1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to mention, in regard to the correspondence which I am about to lay upon the table, that I sighed a letter in reply to the last communication with the Premier of Tasmania only to-day, and J do not think it right to lay that letter upon the table until Mr. Lewishas received it. I lay upon the table -
Correspondence between the Premier of Tasmania andthe Prime Minister with reference to the action of the Post-office in declining to further carry letters addressed to “ Tattersall.”
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House what will be the practice of his department if the Senate alters some of the rates of duty in the Tariff? Will duties be collected according to the rates as amended by the Senate, or will they be collected according to the present rates until the suggestions of the Senate have been agreed to by this House?
– I do not think the Senate possesses the power to amend.
– I desire to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The unfederal action of the
Government in their treatment of Tasmania, and their encroachment upon Tasmania’s State rights.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– Tasmania is only one of several States which have experienced the ill-consequences of Ministerial weakness, vacillation, and neglect of the true art of government, but, although she is the State which was above all others loyal to federation, she has suffered most through her adhesion to the union. I ask what would be the vote of the people of Australia to-day if they were again called upon to ratify this union ? Western Australia, with a man of weight in the Cabinet to represent her interests, and with special protection in the matter of Customs revenue, might be satisfied to bear the burden imposed upon her. Victoria, whose miserable fiscal policy has been the groundwork of the Federal Tariff, and which policy to some degree remains a blot upon the superstructure still, may, with the exception of her agriculturists, reasonably be satisfied. But how is it with the other States ? They must feel, in no slight degree, that they have, with too great confidence, placed their necks under a galling yoke. It was above all thingsnecessary that the first Federal Ministry should so transact the business of the Commonwealth as to create the least possible amount of friction between the Commonwealth and any of the States. But have Ministers so conducted affairs 1 Have the Government governed in the truest sense of the word ! They have been led hither and thither as circumstances directed, now by one section of the House, and now by another ; and there has been very little honour and dignity for them in the results which have been accomplished. The Government, weak beyond words where their opponents are strong and numerous, have been strong to truculence where their opponents have been weak or few in number. In Tasmania the Ministry have found a State which numerically and financially is weak, and upon that State, more than upon any other, they have wrought what I consider great wrong. Tasmania has suffered in three ways. The federal duties of Customs and of Excise involve for her a loss relatively greater than that which must be sustained by any other State. As a consequence of that loss of revenue, the people of Tasmania must increase their direct taxation. Already a burden of land taxation lies upon the large body of agriculturists, who are mostly owners of small but highly improved properties, which is almost as much as they can bear, and to it must now be added increased direct taxation to meet the financial exigencies of the State. Then the treatment which has been meted out to the State in regard to “ Tattersall “ is a matter of considerable importance to her in many ways. The Premier of Tasmania, who has been recognised as a good constitutional authority, holds that the action of the Ministry in regard to letters addressed to “Tattersall” is unconstitutional, and a distinct violation of Tasmania’s State rights. I am somewhat fortified by a recent occurrence - the election which has just taken place - in the hope that we shall shortly have better legislation and greater consideration for State rights and interests than we have at present. The result of that election shows clearly that no candidate who stands in the Ministerial interest can hope to be elected, and it may be regarded as the writing on the wall, indicating what is to befall the Barton Government. The Prime Minister has laid upon the table the correspondence which has passed between himself and the Premier of Tasmania in regard to the delivery of letters addressed to “Tattersall.” As I hope that that correspondence will be read by honorable members, I shall refer to only one or two points in connexion with it. In it will be found a request which is surely reasonable and proper enough, and one which, as coming from a former member of the Ministry, might have had fairer and fuller consideration. It is that no action shall be taken until after the establishment of the High Court, and the determination by that Court of the question whether the Commonwealth Government have power to intercept letters addressed to “Tattersall.” I am not now going to enter upon any argument as to the desirability of such an institution as “ Tattersall,” or anything connected therewith. I have been called the gambling Premier of Australia, but by the enactment which legalized “ Tattersall “ in Tasmania, I struck a greater blow at gambling generally than has been directed against it by any Premier throughout the Commonwealth. It will be borne in mind that this form of exceedingly mild gambling has been sanctioned by a Tasmanian statute, and that the Act provides that no application for tickets in “ Tattersall “ shall be accepted other than those which pass through the post. This was intended, and very properly so, to prevent anything like a gambling shop being established to which people could resort for the purpose of purchasing tickets over the counter. This very provision, which was meant to be a saving one, and was intended to prevent any evil arising, has been set at nought by the action of the Government. The request of the Premier of Tasmania was that this matter should be allowed to rest until the establishment of the High Court, which could decide the issue between the Commonwealth and the State Government. The Attorney-General, when he moved, in a very eloquent and able, speech, the second reading of the Judiciary Bill, pointed out as one of the most pressing reasons for the measure that it was necessary to establish as early as possible a tribunal which could decide cases arising between State and State or between any State and the Commonwealth. Here was such a case. The Prime Minister, however, regarding with utter disfavour the recommendation and request of his ex-colleague, says - “ No, this shall not be done. We shall not wait ; there is no reason why we should wait.”
– He also said - “ We will compensate you if we are wrong.”
– I am coming to that. Now I will read a portion of a letter from the Premier of Tasmania, which, by its moderation and by the sound sense that animates it, should appeal to members of this House, and should have appealed to the Prime Minister. The Premier of Tasmania says -
I regret extremely the course you and your colleagues seem determined to take. It is not, as from your reply you seem to think, merely ;i question of exposing a citizen to any disadvantage. The question is far larger and more important than that. My Government contends that the rights of this State, so carefully safeguarded by the Constitution, are infringed by certain of the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act. We claim, as a right possessed b)’ us as one of the States of the Commonwealth, that no steps should be taken to enforce a provision which we regard as ultra vires until such time as we have an opportunity of testing’, by means of an appeal to the Federal High Court, the constitutionality of such provision, and your right to act under it. You now deny to us this right, and appear determined to enforce a power which we believe the Federal Parliament had no constitutional authority to vest hi you, and to do so before you ‘ have provided us with a court from which we can obtain redress. The fact that I have intimated to you the intention of my Government to appeal against your action as soon as an opportunity is given is left unnoticed in your letter, and you in no way explain the urgency -which requires you to override an Act of Parliament of this State before such an opportunity to appeal is afforded to us. This action on your part I can only regard as unfederal -
Thai is the opinion of an ex-colleague of the Prime Minister. He continues - and, if persisted in, must tend to alienate the good wishes of a large section of the electors of this State who ure determined to maintain in their integrity the State rights which arc reserved to us by the Constitution. 1 must, therefore, respectfully and firmly request that you will reconsider the determination at which you have arrived.
I might point out that this feeling with regard to the protection of our State rights in Tasmania dominates entirely any question whether “Tattersall” is an institution to be encouraged or otherwise, and at the last election, decided a few days ago, not one candidate ventured to say other than that he upheld the right of Tasmania to make an appeal to the High Court in this matter before any action was taken. Now we have introduced into this question something which by way of comedy relieves it of a good deal of the tension which naturally appertains to it. On the 22nd March, the Prime Minister telegraphed to the Premier of Tasmania as follows : -
Referring your letter 10th, regret we cannot comply -with your request to suspend the operation of the notice regarding “ Tattersalls “ until the question can be finally settled by the High Court. We should not have taken the action complained of had we not satisfied ourselves as to its constitutionality. In order, however, that the revenue returnable to your State may be protected as far as is compatible with the duty we owe to the public of the Commonwealth, we intend, if finally our action is held to be unconstitutional, to ask Parliament to vote a sum which would cover the estimated loss to your revenue through the prohibition between the end of March and the date of such decision.
– That is a very good reason why it should be postponed.
– Of course it is. There is the admission of the possibility that the Government are wrong, and there is an engagement, if they are wrong - a possibility that they may very well anticipate - that they will compensate Tasmania for its monetary loss. They engage to pay so much compensation for the violation of Tasmania’s State rights.
– If Tasmania, receives compensation, Queensland will have to be compensated in connexion with the kanaka question.
– Let me now quote the very proper and dignified answer of the Premier of Tasmania to this telegram -
Replying to your telegram of the 22nd inst., regarding your contemplated interference with the State rights of Tasmania, I must point out that the question at issue between your Government and mine is not, as you would infer, one of finance. We take up the position that yon cannot constitutionally override an Act of the Legislature of this State unless empowered to do so by the Constitution Act. That you have not ventured to deal with the less safeguarded Lotteries Act in force in other States must be regarded as an admission by you that the regulation of gambling is a subject reserved for State legislation. We further urge that it is an unfederal action on your part to use coercive measures against Tasmania before giving her the means to appeal, as money compensation will not recompense this State for the wrongs you seek to inflict upon us. We must regard the offer contained in your telegram as unsatisfactory.
I think everybody will admit that the action of the Government throughout this matter has been unsatisfactory. Shortly after the Post and Telegraph Act was passed by the Federal Parliament, a deputation waited on the Postmaster-General to ask him to immediately put the law into operation and stop the delivery of letters to “Tattersall.” The answer of the PostmasterGeneral was that he could not promise to do so until he had made himself acquainted with public opinion throughout the Commonwealth. But, in spite of that, shortly afterwards - of course I know nothing of the- influences which brought this about - a proclamation was issued and the Act was put into operation. In the Senate, Senator Keating asked the PostmasterGeneral the following questions .: -
The answers to these questions by the PostmasterGeneral were -
That is to say, that he had made that answer to the deputation.
By instinct I suppose, or by direction from somewhere - that the sense of the community is with the Government in their action.
I can only say that the Postmaster-General is very easily satisfied. I venture to say that if Australia were polled to-morrow, the great majority of the people would pronounce in favour of this mild form of speculation being permitted. Senator Keating pushed the matter yet further, and endeavoured to bring the anti-gambling legislation of the Commonwealth into more general operation. He asked the PostmasterGeneral -
If he will, without delay, in pursuance of the powers conferred on him by section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901,interdict the transmission through the post-office of correspondence addressed to persons carrying on business as bookmakers, turf tipsters, or turf commission agents, and if not, why not ?
The answer to the question was -
The Postmaster-General is not aware, nor has he been officially advised, of the transmission through the post-office of correspondence in contravention of the section referred to except in a few instances, and in those action has been taken.
The Postmaster-General is not aware that bookmakers and tipsters are carrying on their business all through Australia though not in Tasmania. He does not know it. Oh, the sublime innocence of the Postmaster-General ! He takes no action in regard to the larger form of gambling which is being conducted, through bookmakers, tipsters, and tote-shops, with infinite disaster, and in many cases absolute ruin, to the people indulging in it - a charge that nobody will ever be able to bring against “Tattersall.” I come now to the latest opinion of “the AttorneyGeneral as to .the law in respect of letters addressed to “Tattersall,” or to people in their own names at a certain place in Hobart. It was given out publicly enough that if persons desiring to get tickets from “Tattersall” would, after the manner of Mr. Toots, address letters to themselves, at a certain place in Hobart, their purpose would be effected. The Attorney-General, although he is not quite prepared to say that, the
Tasmanian Government may not legally run “Tattersall” upon its own account - a beautiful figment which appears in to-day’s Age - says -
Apart altogether from the above considerationsI am of the opinion that if a letter is addressed to John Smith at a certain address, and it is known ‘ that John Smith does not reside or carry on business there, the postal officials not only need not,, but may not lawfully deliver such letter at that address to any person other than John Smith or his authorised agent.
That is an extraordinary decision to come from a legal luminary of the Commonwealth. A man is not to have his letters delivered to him because he is known, not to live at the place to which they are. addressed.
– The right honorable member has omitted to take into consideration the concluding portion of the sentence, which says except to himself “or his, authorized agent.”
– That does, not make the slightest difference to my argument. Thousands of people have their letters addressed to places where they do not’ reside. Even supposing that the Post-office authorities are aware of the fact that “ A.B.” does not live at the particular place to which his letters are addressed, what right have they to interfere with those letters ? Further, how are they to know whether the letters of Jones, Brown, or’ Robinson addressed to any one place in Hobart or anywhere else are not addressed to persons absolutely living there ?
– Has the right honorable member himself any real doubt upon the matter? Is not such a practice a fraud upon, the Act?
– I am speaking of letters addressed to “John. Smith “ at a certain place in Ho-i bart, and I claim that the Postofficeofficials have no right to “suppose that such letters are addressed to any one other than the particular John Smith, who, for his own purposes has made the. place in question his address for the time being.
– Order; the right honorable member’s time is exhausted.
– I, too, am nearly exhausted’. Indeed, any man would be> exhausted in attempting to bring the Com monwealth Government to a proper sense; of its duty in this connexion.
– My right honorable friendhas certainly exhausted his vocabulary of vituperation in attacking the Ministry of the Commonwealth.
– And Victoria too.
– Yes ; but from my observation, Victoria is very well able to take care of herself. The right honorable member has put only one side of the case, and put it, if I may say so with all respect, with an over-statement which so outruns the whole of its correct current that what he has said will not make very much impression upon this House. I am allowed a quarter of an hour only in which to answer his half-hour speech, and I am afraid, therefore, that it will be impossible for me to deal with the whole of his utterance. I shall, however, refer to one or two of its more salient features. If it be investigated, the claim advanced by my right honorable friend amounts to this : That it rests with one State to veto the whole of the legislation of the Commonwealth upon matters within Commonwealth rights.
– State rights.
– State rights and Commonwealth rights are quite distinct. If the section directed against the continuance of” Tattersalls” sweeps be a constitutional provision - and no one has attempted to dispute that with any show of effect - it was inserted in the Post and Telegraph Act for the purpose of being exercised, and certainly not for the purpose of remaining a dead-letter. A dead-letter in a Postal Act, by the way, would be a bit of a joke. Undoubtedly the intention was that this provision should be exercised with a due regard to the public duty of Ministers. That, it seems to me, is the sole ground whereon any attack upon Ministers can rest. It is all very well to accuse the Government of always truckling to strength and tyrannizing over weakness. I can imagine the right honorable member indulging in a retrospect of his own conduct in his own Ministries, and deducing therefrom the comforting conclusion that he has always been very brave when in a minority, and magnificently weak when in a majority. When he can point to one little chunk of history to show his virtue in that respect, it will be time enough for him to cast stones at those whom he now opposes. It is true that the State to which he belongs has suffered great loss owing to the alterations in the customs and excise proposals which have been made in this House. I do credit him with having manfully voted for certain proposals which were defeated, and defeated largely by the votes and pairs of those with whom he is now associated.
– Hear, hear.
– Some of those honorable members honestly think that they acted rightly ; the approving voice which I hear assures me of that. But if the right honorable member voted correctly, he must believe that the honorable members to whom I refer voted wrongly. It is the)’, and not the Commonwealth Government, who have inflicted this loss upon Tasmania. Indeed, the Government did everything that was possible to avert that loss by exercising all the power at its command.
An Honorable Member. - To what does the Prime Minister refer?
– I am speaking of the duties upon tea and other articles. The Government put forward all the power they could command when the duty upon tea was under discussion, but the result of the vote given in that connexion is that the right honorable member finds Tasmania deprived of a certain amount of income. He must not, however, visit the cause of that loss upon the Government, but rather upon those who sat near him, and “ wounded him in the house of his friends.” I am quite willing to admit that the Premier of Tasmania is a good constitutional authority - that he is an able and upright man. I may also add that I cannot gather from the correspondence which has taken place between that gentleman and myself that he would have descended to the use of the terms of vituperation which the right honorable member, Sir Edward Braddon, has employed. Mr. Lewis has upheld what he considered to be his rights in a dignified and ‘manly way, and for that I honour him. We differ in our opinion - and I am sorry that we do - but as we differ, and as the Government believe that public opinion is with them in this matter, they have exercised a power which was put into our hands to exercise. If we were to admit, as the right honorable gentleman has urged, that in all these cases we should wait till the High Court is established, the extraordinary deduction would be drawn that, until that tribunal is called into existence, the Commonwealth Government should not take such steps of legislation and administration as may be deemed constitutional. It is a misfortune, I admit, that the High Court has not yet been established. That, however, is not the fault of this Government, let the fault be where it may. It would be absurd to lay down the doctrine that, until the High Court is established to decide matters of this kind, the Commonwealth should not undertake such acts of legislation or administration as it finds constitutional. If such a contention were sound, a constitutional point could be raised in regard to every statute of the Commonwealth, and the claim would simply amount to this - that we must suspend the whole of the legislation of the Commonwealth until the High Court is established. Much as I desire to see the High Court called into existence, I will never subscribe to such a proposition. A power has been placed in the hands of the Government, and we believe that in exercising it we are acting with the approval of the majority of the people. We are exercising a power which was conferred by a section that was passed by Parliament without any division, and which this House refused to recommit either without division or by an overwhelming majority. To argue that that power should not be exercised until the High Court is established is to put forward what appears to me to be a nonsensical proposition which would paralyze all the legislation of the Commonwealth immediately. Such a proposition cannot be accepted. The right honorable member for Tasmania seems to think that in an offer which we made to the Premier of Tasmania we betrayed a doubt as to the constitutionality of our position. Nothing of the kind. If our position be not constitutional, we owe a duty to Tasmania to make good all that she has lost by our action ; but believing that our action is constitutional, we have made the offer in question, and we do not anticipate having to make any compensation to that State.
– Does not that create a responsibility to “ Tattersall “ ?
– No, because if “Tattersall” as a private party appeals to the court he will be in a position to obtain redress for any wrong done to him, and if he has suffered damage he can claim it from the day upon which it began to accrue to him. With regard to the position set up in the last communication of the Premier of Tasmania - of whom I wish to speak in terms of the most absolute respect, recognising not only his ability, buthis manliness and the dignity with which he puts forward his contentions on behalf of the State he represents - I was going to say that I have signed a letter, for despatch to him, answering it ; but it would not be courteous to him if I were to disclose the terms of that letter until he has received it. The Government recognise - as is pointed out by Mr. Lewis - that the financial side of this question is not the only side. We realize that there is the State rights side as well, and we have endeavoured to show that Tasmania will not lose in this respect. We have endeavoured to deal with the financial aspect with all the justice and consideration we possess. We are a little disappointed that the statement we made to Mr. Lewis that the financial position of his State would not be impaired in the ultimate result if we were wrong, has been received in a somewhat hostile spirit. But I make every allowance for the feeling of disappointment which must arise, and always arises, in public men if their view is not adopted. The Government quite recognise that under the Constitution they have no right to legislate on the subject of lotteries, or the regulation of gambling ; and to the extent to which Mr. Lewis assumes that we have so interfered, he, I venture to say, takes a view not sustained by the Constitution itself. We think that what this Parliament did was correct ; that is to say, that it was constitutional. The Government think that they followed out the spirit of Parliament in what they did. We do not attempt to abrogate or alter, as Mr. Lewis suggests, any law of any State. We merely exercise a right, which we consider is unchallengeable, bestowed on us by our legislation within the Constitution, to prescribe the kind of mail matter which the Postal department of the Commonwealth shall carry or refuse to carry. This is not a question of the State rights of Tasmania, which, for aught I know, may be able to legislate on the subject in such a way that the Commonwealth Parliament cannot touch their legislation. We have not dealt with this matter in the spirit of interfering with Tasmania, but in the broad spirit of regulating what shall be carried through the Postal department in justice to the whole people of the Commonwealth.
Unless we are prepared to admit that there is practically a veto on the part of the States on Commonwealth legislation, because it may in some respects interfere with laws made within the limits of the States, the Government must carry out the intentions of Parliament. There will be clashes, as we in the conventions foresaw, between the legislation of the States and the legislation of the Commonwealth ; and it will remain to be decided whether in the case of overlapping, the State or the Commonwealth is to prevail. There is a section in the Constitution which says that when there is any inconsistency the law of the Commonwealth, if constitutional, shall prevail. That is a wise provision which I think will be found to be of great use on future occasions when the High Court is established. In the meantime, not speaking in any heated spirit, I say to my right honorable friend that as regards the financial position of Tasmania, to which he was the first to refer in this connexion, that State has the entire sympathy of the Government, who regret very much that the financial position was not better recognised in recent votes. But before those votes were taken, the intention of the Government to carry out the provision of the Postal Act in regard to lotteries and gambling had been announced, and the way out of the difficulty, if we are wrong, is to offer to make the money good. I shall say no more on the subject because time is very limited, but I would ask my right honorable friend not to be so very sure that if Australia were polled to-morrow, the view which he holds would be maintained. This very business has been carried on in Tasmania because no other State would have it ; and I do not believe that the States who have thrust it aside are now going to turn back upon their tracks. I have no feeling in the matter, but it is, T believe, the common public feeling that this is not a traffic which should be favoured at any rate by a national law, whatever the States may do. The large majority of the States have shown that they will not tolerate institutions of this kind ; and it is not to be supposed, however sanguine my right honorable friend may be, that if a vote of the Commonwealth were taken, it would tend in another direction. The right honorable gentleman is rather sanguine if he thinks that recent occurrences promise better legislation, though, of course, that is a matter of opinion on which we can all agree to differ. I say, however, that there is only one of two things to do - either to admit that there is a triumph of free-trade or a triumph of “Tattersall.” We think it is a triumph of “ Tattersall,” confined to Tasmania.
– I can scarcely appreciate the sensitiveness of the Prime Minister regarding the remarks of the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, as amounting to vituperation. I consider that the right honorable gentleman made a speech which, considering how strong his views are, was considerately moderate in its personal references to the Government. The fact of the matter is that the Government have been treated with such consideration that they have become restive even under legitimate criticism; and if the speech of ray right honorable friend be considered vituperation I am afraid the Prime Minister will have to apply some stronger epithet to the few remarks I intend to make. I am entirely at one with the Government in their view that the provision referred to is constitutional, and that it should be in the Postal Act and carried out. On the main question, therefore, I unfortunately differ from the right honorable member for Tasmania, but I have never met any body of men who could do the right thing in the wrong way better than my friends in the Ministry. The Prime Minister spoke of the delay in passing the Judiciary Bill as no fault of the Government. But who is responsible for putting this Bill on the notice-paper on the opening day of the session in May last, and not moving the second reading until the other day - an interval of nine months ? Why should the Ministry say that this is not their responsibility 1 It clearly is a most grievous responsibility, and a most grievous blunder, that this High Court should not have been constituted as one of the first acts of the Federal Legislature. The hardship and injustice which have come to those who believe this provision to be wrong, and one which closely affects their rights, have arisen from the gross neglect of the Government in not passing the Judiciary Bill as one of the first of their measures. What necessity was there for the Government to take over this ‘vast Telegraph and Postal department at the time they did ? Surely the slightest amount of common sense should have told business men that it would have been better to allow that department to go on under State legislation until the Ministry had thoroughly mastered the great problems with which they would have to deal the moment the departments were placed under federal administration. We wasted months of valuable time in the early stages of this great Parliament over the Post and Telegraph Bill, when we should have been engaged on measures of much greater importance and of national range vital to the due working of this great Constitution. The initial wrong was the singularly mistaken way which the Ministry pursued in dealing with great and urgent questions which devolved on this Parliament. We are told that this provision was not put in the Act to be a dead letter. Again we have a Ministry with two voices. The head of the Postal department, in speaking to a public deputation, said that this provision was put in as a dead letter unless people outside compelled the Government to put it in operation. One of the most singular defects of this Administration is that we get no consistent view, not only of the policy of the Government, but even of the laws which the Government pass, and their object in passing them. The PostmasterGeneral astounded me, and, I suppose, astounded other honorable members when, in speaking to this deputation, he said that although this power was given in the statute there was no idea on the part of the Federal Ministry to put it into operation - that it was to be a sort of empty torpedo until some foreign influence compelled the Ministerial gunners to charge it with dynamite, and let it go off. The provision was put into the Act, according to the Minister administering the Act, not for the purpose of carrying out the measure under a due sense of responsibility to Parliament - not under the sense of the moral dangers and abuses which had grown up under the system - but it was put there so that if the breath of popular opinion fanned the flame a virtuous Ministry would do a virtuous act. If public opinion went the other way, the Ministry were still snug and secure, and quite in accord with any phase which public opinion might assume. What a degradation to the great object of legislation that amounts to. Why should we have had long debates over the terrible evils of gambling, if they proceeded on the initiative of a Ministry who could have had no sort of conviction of these evils, or they would not have waited for the opinion of persons outside to put the remedy into operation? Now we have the Prime Minister saying that this provision was put into the Act to be exercised. If that be so the PostmasterGeneral either did not know the policy of his own Government, in regard to his own department, or the Ministry are getting into an unfortunate way of saying two things at the same time, without any sense of discomfort - are becoming used to a situation which should be intolerable to a Cabinet formed on constitutional models. Now we are told that there is scarcely an item on the Tariff which should form the subject of a party question. What a ridiculous statement that is for the Prime Minister to make ! Surely an item which is intended to carry out a protective object is a party question, separating honorable members in an honorable way. We are told that it was members of the Opposition who brought about the injury inflicted on Tasmania, owing to the fact that the tea duty was not passed - that is an assertion of great hardihood. Does the Prime Minister look to us to carry his proposals ? Is he aware that of the 28 members who voted against the tea duty, fifteen were his own supporters? Was not the Ministry wounded by its own friends ? Was the Ministry not so suddenly smitten that it was sure of a majority of ten before the division took place 1 As a rule, when Ministerial supporters intend suddenly to vote against the Government on a very important matter, they courteously let the Government know what they feel their sense of duty compels them to do. But so little is the courtesy which seems to exist between the Government and their supporters that the latter, or the most of them, at this most important crisis, left the Government absolutely in the dark. I think the Prime Minister had better get his own political family in order. Nine Opposition members made up the minority of 26, and the voting of the party was, therefore, fifteen against the tea duty, and seventeen for.
– The labour party was the only solid party in the House on that occasion.
Mr.REID. - They have a mechanical process for becoming solid, not an intellectual one. So far as the Ministry are concerned, they must not speak of the division in regard to the tea duty as one with which they can reproach the Opposition. I think that the Prime Minister might have more seriously considered the suggestion of the Premier of Tasmania that the regulation in regard to “ Tattersall” should remain in abeyance until the High Court could decide the question of State right. Strongly as I feel about it, and strongly as I supported the provision in the Act, I think that in the initiation of the Commonwealth the federal power cannot be too courteous and considerate in its dealings with the State Governments and Parliaments. We want the great federal machine to work in the smoothest possible way ; and we must, therefore, above everything, cultivate the friendly and harmonious co-operation of the States. When the Tasmanian Government made the proposal to the Federal Government that the matter should stand over until it could be dealt with by the High Court, they made a suggestion which statesmen might well have considered very seriously, especially as, after all, it is only a question as to how the tide of public opinion sets. I strongly deprecate the unfortunate condition in which the Government has allowed -our legislation to drift, so that we are without the powers which ought to be in existence in order to give the Commonwealth efficient life, and I deplore the unfriendly relations which have been created in regard to more than one of the Governments of the States. There surely might have been ‘ some better exhibition of statesmanship. This state of things has come to pass for a variety of reasons, but without justification. What justification could there have been for putting a proposal into the Land Acquisition Bill as a sudden amendment without consulting the Governments of the States 1
– I ask the right honorable member not to debate that question.
– I do not wish to say any more than this, that, while I was thoroughly in accord with the putting of the provision into the Act, and the carrying out of it, I think that the Government in administering the Act have from first to lost acted in a most ill-advised and inconsiderate way. If this method of managing our public affairs is to continue, the Government will be handed down to posterity as a body of gentlemen who, missing every opportunity to do the right thing, have never neglected any opportunity to do the wrong thing.
– I have not risen so much to. criticise the Government, as because, being a supporter of “ Tattersalls “ sweeps, I wish to have a few last words to say on the subject. I am exceedingly sorry that the Government have thought it advisable to prevent “ Tattersalls “ sweeps from being carried on.
– Parliament decided ‘ the matter.
– Although Parliament passed the provision in the Act, I do not think that it was necessary for the Government, having in view the position of the various States, to put it into force. To my mind, it was a matter of administration, and I hoped that the sweeps would be allowed to remain in existence for a considerable time to come. There has been in connexion with this matter a combination of influences which we do not get in regard to other matters of legislation.
– I should like to know what it is.
– We have seen the representatives of the turf - the betting agents - and the ministers of the Church side by side, joining their forces for the suppression of sweeps. . No doubt the representatives of the turf, when they have gained their object, will leave the Church again. But we do not- see such a combination in regard to other measures, and, consequently, we do not have measures passed to cleanse other evils which exist in our midst - if “Tattersall” be an evil. I was one of a committee in New South Wales which recommended the’ passing of a Bill to legalize the totalizator. If it is wrong that the public should bet, the existence of bookmakers is an evil. I do not say that it is wrong. Every Australian has hitherto been privileged to take his pleasures in his own way, and nearly every man in the country has availed himself of the privilege. Those who have not been able to participate in the large race meetings have sent small contributions to “Tattersalls” sweeps, and the prizes won have been distributed to persons belonging to all classes of the community. I believe that Adams’ sweeps are run as fairly as is any commercial enterprise within the Commonwealth.
– The question before the Chair is not whether “Tattersalls” sweeps are or are not desirable, but the action of the Government in regard to
Tasmania, and their encroachment upon State rights.
– I understood that I should be allowed a little latitude, so that I might discuss the root of the evil. The question of State rights is largely involved, and the exercise by the Government of the powers given to them by the Post and Telegraph Act interferes with State rights. No doubt the Government have done what they considered proper in this matter, but I cannot help saying that, in my opinion, there are many greater evils than the existence of “ Tattersalls” sweeps, and that when we wipe out one we should wipe out all.
– I should not rise to speak upon this question if the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, had not said that the unanimous opinion of the people of Tasmania was in favour of “Tattersall.”
– I did not say that.
– That is what I understood the right honorable member to say. He quoted the last election as a criterion, but it is no criterion. When the fight comes at the next general election there will be a greater revolution in Tasmania on the right side of morality than there was last time. There is a Tasmania that is higher and nobler than the little crowd in Hobart who want to run the show, in order to sweep in the whole of Australia at the expense of the people. I said upon every platform at which I spoke before the elections that, if there was to be<a fight, I would oppose Adams, because I was determined that no one man should continue to have the power that he exercises. Tammany Hall never had greater power for corruption in New York City than that which exists in Tasmania to-day. I told the people of Tasmania that if they wanted to make these sweeps a State institution, they should take the responsibility, and stamp Hobart as the Monte Carlo of Australia. Then I would support them, because it would be the will of the people that the profits should go into their own pockets, and help to provide old-age pensions. But for a private individual to make the profits which are now earned - which are such as are never made with a similar expenditure in any other business - is a thing I must oppose on the ground that it is endangering the well-being of the State of Tasmania.
We have seen press and pulpit prostrated before “Tattersall” as Rome was prostrated before her fall. The Mercury and the Evening News have fallen before him, and nearly ‘the whole of Collins-street is owned by one man. Now we have the Parliament and the Government on their knees saying - “O, mighty Adams, have mercy upon us, or we are gone.” But thank God that is not the condition of the people of the West Coast, or of the democracy of Tasmania. The Mount Lyell electorate gave me 1906 No. 1 votes, and there were only 500 votes cast at the last election-
– I do not think that that matter bears upon the question.
– I agree with you, sir ; but the right honorable member made it one of the rocks of his argument that Tasmania had gone back, in regard to this matter, from her attitude during the general elections. The whole trouble is that there has been no fight. We have said all along that we are prepared to give Tasmania justice, but we are not prepared to allow her to be dependent upon gambling. Tasmania existed before Adams went there, and if he were to die to-morrow, without leaving any one to carry on his business, Tasmania would still remain. Coming to the question of State rights, I ask whether, if the State of Tasmania decided to licence pirates and garrotters, and the Commonwealth Government declined to carry letters to such people, the State of Tasmania would be justified in seceding ? Tasmania is only one State. Both New South Wales and Queensland have said by their Parliaments that they do not believe in “ Tattersall,” and they are more numerous than the people of Tasmania. The people of Tasmania have never had a chance to voice their opinions upon this matter, though their Parliament has said that they believe in “ Tattersall.” Who is to settle this question? Queensland has stated that she does not believe in “Tattersall” and New South Wales has similarly declared herself, while Tasmania has pronounced in favour of the institution. Who is to arbitrate 1 Is it a matter to be fought out upon the battlefield or in the Commonwealth Parliament? Five out of the six States have expressed their disapproval of the institution of “ Tattersall,” and the State rights of Tasmania end where those of the other States begin. Tasmania represents only one-sixth of the Commonwealth, and all her rights with regard ,to the carriage of mails were transferred to the Federation. She had the power to stop “ Tattersall “ before she surrendered the powers which are now embodied in our Constitution. If Tasmania wishes to carry on “Tattersall” upon her own responsibility, that is another matter. All I shall ask will be that half the proceeds shall be handed over for the purpose of pay ing old-age pensions.
– I should not have risen, but for the statements made by the Prime Minister, and by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, that the recent election in Tasmania was fought out on the “Tattersall” question. I have in my hand reports of the addresses delivered by each of the candidates, and I find that even Mr. McCall, the Government candidate, when speaking of “Tattersall,” said -
He was firm in his confidence in the Tasmanian Premier as a sound constitutional lawyer, and inclined to believe that the State rights had been infringed. In any case, the Federal Government were undoubtedly acting in a very high-handed manner when they interdicted “ Tattersall “ before the High Court had been instituted.
The same gentleman went on to say that he stood for State rights, and would give “ Tattersall “ an appeal to the High Court. This was the utterance of the Government candidate, and Mr. “Whitely, the labour candidate, expressed himself even more strongly in favour of “Tattersall.” All the candidates spoke in favour of that institution, and, so far as it was,concerned. were on an equal footing. .But the great issue at stake was whether the people in Tasmania believed in the general policy and administration of the Government. Mr. McCall, the Government candidate, placed that issue plainly before the people, and he appealed to the people to support him on the question of the general administration, policy, and the capacity of the Government to conduct the affairs of the Commonwealth. At the declaration of the poll, when speaking to the electors, he had the manliness to say that -
He had submitted the cose for the Barton Government to the people to the best of his ability, and he admitted that the decision of Tasmania was against the Ministry.
He went on to say that -
He did not look on the defeat as a personal one, but rather as a defeat for the Barton Ministry.
The Launceston Examiner, which has fought strongly against “ Tattersall “ all through, was one of the sturdiest supporters of the Opposition candidate. The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, said that there was likely to be a great change in the public opinion in Tasmania before long; but there is no evidence of that in the records of the polling. At 25 polling places out of 30 the Opposition free-trade candidate polled more votes than did all the others put together. In only one place did Mr. McCall, the Government candidate, receive a majority of the votes, and that was a majority of two, namely 93 votes against 91. I believe that in that case there was some mistake a’s to the majority. Notwithstanding that the Government candidate had the full support of the Government, and that the honorable member Sir P. O. Fysh went to Tasmania to support him, he was defeated by a very large majority at 28 polling places out of 30. The honorable member, Sir P. O. Fysh, tried to placate the large deputation which waited upon him, and pointed out that he was not altogether in agreement with his colleagues in the Ministry on the “ Tattersall “ matter, but that as a member of the Government he must be guided by the majority of the Cabinet. He stated that he was one of the members of the Government which had invited Mr. Adams to go to Tasmania and conduct his sweeps there, and Sir Philip also stated that when he went back he would place before the Ministry, as strongly as he could, the views expressed by the deputation, in the hope that they might see their way clear to stay proceedings until an appeal could be made. “We know very well that the honorable gentleman, Sir P. O. Fysh, obtained his seat in this House under false pretences. The people of Tasmania thought that he was a free-trader, and at the very first opportunity they have expressed their opinion in favour of free-trade by electing a free-trade candidate by a majority of 1,700 over the votes recorded for the whole of the other candidates.
– The honorable member is wandering from the question.
– I was endeavouring to meet the arguments advanced by the Prime Minister, and by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley.
– The honorable member must not proceed beyond the question raised by the honorable member for Tasmania.
– I admit that wo have passed legislation dealing with this question, and that it is in accordance with enactments passed previously by all the States except one. I do not wish, however, to deal with that point. I only rose for the purpose of correcting the wrong impression that this question was really the principal point at issue during the recent election in Tasmania. The real question was that of free-trade versus protection, and free-trade won by nearly 4,000 votes.
– The best authority, I take it, as to the real meaning of the Tasmanian election, is the chief organ supporting the successful candidate - The Hobart Mercury - to which I have pleasure in referring the honorable member for Macquarie. That journal states most clearly that the result is a victory for State rights as involved in the action taken with regard to “ Tattersalls” sweeps. I rose simply for the purpose of correctly stating the facte with reference to the vote upon which the tea duty was struck out. On Tariff questions the best test so far as the division of parties is concerned is that furnished by the gangway, because while there are several members who sit on the Opposition side of the House but frequently vote on this side, there are as many who sit on this side of the chamber and as frequently vote on the other. Among those in favour of removing the duty on tea there were thirteen Ministerialists who voted against the Government. The Government and its own supporters made a total of twenty in favour of the retention of the duty. On the other side 21 members of the Opposition, headed by the leader of that party, voted for the removal of the duty, and only twelve members of the Opposition voted with the Government to retain it.
– I am one of those who hold that no Government can have a higher end in view than the formation of national character, and if the various States had intrusted to us the question of the morals of the people, we might have been able to deal with it in a Bill specially framed for the purpose. The States, however, did not see fit to intrust us with the guardianship of the morals of the community, and yet the Federal Government has, in an indirect way, tried to put down a particular form of gambling.
There is no doubt that that is what it really amounts to.
– It is one of the most pernicious and insinuating forms of gambling.
– That may be; but I do not think the Federal Government should, by a side wind, if I may so term it, interfere as it has done. Greater evil must always result from any such attempt. We must admit that as far as Tasmania itself is concerned, the people there, including many churchmen, who have had the fullest experience of “ Tattersalls “ sweeps, think that one result of what may be Called the Gambling Act of Tasmania, has been to put down every form of gambling except one. It is said that, practically, bookmakers do not exist in Tasmania, and that many forms of gambling which prevail on the mainland are not to be found there.
– They exist secretly.
– My authorities for the statements I am making are men who are just as much interested in the morals of the people as are any of us. Moreover, I prefer to think that the people of Tasmania are not so dead to the sense of what is right or wrong, that they would allow this evil to continue ‘if there were not some compensating benefits to be derived.
– The whole island is corrupt. I do not mean the voters, but the powers that be.
– I decline to believe it Although many of us might be willing to suppress all forms of gambling, we object to the Government interfering in the way they have done with the secrecy of the Post-office. If we are to regulate the correspondence of private individuals in one way, why should we not extend the principle to letters relating to all the affairs of life 1 The Federal Government should not have taken over the Postal department for at least three or four years to come. We have unduly hampered the Federal Government so far as the Postal Act itself is concerned, and when the Postal Rates Bill is submitted to this House it will be found that we have created dissension in at least three of the great States by imposing a duty upon newspapers without conferring upon them any corresponding benefit. This is entirely the fault of the Government. In Tasmania a good deal of antagonism has been aroused by the action of the Ministry in suppressing “ Tattersalls” sweeps. Under the circumstances it was very wrong on the part of the Government to act as they have done. In this connexion the right honorable member for Tasmania has pointed out that the State which he represents has incurred a loss of revenue, but he forgot to tell the House that the revenue which it derived last month exceeded the amount received during the corresponding period of last year by nearly £5,000. The loss of revenue which, it is urged, Tasmania will suffer as a result of the action of the Government, is an argument which, to my mind, should not have been addressed to this House. What we are concerned with is that at the present time there is no tribunal to which Tasmania can appeal in defence of its rights. I think that the Government have acted very inadvisedly in interfering with Tasmania in the way they have done. So far from it being recognised that a particular form of betting is an absolute evil, I would point out that Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia have enacted laws legalizing the totalisator. In the case of Queensland, the State Government derive a certain amount of revenue from this source, and I think that the same remark applies to South Australia.
– Tasmania can enact similar legislation if she chooses.
– That may be so, but I object to the Government attempting to accomplish by a side wind what they were unable to accomplish directly. Indeed, the Ministry have acted so badly in every respect that there is scarcely a State which does not consider that it has a grievance against the Federal Government. The latter have done everything that was possible to destroy the federal bond. They have gone so far that an amount of ill-feeling has been engendered in the States against the Federal Parliament which it will require years of quiet and patient legislation to overcome. I think that the right honorable member for Tasmania was perfectly justified in drawing attention to what he considers to be an interference with the right of the State which he represents. It is true that the matter can now lie fought out only in the law courts, but I certainly think that this Parliament possesses the right to interfere in the way it has done ; although I doubt the wisdom of it thus interfering. I believe that in the first three or four years of our national history our duty is to avoid all possible sources of friction. If that has been the aim of the Government, they have failed so miserably to accomplish their purpose that the people will express their condemnation of them very fully the moment they have an opportunity.
– While sympathizing with the representatives from Tasmania in their anxiety to safeguard the finances of that State, I think that the latest returns which have been supplied show that there is no cause for apprehension regarding the loss of the revenue which has hitherto been derived from “Tattersall.” Concerning the question of State rights, the people of Tasmania, as an integral part of the Commonwealth, have rights equal to, but no greater than those of the people of the other States ; and her federal vote would seem to indicate that in this Parliament she regarded her rights as well conserved. So far as the attitude of the labour party upon this particular question is concerned, I wish to say, as a member of that party, that I am thoroughly satisfied with the vote which I gave. It has been said by the leader of the Opposition that we are somewhat mechanical, and not sufficiently intelligent in arriving at our decisions.
– No ; I said that the result of an agreement was a mechanical process.
– I can assure the leader of the Opposition that we base our votes upon a principle of political economy which I defy any one to challenge. We make it part of our political platform to oppose anything in the nature of parasitical influence upon the body politic, which was the basis of our vote in this connexion. I hope that the right honorable gentleman was not altogether in earnest in reflecting upon the intelligence of the party to which I have the honour to belong, because I believe he owes a considerable amount of his political success to his association with that party. I would also remind him that the labour party claims to vote in matters of this kind upon principle, and not from a desire to oust the Government in order to obtain their seats. I hope that upon second thoughts the leader of the Opposition is so very well satisfied of our intelligence that he is willing in the future, as in- the past, to cooperate with us in regard to a great many measures of importance to the people of the Commonwealth. And, in conclusion, I trust that the attitude of the House in regard to this question is sufficiently definite to obviate any more of such discussions as that which has just been inflicted upon us.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– I have been supplied with the following answer : -
Inquiries will be made, and the information furnished as soon as possible.
Order of the day discharged ; Bill withdrawn.
In Committee qf Ways and Means (recommittal) :
Consideration resumed from 2nd April (vide page 11290).
Item 47.- Salt n.e.i. per ton, 20s.; and on and after 30th November, .1901, 10s.
– This item was discussed very fully upon a former occasion. The original proposal of the Government was that the duty upon salt should be 20s. per ton. A vote was taken upon the matter, and the committee declared that the duty should be 10s. per ton. Some honorable members then desired that the rate should be 15s. per ton.
– Only one, the honorable member for Moira.
– The honorable member for Moira was voicing the feelings of other honorable members. That division was taken, and an attempt was made to provide that on and after the subsequent date the duty should be 15s. If that course had been allowed, it would have had to be followed in regard to other items, and would have created confusion.
In regard to this particular item, however, I believe there was some misapprehension on the part of honorable members, and under the circumstances it is only fair that an opportunity should be given to them to rectify their vote.
– Is that the only reason of the Government for this recommittal 1
– The Treasurer has counted heads since.
– I have not.
– Somebody has counted heads for the Government.
Mr- Joseph Cook. - The Treasurer is not anxious to increase the duty, but merely wishes to consult the committee.
– I am anxious to carry the proposal ; indeed, I am anxious that the duty should be even 20s. per ton.
– Are there any arguments for increasing the duty t
– I am not now attempting to argue in favour of increasing the duty, because all the arguments were advanced when the item was previously under discussion. Honorable members, I have no doubt, have all, the information they were possessed of on the previous occasion, and my desire is to give honorable members who may have made a mistake an opportunity of reversing their vote. I move -
That the words “and on and after 4th April, 1902, 15s.” be added.
– I shall not at present enter into the merits of . the question, but if the Government be sincere in their wish to close the Tariff debate and bring the session to an end, I protest against the re-opening of this highly debatable question, which, I understand, has already been decided by a majority of six votes. Where there has been a tie, or a majority of one, there may be some justification for re-opening a question. This proposal is not made in the interests of revenue, but in order to destroy revenue, with which the Government profess to be so anxious that there shall be no interference. If a debatable matter of this kind is brought up under such circumstances, and an attempt made to increase the duty, long discussion must be provoked. The question is whether the Government are so committed to the salt manufacturers that they are compelled to cause waste of public time at a very critical stage of the session.
– The right honorable member forgets that the first item on which a vote was taken yesterday had been decided by a majority of 19, and the proposal for recommittal came from the Opposition.
– If anything wrong has been done on this side of the House I am alarmed at the swift way in which the Government follow the example. In this matter we must consider the Senate, the members of which we cannot treat as though they were clerks, waiting upstairs to put their signatures on our Bills. If we take six or seven months in considering the Tariff, we cannot expect senators to deal with it in a week ; and they ought to have it in their hands at the earliest possible moment. This is a question which honestly will require a very long discussion.
– Then we shall have to remain here and discuss it.
– If the Government take up that attitude, and resuscitate those old items, regardless of the ‘ interests of public time, we are ready to oblige them at any moment.
– I have fallen in with the views of honorable members on all the items except this and galvanized iron.
– I agree that if there were not some other stronger view than that of the Treasurer, probably a very reasonable course would be taken. The present proposal of the right honorable gentleman is not in line with that course which has hitherto marked his management. I could understand such a proposal coming from the Minister for Trade and Customs, who takes a great interest in this industry, as one which is carried on in his own State.
– The right honorable member is wrong in attributing that motive to me.
– What I have said is perfectly pardonable.
– If I had done what the Minister for Trade and Customs had desired, I should not have moved the recommittal of this item, because he was afraid of some aspersion of the kind.
– That shows Ministers in a most touching light, and I am delighted at the revelation.
– The right honorable member ought not to make such aspersions. I accept the entire responsibility for the recommittal of the item.
Mr. SYDNEYS SMITH (Macquarie).As the member who, in the first instance, proposed a reduction of the salt duties, I am rather surprised at the action of the Government. The present proposal means a duty of 75 per cent, on the coarse salt, which is largely used by pastoralists and farmers. We were told by the honorable member for Moira that the dairy farmer uses 7 lbs. of salt to every 100 lbs. of butter ; and in bacon-curing, hide-curing, meat-curing, and mining, this coarse salt is largely used. It will be remembered th at the honorable member for Kooyong pointed out that one company with ‘which he is connected used 3,500 tons of salt in the chlorination process in one year. Miners, pastoralists,’ and agriculturists, who have to compete in the markets of the world, and who cannot benefit in any way from protection, are heavily taxed on the machinery they use and all their necessaries of life. Denmark monopolizes 45 per cent, of the butter trade of Great Britain, and yet it is now proposed to handicap our dairy farmers by a duty of 75 per cent, on salt. In New South Wales the consumption of salt per head is 42 lbs.; in Victoria, 40 lbs.; Queensland, 57 lbs.; South Australia, 27 lbs.; and Western Australia, 18 -3 lbs.; or an average of 30 lbs. The honorable member for New England, in the previous discussion, said he would prefer to see this commodity free, and the honorable member for Gwydir took a similar view, while the honorable member for Corangamite, who is largely interested in dairying and pastoral pursuits, regarded 10s. per ton, or 50 per cent, as sufficient. When the duty of £1 per ton was removed in Victoria, the South Australian salt manufacturers did not reduce the price to merchants by that amount, but by only 10s., putting the balance into their own pockets. There is no necessity for protection for this industry, seeing that the South Australian Salt Manufacturing Company, under free-trade, was able to secure 50 per “cent, of the trade of New South Wales, and further exported 98,000 lbs. to New Zealand, in competition with all traders. The only result of an increase in the duty will be to raise the price of salt, as was the previous experience in New South Wales and Queensland. Amongst the honorable members who voted with the Government in the previous division was the late Mr. Piesse, and as that gentleman has been succeeded by a free-trader, the majority against an increase of the duty would now be eight. I cannot understand the reason which actuates the Government in their present proposal, though I could have understood a recommittal of the high duties on boots, shoes, and other necessaries of life. But no proposal of that kind is made. I may be met by the statement that this company have reduced the price of salt: but that was because we reduced the duty by one-half. If we give them a monopoly, they will increase the price again. They secured about half of the trade of New South Wales without protection. The people of Queensland and New South Wales recognised the importance of having cheap salt, and therefore imposed no duty upon the article. I admit that the question was fully debated when it was last before the committee, and therefore I do not wish to take up time upon it ; although there is a danger, when items are dealt with without discussion, that honorable members may record their votes for the Government without due consideration of the circumstances. If the Government intend to ask us to reconsider an item of this kind, which was carried against them by such a strong majority in favour of a reduction, they should surely ask us to reconsider items which were carried by them by a majority of only one or two.
– Or in regard to which the Chairman voted to allow fresh discussion.
– Yes. But the Government do not ask us to reconsider those items, because they affect, not a few manufacturers, but the consumers of the whole Commonwealth. If they ask usto reconsider an item like salt, they should ask us to reconsider these other items.
– Including tea.
– I have been subjected to a great deal of criticism for my action in regard to the tea duty, but I am prepared to take the responsibility for what I did in defeating the proposal of the Government. They asked us to obtain from the people of the Commonwealth about £2,000,000 more than is actually required. But we are not here to impose unnecessary taxation. There is no need for me to justify my action in that matter, because I am sure that the people will justify me. I hope that the committee will not consent to the proposal of the Government in regard to salt.
– I am going to vote against the proposals of the Government. I think that the people could afford to pay a little more for their tea in order that they might get cheaper salt for their stock. A number of statements have been put before us in regard to the Geelong sea salt. One squatter says that -
It is excellent for the purpose, as the sheep eat it readily, and much better than rock-salt.
Another man says -
I have usedyour sheep salt for the last two years, and consider it superior to any other salt that I have used for stock.
Another says that it has given great satisfaction, and that he prefers it for stock to either rock-salt or imported Liverpool salt ; and another that “as a lick for sheep” it answershis purpose very well. Salt is the most important, and indeed an essential requisite for the preservation of the health of sheep and live stock. I have been a stock-breeder from within a year of my arrival in Australia, and I shall therefore vote against the imposition of a duty of 15s. per ton upon salt. In my opinion, a duty of 10s. per ton is too high either for protective or for revenue purposes. The use of salt by small farmers should be encouraged, and they should be able to obtain salt, not only f ree of duty, but free from all cost whatever. That is the view I have held for more than a quarter of a century. The liberal use of salt would mean larger and healthier sheep, and more robust cattle. I know, from my own experience and that of others, that salt gives to cattle and sheep a power to resist disease and to endure droughts or wet seasons, which is lacking in the blood of animals for which salt is not provided. Salt should be admitted either duty free, or the duty upon it should be reduced to 5s. per ton. The use of it will produce better beef, better hides, and better wool, and thus greatly increase the value of the chief exports of this Commonwealth.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).This subject was very fully discussed some months ago, and the Government were badly beaten upon their proposal to impose a much higher duty upon salt than that which they now propose.
– Several honorable members said at the time that they were willing to vote for a duty of 15s. per ton.
– We have just heard from the honorable member for Brisbane that he is in favour of absolutely free salt. I had not an opportunity to speak when this matter was last under consideration. I know very well the district in Yorke’s Peninsula where this salt is found, and some twenty years ago I did a large trade in salt with people who were able to get it there at a much lower price than is now asked for it. That that salt cannot now be sold so reasonably as formerly is due to the fact that a syndicate bought up the property, and watered the stock, so that much larger profits are now required to obtain dividends. If the former state of things were reverted to, I believe that the salt would be placed upon the market for 50 per cent, less than is at present charged for it. Not only is salt largely used by the breeders of stock; it is also used by the farmers, the dairymen, and many others. The exportation of hides is a very large business, and not less than 4 lbs. of salt is used upon every hide that is made into leather.
– 14 lbs.
– 4 lbs. is sufficient to preserve a hide for a tanner. The honorable member, who has had a large experience, says that 14 lbs. of salt is required for each hide to keep them on the long voyages to foreign markets. Tanners require at least 4 lbs. of salt for the preservation of each hide in a green state, until they are able to place them in the pits. In the curing of pelts in the large fellmongeries. large quantities of salt have to be used. In every industry where animal products have to be dealt with in order to convert them into merchantable commodities, salt enters largely into consumption, and the committee should hesitate before imposing any additional duty. However anxious honorable members on this side may be to allow the Government proposals to pass without undue discussion, we must offer the most strenuous opposition to any attempt to increase the existing duties by 50 per cent.
– I think it is about time that some honorable member should speak in favour of the increase of this duty, and I shall be happy to give way to any honorable member who is prepared to advocate it. lt is very much like “ thrashing a dead horse “ for the opponents of the proposal to rise one after the other and express their views without having anything to reply to.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).If the honorable member will permit me I shall be happy to address the committee as an advocate for the increased duty. Every member who was present when the vote was taken in connexion with the salt duty on a previous occasion, must remember that the feeling of the committee was not tested upon the question of fixing the duty at 15s. On that occasion, for the first time, the rule was enforced which prevented a duty being reviewed after having been fixed at the lower amount, and an amendment increasing the duty from 10s. to 15s. could not be submitted. No doubt the new rule has facilitated business, but the effect was to prevent any vote being taken with regard to the 15s. duty. Opportunities have been given to review the decision of the committee in cases where the feeling of honorable members has already been fully tested, and I cannot see that there is the slightest force in the objection of the honorable member for Macquarie. This duty is being recommitted in order that the votes of honorable members may be recorded on a question which has hitherto not been submitted to them. Honorable members voted in many cases in favour of the 10s. duty, as against the proposal of the Government for a duty of 20s., and not as against a duty of 15s. Many honorable members who voted for the reduction of the duty on the first occasion would have been content if it had been fixed at 15s., and perhaps others who were not then disposed to go that length may, upon reconsideration of the circumstances, be prepared to concede the proposed increase. The objection comes with very bad grace from honorable members opposite, who have always claimed the greatest liiberty not only in placing their views before the committee, but in ascertaining, the exact sense of the majority. The fact that the honorable member for Macquarie fears the previous decision of the committee may be reversed or varied does not in any way justify his objection. The honorable and learned member for Brisbane dilated upon the extent to which salt is used for stock purposes, and I have no desire to find fault with his remarks upon that point. It cannot be suggested, however, that an increase of the duty upon salt by 5s. per ton will have the effect of preventing stockowners from using salt just as extensivelyarid with the same advantage as hitherto in promoting the growth of stock and wool. The honorable member for Robertson said that the whole of the Australian salt business was in the hands of a syndicate, but the statement is absolutely erroneous. If the honorable member knows all the details of this business, he ought to be aware of the fact that the company to which he has referred is a co-operative concern, and is not a syndicate.
– How did it start - was it not a syndicate at the outset 1
– How do companies start as a rule ? If the honorable member goes back to the first stage of every company he will probably find a vendor, but that would not justify him in calling the company a monopoly. The Salt Company that is carrying on operations in South Australia is a co-operative concern, and there is another company in process of formation there. In addition to this, there is a salt” company at Geelong, and another enterprise of a similar character has been started in Western Australia. The honorable and learned member for Brisbane need not entertain the slightest fear that the proposed increase of 5s. per ton will result in the establishment of any monopoly. The protection which has previously been afforded to the industry has led to increased competition, and competition will always keep down prices. I would further point out that since the imposition of the duty of 10s. per ton upon salt, the ship-owners have increased the freight charges. For example, I find that from Edithburgh to Sydney the freight has been raised from 7s. 3d. to 8s. 3d., whilst between Edithburgh and Brisbane it has advanced from lis. 6d. to 13s. 3d. per ton.
– Have the oversea freights been raised ?
– I am speaking of the increased freight oversea between State and State.
– What is the increased freight upon Liverpool salt ?
– I cannot very well give the figures relating to the oversea freight from Liverpool to Australia simultaneously with the increases in the InterState freights. The latter range from 9d. to 3s. 6d. per ton. Between Edithburgh and Cairns the freights have advanced from 25s. to 28s. 6d. per ton, and between Edithburgh and Rockhampton from 15s. to 17s. 6d. per ton.
– What are the freights upon the foreign salt 1
– Nothing could be more apropos of my argument than is that interjection. It has been said that a great natural protection is afforded to the salt industry by the freight charges between the old country and Australia ; but I have perused a number of bills of lading which show that for many thousands . of tons last year the freight amounted to about 9s. 3d. per ton, which is considerably less than the freight between Port Adelaide and Brisbane. For example, I find that on the 17 th January the Allonby brought out 124 tons of Liverpool salt, upon which the freight was 9s. 3d. per ton, and on the 4th March ‘the Perthshire landed 250 tons, upon which the same charge was levied. It will be seen, therefore, that the natural protection afforded to the salt industry by reason of the freight charges represents only 9d. per ton as between Port Adelaide and Sydney and Liverpool and Sydney.
– What is the date upon which the freights went up here 1
– They have increased since the last vote was taken upon this question.
– And probably since the order of which the honorable member speaks was placed in Liverpool or London.
– That would not affect the question of the freight. It cannot be urged with any justification that the, Australian salt industry enjoys any natural protection. Indeed, so far as places north of Sydney are concerned, the local product is placed at a distinct disadvantage as compared with the imported article. It has been said that the first effect of imposing a duty upon any commodity is to largely increase its price.’ It will be recollected that one reason which led some honorable members, who were generally favorable to the imposition of a duty of 20s. per ton upon salt, to object to the Government proposal, was that its adoption would cause the price of the article in Sydney and Brisbane to. be enhanced. It was pointed out then . that the first effect of a duty upon any article is to increase its price. Since that time, however, the price of salt has dropped almost to its old level. In Brisbane it advanced to 8s. 3d. per Cwt. but it has now dropped to 7s. 6d., so that it has only increased 9d. by reason of the operation of . the duty. It cannot be contended that, during the Tariff debate, South Australian representatives have sought protection for the industries of that State. But throughout South Australia free-traders and protectionists alike are pretty well agreed that the salt industry is one which deserves to be fostered. In this connexion honorable members will recollect that a very strong feeling was exhibited in the State Parliament, and that the Premier of South Australia was asked to communicate with the Prime Minister with a view to induce him to recommit this item so that a duty of 15s. per ton might be imposed. The salt industry in South Australia enables an enormous area of what would otherwise be absolutely waste country to be occupied. Those engaged in it are chiefly agriculturalists, who, by means of the additional employment which it affords, are enabled to remain upon the land. I may mention that Southern Yorke’s Peninsula is occupied by a fairly prosperous community of farmers mainly through the development of the salt trade. There are other parts of South Australia, and portions of Western Austra- . Iia and Victoria, which can be profitably utilized if the industry is encouraged. The only difficulty is that a duty of 10s. per ton upon this article does not constitute a sufficient protection against the in- traduction of German salt. The latter comes to Australia in bounty-fed steamers ; and against competition of that kind - apart from the question of the cheaper labour employed - it is impossible for the local salt companies to maintain their industry.
– How many people are employed in the industry 1
– It affords employment to 500 men. I do not suggest that this number is employed all the year round. It is impossible to state what would be the average number employed, because the men work periodically. They are employed during the salt season. I should not have spoken upon this matter but for the challenge thrown out by the honorable member for New England. I wish honorable members to understand that no previous vote has been taken upon the question which is now’ before the committee. To my mind, the present proposal constitutes a fair compromise between the original proposition of the Government and the suggestion of the Opposition.
Mr. SAWERS (New England).- The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, has no reason to apologize, because I think he has put his case very fairly, and, though opposed to him in this connexion, I feel a certain amount of sympathy with the statements he has made. The Government are perfectly justified in recommitting this item. I -remember the error that was made by the honorable member for Moira, who wished to vote for a duty of 15s., and his request that he might be allowed to move an amendment imposing that duty. At the same time, I have heard no fresh arguments which would justify me in departing from the vote I then gave. I am anxious to encourage enterprise in Australia ; but I am bound to consider whether it is wise to assist a comparatively trifling industry such as this at the expense of the great producing industries. Woolgrowing is a great producing interest in Australia, and it should be the desire of a national Parliament to encourage the production of the best and greatest national asset. A boundless supply of salt at as cheap a price as possible is essential to the health of the sheep which produce the wool ; and though we are living in times of bad seasons, in normal times Australia may be expected to carry an average of something like 100,000,000 sheep. A great proportion of these sheep are depastured on soil which produces salt grass, but in other districts, where there are no saline properties in the soil, the sheep, if they are to be kept healthy, must be artificially fed with salt, not rock salt, but what is called “ Liverpool” salt. So far as I know, the Adelaide salt is quite good enough for ordinary purposes. It may be better or worse than imported salt, but I know that in New South Wales, under free-trade, Adelaide salt was much cheaper than imported salt, and for that reason the former was bought by many. The imposition of a duty on imported salt will not in a direct way affect the pastoral industry, seeing that Adelaide salt can be used. The only tendency will be to force up the price of the Adelaide salt. I do not suppose any one will contend that Australian salt is good enough for the butter industry.
– I have a pile of testimonials as to the suitability of Australian salt for stock, beef, and other products, but there is not a single testimonial as to its suitability in the production of factory butter.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– It is said that the salt industry does not pay with a duty of 10s., and the request for a little more assistance appeals to my sympathies very forcibly. I shall not, ho , Never depart from my previous vote. I am a protectionist, though I may be considered a very bad one by my Victorian friends. As a protectionist, I claim the right to discriminate. It is no part of the duty of a protectionist to take a mendicant or non-paying industry out of the mire simply because it happens to be an Australian industry. If people are engaged in an industry that, does not pay, they had better give it up ; they have no right to ask for a duty heavy enough to make it pay. Protectionists have to ask themselves whether an industry is of national advantage ; and when I compare the great producing industries of Australia with the salt industry, I must give my vote in favour of the former. We have been told by the Melbourne Age that there are a few New South Wales protectionists who do not understand the rudiments of protection and require education ; but, in my opinion, it is protectionists who support unreasonably heavy duties who do not understand the rudiments of the pOliCy. During the earlier discussions of the Tariff we had speeches from purists on the Opposition side of the Chamber, to whose noble sentiments we listened with wrapped attention ; but I regret to say that, while I am a discriminating protectionist, I have been long enough in the House to find that those who express the loftiest free-trade sentiments, become abject protectionists in matters affecting their own States.
Mr. A. PATERSON (Capricornia).Queensland has received blow after blow in this Tariff, and now the Government propose to further injure that State by imposing an extra duty on salt. I protested strongly against any duty, but voted for an impost of 10s., because I had a feeling of justice in that, as many other industries had to some extent been protected, it was only reasonable to afford protection to an industry in South
Australia. But I wish the committee to consider the position as it affects Queensland. The average consumption of salt throughout the Commonwealth is about 31 lbs. per head per annum. That, however, does not give a fair idea of what is required for private domestic consumption as compared with what is required for the purposes of trade. In Western Australia and Tasmania the average consumption per head per annum is about 18 lbs., and that I believe to be the true domestic average for the Commonwealth. The extreme consumption is that of Queensland, namely, 58 lbs. per head per annum. That shows that Queensland has to pay duty not only on IS lbs. per head per annum for domestic consumption, but also on 40 lbs. per head per annum for trade purposes. For months we have been giving Victoria all that she wants in order to help her trades, while not a word has been said about assisting the primary industries, which require assistance more than any other, because they are subject to the consequences of severe drought, disease, and other accidents. It would be most unjust to impose an extra duty on salt. In 1899 more cattle were slaughtered in Queensland than in Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania combined ; and I find that whilst the export . of preserved meat, in which salt is largely used, from New Zealand was only 5,3S2,000 lbs., from Victoria, 4,760,000 lbs., and from New South Wales 11,453,000 lbs., from Queensland it was 25,148,000 lbs-. We have given a drawback on sugar used in the manufacture of jams, and if the duty under discussion be increased as proposed, a drawback ought to be given on all the salt used by meat preserving, companies.
– I fail to see any reason for the increase of this duty which at present represents 33 per cent, to 35 per cent. We are told that this is not enough protection for the Castle Hill Salt Company ; but it is going too far to ask the committee to. interfere in the interests of some ‘local company because it has shareholders and influential directors who can make their wants known. Nobody objects to this company asking for prohibition if it chooses to do so ; but we regret that there should be any body of men in this chamber who can be so neglectful of the interests of the great masses of the people as to countenance any such proposal. The Treasurer and the Minister ibr Trade and Customs now say in effect that when they previously contended that the duty would lower the price, they really did not mean that, because they urge that a duty of 10s. is not enough to enable this company to carry on the business. What right have the Government to ask the committee to give public money to any particular firm in order to allow it to declare a dividend ? I suppose the drought has caused a total loss of about £15,000,000 to pastoralists in New South Wales alone. Is it proposed that the Commonwealth shall compensate the pastoralists, the agriculturists, and others who have lost’ that money ? I can imagine the indignation of the Minister for Trade and Customs if a working man should say to him - “ I .have been unable, because of illness, to work more than half-time this year, will you ask the Commonwealth to make up my loss?” The democratic Minister would wonder at what he would call the”, insolence of such a request. But the labour of a working man is his capital, and if the Castle Salt Company are to be given an opportunity to make dividends at the expense of the people, surely other persons should be similarly treated. They say that to be able to raise the price of salt by 10s. per ton, when that article, free on board, is worth only 20s. a ton at the port of export, is not enough ; that they cannot cany on without a duty of 15s. a ton. But why should we give such an advantage to them ? The whole principle is wrong. It has been asserted that the consumption of salt throughout the Commonwealth is something like 200,000 tons. I was of opinion that it was only about 160,000 tons. Upon a consumption of 160,000 tons a duty of 10s. a ton means that the people have to pay £80,000 a year more for their salt. But the Treasurer does not anticipate a return of anything like that amount of revenue from the duty, so that practically half of the amount will go to the company. I think, however, that it would be much fairer to openly propose to give them a grant of’ so much. If I thought that that would be done, I should be the first to buy shares in the company, because I know that they would go up in consequence. But I should never vote for a proposal to benefit private individuals at the expense of the community. The great pastoral industry will be called upon to contribute a large amount towards the support of this company, but sheep will not yield more wool or better wool, because of the duty upon salt. If the Treasurer says that the duty will cheapen salt, what becomes of the argument of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, that the duty is necessary in order to pay men certain wages ? We are asked to handicap, too, the dairying and the meat preserving industries for the benefit of this company, and, as the honorable member for Bland has shown, the mining industry will also be affected. The company should consider themselves extremely fortunate to have obtained a duty of 10s. a ton, and before the committee can consent to increase the rate, reasons very much sounder than those we have heard must be adduced. It is not enough that the Ministry are anxious to allow the company to declare dividends.
– They have never yet paid a dividend.
– I am interested in halfadozen companies which have never paid a dividend, but the Ministry do not propose to compensate me. I am not even properly compensated for the time which I am obliged to give in attending to my parliamentary duties here, seeing that Parliament has now been sitting for nearly twelve months at a stretch. If we want to benefit the employes of this company, let us straightforwardly vote them so much money. We could afford to give them a considerable amount, and )’et impose upon the people a lighter burden than the present duty. The admission of the Treasurer that the duty should be increased in order to increase the price of salt is a very important one, and it is very ominous that honorable members opposite arc not able to get up and defend the proposals of the Government. I hope it shows that the committee are of opinion that the duty should not be increased, seeing that already it is equivalent to an ad valorem duty of 33^ per cent., and in some cases to an ad valorem duty of 50 per cent.
– I think it is to be regretted that the Government have asked the committee to reconsider this duty. It is a novel thing to find that the Minister for Trade and Customs requires the support and assistance of his physically less solid colleague the Treasurer. It is gratifying to find that after all he has another side to his character, and that he . is beginning to mistrust his own courage and combative powers. The Government appear not to care anything about this duty themselves ; they are proposing the increase only to oblige a certain company. We have a miniature Tariff again brought before ‘us, and honorable members must not suppose that, now that the process of reconsideration has begun, it will end necessarily with the items now before the committee. We are told that several items in addition to those already on the list will be resubmitted o us, and there seems no reason why we should not also consider other items which are pressing most harshly and severely upon the -people. According to *Coghlan there are 179 men engaged in the production of salt throughout -the Commonwealth, principally in South Australia and at Geelong. In-order that this employment may be con-tinned, the Treasurer proposes to impose a duty which will yield a revenue of about £15,000. The question for us to consider is whether it will be remunerative to take £15,000 per annum from the pockets of the people for the purpose of providing work for 179 men. The amount would provide for only about £83 or £84 per man employed, and viewing the matter from a national stand-point, the position strikes one as being most unsatisfactory. We are being called upon to tax the people in ‘order to provide employment in unproductive channels of industry. Salt is an article of daily necessity, not only to householders, but in many industrial operations. It is used largely by dairymen,’. by bacon-curers, and by agriculturists generally. The honorable member for Moira, who generally seeks to safeguard the interests of the agriculturists from his own point of view, has told us that the cost of the salt required for .100 lbs. of butter is 7d., so that the total cost of salt to the agriculturist engaged in dairying amounts to from 7d. up to ls. per acre of his farm. Are we going to further add to that cost by increasing the duty upon salt to 75 per cent. ? Our agriculturists are sufficiently oppressed already. It is proposed to tax the timber used for butterboxes in such a way as to impose upon dairymen an extra cost of 5d. to 6d. per acre of all their dairying country, and now we are asked to still further add to their burdens. The dairymen of the Commonwealth will remember this Government as having given them a protective duty upon their product, which is admittedly of no value, since there are no importations, and as having, at the same time, piled up the cost of all the articles used by them. Salt is also used largely by tanners, whose machinery is heavily taxed, as well as nearly everything used in the manufacture of leather. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, has made out the best case possible for the- producers of salt. in his State. No one can -quarrel with the honorable member for having advocated the interests of the 1 00 men who are engaged in the industry there, but I would point out that he is asking the Commonwealth to pay too heavy a price for the employment of men who might be engaged in occupations more productive to the State. The honorable -member has pointed out that freights between South Australia and the other States have recently been increased, and this fact has been quoted with the object of showing that the natural protection which is afforded to all our industries, owing to our isolation and our distance from the principal competitive countries, has been diminished. The honorable member, however, has not shown that the freights between Europe and Australia have remained as before. As a matter of fact, freights in all parts of the world have been increased of late. It is true that the honorable member has given us some particulars regarding a shipment of salt which was recently brought to our shores, but the arrangements as to freight in that case may have been made prior to the increase I have spoken of. Therefore we come back to the old point, namely, that the proposed duty is excessively heavy. On the authority of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, it amounts to about 75 per cent, on the f.o.b. price of salt in Hong Kong. They state that a duty of 5s. per -ton on salt is equivalent to an impost of 25 per cent, on the f.o.b. price at Hong Kong, and if the freight from foreign parts to the Commonwealth is added to the duty, it follows that the total protection under an impost of 15s. per ton would amount to at least 80 per cent. Why cannot our salt producers be satisfied with a 50 per cent, duty ? It seems that the lower the price of an article, the higher is the duty placed upon it. An increase in the price of an article from 2d. to 3d. does not seem very much, although it really amounts to 50 per cent. ; but a similar relative increase in the price of an article valued at £10 or £20 looms more largely in the eye. Because salt is a low-priced article we are asked to pile up the duty to the extent of 75 or 80 per cent, of its value, in order to provide employment for a small number of men ; but I hope that in the interests of the great industries to which I have referred, and of consumers generally, the committee will decline to increase the duty.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I find, on looking at the figures again, that the total consumption of salt in Australia would probably amount to from 106,000 to 110,000 tons. That would alter my calculations as to the amount by which the price of the article would be increased to the consumers. A duty of 10s. per ton on 110,000 tons would increase the total cost to the consumers by £55,000 ; and with a duty of 15s. the increased cost would be a little over £80,000 - that is, supposing the whole of the salt were imported. The Government expect to receive revenue to the extent of £20,000 per annum, and assuming that there are, say, 200 men employed in the industry, that amount would suffice to provide £2 per man per week, and keep them in idleness, instead of burdening the community to the extent of £80,000 per annum in order to provide them with employment, £60,000 of which, instead of going to the men, is to go to the shareholders of the company. Honorable members who are Arguing for the imposition of this duty upon protectionist principles show that they do not believe that the imposition of a duty will lower the price of an article. Some honorable members may be frank enough to -admit that it is with the object of increasing the price that they desire the duty to be imposed. I can understand honorable members taking up this position, which is -a perfectly fair one, but when honorable members tell us that the duty upon an article makes it cheaper, we hardly know what to do. We decided that if the imposition of a high duty would make the article cheaper, we should not be doing justice to the men engaged in the industry, because it- is frequently argued by honorable members opposite that low prices are synonymous with low wages. Accordingly, we reduced the tax from 20s. to 10s. per ton. Now, however, the assertion that the operation of a high duty results in a reduction of prices is flatly denied. To ray mind it is incumbent upon every honorable member who intends to alter the vote which he gave upon a former occasion to offer reasons for his action.
– Surely that is his own affair?
– No; we are dealing with the affairs of the people of Australia.
– Members are responsible only to the people who send them here.
-We have a higher responsibility than that. We owe a duty to the whole of the people of Australia. We are not delegates for certain interests. I am credibly informed that at least two honorable members intend to reverse the votes which they gave when this matter was previously under discussion. Why do they not rise and offer some explanation for their action ? Until they do so, they are not justified in reversing their former votes.
– It appears to me very extraordinary that the Government should ask the committee to reverse the decision at which it arrived some time ago regarding the duty upon salt. As has been pointed out by several speakers, the cheap importation of salt is really a matter of national importance, affecting as it does some of the biggest industries in Australia. I do not intend to discuss the necessity for cheap salt in connexion with the meat preserving industry or the pastoral industry, but I would point out that the proposed duty will materially affect the dairying industry. If Australian salt were suitable for use in that industry something might be said in favour of the tax proposed. But it has not been proved that the locallyproduced salt can be used in the manufacture of butter which is intended for exportation to the markets of the world. The most that was said by the Minister for Trade and Customs, when he made a very strong and impassioned speech in favour of the original Government proposal, was that upon the evidence of their managers, two factories in South Australia were producing salt which was suitable for use in the butter industry. The right honorable gentleman never said that this salt could be used in the preparation of butter for export. We do not depend on the butter produced for local requirements for the success and progress of the industry, but on the butter we export to London and other markets of the world ; and in order to compete successfully it is absolutely necessary that the quality should be uniform. We have to compete with Denmark, Sweden, and other countries which are within a few days’ sail of London, while our butter has to be sent over 16,000 miles of ocean. Apart from the refrigerating machinery, it is absolutely necessary, in order to keep our butter fresh, to have the very best quality of salt ; and the only salt which has been found successful, after exhaustive experiments by experts and those engaged in the industry, is that imported from the old country, and principally the Black Horse salt. We are now asked to increase a duty which is already too high. Salt ought to be absolutely free, seeing that apart from the dairy farmer and others who require it for trade purposes, everybody, even in the humblest home, has to use it. Those engaged in the industries to which I have referred are taxed from one end of the Tariff to the other, and now we understand that the item of butter-box wood, which was promised should be free, is to be recommitted. I am given to understand that in Western Australia there are large natural deposits at White Lake and another lake, the name of which I have forgotten, within onemile of Esperance Bay. There, I am told, salt capable of supplying the Commonwealth for the next 100 years can be produced at very little cost and trouble. All that has to be done is to scoop up the material, which contains 98 per cent, of pure salt ; and under the circumstances I ask what necessity there is for any duty? The plea put forward is that the duty is necessary to develop this South Australian industry, in which, however, it appears from Coghlan, there are now only some 179 men employed, for the sake of whom it is proposed to tax the whole of the primary producers of Australia. That is not treating this fiscal question from a national or federal point of view. Instead of having regard to the benefit of only this or that State, we ought to have regard to the benefit of the whole of the Commonwealth ; and on behalf of the large and important producing interests to which I have referred, I protest against the imposition of the proposed duty.
– This item has already engaged the attention of the committee, and a decision has been arrived at ; but the Government have seen fit to reconsider the question with a view to increasing the duty. On a previous occasion we are informed by some authorities on the fiscal question that the imposition of the duty would have the effect of cheapening the article, and that consumers would thereby be benefited. I understand, however, that to-day the ground has been somewhat shifted, and we are told that this, which is practically a South Australian industry, cannot live unless the duty be increased from 10s. to 15s. per ton. It is conceded that this increased duty is proposed for the purpose of benefiting certain persons engaged in this industry - that in order that they may make a profit this extra duty must be imposed. This, of course, means an increased price to the consumer. While I should be prepared to assist producers in South Australia in every legitimate way, I am here to represent other interests. In my electorate there are people engaged in pastoral, farming, and mining ind ustries upon which more than upon any other the stability of the Commonwealth depends. Under the Tariff those engaged in these industries have been taxed to a considerable extent, although they, unlike others engaged in the hot-house industries of Melbourne, have to send their surplus products to the old world, there to compete in open market. Salt is very largely used in the raising of stock, and during the last seven or eight years the pastoral industry has suffered severely from drought. Millions of sheep and thousands of cattle and horses have been lost, and it is unreasonable to ask the pastoral industry, which derives no special benefit from protection, to come to the assistance of this small South Australian industry and subsidize it to the extent proposed. Those engaged in agricultural pursuits also have to compete -in the markets of the world while deriving no special benefit from this protectionist Tariff. Indeed, this and similar industries have to “foot the bill “ for those other industries which receive protection. The proposed increased impost on salt would place the pastoral and agricultural industries at great disadvantage, and the same remark applies to the mining industry. It is not one industry of South Australia or Victoria, as the case may be, that should receive consideration, but the large primary industries of the Commonwealth. However honorable members may have believed that the imposition of this duty would cheapen the product, that position has been practically abandoned, and we are asked to impose this extra taxation for the purpose of bolstering up one industry at the expense of larger and more important interests. This may not - he the “ last straw which breaks the camel’s back,” but the primary industries have heavy enough burdens to bear, and I hope the committee will allow the duty to remain as it now appears in the Tariff.
– I think it is a pity that the Government have recommitted this item, because it seems to me that they will not obtain from the committee a reversal of the decision which was come to some time ago, and the effect of their action is to increase the prolongation of the Tariff consideration, which has already lasted for a very long time. The case made out for the industries in which salt is used is so strong that I do not think there is any article for placing a duty upon which there is less justification. Salt is used in all our primary industries, and in the vast majority of our secondary industries, and it is a necessary of life. Yet we are asked to hamper these industries, and to tax an article of universal consumption, for the benefit apparently of one salt-making company carrying on business in South Australia. Last night some of the staunchest protectionists in the committee held forth for a considerable time upon the advantage of exempting sausage casings from duty. Their eloquence in support of that proposal almost excited the derision of the committee; but to-night, when we are dealing with an article of universal consumption, and a matter of vital importance to the whole community, those honorable gentlemen are silent. The whole question was f reely discussed on a former occasion in a fuller committee than we are likely to have to-night, and we agreed to a duty of 1 Os. a ton as a compromise. Now, however, .after an interval of some months, the Government, without any reason so far as we know, propose to reconsider the duty, with a view to increasing it to 15s. per ton. They say that there need not be much discussion upon proposals of this kind ; that honorable members should be able to vote for or against, and be done with the matter : but when an item of this kind is recommitted, we, who are in favour of the lowest duties, and if possible of doing away with restrictions upon trade altogether, are bound to offer all the opposition we can to the proposals of the Government. Some honorable members made loud outcries against the proposal to tax the poor man’s tea, but the present proposal will tax the poor man still more largely, and will also hamper industry. Writers like Buckle, Draper, Leckie, -and Mill tell us how salt taxes have operated in the past in European countries. At one time, European Governments looked upon a salt tax as the easiest means of raising revenue, and the people ‘ were put to such straits that they did all they could to evade the payment of the tax. I have read that in Spain the tax was so oppressive that people were known to bathe in salt water, and then to secure what salt they could by scraping >off the thin incrustation left upon their bodies, and many stories are told of the ingenious way in which salt was smuggled across the Alps from Italy into Switzerland, and from Switzerland into France. Now this Government is proposing a very similar tax. Salt is a very important article to nearly all of the great industries which it must be the wish of every one,of us to foster and develop. The people of New South Wales and Victoria take a great deal of pride in the rapid progress of the butter industry, but salt is of so much -importance to that industry that to place a duty upon it is to seriously interfere with the production of butter. Then ‘ we have it upon the authority of gentlemen who are well acquainted with the business that 14 lbs. of salt are required to preserve a hide for exportation to other parts of the world, and it has been pointed out to us by others who are interested in the agricultural and pastoral industries, that salt is indispensable to the breeding of healthy stock. We have been told that the production ‘Of good meat, hides, and wool, depends upon the .healthiness of our flocks and herds, and that to secure their healthiness salt is essential, and should be used to a far greater extent than it has hitherto been used. There is no sense in hampering all our large producing industries to support a small industry like the salt industry. The Government have less excuse for proposing an increase in the duty upon salt than they had for their original proposal, because they have now had the advantage of hearing the opinions of those, who are interested in the industries affected by the duty, and the committee have arrived at a certain decision. Apparently they hope to snatch a chance victory at the eleventh hour. It has not been stated, however, that it is necessary to increase the duty in - order to obtain more revenue. We are given to understand that persons interested in the salt industry of South Australia have persuaded certain honorable members that the committee made a mistake in its previous decision, and that the duty upon salt should be increased:; but I have heard no reason given why I should vote for an increase, or why the committee should reconsider its former decision. When I first ran my eye down the Tariff list there was no item which appeared to me to be so preposterous, or so devoid of solid basis, as the salt duty. We cannot expect to create any large industry in connexion with the manufacture of salt within the Commonwealth. We have saline deposits, it is true, but they are not such as enterprising capitalists would care to exploit, because the salt is not of good quality. It is significant that of the whole of the salt deposits of the world, only one or two yield stilt which is recognised as fit for the preservation of foods. I only know of one good, reliable brand thatcan be bought and sold on its name - the Black Horse salt. That is the only article that any respectable dry-salter would use, or that any good dairyman would put into his butter. The salt produced in Australia may be very suitable for use asmanure, or for application to some of the purposes for which a product of the highest quality is not required, but it has been recognised over and over again that for foodproducts only salt of the very highest preservative power should be used. The effect of imposing a heavy duty upon salt will be to debar our consumers from using salt which is known to be a sound, reliable preservative, and to force them to pay even higher prices forsomethingwhich they know nothing about, or which has been proved to be less efficacious than the best imported commodity. Under these circumstances it is not right for the Government to ask us to reverse our decision. All through the con.sideration of the Tariff we have been inclined to show special favour to any substance largely employed in industrial operations, or entering into the treatment of our products which are largely exported and which have to compete in the world’s markets with the products of other countries more favoured than ourselves. Yet we are now being asked to intensify the difficulties of our producers by placing a heavy duty upon a substance which we must import from abroad if we desire to maintain our products at a high standard.
Some things can be well manufactured in Australia, because our circumstances are favorable. In such cases where a claim has been advanced for a protective duty, the benches and tables of the Chamber have been laden with samples, with a view to demonstrating the excellence of the locally produced articles. But where are the samples of salt that might persuade us to increase this duty? Many honorable memberswho are well acquainted with the great staple industries of the Commonwealth have told us that if we increase this duty we shall seriously cripple them. The pastoral industry, which is amongst those mentioned, was never in such a position as it occupies to-day. After years and years of drought it is almost a wonder that our pastoral industry exists at all, and that we have managed to retain enough stock to continue breeding. In the face of this, however, we have imposed taxes on the industry from start to finish, and now we are asked to heap an additional burden upon it. We may think highly of our manufactures, but the prosperity of this Commonwealth must depend for many years to come upon the pastoral and* other great primary industries, and every tax that we heap upon the people engaged in them must aim a serious blow at our prosperity. The idea of supporting any minor industries at their expense is utterly absurd, and is equivalent to “killing the goose that lays the golden egg.” Salt is now recognised as an important article of consumption for our flocks and herds, and it is also being largely used as a manure in agricultural and horticultural operations. We have pests in our orchards in many cases through want of lime and salt in the soil. I quite agree with the honorable member for Brisbane that we should not go very far wrong if we not only admitted salt free of duty, but distributed it free to those engaged in pastoral and agricultural pursuits. We should, at least, make it as cheap as possible. If we are to pay the least consideration to the poor, we should remember that a duty upon salt will bear most heavily upon them. The poor people in the community eat more salt food, and. require more salt all round in proportion, than do the rich. I hope that Ministers will recognise that they would do better to abandon this proposal and allow the duty to stand as it is at present.
– -I have heard of the Scotch prayer, “Oh, Lord, give us a good conceit of ourselves.” But I should like to vary that by saying, “ May the good Lord give us a fair idea of Australia.” If that prayer were granted we should not have the misfortune to listen to a speech such as the honorable member for South Sydney has just delivered. The honorable member has spoken about the poor man and the heavy duty upon salt, and the mischief and wickedness of the proposal to impose a duty of 1 5s. per ton. I should like to ask the honorable member how many tons of salt a poor man or a rich man eats in the course of the year - what would be the consumption per head ? The duty will not trouble the poor man one jot.
– How many tons of salt are used in the Commonwealth ?
– Does the honorable member know ?
– No, I do not.
– I knew it ; there is precious little that the honorable member does know about this matter. I sympathize with the honorable member, but I would say to him - “ Come out of the darkness into the light ; learn reform ; get an idea of what is going on about you.” There are various industries in which some of us centre our interests, and it is a very good thing too ; but we should not at the same time shut our eyes to. all others. The honorable member tells us that he does not know anything about Australian salt, and immediately proceeds to tell us that Australian salt is simply good for manure. Did any one ever hear of such rubbish ? There are six States in the Commonwealth, and the honorable member resides in one in which no duty was levied upon salt. There is another State which does not produce salt, and in which I believe there was no duty - I refer to the great State of Queensland. There are four other States, however, and if a duty of 15s. per ton upon salt is so appalling a proposal, what about a duty of 20s. per ton ?
– It is a scandal.
– Then what miserable wretches all the politicians of Victoria have been for years, and years, and years, because the)’ have levied a duty of 20s. per* ton upon salt. In South Australia, one of the best managed States that ever existed, especially lately, a duty of 25s. per ton was levied.
– Infamous !
– Where does the infamy begin and the probity end? Does the distinction lie between 15s. and 10s. We all respect the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, who has had the management of his interesting State for so many years, but what has he done? A duty of 20s. per ton was imposed upon salt in that State ? Why did not the right honorable gentleman alter that ? Why did he not hold sweet converse with the honorable member for South Sydney, before he came here, about all the awful things to which he has condemned the people whom it has been his duty to govern.
– I know it.
– Actions speak louder than words, and when the right honorable member imposed a duty at 20s. per ton he did the right thing. Then, what was the position in regard to the great State of Western Australia 1 There, the duty which formerly operated was 30s. per ton. Yet some honorable members opposite hold up their hands in pious horror when a proposal is made to levy a tax representing only half that amount. But I wish to say a little more to the honorable member for South Sydney, who has never heard of Australian salt, and who says that it is manure. All I can say is that if it be as he has stated, they have the funniest of tastes in New South Wales. Does the honorable member know how much salt is imported into that State? I will tell him. New South Wales imported last year 560,000 cwts. of salt. Does the honorable member know how much of that quantity was what he calls manure salt ? Two-thirds of it! What a taste for manure the people of New South Wales must have ! These are the simple facts, and the honorable member must confess that when he got up and told us that Australian salt is not fit for butter-making, he knew nothing about the figures. I should not be a bit surprised if he has eaten and ‘ enjoyed Australian salt. Look at the chances that he has run ! Two-thirds of the total supply of New South Wales is what he terms manure salt. In South Australia the salt produced there is used exclusively for the purposes of butter-making, and with excellent results. That State produces as good butter as does any State of the union.
– Does South Australia export butter ?
– It does, and gets as good a price for it as is obtained by any of the other States. Our salt is not fit for butter, is it not ? What do the New South Wales people say about it ? Let us approach the consideration of this question with the aid of the New South Wales experts. There is an institution in that State called the Hawkesbury Agricultural College, which is situate at Richmond, and surely it is not to be suggested that the officials of that institution would tell lies about the matter, or have an object in misrepresenting the facts. What does Mr. Thompson, the principal of that college, say upon the subject of this manure salt ? In a letter addressed to Messrs. Berry and Co. he says -
In reply to your letter of 24th ultimo, I have pleasure in stating that your extra refined salt compares more than favorably with anything of its kind, especially as regards butter-making.
Just imagine “ manure” salt for butter.making ! Why does not the honorable mem ber for South Sydney take some pains to acquaint himself with the facts before he gets up and slanders Australia? Why does he not go to his own officials ? It is their duty to let the public know what are the facts. Mr. Thompson is a capable and honorable man.
– But the man who supplied the sample may not be.
– Has it really come to this : that alf these testimonials have been obtained from the poor misled, ignorant, careless New South Wales experts upon false samples ?
– Do not forget that Mr. Thompson is a South Australian.
– Good God ! where is the thing to end ? Not only do some honorable members slander Australia, but they slander the experts they employ, and suggest that because an officer comes from South Australia he will give a certificate of a false and misleading character. Such suggestions show the desperate straits to which the Opposition are driven to supporttheir case. They do not hesitate to include in the slander of Australia the slander of their own trusted, well-tried, and responsible officers. Mr. Thompson continues -
Being so fine and dry, it is perfectly free from any injurious substance, and readily dissolves when worked into butter curd. I shall have great pleasure in recommending it to any one making butter or cheese.
I would further point out that salt has been exported, amongst other places, to New Zealand. What do we find there? Prizes have been taken by the butter made with this salt. The Barry’s Bay Cooperative Dairy Company Limited, for example, secured prizes at the Egmont Agricultural Show with cheese in the manufacture of which Castle brand salt was used. At Christchurch, too, the Stirling Dairy Factory took first prize for old and new cheese, in the production of which the same salt was. used. I have other certificates here, with, which, however, I do not propose to trouble honorable members.
An Honorable Member. - Is the Minister “ stone-walling “ ?
– The Government are not occupying unnecessary time. The fact is. that I had retained my seat with difficulty,, and when the honorable member for SouthSydney declared that our salt was manuresalt, I could no longer continue silent. I had to say a word or two for the purpose of repelling the suggestion. The position isthat salt is found in a number of these States.. Under the protection which the industry previously enjoyed it has gained a very considerable market. When four States, in which duties prevailed ranging from 20s. to 30s. per ton federate with two others in which no duty was operative, the question arises - What is a fair duty to impose? I doventure to think that when we reduce the tax from 30s. per ton in some cases, and in others from 20s. and 25s., to 15s. per ton, we are doing what is fair and reasonable. I consider that the industry is capable of extensive development, and I hope that, when we have an opportunity of doing somuch for it, we shall make the reasonable provision proposed, which represents the half-way house between the original proposition of the Government and the suggestion of the Opposition.
– TheMinister for Trade and Customs opened hisspeech with the prayer, “ The Lord give usa good conceit of ourselves,” but I am surethat he has no reason to pray for what the Ministry already have in an undue degree. If any evidence of that fact were necessary, it is to be found in this proposal to increase the salt duty after the committee have decided by a considerable majority, not that there shall be no duty, or that no consideration shall be extended to the salt industry, but that there shall be consideration extended to it representing, upon an average, 20 or 25 per cent. That is a very considerable assistance, and a substantial recognition of the salt industry. The Minister for Trade and Customs stated that, in all the States of the Commonwealth except New South Wales and- Queensland, duties varying from 20s. to 30s. per ton “were formerly operative. But I would point out that the Ministry adopt this averaging process only when it suits their own purposes. Owing to the removal of the customs barriers between the various. States, a greatly enlarged market is now offered to the salt producers of South Australia. Hitherto they have been handicapped by reason of the considerable duties to’ which the Minister referred, although they availed themselves of the free markets of New South Wales and Queensland, and were able to do so to the degree mentioned by the Minister for Trade und Customs. I have been very much surprised at the reasons given for the proposed increase of the existing duty by 50 per cent. The statements made in advocacy of this increase disagree entirely with statements which were made when at least one of the large companies in South Australia came into existence. Statements and elaborate figures- were put into my hands showing the cost at every stage of the process, and indicating that this salt could be made in South’ Australia, and sold in New South W ales against the world at a considerable profit. Either the shareholders of the company - many of whom are in New South Wales - were induced to become shareholders by false pretences, or we are having false pretences put forward now for the increase of the duty.
– How often has a prospectus taken too bright a view ?
– It was not a prospectus, but something beyond.
– It was something to induce people to contribute - an expression of opinion.
– I shall not say that they were false pretences, but merely that there is a difference between the statements made then and the statements made now. The doc ument was an explanation supporting the prospectus by fuller figures. I. admit the company never paid a dividend, but I am informed that the reason was not the competition with German salt, but the cutthroat competition between the two large companies in South Australia, and that when the competition was relieved; a profit was shown. The statement that the company were able to,supply New South Wales in competition with the rest of the world is supported- by the fact that over a period of years South Australian salt gradually gained possession of the New South Wales free-trade market until four or five years- ago it represented.about 50 per cent of- the consumption. The Minister for Trade and Customs has added further confirmation, by his statement that two-thirds of the consumption in New South Wales is supplied- from South Australia.
– What I said was that some of the salt was from Victoria, but the bulk from South Australia. The consumption of South Australian salt is 337,000 cwt. out of 556^000 cwt.
Mi-. THOMSON. - The Minister has shown that the market is still being encroached upon without any protection to the South. Australian producer. If that be so, where is; the case; not for consideration - because that has been given to the extent of 20 to 25 per cent. - but for the extra duty proposed? If the companies cannot compete with a preference of 10s., they do not deserve to be encouraged. It is not the’ business of Parliament, to square the balancesheets of companies, or to give dividends to shareholders. If Parliament undertake that work, we shall have a tremendous field, with many hungry claimants. Even protectionists should say that if the preference of 20> per cent, to 25 per cent., at the lowest’ estimate, be given, and the industry cannot live, we have no right to handicap other big industries, to which salt is a raw product, by making them, pay, as they must, the extra price-. The contention that the duty will reduce the cost is not tenable, nor is the contention that the full duty will not be taken advantage of, if the arguments put forward from the other side are correct.
– The- honorable member admits that local competition has kept down prices ?
– If the industry cannot do without the proposed extra protection, that is, an indication that prices must advance in line with the duty. This cannot be said to be a new industry, because it has been in existence more than a quarter of a century, and the companies have been in operation, one for a short period, and the others for many years, and have had every opportunity of cheapening production by experience and experiment. It has been said that the industry requires considerationbecause it has to compete- with salt imported from Germany and else where, and has to pay exactly the same freight as the importedarticle to certain portions of the Commonwealth! Surely we are not going to push to its logical conclusion the argument that in every duty we impose for the purpose of assisting an industry must be included thefreight from the producing port to the furthest port in the Commonwealth. The best reply to such an argument is that without any duty whatever salt has gone into New South Wales and Queensland from those same producers, and we may presume that that trade has on the whole been successful, or we should not have seen its constant growth.
– Does the honorable member take- any exception to the quality of the local salt ?
– No. The quality of the salt was at first not good for certain purposes, such as meat-curing, the magnesia in the salt blackening the meat, but the process of refining has been improved, and now the South Australian product will compare favorably with any other salt. I should very much like to know what it is that induces the Ministry to make the exception in regard to this particular duty. We have halved, quartered, and abolished many of the duties proposed by the Government in the original Tariff, but, as the Treasurer has said, only in two- cases has an attempt been- made by the Government to reverse the decision come to. I do not see any justification for the present attempt. Although we on this side of the chamber may not approve of any duty on salt, we have at least accepted the decision of the committee to make the impost 10s.; but the Ministry desire to increase the rate from 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, or 37£ per cent. From the Australian manufacturers’, point of view, there is, in my opinion, a gooddeal of folly in the request for the extra duty. Among the exemptions is brown rock salt : and in this connexion I know what’ took place when there was a duty of 20s. per ton on salt in New South Wales. Rock salt .was imported free, and was brought in ground and sold in the market. Precaution has been taken against that in the Tariff, by freeing only brown rock salt ; but the latter, with- an advantage of 15s., can be ground and used for many manufacturing and scientific processes and some other purposes where the colour does not matter. While there is no inducement to incur two cartages, the expense of milling, and so on, of brown rock salt, when there is an advantage of only 10s. as against white- salt, there is every inducement with an advantage of 1 5s. That has been done before, and will be done again, and the South Australian manufacturers, if there be a higher duty, will find many avenues closed by the use of’ brown rock salt.
Mr. MACDONALD-PATERSON (Brisbane). - I should like to impress the pregnant fact on the committee that Queensland and New South Wales- have jumped from free salt to- salt carrying a duty of 10s. per ton. I know - nothing as to the quality of the salt, its price, or the profits made by the producers ; bat I am as anxious as any advocate of the duty of 1 5s. to see the industry established in Australia. I accept the statement that the South Australian salt is of the finest quality, but that is a reason why the industry should be able to prosper without a larger duty. The Minister for Trade and Customs told us that prior to the imposition of the Federal Tariff, four of the States imposed a duty upon salt, while two of them admitted it duty free. But the suggestion that it is possible to level up the duty argues a want of knowledge of the varying climate andconditions of the continent. I have an intimate knowledge of everything that has been written by every explorer of this country, and I know a great part of it myself from personal travel. I am also a constant student of the reports of the hides, tallow, wool, horn, and meat markets. Therefore I claim to be able to- speak with some authority upon this subject, and I say that while there may be- some regions in which salt is not much required for stock, in most districts it is very greatly needed-, and is indeed a sine qua” non of the pastoral industry. In the moist coastal districts, for instance, where the grasses are often coarse- and sour, salt is absolutely necessary to keep the cattle and sheep- in health, and to prevent them from dying. To propose to increase the duty upon salt by 50 per cent, at a time when the pastoral industry is almost annihilated, and two of the States have lost 33,000,000 sheep, when money is dear and taxation is being increased, is to propose to levy blackmail upon the settlers of Australia. Queensland exports more hides and more meat alive and dead than does any of the other States, and her consumption of salt is, therefore, greater in proportion to population than is that of any other State. What then is the use of dividing the annual consumption of salt by the population of Australia, and saying that the consumption per head is so much ? In North-western Queensland we have great lakes which sometimes dry up, and then salt can be obtained from them to the amount of hundreds of tons, though it so happens that there is no railway by which it can be distributed amongst the people. Tasmania, being a small island, has a saline atmosphere which no doubt tinctures its pastures with salt, but, although it is blessed with a very fine climate, it has to import sheep and cattle from Australia. The point I wish to make is that the conditions of the various parts of Australia are so different that it is absurd to propose a duty upon an article in universal use simply because it was formerly taxed by some States of the Commonwealth.
– I did not know until recently that obstinacy is so marked a characteristic of the Minister for Trade and Customs as I now find it to be. He has again and again referred to the customs duties of Tasmania as though they were a model which I must approve, and I have repeatedly pointed out to him that they were imposed at a time of extreme pressure, and that I endeavoured to the best of my ability to reduce them before I left office.
– Is Tasmania much better off to-day t
– Are we much better off when ruin stares us in the face, and another blow is about to be inflicted upon the agricultural and pastoral community? The Tasmanian duty upon salt was an abominable duty, and one which I, three years ago, would have admitted should be abolished, or at any rate materially reduced. But the Minister has omitted to tell the committee that not only was rock-salt exempt from duty under the Tasmanian Tariff, but that salt rendered unfit for human consumption, that is to say all salt imported for the use of live stock or as manure, was admitted free. In any case, however, it is no argument for imposing an absurdly high duty throughout the Commonwealth to show that Tasmania had an absurdly high duty. Some of the States admitted salt duty free, and the difficulties which they had to face, failed to compel them to depart from that position. The Minister quoted the report of an expert at the Hawkesbury college in New South Wales as to the quality of the South Australian salt. That expert, however, said only that South Australian salt for its quality is to be compared with other salt.
– He said that the extra refined salt compares more than favorably for butter making with anything of its kind.
– “ With anything of its kind ! “ That qualification gives away the whole position. We may very well assume that there are many other kinds of salt that would be better for this purpose. I hope the committee will stand by what has been done deliberately after considerable discussion, and that it will not allow any influence to induce it to turn its back upon itself.
– I find that I owe an apology to the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon. I accused the right honorable gentleman of being in- consistent in opposing a duty of 15s. per ton upon salt, whilst Tasmania had levied a duty of 20s. per ton. I. find now that I was wrong ; I ought to have said that Tasmania levied a duty of 30s. per ton.
Mr.McCAY (Corinella). - During a somewhat lengthy discussion we have heard a good deal about the burden that will be placed upon the agriculturists and pastoralists if the duty on salt is increased from 10s. to 15s. per ton. I have taken the trouble to work out the extent to which the duty will operate as a tax upon the dairying and pastoral interests. I am assuming, for the sake of argument, that the increased duty will be passed on to the purchaser of the salt. If the extra 5s. per ton has to be paid on the salt used in the manufacture of butter in the ratio of 7 lb. of salt to every 100 lb. of butter, I find that the dairying industry of Australia will be handicapped to the extent of having to pay 4d. per ton more for the production of its butter. Assuming that this is an extra charge upon the butter produced in Australia, I do not think that it will affect the dairying industry very seriously ; consequently the increase now contemplatedshould not prove very alarming to the smallest or to the largest of our dairy farmers. Even taking it for granted that the dairymen have to pay the whole duty of 15s. per ton upon salt, the tax upon them will not amount to more than 1s. per ton of butter, and that would not represent the margin between profit and loss. So far as the pastoral industry is concerned, I calculate that if one ton of salt per annum is used for every 1,000 sheep, the proposed increase of duty will involve a tax upon a pastoralist of1d. per annum for every seventeen sheep. I conceive that this extra expense will not represent the difference between profit and loss to the sheep-breeder.
– I think that the public who have watched the mysterious evolutions of this Tariff will feel some astonishment, and indulge in some speculation, as to the extraordinary developments which have led Ministers who profess to be so desperately anxious to close the session, and who speak so frequently as to the imperative necessity of removing from the mercantile and industrial communities the uncertainties connected with the discussion of these duties, to regard this item of salt as of sufficient importance to justify a course of action which I most strongly condemn. There are a thousand reasons bearing upon the merits of the case why this matter should have been allowed to rest ; but the fact that any Government which really wishes to expedite business should throw down this bone of contention at the present most inconvenient time suggests a number of interesting speculations. “What is the particular charm that surrounds the interests of those people who manufacture salt in Australia ? Why should their claims be advanced, whilst piteous appeals from a large number of industries engaged in a bitter struggle for existence are absolutely unheeded and treated with contempt ? The salt industry already enjoys an enormous protection in the cost of bringing the commodity from distant countries to the Commonwealth, and in addition to that the protection granted by the present duty is higher onthead valorem scale than that accorded to almost any other industry in Australia. Yet the Government have brought up this bone of contention again, and after a decision has been arrived at by a majority of six they are making a desperate struggle to add another 10 or 15 per cent, to the 30 or 40 per cent, protection already granted. The Treasurer for a moment won my sympathy by the candid revelation he made that this increase was really being proposed to the pain, and contrary to the delicacy of feeling of the Minister for Trade and Customs. This revelation made us almost feel prepared to add another £1 per ton to the duty, but my feelings were slightly cooled when I referred to the printed schedule, and found that this paragon of delicacy had placed the proposal for an increase of duty under his own name. What sort of farce is this ? One Minister proposes this duty, and states that it is being brought forward contrary to the delicate feelings of his friend and colleague, and then we find that this same friend and colleague had associated his own name with the proposal before the face of the whole world. Why this explanation? What apology is necessary for the Minister for Trade and Customs? He is not a shareholder in the salt company ; he has no personal interest in the matter. We know that he is incapable of any dishonorable act. Then why this reference to delicacy of feeling on his part, except it be intended as an appeal to the weak generosity of honorable members? It is most unfair to appeal to the sympathies of this committee by putting the somewhat rough-and-ready Minister for Trade and Customs under a glass case, as one of those delicate, intellectual entities, who shudder at the slightest risk of misconstruction. To be suspected of having even a kindly feeling for a South Australian industry is an imputation which fills the delicate sensibilities of my somewhat retiring friend with horror.When we find that this item of salt draws from our matter-of-fact friend, the Treasurer - whose somewhat limited range is atoned for by his thoroughly honorable and candid treatment of all matters so that he always commands our respect - this poetic attitude of admiration for his delicate friend and colleague beside him, we really want to know what sort of rehearsals have led up to this marvellous performance before the public of Australia. How many wires were pulled, how many pulses felt, before the Government which talked about recommitting the item of tea, could muster courage enough to throw overboard their delicate feelings and susceptibilities in order to -make this blunt proposal? They weregoing to recommit the- item of tea, they said, because it was one which affected the revenue of the Commonwealth, and even the solvency of the States. But when the wires were pulled and the pulses were felt, this heroic Government, which need have no delicacy upon’ the subject of Chinese tea, found that a certain section of the committee would take it as an exceedingly offensive proceeding if they endeavoured to obtain £300,000 01 400,000 of revenue from a duty upon that article. The moment they discovered this, their courage shrank from the ordeal, and as a result we hear no more about the proposal to include tea in the list of recommittals. The desirableness of preserving the solvency of the States could not inspire them with sufficient courage to bring the item of tea before us for reconsideration, but the desperate zeal of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, has been able to induce them to adopt that course in regard to salt. If the Government wished to choose an item which brought before the minds and consciences of the people of Australia the horrid selfishness underlying so many of these proposals they could not have chosen- a better one than this. I say nothing about the fact that salt is one of the essentials to human life and health. But I ask those guardians, who are so keen to look after the interests of this or that little knot pf people in the Commonwealth, to consider for a moment the interests of the great majority. While it is easy for the honorable and learned member who spoke a moment or two a,go to work out ingenious calculations as to how much per cwt. this or that duty will place upon the energies of our struggling population, and to indulge in correct little addresses to this select audience, I ask honorable members to recollect that the people to whom he refers have a sufficiently hard task to preserve their solvency in the bitter struggle against the unchecked competition of the whole world. Surely some of our sympathy and care should be directed towards making the burdens upon things- which are so vitally necessary in the industrial operations of this country as light as possible. Whilst men who have never studied the result of keen competition in the markets of the world can speak so lightly about adding this or that trifle per cwt. to any particular ‘ article, do we not know that out of the tiny difference between the price of a- commodity in one country and its cost in another, developments of. commerce have occurred, which in the course of time represented large sources of wealth to one country at the expense of great distress in another ? Do we not know that many of the gigantic industrial developments which, to- clay, excite our admiration had for the secret of their greatness the smallest beginnings ? Let us show some of our charity and consideration to those who bea.r the heat and burden of the day. When we talk of the keenness of competition, which is felt here in respect of the productions of distant lands, can we forget that our own settlers, afflicted by drought and a thousand, calamities, have to send their products across the seas, to face the bitterest competition from all the white and coloured nations of the world ? Cannot the current of our sympathies turn away from this or that little spot of self-interest, from this or that whining appeal for more charity, toconsider the state of the people upon whom the prosperity of this country really depends ? If some concession is to be made at the last moment, cannot we make it in the interests of the great primary industries ? I do not ask honorable members who have so loyally supported these high duties forany generosity, but I do say that if there is to be any sympathy hawked about this chamber, we should give the great Australian industries the benefit of it. Let the heart and the mind which can be excited by the contemplation of a cry from a salt-pan in South Australia listen to the voice of the tens of thousands ofpeople who are laying the foundations of Australian, greatness all over this continent. After the monstrous production which the Ministry laid upon the table of this House in the shape of a Tariff which night after night was torn to shreds, one would have thought that they had been humiliated sufficiently and had learned enough to prevent them from again challenging the conscience and independence of men who sit here, and who - are determined, whether in a majority or a minority, that the great interests of this country shall be recognised. If we cannot win we are determined that all the secret machinations which go on shall see the light of day. When week after week we have heard the wails of every industry in Melbourne, when we have seen the interests ‘Of South Australian manufactures loyally championed by their representatives, when we have beheld the large industries of States not so near to the centre of our deliberations treated by the Government with ignorance and contempt, we begin to regret that a stalwart champion like the Minister for Trade and ‘Customs does not represent in the Cabinet the interests of New South Wales. . If New South Wales had had the good fortune to be represented in the Government by the Minister for Trade and Customs, we should have been spared some extraordinary revelations of absolute ignorance in regard to some of the largest industries upon this continent. I do not wish my remarks to acquire any unfriendly tinge. I cannot help feeling a sort of sneaking sympathy with honorable mem bers who do their best for the industries of the particular State which they represent. I see in that no sign of turpitude, but I do say that the pioneers of Queensland and New South Wales, who .are the future backbone of the Australian nation, and who are working out the rough and difficult problems of colonization under the most arduous conditions, are entitled to some slight consideration. It is a small matter, but, as has been said, the great interests of humanity are all small. The daily struggle of every family settled on. our wide lands is small, insignificant, and a somewhat repulsive spectacle ; but out ‘Of the energies and strife of these people must come the future greatness of Australia. I can quite understand that honorable members, hardened by what they have come to know of the various contra.vances used to excite the sympathy of this Chamber, become somewhat cynical when any reference is made to the interests of the great body of the people. At election time these interests are the most congenial theme of all politicans. How touching is the solicitude of the candidate for the welfare of the farmer, the miner, the dairy-farmer, and the selector? But when he comes into this chamber, where the convictions and the desires of the great body of the people should be crystallized into good laws, there seems to be a somewhat different atmosphere, and the solicitude of the candidate disappears under the pressure of private interests. Some gentlemen, who before their constituents are full of the most sublime generalities, are quite a pattern of cynical indifference in this chamber.
Their sensibilities can be inflamed only by the question of taxing -butter-box timber, or some other contemptible trifle. Surely, now that we are approaching the end of our task, we might leave buried the conflicts .of the past. Have the Ministry not had enough experience in dealing with this Tariff that they court another series -of defeats and humiliations ? Is there not a point at which their appetite will be sated, and, with a chastened and better informed mind, they will settle down to the business before them? Are they still in that frame of mind .that they undertake chivalrous adventures at this unseasonable time 1 Have the people engaged in the salt industry presented any pitiable petition ito the House 1 If so, it has been addressed to some quarter in which it has not met the public eye. So far as we simpletons know, those engaged in the industry have been absolutely contented with the decision of the committee. When was the vote on this item arrived at ?
– On the 29th November.
– Since then, so far as we know, there has not been a whisper of discontent on the port of the persons immediately interested. If they have made an appeal, to whom was it made, and where is the appeal now ? Have they selected the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, as the recipient of all their woes and sufferings, or have they addressed Ministers? We have had the same old formula from some honorable members, that with a duty of 15s. this industry might possibly be able to survive ; but whatever is the influence which has been at work, and which has been strong enough to bring the Government out of its shell in defence of the salt man - although they could not be drawn out on behalf of the public revenue or the solvency of the States - it is an influence of which we know nothing. It is grotesque to talk of this as an industry for which the present protection is not enough. When South Australia was walled off from the other divisions of the continent by State Tariffs the salt manufacturers, in competition with the whole world, were able to send their salt into the port of Melbourne, pay £1 a ton and -thrive, injuring very seriously the salt industry of Geelong. Surely such an industry can thrive when all the barriers are thrown down, and a fence, represented by 10s. a ton, is erected around the Commonwealth for its special benefit. In New South Wales, when there was a free market, the salt manufacturers of South Australia were able to make giant, strides, and they sold enormous quantities of salt against the competition of the world in Sydney and Brisbane. So far as we know a duty of 10s. satisfies the manufacturers, but what is enough to satisfy them is not enough to satisfy the Ministry. If this industry had been on the banks of the Parramatta River, we should not have had the Ministry making this proposal without, so far as we know, any pressure whatever. The honorable member for Gippsland voted for the duty of 10s., but made it perfectly clear that he really desired a duty of 15s.
– The honorable member for Gippsland voted against the duty of 10s.
– At any rate the honorable member made it perfectly clear that he wished to vote for a duty of los.
– But the honorable member voted against a duty of 10s.
– That makes my position stronger than I thought, because now, instead of regarding the honorable member as one who voted with us, I can regard him as one who voted with the Government. The honorable member, in voting for a duty of £1 per ton, expressed his individual preference for a duty of 15s. per ton, and after the division was taken, he said that so far as he was concerned he did not wish to disturb the position. I do not think, however, that the honorable member was then fully reported, and I believe he again expressed his wish to fix the duty at 1 5s. He is an honorable member who has a position of influence in this Chamber, and I ask him whether he has, during the last four months, made any request to the Ministry to bring this item forward again t If a gentleman like the honorable member for Gippsland, who is perfectly outside local influences in this connexion, can be said to have gone to the Ministry and asked them to recommit this item, I should, while expressing my surprise, say that a representation coming from him was one to which the Government might fairly listen.,, I do not believe that the honorable member, from that moment to this, has ever taken the trouble to walk to the Minister’s chair to ask him to re-introduce this item, nor do I believe, that any other honorable member has done so, except, perhaps, a South Australian member. As to the South Australian members, they might fairly be overcome with sympathy for the men engaged in .this industry, and make an effort on behalf of their State. What the public want to know, and what I want to know, is how it is that the representatives of South Australia in this House are able to make the Government do for salt that which they would not do, with one exception, for any other industry ‘ How is it that the representations made on behalf of great industries in New South Wales have not been listened to 1 I begged the Ministry, in the interests of the public time, at the opening of this debate, before I indulged in any controversial observations, not to make us fight this battle over again. They would not listen to me, however. They chose to listen to those who were clamouring for another ounce of blood from the veins of Australian industry. Honorable members opposite belong to a party whose political avocation it has been to let blood ; but, unfortunately for them, the people in parts of the continent are not accustomed to be bled, and do not find it a pleasant process. Of course, if the Government have felt the pulses of honorable members, and have come to the conclusion that they will not be beaten upon this proposal, they will have something to compensate them for the loss of time which their action has occasioned ; but I should like to know the name of any one member who has waited upon them with the request to have the matter re-opened so that he might alter his position in regard to the duty upon salt. Without imputing any personal improprieties of conduct to Ministers, I say that it is a mystery why they have chosen to fight this battle over again. Whilst we on this side have quietly accepted our defeats when beaten, and rejoiced in our victories when we have won, the audacity of the Government, in making proposals which tend to a further waste of public time, as though they had not already, a sufficiently bad reputation in that regard, will not cause us to relax our opposition. If the Ministry, after a proposal has been defeated by six votes, feel justified in re-submitting it, we shall feel justified in proposing the reconsideration of a number of other items in regard to which the majority against us was a majority not of six, but of only one or two.
If the Government have no sense of finalty, the Opposition need not have any. Therefore, this new departure may be fraught with very disastrous results. ‘ Although the Opposition have had a thankless task in improving the Tariff so that people can look at it without a shudder of horror, we are determined, if the Government persist in this course, to move the reconsideration of a number of other items in regard to which there was a much closer division of opinion than there was upon the duty on salt, and I warn them that I have come back perfectly fresh and well able to work.
– I congratulate the right honorable member upon having reached in regard to his speech that finality which he asks in regard to the Tariff. I welcome his return to this Chamber, and I hope that now that he has come back he will stay here, and will thus avoid the necessity of endeavouring to make a splash by a rehash of election speeches delivered in ignorance of what went on in his absence.
– Is not that a slight exaggeration ?
– No doubt the right honorable member for Tasmania feels that lie, too, is a sinner in this respect, and he wishes by excusing his leader to excuse himself. We are willing to make every allowance for these absences, but we ask that honorable gentlemen when they return may be content with short and reasonable utterances upon suitable occasions, and that we shall not suffer from an accumulation of oratory which they must get off their chests at any risk, to avoid more disastrous results. For the right honorable member for East Sydney to pretend to have found in the proposal before the committee some evidence of a new trait in my character is altogether absurd. I am not in the habit of residing under a glass case, or in a band-box, and if honorable gentlemen wish to meet me in the political ring, or elsewhere, I shall be delighted to accommodate them. I take the full responsibility for everything that has been done by the Government in connexion with the Tariff.
– Then why did the Treasurer make the statement which he made tonight?
– Because of the right honorable member’s stupid assertion. The right honorable member is so often wrong where he should know better, that the Treasurer felt himself obliged to set him right where he ‘ could not know anything. The right honorable member suggested, in regard to myself, a number of things which are not as he put them, and, as a concession to his combined curiosity and ignorance, the Treasurer gave him the information upon which he has commented. Neither of us is physically capable of cowering in the corner of a glass case, and I trust that other characteristics would prevent us from doing so. The right honorable member tore a passion to tatters just now, until I was afraid his voice would crack, in making an electioneering clap-trap speech upon something which had nothing to do with the question before the committee.
– The right honorable gentleman takes exception to my occasional absences, but why is not the Prime Minister in his place ?
– He is attending to his duty elsewhere. It does not take three Ministers to deal with the Tariff. The right honorable member’s question is another example of the idle inquiries which he is prone to make about matters which do not concern him ; but if his curiosity were not satisfied he would, no doubt, make the matter his excuse for another endless oration. We know that this habit has a very strong hold upon him ; but in the mercy of Providence, since the worst cases sometimes reform, there is possibly hope for him. When I remember that a few minutes ago the vaults and galleries of the Chamber were echoing with his shrieks in regard to the proposal of the Government to increase the duty upon salt from 10s. to 15s. per ton, I am reminded of the story of the two highwaymen who tried* to rob a Scotchman He made a furious resistance, but, after a terrific fight, they knocked him down and robbed him of sixpence - all he had. They said when they were able to pocket the gain - “Thank God he had not half-a-crown, or he would have killed us.” Considering what we have suffered already from the eloquence of the right honorable member, we ought to be grateful for what we have escaped. We do not believe in unnecessarily recommitting any item, but I think we ought to recommit a duty when a vote has been taken under a misunderstanding.
– What was the misunderstanding ?
– When the committee were still in division, the honorable member for Moira said -
I am desirous of supporting a duty of 15s., and I should like to know whether, in the event of 10s. being fixed by this division, there will be an opportunity of increasing the amount to 15s.
The honorable member for Gippsland then said -
It is on that understanding we are voting.
Exception was taken to that by the Chairman, and then the Treasurer said -
If the division be in favour of a duty of £1, an amendment to ‘reduce it to 15s. may be moved subsequently.
Immediately afterwards the division took place, and the honorable member for Moira remarked -
A little confusion occurred owing to the fact that a number of honorablemembers were under the impression that after a duty of 10s. had been carried a duty of 15s. might be proposed. In order to test the feeling of the committee, I move -
That the words “and on and after 1st December,1901, 15s. “ be added to the duty as amended. Then there was a discussion as to whether that would be regular. Several honorable members stated that they had intended to vote for a duty of 15s.
– Who were they ?
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie said -
I really think that there is nothing in the standing orders or in parliamentary practice to prevent the amendment of the honorable member being moved, and if it is pressed I shall certainly voce for it.
The honorable member for Wentworth observed -
I think that the honorable member for Moira is technically right ; but I would point out that there has been an agreement amongst us as to the course of procedure which should be adopted in order to facilitate public business. How can the honorable member expect to win when the committee have just decided by a vote to fix the duty upon this article at 10s. per ton? Surely that decision negativesa proposal to fix the rate at 15s. per ton. To discuss the matter would only be to waste time. If the honorable member for Moira presses his Amendment, he is breaking the understanding which has been arrived at in regard to the mode in which we were to deal with these items.
Then the late lamented Mr. Piesse remarked -
I voted in favour of fixing the duty at 10s. per ton upon the understanding that I should have a subsequent opportunity of voting for a rate of 15s. per ton; which is the rate I wished to see imposed.
The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, said -
Many honorable members will be denied an opportunity of declaring the amount of duty which they think ought to be imposed upon salt, unless they are allowed to vote for a rate of 15s. per ton.
I then rose, stating -
I rise for the purpose of asking the honorable member for Moira not to press his amendment. It is not thatwe are wanting in sympathy with it, but I think that the course proposed would establish a mischievous precedent. It is much better that we should have an honorable understanding as to the course which is to be followed in such circumstances. I therefore ask the honorable member to withdraw the amendment.
The honorable member for Echuca said -
In the present instance a number of those who thought that 20s. was too high and 10s. toolow are precluded from voting for an intermediate duty.
The honorable member for Kennedy then pointed out that -
The proper course to be followed by those who desired the imposition of a duty of 15s. per ton was to negative the amendment for a 10s. per ton rate, and subsequently* to move for a duty of 15s. per ton.
No doubt that is so. As a matter of fact, any one who readsthe record of the division cannot fail to be satisfied that there was confusion as to the position, and that a number of honorable members really supported the reduction of the duty to 10s. when their intention was to fix theduty at 15s. There is no doubt in my own mind that a number of votes were affected by this confusion, and under all these circumstances weshould be doing a wrong if we failed to offer an opportunity for rectifying a decision arrived at under a misunderstanding. We have been asked whether any appeal has been made with regard to the increase of the salt duty. I do not mind telling honorable members that in December last a telegram, which was published in the local press, was forwarded to me from the Premier of South Australia with regard to the effect of the duty upon the salt industry upon Yorke’s Peninsula. In that district the salt industry proves of very greatassistance to a number of farmers in the neighbourhood of the salt lakes. They become possessed of these lakes as lessees, or they acquire the right to collect the salt, and when they are not busy with their farming operations they devote a considerable portion of their time to its collection, and they sell the salt at very considerable advantages to themselves.
The Premier of South Australia telegraphed to me as follows : -
Deputation of members, Peninsula and others, waited on me, strongly urge duty 10s. salt imperils industry, and ask you reintroduce and make it at least 15s.
– The Premier of South Australia says much the same thing about tea.
– We have never promised to recommit the tea duty. I am not sure whether I have had a telegram on that subject from the Premier of South Australia, but I know the sentiment of the South Australian Government, and of the people of South Australia generally, regarding the tea duty. Some things, however, are practicable, and some are not, and we should not be justified in recommitting a duty unless there was a possibility of some alteration being made in the desired direction. The reply I sent to the Premier of South Australia was as follows : -
Be salt, telegram received : this Government spared no pains to secure a fairer duty than 10s. I will bring your request for further consideration under notice of my colleagues.
I do not know that anything further remains for me to say in this connexion. I think the warmth of the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney has been wasted, although it was somewhat excusable under the circumstances to which I have referred.
– The light honorable gentleman is not deficient in pepper himself.
-I accept that as another excuse for my right honorable friend’s intemperate remarks. I believe if he had been here he would have more fully recognised the mistake under which some of the votes were cast, and that the Government are only doing their duty in affording another opportunity for discussion. The right honorable gentleman has spoken about our facilitating the reconsideration of items only in cases where that course is urged by Government supporters. I would point out, however, that the very first matter we discussed yesterday was a motion tabled by a member of the Opposition, and supported by the full strength of the party. This was intended to reopen a question which had been decided previously, not by a majority of two, or four, or six, such as has been referred to by the right honorable gentleman, but by 32 or 31 votes against 16. How can it lie, therefore, in the mouth of the right honorable gentleman to suggest that we should not re-open the consideration of a matter such as that now before us. The third item on the list of recommittals is a proposal that the duty on cigars should be reviewed. This was brought forward by the acting leader of the Opposition, and although we had discussed and settled the matter before, it was re-opened at his instance. Then we re-opened the question of the duty on bananas, and if I really wanted to show the inconsistencies of His Majesty’s Opposition, and how their arguments do not tally with their facts, I might go on multiplying the instances indefinitely. I do not, however, think it worth while to further detain the committee.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- Since the Minister for Trade and Customs has set the fashion of making several speeches on the same subject, I do not see why I should not follow such a distinguished example. I wish to complain of the delusion under which the right honorable gentleman seems to labour. He thinks that when a definite statement is. made, involving a particular point, he has only to emulate the physical agility of an acrobat on a rope suspended from the ceiling in order to answer the whole of the arguments advanced. My right honorable friend has indulged in a number of contortions, but he has not answered the point which I have placed before him. I challenged the Minister to name one honorable member who had voted for the reduced duty of 10s. under a misapprehension, and who desired that this matter should be re-opened. That was the direct categorical challenge that I addressed to the Minister. He immediately responded with a number of elocutionary effects which were not at all graceful, and which did not deal with the point I put to him. I have the division list, and I find that every honorable member who spoke infavour of a duty of 15s. voted against the reduction to 10s., and not for it. The right honorable gentleman must think that he is addressing a number of juveniles when he considers that he can reply to a definite charge by such grossly inaccurate statements as he has made. Is the right honorable gentleman addressing children, or men of intelligence, who have access to the records of Parliament? The honorable member for Moira, whose name has been introduced in such a way that one would think he had voted for the reduction of the duty to 10s., actually voted against it. The honorable member for Gippsland also voted against it, and there is not one honorable member who expressed a desire for reconsideration who was not amongst the beaten minority. What sense, therefore, is there in speaking as if some honorable members voted for the 10s. duty under a misapprehension? How can my right honorable friend hope to impose upon the good sense and recollection of honor-
Able members by making it appear that a number of honorable members were so ignorant of the way in which the proposal was put that they voted contrary to the way in which they would have desired ? The amendment was plain enough -
That the words “and on and after 30th November, 1001, 10s.” be added.
Then the question was put - “That the words proposed to be added be so added.” Could any honorable member be so ignorant of parliamentary procedure as not to know that if he wanted the duty fixed at los. per ton he would have to vote against the proposal to reduce it to 10s. per ton, and leave the duty to stand so that it might be dealt with by a subsequent amendment? So that my right honorable friend is entirely wrong.
– There was a general statement made.
– No general statements are recorded in Mansard, but only the individual statements of members. Except two honorable members, who have been “ got at,” every one of those who voted for the 10s. per ton duty will vote for it to-night.
– -“Got at”?
– I cannot understand the horror of Ministers at the suggestion of an honorable member being “got at” when they specially employ a man for that very purpose. When I look at the “pairs” I find that seven honorable members voted for the duty of 1 Os. per ton, every one of whom, as members of the Opposition, will adopt the same course upon the present occasion. Both in the division and in the pairs, . therefore, the members who desired to have this question re<-opened were in the minority. The Minister for Trade and Customs practically admits that the salt industry has not made a single appeal to the Government for an increased duty, although it is true, that the Premier of South Australia has made a recommendation to that effect. I feel perfectly sure that the Government have “ squared “ a sufficient number of honorable members to win upon the present occasion, otherwise they would not have been so madly reckless, as to recommit this item. What makes me so indignant is that those who voted straightforwardly upon this issue have been treated as if they voted for a duty of 10s. per ton, whilst desiring to obtain a duty of los. per ton. From a perusal of Hansard, however, I cannot find a single honorable member who voted for the 10s. rate, and who was not honestly in favour of it. I sincerely deprecate the revival of these old fights, but if the Government will provoke them we are not responsible. If any honorable member thought that the decision to impose a duty of 10s. per ton was arrived at owing to a misunderstanding, the matter should have been re-opened by him. The Ministry were nut pledged to bring this item forward again. If the honorable member for M!oira wished to have the duty upon salt reconsidered, why did not the Government allow him to take his own course 1 I object to the Ministry lending their weight to- a proceeding which must lead to a great waste of time.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). -I would point out that 110,000 tons of salt are annually used within the Commonwealth, and a duty of 10s. per ton upon that quantity represents £55,000, while the proposed duty of 15s. per ton ought to yield £77,000. The Government, however anticipate receiving only £20,000; so that upon their own showing they expect £57,000 to go into the jackets of one or’ two companies. In view of these figures, do they think it right to ask the committee- to reverse the decision which was previously arrived at ? Every honorable member who registers a vote upon the present occasion contrary to that which he previously cast will, unless he explains his reasons for so doing, lie under the imputation that he did not care to explain them. When- this matter was last decided, the honorable member for Gippsland, speaking of an amendment to impose a l’5s. rate, said -
As a clear majority have voted for a duty of 10s. per ton, I- do not think we should disturb their decision by pressing for a 15s. rate, although the amendment proposed is technically in order.
In the face of such a statement, it appears to me that the honorable member would be justified in declining to support a duty of 15s. per ton. Does the honorable and learned member for Bendigo think it right after this lapse of time-supposing that a mistake had been made by . the committee previously - that honorable members should be asked to reverse their decision, making it clear to the outside public that if there is only sufficient log-rolling any decision of this committee can be reversed ?
– At the request of the South Australian Government.
– I should like to quote for the benefit of the honorable and learned member from the South Australian Hansard to show that half-a-dozen years ago the Castle Salt Company said that it would be able to carry on the whole salt trade of Australia, without a duty of 10s. a ton. Have the directors of the company anything to say in this matter? If so, why have they not put it forward for the information of honorable members? No petition has been received from the workmen showing that their wages are absolutely dependent upon this duty. It has been pointed out that there has been no duty on salt in New South Wales and Queensland, which contain one-half of the population of Australia, and it has also been shown that this same salt company exported salt to those States. Surely it will not be argued that they sold their salt at a loss. They were business men and were not carrying on for philanthropic purposes. If they were, it would be a pity for us to break up such a community of generous-minded individuals as the shareholders of this company. The Minister for Trade and Customs has not said a word in favour of the duty. All he has donehas been to make an attack upon the leader of the Opposition.. He has not asked that those engaged in the primary industries of the country should be considered - those for in- stancewho are concerned in the agricultural, dairying, and meat preserving industries, who use enormous quantities of salt. If the present duty is carried it will amount to nearly £80,000 a year tax upon the primary industries of Australia, £20,000 of which will go to the revenue and the other £60,000 to the company in South Australia. I suppose that that large amount is to go to the company because it has not paid a dividend. I trust that the committee will adhere to its previous decision.
Question - That the words” and on and after the 4th April, 1902, per ton 15s.” be added - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 22
Noes … ‘ … 19
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– Honorable members will recollect that when we were dealing with the question of oils, we put a duty on cotton seed oil, because, for one reason, it competed with our local olive oil, and also because it was thought that thatparticular oil should not be utilized in the manner in which it is being u tilized in some respects. It was suggested at the time - and we have since given the matter f urther consideration -that if we put a heavy duty on the oil itself, we must in regard to cotton seed have some impost which will be about equal to that duty, or otherwise the oil will be made here and all the difficulties arise which we are endeavouring to avoid. Under these circumstances we now propose to make cotton seed, from which the oil is prepared, dutiable at the rate of 4s. per cental. The amounts have been worked out and this 4s. per cental is, as nearly as possible, a rate equal to the duty we have placed on the oil itself. I move -
That the following new item be inserted, to follow item 49 : - “ Seed, cotton, on and after 4th April, 1902, per cental, 4s.”
– When this item was previously before the committee I pointed out that in dealing with the Tariff we ought not to try to pass adulteration legislation, as we should be doing if we acted on the contention of the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Treasurer that cotton seed oil is injurious. That contention, however, does not happen to be correct, and would be used only by men grossly ignorant of chemistry. The Government have never taken the trouble to consult one chemist on the question ; but if they had looked at the statistics of the world they would have seen that one thousand million gallons per annum are manufactured in the United States. Those who support the higher duty do so for reasons which they decline to make public, in the fear that, otherwise, they would never have another opportunity of recording a vote in this chamber. The Government hold their position here in consequence of the gross misrepresentation made to the public during the federal elections by the Prime Minister and two of his colleagues. By these misrepresentations halfadozen seats were lost to the free-trade side, or sufficient to have given a majority when dealing with the Tariff. (Committee counted.) The Minister for Trade and Customs asked for a duty of 2s. per gallon on cotton-seed oil, because he wanted the impost to be practically prohibitive. The reason given by the Minister was, as I say, that cottonseed oil is injurious, and the least he could have done in the interval was to consult some expert. But the right honorable gentleman, like some of the honorable members who vote with him, is proud of his ignorance, which is so great that the patience of better-informed members is fairly exhausted. The Minister’s notions are those which prevailed 50 years ago, when oil in commercial quantities was first extracted from cotton seed under primitive conditions. If the Ministry are right in their contention that cotton-seed oil is injurious - and no one who knows anything about the subject would say so - the matter ought to-be dealt with in an Adulteration Act. But this legal Ministry are doing all they can to make things obscure, so that people will be forced to employ lawyers. Thus we have provisions relating to gambling, and even to drinking, hidden away in the Postal Act, and provisions relating to adulteration and to improper literature in the Customs Act. The sooner the people send Ministers to the right-about the better, because we have the admission of the Attorney-General that the legislation which they have passed is so full of mistakes that action after action has been started throughout the Commonwealth. If it is argued that protection should be given to the growing of cotton seed within the Commonwealth. I ask why is not a protective duty enough 2 Why should the importation of cotton-seed oil be prohibited? Mr. Wilkinson.- At the present time, no protection is given to the cotton growers.
– Would the honorable member vote for a duty upon cotton goods ?
– I voted for that duty.
– The honorable member votes for every duty which will fall heavily upon the great mass of the people, but I have seen an excellent article about the incidence of duties, written by him, and I am therefore surprised at the votes he has given. The honorable member might remember that the Ministry are as ignorant on other subjects as they are of the elementary laws of chemistry, and he should therefore know better than to follow them. It is a disgrace to ask the committee to pass this duty. When one remembers that if it is agreed to, forty or fifty men in Sydney will be thrown out of employment, one feels that the Ministers now in power are not fitted to manage the affairs of the Commonwealth. Their conduct has already landed us in difficulties with every State, and they will not learn that the best thing for the people is, in most matters, to be left alone. I move -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion of the words “1s.” before the words “4s.” ‘
– It seems to me quite opposed to the policy of protection to impose a higher duty upon cotton seed - the raw material of cotton-seed oil - than upon cotton-seed oil.
– Methylated cottonseed oil is charged 6d. per gallon. The two duties are as nearly as possible alike.
Mr.W ATKINS. - It might suit certain manufacturers to import cotton seed, and make it into oil. Surely that should be encouraged ?
– I do not know that it is likely to be done.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendments (by Mr. Conroy) negatived -
That the amendment be amended, by the insertion of the words “ 2s. “ before the words “4s. “
That the amendment be amended, by the insertion of the words “ 3s.” before the words “4s. “
Amendment agreed to.
New item agreed to.
Item 57. - Apparel and attire and articlest n.e.i. - … Woollen or silk . .cu into shape, ad valorem, 25 per cent.
– I move-
That the words “ and dressed feathers “be inserted after the words “ cut into shape.”
Wo have provided that the duty upon undressed feathers shall be 15 per cent., and we think it fair, in order to encourage the dressing of feathers within the Commonwealth, to place a duty of 25 per cent, upon dressed feathers, in order to give a margin of 10 per cent, to the local manufacturer.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I do not know what revenue is expected to be derived under this proposal. Before we are asked to vote for any duty we should have the fullest information. However, as other honorable members are apparently prepared to vote in the dark, I suppose it is useless for me to hold myself up as a shining light.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
House adjourned at 1 1.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 April 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020403_reps_1_9/>.