13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
SenatorDUNN. - Has the attention of the Minister in Charge of Development been drawn to the following report which has appeared in the Labor Daily and the Sydney Sun newspapers : -
French Expert Test.
In a preliminary test conducted in the presence of engineers and the Commonwealth commercial representative (Mr. Voss), Dr. Duplan has recovered 80 per cent. of gasolene frompetroleum extracted from New South Wales shale, 70 per cent. from Tasmanian, and larger quantities from Victorian brown coal. He has obtained from Londonan order to test further, with a view to determining the moisture content. M. Blazzard, an oil refinery manager of Marseilles, regards the method applied as a great advance, and as specially important in connexion with shales and lignites.
In view of the importance of this test to New South Wales, will the Minister request the Government to apply, out of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth, the sum of £1, 000,000 for the general rehabilitation of the Newnes shale oil industry ?
– I cannot promise to make the large recommendation suggested by the honorable senator, but I can assure him that, having read the cabled report of the test in Paris, I have asked the shale oil investigation committee to instruct Mr. Rodgers, who is at present overseas, to get in touch with the investigating authorities in Paris, and report to the committee and myself.
How many resolutions of the Canberra Advisory Council have been transmitted to the Government?
How many of such resolutions have been given effect to?
I now desire to inform him as follows : -
Recommendations -many of which request consideration of proposals in distinction to actual execution thereof- have been given effect in 199 instances.In numerous cases, suggestions falling within the former category have been given partial effect. In regard to the remaining resolutions, consideration is still proceeding in respect to 35.
– On the 1st June, Senator Johnston asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information: -
– Having in mind the many statements that have appeared in the press recently to the effect that Senator Sir Walter Greene, the Assistant Treasurer, is about to resign his position as a member of the Cabinet, and also the rumour that Senator Brennan is to be appointed to the expected vacancy, is the Leader of the Senate prepared to make a statement on the subject?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No.
SenatorDUNN. -I ask you, Mr. Presi dent, if, in view of the fact that a member of the Cabinet, the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and an ex-member of the Cabinet (Sir Henry Gullett) have denied the truth of statements made in this Senate by an honorable senator, you will appoint a select committee of the Senate to investigate the statements made by Senator Hardy and supported by Senator Carroll, such committee to take evidence, and inquire into the allegations regarding the characters of Senators Hardy and Carroll, and to report to the Senate?
– The honorable senator is well aware that it is within the right of any honorable senator to ask questions of Ministers relating to matters of public interest, and also to put to fellow senators questions relating to any business appearing in their names on the noticepaper. As the notice-paper for to-day contains no reference whatever to the subject-rnatier of the honorable senator’s inquiry, his question is out of order.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer, if, in view of press statements that Commonwealth and. the State Ministers now meeting in
Melbourne have admitted that the Premiers plan has broken down, and should be scrapped, the Government will consider the adoption of the principal features of the Lang plan which may be stated as follows : -
– Order ! The honorable senator must not utilize the opportunity given for the asking of questions to express opinions. The latter part of his question is out of order.
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is no.
– As the Commonwealth finances are in a buoyant condition - according to newspaper reports the surplus for the present financial year will be considerable - will the Minister representing the Treasurer urge the Government to increase, by 2s. 6d. a week, the payments to our invalid and old-age pensioners? If not, why?
– The financial proposals of the Government will be made known when the budget is presented.
Suburban Public Telephones
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if, when the budget is being framed, consideration will be given to the provision of public telephones in suitable places in the suburbs of Canberra?
– I shall see that the matter is brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General. It can be taken into consideration only in connexion with the budget proposals for the next financial year.
Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answer is as follows: - 1 and 2. As the Commonwealth was not seeking financial assistance for its 1933-34 budget, its first view was that it was unnecessary to submit figures to the Loan Council. In view of the request of the States for Commonwealth figures, they have now been presented to the Loan Council.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. No; but certain parts of the annexure to the report relating to the summary of recommendations on the following goods were omitted: -
Percentage of Empire Labour
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What exactly is the meaning of the statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 1st December, 1932, to the effect that, in the House of Commons, the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Walter Runciman) said that the question of increasing to 25 per cent. the content of Empire labour and material under the Ottawa preferences was at present being actively considered?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
The Government has no information on this matter, and no agreement as to percentageof Empire content necessary to qualify for preferential rates of duty was made at Ottawa. In order to obtain preference in the United Kingdom, manufactured goods (other than a limited class) require a certificate stating that the proportion of Empire content is not less than 25 per cent. of the total value. Goods considered “ growth “ or “ produce “ require a certificate of origin, which makes no reference to percentage of Empire content. Practically the whole of the Australian exports to the United Kingdom come under the latter category.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What arc the quantity and value of New Zealand flax (PhormiumTenax) imported into Australia for each of the last three years - (a) Raw; (b) manufactured or partly manufactured ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1. (a) My attention has been drawn to the statement, and inquiries are being made in regard to it. (b)Yes.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the question of the provision in the Standing Orders of some definite procedure governing the debate on the first reading of bills which the Senate may not amend be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and report thereon.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th June (vide page 2125), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Upon which Senator E. B. Johnston had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “be” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ returned to the House of Representatives with a request that the House will go amend the bill that the terms and the spirit of the Ottawa agreement shall be given effect to in so far as concerns the British preferential duties referred to in the bill, that is to say, will so amend the bill that the proposed duties against Britishgoods shall be reduced to the level of the 1921-1930 tariff in all eases where they have been raised above that level without report by the Tariff Board.”
– In discussing the first reading of the bill now before the Senate, honorable senators havean opportunity to deal not only with the subject-matter of the bill itself, but also with subjects not relevant to the measure. On occasions such as this, honorable senators representing States detrimentally affected by Commonwealth legislation are able to ventilate the disabilities suffered by such States. As a representative of Tasmania, I should like, at the outset, to refer to one or two matters which are of great importance to the people of that State. The disabilities from which Tasmania has suffered in consequence of the operation of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act have been published not only in speeches in this chamber, but in evidence before many investigating bodies, such as royal commissions, select committees, and the like. The subject has also been widely discussed by prominent men, economists, local governing organizations, and other bodies throughout Tasmania. The people of Tasmania appreciate to the full the relief given to them during the last few months by the suspension of these objectionable provisions. The relief so given was for a period which ended on the 31st May. We are pleased that the Government has taken an early opportunity to announce that similar relief will be given for the same period of next year. But the benefits which have accrued to Tasmania through the suspension of these provisions have been so pronounced that those who, during many years, have requested the granting of such relief have been brought to realize more vividly than ever the great injustice which Tasmania has suffered through tho operation of this legislation. I, therefore, ask the Government to take the opportunity which this debate offers, or to make an early occasion in some other way, to declare the policy of the Government in this connexion. The feeling in. Tasmania is definitely that the State should be permanently relieved from this legislation. It is felt in Tasmania that as the coasting trade provisions of tho Navigation Act, which have been a source of grievous complaint there for a long while, are not applicable to the Mandated Territory or other island dependencies of the Commonwealth, they should not be applicable to Tasmania. It must be obvious to all honorable sena tors that the insular position of Tasmania makes transport a subject of paramount importance to her. All the other States, of the Commonwealth are connected with one another by rail, and also enjoy a good coastal shipping service. But Tasmania has had to rely upon means of transport totally inadequate to the demands of tourists and the public generally. if the other States had had to suffer as much inconvenience as Tasmania has had to suffer through inadequate transport facilities, so much unrest and dissatisfaction would have been manifested that their complaints would have been remedied quickly. We, therefore, feel that Tasmania’s complaints should be removed by the early repeal of the coasting trade provisions to which I have referred. While the States Grants Commission Bill was being discussed in Parliament recently, it was said on behalf of the Government that every State would be give), a full opportunity to indicate its disabilities. But Tasmania, through the operation of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, is suffering from a disability that should be remedied by Parliament. So long as these provisions remain in the act, discrimination will be shown as between State and State, and hardship will be inflicted on one State which is not shared by other States. The Government could, by the repeal of these provisions, remove the uncertainty that prevails in Tasmania. At present, ali who are associated directly or indirectly with transport to and from and in Tasmania - and these include the State Kailway Department, and those engaged in the transport trade generally, as well as hotelkeepers, boarding-house keepers, and the like - should be given an assurance that their activities during the tourist season will be allowed to continue without the hand ica)) imposed ‘by the Navigation Act.
Everybody knows that Tasmania, has great attraction for tourists in the summer time. The people of the northern States come to Tasmania in the summer to escape the heat, just as the people of the southern States go north in the winter to escape the cold. Honorable senators who represent Queensland will know that Cairns enjoys great advantages in the excellent railway service from Brisbane, and an excellent shipping service from southern ports. If people may travel to Cairns without having to conform with the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, they should also be able to travel to Tasmania without doing so. If the restrictions to which I have referred were permanently removed, the prosperity of Tasmania would be greatly stimulated, for the tourist trade, on which she so greatly relies, could be exploited with a degree of certainty which is at present impossible. The experience of the last few months should be sufficient to convince the Government that the operation of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act are definitely inimical to the welfare of Tasmania. Whether these provisions should be enforced or suspended should not be left to the decision of the Executive, but should be made by Parliament itself. It has been revealed in every inquiry that has been made into Tasmanian affairs of recent years that great assistance would be given to Tasmania if these provisions were repealed, or if Tasmania were exempt from them. If permanent relief of this character were given to Tasmania, 3he would be compensated to some extent for losses which she has suffered in certain other directions through federation. One of the many disabilities which the people of Tasmania suffer is lack of telephonic services with the mainland. For years, representations have been made to the Government for the provision of these services on a scale similar to that enjoyed by the people of the mainland States. Every honorable senator realizes the value of a telephone service in business transactions, and the citizens of the Commonwealth who reside in my State should not be called upon much longer to suffer the real disability due to the absence of these facilities.
I have followed this debate closely, and. have concluded that there is unanimity as to the seriousness of the problem of unemployment. Honorable senators who represent Labour have attempted to point out some of the ways in which unemployment could he relieved, and some of the directions in which the Government has failed to deal with the problem. Some have gone so far as to say that the Government, and its supporters are concerned only about the interests of one class in the community, that is, the employers of labour, and have shown an utter disregard for the interests of the workers, or the section which was described by one honorable senator as the common people. Are we not all common people? I claim that we are all workers. Although we may not be associated with an industrial union, we are all making some contribution, I hope, to the advancement of the welfare of Australia. Do not honorable senators on my right, who have criticized the Government on the ground of its inaction, recall the conditions that prevailed in Australia two years ago, when the Labour Government was in office? It has been said by those honorable senators that the Scullin Government would have done a great deal of good if it had remained in power; but it must be clear to everybody that, bad as the position is to-day, it is infinitely better than it was two years ago.
– What evidence is there of that?
– There is none so blind as he who will not see. The honorable senator knows that the statistics, and every other indicator, support my contention. There are few business men who will not agree that trade shows an improvement to-day, compared with two years ago. In many cases where labour was rationed a few months ago, rationing has now disappeared.
– But the basic wage is lower now.
– Figures can be selected to support any argument, but all the authorities are against the honorable senator.
– I quoted the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures.
– The figures prove conclusively that the position has improved, though the progress has not been so rapid as we could wish. I am sure that honorable senators on the Opposition side are desirous of serving their country, but they appear to be content merely to offer destructive criticism. They almost lament the fact that the present Government has made some contribution, at all events, to the solution of the most difficult problem of unemploy- ment. The Government has tackled this subject in the only sane way, that is, by co-operation with the State authorities, which are best able to deal with the actual employment of labour. Honorable senators opposite can help the country by refraining from indulging in purely destructive criticism. They would lead the people to believe that the Government has designedly shown an utter disregard for the best interests of the workers, of whom the party in opposition claims to be the only true representatives. The present Commonwealth Government has done well, and although honorable senators opposite may be somewhat disappointed with its achievements, they should give credit where credit is due. An impartial judge would say that, compared with the Scullin Government, the present Government at least holds its own. Opposition senators who say that the Scullin Government was driven from office by the United Australia Party seem to have forgotten that a section of the Labour party precipitated the last general election which resulted in that Government’s defeat.
– The Country party will probably precipitate an election before long.
– I am not a prophet, and I am not inclined to predict what may happen in the future. I. know, however, that sometimes the unexpected happens; it happened eighteen months ago. The knowledge that, unemployment is more severe in other countries than in Australia may not assist us in solving our problems, nevertheless, the workers of Australia should know that, they are better off in this country than are their fellow workers in other countries. That the percentage of persons unemployed to the whole population is less in Australia than in any other country should not occasion surprise, for Australia is a wonderful country. I cannot be a pessimist when I try to visualize the future of this great land. I believe that Australia will be one of the first countries in the world to recover from the present depression. That recovery will be expedited if all sections of the community, instead of indulging in destructive criticism, were to co-operate in a determined effort to restore prosperity. During the regime of the Scullin Government, the then Opposition set a good example; it offered to co-operate heartily with the Government in finding avenues of employment for our people.
One of the most pressing problems connected with the general question of unemployment is the lack of opportunities for our young people. Those of us who are no longer young cannot escape our responsibility in this connexion. Each year, about 100,000 boys of an average age of about sixteen years leave our schools. Thanks to our excellent education system, they are well equipped for life; yet they find themselves at a deadend. I know that .this is a matter, primarily, for the States; but, after all, it is “a national problem with which this National Parliament should deal. The depression reached its most acute stage two years ago. A boy who left school then at the age of sixteen years would now be eighteen years old, and should be directing his energies towards some definite goal. Unfortunately, however, he has lost two valuable years. This is a subject which might well find a place on the agenda of the Premiers Conference, with a view to the adoption of some scheme of useful training for these youths. We must not forget that these lads of to-day will be the citizens of the future. What kind of citizens will they be? Much depends on their outlook on life during their impressionable years; so that any effort which the Commonwealth and State Governments may now make on their behalf will be repaid a thousandfold. The Commonwealth would be justified in making some financial contribution to the States for the training of these lads. They should be given the opportunity to learn some useful trade, or offered clerical or professional work, so that when prosperity returns they may be usefully employed. The Commonwealth will be the gainer if, instead of these lads wasting their time, their minds are occupied with useful things, and they are fitting themselves for the duties of citizenship which will devolve upon them in later years.
– If the Country party gets into power, it will place all these lads on the land.
– There is not room for them all there. Unhappily, the position of our primary producers is so serious that many thousands of sons of fu j liters who ought to be engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits are being forced off the land.
– What does the honorable senator think of the action of the present Government in accepting article iO of the Ottawa agreement, thus taking away from the youth of Australia the opportunity to learn trades?
– The honorable senator is placing a wrong interpretation on article 10 of that agreement.
– The Government, in giving preference to British manufacturers under that agreement, has signed away the birthright of Australian youths
– I heartily support the remarks of Senator 5. B. Hayes and Senator Payne on the subject, of the tariff. There is no necessity for me to repeat what they have said, because the case put by them is unassailable. Something must be done to overcome the difficulties of the primary producers. lt has been stated that those engaged in primary production are always complaining, but never before in the history of this country has complaint been so general as it is to-day. Honorable senators who have to look to the metropolitan areas for a large measure of their support, and are, therefore, brought into close contact with our secondary industries, cannot disregard the fact that the prosperity of this country depends largely on the prosperity of the man on the land. The primary producers fully realize the benefit of having a good local market, but more than that is necessary. Take the position of Great Britain to-day. That country depends, not only upon its secondary production, but also, to a large extent, upon its primary production, and the position of the British primary producers is, indeed, acute, although they have their market at their very door. The position in Australia is the reverse of that in Great Britain. This country has a small population, and, because of the exceedingly limited local market, most of its products have to be exported. I come now to the position of the smaller States. In framing our Commonwealth legislation, we cannot differentiate between State and State, and, therefore, the States with the larger populations reap most of the benefits of federation. Under our parliamentary system, numbers count, and it is, therefore, obvious that the larger States receive, at the hands of the Commonwealth, more consideration than do the smaller States. Compare the position of New South Wale3 and Victoria with that of the other States. Sydney has a population of 1,250,000 people. The resources of that State are many and varied, and its primary producers have an excellent home market. But Tasmania and Western Australia are in a different position, because practically the whole of their products have to be exported. It is therefore difficult for the Commonwealth Parliament, in framing its legislation, to take into consideration the conflicting State interests. We are all citizens of Australia, and we must insist that governments, in framing their legislation, pay due regard to those States which, although in a minority, help to make this country prosperous. Over 90 per cent, of our total exports consists of primary products.
– The percentage is 97 per cent.
– The difficulties of the primary producers have been accentuated because of the fact that the prices received for our exportable products have been below the cost of production. We who represent primary producers are, with few exceptions, just as anxious as the members of the Labour party to develop the secondary industries of this Commonwealth. But we want a better balanced state of affairs. It is well known that, with mass production, and by combining among themselves, manufacturers are able to produce at relatively low cost, and sell at a fixed price which provides them with a handsome margin of profit. They say, in effect, to prospective purchasers, “ There is the result of our labour, and that is the price,” and those who need these commodities must of necessity buy them at the figure agreed upon by the combine. On the other hand, the primary producer has to keep his costs at a minimum in order to compete on the local market, while his surplus production is sent overseas to be sold ou the open market, where the margin of preference is slight, and where there is an utter disregard of local costs and conditions. Is it any wonder that, with such an un-. balanced policy, we are in our present position, and those engaged in our great primary industries find themselves right up against it?
– Local consumption would increase if the purchasing power of our people were improved.
– Notwithstanding the high tariff protection that has been given to our secondary industries, their production has practically reached saturation point, for the local market is more or less glutted, and the overseas market offers little attraction.
– It is all due to the anarchy of the prevailing system.
– I know that the honorable senator believes in the socialization of industry, and th«i nationalization of banking, ideals which are unlikely of attainment in our time. We must be practical, deal with matters as we find them, and not allow our thoughts to soar into the clouds. It would be just as impossible to persuade the people to adopt the honorable senator’s opinions as it would be to hold converse with the man in the moon, for, time after time, the electors and this Parliament have intimated plainly that they will have nothing to do with socialization. Parliament is master of the situation and, while it cannot differentiate between State and State in respect of its legislation, it can, by evolving a reasonably well-balanced policy, give some compensation to our great primary industries, and enable them at least to carry on. Therefore, I make an appeal to the Government on behalf of those great primary industries on which our future depends. Let the Government enable them to increase their productivity at a reasonable profit, and produce a surplus which can be satisfactorily marketed overseas, particularly on the British market.
The price of farm produce has fallen by as much as 50 per cent., and employees in secondary industries have suffered wages reduction of from 20 per cent, to 30 per cent., a sacrifice that is not reflected in the price charged for secondary products. Our tariff is, probably, the greatest contributor to the high cost of secondary products. In the past our producers bought a great quantity of farm machinery from the United States of America and Canada, because it best suited their purpose. Now, because of the Government’s tremendously high tariff, farmers find it impossible to replace their old machinery with new articles, and almost as difficult to purchase spare parts, because of the prohibitive price that is asked for them. The Government should do something to relieve matters. Just think of the position of the fruit-grower, of whose output 75 per cent, is exported and marketed overseas regardless of the cost of production. I intend to vote for the amendment moved by Senator Johnston. 1 told my constituents two years ago that, if we were returned to power, we would give them relief by means of a reduction of the tariff. I understand the difficulties of the Government, and realize that it cannot make tariff alterations in a haphazard way, and without proper inquiry; but I insist, at the same time, that relief must be given. We have all said that there should be a reduction of the tariff, particularly in regard to machinery and tools of trade used in the production of exportable goods. Speaking on this matter last night, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) said that, if the amendment were carried, it would mean the calling together of the House of Representatives, the members of which are now scattered all over Australia, and a reversion to the tariff as tabled there. I appreciate those difficulties; but that should not deter us from doing what we regard as our obvious duty. It would give me no pleasure to cast a vote which might embarrass the Government in any way; but I am bound to state, quite frankly, that I must do what I can to secure a reduction of duties. Such a reduction, I believe, is in the interests, not only of my own State, but of the Commonwealth as a whole. If we are to keep our country solvent, those engaged in the great primary-producing industries should be given a chance to live, so that they may be able to produce wealth which, in turn, will provide employment for those engaged in the secondary industries. We must produce commodities at a cost which will enable us to sell them overseas at a price that vill enable us to pay the interest on our overseas debt, thus maintaining our good name abroad.
– I am as anxious as is the honorable senator to reduce duties; but how will the carrying of this amendment bring that about?
– What we are now seeking to do is consistent with what members of the Government said when they were in opposition.
– This amendment is not in accordance with what wo said during the election.
– I do not say that it is exactly the same; but it has for its object, if it can be given effect, the achievement of an end for which Government members said they stood.
– But the means proposed are not the same.
– We have here an opportunity, those of us who believe in a lower tariff, to make a gesture in defence of our fiscal faith, and we should do so in the interests of the Commonwealth, and of the States we represent. We must show now whether we really believe what we have said, or whether we do not. We have not sought this opportunity; but it now presents itself to us, and we must show the strength of our belief in the principle of British preference. We must show whether we believe that the Government acted in the spirit of the Ottawa agreement by raising the duties on foreign goods, and leaving those on British goods still prohibitively high. Before the making of the Ottawa agreement, the duty ou foreign goods was already so high ss to be prohibitive in most cases, and the duty on British goods, though lower, was still high enough to have much the same effect. Only to a minor degree could Britain develop her trade with Australia under the tariff as it stood. That being so, no benefit was conferred on Britain merely by raising the duty on foreign goods to a still higher level.
Senator Elliott, in the course of his speech yesterday, left the impression - not intentionally, perhaps - that, in his opinion, those who represented Australia at Ottawa did not make the best of their opportunity. I do not suggest that the honorable senator wished to imply that, had he represented Australia, he would have done better.
– Was there such a suggestion ?
– No. Mr. Bruce led the Australian delegation, and it cannot be said that he failed to show a proper understanding of Australia’s position in relation to the rest of the Empire. I am not in a position to say whether more could have been achieved.
– A great deal more could have been achieved had our delegates, looked beyond the next election, and to the next generation.
– I have no hesitation in saying that the leader of the delegation did what he believed to be his duty, and made the best possible bargain for Australia.
– By arriving at such an important conference the day before it opened, thus missing all the favorable opportunities for constructive work that experience teaches us present themselves before the deliberations of a conference are begun ?
– Although the results obtained at Ottawa may not measure up to what was expected by the honorable senator, the door is not closed against further negotiations.
– I emphasized that fact yesterday.
– It is quite obvious that, whatever disadvantages we may suffer, or whatever may have been left unfulfilled, a basis has been established for future negotiations, and there is now complete recognition of the principle that our first duty is to trade within the Empire. There will be ample opportunity to develop along those lines. We should be ever mindful of the difficulties with which our representatives were faced at Ottawa, and should be willing to admit that negotiation and compromise had of necessity to be the basis of all their consultations. In the circumstances, I believe that they did the best that could be done.
– They put up a good fight, but obtained very little.
– That may or may not be the case. The nationalization of banking, and the release of credits, have been advocated by honorable senators of the Opposition. I presume that they would place banking under political control.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong.
– Do honorable senators deny that, when an amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act was before’ this chamber some time ago, they did not seek to have that institution placed under political control?
– Sir Denison Miller was not subject to political control, yet his appointment was made by the Labour party.
– The honorable senator now seeks to draw a distinction between the Commonwealth Bank and a trading bank. If the private banks ceased to function, would he be satisfied to have the financial affairs of this country managed solely by the Commonwealth Bank as it is now constituted?
– We are not worrying about what happens to the other banks ; we would leave them to their fate, and make the Commonwealth Bank function as was intended.
– Would tho honorable senator leave the law as it stands to-day?
– That is not likely; it is the law of the honorable senator’s party, under which political appointments have been made.
– All the appointments to the Commonwealth Bank have not been made by the party of which I am a member. Over and over again, the Labour party has expressed its belief in the nationalization of banking. If language has not lost its meaning, that implies the control of the Commonwealth Bank by a political party.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong.
– When the amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act was before the Senate, it was sought to bring the bank under political control. It is well known that the last
Labour Government came into conflict with the management of this institution because it refused to do what that government thought to be desirable.
– Had the Labour party had a majority in this chamber at the time, the Commonwealth Bank would have done as it was told in regard to the issue of credit; just as it is obeying the instructions of the present Governmenttoday.
– The honorable senator has made his position perfectly clear, so that those who run may read, and nothing further need be said. I do not know, whether he speaks on behalf of his party.
In conclusion, I express the hope that our combined efforts may enable us to solve our problems.
– When, is a start to be made?
– If the honorable senator would show less bias and open hostility, and a little more of the spirit of conciliation and co-operation, he would better serve the best interests of Australia.
– The same conciliation that the honorable senator showed to the last Labour Government.
– What are needed in Australia to-day are unity and co-operation. We should endeavour to recapture the spirit of those who pioneered this great country, and handed it to us as a heritage. By self-denial and prodigious effort, they blazed the trail, and, under most adverse conditions, set an example of what could be done. Never in the history of any country has greater progress been made in a short time than in that of Australia, despite its distance from world’s markets. If we are to continue the remarkable progress made since the settlement of Australia, we shall need more of that spirit of self reliance which characterized the lives of our pioneers. I feel sure that if we can rekindle that spirit of independence, prosperity will soon be restored to Australia. It is true to say that we have turned the corner; that the position has vastly improved, and that the unemployment problem is not so acute to-day as it was twelve months ago. This, I contend, is because confidence has been restored in great measure by wise and stable government. We have evidence of this in the establishment of industries which for long had been languishing, and while there is not yet that industrial activity which we would all like to see, I am su’re that a continuance of careful government, coupled with a more general desire for co-operation among all sections of the people, will ensure the return of prosperity to this country much sooner than to some of the older countries of the world.
– Until a late hour last night, I had not intended to take part in this debate, but certain statements made in the Senate during the evening rendered it imperative that I should make some defence on behalf of my own State, i. refer particularly to some remarks made by my honorable friend, Senator Brennan, but before replying to them I wish to thank him for the very generous compliment which he paid to me in regard to both my integrity and my memory. I believe his tribute to me was quite sincere, and I assure him that it is highly appreciated.
Having said this, I wish to refer to certain comments made by the honorable gentleman. His views on this tariff schedule, which, in this debate, is being discussed rather cursorily, gave me a profound shock, because I had always considered Senator Brennan to be the nearest approach to the ideal freetrader that one could find in Australia. When he came to Canberra a fortnight or so ago, his general attitude to the tariff policy of this Government reminded me of Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus. Ho was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the Government.
– Never !
– Perhaps it would be more appropriate if, in the words of one of Australia’s sweetest singers, Henry Kendall, I said that the honorable senator approached the discussion of the tariff “ with fire in the soles of his feet “. Apparently something has happened since then. I was surprised beyond all measure last night to hear the honorable gentleman say, referring of course to the tariff, tl at his actions would be governed by the political tactics that might be followed when a vote was taken upon the question before the Senate. That announcement of his intention was a tremendous blow to me. I felt as if a political disaster has occurred to, perhaps, the last of the old brigade: that it would be useless for Country party senators to continue making their voices heard in this important debate. I assure the Senate that there are those of us in the Country party who sincerely believe that the present tariff is too high, and that, in operation, it is detrimental to the interests of primary producers as well as to every other section of the community.
– That also is my belief.
– Being convinced that the honorable gentleman did hold those views, I was surprised to hear him close his speech with the statement to which I have just alluded. I find it difficult to reconcile that statement with his earlier expressions of opinion on tariff matters.
– The honorable senator’s surprise is nothing to the bewilderment of the people about the tariff policies of governments.
– I am afraid that there is a great deal of bewilderment among the people on this vexed question. What has been responsible for this change in the views of some honorable senators 1 am not in a position to say, and since I do not care to enter the realms of prophecy, I shall fall back on the Asquithian advice to “wait and see”.
Having said so much, I come now to Senator Brennan’s imputation that those who spoke in favour of, or voted for, secession in the recent referendum in Western Australia are to be designated as rebels. This is what the honorable gentleman said under that heading -
Frankly and without straining language at all, I find it hard to draw the distinction between those who would break this indissoluble Commonwealth into which we have entered, and straight-out rebels.
I wish to make it quite clear to the Senate, though that should not be necessary, that I am not speaking as a secessionist. I have my own views on that question. No one who has lived in Western Australia is more firmly convinced than I am, that the western State has suffered serious disabilities as the result of the Commonwealth policy endorsed by the majority of the people living in the eastern States. I have no objection whatever to anybody else having fiscal views contrary to my own. If a man believes in the highest possible form of protection, he is as much entitled to hold that belief, although I believe him to be wrong, as I am to believe that a much lower tariff than we have to-day would not only be beneficial to Australia, but would assist in the rehabilitation of world trade, provided such a policy had all-round application.
At the recent referendum in Western Australia, a great majority of the people declared in favour of secession from the Commonwealth. Because of that, according to Senator Brennan, they are to be classed as rebels. I may add that, acting under medical advice, I did not take an active part in that campaign, but I made my views known in letters to the press. I stated that, while I was well aware of the disabilities under which the State was suffering, I could not support the movement for secession because I could not see how it would be possible for the State to secede; that a majority vote for secession would not be more effective than would a strong protest and a demand for a modification of the Constitution.
– Did the people who voted for secession consider what should be the next step?
– Since I am not in their confidence, I cannot say.
– Voting was compulsory at the referendum.
– In my opinion, there is only one way in which separation from the Commonwealth could be effected, and I am not sure tha’t that way would be possible. Senator Brennan has referred to secessionists as rebels. I invite him to tell the Senate whence they come. “When Western Australia was given responsible government in 1890 the total population of the State was approximately 50,000 persons. Allowing for the natural increase since that year on a basis of 2 per cent., which is slightly higher than for the rest of the Commonwealth, the population of Western Australia to-day would be about 110,000 or 112,000 at the most. But the actual population is between 420,000 and 430,000, so the difference between the natural increase and the total population must have been drawn from the eastern States. I suppose it would be safe to say that of the total population in Western Australia to-day 300,000 persons came from the eastern States or are their descendants.
– A considerable number of people came to Western Australia from overseas.
– Probably the honorable senator is right, but no one can deny that the great majority came from the eastern States, so if those who voted for secession from the Commonwealth arc to be classed as rebels, they have kinship with people in the eastern States, and we must assume that there is an over-plus of rebels in this part of the Commonwealth also. When people were pouring into Western Australia following the discovery of gold, I assume that the authorities did not make a very close examination of ‘their political beliefs; but, as I have stated, the great majority were law abiding citizens from the eastern States. This being so, surely there must be good reason for their discontent with the federal bonds? In any examination of the cause of the disaffection in the western State, honorable senators should ask themselves whether Western Australia has had a fair deal from the Commonwealth as a whole, or perhaps J should say, from the eastern manufacturing States. When the Constitution was being drafted it was acknowledged that Western Australia would suffer serious disadvantages owing to the loss of control over its customs revenue. Consequently there was incorporated in the Constitution a provision that for the first five years Western Australia should control its customs tariff, relinquishing 20 per cent, of this source of revenue each year of that period. That carried the State on for five years. Further, the Constitution provided for what was known as the bookkeeping period, or, more popularly, as the “Braddon blot,” a provision which was to take effect for ten years. It did not operate for its full term, however, as the High Court, by an ungenerous interpretation, undreamed of by the ordinary man in the street, ruled that money appropriated by the Commonwealth Parliament was, in the sense of the Constitution, money spent, and, therefore, not available to the States. Speaking from memory, that occurred in 1908, two years before the expiration of the bookkeeping period. That brought us to the time when some provision had to be made to compensate the States to some extent for the withdrawal from them of three-fourths of the unexpended customs revenue. After negotiations extending over a year or so, what was known as the 25s. per capita grant was adopted. I have heard those who have not always had a kindly word for Western Australia say that, even then, she should have received a special grant as a sort of compassionate allowance to a poor relation. That is not the reason why £250,000 in the form of a diminishing grant was given to Western Australia; it was because that State was contributing to the Commonwealth revenue, through customs and excise, a far larger amount per capita than any other State in the Commonwealth, and a very much larger amount than the average contribution of the Commonwealth. Again speaking from memory, I believe that the Commonwealth figure amounted to £3 12s. per capita, while at that time Western Australia was paying, in the form of customs and . excise duties, approximately £5 8s. per capita, which represented a material difference. Consequently, the other States ‘agreed that Western Australia should have a compensating grant of £250,000 a year, diminishing at the rate of £10,000 a year. That was a clear recognition at the time that Western Australia was not receiving a fair deal. I am not imputing any improper or dishonest motives to those in control of the Commonwealth at the time. The position was due to certain factors that were unavoidable, and largely to the inequalities in. the matter of population, and the competition existing in Western Australia at that time. It was also due to the great preponderance of males in. the population of the State. There were few women smokers in Australia at the time of which I am speaking, and consequently the tobacco duties were paid almost wholly by the male members of the population.
– I suppose they also had a thirst.
– Had the honorable senator been on the Western Australian gold-fields at that period he would understand what a real thirst was. At that time, it was a part of the world where a man could be excused if he had a real thirst. The work undertaken on the gold-fields in those days was hard, and the men, subsisting largely on tinned food, had to carry out their duties in the midst of dust, heat, and flies. As time went on, conditions, instead of improving from a federal point of view, became worse. Even the Tariff Board, that has guided the Government in many matters, has, not once, but on numerous occasions, drawn attention to the fact that Western Australia is getting an unequal deal under the tariff policy of Australia. The statements made bv the members of the Tariff Board are not of a partisan character. I do not accuse that board of being partisan in any shape or form. Although I disagree with many of its findings, I believe that the board endeavours at all times to give an honest finding on the evidence before it. The Tariff Board has repeatedly stated that while our fiscal policy has greatly benefited many of those engaged in industry in the eastern States, it has detrimentally affected Western Australia to a marked degree, and that some compensation should be paid to that State, to counteract some of the disadvantages it now experiences. Western Australia was, at one time, exporting large quantities of flour and other products to the islands to the north of that State and importing bananas in exchange, when an excessive duty on bananas was imposed that benefited only the banana-growers in Queensland and in the northern portion of New South Wales. That duty was a disastrous blow to Western Australia’s island export trade.
– The duty on bananas is exactly the same as on citrus fruits.
– Western Australia is not importing citrus fruit; adequate supplies are produced in that
State. It would be idle for me to trace the whole history of this business.
When Senator Brennan was speaking last night he said that everything seemed to be proceeding very smoothly in Western Australia until 1932, when, he alleges, the people of that State lost their heads. Complaints had been made in Western Australia before that, and they would have been heard even earlier but for the extraordinarily high prices obtained for primary produce during the post-war period, which enabled Western Australia to meet enormous federal disabilities without feeling their full effect. We realized, however, that the moment prices fell to anything like a normal level, we would suffer very severely. As the. result of strong agitation, the Bruce-Page Government appointed a royal commission in 1925 to’ inquire into the disabilities of Western Australia. That was the first official recognition that everything was not right with us. The commission took voluminous evidence, and, although all its recommendations were not unanimous, some of them were nearly enough so to indicate that they found the case for Western Australia had been proven. Even the member of the royal commission who was least sympathetic towards Western Australia was convinced that that State should receive a grant of at least £350,000 a year. The other two members of the commission were more generous, and in a majority report recommended the payment of £450,000 a year, and that, if at all practicable, Western Australia should regain control over its customs and excise revenue. They also added that the £450,000 a year should be paid until such time as that control was given. It has been said on several occasions that that grant was to be paid for a period of years, but the report states that it was to be paid until such time as Western Australia controlled its own customs and excise. That report was acted upon to a certain extent by the government of the day, and as the situation developed, the people of Western Australia were satisfied that what was being done was the beginning of something better.
There have been several occasions on which Western Australia has had a par ticular grievance against the eastern States. In this connexion, I mention the Commonwealth wheat pool. During the war period and immediately afterwards, it was right that the Commonwealth Government should control the handling and selling of wheat, but it was equally right that every State should receive just treatment. I mention one instance in which Western Australia did not receive such treatment. At that time an export business in flour, which was permitted by the Government, was being carried on with the islands. A certain price was also fixed for wheat used for home consumption. I am not going to say that it. was not a reasonable price; I am sure the farmers in Australia to-day would be very pleased if they could receive anything like the. price then fixed for home consumption. It was, however, considerably lower than export parity price. What happened ? One State gristed every bushel of wheat within its borders, exported the flour, and so obtained a higher price, while the Western Australian growers were called upon to supply wheat for local consumption at local consumption price, which was about 3s. a bushel less than export parity at that time. It is no wonder that our people, who are supposed to be members of the federation, feel that they have not had even-handed justice meted out to them by those in the east.
To-day, incidents are occurring that are annoying in the extreme. For instance, a so-called “ goodwill “ ship was despatched to Singapore, Hong Kong, and other Eastern ports with the object of advertising Australian products. We learn from the press that, as a result of the visit of this vessel, about 50 Eastern merchants are coming to Australia. They are to visit Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. Apparently, Western Australia, South Australia, and, so far as I know, Tasmania, have been overlooked.
– The Federal Government did not send the Good-will Ship to the East.
– I realize that; and I am not blaming the Government in this regard. I am blaming certain interests in the east which, even to-day, are causing irritation and increasing animosities by acting so that Western
Australia and the other necessitous States cannot feel that they are full partners in the “federation.
Prior to federation, we had certain factories in and around Perth. We had a nail factory in East Perth, which was providing all the local requirements. We had a boot factory at Fremantle. The firm of Dixon also had the Yankee Doodle Tobacco Factory in Fremantle, which was manufacturing all the tobacco required in Western Australia.
– Where did the leaf come from?
– Unfortunately, the average protectionist does not care where the raw material comes from so long as full protection is given to the finished article. We, in Western Australia, were, at that time, importing our leaf, and so were all the other States which were engaged in the manufacture of tobacco. Tobacco was not then commercially grown in Australia. Prior to the taking of the vote on federation, the proprietors of that tobacco factory gave a pledge to the people of Western Australia that they would not close their factory if federation were agreed to. But the ink with which the returning officer signed the final return was hardly dry before the Dixon Tobacco Factory at Fremantle was closed, never to be reopened.
I could recite a long list of the disabilities which have accumulated in Western Australia in consequence of federation. Because some of our people have complained of these disabilities, they have been called rebels. It is, of course, easier to detail difficulties than to suggest remedies. But I make one suggestion which I hope will receive the support of honorable senators who have expressed a desire to assist Western Australia. The measure of their support will, I think, indicate the depth of their desire to assist the necessitous States. The people of every State of the Commonwealth are called upon to contribute equally towards the cost of government. No one is immune from the taxation for this purpose - no one can escape it. In this respect, there is absolute equality. Consequently, there should be equal participation in the benefits of federation. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. In their book The Australian Tariff, Professors Brigden, Copland and Giblin, and Messrs. Dyason and Wickens show that “ the subsidies to production through the tariff are £36,000,000 “. They add that-
If the £30,000,000 is distributed among the States in proportion to the quantity of protected industry the amount per head will vary greatly from State to State as shown approximately in the following table: -
As we are expected to share equally in the cost of maintaining the Commonwealth, we ought also to share equally in the benefits of it. I therefore suggest that the “ subsidies to protected production “ should be averaged, and distributed equally throughout the Commonwealth. This would mean an adjustment so that the par capita amount would be £6. Some States would need to forgo part of their benefit in order to adjust the position of other States. If this proposal is not acceptable to honorable senators who have declared their desire to see even-handed justice dispensed, all I can say is that their words are as “ sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” I offer this suggestion as a practical means of equalizing the position, and rendering more endurable the lot of the States which are at present suffering from federation. Protection is undoubtedly the policy favoured by the majority of the people, and the will of the majority should be respected; but by the adoption of the course which I have suggested, the injurious effects of protection upon certain States would be minimized.
Another disability which Western Australia suffers is her adverse trade balance with the eastern States. Western Australia buys goods to the value of between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000 per annum from the eastern States, but they buy goods to the value of only about £1,000,000 per annum from Western Australia. The trade balance in favour of the eastern States is therefore about £8,000,000 a year, or well over £100,000 a week. The people in the eastern States would not know what to do half their time if it were not for Western Australia.
They would be taken back to their experiences after the boom burst in Melbourne in the early nineties. At that time, half Melbourne was waiting breathlessly for news as to whether Paddy Hannan’s pick would unearth enough gold to provide them with their breakfast. They needed the stream of Western Australian gold to keep them going, and they still need it. In all the circumstances, it is not surprising that the secession movement should have grown up in Western Australia. All the same, the remark of an honorable senator that the people of Western Australia are rebels was totally and absolutely uncalled for.
– ‘Should a man be called a rebel because he takes part in a referendum on which voting is compulsory?/ Failure to vote involved liability to a fine.
– It was not to voting that my allegation applied.
– I ask the honorable senator to remember the names of some of the people who favoured the secession movement. I refer, in particular, to Sir James Mitchell and Sir Walter James. The latter helped to frame the Federal Constitution, and hoped great things from it. He is an old man now, as is every survivor of those who helped to frame our Constitution, but 30 or 40 years ago he was a fluent, convincing, and logical speaker, and might even have been described as an orator. He used all his persuasive powers to get the people of Western Australia to vote in favour of federation, because he believed that federation was desirable.
– The articles that he wrote during the secession campaign were of no credit to him.
– Possibly not; but at the same time, the honorable senator should try to realize that he and others like him did not change their views out of pure perversity. The people of Western Australia bore as much as they could, but at long last their spirit broke. Speaking as one who urged them not to vote in favour of secession, I must say that I can fully enter into their feelings. These people are not idle wreckers. They have no desire to see the Commonwealth disintegrated. But they realize that under the existing policy their State has got into a hopeless position. Consequently, my voice must be raised in their defence when unjust things are said of them. I wonder whether while Senator Brennan was in Western Australia he used the words that he has used in this debate? If he did, I can only say that the people of Western Australia might, using the words of Olive, express surprise at their own moderation in letting him get away with his life.
I shall now refer briefly to the more private matter referred to by Senator Brennan. In the remarks which he made on this subject, which has received such great publicity, the honorable senator showed himself to be possessed of a peculiar memory. He said, in effect, that he did not remember anything being said at the deputation like the words which were reported to have been said, but that he remembered clearly that if they had been said, he would have remembered them. In this connexion, I made a certain statement the other day. I have nothing either to add to or to retract from what I said on that occasion. I have not yet sunk so low, I hope, that it is necessary for me to make a sworn declaration before I can get any one to believe me. Further, I shall not call upon any of my colleagues to support me, because their silence on the subject is more eloquent than any words would be.
– I shall endeavour to explain exactly where I stood during the last election, and also where I stand to-day in regard to the tariff. In doing so, I hope I shall not resort to body-line bowling or Jardine tactics. I do not intend to make an attack on the Government or on any member of it. I realize that, speaking generally, the Government has done splendid work for Australia. I realize, also, that the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) is doing magnificent work for Australia in London in connexion with finance and otherwise, and that he and his fellow delegates also did excellent work for Australia at the Ottawa Conference. I am a staunch protectionist and a manufacturer, but I am not a prohibitionist. I am in favour of adequately protecting all efficient secondary industries. Just as I consider that our sportsmen - men of the Woodfull type - should be protected against mean attacks, I believe in giving a definite tariff preference to Australian goods, and, secondly, to goods produced within the British Empire. To give adequate protection against countries in which the employees work very long hours and receive low rates of wages is a difficult matter ; but we must protect all the efficient industries in this country against goods produced in countries that employ black or coloured labour, and in which the hours are long and the pay low. For instance, the textile industry in Japan employs children in thousands, and gives them no pay at all. I. have been informed that a system is in operation in that country under which children who work in the textile mills are boarded in dormitories attached to the mills. They are fed and taught for a certain number of hours a day, for which they give free labour. Australia cannot compete in the textile industry against goods manufactured under those conditions, unless a high tariff is provided; but I maintain that every item in the schedule should be considered entirely on its merits. Protection should not be granted piecemeal, nor should prohibition be applied with a steam shovel. The textile industry is one of the industries that are natural to Australia, and it ought to be developed. We grow the best wool in the world, and more of it than any other country, und we produce it in the greatest variety. Our manufacturers and workers in the textile industry are efficient, and the prices at which they sell their products prove conclusively that the public is not being exploited. If the manufacturers in this industry, which is our greatest secondary industry, ever exploit the public, I shall immediately do what I can to permit of a free flow of textiles from the Mother Country ; but, up to the present time, I have seen no necessity for such action, because, under the high protective tariff by reason of which the industry has been built up, the Australian people are getting a fair deal from the local manufacturers. The prices of all classes of goods made from wool have decreased considerably, but that cannot be said regarding the products of secondary industries generally.
Some industries in Australia are badly exploiting the public. We had an example of this the other day in the case of match manufacture, which is carried on in Richmond. Victoria, and elsewhere, lt was shown that this industry had made enormous profits, and had used some of them to prevent others from establishing similar factories in this country. The sum of £200,000 was taken from the pockets of the workers, and given as a bribe to stifle competition. This match factory has a monopoly which, under the protection of the tariff, is exploiting the people severely.
– Who got the bribe from the match manufacturers?
– It has been shown who got that £200,000 from Bryant and May as compensation for not erecting a factory in Australia in opposition to them. Much the same thing is happening under the absurdly high tariff, which amounts to prohibition, in the case of the manufacture in Australia of glass and galvanized iron. When we have secondary industries that are taking an undue and mean advantage of the tariff, and forming combines to exploit the people, it is our duty as parliamentarians to burst up these combines as quickly as possible.
– If adequate protection is given to an industry, should not its profits be limited?
– There is something to be said in favour of that argument. I do not regard it as right that huge dividends should be paid by some manufacturers, whose hidden profits are sometimes used for purposes of bribery.
Many tin-pot, hot-house secondary industries in Australia are economically unsound, and are not deserving of the excessively high tariffs introduced by the Scullin Government. During the last election campaign, I, though an avowed and staunch protectionist, which I still claim to be, went from one end of Victoria to the other, at the instigation of my party, -condemning and ridiculing the Scullin tariff, and promising the people that, if our party were returned to power, a downward revision of the tariff would be made. I also, said that relief would be given particularly in regard to all those goods, the duties on which added to the cost of production, whether primary or secondary, because the excessively high tariff was a contributing factor in preventing the cost of living from falling as it should, having regard to the very low prices received for all the things grown in Australia which the people consume and use. Some of my colleagues in the Senate, who were with me in the election campaign, now, apparently, intend to vote in another direction; but they were just as consistent as I was, during the campaign, in pointing out the ridiculous height of the Scullin tariff. Therefore, I cannot understand their attitude on this occasion, when we have an opportunity to show the people, at any rate, where we stand. In addition to a downward revision of the tariff, we definitely promised to support preference to goods produced within the Empire.
– Effective preference.
– Yes ; not merely imaginary preference. I consider that, at Ottawa, Australia’s delegates were efficient and hard-working, and did good work for this country in most difficult circumstances. I wish to support the present Government as loyally now as in the past, but I cannot understand why it has not so far given any indication of its intention to fulfil its election pledge to effect a downward revision of the tariff. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in his speech yesterday, said that this Government had actually increased the duties on 473 items.
– Only on foreign goods.
– Despite the Government’s policy of preference for Britain, the duties on British goods have not been brought down to any degree; the tariff on foreign goods has been increased. I admit that the increase, as the Leader of the Senate explained, was only 5 per cent., but I was led to believe that one of the first intentions of this Government was to make a downward revision of the tariff. Having ridiculed what we regarded as the absurdity of the Scullin tariff-
– Would the honorable senator make a downward revision without reports from the Tariff Board?
– The Government has increased duties in many cases without any inquiry. With respect to many items that have been inquired into by the Tariff Board, the duties have not. been reduced, lt is of no use to claim that we give preference to Great Britain when we merely increase the tariff against the foreigner. The duties against Britain to-day are altogether too high. We talk about encouraging trade within the Empire, but we erect a tariff wall that can be surmounted only with the aid of an aeroplane. As a protectionist, I say that it is only pretending to revise the tariff in a downward direction if we leave the duties against the old Mother Country as they were under the Scullin schedules. In the meantime, a number of unhealthy industries are being spoonfed in this country, and they are contributing towards the increased cost of living, although at the present time that cost should be very low. Hot-house and uneconomic industries constitute a handicap to the great primary industries, on which the people of Australia must live.
The returns published by the Commonwealth Statistician show that, taking 1,000 as the index figure in 1911, the prices charged to the people of Australia for the grouped products of secondary industries rose to 1,953 in the year 1931, or practically doubled, and the index figure to-day is still over 1,900, but the present prices of primary products are below those at which these products were saleable in Australia and in the world’s markets in 1911. Some have contended that butter, cheese, fruit and jam are the products of secondary industries, and they point out that these goods are being exported. That shows that those engaged in their production are doing their job well ; but Australia exports no machinery, textiles, or other manufactured goods. Is this because our manufacturers are incompetent? Are the wages paid in this country too high, or are some of the employees, and some of the managers, loafing on their jobs, or incompetent? The facts must be faced. From 96 to 97 per cent, of all the exports from the Commonwealth, year after year, are absolutely primary products; we export practically no manufactured goods at all. We have to sell our. primary products in the world’s markets in competition with similar goods from other countries, in which the hours of employment are much longer, and the wages paid are much lower, than in Australia. I do not suggest that the hours of work in Australia should be increased, or that the wages should be reduced. My firm conviction is that the hours of employment in this country are long enough, and that the wages paid to the workers are low enough. I find, as an employer of labour in country districts, that efficient and honest labour, which gives one a splendid deal from sunrise to sunset, and after, can be obtained at as low a price as I ever wish to pay. I only wish that the state of the country, and the prices received for our primary produce, were such as to enable wages to be increased, rather than decreased. As a primary producer, 1 do not advocate any further lowering of wages.
– What about those who have no wages at all ?
– The majority of our primary producers are in that position. They have used up all their savings; they have lost any equity that they ever had in their properties; they have exhausted the credit given to them by bankers and storekeepers; altogether, they are in a most serious position. I know that it is true, also, that thousands of men and women in the cities are suffering mental distress because of their inability to obtain work, and I sympathize with them. We must look fairly and squarely at all sides of this question. It is the bounden duty of every one to rise above petty disputes, and to devote his energies to getting the people back to work. Were the people of every country in employment, Australian primary producers would receive better prices for their wool, wheat, meat, butter, fruit, and other produce. These commodities are being sold at below production costs, mainly because the purchasing power of the people of all countries has been diminished because of unemployment.
– What does the honorable senator think is the basic cause of the present unsatisfactory state of affairs ?
– It would take too long for me to express my views on that matter; but, shortly, the attitude of the United States of America, in demanding payment of the so-called war debts in gold, and the high tariff barriers, which have obstructed the natural flow of trade throughout the world, are mainly responsible. The cities of Australia are far too big, in proportion to our total population, and they arc bleeding the country to death. Although large numbers of our brothers and sisters in the cities are suffering greatly, they receive more protection than is given to the primary producers. The man on the land works very many hours each day, yet he gets further into debt, with the result that, as the days pass, he becomes more despondent. That high tariffs cause employment is a fallacy. A tariff can be so high as to obstruct the natural flow of trade, and thereby cause unemployment. That was true, in some measure, of the absurdly high tariff of the Scullin Government.
Honorable senators opposite should give to those on this side of the chamber credit for as much kindness of heart and consideration for those in our midst who are suffering as they themselves possess. Last night one honorable senator suggested that 1 thought more of my stud sheep than of the sufferings of my fellow men. Surely no honorable senator would blame me, or any other man, for preserving his stud flocks, especially when he buys fodder for them to eat and employs labour to care for them. After all, Australia’s sheep are a great asset to this country. I hope that I shall always do everything in my power, both privately and publicly, to lend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate than myself.
– I said last night that, as a nation, we appeared to be more concerned about stud sheep than about children; I did not refer to the honorable senator.
– Something is wrong in a world which produces sufficient foodstuffs and clothing to feed and clothe every man, woman and child in it, and yet contains millions of people who are on the breadline, or under it.
– How does the honorable senator propose to remedy the trouble ?
– I am not able to suggest a remedy; but I am ready to stand behind any party which can show how conditions can be improved, not only in Australia, but throughout the world.
-We believe that.
– Notwithstanding that the farmers of Australia work many hours each day, they are unable to produce anything which can be sold at a profit. Lack of employment has caused prices to fall; people out of work are unable, in many instances, to buy even the necessaries of life. It is wrong, however, to think that the trouble will be remedied bythe imposition of high tariffs. The United States of America has the highest tariff in the world, and yet in that country there is more unemployment and more suffering than in any other.
-We on this side do not say that high tariffs will solve the problem of unemployment.
– But the honorable senator and his colleagues supported the Scullin Government’s tariff which, in regard to many items, amounted to a prohibition of imports. That the primary producers are the real, not the imaginary, backbone of this country, is true at all times, not only when an election is pending. Yet many of them are in a most serious plight ; they have no amusements, no hospitals, no surf bathing, no dole. They work in the fields more than twelve hours a day, and are many miles from a doctor or a chemist. They cannot afford to buy wireless receiving sets, or to attend football matches, race meetings, &c. Unlike me, they are denied the pleasure of seeing the Geelong footballers defeat their opponents week after week. They have no Flemington or Randwick. For them there is nothing but toil, toil, toil, only to find that for the commodities which they produce, they do not obtain a fair price.
Some honorable senators have expressed the opinion that if we shut out imports we shall provide employment for our own people. I remind them that that policy would affect the workers on the waterfront, and those engaged in carrying the goods from the wharfs to the warehouses ; it would close many industries and strangle primary production. If we isolate Australia from the rest of the world, we shall encourage other nations to impose retaliatory tariffs against Australian produce. Where then, would we find a market for our surplus wheat, wool, meat, butter and fruit ? After the Scullin Government had placed an embargo on the importation of Japanese oak logs, a number of Japanese wool-buyers expressed the opinion that, instead of insulting Japan in that way, Australia should have placed a high duty on oak logs. They added, that although they had no desire to dictate what our fiscal policy should be, such embargoes might easily lead to retaliatory action. Were Japan to impose a duty of1d. per lb. on Australian wool, Japanese wool-buyers, instead of buying 600,000 bales of wool from Australia, as was the case last year, would, probably, purchase their requirements in South Africa and South America. Japan is Australia’s second largest buyer of wool, and I predict that within five years that country will be our best customer for wool. At present only 50 per cent. of the Japanese people are clothed in woollen goods, but it is hoped that within five years the whole nation will wear woollen clothing, and that then Japan will buy 1,000,000 bales of wool each year from Australia.
– And thereby force down the price of wool because they would turn out woollen goods at such low prices.
– I do notagree with the honorable senator. Had itnot been for the competition of Japanese wool buyers, the price received for wool would probably have been only about 7d. per lb., instead of8½d. per lb. gross at seaboard. I again remind the Senate that our primary industries are responsible for between 96 per cent. and 97 per cent. of Australia’s exportable wealth each year. Of those exports, over a period of twenty years, sheep products comprise over 50 per cent. Official figures showing the relation of tariffs to unemployment are enlightening. Whilethe Kingston tariff of 1901-07 was in operation, the ratio of unemployed persons to the total population was 6.1 per cent. Under the Lyne tariff of 1907-14, the employment percentage remained at 6.1 ; under the Tudor tariff of 1914-20, it increased to 6.S; and under the Massy Greene tariff of 1920-25, it increased to 9.1. Under the Pratten tariff of 1925-27, the unemployment percentage dropped to 7.1, but under the Pratten tariff of 1927- 29, it increased to 11 per cent. Under the Scullin tariff of 1929-32, the unemployment percentage increased to 19.3 in 1930, and to 30 per cent, in 1932. I am suggesting, not that the Scullin tariff was responsible for this enormous increase of unemployment, but that it was a contributing factor. “When a tariff reaches such a high level, as it has done in Australia, it disregards the necessity for nations to trade with each other, and artificially blocks the flow of trade. It does considerably more harm than good, because it increases unemployment.
– A large factor in the increase of unemployment was the cessation of overseas borrowing.
– Yes, and there were other factors. I am against any further lowering of wages, and am inclined to agree with those who advocate a temporary shortening of the weekly working hours. Until recently, I had been strongly of opinion that the people of this country should work longer hours, but as no solution of our unemployment problem has been found, despite the fact that our people are working 48 hours a week, my advocacy of longer hours is beginning to weaken.
– The Senate of the United States of America recently passed a measure providing for a 30-hour week, but Congress rejected it.
– A working week of 30 hours would be too drastic altogether. I am seriously inclined to the belief that in order to employ our people, we should, temporarily at least, shorten the weekly hours of labour. Of course, such a statement as that is, to those whom I have been accustomed to meet, heresy, but I hope that I am broad-minded enough to change my views in accordance with the times. What is crippling trade in Australia, and embarrassing the primary and other producers, is the excessive taxation and tariff, and our inability to compete, with our manufactured goods, in the markets of the world. The Australian wool-grower is at a dis advantage in competing with the woolgrower of South Africa, a country where sheep are shorn for 10s. a hundred, and where the wage paid to black labour - Basutos and Zulus - employed on farms and stations, and in the rural industries, is 6s. a month plus tobacco and mealies. Some honorable senators have talked a great deal about our home market. That market, limited as it is,” is still our best market, but I want honorable senators to realize the position of our great primary industries, upon which this country lives almost entirely. If the Federal Parliament passed a law compelling every man, woman and child in Australia to be clothed with nothing but locally-made woollen goods, only 15 per cent, of our wool clip would be absorbed. The same thing applies to sheep skins, and, to a lesser extent, to wheat, meat, butter, fruit and metals. At the last elections, I promised my supporters that I would use my influence to reduce the tariff so as to make the cost of tools of production more reasonable. Yet, as an example, the price of fencing wire is 106 per cent, higher than in 1914. I promised to facilitate the downward trend of the cost of living, and to give to Great Britain a real, instead of an imaginary, preference. Because of that I cannot conscientiously vote against the request of Senator J Johnston
– Less than 100 items would be affected by this request.
– That is 100 items to the good. If only one item were in question I would still endeavour to carry out my election promise to take the first opportunity to reduce the Scullin tariff.
– This request, if agreed to, would not enable the honorable senator to do that.
– By carrying it. we shall at least show where we stand, and it will serve as a protest against the action of the Government in increasing the duties on 470 items. I made my position clear at election time, and I make it clear now. I support the request of Senator Johnston, but I cannot vote for it since I have paired with Senator Sir Walter Greene, who is at present absent from, the Senate carrying out important work in connexion ‘with the Loan Council.
is reported to have made the following statement in a preelection speech : -
The party which I lead takes strong exception to the tariff schedules introduced by the last Parliament . . . We object to arbitrary raising of duties by ministerial action.
I supported the policy enunciated by that right honorable gentleman at the last federal election, because I believed that his intention, if elected to office, was to bring about a downward revision of the tariff. I have been informed that during my absence from this chamber, the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator McLachlan) stated that- members on this side of the chamber had been elected on the Government’s policy. But if that honorable senator will refer to an. election speech which I made in South Australia regarding the tariff, he will find that I strongly criticized the Scullin tariff, and condemned all high duties which interfered with our primary industries and export trade. The following statement is taken from a report of my election speech at Thebarton: -
Mr. Badman said that one of the reasons for Australia’s present unsatisfactory position was the action of the Government in increasing tariff duties. In 1909, the number of imported articles that carried a duty of 40 per cent., or over was eight. In 1930, under the Scullin-Forde schedule, the number was increased to 582. Some of those articles carried up to 400 per cent, tariff duties, and 80 items were absolutely prohibitive. Such a burden was impossible for a primary-producing country to bear. Tariff duties should be readjusted at once, and only such as are necessary to protect sound primary and secondary industries should be imposed in their place. The adjustment of the tariff with a reciprocal trade agreement between the members of the Empire would materially assist to bring about greater prosperity.
I support the Government’s general policy, but I must confess that, with the primary producers of South Australia, I arn bitterly disappointed at its action in introducing this tariff bill. What is the position ? Despite this Government’s condemnation of the Scullin tariff, and the additional protection given by the high exchange rate, it has not the courage to revert to the rates of 1928. I consider that its tariff policy is a policy of blindness, because practically no consideration is being given to the key industries of Australia, which are to-day in a deplorable financial position. This is a weakkneed policy, which enables the Government to take the middle course, but does not in any way try to solve our problems. The Government, in trying to satisfy everybody, will satisfy no one. It has admitted that if the farmers and pastoralists are prosperous, every factory, warehouse, business and, in short, every form of employment will reflect that prosperity; but it overlooks the fact that by failing to reduce the tariff in order to lower the cost of production, it is preventing the return of the prosperity which it pretends to be fostering. We read in the press every day statements made by officials of the chambers of manufactures who are dissatisfied with the Government’s action because, they claim, it is reducing the tariff, and penalizing the secondary industries.
At the last general election, the farmer, the pastoralist, and almost every other primary producer, supported LyonsLatham candidates, because they were opposed to the fiscal policy of the Scullin Government, and were looking to the new administration to afford a measure of relief. We have had some little relief, but the Government appears to be temporizing only with regard to its tariff policy. No one wants to go back to the period of commercial nightmare that was introduced by the Scullin Government’s procedure of making frequent, and sometimes revolutionary, changes in the tariff, on ministerial initiative. I am pleased that those conditions no longer exist, that prohibitions have been lifted, and that, to some extent, the practice of imposing surcharges has been curtailed. As a result, a feeling of confidence and security has been restored. However, that is not enough. Australia needs more than a mere temporizing with the tariff, as the Government is doing, a policy Which will not appreciably reduce the cost of production nor provide overseas markets, for tariffs have been raised against our exports in retaliation for the tariff walls that Australia has raised, and over which overseas manufacturers cannot climb; furthermore, such a policy will not usher in the prosperity which the people is seeking and for which the Government is hoping. So far are the trifling tariff changes that this Government has brought about from affording any real measure of relief, that they may be characterized as being next to useless to the industries which most need assistance.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) has said that, if a deadlock occurs in connexion with the tariff, we shall have to go back to the Scullin schedule. I challenge the Government to do that, for I am confident that it would not afterwards be prepared to go to the country, and face the people who have suffered so long from the burden of heavy customs duties. When I referred to the implementing of the tariff at the time when the Senate was debating the Ottawa agreement, I said that, although I was not a high tariffist, I did not think that it was impossible to adjust our tariff so that the primary and secondary industries could exist, and even thrive, one alongside the other. I still think that it is possible; but, by maintaining high duties, the Government is not attempting to give our primary producers that measure of relief which they thought would follow if the present Government were returned to power. The Government has lost a golden opportunity to grant some relief to those on the land, who are engaged in a desperate economic war against odd3 which are beyond their power to control. These unfortunate individuals are staggering under a load of accumulated debts, and are paying heavy taxes on vanished capital.
– The honorable senator should not shut ‘his eyes to the amount of relief that the Government has given to primary producers within the last twelve mouths.
– I have already acknowledged that the Government has given primary producers some relief, and, to that extent, ‘has restored confidence and security. No longer can our primary producers be regarded as a potential market for the secondary goods which are produced in Australia, for they have lost their equity in their properties, and have been compelled to ship their capital out of the country to make good Australia’s credit overseas. The worst feature of it all is that, although the Government professes to be sympathetic to them, it is deaf to their appeal for a reduction of costs in the form of a reduced tariff. Just so long as the Government grants relief by moratoriums or debt adjustments, will the farmers continue to produce wheat, and the pastoralists to produce wool, by the grace of their creditors.
The committee of economists which was appointed in 1927 to report upon the economic effects of the Australian tariff, concluded that the net burden of the tariff on export industry averages about 8 per cent. In 1929, when the committee made its report, S per cent, represented an impost of about 5d. a bushel on wheat and lid. per lb. on wool. Since then the burden has been increased considerably because of the heavy increase? in our tariff, and the maintenance of high prices in many secondary industries, regardless of the fact that farm prices have fallen.
The following paragraphs are taken from the report that was submitted by the Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee in 1932:- 304. The weight of the tariff in its incidence on wool is nearly all indirect. Yet at every point the tariff and its costs hit this industry hard, particularly in its present depressed condition. 365. The tariff causes resentment among our customers, and they buy wool elsewhere when they can. 360. The tariff reduces the volume of imports, and makes for one-way traffic, throwing the cost of two-way transport on to the export industries, and more particularly on to wool. i 367. The tariff has swollen the capital costs of our railways, and of all the equipment used by those who cater for the industry, whether public or private. It therefore increases or maintains those charges on wool. 368. The tariff has increased the capital costs of equipping the industry itself.
In paragraph 370 it is stated that a very modest assessment of the costs which have resulted from tariff protection would be not less than 2d. per lb. on wool, 18 per cent. of the cost of production other than for land. This is £8,000,000 a year on wool, and 22 per cent. of the estimated total cost of tariff protection in 1927-28. If the percentage of tariff costs bear so heavily on wool production, an even greater burden is thrust on wheat production, because of the larger amount of secondary and dutiable goods which are consumed in the production of wheat. So that if tariff costs as they relate to wool-growing constitute 22 per cent. of the total of tariff protection, the figure must be nearer 30 per cent. in the case of wheat. The following article is taken from The Bulletin of the 22nd February : -
What protection costs the farmer, it is not possible to put into figures; no calculation which The Bulletin has seen is satisfactory. But it is a substantial amount, and it is meant to be substantial. We put protective duties on for the express purpose of enabling the home producer to get more for his product so that he may pay high wages and maintain a high standard of living. The farmer is entitled to share in the benefits of that protection ; and a bounty provided by a sales tax on wheat locally consumed is the only practicable method thus far suggested. It certainly will put up the price of wheat for local consumption; but the fact that a protectionist duty will put up the price of the goods required by the farmer, among others, , has never been accepted as a reason why it should not be imposed. Indeed, as we have just seen, it has been accepted as a good reason why a duty should be imposed.
That bears out the statements that have been made by honorable senators, including Senator Herbert Hays, who said this afternoon that the cost of the tools of trade required by primary producers was almost as high now as in 1927-28, despite the fact that to-day the returns of those persons are only about half what they then were. The increased costs to the man on the land have to be taken in terms of wool and wheat. In 1928 it required only 20 bushels of wheat to convey 100 bags of wheat to a port in South Australia, while in 1933, it took 50 bushels of wheat to cover the same cost, an increase of 150 per cent. In 1928, it took 75 bushels of wheat to purchase sufficient superphosphate to sow 100 acres of wheat with an average of 90 lb. of superphosphate to the acre; to-day, 187 bushels of wheat are required to cover that cost.
On the 4th April, there appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser, a report by the Business Conditions Sub-Committee of the Melbourne University Old Commerce Students Association, which gave a comparison of prices for the years 1928 to 1932, the statistics quoted being obtained from the Commonwealth Year-Book. The comparison will be most effective if I include the figures in my speech in table form. They are as follows: -
Taking Year 1928 = 100
Sitting suspended from, 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Recently, an inquiry into debts in South Australia revealed the fact that mortgages to the extent of £38,000,000 were held on farms in that State, at an average interest rate of 5½ per cent. The interest cost on 38,000,000 bushels of marketable wheat for last season amounts to no less than 1s.1d. per bushel. Add that amount to the cost which the tariff imposes on wheat production, namely, 6d. a bushel, and we have a total of .ls. 7d. a bushel, which must be paid out of an average return of 2s. 4d. or 2s. 5d. a bushel. If the State governments of Australia were to withdraw such relief measures as moratoriums and debt adjustment schemes, 50 per cent, of our farmers would not sow another acre of wheat. Can this or any other government justify the maintenance of such high duties in the face of these facts? Any government which realized the importance of reducing production costs would lower tariff duties without delay. When the man on the land can no longer produce, then the Government can no longer pay interest or collect taxes; and, unless some miracle happens in the form of increased prices, we shall soon reach that point. I do not, for one moment, suggest that the tariff could be so reduced as to bring down the cost of production to the level required, but the Government could go a long way further than it has. It does not attempt to hold a fair balance between primary and secondary industries.
Economists inform us that, comparing present prices with those for 1911, and adopting the figure 100 as the 1911 price for both primary products and manufactured goods, the figures to-day are 112 for primary products, and 200 for manufactured goods. Until we can bridge that tremendous gap between 112 and 200, we cannot have any semblance of prosperity.
A fixed part of the Government policy is to abide by the reports of the Tariff Board, and article 9 of the Ottawa agreement pledges us not to exceed the recommendations of the Tariff Board. It is not consistent with the holding of these views by the Government to retain on our schedules duties that have been raised without the items having been referred to the Tariff Board. In spite of the caustic condemnation by leading members of this Government of the Scullin tariff, we find there are, in group 7, over 100 items and sub-items on which the duties were increased by the last Government without reference to the Tariff Board, and this Government proposes to validate them.
In. our tariff-making we have got on the wrong track altogether. We embarked on a high protective policy before we had established our primary industries, or developed all our virgin country. We must have a larger population before we can make a real success of big secondary industries. No doubt some are prospering, even with our present population, but there is always a danger of setting up powerful vested interests behind high tariff walls. Canada has been much more successful in establishing secondary industries than we have been. It can manufacture for export, and compete in the markets of the world. Why has Australia not been able to do the same? Our trouble is that industry has been ruined by the wretched interference of politicians with their Navigation Act, industrial restrictions, and high tariff. Mr. Bennett, Prime Minister of Canada, stated this year that Canada ranked fifth among the nations in the world in the export of secondary products, though it has to import 700,000 tons of coal annually from Great Britain. Next to those of Wales, we have the finest coal-mines in the world. We have first class iron ores, and practically every mineral deposit needed to develop industries. Why, then, are we so far behind other nations? The Canadian tariff schedule shows that our duties are from 400 to 700 per cent, higher than those of the sister dominion, where the average duties are between 10 per cent, and 15 per cent. In Australia the duties on most items range from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent., and exchange has to be added to that.
– ‘Canada has the benefit of huge supplies of American capital.
– That may be so, but she contrives to export her secondary products. One cause of our trouble is that the high tariff has been specially built up for a section of the community which is able to demand and obtain what, it wants. No country can go on for long in this way; world conditions will not allow it. A tariff truce has been signed by several of the important countries of the world, but our government flies blindly in the face of this fact.
– What nations have agreed to a tariff truce?
– If the honorable senator had read the newspapers, he would know. I believe that Australia will be compelled to reduce its tariff, because of trading restrictions which will be imposed against us for the purpose of bringing about the desired effect.
The Government has neglected to honour the spirit of the Ottawa agreement, as is pointed out in an article in a New York journal. In the course of this article, Mr. Baldwin is quoted as saying that the greatest thing achieved at Ottawa was a declaration by Canada and Australia that British goods were to be assured of entry into the markets of those countries under reasonably competitive conditions. The argument against allowing British goods to enter under such conditions is that we may kill our own secondary industries, but are we not now killing our primary industries through the operation of the present tariff ? If we will not allow British goods to compete under reasonable conditions in the Australian market, how can we expect to sell our products on the English market? Even at the present time Britain is refusing to take Australian produce, largely because we have not honoured the Ottawa agreement as we should have done.
– What Australian goods is Britain refusing to take?
– Has Britain not asked us to restrict our exports of butter and meat? On Saturday last there appeared in the Adelaide News the following cablegram from London: -
Because of the widespread feeling that Australia is not giving adequate effect to the Ottawa trade agreement, the London Chamber of Commerce has appointed a committee of fifteen to report on Australia’s tariff against British goods, also on the effect of Japanese competition in Australia.
The committee will hold its first meeting on Tuesday. Its report and recommendationsafter approval by the chamber - will be submitted to Australia’s Resident Minister (Mr. Bruce) for the Commonwealth Government’s consideration.
An official of the Chamber of Commerce told theNews representative that the members were almost unanimous that Australia was not fulfilling her part of the Ottawa agreements. Half-hearted attempts to revise the tariff gave the impression that the Commonwealth was a reluctant party to the agreements. The height of Australia’s tariff wall, he said, made it almost impossible for British manufacturers to compete, particularly against sweated labour imports from Japan.
I do not argue against raising the duties on foreign goods. I believe that we may have to raise them still higher, but I maintain that Britain, the country to which we look for a market for our primary produce, and which has taken so much of our produce in the past, Britain, the Mother Country of this Empire of which we are an integral part, is entitled to receive some preference at our hands as was intended by the parties to the Ottawa agreement.
– I have listened carefully to the many speeches that have been delivered on this measure, particularly to those of my colleagues from Tasmania, who have so eloquently placed before the Senate the many disabilities under which that State suffers. It is not my intention to go over the ground that those gentlemen have covered. I propose to confine my remarks to the amendment that has been moved by Senator Johnston.
It is obvious to me, and must be to all who follow world affairs, that the trend of events is decidedly against high tariffs; and it appears certain that the blatant international selfishness that has been in evidence throughout the world has reached the point at which it must cease. Whether the Senate passes this tariff or not, the day is not far distant when it will have again to be reviewed. It would seem that within recent years a new science has been started, and new terms have been added to our already overloaded vocabulary. We now speak of import quotas, import licences, export bounties, subsidized shipping, subsidized newspapers, subsidized railways, and subsidized advertising - all for the purpose of trying to bolster up artificially our price levels; the world will soon have to find another way of dealing with this problem.
I wish to traverse briefly what led up to the calling of the Ottawa Conference. If we allow our minds to travel back a few years, we may realize what has been responsible for some of the changes that made this conference, and the agreement which emerged from it, necessary for the maintenance of the Empire.
It v/ill be remembered that, during the war years, the whole of the resources of the Empire were mobilized for the production of what would ensure victory for the Allies. Then came the post-war period, when it was necessary to change over from those conditions which permitted a public expenditure to reach unprecedented dimensions, met by an expansion of credit. Towards the end of the war, so far as finance was concerned, boom conditions existed, and economic recklessness was continued into the early post-war years. It is remarkable how smoothly Great Britain was transformed from a wartime into a peacetime nation. Whilst the rehabilitation of post-war Europe was in the making, England enjoyed a period of prosperity; an additional impetus was also given by lavish governmental expenditure. This had the effect of maintaining high industrial and trading profits, and successful demands for increased wages, which led to a further increase in the nominal purchasing power - which, in turn, kept up the price level. In 1920, however, as honorable senators will remember, there was a slump on the industrial share market. By the middle of that year, wholesale prices had begun to come down, while retail prices continued gradually to creep up. The reduction of the wholesale prices brought about an accumulation of commodities, with the result that towards the end of the year a violent reaction occurred, not only in . Great Britain, but also throughout Europe. In 1921, Great Britain, in a moment of charitable madness, announced the famous Balfour Declaration, that, in the matter of inter-governmental accounts, she did not propose to collect more than she owed her own creditors. As was learned later, that was a stupid policy to adopt ; but at the time - before Europe commenced to erect tariff walls along the boundaries of all the States - it appeared satisfactory from the viewpoint of the manufacturing, interests of Great Britain, as other nations could not, at the same time, pay war indebtedness and purchase her goods. From the year 1921 to the year 1925, when England went back to the gold standard, her affairs progressed very slowly. Her return to the gold standard helped to stabilize sterling. It certainly added to the financial resources of the City of London, but it reacted adversely on the manufacturing resources of the Midlands and other manufacturing centres in Great Britain, and set the stage for a further experience of depression. In May, 1926, a general strike occurred, and that was followed for some months by the coal strike. So, from 1926 to 1929, while the United States of America was booming, Great Britain failed to secure an important share in the extraordinary wave of prosperity that swept over the United States of America. She found also that the development of native manufacture in India and China combined to ruin her export trade. In October, 1929, there was a slump on Wall-street, the effects of which were felt intensely in the United .States of America, Great Britain, Germany, and other parts of the world, thus accelerating depression of prices, production and employment. As the different nations found that conditions were becoming bad, they imposed high tariffs and prohibitions, and caused international trade to dwindle still further. Thus, war debts, which could not be paid in goods, as a result of these prohibitions, quickly upset the gold standard. The United States of America had lent money all over the world, and demanded repayment in cash, not in goods. The Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930 aroused bitter invective in Canada, Australia, and other countries, and further intensified the position. The world, was now entering a phase of intense economic nationalism. I contend that the cumulative effect of this policy was responsible for the serious depression through which we are passing. The demand for the repayment of her loans in cash brought about a maldistribution of gold. Great Britain saw her markets disappearing and her manufactures declining. Exposed to world influences by her position as international banker, England became involved in a series of financial difficulties which began with the inability of the Austrian Bank, the Credit Austalt to meet its obligations in July, 1931. At this time, France was anxious to prevent a customs union between Austria and Germany. She was incensed at’ England helping this Austrian financial house, and took every step open to her to withdraw gold from Great Britain, with the result that, in September, 1931, Great Britain had to go off the gold standard.
It was this withdrawal rather than the deficit on the current trade balance that was the direct cause of the suspension. All these were moves in a French scheme to permit France to be the world’s financial dictator.
Surely it is essential that the dominions should assist the Motherland. As Senator Herbert Hays has stated, Great Britain has been Australia’s best customer, and we must maintain that market so that we may dispose of the goods that we produce, either in secondary, or, more particularly, in primary, industries. But what have we done? We sent representatives to Ottawa for the purpose of entering into arrangements that would assist ourselves and the Motherland by making markets more profitable and accessible to each. But when one looks at the tariff that we now have before us, with its sham pretensions, one is reminded of the old nursery jingle - “ Mother, may I go out to swim?” “Yea, my darling daughter.
Hang your clothes on a willow limb,
But don’t go near the water.”
We have increased the foreign tariff, but have allowed to remain unaltered the almost prohibitive tariff against Great Britain. Nothing has been done that would have the effect of making more easy the placing of her manufactured articles on the Australian market. Can that go on? As Senator Badman has said, there has been a rapprochement between certain nations in relation to tariff truces. Unless we can make ourselves absolutely self-contained, it is utterly impossible for it to maintain anything like a selfish attitude in relation to international trade, which is the very lifeblood of the peoples of the world. Science has made the transport, handling, and selling of goods more easy among the various nations. It has broken down boundaries. We, on the other hand, are doing all that we can to erect them. A certain British economist is said to keep a tariff map of the world. Along its frontiers, he raised paper walls set to the scale of tariffs of each state.. Europe, on this map, resembles the cross section of a prison, inside which each nation is cowering in its own little economic cell. I do not suggest for a moment that we should scrap our tariff; we cannot do that; butwe can do something to help the Empire to maintain its position in the world to-day, and so revive business, and again raise price levels. I say definitely that, unless the Empire can maintain its position, neither the League of Nations nor anything else will be able to take its place in preserving the integrity of the world. I, therefore, intend to vote for Senator Johnston’s amendment.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia)[8.26]. - As I have no grievances that cannot be brought before the Senate through other channels, and as I may dilate on the tariff when the second reading of the bill is being discussed, a few minutes will suffice to define my position.
I suppose that no State in the Commonwealth hoped for greater results from the Ottawa Conference than did the State that I help to represent, principallybecause it depends almost entirely on its primary industries. In common with the rest of the Commonwealth, Western Australia awaited with a quickened sense of anticipation the action that would follow the proceedings at Ottawa. Every one recognized that perhaps not so much would be done as might be done for Australia, because of Great Britain’s wonderfully far-flung influence, and on account of the amount of British capital invested in other parts of the world; but we did hope that the preference to Great Britain would take the form of a lowering of duties on British goods, instead of their maintenance at a level which, to a majority of the members of this Senate, was admittedly almost prohibitive, and what was considered an unnecessary raising of the duties on foreign goods. But circumstances that have occurred within the last week or two point to the fact that that raising of the tariff on foreign goods was not unreasonable or unnecessary. I fear that even the powers of the tariff will not be sufficient to cope with a foreign nation’s recent activities in Australia and other countries. I refer to the flood of goods that is now being placed on the market, presumably at dumping prices, but at all events at prices against which no tariff could prove effective.
– Why not license imports?
– Exactly; that would mean the debarment of certain nations. I had hoped that the Ottawa tariff would result in practically entirely intra-Empire trade. I hope that that may yet be brought about, because I can see no other means of escaping from our difficulties. I had hoped, too, that it would result in some sort of allocation of industries in the different parts of the Empire. That also could be brought about. So far, however, that has not been the case; but I trust that it will be. At the moment it would appear that the Ottawa understanding - the Ottawa spirit as it has been described - is not being observed, at all events, by Australia. I hope that this may not continue. I trust that a way out of the difficulty may be found.
Those honorable senators who have observed my attitude towards tariff issues in the past will not, I anticipate, be surprised when I tell them that it is my intention to support the amendment, although I think there is a better way of implementing the Ottawa treaty - if I may use that most unfortunate word. When I said that my intention to vote for the amendment would not occasion surprise^ perhaps I should have made an exception in the case of Senator Hardy. I approved the speech made by that honorable senator until towards the end of his remarks, when he made observations which, I think, would have been better left unsaid. The honorable gentleman said that, when the party whip was cracked prior to the vote on this amendment, Government supporters would blindly follow the Leader of the Senate in voting for it. That is not so. In fact, I regard the remark as most unfair. If Senator Hardy has such a poor opinion of fellow senators, as to believe that they will not vote according to their convictions, he cannot expect his fellow senators to have a very high opinion of him.
– I was right so far as Senator Brennan is concerned.
– I am not so sure that the honorable senator was right as regards Senator Brennan.
– Senator Brennan admitted that, when the time came, his vote would be influenced, not by his political convictions, but by tactics that might be employed.
– I said no such thing, but the honorable senator’s interpretation is, I suppose, near enough to suit his purpose.
– Senator Hardy, I understand, as he himself admitted under pressure, is president of 800 branches.
– I did not make that admission under pressure.
– Very well. I accept the honorable senator’s correction, and will say that Senator Hardy takes pride in the fact that he is president of 800 branches in the Riverina.
– Eight hundred branches of what?
– I do not know. Lot me utter a word of warning to him, if I may do so without appearing to be presumptuous, that this wide-spreading tree, which he has nurtured so assiduously, is likely to be over; powered by its 800 branches, and, like Jonah’s gourd, cast down. At all events, it will require a very substantial trunk to ensure its healthy growth.
I do not think I have very much more to say, except that I deemed it necessary to make my position with regard to this amendment perfectly clear, in order to avoid misunderstanding or misrepresentation in the future.
– In the past I have been an ardent protectionist; but, when I realize the present position of Australia, and also bear in mind what is happening in other countries, I wonder what is going to be the result of all this tariff wall-building. I doubt that the protective policy of the Commonwealth has benefited this country as much as we thought it would. Rather am I inclined to think that it has been a costly business, and that it is time we took stock of our position.
I agree with almost everything that has been said in this debate in regard to the need for maintaining the margin of tariff preference for British goods, and it seems to me that the adoption of the amendment would have most unfortunate results. I intend to vote against it, because I consider it is the duty of the Senate ,o express its views on the tariff by a series of requests for amendment of specific items, instead of sending the whole of the schedule back to another place with n request that certain action be taken in respect of duties which were increased by the Scullin Government without support from the Tariff Board. We should not lose sight of the fact that many members of the House of Representatives, who lately spent four or five weeks in debating thoroughly the whole of the 1,800 items in the schedule, are very closely associated with constituents who are vitally interested in industrial enterprises. This being so, they must be credited, equally with members of this chamber, with a desire to help the Empire, without, at the same time, injuring Australian industries.
If the Senate is to discharge its function properly, it should be given an opportunity to settle down to a detailed discussion of the items, and, if a majority approves of requested amendments, the requests should be scheduled, and the bill returned in due time to another place for consideration of that schedule. I have never been one to shirk my duty at any time. I do not believe in placing an obligation which is mine solely on the shoulders of other people. If the Senate makes requests to another place to amend certain tariff items with which it does not agree, the normal procedure, in the event of the House of Representatives refusing to make the requested amendments, will be to arrange a conference of managers of both Houses, and a way out of the difficulty is found by a compromise. I fail to see the necessity for Senator Johnston’s amendment. No argument has been advanced why the Senate should shirk its duty by simply returning the tariff proposals to another place with a request for certain alterations. We should, in this chamber, detail the alterations we deem desirable.
– If the course suggested by the honorable senator is adopted honorable senators will have a chance to do something.
– That is so. I understand that Senator Johnston’s amendment concerns only about 100 items iu the schedule. If it is carried the whole of our parliamentary machinery will be disorganized, and I have been long enough in this Parliament to know that members of another place will not recede from their position without a long struggle.
– Will not there be the same difficulty if the Senate carries requests to amend those items?
– Perhaps there will be, but we shall, at all events, be working on a definite basis; and when representatives of the two Houses meet in conference, a compromise of the opposing view-points, which is the usual way out of deadlocks between both branches of the legislature, will probably result in some concessions being gained.
– But will not the adoption of the amendment show the people of Great Britain that the Senate stands by the spirit of the Ottawa agreement ?
– Requested amendments to specific items would be more convincing evidence of the Senate’s determination, than would be the mere carrying of a bald request to another place to make unspecified amendments. It would show the people of Great Britain that the Senate is sincere in its intention to stand by the principle of British preference, if the amendment were carried, there would be no opportunity to compromise with respect to specific duties; it would merely be . a pious expression of opinion that certain action should be taken in another place.
If the Senate passes the first and second readings of the bill, .and the schedule is considered in committee I shall vote for British preference in respect of every item, so long as the margin is not too great, because, in the interests of our Australian industries, we must draw the line somewhere. That course would be a definite indication to the people of the ‘ Mother Country that the Senate means business and stands by the principle of British preference.
– It is time we heard something about preference to Australian industries.
– Australia has more to gain from the Ottawa agreement, if it’ is administered in a reasonable spirit, than honorable senators opposite are ‘ willing to concede. I shall not approve of duties which may encourage the development of uneconomic industries. I have every sympathy with the protest which Country party senators are making in connexion with a number of tariff items, but I should like to make it clear that the expression of their views has not influenced me in the least degree. We depend almost entirely for our prosperity on .the export of our surplus primary products. Secondary industries are, for the most part, home industries. I agree that we should so frame our tariff policy as to make possible the cultivation of friendly relations with nations that are good customers of ours; but at the same time, we should note carefully the trend of events in other countries. The activity in Australia of representatives of Japanese wool-buying firms has made Australia a world centre for the disposal of the finer wools produced in this country. French agents and representatives of other wool-buying countries now attend Australian wool sales, and compete eagerly for our finer wools. Many Japanese- industries are now as efficient and as well organized as are similar industries in the United States of America, and lately we have heard complaints of Japanese goods flooding foreign markets. One of the most wonderful efforts of Japan has been, the installation of the latest machinery for the manufacture of woollen textiles. If I were not sure of my facts I should find it difficult to believe that such a thing could have happened. I know a little about the extreme poverty of India, and of her millions of people below the breadline; British enterprise has established the textile industry in India, but Japan has been able to turn India out of her own market.
– Is not that because the government has subsidized the woollen industry?
– I am not saying what it is due to; I am merely pointing out the difficulties we have in dealing with the tariff.
– If we are not careful, Japan will get right into the vitals of our woollen textile industry.
– It is extraordinary that J apan can make her presence felt on the Indian market in view of the fact that the conditions of India are very similar to those of Japan. In both countries, millions of people are below the breadline. In these circumstances, Australia will undoubtedly have to protect herself if she desires to maintain her standard of living. There is no doubt that the coming of Japan to Australia for the purpose of buying wool has had a big influence on the position by compelling other countries, notably France, to compete for our finer wools. But we must remember that Japan, and other nations as well, will not buy our wool unless we buy something from them. We know that America in the days of the war said, “ Take our goods, but pay us in gold”. But the nations of the world refused to do so. We must recollect also that South Africa may become a competitor of Australia in supplying wool to Japan. If Japan finds that she can sell goods to South Africa, but not to Australia, she will undoubtedly look to South Africa for her supplies of wool. I have made these remarks with the object of indicating the difficulties which confront us in dealing with tariff problems.
I wish now to mention one other sorry aspect of present-day affairs which has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition and other speakers. One of the saddest sights that can be seen in Australia to-day is the thousands of young people who are turned out of our schools, colleges, and universities with nothing to do. This is killing their young ambition. These young people, have been educated only to join relief gangs in order to get food relief. I was informed recently in Queensland of a young doctor, who, after struggling hard to educate himself, took his degrees only to find that there was no position for him to occupy. In desperation, he took a job in a relief gang. I was assured that this was an authentic case. It is deplorable that such a state of affairs should exist.
In my opinion, we must look to private enterprise for the solution of many of the problems which have been referred to in this debate. Certain honorable senators opposite have denounced private enterprise in generous terms, and earlier in my life I, too, did so. But new light has appeared on my horizon. I realize now that private enterprise has solved the great problems of production and distribution. It has shown that all the nations of the world are interdependent. Recently an Economic Committee appointed by the League of Nations to inquire into the international effect of tariffs, strongly recommended that tariff walls should be broken down. This shows the trend of thought of all intelligent, wellmeaning, earnest people who want to help the world out of its present depression. They can see that tariff barriers will have to be overcome.
– How many countries have given effect to those recommendations of the League of Nations?
– Not many; but circumstances will drive them to it. The creative genius of private enterprise has produced machinery which has solved the problem of production. Doubtless, some honorable senators have been reading the findings of technocrats in America who have shown, after thorough investigations, that if conditions were to become normal in the United States of America to-morrow, work would be available for only half the people formerly employed, because machinery has taken the place of the other half. Private enterprise has not only solved the problem of production, but has also overcome all the difficulties of distribution by water, land and air. It will also, in my opinion, solve the problems of exchange or value which are of paramount concern at present. Some honorable senators opposite talk a good deal about social credit. I confess that I do not know what the phrase means. I believe, however, that the ability and brains which have done marvellous things for humanity in the last few years, will also cope effectively with the difficult circumstances of the transition period through which we are passing. We should therefore frame our tariff in the realization that this is a transition period. While taking care to protect Australia as far as possible, and to give as much preference to Great Britain as we can, we should also endeavour to do everything possible to contribute our part to the solution of the problems of the Empire.
Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive
Council) [8.53]. - I recollect that the discussion of a motion for the first reading
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the Minister, having already spoken to my amendment, has no right to speak again until it has been disposed of.
– I am entitled to reply to the debate on the motion for the first reading of this bill.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The Vice-President of the Executive Council, having already spoken on the amendment moved by Senator Johnston, is not entitled to make another speech on it. After this amendment has been disposed of, he will be in order in replying to the debate on the motion of the first reading of the bill.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Johnston’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Requested amendment negatived.
– I recollect that, on a previous occasion, when a bill of this character was before the Senate, the Minister in charge was, to use a sporting phrase, “ shot sitting “ ; but on this occasion, Mr. President, having regard to your ruling that we may discuss not only irrelevant matters, but also the bill itself, I feel that honorable senators have discharged both barrels at me. Owing to the limited time at my disposal, my remarks will have to be brief; but I do not wish honorable senators who have discussed grievances of various kinds to imagine that the Government is treating them discourteously. I may say that the problem of unemployment is being carefully investigated, and the Government is doing its best to assist the States tosolve it. Some of its efforts have been described by my ministerial colleague, Senator Greene. I think that we can congratulate ourselves on the fact that the loan position is fairly satisfactory. The recent conversion of certain loans overseas, and the success of the loan that has been floated in Australia, indicate, I think, that this country is, at all events, making a move in the right direction. Honorable senators, who are so insistent about the need for the conversion of all our loans overseas, must have regard to the necessities of the Mother Country. Although this matter is of grave importance to Australia, many other countries are in a position similar to our own, and are desirous of raising further loans on the London market.
– Have those other countries balanced their budgets as well as Australia has?
– There must be fair play all round. We have had our opportunity to show to the British authorities that the people of Great Britain are willing to convert Australian loans, and will place money at the disposal of this country. I have no doubt that, when the proper time arrives, the embargo upon our loan operations will be again removed.
Something has been said by certain honorable senators, particularly Senators Collings and MacDonald, in regard to the economics of the tariff. I propose to deal with that matter at the proper time, namely, on the second reading of the bill. I desire honorable senators to remember the posi tion that obtains throughout the world when they are discussing the fiscal problem. I was much impressed by the remarks of Senator Millen. Theworld is now in a condition of fiscal flux; but, as I have said, I shall elaborate on that matter in moving the second reading of the bill. 1 do not intend now to discuss such questions as credit control, nor do I believe that the financial troubles of the world could be alleviated in the manner that some honorable senators have suggested. Apparently, some of them imagine that money can be extracted from the air. I have yet to learn that that feat is capable of accomplishment. There are one or two points in connexion with the tariff that I wish to make perfectly clear to the Senate, because, apparently, judging by the vote that has just been taken on the amendment, the position was not’ made quite clear by me in my hurried remarks during the debate on the amendment. This Government claims that it is implementing the Ottawa agreement as it should be implemented, and as was stipulated in the agreement itself. It is doing so in the manner agreed to by the members of the British delegation, who knew the difficulties of Australia, and who were familiar with the policy of this Government’. That delegation knew that the Government would not alter the tariff one way or another without reference to the Tariff Board. Recognition of that is contained in article 11 of the agreement itself, and certain principles are laid down in the preceding articles which the Government is bound, by statutory contract with the Motherland, to adopt. The passing of the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement Bill was a parliamentary direction to the Tariff Board as to the methods that should be employed in dealing with tariff items, whether duties were to be reduced or increased. Those principles, which have been accepted by honorable senators in this chamber and by honorable members in another place, are the law of the land, and will be given effect by the Tariff Board. There can be no question but that what was agreed to by the British and Australian delegations was this reference to the Tariff Board. Under the amendment which the Senate has rejected, it was suggested that the other branch of the legislature should be requested to do something in excess of what the British delegation anticipated, and what the Motherland now expects. I make that statement deliberately.
– But the newspaper reports were entirely different from that.
– I point this out to those honorable senators who think that a departure has been made from the spirit of the Ottawa agreement. What, after ail, with a tariff wall equivalent to a 25 per cent, duty in the shape of exchange, will be the value of the agreement to the British manufacturer until the financial circumstances throughout the world considerably change? If we had done nothing but make the stipulation embodied in the Ottawa agreement, we should have been adhering to the policy upon which the Prime Minister went to the electors, and which has been referred to this afternoon by my honorable colleague from South Australia. From that policy the honorable senator read one extract only, namely, that the party objected to the ‘ wholesale raising of duties by ministerial fiction without reference to the Tariff Board, and with a subsequent brushing aside of its recommendations; but, on the same occasion as that on which the Prime Minister made that statement, namely, the 2nd December, 1931, he also said -
As to the future, the United Australia party would not, even where it has any disagreement with particular tariff items, engage in sudden drastic changes upon ministerial initiative, and without investigation by the Tariff Board. We believe that tariff changes of such a character may easily prove bad for industry and business generally, and, consequently, for employment. Where the tariff has been raised to what may be considered excessive levels without reference to the Tariff Board, we would submit cases for hearing as soon as practicable, and we would in broad principle abide by the recommendation of the board.
That policy, on which this Government was elected, was announced to the British delegation, and was embodied in the Ottawa agreement. I venture to think that it is a policy which this country is in honour bound to apply and abide by, because of the statutory contract contained in the agreement.
– Did not the leader of the Country party, Dr.
Earle Page, announce practically the same policy?
– Yes. Perhans it would be interesting to contrast the pronouncement of the Prime Minister with that contained in a speech by the leader of the Country party on the 1st December, 1931, in which he said -
Where it was proved that manufacturing industries were being conducted on inefficient and uneconomic lines, or were profiteering at the expense of the public, the party would not support protection for them. To ascertain which were the efficient and economic industries in relation to Australian consumers, the party would refer a carefully-planned basis of investigation to the Tariff Board.
– The Minister should read the whole of the speech, not merely extracts from it.
– It is a pity the honorable senator did not read the whole of some other remarks to which he recently referred; but I shall come to that matter later. The two great political leaders in this country both declared that there must be a reference to the Tariff Board, for the very good reason which I shall endeavour to set out in a few moments, because of a suggestion which was made in regard to a complaint in the House of Commons that the terms of the Ottawa agreement had not been observed. We can quite understand that there may have been some complaints by honorable senators about increases of the duties on foreign goods. It was only by raising those duties that immediate effect could be given to the Ottawa agreement; but I can assure honorable senators that those increases which have been made by this Government have not resulted in reprisals by any foreign power. That was the right way to give immediate effect to the agreement. So far as the remainder of the items are concerned, when they have been examined by the Tariff Board, they will be brought before the Senate in the course of the tariff debate, or the agreement will be implemented by the presentation of additional schedules in another place. This work is constantly proceeding.
It has been suggested that in the House of Commons exception was taken by a Mr. Perkins to the duty on apparel elastic. I think that that was a most unfortunate case for my friends who have been discussing the tariff to cite.
I shall try to summarize the position in regard to this matter. Imports of apparel elastic were coming into this country free of duty. Certain persons, who were interested in the manufacture of this commodity, approached the Customs Department, and said, “ We propose to embark on the manufacture of this article. The prices are good enough, and we can do the work well under Australian conditions.” What happened? Although they were warned by the customs authorities that there would be reprisals outside Australia, these men started a factory and embarked upon this work ; but within a few months, with the prices of imported goods steadily falling week by week, they would have been driven out of business by the price-cutting methods adopted by those who had previously held the market in Australia for these goods. The local manufacturers approached the Tariff Board, and demonstrated the necessity for the duty that has been levied, and, above all, the Tariff Board, in coming to its determination, had regard to the articles of the Ottawa agreement to which I have referred. The merits are not always on the side of the British manufacturer, or of the Australian manufacturer, and, consequently, the Tariff Board has been appointed to hold the scales evenly. In tabloid form, those are the facts.
– Why have the British Chambers of Commerce set up certain committees?
– If honorable senators had read the report of the Tariff Board on elastic apparel, they would have seen that it bears out what I have said.
I am not concerned with the quotations from my speeches setting forth my attitude towards the tariff. I stand by everything that I have said on this subject. Before any alteration of duties is made, I prefer that the matter should be investigated by the Tariff Board rather than dealt with by a House of Parliament. However capable a legislative body may be, it frequently happens that its discussions are carried out in a more or less catch-as-catch-can fashion. What objection can there be to referring these matters to the Tariff Board? Senator Payne mentioned the principles which the Tariff Board ought to apply to the fiscal policy of Australia. The Tariff Board is the body by which effect is to be given to the agreement made at Ottawa. I do not claim that this tariff schedule has given effect to the Ottawa agreement, for, as the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has pointed out, there are 104 items - 85 in group 6, and 19 in group 7 - which have not yet been examined by the Tariff Board in accordance with the principles laid down at Ottawa.
I pass by a number of other matters, and now come to some remarks which fell from the lips of Senator Hardy, and to which I take exception. It is not my practice to engage in personal conflict with any honorable senator, so long as he is respectful and confines himself to facts; but when resort is had to the language of the Ghetto in describing the action of certain of my colleagues in Cabinet, I must protest. I resent Senator Hardy’s statements that some party - I do not know which - has been “sold a pup “, or has been “ stabbed in the back “. The honorable senator used a number of other choice phrases which were quickly seized upon by honorable senators opposite, and interpreted as treachery and false pretences. What are the facts? I commend to Senator Hardy the practice of . the courts which requires barristers, when making quotations, to recite the whole of their authorities. The honorable senator quoted excerpts from a certain newspaper printed in Sydney in order to show that there bad been an agreement. It is strange that he allowed eighteen months to expire before referring to that agreement. When a similar statement was made recently in another place, it was denied by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), who gave the facts, not in detail, but sufficiently clearly to show honorable members’ there that there had been no agreement. Having failed in that attempt, the honorable senator now refers to other matters which, apparently, he had kept secret in his bosom all this time. At the preliminary conference which took place - an informal conference between certain political leaders, of whom Senator Hardy was one - one of the planks upon which agreement was sought was a systematic revision of the tariff. The objects of that conference were published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 14th October, 1931. Mr. Tout is reported to have said -
Informal consultations have been taking place between a number of citizens, and some political leaders, with a view to securing unity of action in a constructive policy for the reduction of unemployment, and the rehabilitation of Australian industry.
It is not proposed to make any further statement at the present time, except that no action will or can be taken other than through the political organizations themselves. There is no foundation whatever for the statement that any organization, either formally or informally, has agreed to join some new body.
I am hopeful, however, that agreement will be reached on the main lines of a general policy which, of course, will have to be referred back to the various organizations.
That extract, and others, were kept secret by the honorable senator for a long time. The newspaper referred to, in its issue of the 21st October, 1931, contained the following statement : -
The policy which has already received the concurrence of delegates to the unity conference last week, will be formally presented to the council of the National Association, thu United Country party, and the All for Australia League, for acceptance.
I have the assurance of the AttorneyGeneral that that policy was never presented to the United Australia party.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that it was not presented to any party.
– The federal objective was the elimination of certain things, and a simplified form of government. Dealing with the proposal for a reduction of the cost of living, and of production and distribution, it was set out that -
This can largely be achieved by a revision of the industrial situation, and a. revision of the tariff, which must be carried out equitably.
Tariff. - (1) Thu scientific revision of the tariff for the economic rehabilitation of Australia, with a view to the encouragement and protection of efficient primary and secondary industries; (2) the expansion of the export of primary and secondary products; (3) encouragement of Empire trade; (4) negotiations of reciprocal trade treaties with other nations.
The thing was nebulous. It was the result of a conference between certain leaders and the intention was to submit it to the organizations, but it was never submitted to them. If it had been how did the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) interpret it in his policy speech; and how did the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) interpret it? They agreed that before this scientifically-planned scheme could be put into operation, the Tariff Board would undertake an investigation. Are the honorable senator’s actions on this occasion typical of the candour which will characterize bis utterances in the Senate? Having learned from the debates in another place, that it was not possible to establish that an agreement had been entered into, the honorable senator resorted to something which he was pleased to call a private deputation.
– I said it was not a private deputation.
– The secret has been well kept in the honorable senator’s bosom. Why is it now made public? Sir Henry Gullett has seen fit to take a certain course. He has denied that he even suggested that there was an agreement. The honorable senator’s object in referring to this semi-private deputation was to build up a case which rested on no solid foundation. Whatever men may think of the political views of the AttorneyGeneral, all are agreed that he is n mau of transcendent honour, whose word is accepted wherever he is known. The Attorney-General has denied that any such document as that suggested by Senator Hardy- was received by any organization with, which he is connected. I doubt that such a document ever went to the Country party organization.
– I shall prove tomorrow that it did.
– At least, the honorable senator cannot prove that it ever went to the Nationalist organization in New South Wales; it did not appear before that body in any shape or form. It is (“rue that there were some negotiations; but there never was such an agreement, because the election came on more speedily than was expected. If such an agreement was entered into, why was it not mentioned in the policy speeches of Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Lyons? I resent the honorable senator’s charge that some one, or some ‘party, has been, let down because of unfair dealing. If charges are to be made, let them be made on solid facts.
I do not mind being twitted by Senator Hardy, for, at all times, I am prepared to justify my vote and my utterances. 1 am prepared to follow my leader, which is what I am now doing. But I do resent the suggestion that the AttorneyGeneral of Australia, at the eleventh hour, and for a sinister purpose, broke an agreement.
– He repudiated an agreement.
– If the honorable senator had read the whole statement, he would have seen that it was consistent with the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I charge the honorable senator with having left out a material part of Mr. Latham’s statement. He stopped at the word “ now “ without reading the words which follow it. I shall now read them -
At the same time we shall lend our best endeavours to fashion our tariff so that it will not injure our groat primary industries and the export trade. In a few words, our policy will bo to abstain from violent changes by direct ministerial action, and to refer all matters of importance to the Tariff Board for full impartial investigations.
Why was not Mr. Lyons charged with a breach of that agreement on the 2nd December, and why was Dr. Earle Page not charged with having broken it ? Why has the Attorney-General been singled out to meet the spearhead of this attack?
The charge that there had been anything in the nature of impropriety on the part of my leaders is also answered by the fact that the Leader of the Country party was communicated with at Redrock in Queensland, and asked to join in forming a government. He could have had four portfolios of his own choosing. He was invited to join with those who “ stabbed him in the back “, and were “guilty of treachery”.
– Will the Minister tell the Senate why the Country party would not join in forming a government?
– I do not know what the reasons were; but the Leader of the Country party did not tell the public that he was an injured man. The honorable members for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) in another place are honorable men, with whom I have been proud to associate. They have not said one word about the Country party having been stabbed in the back. When that suggestion was made in another place, it was refuted by the Attorney-General ; now it has been revived in this chamber by Senator Hardy, but for what purpose I do not know.
– To let the public know the truth.
– An ancient writer associated vanity with vexation of spirit, and it may be that Senator Hardy is suffering from vexation of spirit. It is unpleasant for me to have to deal with a personal matter of this sort. I have not before had the experience of any honorable senator resorting to these methods, and the party to which I belong resents them. It is our duty to resent them, because the members of the Government, whatever their faults may be, can be regarded as honorable, and that applies particularly to the right honorable the Attorney-General. If Senator Hardy bases his allegations upon the statements contained in the documents to which he has referred, he is basing them upon a foundation of sand. He was aware of that fact, and, therefore, he dragged in another conference of which we had previously heard nothing. His charges have been disproved by the circumstantial evidence to which I have alluded, and they have been disproved by any documentary evidence in existence.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Debate on Customs Tariff - Seces sion Vote in Western Australia - Hume Weir.
[9.32] . - I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I ask honorable senators, when the second reading of the customs tariff is moved to-morrow, to be good enough to proceed with the debate. I am sure that they will agree that, after the long discussion that we have had, there will be nothing novel in the bill requiring an adjournment to enable its principles to be studied.
– I do not often trouble the Senate on the motion for the adjournment, but I should like to say a word or two with reference to what wis said this afternoon by Senator Carroll. In considering what my honorable friend said, I should like to quote the following passage, which he knows very well: -
A friend should bear his friend’s infirmities, But Brutus makes mine greater than they are.
I think that the honorable senator, in his remarks this afternoon, laid rather too much stress upon one particular passage in my speech yesterday, and to a certain extent, at any rate, seems to have applied it to himself. I shall not refer in detail to anything that I did say. My remarks are on record for whatever they are worth; but, if they are studied with any closeness, particularly the passage to which Senator Carroll has objected, I think that it will be found that my references were to Senator Johnston, and to those in the position of that honorable senator.
– The honorable senator is carrying on the brief with which he went to Western Australia.
– I do not know to what that disorderly interjection refers, but 1 do know that, if the passage to which exception has been taken by Senator Carroll is examined, it will be found that the first and third parts refer specifically to Senator Johnston, and that there is in the middle of it a part which is capable of n more extensive meaning, but which I suggest, if taken with the context, also refers to Senator Johnston, and possibly to those in his position. I had no intention during the course of my remarks yesterday to suggest that the large mass of persons, many young and unthinking, but all, I am sure, ardent admirers of the Commonwealth and of Great Britain, should be branded as rebels. Since the honorable senator has referred to the brief with which I went to “Western Australia, let me say first that I went there with no brief, and, secondly, that had I had a brief it was not “ adequately marked,” as we say in the legal profession. But I did go to Western Australia because those who knew my political sentiments thought that I was a person who could speak to the Western Australians with sympathy. They knew what, the people there largely complained of, and they knew my, views upon the subject; and they did expect - although they had apparently some reason to be disappointed - that I would be allowed to express myself. I was not, but I do not blame them on that account.
As to whether one expression which I used was too strong even for men like Senator Johnston and those in his position, let me say that those who plant the acorn must intend -the oak; and if Senator Johnston, a representative of Western Australia, or if certain King’s Counsel at. the Bar of Western Australia, even if they be so eloquent as Sir Walter James, advocate the disruption of this indissoluble union, they at least should have the intelligence to realize that the position into which the people of that State, are drifting is serious, and that the oak of the talk that he and his colleagues indulged in is the oak of rebellion, because the Constitution of the Commonwealth makes provision not for its disruption, but for its amendment. In its preamble it sets out that it is an indissoluble Constitution. As I said yesterday, we, “ humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God “, entered into this union, and the people of Western Australia know that. There is only one way in which that union can be broken, and history, which I carefully refrained from citing when in Western Australia, should at least point the lesson to those who acted as did Senator Johnston and men prominent in the public life of this country.
– Five federal representatives held similar views to mine.
– When those men talk of the effect of the referendum in Western Australia, they have to remember that the man who led them was relegated to obscurity after holding a seat for 25 years, and that a new ministry was returned to power, pledged to unification.
– The federal representatives who went to Western Australia as self-invited guests were largely responsible for that.
– If the honorable senator continues his interjections I am afraid that I shall have to follow the example of Senator Dunn, and ask the Chair to protect me from the vigour of the honorable senator. I claim, as an Australian, the right to speak in any part of this Commonwealth upon a matter affecting the whole of Australia, as I did on that occasion. I had no desire to say anything which would bo offensive either to Senator Carroll or to the vast mass of the people of Western Australia, including those who voted “Yes”; but I had this criticism to make - and I have no intention of withdrawing it - that persons holding public positions used those positions to forward a movement .which, if followed to its conclusion, must have consequences that they must have foreseen. .
– It is evident that the Leader of the Senate, in furnishing replies to a series of questions which I put to him, must have received his information from the officers of his department. My questions referred to the cessation of work on the Hume Weir. That is a national undertaking, and the responsibility for its construction is shared by the Commonwealth and three contracting State Governments. The following is a statement which I have received with reference to the closing down of the works : -
A stir was caused at both weirs on Wednesday of last week when Mr. E. D. Shaw told a deputation of representatives of various unions employed on the works, that, owing to Jack of finance, the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission would reluctantly have to cease work above the 030 feet level.
The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission had asked for a grant of £8,000 which would complete this section, and keep the 107 already employed there, for a period of seven months. This sum would be expended entirely on labour as the material for the completion of the works is already on the spot. The unions immediately communicated with Mr. W. Hutchinson, M.H.R. (Indi), Mr. T. Collins, M.H.R. (Hume), Mr. ,T. Scullin, M.H.R., Senator Barnes, and Messrs. Paton. M.L.A. (Benambra), and Mair, M.L.A. (Albury). Mr. Paton visited the works on Thursday, and met a deputation of union representatives consisting of Messrs. H. Coventry (engine-drivers), N. Fraser (carpenters), and A. WillS (engineering section).
The following case was made out by the unions: -
The average weekly wage received by a labourer on the Victorian side (exclusive of time lost owing to holidays and weather conditions) is £2 3b. 4d. The amount payable weekly under sustenance is £1 12s. 6d. Actual difference between wages now being received and the amount which would be payable under sustenance is 10s. lod. per week. The commission received weekly, as deduction for rent of house, an average amount of Cs. The average amount deducted as income tax stamps is ls. per week. This leaves an actual difference between the wages now being received, less deductions for rent and income tax stamps, and the amount payable under sustenance of 3s. lOd. per week. Amount of grant asked for by the commission, £8,000. This would provide work for approximately seven months at the present rate. During such period the commission would deduct as rent the total amount of £924, also the amount of income tax stamps collected by the Government for such period would be approximately £378, making a total of approximately £1,302, received back from wages paid during a period of seven months. Sustenance payments for 197 men now employed would be for such period of seven months approximately £9.257. All men employed at present are married. .
After hearing the figures, &c, Mr. Paton ridiculed the idea of closing the works at this stage, and promised to do all he could to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.
Messrs. Mair and Collins also visited this section of the works and promised their support. Mr. Collins promised that each member of the Federal Cabinet would be supplied with a copy of the figures as given by the unions. Messrs. Collins and Mair are endeavouring to arrange a deputation of the unions to meet the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) as he passes through Albury this morning. After spending approximately £4,000,000 on works of such national importance, it seems a ridiculous proposition to cease operations when the works are so near completion. In the event of the works closing, the road across the top of the bank, so much desired by the Bethanga Outlet League and Upper Murray settlers, cannot be an accomplished fact. In the event of a flood carrying away the two existing temporary bridges, direct communication with Wodonga will be severed.
On the area there are 88 departmental cottages, which are occupied by employees. Should the works cease, these cottages would be vacated and depreciation on such cottages would amount to a considerable sum, to say nothing of the deterioration of plant, &c.
Visiting parliamentarians stated that the fact is very obvious that Ministers should frequently visit the works under their control. It is probable that there will be interesting developments shortly.
In answer to a series of questions that were asked by me, the Minister has stated that everything was well so far as the Hume Weir is concerned. No doubt, his information was supplied by departmental heads. It is obvious, from the report that I have quoted, that everything is not well, that, indeed, something is radically wrong, as the men on the Victorian side are working practically under slave conditions; therefore, something must be done by the Government. In the circumstances, I shall be glad if Senator Pearce will make a further explanation in this regard.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [9.50]. - One of the most significant facts that wore brought out by that deputation of union officials is that the amount that will be saved by closing down these works will practically all be absorbed in providing sustenance for the 190 men who will be discharged. Consequently, if the Government can see its way to provide the small additional amount that is needed to keep these men in employment for another seven months, it would actually lose nothing over the transaction. I urge the Government to consider that point of view.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [9.52]. - I undertake to bring the representations that have been made by Senator Dunn and Senator Rae under the notice of the Minister for the Interior, who represents the Commonwealth Government on the Murray River Waters Commission, but I am afraid that the problem is not so simple of solution as that deputation appeared to think. There are four partners to the work that is being carried out in connexion with the MurrayRiver Waters scheme, the Commonwealth Government, and the State Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia; and, naturally, when there is a proposal to carry the work a stage further, each Government has to regard it from its own point of view. I remember that the matter came before Cabinet not long ago, when there was a proposal that further money, if it could be found, should be spent on the Hume Weir, a project which had the favour of the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria. I believe that the Government of South Australia said that it was agreeable to that work being carried out if further work were done at the Murray , mouth. If my memory serves me right, Now South Wales also asked that something f urther should be done in regard to the locks on the Murrumbidgee. While any one of those might not cost a great sum, the works required in the aggregate by all of the States would total a considerable sum. Each State, looking at the matter from its own point of view, said, “ We are prepared to accept your proposition if you accept ours, but the Commonwealth had to accept the lot, and pay its fourth part of the total expenditure. The question is one of finance, and also one of the justification for the various works proposed. I am not aware whether the expenditure of the £8,000 mentioned by Senator Dunn would come within the works already approved. If so, it would simplify the matter a great deal. But if it is part of the other scheme, which includes the extension of the Hume Weir, it raises the whole subject of the works in South Australia, and on the Murrumbidgee. I assure the honorable senators that their representations will be brought before the Minister for the Interior for his consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 June 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19330607_senate_13_140/>.