13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether it is a fact that the Resident Minister in London (Mr.
Bruce) has agreed with Canada, the United States of America, and the Argentine to a 15 per cent. restriction of Australian wheat production, covering a period of two years, and that this agreement will he signed by him in the name of Australia, if, in the negotiations that he is now conducting, he induces the Russian delegates to agree to a similar restriction? Was the Government advised of the proposed restriction by cable or wireless telephone from London? Has not Mr. Bruce been in touch with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Latham) in Melbourne and Canberra?
– Mr. Bruce has made no such suggestion or proposal.
– Has the Leader of the Government yet obtained the information previously sought concerning the expenses incurred by the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Marr) on his recent visit to New Guinea and adjacent islands?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No; but Ishall see that the matter is expedited.
– On the 22nd June, Senator Rae addressed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows
With reference to the Minister’s reply to a question asked in the Senate on the 13th June last, on the subject of action taken within the Federal Capital Territory for implementing the Premiers plan, will the Government take immediate action by ordinance to reduce all rents, interest, and adjustable charges by 22½ per cent. in all governmental transactions, with retrospective effect to the financial year ending the 30th June, 1930, in accordance with the Premiers plan?
What buildings are included in the loan expenditure of £1,514,166 on buildings, &c., used solely for national purposes, and does the Government intend to pay the interest and sinking fund on this expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue without continu ing to debit the same to Canberra?
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following answers: -
Bents, interest, and adjustable charges in respect to governmental transactions in the Territory for the Scat of Government were reduced as a result of the Premiers plan as from the 1st July, 1031. . The question of whether legislative action is necessary to cover these reductions in cases where this has not already been done is receiving consideration.
The buildings included in the loan expenditure of £1,514,166, and used solely for national purposesare - Hotel Acton, Permanent Administrative Buildings, Institute of Anatomy, Acton Offices, Secretariat No. 1, Secretariat No. 2, Government Printing Office, Forestry School, Government House, Prime Minister’s residence, Stromlo Observatory, Works Building, Civic Centre, Parliament House. The interest and sinking fund charges on this expenditure will be paid by the Government from Consolidated Revenue, and excluded from the interest and sinking fund charges shown in the statements of receipts and expenditure prepared in accordance with section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930 for the financial year 1932-33 and following years. A footnote will be appended to each . annual statement showing the amount excluded, and explaining the omission. This course is taken because no rent is charged for the use of these national buildings.
-Will the Minister in Charge of Development state whether it is a fact that the tobacco manufacturers have refused to purchase the tobacco leaf grown in South Australia this year? If so,what is the reason?
– The honorable senator mentioned this matter to me a couple of days ago. I have had inquiries made, and am informed that the position in regard to the crops this year is such that buying operations could not be conducted until a much later date than usual. No boycott is intended of leaf grown in South Australia. Buying arrangements are now well forward.
– In view of the attempts that are being made to have the terminus of the air mail service between England and Australia in the Sydney metropolitan area instead of at Cootamundra, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate give the assurance that hewill do everything possible to. adhere to the recommendations made in the inter-departmental report upon civil aviation generally?
– As I have already stated, the Government has registered its opinion in the light of the report of the interdepartmental committee. At the same time, it would be altogether wrong of it to refuse to consider representations from any quarter in respect to this most important matter, before the final decision is made upon which tenders will be invited. I still hold the view that I expressed previously as to which is the right place for the terminus. Still, before tenders are called, the Government will give consideration to all the representations that have been made.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce been directed to the following press statement: - “ Australians need no longer take off their hats to the Danish cow,” says Mr. R. Burnie. “ I tasted all brands of Danish butter, and Iam satisfied it is not equal to the Kangaroo ‘ . . . The Australian product is losing its identity owing to the wholesale blending of it with other makes. I visited scores of British shopkeepers, and they had never heard of ‘ Kangaroo ‘ butter.”
Will the Minister instruct the Commonwealth’s officers in London to take action, legal or otherwise, to put a stop to the mean trade practice of blending Australian with foreign butter?
– The policing of all goods after they reach England is in the hands of the authorities overseas. I assure the honorable senator that the Minister for Commerce has taken, and is still taking, steps to see that Australia’s export commodities are effectively policed so far as the law allows.
– On the 21st June, Senator Johnston addressed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
Public Service Board’s Report
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - It will be remembered that on Thursdaylast certain questions were asked by some honorable senators respecting the report of the Public Service Board on the working of the parliamentary staffs, and it was suggested by those questions that something had been done by the governing authority of Parliament in excess of its power, or, at least, without warrant. I explained at the time that the authorities administering the departments of the Parliament are the Speaker and myself, and to show where and how we derive our powers, I direct the attention of honorable senators to section 9 of the Public Service Act 1922-1924, sub-section 3, in which the following words appear : -
Any reference in this act or the regulations thereunder to the Minister shall so far as the departments of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Parliamentary Library, the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and the Joint House Department are concerned, be read as a reference to the President or the Speaker or the President and the Speaker (as the case may be).
That section puts Mr. Speaker and myself, either individually or jointly, in relation to the departments of the Parliament in the same position as a Minister of the Crown is in relation to the administrative departments. The definition of Minister given in the act is : - “ The Minister “ means the responsible Minister of the Crown for the time being administering the department in which is employed or proposed to be employed the officer or person in connexion with whom the term is used or is applicable.
Then, again, section 9, sub-section 2, of the Public Service Act enacts that -
Subject to this section, unless inconsistent with the context, any action or approval re- - quired by this act or the regulations thereunder to be taken or given by the board may, so far as officers of the Parliament are concerned, be taken or given by the President or the Speaker or the President and the Speaker (as the case may be) in substitution for the board.
I remind those honorable senators who hold the opinion that something has been done by the Speaker and myself which cannot be justified, to cast back their minds to a time when the authority and privileges of Parliament were not so securely founded - so impregnable - as they are in these days. The time was when Parliament, as a branch of the Government of the country, had to make a long, fierce, and courageous struggle to obtain the recognition of the liberty of speech, the privileges, and the authority, which it ultimately gained and now possesses. This Parliament enjoy to-day the rights which were gained for all British parliaments by the Parliament of Great Britain. In those days an autocrat was needed to maintain the authority and supremacy of Parliament which are to-day freely recognized.
As to the report of the Public Service Board, and the why and the wherefore of it, honorable senators will recollect that three years ago the financial position of this country suddenly became most grave, affecting not only the citizens of this country individually, but also its governments, both those of the six State Governments and the Commonwealth Government. Calamity descended upon this country almost in a night, and occasion at once arose to search for means whereby both public and private finance could be put into better order. The Commonwealth Government therefore made a request to the presiding officers of the Parliament to ascertain whether some saving could not be effected in the administration of the departments of the Parliament in keeping with the economies that were being made in every other department under the control of the Government. My predecessor, Senator Kingsmill, and Mr. Speaker, after consultation, and some unwillingness, I presume, on the part of both of them, decided to ask the Public Service Commissioner to appoint officers to inquire into the organization of the “departments of the Parliament. There are five departments of Parliament, and their total expenditure amounts to something like £60,000. I may say that had I then been President of the Senate, I believe that I would have acted as Senator Kingsmill did, although I realize how - dangerous and unprecedented it is to permit an outside body to inquire into the exercise by Parliament, or by those appointed to give effect to the authority of Parliament, of the time honoured, traditional and exclusive powers of this august body. But the conditions then prevailing made it incumbent upon the presiding officers to give that authority, because the request of the Government could not be interpreted as an .attempt ‘ on the part of the Crown to encroach upon the preserves of Parliament. The administration in power is charged with the responsibility of levying and raising taxes from the people, and, in the last analysis, is the governing authority of this country. If it did not insist upon the money raised by taxation from the savings of the people being well and wisely expended, it would, quickly, be brought to book for its disregard of the interests of the taxpayers. On a question such as this, therefore, the Parliament could not insist upon the rigid control of its own powers, regardless altogether of the opinion of the Government of the day. Times have changed since the struggles between the Crown and Parliament, and as the government of the country is charged exclusively with the management of its financial affairs, and has the power of the purse, it has also control of parliamentary finance. For instance, if Mr. Speaker or myself asked for something unreasonable, the Government must have power to refuse it, particularly if the request involved parliamentary expenditure which could not be justified. The controlling authority which, in this case, is the Government, in exercising its powers, must also accept the responsibility for its action. There is in the Public Service Act a provision which gives this Parliament power to seek advice from an outside body. That power is contained in sub-section 5 of section 9, which reads -
Provided that if the President or the Speaker, or the President and the Speaker (as the case may be), by writing addressed to the Chairman of the Board, requests the board to classify any officers and offices of the Parliament, the board shall classify those officers and offices in the manner provided in this act.
It is quite clear from that provision that the presiding officers of the Parliament may, if they think fit, invite an outside authority to enter the domain of the Parliament, and make recommendations and classifications as they please.
The report that has been obtained is confidential in its nature. It was not obtained in a public way, by the calling of witnesses, their examination on oath, and the publication of their evidence. It is one of that class of reports which are commonly made to the Government or to a Minister, and being confidential, I do not propose to make it public. There are many reasons for treating such a report in that way. In this instance the officer who investigated the working of the departments of the Parliament, and made close inquiries into the management of the departmental heads and the work of the subordinate officials, had to place on record opinions, the publication of which might be unfair to those concerned, as well as to that officer whose business it was to criticize their work. Besides, where opinions differ widely, it is only fair that both sides should be heard. If such a report were made public the value of all such future reports would be destroyed, because no officer would place on record unfavorable opinions that he knew would be blazoned to the world outside. Further, there is precedent for this keeping of the report private. Only the other day questions were asked about the appointment of an officer to a position in London, and it was clearly stated by the Leader of the Government that he could not make public the confidential reports on that officer’s character and qualifications, because to do so would not be in the interests of public efficiency or in the best interests of the State itself. This report is one of many the confidential nature of which makes it undesirable that their contents should be made public. There are some good suggestions in the report, and some not so good. Effect has been given to some of them; but with regard to others there is a fierce conflict of opinion. Mr. Pinner did his work thoroughly; he presented a report of 160 type-written pages, which left nothing untouched. But a person who sets out on such an undertaking requires a knowledge of parliamentary procedure, and -of the parliamentary system, before he can furnish a report of value. As I have said, some of Mr. Pinner’s recommendations have already been acted on; others it is not proposed to put into operation ; still others are now being considered. At this stage it would be unfair to Parliament, and its officers, to say what is likely to be done in regard to some of the recommendations, which, if given effect, would disorganize the work of Parliament, and inconvenience its members.
In the immediate past the services of the Hansard staff have not been fully utilized in the recess, owing to the suspension of the Standing Committees, and the presiding officers are seeking avenues for the further employment of these officers. The reporting of the proceedings of the High Court and other tribunals by the Crown Law Department involves, on occasions, the employment of casual reporters which is stated to cost about £1,000 per annum, and it is hoped to save that sum by utilizing the services of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff for such work during the recess, when such services are not required for the reporting of the proceedings of the Parliament, or work incidental thereto.
From time to time the parliamentary refreshment-rooms have been the subject of criticism, though the critics of that department appear to have no proper realization of the difficulties associated with the transfer of the Seat of Government from Melbourne to Canberra. Because of the remoteness of Canberra from large centres of population’ waiters and casual help in other capacities are not available for engagement at peak periods, as was the case when the Federal Parliament sat in Melbourne. Consequently, when the Parliament was transferred to Canberra a staff of permanent employees had to be engaged in excess of the number of the permanent staff which met all our requirements in Melbourne. For a time the staff of the refreshment-rooms was therefore somewhat overloaded in recess, when there was not sufficient work to keep every person fully employed. Such additional expenditure was unavoidable on the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra. The electors of Australia, however; in voting for the Constitution, determined that there should be a national capital in federal territory, and they must accept the responsibility for the necessary consequences of their action. They certainly have no ground for complaint that the expenses of Parliament are greater than they were when the Parliament met in Melbourne. But a gradual unloading of excess officers is taking place; where possible these are being absorbed in other departments.
Substantial savings are also being made in connexion with both the quantity and the quality of materials supplied to the several parliamentary departments.
Some honorable senators appear to fear that the privileges of members are in danger. The term “ autocrat “ and other strong expressions have been used in this connexion. If the word “ autocrat “ means a person who does something unpleasant, it certainly cannot be applied to the presiding officers, for Mr. Speaker and I have not caused the privileges of members to be interfered with in the slightest degree. The privileges which members have enjoyed in the past will remain. When Mr. Pinner commenced his investigation, I took good care to tell him that members’ privileges did not come within the scope of his inquiry. The privileges of members are in the custody of Parliament itself, and the presiding .officers do not propose to interfere with them.
A comparison of the expenditure of the Senate for the years 1925-26 - the last year before the transfer of the seat of government to Canberra - with the expenditure in subsequent years, may interest honorable senators. Salaries in the Senate department cost £6,632 in 1925-26. Every detail of the. Estimates for 1933-34 has been carefully considered, with the result that a saving of £1,070, compared with the expenditure for 1925-26 is expected. Australia was on the eve of the depression in 1930-31. That year the estimated expenditure ‘ of the Senate, including contingencies, amounted’ to £11,922, compared with £8,855 for 1933-34- - an estimated saving of £3,067. The vote for the Senate, including contingencies, has been reduced by about 25 per cent., which is considerably more than is provided for in the Premiers plan.
Mr. Speaker and I will not interfere with the present arrangement regarding the refreshment-rooms. The presiding officers regard as totally impracticable the suggestion in the press that the parliamentary dining-rooms should supply meals only at mid-day, and that at other times members should provide for themselves. We regard as purely visionary - I shall not use a stronger term - the expectation of some of the people of this country that the parliamentary dining rooms should be run on a profit and loss basis. No refreshment-room connected with any parliament in the world has ever shown a profit; none has been expected to do so. As honorable senators know, many dining-rooms conducted by private enterprise are run at a loss, either for the convenience and comfort of the staff employed or as a means of attracting trade to other departments which produce profits. A deficit must necessarily be expected in connexion with the dining-room of Parliament. I give credit to my predecessor for his efforts to reduce the cost of the refreshmentrooms. In 1930, its balance-sheet showed a loss of £7,074. That loss was reduced to £6,007 in 1931. Last year the loss was further reduced to £4,289. Notwithstanding the difficulties, those losses have been reduced by £2,784 in three years. These figures show that those entrusted with the expenditure of the people’s money in connexion with Parliament have kept a careful watch on expenditure with a view to avoiding waste.
In no circumstances do I propose to make the report public; but when the budget is before the Senate, I shall give what information I can in regard to the departments of the Parliament.
[11.44]. - by leave - The interesting statement which you, sir, have given to the Senate, is one which I feel sure honorable senators would like to discuss, with the object either of eliciting further information or of expressing their opinions. We recognize that that is a legitimate desire on their part, and think that, instead of attempting to obtain information by a series of questions, it would be better to provide an opportunity to discuss the subject. I therefore propose to move the adjournment of the Senate at an early hour on Tuesday evening next, to enable honorable senators, who may so desire, to discuss the statement.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior supplies the following answers: - 1 and 2. Owing to the loan by the Library Committee to the Government of the accommodation provided for the Library in the West Block Secretariat, which the Government has not been able to restore, the Library Committee has reported to the Government the impossibility of the Library continuing to function satisfactorily unless additional and suitable accommodation is provided immediately. In order to relieve the existing congestion in Parliament House, it has been found necessary to store portions of the collection in three buildings, each some miles apart, and last year 17,000 books frequently required by Parliament had to be transferred to the bedrooms of Hotel Acton. The Government is giving full and careful consideration to the representations of the Library Committee.
Public Servants’ Leave
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister supplies the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Statement by the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce, M.P.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior supplies the following answers: -
Transcript of Notes
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he have laid on the table of the Senate the transcript in the matter of the Accident Underwriters Association of Victoria and others, claimants, and the Insurance Staff Federation and others, respondents, No. 99 of 1932, which was re-heard in Sydney on Thursday, the 15th June, 1933?
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
If a copy of the transcript is available, it will be obtained and laid on the table of the Library.
SenatorRAE. - I rise to a personal explanation. In the Sydney Sun of yesterday’s date the following paragraph appears : -
Statements in the Senate last night that the Leader of the Opposition had been approached by Country party senators with a suggestion for a coalition to defeat the Government on general tariff policy, were to-day described as fantastic by the senators concerned. Senator Hardy (Country party, New South Wales) denied that the party had made any such proposals, and that he had even mentioned the matter to Senator Rae (State Labour, New South Wales). “On the face of it a statement that we, as low tariffists, would seek an alliance with the high tariff Labour group, is absurd.” Senator Elliott (Country party, Victoria) also denied that he had made any move. “As we were leaving the chamber at the adjournment, I said to Senator Rae and one or two others, ‘Why don’t you vote for it? You should do so. All senators should support the proposal ‘ “. “ That is the only time I said anything about the matter to any of the Labour senators “, added Senator Elliott.
That statement gives the lie direct to the statement that I made in the Senate, I think the night before last. Neither I nor any one else on this side, so far as I am aware, ever made a statement to the effect that we desired to arrange a coalition with the Country party. We never mentioned such a thing. The statement I made in the Senate was that my colleague, Senator Dunn, and I, were approached, and asked to join the Country party in supporting Senator Johnston’s amendment.
– I prefer to state the position in my own way. I said that we were approached to support Senator Johnston’s amendment. The two senators who approached us at different times, not together, were Senators Hardy and Elliott.
– I approach the honorable senator every day. I still hope to win the honorable senator away from bis present principles.
SenatorRAE. - Quite so. I disclaim any corrupt attempt to secure our support; but I did say that we were asked whether we could join with them in supporting Senator Johnston’s amendment to an item in the tariff schedule. I made that statement and I repeat it. Senator Hardy made no secret of it, and now says that he still hopes to win my support.
– I shall be inviting the honorable senator again to-day.
SenatorRAE. - I regret that Senator Elliott is absent from the chamber at the moment; but I would remind him that he came to the room occupied by the political group of which I am a member, where he spent from twenty minutes to half-an-hour in discussing tariff proposals. He then suggested that it would be good business on our part to support Senator Johnston’s amendment to the tariff schedule. After such statements have been made, I think that it is extraordinary that there should be an attempt to repudiate them through the press.Whatever my faults may be, I have never been accused of intriguing to win support, or of making false statements. What I said the other night is absolutely correct, and I defy any one to truthfully refute it.
The following papers were presented : -
Flax Industry of Australia - Report of the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department; together with Report on the Cultural and Harvesting requirement’s of the Flax Plant by Dr. B. T. Dickson, Chief of the Division of Plant Industry, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 12 of 1933 - Industrial Board.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 22nd June,vide page 2568). Schedule.
Group 2. - Items which have been amended in accordance with the Ottawa
Division 12. - Hides, Leather and rubber.
Leather, rubber, canvas and composition belting, and green hide for belting and other purposes, ad valorem, British, 30 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.
Upon which Senator Hardy had moved -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.
– The total importations of belting under this heading during 1930-31 from the United Kingdom were valued at £8,900, and from the United States of America at £5,400. The importations of leather belting from the United Kingdom were valued at £2,000, and from the United States of America, at a little over £1,200. The importations of rubber belting from the United Kingdom were valued at a few hundred pounds, and those from the United States of America at approximately £1,000. This subject was reported upon by the Tariff Board on the 21st November, 1930. The Board stated that: -
The applicant in this case estimated the Australian production of leather belting as £500,000 on the basis of wholesale selling prices. Importations of leather belting for the year 1928-29 (the last year for which complete figures are available) amounted to £15,226. Adding duty to this figure a landed duty paid cost of £20,329 is arrived at. Comparing this latter amount with Australian production it will be seen that local manufacturers hold over 96 per cent. of the Australian trade in leather belting. The opinion was, however, expressed by one Australian manufacturer of belting that importations of leather belting would consist very largely of round belting for use on sewing machines.
Dealing with rubber belting, the report says-
Importations of rubber belting for the year 1928-1929 amounted to £10,030 or a landed duty paid value of £13,871. Inquiry by the board has elicited the fact that the value of the production of this belting by Australian manufacturers is approximately £250,000 per annum. It will therefore be seen that local manufacturers hold in the vicinity of 95 per cent. of this trade.
No witness representing Australian manufacturers of rubber belting appeared at the public inquiry to support the proposed increased duty.
No evidence was submitted to the board in respect of green hide for belting and other purposes, and the board, therefore, assumes that no alteration in the duties provided in the Customs Tariff 1921-1928, is necessary for the protection of any local industry.
The application in that case was for increased duties. The board took the view that the localmanufacturers already largely supplied the Australian market, and it recommended that the duties be allowed to remain as they were.
– This is, perhaps, one of the most important items which the Senate will be called upon to discuss. Belting plays a vital part in both primary and secondary production. Any one who has had any experience of manufacturing knows that belting repairs and renewals form a considerable part of the running expenses of a factory. This is particularly so in regard to the heavy belting which usually connects the prime mover with the main shaft. There is a heavy duty on foreign belting which, of course, includes importations from the United States of America, where some of the best-quality belting is produced. Belting is used in all branches of primary production, as well as in factories. It is employed to drive separators, circular saws, chaff-cutters, and many other machines. In making this proposal for the reduction of the British duty, I ought to receive the support of Labour senators. I ask them on this occasion to abandon their high duty principles, which are running the country into ruin. No doubt, if the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) were here, he would seize on this as another attempt by the Country party to seduce members of the Labour partyto support low tariffs. One of our greatest difficulties in Australia to-day is the rigidity of costs within the Commonwealth. We must reduce internal costs if we are to conduct our businesses successfully. On top of the duties listed in the schedule, the users of belting have to pay primage and exchange, which makes its cost heavier still.
.- Belting is, undoubtedly, an important commodity, because practically all factories use it, but I cannot understand why it cannot be manufactured in Australia.
– Ninety-six per cent. of it is already made here.
– Most of the raw materials used for the manufacture of belting are produced in Australia. The leather, canvas and green hide, which enter largely into the construction of most kinds of belting, are all of Australian origin. We can do the work in Australia, and we should keep it here, even if it be necessary to increase the duty.
– I have had long personal experience in the use of belting. For26 years I worked in factories, and was accustomed to use belting of various kinds. I agree with Senator Barnes that much of the raw material used in the construction of belting is of Australian origin. That, of course, does not apply to rubber, but it is true of leather, canvas, &c. I remind Senator Hardy, and other so-called champions of the primary producers, that a special brand of “mangrovite “ leather belting produced in New South Wales is tanned with mangrove bark, which is largely obtained in Australia, while wattle bark is also widely used for tanning. Leather belting of all descriptions is manufactured within the Commonwealth, and the raw material for leather belting, as for green hide belting, is furnished by Australian stock-raisers. Why the Country party should seek to reduce the duty on belting I fail to understand, except that that is in accordance with its policy of tariff slashing.
– Most of the belting used now is rubber belting.
SenatorCOLLINGS.- Yes, and that kind of belting is being made in Australia of a quality equal to anything produced anywhere in the world. Senator Hardy said that belting was responsible for a considerable portion of the overhead cost of running a factory. No one knows that better than I do. During the time that I worked in factories, Australian belting was not so generally used as now, and there was a lingering prejudice in favour of imported belting, particularly that from America, where the manufacturers had had long and varied experiencein its production. I was long enough in the business to see that antipathy to locally-made belting disappear. To-day, I believe, all the biggest manufacturing concerns in Australia are usingAustralian belting, and their overhead costs for renewals,&c., are no greater than when imported belting was used almost exclusively.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– That was the experience of the proprietor of the concern in which I was employed. I knew what belting was ordered, and I knew the result of the various tests which were conducted. I believe that, when an item of which an honorable senator has had personal experience is before the Senate, he should get up and say what he knows about it. Belt-manufacturing is an important industry in Australia, and this applies to the manufacture of rubber belting, as well as to that of leather belting. There can be no doubt whatever regarding the quality of the Australian product, of its economical production, or of the satisfaction experienced by those who use it. I hope that the item will not be interfered with, because any reduction of duty would strike a blow at a most valuable Australian enterprise.
– I may discuss this subject, starting from the very sure foundations laid for us by Senator Collings, who stated that this is one of the most important industries, that there is no doubt about the quality of its product, or of its economical production. Every adjective of eulogy he could think of he applied to the industry. If it is as efficient as he says, why does it require a duty of 30 per cent. in order to survive?
– To keep out foreign products.
– The honorable senator’s argument, apparently, is that because the manufacturers in Australia have the local market to themselves, they are able to compete with the best the world can produce.
I did not quite follow the Minister in charge of the bill, when he was quoting from the Tariff Board report on this matter. I gathered that an application had been made for a higher duty, but that no one had turned up to support it.
– That was only in regard to greenhide belting.
– It seems to me that more significance should be attached to the non-appearance of applicants than has been given to it in the board’s report. Perhaps the manufacturers, seeing that they already enjoyed a substantial monopoly, thought it best not to stir up an inquiry. The Minister’s statement that the local manufacturers already supply 96 per cent. of the local market applies, I presume, to all kinds of belting. That approaches perilously near to a monopoly. I know that a new test is being applied in respect of many industries, the manufacturers putting their case in this way : “ We do not want to raise prices, but we do want the Australian market to ourselves.” That is merely a euphuism for saying, “ We want prohibition ; we do not want any competition from abroad.” A dangerous position will arise if any Australian industry is given an absolute monopoly. That is not the policy of the most ardent and deep-dyed protectionists in this country.
– The soap manufacturers asked for increased protection when they had 99 per cent. of the Australian trade.
– That is the tendency in all industries. This matter not only affects the primary producers, but it also deeply concerns all industries, secondary and primary. No factory can be established without belting, and every secondary industry is concerned about getting it at competitive prices. When we were told yesterday of the quality of locally-made binder twine, and of the efficiency of the industry, it was pointed out that the industry got its raw material free, and that that accounted for it being able to supply a good product at a reasonable rate. If other industries would realize that that argument goes to the root of all applications for high duties, it would assist us to find out what should be the limit of the protection granted in these cases. It is best not to go to extremes in tariff matters. I should have preferred that Senator Hardy’s first step on the right path had been to move for the reduction of this duty down to, say, 25 per cent.
– Honorable senators opposite have shown a marked tendency to misrepresent the attitude of the Labour party to the policy of protection. We do not desire any industry to have a monopoly enabling it to raise prices to such a height that the community is exploited.
– The tendency is in that direction.
– That may be so; but, unfortunately, the Government is handicapped, and Labour has been handicapped in the past, by constitutional limitations. My party contends that if Australian industries are efficient, they should have a local monopoly in the interests, not of themselves, but of the people generally. We should not be accused of having principles to which we do not subscribe.
– I do not suggest that Labour holds them, but they lead to what I am complaining about.
– The honorable senator attacks various Australian industries, and hopes to improve them by lowering the amount of protection that they now enjoy. We admit frankly that those in charge of local industries will often exploit their opportunities to the full ; but we maintain that that difficulty would be overcome, not by a reduction of duties, but rather by a limitation of profits. Senator Brennan has no faith in State control. Yet the sugar industry of Queensland affords a good example of what can be done by government action in the interests of the people.
– The rest of the States prop up that industry.
– But Queensland helps the other States. The sugar industry affords a capital illustration of the valueof organized production, marketing, and consumption. Personally, I regard it. as grossly unfair for members of the Country party to assert, and reiterate, that the local manufacturers are receiving an exchange advantage of from 25 to 30 per cent. When the report of the Tariff Board on that matter comes to hand, I think it will be shown that that statement is not justified.
– Does the honorable senator think that that report should have been made available to the committee?
– We should have it as soon as possible; but preference to local manufacturers cannot be given by juggling with currency or exchange. We, on this side of the chamber, realize that the real value of an article is governed by the amount of socially necessary labour time involved in its production, and fluctuations in exchange cannot, in the long run, affect real values ; any apparent extra protection by medium of exchange is inevitably overtaken by rising costs. Ford’s works, I recently read, have had their costs greatly increased as the result of the exchange manipulation.
– Order ! The honorable senator must discuss the matter before the committee.
– When this matter was before the Tariff Board, an effort was made to obtain an increase of the duties, so that camel-hair belting might be excluded. The contention submitted to the board was that satisfactory belting could be made locally out of Australian and New Zealand hides, Australian hark, and chrome alum from Great Britain. The question considered was whether a higher duty should be placed on camel-hair belting, so that the whole of the demand would be for Australian-made belting. The board deemed it desirable to enable camel-hair belting to be imported, with a view to keeping up the standard of the locally-made commodity. The importers of camel-hair belting claim that their article has special advantages. This matter will be reconsidered by the Tariff Board. The increase of the foreign rate is the result of the application of the Ottawa formula.
Question - That the request (Senator Hardy’s) be agreed to- put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . ‘. . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 333 (a2), (b) agreed to.
Division 13. - Paper and Stationery
Items 334 (c3) (d1, 2) (k) (l1, 2) (m2) (n) (ol, 2, 3), (p) (q) (s1) (w), 335, 336 (a) (b), 337 (b), and 346 (b) (c) (d) (f) agreed to.
Division 14. - Vehicles
Items 350, 351 (a) (b) and 352 (a1) (b) agreed to.
Item 353 (Bicycles, tricycles, and similar vehicles, n.e.i., and frames thereof whether partly or wholly finished).
– I wish to know whether this is the principal item covering these vehicle’s. While I agree with the group system of dealing with the schedule, I must say that it is sometimes difficult for honorable senators to keep track of the items. This is particularly the case in respect of divisions which contain only a small number of items. I have been informed that a consignment of bicycles from Japan has either been landed, or is about to be landed in Australia, at the ridiculously low cost of 26s. each It is obvious that Australian manufacturers of bicycles cannot compete under such conditions. What is the Government’s attitude in regard to this consignment? The Australian bicycle manufacturing industry has been established for many years, and it deserves reasonable protection.
– The Government has under consideration at present, the question whether the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act should be applied to the consignment of bicycles mentioned by the honorable senator.
Item agreed to.
Item 354 (a) agreed to.
Item 356 (Perambulator or go-cart parts, n.e.i.).
– The principal item covering perambulators, apparently appears in the next group, but perhaps the Minister might take this opportunity of giving us some information on the subject, as the parts of perambulators are, naturally, a consideration in dealing with the complete vehicles.
– There has been no report of the Tariff Board on perambulators. The alteration of duty provided in this item is consequential upon the adoption of the Ottawa formula. The general rate has been increased by 5 per cent., in order to make a margin of 15 per cent. in favour of British importations. Our importations of perambulators and go-carts is not great. In 1930-31, the value of these goods imported from the United Kingdom was £1,900, and from other countries, £43. In 1931-32, we imported only £900 worth of perambulators, and the goods come solely from the United Kingdom.
Item agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 358 (b) (c) and 359 (a) (c2) (f1) and (g2) agreed to.
Division 15. - Musical Instruments.
Items 361 to 364, 365 (d) (e) and 366 (a) agreed to.
Division 16. - Miscellaneous.
Item 374, sub-items (b) (c) (d1) (Asbestos cloth, &c., silicate of cotton, &c., and packings).
– I should like the Minister to explain why the item “ (d) Packings,” reads : “ (1) Asbestos, ad valorem, British, 20 per cent.; general, 37½ per cent.; and on and after the 9th March, 1933, (1) Asbestos, ad valorem, British, 20 per cent.; general, 37½ per cent.” Why is it necessary to repeat the item in that way when there is no difference in the duties?
– It is necessary because of the grouping system which is in operation. If the honorable gentleman will refer to page 95 of the bill, he will see that the item appears only once.
Sitting suspended from 12.46to 2.15 p.m.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 375 (b), agreed to.
Item 376, sub-items (c) (d) (Bags, baskets, fancy boxes).
.- I should like some information from the Minister with reference to the bagmaking industry in Australia, and the need for ad valorem duties of 35 per cent. British and 55 per cent. general. I understand that there is a considerable volume of production of leather bags of various descriptions, but I am unaware of the extent to which we are manufacturing metal trunks, boxes and articles of that description.
– The manufacture of hand bags and purse bags, baskets, and fancy boxes, has not been the subject of a report by the Tariff Board recently. The previous Administration imposed an ad valorem duty or surcharge of 50 per cent. British, but that was altered, as from the 1st September, 1932, and the general rate was increased by 5 per cent. to provide the margin of preference stipulated in the Ottawa agreement. It may interest the honorable senator to know that, in 1931-32, our total imports of this class of goods were valued at £31,137, of which Great Britain supplied £13,000, while in the following year our imports from Britain had declined in value to £4,000. In the former year our imports from Japan and Germany were about equal, the total from each country being approximately £6,000, and from other countries about £9,000 worth. The reduction of the volume of imports, I assume, was due to the exceedingly high special duty imposed by the previous Administration, and as. these bags are regarded as luxury goods, the duties imposed are for revenue purposes, as well as for the protection of local industry. Baskets are made in institutions for the blind.
– Metal boxes may be considered luxury goods, but other articles, such as pin trays and pin boxes, are not. If the local industry is meeting the needs of the people at a reasonable price, I have no objection to offer to the duties imposed.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 380, sub-items (a1) (b), 381 (d) (e1 to 4), 384 (a1 to 5), 386, and 388 (b) agreed to.
Item 392, sub-items (a1 to 3) (d) (g) (h) (Yarns).
– In sub-item a1, cotton, mercerized, is free British, and 17½ per cent. general ; but in paragraph 3, single-ply yarn spun in count No. 50 or finer, and yarns of two or more ply, containing one or more ply spun in count 50 or finer, the general tariff is 15 per cent., while insub-itemd silk, or silk in admixture with artificial silk, the ad valorem rates are 20 per cent. British and 27½ per cent. general. Artificial silk is free British, but carries a duty of 17½ per cent. in the general tariff, whereas yarns n.e.i. are free British and 15 per cent. general. I should like an explanation of the reason for this differentiation between artificial silk, and silk or silk in admixture with artificial silk. I am aware that these yarns are imported for the manufacture oftextiles and other fabrics, but unless the Minister can show good reason for the variation in theduties, I may feel disposed to vote against the rates imposed by the subitemd.
.- The Tariff Board had this matter under consideration in 1931, and recommended no variation of the then existing rates. The alteration shown in this schedule was made in pursuance of the Ottawa Conference agreement. Silk has always been subject to a revenue tariff, and the duties on silk in admixture with artificial silk are necessarily in harmony with the duties on silk.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 393, sub-items (a to d) (Crochet cottons, sewing and embroidery silks, sewing threads).
– The duties in these several sub-items present a problem to me. On crochet, knitting, mercerized, and embroidery cotton, put up for household purposes, the ad valorem duties are 25 per cent. British, and 42½ per cent. general, whereas sewing thread and sewing cotton, put up for household use in reels up to and including 400 yards are free British, and 15 per cent. general, while sewing threads and sewing cottons, n.e.i., carry a duty of 25 per cent. British, and 42½ per cent. general. The differentiation between these duties seems to be so extraordinary as to require an explanation. From what I know of the manufacturing industry in Australia, sewing cotton or thread is imported in very large spools containing 1,000 yards or more. I offer no objection to sewing cotton and sewing thread for general household use being admitted free, but I fail to see why there should be a substantial duty on sewing thread and sewing cotton simply because they are put up in spools exceeding 400 yards.
.- The Tariff Board reported on this industry in 1928, and recommended these rates, which have been adjusted in accordance with the Ottawa folmula. I am not quite clear why the higher rate is imposed on sewing thread and sewing cotton in the larger reels, but I shall have inquiries made before the sub-items are passed. I therefore move-
That further consideration of the sub-items be postponed.
Motion agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 394 (c), 397 (a) (b), 398, 404, 404a, 410 (a), 415 (a2), 424 (a1, 2) (d), 425, 426 (b), 427 (c), 435 to 438 agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That the consideration of the remaining items other than those included in group 3 of the customs tariff groups memorandum, be postponed until after the consideration of the items specified in group 3.
Group 3. - Revenue items not included under any other heading.
Division 1. - Ales, Spirits and Beverages.
Item 1 (a) (b) agreed to.
Item 3, sub-items (a1, 2) (b1, 2) (cl, 2) (d1, 2) (e1, 2) (gl, 2) (h1, 2) (il, 2)-
Spirits and spirituous liquors n.e.i. -
Whisky, including liqueur whisky -
When not exceeding the strength of proof, per gallon - British, 45s.; general, 48s.
When exceeding the strength of proof, per proof gallon - British, 45s.; general, 48s.
– I move- that the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (b) to read - “(b) Whisky, including liqueur whisky -
The request is made in order to permit the importation of Scotch barley malt pot-still whisky for blending in bond with Australian whisky. An import duty of 17s. per proof gallon is provided, and when the whisky is cleared from bond as a blended whisky, an excise duty of 28s. per proof gallon will be payable, bringing the total duty on the imported portion of the blended whisky up to 45s. per proof gallon, the equivalent of the present import duty on Scotch whisky. Blended whisky produced in Australia requires to be partly spirit distilled from barley malt by potstill or similar process and partly spirit distilled from other grain. The blend must contain at least 25 per cent, of barley malt whisky. The United Distillers Proprietary Limited, which is producing whisky in Victoria, states that the distinctive qualities which have made Scotch whiskies the world’s standard are due to the peculiar characteristics of the Scotch barley malt pot-still elements, and has represented that the company can produce in Australia a whisky comparable in flavour and quality with imported whisky only if it be allowed to use in the production of whisky here, a proportion not exceeding 20 per cent, of Scotch pot-still, pure barley-malt whisky. A whisky would then be available to the public which would have the characteristics of Scotch whisky, but which would be mostly Australian produce. The extent to which the imported malt whisky would he allowed to be used would be 20 per cent. of theblend. To ensure that the use of Australian pure barley malt whisky is not unduly displaced, it is proposed to require, under the excise item, that the minimum proportion of such Australian whisky to be contained in the final product shall be 15 per cent. The minimum proportion of pure barley malt whisky at present required in Australian blended whisky is 25 per cent. This minimum will be maintained under this proposal, but it will be made up of at least 15 per cent. Australian whisky. There is nothing to prevent the applicants under present conditions from making this or any other blend of imported and Australian whiskies, if they do it out of bond, at the same total duty, import and excise, as will be payable if this requested amendment is made. The duties on spirits, however, are so high that blending is done in bond whenever practicable, in order to escape payment of duty until the goods go into consumption, and to save payment of duty on waste. The advantages that will accrue to the trade under this item are that 28s. per proof gallon will not have to be paid until the whisky contained in the blend is cleared for home consumption under the excise tariff, and the avoidance of payment on waste. The equivalent of the full import duty will be paid on the imported spirit used in the blend. The blend will, in the opinion of the distillers, produce a whisky more acceptable to the Australianpalate, and should increase consumption, while the revenue will lose nothing, as the same total rate will be payable. Should the anticipated increase in consumption be realized, the revenue will naturally benefit.
– I move -
That the proposed request, sub-item (r2a), be amended by leaving out “ 45s.” and inserting in lieu thereof “ 40s.”
On the 19th November, 1931, the present Vice-President of the Executive Council moved a similar request, which was carried by twenty votes to nine. Those who supported it were - Senators Brennan, Carrol, Colebatch, Cooper, Cox, Dunn, Glasgow, Guthrie, E. B. Johnston, Kingsmill, Lynch, McLachlan, Millen, Pearce, Plain, Rae, Reid, Sampson, Thompson, and Foll. On that occasion the Country’ and Nationalist parties were agreed, and they were supported by Senators Dunn and Rae. In moving the amendment, Senator McLachlan said -
The duties previously imposed were respectively 35s., 37s., and 38s., and the Government has increased them by 10s. in each case. I, yesterday, stressed the fact that this increase was detrimental to the revenue, and I believe that I demonstrated the extent to which the revenue would be affected.
My proposal to-day is made with the same object as that of Senator McLachlan in 1931, namely, to protect the revenue.
– These are all revenue sub-items, and are part of our budget plan. I assure honorable senators that the point referred to by Senator Johnston has not been lost sight of by the Government, and that the closest attention is being given to the possibility of a duty being so high that it will react, and produce a smaller revenue than would be secured if the duty were lower. This matter is the subject of discussion between the British and Australian Governments, and, as the budget will be before us for debate within the next month or two, by which time the negotiations that are proceeding may have afforded some relief, I ask the honorable senator not to press his amendment.
– Is the Minister prepared to postpone the subitem until we have finished with the remainder of the schedule?
– I cannot do that, because we must get through the schedule, and send it back to another place as soon as possible.
– I am always anxious to accede to the wishes of the Government; but, if the item cannot be postponed, I should like the Senate to have an opportunity to express its opinion upon my request.
– Is there any need to debate the matter at length.
– I have no desire to do so.
.- Senator Johnston has not given any reason why his amendment should be acceded to.
– I might explain that, if the amendment is carried, it will be necessary to make consequential amendments to the excise duty on blended whisky and to other sub-items.
– I am endeavouring to ensure that the request will not be carried, for I regard it as an attempt to whittle away the protection that is afforded to an Australian product.
– These duties are imposed for revenue, and not for protective, purposes.
– Their purpose is twofold - protective, and to supplement the revenue. I am opposed to any cutting down of the protection afforded to Australian whisky. We make an excellent spirit in this country, and, were it not that we needed additional revenue, we should be justified in prohibiting the importation of whisky. The tradition as to the superiority of Scotch whisky has been so long established that many people will not give the local article a trial. I am confident that those who do so find it superior to the Scotch product, and I am in favour of popularizing our own whisky to such an extent that eventually a demand will be created for it even in Scotland. Senator Johnston will have to advance some very good reasons before I support his amendment.
– This sub-item has been so well debated on previous occasions that I shall not labour it now. I can appreciate the desire for haste on the part of the Government, which would like to see the sub-item go through without discussion. Just prior to the time when the BrucePage Government crashed, the duty on this sub-item was 35s. a gallon, and that Administration augmented the impost by 2s., making it 37s. a gallon. The then Opposition made a dreadful fuss about the increase, yet, immediately the Scullin Government came into power it slammed on another 8s., making the duty 45s. a gallon. The impost is purely a revenueraising device, and it is interesting to go back to pre-war days and compare the figures giving the consumption of whisky and the revenue derived from this duty, for the examination discloses that as the duty has increased the revenuehas decreased. I was told by a responsible Minister, prior to the holding of the Ottawa Conference, that this was one of the matters that would be discussed at that gathering. Without doubt, 45s. a gallon, or 7s. 6d. a bottle, is a wicked impost on an article that cannot satisfactorily be produced outside Scotland. I should like to go further than Senator Johnston, and move to reduce the rate by 8s. a gallon. It amuses me to see how gun-shy the Government is whenever this item comes up for attention; it now wants to rush the matter through without discussion.
– I rise to a point of order. I resent the statement that the Government is afraid to discuss the sub-item, and am willing, if honorable senators desire it, to take the schedule item by item.
– If the remark is offensive, I withdraw it. It was founded on the statement of the Minister that he wanted to get through these sub-items without wasting time. The remarks of Senator Barnes were beside the point, for Australian and Scotch whiskies are entirely different articles, and, therefore, there can be no competition between them. Those who like the Australian product are welcome to it, but those who prefer Scotch whisky should have a reasonable opportunity to obtain it. Frequently, doctors prescribe it as a medicine, and it is rough on those who have to purchase it that such an exorbitant duty should be imposed. I support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Johnston.
– I support my Leader, and oppose the amendment. The State of Queensland manufactures a splendid rum, and it would be inconsistent if a representative of that State sat quiescent, and allowed freetraders to tilt at the reasonable protection that is afforded to Australian whisky. I am not a heavy drinker of this spirit, but I take a little during winter time, partly from a medicinal point of view. Not very long ago, while in Brisbane, I was introduced to Old Court whisky, and I pronounced it to be an excellent product. I have been drinking whisky for the last 30 years in all parts of the world, and I cannot see that our product differs materially from that which is produced in Scotland. No doubt some will claim that the Scottish product is somewhat mellower, but it is all a matter of taste.Whisky is used medicinally, many doctors prescribing it for nervous dyspepsia, and, if the doctor’s prescription is adhered to, no harm can result. Senator Barnes said that he looked forward to the day when we shall be exporting our whisky to Scotland. I am half Scotch myself, and in the days when a nip of whisky and “ split “ was being retailed in the best bars in Piccadilly for 6d., I visited Sligachan, a whiskyproducing centre in Scotland, where, when driving past a country inn, I invited my companions to have a drink. Being a humble Australian who at the time had not travelled very widely, I thought that in the home of whisky I should be able to purchase it for less than I was accustomed to paying, but to my astonishment I was asked to pay 3s. for three whiskies and water, whereas in any other part of the world, including Australia, the price for a nobbier of whisky and soda was then only 6d. In my early years in Victoria there was on the market an Australian whisky produced by a company with which, I believe, Mr. J. M. Joshua was associated.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in referring to departed spirits.
– There is no reason why as good a whisky as that produced in Scotland or Ireland should not be produced in Australia; it is all a question of maturity. Senator Johnston’s amendment, if agreed to, would discourage the production of Australian whisky, and prevent the local industry from securing a footing in this country. The experience of the United States of America teaches us that we cannot by legislation enforce what a man may drink.
Thirteen of the States have agreed to the repeal of the thirteenth amendment, and I have no doubt that a majority of the remaining States will do likewise. Whisky has a certain medicinal value. If we cannot produce a blend that measures up to the best imported, we should import the distillers.
– The distiller is not the most important factor. Water for the distillation of whisky is obtained by Germany from Scotland.
– I believe that Australia can produce as good a whisky as Scotland. A large sum is annually sent out of this country for this spirit; the Minister is, probably, in a position to furnish the exact figures. If the duty were 85s. instead of 45s. a gallon, there would be a much greater demand for the cheaper Australian spirit. Although whisky is not distilled in Queensland, to be consistent I, with other honorable senators from that State, must oppose the amendment, because we shall shortly endeavour to have restored to the old rate the duty on Queensland rum, or, if that be not acceptable to the committee, to reduce the excise on that product.
[3.10]. - I do not suggest that the statement of Senator Sampson was unfair.
Our only object in asking the committee to arrive at a quick decision on this item is to get on with the business. We have no wish to discuss this item at length, but that desire does not arise because, as Senator Sampson has suggested, we are afraid to discuss it, or that we regard it as “ dangerous.”
– Is it not our business to discuss the item?
– I. suggest that at this particular juncture no good purpose would be served by discussing these duties at length. From the point of view of the Treasury, an item of this class is important, because we collect a considerable revenue from spirits, beer and narcotics, and, therefore, the Treasury is vitally concerned in fixing the duties at a rate which will secure the largest amount of revenue. I am not losing sight of the protective incidence of t.he rates which, of course, depends upon the difference between the duty on imports and the excise levied on local production. It would be impossible, of Course, to deal .with these duties without taking due cognizance of the excise duties so as to maintain the protective incidence of the tariff. When we look at the figures of the actual imports of whisky during the last few years, we have reason to question whether the customs duties are not, perhaps, so operating as to give us less revenue than we might reasonably anticipate from this particular source. The value of the whisky imported in bulk in 1928-29 was £1,175,000; in 1929-30, £1,048,000; in 1930-31, £440,000; and in 1931-32, £165,000. In view of those figures Ave must necessarily consider whether the duties have been fixed at a rate which may actually prevent us from getting the maximum revenue from, this source.
– Has not the depression reduced the consumption of all liquors’?
Senator Sir WALTER GREENE.Of course it has. There has been, not a great, but still a material fall in the consumption of Australian whisky, but 1 suggest that the fall in the value of imported whisky from £1,175,000 to £165,000, in the course of three years, is clue to something more than the depression. ,
– What has been the cause of the reduced consumption?
– Honorable senators can form their own conclusions about that. There is, in respect of these spirit duties, another factor to which I draw the attention of honorable senators. They will find, if they glance at the whole series of spirit duties, that a balance. has been preserved between them, which it is important should be maintained. These duties are far reaching, as they include perfumery and other spirits, and the balance must be maintained between one spirit and another. For that reason, I suggest to Senator Johnston that it is undesirable, at this moment at all events, to reduce the duty on whisky. The only objective in reducing the duty would, from the point of view of the ‘ Treasury, be to increase consumption, although that of course might by certain people be regarded as a heinous offence. No doubt Senator Johnston will realize that it is exceedingly difficult to translate a reduction of duty by 5s. a gallon into something worth while from the point of view, not only of the ‘ consumer, but also of the .Treasury, if the objective he to obtain additional revenue as a result of increased consumption. I, therefore, suggest that honorable senators leave this item as it is. Although I can make no promises, I can inform honorable senators that the item is being seriously considered by the Government. What we shall do I cannot tell them at the moment. This item is indissolubly linked up with our financial policy, and I hope that the Senate will have a further opportunity to consider the matter.
– I appreciate the action of Senator Johnston in seeking a reduction of- the duty on whisky, because he is only carrying out the policy which he has adopted during the past week or two of doing everything within his power to obtain a cheaper article for Western Australia.
– And for Australia too.
– It may be that the honorable senator has many personal friends engaged in selling whisky, whose chief’ occupation is to turn the bottle Upside down.
– Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– If Western Australia desires a cheaper spirit it can obtain it in the rum manufactured not only in Queensland, but also in New South Wales. I recollect that close by where the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway crosses the Queensland border, a fine spirit was at one time made from fly tox and kiwi boot polish.
– The honorable senator much not disobey the Chair.
– I am not disobeying the Chair, and I think that you, sir, have acted rather hastily in saying that I have disobeyed the Chair.
– I have already called the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that he must discussthe item before the Chair.
– I am discussing the item. I am reminded of the lines-
The Frenchan likes his sparkling wine,
The German his lager beer;
The Englishman his half-and-half,
And swears it brings good cheer:
The Scotchman likes his whisky neat,
The Irishman likes it hot;
Australians have no national drink -
They like the blasted lot.
– I am glad that the Government is in communication with the British Government regarding the duties on spirits, and is giving close attention to the matter from the point of view of the revenue involved. If it wishes to obtain more revenue from this source, it can attain that end by further reducing the duty on whisky. If spirits could be sold at 9d. a nobbler, instead of1s., there would be a surprising increase of revenue.
– What reduction of duty would be necessary to enable the price of whisky to be lowered by 3d. a nobbler?
– I cannot say offhand, because the position varies in different parts of Australia. The strength at which spirits are sold is fixed by State licensing laws, and varies in different States. My experience is that the drinkers of Scotch whisky do not drink Australian whisky to any extent. It is true that the con sumption of Australian whisky is increasing, but not among those who are accustomed to drinking Scotch whisky. Having heard the views of the Government on this subject, and knowing that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) has always been an advocate of lower duties on spirits, I ask permission towithdraw my amendment.
Amendment of the proposed request - by leave - withdrawn.
Request agreed to.
– I regret that the Minister will not agree to the postponement of sub-item (d) which deals with rum, because it would be better to discuss the position of the Australian rum industry when the excise duties are before us. The disabilities from which the Queensland producers of rum are suffering could be removed by a reduction of the excise duty. They complain that the protective margin is smaller in the case of rum than in respect of other spirits. On brandy the margin of protection is 18s. a gallon, and. on gin and whisky it is 17s. a gallon, whereas in the case of rum the margin is only 6s. a gallon. It has been said that the lower protective margin in the case of rum is due to rum not being so good a spirit as the others. I am no judge of their relative qualities as beverages, although I may take rum as a medicine.
– The troops at the war liked their rum.
– Some of them, I understand, called it “ Nelson’s blood “, because it improved their fighting qualities. Queensland senators are concerned with the duties on rum, not because they are heavy consumers ‘of the spirit, but because it is produced in their State. Were the whole of the rum, whisky and gin in the world poured into the sea, the world would probably be the better for it. On the other hand, I know that many men like a little stimulant at times, because of nerve strain and in order to enable them to meet the competition of their fellows. We must, however, deal with things as they are, and one fact which stands out is that a certain quantity of rum is entering this country from Jamaica to the detriment of the Australian rum industry. Very little rum is produced in Australia outside Queensland, and in that State the position of the industry is far from satisfactory. Only about 8,500 gallons of Australian rum is produced outside Queensland, whereas one Queensland distillery has a capacity of 100,000 gallons per annum and the distillery at Bundaberg has an even greater capacity. Two big distilleries in Queensland have recently closed down, and others are barely able to carry on. We have to decide how best we can help this industry.
– Drink more rum!
- Mr. Randolph Bedford, a member of the Queensland Parliament, tells the story of a club, some of whose members were drinkers of rum and whisky, and others were teetotallers. Those who drank spirits got rid of the teetotallers from the club, and introduced in their place a number of drinkers of rum and whisky. By that means, the club, which previously was in serious financial difficulty, got out of debt. We might convert the losses on the Parliamentary refreshment room into a profit by allowing only drinkers of rum and whisky to enter this Parliament. The Ottawa agreement stands in the way of the making of the duty on rum 40s. a gallon, and since at this juncture we cannot deal with the excise duty on this spirit, it would appear that all we can do now is to say that the Queensland rum industry is not being treated fairly.
– It has 90 per cent. of the trade; what more does it want?
– Queensland senators seek a greater margin of protection than now exists, and I hope that the Government will see its way to grant it.
– Unless the explanation is that the honorable senator’s enthusiasm for Queensland industries has stirred him, I cannot understand his plea for more favorable treatment of the Queensland rum industry, because when the margin of protection was only 3s. a gallon, Australian rum commanded 90 per cent. of the trade in that spirit.
– The margin was11s. a gallon at one time.
– It is not my intention to allow this sub-item to pass without further discussion. Representations have been made to me, and to other honorable senators, by those controlling certain Queensland distilleries, to the effect that the decisions reached at Ottawa have facilitated the importation of foreign rum to the detriment of the Queensland industry. The Bundaberg Distilling Company, writing on this subject, states -
On the eve of the forthcoming debate in the Federal House on the tariff schedule, we desire to bring under your notice what we consider the grave injustice which the distillers of rum have been subjected to, not only through the recent decisions at the Ottawa Conference, but dating back to 1906.
I hope that the Minister is listening, because he said that those controlling the Queensland industry ought to be satisfied with the protection they are at present receiving. The letter continues -
Prior to the Ottawa Conference, Australian rum enjoyed a protective margin of l1s. per proof gallon over foreign rum, that is to say that, whilst the excise duty on Australian rum was 30s., the import duty on foreign rum was 41s. The recent decision at Ottawa, however, was to reduce the import duty On foreign rum, embracing as it does all West Indian rum, to 36s., and there is distinct evidence in the short time that has elapsed since the decision became effective, of an increase in the number of gallons of imported rum. It seems quite unnecessary to remind you that all this imported rum is the produce of molasses produced entirely by black labour.
As the Ottawa decision seems to be irrevocable, the only other method by which we may obtain some redress is by a reduction in the excise duty of 30s. per proof gallon on Australian rum.Rum is produced in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, but at least 75 per cent. is produced by the three Queensland distilleries. Whisky, on the other hand, is produced almost exclusively in Victoria.
I supported the duties on whisky, which interest honorable senators representing otherSates, and I now expect those honorable senators to support the representatives of Queensland on this sub-item. The letter continues -
The excise duty on Australian whisky is 28s. per proof gallon, whilst on Australian rum it is 30s. Why the difference in favour of whisky?
They feel that the differentiation between whisky and rum is too great. They also state -
As longa goas 1906 a royal commission on customs and excise tariffs recommended, inter alia -
That the consumption of cheap and inferior spirit, e.g., rum, should not be encouraged at the expense and sacrifice of spirits of higher grade, quality and price, such as whisky.
Rum is a very beneficial spirit in whatever form it may be taken, and, moreover, it is sold at a price within the reach of the masses. This company goes on to say that -
In the light of present day knowledge wo say that the above conclusion is entirely erroneous.Rum is now universally acknowledged to be equally as pure and wholesome a drink as whisky. This, then, is apparently the only reason why a margin of 2s. per gallon was decided on in favour of Australian whisky. Just here it might be appropriate to mention that Australian gin, which is produced in Victoria, is dutiable at 30s.per gallon the same as Australian rum, yet Australian rum must be matured in wood for two years before it can go into consumption, whilst gin is sold freshly distilled and need not be matured at all.
– Does the company want a higher duty?
– It considers that, under the Ottawa agreement, the importation of foreign rum has been facilitated to the detriment of the Australian industry.
– The rum producers were asked to submit their case to the Tariff Board, but up to the present they have not done so.
– The letter from which 1 am quoting is dated the 1st March of this year, which is of recent date. This company further states that -
In order to stimulate sales of Australian rum, and at the same time offset the small margin of6s. between it and foreign rum, brought about at Ottawa, we submit that, in all fairness, the excise duty should be reduced below the present figures of 30s. At the very least it should be reduced to the same levelas Australian whisky, viz., 28s., as, in our opinion, no valid reason can be advanced for the present difference of 2s. in favour of Australian whisky. If this were done it would, aswe have said, offset to some extent the concession which our delegates at Ottawa saw fit to grant to a product of black labour.
– The honorable senator must not enter into a discussion on excise duties.
– The alternative proposal was that, if the duties were not restored, the matter should be adjusted by means of a variation of the excise rate. The letter continues -
It mayinterest you to know how we are situated. We have stored in our spirit bonds at the present time 300,000 liquid gallons of rum, equivalent to nearly 500,000 proof gallons, varying in age from one and a half to five years, which, partly on account of the high excise duty and partly to the distressing economic conditions, is going into consumption at a very slow rate. In fact, notwithstanding our enormous storage capacity, we have not distilled any rum for over twelve months.
Gin manufactured entirely in Victoria enjoys a protective margin of 17s., and has not to be matured in wood for two years, as in the case of rum.
Whisky manufactured in Victoria has a protective margin of l7s. against imported whisky, and a further advantage of 2s. over Australian rum.
Thomas Brown and Sons are a wellknown firm in Brisbane, and they hare written to me enclosing a copy of a letter sent by them to the Minister for Trade and Customs on the 1st of March, 1933. I have replied to the communication, assuring the writers that I would take the first’ opportunity to bring their recommendations before the Senate, and I should be neglecting my responsibility to Queensland if I did not do so. This firm’s letter to the Minister is as follows : -
We are the proprietors of the Beenleigh distillery, situated near Brisbane, and are writing to request your consideration to a reduction in the present excise of 30s. per proof gallon levied on Australian-distilled rum.
There are three distilleries in Queensland, and these have produced in the past the hulk of the rum made in Australia. We have been informed that three distilleries in Victoria have produced rum, but the quantity is negligible, being less than an average of 8,500 gallons for the last three years, whereas in a normal year the smallest Queensland distillery would produce approximately 100,000 gallons, and the Bundaberg distillery . (the largest in Queensland ) considerably more.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Sub-items agreed to, subject to a request.
Items8, 12, 13 (a1, 2) agreed to.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On the 2nd June,Senator Hardy asked the following question, upon notice: -
What is the total gross expense of the recent trip of the Honorable C. W. C. Marr to New Guinea and the Mandated Territory?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that the total cost to the Government of that visit was £188, included in which were the expenses of the official staff.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On the 26th May, Senator Payne asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable senator with the following information in regard to the second question: -
The Administration revenue from the sale of liquor since the year1926-27 has been as follows : -
The considerable additional revenue during the year 1927-28 has been ascribed -
Largo numbers of tourists visited the territory up to the year 1931. In 1929, the Customs Ordinance was amended to increase the import duty on spirits from 14s. to 30s. per gallon, on beer from6d. to 2s.6d. per gallon, and from 5s. to 10s. and 10s. to 25s. for other than Australian wines, and from 10s. to 15s. per gallon for Australian sparkling wines. This amendment resulted in a considerable increase in the revenue obtained by the Administration from the sale of liquor. ‘ In 1931, the system of liquor permits was altered to the issue of weekly permits to “approved citizens “. The amount of wine and beer under the permits was at the same time increased twofold, with the object of encouraging the consumption of light Australian wine and beer in lieu of spirits. No liquor can be imported into Norfolk Island except by the Administration.
Rainfall in Eastern Australia - Party Voting on Tariff Schedule.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Honorable senators will be interested to hear the latest reports regarding the splendid rains that have been experienced in the eastern portion of Australia. I have obtained from the Commonwealth meteorologist, Mr. Watt, reports of the falls that have occurred up to 9 a.m.. to-day. He states that valuable rains have fallen in eastern Australia, and will prove a useful addition in Queensland to the falls that took place there a week ago. He adds that the latest rainfall will be particularly valuable in the wheat areas of New South Wales and the pastoral districts in central and southeastern Queensland. Little rain has fallen in the dry country in the far west and north-west of New South Wales. The report that I have before me shows that the rain has been fairly general, and that at most of the stations it is still falling. There has been general but light rain in Victoria. In New South Wales, useful falls have been recorded, including the following : -
Jerilderie, 70; Berrigan,62; Tocumwal, 42; Urana,96; Wagga, 153; Henty, 126; Corowa, 48; Yetman, 190; Warialda, 177; Gunnedah, 112; Tamworth, 104; Werris Creek, 124; Quirindi, 112; Coonabarabran, 124; Coolah, 88;Dubbo, 82; Wellington, 103; Parkes, 127; Forbes, 96; Marsden, 100; Grenfell, 106; West Wyalong, 83; Young, 105; Cootamundra, 95; Junee, 137; Temora, 105; Burrinjuck Dam, 134; Gundagai, 91; Tarcutta, 100; Holbrook, 63; Albury, 40; Mudgee, 113; Orange, 86; Bathurst, 62; Carcoar, 61; Cowra, 90; Yass, 75.
I have endeavoured to select the stations in Queensland which best indicate the extent of the rainfall, particularly in the pastoral areas. I draw attention to the following falls: -
Therehas also been some rain in South Australia, and it was still falling when the records were obtained.
– Press reports of statements made by Senators Carroll, Hardy and others, have created a considerable amount of uncertainty as to how the incident arose in this chamber on “Wednesday night when the disclosure was made that the Federal Labour party had been approached by a senator representing the Country party. Senator Hardy, in particular, cast a slur at the Lang party.
– Not a slur.
– Yes; when the honorable senator said that the Government had been saved by the votes of the Lang group, it was a direct slur upon a group of honorable senators who had every right to vote with the Government. Indirectly, it was a slur upon honorable senators of the Federal Labour party because of their association with the Government in the various divisions that had been taken. The various press reports that I have seen simply start out with the statement: “ Senator MacDonald made the disclosure.” But I consider that
I had every justification for the action that I took. I had no intention of making any such disclosure, but hearing a member of the Country party casting a slur at honorable senators on this side, I deemed it time to mention what I knew. It was a case of tit for tat, and I had sufficient provocation for what I said. But I mentioned no names. Astounding as my declaration may have been, I was particularly astounded when Senator Rae rose and mentioned the names of two honorable senators who had approached the members of the Lang group; because, obviously, Senator Hardy’s statement that the Lang group had saved the Government was entirely wrong. That group could not have saved the Government if the seven members of the Federal Labour party had consistently voted with the Country party and the insurgents on the Government side during the important divisions that had been taken on the tariff schedule. The Lang group did not save the Government. The Federal Labour party saved it by voting consistently with it, for the very good reason that the tariff policy of the Government is more acceptable to the Labour party than that of any other party in the Senate. I have no desire to reopen any discussion on this matter, but I thought it advisable to clear the air, in view of the garbled reports which havebeen published in the press. It occurs to me, Mr. President, on returning to this chamber after the lapse of. some years, that considerable carelessness is shown by honorable senators in the alignment of parties and the seating of senators in this chamber. Senator Carroll said that we had not been approached by an honorable senator “ on behalf of “ the Country party. I find, on referring to my Hansard proofs, that I spoke of an honorable senator “ belonging to “ the Country party. Senator Carroll disclosed to me for the first time that he was the leader in this chamber of the so-called Country party, though he sits among a bunch of senators owing allegiance to the United Australia party.
The hour being4 p.m.,
Question put -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 June 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19330623_senate_13_140/>.