14th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate, on the 19th March, 1936, adjourned till a day and hour to be fixed, and to be notified by the President to each honorable senator.
The Senate met at 3 p.m. pursuant to the notification of the President.
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair and read prayers.
[3.1]. - I desire to inform honorable senators that proof copies of evidence given before the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, covering the period from the 15th January to the 27th February, 1936, inclusive, have been placed in the Library. Further instalments of the evidence will be made available as they are received from the Government Printer.
The following papers were presented : -
Papua - Annual Report for 1934-35.
Wheat, Flour and Bread Industries - Third,
Fourth and Fifth Reports of Royal Commission.
Air Navigation Act and Carriage by Air Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1930. No. 45.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 1 of 1936 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s Statement of the Combined Accounts of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 31st December, 1935, certified- to by the Auditor-General.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 30.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of -
Commerce - U. Ellis.
External Affairs - J. D. L. Hood.
Health- W. T. Agar, J. L. O’Connor and D. W. Johnson.
Parliamentary Reporting Staff - A. J. Weatherston, W. J. Bridgman, N. . J. Parkes and K. R. Ingram.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 32- No. 33- No. 34- No. 43- No. 44.
Naval Defence Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 40.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1935 - No. 22 - Registration of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.
No. 23 - Marriage.
No. 24 - Laws Repeal and Adopting (No. 2).
No. 25 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1934-1935.
No. 26 - Appropriation 1935-1930.
No. 27 - Police Offences (No. 2).
No. 28 - Public Service.
No. 29 - Electric Light and Power.
No. 30 - Immigration.
No. 31 - Stamp Duties.
No. 32 - Customs Tariff.
No. 33 - Church of England (New Guinea) Property.
No. 34 - Superannuation (No. 2)
No. 35 - Judiciary.
No. 36 - Treasury.
No. 37 - Currency Coinage and Tokens (No. 2).
No. 38 - Legal Practitioners.
No. 39 - Natives’ Contracts Protection.
No. 40- Mining (No. 2).
No. 42 - Expulsion of Undesirables.
No. 43- Land (No. 2).
No. 44 - Seacarriage of Goods.
No. 45 - Cemeteries.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 3- Audit.
No. 4 - Crimes.
No. 5 - Stock Diseases.
No.6- Public Works.
No. 7 - Pasturage and Enclosure.
No. 8 - Public Roads and Public Notices.
No. 9 - Noxious Weeds.
No. 10 - Slaughtering.
No. 11 - Commons and Public Reserves. Exportation of Fruit Ordinance - Regulations.
Scat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 8 - Canberra Community Hospital Board.
No. 9 - Public Baths.
No. 12 - Industrial Board.
No. 13 - Money Lenders.
Canberra University College Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Education Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Meat Ordinance - Regulations.
Police Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statu tory Rules, 1936, No. 38- No. 49.
Northern Australia Survey Act - Report of the Committee appointed to direct and control the Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia, for the period ended 31st December, 1935.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 14.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1936, No. 19.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 29.
Meat Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 23.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 31.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 36- No. 37.
Transport Workers Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 35.
Wheat Bounty Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 3.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Chain, Hand Forged and Roller types.
Dental Chairs, electrically or oil-pump controlled.
Electrical Hair Dryers of the Pedestal Type.
Heat Resisting Glassware for Cooking purposes.
Plates, Sheets, Pipes, Tubes, Rods, Angles, Bars, Strips, and Tee, of any metal (excepting Gold, Silver, Zinc, or Tin Pipes or Tubes), Plated, Polished or Decorated, but not including Plain Tinned.
Surgical Gut and Gut, n.e.i.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to the press statement that 59 Japanese pearling schooners are operating in the territorial waters of northern Australia, and are being guarded by a Japanese destroyer? If so, has the Government taken any steps to ascertain whether it is correct or not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.My attention was drawn to this statement at the time of its publication. In answer to press representatives who then interviewed me, I said that the Government had sources of information at all points in the north, and that no such report had been sent to it. The press report was in the nature of reports that are sometimes designated “ mulga wireless “. No one seems to have been responsible for it. The Government is confident that it is not accurate. Had it been based on fact, the Government feels sure that prompt advice would have been received from one of its many reporting points in the north.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether the attention of the Government has been drawn to the press statement that restoration of ministerial and parliamentary allowances to the rates existing before the Premiers plan became operative, is proposed? Before taking this action, will the Government restore Australian taxpayers to a position approaching that which they occupied prior to the depression, by the abolition of special emergency taxes, particularly the sales tax, primage duty, and the super tax on incomes derived from property? If not, why not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.My attention was directed to the paragraph referred to by the honorable senator, more particularly because it stated that federal members in Canberra were making representations to the Government. I have made inquiries and find that the only federal members in Canberra at the time were three Ministers, and that no. other federal members were here when these alleged representations were made. I can assure the honorable senator that if such representations should be made ail the points embodied in his question will receive the fullest consideration.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce if the attention of the Government: has been directed to a statement in -the Economist, published in London on the 8th February, 1936, concerning an inquiry into the efficiency of textile manufacturing in Lancashire, and to the fact that Sir Walter Preston informed the House of Commons that after a detailed examination he came to the conclusion that a re-equipped mill can sell its product in India at Japan’s price, and make a profit of at least 10 per cent.? Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that the Government contemplates placing further increased restrictions on the imports of Japanese rayon textile goods? Does the Government realize that the wool-growers of Australia are seriously alarmed at what they deem to be an unwise and damaging interference causing undesirable retaliation affecting the sales of Australian wool to Japan?
– Replying to the first portion of the honorable senator’s question, I think that it is safe to say that the attention of the Government has not been directed to the particular matter mentioned; but I have no doubt that some members of the Government have read the paragraph referred to. The second portion of the honorable senator’s question involves matters of policy, and, as the honorable senator is aware, it is not customary to make statements of policy in answer to questions unless the matter has previously received the attention of the Government.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs make a statement concerning developments in international affairs since the Senate last met?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes; at a suitable opportunity I shall endeavour to make a statement on the subject.
Reply to Message from Commonwealth Parliament.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have to inform the Senate that I have received the following letter from His Excellency the Governor-General : -
Mr. President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker of the House of Representatives.
I am commanded to forward the enclosed reply from His Majesty the King to the resolutions which I transmitted from the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth. (Sgd.) Gowrie, Governor-General.
The letter from His Majesty reads -
Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia,
I desire to express to you, on behalf of Queen Mary, myself, and the other members of the Royal Family, the deep appreciation with which we have received your kind message of sympathy on the death of my dear father. I thank you sincerely for your congratulations to me on my Accession to the Throne, and I share with you the hope that the years to come may bring peace and prosperity to us all. (Sgd.) Edward R..I. 19th March, 1936.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Financial Relief Bill 1936.
Wheat Growers Relief Bill 1936.
Primary Producers Relief Bill 1936.
Apple and Pear Bounty Bill 1936.
Orange Bounty Bill 1936.
Prune Bounty Bill 1936.
Meat Export Control Bill 1936.
Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill 1936.
– I have received from Senator Guthrie an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The necessity for the Common-wealth of taking immediate steps to counter the anti-wool campaign “.
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m.
I thank honorable senators for giving me this opportunity to discuss a challenge to the Australian wool industry, which, if not countered, is likely to curtail seriously, and with most serious results to Australia, the demand for, and the price of, wool, which is our most important primary product. It is a challenge which comes from countries that are not large wool producers, particularly the continent of Europe, Japan and the United States of America. It is sponsored by very wealthy and highly organized manufacturers of competitive fibres which are really artificial fibres, although recently they have dropped the term “ artificial “ and substituted other names. Enormous sums of money have been expended, and much scientific effort has been applied in the perfecting of competitive fibres, for thi purpose of displacing to a very large extent, the use of sheep wool for the clothing of mankind. Science has of late made very rapid strides iu that direction. Manufacturers have greatly improved one competitive fibre which is called rayon,; but another, of more recent origin and a much more dangerous competitor, with natural wool, is known as staple fibre. These manufacturers are using their organizations and their wealth to boost the alleged virtues of clothing manufactured from these fibres, but fortunately for us, some of them are doing themselves damage, in that some of their claims are most untruthful, and are easily disproved. Nevertheless, so seriously has the position developed that immediate action is. imperative to safeguard this, the greatestsingle industry in the Empire, and by far the most important industry in Australia. In fact, the sheep and wool industry is the very life blood of Australia. There is no need to exaggerate its importance. I am aware that some honorable senators may regard some of the remarks which I am about to make as more or le3s alarmist statements, but I feel sure that, when 1 have finished my brief address, they will realize that I have not exaggerated the position, and that I have simply made a plain and truthful review of the situation as it exists. Like myself, they will realize also, I feel sure, that Australia is vitally concerned in the attack being made on this industry.
I have said that the wool industry is the life blood of this nation. A study of statistics will prove it. Information contained in the Commonwealth Year-Booh shows that products of sheep are responsible for more than 50 per cent, of the annual total value of exports from the Commonwealth. I am not now referring to wool alone. Wool solely would not account for that proportion of the value of our exports, but the value of the products of sheep accounts for 50 per cent, of the total value of our exports; and I venture to say that when statistics are available up to the 30th June this year, it will be seen that the products of sheep will have been responsible for considerably more than that percentage of the value of products exported from the Commonwealth during the preceding twelve months. This means that the sheep industry alone, on the basis of export values, is more valuable than all our other industries put together. When, therefore, we view the position in the light of the production of those overseas credits which are so necessary to enable us to pay interest on our overseas debts, and to supply the funds to purchase our imports, we must realize its value to Australia. Furthermore, it enables us to meet our overseas commitments to the extent which I have indicated, only after millions of pounds worth of wool, mutton, lamb, tallow, sheepskins and other products have been used in Australia; so that it is merely the surplus wealth created by sheep that accounts for over 50 per cent, of the total value of exports from the Commonwealth.
Some honorable senators may inquire why all this fuss should be made about wool. They may ask, “Is not wool selling well ? “ or, “ Is not the statistical position of wool strong? “ Admittedly, wool is selling fairly well. This fact has proved a great blessing to the Commonwealth during the last twelve months. Furthermore, the immediate market outlook is admittedly fairly satisfactory. But I remind honorable senators that prices are not nearly so high as the general public imagine them to be. People read in the newspapers reports that wool is selling at this or that figure, and immediately assume that the high prices quoted are average prices, and not simply top prices.
– The reports nearly always deal with an increase of the price.
– That is so, and if all the various reported increases were added together, the price of wool to-day would be sky high, as it were. Admittedly, one-millionth part of last year’s clip realized 35½d. per lb. That was for a portion of the Tasmanian clip. But a lot of people, and, I am sorry to say, some public men, take these reported increases of top prices as an indication of what the Australian clip, as a whole, brings on the market. Wool, generally, does not bring anything like these prices. We must deal with averages. The average price for Australian wool for the last clip was 14£d. per lb. gross, ex seaboard warehouse. That is equivalent to 18id net, or at country railway stations, which is the price which 97,000 Australian woolgrowers obtained for this year’s clip. It is quite .a good price; but it must be remembered that the average price of wool for the last six years has been only 10l£d. per lb. gross, or 9 3/4d. per lb. net. On a sterling basis, the price for last year, 13Jd. per lb., is equal only to lOd. per lb., and on gold it is equivalent to about 6$d. per lb. Many people are apt to be lulled into a false sense of security by newspaper reports that wool is selling at exceptionally high prices. Present prices are admittedly fairly satisfactory; but I draw attention to the fact that even the satisfactory price of 13£d. per lb. net - the average realized during the last twelve months - is only Id. per lb. above the average price realized during the last 34 years. I point out, further, that for most of those- 34 years we were on gold. If we were back on gold to-day, or even on sterling, the average price for last year’s wool would actually be below production costs.
– There is no guarantee that we will not go back to sterling.
– There is no guarantee at all, and therefore Australia’s main industry is not on so sound a ground as the general public, and some members of this august chamber, are apt to think. The’ wool industry to-day is faced with very grave difficulties. If the 25” per cent, exchange were allowed for, the price of wool would be below production costs. We know that medium and coarse crossbred wool, even at the supposed boom prices of to-day, are selling at pence per lb. below production costs. What are production costs? In 1932 the Commonwealth Government appointed a royal commission to investigate this matter. That commission found that, after allowing 5 per cent, interest on the capital involved, and adding this to the working expenses, it would cost 14d. to sell a pound of wool in Australia. I point out that this commission based its calculation of the sheep-carrying capacity of land at £3 for one sheep. Every member of this chamber, with a knowledge of freehold values, will admit that this greatly underestimates the value of the land. It is just about half of what sheep-to-thc-acre land costs. Allowing . that no interest is to be . earned, and that no managerial expenses at all are to be incurred, this com- . mission found that it would cost 11-Jd. to sell a pound of wool in Australia. That shows conclusively that were the exchange to return to normal, the industry would be faced with great difficulties. Wool-growing would continue in Australia because the Almighty has made it the greatest wool-growing country in the world, and because Macarthur and the other pioneers laid well the foundations of the industry. Whatever happens, Australia most continue to grow wool, even if most of the 97,000 individuals who are actively engaged in its production and in making wealth for the nation show losses on their operations. It may be said that the industry is prosperous because the Australian wool clip last year was valued at £50,000,000. From a national point of view, it is well that 97,000 wool-growers - the number is now probably 100,000 - continue in this industry.
If I am asked whether the woolgrowing industry in Australia is efficiently conducted, I reply that, in my opinion, it is the most efficient of all Australian industries. In support of that statement, I point out that, whereas Australia depastures 16 per cent, of the world’s sheep and produces 27 per cent, of the world’s wool, the value of the Australian wool clip is 33 per cent, of the world total. An Australian sheep produces twice as much, wool in money value as is obtained from the average of the sheep produced elsewhere. I do not say that an Australian sheep produces twice as much wool as can be obtained from a sheep grown in South Africa, New Zealand or the United States of America, but that the value is twice as great as that of the wool produced by the average sheep of the world. Surely no greater evidence of the sound work of the pioneers and of the flock-masters who succeeded them could be found.
– Has not the carrying capacity an acre and the production of wool a sheep been increased during recent years ?
– .Yes ; especially in areas with good rainfall where scientific methods, and particularly the use of fertilizers for the growing of better pastures, have been adopted. No pasture known in the world is so suitable for the production of that fine and beautiful wool which has made Australia world-famous as are the native grasses, particularly the various danthonia grasses. Although during the last 40 years the production of wool a sheep in Australia has doubled, the general opinion of practical men is that the limit in regard to the size of the carcass and the production of wool a sheep has probably been reached. There may be some who say that there is no need to worry, because the sheep industry in this country is efficiently conducted, and produces great wealth; but, although the industry produces wealth for the nation, I cannot help worrying because, with many others who, like myself, have -had a lifelong experience of the wool industry, I see grave danger ahead. On a price basis, Australia cannot compete with those artificial fibres which are being manufactured in various countries in unlimited quantities at half the price that it costs to grow greasy wool in this country. These artificial fibres are produced in a form which enables them to be placed on the machines immediately, whereas Australian wool must first be sorted and scoured. Nevertheless, I am confident that if the industry is organized and the world told of the incomparable superiority of wool over all artificial fibres for the clothing and use of mankind, wool will win through. The first known reference to the superiority of wool over other materials for the clothing of mankind was made 2,000 b.c. The Bible contains no less than 50 such references, and throughout the ages wool has proved its superiority for that purpose. From the point of view of both hygiene and comfort, and in the long run economy, wool is superior to fibres. Highly organized and wealthy interests are making huge fortunes from the production and sale of synthetic fibres, the basis of which is wood pulp. When textiles manufactured from wood were first placed on the market as artificial silk, they did not appear to be dangerous, nor was the position much worse when they were offered as artificial wool. In the United States of- America in particular, the word “ artificial “ had a deterrent effect on the sale of such goods. Later, however, the word “ rayon “ was coined, and since then the production and sale of artificial fibres made from wool pulp has increased enormously. Australia can no longer ignore the facts. The countries which manufacture rayon have unlimited supplies of wood, which is turned into a kind of gelatine, and forced through small holes of any desired diameter and made in any lengths and quantities required. Rayon is a dangerous competitor with wool, first, because there is an unlimited supply of the raw material required for its manufacture; secondly, because it can be manufactured more cheaply than wool can be grown; and thirdly, because it can be made in fibres of finer diameter than that of the. finest wool known. “We do not know to what degree of perfection the manufacture of these artificial fibres will yet attain.
– -Is rayon the chief competitor of wool?
– There is also staple fibre, which is a great improvement on rayon. As it can be cut into the same lengths and turned out in the tops the same as wool, it can be put on the cards and combs and spinning machines in the same way as wool. Practically no new machinery is required to produce it in a mill previously devoted to the manufacture of woollen textiles. It is difficult, even for an expert to distinguish it from wool. The world consumption of rayon for the twelve months ended 31st December last was equal to about twice the total production in Australia of clean-scoured wool.
– ‘Has there been any change in the total wool consumption of the world as the result of the increased consumption of rayon?
– Yes, I shall explain that. Apart from staple fibre and other synthetic fibres manufactured from wool pulp, the production of rayon last year increased by 22 per cent. Honorable senators may say that, in the past, wool has stood up to other competitive fibres, that it has stood up to rayon so far.
– The effect of rayon has been against cotton, not wool.
– It has been against both; but rayon is not the product of which we are most afraid. It is the staple fibre that presents the chief danger.
There is enormous power behind the organizations which are pushing these products. !N”ot only have they launched throughout the world a campaign for the promotion of the use of the synthetic or artificial fibres, but they are also condemning wool. Signed by doctors and professors, grossly untrue statements have been issued so damaging to wool that one dare not indicate them. Europe and Japan are not wool-producing countries, and they are naturally falling in behind these synthetic or artificial fibres. The British Empire is the great supplier of wool in the world. It supplies 50 per cent, of the total wool produced. Australia supplies 27 per cent, in bulk and S3 per cent, in value. Who are our customers? First of all there is Great Britain, and, in recent years, although it is only 25 years since it first purchased wool from Australia, Japan has taken the place of Germany as customer number two. This year Japan has purchased from this country no less than 700,000 bales of wool. It has taken as much as the whole of the countries of Europe combined, this despite the fact that Germany formerly was our second best customer.
In America, with the advent of rayon and other artificial fibres, the use of wool so decreased that, in a few years, the per capita purchases fell by 50 per cent. The American wool interests - the growers, brokers, wool manufacturers, and workers in the industry - formed a powerful organization which has started a “ Use More Wool “ campaign, and a very clever one it is. It is simply telling the people of the advantages of wool against any other commodity for clothing. Propaganda for one year has resulted in the per capita purchases of wool in the United States of America increasing by 81 per cent.
– In spite of the fact that, because of bad tactics, the campaign for the first three months was a failure.
– I did not know that, but what they can do in America we can do elsewhere. American purchases of wool from Australia rose from 15,000 bales in 1934-35 to 100,000 bales in 1935-36.
Japan is a very valuable customer of Australia, a vitally valuable customer, not only for wool and wheat, but also for other commodities. Therefore, I know that the Government, when dealing with international agreements or the tariff,, will take seriously into consideration the value of the Japanese demand for our greatest product.
Right down through the ages wool has proved the best commodity for clothing, and what we have to do is raise funds to enable us to tell .the world so. Hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum are being spent by opponents of wool, and iris proposed by the graziers of Australia to put a levy upon themselves of up to ls. a bale, which on the current Australian clip would raise a fund of £150,000 a year. We have had Lord Barnby’s warning about the necessity for action. We have with us now, Mr. Wilson, the representative of the manufacturers of woollen products in Great Britain. Both authorities, as I do, take a very serious view of the position. Mr. Wilson told me that he was the third generation of his family engaged in the woollen clothing industry in Scotland, but that he had been forced to go into the manufacture of products from synthetic wool fibres. He had been compelled to do so by the public demand for cheapness, and by the advertising and boosting which artificial fibres had received. He regretted the fact that many of the wool-spinners of Scotland were now manufacturing artificial products. He has come out here with a scheme for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to combine to raise for five years an annual levy of £50,000. As British manufacturers have pledged themselves to contribute on a £1 for £1 basis this would mean £100,000 a year for five years. That, however, is only for scientific research and propaganda in. the British Isles. I take the view that it is necessary to raise £150,000 a year in this country, because we want the money, first to assist further scientific research in Australia - wonderful work in this direction has been done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. but that body is rather short of funds - and secondly, to institute a world-wide advertising campaign. Some of the money would also be expended on scientific research ‘ to make woollen articles more attractive for women and men. The various improvements that have been,, and are being made, are of immense importance.
For instance the Americans are now producing the best and most satisfactory sponges in the world entirely from wool. If that can be done in the United States of America, it can be done elsewhere.
It is proposed that we should raise this amount of money for advertising
Senator Guthrie and propaganda purposes. The British manufacturers are prepared to join in the scheme. South Africa and New Zealand have already agreed to this proposal. The graziers of Australia may come to the Commonwealth Government and ask for a measure of justice. They do not want either interference or assistance - for this is the only Australian industry that has never asked, either directly or indirectly, for governmental assistance. All the industry seeks is justice. Seeing that the wool-growers meet their share of the general taxation, they request the removal of the obnoxious federal land tax, which is an annual direct impost upon the capital of all primary industries, four-fifths of their capital being the value of their land. They may also ask that administrative machinery be made available to collect, as an excise duty, the proposed levy of up to ls. a bale.
The Government and the public generally should realize that our sheep and wool industry is the very life-blood of the nation. The industry is being attacked by vested interests and also by other powerful forces in Europe and elsewhere. Unless these attacks are countered, a damaging, if not a fatal, blow may be struck at this industry. It is, therefore, essential that every possible encouragement should be given to this Empire- wide campaign.
As my time has now expired, I thank honorable senators for the considerate attention they have given to the submissions that I have made to them.
– In view of the reply given earlier to-day to a question that I asked, to the effect that it is not customary to announce government policy in answer to questions, I may perhaps be permitted to speak to the motion so ably moved by Senator Guthrie. The honorable senator merits our best thanks for his interesting address. If he has shown us one thing more than another, it is that a real danger confronts the great wool industry, upon which the Commonwealth is at present almost entirely dependent. He has told us that our wool industry is menaced by the artificial wool textiles now being produced. The graziers very greatly fear that certain action which may be proposed and, which may be wellmeaning enough in itself, may have the effect of encouraging the development of the artificial wool textile manufacturing industry abroad to the serious detriment, of the Australian wool industry. Any tariff proposals that might have that effect should be strongly resisted. The result of certain action which we are told the Government contemplates taking may be seriously prejudicial . to our valuable export market to Japan. As Senator Guthrie has pointed out, Japan has been our second best customer. In fact, I thought the Japanese market for Australian wool was larger than Senator Guthrie stated. But even allowing for an export of 700,000 bales of wool to Japan per annum, our export trade with that country is valued at about £12,000,000.
In view of the serious position of the wool industry, which Senator Guthrie has so weil described, this . Parliament should be particularly careful in dealing with the subject. I impress upon honorable senators that the graziers of Australia are seriously alarmed at the suggestion that Japan may regard any restriction in respect of rayon and other Japanese textiles so seriously as to retaliate in respect of Australian wool. We have to be careful that our wool industry is not, as it were, murdered by unwise action on the part of this Parliament. The Manchester trade mission which recently visited Australia gave us to understand that Japan was not likely to take restrictive action against Australian wool ; but there seems to me to be a possibility that it may do even worse than that. Senator Guthrie made it clear that unwise tariff action by this Parliament may easily lead to a greatly-increased use of artificial wool textiles in Japan. A nation which felt itself hurt by the unneighbourly international treatment of another nation would steel itself to discontinue the use of the products of that nation, and unless we are careful Australian wool and other Australian products may be put under such a disability by Japan. Sir Ernest Thompson told us some little time ago that such action was not likely to be taken by Japan ; but appearances hardly justify us in coming to this conclusion. It has been said that one of the causes of the inability of Lancashire manufacturers to compete with Japanese textile manufacturers is the inefficiency and obsolence of the plant and machinery of the Lancashire firms. Although that statement was strenuously denied, I direct attention again to the article in The Economist of the 8th February, 1936, headed “ Cotton in the Commons,” from which I cited a passage earlier to-day. In the course of that article it is stated that -
Sir Walter Preston informed the House of Commons that, after a detailed examination, he came to the conclusion that a re-equipped mill “can sell its product in India at Japan’s price, and make a profit of at least 10 per cent.” He went on to say that the report of the Federation of Master Cotton Spinners had. proved his case, though their estimate of: profits, at 3i per cent., was lower than that shown by his own calculation.
I point out that that remark was made after inquiry, not by either a Japanese business man or an Australian woolgrower, but by a competent person in the business in England. The gist of the contention is that, if the Lancashire mills were re-equipped, Britain would be able to compete against Japan in India.
– What is meant by “ a re-equipped mill “ ?
– I presume it means a mill equipped with new machinery. It is admitted that the Japanese mills are equipped with the very latest machinery. The opinion of some one perhaps better able than I am to make an authoritative statement on this_ matter is that the inefficiency of the equipment of the Lancashire mills is one of the causes of the inability to compete. In view of that the undoubted serious alarm of the wool-growers of this country is not without justification. Some recent press cables may be accepted as the inspired propaganda of interested parties overseas; but other cables have been received which go to show that the position is taken very seriously abroad.
The world to-day is getting sick of overdone economic nationalism. I have no information as to the actual intention of the Commonwealth Government, but I hope my fear is groundless that we will cause irritation to Japan by imposing further restrictions on our imports from the second best customer we have for our wool. Our trade balance with that country is undoubtedly very much in our favour at the present time, and we shall place ourselves in a serious position if we strangle trade on which the whole prosperity of Australia is founded at the present time.
– I suggest that the honorable senator would be ill-advised to discuss that question at the present juncture.
– I desire to take that risk, only to stress the fact that the wool industry of this country is seriously and very deeply moved by the suggestion that there may be reprisals which would bring about disturbances in the wool market. The wool industry only wants to be left to carry on in the best possible way and the only assistance it seeks is that foreshadowed by Senator Guthrie - statutory authority, if necessary, to levy upon itself for the purpose of propaganda and to enable it to be put on the best advertising basis throughout the world.
[4.3]. - I congratulate Senator Guthrie on the speech which he has delivered on this subject. Because of his knowledge of this question, his association with the industry, and his practical mind, we knew that he would present his facts in a speech of the most arresting character. And that he has done. When, during the course of his remarks, he referred to the falling-off in the use of wool in the United States of America, the thought occurred to me whether that was entirely due to the competition of rayon and other synthetic fibres. There came back to my mind an incident that occurred when I was in the United States of America in 1922. which might account to some extent for the falling-off in the use of wool in that country. One day I was passing a tailor’s shop and interested myself in his exhibits of cloth and the cost of his suits. Out of curiosity, and to compare prices of similar quality suits in the United States of America and Australia, I inquired as to what it would cost’ for a suit similar to that which I was then wearing, which was made by an Australian tailor of Australian cloth made from Australian wool. I found that the price of such a suit in the United States of America was very much higher .than in Australia. When I asked the tailor why the difference was so great, he said, “ The suit you are wearing apparently is an English worsted; that is why the price is so high”. I said to him, “Have you no American worsteds “ ? He replied, “ Certainly, but I thought you wanted a good suit “. I said, “I do, but I would like to see an American tweed or worsted “. He produced an American worsted; and, although I am not an expert in these matters, I could see the difference at once. I asked him, “ Do you know why the British tweeds and worsteds are so much superior to the American products “ ? He replied, “ No, I cannot understand why we cannot make material of the same quality “. I said to him, “ The reason is because you have to pay a duty of 6d. per lb. on the best wool in the world, Australian merino wool, which the British textile manufacturer imports free, of duty. For this reason, the American manufacturer is compelled to use inferior wool “. It was probably because of that competition that fibres came into use in the United States of America, and the quantity of wool used diminished. At any rate, there was no corresponding falling off in the manufacture of wool in England. In that country, there is as much wool used to-day as ever there was.
I deprecate the action of Senator Abbott in having raised the question of trade relations with Japan - a matter not mentioned by Senator Guthrie, and I trust that other honorable senators will not debate it at this juncture. I make this appeal because, at the present juncture, negotiations with Japan are proceeding, and any remarks made now may prejudice the success of the negotiations. Honorable senators will appreciate that Ministers at this moment are not free to say all that they might like to say on this subject. I can assure Senator Abbott, however, that there is a reply to the statements he has made, and to the statements which are appearing in the newspapers ; but the time to make that reply is not’ to-day. It would be most inadvisable to discuss that subject at the present time. The Government desires, if at all possible, to act fairly by our own people,- and to continue the good trading relations with
Japan. It is desired to negotiate a treaty which will be fair to both countries. A debate on the trade relations with Japan at this juncture, when Ministers are unable to present to the Senate all thu information at their disposal, would bc distinctly inadvisable and rather unfair. I therefore suggest that we might defer it to a more appropriate time, giving, at the same time, the assurance to honorable senators that when a more favorable occasion arises an opportunity will be presented to members of both Houses of the Parliament to discuss our trade relations with Japan.
Coming to the points raised by Senator Guthrie, I can assure the honorable senator that the Government has been watching this matter very closely, and, as he knows, there has been correspondence between various interests and the. Government on the question of propaganda. J am not aware that there has been any noticeably hostile propaganda against wool, although there has certainly been propaganda in favour of rayon and other fibres that come into competition with wool. But honorable senators cannot blame the manufacturers of those products for pushing their wares.
– There has been a good deal of hostile propaganda; the case of dermatitis has been mentioned.
– The propaganda has been of such a hostile character that I thought it inadvisable to repeat it here.
– . I was not aware of that. At any rate any scheme of publicity put forward by the wool-growers will receive the fullest and most sympathetic consideration of the Government. We are given to understand that the wool-growers are now devising a publicity scheme, and that when it is ready they will submit details of their proposals to the Government. As soon as these are presented, we shall consider them most sympathetically. As Senator Guthrie has pointed out, the wool industry is of tremendous importance, not only to Australia, but also to the Empire as a whole.
Much has been said and written concerning the menace which wool substitutes constitute to the Australian wool industry. The Government has been carefully studying the position for some time, and believes that the danger is not. so serious as some people have suggested. During last year, Commonwealth Ministers and departmental officers who were overseas closely investigated this matter, and reviewed the headway made in different continental countries in the manufacture of fibres which, it was proposed, would replace woollen goods. The experience of the last few months, however, shows that many of the prophecies of the commentators on the subject have not been fulfilled. One of the remarks of Senator Guthrie himself gave support to this contention, for he pointed out that the prices obtained last season showed that the demand for wool is still keen ; and as we all know, the position revealed by firms which closely follow the wool market is that there is very little, if any, carry-over. One of the reassuring features in regard to the wool is that £his great primary industry is about the only one which throughout the depression met the market unaided. In practically every other instance, restrictions, regulations or embargoes were imposed by various countries. Wool was not subjected to restrictions or embargoes, because every country has need of it, and there was no great surplus of it during the depression. It is rather remarkable that whilst every country in Europe placed embargoes or restrictions of some kind on wheat, fruit, meat, metals and practically every other primary product, not one of them put an embargo’ on wool. To my mind, no better proof of the soundness of this industry could be afforded than the creditable way in which it stood this fiery test during the world depression. I can assure Senator Guthrie and other honorable senators that the Government realizes the great importance of the industry, and the necessity for safeguarding it. Any action the Ministry can take which will be sound and effectual will receive its sympathetic consideration.
, - Like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), I congratulate Senator Guthrie upon his speech. Whether he has suggested the right way out of the difficulty that has arisen, is a matter upon which there will probably be some disagreement in this chamber, hut we all recognize his wide knowledge of the wool industry, and the telling manner in which he has presented his case. To those who sit in opposition to the Government, the developments taking place in this direction and- in many others are exceedingly interesting. The wool industry, like all others that are controlled under the capitalist, competitive system, is to-day getting too strong a dose of its own medicine. The policy of the present Government or. this matter and others, is unrestricted competition. It believes in the survival of the fittest. The whole burden of Senator Guthrie’s story this afternoon was a fear that the fittest might not survive, meaning by the fittest the best. The best, of course, rarely does survive. The fittest to survive in the competitive struggle is not necessarily the best in the interests of humanity. It is a source of satisfaction to the Opposition that one after another these great competitive industries and large manufacturing concerns have to admit that whilst 50, 25, or even 10 years ago they managed to carry on despite competition, to-day the game is up.
– The wool industry is not seeking a subsidy.
– I am not suggesting that it is. I am amazed at Senator Guthrie’s suggestion that, while the industry would not ask for assistance or tolerate interference, a request is made for legislative enforcement of the proposed levy to raise £150,000 for propaganda purposes. Let me suggest to Senator Guthrie and his friends that the money, proposed, to be raised for this purpose be spent on propaganda having for its object the clothing in wool of millions of people in the world who to-day cannot afford more than perhaps a loin-cloth. We do not need to go beyond the British Empire to find those who would like to wear good Australian wool, but who cannot do so because of the rotten economic conditions which Senator Guthrie and those sitting with him continue to support.
– Would the honorable senator socialize the wool industry?
– I should like to socialize the honorable senator. Of all the illogical arguments that I have ever listened to, we get them in this chamber on matters of this kind.
– We are hearing such arguments now.
– I am not responsible for the honorable senator’s inability to appreciate my view-point. I drew attention some time ago to the factthat it was unwise to permit the exportation to Japan of stud rams and other blood stock. Senator Guthrie then contended that Japan could not possibly produce wool equal to the best Australian merino wool. He suggested that exporters were not sending merino sheep to Japan, but only a few innocent Corriedales. Apparently, the latter have been doing their job.
– But they do not produce rayon.
– Even if I had not previously been aware of that fact, Senator Guthrie has explained that rayon is manufactured from wood pulp.
During the few weeks that the delegation from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce spent in Australia, I had the opportunity to hear Sir Ernest Thompson and Mr. Ellis speak upon this very subject. Those gentlemen came to Australia because, like Senator Guthrie, they were horrified at the prospect of synthetic woollen articles entering into successful competition with wool itself. On that occasion I heard what I consider was a most illuminating statement. A member in the small circle of gentlemen who were invited in Brisbane to listen to the opinions of the experienced members of the delegation, asked -
Is it not a fact that Japan’s capacity to compete is largely due to the fact that their spinning and weaving machinery is the most modern available, while in Lancashire, the mill-owners will not get out of a groove, and have much machinery that is obsolete?
The honorable senator, who interjected that the stud stock exported to Japan did not grow rayon, might remember that Senator Guthrie, in this connexion, stated that rayon could be spun and woven on the same machinery as wool. Sir Ernest Thompson replied -
It is true, as stated, that Japan’s machinery is the most modern. We know that, because Lancashire supplied it. Our spinning and weaving machinery in Lancashire is also up-to-date.
He proceeded to say that it was not true to state that the Lancashire machinery was obsolete, because the mill owners had been dismantling the old machinery and replacing it with new. In the name pf goodness, what did they imagine the Japanese would do with the machinery they bought? That they would put it in a glass case and exhibit it as being something modern from the Western world? Of course, the British manufacturers knew that the machinery would be used for the manufacture of textile goods. And the same applies to the export of stud sheep from Australia to Japan. Not very long ago this little Opposition stood alone in this Senate - and for that matter alone, among the Labour parties throughout the world - in regard to the application of sanctions against Italy. Australia took that step despite our protests, and what alternative had Italy except to instruct its skilled scientists to devise substitutes for the goods, the purchase of which was being withheld owing to sanctions? I merely put forward these facts so that honorable senators will appreciate that they are fast getting into a complicated tangle of affairs from which there will he no escape under the present system, and which must eventually lead to chaos. They must adopt the principles of members of the Opposition on such matters and become realists, not mere theorists. The Opposition has every sympathy with Senator Guthrie, and it will support any proposal, so long as it does not infringe the basic principles to which Labour is pledged, that is designed to encourage the wool industry to extricate itself from the impasse visualized by him. We were gratified to have the detailed facts from Senator ‘Guthrie, ‘but we did not require to be told of the vast importance of this industry, not only to Australia, but also to the British Empire. We have a full realization of the position, and no act or word of ours will do anything to injure any of the great industries. But I believe that it is my duty, and that of the Opposition, to show that the prevailing difficulties arise because of the fact that honorable senators who support the Government are not willing to admit that remedies of the Victorian era are utterly impracticable when applied to the problems of 1936.
– Then what would the honorable senator do to improve the position ?
– That favourite interjection of Senator Hardy’s is becoming monotonous. I realize that I am expected to be the embodiment of all wisdom and a veritable encyclopaedia, which is a pinnacle to which Senator Hardy at his best will never rise. I admit my litter incapacity to answer his futile and continuous interjections.
I have never been more serious in my life than when making this speech to-day. What I have said should be taken to heart by Senator Guthrie and all persons associated with the great wool industry. One cannot go on every year and escape the ultimate results of his philosophy, which is based on unrestricted and unbridled competition and the survival of the fittest.
– I fully anticipated that after Senator Guthrie had spoken the debate would close, because he submitted his case so logically and efficiently for the consideration of the Senate. In view of the circumstances, I did not expect that Senator Collings would seize the opportunity to endeavour to make political capital out of what is one of our greatest national industries. To suggest that we might stabilize the wool industry by changing the social order, or by seeking to discover somebody who can wear a woollen loin cloth, was not in keeping with the sentiments usually expressed by the honorable gentleman. What does Senator Guthrie propose? He pointed out that throughout the world a substitute was threatening the existence of the wool industry. In order to avert that disaster he advocated international co-operation amongst all wool-growers in an endeavour to increase the use of wool ; and he added that the industry did not seek financial assistance from the Government; all that it proposed to do was to place a levy on. wool grown in Australia, and to ask the Government to co-operate in order to make the levy efficient. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was not prepared to accept that statement, but upon the use of the term “ co-operation “ he took the occasion to make an attack against the existing social order and the Commonwealth Government. When the existence of an industry of such significance to Australia as is the wool industry is at stake, every honorable senator regardless of his political views should cooperate to ensure its safety and to endeavour to stabilize it.
– I do not agree with Senator Hardy that, excellent as was the speech of Senator Guthrie, it should have been the end of the debate. Surely thi 3 matter is one of prime importance to Australia, and one on which it is very desirable for honorable senators to seize the opportunity to express their views. I expected from the Leader of the Country party (Senator Hardy) some fuller references to the general importance of the wool industry than the bare statement that he made.
– I am reserving them for the tariff debate.
– I suggest that those remarks might appropriately have been made at this stage. When the Senate is debating the tariff, there will be such interesting matters for consideration as glass lamp chimneys, goloshes and mouse traps.
– And rat traps?
– Yes. Rat traps and vermin traps too; there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss those items at a later stage; but now is the time to deal with the subject of the wool industry.
– Even though the Leader of the Government has pointed out that a discussion on certain phases of this subject might embarrass current, trade negotiations?
– That does not affect the general question of the importance of the wool industry to Australia, a question which Senator Guthrie has discussed, but which he would not claim to have exhausted. We should be grateful to Senator Guthrie for having, year after year, brought this matter forward in an endeavour to keep the members of the Senate mindful, of the fact that the wool industry is the mainstay of the country. It has always been so, and anything which imperils the stability of this industry is a direct threat to our national life. I do not entirely agree with the assertion that this industry has never received any assistance. In minor ways it has been assisted, having received help from the State governments in regard to the control and destruction of wild dogs, &c. Further assistance has been forthcoming in the way of exemptions from sales tax, and under the hardship section of the Income Tax Assessment Act, though I am doubtful regarding the desirability of this form of assistance. Generally speaking, however, it is true that, not only has little assistance been given the industry, but real obstacles have been placed in its way. Senator Guthrie mentioned an outstanding instance, the Commonwealth land tax, but another obstacle is the provision that sheepbreeders may not even export stud rams from the country. I admit that there are opposing schools of thought on this question, but, for my part, I believe that, as we have in the past produced the best merino wool, we shall continue to do so in the future whether we export our rams to South Africa or elsewhere, or whether we do not. The soil and climatic conditions of Australia are admirably suited to the production of high-grade merino wool. Senator Guthrie will agree with me, I think, that Australian merino stock exported to South Africa has, after one or two generations, shown marked deterioration.
– ‘But the fact that we produce the finest wool in the world does not necessarily mean that the world must continue to buy it-
– I am glad to have had that contribution from Senator Hardy; it has, in itself, perhaps justified my participation in this discussion but it would have been better if he had developed his argument by speech rather than by interjection. Senator Collings urged honorable senators on this side of the chamber to become realists rather than theorists. It would never have occurred to me to regard the Leader of the Government as an idealist and the Leader of the Opposition as a. realist unless I had been told that such was the case ; but the wool-grower, on the other hand, is bound to be a realist. It is of no use for him to look to the Government for support or help in his difficulties. He must face his own difficulties and overcome them if he can. He must sell his product in the world market if he is able, and he must meet and overcome all those natural difficulties such as rabbits and other pests which confront the primary . producers of this country, whether they be woolgrowers, wheat-growers or anything else. Docs the Leader of the Opposition seriously suggest thatwe should call the pioneers of Australia theorists? If he does I can only remark that theory is even more important than I thought it was. I can understand that, from the Labour party, we need not expect much sympathy with the wool-growers. The claims of those engaged in the industry will make little appeal to that party. There are several reasons for this, one of them being that the wool-raising industry is of such a nature that it can be, and is, carried on with a relatively small number of employees, scattered in such a way as not to be readily amenable to industrial control. Again, it is frequently asserted that those engaged in wool production hold too much land, and that this is detrimental to other members of the community. Wool-growers, also, are often of a conservative type, and do not make a ready appeal to the sympathies of members of the Labour party. Notwithstanding these considerations, however, I remember Senator J. V. MacDonald stating on one occasion that the Labour party was on the side of the wool-growers, and had done a great deal for them. I challenged that statement at the time, and I should like to hear Senator J. V. MacDonald justify it if he can. I should like to know what the wool-growers have ever had from the Labour party except constantly increasing taxation and governmental interference.
I point out to Sena.tor Hardy that, so far, I have not said anything which might be regarded as embarrassing to the Leader of the Government. I have been discussing the wool industry in general terms. A suggestion has been made that a levy should be raised for the purpose of research and advertisement, both, I think, admirable objectives, I expressed myself in favour of them ten years ago, and I am still in favour of them. Senator Guthrie mentioned that the Bradford manufacturers have offered to subsidize £1 for £1 the Australian wool-growers’ contribution to this fund; but I have yet to learn that the Australian manufacturers of woollen goods have made a similar offer.
– Have they been asked to do so?
– I cannot say.
– If they were asked, they would be willing to contribute.
– Did a request go from Australia to Bradford for contributions to the fund, or did the Bradford manufacturers make the offer of their own »free will ? In any case, would it not be reasonable to expect the Australian manufacturers to make the offer first ! I should have expected it. The whole problem is tersely dealt with in a book entitled The Greater Illusion, byF. . S. Alford, and I quote the following extract from that publication: -
The extension of the policy of “ protection all round,” making a powerful appeal to sectional interests, resulted in the subsidization of certain primary industries. The sugar bounty, the butter bonus, and the dried fruits subsidy, are the more notable examples of the sheltering of primary production. The rising costs from the institution of this extension of the protective policy increased the burden carried by the two remaining unsheltered export industries - wheat and wool. And when it appeared inevitable that wheat, too, would be drawn into the “vicious circle,” Professor Giblin was inspired by the strange vision of “ Australia as one enormous sheep bestriding a bottomless pit with statesman, lawyer, miner, landlord, farmer, and factory hand all hanging on desperately to the locks of its abundant fleece.”
The wool-grower has seen for years that nothing has been done for his industry. As Senator Guthrie has said, he has asked, not for assistance, but to be left alone. But he also sees, as the days pass, that his markets are tending to slip away from him one by one, that other interests are undermining his interests and his sales abroad. He sees, too - and this is why Senator Guthrie has raised the question - that in one foreign country his sales have been increasing, and thus compensating him to some extent for what he has lost elsewhere. He merely asks the Government to be very careful to avoid imperilling the interests of this industry in that particular country, as it has imperilled those interests in other countries.
– While appreciating fully the earnestness of Senator Guthrie in bringing this subject before our notice to-day, I believe that he is somewhat pessimistic or overafraid in regard to the future of the wool industry in Australia. I cannot agree with his suggestion that that industry is in grave danger. I know the value of it to this country. I realize that it is our best industry, and that without it we should be in very grave difficulty. But I also know that, given a fair chance wherever warmth and comfort in clothing are important factors, . wool will more than hold its own against any substitute for it. Senator Guthrie’s fear seems to be that the artificial fibres from which is produced the material generally known as rayon - although rayon, I should say, embraces possibly 100 distinct varieties of textile goods - will prove a serious competitor of wool. I do not think that that is likely to happen. I have not had the opportunity to inspect the material most recently produced from wood fibre, which, I understand, is professedly the nearest approach to wool of any material on the market to-day.
– It is an alarming production.
– It is in appearance. Although I have gathered all the information I could procure, I have not seen this particular commodity; but I daresay that it is a very fair representation of woollen material. From what I have been able to learn, however, any person who is accustomed to wearing a purely woollen garment, would quickly notice the difference between it and the substitute. One of the greatest obstacles against a much larger use of woollen goods in Australia - I voiced this opinion some time ago in a debate that I well remember - has been the inefficiency of the Australian manufacturers of those goods. Wool is of no use to any person except in the manufactured form. A perusal of the statistics will show that the maintenance of our exports of wool to Great Britain has been assured by reason of the fact that the British manufacturer who utilizes our wool as the basis of his production, sees to it that the finished article will give every satisfaction, whereas, unfortunately, the reverse was the case some years ago in regard to goods manufactured in Australia, with the exception of blankets, flannels, and a certain class of tweeds. I am glad to know, from personal observation and experience, that some of our manufacturers learnt the lesson they were taught and considerably improved the quality of their output. Wool has peculiar properties. In the first place, it is extremely comforting to wear, especially in cold climates. But in the next place it has the disadvantage that, unless properly treated until manufactured, it will so shrink that people of small means cannot afford to purchase it. The British manufacturer and the manufacturer of the northern provinces of France, have been more than able to hold their own throughout the world in this regard ; they have learnt the art of so treating the yarn that in its manufactured state itwill give satisfactory wear and will not shrink to any appreciable extent. A little while ago I had the privilege of visiting another country, in which I was gratified to find that wool is coming much into favour. That country, which is one of our good customers for wool, is producing from it certain garments equal in quality to anything produced in Australia. It appears to me that its people have been induced to realize the value of woollen clothing, and each year the use of it is growing remarkably. I do not think we have very much to fear except in the direction of a temporary setback, while wool substitutes are being experimented with by the public. I should not go so far as to denounce the use by the people of textiles generally referred to as rayon. The people of Australia, particularly the poorer class, have benefited wonderfully from its production, because the price of it is within the reach of their purchasing power. It is just as attractive as silk, and costs probably no more than one-third of what has to be paid for silk.
Let us consider the matter from another viewpoint. If Providence has provided a raw material which, by the exercise of human intelligence and. ingenuity, may be converted into something that is useful to humanity, we should not be true to our trust if we did not use it, especially if it brings comfort to millions of people who are not in a position to purchase other materials. I quite agree with Senator Guthrie that it is advisable to leave no stone unturned to keep before the people of the world the fact that wool provides the best basis for comfortable clothing. If we do that we shall do all that Ave can to assist the Australian wool industry.
I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to an alarming inconsistency which lias been prevalent in Australia for some years. We have professedly endeavoured to do everything possible to assist this great primary industry. We have sought to cultivate trade with other countries in. the hope that each year our exports of wool would increase. Yet at the same time, Ave have imposed embargoes upon the introduction into Australia of goods manufactured from the very WOOl that we have supplied. We cannot have it both ways. If Ave wish to sell our wool to Great Britain, and Great Britain oan produce from it materials that Ave can use, how can Ave justify our request for larger purchases if we make the tariff Avail so high that the British manufacturer cannot scale it?
– The Australian manufacturer uses Australian WOO
– Of course he does. I refer to this as a glaring inconsistency in our desire to enlarge the market for our wool abroad. What inducement can we offer for the purchase of our WOOl if we are not prepared to buy some of the goods which are manufactured from that. wool? The local purchases of our WOOl output represent only 20 per cent, or less of our total output, and we are thus dependent on other countries for the marketing of the balance. I trust that the ventilation of this matter will result in every effort being made to give all publicity possible to the value of our wool when manufactured into clothing and other materials. I am confident that, if the manufacturers of Australia will only strive to produce a quality upon which the people can really depend, the result obtained in Great Britain will be repeated in this country. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has referred to - what occurred in the United States of America. He could not have given that illustration but for the fact that the British manufacturer makes the best of his industry. If Ave act similarly, Ave shall be able to induce the people of
Australia to use more wool in the future than they have used in the past.
– But when that object has been achieved, who outside Australia will buy the Australian product?
– I am referring to what is produced for Australian use. I hope that the debate on this very important subject will be the means of helping materially this great industry on which we depend so much.
– I gathered from the remarks of Senator Guthrie that the wool-growers in Australia are not unanimously in favour of the proposed levy.
– They never are.
– It is difficult to obtain unanimity in any industry; and in this case the WOOlgrowers are not all in favour of a levy. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber followed the remarks of Senator Guthrie with interest, because they realize the importance of the WOO industry to Australia. Although it has been said to-day that we are opposed to any assistance being given the V001 producers, quite a number of distinguished men, who once supported our policy, are now leading supporters of this Government. It is from this side of the chamber that our opponents have looked for and obtained in the past some of their ablest men. Indeed, the Country party member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) went so far as to say that some able men now supporting the Labour party in this Parliament are only awaiting an opportunity to transfer their allegiance. Senator Guthrie has given the Senate and the country generally a clear outline of the dangers which he considers are confronting the Wool industry. Along with other Queensland senators probably, I have received communications from the selectors’ association in that State objecting to the propaganda supporting a leA’y, which. they say, is unnecessary. They cannot afford it, and it would be reasonable to assume that selectors, not only in Queensland, but also in other woolproducing States, are opposed to it. When making a purchase recently in a Brisbane retail establishment, I was offered a rayon article of men’s attire which was 140 per cent, cheaper than a similar article manufactured from wool; but I was willing to pay the higher price in order to obtain an article of better quality. As wool represents 50 per cent, of our export trade, its production is of definite value to Australia. Senator Duncan-Hughes challenged me to mention one instance in which the woollen industry has been assisted financially by Commonwealth or State governments. Fortunately, the industry has not needed much assistance from the Australian people ; but, as the result of the extensive production of substitutes, it is now challenged.
– It has always been challenged.
– Not by effective substitutes.
– By pests and taxation and in other ways.
– The wool industry, in common with other primary and secondary industries, must contribute towards Commonwealth revenue, particularly as those engaged in it are usually able to pay. It is difficult to estimate the value of the gold-mining industry to Australia, hut as the result of successful dealings in goldmining ventures, particularly in Victoria, extensive pastoral holdings have been acquired by Victorians, and gold mining has thus played a great part in paying the country’s taxation and in assisting the country’s development.’ Those engaged in the wool industry have appealed to the Commonwealth Government and also to various State Governments for assistance, particularly in connexion with the reduction of railway freights, removal of starving stock and the carriage of fodder at rates cheaper than those ordinarily charged.
– Those are humane steps.
– Yes. but persons in this country who cannot obtain sufficient food and clothing are not transported at reduced rates. Their only opportunity of moving from one part of the Commonwealth to another is to “ jump the rattler “ and if they do so and are detected they are brought before the court and punished. Queensland is not the only State in which starving stock is transported at reduced rates, or where fodder is carried at rates lower than those usually charged.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the assistance thus rendered is in any way comparable to that afforded to the ‘ wheat or sugar industries or to our- secondary industries ?.
Senator J. V. MacDONALD.Perhaps not, but the wool industry is particularly fortunate in that it has a monopoly. Senator Duncan-Hughes admitted that fine merino wool such as is grown in Australia cannot be produced satisfactorily in any other country. I understand that Australian rams have been exported to Manchuria in the hope of building up merino flocks, but owing to the quality of the fodder available, and the climate, the strain soon dies out. The Leader of the Senate also mentioned the fact that English worsteds are superior to American worsteds, because in the manufacture of the former Australian merino wool is used. Three generations of my family have been pioneers in Australia and in New Zealand, and until I was 33 years of age I was interested in a farm carrying a few hundred sheep. It is unreasonable to suggest that the members of the Labour party and the workers generally have no interest in the wool-growers. There is scarcely an Australian family that is not or has not been, either as workers or producers, connected with our greatest industry, although they have not been or are not, multi squatters. It is said that Mr. Edmund Jowett, who died the other day, was interested in 67 holdings. Members of the Labour party realize that unless the industry can be conducted successfully the whole of Australia will suffer. The members of the Labour party trust that the wool industry will overcome the difficulties now confronting it, and that goods now manufactured from substitutes will eventually fall into disuse. I trust that Senator Guthrie’s fears will not be realized, and that everything possible will be done by the Government to protect the Australian wool industry which means so much to all sections of the community.
– I commend Senator Guthrie on his speech. Admittedly, he understands this subject thoroughly. It is always a pleasure to note the cairn and dispassionate manner in which he deals with any subject he reviews. I point out to him, however, that on many occasions within the last two years, when the Opposition in this chamber stressed the dangers threatening the wool industry from competition by artificial fibres, he poohpoohed the idea that vegetable fibres would ever . seriously compete with wool as a clothing material. To-day, apparently, he realizes the truth of what we have repeatedly pointed out. The honorable senator spoke about the need for advertising, and said that an advertising campaign in America had materially assisted in improving the distribution and sale of wool products. The Opposition supports his remarks in that respect, because under the existing competitive capitalistic system advertising play3 a very important part in fostering the sale of any. commodity. But there is a danger that, if the wool industry receives financial aid from this Parliament, the money may be thrown in the gutter. Mr. F. W. Kitchen, past president of the Australian Associated Chambers of Manufactures and the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, on his return recently from an eight-mouths’ trip abroad, stated that Australia’s methods of publicity for its primary products in Great Britain resulted in much money being wasted ; that hundreds of thousands of pounds were, so to speak, being thrown in the gutter because of the ineffectiveness of the methods employed. He said -
Duy after day the futile parrot-like cry of * Buy* Australian “ is sent forth, at considerable expense, but absolutely nothing is being done to link that slogan with some definite, tangible labels or trade marks which would sink into the minds of buyers, and thus extract from the publicity the maximum of effort.
Although Mr. Kitchen was dealing with advertising campaigns in connexion with the sale of primary products other than wool, his remarks might apply to any similar scheme adopted for the sale of wool. While, therefore, everything possible should be done to increase the sale of Australian wool, and to defeat competition of vegetable fibres, we must bear in mind our failures in advertising other products, and realize the possibility that money raised for this purpose may not be spent effectively. While it may be advisable to embark upon an advertising campaign to stress the quality of Australian wool, and its superiority over rayon and staple fibres and other artificial fibres, the Opposition claims that one of the best ways to increase the sale of Australian wool would be to disseminate propaganda with the object of giving a greater purchasing power to the people, not only of Australia, but also of other countries. At present there is competition between wool and rayon and staple fibres, but no attempt is being made to increase the purchasing power of the people to enable them to purchase the better commodity. A campaign to increase the sale of wool should therefore have as one of its primary objects the increasing of the purchasing power of the people.
I deplore the fact that Senator Hardy has seen fit to throw cold water upon tho remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in this respect.. My leader was trying to point out, as .L am now doing, that it is necessary to end thu contradictions existing under the capitalistic system, and to overcome these basic difficulties rather than merely cry out that natural wool is better than materials made of vegetable fibres. We must get down to bedrock, and deal with basic facts, and one of these, I suggest, is that the purchasing power of the people must be increased to enable them to buy the better commodity. The Labour party emphasizes the point that before any substantial advance can. be made in the sale of commodities, an effort must be made by governments generally to increase the purchasing power of their communities, thus enabling people generally to buy better quality goods. I hope that Senator ‘Guthrie, when speaking to those closely associated with him in the woo: industry, will suggest that a large portion of the £150,000, which he hopes will be raised for the purpose of advertising wool, should be used in propaganda in the direction I have mentioned, because if he doe* so, he will render a real service to the community generally, and to the wool industry in particular. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that owing to the application of sanctions one country at least had been compelled to try to find a substitute for wool. Addressing the annual assembly of Fascist corporations last month, Signor Mussolini declared -
Forty-four million Italians will always have the necessary clothes to cover themselves. Those who think that with the lifting of sanctions the situation will return to that of the 18th November, 1935, are deceiving themselves as the 18th November marked the beginning of a new phase of Italian history.
As my leader has already stated, the Italians were compelled to seek a substitute for wool because of the action of the Commonwealth Government which, along with other governments, was responsible for the application of sanctions. Naturally the people of Italy are going to look for a substitute for wool much in the same way as the German people have been compelled to do so. . German chemists have been hard at work to find and improve such a substitute. Surely the Leader of the Opposition cannot be blamed because, as a realist, he deals with actual facts.
Senator Abbott deplored the development of economic nationalism. He said that the world is getting sick of it. Why continue to deplore the fact that the world is moving in a certain direction under the influences of the present economic system? We cannot stop it from moving in that direction. We have been asked not to discuss the actions of a particular country in relation to the development of artificial fibres, but this particular country has played a great part in developing such substitutes, and is marketing them in Australia. I do not blame it for doing so; it is compelled by economic circumstances to fight for itself, and in order to find markets and to secure credits for the purchase of raw materials its people are forced to place their manufactured products on the markets of the world as best they can. That is only one of the contradictions which arise out of this discussion. Honorable senators have been asked not to say too much about this aspect of the matter, because it might jeopardize our trade relations with that country, yet the commodities manufactured in that country directly compete with wool grown in Australia. It is another example of the contradictions which arise out of the modern economic system.
Senator Guthrie made a sincere and justifiable plea on behalf of the wool industry. He was afraid that the use of vegetable substitutes would seriously affect the sale of wool, but would not say too much about it lest our relations with a country which sends such substitutes to Australia to compete with our wool might be jeopardized. Senator Duncan-Hughes, however, suggested that my leader should not be prevented from discussing this aspect of the problem, and, indeed, the position is such that soon we shall be compelled to deal with this problem basically and not superficially.
The Opposition agrees with Senator Guthrie that this Parliament should assist in any move designed to foster the sale of wool as opposed to substitutes. The Labour party is not opposed to the wool industry; it wishes to help it. In addition to assisting the industry by facilitating the moving of starving stock and fodder in times of drought, the Labour Government in Queensland arranged for long-term purchases of barbed wire by wool-growers. If the Labour party is to be charged with having failed to do anything to assist the wool industry, why have not the opponents of Labour - this Government, for instance - done their best to support this industry? The wool industry could further be substantially assisted in Queensland by the building of a railway from north to south in that State to connect the rail heads at Cunnamulla, Longreach and Cloncurry. The Commonwealth Government could assist in that project, particularly in view of the fact that its revenue has considerably improved. Out of its large surpluses it ° could help this industry, not only in Queensland, but also in other States by building railways for the purpose of facilitating the moving of starving stock in times of drought. Senator Guthrie knows that millions of pounds have been lost to Australia, because, at such times, the wool-growers could not move starving stock rapidly. The Opposition in this chamber, which represents 45 per cent, of the people of Australia, heartily supports the honorable senator in his effort to rouse the people to a realization of the necessity of assisting this industry by the wearing of natural wool in preference to substitutes. However, as we did a year ago, we emphasize that, before this problem can be solved, the Government muse get down to basic facts, and we suggest that, in order to bring about a permanent improvement in the sale of our primary products, it should, first of all, take steps to increase the purchasing power of the people. This would be more effective than simply bewailing the possibility that the wool industry will be ruined through the use of substitutes.
– Honorable senators generally will congratulate Senator Guthrie for having given us this opportunity to discuss a matter so important to the national welfare as is the wool industry. The honorable senator rightly claimed that this industry is the greatest in Australia. It is unfortunate that our 97,000 wool-growers are scattered right throughout Australia. The very nature of their operations necessitates their living in the distant parts of the country, and, unfortunately, they have little direct representation in this Parliament. If this discussion to-day will result in the industry being given greater representation in Parliament, it will be to the advantage of not only the industry itself, but also Australia as a whole.
Senator J. V. MacDonald urged that the industry should be thoroughly organized. An effort in that direction has been made, but owing to the wool-growers being scattered throughout the sparselypopulated areas of the Common.wealth, it has been difficult to obtain unanimity among them. However, the effort will be continued. Probably the units of the industry have been brought more closely together by reason of the period of low prices and bad seasons through which the industry has passed.
Senator Guthrie said that the average price of wool to-day is 13£d. per lb. That is probably a fair price, but we must remember that, for six years previously, the average price was 9Jd. per lb., and that the higher price this year does not compensate for the losses of those years. “We must also bear in mind that a great number of wool-growers have suffered enormous losses of stock, and will not benefit from the improved price of wool.
While Bawra existed, wool prices were high.
– Too high.
– Many woolgrowers desired that Bawra should continue, and that a reserve fund should be created for use in times of adversity. The unremunerative prices of recent years have brought home to the growers the necessity for organization along the lines of Bawra. It is now proposed to impose a levy on the industry, with the object of improving prices and increasing the demand for wool.
The risks run by those engaged in wool-growing are greater than those taken in any other industry in this country, with the possible exception of goldmining. The grower of wool i3 dependent on world prices for his product, but he must produce it in a country in which manufactured goods are highly protected. He is faced with the prospect of recurring droughts, and, in good seasons, of floods and fires. So many and so great are the risks, that it is a wonder that pastoralists can make a living at all. Only by their heroic efforts can they carry on. The balance sheets of the big pastoral companies reveal their losses during the last seven years, whilst evidence of the difficulties associated with the growing of wool is easily obtainable by those who visit the homesteads of the selectors and smaller graziers. If the experiences of the recent bad seasons cause the growers to unite and organize for better prices, then that period of adversity will not have been in vain. In western Queensland an area of about 60,000 square miles, which is devoted to the growing of wool, experienced a succession of exceptionally bad seasons, which were followed by floods that destroyed large numbers of sheep. Many pastoralists lost as much as 95 per cent. of their stock. It seems incredible, but it is nevertheless true, that, as a result, on a number of properties, on a capitalization basis, each surviving sheep represents from £300 to £500. Had such a disaster overtaken city industries, the press of this country would have made much of the hardships suffered, but because these things happened in the far interior, very little was said about them. Senator Guthrie has placed before the Senate a number of sound suggestions. At this stage I offer no suggestion as to the amount of the levy or the purpose for which the fund proposed by the honorable senator should be used, but I do suggest that provision be made at the manufacturing and selling end . for propaganda directed towards the greater use of wool and the securing of higher prices for it.
Senator Brown advocated the building of railways in far-western Queensland. I agree with the honorable senator that such railways are necessary, but, in my opinion, their construction is more a matter for the State than for the Commonwealth. The honorable senator appears to have attempted to draw a red herring across the trail, for I remind him that, during the drought in western Queensland, strong representations were made to the Government of that State for the construction of a railway between Blackall andCharleville. The continuation of this line would have saved from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 sheep. However, the Queensland Labour Minister to whom the representations were made stated that the line mentioned would not pay axle grease.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I commend Senator Guthrie for having brought this matter before the Senate, as I cannot possibly agree with statements that there is nothing to fear from the synthetic products which have been put on the markets of the world. In the introduction of rayon as a form of synthetic silk we are provided with an example of the success which can attend synthetic products. The acceptance of rayon by the world has practically meant the extinction of one of the world’s great primary industries, namely sericulture. The production of silk formerly was one of the major industries of Japan and of China, and it was a very valuable industry in Italy and France and several Continental countries, but it is now almost extinct. There are but a few remnants of it here and there throughout the world. Originally silk was produced in the following way: The silkworm was bred and fed principally on the leaves of the mulberry tree. It was then allowed to spin a cocoon, the thread of which was taken, and the finest silk produced. The quality varied, of course, according to the type of silkworm and to the type of country. The Japanese, fearing competition, took steps to safeguard the industry. Instead of producing synthetic silk by chemical means, they took the worm at maturity, put it in acid, took the extract of raw silk from within the worm, and then spun- the thread. No sooner had they done that than scientists came along and, instead of waiting for a worm to spin a thread, proceeded to make that thread in a laboratory. That meant the destruction of an industry that has been established in several countries from time immemorial. Silk has been one of the principal materials for the manufacture of wearing apparel.
Let us take wool. We in Australia produce some of the finest wool in the world. I sincerely hope with Senator Guthrie and others, that a synthetic product that will replace wool has not been discovered, but we have no guarantee that it will not be discovered. Some five or six years ago I was given the opportunity to see samples of synthetic wool. If they had been placed before the average man in the street and he had been asked to indicate the better article, in 99 cases out of 100, he would have indicated the artificial product. It had a better appearance, and was longer in staple. I am told, although I have not had the experience, that if cloth made from the synthetic product and cloth made from wool were set before the man in the street he could not select which was wool and which was not. I understand that to-day Japan, in which country there is an enormous internal consumption of wool products, is on the verge of making the third fibre of rayon. Thar decision would affect the whole of the world. If cloth were to be made up of one-third rayon the whole of the world markets must be tremendously affected.
Although wool has been affected by rayon, it has not been affected to the same extent as cotton. King Cotton has been sitting on a throne in the southern States of America, but now his throne is toppling. It was said that ‘ science could not invent a method of picking the boll of cotton, but in America ‘we find that two brothers have invented a picking machine which, in solving one of the major problems in the production of cotton, has presented a further big problem for America. In that country, cotton-producers hitherto have been nearly all poor whites, living on small tracts of land held on lease. They will now have to go off their holdings, because the best class of cotton can be produced in California on big areas, as the result of the use of machinery to replace the hand pickers, whether they he poor whites, near-blacks, or blacks.
Let us take wheat. -.Honorable senators say that there has been hardly any change in the methods of culture of wheat, but it is not now grown in the areas where it was originally grown. The United States of America has transformed the whole of the wheat areas. Many years ago it seat scientists and enthusiasts into Russia and other countries near the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They got the original wheats, and to-day they are growing wheat in parts of America where wheat could not be grown before. They surmounted the trouble of frosts and want of rains. The same thing happened in Australia, where Farrer, that great wheat experimentalist, made discoveries which meant that, instead of wheat cultivation being confined to the tablelands, it could be grown where it
Was formerly said to be impossible to grow wheat.
I commend the grazing industry for what it has done for Australia, but I am sorry to have to disagree with one action that it has taken. I think the graziers of Australia made a mistake in allowing stud sheep to be taken from the shores of this country, for instance, to Russia. I say this, not because I object to Russia, but because I understand on very good authority that it is likely that from the types of sheep that it has obtained from Australia, it will become one of the dominant sheep-producing countries of the world. In that respect, I hold the same regrets that the Lancashire people must feel that they ever saw fit to send their weaving machines to Japan. I understand that Russia is a country which in every possible form can produce wools that will be very serious competitors with the wools produced in Australia. The United States of America to-day has its cotton problem, but all countries have the one major problem in common, and that is the great scientific development that is taking place. The world is discovering that it can produce by scientific means instead of leaving the task to nature. “Wonderful advances have been made in agricultural science. We always understood that for production of articles for human and animal consumption light and water were necessary. But what is happening to-day? In England, it is stated on the best authority, the best fodder and vegetables are being grown in cellars without light and practically without moisture. That is a remarkable contradiction of the former belief. Scientists in England have shown that fodder grown in cellars and fed to selected dairy herds results in the production of more and better milk and more flesh and fat than fodder grown in the normal way.
I commend Senator Guthrie’s suggestion that this country should follow the American lead and institute a modern advertising campaign to induce the people to wear wool. I believe that wool is a better wearing material than its competitors, and that it has certain medicinal characteristics, I think, was proved in the Great War. Nearly every soldier wore wool next to his skin, and I believe that the mere fact that he did so made him a much healthier man. From the viewpoint of health, it is much more satisfactory to wear wool next to the skin than any other product. A feature of Australia is that it is the greatest producer of the best wool in the world. The growing of wool is Australia’s greatest industry. It is a primary industry essential to life and being, and I hope that graziers will begin to advertise it. It certainly does pay to advertise. It is more a question of psychology than anything else. If you can make people believe that wool is the best for them they will wear it.
– If they can afford it.
– There is no question about that. The trouble is to get the people to wear wool. They might like woollen suits, but they like gaudy things, such as rayon. Rayon, with all its characteristics, is the most beautiful thing that can be imagined. I always thought that silk held that honour, but science has produced a more beautiful product than silk. People now buy wonderful things which are made of rayon. It, however is only a matter of getting the people to know the medicinal value and wearing properties of wool. Show them that the use of wool will have a beneficial effect on health and at the same time on the pocket. Honorable senators know as well as I do that a few years ago in England a man would buy an overcoat and pass it on to his son and sometimes to his grandson, whereas to-day, a new overcoat is bought every year. The great textile manufacturers of Great Britain have many secrets, not necessarily in connexion with the wool, but with the weave, which are well kept from the world. That is the reason why they maintain their supremacy. I commend the suggestion that the wool industry should campaign not only internally, but also externally, to maintain a trade which is so valuable to Australia.
Senator GIBSON (Victoria) [5.55 J.I am glad that Senator Guthrie introduced this subject, for he is an authority upon it, having been for 25 years the senior expert for a leading firm of wool brokers which operates in both Australia and New Zealand. He was also the expert of the “Wool Advisory Committee which drew up the scheme to appraise 848 different classes of wool, and conducted the biggest commercial deal that has ever taken place in the world. What Senator Guthrie says about wool can be taken as a fact. The honorable senator was also a member of the State Wool Committee in Victoria. He, therefore, has authoritative standing in the industry. I hope that what he has said to-day will be broadcast throughout Australia, and that it will do something to counter the unfair propaganda that is being conducted against Australian wool. Use is being made to-day of statements that are quite unfair to our wool industry, and also untrue. The wool industry of Australia has a most intern::ting history. I advise honorable senators to read the life story of Sir Sydney Kidman, for it is typical of the career of many pastoralists. Sir Sydney Kidman started with a flock of sheep of very little value. As Senator Guthrie has pointed out, the weight of the fleece a sheep has, in the course of the years, been more than doubled. I consider that the stage of development now reached is the maximum. To go further would probably be to court danger. Had sheep remained in the same stage of development as the sheep of 40 years ago, Australia would have had no great pastoral industry, for the cost of shearing and running the sheep would have been too great to make the industry payable-; yet to-day wool is our most valuable export commodity. As several honorable senators have pointed out in the course of this debate, the wool industry has been maintained without government assistance. In the next few weeks we shall probably set in motion machinery which will bring to certain industries as much as £30,000,000 a year of the taxpayers’ money as a kind of bounty. Yet immediately the suggestion is made that a bounty should be provided for a primary producing industry an outcry is heard. The wool-growers, however, have never sought assistance by bounty. The development of this industry has been achieved by the application of scientific research methods to it. Improved breeding in Australia has been mainly responsible for the increased weight of fleece obtained from each animal. The scientific methods suggested by those engaged in research work have been applied by practical men. As much as £2,000 has been spent for one ram in order that flocks might be improved. Research is still being pursued. Senator Guthrie referred to. the percentage of wool produced in Australia to the world production. I was sorry that he did not also refer to the percentage of fine wool of the merino class produced in Australia. Australia supplies 52 per cent, of the world’s wool of this description. It is this quality of wool which will be most severely hit, possibly, by the competition of rayon. Pasture improvement is now being practised by pastoralists. When better feed is provided for sheep, more strong and less fine wool is produced. It is unfair that in the reports of wool sales only the top price is given. It is quite common to see a top line of, say, five bales quoted, and nothing else. I know of one or two properties which produce about 900 bales of wool, but when it is marketed only the top line of, say, five or, it may be, nine bales, is quoted at perhaps 26d. or 28d. No reference is made to the price obtained for the other qualities. If a top line fetches 21d. per lb., it may be said that the average from that particular property would be about 14d. per lb. I think Senator Guthrie will bear me out when I say that the average price is about twothirds that of the top line. Many people seem to think that pastoralists obtain about the top price for all the wool that they market, but the fact is, of course, that the price obtained for cross-bred wools - that is, wool from the sheep used for raising fat lambs - is usually only about10d. or11d. per lb. for top lots. As it is our finer merino wools which “are likely to be subjected to severe competition from rayon, I should like Senator Guthrie to furnish us with some information, which I have no doubt that he has, regarding the cost of producing rayon. If it is between10d. and1s. per lb.-
– It is less than that.
– If rayon can be produced for less than1s. per lb., it will inevitably become a severe competitor with our finer wools.
Senator Cooper raised a point which I expected honorable senators of the Opposition to discuss, as to whether some such system as Bawra - the British and Australasian “Wool Realization Association - could not be organized to deal with the present situation. I am afraid many people do not know that Bawra did not sell a single bale of wool. In 1916 the Hughes Government purchased the whole Australian wool clip of about 900,000 bales. It continued to purchase the wool clip of the country each year during the period of the war and for one year after. The whole of that wool was handled by the Central Wool Committee. Bawra did not then exist. The Central Wool Committee, which operated between 1916 and 1921, handled a vast quantity of. wool. When its contract with the British Government expired in 1920, the British Government found that it had on hand about 2,750.000 bales of wool. The question arose how such a vast quantity of wool could be handled. Bawra was brought into existence to deal with the problem. At that time wool could not be sold for anything like a reasonable price. I believe that the price fell, at that time, to as low as 8d. per lb. The Bawra scheme was developed, to a large extent, by Sir Walter Young, of South Australia.
– Sir John Higgins had most to do with it.
– Sir Walter Young went to London and made contact with Sir Arthur Goldfinch, and subsequently the Bawra organization took over the handling of the surplus wool, but it did not sell the wool. It simply rationed it on to the market year by year. At that time the British Government held about £7,000,000, that was due to the Australian wool-growers. The Bawra organization took charge of this money and also of the surplus wool. It placed the wool on the market in an orderly manner year by year, and had it sold through the usual channels. The proceeds were put into the fund with the £7,000,000, and payments were made from time to time to the wool-growers, and it was in this way that the problem was satisfactorily handled.
– It was a triumph for orderly marketing.
– That is so. Bawra did remarkably good work. It seems to me that the” pastoralists to-day need some ‘ organization which will enable them to marshal their resources to meet the new problem which now faces the wool industry. If they ask for legislation to authorize the collection of a compulsory levy so that all wool-growers will be obliged to share in the expenses of any scheme adopted to meet existing conditions, their request should be favorably considered. They are not asking for an organization to take charge of the marketing of their product. The growers are asking for protection against the unfair propaganda that is being directed against the wool industry in this country.
.- The discussion this afternoon has emphasized the value to Australia of the wool industry, and the need for measures to be taken for its protection. I should not have taken part in the debate but for the fact that. Senator Duncan-Hughes made some sneering references to Australian woollen manufacturers. I gathered from the tone of his remarks and the observations of other honorable senators that there is” some misconception about the part played by our manufacturers in the development of the wool industry. Apparently they do not realize that Australian manufacturers are the third ot fourth best customer of our wool-growers, and that the amount of Australian production which they take has been doubled in the last ten years. Every year they purchase over 300,000 bales of the best Australian wool - a fact of which there is good reason to be proud.
I also take exception to Senator Payne’s suggestion that Australian manufactured woollen goods are not comparable with the best of imported products. When.- 1 heard the honorable gentleman advising our manufacturers to produce a better article, I wondered where he had been living during the last ten years, and if he had been watching the development of the manufacturing industry; if he had ever slept in Australian blankets, or enjoyed the comfort of an Australian rug on his frequent journeyings from Tasmania to Canberra to take part in the debates in this chamber.
– I rise to a point of order. I deny absolutely that I spoke disparagingly about the quality of Australian blankets. On the contrary, I declared that they were equal to the best in the world.
– I am glad to have the honorable senator’s acknowledgment of the undoubted quality of Australian manufactured woollen goods.
– That is what Senator Payne said.
– Senator Payne definitely advised Australian woollen manufacturers to produce a good article, and I say that they are the best except, possibly, in the somewhat restricted market for the best worsted materials which only wealthy people can buy. The ordinary tweeds, rugs, blankets and other woollen goods made in Australian mills are as good as any produced in the world; they defy competition.
– They are definitely not the best in the world.
– If I said that Australian manufactured goods are the best in the world, I qualify the statement by saying that they are equal to anything produced in the world except in respect of first quality worsteds for which the Australian market is so restricted. No one would have believed, five or six years ago, that our woollen manufacturers would be able to produce such a wide range of first quality goods as are now being placed on the market. I am not sure that Senator Guthrie’s proposal for the raising of a large amount of money from wool-growers foi,, propaganda and scientific . research will do all the good which the honorable senator expects of it; but the money will be found by those in the. industry, and it is our bounden duty to do what we can to forward any project that will protect the industry and encourage its expansion. Nor am I sure that the danger to industry due to competition by manufactured substitutes is so real as some people believe it to be. I think that Senator Arkins said that the industry producing silk from silk worms was dead. I doubt the correctness of that statement, and believe that ladies who are in the habit of buying real georgette have no difficulty whatever in distinguishing between material manufactured from, real silk and georgette manufactured from rayon or some other substitute.
– They may be deceived by substitutes.
– I have a better opinion of the judgment of ladies in such matters. At all events, the silk industry is not dead. Good things will always sell, and good wool will always have its market.
. - in reply - In again emphasizing the danger confronting the Australian wool industry due to competition by artificial substitutes, I would point out that, directly and indirectly, wool gives more employment than any other industry in Australia. This is a fact which, I believe, is not generally realized. I also stress the continuous study by chemists and scientists of all countries in the production of .synthetic fibres and other materials. The better class of rayon consists of 80 per cent, wood and 20 per cent. tin. There is a smaller percentage of tin in the cheaper materials. The danger to the wool industry is not so much from rayon which, as I have explained, competes, more directly with real silk and cotton products, as from artificial wool produced in Germany, and staple fibre. I examined some of this staple fibre last week and saw it spun in much the same way as Bradford 64 tops are spun. The advance that has been made in the production of this material is so pronounced that the difference between the artificial and the real wool is not easily discernible by the inexperienced. No one will for a moment contend that the synthetic product is equal to wool, but on a price basis it is definitely a. keen competitor. The danger facing the wool industry in Australia is due to lack of organization. There is not yet in the British Empire an organization of wool-growers whose definite purpose it is to carry out propaganda in order to protect the wool industry against competition from synthetic products. New Zealand woolgrowers have decided to make a levy of <5d. a bale, and South African growers have agreed to a levy of ls. a bale; but there is definite need for an Empire organization to take care of this Empire industry. The abolition of the federal land tax would help growers. One thing in our favour is the fact that, hygienically and economically, wool is the better article. A suit of clothes made from wool will outlast three or four made from the German vistra and wool, which we call woolstra. To emphasize the danger to the wool industry from this competition, I attended a luncheon in Melbourne given recently by leading wool-growers, brokers and buyers to welcome Lord Barnby, wearing a suit made entirely from wool and wood fibres, and all my other articles of clothing were manufactured from cotton or rayon. Not one of those present was aware of that fact.
– The honorable senator gave a good advertisement to manufacturers of wool substitutes.
– My intention was to impress upon those who attended that gathering the real danger to the wool industry from this competition by wool substitutes, the world’s consumption of which, last year, was twice the quantity of the total scoured wool clip, of Australia.
The effect of this competition on our trade balance is a matter which, I suggest, may more profitably he considered when we are dealing with the tariff schedule which will come before us within the next few days. I agree that the Australian woollen manufacturers provide an important market for our woolgrowers. They purchase over 300,000 bales a year of our best wool, and manufacture it into a variety of materials of a quality equal to the best produced in the world. Our Australian mills are highly efficient, and provide a great deal of employment for Australian operatives, so they are deserving of the support of all those who have at heart the welfare of this country. I have always stated that, after protecting the home market, we should give preference to Great Britain, and then to those countries that trade with us. As the United States of America, of which we are a good customer, purchases so little from Australia, our adverse trade balance with that country is in the vicinity of £8,000,000 or £10,000,000. “ .With other honorable senators, I should like to see some rectification of the position, with a view to improving our trade relations with Germany and Japan, which are anxious to increase their business with us. I hope, that it will be possible, in the near future, to iron out some of the difficulties due to our adverse trade balance with the United States of America. The wool industry is not asking the Government for financial aid. It protests against being singled out for special taxation, and asks the Government to remove the federal land tax, thus, helping growers to reduce their costs of production. With honorable senators opposite, I realize that when employment is good and secondary industries are paying good wages and giving employment to a large number of workmen, the increased purchasing power in the hands of the people is a definite incentive to our primary industries. I am also aware that the enormous expenditure on rearmament schemes is an important factor in the present buoyant condition of the wool market. As the subject-matter of the motion has been thoroughly discussed and honorable senators on both sides of the chamber unanimously approve of the organization of the industry for scientific research, and to induce the people to use more wool, I ask leave of the Senate to withdraw my motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Sitting suspended from 6.20 to8 p.m.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice - -
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator refers. In reply to a question asked by the honorable senator on the18th March, 1936, I stated that the granting of mining leases is the prerogative of the State Government. It is understood that M. A. Brassert and Company Limited, an English company, has been granted mining leases at Yampi Sound by the Government of “Western Australia, and that the company proposes to dispose of its iron ore output to Japanese interests. The sale of iron ore to Japan or any other nation is just as unrestricted as is the sale of wool, wheat, beef, mutton or any other commodity. In any case it would serve no object, and itwould notbe desirable, to prevent a foreign country from obtaining iron ore from this source. As the iron ore deposits of the world are so extensive, there are many other sources of supply outside Australia which are available to such countries.
Debate resumed from the 10th April, 1935 (vide page 1150, volume 146), on motion by Senator E. B.. Johnston -
That Statutory Rule No. 19 of 1935, amending the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, be disallowed.
– My object in moving this motion has been achieved, for the Government has, after consideration of my earlier representations on this subject, repealed the statutory rule to which I then took exception. I therefore move -
That the order of the day be discharged.
Motion agreed to.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion- by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I take it that this will not prevent the consideration at a later date of private business which has been postponed.
– It could, but that is not the intention of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– In approaching the consideration of this bill I want to emphasize what I have said on previous occasions, namely, that the Opposition approaches all questions which come before the Senate from a point of view entirely different from that taken by the Government and its supporters. That applies particularly to proposals such as are contained in this bill in which basic principles are involved. I suppose that it is quite natural that opposing parties in this chamber should approach the consideration of these questions from entirely different angles. “We on this side recognize that there are two classes in the community.
– Only two?
– There are only two, and they could be described in different ways. I once heard it said - and this is not the definition I intend to use to-night - that the two classes in the community are those who do the work and those who “ do “ the workers. But I define the two classes as the well-to-do on the one hand, and on the other hand the working wealth producers who alone support them. This measure will no doubt be considered from two distinct points of view. In the first place, there is the national, or, if you like, the racial outlook. For my part, I propose to approach the bill as an Australian first, last, and all the time. I have no interest in the political life of this nation other than as an Australian. Any proposal that will assist Australia will always receive the whole-hearted support of the Opposition, and anything detrimental to the best interests of this country will be strenuously opposed by us. Australia has a history of which Ave are justly proud.
I do not desire to detract in the least from the glory of the histories of other countries, but I emphasize the fact that no similar number of people has, in so short a time and under such difficulties, brought about so much development as has occurred in Australia in the last century and a half. Some years ago, four emissaries from Great Britain, referred to as “ The Big Four “, ‘ visited Australia to give us the benefit of their experience. One of them, Sir Arthur Duckham, said that his trip had been the most educative he had ever undertaken, and that if he had not come to Australia he would not have believed it possible for a country with a population of only 6,500,000 to have accomplished so much in so short a time. He remarked that he had found in Australia cities comparable with any in the Old World. He added that he could board a train at Perth and travel by rail continuously to Cloncurry in Queensland.
– But Ave have six different railway gauges !
– Of course. I understand that the Lyons Government intends some day to remedy that fault, to the extent of standardizing the gauges between the capital cities, as a measure for the relief of unemployment, but so far - it has done little to that end.
If there is one matter on which Australia has taken a definite stand, it is its fiscal policy, which is designed to give adequate protection to Australian secondary industries. Another great principle which is espoused by all political parties in this country is the White Australia policy. The Opposition contends that both those policies are right, because they’ are essentially Australian. When the details of this bill are under consideration, the Opposition will resist every proposal which seeks to make it easy to bring into Australia the products of low-wage countries.
– How doesthe honorable senator define “ Australian “ ? The blacks were here beforewe were.
– The honorable senator should remember that Ave haveemerged from the day of the blacks. I regret that the honorable senator is obviously still thinking back into the black: past. He should consider this matter in the light of happenings in the modern world. It may not be out of place for me to remind the Senate that, in the days before Christ, Aristotle stated -
When the time comes that the shuttle will weave and iron implements move of themselves, there will be no further need of masters and slaves.
The Opposition will strenuously oppose reductions of duties) no matter what plausible excuse may be given for them, if they result in throwing numbers of Australian workmen to the wolves of poverty and destitution. In this attitude we are strongly supported in this and in other countries. I shall quote from a recent pronouncement by King Edward, because his remarks have a bearing on the tariff policy I am now enunciating. Speaking at the beginning of this month at Buckingham Palace to deputations comprising about 500 persons, who brought from a score or more of privileged public bodies, representing all sections of the community, loyal addresses of congratulation to His Majesty on his accession, he concluded his address in these words -
With all sincerity, therefore, I not only join in your prayers that the future may bring peace and prosperity to this country, but I would assure you that my constant endeavour will be to promote the establishment of peace throughout the world, and a revival of that commercial and industrial activity, both in this country and abroad, that alone can provide the opportunity to work which it is the right of every citizen to enjoy.
I urge Ministers and all other honorable senators opposite to take cognisance of those words from the lips of our King. To-day, the workers of Australia have the right to work, but not the opportunity to do so. I believe that it is the definite opinion of the great majority of the people of this country that we should establish such fiscal arrangements as will enable employment to be given to those who are willing to work. We shall probably be told during the course of the debate that the Labour party supports monopolies, and desires to bolster up such great monopolistic undertakings as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. That statement has been repeated ad nauscum. We shall no doubt be informed that as labour men we are in the wrong camp, because we support wealthy profiteers. If a ship required by Australia is built abroad, the wages and the expenditure on materials are lost to this country ; but if the construction takes place within Australia, our own people not only get the ship, but they also retain the money expended on wages and materials. If I may explain my attitude somewhat dramatically, let me say that, whilst I do not favour any action that would result in the public being exploited by the profiteer, if I had to choose between an overseas exploiter and robber and an Australian exploiter and robber I would prefer the latter, because he would at least spend his ill-gotten gains in this country.
– How does the honorable senator know he would spend the proceeds in Australia? He might send the money abroad.
– He might, of course, but that would be unusual. This Parliament is sufficiently powerful, and has the means at its disposal, to prevent profiteering and exploitation, and the growth of monopolies and combines.
It cannot be truthfully claimed that either in this chamber or in the other branch of the legislature, the Opposition has ever opposed any proposal for the benefit of a primary or a secondary industry. Honorable senators opposite must admit that Labour men always vote with the Government in favour of measures for the assistance of the primary producers, and we expect similar co-operation from the Government side in dealing with secondary industries, which are of vital importance to Australia. I propose to quote from the platform to which the Labour party is pledged. I refer to the printed policy to which every Labour candidate must subscribe. Dealing with the “ New Protection “ our platform provides -
The platf orm of the Labour party in relation to industrial regulation provides that working hours shall not exceed 40 in each week. I am glad to notice that we have been able to convince the people of other countries of the necessity for a 40-hour week, and we hope that even the backward Lyons Government will accept the advice of its emissary to the International Labour Conference, Sir Frederick Stewart, and adopt this reform in Australia. At least the Government should set a good example by bringing a 40-hour week into operation, so far as lies in its power. Regarding this matter, the platform of the Labour party provides -
Labour also has a definite policy with regard to primary industries. This includes the following objectives : -
The institution of a Commonwealth shipping service for the purpose of securing cheaper freights on the carriage of products both interstate and overseas.
The establishment of Commonwealth agricultural implement factories for the purpose of providing primary producers with cheaper machinery.
A comprehensive system of water conservation and irrigation, with provision - in suitable areas - for the communal supply of water from artesian and sub-artesian bores and wells.
The encouragement of secondary industries, and the provision of cheap light and power in country districts, where practicable.
The extension of the benefits of civil aviation and wireless communication to country districts.
The provision of . better facilities for postal, telegraphic and telephonic communication.
Assistance and encouragement in the construction of railways, main roads, and in the development of the nearest ports as a means of bringing producers in touch with their natural markets by the shortest and quickest routes.
Utilization of the High Commissioner’s Office overseas for the purpose of providing expert advice in the sale of our products abroad.
The provision of increased meteorological facilities for recording and publishing information in regard to weather conditions, rainfall, and river gaugings.
Representation of primary producers upon all Boards affecting the handling and marketing of their products.
Even at the risk of wearying honorable senators I put these principles on record, so that what the Australian Labour party and its representatives in this chamber advocate in connexion with the adequate protection of Australian industries, primary and secondary, shall not be later twisted and misrepresented. Recently a paragraph appeared in the anti-Labour press, headed “ Labour’s New Policy, Protection of Consumers and Workers.” This pronouncement was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in the House of Representatives -
We are determined to resist what appears to be a disposition on the part of certain groups of manufacturers to exploit for their special welfare what really is intended as a national policy for the national interest.
I desire to explain, for the information of honorable senators, that this policy does not represent a departure from the established policy of the Australian Labour party; that utterance does not mean that the party proposes to tinker with its policy of adequate protection. We do not waver from our attitude that every worthwhile Australian industry, should receive a full measure of support.
– Providing that it is efficient.
– Of course! This iteration and reiteration of parrot cries in regard to fiscal policy is becoming tiresome to one as old as myself. Remarks of this . nature were hurled against those of us who, being good Australians, believed, from the earliest days, in an adequate fiscal policy, in order to encourage the; development of industry within the Commonwealth. When I was much younger, nothing that we ate, drank, or wore was manufactured in Australia; all articles for personal use were imported, and even beer, cheese, butter, lollies and biscuits were brought into the country. Every time that a good Australian lifted his head and said, “ I think we can do this job,” some pessimist would ejaculate, “ Yes ; but can we do it efficiently ? “ Thereupon the enterprising citizen, being not so courageous as some of the latterday businessmen, said “ Perhaps that is right. We might not achieve efficiency; therefore we shall not try.” So they did not try. But gradually the Australian sentiment grew, and enterprising persons said, “We shall not be wood and water joeys for the rest of the world,” with the result that to-day nothing that is required for human sustenance, happiness and progress cannot be produced in Australia as efficiently as it can be produced anywhere else if we set our minds to it. Food, clothing, liquid refreshment, and housing accommodation, all of the highest quality, are produced in Australia. Yet Senator Hardy, a young man with all his future before him, lolls back in his chair, and, when I am enunciating a good Australian sentiment, he interjects in his puerile fashion, “Does the honorable senator mean ‘efficiently’ ?”
A complex that has always interested me in this connexion is that, if an industry is a success, it is accused of being a monopolistic profiteering concern. If it is not a success, the honorable gentlemen who form the Government, and those supporting them, dub it a “ back-yard industry,” inefficient, and not deserving of support. The great crime of which most Australian industries are guilty is success. Immediately they can point to actual achievement and show a commercial profit they become suspect; until they can do that they are derided as “ backyard industries.” I emphasize that the Labour party advocates the adequate protection of secondary industries; but, so soon as profiteering occurs, that the Government should intervene. I understand that the Government denies that it lias the power to fix prices and to limit profits; that is not in accordance with my interpretation of the Constitution. Even if there are legal difficulties, I consider that the Government should take the necessary power. It should be supreme in all matters connected with the government of this country. That being so, it should be able to take the requisite steps to prevent monopolists from exploiting the public and making excess profits. Industries should be granted full protection, but the Government should fix the retail prices of their commodities, and set a limit upon their net profits. Through the industrial courts the wages, hours of labour and working conditions of the employees engaged in those industries should be -determined. I remind honorable senators that this Government has the power of levying taxation, and if any ade- quately-protected industry should unduly exploit the public, its profits could be taxed without raising any constitutional difficulties.
I have referred so often to the fact that Australia is not being governed by the Parliament of the Commonwealth that I feel almost guilty of tedious repetition; but I can see no way of escape from it if I am to make the attitude of the Labour party clear. Every time a problem presenting difficulties, often more apparent than real, confronts this Government, it appoints a commission or board of inquiry to take evidence and make recommendations, thus making a buffer between itself and public opinion. Members of Cabinet do not accept their ministerial responsibility for which they are paid by the taxpayers. I have always contended that Cabinet Ministers are not paid enough; but, in view of the fact that members of the present Government too often shift their responsibilities to boards and committees of inquiry, they will not have a strong case should they ask Parliament to approve of an increase of their allowance. “We have appointed a Tariff Board and made it, in fact, superior to Parliament. The creature of this Parliament is now greater than its creator. While that is bad enough, it is not the worst aspect. We have also become signatories to the Ottawa agreement, upon which I propose to make certain observations. I have not waited until this evening to form a critical opinion of it. I have before me a Ilansard report of a speech which I delivered when the Economic Conference at Ottawa was in progress. On that occasion I informed the Senate that the agreement would bodisastrous to Australia. I propose now to show that my prophecy has been realized. In that agreement it is laid down that the duties levied by this Parment shall be such as will give the manufacturers of the United Kingdom an opportunity to compete on equal terms with Australian manufacturers.
– The agreement provides for “ reasonable competition “.
– From the point of view of a good Australian, that is infamous. As a result of that agreement, this Parliament is not governing the country, and even the Tariff Board is not deciding our fiscal policy. These issues are being determined by the manufacturers of the United Kingdom. The authority, whatever it may be, in Australia or abroad, which decides the fiscal policy of Australia, thereby determines the conditions under which Australians shall work, and the wages and the measure of prosperity that they shall or shall not enjoy are vitally involved in this surrender. Now is the time when we should take this matter into consideration.
In order to demonstrate how true it is that the fiscal policy of Australia is being determined by the manufacturers of the United Kingdom, I draw -attention to the fact that, on the 18th March last, a banquet organized by the importers’ representatives and attended by 30 or more members of this Parliament was held at the Hotel Canberra. To their credit, some honorable members, who do not sit on the Opposition side, did not accept the invitation to be present. But at that function certain matters which we shall have under consideration in the course of the next few weeks were very largely decided. The fiscal policy of Australia, 1 repeat, is not determined by the people through their elected representatives, and democratic government is becoming farcical. Our fiscal policy is being directed from the other side of the world. Article 12 of the Ottawa agreement states, in effect, that no duty which is in excess of the recommendations of the Tariff Board shall be levied in this country on goods from the United Kingdom. How true and inescapeable it is that Australia is not governing itself! There is a good deal of misconception regarding the respective values of Australia’s primary and secondary products, and that_ misconception has been deliberately fostered by vested interests speaking through the press. Probably Senator Hardy is more culpable in this respect than any other honorable senator iu this chamber. For instance, we are told that dairy produce is valued at so much, and included in that produce are butter and cheese which are, in fact, manufactured products. In the same way untreated tobacco leaf is a primary
product, but the manufacture of that leaf into cigars, cigarettes, &c., is a secondary industry. It is criminally wrong to suggest that there must necessarily be any conflict of interests between primary and secondary producers. I assert that primary and secondary industries are inter-dependent, and that the welfare of the one involves the welfare of the other, but I cannot allow that one is more important than the other. Notwithstanding the continuous publicity given to our external trade, statistics taken from Commonwealth official bulletins prove that its importance is unduly exaggerated, as there has been very little progress, if any, made in its return per capita since 1901, the first year of the Commonwealth, as compared with 1933-34, although the population has nearly doubled itself. On the other hand, our greatest domestic industry, that of manufacturing, has remarkably increased its value to our growing community, advancing from £16 19s. per capita in 1901 to £49 10s. in 1933-34. I quote these figures so that honorable senators may understand that the Labour party, when pleading for adequate protection for secondary industries is actuated by a desire to do the best thing for Australia. If the future of our manufacturing industries is assured we shall achieve two things of first importance to Australia, increase of population, and national security. In 1929, there were actually 43,000 fewer people permanently employed in rural pursuits than in 1911. The 53,000 immigrants who arrived in Australia, the 1,500,000 persons accounted for by natural increase, and the 43,000 workers who left the land were all absorbed into, or obtained their living from, manufacturing, construction, or service employment.
I return to the Ottawa agreement. I do not usually indulge in the luxury of saying “ I told you so “, though sometimes I am much tempted to do so. Because I am a Labour supporter, and am familiar with Labour principles, it was evident to me from the beginning that the Ottawa conference must fail, so far as any benefits to Australia were concerned, and I said so in this chamber when the agreement was first mooted. That the conference did in fact fail in this respect I now propose to show. In effect, the conference represented dad calling his sons together to discuss matters at a round table conference. When I was speaking on the matter at the time the conference was called, I pointed out that every one of the sons had pledged himself before leaving to come back with something in his pocket which was not there before. I said that I was not fool enough to believe that dad did not realize exactly what they were about, and I ventured the opinion that he was too wise to allow the boys to put anything over him. Time has proved the truth of what I then said, and it has now become evident that Australia was sold a gold brick. Both the manufacturers and the primary producers realize this. Some time ago, we sent the Prime Minister to London with an expensive entourage in the hope that he might be able to undo some of the mischief for which the Ottawa agreement was responsible, and now Dr. Earle Page is in London on a similar mission. The Ottawa agreement, after having been in operation for nearly three years, has failed to produce any tangible benefit to the Australian primary producer, while it has brought chaos to the secondary industries. I remind honorable senators that the people of Canada recently voted into office a government under Mr. Mackenzie King, definitely committed to the repudiation of the agreement. I remember that, at the time the Ottawa agreement was ratified in this Parliament, the then Leader of the Opposition declared that if Labour got the opportunity it would withdraw Australia’s support of the agreement. I hope that that will yet be done. Recently, the New Zealand electors returned a Labour Government whose platform provides for the defence, in the first place, of the dominion’s economic autonomy. The Lyons Government is apparently determined to follow its suicidal policy to the bitter end. Every Tariff Board report is acted upon without any effort being made to examine the recommendations in the light of Australia’s actual internal economic position. This afternoon, when I suggested that members of the Government should cease to be theorists, honorable senators oppo- site indulged in a smile, but I am quite serious in suggesting that never was it more urgent that we should face facts as they are. Tariff schedule after tariff schedule has been brought down, most of them providing for substantial reductions of duties, but every effort made by the Labour party to secure proper discussion of the issues involved has been thwarted by the low tariff bloc dominated by Dr. Earle Page and the advocates of the British manufacturers. The Ottawa agreement should have been more reciprocal in character. The agreement was really an attempt to help the primary producers, but the benefits obtained have been negligible. This was evidently realized when the Prime Minister went to London in the hope of improving sales of Australian meat and wheat, but the” results on the whole were disappointing. The best assistance given to the primary producers has come from within Australia by the provision of a profitable home market, and by the payment of bounties. In the last-named way £12,500,000 has been allocated in recent years. Such aid was made possible only by reason of the fact that the protectionist policy has conserved the Australian market to Australian primary and secondary producers. In answer to the assertion that Britain purchases more from Australia than Australia buys from Britain, it is only necessary to point out that while Australian sales exceed Australian purchases by about £2,000,000 a year, not less than ten times that amount is paid to Britain for interest on borrowed money. That is a factor which should be taken into account, but which is too often overlooked.
An interesting light on the manner in which Britain regards the Ottawa agreement is thrown by a cabled extract from the News Letter, the National Labour weekly. The message is as follows: -
The News teller, the National Labour weekly, Ramsay Macdonalds mouthpiece, commenting on the Australian budget as a welcome sign of improvement in the Commonwealth, emphasizes that the reductions of duties were due to the Ottawa pact; therefore, they were the result of British policy. It hopes that further reductions promised at Ottawa would soon bc effected now that the Australian economic position was improving.
The bill now before us represents a further move in the carrying out of the policy which received Mr. Macdonald’s blessing in 1933, and which is designed to benefit the manufacturers of the United Kingdom. Let me quote another opinion on the Ottawa agreement. This is what Australian Industry, a monthly review, published in Sydney, had to say in a recent issue concerning the betrayal of Australia by tory delegates to the Ottawa conference -
Until next year, Australia will continue to he burdened with the national betrayal known as the Ottawa treaty. Then will come the opportunity to get rid of it utterly. In the meantime (and in fear that the Lyons lot renews it), let us observe it as faithfully as we have observed it ever since Bruce and Gullett betrayed us into it, despite the fact that the nation, by a vast majority, is opposed to it now and never has been in favour of it.
I believe that statement to be undeniably correct. Recently the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) cited the improvement in Australian manufacturing industries as an example of the benefits obtained from the Ottawa agreement. He must know perfectly well that this improvement has nothing whatever to do with the Ottawa agreement, but is due entirely to changed internal conditions u> Australia. As a matter of fact, the improvement achieved has fallen far short of what it might have been without the Ottawa agreement. Last year imports valued at over £12,000,000 were admitted to this country under our protective tariff. Those products were all competitive with Australian manufactures, and their production locally would have provided employment for another 15,000 or 20,000 workers in Australian factories, and at least as many more in subsidiary occupations, such as the provision of rawmaterials and transport. All of these authorities cannot he wrong. The following news item is of a much more recent date : -
Disproving the claims that the Ottawa agreement lias benefited Australia, a return released by the Commonwealth Statistician, Dr. Wilson, to-day showed that while imports from Britain into Australia have increased, Australia’s export trade with Britain has remained almost static, while the export trade of Denmark and the Argentine - Australia’s principal competitors - has not suffered unduly, because of the “ black pacts “, which Britain negotiated with those countries before the ink was hardly dry on the Ottawa agreement.
I call the attention of honorable senators to the tendency of the fiscal policy in the United Kingdom. In that connexion I quote the following : -
Sir John Handles, deputy chairman of the Eagle Star and British Dominions Insurance Company, arrived in Brisbane to-day by the
Otranto. Sir John, who has visited Australia on four previous occasions, is on the round cruise. For twenty years he was Conservative member in the British Parliament, representing West Cumberland and Manchester each for ten years. He is a retired ironmaster, and was chairman of directors of the Workington Iron and Steel Works, Cumberland, until it amalgamated with the United Steel Company, Sheffield. Industrial conditions in Great Britain were steadily improving as a result of the tariff, Sir John added, and unemployment had been reduced considerably. For years he had advocated the adoption of a protective tariff in Britain, and the wisdom of this policy was now being proved by the increased activity in industry.
I am not objecting to that increased activity in industry in the United Kingdom. All that I say is that if a protective policy is good for the United Kingdom - and the authorities which I have quoted prove that it is - it must be equally good for Australia, and we have no right to alter it in such a way as to increase unemployment. The United Kingdom, in common with many other countries, realized after the Great War that it had to make itself more self-contained than it had been previously, that it had to adopt a measure of economic nationalism, that it had to develop its own resources, and make itself increasingly independent of outside sources, Empire and other, for adequate food supplies. I quote the following from the Melbourne Star : -
Glasshouse building schemes which will mean the investment of more than £S00,000, the permanent employment of 1,200 more men, and the further elimination from British markets of foreign fruit and flowers are to be begun soon. By next spring Britain will have almost 00,000 acres under glass. The workers in this industry will number about 30,000, and they will be responsible for producing fruit and flowers to the value of more than £10,000,000, the London Daily Express says.
This “ big push “ in the glass house industry is the result of the tariffs placed on foreign horticultural produce in 1932. Since then £.1,800,000 worth of glass houses have been put down bringing investments in the business to more than £20,000,000.
I agree with that policy. The Government of the United Kingdom has also taken steps to protect the beet industry in that country. This is shown by the following quotation: -
Vor some time past Labour in Britain lias done in neil to expose the sugar ramp in that country. That its criticisms have been well founded is shown in a reference to the relations between the Government and the sugar interests in London Economist. Says that journal: “The Government’s capitulation to the sugar beet interests is now complete. There has been no sorrier story in post-war B’ritish politics than that of the sugar beet subsidy. Since 1924 the State has spent £5u,0U0,000 in supporting an industry whose total output is worth less than the subsidy received. During this period the profits, financed by the subsidy, have enabled the beet sugar companies to repay nearly 18£ per cent. of their capital, to accumulate assets equal to nearly 27 per cent, of their remaining capital, to write off about 42 per cent, of their expenditure on fixed assets, and to pay gross dividends amounting to more than 83 per cent, of the share capital outstanding. In the face of these facts, the Greene Committee of Inquiry, in its report last spring, reached the only possible conclusion : that there was no ‘ positive justification for the expenditure of a sum of several millions per annum on an industry which has no reasonable prospects of over becoming self-supporting, and on the production of a crop which, without that assistance, would, at present sugar prices, be practically valueless.’ “
I mention these facts to show that the United Kingdom, while justified in protecting .its own industries and making itself increasingly less dependent upon outside sources for its food supplies, is not considering either this or any other part of the Empire in the process. The following brief quotation is from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures’ Gazette of the 2Sth February last -
Protection for manufacturing industries has abundantly justified itself in Great Britain. No question is now raised as to the lowering of tlie tariff, and freetraders are compelled to accept the indisputable evidence that abounds as to the value to the nation of the new fiscal policy.
Yet during the next few days honorable senators will be asked to agree to proposals which.amount to a reduction of the protection afforded to industry in this country! I realize, of course, that in this matter there is now a somewhat unusual combination of interests in this chamber. The debate on the last tariff dealt with by the Senate makes wonderfully interesting reading. The United Country party was not then in alliance with the Lyons Government, a*“3 “7e listened to a verbal Donnybrook. I found myself in the pleasurable position of having many of my arguments supported by Senator Hardy.
– Not in favour of high tariffs.
– The honorable senator fiercely attacked the Government, and when I said, “ That is the stuff ; give it to them,” he retorted, “ Oh, there is a lot more to come yet.” The atmosphere to-day is different. The Labour party is definitely and avowedly high protectionist.
– Ridiculously so.
– That depends upon one’s viewpoint. I suspect that any argument which I may advance will appear ridiculous to Senator Dein.
– We remember the statements of the honorable senator in connexion with matches and bananas.
– The match industry is still flourishing.
– The honorable senator predicted its downfall.
– That would have happened had the honorable senator been able to impose his will. The present position is rather interesting in that on the one hand, we have the country freetrade, low-wage party, which does not believe in the application of a tariff except against commodities for which it has no use. As with the freetrade, lowwage party in all other countries, it believes in obtaining the highest prices for its products and paying the lowest prices for everything it uses in production. The Labour party believes in high protection. Then there is the unfortunate Lyons Government, which is torn between love and duty, and finds itself pledged to attempt to “ temper the wind to the shorn lamb “ by making some concessions to the Country party. In no circumstances will it meet the wishes of the Labour Opposition. But, as I said in my opening remarks, we shall not shift one inch from the position which we have always taken up, because we have every faith in the policy of protection and the principle of a White Australia. That principle cannot be maintained merely by keeping out of Australia the low-wage workers of other countries, if we persistently admit the low-wage products of those countries.
– Does the honorable senator believe that, while declining to import from them we should export to them?
– I believe that we should produce everything that we can. There is little that we cannot produce. “We should also stand up to our contractual obligations by discharging our overseas indebtedness. The Labour party has knowledge of means whereby those debts may be paid without inflicting hardship on the primary producers and the workers of this country. The Opposition in this chamber hopes that Australia will continue to discharge its obligations in this direction. But it does not agree that these payments should continue indefinitely. It does not believe that the value of three bales of wool or of three bushels of wheat should be used to discharge a debt which when incurred was equivalent to the value of one bale of wool or one bushel of wheat. The bargain should be revised on decent, honest lines. If that were done Australia would experience no difficulty in meeting its commitments. So far it has been able to pay its way.
I hark back to the sentiment which I expressed in my opening remarks. There is a distinct difference between the Opposition and the other parties in this chamber in their approach to the consideration of fiscal policy. We stand for what we believe to be the right policy for Australia. In my opinion, the Bight Honorable W. M. Hughes should be arraigned as political public enemy No. 1. With one voice he demands more population from the women of Australia, and with another voice urges that the offspring of these women should, when grown up to young manhood, be made available for cannon fodder on the other side of the world. He cannot have it both ways. We advocate the highest possible form of equitable protection of Australian primary and secondary industries, because we believe that, under such a policy, our population will increase, and we shall be able to defend effectively this country if, unfortunately, it should ever be attacked. While the Government fosters a fiscal policy which reduces the employment available in the Commonwealth, the members of the Labour party will oppose the introduction of population from other countries.Not until all our people who are willing and able to work have employment provided for them can jobs be made available to the migrants which the Government proposes to bring to Australia. Having given in general outline my reasons for opposing the Government’s tariff policy, I shall defer my detailed comments until the later stages of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 9.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 April 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1936/19360423_senate_14_150/>.