9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Treasurer say when effect will be given to a promise made in the House by a former Minister for Defence regarding the introduction of a Defence Superannuation Bill?
– The report of the actuaries is almost completed, and as soon as it is available the Government will give consideration to the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether there is any provision in the agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless Company for the presentation of an annual report and audited balance-sheet regarding the operations of the company?
– As an ordinary registered company, Amalgamated Wireless Limited is legally hound to present a balance-sheet every year. . It can be laid on the table of the House, and honorable members may propose any action in regard thereto that they choose.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs stated’ yesterday that the present members of the Tariff Board, Messrs. Hudson, Masterton, Leitch, and Brookes are as upright, capable, and wellinformed a body of men as any country can reasonably hope to get. Are those gentlemen to be re-appointed?
– That will be a matter for determination by the Government on the expiration of the present appointments.
– A statement appeared in the newspapers to-day to the effect that the Customs duties for the first two months of the current financial year were £600,000 in excessof the receipts for the corresponding period of last year. There is a statement in Hansard that an increase of Customs revenue should not make a Treasurer proud, but should rather cause him to don sackcloth and put ashes on his head. I ask the Treasurer whether he is the Dr. Earle Page who made that statement in this House regarding the then Treasurer, who is the present Prime Minister ?
– I am not responsible for the increase in Customs revenue.
Round Australia Flight
asked the Minister for Defence,upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and thehonorable member will be informed as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer please inform the House what is the attitude adopted by the Commissioner of Taxation in the case of a taxpayer - (a) Who lodges an objection against his assessment after the expiration of the time allowed by section 50 ( 1 ) of the War-time Profits Tax Act, or section 28 (1) of the Income Tax Act?
Provided that the amount involved in these belated requests warrant the consideration of. the matter by the Department; provided also that the alteration of the assessment is not debarred by statute; and provided further that the taxpayer satisfactorily demonstrates that he is, in accordance with the law, entitled to a further reduction or even the cancellation of his assessment, is it the practice of the Commissioner to allow the taxpayer’s application and amend the assessment accordingly? 3.If not, will the Treasurer please inform the House exactly what the Commissioner of Taxation means by his published statements that “ he has never at any time been disinclined to rectify errors in taxpayers’ assessments; that it has always been his earnest desire to see that no taxpayer is called upon to pay more than the law requires; and that he has issued explicit instructions to all his officers that it is their duty to rectify all clerical or technical errors reported by the taxpayer or discovered by the department in taxpayers’ returns and assessments, in order that taxpayers might be assessed to pay the correct amount of tax required by law?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) The sections in the question have been incorrectly quoted. They should be section 50 ( 1 ) of the Income Tax Assessment Act, and section 28 (1) of the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act.
The attitude adopted by the Commissioner of Taxation is as expressed in the department’s letter which is issued to taxpayers who lodge objections to assessments after the expiration of the prescribed time. These persons are informed by the Commissioner that as the objection was not lodged within the prescribed time, the taxpayer is not entitled to have the objection referred to the Board of Appeal or to the Supreme Court or to the High Court in the event of his being dissatisfied with the decision.
Notwithstanding the fact mentioned, the taxpayer is further informed that his representations regarding the assessment will receive the most careful consideration, and any error in law or in fact which may be found in the assessment will be corrected. 1. (6) If the taxpayer satisfies the Deputy Commissioner in regard to the obvious error in the assessment, the assessment is rectified, and, if necessary, a refund is made to the taxpayer of any tax overpaid, provided, in the case of amendments of income-tax assessments, the application for the amendment of the assessment is made within the period of three years from the due date of payment of the original tax as provided by the law.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Butter and Dried Fruits
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
– As negotiations are proceeding, the honorable member will agree that it is not desirable that the Government should. make any definite statements concerning the matter at present.
Payment of Taxes
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Can an Australian citizen obtain a passport from Australia without paying his taxes?
– It is the practice, before issuing an Australian passport to any applicant for such a document, to require him to furnish a certificate from the Federal Taxation Department to the effect that he has satisfied the requirements of section 54 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-23, and that so far as that department is concerned, there is no objection to the issue of the passport.
Sub-section 4 of the section referred to reads as follows: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
Commonwealth Government and by the two states concerned, and what are the estimated amounts ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– On the 9th September, 1915, the Commonwealth Government, as agent for the Imperial Government, acquired the Australian production of rare metals. Dalgety and Company . Limited were from the 4th September, 1915, to the 30th April, 1918,sole agents for the acquisition and shipment of wolfram, scheelite and molybdenite, and from the 1st May, 1918, to the 31st March, 1920, the Thermo Electric Ore Reduction Corporation was appointed agent for North Queensland, whilst Dalgety and Company continued as agents for the rest of Australia. The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Caretaker, General Post Office, Melbourne
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that a vacancy exists for the position of caretaker, General Post Office, Melbourne?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.C. RILEY asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
Whether a portion of the military reserve at Middle Head has been leased to the Mosman Golf Club Limited ?
If so, what area has been leased, and under what terms ?
Were applications invited from public bodies and persons willing to lease the area ?
Was the Mosman Municipal Council given an opportunity to secure a lease of the land at a nominal rental so th at the area could be used as a public park for recreation purposes?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sixty acres. The principal terms of the agreement are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
. -I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonweal th Public Works Committee Act 1013-1021, it is expedient to carry out the following work : - Provision of a telephone cable between Sydney and Newcastle and Newcastle and West Maitland.
Full particulars of this work were given to honorable members on the 7th May, 1924, when the motion was moved to refer the proposals to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The total cost . of the work will be £442,000, of which the Sydney to Newcastle proportion will be £364,000, and the Newcastle to West Maitland proportion, £78,000. The Public Works Committee has recommended that the work be proceeded with as soon as possible. The revenue being derived from the existing line from Sydney to Newcastle is £20,000 per annum, and it is anticipated that, with the proposed new line it will increase in the next five years to £47,000 per annum, and that twenty years hence it will be £120,000 per annum. The revenue at present being derived from the Newcastle to West Maitland line is £5,000 per annum, and it is anticipated that, with the improved facilities that will be provided by the proposed new line, it will increase in five years to £10,500 per annum, and that in twenty years’ time it will be £22,000 per annum. Honorable members will realize, therefore, that the proposed works should be a very profitable investment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That on each sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business:
This session has lasted for a considerable time but we are now drawing towards its end, for there remains only a limited amount of business to transact. Ever since the constitution of the Federal Parliament, it has been the custom for the whole of the latter part of a session to be devoted to Government business. In view of the fact that honorable members had a full opportunity during the budget debate to discuss any matter of departmental administration, and that the Estimates have not yet been disposed of, I think they will agree with the motion. Mr. BAMFORD (Herbert) [3.18].- On the 14th August, when honorable members were asked to forgo their usual grievance day, I asked the Prime Minister if he would provide one more opportunity before the end of the session for the discussion of some of the private members’ business on the notice-paper. He promised to do so. Has he forgotten his promise?
.- - I strongly oppose the motion. There are thirteen items of private business on the paper, many of which have not been debated at all, although they have been listed for a considerable time. About the middle of June the order of business of the House was altered, and honorable members were allowed to retain only onethird of the time previously allotted to discuss private business. Three weeks ago the Prime Minister introduced a further limitation, and it was carried. Since then honorable members have been sitting an extra day each week. I do not know what importance honorable members attach to the motions they have placed upon the business paper, but from the fact that they have brought them forward I judge that they attach quite a considerable degree of importance to them. A motion in which I am particularly interested is that which proposes that a referendum of the electors be taken upon the question of amending the Commonwealth Constitution, to empower the Federal Parliament to create new states within the existing states. That motion was moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and was spoken to by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). Both those honorable members exhausted the time that was allowed them. The Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir William
Cullen, has stated that this is the biggest question that has required consideration since the inception of federation. The subdivision of Australia into a greater number of states has always been an important plank of the platform of the Country party. The honorable member for Capricornia and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) have keenly interested themselves in the matter, and it has been discussed in the press and elsewhere. I do not desire to see that motion among the “ slaughtered innocents “ at the end of the session.It alone is of sufficient importance to warrant the retention of private members’ day.I therefore intend to oppose the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister.
.- M More than a year ago I placed upon the business-paper a motion- affirming the necessity for providing a direct and uptodate steamer service between Tasmania and Melbourne. Consideration of the matter was deferred at the suggestion of the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Austin Chapman), who stated that the Navigation Commission would obtain the information that I was seeking to obtain through the appointment of a select committee. I demurred to that action, because I considered that the terms of the reference to the Navigation Commission did not cover the ground that I was seeking to have opened up.I pointed out the probability that the Navigation Commission would not submit a final report for a considerable time. I think I prophesied that that report would not be available until the Parliament was approaching the end of its term. Three reports have been received from the Navigation Commission, embodying the result of its inquiries in Hobart. Three members of the commission made one set of recommendations, with a view to dealing with the present conditions.
– The honorable member must realize t hat he is approaching perilously close to a discussion of the merits of the question, which is not permissible under cover of the motion now before the House.
– P - Perhaps I was enlarging upon the merits of the question. I want it to be understood, however, that the reason for which I desired to have a vote taken on my motion was that the two matters were en tirely separate. Towards the end of the first part of this session, when the Prime Minister proposed to abolish private members’ day, I protested, for reasons similar to those that I am raising to-day. I asked him if he would enable a vote to be taken upon motions of private members if that were the desire of the members concerned. Several motions had been fairly well discussed, and I knew that honorable members who had moved them would desire to have a vote taken upon them before the end of the session. The Prime Minister said - “If there is time I certainly will give the opportunity desired by the honorable member.” Judging by the broad smile that now overspreads the face of the Prime Minister, I take it that if I again ask him to make a similar promise he will agree to do so, because he feels certain that time will not allow of a vote being taken. But I urge upon him the fairness of meeting the wishes of honorable members in this matter. The other day the right honorable gentleman stated to certain honorable members who interviewed him that there is hardly any probability of a, final report being received from the Navigation Commission before the end of the session. He should, therefore, allow this matter to be decided by the House. If he did that I should offer no objection to the course he now proposes. In the absence of any such promise I must oppose the proposal to take away private members’ day. If the motion is carried, this question will be shelved for twelve months, and that will do an injustice to my constituents. I appeal to the Prime Minister to allow a vote to be taken, in which event I shall have to abide by the decision of the House.
– I endorse the protest made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). I attach the greatest possible importance to the privilege that private members have of submitting business to this House. I appeal to honorable members to make a stand against the motion. There is a tendency on the part of, not only this Government, but all governments, to whittle away the privileges of private members. Judging by the way private members’ business is slaughtered every session, the time is coming when it will be futile for a private member to attempt to place any business before the House. Recently the Compulsory Voting Bill, a private member’s bill of a revolutionary character, came to this House from another place, and was regarded as of sufficient importance to merit the support of all parties.. I assume that many other proposals by private members, if they could be discussed in this House, would lead to very important legislation being placed upon the statute-book. Private members have a large amount of important business on the notice-paper. The first item of private members’ business relatesto oversea exchange and credits. I am certain that all honorable members are anxiously waiting to hear the Treasurer’s reply to the motion of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). The third item of private members’ business relates to the financial position of Tasmania. I am quite sure that those honorable members who have not the muddled habit of mind of regarding Tasmania, because it is small, as a state of no consequence, will realize that the motion is of great importance to the people, not only of Tasmania, but of the whole of Australia. The fifth private member’s motion urges the construction of the north-south railway, which has a direct bearing upon the welfare of this country. It is unfortunate that such an important matter should be placed in the hands of a private member, and it is time the House recorded its opinion on it. I am prepared to record my vote whenever an opportunity is given to me. I have a personal interest in the seventh item, and, therefore, shall not say much about it. I endorse what was said about it by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). If a vote is not taken on it, I shall, if it is my good fortune to be here next session, reintroduce it. It is one of the most important and urgent questions that can be submitted to the people of Australia. I have mentioned these items to show the importance of the private members’ business that it is proposed to slaughter. I protest against the Government taking a mean advantage of honorable members, who have devoted a lot of time and thought to these questions. After a session of over six months, the Government now says that owing to pres sure of business, these important matters cannot be dealt with. I have no desire to embarrass the Government, but I feel so strongly on this matter that if a division is taken on the motion, I shall record my vote against it.
.- I protest against the action of the Government in depriving private members of their rights. I endorse the view of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) that hid motion relating to the formation of new states is of vital importance, and that honorable members should have an opportunity of voting upon it. When the honorable member for New England gave notice of that motion, some of us thought that he would not have an opportunity even of discussing it, because we were of opinion that the Government would submit a motion similar to the one now being discussed.
– The carrying of the motion will not prevent private members’ business from being taken. This motion only stipulates that Government business shall be taken first.
– If Government business is taken first, private members’ business will never be taken, because a number of Government measures are invariably thrown overboard at the end of the session, and private members’ business will never be reached. If private members are not given an opportunity to deal with these questions, they will lose their rights and privileges in this House, and they would be wanting in their duty if they did not protest vigorously against the course now proposed. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), when he came into this House, said that one of his reasons for entering Parliament was to try to create new states. The honorable member for New England has brought the matter before the House, and the Leader of his party, the Treasurer, is supporting the Prime Minister’s motion to give Government business preference over private members’ business. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), and other honorable members on this side, desire to express their views on this important constitutional question, which I remember hearing Sir William Cullen, at Armidale, describe as “ one of the most important questions since federation.” The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) has justifiably protested against his motion for the provision for an adequate direct shipping service between Melbourne and Hobart being shut out. I have received a number of letters from local producers’ associations in Queensland protesting against the Government’s apathy and indifference to a scheme for the stabilization of the marketing of dairy produce in Australia. The Government proposes to deal with only one phase of the marketing of dairy produce, and that is the export market.
– I do not see on the notice-paper, under the heading of general business, any reference to a scheme for marketing dairy produce.
– I intended to deal with this subject in a bill which I intended to introduce as a private member.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to do so when the Government’s bill is before the House.
– The Government’s scheme will not be sufficiently comprehensive for my lilting, as it will deal only with one phase of the industry.
– The honorable member will have the right to move an amendment when that bill is before the House.
– I cannot allow a discussion on a bill that has not yet been introduced.
– I shall not speak further on that phase of the subject, but I feel that Nationalist members, such as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and others, would support a private member’s bill dealing with the dairying industry, and I fully intended to introduce such a bill. I protest against being deprived of an opportunity to do so. The Government has side-tracked the daily farmers of Australia, since it is not prepared to give them a comprehensive stabilization scheme.
– I advise the honorable member not to pursue that subject.
– I shall not further discuss it, because I know that it is distasteful to the Government.
– I am not thinking of the Government.
– I know that you, Mr. Speaker, always act impartially. Notwithstanding this motion, I shall utilize every opportunity afforded me to put up a fight for the adoption of a scheme for the stabilization of the marketing of dairy produce within Australia.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I protest against the Government’s action in preventing private members from exercising their privileges in obtaining the discussion and decision on the many important subjects that are on the business-paper.
– It is the customary practice when the session is drawing to a close-
– Does the honorable . member know that the session is drawing to a close ?
– The general opinion, as far as I am able to gather it, is that an early adjournment is to take place. The purpose of the motion is to meet the wishes of honorable members in that connexion.
– The honorable member is speaking only for those on his side of the House.
– I have no doubt that, if it were the general wish of honorable members to prolong the session for some two or three months, the Government would agree to such an extension, and proceed in the ordinary way. But if the business is to be expedited, and many important matters of Government concern are to receive any consideration at all. other less important matters must stand over. We have recently discussed the budget, and the Estimates are now under review. The subjects on the notice-paper which take the nature of grievances can be dealt with even more thoroughly under those two headings than under the actual motions themselves.
– What about the honorable member’s motion?
– What I have said might apply in that case, although I should prefer to discuss the actual motion.
– Would the honorable member mind telling the House how the subject of his motion could otherwise be discussed ?
– Yes; in connexion with the Defence and External Affairs Estimates. There is no legislative activity or administrative activity that cannot be thoroughly discussed under the various divisions of the Estimates. If honorable members are fearful that they may not be allowed to discuss their particular grievances, they can ask for the withdrawal of the motions from the noticepaper, and the subject to which they relate will then be open for discussion. In the closing days of a session it generally happens that this House suspends its sittings from time to time to wait for bills to be returned from the Senate. Instead of adjourning we could use the time for the discussion of private members’ business. No doubt if the Government were approached, it would arrange to devote that unoccupied time to a discussion of these motions.
.- We are now informed by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) that we are nearing the closing hours of the session. I really thought that this session would continue for many months in order to allow the Government to proceed with many new measures.
– I would not mind if the House sat until Christmas.
– I have already announced that, as far as the members of the Labour party are concerned, no hours are too long and no days are too many for us to work for our beloved country. We do not want any work to be left undone for lack of time. I was certainly convinced by the argument put forward by the Prims Minister (Mr. Bruce) when he moved to sweep aside all general business. It is all important that subsidiary matters which only one or two honorable members regard as of national importance should be swept aside to allow a full discussion on subjects which all regard as important. I have urged the honorable gentlemen who sit behind me not to air their grievances, and to offer no objection to a motion which, if agreed to, would facilitate the work of the Government.
– A very excellent suggestion.
– I am setting an excellent example to the Government in the conduct of private business. I have no wish to restrain it from introducing wireless and bounty schemes, and proposals for further remissions of taxation, be cause the longer it continues to sit the deeper will it dig its own grave. The Opposition is not out to adjourn, but to continue the session. A stranger just now appeared in this House, an honorable member whom we have not seen for a long time. He strenuously opposed the motion, and then disappeared. He strongly objects to being deprived of an opportunity to discuss the new states movement. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) also objects to the present motion, and he, no doubt, will violently object until it comes to a. division. Why is the Treasurer, the arch-apostle of the new states movement silent- this advocate of a principle so dear to the hearts of the people of Australia? All the professions of a lifetime are now to be thrown away. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) came, spoke, and disappeared. He has moved that, in the opinion of this House, the Government should, at the earliest opportunity, introduce a bill providing for a referendum of the electors of Australia at ‘ the next general election upon a proposal to amend the Commonwealth Constitution so as to empower the Federal Parliament to create new states. But half of the portfolios in the Government are held by members of the Country party, and it is alleged that they are able to dictate the policy of the Government. What, therefore, do they intend to do? Nothing, except to make a formal protest ; and when they have thus appeased their consciences we shall see how they will vote. The members of the Opposition can, at least, offer this consolation to the Prime Minister, that we shall support him in carrying on the urgent business of the country. No matter how his own supporters may complain; even should the members of the Country party and some of the other complainants sitting behind the Government desert the Prime Minister in this’ most important crisis, when it is necessary to expedite Government business, he can rely upon the unquestioning and undying support of the honorable members on this side who usually oppose him.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 2nd September, vide page 3842) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Approval of agreement).
.- Last evening the Prime Minister replied to honorable members, particularly those on this side of the chamber, who had criticized the bill, and he adopted the confident manner of a person who hoped, and, I think, believed, that there would be no opportunity for his critics to reply to him. The right honorable gentleman’s attitude towards his critics reminded me of the performances of a member of the legal profession who earned a very high reputation for his success in undefended divorce suits. He told us that it was rather late in the day to discuss the propriety of the Commonwealth entering into an agreement with the company for the conduct of this national service, the matter having been decided two and a half years ago. The . Prime Minister acts and speaks as though everything arising out of the agreement previously executed had proceeded smoothly, efficiently, and satisfactorily. But we could scarcely select a better time for reviewing the agreement and the propriety of entering into a new yet similar agreement than when we have before us complete proof of the utter failure of his friend and fetish, private enterprise. Our objection to the agreement embodied in this bill, and to the preceding agreement, is based primarily upon our absolute disapproval of this national service being controlled by a money-making company and foreign trust. One can well understand why the right honorable gentleman paid very little attention to matters of substance, for we know that while he is associated with the political party to which he owes allegiance, he could not hold his position as leader if he did . not stand for the claims of private enterprise and personal gain in opposition to the interests’ of the nation. For the disease which afflicts honorable members opposite there is no cure but the major operation of a general election. There I leave that aspect of the case. The next matter of substance is that we should at least have an inquiry before we re-execute an agreement with a defaulting party. Most men would say that when a party to a contract, who has failed utterly to “ deliver the goods,” and to do those things which he had covenanted to do, approaches you with a proposal to enter into an entirely fresh agreement, you should examine his credentials very carefully, and ask whether there is any greater likelihood of his doing to-day the things that, two and a half years ago, he promised’ and utterly failed to do. I remind the right honorable gentleman that he defended, in the most spirited way, the . original agreement, upon the ground that we were fortified, by guarantees of an entirely satisfactory character, given by the Marconi Trust. But what is the value of guarantees that are removed by a complacent government at the behest of its friends just when they should be met by the defaulting party? Another matter of substance is whether this new scheme, in which we are asked to invest public money, is practicable. On that point we need not do more, surely, than refer to the Prime Minister’s speech of last evening, for he can scarcely have had time to re- adjust his views since then, even though he did re-adjust them between 1922 and last night. He said, last night, that this is merely an experiment. Honorable members on this side of the committee are individualistic on the matter of experiments. We believe - I do, at all events - that the greatest inventions in history have been the work of men who have toiled silently and alone in their studies and workshops. “We believe, further, that it is the privilege and duty of the nation to acquire on just terms the results of the efforts of great minds and to exploit them in the interests of the whole nation. But experiment is for the laboratory, and not for the forum. We do not believe that members of the Government who, with us, are trustees of the public funds, are warranted in asking us to agree to their proposal to spend £500,000 in what their leader declares to be a mere experiment. Let us judge this expression, “ a mere experiment,” by the ordinary standards of civil life, commercial morality, and law. When we do so we find that a person, who has been constituted the trustee of funds belonging to other persons, would not be entitled to invest them in a mere experiment - in what I yesterday called the purchase of rainbows. A person who did so would soon find himself committed to one of His Majesty’s jails. I do not desire any such harsh fate to befall the Prime Minister - not yet, at all events. The objection to investing public moneys in an experiment is unanswerable. Why was no answer given to the question modestly and respectfully put to the Prime Minister yesterday by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who asked whether it was a fact, as stated by me in my speech, that the length of time during which the beam system could be worked was very limited? The honorable member, no doubt, was a little impressed by the authorities I quoted and by the weight of evidence I adduced, but up to the present he has received no answer to his inquiry. As the Prime Minister has neglected to furnish him with an answer, I shall venture to do 80. My answer is: “ The statement was quite right, my friend. It is a fact that the beam system can be operated for only a very brief period in the 24 hours.” In can be operated only during the hours of darkness, and, possibly, during the hours of twilight, but certainly in no circumstances for longer than that.
– There have been discoveries since that view was expressed.
– Have there been any discoveries since last night? The prophetic mind of the Prime Minister doubtless anticipated some, but they have not been made during the night so far as I know. The fourth matter of substance is that the desire for a system of wireless communication is based upon the hope and belief that it can be operated, first, for defence, and, secondly, for the safety of lives at sea. The Prime Minister made a very lame reply to the opinion that I expressed last night that the beam system had no value for defence purposes. If he has any convincing reply to that statement we should like to have it, for his reply last night was most unsatisfactory. He admitted that it is by no means certain that we could communicate by means of the beam system with, say, a fleet deploying in the Pacific, but he added that that did not mean that the system was wholly useless. If to give faint praise is to damn a thing, the beam system has been damned by the Prime - Minister. It is both dead and damned. As to the safety of life at sea, the Prime Minister seemed to think that he had made a significant discovery when he said that when ships get into difficulties it is usual for them to send out messages for help and not for people on the land to send messages to them. That is sufficiently obvious to be admitted without argument. I admit also that messages from vessels in distress near the shore would be taken by the feeder stations along the Australian coast and not by a high-power station. But we are dealing at present with the possibilities of communication over long distances, and when a ship is far out on the ocean it is almost as necessary for the shore to communicate with her as for her to communicate with the shore ; and the possibilities in that regard are governed altogether by the power of the stations concerned. For such purposes high-power stations are unquestionably more effective than beam stations.
– And ships often get into distress at night.
– It is of little consolation to those who “ go down to the sea in ships “ to know that should difficulties arise communication could be readily carried on with them for only two or three hours of the twenty-four, during which the conditions were good, but that at at other times it would be impossible. There are one or two matters apart from these main considerations with which I wish to deal. The Prime Minister said yesterday that by accepting the proposed amended agreement we should abandon the proposition to erect a highpower station at a cost of about £480,000 which would probably be obsolete by the time it was completed, or shortly afterwards. ‘
– He did not say anything about that last year.
Mr.BRENNAN.-No; but he was wiser last year than he is this year. He had no more justification for making such a statement this year than he had then. He lacks evidence for it now, just as he lacked it then. Honorable members on this side of the committee do not pretend to be wireless experts, but the Prime Minister pretends to be a prophet. We, however, are not prepared to rely upon his prophecies. We prefer to rely upon the evidence of the best informed wireless experts. The Prime Minister has no justification for saying that a high-power station, would cost £480,000 other than that that was the amount of the Marconi Company tender. Whenever the Marconi Company tenders, its price is about 100 per cent, too high. The Prime Minister, having been a member of the committee of this Parliament which investigated this matter some time ago, knows very well that at least two other companies were prepared to tender for the erection of a high-power station to meet the requirements of the’ Commonwealth and at a price about half £480,000. The fact that no other company was able to tender in the form submitted by the Marconi Company, and so compete with it, was a scandal, and the Marconi Company, by reason of the fact that it was the only tenderer, is quite unfitted to advise the Commonwealth Government in the mat ter. The Prime Minister said that even a beam station would cost £120,000. How is it, then, that under the much stricter regulations and conditions which will govern the erection of beam stations in Great Britain the Marconi Company, which has such extravagant notions of making huge profits at the expense of the Commonwealth, can build one there for £57,000? Seeing that the Prime Minister will not listen to any criticisms of this scheme from honorable members who are politically opposed to him, let me remind him of some observations made in another place by Senator J. D. Millen on the 19th July, 1922, in discussing the terms of the following resolution adopted by the House of Representatives in 1909 : -
That this House is of opinion that wireless telegraphic stations should be immediately established as found desirable . around the coasts of Australia, and that our merchant marine should be equipped with wireless installations as an up-to-date means (1) of obtaining intelligence of the appearance in Australian waters of a hostile force; (2) of saving life and property in peril by accidents on the sea.
The honorable senator said -
In view of that, it was decided to call for tenders for the erection of two stations, one at Perth, and the other at Sydney. The result of calling for those tenders brings out rather a peculiar circumstance. The Australian Wireless Company, of Sydney, which was a branch of the Telefunken Company, of Germany, put in a price of £4,150; the Lepel Wireless Syndicate, London, submitted a tender of £7,000; the BritishRadio Company, London, put in a price of £9,317; and the Marconi Company presented a tender of £19,020. The Government accepted the Australian Wireless Company’s tender of £4,150, and paid the company another £2.000, bringing the total up to £6,150, for which the Commonwealth got the stations at Pennant Hills and Perth. The Marconi Company promptly took out an action to defend their patent rights; but the case was eventually quashed by the amalgamation of the Marconi and Telefunken Companies, which then called themselves the Amalgamated Wireless Company of Australia. While these events were transpiring, the Commonwealth Government engaged Mr. Balsillie to look after the wireless proposals. He wished to extend the works suggested by Admiral Henderson, and undertook to secure tenders. He obtained tenders, but these were turned down. He undertook to provide for material that would not involve an infringement of the Marconi Company’s rights. When this material was employed, the Marconi Company applied to the courts for an order of discovery. After about two years’ litigation, the company obtained an order of discovery, and continued the legal proceedings.
Then an arrangement was made to engage the services of Mr. James Swinburne to come here from London, at a fee of ?2,000, to report if there had been any infringements. He reported that there was none; but the company still persisted in litigation, with the result that the Commonwealth Government paid the company ?5,000 for the use of its patents. The Government went further than that. When the war was on, and the Navy Department had decided to put up an arc station iti u certain place, the Amalgamated Wireless Company anahl took action for an infringement of its arc patent. After a consultation between BearAdmiral Creswell, representatives of the company, and the Crown Solicitor, the company got another ?2,000 out of the Government for the use of its patents.
Senator Duncan. Although the only experts w.ho had gone into the matter said there had been no infringement.
Senator JOHN D. MILLEN. Yes ; and a well known expert at that. When the committee heard of this matter, it naturally felt somewhat anxious that there should be no predominating control of any board that the Amalgamated Wireless Company had anything to do with, particularly in view of the fact that when the representative of the company appeared before the committee-
That is the select committee which considered the principal agreement- lie stated that the old company had entered into an agreement with the Marconi Company, of London, for .the erection of a high-power station in Australia for ?600,000.
Senator Duncan, a little later, interjected
You did not know what sharp people you were dealing with.
Senator J. D. Millen replied
There is not a shadow of doubt about that. We did not; and, in view of this sharp practice, so many of us have lost all faith in the propositions, that the Government would be well advised to tear up the whole agreement and end the business.
That was very good advice from a friend of the right honorable the Prime Minister.
– And one who knows something about wireless.
– May I comment with regard to patents that, under the British law, the Government reserves to itself the right to use patents in the interest of the whole nation? The attitude adopted at that time by honorable senators in another place, taken in conjunction with the evidence I produced last evening, shows that it is clearly a fact that the Marconi trust is the traditional enemy of Great Britain and Australia. Tt has fought us in the courts, and involved us in heavy costs. At every turn it has formulated fictitious claims against us in respect to its patents, which we, not having the courage to resist, have in some cases compromised, and in other cases paid. That is the history of bur connexion with the Marconi trust, and that is why I say that it would be an act of extreme tactlessness, at the least, to involve ourselves with that company now. The Prime Minister last night said that Amalgamated Wireless Limited is an independent company. In the same speech lie admitted, as of course he must, that the Marconi trust has a heavy holding of shares in Amalgamated Wireless Limited. He admitted, because it is not open ! argument, that while the committee that inquired into the matter was sitting, Mr. Fisk was in communication with the Marconi trust as to what he should do. He admitted, because he cannot deny it, that Mr. Fisk is boasting in the press that he carries on confidential conversations from his home in Sydney with Senator Marconi in England. If his claim is genuine, he should allow it to be put to the simple test of investigation by a few pressmen, instead of leaving us dependent upon his undependable representations.
– And leaving much to our imagination.
– It is very interesting to note that the Donald report dealing with the association of the Marconi trust with Amalgamated Wireless stated that the Marconi trust, “ through an affiliated company,” is to erect high-power stations for the Commonwealth in Great Britain and Australia. Having shown that the only proof which the Prime Minister has that the cost of a high-power station will be ?480,000 is the Marconi tender - a tender which was obtained under circumstances of the utmost suspicion, and which in the light of our experience we know is probably extravagant to the extent of about 100 per cent. - I turn now to the statement of the right honorable gentleman that a highpower station would soon be obsolete. In the absence of supporting facts, such a statement carries us nowhere. But when there is a great volume of evidence to the contrary, we can only conclude that the right honorable gentleman has lightly handled his responsibilities. Yesterday I showed that Marconi himself is in favour of the erection of a high-power station. I also quoted the favorable opinions of the naval authorities and the Donald report. I have that report before me. In its recommendations appear the following passages : -
Tb at the state, through the post office, should own all wireless stations in Great Britain for ‘communication with the overseas dominions, colonies, protectorates, and territories.
The report goes on to deal with Canada, and, by the way, supplies a complete explanation of the point that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) made much of last night. Other recommendations are -
That the Leafield station should be enlarged as recommended by the post office, wireless experts, and engineers; that the new highpower station now building at Rugby should be extended to a sixteen-mast station; that a second new station of similar capacity be erected, and that these works should be put in hand without delay; that each of the highpower stations should be of world range and equipped with the latest apparatus, so that the highest degree of efficiency can be attained.
Where is the authority, where is the expert, where is the commission, that will declare that such a high-power station as, under the principal agreement, we originally intended to have erected is likely to become obsolete within the next year or two, or even at any time? There is none. The Prime Minister referred specially,, last night, to the newlyawakened interest of the Opposition in the defence of Australia. He said that hitherto we had not manifested so great an interest in that matter. My comment upon that statement is that we are as greatly interested in the defence of this country as is the right honorable gentleman, but we have our own . views as to how it can be most effectively and cheaply carried out. I remind him that he was not very much impressed with the wealth of evidence that we submitted to show that the two new cruisers that the Government proposes to have constructed will be obsolescent, if not obsolete, before they are placed in commission. The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to put me in the wrong in the quotations that he made from the speech of Mr. Bonar Law. If he wishes to amend the published report of his speech, I shall accept his amendment. That is more than he will do with mine. I pointed out yesterday that it was the traditional policy of the British Government not to grant licences to erect highpowered stations in England, and especially not to grant them to the Marconi trust. I said that the Prime Minister was out of date when he said that Mr. Bonar Law reversed that policy in March, 1923, for the agreement was signed on the 28th March, 1922 - a year earlier. This is what the Prime Minister said -
But later it was found that the British Government was not prepared to issue a licence to any private tenderer to erect a station in Great Britain. Negotiations were carried on for some time, based by Australia to a considerable extent upon the undertaking believed to have been given at the Imperial Conference in 1921, that no obstacle would be placed in our way in making any arrangements we desired for a direct service to Great Britain and the erection of a reciprocal station there. In March, 1923, Mr. Bonar Law, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, made a statement which has always been interpreted to mean that the British Government was prepared to alter its policy in regard to the issue of licences to private companies or individuals for the erection of stations for communication with the dominions. He said -
It was not considered any longer necessary to exclude private enterprise from participation in wireless within the Empire and the Government were ready to issue licences for wireless stations in this country for communication with the Dominions, Colonies, and foreign countries, subject to the conditions necessary, and subject to Great Britain controlling the suitable arrangements for the working of the traffic.
Surely the meaning of that was perfectly obvious. It meant that in March, 1923, Mr. Bonar Law announced a departure, to a modified extent only, from Great Britain’s well known policy regarding high-powered stations. In any case, so far as it could apply to this agreement it was a year behind time, and the quotation I have read serves to show what the policy of the British Government was when the agreement was entered into. The lesson I wish to be learned from it is that when the representative of the Amalgamated Wireless Company assured us that we should have no difficulty in getting these licences, he was speaking without the book; he was in- dulging in some of his customary bluff. The Prime Minister last night remindedme of something I had forgotten, when he stated that he sent a cablegram to Great Britain to make inquiries into this matter, and that the reply was fairly satisfactory. It certainly was not a reply that indicated in the slightest degree that Great Britain would hand over the high-powered stations in that country to the Marconi trust.
– Or to any “ pup “ of it:
– Or to any “ pup “ thereof. The Prime Minister says that the agreement covered by the bill is the same kind of agreement that Great Britain has entered into with the Marconi trust for the erection of a beam station in that country. No statement could be much wider of the truth, and the fact is very significant as illustrating the point I have been endeavouring to make. The British Government has given the Marconi trust a licence to erect an experimental beam station in Great Britain at a cost, as I mentioned before, of half that of the beam station proposed to be erected by the same trust in Australia.
– Has any explanation been given of the difference in cost?
– Not a satisfactory one. In addition to that, the British Government has said to the trust, “ You may conduct these experiments. If they are satisfactory, we will take over the station ; but if they are not, you will get no money, and we incur no responsibility.” It should be noted that there is no partnership between the British Government and the Marconi trust for the formation of a company. No complication of that sort has been created by the Labour Government of Great Britain, which has very wisely allowed the company to experiment, so that the Government can take the benefits, if there are any, later. There is a very strict contract : between the British Government and the trust, by which, the British. Government stands to gain something and to lose nothing. The position is not the same in Australia. More important than that, the British Government has decided to proceed with the erection of its highpowered station at Rugby. Is it to be thought that the British Government, which has before it the very last word on wireless development, in the shape of the report of the Donald Committee, is in the centre of the world’s intelligence on this subject, and has the benefit of the most up-to-date expert advisers the world can produce, would set out to erect and equip a high-powered station- and a very high-powered station at that - if there was a probability of its being obsolete within a year or two? Of course, it may prove obsolete, for one cannot say what the future has in store in the way of scientific development and discovery. I do not venture, with the Prime Minister, into the realms of prophecy, but I say that although the station may become obsolete, we have to act to-day in accordance with the knowledge we possess, making useof the best-informed minds of our time, and realizing that much of what we do may seem absurd to succeeding generations in the light of the marked advances that are sure to take place. So I. suggest that the Prime Minister, who appears to be determined to rush the bill through, should reconsider the position before it is too late, and should act in accordance with the advice of better-informed men than himself. He endeavoured to mate a point against me and other honorable members on this side in regard to profit and loss. Clause. 7 of the agreement reads -
During the period of construction and re- organization or for a period of three years fromthe date of this agreement,whichever is the less, the Commonwealth shall pay to the company monthly all amounts expended in carrying on the existing Commonwealth Radio Station, and the company shall pay to the Common-wealth monthly all sums received as revenue for the working of those stations.
It is true that our wireless service was working at a loss when the agreement was ratified, and it is true that the Amalgamated Wireless Company took over the whole service. Let me point out, first, that the sole concern of the Australian Government, whether in regard to wireless, the post’ office, or other public utilities should not be profit, but service and safety. The Amalgamated Wireless Company, when it took over our system of wireless as a going concern, held out to us the promise that once the high-powered station was working the deficit would be turned into a profit. It was stated that the high-powered station would be working within two years. In the meantime the company expected the Government to pay the losses. Because a business is losing money for the time being, it is not necessarily a bad business. When the company took over this concern, with the plant and goodwill of the Government,, it had every prospect of making huge dividends for itself in the future, and it would, therefore, not have been unreasonable to expect it to bear the interim losses.
But however assured the profits might be in the future, the company made quite certain that in the interim stage the Commonwealth would bear the losses. Under the new agreement the period of three years during which the Governmentagreed to pay the losses will be extended for a further twelve months. With all its confidence and optimism in the beam system, the company is not willing to agree to pay a deficit for even one year if it can avoid doing so. I should like to make a serious suggestion for the consideration of the Government and the people of this country. In order to test the beam system, it is not necessary to erect a high-powered station in Australia. Any station is, for all practical purposes, a good receiving station. The highpowered station is a sending, not a receiving, station. I point out to the Prime Minister that, in Great Britain to-day, two powerful stations are in course of erection ; there is the highpowered station at Rugby, which was recommended “by the Donald committee and others, and the experimental beam station to be erected by the Marconi trust. There is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Government testing the beam system without building a station either in Great Britain or Australia. As a friendly dominion, we can use the two stations in Great Britain for experimental purposes. If the Prime Minister will not take anything else seriously, I ask him to take that suggestion seriously. He says the beam system is an experiment, and clearly anything that has the effect of putting the experiment to a practical test is reasonable. It is important to remember that a wireless telegraphy commission, to deal more especially with the beam system and long-distance telegraphy, is about to sit in Great Britain. It is a continuation of the Donald committee, and it is more than likely that we shall receive from it., within the next few months, an abundance of useful information. The honorable gentleman surely lacks a sense of humour when he says that this is an urgent matter. The Prime-Minister, at the end of 1921, told us that it was an urgent matter, and now, in 1924, he puts forward the same plea. I suppose that he would say that if it was urgent in 1921, and nothing was done when action should have been taken, it is more urgent in 1024. .That is doubtless the way the. Prime Minister argues. But I suggest that even on that ingenious argument it cannot be established that there is any urgency at ail, because, although the Labour party usually stands foi” action, and in certain circumstances for bold action, it does not stand for folly, foolish experiments, and speculation, and, therefore, it says that we should take advantage of established discoveries, but not use Commonwealth funds for mere experimenting. I hope that the Prime Minister will take counsel, not only with his fellow Ministers, but also with his friends in the party room, Senator J. D. Millen, Senator “Duncan, and .Senator Wilson, a member of his own Cabinet, and ask them to express their views respecting the Marconi trust, and the whole position. If he does not do that, he will certainly leave himself exposed to the suspicion that pressure is being brought to bear upon the Government. As the Prime Minister is very sensitive, I must be very careful not to suggest that anything approaching corruption is talcing place, but I do suggest that there is evidence that the Marconi trust has a pull which it is exerting on this Government. . Unquestionably it was exerted on the last Government. If the Prime Minister rushes into this thing, and enters into another foolish agreement, he cannot expect to receive gentle treatment at the hands of his critics in this Parliament or the country.
– I appreciate very much the speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). Although the bill is at- the committee stage, clause 2, which covers the schedule setting out the agreement, .provides great scope for speechmaking, consequently the honorable gentleman was in a position to make a second second-reading speech upon this measure. The honorable member took the opportunity to reply to what I said last night. I am perfectly content to let my case rest upon the speech that I made then, because the honorable member broke no new ground. There is only one matter with which I wish to deal now. The honorable member suggested that we need do nothing but wait until a station has been erected in Great Britain, when we could ascertain its result as far as Australia was concerned. He pointed out that the real test of any system, whether highpowered or beam, is the sending of messages, not in the receiving of them. We know that very well. We all remember that, prior to the discussion of the high-powered system, messages from stations such as that ou the Eiffel Tower and others were being picked up here by inferior receivers. The suggestion is now being made that we should experiment in that way with the beam system. I would remind the honorable member of something which is known to him, but not generally to honorable members of this House. We shall get nowhere by merely ascertaining to what extent messages transmitted from a station in Great Britain are received here. It was fully realized by the parliamentary committee, of which the honorable member was a member, that even if a high-powered station were built in Great Britain and messages from it were received here, there could be no guarantee that a station established here could adequately communicate with Great Britain. Various factors have to be considered, one of which is that the charging of the atmosphere of Great Britain is ever increasing because of new stations that are constantly being erected. While the honorable member’s suggestion may seem fair, logical, and reasonable, it is not one that could for a second be adopted as a solution of the problem with which we are faced.
.- Clause 2 should be amended.
– I draw attention to the state of the committee. [Quorum formed.’]
– I do not wish to break any agreement that has been made between both sides of the committee, but the subject under review is sufficiently important to warrant my placing on record certain facts that I have ascertained on the subject of wireless communication. With the British Government this has been a most serious problem, not during the past year or two, but since 1911, when this matter was brought before the Imperial Conference, at which Australia was represented by Mr. Fisher, the then Prime Minister, Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, and Mr. Batchelor, the Minister for External Affairs. The resolution was carried at that conference that there should be a state- owned wireless chain established throughout the Empire. In 1913, Lord Parker’s Advisory Committee confirmed that decision. Then followed the Imperial Wireless Telegraphy Committee, of which Sir Henry Norman was chairman. The information I have obtained is taken largely from the speech delivered in the House of Commons on the 24th July, 1923, by Sir Henry Norman, a gentleman who has given ten years of his life to the study of wireless and its application for Empire purposes. Sir Henry Norman stated that the recommendations of that committee had never been impugned by any high authority, and he laid great stress on the fact, as .did Mr. Fisk when giving evidence before our Parliamentary Committee, that continuous messages over 12,000 miles could not be guaranteed for regular commercial purposes, even with a high-powered station. He contended that wireless systems should be state owned, with 2,000 or 4,000-mile stops, and he quoted Dr. Louis Austin, of the American Radio Government Service, the greatest living authority on wireless, who said that there was no doubt that the system of intermediate stations would give by far the most reliable communication. On the 19th May, 1922, the British War Office, the General Post Office, the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Admiralty, the Air Minister, and the India Office, in conference, agreed that no private company should be allowed to erect wireless stations in the United Kingdom with the object of communicating with British territory overseas. In 1923 the attitude of the British Government was changed, but not completely, because of the influence exerted by Sir Worthington Evans. By making an agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless Limited, we shall join up with one of the biggest combines in the world. There are supposed to be four wireless companies, but they are all acting in unison. I move -
That at the end of clause 2 the following words be added : - “ Provided that the scheme is found to be practicable after investigation by a select committee of this House.”
– I cannot accept the amendment, as a similar proposal was negatived in the House.
– If that is so, I shall move to substitute for clause 2 another clause to provide that the agreement shall be approved only if the scheme is proved to be practicable.
The TEMPORORY CHAIRMAN. - That amendment may be moved if the committee negatives clause 2.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
N oes . . . . ..16
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in tie affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Question - That the schedule be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) put-
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. third time.
Debate resumed from 2nd September (vide page; 3807), on motion by Mr. Pratten–
That the bill be now read a second time.
. Yesterday, the representatives of Australia took their seats in a position of honour in the Assembly of the League of Nations, at Geneva, to discharge the important duty of trying to find a basis for permanent peace among the nations. On the same day, by an unfortunate coincidence, the Minister for Trade and Customs introduced into this chamber the bill which is now before us, which amounts to a declaration of renewed international hostility. This insignificant little measure bears a strong resemblance to one which was introduced last session. That untimely infant, brought forth as though by Caesarian section, was thrust hastily into the world, and, meeting with a hostile reception, speedily succumbed; but this infant has been produced with more regular circumstance and ceremony, and its sponsor tried very hard to induce us to believe that it had more noble features and more acceptable characteristics than were claimed for its predecessor. I shall endeavour ‘to show that, in spite of its seeming insignificance, it is just as mischievous as its predecessor, if, indeed, not more so. I sincerely hope that the measure will not be passed. Personally, I am opposed to it, rump and stump. The Tariff Board was established largely because of the remonstrances against the tremendous duties imposed by the last tariff, the results of which were feared even by many protectionists. To meet some of the objections to the tariff, it was proposed that the board should inquire with fairness and impartiality into the incidence of the duties that were imposed, and whether they inflicted hardship upon the community. It was felt, however, that it should not be a permanent institution, and a period of two years was set for its life. At the end of that time, its work was to be subjected to criticism and review. Last year, an attempt was made to renew its life for five years. Fortunately, honorable members raised so much objection to the proposal, that the Minister agreed to an amendment which “limited the extension of its life to one year. Therefore, unless this measure is agreed to, the board will cease to function early next year. Although the board had . been operating for nearly two years, when the Government proposal of last year was under consideration, honorable members decided that it should be kept on trial for still another year. That extra year’s trial has been made, and even the Government admits now that some alteration of its functions is necessary. I wish to make it clear that these remarks have no personal application to the members of the board. Complaints have been made frequently in this chamber about the methods adopted by the board and the effect of its decisions. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and myself have been particularly insistent that it has hampered industry. In spite of all objections and complaints, however, the Government now proposes that the board shall he appointed in perpetuity, and that certain alterations shall be made in its methods of functioning. It proposes that the custom of holding inquiries in camera shall no longer he followed, but that its inquiries shall be made in public.
– That should have been the practice always.
– Undoubtedly; but it is extraordinary to me that, although the operations of the board have been so unsatisfactory, the Government should propose not only that its operations .shall be altered in a fundamental way, but that it shall no longer remain on trial. If the board is to be continued, its life should be limited, so that its operations may from time to time be reviewed by this House. It certainly should be under close observation for the next year or two, if it is to continue operating, in order to ascertain whether the practice of conducting its inquiries with open doors is satisfactory or otherwise. Seeing that such a tremendous amount of discontent and dissatisfaction with its work exists throughout the Commonwealth, it is most improper, in my opinion, for the Government to attempt to foist “it upon the community in perpetuity without adequate provision for periodical reviews of its operation by Parliament. If the Government proposal is agreed to honorable members will not have an opportunity to review its work, whereas if a definite period were put to its life they would be able to consider its value and usefulness on every occasion’ when it became necessary to approach Parliament to extend its life. I protest strongly against the removal of the limitation of the life of the board. Honorable members will realize that a bill to repeal an existing act is a very different proposition from a bill to extend the life of an established public body.
– Parliament could repeal the act under which the board is appointed without paying compensation to the officers.
– That may be so, but that is not the point. So far, the Government has been obliged to obtain parliamentary approval for the continuation of the board, but if this bill is agreed to it; will no longer be necessary to do that, and the only way of abolishing the board will be by passing a repealing bill- Even if the board is considered to be necessary, there should be legislative provision for a proper review of its operations.
– That would enable the House to endorse its administration.
– Undoubtedly. The speech of the Minister was an admirable one, full of suavity and rotund phrases, but it omitted or skimmed over one or two very important points. Although the board is to be made a permanent one. the bill actually allows the Government to appoint its members for a period up to five years. The Minister did not. say what his intentions were in that matter. The appointment of the present members will expire with the existing act. The Minister has not confided to -the House the proposals of the Government regarding future appointments to the board. Statements that have appeared in the press seem to indicate that the Government intends to increase the personnel of the board, add to the remuneration of its members, ‘and raise their status. I shall not debate that point at present. I shall content myself by saying that there are, and have been, objections to the work of tha board, based upon its personnel, and the Government must pay heed to those objections. It has no right to ask honorable members to give it what practically amounts to a blank cheque to deal with the board, against which serious complaints have been made.
– The remuneration of the members of the board is fixed by the act.
– They are paid a fee for each sitting.
– A lower fee than that stated in the act might be paid. If five guineas a day were paid for every day in the year it would be a very handsome remuneration. This is a matter upon which honorable members are in the dark. We are justly entitled to have some definite statement from the Minister regarding his intentions.
– It is necessary to make the remuneration attractive in order to secure the services of good men.
– I do not advocate that men should be underpaid. The Government is asking us to make the board a permanent one. If we did that we would place in the hands of the Government power to fix the duties and the remuneration of the members. “We should have information that will guide us to a right decision. If the act is renewed from year to year, the House can control the appointment of the members of the board ; but once the board is made a permanent body, the appointment and the control of its members will pass entirely out of the hands of this House.
– Not entirely.
– I do not see what there is to prevent it. The Minister said that the question of fiscalism did not arise under the bill. Although the board system might not be perfect, the question for “the House to decide was whether this board was necessary and satisfactory. I agree with him. My opinion is that the board has not proved satisfactory. We all know perfectly well that one of the principal duties of the board - in fact, I should not be far wrong if I said the principal duty - is the administration of that extraordinary abomination that is generally known as the Industries Preservation Act. I have, on more than one occasion in this House, drawn attention to some of the things that have been done under that act, and have had from the Minister the rebuke that it is not fair to attack the board on a matter that is his responsibility. The Minister must not, in this House at any rate, use the board or his department as trenches into which he can retire when attacked.
– If there is one man who has stood up to his job, it is the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten).
– I do not say that he has not. But when the interpretations that have been placed upon the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act by the board have been called in question, the Minister has stated that he, and not the board, is responsible. That may be very chivalrous, noble, and generous of the honorable gentleman, but he cannot in that way allow the board to escape from its responsibilities. The Minister cannot take action without a recommendation from the board, and any interpretation upon which he acts must be regarded as the interpretation of the board.
– The Minister has the last say. He is the man who is responsible. He is quite right in shouldering his responsibility.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) evidently fails utterly to grasp my argument. I know that “ None are so deaf as they who will not hear.” The honorable member is so utterly obsessed by certain views of his own upon this matter that his mind is not open to grasp facts. The outstanding fact in this matter is that, under the act, the board has, in at least two very important matters, given an unsatisfactory interpretation. It has used the Australian valuation as a basis for determining whether dumping duties can be imposed. That matter has been gone into very fully. I have discussed it with the Minister, and he knows as well as I do that there is only one section of the act under which such a method can be applied. But it is being extended and applied in other directions. The one direction in which its application is permitted is in connexion with countries that are said to have a depreciated currency. Only recently I brought before the Minister a case in which goods had been purchased in Germany on an invoice value declared in renten marks. Those are marks that have a gold basis and par value. Notwithstanding the fact that the invoice value was shown in renten marks, the Customs Department declared that those goods, came from a country that had a depreciated currency, and it “ applied the dumping duty and tho Australian valuation to them.
– The members of the board are representatives, of Australia, not of foreign countries like the honorable member.
– What is the honorable member’s conception of his duty as a lawmaker? Docs he conceive it to be his duty to make laws that are not to be applied ; does he say that things illegal and extra-legal can be done without restriction ? If that is his opinion, I differ from him.. If the House approves of the action that I have criticized let it pass a law to make it legal. The officials have no right to read into any law a meaning that was never intended by Parliament. That mischief has been caused because the control of these matters has been taken out of the hands of this House and given over to the board. We have committed to the board the control of the trade and customs, of Australia. We have given it great powers, and surrendered to it functions whicli properly belong to us.
– We are practically leaving to it the revision of the tariff.
– I know that we are. In considering the relative values of goods for anti-dumping duty purposes, imported goods are compared with those that are manufactured in Australia in factories that were established during the war, when prices were at their peak, when every establishment was overcapitalized, and when the sole justification for the establishment of certain industries was the returns that were made possible by the prevalence of war prices. Those prices still continue here. The high cost of production engendered by the war-time establishment of industries is putting the cost of materials up to a great height. The consequence is that a comparison of those goods with many that are imported leads to the latter being declared to have been dumped, and the imposition by the Tariff Board of a dumping duty to cover the difference in prices. What is the result? The Tariff Board has simply become an institution for the maintenance of prices in Australia at the war level. The complaint in all quarters is that there must not be competition; that goods must not come in at a price lower than that fixed for goods manufactured at an excessive cost, even though we maintain local prices at the high rate engendered by the war. In confirmation of that statement I wish to read an extract from the last report of the Tariff Board. It states -
When the war-time industries were first started the prices for the products to be manufactured were in most cases high, and promised to return reasonable profits in spite of heavy overhead and the rate of wages paid in Australia; but with the gradual return to normal conditions in different parts of the world prices have dropped, and the local manufacturers have, in many instances, been faced with the problem of meeting the competition of imported’ goods that have been landed in Australia for less, than the actual cost of manufacture in this country.
Of course they have. Are we never to get back to normal prices in Australia? The board will not try to get back to normal prices; its actions are directed towards maintaining prices at the war level.
– A return to pre-war prices cannot be expected.
– I am not taking the stand that we should return to pre-war prices. I ask honorable members, however, to consider that statement of the Tariff Board. Where can we find in the board’s report any evidence of an effort to get back to normal prices ? Instead, of that, every effort is made to maintain prices at the high war level. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, made a most extraordinary statement, which I challenged by interjection. He gave am elaborate and careful definition of what was meant by “ articles manufactured on a commercial basis in this country,” and then went on to say, in effect, that the duties would be raised if they were not high enough to protect such articles. The Minister shakes his head, and I regret that I am not able to quote from the report of his speech, but he certainly, after defining what “ articles manufactured on a commercial basis in this country “ meant, went on to imply that if such articles could be produced on that basis in Australia they would be protected by higher duties. I interjected, “ That statement qualifies all the rest.” In other respects ‘ the board has not been performing functions that rightly belong to it, or that are required of it by the community. I have the report of a speech delivered at a recent meeting in Adelaide of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. In that speech attention is directed to certain administrative acts of the board, and the board’s report is quoted. It states -
It got tangled up with other matters only remotely connected with the tariff. In Western Australia, “ upon representations from the Primary Producers’ Association, the chairman, on behalf of the board, wired to the Prime Minister a full statement of the requests made by the wheat-grower’s, and urged the withdrawal of some of the conditions imposed by the Commonwealth Bank in connexion with the advance to be made on the. wheat to be harvested during the then approaching season.” During the visit to South Australia, the board became “ impressed with the necessity of making every possible effort to provide for markets overseas “ for dried fruit. “ No opportunity.” it says, “ has been lost in the effort to try to influence distinguished visitors, commercial and industrial leaders, and journalists from Great Britain with the necessity of the United Kingdom granting greater preference to the products of the irrigation and other settlements.”
– There is nothing wrong with that.
– I am wondering whether it is the Tariff Board that is speaking or members of this House, who should be charged with the control of the political affairs of this country. The report proceeds -
This is going considerably beyond the duty of investigation and report. But a stronger instance of the board’s departure from its proper functions follows. “ In its efforts to assist local industries, the board has departed from the usual methods. On several occasions, at the request of local manufacturers, the board has deputed the chairman to go to different states to assist in obtaining orders for Australian engineering shops.”
Instances of this sort could be multiplied. I know that the board told the representatives of certain industries that, unless they did what they were urged to do, a tariff would be imposed against them.
– That is done to pave the way for a further extension of the board’s powers.
– Undoubtedly. Members of the board have constituted themselves commercial travellers. I have personal knowledge of an instance in which they told a man that he could not import a certain thing because a firm was making it in Australia. The firm was applied to, but it could not supply the articles, and then the board referred the inquirer to another firm. It waa necessary to search all over tho country before the required material could be obtained. The board is acting as commercial agent, or sales manager, for different firms. Not only has it to report on matters submitted to it, but it can act on its own initiative. I should have liked to deal with agricultural machinery at considerable length, but, unfortunately, the opportunity has. been taken from me. In that connexion the board acted most extraordinarily. Perhaps fifteen months asio, representations were made regarding the serious effect of the duties on this class of machinery, but the board has not investigated and reported on the subject. Twelve months or more have passed, and the Prime Minister is now believed to have referred the matter to the board for a special report. Further deputations have waited on the board, but it has not progressed with its inquiry; but, in ite report, it speaks of this industry in most glowing terms, and as one that requires the greatest care and protection. It has very extraordinary ideas of its duties and responsibilities to such industries. On pages 7 to 9 of its report, which came before Parliament this year, reference is made to industries that are said to have received valuableassistance from high duties. Mention is made of the brewing industry, the tobacco industry, and the fruitpreserving industry. It is stated that those industries have become well established,, and that the magnificent results achieved have been the result of the high protectiveduties imposed. The same statement could be made of the agricultural machinery industry, for 82.5 per cent, of Australia’s requirements in agricultural machinery is supplied by local manufacturers. Is that industry not well established? I should think it is. What was the original purpose of high duties? It was supposed to be to assist industries tobecome established. Were the duties tobe continued after the industries had become established? In the early days of protection, mild duties of 10 and 15 per cent, were proposed for five, seven, or ten years, in order to encourage infant industries; but not one of those infant industries has become sufficiently well established to stand by itself.
– Plenty of them are still struggling.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Sunshine works, the brewing industry, the fruitpreserving industry, and the tobacco industry are still struggling ? There are many other instances that could be cited of industries that have passed the struggling stage. . The honorable member knows that these industries have been quoted as being exceedingly prosperous. But when has the board recommended that the duties imposed to encourage them should be reduced? First they were tottering from infancy, now they are tottering from senility, and they will continue to totter because they are looking for a continuance of the support that they say will enable them to meet unfair competition.
– Is the honorable member annoyed because an Australian industry is prosperous?
– The honorable member knows that such an interjection is toosilly for me to answer. The amendment of the act proposed in clause 3 of the bill is of very .great importance, and I am led to speak of it by the duties performed by the board outside its proper functions. When I pointed out last year what the section proposed to be amended implied, there were cries of indignation and alarm from every part of the House. Section 15 of the principal act sets out the powers of the board. In sub-section 1 there is a long list of matters that the Minister may refer to the board, and subsection 2 says -
The Minister may refer to the board for their inquiry and report the following matters : -
the general effect of the working of - the Customs Tariff, and the Excise Tariff, in relation to the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth.
That is a fairly big order, but the subsection proceeds -
That is another big order, but more follows -
As if those were not enough, the subsection adds - (d) any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the tariff.
It is now proposed to strike out the words “ in relation to the tariff,” so that there will be no limitation or restriction placed upon the operations of the board, except such as the members of it may impose themselves. They may investigate any matter affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries. In other words, we are asked to create a grand inquisition.
– The board may act on its own initiative, without a reference from the Minister.
– It may. deal with matters referred to it by the Minister, or may act without such reference by the Minister. It may roam at large, inquire into what it likes, and lay every one under obligation, for it has statutory powers to call for information, inspect books, and take evidence. It may demand to know everything about any man’s business. The amendment will remove every restriction and make the board a high panjandrum, with power to control the operations of trade and commerce. It is all very well forthe Minister to
Bay that there will be limitations; the fact remains that none are set out in the bill. It is proposed to make the board a law unto itself. I also wish to say a few words on . the other amendment, which relates to the method of inquiry. I have often said that I should like to see the board abolished. I am afraid that the majority of honorable members are short-sighted enough to favour the continuation of the operations of the Tariff Board; but if that is insisted upon, its inquiries should be held in the open. The method of inquiry adopted by this board is an important matter. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has referred to this board as similar in its character and functions to boards elsewhere, particularly in Canada and India.
– I said that it was proposed to establish a board in Canada.
– The Minister knows that there is a body in Canadawhichis almost equivalent to a Tariff Board. The method of inquiry adopted in Canada is somewhat different from that operating in this country. Under the Canadian Customs Tariff Act, power is given to the Governor-General in Council to reduce duties or to place articles on the free list. When the Governor-General considers it necessary that an inquiry should be made, the matter is referred to a judge. There is no board or body appointed with any taint of commercial interests about it. The inquiries are carried out on strictly judicial and impartial lines. The Minister said that a good impartial board was very necessary. So it is, but the difficulty is to get an impartial board. I am not questioning the bona fides or the. honesty of the Tariff Board, but a board appointed by a protectionist Minister is hound to be a protectionist board. That was never the. intention of Parliament. A board to protect the country from impositions and to study impartially all matters referred to it must not be one of partisan views or one appointed by a partisan Minister. It must be a board to act independently and judicially.In Canada a judge is appointed to take charge of an inquiry, and if, after considering all the evidence, he recommend a reduction of duty, or that anarticle? shall he placed on the free list, the Governor-General has no option but to give effect to that recommendation. We have not heard of one instance of a duty being reduced in Aus- tralia. It is stated that the Tariff Board has made recommendations to the Minister for the revision of duties. That may be so, but we have no means of ascertaining whether it be true. If such a recommendation has been made, what has become of it? It has never seen the light of day. The board is under the control of the Minister, and the inquiries of the board may be entirely wasted if the Minister does not see fit to make its recommendations public. Of course, the board, out of loyalty to the Minister, would not mention outside that such a report had been made, and honorable members of this House and the public generally would thus be kept entirely in the dark respecting its inquiries. Regarding the Indian tariff inquiry, I wish to place before honorable members the following interesting statement, dated 20th June, 1924:-
A statement by the Tariff Board indicates the difficulty of inducing firms to give evidence in favour of their claim for protection, although such evidence is invited. The statement shows the impossibility, on the ground of time and expense, for the board to move from place to place, and points out that if firms want protection their duty is to cooperate with the board. The board states that it has found the greatest difficulty in arranging for representatives, of firms to attend its meetings. Evidently the firms realize that their case for protection must be of the strongest character to survive the severe cross examination of the Tariff Board in public, followed by fierce criticism in the Legislature. Otherwise the diffidence noted by the board is unexplainable.
The article then goes on to quote cases which came before the board, in which the applicants proved to have no real and just claim. It continues -
The trend of the examination suggested that if no stronger case could be presented the cement industry had little chance of protection.
The board in India protects that country and its finances from undue claims made by unscrupulous manufacturers. Here, on the other hand, our legislation respecting the Tariff Board, including the Industries Preservation Act, does not check the making of unwarranted claims, but rather invites firms to approach the board with a view to getting money from the public treasury for their enrichment. The methods adopted in India are entirely different from ours.
Clause 2, relating to open hearings, is all right as far as it goes, but it gives one the impression of having been inserted in the bill to make it appear that a legitimate precaution had been taken to safeguard the public. A close examination of the clause shows that no such precaution will be taken. While the principle intended to be conveyed by this clause is all right, there is little or no protection afforded by the clause. It looks to me as if the clause has been inserted to satisfy those persons who have been clamouring for open hearings, and to prevent any complaint that they are not getting what they have asked for. Clause 2 reads -
Section 11 of the principal act is amended by inserting at the end thereof the following sub-sections: - “ (4) Inquiries conducted by the board relating to-
any revision of the tariff; or
any proposal for a bounty, shall be held in public, and evidence in such inquiries shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, be taken in public.
If any witness objects to giving any evidence in public on the ground that it is. of a confidential nature, the board may take such evidence in private if it considers that it is desirable in the public interest to do so.”
Mr.Foster. - That is a very necessary provision.
– The effect of the tariff was investigated by the Interstate Commission with open hearings of evidence. In some cases local manufacturers refused to give the evidence asked for, while the importers had their books investigated and their offices ransacked. This provision is most unfair and improper, because discrimination may be exercised. It has been exercised in the past, and I am justified in saying that it may be exercised in the future.
– The honorable member should quote such cases.
– They are to be found in the Interstate Commission’s report. I spoke of them on the second reading of a similar bill last year. In the United States of America it is provided that the Tariff Commission shall give reasonable notice of its hearings, and shall give reasonable opportunity to parties interested to be present to produce evidence and to be heard. There is no provision in the bill to ensure open hearings at the sittings of the Tariff Board. The board may simply announce that the public are free to attend its meetings. The bill should provide that a month’s notice must be given of any proposed inquiry. Under this ‘clause, it is possible to comply with its provisions and yet take evidence practically in camera.
– The meetings will be open to the press.
– If the inquiries of the board are not advertised, and no notification given of them, how is the press to know what is going on ? This clause gives little or no safeguard, and requires considerable amendment and enlargement. Honorable members are probably not aware that at the meeting of the associated chambers of commerce held in Adelaide in May last, a resolution was carried condemning the operations of the Tariff Board and urging its abolition. A delegation was also appointed, consisting of one representative from each state. Last week it waited upon the Minister for Trade and Customs in Melbourne, and protested against many of the operations of the board, and urged its abolition. A very brief notice of this deputation was published by the press. The Minister is understood to have dismissed the delegation with the comfortable feeling that everything would be put right. The Minister, I admit, shows a great deal of skill and tact in dealing with individual cases that arise, but it is of no use dealing with an individual case1 unless it is ascertained that the principle involved is right or wrong, and, if wrong, it should be altered. If particular instances are rectified, and the administration from which they arise remains unaltered, endless similar cases will arise. That is our trouble. We bring up individual cases before the Minister, and he remedies them. After all, those are the only cases that are dealt with, while hundreds of other decisions based on the same principle remain uncorrected. The Minister told the delegation that he thought the board might work satisfactorily in the future. Only the other day he made an important statement regarding the functions of the board. Here again he has given to the board functions that are outside its duties under the act. He has said that no importer is to bring goods into this country unless he first submits his requirements to the board and obtains its approval.
– The honorable member is not putting the case accurately. If an importer wants to get a reduction in duty under certain elastic provisions of the law, he must submit his case to the board.
– I thank the Minister for that correction, but I understood him to say that, if an importer wanted relief from the anti-dumping provisions of the Industries Preservation Act, he would also have to take similar action. If he intends to import certain ‘goods, he must submit his orders to the department, and ascertain from it whether they are subject to a dumping duty, or whether, in the view of the department, necessity arises for their importation. In this case, and also in the case referred to by the Minister, the board may say to that importer, “ These goods are not made in Australia, but you can obtain goods here that will suit you just as well.” And that hast happened.
– I know the honorable member does not wish to misrepresent me. My published statement referred only to classified items.
– I am sorry if I have misunderstood the Minister, but, nevertheless, what I have said is true. The board is in a position to inform the importer whether the goods will be obtainable in Australia, and if they are obtainable, the importer will not get the concession he desires. .In other words, the board is to be the final arbiter of the qualities and prices of all goods. For instance, I might desire to import a very special article, the qualities and properties of which I know. If I applied to the board for permission to import it, I would be told, “ That article cannot be made in Australia, but there is a local product that will do you just as well. We will not reduce the duty on the one you want, so you must take the other.” Thus the board will dictate what quality of goods a man shall use. That is an unwarrantable and outrageous usurpation of functions not given to the board by the act.
– And the honorable member’s statement, too, is outrageous.
– I do not think I am doing any injustice to the Minister. I am quoting a newspaper report, which was published several days ago, and, apparently, the Minister did not think it wor thy of contradiction until I repeated the statement in the House.
– Will the honorable member kindly read the statement that was published in the press ?
– I have read it, but I have not a copy of it with me now.
– These interchanges are quite disorderly.
– In any case, the Minister will have ample opportunity to reply to me later, and I hope he will avail himself of it. I desire to place on record these words from the report of the debate by the Associated Chambers of Commerce -
The Minister admitted the proposed Tariff Board was an experiment. He warned Parliament not to expect a fiscal millennium. It did not occur bo him that the result might be exactly the opposite, and that the operation of the act might result in an unparalleled state of confusion, distrust, and discontent. . . . We say that the Tariff Board Act and its cornonion - the Industries Preservation Act - have een administered in a way which was never contemplated by Parliament, that it has resulted in delays and embarrassments and annoyance to legitimate trade, that it has destroyed that feeling of confidence which is essential to successful trading, and that through the act the power of Parliament to determine the fiscal policy of the country has been usurped. It is a truism that publicity is essential to the proper administration of government. It is the only safeguard against abuse, and is the creator of confidence. Particularly is this so in connexion with the administration of a tariff.
Those two statements regarding the effect of the past operations of the board upon the trading community, and the standard employed in determining, applications fpr the right to import goods, justify my contention that the board is not necessary, that its past operations have not been satisfactory, and that there isno justification for the proposal to make it a permanent body and to extend its functions in the manner proposed..
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) on the forcefully expressed and carefully-thought-out criticism which he has levelled at this bill. In the remarks I shall make regarding the Tariff Board, I in no way impugn the board’s members. We were fortunate to secure men of undoubted probity, the highest integrity, and great capacity, to discharge the duties that were given to the board, and my criticisms refer in no way to them as individuals, but to the creation of the board itself, which I consider to be ‘an ulcerous excrescence on the body politic. It is also a negation of the principles of parliamentary government. Parliament, in my opinion, wrongly delegated to it authority and responsibilities which have interfered with the taxation policy of the country. It gave power to it, through a Minister,, to impose taxation which should be imposed only by Parliament. I doubt very much the constitutional legality oftaxation being levied, increased, or reduced, by an individual or any delegated authority outside of Parliament itself . It may be claimed that the board has no power to impose taxation by increasing the duties on various commodities, and that the Minister acts on his own volition after he has received a recommendation from the: board. It is true that the board only makes recommendations, but a Minister who is sympathetic with the imposition of heavy duties would need very strong reasons, for rejecting any recommendations of the board, particularly when made for the purpose of assisting a particular industry. But another body which should be considered is the general public, whose representatives we are. It is not represented on the board, and’ has no means of voicing its opinion of the board’s operations except through its representatives in Parliament. The recommendations of the board become effective decisions immediately ministerial approval’ is given to them, and, although Parliament is supposed to be the only taxing authority, the Tariff Board has de facto really become one, at least, in so far as the tariff fs concerned. The delegation of taxing power to a Minister, whether on the advice of a board or on his own initiative, was a negation, not only of one of the fundamental principles of parliamentary government, but also of one of the foundation principles of the Nationalist party, which affirms that only Parliament shall impose taxation upon the people. The board,, and, previous to its appointment, officials in the Customs Department, through the Minister, have taxed the people by a process of classification, in the application of which the intentions of Parliament have, time after time, been defeated. New duties have been imposed, and existing duties either increased or reduced without anv reference to Parliament. In some cases, items which Parliament declared should be admitted free have been subjected to taxation; and other items, which Parliament . decided should be taxed at a certain rate, have been, by the imposition of classifications, subjected to a higher rate of duty. My main objection to the board is that it exercises, in effect, through its recommendations to the Minister, functions which can only be constitutionally exercised by Parliament. I do not admit that even a Minister of the Crown should have power to. interfere with the tariff which is passed by Parliament. It may be said that anomalies in the tariff need correction. In that case, an advisory board might properly ‘and constitutionally report direct to Parliament, and Parliament should accept the responsibility of correcting the anomalies. It certainly should not be done by either a board or a Minister. If a board through a Minister can properly do this work, there is no necessity for Par,liament to spend time considering the tariff. We have spent weeks, and even months, discussing tariff’ proposals, item by item, and yet I have seen exhaustive lists issued by the Tariff Board of variations which it has recommended, and which have been approved by the Minister. Hardly a week passes without numerous amendments being made to the tariff. On this aspect of the board’s work I quote the following remarks made by Mr. J. Maitland Paxton, of Sydney, in addressing the conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce held in Adelaide in May of this year: -
We ‘ are faced with the fact that, the Tariff Board is a creation of the Commonwealth. It was created by Parliament. The duty of this board, so far as I can see it, is to make reports, and the only use of those reports is lo enable the Minister to do something which if there were no Tariff Board to make recommendations he would not dare to do. It goes a good deal further than- that, however. The hoard does not supply Parliament with the information which it is supposed to do, and which would enable Parliament to amend the turill’ if it so desired. The Minister for Trade and Customs amends the tariff, and Parliament meekly accepts the amendment. The Tarin” Board has been in existence two and a half to three years too long. It should not go out of existence in March or April of next year, but forthwith.
A board of inquiry may be useful in giving extra departmental assistance to the Minister in regard to the operations of the tariff, but the Minister in turn should report to Parliament, and if need arises for an alteration of the tariff, Parliament can be approached at a moment’s notice when it is sitting. Honorable members know that when an amendment of the tariff needs parliamentary sanction, the business that is under discussion at the time is interrupted, and immediate consideration is given to the tariff proposals. That is as it should be. If we are not capable of determining the tariff that should be imposed, we should not accept the people’s money. What I am concerned about is that, when Parliament has come to the decision that a certain tariff shall be imposed, that decision should not be subject to review and revision by an outside authority.; not even by the Minister. No Minister should be able to flout the expressed will of Parliament. The vexatious’ effects of the classification of various articles made by the Tariff Board were well described by Mr. W.. J. Newbigin, of Sydney, who also addressed the conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce in Adelaide. He said -
During the last few years the Customs Department has made a practice of issuing to the .public every Friday detailed lists, which show the .various matters in regard to which it has changed its mind during the previous week. The other day I told my shipping clerk to prepare a list showing variations in the tariff covering a certain period with respect to particular items. He nearly wept when I gave him his instructions. On looking up the list for the week ending “l-5th September, 1923, I am pleased to note that the Minister only changed his mind, or that of his predecessor, ‘3’4 times during the preceding seven days. I shall deal now with the tariff affecting steam turbines. On 25th March, 1920, the rates were 27* per cent. and. 40 per cent. On 28th August, 1920, they were free and 10 per cent. On 20th February, 1922, up to and including 60S horse-.power, the rates were 274 per cent, and -40 per cent., while for over 055 horse-power they were free and 10 per cent. On 4th September, 1922, the rates were 27$ per cent, and 40 per cent. Here are a few details in connexion with the tariff on steam shovels. On 1st September, 1921, the rates were 27* per cent, and 40 per cent. On 2nd September of the same year they were altered to free and 10 .per cent. On 14th May, 1923, they were the same, but on 19th July, 1923, they were altered to 27) per cent, and 40 per cent. Further, in dealing with the Tariff Board, if you desire to approach them you must state that you are a local manufacturer or an importer, or otherwise they won’t know how to answer.
That is only an illustration of the irritation to which commercial houses, and those who have tariff dealings with the
Customs House, are subjected by the Board. I certainly think that the board in its present form is entirely unnecessary. I should have no objection to an advisory board so long as it reported to Parliament through the Minister, and, if anomalies were discovered in the tariff, Parliament could effect any alteration which in its wisdom it considered necessary. Such an alteration would have behind it the force of constitutional law, as we understand the term, because it would be made by the people’s representatives. If the people are not satisfied with the actions of their representatives i,hey have the remedy in their own hands, in that they can choose other representatives. No such remedy exists m connexion with the Tariff Board. No matter how severe or how burdensome the taxation may be that is levied upon the people by the Minister, on the advice of the Tariff Board, the electorate has no control over the board and cannot change its personnel. The board has no responsibility to the electorate, and that is a negation of the very foundation principle of democratic government, which insists upon the right of the people to govern themselves through their elected representatives, and which recognizes that the Parliament is the only taxing authority.
– The Minister has no power to alter duties. He may only classify them under certain conditions.
– That classification very often involves an alteration of the duties. By a classification of items duties can be removed in certain cases although they may have been approved by Parliament. On the other hand, a classification of items by the department has very often had the effect of increasing the duty. In that way the Minister has the power - and he exercises it - to increase duties when the recommendations of the board meet with his approval. There is one feature in the bill which is an improvement on a provision of the act. It provides that inquiries conducted by the board relating to any revision of the tariff, or any proposal for a bounty, shall be held in public, and evidence in such inquiry shall, subject to the provisions of a succeeding subsection, be taken in public. So far as it goes, that provision is a decided improve ment upon the secret methods that have been and are being followed. At present ex parte statements may be made and received, and no chance is given to other persons interested to rebut that evidence or to cross-examine the witness who gives it.
– Under the provisions of this bill that practice will be continued in regard to all anti-dumping matters.
– That is so. There is a provision which, apparently, nullifies the intention of the Minister that the board shall conduct its investigations in public. A witness can object to giving evidence in public on the ground that it is of a confidential nature, and the board, if it considers that it is desirable in the public interest to do so, may take such evidence in private. Every witness, if he is an interested party, can say that the evidence he has to give is of a confidential nature. His claim to be heard in private may or may not be allowed. With a sympathetic board it probably would be. Therefore, the same objectionable procedure that is now observed can be perpetuated even under this amending legislation. I suggest a further safeguard, by requiring that due notice be published in the principal newspapers of the intention to hold an inquiry, stating the matters that are to be investigated, in order that those who are interested in the industry that is being subjected to investigation may have an opportunity to submit evidence. I am strongly opposed to any extension of the functions of the board. It is proposed that the board’s operations shall be extended to include all sorts of matters, whether they relate to the tariff or not. That seems to me to be a recognition of % most pernicious principle, which in the future may open the way to many undesirable practices. We are fortunate at present in having as members of the board men of unimpeachable character, but we have no guarantee that at some future time the board will not have a different personnel, when the provisions of the Bill may be used in an entirely improper way. Certainly the road is left wide open for every species of bribery, corruption, tyranny, and intimidation. We should carefully safeguard the public against any such possibility. I hope that, in committee, that particular portion of the bill will be entirely eliminated. I feel strongly tempted to vote against the bill - lock, stock, and barrel. I believe that it is wrong from beginning to end. I cannot understand how any one who has the slightest regard for the interests of every section, whether engaged in trade, industry, or commerce, can possibly endorse the proposed extension of the powers of the board. I hope that, in committee, an amendment will be inserted limiting the proposed extension of the time during which the board shall continue to operate. I understand that another honorable member intends to move in the direction of having the period fixed. I shall certainly support any proposal of that kind.
– Would the honorable member abolish the tariff I
– I should never have been a party to its introduction in the beginning. The trouble now, however, is that, having been .imposed, a tariff grows, and. vested interests and monopolies are created with which later it is well nigh impossible to cope without inflicting injury to various industries which have grown up relying on its permanent continuance.
– A monopoly here is not so harmful as one in Germany.
– Monopolies of any kind, wherever they exist, are a bad thing for the public, and they should not be encouraged. Surely the consumer has a right to be considered. We deal with these matters as if the consumer were of no account whatever. The man who has to pay the piper has no chance to call the tune. Incidentally, I may remark that we have a tariff that imposes high taxes upon people of small means, who in some cases have to pay exorbitant prices for the necessaries of existence. It is pernicious and bad to encourage the creation of monopolies in connexion with the food and the clothing of the people. I am opposed to monopolies of all descriptions. I am opposed to everything that restricts the free flow of trade. The tariff, in the first place, was agreed to merely in order to give industries a start, and on the assurance that as soon as they got upon their feet it would no longer be required. Subsequently, whenever there was a proposal to remove a duty, or even to lighten it, it has not been welcomed, but we have been met with demands for a still higher tariff, until the burden upon the unfortunate taxpayer has become almost intolerable. I have never countenanced the unnecessary imposition of taxation. We should impose no more than is absolutely necessary for the purposes of government. Only a portion of the Customs taxation isused for the purposes of government. A large proportion of it goes into the pockets of private individuals, who exploit the consumers of the goods that are subject to such taxation. The whole principle is wrong, and I am totally opposed to it. I realize, however, thai having established the principle and allowed it to obtain a firm hold, we cannot alter it without inflicting a large measure of injury upon a considerable portion oi the community. The hands of those who do not believe in the system are tied. They find themselves in a net, and are unable to do what they consider to be the right thing, because it would inflict severe injurs upon certain sections of the community. I support the honorable member for Perth, and when the -bill is in committee I shall join with those who desire tohave amendments made to protect the interests of the consumers, and to close the door that the bill proposes to open to wholesale corruption, bribery, tyranny, and other abuses. The door is closed to that kind of thing in matters outside the tariff, but by extending the board’s operations as proposed the whole gamut of trade, commerce, and industry will be open to inspection. No man’s private business will be safe from an inquisition by the board, at its own instance or instigated by an interested person. That is a very dangerous provision, and I shall resist its passage to the utmost.
.- I shall not say anything about the Tariff Board, except to indicate that I have not changed my attitude towards it since the board was first proposed. I agree with the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) that’ the Minister should be responsible to Parliament for the administration of the tariff. At the present juncture no good purpose would be served by attacking the Tariff Board, because Parliament has made up its mind to continue it. But I wish to make a recommendation to the Minister in the hope that he will agree to amend the bill in a desirable direction. The Tariff Board has the power to remove duties and to increase them in certain circumstances, and that power should, be extended so as to permit the board to control the condition of the workers in protected industries. When an industry is protected by a high tariff, against the cheap products. of other countries, it should be compelled to pay at least the ruling rates of wages, and to provide decent conditions for those employed in it.. If it could be shown that a manufacturing concern in this country had refused to pay ruling rates of wages to its employees, the Tariff Board should be able to remove until the company treated its employees better the duty protecting it. At Port Kembla, in my electorate, there is a concern known as the Port Kembla Metal Manufacturing Company. It pays the ruling rates of wages in the metal manufacturing, but not in the wood-working, part of its business. It employs a number of timber-workers, and for some reason that I cannot explain, the industrial court of New South Wales has allowed it to pay to its timber-workers wages that are far lower than those ruling generally in New South Wales. The following table shows the difference in the rates: -
New South Wales Rate paid by Rate. Port Kembla Co. Circular sawyers £5 4 6 £4 12 0
Planing machine workers … 5 1 6 4 6 0
Case makers … 4 18 6 4 12 0
Stackers … 4 14 6 4 2 0
The timber-workers refused to work, and the. company tried to force the metalworkers to take their places. The metalworkers refused, and, as a result, the company has locked out nearly 800 operatives, for no other reason than that they refuse to “ scab” on their fellow unionists. Members on this side are quite willing to vote for high duties to protect industries that are subjected to the competition of goods produced in cheaplabour countries, but the Tariff Board, when protecting the manufacturer, should take steps to ensure that he treats his workmen properly. The timber-workers employed by the Port Kembla Company have to work under worse conditions than men similarly employed! elsewhere. In every other factory in the state where such men are employed, blowers and other appliances are installed to clean the air of dust. No such appliances are provided at Port Kembla. Despite this fact, the company has been able to get special conditions from the state court. I hope that the Minister will see the reasonableness of my request, and thus obviate the necessity forme to move an amendment. I have never refused to grant adequate protection to theindustries of this country, but I shall never vote for a duty on an article that this country cannot produce in sufficientquantities for the needs of the people. It is noteworthy that the best customer of the Port Kembla Company is a Commonwealth Government department, the Post Office. I hope that the Minister will take steps to safeguard, not only the manufacturer and capitalist, but also the worker. What is sauce for the gander - I suppose I ought to state, it that way - is sauce for the goose. I am prepared to admit that in most industries, as a result of protection, the workers enjoy good conditions. This is a specific case to the contrary, but fortunately there are not many of them. If the Minister would say to-morrow to this company, “ Give your employees at least the ruling rate of wages and the same conditions that apply elsewhere as fixed by the. courts of this country, otherwise theduty will be taken off,” I am quite satisfied that within 24 hours the employees would resume work.
– I could not do that without an act of Parliament.
-I admit that. But there is no reason why some such provision should not be inserted in this bill. We may be able to test that matter when in committee. The operation of the tariff should cut both ways, and the men engaged in any industry should be protected just as much as those controlling its operations.
.- I must compliment the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr.Lazzarini) on bringing an important phase of the tariff before this chamber. In view of the increased cost of living brought about by the tariff imposition, I am surprised that the party opposite, when it had the opportunity of considering the tariff, did not insistupon a little reasonableness being shown to their own people, as huge sums were being given to a few monopolists in this country. Only a few months ago, I asked the Postmaster-General what was the extra amount that had been paid to the Metal Manufacturing Coin.pany, Port Kembla, for telephone and telegraph wire supplied during the year before last and nine mouths of last year over and above the cost of importing from England. The reply was that these people had been paid an extra sum of £120,000 during the year before last,’ and £78,000 for nine months of last year. The honorable member for Werriwa is justified in demanding that the people he represents should get a fair share of these profits. It is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back, and the increasing of these impositions, and the burdens placed on the producer, may cause the public to realize the great harm that the tariff is doing to Australia. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) referred to the power, not of the Tariff Board, but of the Minister, to impose taxation upon the people. There is no doubt that under the act considerable power has been given to the Minister to increase taxation. I believe it is legal, but it is strange that we should give- to the Minister power greater than that we are prepared to give to the Senate. The Senate cannot alter a money bill sent from this House; it can only request amendments where the effect would be to place taxation upon the people. Under this bill Parliament proposes to so disregard its duty as to hand over the whole control of the tariff to the Minister, acting on the report and recommendation of the board. I am quite satisfied that the power at present given to the Minister has meant an increased taxation of millions of pounds, and the sooner we obtain information respecting- the amount of excess duties imposed last year the better it will be f or the people. They have
Under the circumstances the imposition of a flumping duty under section S of the Industries Preservation Act was necessary in order to save the Australian industry from certain ruin.
Those words were put into his mouth, because this article could not- be manufactured by any firm of electrical engineers in Australia; it would not pay to make it here. When I drew attention to this extraordinary - position the duty was reduced 45 per cent. According to a letter which appeared in the Argus of May of this year, signed by Alston and Sons Proprietary Limited, manufacturers of agricultural machinery, they imported a quantity of holts for the purpose of their manufacturing work. They said that the greater portion of these bolts could not be manufactured in . Australia. The home consumption price in America was £557, and the duty paid here was £245. In addition they had to give a guarantee for £744 as a dumping duty. Is it any wonder that this Parliament has shirked its duty? I cannot understand why Parliament, right from the very commencement of the tariff, did not accept the responsibility for the imposition of duties. We know perfectly well that it is not fair to the community to allow this power to remain in the hands of the Minister. The duty on an article is decreased for one person and increased for another. Time after time this has occurred. I could go through the weekly notices and .give hundreds of instances in which duties have been removed from articles for one day only.
– There was a just reason for it.
– Whether it was justified or not, I object to it.
– The honorable member is a representative for foreign goods. He does not want scientific protection.
– Parliament is supreme, and should retain its powers. Moreover, this scientific protection will lead to corruption. Under the tariff schedule - item number 174, relating to machine tools and appliances - tram rails for the Fremantle tramways were allowed to come in as appliances for machinery free of duty. Refrigerators for household use were made free of duty for one day. Is that the way to build up any industry in this country? I shall have something strong to say later, when sulphur duties are being discussed.
– Is the honorable member prepared to turn the Government out?
– What would, be the use of turning it out to. put honorable members opposite in power? The position then would be actually worse.
– The honorable member admits that he intends to do nothing. He is only prepared to talk.
– I ask honorable members opposite to follow the advice of their Leader in the Senate, who said -
If we are not prepared’ to take Britain’s products we cannot expect to sell our own. If we say that we do not want to trade with the rest of the world, we shall find that Australia with 6,000,000 of people will be producing enough to supply 6,000,000 people, and we shall become probably the most poverty-stricken and miserable nation on the face of the earth. . . We imposed a high tariff, and we called it protection. We hoped that it would result in the employment of more Australian workmen, but the statistics show that every increase in tariff duties means an increase in the number of our unemployed.
I have with me quotations from a speech by Mr. Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain. He spoke on imperial preference and freetrade, and said that it was a necessity. He said -
It is liberal with a small “ 1 “ - it is liberal principles that have made the Empire, and it is liberal principles which have cemented the Empire, and it is liberal principles which will maintain the Empire.
It seems extraordinary that the socialistic party cannot realize that it is the big manufacturer who has the big end of the stick, and because he has a huge monopoly he becomes a wealthy man, but that the employee does not derive much advantage from the additional tariff protection. I pity the man with a family who receives £4 or £5 per week. I do not know how he lives. Yet honorable members opposite are prepared to support a policy which makes the cost of living increasingly dearer. I regret that I was not here when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) made his speech, but I read an abridged report of it in the newspaper this morning. I regret also that* I have not had ample time to consider the proposal to continue the Tariff Board, so that I might have more adequately dealt with it. I notice that the Minister is reported as having said that the Tariff Board was a guard appointed by Parliament to keep a vigilant watch over the defences of our industries, and to warn the Minister and the House of any dangers that threatened the industrial life of the nation. What is the industrial life of the nation? Is it the only side which the Minister can see - the manufacturers’ side ? Anybody who has knowledge of Australian conditions must recognize that our wealth and prosperity, and the good living conditions of our people, are due, not to our manufactures, but to the wealth raised from the land. The statistics prove that. Some honorable members, however, refuse to see anything that does not come within their own little domain. The industrial life of Australia is represented principally by those who are trying to develop the hinterland, and if anything is done to destroy the man on the land - and our legislation is tending that way - our industrial life will be destroyed, for the primary producer who wins wealth from the soil is of much more importance to the nation than are spoon-fed secondary industries that never should have been established in Australia. The Minister said that the board was appointed to warn the House. What warning has the House ever had in any report of the Tariff Board ?
– The board submitted a very favorable report in regard to Western Australia.
– It did. The facts were so patent that the board submitted a very strong report to the Minister. Anybody who visits Western Australia, and sees how its people are penalized by Commonwealth legislation, cannot but recog- nize the justification for their daily growing desire to get out of the federation. During the war they were strong federalists. No state showed its loyalty to this Commonwealth and to the Empire more convincingly than did “Western Australia. I am still a strong federalist at heart,, but 1 cannot help realizing the wretched conditions imposed upon that huge state, which, under wise legislation, could gradually absorb another 500,000 settlers. The British Government has entered into an agreement to lend money for the purpose of helping land settlement in “Western Australia. It will pay a portion of the interest, and the Commonwealth will pay another portion. The Tariff Board made special mention of the circumstances of settlers in that state, and ‘ the need for supplying them with wire netting as cheaply as possible. Many honorable members seem to forget that a big proportion of the lands of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, were settled and developed 30 years ago, when both commodities and labour were much cheaper. People who go upon the land to-day find the cost of every necessary double and treble what it was a few years ago. The Tariff Board reported: -
It was found, in connexion with the soldier and other settlement policies of the’ states, there were urgent demands for supplies of wire netting, fencing wire, and galvanized iron. These goods were absolutely essential to the primary producer, who was starting to bring under control and cultivation large tracts of country, much of which was in its virgin state. Unless ample supplies of the goods mentioned were obtainable at the lowest possible cost, it was evident to the board that the developmental policies would be greatly restricted; and in those instances when the material was obtained, the settlers would be penalized with heavy initial expenditure which would seriously hamper them for years, and prevent them extending their borders.
And the board recommended that the duties on those goods should be removed. Parliament removed the duties, and agreed to pay a bounty to the manufacturers of wire netting. But under the infamous Industries Preservation Act anti-dumping duties have been imposed. I received only a few days ago information of the effect of- these duties upon settlers in the south-west, where people from England are being placed on’ the land at such a high capital cost that I doubt whether they will be able to make a success of their holdings. This statement appears in a letter from the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture in regard to a consignment of wire netting - “*
Our contract was for 30 x 2* x 16 g., which the stores department advised was not obtainable in Australia, being an unusual line, selected on account of its strength to resist marsupials.
The London selling price of the wire netting was £240 13s. 9d., and the board decided that a fair market rate for the netting was £351. It imposed a dumping duty of £110 6s. 3d., or 33 per cent., upon netting imported for the purpose of aiding the development of the south-west.
– The netting was of German origin.
– No it was of British origin.
– It was probably 4 per cent. British.
– No. It was entirely of English manufacture, and was imported by the Minister for Agriculture for the purpose of keeping marsupials off the holdings in the south-west. When the original Tariff Board bill was introduced the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) said -
The board will be able to -make its investigations as thorough as possible, its information as comprehensive as possible, and its recommendations as wise as possible, but when these things are done Parliament alone can fix the tariff.
Parliament gave to the Minister great powers, the extent of which very few honorable members recognized at the time. It was expected that the board would keep Parliament advised of the incidence of the tariff. Will any honorable member say that he hag learnt from a perusal of the board’s reports anything of the effect of the tariff upon Australian industries and commerce? Now the Minister desires to give the board power to roam all over the country and investigate anything and everything.
– The board has that power already.
– The board has power to inquire only into matters relating to the tariff, and the Minister desires to remove that restriction. I hope the House will have enough sense-to insist upon its continuance. If the board is given, the power that the Minister proposes; what will become of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry? It seems to me that the board will be doing exactly the same work as the bureau was created to do. Honorable members who supported the imposition of the present high duties told us that” they would lead to the development of great industries, and as local production increased, prices would be reduced. I resisted the tariff to the utmost of my power, and I hope the opportunity will soon be afforded me to fight for its revision. People are beginning to realize how they are being imposed upon, and how the spoon-feeding of a few manufacturers is merely creating millionaires at the expense of the consumers. The time will come, in the near future I .hope, when a Parliament will be elected that will reduce the duties and make the cost of living a little cheaper than it is at the present time. Perhaps some honorable .members opposite will tell the House what industries have be’en developed by the high tariff and the operation of the Tariff Board. They may also tell us to what extent imports have decreased since the huge duties have been in operation. I am particularly concerned with their effect upon the cost of production in the primary industries, but instead of supplying that information the board merely fills its reports with a lot of vague generalities. The Tariff Board is not necessary, and I hope that it will be abolished. If that is done the Australian Industries Preservation Act will become unworkable, because it is dependent upon the operation of the board. That spurious measure was passed by a House that was fiscally mad. If we must have a Tariff Board, let it be a body similar to the Interstate Commission - a body that will inquire into matters judicially, and take evidence in public and. on oath. Surely honorable members desire that any recommendation from the board shall be based upon sound evidence. I had the opportunity of perusing the file relating to the dumping duties on wire netting. I learned that the Tariff Board had received from Mr. McDougall a statement that the board described as so incredible that it could take no action, but later it did take action on the unsupported statements of the same gentleman.
– And would not accept official statements from England.
– No. Anybody who has watched closely the operations of the
Tariff Board cannot but realize that its members desire to impose higher and still higher duties. I am satisfied that they share the opinion of the Minister regarding the necessity for doing everything possible to prevent importations. When the board was satisfied that certain articles could be manufactured in Australia., it did not take much care to assure itself that the price of the local article was somewhere near that of the goods from overseas. I know of a number of instances in which the price of the local article, which was forced upon the consumer, was double and treble that of the imported goods. If we are to have a board, it should be a judicial body, likethe Inter-State Commission. It should, be entirely outside of the control of either the Customs Department or the Minister. It could make its report to the Minister, but only Parliament should be able to give effect to its recommendations. All the evidence submitted to it should be given in public and on oath, except in so far as certain trade secret’s are concerned. Although I admit that theremay be some matters of that kind which manufacturers should not be asked to divulge, I am strongly of the opinion that the meetings of the board should be held in public. I am sorry that the Minister does not propose to take any action in connexion with the dumping duties. I have informed the .House, time after time, of the position which has arisen in connexion with the importation of wire netting. I submit that manufacturers who have evidence to submit to the board, with a view to obtaining its recommendation that dumping duties should be imposed, should give their evidence on oath and in public. Further than that, due notice should be given through the press of every inquiry the board proposes to make. At present, no one, except the applicants, has an opportunity of submitting hie view to the board. If a witness objects to giving evidence on oath, he should be required to satisfy the board that he has substantial reasons for his objection. The Tariff Board, as we all know, was appointed by Senator Greene when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, and he took care that only gentlemen with strong protectionist proclivities were appointed. A promise was made last year that a fourth member would be appointed to represent the primary producers, but it is well known that the claims of one gentleman to appointment were overlooked because of his freetrade views, and a gentleman with strong protectionist sympathies was appointed. I make no reflection whatever on the personnel of the board. No one could have a higher admiration for any man that I have for Mr. Brookes, but I submit that the consumers are not adequately represented. We should be far better off without a Tariff Board, but if we must have one it should be composed of no more than three members. I do not think that large boards are advisable. We talk .economy in one breath, a,nd in the very next we advocate the payment of large sums of money to unnecessary boards. The chairman of the Tariff Board should be either a judge or a magistrate, with a legal training and wide experience in making investigations. It should be his duty to try to adduce all, and not only some, of the facts in the matters submitted to him. The other two members of the board should represent respectively the Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce. Such a board would be able to report to Parliament whether a certain industry required more protection, or, on the other hand, whether too much protection was being given to certain interests. In’ any case, we ought speedily to remedy the position that has arisen in consequence of the imposition of dumping duties. The report of the conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce held in Adelaide, in May, only came into my hands to-day, but I have ascertained from it that the general feeling of the representatives at the conference was that the trade of the country was being hampered by these dumping duties. That has been my view ever since their imposition was agreed to. Australia must import from abroad. Not even the wildest protectionist here will deny that commerce is merely an exchange of commodities. We have borrowed large sums of money from the Old Country, but we only get credit, not cash, and it is essential that we shall trade with her. An importer is entitled to know when he is buying his goods what duty he will have to pay on them. Otherwise it is impossible for him to trade. If the Customs Department does not inform him at the time that he takes delivery of his goods what duty must be paid on them, he is placed in a most unfair position. If he sells them on the assumption that ft dumping duty will not be imposed, and it is afterwards imposed, he suffers an unjust penalty. If, on the other hand, he takes it for granted that a dumping duty will be imposed, and includes it in the price at which he sells to the public, and afterwards learns that the duty is not to be imposed, he is simply given a present of the amount of duty lie has charged to the public. That position needs rectifying immediately. I trust that the House will indicate clearly that the Tariff Board, if it is to be continued, is not to be subservient to the Minister or the Government, but only to Parliament. We should also make provision for the consumers in this country to be protected. So far we have done nothing for them. Do honorable members forget the statement made in this chamber some time ago by Senator Massy Greene, when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, that he would develop the shovel-making industry here? A heavy duty was imposed on shovels with that end in view. Five years later, in reply to questions I asked in this House, I ascertained that only fifteen men were engaged in the shovel-making industry in Australia. Can it be said that we are justified in protecting this industry, seeing that shovels are required by every labourer in the country? The Government deserves criticism for having failed to obtain a preference for our dried fruits from Canada. A little over two years ago Mr. Robb, the Canadian Minister for Trade and Commerce, visited Australia, and endeavoured to make a reciprocal trade agreement with the Commonwealth Government. In describing those negotiations, Mr. Fielding, Canadian Minister for Finance, in addressing the Canadian House of Commons in May, 1923, said -
We are proposing to increase tlie duty on raisins and dried currants so that they” will bo free from Great Britain and pay 3 cents a pound under both the other tariffs. My honorable friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Robb) recently made a trip to Australia in the hope of coming to a commercial arrangement with the Australian Commonwealth. As we know, while he made some progress which gave him some encouragemed, he was not able to conclude an agreement. Wo are advised that in addition to our British preference which -we offer to the Australians, they arc particularly interested in raisins and. dried currants, and if we change our tariff so as to offer some inducement to them on these items it will go far to make them content with our scheme and bring about an agreement. In the hope that that may be the case, we are going to provide that the duty on raisins and dried currants shall be increased to 3 cents a pound under the intermediate and under the general tariff, but that they shall he free under the British preference. If Australia makes an agreement, and thus comes under the benefit of the British preference, this will be the rate which will bc imposed upon the things that she is most anxious to send us.
An enormous market for raisins and currants is available in Canada, and the Government should have done much more than it has done to exploit it. I complain bitterly that we have not been informed of what the Canadian Government desired in return for the preference she was willing to give us, particularly with respect to dried fruits. Parliament has a right to that information.
– Canada imports 67,000,000 lb. of dried fruits every year.
– If the Tariff Board has a genuine desire to assist the primary industries of Australia, why has it not submitted to the Minister a report on this matter? Why has not the Minister himself given us the information we desire on it?
– Did not the honorable member hear my reply to-day to a question on this matter? I said that negotiations were proceeding.
– They have been proceeding for over two years. If the Minister gave a reply like that, he ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself. I have asked the Prime Minister times out of number during the last twelve months, for some information about the negotiations with the Canadian Government, but, so far, I have not been able to obtain any.
– Tha honorable member may be assured that the Canadian Government desires to make the better bargain.
– I do not know what Canada desires. That is my complaint. We are justified in asking for some information.
– I suggest to the honorable member that he is not making the position any easier by these remarks.
– That is the cane the Minister put across me the other day.
– Well, I assure him that if he continues to hide the facts, I shall speak more strongly than ever. How dare the Minister tell me that I am making the position worse ! Doe’s he mean to say that we are not justified in complaining, when two years have elapsed since offers were made to this Government and we have to look for information, not to the Minister for Trade and Customs or the Tariff Board, but to- a speech that was made in the Canadian House by the Minister for Finance? Last year an enormous quantity of raisins was sold to distilleries for Id. or 1-^d. a lb. Here is a magnificent market if the Government would enter into a reciprocal agreement with Canada. I notice that the Tariff Board, in its report, states that many requests have been made for the protection of primary products. I want to illuminate the House regarding one matter about which the board ha3 not informed us. When the tariff was being imposed there was a greedy rush to have a duty placed on the importation of onions, because Japan was sending onions to Australia when the price here was very high. We placed a big duty on onions. Shortly afterwards the Government of the United States of America imposed a big duty on our onions, and we lost that market. A letter was sent to the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) asking him to remove the duty to enable us to recapture the American market, but this has been carefully suppressed. The report of the board also informs us that the capital of the tobacco monopoly- in Australia is between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000, and that the wages paid yearly amount to £800,000. It gives us an idea of the wonderful progress that is being made in Australia, and states that Australian leaf has been purchased to the extent of £111,000 - a. poor return for the concession granted. A good deal has been said in the past about the competition of black-labour countries. Honorable members have always argued that duties must be imposed upon the importation of certain goods, because they come from blacklabour countries. We know what the anti-dumping duties have done to our trade with South Africa and New Zealand. There is a portion of this report that is well worthy of honorable members’ notice. It deals with the woollen industry, and states that the difference be- tween the manufacturing costs of Great Britain and those of the Commonwealth is - a difference occasioned by the heavy overhead charges of the Australian factories owing to the high initial costs, elsewhere referred to, and the higher wages consequent upon our higher standard of living.
That is a comparison between the standard of living in Australia and in Great Britain. Must we tell our people that the conditions in England are so bad that we cannot compete on fair terms, and it is necessary to impose dumping duties upon the goods that come from Great Britain? That is a comparison which I do not like, and I believe it is being used for the purpose of raising the duties upon goods manufactured in Britain. I wish to stress the economic fact that when heavy duties are imposed upon a key industry such as iron, steel, or copper, the cost of every article manufactured in Australia is increased. When the tariff was being considered I calculated that the duty upon blooms and billets, on our importations in 1913, would amount to £720,000. I am satisfied that if the whole of the iron and steel requirements in Australia were imported, the duty would be something in the vicinity of £2,500,000. It must be realized that Australian-made articles are sold at a price that is equal to, or just below, the imported price. Therefore, the purchaser of the locally-made article pays, not only the value of the goods that are imported, but the profit that the importer charges upon those goods. The cost of all goods manufactured in Australia is considerably increased when duties are imposed upon iron and steel. Was there any justification for the imposition of duties upon iron and steel? No reason was given to this Parliament for that action. On the contrary, we had the sworn evidence of Mr. Delprat, general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, before the Interstate Commission, that that company did not desire protection; it was not looking for a subsidy or a bounty, or any assistance whatever from the government; and unless it was able to compete with the iron and steel industry in other parts of the world without any protection it would not establish the industry at Newcastle. When the company was making an appeal to the public to take up £1,000,000 worth of debentures, it extolled the value of its works, and pointed out the advantage that it possessed in having a deposit containing from 66 per cent, to 68 per cent, pure ore, compared with the general average of from 32 per cent, to 33 per cent, in the deposits in Great Britain. It also stated that in Great Britain 2 tons of ore were required to do the work that could be done with 1 ton of the ore which it had.
– Was that before the war ?
– Yes ; it was in 1914.
– Conditions have changed since then.
– If the honorable member will consult the Year-Booh he will find that before the war Australia was exporting pig-iron upon which a subsidy was paid. I do not want to say anything against Messrs. Hoskins’ works, but compared with those of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company they are somewhat primitive. Mr. Hoskins, at the present time, is erecting a palatial building in Sydney, and he is proposing to erect new works near Kembla.
– I wish him luck if he starts it.
– Why should he be enabled to do that at the expense of every article that has to be manufactured in Australia ? The honorable member must realize that the greatest proportion of the wealth of the country is produced from the land. If the cost of production is made altogether too heavy how can the country be opened up and developed ? We are living in fairly good times just now, with high prices for wool and wheat.
– And a high price for bread on account of the high price of wheat.
– Oh, no. Can the honorable member tell me how it is possible to send our wheat to England and have it manufactured there at a cost of 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, less than it can be manufactured here? If he can do so, he will be able to ascertain the reason for the price at which bread is sold in Australia.
– There are 1,500,000 unemployed in England. We do not want to have that experience in Australia.
– The price of the loaf is not accountable for that. In regard to iron and steel the report of the Tariff Board states -
At the present time the mills, are fully employed. But ‘ in order to secure the ordersnecessary to so employ the mills, it has been necessary in many cases to reduce prices to a point that leaves no margin for profit.
– Tens nf thousands of pounds have been spent on improvements to make the mills more efficient.
– Should the public or the shareholders pay for those?
– They are competing successfully with other countries.
– -If they can compete successfully with other countries where is the necessity for these high duties and the dumping duties that have been imposed by the Minister? Let us take the statements of the Tariff Board in regard to wive netting. It states that enormous quantities of wire netting have been produced in Great Britain from iron and steel imported from foreign countries. I have here the Statesmen’s Tear-Booh, from which it can be seen that in 1913, the value of Great Britain’s importations of iron and steel was £15,890,000, and its exports were valued at £55,351,000. In 1923, its importations were valued at £13,782,000, whilst its exports totalled £76,202,000. It will thus be seen that, while its imports decreased by £2.000,000, its exports increased by £21,000,000. That is an absolute refutation of the statement made by the Tariff Board, that Great Britain had largely imported iron and steel from foreign countries, thus enabling it to sell at a lower price than otherwise would have been possible. The report states -
The local manufacturers of wire and wire notting, however, are faced with competition from England, where the workers are paid about half the rate of wages that are paid in the Commonwealth, and where the factories may use low-priced billets, blooms, or rods, imported from Germany or any other continental country.
They got that information from Mr. MacDougall. Surely Mr. MacDougall should have been compelled to make that statement on oath. The board, before making such a report to Parliament, should have absolute proof that these large quantities stated . are being imported into Great Britain. I have just made a long trip through the back country of Western Australia. Some people there have gone 30, 40, and 50 miles away from a railway. At one place near Kondinin, from 20 to 28 miles from a railway, I learned that wheat was. being carted to a point known as “ the Dump,” 20 miles from the railway. From there it was conveyed, at 6d. per bushel, by special motor, to the railway siding, where it cost another 5d. per bushel .to send it away.
– Those people would be better off in bed doing nothing.
– They are opening up new -country,, and are hopeful of railway communication being provided in the future. They have to pay extortionate prices for their machinery and all their requirements. The tariff and natural protection provided on reapers and binders amounts to from 94 to 96 per cent. According to the Com-‘ monwealth Statistician, the American workman receives, on the average, £100 a year more than the Australian workman, and he can produce goods at half the cost. When one considers- all these things, one wonders whether the Australian manufacturers’ machinery is obsolete, or whether there is some other serious defect in management here. There must be something wrong with our manufacturing industries when the United States farmer can purchase his requirements at half the price that the Australian farmer has to pay, although the United States workman is paid from 30 to 40 per cent, more than the Australian, workman.
– The honorable member would find it very difficult to discover a freetrader in America.
– The United States is a big freetrade country. There is a largo number of states, with a population of 111,000,000, and there is freetrade between them. In Western Australia I saw rabbits innumerable. A property that I had sold eleven years before was fenced with rabbit netting, and was believed to be dog-proof. One night the dogs got in and killed 40 sheep, and the next night they accounted for another 40. A fence 5 ft. 6 in. high is now being erected to keep out the dingoes. At another place I saw a fence from 5 ft. 6 in. to 6 ft. high. When settlers have all these difficulties to contend with, how can the Minister justify a dumping duty on wire netting ? Some consideration should be given to the people who are prepared to open up new country. I admit that under the act it is difficult for the Minister to remit the duty, but the act should be repealed and these goods admitted free, no matter where they come from, because the cheaper the people can get them, the better it is for Australia. I marvelled at the magnificent crops I saw. The farmers are going to have wonderfully good luck this year owing to the high price of wheat and the magnificent harvest ; but, unless they undertake mixed farming, the time may come very soon when there will be a bad harvest, or low prices, and they will be condemned to a repetition of the misery they experienced seven or eight years ago. If the subsidy given to the manufacturer could be shown to be not enough, the House would probably be willing to increase it, but it is unjust and absurd for the Tariff Board to repeat to the House, as a justification for raising duties, wild statements made to it by manufacturers. The heavy duties imposed are injuring other industries. I have received the following telegram from the bag manufacturers of Queensland,, protesting against the action of the Tariff Board: -
Queensland bag manufacturers protest emphatically against Tariff Board. Owing to board’s action, it is impossible to tell what our raw material (paper) is going to cost until its arrival, causing constant trouble and uncertainty, and rendering cost of paper bags so high that our nominal protection disappears.
I suppose other manufacturers are sufferingsimilarly. The Tariff Board has madse some remarks about other industries.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– When listening to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), one would almost be compelled, if one did not know him, to tremble for the future safety of Australia. It is remarkable that the gentlemen who espouse the freetrade policy come from the states that are most hard up. They say that their states have great natural resources, and the honorable member for Swan went to great trouble to tell us that his state was very wealthy, and that it had a great area of very valuable and useful land. But, in spite of this potential wealth, these persistent freetraders have very nearly succeeded in bankrupting their states. Victoria, which had a protective policy for many years before the other states, has never been as hard up as Western Australia and Tasmania are to-day. Tasmania has to be assisted year by year by the other states, and Western Australia has a large accumulated deficit. It will not be long before the people of the rest, of Australia have to put their hands in their pockets to keep both those states going. Honorable members on this side hold no brief for the Tariff Board. We opposed its creation. The honorable member for Swan shed crocodile tears over the woes of the consumer, but Hansard records what he did for the consumer whenthe previous Tariff Board Bill was before the House. To state it as leniently as possible, I think that when he spoke to-night he forgot what he did when this iniquitous proposal, as he now terms it, was before the House on a previous occasion. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) moved an amendment to protect the manufacturer from hasty action by the board, and the consumer from imposition by the immoral manufacturer, who might take advantage of the secrecy imposed upon the board. On page 10107 of Hansard, it is recorded that on the 14th July, 1921, on the motion of Mr. Greene for the second reading of the Tariff Board Bill, Mr. Fenton moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “ now “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words.: - “ withdrawn for the purpose of immediately re-casting and reintroducing so as to provide for - (a.) adequate guarantees for the primary producers and consumers generally that they can obtain locallymanufactured articles or goods at reasonable prices;
the securing of proper wages and conditions for those employed in protected industries.”
That was debated, and upon the question being put “ That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question,” the voting was: Ayes, 27; noes, 12; majority, 15. As there may be some difficulty in, finding this division in the future, I shall place it on record again, so that the people of Australia may learn who opposed a proposal to put adequate safeguards into the bill. Here are the details of the division: -
Ayes. - Sir Joseph Cook, Sir Granville Ryrie, and Messrs. Atkinson, Bamford, Bell, Blundell, Cameron, Corser, Richard Foster, Francis, Gibson, Greene, Gregory, Groom, Higgs, Hill, Jowett, Lister, Livingston, Mackay, Maxwell, McWilliams, Smith, Stewart, Wise, Marr, and Story.
Noes. - Messrs. Anstey, Charlton, Gabb,
Lavelle, Mahony, Makin, McGrath, Parker Moloney, Riley, Ryan, Fenton, and Mathews.
There were also a number of pairs. That shows that the honorable member for Swan forgot to-night how he voted on that occasion, or he intended to do as he did then - talk against the bill but vote for the Government. That is what he always does. He has a monopoly in this House of the industry of “ bridge-building.” He admitted that he would do nothing more than talk. Apparently, he relied upon the people forgetting that, on a previous occasion, he talked one way and voted another. That often happens with honorable members on the other side, who are placed in an embarrassing position by the Government totally ignoring them and running a steam-roller over them. The first they know of a bill is when they come face to face with it in the House, and in order to justify themselves to their constituents they have to speak against it. They never fail, however, to vote for the Government. Few people read the votes taken in divisions in this Parliament. I advise the electors of Western Australia to take notice of the votes of their representatives in this House rather than their speeches, when matters of national importance are being decided. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) quoted from a speech made by the Leader of the Labour party in the Senate in support of his contention that freetrade was the most desirable policy for Australia. Senator Gardiner does not subscribe to the policy of freetrade. Protection as. we have it in Australia is not the ideal policy, but it is a step in the direction of securing adequate protection for the consumers and manufacturers generally. After all, the manufacturer is entitled to consideration. Surely a man who invests his money in Australian industries should receive some return on his capital. Since the war the currency of many continental countries has collapsed. The labour conditions are deplorable, and the rate of exchange gives their manufacturers an enormous advantage over Australian manufacturers, as far as the imports into this country are concerned. Honorable members in the Corner speak of industries as if they spring up in anight like mushrooms. We have endeavoured to distribute more equitably the wealth of Australia. The betterment’ of the conditions of the Australian workers has come about, not through the efforts of honorable members in the Corner and the supporters of the Government, but through the trade union movement. The disorganized worker suffers most at the hands of the employer, whether he be the manufacturer, the grazier, the farmer, or any other employer of labour. The common rule that operates in our Arbitration Court has allowed workers, who will not bear their fair share of the cost of organizing trade unions, to reap the benefits and awards obtained by those who have organized to fight for them. Those workers refuse to recognize that the Labour party is responsible for their improved conditions. Senator Gardiner does not support freetrade. In his speech he simply pointed out the disadvantages and drawbacks of the present system of protection. He subscribes to the policy of new protection, for which this party stands, and which we tried to put into effect by supporting an amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), when a similar bill was previously before the chamber. Honorable members in the Corner voted against that measure, and said that they wanted, not to protect the consumers and the workers of Australia, but to allow the manufacturers to exploit the people. Under the policy of new protection the workers, consumers, and manufacturers will be adequately protected.
– The first experiment in new protection was to protect the farmer in regard to his implements.
– That is so. The honorable member for Swan pointed out the hardships of wheat-growers, who live approximately 80 miles from a railway line, arid cart their wheat 30 miles to a dump, whence it is taken by motor transport to the railway. The honorable member for Wakefield said that under those conditions a farmer could not make a living.
– I did.
– The honorable member will agree with me that if those men were given their machinery for nothing, they could not then make a living.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– At any rate, the honorable member said that they would be better sleeping in their beds. Farming machinery would not cost more than £200 or £300, and with proper care would last from ten to twelve years. A great deal of the farming machinery in Australia is never worn out, but is rendered useless through rust. An expenditure of £200 or £300 .on machinery would make no appreciable difference in enabling a farmer to make a living. . Honorable members in the Corner spoke of the enormous tariff on reapers and binders, but I would remind them that the wheat-grower to-day does not as a rule use those machines, as they are out of date. We hear a lot of talk about the grand men of the old days, but who will say that the good man with the reaper and binder could do one-third as much as a boy of seventeen with a modern header ? Farmers made a living using reapers and binders when wheat was 2s. 6d. a bushel. It is not the cost of machinery ‘ that is ruining the farmer to:day, but the bad seasons that he has experienced. The modern header of to-day does the work of at least six men.
– What does it cost?
– The cost varies according to the make and size of the machine. When the reapers and binders were used, men were paid at least 8s. a day. The modern header thus saves from £2 10s. to £3 a day while it is harvesting, and costs no more than the combined cost of a reaper and binder and a thresher. It is idle to put up the argument that it is the cost of machinery that ruins the farmer. The farmers in the north-west of New South Wales were poverty stricken because of unfavorable seasons and the exploitation of them by the middlemen. Many farmers in Victoria and South Australia obtained their land many years ago very cheaply, and with the building of railway lines and the settlement of the country, the value of their properties increased. They sold out at a profit, and went to the north-western districts of New South Wales. They attended the land sales, .and practically lost their heads-. They saw the district under favorable circumstances, and they had to deal with some of the smartest land agents in Australia. They paid from £8 to £14 per acre for land without a fence or house upon it, and were highly indignant when told that they were practically ruining themselves. If a man pays £10 an acre for unimproved land worth only £4, it stands to reason that he cannot possibly make a success of farming it. In that district there was a succession of droughts, and even if the farmers there had been given machinery for nothing, they could not make a living. There could be no ultimate advantage from allowing farming implements to enter Australia free of duty. When the original bill was before the House, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) produced price lists of agricultural machinery in the freetrade country of New Zealand, which, when compared with Australian prices, showed that the advantage was with this country. As a small farmer, I bought a Massey-Harris doublefurrow plough, and before the war the plough shares cost from 6s. 9d. to 7s. 6d. each. They were not manufactured in Australia. They were drop forged, made of iron and steel, and 6£ lbs. in weight. There is no great labour cost in forging, because a boy would probably turn out at least 1,000 shares a day. During the war the price increased from 7s. 6d. to £1 ls. each. That is an indication of what would happen if our own industries were destroyed. Under the policy of freetrade our Australian manufacturers would be wiped out. Before the war, the plough shares for the Shearer plough, made in South Australia, cost 4s. 6d., but during the war the price increased to 6s. That was an increase of 33 per cent., as against an increase of 300 per cent, on the imported American share. The same applies to all other American material. It would be absolute madness for us to destroy our own industries. The honorable member for Swan and others, during the war, applauded our manufacturers and workers when they were turning out steel rails for use in Britain and France. No sooner was the war over than they wanted to shut down that industry and ‘deprive the workers of their means of existence. We should be recreant to our trust df we agreed to such an insane policy. It would be all. right for the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) ; he is not working in an industry menaced by cheap foreign labour. If it is right to import machinery it would be equally right to import politicians, and if that policy were in operation the honorable member would probably be a protectionist. He emphasized the virtue of low wages. Where does the greatest poverty exist but in the low-wage countries? If low wages “and cheaper cost of living mean general prosperity, India, China, and Japan should be the wealthiest countries in the world. Mr. E. Riley. - The honorable member for Swan should go to one of those countries.
– If the honorable member for Swan and his fellow freetraders are not satisfied with Australian conditions, a loin cloth and a plate of rice should be good enough for them. The fallacy of the contention that low wages mean a high standard of living is proved by the fact that in the cheaplabour countries, with their enormous populations, there are no arbitration courts, none of’ the restrictive legislation that exists in Australia, no education, poor food and housing, and bad conditions of labour, whilst poverty and disease are everywhere. Surely those facts are an effective reply to the argument that cheap wages mean better conditions for the workers. Backed by a solid public opinion, we have deliberately set up tribunals to determine the hours of labour and conditions of employment. There are factory acts which decree the treatment to be given to the workers, and arbitration courts fix a living wage, in order’ to distribute more equitably the wealth of the community so that the worker, who individually is the weakest unit in the community, shall enjoy a decent standard of living. That policy involves the manufacturer in greater overhead charges, and, to carry it to its logical conclusion, we must protect the manufacturer from the competition of low-wage countries. We should consider the Australian manufacturer in preference to the manufacturers of China and Japan. He is entitled to every consideration from the Australian people.
– He will get it from honorable members on this side.
– From us he will get a fair deal. We say, in effect, that in consonance with our policy of new protection we are prepared to give protection to local industries, but we .are not prepared to allow an immoral manufacturer to exploit that protection. Therefore, we would require all manufacturers to throw their cards upon the table, to show what amount of genuine capital they had invested in their industry, the amount of profit they had been making, and the efficiency of their organization. When the workers seek an increase of wages they are required to go into the public courts and lay bare the details of their private lives. They must state how much they spend on picture shows, tobacco, and sport. Even the most intimate articles of women’s underclothing were the subject of inquiry in the Arbitration Court to assist in determining what wages girls should be paid. If it is right to ask these particulars of the workers, it is equally right to inquire certain facts from the manufacturer who is asking for the protection of this Parliament. That is what the’ Labour party’s policy of new protections aims at. The present policy is a mere groping in the dark; yet it is the less of two evils. .The worse evil is freetrade, which would give no protection to Australian industries and throw people out of employment. This fiscal policy at present in operation is better than freetrade, but falls much short of new protection. Listening to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) one would infer that all manufacturers are immoral. I have seen within the last few days the balance-sheet of a big. textile factory in this city. Upwards of £20,000 is invested in it, and it gives employment to hundreds of girls and young men, thus providing a market for the primary producers. That is one phase of protection that honorable members of the Country party seem to forget. They say that they cannot export their butter profitably, and that their best market is the local one, and then they seek to destroy the industries that give employment to the home consumers. The Australian manufacturers, by giving employment, are providing a market at our own doors for the producers of butter, wheat, meat, eggs, bacon and cheese. A market close at hand is essential to make farming pay. In this textile concern a number of small people have invested their savings, and owing to the dumping of goods from continental countries - goods imported from Great Britain, but largely manufactured in Germany under appalling industrial conditions - the gross profit on a total turnover of £33,000 in the last six months was only £504. The factory has a good plant, and is acknowledged to be most efficiently managed . It would be madness to so reduce the protection of industries as to compel factories to close and leave the consumers at the mercy of the importers in Flinders-lane. The reason why our industries do not get adequate protection is because the head of the Government is a director of a big Flinders-lane warehouse that makes most of its money out of importations, and the Treasurer is the leader of the freetrade Country party.
– The honorable member must be aware that he cannot discuss the whole fiscal issue on the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– I regret, sir, that you were not present to hear the. speech of the honorable member who preceded me.
– I heard most of what the honorable member for Swan said.
– I am replying to what he said when you were not in the chamber, sir.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– One member was allowed to wander from Dan to Beersheba, and another honorable member is pulled up. That makes an unfair debate.
– The honorable member is out of order !
– It is unfair to allow one man to discuss protection generally and to restrict the remarks of another honorable member.
– The honorable member is out of order !
– The bill provides for an adequate inquiry into the various Australian industries, and it is necessary that we should take into consideration: the actual conditions of those industries and the danger to which they would’ be subjected if we did not ensure that a proper investigation should be made and information supplied to this Parliament. I have mentioned my own conviction of the necessity for protecting local industries. ‘ In regard to agricultural machinery, it would be well to ask the board to inquire into the relative costs of local and imported implements, in order to set at rest the doubts of many people as to whether the farmer is receiving’ a fair deal under the tariff. I am confident that if. such an inquiry is undertaken and reliable evidence is brought forward, proof will be- provided that the tariff does not cause the amount of hardship that honorable members of the Country party allege. I do not say that there are not immoral manufacturers who would take unfair advantage of the Tariff Board in order to mislead the Minister and the House regarding the operation of the tariff, but a full inquiry would set at rest all doubts upon the matter. Honorable members on this side of the House were originally opposed to the creation of the Tariff Board, because we regarded its functions as an abrogation of the powers of Parliament. The tariff is created by Parliament, and no other authority should have power to vary it. We have watched the operations of the board with a good deal of misgiving, because we rea*lize that even in courts of law, where evidence is taken on oath, people take the risk of being, committed for perjury. In fiscal inquiries there is always a likelihood that people, mil be tempted by their’ desire to make a little more profit to endeavour to mislead the Tariff Board. There may be something in the contention that evidence should be taken in public and on oath, in order that the people might know what the board is doing, and parties interested may be able to counter the arguments that are adduced. For instance, there was a good deal of argument a few years ago about the prices of agricultural machinery, but I was quite convinced by the information supplied by the then Minister for Trade- and Customs, when introducing the present tariff, that we were in a better position than many freetrade countries.
– The honorable member said that he wanted further inquiry into this matter.
– I said that, perhaps, further inquiry would allay the doubts of people like the honorable member, but I am convinced that, if we were to destroy the Australian manufacturers of machinery and place ourselves at the mercy of the American manufacturers, we should, in the course of- a few years, be paying 200 per cent, or 300 per cent, more for such machinery. The arguments advanced by honorable members of the Country party are inconsistent. Those honorable members say, in effect, that the Australian manufacturer is’ immoral, as he takes advantage of the Tariff .Board and the tariff to increase, the price of machinery. But they seeonly the virtues in the American manufacturer. What really keeps the price of American machinery down is fear of the Australian Government and the Australian manufacturers. In every instance in which a home industry has been killed through the operation of the freetrade policy, the great American machinery trusts have immediately increased the price of their machinery. They surely get their reward. They are prepared to sell their machinery at a loss for a time, knowing well that if they can kill a home industry they will later be able to recoup themselves. As a matter of fact, they are selling petrol engines at a loss in Australia to-day, but they will only do it until they have killed the local industry. Then they will promptly increase their prices by 200 per cent, or 300 per cent., as they did during the war with ploughshares. The Labour’ party does not agree with the principle of the Tariff Board, for it believes it to be an abrogation of the rights of Parliament, but if a board is to be appointed, we believe that all evidence submitted to it should be on oath, and that its meetings should be held in public. That is only fair and ‘equitable. It is a step in the direction of achieving Labour’s policy of new protection. We also believe that any commercial firm which desires the removal of a dumping duty should bo prepared to lay all its cards on the table just as those who desire the imposition of a dumping duty should be prepared to do. We should know from what country our imports really come. Certain honorable members in this chamber declared with much force and vehemence during the war period that they would never again trade with Germany, and they have made similar declarations since, but although we are not trading with Germany to-day we are trading with Great Britain, which trades with Germany, and we are allowing goods which are 60 per cent. German and only 40 per cent. British to come into Australia as British goods. That is not only most unfair to the Australian manufacturer, but it is ridiculous, for it does not give the British producers any protection; it simply helps the British importers. Every honorable member of this chamber is willing to give British manufacturers a reasonable preference, but we on this side, at all events, are not prepared to allow Great Britain to be used as a stalking horse for German, Belgian, or other European producers, particularly in view of the fact that the exchange rate and the depreciated currency in those countries gives their producers an enormous advantage over Australian producers, because our currency is sound.
– The honorable member is again discussing this measure as though it were a tariff bill instead of a Tariff Board bill.
– I admit that I have again transgressed, Mr. Speaker, but my reason for so doing is that the Tariff Board must of necessity deal with the dumping duties; I suppose that we shall be asked very shortly to consider this matter again from that point of view. While this bill is a step in the direction of Labour’s goal, it does not achieve everything that we desire. Our new protection policy aims at giving the producer, the consumer, and the manufacturer a square deal.
– What does the honorable member mean by the new protection policy?
– I shall present the honorable member with a copy pf the platform of the Labour party, which he can read at his leisure. The policy has been explained so often in this chamber that another explanation would be tedious to most honorable members, even if it would convince the honorable member for Richmond. I think, however, that he has no desire to see virtue in anything that emanates from the Labour party. My principal reason for addressing the House on this occasion was to refute the misrepresentations of some honorable members opposite who wish to associate the leader of our party in another place with their frectrade views, and to use his name to give a certain amount of backing to the ridiculous attitude they are adopting; but he does not subscribe to their views, for he, like every member of the Labour party in Australia, supports the new protection policy of our party.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lister) adjourned.
– I move -
That tho House do now adjourn.
Arrangements have now been completed for the flotation in Australia of a loan of £10,300,000, the issue of which was authorized by the recently passed States Loan Act. Honorable members will recollect that the Australian Loan Council, which consists of the Commonwealth and State Treasurers, agreed not long ago that the new loan moneys required in Australia by the several governments during 1924-5 should be raised by the Commonwealth Government, which would act on behalf of all concerned. That agreement has been accepted by all the governments. As tho Commonwealth Government does not propose to raise any new loan moneys in Australia for its own purposes during this financial year, the new loan of £10,300,000 is being raised wholly for the states. The money will be used by the states for expenditure in Australia on works regarded by their respective governments as desirable and necessary for the proper development of their resources. Tn fixing the terms of the new loan, the State treasurers and myself have had the advantage of consultation with the leading bankers and financial authorities, and we have been guided by the conditions now existing in the Australian money market. The loan will be issued at a price which compares favorably with the price of similar giltedged securities on the Stock Exchange. The terms decided on are - Nominal rate of interest, 6 per cent, per annum; price of issue, £98 10s. for each £100 of the loan ; currency, optional periods of five years or ten years arc offered, the option to be exercised by the subscriber when making application for the loan. The average annual income from an investment in the five-year loan will be about £6 7s. per cent., and from the ten-year loan about £6 4s. per cent. The interest will be subject to Commonwealth taxation, but will be free of state income tax. The loan will be opened on Monday next, the 8th September, and will close on the 15th October, 1924. Subscriptions may be paid in full at the time of application, or in instalments extending from October, 1924, to February, 1925. When the subscription is paid in full at the time of application, interest at 6 per cent, will be paid from the date of the lodgment of the money. In the case of instalment subscriptions, interest on the several instalments will be paid from the respective due dates of the instalments. A sinking fund of 10s. per cent, per annum is to be set aside towards the redemption of the loan. As is usual in the case of Commonwealth loans, subscriptions will be received at all banks and state savings banks, and at all money order post offices throughout the Commonwealth. The exact conditions of the loan are set out in the prospectus, supplies of which will be available on Monday next. This is the only loan to be issued in Australia by the Commonwealth and the states during this financial year for the purpose of securing new money, but there will be some conversion operations to provide for the renewal of loans maturing in Australia this year.
– How much will be raised for conversion purposes ?
– Roughly, about £17,000,000 will be raised from outside sources by the State Governments for conversion purposes; but, in accordance with the arrangements agreed upon by the State and Commonwealth Governments, as the result of tho Loan Council’s proposals, there will be no other appeals for new money. This will, I am sure, have a steadying influence on the market, and will enable the banks and the financial institutions to make their arrangements with more confidence than has been possible when the states and the Commonwealth have been competing throughout the year for new money.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240903_reps_9_108/>.