10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to intimate that a highly distinguished Australian airman, in the person of Captain Herbert Hinkler, A.F.C., is within the precincts of the House, and I propose, with the consent of honorablesenators, to invite him to take a seat on the floor of the Senate.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Captain Hinkler thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– On the 9th inst., Senator Guthrie addressed the following . questions to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following particulars : -
What is the cost of compulsory military training in the Commonwealth?
What is the cost of same in Tasmania?
What is ‘the annual cost of Tasmanian camps ?
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Owing to the arrangement of Army Estimates whereby combined provision is spread over practically the whole of the votes for what might be termed the overhead and general expenses applicable to any system of training, such as pay of the Administrative and Instructional Staffs, Ordnance and Pay Services, &c, it is not practicable to state the whole cost of Compulsory Military Training in the Commonwealth. The expenditure for 1926-27, under the votes which specially relate to universal training is as follows: -
Use op Foreign Timbers.
– On the 3rd November last, Senator Andrew asked a number of questions in regard to wireless broadcasting in country districts and the need for relay stations. TheMinister representing the Postmaster-General replied as follows: -
The whole position with regard to wireless is now under consideration by the Government, and it is hoped that an announcement will shortly be made.
On the 17th November the Government introduced the Wireless Agreement Bill and the Prime Minister made . an announcement in regard to wireless matters generally. The questions asked by Senator Andrew are bound up with wider questions, some of which have since been settled while others still remain to be determined. The present position is as follows: The establishment of broadcasting in the country centres is still under consideration. At the suggestion of the Government, the various Class . “A” Broadcasting Companies are negotiating for an amalgamation of their activities with the object of securing more economical management of the services, improvement of the existing services and their extension to localities where a satisfactory service is not now given. The installation of relay stations is thus dependent more or less on the completion of these negotiations, and the companies have been requested to expedite them. It is hoped that within the next few weeks the Government will be in a position to make some announcement on the matter.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 17- No. 19.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 18.
Northern’ Australia Act -
Central Australia - Ordinance No. 1 of 1928 - Licensing.
North Australia - Ordinance No. 1 of 1928 - Licensing.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What is the present position at the oil bore at Popo?
Boring at the site now being tested at Popo which is known as No. 5 bore, commenced on the 22nd February, 1928, and, on the 5th March, had been carried to a depth of 100 feet. Bore was abandoned on the advice of Mr. Clark, one of the principal drilling experts of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, owing to difficulties caused by a breakage of casing. Various expedients had been adopted to overcome the trouble but without success, and it was therefore considered advisable to select a new site.
SALARY OF Mr. M. L. SHEPHERD.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers are 1 to 5. The appointment of Mr. M. L. Shepherd as Official Secretary in Great Britain of the Commonwealth of Australia was approved by His Excellency the Governor-General in Council on the6th January, 1921, with salary at the rate of ?2,000 per annum. The Prime Minister at the time of Mr. Shepherd’s ‘appointment was the Right Honorable W.M. Hughes, and the papers show that the decision to recommend Mr. Shepherds appointment for the approval of the Governor-General in Council was made by Cabinet. The papers do not, however, contain a record of any definite agreement having been entered into regarding Mr. Shepherd’s salary, but the terms of the approved Order in Council are definite on this point.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 9th March, vide page 3762).
Division V. - Textiles, Felts and Furs and Attire.
By omitting the whole item and inserting in its stead the following item: - “ 115. Socks and stockings for human attire, viz. : -
And on and after 15th January, 1928 -
On and after 25th November, 1927 -
On and after 25thNovember, 1927 -
– I was pleased that the discussion on this item was not concluded before we adjourned on Friday last, because I was anxious to produce further evidence in justification of the attitude I had adopted in regard to the proposed imposition of prohibitory duties on certain classes of men’s and women’s hosiery of British manufacture. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) stated last week that be had recently visited a hosiery factory in which he was shown a room full of hosiery of Australian manufacture, which he was informed the manufacturers were unable to dispose of. Imported goods, we were told, were being dumped at . such low prices that local manufacturers were unable to dispose of the stocks they were holding. I informed the Minister that I had visited a factory, where the proprietors bad assured me that they could not supply all the orders they had in hand.
When in Melbourne during the weekend my attention was directed to an advertisement in one of the daily papers. Being anxious to ascertain the facts and to refute the statement as to why stocks of Australian stockings were being held in such large quantities, I obtained a sample of hoisery, made by a well-known Australian firm, which can be purchased to-day at a retail price of 9d. per pair. & Melbourne firm has purchased 3,600 dozen pairs of these stockings, which were regarded as being of good value when sold at 2s.11d. per pair, and is retailing them to-day at 9d. per pair. A stock of 3,600 dozen pairs would occupy considerable space, and possibly would go a long way towards filling a room. It is possible that the manufacturer referred to by the Minister was unable to get rid of his stock because he was not conducting his business efficiently and had on his hands goods that were unsaleable.
– I was speaking of men’s half-hose.
– No manufacturer, having in mind the rapid changes that take place in fashions, particularly with regard to articles of ladies’ wear, would stock up to the extent described by the Minister.
– I distinctly stated that the stocks I saw comprised men’shalfhose. They were not in any way affected by the changes of fashions for ladies’ wear.
– But this item deals also with ladies’ stockings. I am therefore justified in explaining how a change in ladies’ fashions may affect a manufacturer’s business. Not long ago it was decreed that skirts should be worn shorter, and consequently very few young women in Australia will now wear silk hose unless the silk extends above the knee. This possibly explains in part the difficulties of certain manufacturers of hosiery. Possibly the manufacturer referred to by the Minister had thousands of dozen pairs of ladies’ hosiery with lisle thread tops, which owing to the change in dress fashions are now useless and may be obtained at 9d. a pair, although the cost -might have been 24s. a dozen.
– The honorable senator’s argument has no bearing upon the position with regard to men’s halfhose.
– I am aware of that, and I propose now to direct my remarks to that point. The Government’s proposal is to impose on cotton hose, under the British preferential tariff, a duty of 6s. a dozen pairs, or an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty. I have procured a number of samples of that class of hose, as well as samples of woollen half-hose, the British preferential tariff on which is now 8s. a dozen pairs, or an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent. Lines that are much in demand amongst the working men in Australia are a blue-grey cotton half-hose, and a knitted sock containing a small proportion of wool, which are retailed at1s. a pair. The new duty on this latter class of hose is a flat rate of 8s. a dozen pairs, or an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty. The increased duty on this class of sock is 100 per cent., and in the case of the cotton hose it is from 150 to 160 per cent. This added burden will fall chiefly upon the working men. The wealthier sections of the community will not be called upon to pay one penny more for their hosiery. One sample of English half-hose which I have in my hand is invoiced at 6s. a dozen, and the landed cost in Australia under these duties will be 14s. 7d. a dozen pairs. Men of means can very well afford to pay from 3s. l1d. to 4s.11d. for their halfhose, and men in receipt of say £7 a week can afford to pay 2s.11d. or 3s. for their socks.
– Are there any manufacturers of hose in Tasmania?
– Yes. Another line of English half-hose which I have here, is invoiced at 16s. a dozen. The ad valorem duty on this line is 35 per cent., It is wrong in principle to impose a flat rate in conjunction with the ad valorem duties, as the burden falls principally upon theworking men, their wives and their families.
– Would it not be better if the Australian working men wore woollen instead of cotton socks?
– The honorable senator should not forget that cotton is grown in Queensland. We should encourage the cotton industry.
– The woollen socks which the working men of Australia could afford to buy under this tariff would not give decent wear in heavy boots. At present they can buy a good British sock for from Is. to Is. 3d. a pair. I have made careful inquiries as to the position of the hosiery manufacturers in Australia, and I am advised that they are not offering a line of women’s hose at less than 15s. a dozen at the mills, and that if the item is passed as it stands, the poorer woman will have to pay Is.11d. a pair, in lieu of1s. 3d. The departmental manager of one- of the largest stores in Sydney has assured me that the Australian manufacturers are not offering anything to take the place of the men’s cotton half-hose, which is now in general use in the warmer climates of Australia. Consequently the Australian working man will have to pay1s.11d. for cotton socks instead of1s. as formerly. Immediately the cost of living rises, the working men are of necessity obliged to apply to the Arbitration Court for a new award to meet the increases. The burden invariably falls upon the working men and their families. If honorable senators opposite realized this, I feel confident that they would agree that it should be possible to reduce the duties in these items without inflicting hardship on Australian manufacturers.
– What action does the honorable senator propose to take?
– I desire that the flat rate shall be discarded, because it’ operates unjustly and its burden falls only on that section of the community which is least able to bear it. I do not wish the foreign manufacturer to capture the market that should be held by Great Britain. I, therefore, move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (a) by leaving out “ 6s,” British preferential tariff.
If that is carried, an ad valorem duty of 35 per cent, will be imposed on cotton hosiery and children’s sox under the British preferential tariff. Surely that ought to be sufficient? During last year the additional protection which had been given to Australian manufacturers enabled many of them to flourish exceedingly. Those who are turning out hosiery that meet with the approval of purchasers have nothing of which to complain.
– Hosiery manufacturers have had a very bad time.
– The shareholders in hosiery companies, and not the manufacturers themselves, have felt the pinch. I say unhesitatingly that a great deal of the trouble has been due, not to the dumping of goods into Australia, but to ineffective methods of distribution and other causes.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I understood Senator Payne to say that the inevitable effect of the imposition of theseduties will be to increase the prices of the different lines of hosiery to which they apply. The honorable senator must know that they have been operating for some time, and that the price of a number of lines now is no different from what it was before they took effect, while in the case of other lines a considerable reduction has taken place. I have in my hand two pairs of children’s socks that were made from cotton and artificial silk. Honorable senators must agree that they have the appearance of a superior quality. Before this tariff schedule was tabled the manufacturer’s price of these lines was from 20s. to 22s. a doz. They are being sold at the present time at from 17s. to 18s. a dozen.
– Only a certain class of people can afford to buy those lines.
– A line of all cotton men’s half hose, of which I have a sample, is sold at 10s. 7d. a dozen. It could probably be retailed at ls. 3d. a pair and return the retailer quite a good profit. It is the product of Eastaugh Limited, of Melbourne.
– Has Australian cotton been used in their manufacture?
– I cannot say. There is no reason why Australian cotton should not be used. A further line of black half hose is sold at 9s. lOd. a dozen, and one of brown cotton at 8s. 5d. a dozen. They could be retailed at about ls. a pair for the browns and a little more for the blacks.
– What are they retailed at?
– I am unable to give that information. I am in possession of only the manufacturer’s prices. They are quite good socks. Senator Payne has posed as the friend of the working man in this chamber, but other honorable senators have just as tender a regard for the working man and his dependents. It is strange that, although we have in Australia a large number of working men’s organizations, who diligently watch their interests, the Department of Trade and Customs has not so far received any complaints. I venture to assert that no complaint has been received from those organizations by any honorable senator.
– The Minister is wrong when he says that.
– We should not concern ourselves with what may happen in the Arbitration Court as a result of any alteration of the tariff ; that court might very well be left to carry out the duty for which it was created. Our function is to impose tariff conditions that will enable industries to be carried on in Australia in a reasonable way. The duties which were imposed by Parliament nearly two years ago did not increase the cost of living.
– Does the Minister say that this tariff will not increase the cost of living?
– The last tariff did not have that effect. On the contrary, many lines which were given much greater protection are cheaper to-day than they were before the new duties came into operation.
– This is a prohibitory tariff, and it must increase prices.
– There is now considerable competition among Australian firms, and it has had the effect of reducing the prices of some 0 lines of hosiery by from 25 per cent, to 35 per cent. That applies to practically every class of hosiery. The reason is that a number of firms were encouraged to commence business, and those which were already established increased their capital, their equipment, and their output.” At times hosiery, in common with other commodities, can be purchased at very low prices in foreign countries because their seasons are the opposite of ours and manufacturers and merchants, at the end of summer, frequently find themselves loaded with large stocks which they are pleased to dispose of at very much below cost price.
– My request applies only to the British rate.
– The British manufacturer is not given any tariff protection in his own country and his mar”kets have been flooded with cheap goods from the continent. He has bad to bring down the price of his (products to the level of that charged for continental goods. At the end of the season British manufacturers with large stocks on hand are glad to sell them to overseas buyers at almost any price. The position in Great Britain is critical, but while any reduction that we might make would not assist them to any extent, it would probably have the effect of destroying our own industries. Although I have every sympathy with the British manufacturers, in this case I believe that charity should begin at home. We shall be serving the Empire best by establishing our own industries on a satisfactory footing. I therefore hope that the committee will not agree to Senator Payne’s request. On a previous occasion Senator Payne spoke in a similar strain in connexion with underclothing, but his doleful prophecies have not been fulfilled. Investigations made by the Customs Department in Melbourne and Sydney 3how that there have been reductions in the price of many of the lines included 3 ‘i the last schedule, particularly in connexion with cotton underwear. There has been no material increase in price in relation to any line. There is no reason to believe that the increased duty on hosiery will have a different effect from that of the increased duties imposed on cotton underwear. A number of overseas firms have already established hosiery factories in this .country, aru! others are about to do so. There will, therefore, be keen competition among Australian manufacturers, which will keep prices down to the lowest level consistent with a reasonable margin” of profit.
– I do not think that many members in another place understood the effect of the flat rate. I shall support any proposal to eliminate the flat rate in regard to goods of British manufacture and to leave the British duties where they were before this schedule was introduced. Should Senator Payne’s request be negatived, I propose to move that in respect of sub-item a the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, flat rates 3s., 4s. and 5s., or ad valorem 30 per.cent., 40 per cent, and 45 per cent., whichever rate returns higher duty; that in respect of sub-item b the duties should be flat rates 4s., 5s. and 6s., or ad valorem 45 per cent., 55 per cent, and 60 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty; and that in respect of sub-item c the duties should be, flat rates 5s., 7s. and 9s., or ad valorem 35 per cent., 45 per cent, and 50 per cent, whichever returns the higher duty. That would leave the ad valorem duties where they now are while considerably reducing the flat rates. A flat rate of 8s. is now imposed in respect of cotton and wool socks made in England the invoiced price of which is 8s. That is a duty of 100 per cent, on British goods. In the case of woollen socks made in England and invoiced at 5s. 9d., the flat rate is 8s. - a duty of considerably over 100 per cent, against goods made in the dear old Mother Country. The proposal before us increases the duty from 30 per cent, to 100 per cent., yet a little while ago honorable senators, in commenting on what England had done for us, advocated that we should do something in return. My proposal would mean that, in respect of cotton socks, the flat rate would be reduced from 6s. to 3s. in the case of British goods, and in respect of foreign socks from 10s. to 5s. Foreign made goods would still have to bear a duty of 200 per cent. I said the other day that on socks costing 3d. duty amounting to” lOd. was imposed. That is a duty of over 300 per cent. My proposal would reduce that rate to 200 per cent. In the case of socks of wool, or containing wool, my proposal would mean that a flat rate of 4s. would be imposed in respect of British socks invoiced at 5s. 9d. Surely a duty of about 70 per cent. should be sufficient. In the case of socks made of silk, or containing silk, I propose an all-round reduction of 2s. on the flat rate where the imported price is 7s. - leaving the ad valorem duties as they are as present. The Minister said that I did not quote retail prices. I quoted the prices at which socks could be landed in Australia and compared them with Australian manufacturers’ factory prices. That is a fair comparison. I do notthink that the Australian wholesale men are anxious to make more on foreign socks than they can make on Australian socks. It is their business to supply something that the Australian public wants, and they sell these cheap foreign socks because there is a demand for them. Cotton socks can be landed in Australia for 4s. a dozen. The Tariff Board’s report says -
It would appear that no children’s hose entirely of cotton is being made in Australia.
Some kinds of socks are being made in Australia, but not all kinds.
– Australian manufacturers are producing a mixture of cotton and silk.
– Cotton socks can be landed at 4d. a pair. The Tariff Board’s report continues -
Prices tendered in evidence show that children’s imported socks are being sold retail in Australia as low as 6-Jd. a pair. The local manufacturer who is making children’s socks in silk and cotton mixture gave 13s. Cd. a dozen as the lowest figure at which he could produce cotton socks to compete with the imported socks. So far as men’s cotton hose is concerned, the retail prices of imported lines quoted in evidence ranged from 6d. a pair. The lowest price quoted in evidence for men’s cotton socks of Australian manufacture was for those made by Eastaugh & Company, viz., 16s. a dozen wholesale.
– The price is now 8s. 5d. a dozen.
– It is true that the Minister has given other figures ; but I am quoting the sworn evidence of Eastaugh & Company, as tendered to the Tariff Board. The report of the board continues -
The cheapest cotton hose made by Bond & Company was sold by that company at 20s. per dozen pairs, with a retail price of 2s. Od.
– What is the date of the report of the board?
– It is dated November , 1927. If we can build up an industry in Australia, by all means let us do so; but not if it requires the imposition of duties of 100 per cent. British, and over 300 per cent, foreign on some of the lines I have mentioned. Honorable senators realize, I am sure, that what is putting Australia in a grave position to-day is the increase of costs in all directions, and these duties can have no other effect than to increase the cost of living.
.- We have had a line of socks shown to us which Senator Chapman says can be landed at 4s. a dozen, and also an Australian line of socks produced at 10s. 7d. a dozen. I should say that the Australian article would wear three times as long as the other. Any one who knows anything about hosiery would come to the same conclusion. The Australian sock is, therefore, the better -investment for the working man, for whom Senator Chapman has put up a special plea. I can understand the honorable senator putting up a fight for his particular views; but even if the duty on foreign socks is 300 per cent., it is Australians who are employed in manufacturing Australian socks, and the value of these is three times that’ of the foreign articles. Senator Chapman’s concern is for the working man!
– I am speaking not only on behalf of the working man ; but also on behalf of the country man.
– I do not know very much about the country man, but I know from observation that there are very few cotton socks worn By Australian workmen in cities.
– Certain lines of hosiery which our Australian manufacturers turn out under the existing tariff can compete- with ease with the imported articles; but the difficulty which we are always encountering - and the position is the same with regard to many other . lines - relates to the shoddy article brought in from, countries where the manufacturers have large quantities of low-grade material which they work up with very cheap labour. Prom a tariff point of view there is only one satisfactory way of dealing with these shoddy lines, and that is by imposing a flat rate of duty.
– The honorable senator would not class as shoddy the children’s cotton socks that I have exhibited here?
– I do not know whether they are shoddy or not. All I know is that the only way to meet the case of the imported shoddy article is to impose a flat rate of duty. That principle does not apply to this item alone; it is duplicated in various forms throughout the tariff, because it is the only way to meet the competition of the imported shoddy article. The difficulty of the Australian manufacturer who is producing socks which he is selling at 10s. 7d. a dozen, is to get a market for them. The importer brings in socks at 4s. a dozen, makes a good profit at that price, and sells them to the storekeeper, who makes a still larger profit. The Australian sock is probably retailed at ls. 3d. a pair, while the imported sock, which is landed at 4s. a dozen, is retailed at ls. a pair.
– Those imported socks can be bought anywhere at 5-Jd. or 6d. a pair.
– It has been shown over and over again that the traders and not the general public get the benefit of these cheap imported socks. The general public, having no knowledge of the quality of the article on sale, buys that which is cheaper, so long as the appearance is good. Consequently, far more is paid in twelve months for imported socks than for the Australian article. I am certain it will be proved in this case, as it has been proved scores of times previously in the history of Australian manufacture, that if we give the local industry a chance, local competition will very soon give the Australian public a thoroughly sound article at a price which is relatively lower than that which is being paid to-day. I have no hesitation in recommending the Senate to do what has been done over and over again in regard to other items, and that is to impose this flat rate of duty, which is the only satisfactory way of dealing with what are called the bread-and-butter lines of ‘the hosiery trade of this country. It will help the whole trade. In modern industry we need mass production more than anything else. It is useless to give manufacturers a high-class trade only and shut them out of mass production. They must have the greatest possible output, because only by these means can we get the lowest possible price. “When the manufacturer has only a small output, which is being constantly upset by importations, prices must keep up, and so long as that state of affairs continues, the public cannot get the full benefit of the customs tariff. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, in quite a number of cases we imposed a flat rate of duty - the Senate, I am glad to say, consented to it - and today factory after factory is working at full pressure. That would,, not have been the case if it had not been for the imposition of the flat rates. I can give Senator Chapman an instance of a great industry that was established in South Australia by the imposition of a flat rate of duty which was not 100 per cent, or 300 per cent., but in some cases amounted to nearly 500 per cent. That was the duty on motor car bodies. Senator Chapman has seen the result. I venture to say that if we do the same in regard to cotton socks, a similar result will be achieved.
– The same principle is involved in these duties as was involved in the motor body duties.
– Exactly the same. It is the only way in which it can be done. I think that Ford motor-car bodies were valued for customs purposes at £12 a piece. If I remember rightly we imposed a duty of £60 on foreign motor car bodies. That amounted to an impost of 500 per cent.
– It made Holden’s.
– Yes, it put the motor body building industry of Australia on its feet, and the Australian public is getting an infinitely better body, and at a cheaper price than it was getting from the foreign maker.
– And prices have decreased.
– Prices have been decreasing all the time, and the same will happen in connexion with socks and stockings.
– Can the honorable senator give me one reason why it will not ? The principle is just the same. Senator Verran. - One is a necessity and the other a luxury.
– That does not affect the principle. Under this system the Australian manufacturers are given a fair opportunity to compete against overseas manufacturers of these particular goods.
– Shoddy lines.
– The Australian manufacturers do not produce shoddy lines. The Government desires to prevent the importation of shoddy lines which are always affecting the regular and proper trade of the country. The importation of such goods is the most disturbing factor in .trade that I know of, and it is most pronounced in connexion with lines of this nature. When inferior articles are imported at a low price, out of which the traders make a big profit, the public does not derive any benefit, but the whole basis of our industrial system is seriously disturbed. For the reasons I have stated we should have no hesitation in supporting these duties. Personally, I believe they will have the effect of enabling purchasers to obtain a better article, which will give greater service, although the price may appear to be a little more.
.– It is strange that some honorable senators should raise such strong objections to the imposition of flat rates ot duty under this item when there are numerous other items in the schedule on which similar duties are imposed. As Senator Greene said, flat rates of duty have been imposed in all the tariff schedules introduced during recent years. We are indebted to the honorable senator, who was one of the most successful Ministers for Trade and Customs we have ever had, for pointing out that duties fixed on a percentage basis, are, in some cases useless.
– But this means absolute prohibition.
– Not at all. As Senator Greene said, goods are sometimes exported to Australia and sold below the cost of production, and in the absence of flat rates of duty it is impossible to
– Those garments are not dealt with under this item.
– I know that; but I am -merely using this as an illustration of the point I am making. Why does the honorable senator say that flat rates of duty should not apply to socks and stockings, when there are other items under which similar duties are imposed ? He should be consistent.
– This is the first item in the schedule on which a flat rate is imposed;
– The same system is provided for in other divisions of the schedule.
– I have not yet had an opportunity to protest against the flat rates of duty imposed under other items.
– The wholesale price of the garment, which I produce, and which consists of artificial silk and cotton, is ls. 8d. The retail price is 2s. 6d., and the flat rate of duty is 2s. 6d. each, or 30 per cent. Notwithstanding this, Senator Payne is protesting against a flat rate of duty on socks and stockings which is very much less than the duty on this garment.
– Did I not protest last year against the flat rates of duty then imposed ?
– I contend that the honorable senator is adopting an inconsistent attitude because flat rates of duty are imposed on other articles.
– Yes; but they have not yet been considered by the committee. I am not inconsistent.
– Flat rates are imposed on sizes 3 to 13 of these garments, and of course as the size increases the prices are higher.
– What is the rate of duty on size 9?
– Four shillings and sixpence each, or 45 per cent., and the retail price of the article is 3s. lid. That disposes of the argument of Senator Chapman, who said that when a duty is increased the price of the locally produced article also increases. In this case a locally manufactured article is being sold at 20 per cent, less than the duty.
– Without taking into consideration the cost of the raw material.
– Yes. If these manufacturers wished to exploit the public they could easily sell these garments at ls. more and still be under the rate at which imported articles are sold. Senator Duncan and Senator Greene directed attention to the fact that in consequence of the imposition of these duties, Australian manufacturers have been able to reduce prices. There is nothing unusual or strange, as suggested by Senator Payne and Senator Chapman, in imposing a flat rate as in this case. This system has been adopted to keep out- cheap articles which are of very little use to the public, and to ensure that people will buy superior Australian goods instead of the shoddy articles which Senator Payne would like to see coming into this country.
.- Senator Poll should obtain his information from a reliable source. He has just made a statement which is not based upon facts. He produced a garment on which he said the flat rate of duty for a size 9 was -4s. 6d. That is entirely wrong. I also remind the honorable senator that I have not had an earlier opportunity while this schedule has been under consideration to oppose flat rates of duty, as this is the first item to which that principle has been- applied.
– I was referring to tariff items generally.
– I opposed the principle last year and declared that it was wrong. Senator Greene made two statements which are quite contrary to fact, and had the audacity to say that a line of hosiery which is imported at 4s. a pair was retailed at ls. a pair. The honorable senator is not aware of the position, as the particular line to which he referred is being sold in the capital cities of Australia at 6d. per pair. I except Canberra, where the price is 8d. I am conversant with the position, because I have been in touch with the industry all my life. The honorable senator also said that the object of a flat rate of duty is to prevent Australian men and women from buying shoddy stuff that will not give them any satisfaction. Why should the honorable senator cast such an aspersion upon the Australian people. Does he suggest that the average Australian is so ignorant that he will persist in buying articles that are of little use to him? 1 maintain that the Australian people are highly intelligent and are as capable of protecting themselves as are those in any other civilized country. His statement is absurd. Let us see if these goods are shoddy. For the information of honorable senators I produce an article of British manufacture and made of the best cotton. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) produced an article, almost identical, which can be manufactured in Australia, although it is not yet on the market, but he did not say it was shoddy. It is unfair to British manufacturers to say that their products are shoddy; they have a reputation for being honest and genuine in their transactions with their customers.
– He did not say that all British goods were shoddy.
– He said that the goods which would be imported under this item and which would come into competition with those of Australian manufacture were shoddy. I cannot allow that assertion to pass without contradiction. Every one knows the difficulties experienced by British manufacturers in recovering the trade which they lost during the war period. They are having a hard fight, and when the Minister suggests that British manufacturers are dumping useless stuff on the Australian market, at a low price, he shows that he is not aware of the facts.
– Is it not a fact that many British manufacturers are conducting their operations at a loss because they are selling under cost?
– -I am not making statements which I cannot verify. I produce a pair of socks of British manufacture which are sold in Great Britain today at 5s. 9d. a dozen and which, before the war, were sold at 2s. lid. a dozen. That is sufficient to show that the British manufacturers have had to contend with increased costs. Goods which are now invoiced at 6s. lOd. per dozen were, before the war, sold at 2s. 9d. to 4s. per dozen. I know what the distributors in Australia were paying for these goods prior to the war. I know also that since the war the cost of production of these socalled shoddy articles has increased by at least 50 per cent.
– What has caused the increase in cost?
– An increase in wages and an increase in the cost of the raw materials. It is not fair to suggest that the British manufacturers are attempting to flood the Australian market with so-called shoddy goods. Actually they are not shoddy. If the Australian manufacturers supplied the local market they would use the same material, and the quality of the article would be the same.
– I did not say that the British manufacturer was flooding the Australian market with shoddy cotton socks. What I said was that the importer bought cheap job lots and dumped them on the local market.
– Does the Minister suggest that it is a crime for an importer to buy cheap job lots of any class of goods? If he saw bargains offering he would be as eager as any one else to secure them.
– If that sort . of thing is bad for Australian industries we should endeavour to prevent it.
– As a matter of fact there is a continuous demand for these cotton socks. I have never known of any importer being able to buy them as cheap job lots. If the Minister objects to cheap articles being placed on the Australian market, then surely he has good reason to complain of certain Australian manufacturers, who, at times, flood the market with goods at below cost, to the injury of their competitors in business.
– We have had a long and interesting discussion on this item. It would appear that some honorable senators have more consideration for and sympathy with overseas firms than they have for Australian manufacturers. This afternoon we heard Senator Chapman pleading for “ dear old mother England.” That is a fine patriotic sentiment; but as a representative of the Australian people, I conceive it to be my duty to encourage, by high duties, the establishment of industries in Australia.
– If local prices are increased unduly, other industries are affected.
– Is it not a fact that We have given, by way of a bounty, on Australian wine, what is in effect equal to a fixed duty of 300 per cent? That is of special interest to South Australia. Did Senator Chapman object? I wonder if we shall see Senator Payne frothing at the mouth about the high duties on timber - designed to protect, among others, the sawmillers of Tasmania - when we come to those items in the schedule. It is true, as Senator Greene has said, that a flat-rate of duty is absolutely essential to encourage Australian industries. I have in my possession a sample of a lady’s undervest, made in Australia by Australian workers from Australian cotton. A year or two ago there was imposed on this article, an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent., and a flat rate of ls. each, British preferential tariff, and a flat rate of 2s. each and an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent, under the general tariff. I have not had time to look up the debates when those items were under discussion, but I have no doubt that Senator Payne said then, as he says now, in regard to the new duties on cotton socks, that the proposals of the Government would increase the cost of that article.
– That is what he said.
– What has been the net result of those high duties? They have given encouragement to the industry, which is now established in New, South Wales, with the result that the wholesale price of the article is ls. 2d., and the retail price from ls. 6d. to ls. 9d. each, a good deal less than the flat rate duty. I am satisfied that our experience in regard to women’s cotton undervests will be repeated in connexion with the manufacture of cotton socks in Australia, as well as other articles dealt with in this schedule. I never hesitate to vote for the highest protection being given to Australian industries, and I find it difficult to follow the logic of certain honorable senators opposite in these tariff debates. Senator Chapman is consistent only in his inconsistency. The same remark may be applied to Senator Payne. I should like all honorable senators to be con:sistent in their attitude towards this schedule. If high duties on imported cotton socks are harmful to the general community, then high duties on other commodities ‘ must likewise be harmful.
– Does the- honorable senator ignore the heavier burden which these duties will place upon the poorer sections of the people?
– I am more concerned about that section of the people, which I endeavour honestly to represent in this chamber, than is Senator Payne. It will be interesting to note his attitude when we are discussing the new timber duties. Of course, we shall be- told by opponents of the Government’s proposals that they will add to the cost of housing. I do not share that view. The Government can rely on my support for all duties that are likely to encourage Australian industry. I hope, therefore, that the committee will pass the item as it stands.
– I propose to support the Government. There are other items in the schedule, which we shall have to consider. I intend to vote for the new duties on timber, and to be consistent, I must vote with the Government on this item. One of the objections urged against these duties is that they will increase the cost of socks and stockings to the working people of this country, and the suggestion has been made that they should not apply to British goods. It must be obvious to honorable senators that the origin of certain goods that are arriving in Australia is very difficult to trace. Although they are supposedly of British manufacture, they are partly processed in a foreign country, and then finished off in Great Britain. With the knowledge that Australia has been and is being flooded with cheap, shoddy, low-grade timber from overseas, which is a serious competitor of our timbers, it is my intention to support the proposed timber duties. I cannot, therefore, withhold my support from this proposal of the Government,
– The honorable senator is hardly fair to me. There is no connexion between the two; they stand on a different plane.
– I am not reflecting1 on the honorable senator.
– The suggestion is that I am inconsistent in my attitude, with, regard to timber.
– On previous occasions I have voted for a lowering of duties.
– Does the honorable senator realize that in some instances the general tariff at this flat rate is over 300 per cent.?
– If the figures quoted by the honorable senator are correct, that is so. But industries must be fostered in Australia, and this particular industry cannot compete with the cheaper lines of hosiery that are imported, many of which are of foreign manufacture.
– The lines to ‘ which I have referred are of British manufacture.
– I realize that. But it cannot be denied that large quantities of hosiery are imported into Great Britain at a low price, and that the British manufacturer exports t6 Australia low-priced lines of a similar quality. Either’ we must have an all-round reduction of the tariff, or we must give additional protection where it is needed. The people of Australia stand for high protection. Accepting the position as I find it, and in view of the fact that I am in favour of the protection of the timber industry, which is in a languishing condition, and is on allfours with this, I must vote for the proposal of the Government.
– The timber industry is not on the same plane as this. My request applies only to the flat rate on British goods.
– I take no exception to the attitude which is being adopted by Senator Payne. He can vote as he chooses. To be consistent, I must support the item as it stands.
– The charge of inconsistency that has been levelled against Senator Payne cannot be sustained. During the consideration of the last tariff he consistently opposed flat rates, but was willing in some instances to support an ad valorem duty. His views, however, do not find favour with me. I believe that he has approached the question from the wrong angle. The effect of the proposed duties upon those who are likely to use these articles of apparel will not be nearly as great as he imagines. I have been able to obtain figures relating to the imports of the various States for the year 1925-26. If they are multiplied by five, the approximate figure for last year can be obtained. They show that during 1925-26 Tasmania imported from overseas cotton socks and stockings to the value of only £3,670, which represented only11/4 per cent, of Australia’s total imports.
– The honorable senator is referring to direct imports. Tasmania imports mostly through Melbourne and Sydney.
– The population of Tasmania in that year was estimated to be 217,032, or31/2 per cent, of the total population of Australia. It will thus be seen that the importations of cotton socks and stockings by that State amounted to only 41/4d. per head of the population.
– Can the honorable senator not recognize that Victoria and New South Wales supply nearly the whole of the requirements of the other States, and that his figures, therefore, cannot be fairly quoted?
– I have the figures for the other States worked out in a similar way. Does Senator Payne contend that they use cotton socks and stockings to a greater extent than Tasmania? If they do, Tasmania’s proportion is infinitely less than theirs. The figures for South Australia show that the expenditure on imported cotton socks and stockings in that State was 81/4d. a head.
– That figure relates to direct imports.
– These figures do not take into consideration the State which the goods entered; they represent the- total importations into Australia, and the value on a population basis. This is such a comparatively small matter that I am at a loss to account for the fuss that is being made. Senator Payne and. Senator Findley have had a dispute as to who is more entitled to speak on behalf of the working people of Australia. We do not want to hear from either of those honorable senators what are the views of the working people respecting this item.
They have declared emphatically on a number of occasions their belief in the policy of protection, and their preparedness to pay for it.
– Yes. I refer my honorable friend to the federal platform of the Australian Labour party, which has the endorsement of every Labour organization. It provides for a policy of protection.
– New protection.
– Evidently the working people of Australia are prepared to pay for protection. Why, then, should we worry if it costs them a little more for cotton socks and stockings? I do not intend to allow that fact to perturb me. My concern is to see that Australian industries are maintained on a proper basis. When capital has been largely expended in the erection of factories that are a credit to this country, and in the employment of workers at remunerative rates of wages and under -good working conditions, it is our duty to see that those factories are given conditions which will allow them to carry on. We have placed fairly heavy burdens upon the raw materials that are required by some of our factories ; so why should not we give them the protection they need? Time and again they have shown themselves to be a splendid advertisement for Australia under a reasonable degree of protection. Therefore, we should not begrudge a little extra payment for their commodities. The creation and development of this particular industry have brought about a decrease in the cost of the article which it produces, very often in competition with the imported hosiery.
– Why, then, is it now proposed to prohibit imports?
– Some honorable senators seem to forget that conditions on the other side of the world are not normal, that manufacturers there are prepared to make almost any financial sacrifice in order to continue operations.
– Does not the honorable senator want to trade with England?
– Yes ; but British manufacturers have not hesitated to use the preference given to them under the Australian tariff to take an unfair advantage of Australian manufacturers.
– That applies to manufacturers generally.
– British manufacturers are not different from manufacturers in other countries. Unlike Senators Guthrie and Payne, I am more concerned with the interests of Australian manufacturers than with those of British manufacturers.
– To what country does the honorable senator belong?
– I am an Australian, and the Australian manufacturer is more to me than is the British manufacturer. Our chief consideration should be for the people of our own land. That British manufacturers should be given preference over those in Australia is a new gospel to me.
– No one has suggested that.
– We should first consider the interests of Australian manufacturers. After that the claims of British manuf acturers should be our next consideration. I shall not be a party to injuring the Australian manufacturer in order that a Britisher, with a name like Levinsky, may send cheap cotton goods into this country.
.- lt is a matter of history that the passing of previous tariff schedules has enabled hosiery factories in Australia, which were about to close down, to continue their operations. Senator Payne objects to the imposition of a flat rate in respect of British goods.
– I object to the prohibition against British goods entering this country.
– I am as British as is any other honorable senator; but I object to British goods under-selling Australian goods.
– Would the honorable senator rule out goods from the Mother Country?
– No; but I shall not be a party to assisting British manufacturers at the expense of Australian manufacturers. As a protectionist I can take no other view. This Parliament has protected some industries and it cannot consistently . refuse to protect others. During 1926-27, cotton socks and stockings to the value of £124,320 were imported from the United Kingdom. The importations from foreign countries during that year were - Germany, £44,319; Japan, £22,494; United States of America, £58,096 ; other countries, £9,283 ; making a total of £258,512. Senator Payne’s request, which would protect the interests of the British manufacturers who send to Australia cotton socks and stockings valued at about £124,320 per annum, is a matter of considerable concern to Australian manufacturers.
– It is a matter of interest to the people of Australia.
– Only during recent years has the cotton-growing industry been established in Australia. People are being settled on the land to grow cotton.
– When will they grow it?
– They are growing it now. In spite of set-backs, the cottongrowing industry has progressed. If we can use in Australia the cotton grown here we should do so. It is true, as Senator Payne points out that protective duties, at the outset, forces the Australian public to pay more than it otherwise would pay for certain, goods.
– If the benefits of increased duties will equal the amount we have to pay because of them, I shall support them.
– The benefits are not always felt at the establishment of a new industry; but honorable senators have only to consider the benefit to Australia of the duties imposed on motor car bodies to see the advantage of protection.
– That is a different proposition.
– The imposition of high duties on imported motor car bodies has led to the establishment of large factories in Australia. We have only recently commenced to grow cotton and to manufacture cotton goods. There is no reason why those industries should not develop in Australia as has the motor car body-building industry. I have given the value of the importations of cotton socks and stockings during 1926-27. It would be as well if I were to give similar information in respect of woollen socks and stockings. During the year mentioned we imported from the United
Kingdom woollen socks and stockings to the value of £759,751. Our importations from France were valued at £558; from Germany, £5,385; and from the United States of America, £1,280. The total value of the importations was £767,518.
– What was the local output ?
– I do not know; but the figures I have given show the field which we have to exploit.
– Would the honorable senator be prepared to erect a tariff barrier sufficiently high to exclude goods of British manufacture?
– Tes, if we could produce the goods here.
– Would the honorable senator favour prohibition all round ?
– So far as the cotton industry is concerned, I am willing to go to any extent that the people of Australia can afford to go in order to build it up. I am aware of the unemployment which exists in Lancashire, and I deplore it, but our first duty is to look after ourselves.
– Great Britain buys most of our raw material.
– - Australia is Britain’s best customer.
– The cotton industry is one in which Australia can become self-supporting. I shall support the item for the reason that it will help land settlement, an important primary industry, as well as a valuable secondary industry.
– Having regard to some of the prices quoted during this debate for British and foreign socks and stockings I realize that under the ad valorem duties certain lines df British imports are taxed about twice as heavily as are goods from foreign countries, even though the duty on British products is only 30 per cent, as against 45 per cent, in the case of foreign goods. That being so, I can appreciate the object of the Government in providing for a flat rate; hut I cannot see that there is any justification for such a prohibitive flat rate as is proposed in the schedule. In face of all that has been said, both in the press and on the public platform, about giving preference to Great Britain, it is now proposed to impose a flat rate, the effect of which will be to prohibit the importation of British-made hosiery into Australia. The Government would be well advised to reduce the flat rate by one-half. By so doing it would accomplish its object and provide a measure of protection sufficient to satisfy all reasonable persons. Even then the flat rate would be considerably above the ad valorem duties. In my opinion, it is pure hypocrisy to provide for both a flat rate and an ad valorem duty and to say that whichever is the higher will be collected. If the figures quoted by Senator Reid are correct, Australia does an immense import trade in woollen socks and stockings. It is now proposed to impose a duty of 8s. a. doz. on all such goods. The effect of that will be that for some years at any rate the Australian public will pay more for these articles, because the Australian manufacturers, according to their own showing, have nothing to take their place. With a duty of 45 per cent, ad valorem surely the local manufacturers ought to be able to capture some of the enormous market which is apparently available to them. A little while ago Senator Duncan said that these industries were a splendid advertisement for Australia. I should like to know where the advertisement is given, and where the goods are advertised. According to the Tariff Board’s report it is not possible for the product of a single Australian secondary industry to be exported and sold in competition with the rest of the world. If people have to come here to see the advertisement referred to by Senator Duncan it seems to me that it will prove to be a rather bad one. If visitors realize that with all the protection we have - generally speaking our rates of duty are high- we cannot export a single manufactured article, the advertisement will not be a good one for us. All we can hope to do now is to supply our own local needs, and when we have done that the manufacturers will come forward with the claim that they cannot further extend their operations without higher duties. Having no market to exploit and not being able to export we shall thus be adding to our cost of living, and each increase in the cost of living will mean further increases of wages through the Arbitration Court. The Minister in charge of the bill would be well advised to announce that the Government is willing to cut down the flat rate by 50 per cent. If he will do so he will have very little trouble in getting the item through the Senate. There is no comparison between the ad valorem duty and the flat rate. One is three or four times greater than the other.
– The flat rate is 150 per cent, and the ad valorem 30 per cent.
– The flat rate on British goods will amount to 200 per cent. I am not worrying about the foreign goods. It has been said over and over again that Australia is living on its wool and wheat. Great Britain isthe best customer we have for wool. Yet we say to the British manufacturers, “You can buy your wool here, but we shall take jolly good care to see that we do not wear any of the clothing you make out of it.”
Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) [5.9!. - I am as staunch a protectionist as is any other honorable senator. I believe in building up Australian industries and I am pleased that we are growing some cotton in Queensland, although we are doing so under a heavy bounty. Cotton-growing like many others, is a spoon fed industry, but I do not say that it is wrong to pay a bounty if the objective is to make a start with an industry. I should like to see Australia grow enough cotton to supply its own requirements, even if we cannot export any, which, I am afraid, we shall never be able to do, because of our labour conditions. I am in favour of protection, but I do not like prohibition, especially against the Motherland, which has protected us and financedus since the foundation of Australia. Flat rates of duty amounting to about 300 per cent, on cotton socks are neither revenue nor protective duties. They are absolutely unadulterated prohibition. We expect Great Britain to buy 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of the total products of Australia, which she does, and to defend us in our hour of need; yet we propose a prohibitive flat rate of this kind. I do not care . how high the tariff is against foreign countries that do not buy goods from us. From the United States of America, for instance, each year we import goods worth £41,000,000, and it takes from us practically nothing except a little wool, on which We have to pay a duty of Is. 31/2d. per lb. on a scoured basis. I was shocked to hear Senator Duncan’s sneering remarks about the dishonesty of the British manufacturers. Throughout the centuries the British manufacturers have been regarded as the most honest, honorable and efficient in the world.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that Senator Guthrie is distinctly out of order in grossly misrepresenting my remarks. I did not make a general attack on British manufacturers. Senator Guthrie, in implying that I said that they were everything they should not be is saying what is not correct.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain). No point of order is involved.
– I am pleased to accept Senator Duncan’s assurance that he did not make the remarks that I certainly thought I heard him make about British manufacturers, but I think other honorable senators will agree with my version of what he said. He even mentioned a foreign name in this connexion.
– My remarks applied to some, but not to British manufacturers generally.
– I am in favour of the ad valorem duties and of some flat rate; I am in favour of giving Australian manufacturers of socks adequate protection in the hope that they will build up the industry. Senator Greene hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that while we were giving Australian manufacturers protection on the finer lines, they needed it on the larger and cheaper bread-and-butter lines to enable them to establish their industries and profitably carry on.
– That can only be done by imposing a flat rate.
– Yes ; up to a point, but in the item under consideration the flat rate amounts to a duty of 200 per cent, against Great Britain in the case of certain lines.
– The socks in respect of which it was said that that was the amount of the duty were of Japanese manufacture.
– I should have said that the duty amounts to over 100 per cent, against British socks; mathematicians close by tell me that it is 150 per cent. At any rate, it is a very high rate’ for cotton socks, and I should like to see some slight modification of it. I am very anxious that Australia should be able to build up secondary industries, particularly to supply its own requirements, but I resent imputations against the honesty of British manufacturers. I want to point out how much Ave owe the Mother country. How can we expect her to finance us and protect us if we put up a tariff wall which will prevent us from buying anything from her? “We expect her to buy 60 per cent, of our products every year, and we must take goods from her in return. We do not want gold; we export gold.
– We are buying goods from Great Britain.
– Yes, but if we impose too high a tariff wall we shall make the importation of goods prohibitive.
-rWe did the same in regard to certain classes of woollen goods last week.
– The Minister is referring to the duties on light worsteds. In that case there was sufficient evidence to show that they were being dumped here below the cost of yarn and material. That was sufficient proof to me that the yarns of which they were made were made on the continent of Europe. If I can be convinced that cotton socks imported from Great Britain are produced whole or in part in foreign countries I shall not care how high the tariff is. My object is to foster trade within the Empire, and I do not care how high the tariff may be against foreign countries, particularly those that do not buy produce from us. I cannot support Senator Payne’s request, but if a request is put forward to make the flat rate a little more moderate than it is now, I shall support it.
– I shall not support Senator Payne’s request, but I will support a request to make the fixed rates of duty under the British preferential tariff on cotton socks, 4s.; woollen . socks, 6s.; and silk socks 5s. That would give a benefit to the Mother Country and at the same time sufficiently protect the local manufacturers.
– I proposed to make the rate on cotton socks, 3s., British.
– I think that would be going too far.
.- I propose to persist in my request even if I stand alone. I am as good a protectionist as Senator Greene, but I am not a mad protectionist. I know how far protection ought to go. It ought to protect, not injure, the people. I am out against the injury that will be done to a very large section of the people of Australia if this item stands as printed. I want to remind ‘ the honorable senator who said that he was not going to froth at the mouth over the matter that I do not intend to froth at the mouth over it, nor do I intend to babble about it. The figures I have submitted have been compiled with accuracy. If the item is agreed to as printed it will mean a burden on a section of the community that is least able to bear it. The poorer people invariably wear a lower priced article than the wealthier people.
– I do not agree with that.
– They do if they want to pay for what they get, and most of them are honest. A man with a salary of £5 a week cannot afford to pay for goods the high prices that a man with a salary of £20 a week can afford to pay. The poorer people will be called upon to pay the fixed duty, amounting to 100 per cent., on British manufactured socks of low grade, but when we come to the finer grades of cotton socks, lisle thread and others of that type, which are invoiced, at 18s. a dozen and upwards in England, the people who buy them will be called upon to pay only 30 per cent, ad valorem. That is not fair.
– What is 30 per cent, on 18s. ?
– It is approximately 6s.
– Yet the fixed duty is 8s.
– The fixed duty is 6s. If the honorable member studies the schedule, he will see that I am correct.
– On cotton ?
– Yes, on cotton hosiery the British preferential duty is 6s. per dozen. Senator Duncan had the audacity to cast an aspersion on the Tasmanian people.
– He quoted figures which he knew were unreliable, as they applied only to the direct importations from overseas into Tasmania. He knows as well as I do that four-fifths of the goods imported by Tasmania pass through the mainland States, which receive credit for the importations.
– I was not dealing with the figures on a Stateimportation basis.
– The honorable senator said that the total importations of cotton hosiery, into Tasmania represent 41/4d. per head per annum of the population. The honorable senator knows that no records are kept of the quantity of such goods actually used in Tasmania. He is also aware that when I first introduced this subject I clearly pointed out that the duties proposed under this item do not affect the people of Tasmania to any material extent. They affect mainly the people of New SouthWales and Queensland, who wear cotton goods. In these circumstances he cannot say that I am pleading for the people of Tasmania whom I help to represent in this chamber. All this talk about preference to Great Britain is only so much “ eye-wash.”
– Does the honorable senator think that importations to the extent of £10,000,000 a year are only eye-wash ?
– I am dealing with the importations under this particular item. The Minister and those associated with him have erected a tariff wall 10 feet high against British manufacturers, and another 12 feet high against foreign exporters. The Government know that the highest that British manufacturers can surmount is one of 8 feet, but they have said as the wall erected against Japan and America is 10 feet, and that against Great Britain only 8 feet, they are giving Britain a preference. They know it is impossible for British manufacturers to profitably export to Australia under such conditions. I hope, however, that a majority of honorable senators will support the request and that the Government will bring forward an amended schedule.
Question - That the request (Senator Payne’s) be agreed to-put. The committee divided -
Ayes . . . . 9
Noes . . . . . . 17
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I indicated earlier in the debate on this item that if the request on which we have just divided were negatived, I would move for a general reduction in the flat rates of duty. In view, however, of the discussion which has taken place, I propose to limit my request to a. reduction in the British preferential rate, and to allow the intermediate and general tariffs to remain as they are. I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty (flat rate), sub-item (a), 4s., British preferential tariff.
I am particularly interested in socks of British manufacture made of cotton and wool, the invoice price of which is8s. a dozen, and the flat rate on which is approximately 75 per cent. In connexion with other exhibits of children’s socks which I submitted, the invoice price is 5s. 9d. a dozen, and the Sat rate of duty being 6s. per dozen, is over 100 per cent. I have submitted “this request, because I believe a number of honorable senators are opposed to increasing the duties against British manufacturers from 30 per cent, to more than 100 per cent. If we impose higher duties against British manufacturers, we shall not be assisting that imperial sentiment which we desire to foster.
– I rise to a point of of order. I maintain that having negatived the request moved by Senator Payne, the committee cannot now reduce the duty from 6s. to 4s. as suggested by Senator Chapman.
Senator Payne moved a request to eliminate the flat rate of 6s. That request was negatived, ‘ and the request by Senator. Chapman to reduce the duty to 4s. is in order.
– I ask honorable senators not to support the request moved by Senator Chapman, because a reduced flat rate of duty would be insufficient to adequately protect those engaged in the manufacture of this class of goods. As previously stated, there is not likely to be any increase in the retail price of the socks and stockings mentioned in this item. Owing to internal competition, prices are likely to remain as they are, and may even be reduced.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 118 agreed to.
Division VI. - Metals and Machinery.
Items 136 and 152 agreed to.
I put the question, and there being no dissentient voice, declared the item carried. It cannot now be discussed.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (a) and inserting in. its stead the following subitem : -
Rails weighing 50 lb. per yard and over, per ton, British, 50s.; intermediate, 85s.; general, 100s.
– This item affects only State governments, because no private firms in Australia use rails weighing 50 lb. and over to the yard. Higher duties on iron and steel have rendered necessary higher protection for other secondary industries, for which iron and steel are the raw products. The Government has not shown that the increases proposed in this item are justified. In addition to a substantial duty the iron and steel industry in Australia has been further assisted by a tremendous bounty. This item will seriously interfere with big railway building schemes so necessary for the development of Western Australia. I should like to have some explanation from the Minister with regard to it.
– The proposed increase in the British preferential tariff is only 15s. a ton. The Tariff Board made an exhaustive investigation into the position of the iron and steel industry and made recommendations which were carefully considered by Cabinet and embodied in this item. It is considered that the rates of duties proposed are necessary and in the circumstances reasonable. I need not stress the need to encourage this industry. We all recall the service which it rendered to Australia during the war when it was impossible to obtain supplies of rails from overseas. At the request of the British Government, Australia supplied South Africa with a considerable quantity of railway material which was urgently needed. This is one of our biggest industries. Two English firms, Messrs Dorman Long and Co., and Baldwin’s, have amalgamated with two Australian firms, Messrs. Hoskins Bros., and Howard Smith Limited., with the idea of establishing new works at Port Kembla in New South Wales. The capital of the new concern will be about £5,000,000. As the industry develops it should benefit the whole of the States. We all hope that the day is not far distant when the valuable deposits of iron ore in. Western Australia will be utilized. Several secondary industries that depend for their raw material upon the manufacture of iron and steel, have been established in Australia. It is advisable that we should take all steps necessary to ensure that Australia will have an adequate supply of iron and steel and not he dependent upon outside sources. I trust that the Government’s proposals will commend themselves to the committee and that the item will be agreed to.
– This item certainly does not commend itself to me. As Senator Carroll has stated, the proposed new duties on steel rails weighing 50 lb. per yard and over, will be paid by State governments, . because few if any private enterprises use rails of that weight. Western Australia is a State of huge distances and railways are urgently needed to insure its development on satisfactory lines. . These increased duties, added to the other, two curses o£ Australia - the Navigation Act and the administration of the Arbitration Act - particularly affect that State. The administration of the Arbitration Act makes the manufacture of iron and steel in New South Wales extremely difficult, and has been responsible for a substantial increase in the price of the finished product. So far as Western Australia is concerned the effect of the Navigation Act is that by the time freight is paid from Newcastle to any port in Western Australia, the cost of the article is almost out of reach. The development of primary industries in that State is being seriously interfered with. I am not satisfied with either the item or the explanation of the Minister, and I do not see how any representative of Western Australia can vote for it. The succeeding items are almost worse. When an honorable senator or an honorable member of another place is unwilling to consent to the raising of any duty to an exorbitant rate - as is proposed in this and other cases - the tendency is to allude to him as a freetrader. I should characterize as ultra protectionists those who advocate such high duties.
– - They are new protectionists.
– They are not new protectionists. Advocates of that policy seek to dictate the ratio in which the spoils shall be divided among employers and employees, the public suffering all the time. Whenever a duty such as that now before the committee is proposed the friends of honorable senators who sit opposite are to be found awaiting its passage so that they may get a “ cut “ out of the increase. That is a wrong policy. We are building around Australia a wall which is steadily isolating us from the rest of the world. Far from doing good, it will ultimately make us the laughing stock of every other country. The proposed duty that we are now considering is a most iniquitous one, particularly in relation to its effect upon Western Australia. I cannot support it.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (a), 35s. British preferential tariff.
The Government proposes a duty of 50s. If my request is. agreed to, the duty will revert to what it was formerly.
– I hope that the committee will not agree to the request. Recently very many overseas quotations have been lower than those of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, but because of goodwill towards the local industry a majority of the ‘ States have obtained the bulk of their requirements from Newcastle. It is scarcely fair to place upon those governments , the responsibility of having to decide between a lower oversea and a higher Australian tender. The Broken Hill Proprietary Limited have undertaken not to raise their prices if the duties are increased.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to..
Items 155, 157, 158, 159, 164, 175, 176, 179, 180, 197, and 204 agreed to.
Item 208 -
By adding a new sub-item (c) as follows: - “ (c) Single lever mortice lock sets - ad valorem. British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 60 per cent.”
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (c) read -
Single lever mortice locks and single lever mortice lock sets - ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, GO per cent.
Since these duties were tabled importers have been endeavouring to defeat their intention by importing locks separately, and claiming that they should be admitted under sub-item a at 35 per cent. British preferential, and 45 per cent, general tariff. If my request is agreed to the matter will be placed beyond dispute by the addition of the words, “ Single lever mortice locks “ to the words, “ Single lever mortice lock sets.”
.- Am I to understand that the duty under the British preferential tariff has been increased by 10 per cent.?- If that is so, what is the reason for it?
– The duty has been increased by 10 per cent, so as to protect an Australian industry. These locks are being manufactured in large quantities in Australia.
Request agreed to.
Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland-
Honorary Minister) [6.5]. - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to add at the end of the item - “ By adding a new sub-item (e) as follows -
British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 60 per cent.; general, 65 per cent.
Whenthis matter was investigated by the Tariff Board there appears to have been a misunderstanding, and seeing that increased duties have been provided in connexion with another part of the same application, it is proposed to rectify the omission in respect of barrel and socket bolts. The effect will be to increase the duties in the existing schedule by 10 per cent.
Request agreed to’.
Item agreed to, subject to requests.
Division VIII. - Earthenware. Cement, China, Glass and Stone.
Item 242 (Hood lights).
.- Can the Minister give the Senate the reason for the proposed duties on hoodlights for motor cars, and the average value of the hood-lights imported into and produced in Australia?
Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister [6.8] . - Hood-lights are now being manufactured in considerable quantities in South Australia. The proposed increased duties will not affect our trade with Great Britain, as nearly all the hood-lights imported come from the United States of America. The manufacture of hood-lights in Australia was commenced in 1919, when it was difficult to obtain them from abroad and the price of American hood-lights was high. At that time the Australian manufacturers could compete with the imported article, with the result that the price of American hood-lights was gradually reduced from 12s. 6d. to 8s. 6d. each. A new oval design, costing 17s. each, was then introduced, but as hoodlights of this design were also made in Australia, the effect of the Australian competition caused the price to be reduced to 9s. each. Later, to meet the demand for a cheaper hood-light, American hoodlights which could be landed here at 3s. 3d. each, after paying a duty of 35 per cent., were used. This cheap hoodlight has driven the Australianmade article from the market, because Australian manufacturers cannot produce hood-lights under 4s. 9d. each.
– “Why is not more protection against the American article asked for?
– It is considered that the duty . now proposed will be sufficient. Practically the whole of our trade in hood-lights is with the United States of America, so that our trade with Great Britain will not be affected.
Item agreed to.
Item 243 agreed to.
Division IX. - Drugs and Chemicals.
Item 278 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.10 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Private business taking precedence after 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 8th March, vide page 3681, on motion by Senator Thomas. -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the rate paid to the Amalgamated Wireless Company for messages from Australia to England, , in plain language and not marked “urgent,” should not exceed a penny a word.
– The terms of the motion submitted by Senator Thomas involve an expression of opinion on the part of the Senate which is not justified on the facts as I propose to state them; and but that the honorable senator has based his case on the lofty principles of closer Imperial unity, I should have felt it unnecessary to do more than submit to the Senate a few figures and some relevant truths. If the motion were carried and effect were given to it, involving as it does an interference with the charges made by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the inevitable result would be either the acquisition of the company’s business by the Commonwealth Government, or the payment of subsidy equivalent to the reduction in its charges. The attitude of the Government is to allow Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to pursue its course and develop without political or governmental interference so long as it conducts its business on reasonable and properlines. I think the position was clearly summarized by the Prime Minister in the debate that took place in another place on the Wireless Agreement Bill prior to the Christmas adjournment. The right honorable gentleman said -
The Government feels strongly that if initiative and progress with regard to wireless matters in Australia are to be assured, it is highly desirable that these activities should not become merely one of the instrumentalities under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
While the ideal aimed at by Senator Thomas is worthy of every consideration, and while the honorable senator is to be commended for the interest he has at all times taken in the advancement and progress of wireless generally, that is the attitude of the Government with regard to acquiring the interests of Amalgamation Wireless (Australasia) Limited. As the result of the inauguration of the beam service, at which my friend particularly aims, the saving to this community in the cost of overseas communications has been variously estimated to be from £250,000 to £400,000 per annum. The estimate of £400,000 was made, I think by the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. The honorable senator will see therefore, that a vast saving to the community has already been brought about by the introduction of beam wireless.
– No one questions it.
– One matter which seems to have escaped the observation of Senator Thomas is best illustrated by explaining the rates and charges made by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for overseas communications. I should like it to be understood that the total number of words with which we are dealing includes not only outward messages, but alsothose received from over seas. The following are the rates charged by Amalgamated Wireless: -
– The cable companies must be having a bad time.
– Whatever the effect on the cable companies may be a conference is now taking place overseas at which the Commonwealth is represented by the Director of Post and Telegraphs, and by another gentleman who is representing commercial interests, and efforts are being made not only from the stand-point of communication, but also from the more serious stand-point, that of defence, to bring into line the two means of overseas communication, cable- grains, and wireless messages. But that is another story.For the moment I propose to address myself to Senator Thomas’ motion. The honorable senator admits that there ought to be an extra charge in respect to messages marked “ Urgent,” or those sent in code, and he would leave the fixing of the rates for those messages in the hands of the company. Nor docs he propose to interfere with the terminal charges over which Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has no control. I put it to honorable senators that at present the rate at which Senator Thomas aims is almost attained, in so tar as the company itself is concerned, in the case of the cheaper classes of messages, which are largely availed of by the public. The honorable senator in moving his motion used the homely illustration of a young man separated from his own folks in the Old Country. I take it that men of that type are sufficiently alert to their own interests to take every advantage of the cheaper rates imposed for week-end messages, or the daily letter telegrams. I have no desire to go into the subtle distinctions drawn by the cable companies, the wireless company and business men generally in regard to the use of ordinary plain English in the coding of messages. Coding is resorted to extensively by big business houses; as a matter of fact many of them employ experts for the- purpose. The beam service has not been in operation twelve months, but if it has already reduced the charges on the community generally to the extent I have indicated, surely that is an accomplishment of which the company and Australia should be proud. It is most desirable to cheapen means of communication, and how much further the company will go in this direction depends on how much cash it has available for developing this new science to the fullest degree. .
During the debate in the Senate on the Wireless Agreement Bill I indicated that improvements in the transmission of messages overseas were under consideration. What has already happened is almost revolutionary, and there are tremendous possibilities ahead. Certain experiments are now being undertaken by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In the circumstances I advise honorable senators to leave this new method of transmitting messages overseas to the company which has already accomplished much, and gives promise of accomplishing a great deal . more. The honorable senator has not suggested that it is badly managed.For non-urgent messages in plain language the rate received by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited varies from 1 5-32d. to 2d. per word. The honorable senator will admit that we cannot interfere with the British Post Office; nor do I think he would suggest that we should interfere with the terminal charges here. On 43 per cent, of its total beam traffic
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, charges not more than 1 5/8d. On 25 per cent, of its beam traffic the company charges 2d. per word. Nearly 70 per cent, of its traffic is carried at 2d. at word or under. I refer to the week end message, daily letters, press messages and deferred press messages. These are all plain language messages, not classified as urgent. The company has no control over the terminal charges or the charges imposed by the British Post Office. The remaining 30 per cent, of the beam traffic carried by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited consists of messages in code or in plain language which take precedence over other, classes of traffic, and, therefore, come within the category of messages, which Senator Thomas admits should be liable to an extra rate. Commercial houses which have large overseas telegraphic correspondence employ specialists to code their messages, and I do not think that Senator Thomas had that class of business in his mind when he was suggesting a reduction. I regard his motion as being in the nature of a gesture, and the mention in it of the rate of Id. a word as merely an indication that, in his opinion, some reduction should be made. I venture the opinion, however, that when honorable senators consider the rates at which these messages are now transmitted, and other facts which I’ have put before them, they will be satisfied that the people of Australia are being given a reasonably cheap service. It is not unreasonable that an extra rate should be charged for code messages or messages in code language. Putting it broadly, it appears to me that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited itself, apart from its cooperation with the British Post Office, is already approaching very closely to. the ideal which Senator Thomas has in mind in advocating a charge of Id. a word for what I may term ordinary social messages. Having regard to the outside interests involved, it seems to me that it is impossible, at all events at this stage, and under present conditions, to ask Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to further reduce its charges. As I am not sure that honorable senators have a clear view of what the terminal charges really are, I should like to clarify the position. It would appear from matter with which the mover of this motion was good enough to supply me, that he thinks the terminal charges are necessarily imposed by virtue of decisions reached at the International Postal Convention. That is not the actual position. The terminal charge in Australia is levied by the Postmaster-General and in England by the British Post Office; but whatever rate is levied on one company in regard to overseas communications,whether by wireless or by cable, has, in accordance with the decisions of the International Postal Convention, to be levied on all other . companies. If Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited were charged a terminal rate of 2d., we should be bound to charge the cable companies a similar amount, and vice versa.
– And if we charged the wireless company, only Id. ?
– We should have to reduce to Id. the terminal charge levied upon the Eastern Extension Cable Company and the Pacific Cable Board. Nothing, however, hinges on that point. It is within the power of the PostmasterGeneral of the Commonwealth or the British Post Office to. reduce the terminal charges; but once they are reduced to one company a similar reduction must be made to all other companies.
– That makes my proposal still easier of accomplishment.
– That may be so; but I want to make it clear that, while certain services are given or may be demanded in return for these terminal charges, they are not always sought by either Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited or the cable companies. It often suits their book to transmit and deliver their own messages; but they are always entitled to call upon the PostmasterGeneral or the British Post Office to do a certain amount of work for them in connexion with the transmission of messages. These terminal rates are to cover the cost of the service provided by the Postal Department, although it is not always fully availed of. As I said when the honorable senator was speaking, these terminal rates are to an extent a national charge. If a reduction in terminal charges were made, and we desired to maintain our present revenue from the Post Office some increase would have to be made in the charge for the transmission of ordinary messages in Australia. I have already stated that the whole question of future wireless and cable communication is under consideration by a conference which has been sitting in London for some time. Australia is represented at that conference, and representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa are also in attendance. Amongst other matters attention is being given by it to. the subject of rates, and until it has completed its investigations, and submitted a report, it is not intended to take any action in the direction of amending the present terminal or other rates.
Viewing the question from a business stand-point, I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators to the. reductions that have been made in the charges for overseas communications. Last year the cable rates between Australia and Great Britain were as follows: - Ordinary rate, 2s. 6d. per word, deferred rate, ls. 3d. a word ; daily letter cablegrams, 9d. a word; week-end rates, 7½d. a word. A few weeks before the beam service commenced operations, however, the cable rates were reduced to 2s, for ordinary messages, and to ls. for deferred messages. At present the com.parate rates for cable and beam messages are as follows: -
This comparison shows that for the weekend and daily letter telegrams the cable rate is 50 per cent, higher than the beam rate, and that for deferred and ordinary messages it is 20 per cent, higher than the beam rate. The cheap rates of 5d. and 6d. a word, via beam, for week-end and daily letter messages are largely availed of by the public.
Senator Thomas was incorrect in stating that the capital cost of the beam was £120,000. What he had in mind, apparently, was the actual amount of the contract for the purchase and erection of the apparatus here.
– I took the figure from a statement made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) in another place.
– The figure was not accurate if it was given as representing the total capital cost.
– The honorable senator should not blame me; he should blame his colleague.
– I am not blaming the honorable senator; I am commending him for what he has done. The capital cost of erecting masts and other apparatus was £120,000, but in addition other expenses were incurred in research work, staff training, and land line rentals paid by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. A sum to meet the cost of feeder stations had also to be provided. We may take it that the beam service has cost Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited approximately £300,000. That sum represents only one-half of the cost of the beam system, as a corresponding service has to be provided on the other side of the world. Without it the expenditure here would be utterly useless. The expense of equipping the service, keeping it up to date, and sending officers home for training is one of considerable magnitude, and having regard to the company’s balance-sheet for the year ended the 30th June last, it cannot by any stretch of imagination be said that it has made large profits. It is only fair, however, to point out that the figures cover only a few months of the working of the beam service, and that we shall not be able to form an accurate estimate of a full year’s operation of the beam service until the balance-sheet for the twelve months ending the 30th June next is issued. We shall then be able to say whether the wonderful profits which have been visualized by some will materialize under the conditions I have indicated. On a capital of approximately £760,000, the profits of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for. last year, after making proper allowance for depreciation, were only about £25,000, and I am sure that after a longer period has elapsed those honorable senators who ventured to express certain opinions regarding the action of this courageous Government in investing money in this wireless adventure will admit that excessive profits have not been made.
– Where is this courageous ‘ Government ?
– A - A. portion of it is here. As an honorable senator pointed out at the time, the Government showed great courage and foresight in entering into this enterprise and deciding that such a highly technical commercial concern should be placed under the control of business men and allowed to develop without political interference.
– The Government has not the courage to do its own’ business. It hands it over to commissions and boards.
– We have the courage, but there are so many carping critics of every government enterprise that heaven only knows how they manage to carry on as well as they do.
Senator Thomas has urged that the reduced rate proposed by him is designed to bring about a closer Imperial relationship. Let me deal with the motion from that point of view. I have already shown that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is called upon to bear a very heavy expenditure, but I have no doubt that the company, in the interest of its own business - I shall show presently that it is not the only pebble on the beach - will make its charges as low as possible. For the year ended the 30th June, 1926, the inward and outward messages transmitted between the United Kingdom and Australia totalled 12,930,241 words - a total far short of the 50,000,000 words of which Senator Thomas spoke. Of this number the Pacific Cable Board transmitted 6,460,435 words, and the Eastern Extension Company 5,469,806 words. Honorable senators will see that the trade was pretty well divided between the two companies at that stage. For the year ended 30th June, 1927, before the beam service had been operating for any length of time, the total number of words transmitted inwards and outwards was 13,328,076. Of this total the Pacific Cable took 5,936,110 words, the Eastern Extension Company 6,100,642, and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which had been operating from 8th April, 1,291,324.
– Do those figures include press messages?
– They include everything. But there are other considerations. Certain interests associated with the Eastern Extension Company did not utilize the beam system; and it would be hopeless to expect Amalgamated Wireless to secure that business, even if rates and terminal charges were still further reduced. What I have said is, I think, a sufficient indication of the trend of the business in overseas communication. I am sure that Amalgamated Wireless will seize every opportunity to advance its interests, and get as much business as possible. The best way to do this is to provide an efficient and cheap service. I believe it can truthfully be said that the company is doing this. I do not propose to make any comparison of the cost of transmission overseas by the three services available, because I think I have said sufficient to convince honorable senators that the charges on the class of business which Senator Thomas had in view are reasonable, and that Amalgamated Wireless and the Government are not unmindful of the fact that cheap wireless messages will do much to further the Government’s migration policy, as well as assist in tightening the ties which bind us to the Motherland, if that be necessary.
There are one or two further facts which I propose to bring before the Senate. In the first place I should like to refer to the suggestion of Senator Thomas that if the rate were reduced to 1d. a word 50,000,000 words per annum would be transmitted and a revenue of £208,000 thus secured. It would be a very long time indeed, even if charges were reduced, before anything approximating 50,000,000 words could be transmitted by Amalgamated Wireless. The figures dealing with the business to date show that for 43 per cent of its messages Amalgamated Wireless receives 1 5/8d. per word. This, I may add, is the only class of business which would be affected by the motion now before the Senate. For 2 per cent, of its messages it receives 1 5/32d. ; for 25 per cent, of its business, it receives 2d. a word; for 11 per cent., it receives 4d., and for 15 per cent, only of its business does it receive the full rate of 81/2d. Judging by the figures for last year, the total cable and wireless business this year, unless there is a remarkable increase in volume, will be between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000 words. If honorable senators, having these facts in mind, will attempt a simple sum in arithmetic, they will be able to estimate for themselves what the revenue of Amalgamated Wireless is likely to be, and also have a fair idea of the expenditure necessary to maintain its equipment in a state of efficiency and to carry out experiments. At ‘ present, the company’s expenditure is in the neighbourhood of £80,000 per annum. Additional traffic will, of course, mean an increase in expenditure. I feel sure that all honorable senators are agreed that wireless will, in the future, play a still more important part in the affairs of the world than it has in the past. From what little I have learned during my association with the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, I believe that Australia, is in the very forefront with regard to wireless communication. For this enviable position we have, I think, to thank Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and those associated with the company. They have never hesitated to incur expenditure to secure the latest information obtainable concerning the progress of this science, and they have always courageously striven to keep in the forefront. In the circumstances I ask honorable senators not to bring this company within the ambit of a discussion as to the reasonableness or otherwise of its charges. Any questions that may arise will receive sympathetic treatment at the hands of the Postmaster-General. I deprecate any -interference with the policy which has developed along the lines I have indicated. We should all like to see the charges reduced. I have no doubt, also, that those responsible for the management of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited would like to bring the rates down ; but they are proceeding with caution, having regard to those developments which are still under consideration, and which we may say, without being too optimistic, point to an even better means of communcation than that which exists at the moment. I. trust, therefore, that Senator Thomas will not presshis motion. The subject has other angles.
Wireless is a new science. As a layman, I confess that developments which have been brought to my noitce recently have amazed me, and I feel that it would be little short of criminal to interfere, in any shape or form, with the work that is now being done. I say this with all respect to Senator Thomas, because I believe it should be our business to assist and sympathize with the company in the service which it is rendering to the community.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration resumed, (vide page 3813) :
Division X. - Wood, Wicker and Cane.
Item 291 (Timber).
– It seems to me that of late years, whenever an industry languishes, those associated with it are under the impression that the one remedy is to secure additional protection, and accordingly they rush to the Government or to the Tariff Board for relief. Very often those ills from which an industry suffers are in no way attributable to the lack of, and, very often, cannot be cured by, protective duties. A point has been made during this debate, both here and in another place, that one of the principal causes - indeed, almost the only cause - of the inability of the Australian timber industry to meet overseas competitors, is the extremely low freights which prevail between timber-producing countries and Australia, and the extremely high freights ruling between the Australian ports. Therein, I think, lies the remedy which we may apply. I believe we should have a permanent cure for the ills which beset the timber industry in Australia if some substitution of the remedy which has become so fashionable in industry could be made. It has been stated that it costs considerably less to bring timber from American or Scandinavian ports to Australia than to ship timber from a Tasmanian port to Victoria, from a New South Wales port to Western Australia, or from a Queensland port to any other part of Australia. That, unfortunately, is a true statement of the position, and since we cannot bring about an alteration in freights from other parts of the world to Australia, does it not behove us, instead of seeking relief by the imposition of higher duties, to consider for the moment whether it is not possible to obtain relief from the extremely high freights that obtain around the Australian coast? That is not only possible but, in the near future, inevitable. Let us consider the factors that contribute towards the raising of freights. The main contributing factor is the Navigation Act, of which I honestly believe the Australian people are becoming heartily tired. It cannot continue to operate for many more months. It is imposing upon the people of Australia an irksome burden which they find extremely difficult to bear. It renders unprofitable many industries which otherwise would flourish. For what purposes has it been allowed to operate ? It brought about conditions in the maritime industry, of the like of which the world had not previously had experience; yet the workmen who are engaged in that industry are the most discontented in Australia. Dissensions in their ranks are continually holding up the commerce of this country. At the present time 25 ships are idle around the coast of Australia. The class of shipping engaged in the coastal, trade is steadily deteriorating and the number of vessels is daily becoming fewer. Because we do not remedy the position by abolishing the coastal trading clauses of the act we are forced to create a tariff which undoubtedly will have the effect of increasing the cost of building throughout Australia. The substitutes for timber are steadily increasing in number and destroying what should be a most profitable industry. I refer more particularly to the remote parts of Australia. I feel sure that my Tasmanian friends will pardon me for referring to their State as a “remote” one. It is remote only from the point of view of the freights that obtain between it and the mainland. It is true that in “Western Australia the timber industry has suffered to a less extent than in Tasmania. Partly on account of its geographical position, and partly also because of the excellence of its products, a very large and profitable export trade has been built up with South Africa. The high freights that have ruled from Western Australia and Tasmania have prevented the timbers of those two States from playing as prominent a part as they should in the building and manufacturing operations in the large centres of population in the eastern states. The reduction of freights which inevitably would follow the repeal of the coastal trading provisions of the Navigation Act would result in the restitution to Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland of a very large share of the markets on the eastern seaboard.
– Would the oversea vessels carry the timber,
– Undoubtedly they would. In Western Australia Ave have to include in our reckoning the possibility of a diminution in, if not the total extinction of, our South African trade. We have already sent to South Africa and various other ports in Africa a sufficient number of sleepers to lay and relay the Cape to Cairo Railway. If honorable senators will reflect for a moment they will realize what an immense quantity of timber such a work would require. The supplying of those sleepers was a highly payable proposition, due mainly to the fact that a very large proportion was obtained at piece-work rates by timber hewers, who deservedly earned a very high wage.
– A lot of timber is wasted in hewing.
– Certainly. I point out, however, that wastage would have occurred in any case because the biggest proportion was taken from private lands on a royalty basis. Such an idea did not occur to the owners before this trade was instituted, and in other circumstances the timber would have been destroyed. It is admitted by both sides to this argument that the tariff, if passed in its present form, is bound to cause an increase in the cost of building. The estimate of what that increase will be varies according to the fiscal faith of those who make it. The advocates of these duties represent it as negligible, while those who would abolish the duties argue that it will be very considerable. Probably the truth lies between the two. If it does, the increase will amount to a considerable sum. In this connexion I ask the Government to consider for a moment the effect upon the financial liability it is shouldering in connexion with its building scheme - -the biggest that Australia has ever seen - and also what it will mean to the welfare of its potential clients, and what will be the effect upon the securities it will be offered for the money it advances.
– That is as far as they will get.
– It is not like my honorable’ friend to adopt the role of a pessimist.
– Looking at the Government, I cannot be anything else.
– I have always regarded the honorable gentleman as the most cheerful Leader of the Opposition I have ever met. His cheerfulness and resignation in the office that he holds are so great that I hope he will continue to occupy it for many years to come. There is another factor which has to be considered. In/the present state of forestry in Australia, Oregon is absolutely indispensable. For certain purposes in the construction of buildings no other timber can take its place. In addition, the instances in which Oregon displaces Australian hardwoods are few. Under those circumstances is it not extremely injudicious to do what will inevitably cause its price to be raised? In perhaps 30 or 40 years’ time there may be an appreciable growth of softwood in Australia. When that time arrives it will be advisable to place a duty on Oregon and other foreign softwoods ; but in the meantime we shall only raise false hopes if we prohibit the importation of Oregon with the object of substituting our hardwoods for it. I have alluded to the fact that there are other’ troubles connected with this industry. One, this industrial trouble, applies, to all other industries. There is no doubt in my mind that the industrial leaders throughout Australia are anxiously following the progress of this debate and awaiting the result.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I hope that the committee will agree to the proposed duties. I am in accord with all that Senator . Kingsmill has said regarding the baneful effects of the Navigation Act and other acts upon the timber industry. If the Navigation Act had not caused freights to be increased to an unreasonable extent; if the Arbitration Act had allowed sawmillers to manage their own business; and if there was not such an exorbitant tariff on other commodities that are required by the sawmiller, the probability is that there would now be no necessity to advocate these duties. But we have to accept the position as we find it, and endeavour to keep the mills working by imposing a duty on foreign importations, hoping that in the near future the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act will be repealed, and that other laws will be so amended that the sawmillers will be able to manage their own business. I wish to reply to a few of the arguments that have been adduced in opposition to these duties. I have in my hand a nicely prepared pamphlet entitled, “Increased duties on softwoods, and why they should be rejected.” Doubtless those responsible for its compilation have put forward the best arguments of which they are capable. The first argument advanced against these duties is -
The increased duties will not assist the local sawmillers because they will not lead to an increase in the consumption of Australian hardwoods.
Unfortunately for that argument, there is evidence of an increase in the consumption and sale of local timber since this schedule was introduced. There is to-day in the sawmilling industry a feeling different from that which prevailed before the higher duties were imposed. Men are being engaged, new mills are being opened, and orders are being received for timber which would not have been the case but for the higher duties. I have received a number of telegrams bearing out that statement. One from the president of the North-Eastern Sawmillers’ Association in Tasmania reads -
New tariff helping timber industry substantially. Many mills re-opening. Prospects much brighter.
Another reads -
Mills actually re-opened as result increased tariff; others contemplated on large scale with seasoning kilns making prompt supplies available provided Senate confirms duties. Undoubtedly consumption will vastly increase’ as organizations Tasmania, Victoria combining to standardize prices qualities and organized sales. No justification assertion by opposition that sales will not increase. Saw millers can meet any demand that can arise.
Another “reason why it is said that increased duties on softwoods will fail in their purpose is -
The most serious depression in the timber trade of Australia at present is in those sections which use high grade timbers with which softwoods do not compete.
Australian hardwood has to compete against hardwood from the Pacific Islands, Manchuria and Japan. All imported timber competes with our hardwood. Baltic competes with our weatherboards, floorings and linings, Oregon competes with scantlings for the frames of buildings; Manchurian oak and Pacific maple compete with our furniture woods. A third reason why it is said the increased duties on softwoods will fail in their purpose is -
The burden of the increased duties will fall upon those sections of the community which are’ least able to bear it, viz., new settlers in the country and the small wage earners.
Fancy new settlers in the backblocks importing timber to build their houses. Some time ago I visited the outback country of Victoria and New South Wales, where I found a great many of the settlers living in houses made of timber and hessian. In Tasmania rough hardwood was used for houses in the early years of settlement. So far as the effect of increased duties on the homes “of small wage earners is concerned I have here some figures which show that for a house designed by the Victorian Savings Bank, the additional cost, by reason of these duties, would be £7 6s., or about 2d. a week. If hardwood were used instead of Baltic, a five-roomed house would cost an additional £25 because of these increased duties. But it would last twice as long. I -have seen in Tasmania houses built of Tasmanian hardwood which after 50 years still look new and are quite sound.
– Do those additional costs include the higher cost of labour where hardwood is used?
– The figures I have quoted refer only to the timber. The labour costs would be slightly higher with hardwood; but the amount would not be a serious item. It is also urged that the ri42T local timber industry is depressed because of inefficiency in the saw-milling industry. I have always found that those v/ho have been in a business longest know most about it, whereas those with only a superficial knowledge are generally the most willing to give advice. I know of instances in which large sums of money have been expended in the installation of uptodate plant, and in obtaining the best expert advice, and yet the project has failed, whereas smaller mills with plant easily moved from place to place have succeeded. I have no hesitation in saying that Australian saw-millers know as much about their job as do saw-miller’s in any other country. It must be remembered, however, that whereas in some countries there is very little waste - no heart or sap, but solid timber right through - in Australia probably not more than 60 per cent, of the timber can be used. It is further contended that -
One of the main causes of the depression in the country milling branch of the industry is that architects, including government architects, will not specify the use of .such timber as blackwood or Queensland maple owing to the excessive prime cost, and the high cost of working them, and Pacific Island timbers take their place.
That is partly true.. The other day I asked a question concerning the timber used for furnishing a branch of the Commonwealth Bank. The specifications provided for Pacific maple and oak - I believe Japanese oak. I saw the timber, which was imported, and I also had an opportunity of learning its cost, which was about twice that of seasoned Tasmanian hardwood. I also” saw specimens of furniture made is the same establishments of Tasmanian hardwood and blackwood, as well as of imported timber, and so far as I was able to judge, the Australian timber more than held its own.
– What was the reason given for using imported timber?
– The Treasurer said he had no knowledge of the kind of timber used.
– The Government has no control in the matter. Parliament has allowed the bank to manage its own affairs.
– I hope that whoever is responsible will be sufficiently loyal to use Australian timber in the future. One of the best authorities on timber in Australia is Mr. Lane-Poole, who when Conservator of Forests for Western Australia made the following statement : -
Between 500,000 and 750,000 tons of utilizable wood are being burned by sawmillers every year, and this destruction is mainly due to the quantity of small. sizes not required. If there was a proper duty these sizes would be of commercial value. I should welcome a revision of the tariff, and would like to see so heavy a duty placed on imported woods as to force the community throughout Australia to use its own wood.
– How many years ago was that statement made?
– I do not know. But it is more applicable to-day than it was years ago. The only way to save timber is to use it. If forests are allowed to mature without being cut, and settlement advances, the timber is burned either deliberately or accidentally.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– In opening his attack on the timber duties, Senator Kingsmill complained that the remedy generally advocated for reviving languishing industries was an increase of duties. The honorable senator then gave us his remedy. Apparently, his panacea for all the evils that Australia is heir to is the abolition of the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act and the introduction of black labour to vessels trading on our coast.
– That is merely the honorable senator’s version of what said.
– According to Senator Kingsmill Australia’s prosperity would be ensured if only the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act were repealed. It is remarkable that a young country like Australia, whose natural wealth in her timber is so great, is importing timber. In 1920-21, when the duty on timber was last under review, we imported 243,000,000 super, feet. By 1926-27 our importations had increased to 464,000,000 super, feet, an increase of 221,000,000 super, feet.
– The honorable
Senator is quoting an abnormal year.
– It is curious that that abnormality lasted for nearly six years. Much of that imported timber comes from countries where timber workers are paid wages very much lower than they are paid in Australia. During the general debate it was stated that higher wages were paid in the United States of America than in Australia. That certainly does not apply to the lumber industry, for according to the Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labour, No. 413, in which, at page 16 statistics dealing with wages and hours of labour in the lumber industry of that country for 1925 are published, in some cases the average full-time earnings for one week is only 17 dollars.
– What is thefulltime week?
– It is 48hours, as against 44 in the timber industry in Australia. In 1925, in this industry, 36,698 labourers working approximately 48 hours a week received an average of 17.77 dollars, which is something like £3 14s. a week, compared with the Australian average wage offrom £5 to £7 a week. Machine feeders in the planing mills receive 20 dollars, which is also lower than the Australian weekly wage. It has been said by some who object to the increased duties on timber that they may affect the number of houses being built; but I have a return prepared by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, which shows that, since the imposition of the increased duties, there has been a considerable increase in the number of houses constructed. I could quote a lot of figures in support of the increased duties. A supply of wood is as essential for the nation’s development as is a supply of food for the sustenance of the nation’s citizens. The low duties we have had in the past have been responsible for the closing down of many mills, and for causing a considerable amount of unemployment. The plea put up by Senator Kingsmill that the increase in duties will add to the cost of building homes, has been answered completely by Senator J. B. Hayes, who has shown that the increased cost in the building of a house is infinitesimal. It is certainly infinitesimal compared with the extra employment afforded to our people, and the better use to which our timber may be put.
– Furthermore, the timber industry is a rural industry.
– One could go on at considerable length in support of the increased duties. I can scarcely understand any one, with any idea of the necessities of Australia’s development, opposing them. The figures relating to past importations should be quite sufficient to make any honorable senator consider very carefully what he will be doing if he votes against the increased duties on timber.
– We have to decide what are reasonable duties to impose on timber. I am quite aware that the timber industry is a rural one, and I am equally alive to the fact that it is an important one; but we have to realize the effect any increase in the cost of materials may have on our national development. I understand that the latest increases in duties have had the effect of increasing the cost of a five-roomed brick house, under the Victorian Government specifications, by £7. That is admitted by those who have applied for the increased duties. On wooden houses the increased cost is very much more. It is all very well to say that it does not amount to very much; but we have to think nationally. If we are to give increased duties every time they are requested, in the end we shall come to national bankruptcy. Originally the duties on timber were : - Undressed, 12 in. x 6 in. and over, 4s.; 7 in. x 2£ in. and up to 12 in. x 6 in., 5s. 6d. ; under 7 in. x 2£ in., 7s.; and dressed, n.e.i., 8s. 6d. The Tariff Board, after going exhaustively into the request for increased duties, recommended the following rates: - 5s. 6d., 7s. 6d., 9s., and 10s. 6d. In its report it said -
In the opinion of the Tariff Board, to recommend anything beyond the rates recommended herein would be a serious mistake, in view, of the depression in the building industry, and the high cost of construction obtaining in the different parts of the Commonwealth.
Despite this recommendation the Government, because of certain representations made to it, introduced rates of duty which were considerably higher than those recommended by the Tariff Board ; but even then honorable members of another place were not satisfied. They forced the Government to impose still higher rates, and these we have in the schedule now before us. They are, respectively, 8s., 9s. 6d., Ils., and 15s., compared with the original duties of 4s., 5s. 6d., 7s., and Ss. 6d., but the duty on redwood is not altered. Honorable senators must admit that they are very substantial increases. The duty paid on importations of undressed timbers in 1926-27 amounted to £700,531, and on dressed timber to £346,798, making a total of £1,046,829. Had the timber thus imported paid duty at the increased duties in the present schedule it would have yielded a revenue of £1,774,567. In other words, the people are now asked to pay an additional £727,738 a year for their timber. We find that these duties are, to a large extent, paid by the people of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and that Tasmania’s share is only 1 per cent., or 4d. per head of the population.
– Tasmania pays enough duties in other directions.
– I admit that. Of the timber duties I have mentioned, New South Wales pays about 46 per cent., Victoria 28 per cent., and South Australia 19 per cent. .Of the duties on dressed timber, New South Wales pays 23 per cent., Victoria 66 per cent., and South Australia 7 per cent. I can understand the attitude adopted by the Tasmanian representatives in this chamber, but we must consider how the duties are affecting timber-users in the other States. I have figures in connexion with South Australia, which I believe are correct, but the accuracy of which I cannot vouch for, showing that the timber duties paid last year under the old rates were £134,483, and that under the new rates the increase will amount to £107,000, or about 70 per cent. This will make the amount of duty payable in South Australia nearly £250,000 yearly.
– Why not use Tasmanian timber, on which no duty has to be paid?
– I shall deal with that aspect of the question shortly. It is evident, however, that in all cases, hardwood cannot be used in place of softwood. The invoice cost of 4 x 2 oregon up to 32 feet in length, delivered c.i.f.
Port Adelaide, is £6 10s. 6½d. per 1,000 feet super., and if we deduct freight and insurance amounting to £2 19s. lid., the net f.o.b. price per 1,000 feet is £3 10s. 7§d. Duty at lis. per 100 feet is £5 10s. per 1,000 feet, which is equal to 155 per cent, on the f.o.b. cost.
– What is the price per 1,000 super feet?
– For 4x2 timber up to 32 feet it is £6 10s. 6£d. c.i.f. Port Adelaide.
– Is that the duty paid price?
– That is the c.i.f. price per 1,000 feet. For 6 x 6 timber, up to 40 feet, the price is £6 2s. 3d. per 1,000 feet super, delivered c.i.f. Port Adelaide, and if we deduct freight and insurance amounting to £2 19s. lid., the net price is £3 2s. 4d. per 1,000 feet delivered f.o.b. Duty at 9s. 6d. per 100 super, feet is £4 15s. per 1,000 feet, which is equal to 152 per cent, on the f.o.b. cost.
– Is the honorable senator referring to running or super feet?
– I am referring to the cost and showing that the increase on 6 x 6 timber is 152 per cent, on the f.o.b. price.
– Is the price based on lineal or super, feet?-
– That does not matter; it is a question of cost. It has been said in this chamber that there has been a tremendous increase in importations as compared with 1920-21. That, however, was an abnormal year, owing to the scarcity of shipping after the war. The Tariff Board would not accept the figures for that year as average figures, and in its report it takes 1911-13, and 1924- 25-26 as normal years. . Taking those years, we find that in 1912 the importations totalled 445,000,000 feet, and in 1913, 456,000,000 feet. For the remaining, normal years to which I have referred, the figures were, 1923-24, 44.1,000,000; 1924-25, 402,000,000; 1925- 26, 499,000,000; and 1926-27, 465,000,000. Honorable senators will see that the importations of 1912 and 1913 approximate those of the last three years, and that there has not been any great increase. Although the population has largely increased we find that the timber importations - have been practically stationary. The figures par capita for 1912 and 1913 were 93.33; whilst for 1924-25, they were 67.16; for 1925-26, S2.68 ; and for 1926-27, 75.50. -
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– As honorable senators are aware, I believe in the policy of protection, which has been approved by a substantial majority of the people of Australia. I also believe in the White Australia policy, the Navigation Act, and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There are some honorable senators who are opposed to the White Australia policy and to the two statutes which I have mentioned. From time to time we are supplied- with so-called solutions of our difficulties. Senator Kingsmill, for instance, believes that even if we did not have straight out free trade we should have nothing more than a revenue tariff. The honorable senator believes that if we abrogated the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act and wiped out the Arbitration Court the clouds of depression which overhang Australia would speedily pass away and would be followed by the sunshine of prosperity. I believe in affording the highest measure of protection to the’ timber industry, which is a natural industry, and has not received the measure of justice it deserves. When I hear Senator Kingsmill and others, who profess to be enthusiastic in regard to afforestation, opposing these duties, I naturally wonder what they really mean. One would expect them to believe that the fullest consideration should be given to our timber resources and to the possibilities of our forests.
– That does not necessarily mean high duties.
– It does. Why do we impose high duties ? Because industries cannot be established in Australia without the imposition of such duties. How is it possible for those engaged in the timber industry in Australia to compete with others engaged in. similar industries in other parts of the world if they arc not protected by customs duties? The
Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) referred to the wages paid in other countries, but before I quote them, let me say that I am somewhat amused when I see certain honorable senators seized with sudden spasms of sympathy for the poor settler and the poor working mau whom these duties, we are told, will prejudicially affect if they erect timber dwellings. In my opinion these duties will not mean increased costs to those who build hardwood houses. Hardwood houses will, as Senator J. B. Hayes said, last longer than those built of softwood, and will not depreciate to the same extent. The cost of the upkeep of a hardwood house when compared with that of the upkeep of a house built of softwood is infinitesimal. A softwood tenement has to be painted fairly frequently. In the case of buildings constructed of softwood timber, the cost of painting is much higher. Hardwood does not require to be treated so frequently, and probably it will last twice as long as softwood. Let us now consider the wage conditions in the timber industry in Australia and other countries. I find the following information in the report of the Tariff Board : -
Canada. - Lowest wage payable is 25s. per week (black labour). The average weekly hours are 58.
America. - Lowest wage paid is 40s. Cd. (black labour). Average of 57.5 hours is the working week.
Sweden. - Wages paid, 7s. 7d . per day. Working week 48 hours.
Australia. - Lowest wage payable is 83s., for 48 hours per week.
Canada. - Average hours per week, 58; average weekly wage, £3 14s. 6d.
America. - Average hours per week, 57.5; average weekly wage, £3 14s. Cd.
Australia. - Average hours per week, 44; average weekly wages, £4 13s. in 48 bush sawmills.
In Canada and America no holidays are paid for, whilst nine holidays are paid for in Australia, also travelling time, &c.’ In Sweden there is no overtime, holiday pay, or travelling time. In America, of the 45,068 employees in the industry, 25,310 are classed as labourers. Under Australian awards all that we can classify as labourers is between 10 per cent. -and 15 per cent.
– - Are those mere statements or facts?
– These statements were given in evidence on oath before the Tariff Board. The Victorian Forestry Commission, in its annual report for 1925-26, stated-
Should the utilization of timber be prevented in any way, not only will an economic area of tremendous value bc lost to the State, but the forests themselves will ultimately be lost, for such is the nature of the species peculiar to these mountain areas, that whilst trees mature rapidly, they also deteriorate in a correspondingly quick time, becoming in their weakened state a prey to the forests pests, and more inflammable.
– The Conservators of Forests in Queensland and New South Wales have expressed opinions directly contrary to those of the Victorian commission.
– That, at all events, is the viewpoint of the Victorian Forestry Commissioners. In recent years there have been serious bush fires in Victorian timber areas and many lives have been lost. Much of the timber that was destroyed by those fires would, no doubt, have been marketed had these new duties then been operative. We have heard a good deal lately about the need for decentralization. Those who believe in that policy should support the Government up to the hilt with regard to these duties, because sawmilling is naturally a country industry. Many small towns in Victoria are largely, and, in some cases, wholly, dependent upon the timber trade, and, in former years, large numbers of men were engaged in the industry. Unfortunately, overseas competition has seriously interfered with the saw-milling business of Victoria and the other States of the Commonwealth; but the imposition of these duties has given an impetus to the industry. While it may not be true that all the mills will be re-opened immediately, I am sure that many will be profitably employed in the near future. With better organization the industry should shortly be more firmly established, and should give employment to a large number of men. No reasonable argument can be advanced against the Government’s proposals. It is true that Oregon, no matter how high may be the duty, will still be imported. It was not contemplated that the duties should be prohibitive. For certain work I believe Oregon is more or less essential.
The CHAIRMAN” (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s .time has expired.
– I doubt if there is one item in the schedule with regard to. which honorable senators find it so difficult to obtain reliable information in connexion with this item, which deals with the timber industry of Australia. Senator J. B. Hayes spoke just now of the mass of information which had been sent to honorable senators concerning timber. It is obvious that the inclusion of this item in the schedule has directly benefited the postal revenue. Like Senator J. B. Hayes, I have been inundated with information, doubtful and otherwise, upon this important, matter. It is not easy for me to determine how much of it to accept as sound and how much may be regarded as unreliable; but I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to arrive at correct conclusions concerning the industry. It ia generally admitted that the timber trade of Australia is in a serious position. Many mills have been closed and their owners are in dire financial straits; but, as Senator Carroll has pointed out, other industries are suffering’ to a like extent. Why is the timber industry in its present parlous condition? Those who advocate increased duties say that, up to the present, it has not been adequately protected. It is possible that, had the importation of foreign timber been discouraged by higher duties, there would - have been a greater demand for Australian timber; but I am inclined to believe that other factors have to be taken into account. The building trade, as we all know, is passing through a phase that was not contemplated a few years ago. There has been a remarkable development in concrete construction, and builders are utilizing more and more substitutes for timber. For example, fibro-cement sheets are now being extensively used in ‘ certain localities because they are cheap, easy to work, and are white-ant resistant.
– If that is so, why have not importations of foreign timber declined?
– I think that may be explained by the fact that for certain classes of work imported timber is essential. I have in mind particularly concrete construction for city buildings, for which there is no satisfactory substitute for
Oregon, which is used so largely for framing or casing. We seem, also, to be within measurable distance of the time when concrete will be more generally used for cottage construction work. Experts’ have expressed the opinion that the subjection of Australian hardwood to wet. on one side, and dry heat on the other, in concrete work, causes it to buckle, and to interfere seriously with the construction of the building. That does not happen with Oregon.
– Hardwood is too heavy for that class of work.
– That is so. These considerations impel me to suggest that by imposing an additional duty we are placing a severe handicap upon our own people without having any guarantee that the result will be the use of Australian timbers to an increasing extent. I take it that before the Government brought down this tariff they gave the most serious consideration to the requirements of the position. The dutieswhich were tabled in another place, were different from those that we are now considering. These were forced upon the Government by a majority of honorable members of another place, who perhaps had not had the opportunity to’ sift the information in the possession of the Government and their advisers.
– The quantity of
Oregon used for casing is infinitesimal.
– It is used’ also in many other directions. Some of these duties appear to me to have been designed to assist the United States of America at the expense .of portions of the British Empire. For example, the duty on American redwood is lower than that proposed on timber from Canada and British Borneo. Thus the users of timber in Australia are practically being invited to use redwood from the United States instead of timber that has been produced within the Empire.
– By coolie labour:
– Some of it may be, but a great deal of it is not.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that Oregon and redwood have similar uses?
– I certainly do not. Both have distinctive uses. I cannot see that the use of redwood is more vital to this community than the use of
Oregon; yet for some reason that I have been unable to fathom, the duty on redwood is lower than that on Oregon. It is true that we have not in Australia a satisfactory substitute for Oregon.
– For certain purposes. Senator DUNCAN. - A substitute can be found for baltic pine; but hardwood can never take the place of Oregon for certain purposes. In these days of high costs it is necessary for us to bear in mind the greater expense involved in working hardwood, the increased labour charge, and the higher cost of transport due to the heavier weight of hardwood. Seeing that we are endeavouring to induce as many people as possible to reside in their own homes, it is a mistaken policy to make it more difficult for them to acquire those homes. Increased duties certainly have that tendency.
– Does not that argument apply to all duties ?
– It applies to all excessive duties.
– As . Senator Kingsmill says, it applies to all excessive duties. I do not believe that our adoption of these proposed duties will result in considerable increase in the use of Australian hardwoods. Oregon will continue to come in, and the only effect of these duties will be- to add to the costs of the Australian home builder and those who are building up our industries. “We are not justified in placing additional hardships upon Australian industries. This tariff was designed to assist them. If it could be shown that these duties would have the effect of building up the Australian timber industry, I should be prepared to withdraw my objection to them. New South Wales produces a large quantity of timber, and sawmills in different parts of that State have been in a parlous condition for some time. If I thought these duties would help them to any considerable extent, I would support them; but I do not believe that they will. On the contrary, they will do injury to others. I, therefore, oppose them.
– I have listened with interest to the reasons given by Senator Duncan for his opposition to these increased duties. In the past, he has been a keen supporter of high protection for Australian industries. Now, for the first time, we find that he is a free trader. If his argument were applied to all industries, they would be able to compete on an equal basis. A little while ago I moved the adjournment of the Senate, to draw attention to the position in which the timber industry found itself. I then endeavoured to show that, as a result of legislation that had been passed from time to time by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, this industry had been changed from a thriving into an unprofitable one. The Government of the Commonwealth has on different occasions increased the tariff with the object of assisting Australian industry. Whenever the Prime Minister addresses a public meeting, he refers with pride to the standard of living that has been reached in Australia. I do not defend that standard of living, because I believe it has not an economic basis. But this Parliament is bound to see that those who have invested their capital in the timber industry receive fair treatment from the Government. Senator Duncan doubts whether these increased duties will place it on a more profitable basis. The Minister (Senator Crawford) and other honorable senators have urged the necessity to afford greater protection to other industries which . find it impossible to compete with countries in which the standard of living is lower than that which obtains in Australia. This industry is essential to Australia. Unless our timbers are put to a commercial use, they have to be destroyed. If we wish to encourage their use, we must pass these duties. Some honorable senators claim that the cost of building will be substantially increased. That is a debatable point.
– The difference in rent will not amount to 3d. a week.
– There will not be an appreciable difference in rent. Senator Kingsmill has argued that Australian woods cannot take the place of those that are imported, and that there are particular uses to which Oregon is put and for which our hardwoods are not suitable. I remind him that during the war softwoods were not imported, and our hardwoods were used almost exclusively, although the prices were very high. I admit that Oregon is specially adapted to certain uses. It is true that in some instances Australian hardwood cannot take the place of Oregon. Seeing that protection is the accepted policy of Australia, it is not right that it should be applied to other industries and denied to the timber industry. Each year hundreds of thousands of pounds are sent out of this country for timber which could be obtained in Australia. By increasing the duties on timber, we shall find employment for a number of our unemployed.
– It is doubtful if they would be allowed to work.
– It is true that the sawmilling industry is not immune from industrial troubles, but the industry will not be established on a proper basis merely by repealing the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act. If we set up tribunals for fixing- wages, we must give adequate protection to industries which suffer thereby.
– At whose cost?
- Senator Kingsmill has on a number of occasions advocated that Australia should adopt a more vigorous policy of reafforestation. Already the Government has established in Canberra a Forestry School, and placed at its head a man who has had considerable experience in forestry. That gentleman has advocated that duties on timber should be so high as to prohibit the importation of softwoods in order to com pel the people of Australia to use Australian timbers.
– The duties have been raised since he made that recommendation.
– Surely it is sound reasoning that if we give protection to other industries we should give protection also to the timber industry.
Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) duties on timber were before us for consideration, I opposed them because I felt that they would adversely affect the mining industry of Queensland. Although
Oregon was not used in Queensland mines, I feared that an increase in the duty on Oregon would be reflected in the cost of Australian hardwood.
– Oregon required for mining purposes is now admitted free.
– Unfortunately, the mining industry of Queensland is in anything but a flourishing position. I have therefore to reconsider the position to some extent. The Minister’s statement was certainly not very helpful. It would appear that because in another place the Government was forced to accept increased duties, this chamber must do the same. I do not subscribe to that view. Probably honorable members in another place are now in a more reasonable frame of mind and would agree to a request for lower duties on timber. Like other honorable senators, I have received numbers of telegrams and letters relative to the duties on timber. From my perusal of them I have concluded that the advocates of lower duties have made out the better case. Timber getting to-day is more expensive than it was in earlier years for the reason that sawmillers now have to go further back to get suitable timber, with the result that transport difficulties are increased. In Queensland, sawmillers have to meet heavy royalties on timber.
– Is it true that the royalties imposed are equal to the value of the timber ?
– Yes. In such circumstances Queensland saw-millers naturally look for some protection.
– The strongest arguments against increased duties have come from the biggest saw-millers.
– I agree with those who urge that the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act should be repealed. When in Adelaide some time ago I saw at Holden’s motor body building establishment a large stack of timber. When I asked if it came from Queensland the manager replied that, although he would prefer Queensland timber, which he knew to be of good quality, the timber in the stack caine from the Philippine Islands because, notwithstanding the duty on it and the longer distance that it had to be carried, it could be landed more cheaply than could Queensland timber. Recently when in Mildura 1 saw shooks for fruit cases branded “ Made in Sweden.” When I suggested that shooks could be obtained from Queensland, I was informed that it was cheaper to get them from Sweden. I cannot accept the figures quoted by Senator J. B. Hayes as to the additional cost of building which these higher duties would necessitate. Prom information in my possession, the additional cost, instead of being about £7 as mentioned by the honorable senator, would be over £20. The Directors of Forestry in both New South Wales and Queensland advocate saving our timbers and importing timber for some years to come. The Queensland Director of Forests recommended that in order to preserve the forests for the future, importations should be continued for 30 years.
– The Forestry Commissioner of New South Wales advocates higher duties.
– According to information received only to-day, I understand that he is of the same opinion as is the chairman of the Provisional Forestry Board in Queensland. Although T had received no communication from Queensland in regard to this item prior to this sitting. I have now received from inspired sources a number of letters and telegrams. To some of these communications I attach little importance, but one of them is worded so reasonably that I propose to read a few extracts from it. It is from James Campbell and Sons, Ltd., large’ saw-miller of Brisbane.. On the 9th inst, this firm sent me the following telegram : -
Timber industry never in worse state. Accentuated frequent large- importations from New Zealand and overseas. Appeal you strongly support tariff passed Representatives.
In a letter dated’ the 12th March, 1928, the firm wrote-
Regarding the wretched state of the timber trade in Queensland during the past twelve months, we really could not exaggerate the position. Several mills have closed down altogether, and, if present conditions continue, many more will follow. You will no ‘ doubt have heard a good deal during the past year or two regarding the timber industry, such as shortages of pine in Queensland, &c, but we might state that Queensland has pine to fulfil our requirements for a good many years yet. Unfortunately, . Oregon pine - we mention this timber, because it is our biggest competitor - is competing greatly with our hardwoods, of which Queensland is richly endowed, and there is no visible shortage whatever of this timber. This is the cause of so many of our millers going out of business. When we see so many shipments arriving from overseas, many of them with 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 feet at a time for our port, and realize that it means that quantity less of our own timbers to be used, it brings one to sternly realize how our industry, with its vast number of employees, is encroached upon. The labour on imported timber is very small as compared with the labour on our own timbers, when you come to take into consideration the labour entailed right from the falling of the tree to the putting it through the mills. Compare this with imported timber. We could really work our mill plants with about 25 per cent, of our normal employees if we dealt solely in imported timbers, but where the sawmill employs in its mill and timber yards, say, 100 employees, it necessitates a further 75 in the forests or scrubs. Then; also, with these bush workers, there is a number of other dependent trades in the country such a? blacksmith, wheelwrights, harnessmakers, .farmers, &c.
That communication has induced me to favour a modification of the timber duties rather than the complete elimination of the increases and I therefore propose to ask the Senate to request the House of Representatives to make the duties on item 291, sub-item f3 (timber n.e.i.), 5s. British, 5s. intermediate, and 5a. general. Those rates, I think, would enable the millers to carry on and at the same time would avoid the high cost of dwellings which high duties must inevitably bring about.
Intended Resignation op Senator Sib Henry Barwell.
[10.36]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
As honorable senators are aware, Sir Henry Barwell is about to resign his seat in the Senate with a view to taking upthe position of Agent-General for South Australia. Last week I asked him if he would he coming to Canberra before his departure for London. He promised to let me know if he could do so, and I am now in receipt of the following telegram from him: -
I regret exceedingly that owing to many important engagements here it is quite impossible for me to visit Canberra prior to de- parture. Will forward resignation to Presient in few days. With kindest regards and wishing farewell to yourself and fellow members in Senate.
I think I am expressing the feelings of honorable senators when I say that we all wish Senator Barwell every success and happiness in his new career, and that we hope he will be spared for many years, and eventually may return to Australia. Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– -I echo the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I hope that Senator Barwell will have a pleasant voyage to England and will be long spared to carry out his duties in his new sphere of activity. His politics and mine are as far apart as the poles, but I have always admired bis pleasing personality - and charm of manner. These are attributes that endear a man to his fellows, and for these reasons alone, if for no other, we shall miss him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280314_senate_10_118/>.