cost of 6s. Landed in Australia it will now cost 14s. l0d. The expense incurred in importing the article, in conjunction with the duty imposed, will amount to 150 per cent. The article will have to be retailed at a very much higher price than that at which it has recently been sold. It is a men’s hosiery item that is only worn by working men. No man of means ever wears it. When we come to another article of the same kind, but superior in quality, which only a man of means can purchase, it is invoiced at 20s. per dozen - we find that it will be admitted under the ad valorem rate, which will be slightly in excess of the flat rate. The cost incurred in importing this article and in paying the duty will be only 60 per cent., in addition to the British price. The rich man will thus be called upon to pay only 60 per cent, more than the British manufacturer’s price, while the poor man will be obliged to pay 150 per cent, more for that which he requires.
– The poor man will buy the Australian article.
– He cannot do so because so far the article has not been made in Australia.
SenatorFindley. - What is the article?
– It is a particular line of men’s hosiery. The same thing applies to many other articles of men’s apparel that we dealt with in the last tariff schedule, and I cannot understand why honorable senators opposite, instead of endeavoring to relieve of some of their burden those they claim to represent, should take every opportunity to make it heavier.
– The working men do not raise any complaint.
– If the honorable senator would ask the working man’s wife he would soon find out whether or not there was any complaint, particularly if she knew that she had to pay 2s. for an article that she was able previously to get for ls. I object to the principle of applying a flat rate or an ad valorem duty, which ever yields the greater amount of revenue, because it does not apply fairly to all sections of the community. The Minister will realize this, when we come to the items in committee.
Senator Duncan maintains, quite correctly, that no matter what it costs, we should, do all we can by the imposition of customs duties to build up and maintain key industries in Australia. I quite agree with the honorable senator that a country like Australia, separated as it is by thousands of miles of ocean from the vest of the world, and from the principal manufacturing centres of the world, must be as self-contained as possible with regard to key industries. There are certain secondary industries which are essential to Australia and must be maintained. But it is equally essential that we should pay very close attention to our primary industries, which are the ‘ basis of our prosperity. There is one of them which has been allowed to go to the wall during the last few years. At the risk of being described as a very moderate protectionist at one time, and a high protectionist at another, I am prepared to support a proposal which will come before the chamber to give adequate protection to that industry. It is one of the most valuable we have in Australia. I refer to the timber industry.
– Good old Tasmania!
– Why a Queensland senator should make any reflection on Tasmania because it happens to be in a position to supply the mainland with a good deal of what it badly needs, I can not understand.
– If the people of Tasmania were making hosiery the honorable senator would be supporting the duties on hosiery.
– Tasmania is now making some of the best hosiery produced in the Commonwealth. Senator Reid is evidently not aware of the flourishing industries we have in that portion of the Commonwealth. To Australia timber is just as essential as iron and steel. We can not do without it. Why should honorable senators ridicule a suggestion that we should g’ive adequate protection to the timber industry so that it may be revived, and in order that the magnificent forests of Australia may be utilized in the best interests of the people?
I am prepared to support adequate protection for every industry; I do not mind what it is so long as it gives employment and is useful to the community ; but there are some industries without which Australia would be better off. The people would be better off in their pockets if they relied on the British manufacturer to produce certain articles.
– Will the honorable senator mention any of them.
– This is not the time to give details.
The Leader of the Opposition made a statement to-day that I have heard him make on other occasions. As a matter of fact I have made it myself, but have since altered my views. I do not believe in a member of Parliament holding the same views during many years and deciding never to depart from them, despite what developments may occur in the meantime. We must all keep pace with the times. Conditions to-day are totally different from those which prevailed prior to 1914. What might have suited the years prior to the war would if operative to-day be entirely unsound, and might prove detrimental to the community.
– What did I say to which the honorable senator takes exception?
– The honorable senator said that we ought to look forward to the time when Australia would be self-contained, and need not be dependent on any other country in the world.
– Hear, hear !
– Do honorable senators realize what is happening in the world to-day. If that universal brotherhood about which they are always boasting is brought about, it will prevent any country from being absolutely selfcontained. No country can afford to say today that it will not trade with another.
– “ Self-contained “ does not mean that.
– Senator Needham meant it when he said that he hoped the day would come when Australia would never have to import anything. He said that he hoped that Australia would be self-contained because we could manufacture all we require. That policy will not hold good to-day.
– Is there anything wrong with it?
– Yes, it is too dangerous a policy for any public. man to support.
– I am prepared to risk it.
– I am sorry to hear such an admission. The future peace of the world will depend almost entirely upon every country giving fair consideration to the trade requirements of other countries. If we attempt to prohibit trade with other countries it will not tend to make Australia popular with other nations. I do not believe in free trade; I could not consider such a policy for a moment. Australia is a young country in which we are attempting to build up new industries, some of which if carried on in a reasonable way are useful; but if they are so conducted as to improverish the working people, we are better without them. I trust that when this measure is in committee the items will be discussed on their merits, and that if any honorable senator opposes the proposed duties on certain items he will be given credit for having the courage to act on his convictions. I trust that every honorable senator will study the effect of additional duties, not only upon a particular industry, but upon the whole community.
– Upon the poor suffering consumer.
– Yes. We should have provided long ago so that when manufacturers or distributors are urging the necessity or otherwise of amending the tariff item, a representative of the consumers may also put their case before the Tariff Board. Nothing of the kind has yet been attempted, but I was glad to read in a report of the board some time ago a comment upon the necessity of some such provision being made. Up to the present the people have had to pay without even being consulted. I support the second reading of the bill, and trust that certain amendments to the schedule will be made.
– Tariff schedules have come before the Commonwealth Parliament on several occasions since I have been a member of the Senate, and their consideration is intimately connected with this branch of the legislature, which was created to protect State interests. Nobody who thinks for a moment will say that in another place, where the representation is on the basis of population, the smaller States - the smaller States, being as they are, in the initial stage of development, demand at least as much consideration as the larger States - have received just treatment against the preponderating influence of the representatives of New South Wales and Victoria. These two States, rightly or wrongly - I think wrongly- are crying aloud for higher and higher protection, and predominate to such an extent that it is quite impossible for the feeble voices of the representatives of the smaller States in another place to be heard?
– Feeble ?
– Only in respect of their number. The day has passed when the people are likely to mistake noise for numbers. The only means of protecting the interests of the smaller States is provided by this House where State interests should predominate. Personally, I look upon the tariff or any amendment of it as an Australian matter. I regard is also as something affecting the State which I happen to represent. I am absolved from looking upon it from a party view-point, because however much the party to which I belong may offend in the direction I have indicated, honorable senators opposite are ready to offend much more seriously.
That, sir, if I may be allowed to bring proof, has been amply demonstrated within the last few days. It has been shown this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) boldly backing up a claim which was unsuccessful in another place for even higher protection. He even went so far as to bewail the loss of the new protection, which was a favorite cry some years ago, but which the gentlemen for whom honorable members opposite stand, have had without the force of law behind it. Whenever any higher protective duties are imposed upon any commodity those gentlemen are always awaiting, what, I understand is technically known as their “ cut “ of the extra price imposed. At all events an increase in prices is, I think, always the result of higher protective duties. Therefore I say that this is essentially a subject for the Senate, and carries with it no element of party.
There is another factor which we have to consider in this connexion. We have, undoubtedly, to make Australia as self-contained as we possibly can, but we must avoid isolating ourselves from the outside world. As a primary producing people we have to produce more than we require of certain commodities and export the surplus to the outside world. Already there have not been wanting some indications that our activities in regard to tariff matters have had the effect of seriously antagonizing some of the countries with which we have to do business. Is it to be supposed that a country which we are systematically - if I may use an Americanism - “ knocking “ will use any more of our commodities than is necessary? Is it to be expected that such a country will gladly welcome any development in trade which carries with it the use of goods from a country which has done its level best to harm it? When I say that we must not make Australia an isolated country, I repeat, that examples are not wanting in other directions to show what is taking place. The cost of production in Australia is rendering ‘ our manufactured products unsaleable at a profit in other parts of the world.
– They never were saleable at a profit.
– We are adopting the best method of insuring that they never will be. The tariff is one example which I quote.
When I consider the needs of the State I represent I find it difficult to study this subject calmly. There is one instance - I know honorable senators will anticipate what I have to say - in which we are adopting a foolish policy by a system of bounties, bonuses or duties on manufactured commodities which can be sold only at a great loss outside Australia. Honorable senators know well enough that every ton of sugar which cannot be sold in Australia is disposed of overseas at a disastrous loss. We are going the right way to bring about the same result with other commodities, and I entreat honorable senators before it is too late to see if there is not an alternative which will give the same commercial result as between country and country without unduly weighting the article we are producing. It appears to me that Australia’s present position is due to three causes which I shall specify, but not necessarily in their order of importance. I refer to the tariff, the Navigation Act and the results to date achieved by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. These three are so inextricably interwoven that it is hard to say where the bad influence of one ends and another begins ; but it seems to me that unless Australia makes a wholehearted and’ earnest effort to bring about an alteration in the conditions that are attributable to these causes, one or all of them, we must go on the way our feet seem to be bent: that of making Australia isolated - an isolation that I do not think can ever be splendid, but which I fear must prove disastrous. There are ways of effecting improvements in an industry without resorting to a tariff. Indeed, I look upon the tariff in the present state of trade throughout the world as one of the worst possible ways. A good example of this can be found in the schedule to this bill. The duties on timber have been referred to. If we wish to relieve the necessities of two of the States, Western Australia and Tasmania, more intimately affected by these proposed duties, we can best do so not by imposing heavier duties or increasing the scope of these duties, but . by repealing a provision in our legislation which interferes with commercial intercourse between the two States to which I have just alluded. If we can make it easier and more profitable for those States to market their timber at a cheaper rate, and without increasing to any extent building costs, we shall be doing a good work. The remedy which I suggest is the abolition of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act, a course which I firmly believe must be taken within the next year or two.
– It will be necessary to do that without delay.
– Perhaps the honorable senator is right. Instead of imposing further restrictions upon the building trade, which is bound to be the outcome of these duties, it would be better to take the course which I have suggested and which, to use a French expression, leaps to the eye. These provisions’ are hampering the prosperity and progress of the smaller States.
– Would the honorable senator advocate the introduction of black labour in shipping on our coasts ?
– Not at all.
– That is what will happen if we abolish the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act.
– I do noi agree with the honorable senator. The principal competition, so far as our seaborne trade is concerned, comes not from countries that sanction the employment of black labour on ships, but from Sweden.
We have heard a lot about the scientific nature of the tariff. I have also heard applied to the schedule certain other adjectives which I should not care to repeat in this chamber. If by “ scientific “ is meant the intention to incur the enmity of those who should be our best customers, then indeed the tariff is scientific. We should have an important trade in the Near East and in Java. Those countries should be our best customers. They should buy largely of our flour, our meat, .our fruits and many other commodities. But what has happened ? By imposing a heavy duty on bananas we have entirely alienated trade relations with Java, and have lost our trade with Fiji. The latter might not occasion much concern to an older country, but I should say that it means a great deal to Australia. Besides offering an affront to neighbouring peoples, we inflict a pecuniary loss upon ourselves. Therefore, if the term “ scientific “ as applied to the tariff is synonymous with the word “foolish,” without a doubt our tariff is scientific.
Let me cite another instance, bearing on the same point, that came before me the other day. In the State which I assist to represent in this chamber, we have a great asset in the blackboy, better known in the eastern States as the grass-tree. There are millions of tons of it available for commercial use. As a national asset it is in the same category as important coal deposits in some countries; that is to say from the point of view of its potential value. Not long ago certain people approached me with a proposition that I should endeavour to secure tariff protection for the manufacture of acetic acid and acetate, which is a constituent of the blackboy. I told my friends that while it was not part of my political faith to advocate the imposition of duties, I would, nevertheless, put their proposal before the Minister. It may not be known generally that acetic acid is manufactured in both Sydney and Melbourne from acetates imported, not from Great Britain, but from America and Germany. In the circumstances one would have thought that since the tariff is supposed to be scientific in its incidence, some measure of protection would be given to this projected industry in Western Australia. Instead, however, of encouraging the people in that State to make use of a valuable convertible asset, the Minister for Trade and Customs, I presume on the advice of departmental officials, declined to give the measure of protection asked for. Can it be urged that this is a scientific way of building up industry? If to neglect the gifts of nature for the purpose of encouraging the trade in countries outside the British Empire, is scientific, then we may apply that term to our present tariff.
This leads me to the consideration of another aspect of the tariff which might very well engage the attention of honorable senators and the Department of Trade and Customs. I refer to the procedure sometimes adopted not by the Commonwealth or State Governments, but by business men in the eastern
States towards brother business men in Western Australia. I know of two industries in Western Australia that were absolutely crushed out of existence by what is known as dumping on the part of manufacturers in the eastern States. The Western Australia commodities were undersold by the eastern products which were marketed at below cost of production. This action, I suggest, is quite contrary to the spirit of federation. Personally I shall never regret the steps taken to bring the several States of the Commonwealth into a federation, but I should like to see more evidence of fair play in trade and commerce in the different States. In some cases at all events, there is marked hostility.
– Was it not scientific competition that crushed the industries mentioned by the honorable senator?
– Not as I understand the term. It was competition it is true, but it was not scientific. If, for example, I started an industry in Western Australia and if my friend Senator Reid, with much more money and more customers, by selling below cost sought to crush me out of existence, simply because there was a danger that I might secure a small portion of his trade, the competition, I submit, would not be fair as between people of the respective States. If it were possible to prevent what can only be described as interstate clumping, there. would be a greater feeling of security in the smaller States and certainly more evidence of progress. .
– What industries has the honorable senator in mind?
-I am not certain if they are mentioned in the schedule to this bill. One was the boot manufacturing industry, and the other factories engaged in the manufacture of pickles, jams and other products of fruits. I am not sure that I can acquit Tasmania of some complicity in the competition which I allude to, at all events with regard to the latter industry.
– Is jam manufactured in Western Australia?
– It could be if the local manufacturers had a fair chance against eastern competitors.
I doubt whether, without infringing the Standing Orders, which have been punctiliously observed during this debate, I could say much more concerning this bill, though possibly I may be permitted to make some observations on the schedule. I am much afraid that in our effort to make Australia self-contained, we shall make the cost of production so high that, instead of Australia being selfcontained, it will be cut off from the rest of the world. It appears to me that by means of successive increases in our tariff schedule and in cost of production, we are building around Australia a wall so high and so strong that this country will become isolated long before she is ready to be placed in that position unless we are content to produce for the home market only and are prepared to allow our people to pay almost any prices for our products. I venture to say, however, that, at’ this stage in our history, with only 6,000,000 of people, we cannot afford to do that. Under present conditions, with every modern facility to encourage intercourse between nation and nation, it would be almost impossible for any country to adopt that course. I earnestly pray that that may never come about; but I fear there is very grave danger of it. I speak not alone for Western Australia, but for Australia as a whole. I believe that this piling of tariff upon tariff, and production costs upon production costs, and this placing of legislative obstacles in the way of the efficient and economical performance of the tasks that lie to our hand, will make -Australia, not the envy, but the laughing-stock of the nations. As an Australian first, and, secondly as a Western Australian, I shall certainly do all that I can to counteract any tendency in that direction, in view of the danger which lies before us. I support the second reading of the bill, but I shall endeavour to prevent the schedule from being passed in the delightfully symmetrical, if unscientific, form in which it has been presented to us.
– In discussing this measure, we should remember that we are Australians, and no one should endeavour to bolster up what is of particular concern to his own State. If it is a good thing to protect an industry in Tasmania, it is equally a good thing to protect it in all other parts of
Australia. We should keep that in mind and try to do our best for Australia. We have been taught to be protectionists almost since the advent of federation. When the Constitution was being framed, there was no question of Liberalism versus Labour; the fight was then waged on the relative merits of freetrade and protection, and protection won. So long as Australia is a nation, it will adhere to that policy.
Senator Kingsmill referred to the fact that the surplus production of sugar in Australia is exported at a loss. I can recall the occasion, 25 or 30 years ago, when the surplus production of lambs was first exported from South Australia. If my memory serves me rightly, the price in South Australia was 7d. a lb., and that which was obtained on the London market either 3£d. or 4d. a lb. Sugar is. not singular in that respect; the surplus production of many other Australian commodities can be purchased abroad more cheaply than within Australia. Some years ago it was proved that harvesters manufactured by Hugh V. McKay were sold in the Argentine for £10 per machine less than the retail price in Australia.
Senator Chapman this afternoon made the assertion that if Australia is to hold her own we must ensure the efficiency of our workmen, and that the way in which an employer can bring that about is by sacking half of those whom he employs.
– That is not what he said.
– He said that an Adelaide employer had sacked 20 of his 40 men, and that those who were left became so efficient, that they did more work than had formerly been done by the 40. If that argument is sound, he would probably increase his output still further by additional dismissals.
Senator Kingsmill stressed the increase in the cost of production. We who sit on this side admit that the cost of production in Australia is far too high, but we say that that has, been brought about by the rise which has occurred- in the prices of commodities. If those who are responsible for the increasing cost of commodities will agree to revert to the prices that ruled in 1914, we shall be with them, because the worker would then obtain the purchasing power of the sovereign which existed in that year instead of the 12s. 6d. of to-day.
– He gets a greater number of sovereigns to-day.
– That may be so. But surely the Minister does not believe that a family man on a wage is better off to-day than he was in 1914 1
A continually increasing tariff strikes me as somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, we build a tariff wall. around Australia, and urge our people to purchase only Australian-made goods ; while, on the other we make a breach in that wall to allow the entry of goods that we must import in consequence of our borrowing abroad. That is not a logical position for us to occupy. Protection should not increase the cost of any article that is manufactured in Australia, no matter how high it may be.
– It should not, but it does.
– Not many weeks ago I met a friend in Bourke-street, Melbourne. When I informed him that I was out to do a little shopping he asked me whether I’ wanted anything in the woollen line. I replied “.Yes.” He said, “ Come along with me.” I accompanied him, and he introduced me to a friend of his, who said, “ We serve only shareholders ; you are a shareholder ? “ I said, “ Of course I am.” I then obtained the goods that I required. I purchased for 5s. 6d. a piece of material the retail price of which in Bourke-street was 12s. 6d. Why should there be such a difference between the price charged at the mill and that which the purchaser has to pay ? If the services of Patterson, Laing and Bruce, and other big warehousemen in Flinders-lane, were dispensed with, the retail price of the Australian-made article would be very much less than it is.
– What would the honorable senator do with the unemployed if he did away with the middlemen ?
– Australian goods would be worn to a much greater extent, and thus the avenues of employment would be widened. Senator Guthrie said on one occasion in Melbourne that a mill in which he was interested made certain woollen vests for 12s. 6d., and that h« was shown some of those vests in Bourkestreet for which the price charged was from 60s. to 75s. That is an illustration of the manner in which the wearer of those goods is exploited by unscrupulous individuals. If we are to build up Australian industry we must be fair in our dealings. Those who will not voluntarily deal fairly should have compulsion applied to them by legislative act.
I recognize the impossibility of applying the principle of protection to the uttermost. If we wish other countries to accept our surplus production, we must be prepared to take theirs in exchange. America has become one of the mightiest nations of the world by following the policy of protection. Every country, Great Britain included, has some form of protection. I saw in the newspapers recently the announcement that England proposed to place a duty of 33 per cent, on foreign motor cars. Before the outbreak of the last war, Germany had almost captured the commerce of the world. In every portion of Australia one could purchase articles that had been made in that country. If it and the United States were able to become great nations under a system of protection, surely we can achieve a like result, despite the fact that we have such a small population.
I am a protectionist because I want to see Australia grow and become a great nation. We can only build_up our industries by protecting them against the products of countries which employ cheap labour. For many years we have been increasing the duties on imported articles; but we cannot forever continue to do so. On each occasion we were told that further increases would not be asked for, because the increased duties- then proposed would result in a decrease of imports. That has not been the case. So long as we continue to borrow money abroad we cannot shut out imported goods. The remedy for excessive imports is to cease borrowing abroad.
– In that case there would be no local money left for investment.
– During the war more than £300,000,000 was raised in Australia.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the rate of interest is a factor in the cost of production?
– If we borrow only in Australia the rate of interest will be increased.
– That may be so, but the money received by way of interest will circulate in Australia instead of being sent abroad.
– By increasing the rate of interest, we increase the cost of production.
– We found sufficient money in Australia to meet our requirements in war time, and we could probably do so again.
– That is why the purchasing power of the sovereign to-day is only about 12s. 6d.
– That state of affairs is not peculiar to Australia.
– The honorable senator is suggesting that we should continue to borrow money.
– The United States of America, from which country Great Britain borrowed large sums of money, is probably the most prosperous country in the world to-day.
– That country was a lender, not a borrower
– That was not always the case.
Senator Chapman said that in some directions the tariff should be lowered. The honorable senator probably referred to the duty on agricultural machinery. I remind him that if protection is a good policy in connexion with one thing, it should be a good policy in connexion Avith other things. Senator Duncan, in referring to the boot factories which had been closed in Victoria, said that during the period he mentioned the importations of boots were small. Seeing that in six months the value of the boots imported into Victoria Avas £276,298 it is evident either that the tariff was not high enough or that greater profits could be made from imported boots.
– The imported articles were types of boots and shoes not made in Australia.
– If the tariff had been high enough, they would- have been kept out. I cannot agree with Senator Kingsmill that, a policy of protection causes isolation. The example of the United States of America is sufficient to show that that is not so. By adopting a policy of protection that country has gone ahead and, is to-day probably the most prosperouscountry in the world.
– This being the first opportunity I have had of dealing with tariff matters since I entered’ the Senate on 1st July, 1926, I should like to make my position clear, particularly as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) this afternoon inferred that I entered the Senate as a freetrader.
– I said that the honorable. sen ator was a low tariff ist.
– I am not a freetrader, and have never professed to believe in f reetrade doctrines, I belong to an organization which ‘believes in moderate protection, and not in placing heavy burdens on the means of producing the country’s wealth. So long as I am able I shall do what I can to relieve from the heavy burden of taxation the means of producing wealth. Applications by manufacturers for increases of duty are equivalent to requests for assistance from the public purse to carry on their private businesses against the competition of manufacturers in other parts of the world.
In tariff matters there appears to be one law for the rich and another for the poor. Australia is justly proud of its legislation providing for old-age pensions. But before an old-age pension . is granted the applicant must disclose details of his financial position, and if the department is satisfied he may receive a pension not exceeding £1 a week. On the other hand Australian manufacturers who apply for increased protection have nevet yet, so far as I am aware, been required to produce evidence to show that further duties are necessary toenable them to carry on their businesses.
– No claimant for an old-age pension is required to disclose his private affairsto the public.
– That is true ; but he has to disclose full particulars to departmental officers.
– Australian manufacturers are required to disclose to the Tariff Board particulars in support of their applications.
– The Tariff Board may investigate claims for increased duties, but it rests with Parliament to say whether those duties should be increased. I remind the Minister that a few months -ago the Senate had before it a proposal to dispose of the Australian Commonwealth Line of’ Steamers. Although it was made clear that the disposal of the Line would result in a saving of at.least £500,000 per annum, many honorable senators contended that they should not be asked to decide the question of the disposal of the Line without having before them the evidence tendered before the Public Accounts Committee. We are now asked, not to relieve the people of the burden of taxation, but to impose further taxation on them, without having before us data to enable us to come to an intelligent decision.
I am not a rabid freetrader; I endeavour to examine tariff proposals from a common-sense point of view. So far as I am aware, the Tariff Board has never asked an Australian manufacturer who has applied for increased duties to produce his bank book. He may make certain statements before the Board, but is not called upon to produce the very evidence which would enable the Tariff Board to decide whether the claim was, or was not, justified.
– The affairs of applicants are frequently investigated by skilled accountants on behalf of the Tariff Board.
– On several occasions I have appeared before the Tariff Board to oppose applications for increased duties on articles required by primary producers. My evidence has always been taken in public, and at times I have been subjected to severe cross-examination by the Chairman of the Tariff Board. But when those whose claim I was opposing appeared before the Tariff Board, their evidence was taken in camera, and I had no opportunity of cross-examining them. In speaking in this way I realize the utter futility of what I am saying, because even if the Senate were to throw out this bill and wipe out this schedule of duties, the Minister for Trade and Customs, under that little measure, the Australian Industries Preservation Act, could quite cheerfully restore the duties as they appear in the schedule to-morrow, and things would be just the same as they are to-day. As a Parliament we have placed an autocratic power in the hands of one man to override the will of Parliament.
– We have a remedy for that.
– Yes, but the Parliament has not the courage to apply it.
– The Minister must act in accordance with the law.
– Of course, but the law may not always be in accordance with the Constitution. In my opinion the Australian Industries Preservation Act is not.
– That point has not been tested.
– It has not, but if any one had the courage to test the act, I think it would be found to be unconstitutional. Section 90 of the Constitution Act says that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have the exclusive power to impose duties of customs and excise; it does not say that this power may be delegated. At any rate that is my reading of the Constitution, but I am not a lawyer.
– The honorable senator ought to be one.
– When recentlyI was consoling a nephew of mine, a law student who had failed to pass an examination, I said that the law had always had a fascination for me, and that I had made up my mind that if I ever had any money to spare before I was too old, I would take a spell and study the law. He said, “ Yes, I think you would do well at it. If you knew all the damn fools who are doing well at the law, I am sure you would have no misgivings about the matter.” I suppose the Honorary Minister has the same sort of mind about me.
Just before I took my seat in the Senate the Customs Tariff Bill was under review, and a clever little movement was made to alter the system of levying duties on sheet glass from so much per square yard to so much per lb. What appeared on the face of it to be a slight alteration reducingthe rate of duty, actually increased it by 500 per cent. The rate, which was previously 2s. 6d. and 3s. 6d. per square yard, wasaltered to11/2d. and 2d. per lb. About the same time the Australian Glass Company held its annual meeting, and Mr. Grimwade, the chairman, of directors, showed that it had made a profit of £169,000 for the year. After paying a dividend of 10 per cent, the company carried forward £50,000 to profit and loss and wrote off a considerable amount of depreciation.
– That is not much profit for a trading concern.
– No ; but the chairman of directors of the company said that if they could not get increased protection on some of the lines which they were producing , it would be necessary for the company to close down some of the works and dismiss some employees. He said that for the first time in his life he had been guilty oflobbying, inasmuch as he had taken some of the sheet glass manufactured by the company and exhibited it to members of Parliament in the Queen’s Hall at Parliament House, Melbourne. To my mind that statement proves that I am correct when 1 declare that many manufacturers’ secure increased protection when, in reality, they are not financially in need of it.
I am not one of those who, during the war,went about advocating that every one should go to the front and swearing by all that was holy that never again would Australia trade with Germany or any other enemy country. There was some mention of German goods this evening. They can be secured to any extent in the capital cities of Australia. Retailers sell German goods because they can buy them cheaper than British goods, and the preference that Australia gives to. the British manufacture is to a large extent nullified. As Senator Duncan said, the fault lies with the buying public. Everyone knows that at least 90 per cent, ofthe buying public are the workingpeople of Australia. They constitute 90 per cent, of the total population, and can control any buying that is done. No one imports goods merely to see how pretty they look on a shelf. When goods are imported, buyers have to be found for them. Many years ago when
I worked on the mines in Kalgoorlie, it was a favourite recreation for all the “ free and independent “ to get on a lorry at the corner of Hannan-street and Maritanastreet on Saturday nights and to indulge in heroics until the cows came home, about trading only ‘with white men. At the same time their wives were engaged in buying from the ‘dagoes, as they were called, who were selling at Id. per lb. cheaper than the British traders. That that is not invention on my part is known to any one who lived on the gold fields in those days. The same spirit is abroad in Australia to-day. We talk largely about preference to Great Britain and all sorts of patriotic stuff’ but when we have the silver to spend we leave it with the foreigner. ‘
We have been told to-night that we ought to look at this tariff from a broad Australian viewpoint. I believe that the correct expression is “broad national viewpoint.” That is a fine fruity phrase which reads well. It is like that other phrase “ adverse trade balance,” which, when repeated often enough, looks so imposing in the press, but really means nothing. After all what we really need to do is to look after the interests of our own States, which, of course, dovetail into those of other States. It is not always an advantage to see what another State does or should do. Sometimes it reminds us too readily of some of the difficulties of our own’ States, and that is not always conducive to the promotion of a brotherly spirit. I think it will be admitted by all that, from a developmental standpoint, Western Australia is the most backward State. It has certainly, as the Minister has said, come rapidly to the front as a wheat producer, but it had to do so or admit that it was downandout.
– Western Australia has had a succession of good seasons.
– Certainly, and for this the Almighty has had a little of the credit, but the recent progress of the States is largely due, we are told, to the fact that it has had a good Labour Government in office. At least that is the impression I have gathered from the literature issued every now and then by that Government.
In order to carry out its developmental work Western Australia is now embarking upon extensive agricultural water schemes. It has not the rivers that the eastern States have, and it is thus necessary for it to conserve water in the agricultural districts in a way that has not to be done in some of the other States. The State Government is therefore a buyer for hundreds of miles of water piping to run water from the different reservoirs to the farms served by them. The schedule before us to-night will hit it very severely. One item alone will add about £20,000 to the cost of the water piping. Furthermore, in order to develop and encourage the agricultural industry, the State- Government has in hand a big railway building scheme to the cost of which this Tariff Bill will make such a tremendous difference, that it will be obliged to reduce the mileage that could have been built before the schedule was imposed. That may not appear to be a very big item, but it is a big item to a State like Western Australia, where the farmers who are out on new agricultural areas have been hoping against hope for several years past that they would get a railway to transport their produce -to market at a reasonable rate.
I notice that several speakers in another place have accused the Government of setting out to annihilate the iron and steel industry of Australia. I cannot help recalling the statement made by Mr. Delprat, Managing Director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, -at a banquet which was given when the company first commenced to manufacture steel rails at Newcastle. He said that the company was getting the comparatively small bonus? of 12s. on steel rails and did not want a duty because it was able to carry on without one. We now find that the company is not satisfied with the duties already imposed and it is said that the whole iron and steel industry is on the point of annihilation, because it cannot get a duty of more than £3 a ton on steel rails.
– There have been a few award variations since Mr. Delprat made that statement.
– I admit it. Award variations are another necessary evil in our modern system.
With all the protection that is being accorded to various industries in Australia I notice that there is no talk of giving assistance to the gold-mining industry. Although that industry has slumped very considerably in Western Australia, it is still producing about £1,500,000 worth of gold a year without new finds of any consequence, and is providing employment for many people. To my mind it is certainly due for some assistance from an admittedly protectionist Government. There are several items in the schedule upon which I shall have something to say when the” measure is in committee. It has been said that when higher duties are imposed the price of locally manufactured articles is increased. There is no reason why that should be so; but nevertheless it is a fact that on every occasion upon which additional duties have been imposed consumers have had to pay higher prices for the Australian article.
– The honorable senator should cast his eye on the Arbitration Court to ascertain the cause.
– The decisions of that court are to some extent responsible.
– That was the case before we had a Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– I believe it has always been the practice to bring the price of the Australian article very near to that of the imported commodity. I am not saying that the importers are all white-headed boys, and the Australian manufacturers a lot of brigands. The one is as good as the other. If we had no tariff we should be bled by the importers, and, on the other hand, when the tariff duties are increased we are bled by the local manufacturers. We get it both ways.
– Competition keeps importers within their limits.
– Yes; but we do not have competition in the real sense of the word. Some manufacturers sell their products to retailers on the definite understanding that they are to be disposed of at a fixed retail price. This suggests that there is an “ honorable understanding,” under which retailers all receive the same profit. If a retailer sells below that price his supplies are cut off. I remember a case heard in Richmond, in Victoria, where Lever Brothers sued a retailer for selling Palmolive soap at less than the stipulated price. Whilst supporting the second reading of the bill I reserve the right to do what I can in committee to reduce to a reasonable level duties that I think are too high, so that those industries upon which Australia really depends, will have opportunities equal to those enjoyed by other highly protected industries. Senator Findley said that there were certain industries which Australia could successfully conduct, and upon which , we should concentrate. There are only one or two industries which can compete with those in other countries. We have been told that Australian manufacturers must be assisted to compete with those in countries where cheap labour is available, and where the standard of living is below that which- we enjoy in Australia. It would be equally logical to say that, because our wheat-growers are compelled to sell their produce in competition with that grown by cheap labour - in India, for instance - they should receive protection. Does any one suggest that the wheat and wool growers should receive a bounty on what they produce? These producers are content to do their own job; but they do object to have to carry other industries on their backs while doing it. That is the objection I have to what is termed a “ scientific “ tariff.
– As Australians, it is our duty to encourage the production of goods in our own country for the benefit of the people, and to ensure the general prosperity of the Commonwealth. Under a protective policy, the Australian workers have received higher wages and have enjoyed better conditions than they experienced under any other system. If we were to revert to freetrade, the Australian workers, in less than twelve months, would be brought down to the level of cheap labour countries in other parts p£ the world. That I am sure no one ‘.desires. We should produce all we require for local consumption and have an exportable surplus. Although our wheat and wool growers do not receive assistance in the form of bounties, they are able without tariff protection to produce commodities which are recognized as superior to any in the world, and are in a better position than they have ever been. I trust that satisfactory prices for wheat and wool will continue to be realized so that those engaged in primary production will benefit and the ‘‘future development and prosperity of , Australia will be assisted. Prior “to’ 1914 Russia was producing 75 per cent, of the world’s requirements of wheat at ls. lOd. a bushel, but if production had continued at that price the’- Australian wheat producer would have been in an unfortunate position. It has been mentioned during the debate that when lamb was selling at from 8d. to 10d: per lb. in Australia, it was being exported 13,000 miles and sold in Great Britain at 4ld. per lb. Similar conditions obtained1 in New Zealand some years ago, when the consumers in that dominion were paying 6d. to 8d. for mutton while it was1 being sold in London at 3-Jd. a lb. It is,£he duty of honorable senators to support the imposition of duties to enable our industries to compete with those in countries where the wages are lower and the standards of living much below that which we enjoy. When I was associated with the softgoods business, men’s and women’s underwear was often branded “British Manufacture.” I should like to know what guarantee we have that such goods are of British manufacture. At present Great Britain is receiving goods from Germany in lieu of cash, and this is forcing thousands of industrialists out of employment. Is it not possible that some of these goods which are manufactured in Germany are being brought out here as being of British manufacture ? Australian industries are producing articles as good as, and in many cases superior, to those supposed to be of British manufacture, but which may be made by cheap labour. About twelve months’ ago I visited a factory where ladies’ singlets were being cut off a machine ‘in tubular length by the thousand, finished and boxed up in a few moments, and sold at 2s. lOd.” each. I was informed that, the price of a similar article of Japanese^ manufacture was about ls. 4d., and that of German manufacture ls. lOd/ each This is the competition with which. the Australian manu- featurer has to contend. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been invested in plant, two-thirds of which is now lying idle.
– When our manufacturers more than meet home requirements what is going to happen ?
– I do not intend to be drawn off my argument by the honorable senator’s interjection. I- am concerned about the immediate future; I wish to see more of our people properly employed in our secondary industries. I no not favour taxing people off the face of the earth so to speak, but I believe that some protection is necessary to enable our secondary industries to maintain their footing and provide employment for Australians under Australian conditions.
– That would be all right if the protected industry did not put up prices following an increase in the tariff.
– Many industries are in a bad way. The worsted woollen mill at Albany in Western Australia is as well equipped as any similar industry in Australia, and yet 75 per cent.’ of its product is sold in South Australia simply because the people in Western Australia do not demand the local article. As a rule Australians do ‘ not realize that if they wish our secondary industries to prosper they should insist upon getting Australian products. One honorable senator this afternoon declared that he was an Australian from head to heel. No man can be certain that every portion of his clothing is Australian made. I stand for Australian industries and, wherever possible buy Australian made goods.
– What guarantee has one that everything one buys is Australian? -
– I make sure that my suits are Australian made because I obtain the tweed from the mills. As for the principle of preference to goods of British origin, it is doubtful if, in every instance, imports from Britain are British made. Prior to the war there was a considerable importation of German goods branded as British. There is every probability, therefore, that the same practice now. obtains. Australia has not, so far, reaped the whirlwind of the war. We have not yet experienced the full economic effects of that terrible conflict between the nations. It is important, therefore, that we should do all that is possible to encourage Australian industries.
I do not wish to weary the Senate, but I should like to place on record certain figures dealing with imports of commodities the bulk of which could be manufactured in Australia. The following were among the list of imports for 1926-27 : -
The imports for 1926-27 showed an increase of £13,106,749 over those for 1925-26. It is not too much to say that 90 per cent, of the goods mentioned in the list quoted could be produced in Australia. If our secondary industries were developed along these lines we should not have the spectacle of 100,000 persons out of employment at the present time.
– How does the honorable senator explain the depression in the United States of America, the most prosperous country in the world? There are some millions of unemployed there. - Senator GRAHAM. - I am not in a position to answer the honorable senator’s question. I do know, however, that effective protection built up the secondary industries in that country and made it a self-contained nation. Why should not we follow the example of Uncle Sam and start to properly protect our industries so as to become self-contained?
– America became great because she did not restrict migration.
– Nor is there a desire to restrict migration in Australia provided we can be sure of the profitable employment of all those who come here. Unfortunately, many migrants have very bitter experiences. Only, to-day the newspapers reported the case of two men who had been encouraged by officials of Australia House to go on the land in Western Australia. They were advised that if they knew nothing about farming they would get all the necessary instruction and, therefore, need have no fear. One man who came here with £800 lost every penny of it, and a day or two ago was wandering about Perth demented. Is this the proper way to deal with migrants? There are scores of instances of men who come to Australia and. lose every penny they possessed when they landed on our shores.
I was interested in Senator Chapman’s rather startling suggestion for the solution of the unemployment problem. His proposal was a ridiculous one. The honorable senator referred also to the difficulty experienced by producers in his State in disposing of their wine and dried fruits overseas. His complaint was really an indictment of the Development and Migration Commission. It is possible, of course, that the fault lies with the- producers themselves. When Sir Victor Wilson returned from the Wembley Exhibition he stated that on one occasion tins labelled as pears proved, when opened, to be pineapples; and similarly tins branded as pineapple conserve proved to be tins of peaches. Carelessness in the packing and branding of products may be, in some measure, responsiblefor difficulties experienced in marketing them abroad. I have a lively recollection of a conversation which I had with a gentleman who came fromChicago about nine months ago. He told me that one of the storekeepers in that city, desiring to encourage Australian trade, displayed in his window a notice advising his customers to buy Australian fruits. He filledhis shop with Australian products, but within two hours was compelled, by his angry customers and the general public, to shift it all out and stock American products. They insisted upon getting the Cali.fornian products. ‘ “Wo want something of the same spirit in Australia. We should see that all Australian products intended for export are in good condition. What is the good of exporting primary products if they are not up to the necessary standard? There must be something wrong with the packing at this end if out fruits do not find favour with the people of other countries, because they will bear comparison with those produced in any other part of the world. The same applies to meat, wool, wheat, butter, and cheese. We must secure wider markets overseas. Although canning factories are established in Australia, it is a common sight to witness displays of Californian tinned fruits in our retail establishments. Is that an encouragement for those who are endeavouring to earn a living from the soil? Every town should have an Australia day upon which all retailers would exhibit only those goods that are produced in Australia. The middleman now calls the tune, and the consumer is obliged to dance to it. In nine oases out of ten he does not ask whether the goods which he purchases have been made in Australia or
We must make Australia selfcontained. Up to “the present we have been relying for our protection largely upon the Mother Country. The time has arrived for us to demonstrate our ability to protect ourselves. . We should not have battleships built in Scotland to relieve the unemployment in that country when our own artisans and mechanics are walking the streets looking for work. The only obstacle in our path recently, when we decided upon the construction of two cruisers, was a roller ‘to roll the plates. Certainly it would have cost £1,000,000; but consider the .millions of pounds that are sent abroad for commodities that could be manufactured ‘ in Australia ! We are relying too greatly upon other countries for goods that we should produce ourselves. Senator Chapman read a report of the League of Nations to the effect that we should exercise care in regard to tariff imposts lest international complications ensue, and a disagreement arise with some other nation. I say, “ Let it come.” We must stand on our own, and do all that we can to benefit not only our own people, but also those who are coming from Great Britain to assist us in making Australia the nation it should be. We should not be afraid to stand up in defence of our country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280307_senate_10_117/>.