8th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk announced the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker. Mr. Deputy Speaker took the chair at. 8.1 p.m., and read prayers.
-. - I learn . that it is improbable tat Mr. Speaker will be., able: to preside over our deliberations for _ some time to come, because . he is ill, a fact which we. all deeply regret. I wish to say, too, how much I regret, the illness of the Leader of the Opposition, and I am sure that all honorable members feel as I do about it. The Leader of the Opposition is to take a trip to more genial latitudes, and I hope that he will return restored in health and strength. I express a similar wish for Mr. Speaker, who, however, is likely to be with us sooner than the Leader of the Opposition. To provide for his absence, I now move (by leave’) -
That the Chairman of Committees shall, on each sitting day. during the absence of Mr. Speaker, take the chair as Deputy Speaker, and may perform the duties and exercise the authority of Mr. Speaker during such absence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Treasurer, in conformity with the wish expressed by honorable members, . convene an informal meeting of the House to consider the amendment of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act?
-Iregret that I do . not see my way to convene such a meeting.
– Then some one else must convene.it.
– Very well, and if some one else will take the financial burden from myshoulders, I, for one, will be much, relieved.
– Has the Ac-ting’ Prime
Minister official information of the acceptance by Germany of the -Allies’ terms and condibion»’ about reparation, and if so, will ‘he make it available to the public I
-Germahy has, I understand) unconditionally accepted the Allies’ terms of reparation’. - I shall look at the documents at the earliest moment, to see if I cannot lay them on the table for the information of honorable members.
– The following telegrams appeared in to-day’s Age;
HOW TO GET CHEAP MEAT.
Johannesburg, 16th May.
The leading cattle breeding interests of South Africa and Rhodesia have formed a farmers’ exchange with the object of supplying meat direct to the consumer. A substantial fall in the price . of meat is anticipated..
A GlutinGreat Britain.
Retailers Still Profiteer.
London, 4th’ May.
The cool stores throughout Great. Britain are crammed with, imported beef and mutton. The arrival, of further shipments has produced a serious glut. Consumption is below, normal owing to the widespread unemployment. Despite the sensational fall in wholesale prices, retailers are maintaining the high prices the Food Controller fixed during, the scarcity.
Is there any possibility of the Government bringing into existence a body which will see that the public gets meat at the prices which it should pay. for it hi view of the great fall in the cost to the wholesale and retail- men?
-When the Government takes a hand in these matters - as with wheat, for instance - the honorable member is not satisfied with what is done. I wonder how it would be if we left the determination of the prices of meat and other goods’ to the people themselves, bo that something like what is being done . in South Africa might be tried here.
– Has the Treasurer any statement to make, in accordance with his promise, regarding the cashing of war gratuity bonds?
– I much regret that at the moment I am not in a position to make a definite statement on the subject. The question is a little difficult, and I am not ready yet with a solution of it.
Mr.FENTON.- Has the Acting Prime Minister seen that the American Government intends to introduce a Bill to prevent speculators from gambling in wheat futures, and does he not think similar legislation by this Parliament desirable?
– In our present condition there is no need for such legislation. Before making experiments I should like to know more of the results obtained elsewhere. Members continually ask the Government to increase its interference, but I am forming the conclusion that if it interfered less the country would be the better in the long run.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a letter published in the Sydney press complaining that’ three Netherlands military officers who came here to buy remounts have received demands from the Taxation Department for income tax, and have been threatened that should they dare to try to leave the country without paying they would at once be sued? The right honorable gentleman will remember that a similar complaint was made about a demand for taxation on the staff accompanying the Prince of Wales to Australia last year. Will he have the complaint inquired into, and ascertain whether the Department has not been over zealous, and what means can be taken to end this pin-pricking policy?
– The letter referred to has been brought under . my notice, and. I have sent it on to obtain information about it. There is a distinction between persons who come from other countries, and remain in Australia for a long time engaged in the business of buying material for their Govern ments and mere visitors who do not remain in the country for any length of time. I shall ascertain the facts, and give the honorable member the information later.
– I ask the Minister who is acting for the. Minister in charge of Shipbuilding whether he will have a statement prepared showing the amount paid by the Commonwealth Government for the Shandon, the amount spent in refitting the vessel, and the amount received for her when sold recently?
– I will see that the question is sent to the proper quarter in order to secure an answer for the honorable member.
Payment of Basic Wage and Child Endowment tosemi-officialpost masters.
– In view of the widespread feeling among semiofficial postmasters and employees of semi-official offices that they should be given the basic wage increase and child endowment; I ask the Postmaster-General whether consideration has been given by the Government to the question of giving them the increase?
– I will let the honorable member know to-morrow.
– In view of the in justice suffered by many taxpayers because of the incidence of present taxation and his promise to ask the Taxation Commission to present a report on the question as early as possible, I ask the Treasurer whether he has received that report, seeing that the Commission has been at work now for about eight months ?
– I have spoken to the Chairman of the Taxation. Commission several times on this matter. I understand that he is at present in Western Australia, but will be back shortly, and I shall try to obtain a definite reply from him the moment he returns. As I have already said in this
House, the honorable member may rely that the whole question will be dealt with not later than the proposal for the next Budget.
– I ask the Acting PrimeMinister whether he is aware that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) has received a telegram from Western Australia from certain people over there threatening the invasion of New South Wales, and whether it is true that the Assistant Minister for Defence is to be given charge of the defence of New South Wales?
– Why does not the honorable member ask me these questions?
– I think, perhaps, on the whole it is better that the honorable member should not question my honorable colleague. I was not aware of what the honorable member has told me, but if he will give me his references I shall be glad to consider them.
Embargo on Imports.
– Is it the intention of the Government to remove the present embargo on the importation of sugar, so that those requiring supplies may purchase in the world’s market and obtain a rebate of duty on goods exported.
– I explained very fully the other evening the action which the Government proposed to take in regard to exports. In regard to the balance of the honorable member’s question, the answer is “ No.”
Conduct of Inquiry
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
No. As the Royal Commission is solely responsible for the manner in which the inquiry is carried out, and for the protection of witnesses who give evidence before the Commission, it is not advisable for a Minister of the Crown to interfere.
Board of Control
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will he announce the names of theBoard or Commission which it is intended shall control the management of Cockatoo Island Dock in future?
– The names of the members of the Board appointed to control and supervise the establishments at Cockatoo Island and Williamstown are: - Robert Farquhar, Andrew Aird, and Herbert Charles Brown.
Mr.FENTON asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The BritishAustralian Wool Realization Association is an independent trading company, and the Government have no jurisdiction in respect to the salaries paid to the employees of the association.
Conditions of Employment of Natives of New Guinea
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Payments to Imperial Government
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the amount paid by the Commonwealth Government to the Imperial Government for silver coinage since 1917?
– The total amount of silver coin supplied from 1st January, 1918, to date is £947,725. This coin was all manufactured by the mints an Australia. The payment to the Imperial Government for minting this coin, including claims outstanding, totals £38,579.
Deduction from Pensions and Allowances.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whenever any pension and allowances arc stopped from payments to returned soldiers and sailors and their dependants, will he issue Instructions that the Department shall send a letter notifying the recipients, and stating the cause of such stoppage?
– It is the practice of the Department to do so.
– On 5th May, 1921, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked the following question: -
Has the Postmaster-GeneraI received reports to the effect that public telephones are a means of spreading disease, and can he inform me whether they are examined periodically to prevent them communicating disease to the users of them?
I promised the matter would be inquired into, and I am now able to furnish the following reply: -
No recent reports have been received to the effect that public telephones are a means of spreading disease. Numerous tests carried out by medical investigators have failed to show that the telephone mouthpiece is a source of infection. The Department’s instructions are - Busy public telephones to be cleansed and disinfected daily, and all other public telephones at least once weekly.
Sales and Administration
-On the 28th April the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) asked the Prime Minister the following questions: -
Inquiries have been made in regard to this matter, and I now desire to inform the honorable member that full details of the Board’s operationsare not yet available, but will be published as soon as possible.
On the 28th April the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the Prime Minister the following questions : -
Inquirieshave been made in connexion with the matter, and I now desire to furnish the following replies : -
On the 28th April the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) asked the Prime . Minister the following questions : -
Inquiries have been made in connexion with the matter, and I now desire to furnish the following replies: -
On the28th April the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the Prime Minister the following questions : -
Inquiries have been made in connexion withthe matter, and I now desire to furnish the following replies: -
Satisfactory sales have been made to Germany, but the Australian Wheat Board cannot publishparticulars of individual sales without the consent of the buyers. The wheat-growers representatives on the Board are acquainted! with all the Board’s transactions.
The efficient conduct of the Board’s commercial operations would be impossible if it were to publish details of its dealings with individual ‘customers.
On the 28th April the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle) asked the Prime Minister the following questions : -
Inquiries have been made in connexion with the matter, and I now desire to furnish the following replies: -
The following paper was presented: -
Audit Act. - Transfers of amounts approved! by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1920-21, dated 11th May, 1921.
Bill received from the Senate, and read & first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: (Consideration resumed from 13th
May (vide page 8480) ) : division iv. - agricultural products and groceries.
Broom corn millet and rice straw, per cental, 4s.
When this item was before us on Friday last the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) promised that he would further consider the question of increasing the duty. I should like to know whether he is in a position now to make a statement on the subject?
-Since the question of increasing this duty was raised in Committee I have looked into it very carefully, and so far as I can see the Committee may safely increase the duty to 8s. per cental without imposing on the manufacturers of brooms a burden which they cannot stand up to under the Tariff.
– Why not raise their protective duty?
– So far as I can see that is unnecessary. I am told that a thousand brooms can be made out of a ton of broom millet, and at that rate, assuming that the whole duty of 8s. per cental were passed on, it would amount to only 21/6d. per broom. Having regard to the duties that we. impose on brushware, I think we can safely make this increase. I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following words, “ And on and after 19th May, 1921, per cental, 8s.”
– There is one aspect of this matter that I. desire to bring specially under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). I have received from Mr. J. T. Clout, honorary secretary of the Millet Growers Association, of Tumut, where millet is largely produced, the following letter which he requests me to put before the Minister: -
The Honorable Massy Greene,
Minister for Customs, 31 Spring-street, Melbourne.
Dear Sir, - I am directed by the Tumut Millet
Growers Association to bring under your notice the grave danger of the introduction of the corn borer into Australia from Southern Europe through the importation of broom millet. This association is of the opinion that the only way to guard against the pest is by the total prohibition of millet, whether used for packing purposes or otherwise, also corn stalks of fodder. We recognise that you will take prompt action in the way we suggest.
In a covering letter addressed to me Mr. Clout writes -
Dear Sir, - I am directed by the Tumut Millet Growers Association to ask you if you would be so kind as to place the enclosed communication before the Minister for Customs, and at the same time urge upon him the necessity of taking the action we suggest re the corn borer? I may state that the corn borer has caused very grave devastation in Canada and the United States, and was introduced into these countries by importing millet from Southern Europe. During last year some hundreds of tons of millet was imported into Australia from Southern Europe, and if this is allowed to continue the pest will soon be established here.
The corn borer attacks maize, millet, sorghums, beans, oats, potatoes, and many other plants, vegetables, and flowers, also grasses. You will see that this is a very serious question; if this pest gets a footing here the result will be disastrous to the farming community. The Department of Agriculture of New South Wales say that so far the borer has not made its appearance, but there is a possibility of introduction with the next shipment.
– That is not stated. The Minister, however, is proposing an increase.
– We are proposing to increase the duty by 100 per cent.
– That goes along the road to some extent to meet their wishes, and if it is the best the Minister is prepared to do we must be satisfied with it; but these people, who know more about the matter than I do, see a grave danger of the introduction of the pest. I would therefore urge the Minister, if he admits the seriousness of the question to try to meet their wishes.
. -This is scarcely a matter that arises on the Tariff, but it came under my notice a little while ago, and I immediately took certain action through the Quarantine branch. I have arranged, as a temporary measure, at all events, that no millet shall be allowed to be imported until it has been thoroughly examined and fumigated.
Mr.Bell.- Does that apply to millet seed ?
– I do not think it, covers seed, except in so far as the regulations necessitate the examination of seed of all kinds imported. I am having inquiries made in Canada, America, and elsewhere, as to the action taken in those countries and the reasons therefor. If, as the result of those inquiries, we deem it desirable to take the action suggested by my honorable friend to protect Australia from the introduction of a dangerous pest, I do not think the Government will hesitate to do it.
– In the meantime, your seed regulations are very drastic and very useful.
– The seed regulations, and the regulations we have put through in regard to the examination and fumigation of anything that comes in, will, I think, fully protect the people until such time as I have made further inquiries.
.- I support the Minister’s amendment for an increase in the duty. During the war years, the import of millet practically fell to nothing; but immediately the war was over it almost approximated to that of pre-war days. The manufacture of brooms is essentially a home industry, which can be effectively carried out by smallfamilies alongside the place where the raw product is grown. Even people who are not able to follow other occupations can follow that one. It is essential, in. order to perpetuate the industry, especially in country districts, to protect to some degree the home-grown crop. That such protection is necessary can be shown by the figures of the cost of pro duction, which has been estimated, in the
King River Valley of Victoria, as follows : -
Assuming it to be a good crop of broom, and basing its yield at 1 ton of threshed fibreto 3 acres, which is above the average on the Government Statistician’s figures, the production cost on the lowest possible estimate is : -
That is the estimate of a good crop; but on reviewing figures supplied by the Statists of Victoria and New South) Wales, it was found that over the triennial period 1917-1919 the yield was 5 cwt. - or 5 cwt. and 2½ cwt. respectively - and with prices fluctuating from £28 to £71 per ton, and averaging throughout £49 per ton, the gross return to the grower amounted to £9 8s. 4d. per acre per annum, which, on the estimate of cost left little margin over the expenses involved. The work of growing and harvesting broom is mostly done by settlers on small holdings, assisted by their families or hired labour. Of the total cost of production, which is £25 per ton,, rather more than four-fifths is paid out for labour alone, and, estimating the yield of fibre in the King Valley this season to be 200 tons, it means that £4,000 is spent during the season amongst the workers engaged, a sum of considerable importance to them in making up a livingwage. The work is of an exacting nature, and fills all the hours of daylight. It has been found that fibre has been imported from overseas, principally from Italy and Japan, at as low a cost as £11 per ton landed, and this season, I understand, at about £32. The existing Tariff is £4 per ton, but the producers are strongly of opinion that to afford some measure of protection and security a duty of not less than £14 per ton should be imposed.
– The Minister has; given you a higher duty. What is wrong? Are you opposing it?
– No, I am supporting it. I am merely putting before the Committee additional information whichshould, I think, be in their possession.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 41 -
.- Before we go further I should like from the Minister an authoritative statement regarding the headings. These are “British preferential Tariff,” “intermediate Tariff,” and “general Tariff.” Does “British preferential Tariff” mean merely the United Kingdom , of Great Britain and Ireland, or will it include all British possessions?
– It means Great Britain and Ireland.
– In the last Tariff the heading was “United Kingdom.” I felt that the Minister’s intention was to apply that column merely to Great Britain and Ireland, but when I was discussing the matter with some friends recently I was not quite emphatic when I began to look into it, because there was a possibility that it would include places like Canada and New Zealand. I should like the Minister to make the intention clear for the information of others as well as myself.
– The only reason we altered the heading from “ United Kingdom “ to “ British preferential “ was that in the Bill to which this is the schedule it is proposed to make certain provisions whereby, if a reciprocal Tariff arrangement can be arrived at between a British Dominion or Dominions and ourselves, we shall be able to extend to those Dominions the British preferential rates. That was the idea in altering the heading to “British preferential Tariff.” It is not intended, although it would be open to us to do so, that the whole of the British preferential rates shall apply to any one of the Dominions. It is intended that we shall have the power to extend the British preferential rates in regard to any particular items, or, if the Committee likes, in regard to the whole Tariff, to any British Dominion or Dominions in return for similar advantages granted to us by them.
– Would not any arrangement we may make come under the intermediate Tariff?
– The honorable member will see, if he refers to the speech in which I introduced the Tariff, that, if we are able to arrange a reciprocal Tariff with a British Dominion, the Bill will give us the power to extend to it the British preferential rates, it may be, on some items, the intermediate Tariff rate on other items, and the general Tariff rate on yet other items, thus leaving that Dominion in regard to some things on the general list, putting it on. the intermediate list in regard to others, and on the British preferential list in regard to still others. That will be a matter of definite arrangement which will ultimately come back to this House for ratification. It is not proposed to open up the British preferentialrates to countries other than British Dominions in regard to any reciprocal Tariff arrangements. What is proposed is power to grant intermediate rates; and that is the real reason why we altered the description in the first column to “British” preferential.
– The Minister will realize how difficult it is, not only now, but on other occasions, to discuss a matter of the kind when the Bill is not before us.
– The honorable member will understand myposition. Until the Committee of Ways and Means has agreed to the schedule, I am unable to introduce the Bill. I have explained, however, the general provisions of the Bill, and as soon as I am in a position to do so I shall bring the measure down.
Item agreed to.
.- It is contended by those who manufacture candles that these duties are insufficient. They point out that there is quite a number of candle factories in Australia, and that the local candles are equal to those produced in any part of the world. Those who are interested in this matter, and who desire the duties to be, a, British, 2d., intermediate, 2½d., andgeneral, 3d., with b.1½d.,2d. and2½d., haveforwarded the following information to me : -
The candle industry should ‘be purely Australian. The quality of the Australian stearine candle, which is manufactured from Australian tallow, is equal to the production in any other part of the world.
Nine stearine candle factories are at work making candles from Australianstallow, which is produced from Australian sheep and cattle. All the labour, including the . raising of the sheep and cattle, the rendering of the tallow, making the stearine, and moulding and packing the candles, is Australian, while the labels used are printedin Australia, the cartons made from Australian, materials, and the boxes from Australian timber. Everything is Australian in connexion with the stearine candles made in the Commonwealth with theexception of the wick.
No increase in duties has beengranted, and as the chief competition comes from Burmah, wherepractically everything but the wick is made by blacklabour, itis necessary, now local rates of wages have increased so substantially, and the price of coal and other items is so much higher, that the measure of Protection should be increased to enable the industry to stand the strain.
There are over 1,000 persons employed directly in the candle factories Of the Commonwealth, and indirectly a further very large number.
In view of the many candle factories at present in existence, andthe number of people employed, together with the subsidiaryindustries, this isa matter of some importance to Australia. Wages have been increased and hours shortened; and there are, therefore, somereasons why the Ministershould reconsider the matter with a view to increasing theduties to a reasonable extent.
SirROBERT BEST (Kooyong) [3.44] . - I support the suggestion ofthe Acting Leader of the Opposition(Mr. Charlton) that the duties be increased. The candle industry is essentially an Australian one. Manufacturer of candles have to choose between making them from stearine or from paraffin ‘wax. The manufacturer of candles should be encouraged and urged to make them from stearine, which, after all, is only a further development of an Australian industry. First, there is the raising of the cattle, then the rendering of the tallow, and the moulding of the candles, followed by “the packing, labelling, and so on, all of which means Australian labour. It willbe seen, therefore, that we are called upon to afford every encouragement inthis case.
If, on the other hand, manufacturers are discouraged from making candles’ from stearine, there will be large importationsof paraffin wax from which to make our candles. We import, if not the whole, nearly the whole of the paraffin wax used, and this means cutting out all intermediate Australian labour. I hope that the Minister is not opposed to the suggestion that has been made, but if he is, I anticipate a argument he mayuse. The Minister may admit that this is an Australian industry, but say that ‘the manufacture of candles has been so successful in the past that practically the whole of this commodity is made in Australia. That is so, having regard to war experience, but that experience was not normal. Thecompetition to be feared is that of black labour, (particularly in Burmah. During the last few years, no doubt, the Burmese exportations into Australia have been small.
– Have you any figures asto the importations ?
– So far as my recollection goes, we manufacture 11,000,000 lbs. weight of candles, representing £500,000 in value, while the importations are 6,000 lbs.
-No. The largest importations in any one year were 423,000 lbs. of candles.
– That was last year or the year before, and I attach no importance whatever to those figures. My judgment is that there weremany reasons why it was only necessaryfor the manufacturer of Burmah toplace sufficient candles on the market to preserve ‘their brands under the Trade Marks Act. If the present duty is not increased, it will be open to the black labour of Burmah to swamp our industry. Hitherto the importations of wax have been such that it was not necessary for the manufacturers of Burmah to send candles; they sent paraffin wax instead of candles, and, therefore, it was not necessary to enter into competition. In my belief, there is a genuine danger that, if theduties are not increased, Burmah. maybe able to swamp our market.. Having regard to the fact that (the candle industry is essentially an Australian one from beginning to end, we must run no risks. The danger incidental to the lower duty is a Teal one, so I urge the Minister to accede to the request of the Acting
Leader of the Opposition. No harm can be dome by increasing the duty in the interests of this essentially Australian industry, and in view of the special circumstances under which importations have been made. It may be suggested that this will lead to the creation of an Australian monopoly, but that is hardly likely, for the simple reason that there are already eight Australian! industries well established throughout Australia, and in keen competition one with the other. . The industry employs 1,000 men, and is furnishing the home market with all-its requirements at reasonable prices.
– I do not agree with you. Tallow is down 300 per cent.
– I cannot say to what extent the market for tallow has dropped; but whatever tallow is required, the production of stearine is drawn from other Australian primary industries. In these circumstances, I urge the Minister to grant the increase of duty suggested by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton)., For the moment I do not propose to move myself for the increase; but the question whether* a private member may do this will have to 1)6 determined sooner or later. Speaker Holder held that it was competent for any private member to move an increase i n duty during the debate on a Tariff measure.
– Only in Committee of Ways and Means.
– Yes. We are in that Committee now. I admit that Speaker Holder’s decision was not assented to by another’ Speaker; but it is obvious, in the present form of out Constitution, that every private member should have the right to move an increase of duty. This may be against precedent in the Mother Country, but we have to be guided by our own ‘Constitution, and if the Senate has power to request an increase or decrease, it would be anomalous for the House of Representatives to be debarred from increasing a duty. If the Chairman is satisfied that’ a private member is at liberty to move for an increase, I would suggest that the honorable member for Hunter do so in this item. I snail have pleasure in supporting him.
Mr. GREENE (Richmond - Minister looked into this matter very carefully. Personally I do not think the increase asked for can be justified.
– Do you not think that we ought to settle now the question whether a private member has the right to move an increase of duty?
– If the Chairman is asked and is prepared to give a ruling, I shall resume my seat.
– I intend to test the feeling of the Committee by submitting a motion to increase the- duty.
– Very well, I am as anxious as any other honorable member to keep this industry for Australia, because it use3 up one of the raw materials of our primary industries. The position very briefly is, as the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has stated. As far as I am able to learn, the only country from which we may expect keen competition in candles is India, and, therefore, I am prepared to consider an increase on the general Tariff rate, but I think id. increase will give. us all the protection we need. It will practically protect us from unfair competition- from India.
– What is the objection to increasing the whole of the three Tariffs?
– I am doubtful as to the need.
– Has there been an export trade?
– Yes, and as far as I can gather the industry in Australia is in a fairly satisfactory position, but a little time ago the Burman Oil Company endeavoured to compel our candle manufacturers to take their wax, and they attempted a dumping proposition. Candles were imported in considerable quantities, and they are still coming in. Practically the whole of our importations are from that- source, but if we grant an increase in the duty to 2$d. we shall have all the protection we need, and at the same time the duty will not be excessive. That is my suggestion to the Committee.
– Make it 3d.
– I am prepared to move alone the lines I have indicated, but .do not want to do so at the moment if the Committee “wishes to discuss the m otter further.
.- Unless the Minister (Mr. Greene) is able to prove that this higher duty will cheapen candles I must oppose the proposition. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) said this was essentially an Australian industry. I would point out to honorable members that candles are the principal lighting medium for many people living in remote parts of the Commonwealth, and they are largely used also in mining and other operations. Therefore, we should give the matter very serious consideration .before we allow one section of the community to have a monopoly at the expense of another. There is another light, the product of carbide of calcium, equal almost to electricity. Not long ago an embargo placed upon carbide prevented many people from enjoying this light. Here is an attempt to create another monopoly. I hope that the Committee will not consent to ,any further increase in the duty. Rather, in the circumstances, should it be decreased.
.- I always understood . that the Protectionist insisted that the object of adopting a Protective policy was to try to build up industries locally, and make commodities cheaper; that the more the duties were increased the cheaper articles would be for local consumption; and I am, therefore, surprised that a suggestion should come from the other side of the chamber that the duty on an article that goes into every poor man’s home should be increased, knowing in this case that it must increase the price of the article. . The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) might not be affected by an increased duty on candles, but many people living in tie bush, and persons in poor circumstances, would be considerably affected, and furthermore, a big tax would be imposed on the mining industry of Australia. In the circumstances I think it would be a big mistake to increase this duty unless, of course, it can be shown that the local industry has been going back, and finds it impossible to compete with importations. But, on the contrary, the Minister (Mr. Greene) and the honorable member for Kooyong have shown us that the Australian candlemaking industry is flourishing; and we all know, as a matter of fact, that the large factories which have been established throughout Australia have not only been able to compete with the world, but also have been in a position to export candles. In the circumstances, no increase in the duty can be justified unless the purpose is to raise additional revenue, and if we want to do this we should not increase the duties on articles which go into the poor man’s home. Rather should we tax luxuries. We hear reports of mines closing down in Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia on .account of industrial conditions, due to the high cost of living, and because of a Tariff which places special imposts on everything required by the industry. Every time we increase the duties we increase the cost of living, yet now we have a surprising suggestion from an honorable member opposite which must have the effect of increasing the cost of mining operations. We ought to follow the example of Canada, .and impose Excise duties on luxuries. For instance, if a person buys a hat above a certain value he should be obliged to pay an Excise duty5 oh it. The idea is to make people economize. My purpose in considering this Tariff is to cheapen the cost of living. I shall ask for the removal of the duty on tinned fish for the purpose of endeavouring to make conditions better in this country. We cannot afford to continue as at present. We cannot pay high wages if the value of our products will not stand them. We ought to do” all we possibly can to induce economy and reduce the cost of living, but by increasing this duty we shall be acting contrary to all that is regarded as best in regard to economic conditions. I hope the Minister will not depart from his original proposition. No increase of this duty is justified. The candle-making industry is thriving; but, apart altogether from that fact, . an increase in the duty would hurt the mining industry, particularly gold mining, and considerably affect the poorer sections of the community.
.- I am prepared to vote for an increased duty on candles or any other commodity which is shown to he justified, but I am not ready to vote for an increase in this case, which probably would, ii the absence of evidence as to its neces- sity, merely tend to increase the price of candles to the people. The honorable member for Kooyong (SirRobert Best) told uswe must beware of Rangoon candles. It should be easy for those interested in the industry to put some facts before us to show us the export price of candles at Rangoon, the freight across the sea, and the effect of our existing duty. Then, if these articles were sought to be imported under a fair price, according to the country of origin, we could have some provision against dumping. There are in the Cook electorate possibly more candle manufacturers than there are in any other electorate in Australia ;but, as none of them have approached me in regard to this matter, I take it that they are perfectly satisfied withthe existing duty. Again, as the impost in this schedule is the same as appeared in the previous Tariff, the industry has evidently not made out a case to satisfy the Government that an increase is necessary. I feel sure that, if a case had been made out, the Minister (Mr. Greene) would have granted an increase.
– The competition from Burmah arose after the duty in this schedule was settled.
– Some years ago we had a very long discussion in regard to Rangoon candles. I think it was on the discussion of the 1908 Tariff. At that time I was very anxious that a duty should be imposed that would establish the Australian industry against cheap competition; but, as far as I know, the imported candles have practically gone out of use, not merely because of the war, but as a consequence of the duty imposed in 1908.
– The biggest importation of recent years has been 423,280 dozen. It fell to 75,000 dozen, but is rising again.
– When the Bill is before the House the Minister can deal with dumping, but we should have something more than simple expressions of opinion to justify the conclusion that the candle-making industry requires this suggested further Protection. While I am willing to give every possible Protection to Australian industries, I would regard it as a mistake simply to increase the duty to enable the candle manufacturers of Australia to put their heads together and take the increase out of the public.
– We do not propose to interfere with the British preferential Tariff.
– That Tariff does not cover India, and I do not take much notice of the British preferential Tariff on candles, because, owing to the fact that Great Britain has to import her raw materials from enormous distances, she could not manufacture candles and send them out here. Our natural Protection in this regard would prevent her from sending candles to Australia. A very substantial case should be made out before the Minister seeks to increase the present duty on candles. So far, no case has been made out for an increase, and, until one is made out, I shall vote against any such proposal.
.- I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is prepared to increase the duty upon this itemunder the general Tariff to2½d. per lb. In view of the discussion which has taken place, and especially in view of the statements which have been made by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), who has many candle factories in his constituency, I think we shall be doing the right thing if we accept the Minister’s offer. If the honorable gentleman will agree to maintain the present duty under the British preferential Tariff, and to increase the impost under the general Tariff by½d. per lb., I think he will meet the needs of the situation.
– I will agree to that.
.- I trust that the Minister’s offer will be accepted. I shall always be a strenuous opponent of any competition which comes from black-labour countries, irrespective of whether those countries are within or without the Empire. If we are going to tolerate such competition, the best thing we can do is to cancel our White Australia policy. Personally, I would rather admit coloured races to the Commonwealth than have them unfairly competing with our own people whilst resident in other parts of the world. To ma it is a great surprise that opposition to the encouragement ofthis particular industry should come from the professed representatives of our primary industries.
– They are the direct representatives of those industries.
– The raw materials come from the farm. Upon these grounds, the Committee will be well advised to accept the moderate offer of the Minister. I shall support the increased duty under the general Tariff, because I am opposed to black-labour competition, and because I am in favour of encouraging the production in our midst of the raw material which finds its way into the manufactured article.
.- On behalf of the honorable memberfor Wentworth (Mr. Marks), I have pleasure in supporting the proposed increase of this duty. In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), I would point out that the manufacturers of Burmah are not averse to dumping their products in Australia to the detriment of our own manufacturers.
– How much comes in?
– I am more concerned with what has happened, and with what I do not wish to see happen again. Six months ago the Burmah manufacturers were selling their wax at1s. per lb.; and as late as March last they were selling candles at 9d. per lb. In these circumstances, we are perfectly justified in seeking the imposition ofa higher duty.
– I am very sorry that the Minister has seen fit to approve of a proposal to increase the duty under the general Tariff upon candles, because this is the home of the raw product. Moreover, none of the manufacturers engaged in the industry has asked for an increased duty.
– Yes, they have. The request came from the representatives of a manufacturing centre.
– Because one honorable member asks for an increased duty, the Minister is surely not going to regard his request as the last word upon the matter.
– The Acting leader of the Opposition asked for the increase.
– Has he not as much right to seek an increased duty upon any item as Ihave to ask for a reduction of the duty upon it? I am not concerned with who made the request, but I am concerned with the ready way in which the Minister yielded to it. The Tariff is not a party question. Honorable members have a free hand upon it, and are at liberty to do just what they please so long as they retain its Protective incidence. The candle industry is already protected. I well remember the way in which those interested in it used to lobby when they wished to secure an increased measure of Protection.. Nobody knows that better than does the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). They used to besiege him night and day; indeed, they; used to ring him up when he was in bed in order to tell him how the industry was languishing. But upon the present occasion no such tactics have been resorted to. An increased duty of½d. per lb. is not very much, but a straw will show which way the wind blows. This industry must have a certain measure of Protection to enable it to compete successfully with colouredlabour countries. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) Worked himself into a fine state of frenzy over the question of black-labour competition. In the early days of the Federation, when we were dealing with the sugar industry, he would have been a veryvaluable ally. But now his remarks represent only so much smoke, because there is no honorable member who wishes our manufacturers to compete with the cheap products of black-labour countries.
– Where there is smoke there is fire.
– Not always.
– The primary producer will not get the benefit of the increased duty,
– That interjection is a very pertinent one indeed. Even if this additional Protection be granted to the industry, the primary producer will not get apenny more for his product.
– Yes, he will. The increased duty will provide the best guarantee. possible that the. candles will be made from stearine.
– The honorable member must think that we are childlike and bland. We are asked to impose an increased duty upon those persons who live outside the radius of gas and electric light.
Mr.Gregory. - Let us levy an Excise duty upon -electric light.
– I would favour that proposal, and also an Excise duty upon gas. This is the only opportunity we shall’ be afforded of determining what is a fair duty to impose upon this item in the interests alike of the. consumer, the manufacturer, and the primary producer.
-The price charged to the consumer will be regulated by internalcompetition.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the candle industry is a languishing one?
SirRobertBest. -No; but it is an Australian industry.
– And if is thoroughly protected.
-No. That is the whole point. There is a possibility of competition from abroad.
-Does the honorable member contend that the imposition of theincreased duty will have the, effect of cheapening the cost of candles to the consumer?
– The manufacturers are not making unduly large profits now.
– Then Messrs. Kitchen and Company must be terrible liars, because their published balancesheetdiscloses that they are making enormousprofits.
– Candles are. only one of the ‘lines which they manufacture.
Mr.JAMES PAGE. - That does not matter” ‘They are not philanthropists.
– Why,Messrs. Kitchen andCompany and all the other candle manufacturers are member’s of a rich combine.
– Yes; they are all in a Combine. But why should people in the centres of population be permitted to enjoy the very best of a variety of illuminants while practically the only illuininant of the man in the bush should be made dearer than ever to him ? A Minister ought to. “ havehis head read “ who proposes to give a manufacturer more than he is already getting …and is satis-: fied with. Everybody knows whatwill follow. Up Will go the price. Tome, there is no difference between a fat , im- porter and a fat manufacturer. They are a bad pair; and they are worse when they are one and the same individual.
– What about the fat squatter ?
– He is all right. He asks for no protection.
– He got it last week.
– The honorable member must have a very elastic mind. How much did it cost the Commonwealth to give our staple industry that ‘degree of protection which it needed ?’
– How much will it cost the Commonwealth to give those Western Australian farmers and graziers £550,000 ?
– That interjection is not only irrelevant, but disorderly. I say that any Australian industry should be protected; but if we give manufacturers of candles the further protection of ½d. per lb., we will be imposing a class tax upon the most hardly dealt with and heartily deserving people in the land. I want to know what effect the imposition of the proposed½d. increase will have upon candles “n.e.i.”
– If the addition is made at all, it will have to be made on all kinds.
– It is my intention to vote against the proposed increase.
Mr.CORSER. (Wide Bay) [4:25].- I am quite prepared toassist any Australian industry, manufacturing or otherwise, which requires it. But Ihave not heard that any candle manufacturer needs this extra degree of protection. In the circumstances, one must consider that a huge portion of Australia is inhabited by peoplewho have practically nothingbut candles to givethem light. These folk, by the very conditions of their existence away from the centres of civilization, are already sufficiently penalized, and I shall not be a party to imposing on them this additional burden.
.- My view upon the matter at issue, and upon the subject of Protection generally, is that if anything can be made by the human labour available in this country, from the raw material procurable in Australia, it ought to be made here. It Ought to be protected as an Australian industry, and protected in the fullest sense of the word. I am not interested in any firm of candle manufacturers. If a measure of protection amounting to 2d. per lb. is injurious to our candle-makers in that it is insufficient, while a duty of 2½d.will put them on a proper basis, what about thepenalization of the poorer people out back? ‘ And if the degree of protection involved in the 2½d. duty is a penalty upon those people, how much of a penalty is the impost of 2d. ?
– The honorable member should not forget that every½d. put upon the things he uses increases the burden of the man in the bush.
– If 2d. is sufficient as a means of protection, every degree of imposition above that is nothing more than an increase in the price of the commodity.
– I amlistening to the exposition of a new doctrine to-day. My understanding is that a Protective Tariff isnot a tax upon the people while it is not high enough to keep things out of this country which our own labour could manufacture from our own raw material. If we want Australia to be a selfsustaining community we should place such a duty upon imported articles which we can produce as to prohibit their entrance. I do not care whether an article comes from England or from Asia; if we are capable of producing it here that article ought to be kept out of the country. And, if an impost of 2½d. per lb. will not keep it out, then the duty should be, if necessary, even £250 per lb.; and if that is not sufficient, there should bo absolute prohibition. Everything should be kept out which might tend to prevent the full and proper maintenance of the manufacture of our. own materials with our own labour. Our great object should be to become as selfsustaining as possible, and the grand object of any good Government should be, with that in mind, to create a variety of industries for the absorption of all our labour in production from our raw material.
– And if our manufacturers are making 10’ per cent. in so doing, letus assist them to make 20 per cent.. 1
– I am dealing with the principle of the maintenance of the industries of our country ; and I say, in the instance under review,that if 2½d. is not a sufficient degree of import duty there . should be absolute prohibition. I am asked, up to what stage may the imposition of a Tariff be considered insufficient.. Any degree of protective duty is insufficient which permits foreign products to come into Australia when our own people can manufacture them from the material available within Australia. At thesame time, if. manufacturers endeavour to abuse the facilities which we may give them in this direction, they should be prevented by means other than the reduction of a prohibitive duty.
– What are those means?
– I am not dealing with that specific matter just now, but with the broad principle; and I do not propose to be “ red herringed.”
– Still, it is a very pertinent interjection.
– I admit that; but it does not come in just here. I need not re-assert the fundamental principle to which . I have just given utterance, and have amplified. One of the instrumentalities by which this principle may be asserted is what is called a Tariff ; and, if a Tariff is not sufficiently Protective against the aggression of foreign products which should be made here, it cannot be called a Protective Tariff. I do not care what item of the Tariff may be under review. I assert here, in application to all arguments upon the Tariff, that when it comes to a matter of adequately protecting any one of the variety of industries in which our own labour may be employed - upon the basis of the usage of our own raw material; - that Tariff should be raised, if necessary, to the point of prohibition. When an honorable member submits the argument that a tax levied upon a product is a tax upon the people, he is not merely arguing against a particular item, but really raising objection to the Tariff itself. I do not know whether a duty of 2id. per lb. is sufficient or not, but if it is true that candles manufactured in foreign countries are being imported into Australia to enter into competition with the locally manufactured article, the Government can rely upon having my support.
– Every monopolist would say “Hear, Hear! “ to that.
– I am not saying that we should not introduce speedy methods for dealing with any abuse of protection given to locally manufactured articles. I am prepared to admit that Kitchen and Co. is an international monopoly, which is linked up with one of the biggest Combines in the world.
– There are -eight independent industries in Australia.
– And I am prepared to. prove that they are all in one great Combine or monopoly.
– They are not.
– I say they are. But I think it is better for us to deal with commercial Combines here and in our own way, because it is impracticable for us to control the conditions under which foreign articles are manufactured. If manufacturers in this country are linked up in one great Combine, we cannot hope to deal with them under th’e Tariff. There are very powerful commercial organizations existing in Free Trade England. In that country there are some of the greatest monopolies that are to be found in the world. If manufacturers are abusing the privileged conditions under which they are producing, there are other methods of dealing with them.
– The Government have said that there are no other means.
– I do not know what the Government have said; but the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has stated that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill to control monopolies.
– Yes, that is the intention.
– I am glad to hear it.
– And the same Government have said that they have not the power.
– The honorable member may make that statement; but he must remember that if the Government change their policy or opinions every two years they are only doing what other Governments have done.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that he was going to do something.
– Yes, but he never intended to act.
– Any Government that does not wish to do a certain thing will find a thousand reasons, constitutional or otherwise, for not doing it. If it is the intention of the Government to control the abuse of privileges’ enjoyed by monopolies and Combines under a Protective Tariff, they will have my support when any such proposition is submitted.
.- I have been waiting patiently for some honorable member to prove that this industry is languishing and cannot carry on without further protection; but I have listened in vain. Not one argument has been advanced to prove that the candle manufacturers in Australia cannot carry on without the imposition of an additional duty, and yet we are asked to agree ,to it. I am going to vote against the increased duty; and if no other honorable member divides the Committee on this item I shall do so. I rose particularly to answer a statement made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) to the effect that the primary producers will have a cut out of the extra duty.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I did, not say that the primary producers were going to get a’ cut out of it.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable member, and if he did not say the primary producers would get a cut out of it, he certainly inferred that they would get some benefit.
– That statement was made by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best).
– Very well, I deny it. The candle manufacturers of Australia purchase the raw material at the world’s market rates, and if the proposed duty is 2d., 2£d., or even 6d. per lb., they will still pay the same price for the raw material, and that is the export parity.
– If candles were manufactured out of paraffin wax it would pay them better.
– But, as they oan obtain tallow cheaper than any other manufacturers in the world, they aTe not likely to manufacture candles from wax.
– That is where the honorable member is hopelessly astray.
– -I am pleased that my views are at variance with those of the honorable member, I am convinced that he is wrong, and I shall vote against the proposed duty.
– Personally, I think the proposed duty should be 3d. per lb., and if I thought there was an opportunity of so increasing the rate I would move in that direction. But if I did so I would be told that I was assisting in raising the price of a commodity that is largely used; and if I endeavoured to prevent prices increasing I would not receive much assistance from the .Country party.
– If the honorable member gives us an opportunity we will support him.
– Every time an attempt has been made to obtain the necessary power the Country party has opposed it.
– All the members of this party?
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– When we wanted increased legislative powers the people in the country voted solidly against it.
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– In .1910 and in 1913 we appealed to the electors for further legislative powers, and the country people opposed us by a ten to one majority.
– We appealed for the same powers, and the honorable member and his supporters opposed us.
– The honorable member and his supporters asked for powers that were useless.
– Order! I ask the hon orable member to discuss the ‘item beforethe - Committee.
– I would be in favour of a duty of 3d. per lb., although I know that the combination of .manufacturers here would still charge all they possibly could, as it is always their policy to do so. We have been informed that it is the intention of the Government to attempt; - I say . it advisedly - to acquire powers to prevent overcharging.
– The honorable member has faith in the Government to that extent.
– The promise “has been made, and I believe the members of the Country party will oppose such a measure, because they do not went the Government to have increased powers. In going through the State of Victoria I have heard the views expressed by large .numbers of State Righters who are not in favour of giving additional powers to the Government in this respect. We have been told this afternoon that if an additional duty is imposed on candles those living in country districts will be penalized, but we should remember that kerosene is very largely used as an illuminant in those districts. What is the position with regard to kerosene to-day? The Petroleum Combine is charging the people in the country enormous prices, although there is no duty on their product. We are paying as much for kerosene free of duty as we would be if there was a 20 per cent, duty on it. If a duty were imposed the Combines would dump it into Australia in order to bring down the price of .the local article, if it were found that we could produce it. As far as we are concerned, the importer and manufacturer are really the same. Those in Australia who are employed in this industry should be protected. It is an industry whose raw material, tallow, Australia produces in immense quantities, and exports largely. The wages paid to the employees are not so high as I should like them to be, but we cannot expect to make them higher until we have protected the product of ‘the industry from the competition of black labour. The proposed duty is not high enough.
– But the industry is a flourishing one.
– According to the Chamber of Manufactures, the chief competition comes from Burmah, where practically everything but the wicks used in the candles is made with black labour. Wages here have increased substantially; - I should like them to be still higher - and the price of coal has gone up. The members of the Chamber of manufactures think that the duty should be increased. For some years past, the war; by’ preventing importations, has protected local manufacturers; but that protection has now practically: ceased, and the reduction of the values of money and of wages which is taking place in other parts of the world will result in a competition unfavorable to our manufacturers, unless we protect them from it. The’ time to give protection is now, before the fiercer competition which is to be expected can take place; it would be foolish to wait until largeimportations were being made. As to theprotection of the public against exploitation by manufacturers, certain decisions of the. High Court, like other decisions of . that Court, may, perhaps, bereversed; but, in any case, the countrycan be appealed to for an increase of powers, though that the members of the Country party will oppose. It was my intention to move to increase this duty by1d., but feeling that such an amendment would probably not bo carried in the present temper of the Committee, I do not wish tomake this an occasion for testing the right of a private member to move to increase a duty.
Mr.FRANCIS (Henty) [4.44].- Today we must view our industries in a different light from that in which we saw them a few years ago. The justification of the proposed duty cannot be seriously disputed by any honorable member. Now that the war has ceased, the manufacturers of other countries are seeking “ fresh woods and pastures new,” and are endeavouring to at least get back the trade connexion that they had before the war. The Tariff has been introduced to protect our manufacturers, and though it has been called a revenue-producing Tariff, this is certainly nota revenueproducing item. We have the promise of the Minister that should our manufacturers use the Tariff to increase prices, he will take immediate action in Parliament to protect the consumers. He says that he intends to introduce legislation which will prevent manufacturers from using the Tariff to increase prices. beyond what is reasonable ; but I have no doubt that. our manufacturers have at heart the interests of the country which protects their industry and. gives them the opportunity tomako aliving. The commodity which is protected by this duty uses as its raw material cute ofour chief primary products, and, as a consequence, our graziers will have a big demandfor their tallow. At present Australian manufacturers pay on the average £8 per ton more for tallow than the world’s parity, which, shows that there is keen competition between them, and that’ therefore the price of candles is not likely to be increased. I am as much interested in the welfare of the poorer classes of the community as is any one. I am also interested in the welfare of the primary producers. These have been protected in the fixing of the price of wheat, and there wasnot very much comment or protest from the Country party when it was made known that Australian wheat was being sold to the German people for’ less than it was being sold on this market.For my own , part, I would make the Germans pay as much for our wheatas we pay here,if not more. I think that a protest should have been made by all sections against the selling of wheat to Germany below the Australian rate. As to this duty, I would be prepared to make it as high as 3d. I hope that the proposal of the Minister will becarried without a division.
.- Honorable members opposite are, in connexion with this duty, supporting one of the biggest combines and monopolies in the world, that of Lever Brothers Limited, which has a nominal capital of £130,000,000. In addition to its business at Port Sunlight, in England, the principal company holds interests in over 100 associated companies and trading concerns, with branches all over the world. Last year, on a paid-up capital of £28,000,000, its dividends came to £1,935,000, or 17½ per cent., which was the rate paid in 1918, and 1919 as well. Among the companies forming part of this huge combination are Messrs. J Kitchen and Sons Proprietary Limited.
John Hamilton Kitchen, and Ambrose John Kitchen Associated Enterprises Limited.
– There are other Australian manuf acturers - seven or eight of them - who are not in the combine.
– A combine such as this must have a great influence with smaller manufacturers. I want the Committee to recognise the magnitude of the organization which the poor members of the community are to he asked to support by paying higher for their candles. I do not say that this is an injurious combine, but I say that certain Melbourne candlemaking firms are part and parcel of it. Some combines are beneficent, and their operations do not increase prices, but there is always danger when an industry is controlled by a practical monopoly. No honorable member has given a single reason to. justify an increase of this duty. I heard one honorable member opposite say that he would vote for absolute prohibition in the case of anything that could be manufactured in Australia, irrespective of the price that might be charged for it. We might give fair and reasonable protection toan industry, but, because of inferior plant and organization, those engaged in it might not make a success of it. Surely it will not be contended that we should continue to increase the protection afforded to such an industry! A successful candlemanufacturing industry has been built up in Australia, arid the raw material required by the industry is at present cheaper than it has been for many years past. There is, in the circumstances, no justification whatever for increasing this duty. .
Mr.Charlton. - I understood that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) was prepared to accept an amendment increasing the duty. If so, the Minister had better submit an amendment himself.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) put -
That sub-item a be amended by the insertion after” 2d. (General) “ of the following: - “ and on and after 10th May, 1921, 2d.”
The Committee divided.
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) put -
That the item be amended by the insertion in sub-item b after “1½d. (General)” of the following: - “ and on and after 19thMay, 1921, 2d.’
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 43 (Coffee and chicory) agreed to.
.- Speaking with a long memory of the important industry to which this item relates, I could wish that the Government - although recognising that the Protection afforded by the previously existing duties was added to by increased freights and the difficulty associated with shipping - had proposed still higher rates. Like the honorable member for Bourke (Mr.. Anstey), and as an Australian loving my Australia, I want everything that can be made here to be manufactured here. As to the contention that the imposition of high duties may lead to the creation of combines, I take the view that if we have to deal with a combine it is better that it should be a combine situated in Australia than one having its head-quarters in some other country. Even if it be assumed, as was urged by Mr. Wilkinson, who recently won a magnificent prize at the Melbourne University, that there are already combines in Australia, I would point out that we can deal’ with them better here - the only continent governed by one set of laws - than if they were located elsewhere, and only doing business here. We can subject them for instance, to heavy income taxation. I hold, therefore, that the argument that high duties may lead to combines can be completely answered. It has been shown that theCadbury firm is going to open large factories in Tasmania.
– They are satisfied with these duties.
-Have they told the honorable member that they are satisfied with them?
– No ; but they are building their factory.
– I should like the rates under sub-item b, particularly those on cocoa - mass, paste, or slab - to be increased from½d. to1d. per lb. under the British preferential Tariff; from¾d. to 1d. per1b. under the intermediate Tariff ; and from¾d. to 2d. per.lb. under the general Tariff. Owing to the exigencies of the war, cocoa beans were largely imported from the . neighbouring islands ; and I hope yet to see them grown in Australia. Representatives from Queensland and Western Australia will agree with me that there are places in the far northern districts of those. States where cocoa beans can be grown. Then, again, we can manufacture cocoapaste. Australianmade confectionery has reached a very high standard; but the small manufacturers have not been crushed out of existence by those carrying on operations on a large scale. There are several small manufacturers of confectionery in this city who are school-mates and old friends of mine.
To-day £1 sent from Australia to Germany is equal to £18 10s. in the currency of that country of pre-war days. I admit that the cost of manufacturing goods in Germany has increased by 100 per cent., and possibly even up to 200 or 800 per cent. Even if it had increased by 300 per cent., that increase would be more than covered by the increase in the purchasing power of our money, seeing that £1 to-day will purchase twelve and. a half times the quantity that it would have purchased in Germany before the war.
– From what cause!
– It is principally a matter of exchange.
– The price of confectionery here is very much higher to-day than it was before the war.
– Prices have increased in every country. Another point worthy of consideration is that the fancy boxes in which much of our confectionery is sold can be made here. No doubt, in many cases, one pays a good price for a small quantity of confectionery packed in a very charming box, but the manufacture of the boxes gives employment to a large number of persons. To my own knowledge, box manufactories have sprung up in Melbourne within the last few years, and have been established,I understand, in Sydney and Adelaide. The boxmaking, industry to-day is an important one here, and I should, therefore, like tosee the duty on confectionery in boxes increased to. the following rates: - 4 ozs., per dozen,1s. 6d.,1s. 9d., 2s., or ad valorem, 40 per cent., 45”. per cent., and 50 per cent.; 8-oz. boxes, 2s., 2s. 3d., and 2s.6d. per dozen, or ad valorem, 40 per cent.,.45 per cent., and 50 per cent.; 12 ozs. and under, 2s. 6d., 2s, 9d.) and 3s. per dozen, . or ad valorem, 40 per cent., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent. In the case of boxes exceeding 12 ozs. and containing, not more, than 30 ozs., : I should like the duty to be 3s.,3s. 3d., and 3s. 6d. per dozen, or ad valorem, 40 par cent.,, 45 per cent., and 50 per cent. These rates have been worked out on information supplied to the Associated Chambers of Manufactures.
– Do they say that35 per cent. is not enough on bon-bons and packages? ‘
– My information is that it is not sufficient. Mr. Ashby, the secretary of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, has had more experience than has any man outside. Parliament in dealing with the working of a Tariff, and his information can be absolutely relied upon. I know him, and am prepared to accept without question any information he may supply to me in regard to the Tariff:
.- My attitude on this item will be consistent with my attitude towards the Tariff generally. I am willing; to support:. Protection which is necessary to establish an industry in the Commonwealth, and which will give it a chance to succeed. I am not willing to take second place to the honorable member for; Melbourne (Dr. Moloney) in my desire to see Australia become a manufacturing country, nor will I take second place to him in. my love for my native land. Nevertheless, I cannot support the increase: which the honorable member desires. When he was . speaking, I interjected, that. Cadburys. were satisfied with the item as it appears in the schedule.The honorable member questioned my right to say that they were satisfied, as they had not toldme so. It was a reasonable assumption on my part that they were satisfied, seeing, that they had not made any overtures to the Minister for on increase. Cadburys are starting to manufacture in Tasmania, and it- is most desirable that they should- be given the Protection necessary to make their effort a success. No one desires that more than myself;’ but’ a firm such as Cadburys, well acquainted- as they are with our Tariffs, would not hesitate to let us know: if: they felt that the proposal in this schedule was insufficient: to give them the necessary. Protection. There . are not many firms like Cadburys that, have any diffidence in approaching. the Minister, or in sending out circulars to honorable members, if they desire mere Protectionthan the Government have proposed.
– Both Cadburys. and Frys interviewed honorable, members in connexion.with the last Tariff with a view to having. no duty imposed on the importation of chocolate. That was before they decided to manufacture here.
– I am not aware that Cadburys have said that they consider the Protection which; the Minister now offers them to be insufficient.
– We they not satisfied with the previous Tariff?
-I am not in a position to say; but I think I am justified in saying that they are satisfied with this Tariff, or the Minister and honorable members would have heard from them.
Mr.greene. - They have asked for more; but I have not given it to them.
– My difficulty is to knew in each case what Protection is necessary to give an industry a chance of success. No doubt every honorable member will have some knowledge of some industry; but it is hardly likely that every honorable member can have a full knowledge of all the industries in Australia. Wemust. therefore, rely very largely on the information given us through the press, and in the circulars which we receive very freely every day. I am also prepared to rely largely on the information the Minister obtained before he brought forward this schedule. I have no doubt that he went very exhaustively into thewhole question, and gave every firm an opportunity of presenting their case, and that he will’ have every consideration for them ; but. it is impossible for me to know all the industries from one end of Australia to the other, and therein lies my difficulty in deciding what Protection should be given. Where the Minister has already provided what I consider to be a good Protection, and other honorable members come forward with proposals for an increase, I shrill haveto hear very strong arguments in favour of the increase before I shall be willing to support it. I shall be surprised if the Minister accepts without very good reasons proposals for increases on the very fine Tariff which he has introduced.
.- I was surprised at the arguments of the last two speakers. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Moloney) is quite satisfied that if we must have monopolies we might as well have them here, and the natural assumption from his remarks is that the Tariff is going to build them up. If we are going deliberately to build up monopolies under this Tariff, we art surely making a big mistake. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) is satisfied with the information given to him. My view is that we are not getting the information we ought to get, by any manner of means, and no effort is being made to give it to us. When the 1907 Tariff was brought before this Chamber specific information was given tomem bers. The proposed dutyand the previous duty were set out in each case,and therecommendations of the Tariff Commission were put before honorable members, setting out. clearly what the Commission recommended. The value of the imports and the duty paid was also set out. That was an effort to give members some knowledge about every one of the items.
– You can get the information on. this item from the trade statistics for last year.
– I did not bother to look up statistics in regard to candles; because the Minister, after consultation with his- Department, had decided that the duty proposed was sufficient. That beingso, nobody anticipated that it would be necessary to obtain statistics regarding the imports or exports of candles, and no one was prepared to discuss the matter. It is impossible for an individual member to look up and prepareall the information on every one of these in dustries. Take, for instance, the decision arrived at the other night, on the spur of the moment, regarding glucose. This Tariff is a big matter, and the future of this country is to a great extent dependent on what we do in regard to it. If we are to keep on increasing duties without any consideration of the probable results to other industries, well and good; but the other night an honorable member rose and suggested an increase in the duty on glucose.
– And then voted against the increase on candles.
– That is a matter for the honorable member’s own judgment ; but we are certainly not given the information on this Tariff that we have always had before. There is no Tariff Board, and no evidence has been taken from outside sources by unbiased people. The Minister must not think that in saying that I am reflecting on him in any ways There has been no Board; created by this Parliament to take evidence on oath in order to be able to make recommendation? to us, and assist us in coming to a determination. We are simply told certain things by the Minister, who, I: am sure; is, and must be, led to a great extent by his Department. Further than that, I complain of his readiness to give way to’ requests made by other members, for increased duties.
– I have another complaint against him - that he is too silent. He has a lot of figures in his head, and is not giving them to us.
– I hope the honorable member does not suggest that I am talking too much, because I have a special object in view in what I am saying. I am trying to create in the country, if. not in this Parliament, a little interest in’ the Tariff. I was more than surprised on Friday afternoon at the small amount of interest that was being taken in Tariff matters, the importance of which I fully realize. I want now to create some discussion on matters which I. look on as material, with a view to exciting interest in the’ Tariff, so that later on, when we reach those large items which to me are of even more, importance, a little more interest will be taken in them. When we were dealing with the’ duty on glucose on Friday afternoon-
– If the honorable member is going to discuss items that we have already passed, it will take a long time to get through.
– I do not propose to allow the Minister to dictate to me the attitude I must adopt. If he thinks I am out of order, he knows exactly what to do. No notice had been given of the intention to increase the duty on glucose, but it was increased by .the Committee by 50 per cent. ‘ The honorable member for Darwin spoke about the information which is being supplied to honorable .members, but in that case the duty was increased by 50 per cent. ‘ in’ spite of the fact that, during the year 1919-20, there were practically no imports of glucose, although there was a- fairly good export trade. There were-, big importations in the. war years 1914-15 and 1915-16, but they gradually diminished until in 1919 only 2 tons were imported.
– Is the honorable member addressing his remarks to item 44 ?
– I could give an effective answer to what the honorable member is saying, but I should be discussing an item, that has already been passed.
– I am replying to the statement of the honorable member for Darwin that ample information is being given on the items with which we are dealing. This Tariff is almost wholly in the interests of the manufacturers. Under this item most of the requirements in the shape of raw materials for the manufacture of chocolates and confectionery, such as cocoa beans, cocoa, shells, and other things, are admitted free, but on the manufactured article the Minister is proposing an enormous increase in the duties. The Minister cannot say, as he did in the case of medicines, that the manufacturers of these goods did well for their country, because, during the war period, it is well known that they rose to the occasion, so far as prices were concerned, to the very hilt. If one buys a couple of shillings worth of lollies in a shop to-day, he receives very few to take home. No one can say that the industry is languishing. I should like to see either some duty placed on the raw material for revenue purposes, or a reduction in .the duty on the manufactured article, bringing it back, say, to the level of the 1914 Tariff. I move -
That tha item be amended by the insertion, utter the word “ duty,” . sub-item fi, of the words “ and on and after 10th May, 1921, ad valorem, British, 30 -per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.
.- First, as to the complaint by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), that honorable members have not been furnished with information such as has been made available in previous Tariff discussions. My answer is that copies of the bound volume I hold in my hand have been supplied to all members. That volume contains all the available information regarding the various Tariffs and the differences between them. I have also supplied honorable members with another book containing abstracts of the reports of the Inter-State Commission, together with other statistical information in regard to every item of the Tariff. That information was supplied over twelve months ago, and if honorable members have lost it, I am not re- sponsible. That book also contained considerable information which Ithought exceedingly valuable’ for’ the purposes of this discussion, but, in the interests of economy, although my officers suggested it, I did not feel justified in issuing another publication covering the ground again. As far as I can, I have supplied honorablememberswithallthe information in my power to which I thought they were rightly entitled, and in such a form as to be handy, and convenient.
I hope the Committee will not accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier. I am not prepared to ask for any advance in the duty, because I am, not satisfied that it is required.The confectionery industry advanced enormously during the period of the war. As honorable members know, the importation of confectionery was prohibited during that period, and for this the Government were subjected to a good deal of criticism. Nevertheless, not only have the confectionery factories increased enormously, but I can recall two very large firms, which previously manufactured outside this country but which have now come here to carry on their business. I refer to Nestle’s and to the Cadbury, Fry, and Pascall combination, the latter of which has established a factory in Tasmania.
– Where is Nestle’s factory?
– Nestle’s have erected a factory in Sydney, where they are manufacturing on a large scale. This is one of the most important subsidiary industries to the dairy industry that I know of. It does not, perhaps, take the enormous quantities of milk that the butter factories do, but still it takes large quantities, and; consequently, is very valuable to the dairy industry. Above and beyond that, not only does the confectionery industry itself provide an immense amount of employment, but there are large subsidiary industries built up around it, such as box-making, printing, and a hundred and one other avenues of work.
I have here some rather interesting figures, which give an indication of the extent to which the confectionery industry has grown. In 1913 the importation of cocoa beans, which are the raw material from which chocolate confectionery is made, was 1,408,509 lbs., and by 1919- 1920 that importation had grown to 9,277,591 lbs. The confectionery imported prior to the war amounted to 10,660,518 lbs., and that importation by 1919-20 had dropped to 63,303 lbs. The value of the imports in 1913, on this one item alone, was £571,956, which last year had dropped to £9,570.
– Was the partial prohibition operative all through 1920 ?
– No,only part of the time.
– And theshortage of sugar was, not transparent.
– I am now dealing with the importations of confectionery, this has nothing whatever to do with the shortage of sugar in Australia. .
– We must have manufactured more here, surely?
– That is what I am trying to show - that the importation has dropped. The decrease in the importation of confectionery from over £571,956 worth to less than £10,000 worth and the increase in the importation of theraw material for chocolate confectionery alone, from 1,408,509 lbs. to 9,277,591 lbs., show the extent to which this industry has developed in Australia under the prohibition in operation during the war. There is one feature on which, I am afraid, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) will not look on altogether with pleasure.
– Was there not a fair export trade recently?
– Not of late. During the period when the local price of sugar was below the world’s parity, there was a certain amount of export, but I understand that that export trade, with the exception of some island trade in which we are entitled to share, is now practically non-existent. However,the Customs revenue from confectionery has fallen from £145,858 to £5,149.
– It is a wonder the Treasurer does not suggest an Excise.
– The Treasurer may think of that by-and-by. It will be seen that during the war Australia has built up a very valuable industry. Instead of sending large sums of money away to pay for imported confectionery, we are making confectionery for ourselves, and to a very large extent from raw material grown in this country. This industry we should make a deunite effortto keep, and the duties should be retained for, at all events, some little time.It may be that later on we shall beable to faceto reduction of duties without any trouble.
Mr.Bamford- We ought togive a bonus ontheproduction of cocoa beans.
– That may come by andby I have not the slightest doubt that cocoa beans can be grown here; but whether profitably or not I do not know. In the meantime, wehave no cocoa-bean industry,and must import what we require; and it would be a mistake to impose a heavy duty on this raw material. As honorable members know, one or the by-products of the confectionery industry is potable cocoa; and we make full provision in the item to cover that by-product. I hope the Committee will not agree to the amendment.
.- The Minister (Mr. Greene) states that he issued to each and every honorable member a : book containing extracts from the reports of the Inter-State Commission. I do not blame the Minister for any remissness in this connexion ; but it is remarkable that not only myself , but all the honorable member round aboutme, have only just received their copies.
Mr.Wise. - : They were circulated twelvemonths ago, but were leftlying about, and the messengers gathered them up.
– Nevertheless, it is rather peculiar that honorable members on this side should nave just received’ their booksfrom thefar end ofthe chamber.
-I, myself ,saw thebooks scatteredall around the chamber.
– Iwas away when these papers were presented, and I had to write specially to the Minister fora copy of the Tariff. I hardly think it is just on the part of the Minister to say that he, himself, has given us statistics and extractsfrom the Inter-State Commission’s reports,, seeing that these appear in a book prepared by Mr. Ambrose Pratt. Mr. Pratt, I believe, is editor of the Industrial Australian, and he ‘is doing remarKifoly well-
– I desire your ruling, Mr. Deputy Chairman, as to whether the honorable member is in order, under this item, in dealing with what Mr. Ambrose Pratt, or anybody else, has said.
– I understood the honorable member for Dampier to be replying to a statement made by the Minister.
– I am protesting that the Minister should claim to have furnished honorable members with statistics, which, as a matter of fact, have been provided byan outside journal. We are supposed to have extracts from the reports ofthe Inter-State Commission. It is not fair that they should have been prepared in this manner.
.- Certain honorable members who are what maybe called cranks on some subjects seem to delight in trying to get a little popularity by speaking on their pet subjects to the annoyance of other members. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has seised upon this item in the Tariff as one in connexion with which, ho thinks, the duty should be reduced. In my opinion, if any item justifies a heavy duty it is this particular one, because it concerns what we may term the luxuries of the people. The honorable member seems to lose his capacity to reason logicully on a question of Free Trade or Protection. It is necessary to have a heavy Tariff on this item, if only because of the employment provided for our returned soldiers. Take candied fruit as an illustration. Queensland State legislation encourages the production of pineapples, and these when candied are a very marketable commodity, not only in Australia, but all over the world. Chocolates and other varieties of confectionery are luxuries, and, moreover, I challenge any honorable member to say that the product of our Australian firms is not equal to that of manufacturers in any part of the world. If ever I go down the street with one of my daughters, and if she has done something to please me, I take good care to make some return in the form of an Australian product in the confectionery line, because I know the article will be of first class quality. The manufacturing , of confectionery gives employment to many thousands of Australian men and women, and I object that any honorable member should endeavour to seek popularity by moving for a reduction in the duty. I hope the honorable member for Dampier will not adopt such means to advertise himself.
Item agreed to.
Item 45 (Copra) ; item 46 (Egg albumen, dry) and item 47 (Egg contents, dry) agreed to.
Egg (not in shell) in liquid form, when imported for use in industries other than those tor the preparation of articles of food, and denatured, as prescribed by departmental bylaws. Free.
– I should like the Minister (Mr. Greene) to tell the Committee what egg in liquid form is used for, and why it should be free. Unless there is some special reason, of which I know nothing at . present, I feel disposed to move for a duty, in order to protect our poultry farmers, who are largely returned soldiers. Everything is put up against these men.’ . Wire netting and everything else necessary for the poultry-keeper’s yard is protected and made expensive.
– Wheat is their heaviest item.
– It is essential that we should give the poultry farmers an equal measure of Protection. Under the Wheat Board scheme they have to pay as..much for inferior wheat as the general public pay for good wheat. If they have to pay dearly for all their requirements, they are entitled to some measure of Protection themselves.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), that if our poultry farmers were prejudiced by this item we should take some action, along the lines he has suggested; but I feel satisfied that they are not injured.’ Denatured . eggs are used by tenners in the preparation of leather, and unlessit is available at a price at which it would never pay the poultry farmer to supply to them, they would not use it. They would, instead, use a substitute. That is the position.I may add that, recognising the desirableness of protecting the poultry industry, I have in another item substantially increased the duty on eggs, as I dare say the honorable member has noticed. Recently a steamer with 3,000,000 eggs on board arrived from
China, but because this duty was operative the eggs could not be sold; so the duty has already been of distinct advantage to our poultry farmers. I should like to say further that, although this provision has been in the Tariff for some time, the tanners have hot used denatured eggs, because they have not been cheap enough.
Item agreed to.
Item 49 (Egg yolk, dry), and item SO (Eggs, in shell), agreed to.
Fish) viz. -
.- I notice that there is a duty on fish preserved in tins of l½d. per lb. This is an item of food, particularly for people engaged in developing the back country. It must be. kept in every outside camp. It is also required in the homes of the poorer people..
– It is pretty dear food for the poorer people. -
– I dare say it is just now, owing to the’ increased cost of “production, increased freight, and, on top of that, this increased duty. I am afraid it is going to make the cost of living dearer. The Minister can only intend the duty on this item to be for revenue, purposes, and I hope that, before we have finished with the schedule, we shall find some articles of luxury upon which we may levy higher duties as compensation for relief in regard to such items as the one now under discussion. I do not propose to make any discrimination ‘between Great Britain, Norway, Scandinavia, or America. I move-
That the item be amended by the addition to sub-item o of the following: - “and on and after 19th May, 1921, per lb.,1d.”
.-. The duties in this portion of the schedule1 have been arranged with a view to inducing persons to develop the tinned fish industry in Australia, and because Great Britain has been losing her trade in tinned fish with Australia. Unquestionably we have the fish in our waters, and I believe that we could establish the industry here. In 1918-19 the importations of tinned fish from Great Britain sank from practically the whole of the trade to about 1 per cent. of the total.
– In 1919-20 we imported over 3,500,000 lbs. of tinned fish from Great Britain.
– But Great Britain was supplying us with a very much larger percentage than she is now, and it is desirable, in the interests of British preferential trade, to restore Britain’s trade in this important article of food.
.- The tinned fish industry is one that we should endeavour to encourage in every possible way. If the honorable member’s amendment is carried, it will seriously affect a canning factory on Flinders Island, which is now struggling for existence. There is ample room for such a factory, because the east coast of Tasmania is one of the best fishing grounds around Australia.
Item agreed to.
.- If I am permitted to do so, I intend to move to increase the duty on bananas to 13s. 4d. per cental. Speaking on the general debate, I placed a considerable amount of information before the Committee in regard to the banana-growing industry of Queensland and New South Wales, and there is no occasion for me to repeat my arguments, except, perhaps, to refer to what may be considered a weak point. We have it from the files in the Minister’s office that the cost of the production of bananas in Fiji is 4s. 6d. per case, whereas in Queensland it is 14s. 8d. percase. I can quite appreciate the fact that the average member would be inclined to believe that a duty of 13s.4d. per cental would be liable to lead to a considerable increase in the price of bananas; but the growers have not the slightest intention of asking for any increase in the present price. I have already demonstrated to the Committee that the increased production in Queensland and New South Wales justifies the growers in asking for the whole of the Australian market. As a matter of fact, under present conditions they can supply the whole of the local demand, and for three weeks out of four they do. But on every fourth week an island steamer arrives, and by landing, as was done last month, about 27,000 bunches in Australia, completely dislocates the market. The onlyeffect of the imposition of the increased duty asked for would be to regulate the local market; and that is all the local growers expect. It is admitted generally in Queensland and New South Wales that 5 acres of land is as much as one banana-grower can farm. Five acres under crop will produce six cases of fruit per week, and six cases at 14s. 6d. per case means a return of £4 7s. per week for the grower, who, after he has felled and cleared the scrub, and planted his ground, has to wait eighteen months until his crop comes into profitable bearing.
– If the growers do not put up the price of bananas, how will they benefit by the increased duty?
– I have already said that they will benefit by securing a regular market.
– They will, have only the same income.
– I have already said that the boat from the Pacific Islands arrives here only every fourth week. It is because the fruit from this source comeB on top of the regular supplies within the Commonwealth that there is an irregular and fluctuating market.
– The growers can sell all the bananas that they produce.
– Upon quite a number of occasions a lot of fruit of good quality has had to be wasted because it would not pay to market it.
– Bananas are always dear enough retail.
– If honorable members choose to walk down Bourkestreet, they will see more bananas exposed for sale than any other fruit, and at a price which will compare more than favorably with any fruit upon the market.
– The boat from Fiji is due here to-day, and yet Queensland bananas are dearer now than they have been for a month.
– But the Fiji bananas arenot token straight from the ship and put into the shops; they are transferred to a ripening room. The fruit is sent here in a green state, otherwise it would not carry. Probably a week or a fortnight elapses after the arrival of. a consignment of bananas before the ‘ fruit finds its way into the shops. I have already pointed out that a return to. the grower of 14s. 6d. per case is absolutely necessary. The average freight from Queensland is 8s. 9d. per case, making a total of 23s. 3d. per ease.That is the bedrock price at which bananas can be produced in Queensland. In the matter of freight we enjoy no advantage Over the growers of Fiji. Certainly they have a longer distance to cover, but it is a water freight, which is cheap. Upon the other hand, the banana-grower of Queensland pays 97s. per ton from Gympie to Melbourne.
– Does not that fruit come down by boat?
– No. The whole of the bananas from Queensland are sent by rail. To give honorable members some idea of the quantity which is handled by the Southern Queensland Fruit-growers’ Society, I may mention that, during the four months ended April last, no less than 8,000 tons have passed through Wollangarra, representing 216,273 cases.
– It is ruinous to drag that fruit down south by train.
– Thereare very good reasons why that course is.being adopted. Under the old system of sending it by boat, no care was exercised in the handling of it. The fruit was often dumped down in the steamer’s hold near the boilers, where it was so sweated that, upon its arrival here, it was condemned. One of my first efforts was to endeavour to remedy that difficulty. Upon more than one occasion I have asked that the Commonwealth should build vessels which would cater for the fruit trade between Queensland and Melbourne. It was principally upon this . account that the Southern Queensland Fruit-growers’ Society entered into an arrangement with the Railway Commissioners in the different States, under which the fruit now reaches Melbourne four and a half days after it has been cut upon the plantation. The result is that it receives more careful handling than it did formerly, and the consumer thus gets better fruit than would be possible under the old conditions. The time occupied in transit from Fiji to Sydney is about the same as that occupied between Gympie and Melbourne.
– How is it that the film to be projected in the Queen’s Hall this evening, which will depict the various operations connected with the banana industry, is to be shown just at the time this duty comes under consideration ?
– I am very pleased tobe able to frankly answer the Treasurer’s, question. The growersof bananas, realizing that in the past their case has been quite misunderstood, resolved that upon the present occasion they would spare no expense in order to place honorable members in a position to learn something of the conditions surrounding their industry. The film of which the Treasurer speaks was taken for the Tweed River Fruit Growers Association, and I hope that honorable members will avail themselves of the opportunity to see it, in order that they may acquire much valuable information.
– It is good propaganda work.
– It is propaganda work in a good cause. Every member of this Parliament, I think, has received a circular signed by S. J. Plain in refererice to the particular item which we are now discussing. Mr. Plain, I understand, represents the Tropical Fruits Proprietary Company, which has a plantation in Fiji. Apparently the members of that company prefer to invest their money in a place where they can obtain cheap labour rather than in Australia. I have a satisfactory reply to every paragraph contained in the circular, but I have answered so many of thestatements made therein’ that there is no occasion for me to again traverse them in detail. I. shall, therefore, confine my observations to two paragraphs, one of wehich relates to the Chinese who are alleged to be engaged in the industry in Queensland and New South Wales. The paragraph in question reads: -
It is quite safe to say that the Chinese have a much bigger acreage at the TweedRivor, New South Wales, for banana planting than all of the white growers put together, so that the “coloured labour” cry is unjustifiedas a plea for increased duty.
– There is nothing like a good lie when one is at it.
– Quite so; and the statement which I have just quoted is a champion lie, because not a single bunch or box of bananas grown by Chinese has been sent from the south of Queensland to the southern States. There is only one Chinaman engaged in the industry throughout the whole of the southern part of Queensland.
– I telegraphed for information upon that point, and I. have it here. The honorable member is at liberty to read the reply which I have received.
– I also wired to Mr. Stuart, the secretary of the Tweed Fruitgrowcrs Association, for information upon this matter. ; However, I thank the Minister for his courtesy in handing me the . reply which he has received. It reads -
Four thousand acres under bananas Tweed River, 220,000 oases produced for year ending April, by about 600 Europeans. Not one Chinaman engaged in production eitheras freeholder, leaseholder, or employee. Area in Queensland south of Southport produced 40,000 oases same period. No Chinese in any way. interested. Mullumbimby district about 2,500 acres ; 80,000acres produced some period Six Chinese there_own 830 acres freehold and 190 acres leasehold; employ 60 Chinese and few whites, principally horsedrivers.
Sitting suspended from6.30 to 8.15 p.m.
– I think I have proved conclusively that Mr. Plain was in error in his statement to which I alluded before the adjournment. I will now read a further quotation from the circular -
Petitions signed by the fruit merchants of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth, who are all practical men with a thorough knowledge of the requirements of the fruit trade, and whose interests are identical with the consumers’, have already been presented to the Ministerfor Trade and Customs asking for the abolition of the duty on the Fiji fruit.
It is only fair to state that petitions to this effect were forwarded to the Minister; but those petitions were engineered by the Tropical Fruits Proprietary Company. I have some letters bearing upon the whole subject which I desire to read, because apparently, the agents who signed the petitions have since entirely changed their opinions. That has been due to the great strides which the industry has made, both in Queensland and in New South Wales, particularly during the past eighteen months. About two years ago the fruit certainlywas dear. But what with shipping strikes, the influenza outbreak and other happenings,, the Fiji fruits were not coming to these markets, and Australian growers were encouraged to plant additional areas, so that at present there are in the two States somewhere about 14,000 acres under bananas. -
– Did any grower sign a petition for the abolition of the duty.?;
– In one of the paragraphs of the circular it is stated that two growers signed. They, however, were agent growers, who, besides conducting their agency business, had a certain area under crop in the Murwillumbah district. I desire now to read a letter from the Wholesale. Fruit Merchants’ Association of Victoria, dated 11th May, 1921-
The General Secretary South Queensland Fruit-growers’ Society Limited, Landsboro, Queensland.
Referring to your interview withmembers of Wholesale Fruit Merchants’ Association of Victoria re increased Protection to enable Australian growers el bananas to hold their own against importations, I beg to. advise you that at a special general meeting of this association it was unanimously agreed that this body is favorable to suggested increased Protection, believing that the requirements of the trade will be, in the near future, met by Australian-grown fruit.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) H. M. Wade,
– They are agreeing to the present proposal, and not to that which the honorable member is making?
– They are agreeable to the proposition which I am now advancing. That letter was in response to a request from the President and Secretary of the South Queensland Fruitgrowers’ Society, who were in Melbourne at the time. I have another letter, dated 12th May, and headed “The Wholesale Fruit Merchants’ Association of Victoria.” It is addressed by the secretary of that body. to Mr. Fisher, who is the President of the Queensland society, and it reads -
In response to your request to Mr. Wade for list of members of this association, I beg to hand you same herewith: -
Listof Members of the Wholesale Fruit Merchants’ Association of Victoria.
Geo. Lister, 10 Western Market, Melbourne.
Frank Booth & Sons, 15 Western Market, Melbourne.
Silk Bros., 441 Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
Bell &.Co., 439 Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
Wm. Sweeney, 14 Western Market, Melbourne.
Smith & Baldock Proprietary Limited, 480 Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
Coastal Farmers’ Co-operative Society, Western Market, Melbourne.
McClure, Valantine, & Co. Proprietary Limited, 49-57 William-street, Melbourne.
– Half of them do not handle a case of bananas a year.
– I do not assert that they do. Another letter is from the In ternational Fruit and Mercantile Company, and is as follows: -
Wm. Ellison, Esq.,
Southern Queensland Fruit-growers’ Society Ltd.,
Dear Sir, - Adverting to the proposal for increasing the impost on Fiji bananas coming into the Commonwealth, we have to advise you that you have our full support in your endeavours to achieve this object. To sustain our views, we would emphasize the following features: -
I have one other letter from a firm of well-known and representative wholesale fruit merchants in Adelaide -
Mr. W. A. Watkins,
King-street, Melbourne, Victoria.
Dear Sir, - I thank you. for giving me an opportunity of expressing an opinion in respect to proposed increased Tariff on Fiji bananas.
Some time ago Queensland bananas were so scarce and dear, and so little attention apparently given to growing them, that it seemed really necessary (if the public taste for this fruit was to continue, and the consumer receive anywhere near a sufficient supply) that the importation of Fiji bananas was necessary. Later this did not seem so imperative, and an extract was published in Queensland papers from letters to my agent, wherein I stated that my firm proposed altogether discontinuing purchasing Fiji bananas, and asking support from Queensland growers to this end, so I could maintain regular supplies. Again, recently, I sent my son and representatives through
Queensland to thoroughly ascertain the position in respect to bananas there. Their reports assure me that much larger interest is being taken in banana culture, and the industry, employing white labour, needs necessary encouragement to further foster same to make Queensland a very large producer of this fruit. I understand that a considerable number of returned soldiers have started in this industry, and this alone calls for all the encouragement that can be given without detriment to others. I understand from you that various representatives from Queensland are now in Melbourne with a view of obtaining a reasonable duty on Fiji bananas imported into the Commonwealth, and I feel sure that my former remarks will assure you that this has my support. As a merchant, I think there are other methods which would considerably assist growers in meeting the competition and bettering their position, and if I can be of any assistance, please let me know. I speak particularly of the very much increased railway freight, delay, and knocking about that this fruit is subjected to. Co-operation between all States, merchants, and growers, in respect to improving these conditions, seems highly necessary. Thinking it may be of assistance to you or the Queensland banana industry generally, I am taking the liberty of introducing this matter to others interested here, and am attaching a memorial signed by a few Adelaide traders, &c. I trust this may assist you.
Silbert, Sharp, & Bishop Ltd.
These letters completely disprove the assertions of Mr. Plain; and, even if some of the agents were at one time asking for the abolition of the duty, the correspondence shows that, owing to the progress in the industry in the past two years, the merchants are satisfied that the growers of Queensland and New South Wales can grow sufficient fruit for our requirements. Two representatives of the South Queensland organization have been in Melbourne during the past fortnight for the particular purpose of endeavouring to improve the handling and distribution of the fruit. It is true that, at times, prices have appeared to be high, but the growers have not reaped the benefit. It has happened repeatedly that the retailers, who, of course, must make reasonable profits, have unduly advanced prices.
Mr.gabb. - The retailer does not make much on bananas.
– One can understand that, in view of the amount of deterioration inevitably going on in his stock. It is obvious that there must be what would, perhaps, appear to be a large profit to cover that source of loss. I am confident that the visit of the two Queensland re presentatives to Melbourne will considerably improve the handling of the fruit at this end. The growers are not asking for an increased price. They are satisfied that they can supply all the bananas required by the Australian consumer, and at a retail price of which no one can complain. By medium of my amendment they ask to be put in exactly the same position as growers in Fiji. The figures which I have quoted show that there is a difference between production costs there and in Australia amounting to 13s. 4d. Any lower impost will still give the growers in Fiji an advantage over the Queensland and New South Wales growers. I move -
That sub-item a be amended by the addition of the following words, “ and on and after 19th May, 1921, per cental, 13s. 4d.
I desire that figure to be inserted in each of the three columns. I mention the three specifically for the reason that British folk are not interested in any matter of preference concerning bananas.
– I rise to order. Mr. Chairman, it might be convenient at this stage if you would give a ruling as to whether a private member can move for the imposition of an increase in duty when the Tariff is under consideration.
– I expected that this point of order would be raised at some stage, and I have therefore given the subject very close and deep consideration, in order that the Committee may deal with the matter as it thinks fit. This question arose in 190.1, when I had the honour of occupying the position I hold to-day, and when I ruled in a certain direction. On that occasion my ruling was not dissented from, but, with the concurrence of the Committee, was sent on to Mr. Speaker Holder for his consideration and decision. As this matter is of considerable importance I think it desirable to give the Committee the fullest information at my disposal, to enable it to come to a decision which may be lasting and serve as a guide in any future proceedings. Standing order No. 171 reads -
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax rate or duty shall be proposed by any non-official member in any Committee on any Bill.
Non-official means a member other than a member of the Ministry. It will be seen, on reference to the ruling I gave on a similar matter on 12th November,, 1901, that a lengthy debate ensued both before and after my ruling. On that occasion the matter was discussed at length by many illustrious members of the House; but no vote was taken at any stage of the proceedings. My ruling, to which honorable memberscan refer, was based on the fact that wo were in Committee of Ways and Means, and standing order No. 171 provides only that such action cannot be taken on any Bill. There was no Bill before the Committee at that time, neither is there now. This is a resolution from which a schedule i.3 drawn up. That schedule will have to be reported to the House, and if approved by 1ihe House will become the basis of a Bill. I also took the view that a constitutional right was given to non-official members to move for an increased rate or duty on a resolution in Committee of Ways and Means,- but that non-official members would not have that right in Committee on a Bill. On the occasion to which I have referred I quoted from all the authorities available,, and referred also to our standing order No. 1, which provides that if our own Standing Orders do not apply, the practice of the House of Commons is to be resorted to. I found fiat the practice of the House of Commons up to 1870 had been to allow nonofficial members to move for an increased rate or duty. I found, also,, that that practice had been adopted by Victoria and South Australia. In referring to the Standing Orders of the various States, I ascertained that only one State had its Standing Orders so framed that it was impossible for a non-official member at any stage on a resolution or a Bill to move for an increased rate or duty.
– Which was the exception ?
– Western Australia makes it absolutely prohibitive, but in the other States it is not so. In Victoria and South Australia it had very often been done. I then explained that, in “the State of New South Wales, while the Standing Orders made no such provision, the practice of Parliament had been followed. In considering this matter, I had to consider the intention of tho framers of the Constitution’, and of our Standing
Orders. Some of the former were members of the first Standing Orders Committee, and I shall read the remarks of Sir John Quick, who, honorable members will recall, was not only a member of this House, but one of the framers of the Federal Constitution. I believe that gentleman was also a member of the first Standing Orders Committee. His speech will show what was in the minds of the framers of the Constitaition in regard to what he termed the privileges of honorable members. On page 7100 of Hansard of 12th November, 1901 , he is reported to have said -
I cannot acquiesce in the proposition submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, that a private member cannot propose an increase of a tax. I cannot say that I should be glad to support an increase of a tax any more than would any other honorable member. An increase of taxation would no doubt be an undesirable thing; but an occasion may arise where it may ho necessary for a private member to submit for the consideration of the Committee a proposition that there should be an increase of a duty. I certainly think that honorable members should not join in contracting or restricting their powers and ‘ privileges in this Committee. There are only two authorities which regulate this question. I see nothing in the Constitution to restrict or limit tho power of a private member to propose either a new tax or an increase of a tax. Section 56 deals with messages relating to appropriation of revenue. An honorable member could not propose an increase of expenditure in Committee, because expenditure has to be recommended by a message from the Crown. That section is expressly confined to the spending of money after it has been raised, which is an entirely different question from the raising of revenue. I am aware that, according to the previous practice of Parliament, the power of members in matters of taxation was limited. I referred to this question at the beginning of the session, when the matter of Standing Orders was under consideration. I took the opportunity of expressing the hope that the Standing Orders would not be so designed as to restrict or cut down the powers or privileges of honorable members in matters of taxation. On referring to the Standing Orders, I find nothing to restrict the power of a private member in Committee of Ways and Means. There is one standing order, Jfo. 171, which provides that -
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax, rate, or duty shall be proposed by any non-official member in any Committee on any Bill.
The Committee of Ways and Means is hot a Committee on a Bill. It is a Committee of the whole House in anticipation of the preparation of a Bill. It has unfettered freedom in matters to be submitted for its consideration. Without expressing a desire to increase the taxation, or without having in view any increase of a particular duty, I think that honorable members ought to fight for retaining their rights. An occasion may arise to increase a duty, and, therefore, honorable members ought to -have a free hand to submit such propositions in the direction of taxation as they may think fit.
I could quote quite a number of eminent authorities, but I do not think it necessary to do so. The ruling to which I have referred was confirmed by Mr. Speaker Holder, but the matter was not again reviewed until 1906, when the question of imposing duties arose. ‘
– On items which did not appear in the schedule.
– That is so. Mr. Speaker Holder again confirmed his previous ruling- in regard to the right of a non-official member to move for an increase in rate or duty. But he ruled against the right of a non-official member to move for the introduction of a new item into the schedule. The late Sir George Turner and other eminent men of legal attainments held a similar view. Mr. McDonald-Paterson, of Queensland, the late Sir C. C. Kingston, and other high legal authorities, who were members of the Federal Convention, supported the ruling I gave, and which Mr. Speaker Holder indorsed, and showed it to be right constitutionally to allow private members to move for an increase in duty, as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) had then done. Realizing that further consideration would be given to this question, I have refreshed my memory by reading the debates in 1901, and I am now, as I was then, fully convinced that standing order 171 was framed to permit non-official members to propose an increase in rate or duty on a resolution of Ways and Means. I desire honorable members to bear in mind that it was decided on that occasion that, in a Committee of Ways and Means, a non-official member could move for an alteration in the schedule before the Committee. This is a resolution before a Committee of Ways and Means. It is not preceded by a message. It is nob a matter of expenditure, and the schedule now before the Committee is subject to alteration . In accordance with the ruling previously given, and with the standing order quoted, when that resolution is reported to, and adopted, by this House, it forms the basis of a Bill, and the schedule is incorporated in that
Bill. The Committee of the Whole, when dealing with that Bill, will not be able to alter the schedule by increasing the rates; and, therefore, if rates are to be increased, the alterations must be made at this stage. Then the Minister whose duty it will be to bring in the Bill incorporating the Tariff, will have an opportunity to draft it in accordance with the wishes of honorable members, and to make other arrangements in conformity with them. The matter should be finalized on the adoption by the House of the report from the Committee of Ways and Means. Whatever doubts may exist as to the correctness of my previous ruling - which I now confirm - I feel it incumbent on me, occupying as I do a position of responsibility, to uphold the privileges of honorable members generally, private as well as official. That I do in ruling - I think correctly - that it is competent for a private member under standing order 171 to propose in this Committee an increase of a rate of duty.
– Do I understand that you rule that a private member may not move to insert a new item in the schedule.
– As that question has not arisen, I have not ruled on it. There has never been dissent from my ruling, and, therefore, it has never been voted on. I declare the amendment to be in order.
– I am sorry that the amendment has been moved. Banana-growing is certainly a primary industry, and I wish to study the interests of our primary producers; but, in my opinion, the proposal of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) is calculated to prejudice the banana industry, and to injure Australia as a whole. It is my view that if we wholly exclude from our markets bananas grown out of Australia, the price of bananas will become so high that comparatively few will be consumed by the public, and, therefore, the industry will suffer. Many of the Tariff rates are 60 insular as to injure Australia, and I think that there are duties in the American and South African Tariffs which are in the nature of reprisals against them. Ought we to be entirely selfish in this matter ? Has Fiji no claims to consideration ? That country was growing bananas before any were grown in Australia, and does more trade with us than with any other country. She spends in buying from us an amount three times as much as we pay for her bananas, and the intercourse between the two countries maintains a shipping business which is very profitable to Australia. Is it in our interests that this trade intercourse should be destroyed ? We must see that the Queensland banana-growers are reasonably protected against the competition of cheap labour; but can it be said that Australia has been flooded during the past four or five years with cheap bananas ? If, as was at one time the case, bananas were obtainable at one-fifth of their present price, there might be some justification for the higher Protection.
– Bananas grown by Chinese!
– Many of the Queensland bananas are grown by Chinese, and if the amendment is carried, the Australian public will be paying heavily for bananas to maintain Chinese as well as white growers in a lucrative employment. The pictures which were exhibited tonight in the Queen’s Hall showed that the soil on which our bananas are grown is some of the best in the world ; I doubt if Fiji has better. We were informed that within eighteen months of planting the banana bears its fruit, and the business of banana-growing is not a difficult one, nor are the expenses much greater in Australia than in Fiji. In 1913 we paid Fiji £241,000 for bananas, and she spent £424,155 in purchasing goods fromus. In 1917-18 we spent only £137,140 on Fiji bananas, an indication that the Australian grower was getting a good part of the trade, and Fiji bought from us goods worth £322,000. Can we afford to put an end to the traffic between the two countries? I hope that a sane view may prevail in this matter, and that the Minister (Mr, Greene) will not agree to the amendment, the carrying of which would not benefit Queensland. When you protect an industry from competition altogether, you create laziness and inefficiency in it, and our citizens should not be afraid of the reasonable competition of other countries.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) is versatile if he is nothing else. Hehas scarcely risen in this House without putting forward a plea for the primary producer; but, apparently, he has now reached the stage when he will consider the interests only of the primary producers who live in his own electorate. On last Friday, we heard him pleading wholeheartedly in support of the duty on millet.
– On a point of order, I suggest that there is an item of the Tariff before the Chair.
– The honorable member then contended that it was our duty to assist the primary producer in every shape and form. We are now considering an item which concerns primary producers engaged in the banana industry. They have circularized honorable members, and in clear and definite terms have stated what they want. They know more about the industry than we do; but the honorable member for Swan, who would have us believe that he is so solicitous for the primary producers, says they do not know what is best for themselves. He undertakes to tell them what is best in their interests. I do not assert that the honorable member has no right to say that, if he thinks it; but it does seem to me that he takes up a contradictory position when he supports the primary producer engaged in the cultivation of millet, and refuses what they desire to the primary producers engaged in the cultivation of bananas. I wish to protect primary producers wherever I find them. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) is to be congratulated on making out a splendid case in the interests of those engaged in the banana industry, who are faced with a tough proposition in having to compete with the products of cheap foreign labour. I do not think that the honorable member for Swan would contend for a moment that white workers should be asked to compete in this country against coloured labour, and I see no difference between competing against coloured labour in Australia and against coloured labour overseas. I assume that the figures quoted by the honorable member for Lilley are correct, and we learn from him that the wages paid to workmen in this industry in Southern Queensland are from 12s. to 14s. per day. That is as much as a labourer in the industry in Fiji would get in a week. I think the wages paid to workers in the industry in Fiji are 2s. 6d. per day, so that the primary producers in Southern Queensland engaged in this industry have to pay their workmen as much per day as the producers in Fiji have to pay their workmen per week.
– Will an increased duty cheapen bananas, as the honorable mem- ber says it will cheapen binders?
– When we come to binders I will tell the honorable member all about them. Just now he objected to my reference to an item that is not before the Chair, but now he would like me to speak on something else. Bananas are brought to Melbourne from Southern Queensland in three or four days. They cannot be brought here from Fiji under about a fortnight. The consequence is that we get the more matured article from Queensland, and that is an important consideration. I had the privilege, a couple of months ago, of going through a good deal of the banana country in Southern Queensland, and it was a revelation to me to see in the banana industry one of the most splendid examples of intense culture to be seen in any part of Australia. There are men engaged in the industry who are making a living off 4 acres or 5 acres. It seems to me that the only thing they require in the way of encouragement is the protection they should have against the products of coloured labour abroad. It is a duty which this country owes to the white people engaged in building up this industry in Australia to do everything that can be done to protect them against about the most unfair form of competition one could imagine. I understand that the honorable member for Lilley proposes that the duty should be raised to 13s. 4d. per cental.
– Yes, the difference between the cost of production in Fiji and Australia.
– The banana growers, speaking through their association, have said that there is no proposal to raise the price of bananas. I direct theattention of the honorable member for Swan to that. What they desire is freedom from unfair competition. When the primary producers of Australia, no matter in what industry they are engaged, ask for our assistance, I am prepared to give them the full measure of assistance they require.
.- The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has just said that he believes there will be no increase in the price of bananas if the duty is increased as proposed. I have a very good recollection of the time when the shipping strike was on, when no bananas were coming here from Fiji
– When was that?
– Within the last four or five months. We were then paying between 2s. 6d. and 3s. per dozen for bananas. The price was raised until it was about £2 per case. The increase of duty now proposed is tremendous. It is from 2s. 6d. to 13s. 4d. per cental, or something over 500 per cent, of increase on the Government proposal. I have no doubt whatever that if the increase is agreed to, it will have the effect of increasing the price of bananas in Australia. The existing duty on bananas is a heavy duty. I recall the attention of honorable members to the fact that from the film which we saw in the Queen’s Hall this evening, we learned that ordinary business men and returned soldiers are going in for banana cultivation, and are making a very good thing out of it. We saw that those engaged in the industry apparently have many motor care at their disposal. We know, however, that investment in banana lands under the existing duty is put before the public of our big cities as one of the best paying propositions of the present day. The existing duty is a very heavy increase on that of the 1914 Tariff. The best proof we could have that it is having the effect that honorable members desire is the increase in banana cultivation in Southern Queensland and Northern NewSouth Wales. There is some force in the argument advanced by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), that if we are to retain our trade with the islands, we must exchange commodities of some sort with them. The banana producers of Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales have had no difficulty in obtaining a good market for their fruit.
– As to the island trade, it would not matter much if we did not take any bananas from Fiji, because all. the sugar that comes here to be refined is from Fiji.
– At all events, it is undeniable that, as soon as the present duty was imposed, the price of bananas went up. Such good prices are ruling that investment in banana lands is put forward as one of the best of propositions.Returned soldiers are doing well out of banana cultivation, and citizens of Sydney who have invested money in banana cultivation on the North Coast are getting a return of from 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. on their capital. I cannot support the amendment.
.- I intend to vote against the amendment on the ground that it provides, not for Protection, but absolute prohibition. If it were agreed to, our trade with Fiji would be entirely eliminated. Banana-growers in Queensland and Northern New South Wales have nothing of which to complain. During the last few years, land suitable for the production of bananas has advanced very rapidly in price. In a report to which the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has referred, it is stated that -
As far back as 1915 we read of one grower (J. M. Christie) taking £2,300 off a 10-acre block of bananas. A return of £150 to £180 per acre is the average in this district.
– The circular from which the honorable member is quoting is not reliable.
– From what circular is the honorable member quoting?
– I am quoting from a circular issued by Mr. S. J. Plain, and copies of which have been sent to all honorable members. It contains some facts in regard to increases in the price of land suitable for banana cultivation which are generally accepted. For instance, it is stated that -
The SydneyMorning Herald of 8th August, 1919, reports the sale of 64 acres which realized £6,460 - over £100 per acre - for virgin land. The Murwillumbah correspondent of the Sydney Mail, under date 13th April, 1919, gives the local valuation of a banana farm in bearing at £180 per acre. It will thus be seen that banana cultivation in Australia is already worth far more per acre than any other crop.
If this amendment be carried, bananas will become luxuries so far as the general body of consumers is concerned. It is all very well for representatives of the banana-growing districts to say that, if the duty be increased, as they desire, to 13s. 4d. per cental, there will be no increase in prices. What are the facts? During the seamen’s strike, when there’ were no steamers coming here from Fiji, and consequently no competition, I paid 42s. per case for bananas. There will be a Fiji boat here to-morrow; but the bananas will be just as dear as they were last week, when they were fetching as much as 27s. 6d. per case. People are being asked to-day to pay 25s. per case for inferior bananas. The bananas that come in here from Fiji have very little influence on local prices. Growers in Queensland are producing such good fruit that they need not fear the competition of the Fijian article. The first-grade Queensland bananas are infinitely better than any produced in Fiji. I suppose that a case of bananas would weigh about 1 cwt.
– About 80 lbs.
– That being so, if the amendment were carried we should have to pay something like 10s. per case by way of duty. There are twenty-four dozen bananas in a case, so that with a duty of 13s. 4d. per cental added to the present price, we should be paying something like 37s. for a case of twenty-four dozen.
– That is not so.
– I challenge the honorable member to disprove my statement. I have already stated that during the seamen’s strike, when the Queensland banana-growers had no competition, we had to pay 42s. per case for bananas ; and if the Fiji boats ceased running tomorrow we should be called upon to pay the same price once more. If the banana industry were languishing or threatened with extinction I could understand . extreme measures being taken to revive it. But no danger threatens the cultivation of bananas in Queensland and New South Wales. The industry is most prosperous, and land suitable for banana cultivation is fetching higher prices than any other class of country. Banana-growers are doing exceedingly well. Surely the consumers have some right to be considered. Bananas are almost a necessity for a largo section of the community. If this amendment were carried the price would be from four to six a shilling. That would be almost prohibitive so far as a great section of the community was concerned.
The Minister (Mr. Greene),- having taken time to consider the whole matter, has proposed a very fair percentage of Protection. He has increased the duty under the 1914 Tariff to 2s. 6d. per cental, and with that increase the growers should he satisfied. Although I was returned to this House as a Protectionist, I am not here to prohibit goods coming into this country; I am not here to do an injustice to the consumers or any other section of the community. I shall vote always to prevent an industry being extinguished, but the banana industry is certainly not threatened. The carrying of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) would cut off our banana trade with Fiji. Apart from the increased cost that would result to consumers here, the cutting off of our banana trade with Fiji would mean a big loss to the working classes and the commercial people of Australia. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) has said that the value of the bananas that we import from Fiji is something like £130,000 per annum, whereas Fiji imports from Australia about £300,000 worth of goods per annum. That trade would be lost to us if we accepted this amendment, and, believing that the item as presented by the Minister will give the banana industry sufficient Protection, I shall vote against the amendment.
.- I ,am pleased to know that at least one representative of the primary producers is giving the Protectionists in this* Chamber a little more Protection than is palatable to them. He has evidently made a good job of it. He has gone the whole hog. I do not know much about the banana industry, but as a representative of those engaged in another branch of primary production, I have no strong opposition to the honorable member’s proposal. I believe these very high duties are not .wise. I do not think they will last, but if they are to be imposed on all other articles that Australia produces, including agricultural implements and machinery, there is nothing else for it but to allow the primary producers the same Protection as we allow to other sections of the community.
– We have not dealt with machinery yet.
– Judging by the unanimity displayed by those two sections of the House that are generally hostile to one another, I have a shrewd suspicion that there is not going to be very much alteration in the schedule in that regard. I rose chiefly to mention the free picture show we bad in the Queen’s Hall this evening. It is carrying “lobbying” and propaganda work from the Tariff point of view a little too far to use the Queen’s Hall for a picture show dealing with certain Australian industries. A most fanciful picture was drawn, for even the bride was shown, and quite a romantic story was interwoven with the film thrown on the screen. We walked straight in here from that inspiring spectacle to hear one of the representatives of the banana industry move an increase in the duty on bananas. I must say that it was well timed, and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) deserves congratulation, and, indeed, has earned a testimonial from his constituents, if he is responsible for the propaganda and the splendid publicity work done in this building to-night. Speaking seriously, I think * that such a procedure is most improper. I have had no experience of previous Tariffs, but as a young member who takes an interest in these matters it seems to me to be establishing a precedent that is not altogether desirable from the parliamentary point of view ; because, if we are to have a primary industry screened, we shall soon have some secondary industry screened also. We may yet have a picture of the agricultural implement making industry shown in the Queen’s Hall to impress members with the necessity for prohibition in that direction.
– What would be the objection to that? Is it not advisable that we should be well informed on all these matters ?
– I do not think this Parliament is the proper place for propaganda of that kind. As a representative of an agricultural constituency, I have no objection to what the honorable member did to-night from a primary producers’ point of view, but I do not think it is desirable that such a precedent should be established. We have quite enough “lobbying” and printed matter already, and some articles even’ more solid than printed matter are placed in our boxes in connexion with the present Tariff. It is not desirable that this propaganda business should be initiated in this House.
.- I oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), not that I have the interests of Fiji at heart, for that is not what is troubling me. I have to a certain extent the interests of the primary producers at heart, but I have the interests of the consumers at heart also. Having had experience in the retail fruit business in South Australia, I can see approaching practically total prohibition if this increased duty is agreed to, unless something is “done by threatening the Queensland grower that, if he does not increase his production considerably so as to supply enough bananas to take the place of the Fiji product that will be shut out, this duty will be lifted altogether.
– We are growing the fruit now.
– I am glad to hear it. Bananas are practically 26s. a crate today, and in Adelaide they run from 28s. to 32s. a crate. There are about three months in the year when the consumer is tied down to three fruits - oranges, apples out of the cool stores at from 6d. to 9d. a lb., and bananas. In my experience the working classes, on the Friday and Saturday round, would buy three oranges and three bananas from the greengrocer to try to make a fruit salad to serve a family. That was under the old conditions. If the duty is increased by from 8s. to 10s. a crate, taking the price of bananas in Melbourne as 24s. a crate, which is1s. a dozen, allowing 24 dozen good bananas to the crate, the price will be increased practically by 10s. a crate. This will bring the wholesale price up to1s. 5d. a dozen in Melbourne. No retailer in the fruit business reckons to work it on less than 50 per cent., allowing for the loss from overripe fruit, &c.
– Why do you add that 10s. on to the price of the Queensland banana ?
– That is what they did when there was no Fiji competition.
– Because I am of the opinion, backed up by the experience mentioned by somebody here in connexion with the war, when Fiji bananas were shut out through the shortage of shipping, that the Queensland grower, or his agents, will increase the price. The 10s. will go on, which will make the wholesale price 1s. 5d. per dozen, and the retail price, even allowing only 30 per cent. for the retailer,1s. 9d. a dozen. This will make it almost impossible for the average member of the working class to obtain this fruit.
– The Dago sellers do that now.
– The honorable member may be an authority on Dagos, but I am speaking of South Australia, where, thank goodness, most of our fruit trade is in the hands of people of British origin. Adelaide is not like Melbourne in that regard. I am confident that if the proposed heavy duty is put on it will shut the Fiji banana out, and I am afraid that the Queensland grower will be no less human than the grower of any other commodity; but if he gets the opportunity will exploit the Australian market. Having had this first-hand experience of the need of the working classes for bananas during at least three months of the year, fearing that they are going to be deprived of this fruit altogether, and knowing the need that every human being has of fruit, I intend to oppose the increase of the duty.
.- The Chairman of Committees (Mr. Chanter), when in the chair on a previous occasion, decided that a duty could be discussed and increased on the motion of a private member, on the ground that it is not an increase in taxation; though probably it might be argued that every increase in duty is increased taxation or a charge on the community. I support the proposal on the ground that it is desirable to exclude the products of foreign labour, and that it is essential and desirable to exclude the products of the black races in Fiji. Personally, I think the price of bananas will probably depend on the supply. However, I rose mainly to refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who spoke, not so much in favour of the encouragement of primary production, but in protest against the propaganda carried on in the Queen’s Hall. If propaganda is for an effective public purpose, and tends to the education of honorable members - if they need any - it is a very edifying and proper thing, and represents the best use to which the Queen’s Hall could be put. I think that this propaganda, apart from the purposes for which we meet here, is useful. In the first place, it bears out the remarks of the Minister (Mr. Greene) the other evening, when he demonstrated that all primary production gives rise to secondary industries. In connexion with bananas, the timber industry is developed with the box industry, and these in turn provide consumers for the bananas. There was one form of propaganda this evening to which the honorable member for Wimmera raised no objection; I refer to the picture illustrating the development in orange growing. This illustration apparently came from the honorable member’s own district, but he did not mention it.
– I included that, too.
– Did the honorable member refer to it!
– No; but I refer to it now. Surely you do not think-
– I do not think anything; I merely mention, in passing, that the gentleman from Wimmera omitted to mention the fact, but now does mention it.
– It was not my district, anyhow.
– It was Kerang, which is, at any rate, so close to the honorable member’s electorate that no man can be sure it will not be included at the next redistribution of seats. Here, again, there are secondary industries to be considered. For a few moments, when we were looking at the pictures, and I saw the man sitting on the buggy, I thought it was a case of I.W.W. But the honorable member was silent about that.
– I included both pictures.
– As I say, secondary industries arise in this case also. When a lonesome single man, who faces nature, and, trying to plant oranges or bananas, marries and builds a home, we have a secondary industry; and then there comes the production of children, also a secondary industry. How can any one say that the development of primary industries is not useful in developing secondary industries? How can the honorable member say that the Queen’s Hall is not being put to a useful purpose when honorable members are shown what can be done in this way? But we come to the fundamental principle in this and every other industry. If we can utilize Australian products, no matter what they cost, we should utilize them; the mere fact that the locally produced article costs more does not mean that the production is a loss to Australia. If we can developan industry and maintain 10,000 or 20,000 men on the soil, or in our factories, it is a useful national asset even if the products cost more than those from overseas. Such industries give employment to the very men we have to maintain.
– Even if it. be; only wheat production?
– I have a higher respect for wheat than to say “ only wheat.” I have the greatest reverence for wheat, and the products of wheat. We must not regard these questions from the stand-point of whether we can get something cheaper from overseas; the question is what industry can be developed, even if we have to pay, as in this case, a little more for bananas. After all, this is only a roundabout way of obtaining prohibition; we might as well say that overseas bananas, produced by black labour, shall not enter Australia. To that proposition I would give my support. Whether it be food, or anything else, it is infinitely better that it should be produced by white men in Australia than that it should come from other countries. For those reasons, as I did in the case of candles, 1 give the proposal before us my most strenuous support.
.- This discussion shows how necessary it is that there should be a Tariff Board to collect evidence and make the fullest information available to honorable members, so that we may be in a position to give an intelligent decision on a question of the sort. I do not know how correct the statements are that have been placed before us. The first is from the Southern Queensland Fruit-growers’ Association,, and is to the effect that to insure a fair living under White Australia conditions they require not less than 26s. per case, “ at which price there is, and has been, a ready and steady demand.” Apparently, under present conditions, there is a “ready and steady demand” at a price with which the growers are satisfied. Then, again, in a pamphlet issued by the Fijian growers, there is a quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald to the effect that 64 acres of virgin land has been sold for £6,460, or over £100 an acre. There must be something in the banana industry if those who carry it on find it worth while to purchase virgin land at £100 per acre. It is extremely difficult to say whether any assistance at all is essential, so far as this industry is concerned. The banana, because of its medicinal value, I regard as one of the finest fruits for children, and so we should be careful about imposing a duty which would make it impossible for Australian children to obtain it at something like a fair price. I want to know how the people in my own State are going to be supplied if this duty is imposed. We shall not be in the position of the people of Melbourne or Sydney, because most of our bananas come from Java. In 1917-18 the imports into Western Australia from Java were 12,188 centals, and from the Commonwealth 2,070 centals. In 1918-19 the figures were: - From Java, 10,445 centals; Commonwealth, 1,719 centals. In 1919-20, the imports were: - From Java, 13,830 centals; Commonwealth, 619 centals. Nearly the whole of our trade is done with Java, and under this proposal I cannot see how the people of my State will be able in future to get bananas at a reasonable price, as the shipping, facilities from Queensland are not very good. I realize, of course, that the Government cannot impose two duties, one for the people of Western Australia and another for the people of the eastern States, so that no relief can be expected in that direction. But I want to impress upon honorable members the economic aspect of this proposal. Are we going to destroy the trade of other countries without consideration as to the results? If the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) were consistent, be ought to object strongly to our products going to a black-labour country. In fact, he ought to declare that no black-labour products should come into this country at all.
– That might not be a bad idea.
– If that policy were adopted, I do not know where the honorable member would get his tobacco or his coffee. Really, I am afraid that we arc getting a little bit mad over this Tariff. The question seems to be - How high can we make the duty ? Honorable members seem to be under the impression that by imposing the highest possible duty they are helping the country. I see the possibility of a very grave danger in accepting the amendment suggested. I hope, therefore, that it will be considerably modified.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) appears to be troubled about the future supply of bananas for Western Australia, owing to the difficulty of importing from Queensland, but I should think the banana could be grown to advantage in many portions of Western Australia itself.
– We tried the plantain but we have to import all our bananas.
– I know of no tropical country that will not grow good bananas under proper conditions of cultivation, and Western Australia, I may point out, has done remarkably well in fruit-growing during the last ten years. The question we have to decide is - Are we going to have a black-grown product? I have not one word to say against my black brother. As a youngster, I wasnuraed by a black woman, and I have the greatest respect for both the black woman and the black man. My objection is not racial; it is economic. We read the other day of the terrible conditions of the Indians in Fiji. It appears that they had a revolution over there because of the treatment being meted out to them by the planters. And so, I say, we should insist upon white-grown products for the people of Australia. The other day, when in Queensland, I passed farm after farm with nice homesteads on areas of 5 and 6 acres to 10 acres. As I went by I saw crowds of healthy and happy white youngsters, the future men and women of Australia. Settlements of this kind ought to be encouraged in every possible way. Now, as to the price of the banana grown by white labour in Queensland. Every honorable member knows that the bananagrowers would ruin themselves and their industry if they raised the price beyond the purchasing power of the people. We were told recently that because of the inability to get Fijian bananas, the price was raised to the consumers, and, although there were no Fiji bananas coming into Australia, you could buy hundreds of dozens of Fiji bananas from the dealers. There are people who believe that the Fiji banana is better than the Queensland banana, and because of this belief the consumers are imposed upon by dealers, who thus get higher prices for the Queensland product. It should be our duty to encourage in every possible way the settlement of white people in our tropical areas. This may be done by means of the Tariff. We do not want to give credence to those who declare that we can only develop our tropical areas with black labour. Many products, especially cotton and tea, can be grown there by white labour. It is not likely that the price of cotton will ever recede to its pre-war level. No bananas are grown in the Melbourne Ports electorate. My constituents are consumers of the fruit; but, in the interests of Australia, and particularly in the interest of having its tropical portions peopled by white Australians, I shall vote for the proposed increased duty.
– I am inclined to vote for an increase in the duty on bananas, but I am doubtful as to whether the duty asked for by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) is not too high. We ought to analyze the matter, and see what would be a reasonable duty to impose. The rate set out in the schedule is 2s. 6d. per cental. The honorable member asks that this should be increased to 13s. 4d. per cental, or about id. per banana; but I do not think that the industry needs such a substantial increase to enable it to secure the local market. The honorable member has told us that if the increased duty he asks for is imposed it will not mean an increase in the price of bananas. That is to say, the Australian growers are now in a position to hold the market against the Fiji growers. The duty on citrus fruits is1d. per lb., equal to about 8s. 4d. per cental. If the Minister (Mr. Green is not prepared to accept a duty of 13s. 4d. per cental on bananas, he might consider the desirability of making the rate somewhat on the basis of the duty on citrus fruits, that is to say, in the neighbourhood of 8s. 4d. per cental.
.- I shall vote for the amendment, in order to bring the cost of imported bananas raised in Fiji somewhat to the level of the cost of growing the local banana. Of course, there will always be exploiters in any community until we establish full control by proper legislation; but I propose to read a short passage describing the horrors under which bananas are grown in Fiji. It is taken from a lecture delivered before the Sydney University by Mr. Frank Cotton, who quoted a clergyman who, to his eternal honour, stood out from his fellows and held up to the censure of the world the vile and terrible conditions existing in this island.
The passage is as follows: -
The Tragedy of Fiji.
One of the most appalling illustrations of the evil of Imperial rule from an Australian point of view is to be found in the transplanting of the Asian menace to the Pacific for the purpose of commercial exploitation, and the erection in Fiji over the grave of martyred missionaries of a veritable heathen Temple of Infamy. . The testimony of that well-known Australian missionary and thoughtful writer, the Rev. W. J. Burton, is that the moral conditions of the coolie settlements in Fiji, which were established under Imperial Blue Book regulations, are absolutely beyond the decencies of description, and that the only historical parallel to the state of affairs existing there is that in Holy Writ descriptive of the depravity of the Cities of the Plain, Sodom and Gomorrah.
Note. - In the Imperial Blue Book regulations controlling coolie emigration a species of loose polyandry is arranged for. One woman is provided for each three men. Thus does Imperialism regulate the social and economic life of its subjects.
To illustrate the growth of the importations of bananas I quote the following figures:- 1912, £155,000; 1913, £241,000; 1915, £238,000; 1916, £256,000; 1917, £213,000. No further argument is needed. I shall vote with the honorable member, and I compliment him on what he has attempted to do, not only in the interests of his constituency or the State, a portion of which he has the hon our to represent, but also in the interests of the white workers who are able to carry on the splendid industry of banana growing.
– I have listened to the whole of this debate, and am satisfied that it will not be very long before Australian banana-growers will supply the whole of the local market. The number of people who have gone into this industry during recent years is quite phenomenal. There has been a considerable development. At the same time, the figures quoted from a circular distributed to honorable members by the importers are, to a large extent, quite misleading.
– The figures contained in the report of the Inter-State Commission in respect to trade with Fiji are correct.
– But I think the honorable member was out of the chamber when I remarked that it would not make the slightest difference to our trade with Fiji if we imported no bananas from the island, because all the sugar grown there comes to Sydney to be refined, and that is the real source of Australia’s substantial trade with Fiji. I have had quite a number of representations made to me by banana-growers. The request submitted to-night by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) is the highest I have had; but I have received quite a number of other requests for a. protective duty higher than that which is set out in the schedule. Since then I have given the matter a very considerable amount of attention. To my mind, the duty for which the Queensland growers are asking is unnecessarily high. The growers in my own electorate - and there are quite a number of them - have requested an increase in the present duty, but not so large an increase as that which is sought by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). Of course, one receives requests for increased duties from all sources in regard to almost every item of the Tariff. In nearly every instance, one is required to weigh those requests and to determine what is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. I have come to the conclusion that if the duty upon bananas be increased to 6s. per cental - as I think it ought to be - we shall probably meet the necessities of the case. That is the duty which a number of the growers have requested; and if we give them that for which they have definitely asked we shall probably do the right thing. I appeal to the honorable member for Lilley not to press his amendment. If he will withdraw it, I shall be very pleased to move that the duty be increased to 6s. per cental all round.
.- Notwithstanding what the Minister’ (Mr. Greene) has just said, I hope that he will yet see his way to give an increased measure of protection to the banana-growers of Queensland and of the north of New South Wales. I fail to understand why upon citrus fruits he is prepared to grant a Protection of1d. per lb., or 8s. 4d. per cental, while at the same time he is ready to deny an equal measure of Protection to the banana industry, which requires to be assisted to a far greater degree.
– That is the question.
– There is no question as to the amount of Protection which is needed by the citrus industry upon the one hand, and the banana industryupon the other.
– The actual weight of fruit from an acre of bananas is much greater than is the actual weight of fruit from an acre of citrus trees.
– But we must also take into consideration the fact that in an orangery it is possible to pick fruit from trees up to twenty years of age.
– One can pick fruit from trees up to fifty years of age.
– Quite so. But that is not the case with bananas. The banana plant is so greedy that the average soil becomes exhausted at the end of five years, and in many cases it is necessary for the grower to take up virgin scrub and to commence operations de novo. Upon this ground alone the banana industry calls for an equal, if not a higher, measure of protection, than does the citrus industry. Again, should there be a glut in the market on account of large importations of citrus fruit, what does the grower do? He allows the fruit to remain upon the trees. He can do that without injury to it.
– Not altogether.
– He cannot do it for an indefinite period. But the Treasurer knows as well as does anybody that citrua fruits can be permitted toremain upon the trees for a longer period than can any other fruit. Upon the other hand, the banana must be picked. If a certain stage in its development be allowed to pass, the fruit has no commercial value. It must be picked at a certain time and placed upon the market
– That is true also of oranges.
– But oranges can be permitted to remain upon the trees for a longer period than can any other fruit. Consequently, I claim that upon the basis either of the longevity of the trees or upon marketing conditions, the banana industry merits a protective duty equal to that which is granted to citrus fruits. I cannot understand why the Minister suggests a duty of 8s. 4d. per cental upon citrus fruits whilst declaring himself in favour of a duty of only 6s. per cental upon bananas - a duty which would be of no material value to the growers of Queensland or of the northern parts of New South Wales.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the two industries should be placed upon the same basis ?
– At the very least, the duty upon bananas should be ; as high as that upon citrus fruits.
– Very well, J? will agree to that.
– I de sire to say a few words particularly in regard to the entertainment which took place in the Queen’s Hall this evening. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) was quite unjustified in making the reflections which he did upon that lantern show. It is most important that honorable members should be afforded every opportunity to gain information in connexion with these matters. However, it is not my intention to “stonewall” the item. I am sorry that I cannot accept the Minister’s suggestion to impose a duty of 6s. per cental upon bananas.
– I have said that I am willing to make the duty1d. per lb.
– Ihave abundantly proved that the growers ask to be placed in the same position as that which is occupied by their competitors in Fiji. To comply with their request, it is necessary that the duty should be increased to 13s. 4d. per cental. I am pleased that the Minister has consented to advance the duty to 8s. 4d. per cental. But, in justice to those honorable members who have supported my amendment, and to my constituents, I must press the matter to a division.
– If the honorable member will allow his amendment to be defeated upon the voices, or if he will withdraw it, I will move that the duty be increased to1d. per lb.
– Upon the understanding that the honorable gentleman will move to increase the duty to 8s. 4d. per cental, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) agreed to-
That the following words be added to subitem a:- “And on and after 10th May, 1921, per lb.,1d.”
.- Unfortunately, in the course of the long and interesting discussion of the duty upon bananas, the argument developed into a comparison between citrus fruits and bananas, and the comparison was decidedly unfair to the Australian citrus grower. A very much greater weight per acre is taken off in bananas than in citrus fruits. The banana begins to produce at a very early age, and goes on producing for a number of years ; and it is very easy of propagation. A comparison between the two fruits, therefore, cannot be made on parallel lines. The citrus grower has to go to equally as much expense to prepare his land, while his tree is very much more expensive to plant, and takes considerably longer to yield a return; and, even then, the weight of fruit by no means compares with the production of bananas. Since the Minister (Mr. Greene) has seen fit to raise the duty on bananas to an equality with that of the duty on citrus fruits, it would be only fair to thousands of small growers in Australia if the duty on the latter were doubled. I have secured some figures regarding the present position of the citrus industry, taken from the annual report of the Department of Trade and Customs. In the year under review there were produced in New South Wales 250,600 bushels of lemons, of a value of £150,358, which works out at about 12s. per bushel. I draw attention to the remarkable difference in the values per bushel of lemons produced in the different States. In Victoria, the production for the same period was 76,296 bushels, of a value of £20,981; working ont at about an average of 8s. In Queensland the production was 15,94S bushels, worth £7,110, or about 9s. 4d. per bushel. South Australia’s production was 47,188 bushels, worth £12,977, or 5s. 6d. per bushel. In Western Australia the production was 22,432 bushels, of a value of £8,599, or about 8s. per bushel. The total figures for the Com- in.onweaJ.th were 412,464 bushels^ valued at £200,025, or about 10s. per bushel. Obviously, then, the lemon growing industry is well worth encouragement. It is one which is undertaken almost all over the Commonwealth, and yet it furnishes very little more than a reasonable living, the figures working out at about £56 per acre. That, indeed, in view of all the costs, is equivalent to only the barest living. In my district the growers would not continue the production of citrus fruits at such a price.
– But wc have more fruit than we can consume.
-. - I have figures concerning imports and exports during the financial year 1917-18. These show that the fresh fruits imported were worth £160,899, while our exports were worth only £46,481. Since 1913 our imports have generally exceeded our exports. In a country so eminently adapted to fruitgrowing there must be something wrong when we import nearly four times the value of the fruit which we export; and our export of fruit consists almost solely of apples. I was astonished to find, when passing through Canada, that the people there were consuming oranges grown in China, most of which were of a type that wo would not pick up from under our trees. When I told influential Canadians, they were astounded to learn that we grew citrus fruits. We have, in Australia, & country which is as eminently adapted to growing citrus fruits as any other part of the world. We are always told that California is the great citrus centre. It is so because the growers have gone to work to produce properly and to market most favorably. But America has not the natural advantages that we have: Every year or two the citrus growers in that part of the world have to fight severe visitations of frost. Of course, we have a few pest3, but all are capable of being adequately dealt with. We have, indeed, ideal conditions for growing citrus fruits. Are we to give only the same degree of protection as in the case of the banana industry, which, after all, is to a large extent an exotic except with regard to our tropical areas? There is no industry in which finer specimens of human beings ure engaged than that of citrus-growing, as the conditions of life in districts where citrus fruits are grown are more favorable than in any other.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that the conditions are so pleasant. It is the hardest work I know of.
– I am quite prepared to admit that the work of the- orchardist is strenuous, but when the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) says it is the hardest work he knows of, he has j ‘.ever sweated on .the plains at wheatgrowing, and he is surely overlooking the work of dairying. I am afraid the Minister has not seen the conditions under which wheat is grown on the western plains of New South Wales, where the work is so hard that people are only too glad to give up wheatgrowing or dairying to come down to the citrus fruit districts and lead a happy and contented life. The conditions surrounding citrus fruit-growing are so favorable that a man is able to rear a healthy and happy family. To place the banana-growing industry on a better footing than citrus fruit-growing seems to be entirely wrong. If it is to be our endeavour to Tear a healthy, happy, and vigorous people, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) should be prepared to place the citrus-fruit industry on a similar basis to that of the banana industry. The citrus fruitgrowers have to enter into competition, not so much with imported oranges as with imported lemons. There are greatpossibilities before the lemon-growing industry in Australia, as many kinds of beverages can be produced from the juice of the lemon. We can also produce essences, and could also use our own candied lemon peel. All these things can be done if the Government will only give the industry the proper Protection.
– That can all be done at Gosford.
– Yes; and It was in the vicinity of Gosford that bananas and sugar-cane were first grown. The production of bananas and sugar has now been carried further northwards, where the conditions in a tropical climate are more favorable. I can show the Acting Prime Minister the spot on which sugarcane was first grown in Australia, and the man who grew it, Mr. T. A. Scott, was granted a pension by the late Sir Henry Parkes. The white race reaches a higher state of perfection in a milder climate, and I urge the Government to give the citrus-fruit industry Protection at least equal to that given to the banana industry. That can only be done by doubling the rate at present appearing in the schedule.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 53 (Fruits, Dried).
– I desire to discuss the duty on prunes, but I do not know whether this is the proper place to bring it forward.
– Prunes are included in this item, and are dutiable at 3d. per lb.
– If that is the rate, it is quite inadequate. This year, America has a surplus of prunes, and large quantities of the Calif ornian product are being landed in Australia. The duty at present is 3d. per lb., and I should say the freight from California is, at least,½d. per lb., which would make the price 2½d. per lb. f.o.b. California. As prunes cannot be produced in California at that price, it shows that a certain amount of dumping is going on. In portion of my electorate, and in other parts of New SouthWales, prunes are successfully grown, but the growers cannot compete with the Calif ornian product. If the price were 9d. per lb., competition would, be possible; but, taking into consideration the increased cost of production, growers cannot profitably market their product at 6d. per lb. A few days ago I was at the State Experimental Farm, nearWagga, and there saw some of the finest prunes I had ever seen.
– I have not had any request in regard to the duty on prunes.
– I assure the Minister that I have had several.
-Why did not the honorable member forward them to me, so that the subject might be inqiiired into?
– This, I think, is the place to make known these requests. Besides, the letters have only just reached me.
– But it is necessary to give opportunity for inquiry.
– Let me read this letter, which I have received from the secretary to the Batlow branch of the Fruitgrowers Association of New South Wales, an organization large enough to command attention and respect : -
Dear Sir, - I have been instructed to request you to use your influence to secure a higher import duty on Californian prunes, for the following reasons: -
This year America has a huge surplus of prunes, and Californian prunes are being landed in Sydney at the present time for6d. per lb. The charges are 3d. duty and id. freight, making the price 2½d. per lb. f.o.b.. American ports. Even in the United States of America prunes cannot be produced for 2½d. per lb., and local growers are of the opinion that Australia is being used as a dumping, ground for surplus American prune stocks. There are large growers of prunes in this district who can compete with the Californian product when same is selling at 9d. per lb. Sydney, but not at 6d.
We ask for a duty of 6d. per lb. on imported, prunes.
– The provisions of the measure that is to be introduced to prevent dumping will guard against the evil therein referred to.
– The most effective way of preventing it is to increase the duty on prunes as we have increased the duties on bananas and citrus fruits. I hand the letter I have read to the Minister, and ask him to investigate the matter.
– I promise to make inquiries into the position. I have not yet had an opportunity to do that, and I do not like to alter a duty until I have made inquiry.
– I hope that the Minister will do the fair thing when he has looked into the matter, and I strongly urge him to comply with the request.
– I shall recommit the item if I find that there is any necessity for doing so.
Item agreed to.
Item 54 (Fruits and vegetables) agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210518_reps_8_95/>.