10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The. following paper was presented : -
What is the number of males and females respectively who are employed in (a) the Public Service of the Commonwealth, (b) the Commonwealth Bank?
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies : -
The Public Service Board advises that the total number of permanent officers employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1927, was : -
Information in regard to male and female temporary and exempt employees is not available in the Public Service Board’s office, but is being obtained and’ will be furnished at a later date.
I have now received the following answers from the Minister for Home and Territories : -
Cost: Staff and Duties of Staff: Aerodrome for Canberra
asked the Minister for Defence. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
To facilitate the discharge of these functions, the Civil Aviation Branch is divided into three sections, viz. : - s
Aerodromes. - (The maintenance of existing)!, aerodromes, emergency landing grounds and buildings; preliminary surveys of proposed new routes and the submission of recommendations for their preparation: issue of aerial strip maps and plans of landings grounds ; leases and/or acquisitions of sites for new aerodromes and emergency landing grounds).
Senator GUTHRIE (through Senator
Elliott) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When will the Postmaster-General’s Department replace the many foreign cars and trucks now owned by the department with those of British manufacture?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
It cannot be said when the ten cars and eight trucks of foreign manufacture will be replaced by those of British manufacture. The department’s policy is to give preference to British motor vehicles over those of foreign make. Some of the foreign vehicles were purchased several years ago.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has . supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s- questions are as follow: -
In committee (Consideration resumed from 16th March, vide page 3907).
Division X. - Wood, Wicker and Cane
By omitting the whole of sub-item (f) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : -
Andon and after 10th December, 1927 -
’ Timber, undressed, n.e.i.. in sizes of 12 inches x 0 inches (or its equivalent) and over -
– What I have to say to-day will be in justification of a statement which I made when last speaking on this item to the effect that some honorable senators appeared to have been influenced by the large number of telegrams and letters they had received, and that I had good reason to believe that those telegrams and letters were not spontaneous, but had been sent at the request of some one, and were, therefore, inspired. If I received a large number of spontaneous letters and telegrams stating that certain proposals before this branch of the legislature were going to injure business, I should take a good deal of notice of them; otherwise I would not be influenced by them, and would throw them in the wastepaper basket. As I had good reason to believe that these letters and telegrams were inspired, I thought it my duty to give expression to that belief. I received a somewhat severe catigation for doing so, but I have since been able to obtain copies of circulars which should convince honorable senators that these communications were not spontaneous. For the information of the committee, I wish to quote the following from the circular issued by the Hardwood Millers’ Association of Victoria, dated 27th February, 1928-
I urge you to write a personal letter to each of your six senators, asking their support in retaining the duties as imposed by the House of Representatives. . Please send these letters at once. … Do not make your letters too long, but be sure to express the bad position we are in.
– I should rather not introduce any names. I know that any one has a perfect right to send such communications. I am not questioning that right ; but I maintain that honorable senators are being influenced by telegrams and letters which are being sent in response to such communications. I therefore feel it my duty to bring thematter before the committee.
– What influence does the honorable senator think they have upon the senators?
– They have a very great influence; that has been admitted by some honorable senators.
– What has this to do with the item before the committee?
SenatorKingsmill. - A good deal.
– It is relevant to the item. The Associated Country Sawinillers of New South Wales issued a circular letter dated 27th February, 1928, in which the ‘ following appears -
Therefore each saw-miller in the State should at once either send an urgent telegram or write to his Federal member, asking him to take such action as may be necessary to support the Australian country saw-miller at the present juncture. . . . We want to all be up and doing, and not only communicate with the senators at Canberra whose names are at the bottom of this circular, but also write letters and/or send telegrams to the federal members for your- districts. Hoping that steps will be taken to prevent this misleading propaganda from doing an injury to an industry which is languishing….. Do not fail to do something, and do it immediately.
– What are the names referred to?
– Senators Abbott, Cox, Duncan, Grant, Massy Greene, and Thomas. ».Some honorable senators admitted that their opinions had been influenced by these communications. For instance, SenatorReid, in his second-reading speech said, “ I cannot conscientiously vote for higher duties on Oregon.” But when the timber duties were under consideration, he quoted these telegrams and said that they had had a considerable influence upon him. I think another honorable senator also said the same.
– This sort of thing is always done.
– Yes, but honorable senators should know how these messages originated. In his secondreading speech, SenatorReid condemned these higher duties on timber.
– We are now in committee, and are not dealing with the second reading of the bill.
– Very well. When Senator Reid was speaking in committee he condemned imported tim ber on account of the borer, which he said was a menace to Australia. Some six or seven years ago, when a shipment of timber infested with borer was imported to Australia, the Customs Department took certain action, and has since framed regulations which prevent timber so infested frombeing imported.
– Where did the honorable senator get that information?
-I have the regulations which I shall quote in a minute.
I understand in the first place all Philippine Island timber must carry a certificate that it is 90 days seasoned, or failing that, that it has been at least twelve days Id hotair drying kilns, ‘both of which processes destroy the borer. It must also be accompanied by a certificate from the American Forestry Department that it was free from borer “when shipped. On arrival here no furniture timber is allowed to enter the country until the Quarantine Department gives it clearance. I understand that the regulations were afterwards relaxed in regard to certain building timbers because they are immune from the borer, but that they still apply to timber used in the manufacture of furniture. In the Statutory Rules for 1927 we find the following: -
No person shall, import any timber (whether logs or sawn timber) unless he has given notice to the Quarantine Officer at the port of landing in accordance with the following form, which shall be printed on blue paper.
These are the only points which I wish to bring before the committee.
– When I was speaking during my second period of fifteen minutes, allowed me under the Standing Orders, I mentioned that I intended, first of all, to deal with the forestry aspect of the matter. This I did, and I think conclusively proved that responsible foresters in Australia view with alarm the increased cutting of hardwood timbers which will bo necessary if these duties are imposed. I said at the time that I would deal with an important portion of the Tariff Board’s report, and I asked in what way circumstances had changed since that exhaustive inquiry was made to justify the failure of the Government to be guided by it. Another portion of that document is extremely interesting. In the first place, so as to indicate the attitude taken up by certain witnesses before the Tariff Board, I should like to quote the following evidence given by the representative not of the South Australian Timber Workers’ Union but of the Australian Timber Workers’ Union : jo,
I am instructed to request that the Tariff Board will take into consideration the reduction in duty on 12 x G Oregon from 4s. to 3s. We contend that as long as timber comes in bulk, we will have the work of cutting it up.
We do not want the duty on the smaller sizes reduced or increased. We also consider that should the duties be increased on bulk timber, and we were forced to supply our requirements from Australian timber, we know that it is a matter of impossibility for them to do so, because they have not enough to cope with the orders at present. Queensland cannot supply Australia with softwoods; so far as Tasmania is concerned, we use a quantity of their timber for fencing purposes, but it is not suitable in this climate for roofing construction (because it twists. We are of opinion that Australia would soon become depleted if only Australian timber were used.
– ‘When was that evidence given?
– Before the Tariff Board in 1925. It is to be found in the report of that body preserved to Parliament on 18th September of that year.
– There is a later report.
– That, I understand, is the latest report of the Tariff Board on the timber industry.
– They are singing a different tune now.
– I understand that some of the representatives from South Australia are singing a different tune now; but not, so far as I can ascertain, on information contained in a later report of the Tariff Board. In order that my position may not.be misunderstood, I should like also to quote the report of the Tariff Board with regard to the conditions existing in Western Australia. I ask honorable senators to way particular attention to the wording of the paragraph which I am about to read. It is as follows : -
The principal witness for increased duties, Mr. Moore, who claimed to be representing Western, Australia before the Tariff Board, as well as most of the other States, failed, in the board’s opinion, to place the whole of the facts regarding that State adequately, and, apparently, was unaware of that State’s true position. This is not to be wondered at, since Mr. Moore confines most of his activities to the timber industry in the State of Tasmania. The Tariff Board is in possession of the production figures of the State of Western Australia from 1914 to 1924, furnished by the Conservator of Forests of that State. On examination it will be found that these figures reveal, instead of a depression a condition of advancing prosperity. The actual position at the present moment is that the total timber production is greater than in any other year since 1914, which proved to be a phenomenally good year. The Tariff Board was not approached either by the Department of Forestry in Western Australia or any of the representatives of those actually engaged in the timber-getting industry in that State, with any complaints regarding the inadequacy of any of the duties affecting timber.
When we have the Conservator of Forests declaring that the. hardwood forests must be depleted as a result of the increased demand which it is hoped will result from the passing of these increased duties, and when also the opinion of labour in Australia is against this course - it is in my State at all events and Western Australia is the largest timber producing State in Australia-
– What is the market for Western Australian timber, ,T
– It is “sold in the eastern States.
– Of course it is.
– It is sold, also, all over the world.
– Western Australia is fortunate in that respect.
– The quality of the timber justifies the demand for it in other countries.
– It is a question of freight - not quality.
– We had an example of that matter in the Senate the other day. The answer of the PostmasterGeneral as to the reason why Western Australian timber was used by his department in preference to timber from other States was quite unambiguous. Honorable senators cannot therefore be surprised if, with the knowledge which I have of the timber industry of ray State - and that knowledge I submit, is not inconsiderable - and knowing how these duties are likely to affect the industry, I om not disposed to support them. It is difficult to understand why they have been imposed. The forestry authorities in Australia did not ask for them and certainly it is not in the interests of the consumer that they should be agreed to. Whilst we are considering the interests of -those engaged in the industry it is desirable that we should also give some thought to the needs of the consumer - in this case the people who may wish to build houses. Cannot honorable senators see that these -duties will affect the cost of building? I do not suppose that I shall have occasion to speak again on this item. I hope not, at all events. I cannot possibly see my way to vote for any increase in the duties on Oregon. Obviously they will not be in the interests of labour. If large-sized Oregon is included in the schedule the saw-milling industry will be affected because Oregon, in large sizes, represent its raw material. Personally, I can see nothing but evil for the timber ^industry if these duties are passed, and furthermore I venture to say that the course which I have already suggested - the abolition of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act - would achieve the object in view without increasing the cost of building.
– I rise to point to an aspect which appears to have been overlooked in this debate, and that is that those of us who are objecting to -the item are not advocating a reduction”1 in the duties in the old tariff, but what is actually an increase, since the increased duties set out in the schedule now before the committee cannot be assumed to be law until they have been agreed to by the Senate. The attitude which a number of honorable senators, myself included, take up, is that we are advocating an increase of practically 50 per cent, in duties which the Tariff Board considered adequate for the protection of the industry. In my remarks during the general discussion I made a slight mistake. I assumed that the old rate of duty was 3s. British, intermediate and general. I find that it was 3s. British and intermediate, and 4s. in the general tariff. Therefore, the amendment which I am about to submit will represent an increase of 50 per cent, under the general tariff. That should be sufficient to enable the saw-millers to carry on, without penalizing the consumers. I happened to be in telephonic communication with an architect friend of mine -in Sydney yesterday on the subject of these duties. He assured me that every architect in Sydney believed that they would very considerably increase the cost of every building erected in New South Wales, and that the position would be the . same in Queensland. That ought to correct Senator Hoare’s ideas regarding my consistency, and Senator Reid’s assumption’ that my proposal is a shandy-gaff one.’1. ‘T~ should like to follow up what Senator Chapman has said respecting the influences that have been at work in this matter. In the Brisbane Daily Mail of the 17th inst., a long telegram was published from Cairns indicating that Mr. James L. Moore had wired to the sawmillers in North Queensland informing them that Senators Reid, Foll, and Thompson were opposed to the proposed timber duties, and asking them to use every effort to induce those honorable senators, to vote for them. There may be nothing’ wrong with that, but it is an evidence of energy rather than of discretion. Honorable senators are nor likely to submit to that sort of thing. I have only a superficial knowledge of the subject, but I cannot see in what way North Queensland is likely to be injured. _ It is well known that that portion of Australia grows principally decorative timbers, that are unsurpassed by similar timbers grown in any other part of the world. A celebrated Swedish professor said recently that the decorative timbers of North Queensland had no superior within his knowledge. How, then, are they likely to be injured? It is only ridiculous propaganda to say that they are.
– There is just as much propaganda indulged in by the other side.
– I have already informed honorable senators that my desire to effect a compromise was dictated largely by a letter which I had received from a very fine firm of sawmillers in Brisbane, James Campbell & Sons Ltd. The Minister (Senator Crawford) has referred to propaganda on the other side. Since the adjournment of the Senate on Friday last I have received a letter from Brown & Broad, Newstead Homes Ltd., Brisbane, a firm which carries extensive stocks and whose operations in connexion with the building of homes for the workers are probably not equalled by any other firm in Australia. It will place before honorable senators the point of view of the consumers.
– They are builders, not consumers.
– They build for the consumer. Why does the Minister try to sidestep such an obvious fact ?
– They are opposing the duties so that they may make a bigger profit out of imported timbers.
– The Minister has asked me to give him the viewpoint of the other side, and I have very much pleasure in doing so. The letter reads -
Timber Duties. - I read with some amazement a statement in the press to the effect that hardwood millers had convinced senators that, if the proposed increased duties were not confirmed, the hardwood industry would be very seriously injured. Such a contention is utterly ridiculous, and an insult to the intelligence of senators - doubtless the statement was blatant propaganda. As an evidence of the difficulty in obtaining hardwood supplies, I may say that my company has a contract with the] Postmaster-General, for the supply of hardwood crossarms. The size of the timber is 3 inches by 3 inches and lengths vary from fi’ ft. 6 in. long to 9 feet. This is one of the easiest specifications any sawmiller could ask for, yet what do we find? Out of five hardwood millers with whom orders were placed, only two can supply small quantities. I send you herewith copies of letters received from these millers, which speak volumes, more especially when one hears so much piffle about the great hardwood industry being ruined by importations of foreign timber.
I shall not inflict those upon honorable senators.
– The honorable senator should do so, because they state definitely that weather conditions have been responsible for the difficulty which has been experienced in obtaining supplies.
– The letter says -
My company find it most difficult to obtain ordinary general stocks, for which it has to pay 30s. per 100 feet, and it is offering considerably more for crossarms, without results. The Government appointed a tariff ‘ commission, who thoroughly and exhaustively investigated the timber tariff and brought down certain well-considered proposals. The Minister for Customs apparently did not see fit to accept those recommendations, and by a stroke of the pen just doubled the existing duties and ignored the report altogether. Surely the Minister’s duty was to place the Tariff Commission’s recommendations before the House, and let it decide; otherwise where is the justification for the appointment of a very expensive commission. You will have to deal with this important question in a few days, and I say deliberately that the trade as a whole had confidence in the Tariff Commission, and would have accepted their decision without demur; but, if the Minister’s high-handed action is confirmed, then we lose our respect and confidence in those who support such a person.
It goes on to say -
Increased Duties won’t help. - My company is now, I believe, the largest home-building concern in tlie Commonwealth. It supplies and erects homes all over Queensland, from the Gulf. to the Tweed, and, if I could obtain its timber requirements locally, I would do so. I have two large sawmills in the country capable of cutting over 30,000 feet daily. They are both closed down permanently and the machinery is for sale. The sole reason for closure was because the timber supplies have been exhausted. An endeavour was made to secure supplies in other districts, and I was prepared to move the mills; but the Government would give no assurance of supplies. My company was forced to import through no fault of its own. The dreadful neglect of the present and past governments of this unfortunate State has placed timber merchants in this unhappy position.
I shall not flog a dead horse any longer. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item f (3), British, 5s.; intermediate, 5s.; general, Gs.
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) [3.381. - I rise to answer certain statements made by Senator Kingsmill, that are not in accordance with the facts. That honorable senator quoted extensively from a report of the Director-General of Forests, Mr. Lane-Poole, and endeavoured to lead honorable senators to believe that Australia has not a sufficient supply of hardwood to cope with her requirements. I cannot speak for the timber industry of Australia as a whole, but I can. speak with some authority regarding Victoria. When the statement was published that we had an insufficient supply of hardwood, the people who are engaged in the timber industry in Victoria were naturally more or less incensed. Whatever justification Senator Kingsmill might have had for making his statement applicable to the other States, he certainly was not justified in applying it to Victoria.
– The same is true of Tasmania.
– In that case the statement of the Director-General of Forests is clearly incorrect. In view of the belief held by some honorable senators that there is a very meagre supply of matured milling timber in Australia I desire to read the following report by Mr. D. Ingle, the Commissioner of Forests for Victoria.
Statements having been made publicly that this State has very meagre supplies left in the forests of matured milling timbers, and that, therefore, importations of softwoods should be encouraged in order to eke out as long as possible what are remaining, it has occurred to me that the present position should be reviewed in order to relieve any anxiety which may have arisen regarding this important matter.
It is unfortunate that visiting foresters, in almost every instance, have based their calculations and conclusions on hearsay evidence, instead of gaining the knowledge required on the subject by actual personal inspections. . .
When it is considered that most, if not all, of the forestry experts, who have visited this State from overseas, and who in books, pamphlets, reports to governments and newspapers, stated their erroneous conclusions, have only spent, at the most, a few weeks in the State and it is not possible for any one to obtain an authentic knowledge of the timber resources of this country in less than as many years as have been numbered in weeks by the visitors who have had the temerity to publicly sum up the forestry position here.
In 1923-24 the total output of hardwood (‘milled timber) was 108,000,000 super feet; but, owing to the low price of inferior softwoods, only 87,257,456 super feet were cut in 1920-27 and 82,000,000 in 1925-20.
It is quite safe, however, to say that in this State there are supplies of mature hardwood which would produce the peak requirements of 1923-24, viz., .108,000,000 (annually) for at least 45 years. These supplies would comprise the best of furniture, flooring, weatherboards, scantlings, bridge, sleeper, pile and pole timber; at their worst, these trees would give better service than tlie imported softwoods.
It may be pointed out, also, that in all parts of the State where milling operations have been carried on years ago, the regenerated forests, which have been highly improved, large areas of pines have been planted and within 45 years - the estimated life of the existing mature hardwood reserves - these plantations will be ready for use.
The suggestion that the matured forests of Victoria are almost depleted is without foundation, and. utterly absurd, because in addition to the areas in the Yea, Alexandra, Warburton, Upper Yarra, Noojee, Tangil .and Baw Baw districts, which are now being exploited and will produce the hardwood requirements of tb is State, estimated at about 100,000,000 super feet per annum for a period of 20 years, there are the virgin matured forests in the watersheds of the Mitchell, Tambo, Timbarra and Buchan rivers^ containing 178,000 acres, which will supply our requirements for at least a further 20 to 25 years, and further east is the remainder of the county of Croajingolong, comprising approximately 1,000,000 acres and carrying matured eucalypts throughout, so it ‘is plain that, for the period stated- 45 year/sl.at least - there will be no dearth of mature hardwood in Victoria, and the probabilities are that, as the old cutout forests are being regenerated, that period may be greatly extended.
This statement is compiled from facts gained by 30 years of personal inspection, not from hearsay statements made by irresponsible persons.
– That does not answer Senator Kingsmill’s contention.
– The statement may not be acceptable to Senator Duncan, who, though evidently not interested in thedevelopment of the timber industry in Australia may yet be interested in thetimber industry abroad. Opponents of these duties say that they will increase the cost of houses, thus placing an additional burden upon the workers. That statement is not in accordance with fact.
– The Minister admitted that they would do so.
– Eventhough there may be a slight increase in the cost of houses because of the duties, a house erected of hardwood lasts longer than one constructed of Baltic pine, while the upkeep is infinitesimal compared with that of a softwood dwelling. Another objection raised to the higher duties is that no matter what duty is placed upon softwoods, they will still enter this country. I believe that no duties that we may impose will entirely prevent the importation of softwoods; but the imposition of high duties on softwoods will cause Australian hardwood to be used for many purposes for which imported timber is now employed. Throughout the world forestry experts are advocating a greater use of hardwood. The United Empire, the official journal of the Royal Colonial Institute, in its issue of 28th February last, publishes a paper on Imperial Forestry written by the right honorable Lord Clinton, Chairman of the Forestry Commission, in which it is urged that every endeavour should be made to keep out the existing supplies of timber by economizing in the consumption of softwoods and by persuading consumers to utilize hardwood instead of softwood wherever possible. The meeting was under the chairmanship of Lord Novar whose name is well ; known in forestry matters.
I am satisfied thata majority of the members of this committee desire to do the fair thing by the Australian timber industry. I should not have risen had it not been that Senator Kingsmill and others - perhaps not intentionally - would lead the public to believe that our timber requirements cannot be supplied by Australian sawmillers. The facts and figures regarding the industries which I have quoted absolutely disprove their statements. Senator Chapman complained that those interested in the timber industry in this country had communicated with honorable senators, urging them to support higher duties on timber. There is nothing unusual about that action ; similar action has been taken in connexion . with every other tariff schedule which has been introducedinto this Parliament. It is their duty- to mind their own business.What is everybody’s business is nobody’s affair. The gentleman who is commissioned to look after the work on behalf of the timber producers has done his work well. Honorable senators prefer to meet representatives of various interests, producers or importers, in person, and secure information which assist us in the discussion of tariff matters. We receive a great deal of information from those who favour importations and we get it likewise from those who are deeply interested in Australian industries. But we are not influenced by that information in coming to our conclusions.
– I believe that the honorable senator has been listening to one side only.
- Senator Thompson claims that he studies both sides of a question and draws his own conclusions. I do the same, but I draw one conclusion only, and that is that we should afford the highest measure of protection to Australian industries. One would imagine from the remarks of Senator Chapman that the people engaged in the timber industry in Australia are the only persons moving in the direction he has indicated. Have not the importers sent out circulars and telegrams to honorable senators? Have they never interviewed honorable senators?
– They have not done it in quite the same way as the sawmillers.
– Perhaps they are not as active in that regard as the producers.
– Let us get active and take a vote.
– I have not placed any obstacle in the way of taking a vote. I think I was justified in replying to an inaccurate statement. I hope that when the vote is taken it will - show conclusively that the majority of honorable senators are strongly in favour of the proposed duties.
– When we are considering a proposal which means, roughly, doubling the rates of duty on timber and a substantial increase in the cost of a universally required article, we can well say, notwithstanding what the Minister has said, that an hour spent in discussing the matter is an hour usefully employed. ,.The Government’s proposal means more than doubling the rate of duty on the great bulk of the timber imported into Australia. It means an increased levy of something like £835,000, or, deducting the duty on New Zealand timber, £770,000, on the users of timber in Australia. I feel it is like throwing chaff against the wind to. try to moderate these duties. I recognize that public opinion is still strongly in favour of the political superstition that all a country has to do to bring prosperity upon itself is to increase its customs duties and raise prices. Must not an end come to all this ? A few years ago the duty on imported timber was 2s. per 100 super, feet. The present proposal is to make it 8s., an increase of 400 per cent. Eight years ago the timber producers were clamouring for and were given rates of ls. 6d. and 2s., but the sole effect of giving those rates was to whet the desire of others to take advantage of the increase. The vicious circle came into play at once. Prices all round have been raised again and again, and the result has been that people making use of timber have had to pay more for it without any corresponding return for the extra price paid.. I suppose we shall continue this mad policy until we are brought to a dead stop. This country will have a rude awakening when it is found that the prices we get overseas for our surplus produce will no longer sustain our habits of high living and high prices. Already we as a people are living beyond our means and. the effect of this tariff will b.e to encourage us to indulge still further in that vicious practice. Let us call a halt before it is too late to avert the crisis that must come when the return we get overseas for our surplus produce will no longer sustain us in our course of high living-.^ Even now the price of wheat has fallen to little more than 50 per cent, above its pre war value. Yet we are being asked in this case to impose a duty which is 400 per cent, higher than that which operated eight years ago on this ““necessary commodity. Senator Findley has asked us to believe that ‘Victoria is a timber State, but the Customs returns indicate that it is the second largest timber importer in the Commonwealth. During 1926-27 New South Wales imported 150,000,000, super, feet of undressed timber and 18,000,000 super feet of dressed timber. In the same period Victoria imported 92,000,000 super, feet of undressed timber 2and 54,000,000 of dressed timber. Of the total importations of dressed timber, New South Wales imported 23 per cent, and Victoria fi« per cent.
– These figures only serve to prove my statement that importations of timber are keeping the Victorian mills idle:
– If Victoria is a State overflowing with timber which is ready to be put on the market, why is it that it is the second largest importer of timber? I could understand South Australia being a large importer of timber, but not Victoria. No reliance can be placed on the authority quoted by Senator Findley. The figures I have given blow the honorable senator’s statement kite high. Victoria is not a timber State. It is not even in a position to supply its own timber requirements. Senator Kingsmill has quoted the statement made last year by the Forestry Commission of Queensland that within the next 25 years that State, which is admittedly one of the timber States of the Commonwealth, will not be able to pro- duce supplies of softwoods to meet its own requirements’‘1 and must import £30,000,000 worth. The timber pro: duc.ers of Australia’ who have been enjoying an average duty of 4s. per 100 super, feet, double the rate prevailing about eight years ago, are now anxious to double the rate again and make it 8s. per 100 super, feet. A complacent Government is allowing them to do so. I call it a complacent Government because apparently it is ever willing to listen to the tales of those who want high duties and is never ready to supply information to those who will Have to bear the burden of the higher duties imposed. When a Tariff Bill was under discussion in this Senate some years ago honorable senators were supplied by the then Government with the fullest details. That Government had some regard for Parliament and a proper idea of how a tariff should be discussed and settled. Against every item it showed the proposed duty, the British preferential rate, the former rate, the duty recommended by the Tariff Board, the amount of imports for the year, the revenue collected and the ad valorem duty paid. All this information could be seen at a glance.
– The present Government is probably afraid to supply that information.
– That statement is unwarranted.
-When we were last dealing with the tariff, I protested against the frivolous way in which the Government was treating the Senate by not supplying honorable senators with information. As a result of my protest we had placed in our hands not a Government publication but a statement by Mr. Ambrose Pratt, issued and published in the manufacturing interests of Australia. It is a partisan publication. It is a pity that the method which, as I have indicated, was adopted by a previous government, has not been copied by the present administration. This tariff has simply been heaved at us, and we have been asked to swallow it. There is an old saying that one man can take a horse to water but .ten men cannot make it drink. This country will not become prosperous by piling up rates of duty. The diminishing acreage under wheat tells its. own story. Paper is cheap, ink is cheap, cleri- eai labour is cheap, and ministerial arguments are the cheapest of all. There is no reason why we should not get more information than that which has been heaved at us on this occasion. What has the Senate done that it has not been supplied with the detailst o which it is entitled ? When we are asked to double the duties on timber, and” call upon the users of timber to pay an additional £750,000 for their requirements, Senator Findley, of course, says “ Hear, hear “ ; but surely there is in the community an overwhelming number of silent patient citizens who will not applaud. Will the imposition of extra duties on timber have any different result from that which was achieved by doubling the duties some years ago. It is time we faced the matter squarely; it is time we made people live within their means and compete without the shelter afforded by a tariff 100 per cent, and not 400 per cent, higher than that which previously operated. I feel that my voice is like that of one crying in the wilderness, and that this insanity will continue until a rude awakening comes. Even now, however, we can see gleams of sunlight on the murky horizon. There are in this country some who are awakening to the fact that this drift must not continue. We know that the cost of building houses for the Victorian State Savings Bank is about double what it was in the early nineties just before the- financial crash came. According to Senator Findley rents have- not risen, or if they have the increase has been trifling. As a matter of fact rents in Australia have risen by 15 per cent, since 1921, while in the same period the average wage paid in Australia has only risen from 94s. lid. to 99s., an. increase of 4 per cent. We are asked to agree to an increase of duty amounting to 100 per cent. The Government should supply the committee with all information at its disposal instead of compelling honorable senators to fish around to obtain it. I have given the other side of the picture in connexion with this industry, and have shown that although wages have increased by only 4 per cent., the Government wishes us to support timber duties equivalent to, 100 per cent. Where is the warrant for this? When is consideration to be given to the man on the land who rises early in the morning and works until late at night and who does not receive any benefit from tariff duties ? How is he to get on ? In various ways he will have to pay these increased duties. It will not. be long before the burden becomes so heavy that these men will devote their energies to other activities where the conditions of life are much easier. If they do I shall not blame them; but when they do, production will diminish and the prosperity of the country will be seriously impaired. Why should they be compelled to work long hours whilst other sections of the community are sailing along smoothly and receiving protection and assistance which is denied to them? Notwithstanding the arduous nature of their work, Governments, of which this is a sample, have the audacity to impose high duties which these sturdy workers on the land will have to pay. The Government increased these duties without a scintilla of evidence in support of its action. Where are these ‘ industries which we are being..,asked to support ? The only trace we can find of many of them is in a back room in some city building.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his ‘ time.
– Senator Lynch has asked what justification there is for the duty under the general tariff being increased from 4s. to 8s. Those engaged in the industry were quite satisfied with a duty of 4s. when it was imposed; but conditions have altered considerably since then. I think it was in 1920 that Oregon was sold at 70s. per 100 super, feet; it was later reduced to 40s.; and to-day, owing to the cheap labour available in the country of production and to other factors, softwood timber is now being sold in Australia at 29s. per 100 feet super.
– Is that the price to-day ?
– According to the latest figures available, that is the price being charged this year. The costs of the sawmiller have, in consequence of awards made by the Arbitration Court and the conditions imposed under the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act increased to a remarkable extent. On the one hand the costs of the sawmillers have increased and on the other, timber is being imported at a much cheaper rate. In these circumstances the Australian sawmillers have, to seek increased duties to enable the industry, which is not getting consideration com mensurate with that received by other industries, to continue.
– If the men engaged . in the sawmilling industry receive further awards from the Arbitration Court, the sawmillers’ costs will be increased, and these duties will be ineffective. :
– That may be so. The Navigation Act and the awards of the Arbitration Court are affecting industries t04 such an extent that we cannot continue the present system much longer. The duties which are now sought are only sufficient to enable the saw mills to keep in operation; but if many of the obstacles with which the sawmillers now have to contend were removed, they would not be necessary. It has been stated during the debate that certain forestry officers view with alarm the depletion of our Australian forests. I have ^before me extracts from statements made by certain forestry officers in Australia. Senator Findley referred to what has happened in Victoria, and I now wish to quote what was stated in evidence by the Conservator of Forests in Tasmania in relation to the Tasmanian forests being cut out. He said -
There are at present under leases and permits some 300,000 acres of forest land, of which it is assumed some 100,000 acres are cut out. By assessing the balance of 200,000 acres to a yield of 20,000 feet to the acre, one thousand million super, feet in the round is reached. Suppose 50 per cent, of this is lost in conversion, a net balance of two thousand million super, feet of sawn timber would be produced. Of the balance of timber land in Tasmania 700,000 acres should be a conservative, estimate. As the bulk of- this is unexplored, let us consider 10,000 feet to tlie acre as the yield. This gives seven thousand million super, feet in the round which, with a 50 per cent, reduction, conversion works out at 3,500,000,000 feet of timber. Therefore on these figures the total yield of. sawn timber on leased and unleased areas would be 5,500,000,000 super, feet. As Tasmania produces approximately 60,000,000 feet of sawn timber per annum, the forests would last at the present rate of cutting, about 90 years. …… Sufficient data has been collected to show that the rate of growth is rapid and the annual increment in the Tasmanian eucalypt is very high. Be-growth 25 years old is at present being cut for board and case material, and in such localities 40 years should prove ample to produce sawmilling timber.
From this it will be seen that even if cutting is undertaken at three or four times the present rate, it can proceed indefinitely. I am- not conversant with the conditions in Queensland; but in regard to that State it is stated on page 33 of the Forestry Report of 1926, that -
There are 60,000,000 idle feet of red satinay on Fraser Island and 60,000,000 idle feet of grey and red satin ash on the Bungalla Range near Mackay. There are untold millions of feet of tulip oak in the forests on the west coast line. ,
The other day I quoted a report issued by Mr. Lane-Poole when he was in Western Australia.
– What does the Director of Forests in Queensland recommend ?
– All the for- ‘estry officers recommend that we should conserve our supplies, but although it may seem paradoxical, the only way to save our timber is by cutting and using it. When Mr. Lane-Poole was Conservator of Forests in Western Australia, he said -
Between 500,000 and 7/50,000 tons of utilizable woods are being burned by sawmillers every year.
He recommended the imposition of a duty, and went on to say -
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.
From these opinions it would appear that Australians need not be afraid of their supplies of timber becoming exhausted. Some have said that Tasmanian timber is not fit for roofing purposes; but in Tasmania and also in other parts of Australia, some of the best houses are roofed with properly seasoned timber.
– “ Properly seasoned “ ! That is an important qualification.
– It is in connexion with any timber. No sane person would use green wood in any structure.
– But when it is properly seasoned it is difficult to work.
– Durable woods cannot of course be worked as readily as pine woods. Honorable’ senators have noticed that some of the lamp posts in Canberra are of pine, and anyone who knows anything about timber will realize that pine is not likely to last long under the ground. Hardwood would be preferable, and I believe that peppermint would be four times and ordinary stringybark three times as durable for that purpose. Although I do not wish to criticize the action of the authorities here, 1 think it is surprising to see soft wood being used for lamp posts when plenty of our own serviceable hardwood timber is available. Tasmanian hardwoods can be used for all classes of work from rough fencing posts to the highest quality of furniture; these should be given preference over imported woods. The sawmillers have undertaken not to increase the price if these duties are imposed. They are. only anxious that Australians .shall use Australian woods to a much greater extent than they do, and this, I think, is only a fair request.
– A disinterested person following the debates in this Chamber would wonder why the committee was taking so long to discuss this item since all the argument seems to be on the one side. That, of course, will not be admitted by honorable senators who are supporting these duties; but I believe that a good many honorable senators on this side of the Chamber are, in this instance, out of step with the Government. I listened to the excellent speeches by Senator Kingsmill, Senator Chapman and others, and to the very weak replies of Senator Findley and those associated with him who have not made out a very strong case in favour of higher duties. The revelations made by Senator Chapman concerning the representations of certain people are important. To me they are amazing.
– In what way are they amazing? The same thing is always done.
– I do not think the honorable senator is correct in saying that.
– Those communications influenced Senator Reid to such an extent that he reversed his opinion.
– That shows how important they are. There is a great difference between legitimate representations, made to honorable senators, by reputable organizations, for or against certain duties in the usual way, and messages such as we have received. Legitimate communications receive my careful attention. When, however, letters and telegrams began to pour in upon me directing attention to the deplorable conditions in the sawmilling industry, stating that men were unemployed and how essential it was that the mills should be re-opened, I began to feel that something was wrong. I thought it strange that I had not heard of these conditions from any other source. I now know why these telegerams and letters were sent. Who is responsible for them? I want to say now that I do not believe that the statements made in some of them are true. If they are then the whole of the arguments in favour of additional duties are valueless because these duties have been in operation for some months. We have been .told that two mills ..have been re-opened in Tasmania.
– Not two, but twenty-two.
– We have been informed by telegrams and letters from representatives of timber-getting firms that the industry is at its last gasp, and that unless the Senate ratifies the duties, it will go out of existence. Why has not disaster already overtaken the industry? The duties have been operating for several months and therefore their ratification apparently will not give the industry greater protection. Why has not more employment been given to Australian workers?
– Hays. - The answer is obvious. The duties have not yet been ratified by Parliament.
– But they have been operative, as I have stated, for many months, and there has been ample time for their influence to be felt.
– Is it not a fact that the majority of the sawmills had large stocks on hand when the duties were imposed ?
Senator- DUNCAN.- But the new duties have not checked foreign importations to any extent, and therefore we may presume that their ratification now will not, as has been stated, mean prosperity for the industry. All that they will do will be to increase the cost to users of timber in Australia.
– They will not affect New South Wales to any extent.
– New South Wales produces a great deal of timber, so the duties will have the same effect on the industry in that State as in Tasmania.
– It has been stated that the New South Wales mills cannot supply local requirements.
– I believe that the output of sawmills in New South Wales is almost equal to that of Tasmanian mills; but in that State, as elsewhere in the Commonwealth the trouble is to market the timber. There are enormous areas of suitable timber, but much of it is not merchantable because transport difficulties are insuperable.
– We could cut twice the present output in Tasmania to-day.
– New roads and new railways are required, and must be constructed to open up additional timber areas; there is a magnificent supply of the finest timber in Australia in the Bulga and Comboyne districts of New South Wales, but unfortunately, owing to transport difficulties, it is impossible to profitably market it. If we increased the duties by 5,000 per cent., we should still be unable to place much of our timber on the market.
– Have not other countries the same difficulties?
– Unfortunately for Australia, they have not. Many timber-producing countries have magnificent waterways down which lumber companies float timber supplies to seaports for export to other countries. In that respect, Australia as a timber-producing country, is under a severe handicap, so severe indeed that largely increased duties would not assist the industry to any material extent. What is lacking in Australia is a more efficient and cheaper system of transportation.
– Would the honorable senator say that other indus.ties require a more efficient system of transportation ?
– Certain other industries are suffering in the same way. as regards the inter-state trade. In the Sydney press last week I noticed a statement to the effect that owing to the extremely high freights prevailing, it was impossible to market supplies of timber in Sydney from north coast districts. Increased duties will mean increased prices. Can the people afford to pay these higher prices? I doubt if they can. It has already been shown that the higher duties will not benefit many sawmills in New South Wales, though they may assist a number of mills in Tasmania; but, as I have stated, the users of timber will be called upon to pay increased prices for it. This will mean dearer homes for the people. At the last election one of the cries was - “Put people in their own homes, and they will never become bolsheviks, because they will have a stake in the country.” Those honorable senators who are supporting these higher duties appear to favour putting people in their own homes but only at an additional cost of from £30 to £40 each.
– Australians want homes of Australian timber.
– On that point I should like to state that in Sydney on Sunday last I met a friend of mine who, out of his hard-earned savings, had built a couple of cottages. Being a patriotic Australian, he used Australian hardwood for the roofing timbers, and is now faced with an unavoidable expenditure to reroof both cottages. He told me that the rafters had warped so badly that the roof was leaking and the cottages were in a serious condition. I am informed that it is almost impossible to obtain Australian hardwood that is thoroughly seasoned and suitable for roofing timber. Builders and contractors cannot depend on it. For these reasons I am opposed to the increased duties. I do not believe that they will relieve the depression in the timber industry,. They have been operative for some time now, and apparently have not had the effect which certain people claim they will have if ratified by the Senate.
Senator GRAHAM (Western Australia [4.30]. - I was not surprised to hear Senator Duncan speak in support of foreign timber importers. He appears to be an advocate of everything foreign, including foreign socks.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Graham is not in order in saying that I favour the importation of foreign socks. During the debate on that item I spoke in favour of encouraging the Australian industry, and voted for the imposition of a duty to protect it.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I did not hear the statement which the honorable senator attributed to Senator Graham.
– I am sorry if I have misrepresented Senator Duncan in regard to the duty on imported socks; but, judging by his remarks just now, the honorable senator favours the use of inferior foreign timbers to the detriment of the timber industry in Australia. If, as he has stated, the election cry of Government supporters during the last campaign was to build homes for the workers so as to prevent them from becoming bolsheviks, why does not he now stand up for the Australian timber industry, so that Australians may have homes built of Australian timber ? Unfortunately, the volume of importations is undiminished, notwithstanding the higher duties that have been imposed.
– Why is that?
– I presume it is because production in other countries is cheaper than in Australia. Borneo timber is cut by coolies, who are paid only a few shillings a day, whereas timber workers in Australia receive what is regarded as a living wage, and they work under superior conditions. I totally disagree with those honorable senators who say that Australian hardwood is not suitable for building purposes. In Victoria it is largely used, and is entirely satisfactory.
– I wonder what kind of timber was used in the roof of the Hotel Kurrajong? It leaks like a sieve.
– No .doubt Oregon was used in that building. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited uses 16 by 16 oregon sets; but as that class of timber comes in duty free, it is not affected by this item.
– Why is oregon used in the mines ?
– I presume it is preferred because it is lighter.
– And it is safe.
– I am not so sure that that is the principal reason for its use in mines in the eastern States. In
Western Australia, jarrah, jam, and salmon gum are used in the mines. I could take honorable senators to many public buildings in Kalgoorlie that were erected 25 or 30 years ago, with Western Australian hardwood. That timber is as perfect to-day as it was on the day when it was put into the buildings. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce), who is an authority on timbers, will bear me out when I say that our hardwoods in Western Australia will stand up to any tests required of them.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the imposition of these duties will be reflected in the higher price of hardwood timber for mining?
– Not at all. We have millions of feet of …good timber available. If the imposition of a still higher duty on imported timber would lead to the cutting of a greater quantity of our own timber, and keep our mills working full time, I would agree to it. The imported softwoods are not all that they are claimed to be. It is argued that the price of building will be increased. The extra cost of a fiveroomed house will amount to not more than £6 12s. 6d. The additional rental, therefore, will be not greater than approximately 3d. a week. Senator Chapman claims to have been inundated with telegrams ostensibly from millers, and has used that as an argument to induce honorable senators who favour the higher duties to revise their views. I have not received a telegram from either a sawmiller or any other source. Senator Kingsmill has argued that if we do not allow the importation’ of softwood a substitute will be found. I point out that the substitute in the case of dado linings would be fibro plaster sheets, which are manufactured by Australian workmen under Australian conditions of labour; whereas -the imported softwoods are obtained in many cases from countries in which cheap colored labour is employed.
– It would not help the timber industry to use fibro plaster sheets.
– It would not do it any harm. I wish to quote from the report of the Forestry Department of Western Australia for the year ended 30th June,’ 1924. We. have been told * that borers are not brought to Australia in imported softwoods. That is incorrect. Three months ago an expert who travelled from the eastern States to Western Australia outlined to me the steps which have to be taken to cope with the borer, and said that not only the cargo but also the ships which bring it to Australia are affected. Fumigation of the vessels does not succeed in driving out the pest. Once it gets a hold every subsequent cargo of timber becomes infected before its arrival in Australia. The report to which I have referred reads as follows : -
The inspection of timber ‘ imported from Borneo and Java in conformance with the Commonwealth Quarantine Regulations has shown the necessity for close supervision. A number of living specimens of particularly destructive varieties of timber’ borers have been discovered, and arrangements have been made for the infected timber to be destroyed.
The Government should take every step possible to prevent the borer from obtaining a hold in Australia. Some honorable senators- claim that it has been here for years. If that is so, it is only now manifesting its presence, I have seen in Melbourne imported furniture that has been in use for ten years, yet the borer is only now working its way out through the tops of the tables. We must take a firm stand to prevent its ravages. In Western Australia the life of Oregon used in flooring joists and floorings is only three years, on account of the destruction that is caused by white ants. Even when the piles are sheathed with tin the ants cannot be kept out of the building. The effects of the borer are not immediately apparent. It is time we prevented the importation of foreign timber and encouraged our people to use our own woods. If the softwood forests of the rest of the world should be burnt out a substitute could easily be found in Australia’. When hardwood from Victoria or jarrah from Western Australia has been placed in position it lasts for all time. I saw on exhibition in Perth a piece of jarrah that had been taken from one of the piles of a jetty at Fremantle. It had been under water for 35 years. It was sawn through the centre, and polished until it looked like a piece of glass. There was. not a blemish on it. Sea water would cause a softwood to deteriorate within 24 hours. I shall support the proposed duties.
– I wish to refer to the report of the Tariff Board which recommended a moderate increase in the timber duties. At page 27 the following appears: -
Such increases as have been recommended are intended only to save the industry by enabling a small profit to be earned, and prevent many more mills from closing down. Any further burden in tlie shape of increased wages or more improved conditions will mean that the trade which the increased duties are designed to bring to the hardwood saw-milling industry will be diverted to imported softwoods and substitutes.
There is an admission that even with that small increase the timber milling industry is really on the bread line. The 44-hour week is now in operation, and it, together with other conditions that have been brought about by the Arbitration Court, Workmen’s Compensation and Child Endowment have placed the industry in a parlous condition. If there should be a further rise in wages, or if the conditions should be made harder for the mill-owner, one of our big primary industries will go out of action. On different occasions I have heard honorable senators quote figures illustrating the drift of population to the cities, and deploring the growth of Melbourne, Sydney, and other capital cities at the expense of the country districts. Here is a primary industry, which, directly and indirectly, is responsible for the employment of thousands of country people ; yet we are asked not to consent to the proposed higher duties! If those duties are not passed the mills will cease to operate, and thousands of persons will lose their employment. Thus the curse of centralization will be accentuated.’ Unemployment in our rural districts is sufficiently grave at the present time. Recently I travelled through a number of timber milling areas, and learned that since December last, when these duties become operative a number of mills had reopened, and tremendous sales of Australian hardwoods had been effected. Are we not, therefore, doing something to support a most important primary industry, and, by providing employment in the country for thousands of men, keeping in circulation a tremendous amount of money? It must be realized that wages account for from 75 per cent, to SO per cent, of the expenditure of the mill-owner. What is to be done if those mills close down?
– The requested amendment provides for an increase on the duties previously operating.
– I am in favour of the increases for which the schedule provides, so that this primary industry may be maintained. It has been argued that the increased duties will hit new settlers and wage earners. I point out that those settlers are generally supplied by a mill in their own locality. Therefore, that argument is futile. If the higher duties are likely to hit the wage earners, why are they being supported by our illustrious friends who sit on the Opposition benches ?
– Because protection, whether it be good or bad, is a part of their policy. They are between the devil and the deep sea.
– I assume that they are sent to this chamber to safeguard the interests of the wage earners. We must take it that they know more about the matter than we do.
– The honorable senator himself is here to safeguard the interests of the worker.
– In many directions the dwellers in the country have been adversely affected by duties imposed to protect secondary industries. Surely when an opportunity presents itself we should give them the same measure of protection that we give to others. We must not lose sight of the fact that since the amended duties have been in operation mills which had closed down have re-opened. Should the higher duties be agreed to, a large co-operative timber company will immediately commence operations in New South Wales. There will also be a determined effort on the part of Australian saw-millers to overcome the objection that Australian hardwoods have not been sufficiently well seasoned. That effort, together with the standardization of timber measurements, should assist the industry greatly so that it should not be long before the number of its. employees is increased considerably.
– The co-operative company of which the honorable senator ^speaks will probably close a number of small mills.
– That may be so; but there will be greater efficiency. The timber industry has been in a languishing condition .for some time. We now have a chance to rehabilitate it. .
– Should not duties 50 per cent, greater than those recommended by the Tariff Board be sufficient ?
– The Tariff Board’s report shows clearly that because of the unsatisfactory condition of the timber industry, mills were forced to close down. But during the past three months many of them have re-opened and are now the centres of thriving communities. It is not too much to ask the dwellers in the cities, for whom we have done so much, to pay a little more for their timber requirements if by so doing we can retain this important industry and keep people in the country instead of forcing them to drift to the cities, and swell the ranks of the unemployed.
– Senator Duncan must be aware that during the war period, Australia supplied practically the whole of her timber requirements with the exception of
Oregon used for special purposes.
– Conditions then were abnormal.
– We are still in a position to supply almost entirely our timber requirements, but, unfortunately, during recent years, the importations of softwoods have increased, while .there has been a corresponding decline in the use of Australian hardwoods. Senator Duncan has voted for increased duties in order to assist other Australian industries.
– Higher duties on timber will adversely affect all other industries.
– I do not know why the honorable senator has singled out the timber industry for differential treatment. He must be aware that in it thousands of pounds of Australian capital are invested, and that it provides employment for large numbers of Australian workmen. All that we now ask is that this industry shall be treated as generously as other industries have been treated. Senator Duncan also attempted to discredit the representations made by those engaged in the timber industry.
– There representations were a form of intimidation ; to that I object.
– The honorable senator would have us believe that only those engaged in the milling industry have communicated with their representatives in this Parliament; but that is not so. I have here a copy of a circular issued by the Timber Merchants’ Association of Melbourne and suburbs -
Members of my association view with alarm the increases which have been suggested, and we are taking steps to endeavour to get the Senate to review the matter or send it back to the House of Representatives for further consideration. The New South Wales timber merchants are also acting on similar lines. . . I suggest that every timber merchant should do his utmost to assist in opposing the suggested duties, and to attain this end approach the members for their respective districts in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. More notice will be taken by the representatives if direct representations are made to them from their own districts than would happen if the representations were made from an outside source.
In the face of that circular it is useless for Senator Duncan to suggest that only one of the parties interested has made representation to members of this Parliament.
– Their methods were different.
– The saw-milling industry until a few weeks ago, when, because of the higher duties agreed to by another place, it revived, was in a most unsatisfactory condition.
– Several ‘ months have passed since the schedule was introduced into another place.
– It is only a matter of weeks since the amended schedule passed another place. Even now the full effects of the increased duties have not been felt because, until the schedule is finally passed by both Houses, uncertainty will exist as to the duties which will become operative.
– Senator Herbert Hays asked why I had supported increased duties in connexion with other industries, but was not willing to assist the timber industry.
Senator Findley in accusing me of opposing duties which he said would assist other industries, described me as an antiAustralian. It is true that I have supported increased duties on some items; but in considering whether or not a duty should be given to any particular industry, I have always looked at the effect it was likely to have on other industries. For instance, in regard to the iron and steel duties, honorable senators may recollect that I said that I recognized they were likely to affect the initial and, very often, the working costs of other industries, a matter which was well worthy of consideration,but that the iron and steel industry was necesary for defence, and whatever the price was, we had to pay it. Here, however, we have an imposition that willincrease the costs of all other industries, and for no effective purpose. Many concerns are to-day carrying on at a very low profit. If in the inaugural stage of an industry the cost of a factory is likely to be increased considerably, or if the cost of extensions to an existing factory are to be added to enormously by the high cost of timber, the result will be that the industry affected will have to make a further application to the Tariff Board and to this Parliament for another increase in its protective duties.
– The modern factory does not use a great deal of timber in its construction.
– A great many
Australian factories use considerable quantities of timber, principally softwood, and even if they used hardwood timber these duties would increase the cost.- While I am prepared to give the fullest measure of protection to certain other industries, I am not willing to give more than a sufficient amount of protection to the timber industry. I am, therefore, supporting Senator Thompson’s request to confine the increased protection to this industry to 50 per cent, over the recommendation of the Tariff Board. If by supporting a duty which is 50 per cent, above the recommendation of the Tariff Board, I am not standing up to protectionist principles, I cannot imagine what Senator Findley and others want. I shall not support the extreme measure of protection proposed - by the Government because I have found that extreme measures of protection cease to afford protection. Instead of giving protection they give privilege, which I donot favour in any circumstances.
Question - that the request (‘Senator Thompson’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Honorable senators who share my view regard the division just taken as a test on the timber duties, and are not prepared to offer further opposition to them, although at the same time they maintain that, the rates of duties should be reduced.
Item agreed to.
Item 293 agreed to.
Division XI. - Jewellery and Fancy Goods.
Items 308, 319 and 321 agreed to.
Division XIII. - Paper and Stationery.
Items 334 and 348 agreed to.
Division XIV. - Vehicles.
Items 352 and 354 agreed to.
Item 359 -
By omitting from sub-item (d) the wholeof paragraph (4) (twice occurring) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
And on and after 10th December, 1927 -
Chassis, but not including rubber tyres, storage batteries, shock absorbers, or bumper bars - (a) Unassembled, ad valorem - British, free; intermediate, 12 J per cent.; general, 17i per cent; (6) Assembled, ad valorem - British, 5 per cent. ; intermediate, 20 per cent. ; general, 25 per cent.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (d). (4) read as follows : -
Chassis, but not including rubber tyres, storage batteries, shock absorbers, bumper bars, or sparking plugs (a) Unassembled, ad valorem - British, free; intermediate, 12$ per cent.; general, 17 j per cent.; (6) Assembled, ad valorem - British, 5 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
The proposal is to amend the item by the addition of sparking plugs. These are now commercially made in Australia, and there is no reason why imported cars should not be equipped with the Australian product. It is well known that ‘a considerable number of cars are imported into this country with sparking plugs packed separately, although they form part of the original equipment of the chassis.
– This item is plainly an attempt to increase the British preferential tariff by 5 per cent, in the case of assembled chassis, and although it does not seem hopeful to ask for a vote on the item, I propose to do so, my idea being to wipe out the duty on both classes of chassis, assembled and unassembled, and make them all free. There is no protective character about duties of 12£ and 17 per cent. ; they are purely revenue duties. Hot even the most rabid protectionist would claim that 5 per cent, duty against Great Britain on assembled chassis would support any local industry. It is time we gave a certain amount of preference to the Australian users of motor cars. We should allow people to carry on their work here without being saddled with an impost of, say, 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, which it is proposed to impose on assembled chassis. When the last tariff was going through this chamber quite an array of reasons was advanced by me in support of the principle of giving the people of Australia who want this imported type of conveyance a chance to get it at bedrock prices.
– I should place a heavy duty on motor cars.
– Then the honorable senator is anxious to saddle a higher rate of duty on the man who sells his old bullock dray and buys a motor car.
– I should prohibit the importation of motor cars for five years.
– And go back to the wheelbarrow, perhaps. We cannot stop the march of progress. It is quite plain that these duties are not an attempt to found an- industry in Australia, and consequently their, only effect will be to saddle industries of Australia with an additional burden. Those who are engaged in the production of commodities which have to find a market overseas, are handicapped by their distance from markets, by the fact that they have to pay next to the highest customs tariff in the world, and because they have the highest standard of living in the world. I therefore intend to move that the House of Representatives be requested to remove the duties on chassis. I shall regard my request as a test for the purpose of giving the people of this country an opportunity to keep pace with the rate of progress of the rest of the world, without being penalized because they happen to use implements which are not made in Australia.
– They are luxuries.
– Not at all. The person who uses a motor car in preference to a buggy or any other such vehicle has not luxurious tastes. Such vehicles are used in order to expedite business. These duties are imposed for revenue purposes and will affect those who, though not on the bread line, are engaged in arduous pursuits in which the use of motor vehicles is essential. The users of a Rolls Royce or a Vauxhall car can, if necessary, be taxed in other ways, but cars of that type are not at present under consideration. Some time ago the Canadian tariff was framed to tax men and women who were living luxuriously, but in Australia we have been too tired, too ignorant, or too indifferent to realize the benefits that would accrue from a luxuries tax. I wish to free those using this particular means of transport from a tax that is bearing heavily upon them. They are already sufficiently handicapped. I am anxious to remove this handicap, particularly as the Treasury is not short of money.
The Government is really at its wits end to know what to do with the revenue it is receiving. I am not anxious to provide it with a means of obtaining more so that it will have to tax its ingenuity in an endeavour to find a means of disposing of it. It is, of course, necessary to have improved roads, but in comparison with State Treasuries, the coffers of the Commonwealth are overflowing, largely as a result of the imposition of duties such as those which we are now considering. I am not opposed to preference to the Mother Country, but I believe that charity begins at home, and I have given ample evidence that those using motor vehicles should be given greater consideration.
– The request moved by the Minister is merely to insert the words “ or sparking plugs “ and does not affect the duties in any way. When that request has been disposed of Senator Lynch will be in order in moving his request.
– The main object of the proposed increase in duty is to provide an additional £500,000, to be used in connexion with the Commonwealth Government’s policy of assisting roads development. No increase is proposed on importations of chassis from Great Britain. On importations from other countries the duties on unassembled chassis will he increased by 5 per cent, under the intermediate and general tariffs, and on assembled chassis by 1 per cent, under the intermediate and general tariffs.
– Although these duties have been in operation since November the prices of motor car3 have not increased.
– No. In many cases they have substantially decreased. When the roads are improved the life of motor vehicles will be considerably extended and greater comfort afforded to motorists. I trust that Senator Lynch will not press his request, because I am sure that honorable senators who are in favour of more money being spent on our roads, will support the Government’s proposal to raise revenue in this way, particularly as increased preference is being given to Great Britain.
Request agreed to.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (d) (4)
If the request is agreed to I intend to submit a similar motion in connexion with the general tariff.
Item agreed to subject to a request.
Division XV. - Musical Instruments.
Item 365 (Pianos and parts thereof).
– Under this item I notice that some of the fiat rates to which I have previously referred are to be increased. I mention more particularly the ordinary piano, which is used very extensively in the country and also by a large number of working and lower salaried people in the cities. The old rates for upright pianos were £7 British, £8 intermediate, and £9 10s. general, or ad valorem 30 per cent. British, 40 per cent, intermediate, and 45s. general tariff, whichever rate returns the higher duty. The rate how proposed is £7 British, £21 10s. intermediate, £25 general, with the previous ad valorem rates. As honorable senators will see, the flate rates have been considerably increased on the type of piano with which the poorer people have to be satisfied. . It has been said that flat rates are imposed to keep out cheap foreign goods; but the Tariff Board which held an exhaustive inquiry into the importations of pianos, particularly from Germany, stated, that -
Subsequent events have proved that the United States is chiefly responsible for the increased importations. So much is this the case that the main burden of the evidence tendered by the parties to the latest request for increased duties was directed to the competition now being experienced from importations from the United States of America, more particularly in what were described as cheap standardized instruments.
I refute the statement that the instruments in question are cheap and unfit for ordinary use. The Tariff Board says they are not. This is its finding -
Considerable evidence on the quality of the cheaper imported instrument was tendered by both sides. The witnesses appearing in support of the request for increased duties described these cheaper imported instruments variously by such terms as “ rubbish,” “ inferior rubbish,” “ a menace to the purchasers.” and “ inferior low grade instruments.” This general condemnation was, however, not supported by the presentation of any exhibits that would justify such a general condemnation. The only instrument which it could be said would in any way lend support to any of the general charges was exhibited some time after the inquiry had closed.
I think that it will be seen that these duties are not being imposed to protect purchasers from inferior pianos. They will be paid on serviceable instruments which the general community wish to use. The trade with America has increased tremendously, and the exports from that country to Australia supply food for thought. In 1921-22 our imports from the United States of America, were valued at £18,000,000, and they increased in 1925-26 to £37,000,000. The export from Australia to the United States of America, which in 1921-22 were valued at £8,000,000, increased in 1925-26 to only £12,000,000 I admit these figures are alarming, but the importations of cheap pianos are not responsible for the large increase in our imports from the United States. Between the years’ 1923 and 1926, the value of imports of player-pianos increased from £1,395,485 to £2,680,338, while imports of ordinary pianos declined in value from £1,036,419 to £338,477.
– Would not the decline in the importation of ordinary pianos be due to the demand for playerpianos ?
– No doubt the honorable senator is right to a certain extent. As I have shown, the importations of player-pianos from America have doubled in three years. The figures relating to the imports of upright pianos for the three years ending 30th June, 1927, are as follows :- 1924-25, 10,225; 1925- 26, 6,254; 1926-27, 4,239. The poorer classes in the community are, in the main, the purchasers of these pianos, and the figures show that since imports of this class of instrument are declining, the Australian industry is not in any danger. There is only a limited number of manufacturers of pianos and player-pianos in Australia. If these duties are ratified, the people will have a more limited range of selection and of course they will have to pay a higher price for their instruments. Having had an opportunity to examine certain invoices, I find that a piano invoiced at £35 in Germany was, under the old rates, dutiable at £17 6s. lid., but under this item the duty is £25.
– Will the new duties mean that fewer pianos will be bought by the people?
– I think the effect will be to increase the price of the cheaper instruments to the people. One has only to go into our outback areas to realize what a difference a piano makes to the happiness of a home. Why, therefore, should we do anything to increase the price of this class of instrument to people who cannot afford to purchase player-pianos? Some time ago I asked a series of questions in the Senate with regard to the duty on pianos and was informed that for the year eliding 30th June, 1925-26, the total amount of duty paid on pianos was £149,128, and on player-pianos £278,429, or a total of £427,557. The total of wages paid in the manufacturing industry in Australia during that year was only £335,502 in respect of the whole of the items included under the heading “ Musical Instruments “ - nearly £100,000 less than the revenue derived from importations. I protest strongly against the imposition . of the duties on these upright pianos, which will have the effect of increasing the cost to the people of this country.
– Honorable senators will observe that no increase is proposed in the duties on pianos imported from Great Britain. As Senator Chapman has pointed out, there has been a # considerable decrease in the number of ordinary pianos imported, and a corresponding increase in the importation of player-pianos. The old rates of duty - were applicable only when instruments were invoiced at less than £19 each. Australian manufacturers are suffering severe competition from the manufacturers of the cheaper American playerpianos. These imported instruments are being invoiced as low as £36 each, and during the last few years there must have been instances where they have been invoiced at even a much lower price, as duty has been paid on certain upright player-pianos at specific ra’tes of duty of £9 10s. each. The invoice value of these goods therefore could not have exceeded £1S or £19. Pianos invoiced at £36 are landed, duty paid, at from £66 to £68 and are being sold in retail shops at from £120 to £126 each. These profits are exorbitant. The cheapest player-piano made in Australia is somewhere in the region of £85. This instrument has to compete against the cheap American pianos. Certain departmental stores stock only those goods upon which they can make the greatest profit. In this way the sale of Australian-made goods is being seriously affected. In many cases the Australian instrument is not stocked because the retailer can make larger profits on the sale of imported pianos. I hope that the committee will pass the item in the interests of not only the Australian manufacturer, but also the British” manufacturer and “the dear old mother country “ to which Senator Chapman referred so feelingly in the general debate on the tariff.
– I hope that the duties will not be disturbed. Senator Chapman quoted certain figures with the object of inducing honorable senators to vote against the item.
– I directed my remarks to only one class of piano.
– These duties have been imposed for the purpose of protecting the Australian industry. I also intend to quote figures which throw a somewhat different light on the position.
– I quoted, from the Tariff Board’s reports.
– I also get my information from the same source. The figures show that in 1922-23 the number of upright player-pianos imported from Great Britain was 148; in 1925-26, it was 214; and in 1926-27, it was 291. From Germany we imported 58 of these instruments in 1922-23, and no less than 1,993 during 1926-27. “What has become of the cry which we heard ‘a few years ago, that never again should we trade with Germany? Our imports from that country show a substantial increase. America is, of course, our greatest competitor. In 1922-23 we imported from the linked States of America 2,746 player-pianos, and last year, 11,329.
Our total imports of player-pianos from all countries for the three years were: - 1922-23, 2,970; 1925-26, 8,755; 1926-27, 13,679. The bulk of the player-pianos imported from America are inferior in quality, and are sold to the public at prices far above their real value. The Tariff Board states -
The local factories are numerous and efficient….. The Tariff Board is satisfied that the locally-made instrument cannot be sold with a reasonable profit in competition with the imported instrument.
Already there are many factories engaged in the manufacture of pianos and player-pianos in Australia, and they are turning out splendid instruments. The bulk of the material used is obtained in Australia. The Beale factory uses all Australian metal for its frames. It obtains iron from Hoskins Brothers and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s Steel “Works at Newcastle; the copper wire comes from Metal Manufacturers Limited, Port Kembla; bronze pressure bars from the Austral Bronze Company, Alexandria; glue from the Davis Gelatine Company, Botany; lacquer from the “Woolwich Chemical Company, Sydney; and timber from various Australian timber merchants. “We are encouraging not only the manufacture of pianos, but also the production of practically all the raw material that is used in their construction. The efficiency of Beale’s factory cannot be questioned. The capital investments of that company total £650,000, and the wages distribution amounts annually to £160,000. The last report of the Tariff Board discloses the fact that the doubt which at one time existed as to whether player-pianos could be manufactured commercially in Australia, has been dissipated. It says -
The ordinary piano has gradually been displaced by the introduction of the player-piano. An examination of the figures showing’ importation into the Commonwealth of even’ the last three years reveals the sudden change that is taking place in this industry, and is compelling in a great measure a change-over to another type of instrument than that hitherto universally made. Local manufacturers’ of pianos have been responding to the change, and have entered into the manufacture of the new type of instrument in a commercial way.
Some persons at one time believed that the player-piano was not being made in Australia. It is probably the most popular instrument in the homes of our people.
Our factories would not be able to compete with overseas manufacturers, particularly with those of the United States of America, without adequate protection. The proposal we are now considering is that they shall be given that meed of protection, so that they will be able to compete with not only Germany, but also America, which offers the most formidable opposition. Because of the love of our people for music, we should encourage the industry in every way, particularly when it has been proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that exorbitant prices are not being charged, and that a good instrument is being made.
– My interest in this debate is practically confined to the deplorably decadent influence of the player-piano upon the art of piano playing. Concurrently with the ever-increasing importations of player-pianos there is a rapid decrease in the number of pianos, and a thinning of the ranks- of pianists. Had the Minister for Trade and Customs been imbued with the true musical instinct he would have brought down an almost prohibitive tariff on player-pianos and pianos, and one that would have placed within the reach of every person the ordinary piano. In my young days every cottage had its piano, with the result that Australia produced many very fine artists. The number of boys and girls of the present generation who can play the piano artistically is considerably fewer than was the case at the period to which I refer. If in the future we have at the head of the department a Minister who is thoroughly imbued with the musical instinct relief in. the direction I have indicated may be given.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) f5.55]. - 3? or the last five minutes I have been endeavouring to escape from something ‘ resembling a mental fog. We have been asked by the Minister to support this proposal of the Government on the ground that the imported article is sold at a high price. The stereotyped argument that has done duty down the ages, namely, that it is necessary to protect our manufactures against the low-priced foreign article, is’ exactly the opposite of that which we have heard this afternoon. ‘r
– They are sold wholesale at a low price, and retailed at a high price.
– I am beginning to wonder whether we are not standing at the antipodes in a mental as well as a physical sense. In the vegetable kingdom we have a fruit which has the stone on the outside instead of the inside. In the animal kingdom there are such strange phenomena as beasts that jump when they run, and stand when they sit. So it is with the arguments of high protectionists. What are we- to believe, the old argument or the new - the old, that we were crushed out of the market by the low price of the foreigner; or the new, that we must give protection because the price of the foreigner is so high?
– I did not say that.
– Where are we drifting? I observe Senator Payne watching me with a look similar to that worn by sheep in pasture-lands. Which argument does he accept ?. The policy and the attitude of protectionists are that if one argument will not suit, the opposite should be advanced. It is common knowledge that the majority of those who vote for .protection to-day, do not in their heart of hearts believe in it. At least eight of .the sixteen honorable- senators who were opposite to me on the last vote do not believe in protection, and vote against the dictates of their consciences.
– Oh, no!
– What else can be said of them ? The only vehicle for conveying the thoughts of man is speech; but it has been well said that speech is given to us to conceal our thoughts. If we recall the past utterances, >both public and private, of those honorable senators whom I have indicated, we must come to the conclusion that they are against a tariff of this character, and that speech is so employed by them. I can only conclude that it is because we are mentally and physically at the antipodes where reversals occur in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. We cannot now frighten the people with the old argument about our inability to compete with an article that is produced at a low price by sweated labour. The . protectionists of earlier times showed at least a semblance of consistency. I remember Senator Findley as a Himalayan protectionist, anxious to protect everything Australian, including the Australian workmen, against the inroads of the sweating foreigner. Now he stands four-square behind the Minister and says, “ Give us protection, because the price of the imported article is so high.” Where are our common sense and our logic? I am inclined to uphold the view put forward by Senator Chapman, little as he deserves my support. On this question of the tariff we are getting into a vicious circle. Honorable senators from Tasmania support what is agreeable to that State. Senator Ogden was not afraid to say so. The only redeeming feature of his pronouncement was its extraordinarily refreshing frankness. He said, “ If protection is to be the policy of this country “ - meaning inferentially that it is a bad policy “ letTasmania participate in any benefits that accrue from it.” In other words, if the country is going on a spree, let Tasmania be in the spree. Senator Greene made a similar statement in relation to another item in the schedule in modified form.
– Where does the honorable senator stand?
– He stands where he stood on the last tariff, and that which preceded it. I am not a protectionist gone mad; I am rational; just as the honorable senator has shown himself to be in the case of the tariff on socks for once in a way.
– I remember . an occasion when the honorable senator was absent from a rational vote.
– No principle was then involved. When it is a question of pro’tecting” Tasmanian hops, on goes the duty. When honorable senators from Queensland see an opportunity to protect an industry in their State they say, Let us have protection.” When they get what they want, they show their gratitude towards those benefactors who have assisted them by supporting them in their efforts to benefit their States. Senator Ogden is unable to roll his log to the top of the scaffold without the aid of others. If that aid is forthcoming he helps the other fellow with his log. ‘ The result of this log-rolling and back-scratching is a tariff which is higher than that of any other English-speaking community.
– And Senator Lynch wears the pure white flower of a blameless life!
– 1 leave others to say that of me. They recognize my qualities.
– Did not the honorable senator vote for an increased duty on whiskey?
– Of course I did; and I am proud of it, for the simple reason that the manufacture of local whiskey had not previously been given adequate protection. Whiskey can now be manufactured in Australia at a low price for the benefit of Senator Ogden. That is an illustration of my consistency. I am in favour of protection . up to a point, but no further. The result of having moved in a circle is this shocking anachronism in the shape of a tariff that has increased from 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 30 per cent, to 45 per cent., 55 per cent., and 60 per cent. It has neither rhyme nor reason to sustain it. Admittedly, there is a break in the clouds. Honorable senators who come from any one State do not now always vote alike, for the simple reason that they realize that this kind of ‘ thing cannot continue. I rose particularly to point out the foolishness of the Minister’s argument that we need protection in this case because the price of the foreign-made article is so high. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) gave us the usual rigmarole about imports. It would seem almost that our criminal law should be remodelled’ so as to make it an offence for any person to be seen near an importer’s place of business. By some persons imports are regarded in almost the same light as are stolen goods. Senator Needham seems to forget that the wool and wheat which we export are imports in the countries which purchase them. What would happen if other countries refused to accept our goods because to them they were imports? If they were to pay us back in our own coin honorable senators who now complain about the volume of our imports would realize the unsoundness of their argument. In this instance I support
Senator Chapman’s objection, but I warn him against viewing tariff matters solely from a geographical stand-point. It is contended that by imposing increased duties on pianos under the general tariff we are assisting the dear old Mother Country. But is that so? We import from Britain, as it were, only a van load of pianos each year, so that any increased duties on pianos will not benefit the Old Country a great deal. However, I propose to vote for the item.
Item agreed to. ‘
Division XVI. - Miscellaneous.
Items 373, 376, 380, 381, 417, 418, 427, 430 and 431 agreed to.
Division V. - Textiles, Pelts and Tubs, and Manufactures Thereof, and Attire.
Postponed item 112. (Apparel or attire, including furs) - Upon which Senator Payne had moved -
That the House of Representatives bo requested to add at the end of the item: - “ By omitting the whole of the subitem b, and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -
- Fur and other skins n.e.i. (except rabbit skins) dressed or prepared for making up, ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
Rabbit skins dressed or prepared for making up, ad valorem, British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.”
.- I propose now to move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to add after sub-item (a) the following: - “By omitting the whole of sub-item (b), and inserting in its stead the following subitem : -
- Fur and other skins, n.e.i. (except rabbit skins) dressed or prepared for making up, ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
Rabbit skins dressed or prepared for making up, ad valorem, British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.”
The existing tariff does not’ -protect any industry established to prepare rabbit skins, for manufacture into articles of apparel or attire. During the past two years the fur industry has been established in Tasmania and New South Wales. At first the companies experienced difficulties in obtaining the proper dyes, but last year permission was given by the Commonwealth Government for their importation, with the result that within a few months coney sealskin furs to the value of £22,000 were manufactured and sold. I have here some samples of furs treated in Hobart. The demand for furs is so great that the granting of a moderate measure of protection will provide employment for a large number of people in a very short time. Hitherto large quantities of furs and other skins have been imported from France and Germany.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8. p.m.
– On a point of order I want to know where we stand. Senator ‘ Payne is asking for a duty on the raw material required for making the apparel or attire referred to in sub-item a. It would be manifestly unfair if we agreed to duties of 40 per cent., 50 per cent, and 55 per cent, on apparel or attire including furs or other skins sewn together, and then subsequently agreed to a request for duties which would manifestly have the effect of increasing the price of the raw material of that attire. If that were done it would be necessary to impose higher duties than 40 per cent., 50 per cent, and 55 per cent, on apparel including furs. If we agree to Senator Payne’s request we shall not be able to go back to sub-item a and alter the. duties it imposes on apparel. I am prepared to vote for the item as it stands, but the adoption of this request might make a considerable difference to the effect of subitem a.
– The honorable senator knows that there is a request to insert a new sub-item b.
– But we do not know that it will be carried. If it should be carried I shall want to have higher duties under sub-item a.
– If my request is agreed to all that the honorable senator will have to do is to move -for the recommital of item 112 for the purpose of re-considering sub-item a. ,
I suggest that Senator Payne should be allowed to proceed with his request, and - that if it is found that it is likely to interfere with sub-item a, the honorable senator can be asked to withdraw his request to permit the committee to deal first of all with sub-item a.
– Confusion has arisen because the schedule contains only the alterations to the tariff, while the memorandum circulated contains only the items proposed to be amended. Item 112, sub-item a, of the tariff reads as follows : -
Then follows sub-item b which Senator Payne is desirous of having amended. It reads as follows : -
No confusion can arise nor can the position of the committee be prejudiced if furs and other skins are now considered. Sub-item a merely amends the wording of the tariff, and proposes no alteration of rates.
– The rates in the schedule are those by which the Government stands?
– Yes. They are the rates in the present tariff.
– But everything depends on what is done to sub-item b.
– The Government has not sought to amend sub-item b. It is for the committee to accept or reject Senator Payne’s request.
– A way out of the difficulty would be to alter the order of the sub-items and make sub-item b subitem a, thus . allowing Senator Thomas subsequently to move, if necessary, a request on the sub-item which is now described as sub-item a.
– That cannot be done.
– The best way out of the difficulty is for the Government to stand by its- proposals.
SenatorDuncan. - In view of the complications that have arisen would I be in order in moving “ That in the opinion of this committee, item 112 should be re-submitted to the Tariff Board for further report.”
–The honorable senator would not be in order in doing so.
– Would I be in order in discussing sub-item a?
– Not unless Senator Payne temporarily withdraws the request which he has moved, and which is now before the Chair.
– I do not wish to oppose adequate protection being given to this industry. When in Hobart I had an opportunity-
– I rise to a point of order. Prior to the dinner adjournment this item was called on, and I had occupied only five minutes of the fifteen to which I am entitled, when the sitting was suspended. Senator Duncan now has the audacity to attempt to break in and continue the debate.
- Senator Duncan rose to a point of order. I was prepared to give the honorable senator time in which to elaborate his point, but he was rather long in doing so.
– I asked for your ruling, Mr. Chairman.
– Which I gave. I ask SenatorPayne to proceed.
– I trust I shall be able to put the case on behalf of this industry in such a way that ‘Senator Duncan will be one of my strongest supporters. A very valuable fur industry, which was commenced under great difficulties, and in which I am not interested in any way, has been established in Tasmania. The company spent £40,000 in plant and operating costs; but found it difficult to successfully treat and finish ordinary rabbit skins owing principally to its inability to obtain the necessary dyes. The company stated that the industry could be successfully carried on if it were given reasonable facilities for importing the necessary dyes from Europe, and these having been provided, it has operated so successfully during the last six months that its sales have amounted to £22,000. I submit samples of the finished skins in the most’ popular shades of coney. I have submitted a request for the very moderate duties of 25 per cent.
British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general-
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that when the item was before the committee last week he moved for the imposition of duties of 30 per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 45 per cent, general tariff. Is it the wish of the.honorable senator to amend his request so that the rates shall read - 25 per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general?
– Yes. I desire to submit my request in the amended form set out by me at the outset of the debate on the item this evening.
Request, by leave, amended accordingly.
– When this item, was last under consideration, the Minister suggested that it should be postponed in order to give him an opportunity to consider the effect of the higher duties proposed and the amended rates which I now submit, have been agreed to by the Government. A large number of fur coats, consisting of different . varieties of fur, - are made in Australia, but I am asking that this protection . shall apply only to rabbit skins. In view of the results which have followed the use of proper dyes, it must be apparent to every one that this industry, which is now in its infancy, when firmly established, will be of great importance to Australia.
– Will it mean increasing the number of rabbits ?
– No;I know the quantity of rabbit skins annually exported and the quantity used by our local factories. Even if the number treated locally increased ten-fold, it would not affect our export trade. Here we have an opportunity to deal with a raw product, and we should endeavour to foster this industry. It is better for us to manufacture articles of clothing from materials produced in this country than to export skins and purchase the finished articles from Germany, Belgium, and France. I have always favoured giving every consideration to British manufacturers and also of doing all we can to foster Australian trade.
– What is the difference between the price of the raw material and the finished article?
– I do not know the present value of rabbit skins, but I can give the value of the finished article, samples of which I have submitted. The cost of treating the skins abroad is 9d. each, but owing to the enormous difference in the cost of the material required in their treatment in Australia, the cost here is about Is.10d. a skin. This is due mainly to the high duties imposed on the ingredients used in the tanning and finishing process. At present, these. skins are sold to the wholesale trade at from 25s. to 50s. a dozen, according to size and quality, whilst imported skins of similar grade are landed at from 19s. to 40s. The duty of 40 per cent, that I am asking for will make up the difference between these prices. I am not asking for prohibitive duties, but for a tariff that is lower than that imposed for the protection of any other Australian industry.
– Is the 40 per cent, duty lower than that afforded to any other industry ?
– Yes; to any industry manufacturing solely from raw materials produced in Australia. The preliminary difficulties have been overcome, and in order that the industry may be carried on successfully, more capital has to be raised, but this will depend entirely upon the protection to be afforded. I know of some who are . willing to subscribe additional capital if the industry can be placed on a commercial basis. Even if this protection is afforded, the company will not be able to make large profits, but it hopes to be able to pay its way. It should not be necessary to labour this question, as the advantage of having such an industry firmly established in Australiamustbe apparent to every one, particularly when fur garments are now so extensively worn.
– Why should not Australian women also wear Australian hosiery? The honorable senator advocated the use of imported socks and stockings.
– I am not advocating a prohibitive duty against which British . manufacturers cannot compete. This is a- comparatively low rate.
– Why should not Australian women wear Australian hose?
The honorable senator did not advocate the use of Australian goods the other day.
– I have always advocated the use of Australian-made goods, but have opposed exc’essive duties against British manufacturers. Stockings are worn by all women, but the same cannot be said of fur coats. I trust this request will have the support of the committee.
– I am “ somewhat diffident in rising to a point of order, but it seems to me that the request is unconstitutional.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator PlainsSenator Payne is in order in moving that the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item.
– I shall be glad, Mr. Chairman, if you will allow me to state my point of order. I direct your attention to section 53 of the Constitution, which states, inter alia -
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
I understand that it is not competent for any private member to move for an increase of the tariff duties.
– Senator Payne has proposed not an amendment but a request to the House of Representatives to amend the item.
– I remind the honorable senator that it is a request, not an amendment, that is before the committee. Senator. Payne is in order in submitting a request to the House of Representatives to increase the tariff.
– The moderate amount of protection which I am asking is necessary. Employees engaged in this industry in France, Belgium and Germany work from 55 hours to 60 hours a week, as against 44 hours in Australia. In those countries the wages for men range from 25s. to 60s. a week, compared with from £4 4s. to £6 a week in Australia. For boys the wages on the continent are 16s. or 17s. a week, and in Australia from 20s. to 45s. Women on the continent receive from 15s. to 35s. a week, and in Australia from 40s. to 70s.; while girls get from 5s. to 12s. a week, compared with from 15s. to 35s. a week in Australia.. There is the same difference in the cost of dyes and other materials. For instance, dyes cost 6s. 3d. per kilo. on the continent, as against 15s. in Australia; peroxide of hydrogen 8£d., as against ls. 6£d. in Australia, and acetic “acid 3s. 3d., compared with 21s. in Australia. In the circumstances it would not be too much to ask for an ad valorem tariff of 50 per cent, instead of 40 per cent.; but I realize that it is not wise to ask for a high duty at the outset. The protection I am advocating will, I believe, be sufficient to place the industry on a satisfactory footing.
– One would imagine while listening to Senator Payne that this was an entirely new industry to Australia. At present there are within the precincts of this building at least three representatives of firms that have been engaged in the business for some years, without asking the Government or the Tariff Board for any assistance by way of protection. Let us examine the position and see where Senator Payne’s proposal would lead us. The honorable senator is asking for an ad valorem duty of 40 per cent, on some classes of imported skins. Since the bulk of “our imports are from foreign countries, the effective duty under Senator Payne’s proposal would be 40 per cent. It must be manifest to all honorable senators that owing to the high cost of production, there will be no’ market in other countries for fur goods manufactured in Australia. I presume, therefore, that what the honorable senator has in mind is that we should build up the industry for the Australian’ market. There is, approximately, £500,000 invested in the fur garment industry in Australia, which gives employment to between 4,000 and 5,000 people. For the higher class of goods, these Australian manufacturers are obliged to import skins from Belgium and France, the Australianskins not being large or heavy enough; but they use a certain percentage of Australian furs. If we impose this ad valorem duty of 40 per cent., the margin of protection for the Australian manufacturer of apparel coming under sub-item a will be only 15 per cent. Will Senator Payne seriously contend that that is sufficient to safeguard an Australian industry in which so much capital is invested, and which, as I have stated, gives employment to such a large number of men and women? I have been informed that if this ad valorem duty is imposed without a corresponding increase in the existing tariff on the manufactured garments, the Australian concerns already engaged in the business will cease manufacturing and become importers. As a result an Australian industry of some magnitude will be destroyed. This is a position which we cannot regard with equanimity. I may add that I have visited the Hobart factory, to which Senator Payne has referred, and that it is my desire to do all in my power to assist the enterprise in that State. I think, however, that it would be much better if the position of the industry were submitted to the Tariff. Board for investigation and report as to the proper ratio of duty to be imposed on the manufactured goods, and on imported furs which are the raw materials for the local manufacturers. The proposal submitted by Senator Payne has never been before the Tariff Board, and as it involves the fate of an Australian industry, it should be considered in all its aspects. . It is a serious matter.
– What nonsense!
– Does not the honorable senator care about the welfare of 4,000 employees in the industry? And does he suggest that a margin of 15 per cent, protection will be sufficient? I leave it to the good sense of the Senate to judge whether I am talking nonsense or common sense.
– Will they not obtain their raw material in Australia?
– They cannot obtain the whole of it in Australia. We have been assured that the proposed duty is necessary to enable this firm to live.
– Do not our rabbit skins go home and then come back again ?
– They do not.
– They do.
– At least 90 per cent, of the rabbit skins that are exported from Australia do not return as skins. Some of them are returned in the shape of manufacture of furs. Most of them do not return in any form: They are not used to any extent in garment manufacture because they are not sufficiently large.
– They are used. It is that type of skin against which this company seeks to be protected.
Senator - DUNCAN. - It is not the Australian rabbit skin that is made up into coney. What is being imported today is an altogetherdifferent skin. The coney is made from rabbit skins that are grown in France, Belgium and other countries.
– There are some of those; but the great majority are made from Australian skins.
– Ninety per cent, of those which are sent to Australia are not made from Australian rabbit skins; they are altogether different from our skins. It is upon that section, that this duty of 40 per cent, will fall. I point out that if there is not a corresponding increase in the duty imposed on manufactured apparel, that industry will be ruined. Assistance may be given to one or two factories which are treating the type of skin exhibited by Senator Payne, but the number of persons which they employ is comparatively few.
– How many factories in Australia are making up these rabbit skins?
– About four.
– Are no Australian rabbit skins used?
– Fully ninety per cent, of the Australian rabbit skins that are exported do not return to Australia in the shape of skins that can be manufactured into garments; they are imported principally in the shape of felt hats.
– What is the objection to the duty?
– It will be imposed upon the other skins that are in competition with the Australian rabbit skins. In effect, Ave shall say to those in Australia who make up articles of apparel from Belgium rabbit skins that they must pay a duty of 40 per cent, . on their raw material, and be given a duty of only 55 per cent, on the manufactured article.
– Would it not he a good thing to keep out the Belgian skin and let the good old Australian rabbit skins have a chance?
– The only wayin which that can be done is to keep out also the manufactured apparel. If the duty on the raw material is 40 per cent, it may be necessary to have a duty of 100 per cent, on the manufactured apparel.
The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- Senator Duncan has argued that I have proposed a duty of 40 per cent, on skins imported from the , ‘ continent ; that the duty on fur clothing is only 55 per cent. ; that therefore the Australian manufacturer will benefit to the extent of only 15 per cent.; and that that will mean the ruination of the fur clothing industry in Australia. Last year we imposed a duty of 45 per cent, on tweeds and one of 12s. 6d. on the finished garment that had been made from imported tweed. How does that work out ? The flat rate of 12s. 6d. on an overcoat invoiced in England at 30s., is equal to 40 per cent., which is 5 per cent, less than the duty on the tweed itself. On an overcoat invoiced in England at 25s. the duty of 12s. 6d. is equal to 50 per cent. Thousands of operatives depend upon that industry for their livelihood, and the clothing manufacturing trade in Australia has been put in a more flourishing condition. That is my reply to Senator Duncan.
– Honorable senators should ask themselves seriously whether this industry deserves to be encouraged; whether it can be well established in Australia; and whether it could be expanded after’ it had been established. To each of those questions I reply emphatically, “Yes.”
– That is what we all say; but it must be done in the right way, without injuring others.
– No way is the right way if it does not meet with the approval of Senator Duncan.- On the tariff he is the “ lone fisherman.” I defy any member of the committee to forecast the way in which he will vote or act. He is a creature of impulse. He blows hot and cold. He makes it known to those who, like myself, are strong protectionists, that they can rely upon his vote. Accepting his word, they go away in the fond belief that they will have his support. But to their amazement they find subsequently that, like the weather, he has changed. He is never reliable. He ad vances foolish arguments - if by any stretch of imagination they can be called arguments - to bolster up his case. His final statement in regard to Senator Payne’s request was that those who are engaged in making up fur skins will be forced out of business if the proposed duties are imposed. If that should be the case they might become what Senator Duncan probably desires that they should become - wholesale importers of goods that have been produced cheaply and under conditions which differ from those that obtain in the industrial world of Australia.
– Does not his argument cut at the, very root of protection ?
– Of course, it does. We export annually £2,880,000 worth of rabbit and hare skins, of which 98 per cent, are rabbit skins. Our imports of fur skins total £285,000, and of fur apparel, £40,000 per annum. The fur of the rabbit is made into hats in many countries. Did Senator Duncan hesitate about imposing the highest possible duty on fur hats?
– He did not.
– I desire that the hat industry shall flourish in Australia. The duty on fur felt hats, the majority of which are made from the fur of the Australian rabbit, is 24s. per dozen, or 35 per cent. British ; 30s. per dozen, or 40 per cent, intermediate; and 36s. per dozen, or 45 per cent, general. Because of the duties imposed the hat industry is well established, and employment is provided for many Australians. It is argued that we should not -send our wool out of Australia. We have magnificent sheep, and our wool is probably the finest that is grown in the world; yet we send it overseas. Senator Duncan favours the policy of ‘ encouraging the establishment of woollen mills in Australia, thus providing employment for an increasing number of our own people. The duty on worsteds is 1s. a square yard, and 30 per cent., and 2s. a square yard and 45 per cent. If it is a good thing to protect that industry, what is wrong with protecting . the industry to which Senator Payne has drawn attention? We have been informed that only one or two firms are engaged in it at the present time. I cannot say whether that statement is correct or not. It is sufficient for me to know that it has been struggling and striving to establish, itself during the last two years ; that it has been faced with serious competition; and that oversea prices are lower than those which permit its business to be profitable. Those who are engaged in the industry are probably in a better position to-day thar. that which they occupied a little while ago, when they were handicapped because they were unable to secure the necessary dyes. They have now passed the experimental stage, and have demonstrated the high quality anil the excellent finish of their goods. The industry is susceptible of improvement, and is capable of becoming firmly established. After all, who is a judge of fur; who can define exactly its quality and its value? It has been stated that fortunes are being made in J;he fur trade, and that furs made from the Australian rabbit skin have been sold at fancy prices as the finest that are grown in other parts of the world. If Senator Payne’s request is agreed to, the people of Australia will have the guarantee that these furs will be sold under their proper name.
– They will not. Aus- . tralian skins are now being sold as Coney furs.
– The rabbit skins which we export return to us as coney seal furs. I have not yet seen furs exhibited for sale marked “ Made from Australian rabbit skin.”
– The finish is like coney seal.
– I understand that in Australia there are sufficient machines to manufacture the whole of our fur requirements. Those who are in a position to know say that labour costs represent about 33$ per cent, of the total cost of the fur, and that in the case of articles manufactured from fur labour costs .represent about 15 per cent, of the total. Unlike some honorable senators, I am not a geographical protectionist, I atn not concerned whether an industry is established in Tasmania, or in another State.
– This industry is established in New South “Wales to a greater extent than it is in Tasmania.
– “We have not hesitated to grant protection to other industries, and there is no reason why we should treat this industry differently. By agreeing to Senator Payne’s request we shall be assisting an industry which, I hope, will soon grow to such dimensions as to make it unnecessary to import very little fur.
.- One of the reasons for the appointment of the Tariff Board was that matters of this kind should be thoroughly investigated by an independent body before Parliament was asked to deal with them.
– The honorable senator did not say that when, we were considering the duties on tweeds.
– I understand that the fur industry is already well established in Australia; but that it finds it necessary to import skins because sufficient skins of the right kind are not obtainable in Australia. Until such time as the Tariff Board has investigated this industry and presented its report, I , shall not support the additional duties proposed by Senator Payne.
.- A few .days ago, when we were dealing with another item, Senator Payne opposed the imposition of higher, duties on the ground that they would interfere with industries in the Old Country. I have here some figures showing our importations of furs and skins. During the years 1924-25 and 1925-26 we imported from the United Kingdom furs and skins to the value of £82,805 and £119,914 respectively.
– Is the honorable senator referring only to rabbit skins?
– My figures refer to furs and skins. Senator Payne’s request would injure trade with, the Mother Country.
– My request refers only to rabbit skins.
– The skins of English rabbits are more suitable for the making of fur than are the skins of Tasmanian rabbits. From Canada we imported skins and furs valued at £2,226 in 1924-25, and £2,112 in 1925-26. From other countries our importations in those years were, respectively: Belgium, £10,238, £8,442; China, £6,727, £14,613;- France, £84,735, £76,334; Germany, £11,171, £10,406; Russia, £8,508, £7.488; and the United States of America, £88,420 and £41,865. Honorable senators will see that the United Kingdom heads that list. Of the skins imported, rabbit skins represent a large proportion. I am astonished. at Senator Payne moving a request which would injure the Old Country, concerning which he had so much to say onanother item.
– I have never yet stood for the Germans.
SenatorREID. - The honorable senator has struck the flag of which he was so proud the other day.
– Does the honorable senator agree that this industry should be protected ?
SenatorREID. - I am a believer in Australian industries’; but Senator Payne has moved his request because the making of furs is a Tasmanian industry. When we were discussing the duties on hosiery Senator Payne appeared greatly concerned about their effect on the poor working man who,he said, would be victimized.
– In the case of hosiery, a duty of 150 per cent, against British goods was proposed.
SenatorREID. - The honorable senator is interested only in Tasmanian industries. Senator Duncan made it clear that these duties would affect the price of articles manufactured from fur; they will come in cheaper than the skins.
-Under my proposal there will be a duty of 40 per cent, on the skins and 55 per cent, on the manufactured articles.
SenatorREID. - If the proposed request is agreed to, I shall feel disposed to vote for an increased duty on the manufactured articles.
– Listening to the debate one would be justified in concluding that we were all recently converted to freetrade.
– This . matter should have been investigated by the Tariff Board before it was dealt with in this Parliament.
– I am rather tired of the frequent references to the Tariff Board. Parliament is the supreme body in this country. We should- decide these matters for ourselves and not leave them entirely to the Tariff Board. That board recommendedcertain duties on timber, but the Government did not accept its recommendation. -
– Parliament declined to accept the Tariff Board’s recommendation.
– Yes; and Parliament is superior to theGovernment. It has been said that certain industries will be ruined if the duties proposed by Senator Payne are imposed. Let me draw an analogy. If a duty is imposed on any article imported, the importer who has probably put a considerable amount of capital into his business for the disposal of such an article will be seriously affected. But we must impose duties on articles that can be made in Australia, otherwise we can protect nothing:
– I was speaking of the men who manufactured these articles in Australia.
– I should like. to know if there is any firm in Australia, outside the firm about which Senator Payne has spoken, that is seriously engaged in the business of manufacturing Australian rabbit skins into coney seal.
– There are firms engagedin the . work, but practically to no extent.
– That is the position. Firms are importing skins and manufacturing them into coats, just as other firms, are importing timber and manufacturing it into doors’. If the committee says it will not protect the local rabbit skin industry, but believes in protecting every other industry, its logic is seriously at fault. I have listened to arguments about “the necessity for assisting the timber industry, and find many of them applicable to the subject under discussion. We have now an opportunity to turn into a blessing something, which has been a curse to Australia, and at the same time to assist an industry that may largely expand. I am informed that we are exporting each year nearly £3,000,000 worth of rabbit skins. Ever since I can remember I have heard it said in season and out of season that Australia should not export its wool, hut should manufacture it here into textiles. Surely we can draw another analogy here. Why should we export rabbit skins? Why should we not manufacture them into furs and other articles of apparel in Australia. We have heard it said that the
Australian rabbit skin is not as good as the imported skin. I undertake to say that it is almost impossible to get the same quality o£ rabbit skins from every district in Australia. For instance, rabbits in mountainous country have dense fur, while those that are found in dry or swampy country have correspondingly thin fur. Surely we can turn the one into hats and the other into articles such as have been displayed here to-night. If the policy of Australia is to protect its industries, it would be a tragedy for the Senate, having an opportunity to assist one industry that may grow to large dimensions, to refuse it the measure of protection it needs. The rate of duty for which Senator Payne has asked is not prohibitive; nor is it excessive. It is only reasonable, and I claim that it is the bounden duty of this committee to agree to it.
.- Senator Millen seems to cast some doubt on my statement that there are firms in Australia manufacturing garments out of rabbit skins. In Sydney, Metcalf’s have over 100 employees, and S. J. Guss and Company, 50 or 60 engaged in manufacturing coney seal out of rabbit skins, and both firms have been doing this work for many years. Neither firm has asked for a protective duty on its treated’ rabbit skins.
– Do they do other work ?
– They manufacture garments. They make their own coney seal as far as- possible out of Australian skins, but they point out that the demand for garments made out of Australian skins is fairly limited, and that the demand which really pays them is for garments made from imported skins with which, I am sorry to say, the Australian skins cannot compare.
– How many of the employees mentioned by the honorable senator are engaged in processing the raw materia] and how many are treating skins that are imported?
– I have mentioned the number of employees who are working on the rabbit skins, but there are 4,000 or 5,000 employees engaged ins making the skins into garments.
– How many are making garments, and how many are turning the raw material into coney seal ?
– In one firm between 50 and 60 employees, and in the other firm about 100 are engaged in turning rabbit skins into coney seal. I was perfectly right when I said that the industry started in Tasmania was not a new one.
– Does that matter ?
– Not a scrap, but the honorable senator will see that what I am proposing is the only course of action that will assist the Hobart industry. The firms I have mentioned have not asked for protection because they absorb all their own output and place it on the market as the manufactured article.
-Hays. - They are also importers.
– Yes; they are mainly importers of skins from which they manufacture apparel, and that is a section of their trade with which they do not want any interference. Senator Payne has claimed that the skins he has shown in the Chamber are the equal of the imported skins. If honorable sena-‘ tors will glance at the skins I am displaying they will note their size and quality and will readily understand why their price is so much higher than that of local skins. As a matter of fact the two classes of skins do not come into competition with one another in the articles into which they are made. If the duty proposed by Senator Payne is imposed these Sydney firms will have to pay so much more for their skins that their business will be seriously affected. Senator Findley in his attempt to reply to my arguments tried to look intelligent and asked himself foolish questions to which he gave foolish answers. He turned himself into an animated interrogation mark. He charged me with being anti-Australian. Yet in this case I stand for ‘the welfare of an Australian industry with a capital of £500,000, employing between 4,000 and 5,000 workers. To my mind, a large industry like this should have prior consideration to’ a small industry with comparatively few workers, and with not nearly the same amount of capital invested in it. It would be wrong to sacrifice a big industry to help a little one, but if we can assist both we ought to do so. I want .to give the highest protection possible to the industry which is making coney seal out of Australian rabbit skins; and if, as a. result of inquiry by the Tariff Board or any other authority it is found that a 40 per cent, duty is necessary, I shall give it my wholehearted support. The industry referred to by Senator Payne is well worthy of support. When’ I was in .Hobart I inspected the factory and I promised the proprietor to afford him all the support I could give, but I cannot give him that support on the proposal made by Senator Payne unless something is done for the other and bigger industry already in existence which might suffer even to the extent of having to go out of business. Let us do -something for both industries in a just and equitable way. It is grossly unfair to accuse me of trying to do something to injure the smaller industry, but so far we have not had from those who are supporting this request any suggestion that they will support a corresponding increase of duties on manufactured apparel coming under this item. On the contrary any one who puts in a word for the manufacturer of apparel is attacked. Senator Findley has attacked me, saying that I am an opponent of Australian industry. One could not imagine a more foolish statement. All I hope is that -the interests of the larger industry I have mentioned will not be lost sight of in seeking to give help to the smaller industry. I believe that we should give help to both, but it would be wrong to give help to the one at the expense of the other.
– We have a proposal to increase a duty, yet the Minister who is in charge of the bill says nothing to guide the committee. I think he should give some reason for the attitude he is assuming towards this request.
– What does the honorable senator propose to do in regard to it?
-AS. - I have no hesitation in telling the honorable senator what I propose to do. I do not see why this industry should not be protected as other industries have been protected, but, like Senator Duncan, first of all I want to know what effect the proposed duty will have on the larger and bigger industry of making apparel. When I entered Parliament many years ago we used to. hear from the protectionists of those days that all we had to do was to put a duty, on an article and that article” became cheaper. I had heard that said so often that I almost began to believe it, but people are now beginning to realize that when a duty is placed on an article it becomes dearer. Senator Herbert Hays put up a rattling good case the other day for duties on timber when he pointed out that owing to the imposition of duties everything used in the saw-mills had become more costly to purchase. He quite upset the theory that duties make articles cheaper. I agree that if we impose duties on rabbit’ skins we shall certainly make the raw material for the manufacture of certain apparel much more costly.
– Of course.
– That is granted, and, of course, the difficulty can be overcome by increasing the duty on the manufactured article. If the cost of the raw material is increased the manufactured article will become so expensive that imported goods will be purchased. We can get over some of our difficulties by imposing higher duties, but the locally manufactured article will become more expensive. Fur coats cannot be purchased by every one, and if they become more costly the demand will decrease. If we wish to ensure that rabbit skins only shall be used we should impose an embargo on imported skins, just as we have imposed an embargo on- the importation of sugar, and thus ensure the whole of the local market to Australian manufacturers. That would enable the industry to be successfully carried on ; but I do not suggest it is the right way. I am not in favour of higher duties, because I know that the cost of the locally produced article will be higher. I think additional information is needed, and that, therefore, the Government should refer the matter tothe Tariff Board, the appointment - of which, by the way, I opposed. If that body, after hearing both sides of the case, advocates the imposition of higher duties I shall support them. In the present circumstances I feel compelled to vote against the request.
– Had I thought for a moment that a knowledge of the Government’s attitude towards Senator Payne’s proposal would have any effect upon Senator Thomas, I should have spoken earlier in the discussion on this item. This freetrade Ephraim, however, “.is joined to idols,” and so I propose to “let him alone.” The Government is supporting the request moved by . Senator Payne, because . it considers this new industry deserves a larger measure of pro- tection than it has hitherto received. It is true that the request if agreed to, will have the effect of reducing the margin of protection at present enjoyed by manufacturers of garments consisting of the particular kinds of fur which it covers. But it is quite . erroneous to argue that the only protection the manufacturers will have will be the 15 per cent, difference between the proposed duty upon rabbit skins and the present duty on the made-up garments. They will have the full 5.5 per cent, duty on the cost of manufacture abroad. They will have the 55 per cent, duty imposed upon the foreign manufacturers’ product, and also a margin of 15 per cent, on the fur, to all of which amounts must be added the 10 per cent, added to cost before the duty is assessed. There will therefore still be a considerable margin of protection. It must be admitted that . 55 per cent, is a very substantial protection. Those who have spoken in support of Senator Payne’s request, have made out a very good case. It commends itself to the Government, and without desiring to injure any industry I shall have no hesitation in supporting it.
– If the report of the Tariff Board is no use in’ this instance, why is it in any other? If the board is of no use we should abolish it.
– The Tariff
Board is a useful institution, and, in accordance with its report, we have, at the instance of the furriers of Australia, substantially increased the duties on fur trimmings under item 112. It is wrong, however, to suggest that the Tariff Board is superior to Parliament, and trial when a proposition commends itself to a majority of members, Parliament should not. declare its inability to reach a proper decision.
.- I wish to remove a wrong impression from the minds of Senator Duncan and Senator Thomas, who have inferred that I introduced this matter solely in the interests of a Tasmanian industry. Only to-day I received a letter from a firm established in New South Wales, engaged, not only in the manufacture of coney from rabbit skins, but in the manufacture of fur garments. That is the kind of firm which Senator Duncan has in mind. The communication is from Furs Limited, Sydney, whose showrooms are in Pomeroy House, York-street. This is what the manager writes -
We note the contents of the letter received from you to-day, in which you state that you have indicated your intention to move for an item providing for duties of 25 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent, respectively, on rabbit skins finished for articles of attire. In our opinion these will be likely to meet the requirements of the case, and, as far as we are concerned, we think will be sufficient to put us on a competitive basis. We are in an entirely different position to Tasmanian Fur Traders Limited, and other manufacturers, inasmuch as we make up in our factories all the coney seals we are producing.
That is the type of firm whose interests Senator Duncan has been advocating.
– What did the honorable senator write to the firm.
– In the first place I had a letter from Tasmanian Fur Traders Limited asking me to move to get moderate protection for the industry up to 50 per cent, under the general tariff. I wrote to the firm in Sydney, sending them a copy of the request I intended to submit. That, I think, was a reasonable course to adopt. Senator Foll now asks me to produce the letter I wrote to the firm. I communicated with the company, which is a reputable one, stating my intentions. My letter to the firm in question simply stated that I proposed to move a certain amendment to the item when the Senate resumed consideration of the tariff this week.
– Why did not the honorable senator advise his colleagues from New South Wales, so that they could make some inquiries? If I wrote to a Tasmanian firm first about such a matter, the honorable senator would complain.
– Apparently it is impossible to please every one. Because I take an interest in an Australian industry and thus make it difficult for honorable senators to charge me with parochialism, I offend certain of my colleagues in this chamber. .,;
– Does not the honorable senator represent Tasmania?
– In this Senate 1 am a representative of the whole of the people of Australia, and in particular I am a representative of Tasmania if an attempt is made to interfere with its privileges. I trust that honorable senators will not be afraid of the bogy that has been raised to-night. There is nothing in it. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) has explained that the ad valorem duties which I am asking shall be imposed will not have the effect on the industry which Senator Duncan fears they will. I remind honorable senators also that we dealt with much the same problem last year, when we were asked to impose a heavy rate of duty on imported tweeds at the request of clothing manufacturers. On that occasion we imposed a flat rate of 12s. 6d. on every imported overcoat. The ad valorem duty on overcoats is now equal only to the fixed duty on the tweed, the raw material. That industry does not enjoy a margin of 15 per cent, protection, which will be given to our fur manufacturers, even if the arguments of Senator Duncan are sound ; nevertheless, the clothing manufacturers of Australia are able to carry on successfully. It has been urged, also, that the proposal now before the committee has not been fully considered. I raised no objection to a postponementlast week, when the Minister suggested that the Government would like time to consider it. Now the Minister tells us that, after having given the proposal careful consideration, the Government intends to support it. It has been said, also, that the Tasmanian company has attempted to avoid an inquiry by the Tariff Board.’ As a matter of fact, it was not competent for the company to approach the Tariff Board with a request for tariff protection until it had received permission to import certain dyes so as to establish its claim to be a manufacturing concern. Therefore, there was no possibility of getting this proposal before the Tariff Board in time for consideration by Parliament this session. In the circumstances, it is not unreasonable to ask Parliament to deal with this item as an emergency case since those who are interested in the industry have furnished the information asked for by the Tariff Board, and have complied with the Usual procedure. Only the other day we dealt with another item which might be regarded as analogous to this. When it was pointed out that, owing to the effect of competition from overseas, the Australian’1 woollen tweed industry was in a. parlous position, an item to give protection to it was agreed to unanimously.
– The honorable senator himself strongly objected to it.
– I am sure that my friend, Senator Carroll, does not. wish to misrepresent me, and therefore, I must assume that his memory is at fault. All I said was that the industry in question had been the subject of a careful inquiry by the Tariff Board last year, and that as the Tariff Board had fixed the weight of tweed per square yard at 6£ oz., it seemed strange that another application should be made to depart from the recommendation of the board, after both sides had been heard. I urged that in the circumstances some explanation was necessary, and having obtained it from the Minister I had nothing further to say in opposition to the item. In all probability it was absolutely essential that the woollen industry in the southern portion of the continent should have that protection. The fur industry is now in the same position. It requires our help. I hope, therefore,” that the Senate will agree to my requested amendment.
. -Senator Thomas said that it was easy to ask a question, but sometimes difficult to get a reply. The honorable senator was quite right, but in this case certain pertinent questions must be asked. I understand that the two firms in Sydney are importers and manufacturers, but which side of their business is the more important? Senator Duncan in making his statement should have given the ratio between these two sides.
– That is a question to which we should have an answer.
– In the absence of an answer we are entitled to put what construction we like on the matter. It is obvious that the Sydney firms have built up their business on the importing rather than on the manufacturing side. I would point out, however, that this is not the final court to decide this matter. The Senate can only make a request to the House of Representatives. If I understand the function of the Tariff Board aright, its duty is to advise and assist the Minister. If the Minister for Trade and Customs does not feel inclined to accept this proposal then Parliament must take the responsibility.
– A request from this chamber cannot be treated in that way.
.- I am anxious to assist what appears to be a promising Australian industry, but I must confess my ignorance as to its many details. Senator Payne to-night admitted that exhibits of imported furs produced by Senator Duncan were superior in quality to the furs manufactured by the Tasmanian company. I understand thatSenator Duncan’s exhibit was manufactured from the skins of domesticated rabbits. In the circumstances I am prepared to support Senator Payne’s requested amendment if he will add a proviso excepting furs manufactured from the domesticated rabbit, because manifestly it would be unfair to impose a high duty on expensive skins, manufactured from the domesticated rabbit, for the purpose of encouraging the manufacture of furs from inferior skins.
– The skins of all French rabbits are larger and heavier than the Australian article.
– There is no sug-. gestion that such skins can be produced in Australia. Therefore I can see no reason why we should impose a heavy duty on their importation.
– Perhaps the position could be met if we specified that skins of a certain size should be exempt. That course is followed in respect of other items in the tariff.
– That might be done. It is toomuch to. ask us to support the imposition of high duties on articles which cannot be produced in Australia.
– The raw skins could be imported and dressed in Australia.
– That kind of protection would be of no value to the industry.
– I am afraid I cannot follow the honorable senator’s line of argument. Unless some such provision as I have indicated is inserted in the suggested amendment I shall not be able to support it…
– It is to be regretted that we have not more knowledge of an industry which, Senator Duncan has informed us, has been in existence in Australia for some years. I wish to assist that industry and. also the one referred to by Senator Payne. Unfortunately, until to-night we knew nothing of the fur manufacturers in New South Wales,, and do not know whether they are struggling for existence or are on - a satisfactory footing. I feel sure that if honorable senators had the whole of the facts before them they would be just as anxious to safeguard the New South Wales industry as they are to encourage the industry in which Senator Payne is interested. I doubt, however, if the duties asked for are high enough. I believe the overseas firms will make a determined attempt to crush the industry by cutting the price of the imported furs. In all probability we shall discover later that the duty which is now proposed by Senator Payne is not sufficiently high. It is well known that Australian industries can manufacture only enough to provide for local consumption. Those who are engaged in this industry will doubtless make every endeavour to capture the Australian market. I wish them every success, and hope that their industry will grow. It is astonishing that they have not asked sooner for a duty.
– They tried to establish the industry without., a duty.
– The Government has not shown a way out of the difficulty. I should like Senator Duncan to state how both of these industries can be assisted. I am prepared to vote for Senator Payne’s request, and if the proposed duty is not sufficiently high, I shall support an increase.
– I have listened with a considerable degree of interest to the discussion that has taken place, and have decided to support Senator Payne’s request for the moderate duties of 25 per cent. British and intermediate and 40 per cent, under the general tariff to enable an Australian industry to be established. I believe that this may develop- ; into a valuable asset, which has hitherto been regarded as a pest. Both of these industries will be adequately protected, and they ought to assume large dimensions.
– At the expense of the taxpayer.
– If our economic conditions are to be maintained at their present level, the taxpayer must pay the cost. Another aspect of the matter is that if this becomes a big industry the rabbit may be protected in certain areas in Australia suitable for the purpose where it will not be a menace to landowners, and instead of being a pest it will be a valuable asset. If anything is done on these lines it must be carried out under proper supervision. We send overseas for high-class stud sheep and cattle to improve our flocks and herds. If this industry proves of value to Australia a. similar method can be employed to improve the quality of the rabbit.
– If the honorable senator sets out to improve the breed of the rabbit in Northern New South Wales he will be killed by the settlers.
– Other parts of Australia may stand for it, even though New South Wales will not. In the past, the rabbit has been regarded as a pest, hut it is gradually becoming a valuable asset. The exports last year were valued at between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000.
That was new wealth.
– But how much damage did the rabbit do?
– The damage is being compensated for, to some extent, by the exportation of the skins. Both of these industries will provide employment -for our people. The Australian article, will be sold at a moderate price tosuit the masses, and the imported fur willbe a luxury that only the rich will enjoy. Both, however, will be of advantage to Australia.
– I shall not support Senator Payne’s request. A number of Australian industries can be regarded only as babies, for the rearing of which the general taxpayer is asked to pay. In what way will we be helping Australia if we agree to this proposed duty ?
– By utilizing the rabbit.
– The number of rabbits will not decrease. In what direction will work be provided? Our economic conditions to-day resolve themselves into a question of man power.Can a working man’s wife pay £20, £25, or £40 for a fur coat?
– I do not expect her to do so.
– No ordinary man can purchase for his wife a high-priced fur coat or stole. Can Senator Payne explain how employment will be provided for a large number of men, or prove that the industry will be a success? I am not here to legislate only for the State that I represent. The honorable senator cannot delude me into the belief that he is not out to benefit Tasmania,
– Is not the honorable senator desirous of benefiting Tasmania?
– Only in proportion to the rest of Australia. For that reason I do not intend to vote for the honorable senator’s request. During the past week I have been shocked by the number and variety of the wares that have been brought into this chamber. Such a thing would not be allowed in any other Parliament in . the Commonwealth. The plea that protection is necessary for the working man is bunkum. The salvation of the workers of the Commonwealth does not lie in the direction of a protective tariff. The problems that confront Australia are infinitely greater than those which face this fur industry. One can always tell when an industry is in a serious position by the number of occasions upon which its representatives are present at the sittings of this chamber. Like those who go to prayer meetings, they are regular attendants. I do not blame them for looking after their interests. They are. justified, so long as we allow that practice to continue. But we must speak and act independently of any outside influence. No man is greater than his environment. Senator Payne’s environment to-night will not prove of any assistance to him.
Question - That the request (Senator Payne’s) be agreed to- put. The Committee divided -
Ayes . . . . 17
Noes .. ..9
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bequest agreed to.
Item agreed to subject to a request.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with requests.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- This afternoon I asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, “ What is the loss or profit on the working of the Beam section of the Amalgamated Wireless Company?” and I was informed that the information is not available in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Half the shares in that company are held by the Government on behalf of - the people of Australia, and I desire to know whether honorable senators are entitled to get information about the company; if so, to what Minister should my question he addressed. I did not expect that the information would be in the files of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department; hut I assumed that it would be obtained, and, if we are entitled to it, I hope that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will get it for me.
According to a statement published in the press tenders have been received in London for the purchase of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. The Prime Minister has stated that the details of the tenders are being sent to Australia by mail, because it would cost a small fortune to transmit the information by wireless or cablegram. I understand that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has not sufficient overseas traffic to keep it operating half-time; if that is so, would it not be an act of statesmanship to utilize this modern service in order to get the information promptly? Must governments still adhere to oldfushioned methods of communication?
The annual report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was tabled in the House on the 9th March ; so far I have not received a copy, and I assume that other honorable senators have not been supplied. . ‘
– All documents must be submitted to the Printing Committee.
– It is time that the Printing Committee got busy, for people who are not senators have copies of the report, and I perused one in Sydney.
– I understand that the report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been printed, and I shall inquire the reason for the delay in the distribution of copies to honorable senators. . In regard to the Amalgamated Wireless Company, the honorable senator has raised an important question of policy, namely, whether the business details of every commercial concern in which the Commonwealth is financially interested are to he disclosed, not only to honorable senators, hut through the medium of Hansard and the press to its trade competitors. Amalgamated Wireless. (Australasia) Limited is in competition with two cable companies. The Government is also a shareholder in the Common wealth Oil Refineries, and I, personally, would take strong exception to the publication of details of its business which might be of advantage to its trade rivals.
– Does not the Government compel those trade rivals to publish annual reportsand balancesheets ?
– Yes ;but only in the -same way as Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and the Commonwealth Oil Refineries are bound to publish their reports and balance- sheets. These are public companies, and the reports and balance-sheets will he made available in due course. But to disclose business details at any period of the year in regard to concerns in which the taxpayers’ money is invested would be extremely unwise. The information is not at the disposal of the PostmasterGeneral. The Government must rely on its representatives on the board of directors of Amalgamated Wireles (Australasia) Limited to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers of Australia.
[10.35]. - Reports which are laid on the table of the Senate become the property of the chamber and it is for the Printing Committee . to decide what is to be done with them. That committee is expected to . go through all reports laid on the table and decide which shall be printed, because obviously, it is not necessary to print them all. If a document is laid on the table and not printed the fault lies, not with the Government, hut with the Printing Committee of the Senate. It is rather interesting to learn that Senator Andrew, who has just interjected that the Printing Committee meets about once in every five years, is a member of that committee. If it does not meet the fault is Mb. The Senate doesnot tell the committee when it ought to meet; the members of the committee themselves decide when they shall meet. I have learnt, however, that the report of the Postmaster-General was laid on the table of the House of Representatives to-day and ordered to be . printed. It is now at the Printing Office,and will be circulated in a few days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280321_senate_10_118/>.