10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DeputySpeaker (Mr. Bayley) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform the House what action the Government proposes to take, following the representations by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League regarding an increase in the pensions of soldiers’ widows ?
– The matter has been receiving careful consideration for some weeks, and I hope to state the Government’s intentions at an early date.
– Has the Government arrived at any determination upon the request made recently that the re turning officers throughout the Commonwealth should receive an allowance for additional work done by them during the general election?
– When the matter was first referred to the Public Service Board full particulars had not been obtained by the Home and Territories Department of the hours actually worked by the returning officers, and I told the House that when that information was received further consideration would be given to the request for an allowance. The information has since been compiled and sent to the Public Service Board, whose report is now receiving the consideration of the Government. I hope to make an announcement to the House in a few days.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the New South Wales Government has yet signed the Migration agreement?
– Rumours that the New South Wales Government has signed the agreement have reached the ears of Ministers, but no official information on the subject has yet been received by the Commonwealth Government.
– Does the Government intend to wait until all the States have signed before giving effect to the agreement? If not, when are the first works to be undertaken in those States which have signed the agreement likely to be commenced?
– The agreement with the Imperial Government presupposed that all States would be parties to it, but the Commonwealth Government does not intend to defer the carrying out of the agreement because one or two States may not be prepared to sign it. In the event of any States definitely standing aloof from the agreement the allocation of the whole of the money among those States that do sign will be considered. The actual carrying out of works will be controlled by the States, but the works must first be approved by the Commonwealth Government. Four States having signed the agreement, there is no need for further delay, and the Government is considering the schemes that have been submitted with a view to approving those that are considered to comply with the terms of the agreement.
– According to a report in the Argus to-day a deputation waited upon the Minister for Trade and Customs yesterday, and asked that the duty on potatoes be increased from £1 to £4 per ton. The Minister promised to refer the matter to the Tariff Board. Having regard to the fact that in 1923-24 the importations amounted to only 38 tons valued at £639, and that during the first six months of 1925-26 over £138,000 worth of matches and vestas was imported, will the Minister ask the Tariff Board to report as to the advisability of similarly increasing the duty on those articles ?
– If the honorable member were in possession of up-to-date statistics he would know that the importation of potatoes has increased considerably, and in accordance with the request made by the deputation I shall refer the subject of higher duties to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. A report by the board on matches and vestas has been laid on the table of the House and printed, and if the honorable member will read it he will discover good and sufficient reasons why the existingduties should not at present be disturbed.
Mr.FENTON. - A man who enlisted for active service, but was rejected in camp at Broadmeadows, and who has to support a wife and four children, applied to a Government department for work, and was told that he could not be engaged because the Government had instructed that only returned soldiers should be employed. I ask the Prime Minister whether any distinction is made between soldiers who served overseas and those who were rejected for such service because of physical disability?
– The preference granted by the Government to returned soldiers is in accordance with the policy laid down by this Parliament in the Public Service Act. If the honorable member desires information in regard to the interpretation of that policy in a particular case, I ask him to put a question on the noticepaper.
Fire at Glanville Refinery.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Post Office, Dubbo - Promotion, Postal Assistants
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the fact that repairs and improvements have been promised in connexion with the post office, Dubbo, New South Wales, for the past ten years, and that plans and specifications have beeen drawn, will he state definitely when this work will be commenced?
– The scheme of alterations to the Dubbo Post Office building is an extensive one, and is now receiving consideration. The date on which the work will be commenced cannot at present be stated, but no avoidable delay will occur in bringing the matter to finality.
askedthe PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
PREFERENCE to Australian Material - Rubber Floor Coverings.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained in regard to this matter and will be supplied at a later date.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Customs and Excise Duties
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 11th March (vide page 1574), on motion by Mr. Pratten -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1021-4 be amended as hereunder, set out, and that on. and after the fourth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, Victorian time, duties of ‘Customs be collected in pursuance of the’ Customs tariff as so amended.
That, excepting by mutual agreement, or until after six months’ notice has been given to the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand, nothing in this resolution shall affect any goods entering the Commonwealth of Australia from the Dominion of New Zealand (vide page 1228). . . .
.- Before the general debate concludes, I desire to place on record my views of the schedule now before the committee, and of the general application of the principle of protection. When the 1921 tariff was presented to this Parliament by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene), I slated clearly my attitude on the fiscal question. I have no desire to reiterate the arguments I advanced on that occasion, but I shall reaffirm aud supplement them. I am disappointed at the omission of many items from the schedule. Later I shall express my views on that phase of the subject. I have been astounded to note during this debate that the number of freetraders in this chamber has been augmented since 1921. That is particulary surprising when it is borne in mind that the accepted policy of this country is to foster local industries. The spirit of the freetraders is entirely foreign to Australia; they express the thoughts of a dead generation. Fifty years ago, when we were relatively at a primitive stage of development, pasturage aud agriculture were almost the only industrial undertakings, and to the majority of Australians rural activities appeared to be the only source of national wealth. But we have advanced since that time, and with our growth as a nation there has been a corresponding growth of essential secondary industries. Those who are blind to that change have not progressed with the times,, and have not realized the position occupied by Australia among the nations. The people of this country have recognized the value of secondary industries. To discover what an important part secondary industries have played in the progress of this nation, it is only necessary to consult the statistics published by the Commonwealth Statistician. Their development has created a more reliable market for Australian raw materials, and Australian sons are asserting their right to be artisans to serve their country’s needs rather than menial purveyors of raw and unfinished materials for the skilled operatives of other countries to manufacture and sell again to this country. Australians are determined to be something more than the labourers for the rest of the world. They will provide at least their share of the skilled artisans of the world. Many persons are blind to these changes in our community life, and to them the law of cheapness seems to be the allabsorbing consideration. Their regrettable point of view is likely to lead this country into a very invidious position, and to increase our industrial difficulties, which are already greater than they should be. Our difficulties will certainly be accentuated if we give ourselves over to freetrade, and thus prevent this country from manufacturing its requirements of finished products. The speeches of freetraders express the old-fashioned views of the last century; they do not meet the needs of the present moment. Some honorable members think and talk as if primary industries were the only consideration. Their narrow outlook is especially dangerous to those who are engaged in primary production. The man on the land needs to beware of these false prophets, who are endeavouring to make him believe that his interests are opposed to the development of our secondary industries.
– Members of the Country party do not speak for the majority of the farmers of this country.
– I agree with the view of the honorable member for’ Capricornia (Mr. Forde). Limited as my experience has been in this House, I have, at least, been able to form the very definite opinion that those honorable members who designate themselves the Country party act only in the interests of foreign countries. Their policy will certainly not benefit the primary producer in Australia. The nian on the land should make up his mind where his interests lie. for he is the most important factor in the progress of this country. I have not heard any honorable member of the Country party express satisfaction with any of the items contained in the schedule. The Country party is alone in direct opposition to the Government on this measure. Some of its members assert frankly that they believe in freedom of trade. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) and, I believe, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) very largely subscribe to that policy, and I do not think that I should be doing an injustice to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) if I included him in the same category. Some members of that party say that they believe in “moderate protection.” I assume that “moderate protection” means virtually a revenue tariff only, with no effective protection for Australian industries. The “moderate protectionists” are very careful not to explain what they mean by their particular brand of protection, but it is highly desirable that we should know how far they are prepared to go in assisting Australian industries.
– The honorable member might say how far he is prepared to go in the opposite direction.
– My object is to obtain the best terms possible for Australian industries. The development of our secondary industries will provide the best possible market for our primary products. If we adopted the freetrade principles enunciated by some honorable members, what would become of the industries already established in this country? Owing to the inequitable economic conditions in other . countries most of them would be crushed out of existence. Even our isolation would not save us in the face of such competition, because some foreign governments subsidize by bounties and rebates the shipment of exports to this and other countries. Before the war that was a very important part of the trading arrangements between the government of Germany and German exporters. The view of honorable members in the corner is that protection, if any is given, should be as limited as possible; in which case our secondary industries would not be able to resist the competition of more highly organized countries with a lower standard of living thanwe have in Australia. Our factories would be closed, and those engaged in secondary industries would have to engage in primary production or in the marketing and transport of primary products. Will those engaged in wheat-growing say that, even with a continuance of the favorable markets and the high prices which they have enjoyed during recent years, it is wise for Australia to go in for unrestricted primary production ? Are they agreeable that those now engaged in secondary industries should engage in agriculture, dairy farming, or fruit-growing, and, by adding to production, reduce the price obtainable for their produce ? If that happened, men would be taken from employment for which they were suited, and from industries which were helping to build up the nation, to become competitors with the primary producers.
– There would then be no home market.
-That is so. The consumer would become a competitor with the producer. I have visited the irrigation areas on the Murray River, and I know something of the conditions there. Not only has difficulty been experienced in finding markets for their produce, but it has also been found that so many men have been engaged in one industry that the returns from their blocks are insufficient to enable them to live in accordance with Australian standards. I do not want to accentuate that difficulty. I desire that the men engaged in dairy farming, wheat-growing, fruit-growing, and other primary industries shall obtain reasonable prices for their produce, that no overcrowded market shall deprive them of the just reward of their labours. For Australia to become a great nation we must not only encourage primary production, but we must also foster our secondary industries. The home market must be developed so that more of our primary produce will be consumed in Australia.
– At what price?
– At a price which is in keeping with the standard of living in Australia. I want the primary producers of Australia to enjoy a reasonable measure of comfort; but if Australia adopts freetrade as her policy the man on the land will have to compete in the world’s markets, not only with the produce of other countries which have a lower standard of living than we have, but with those who now constitute his best customers - the persons now engaged in secondary industries.
– Honorable members in the corner are strong on potatoes.
– Yes. They advocate protection, even to the point of prohibition, for those things which they themselves produce; but when it comes to assisting industries which are equally essential to the maintenance of our prestige among the nations, they are inconsistent. If protection is good for maize, onions, potatoes, and hops, it is good also for machinery and other articles manufactured in Australia. I believe that the majority of our primary producers have a broad national outlook, and do not subscribe to the views held by the honorable members for Riverina (Mr. Killen), Perth (Mr. Mann), Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and Swan (Mr. Gregory). The man on the land recognizes that as a citizen of Australia he has responsibilities towards the rest of the population. That it had been considered necessary to grant bounties to assist some of our primary industries isevidence of the difficulty of finding suitable markets overseas. The workers have offered no objection to these bounties, and the increased price of products purchased by them, believing that they will assist to improve the lot of the primary producer. Those engaged in secondary industries have treated the man on the land sympathetically. They have endeavoured to show that they desire that the farmer, the fruit-grower, and every other primary producer shall enjoy the full results of his labour. Our primary industries can extend only as our secondary industries develop. To increase our primary production indiscriminately, without regard to the development of the home market, is economically unsound.
– Our primary and secondary industries are interdependent.
– In an able address last night, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) presented Labour’s case in relation to the tariff. He made it clear that our primary and secondary industries are interdependent, that’ we are all brothers, associated in the advancement and progress of our country, that each section should realize its obligations to the
Other.. Instead of tha primary producer being told that the men engaged in secondary industries are his sworn enemies, he should be told that by assisting to develop our secondary industries he is providing the best market for his own produce. The honorable member for Yarra and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) referred last night to statements made by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to the farmers assembled in conference at Ballarat. They exposed the Treasurer’s hypocrisy, and made, it clear that his statements at Ballarat were unworthy of one occupying such a high and responsible position in the affairs of the nation. Unfortunately, the Treasurer is not alone in giving expression to views which are unworthy of men in high positions. Addressing the National Federation some time ago, the Prime Minister said that the Labour party stood for a system of prohibition that could only result in building up industries which would be inefficient in controlling labour, and would place an intolerable burden on the people of Australia. The Treasurer and some of his supporters have alleged that the Labour party stands for prohibition, yet they are prepared to support the . new tariff schedule, which is really a step in that direction. We should take these gentlemen to task for their inconsistency, and ask them how far they are prepared to keep faith with the public.
– And not talk with two voices.
– Exactly. We should ask them how far we can credit them with sincerity in relation to the tariff. I ask the ‘honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) what industries should not be supported ?
– We should support them all.
– If the honorable member’s reply is genuine, let him be prepared to give it practical effect. The tariff, if its purpose is bo protect Australian industries, should be effective. I am out to get the best possible terms for Australian industries, whether primary or secondary. There seems to have arisen in
Australia of recent years one section that advocates imperialism and another section that advocates internationalism as against the interests of Australia. I ask for some consideration for Australian industries. Our patriotism can be judged only by our willingness to assist the country in which we live. How true is the saying that charity begins at home. As patriots we should do everything possible to build up our primary and secondary industries. If we fail to do this, we shall be doing an injustice to our countrymen, to the stock whence we came.
– Does the honorable member contend that in order to be patriotic we must support prohibitive duties ?
– We must support -duties that will effectively protect Australian industries.
– A protection that will protect.
– That is so. I challenge honorable members in the corner to name one industry that should not be supported by the tariff.
– The manufacture of agricultural implements, for instance.
– A few years ago honorable members of the Country party, to support their argument, quoted the conditions of New Zealand in relation to agricultural implements. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in particular gave a glowing account of the advantages that the people of that country enjoyed owing to the low price of agricultural implements. Of late, strange to say, very little or nothing has been said about New Zealand. That country has now adopted the principle of tariff protection, which applies, among other things, to the manufacture of agricultural implements. Honorable members of the Country party are not prepared to admit that. Instead of referring to New Zealand, they switch off to other countries such as Canada to make comparisons to suit their own purposes. They should act more consistently. They refuse to compare the price of the imported implement with that of the locally -made article.
– I think that we have done so.
– Honorable members in the corner have religiously refrained from making that comparison. By comparing the two prices the honorable member will find that the Australian implement has the advantage not only in cheapness but also in its durability and its suitability for Australian requirements.
– Figures can be produced to prove the contrary.
– I refer the honorable member to the report of the Tariff Board on agricultural machinery. The Country party, in common with other parties in this Parliament, constituted that board. It has amongst its members a direct representative of the primary producers, and this gentleman has signed the board’s report, which states that the Australianmade implement is cheaper, more satisfactory, and more adaptable to Australian conditions than is the imported article. Honorable members of the Country party . should use more substantial arguments, and place their feet on firm ground., rather than on the shifting sands trodden by them of recent years. It will be of interest to honorable members to know the number of persona that are employed in the secondary and primary industries of Australia. There are engaged in primary production - males, 588,310, and females, 10,385, totalling 598,695. There are engaged in industrial institutions - males, 604,676, and females, 118,883, totalling 723,559. These figures show that more persons are engaged in industrial institutions in Australia than in primary production.
– In other words, the people are leaving the land for the cities.
– Not necessarily. It is only the growth of our secondary industries that enables the primary producer to find a profitable market for his produce. According to the latest Year-Book available, the output of factories in Australia in 1923-4 was valued at £348,577,583. The value of the raw materialused in that production was £197,038,726, leaving a balance of £151,538.857, which represents the added value created by the factory operation. I now give figures showing the value of primary production in 1923-4. The value of the wheat crop was £29,936,055 ; pastoral production, which includes wool, skins, &c., £65,095,676; milk, butter, cheese, bacon, hams, pork, lard, live stock, poultry, eggs, honey, and wax, £42,111,747; fruit, £6,282,552. I do not think that I have left out any important brand of primary production, and the total of the figures I havegiven is £143,436,030. So that the value of primary production was in the year referred to, in round figures, £143,000,000, whilst the value added to raw materials by processes of manufacture was £151,000,000.
– According to the honorable member’s figures, Australia is ceasing to be a primary producing country, and is now a manufacturing country. Does the honorable member agree with that statement?
– I do not. The statistics published in the Year-Book indicate the growth of both primary and secondary industries. I believe that, because of certain circumstances, primary production has been restricted. The holding of valuable lands out of use by the landed interests, high rents charged for land, and high rates of interest upon advances made to men on the land, result in the restriction of primary production. It is these circumstances, and not the incidence of the tariff, that constitute the burden of the man on the land. I desire to see the secondary industries built up in Australia in order that an adequate home market may be provided for the products of the man on the land. I do not regard either freetrade or protection as a panacea for all the ills which civilization is heir to. I recognize that the emancipation of the workers cannot be secured by either freetrade or protection, but at the same time I believe that it is our duty to maintain the high standard of livingthat we have in Australia. That can . only be done by giving effective protection to our industries against imports from countries that have lower standards. I have said that I am sorry that protection for certain industries is not included in the schedule under consideration. I direct attention, first of all, to the industry for the manufacture of incandescent mantles. The man on the land or in country districts may be seriously concerned by what is happening in this industry. The extended use of electricity, of course, lessens the use of gas mantles, not only in Australia, but in all parts of the world. The Tariff Board considered whether this industry should receive a greater measure of protection, and reported favorably on an increase in the existing duty. The increased protection the board recom- mended does not appear in this schedule, and I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs to explain why it has been omitted. The Tariff Board was appointed by this Parliament to advise it as to the industries which should be encouraged and protected under the tariff. We should be able to look to the Government to give effect to the advice of the board. It has failed to give effect to the board’s recommendations concerning this industry, and there should be some explanation of the failure. Firms engaged in the manufacture of gas mantles in continental countries, where electricity is used to a much greater extent than in Australia, have been dumping their goods into this country. In view of the difference in the standards and conditions of employment in industries in those countries, as compared with those in Australia,we shall not be doing our duty to Australian industries if we do not protect them against the dumping of goods manufactured abroad. I find that overseas firms engaged in this particular industry employ girls of about fourteen years of age at a wage of from 2¾d. to6½d. per hour. Australian firms carrying on the industry employ no female under 21 years of age, and pay their employees anything from 1s. 4d. per hour for their work. Do honorable members opposite contend that we should lower the standard of wages of those engaged in this industry? I feel that there is a desire on the part of some of them to lower the industrial standards of our people,
– I do not think that that is fair.
– I am not referring to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). If there is a broadminded democrat in the Country party the honorable member is one. I hope that his qualities will be recognized and his example followed by some who claim to be his colleagues to-day. I had in mind particularly the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), whose complaint in dealing with the duties affectingthe primary producer had special reference to the rural workers’ log. This suggests that the honorable member does not desire to maintain the standards of conditions and wages in this country. He desires apparently to lower those standards.
The honorable member should recognize that those employed by men engaged in primary industries have a right to some consideration. I. remind him that the rural workers’ log does not fix wages and conditions in rural industries, but has to be submitted to the judgment of an independent tribunal, and the wages and conditions to be determined will depend upon the evidence submitted to that tribunal. The honorable member’s remarks indicate that he is agitated in mind about the wages received by rural workers, but improvement in their conditions will lead to improvement in the conditions of those who actually control rural industries.
– I intimated that the high tariff, by increasing the costs of agricultural industries, led to the rural workers’ log, because the employers have no way of passing on their increased costs.
– That is not how I understood the honorable member. He seems to me to have consistently opposed improved conditions for workers in rural industries. He is associated with others in the Country party, who are the most avaricious, greedy, and selfish public men it is possible to find.
– That is a credit to the honorable member !
– The honorable member is himself a notable example, because he has secured more than his share of the perks and positions in the gift of this House. The party to which the honorable member belongs has more representation in the Cabinet than its numbers entitle it to, and I marvel that those who constitute the direct following of the Prime Minister are prepared to tolerate its demands. Honorable members of the Country party endeavour on every possible occasion to induce the man on the land to believe that the tariff is the cause of increased prices for the machinery he requires. It will be agreed that engines used for chaff -cutting and pumping are of great value to the agricultural industry, but I find that although an increased duty is proposed upon these engines, it is demonstrated by an advertisement in the Melbourne press that there has been a reduction in the price of the Fairbanks-Morse 10 horsepower “ Z” engine for chaff-cutting and pumping. If the arguments of honorable members on the Ministerial cross benches count for anything I ask them to explain that fact. Unfortunately, they are not prepared to do justice, but they seek to cloud the fiscal issue and make the man on the land believe that those who support Australian industries are opposed to his welfare. It was quite refreshing to listen to the speech of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) yesterday. No doubt his convictions are based on his experiences as Minister for Trade and Customs, and I believe he correctly interpreted the fiscal views of the man on the land. His speech should be conned carefully by those other honorable members opposite who claim to represent rural interests. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) last evening regarding the factories engaged in the production of aluminium ware. I visited the factory in the honorable member’s constituency, and last week I inspected a similar establishment in my own electorate, and I was astonished at the very efficient methods of production employed in both. Particularly was I impressed with the high standard of the goods they manufacture, and I regret that the Minister has not recognized the need for giving greater encouragement to this industry. As all Australian industries should do, the aluminium factories are producing goods of the very highest quality.
– Hear, hear! Honorable members should visit those factories.
– I urge them to do so. Unfortunately, their high-class products have to compete with inferior imports, which enjoy in the Australian markets an advantage they do not deserve. I ask the Minister to give added protection to the aluminium industry. By encouraging the production of goods of the very best quality he will be adding to the good name of Australia. Last evening the need for efficiency in industry was emphasized, particularly by some of those honorable members who claim to be “moderate protectionists,” but have not explained what they mean by moderation. Efficiency was stressed by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster).
No doubt he had in mind the engineering firm of Hawke and Company, of Kapunda, in his own electorate. His knowledge of the very inefficient methods employed by that firm led him to do an injustice to Australian industries generally. At one timeI worked for Hawke and Company as a patternmaker, and I know something of its lack of organization. Its outstanding characteristic is the manner in which it stands in its own light, and handicaps itself by out-of-date methods. Unfortunately Kapunda, which is one of the most beautiful towns in South Australia, and is populated by a very good class of people, experiences only intermittent prosperity because of the operations of this firm. To-day it may be employing a large number of men, but to-morrow, not being able to compete with the more efficient establishments in South Australia and elsewhere, it has to reduce hands, and in consequence depression falls upon the town. It is unfortunate that such conditions should exist, but the honorable member for Wakefield is wrong in judging other Australian industries by the standard that obtains in his own district. Incontrast to Hawke and Company are such firms as Hadfields, NewcastleSteeel Products Company, Perry and Sons, Forward Down and Company, Bradshaw, the Austral Otis Company, Thompson, of Castlemaine, and the Clyde Engineering Company.
– Do not forget the railway workshops in the various States.
– They are the backbone of the engineering trade. I wish that the South Australian Government would arrange for some firm of repute to take control of the works at Kapunda, and give security to the employees and the townspeople who are. dependent upon their labour. Though honorable members opposite have spoken of inefficiency in industries they have not advanced any concrete suggestions for the improvement of existing conditions; all they have done has been to give a bad advertisement to Australia. If we in this Parliament are not prepared to speak well of our own industries and workers, no one else will do so.
– Dozens of British firms have established branches in Australia.
-Many British firms have established branches in Australia recently because they realize the value of the local market and the industry of Australian workmen. We welcome them, and hope that other firms will follow their lead. Certain newspapers, however, are never content unless they are disparaging Australia in the eyes of the world. Last year I saw in a leading journal a cartoon which represented Australia as a mendicant for favours from the United Kingdom. Such misrepresentation is deplorable. Our people have paid to the last farthing for any financial accommodation or trade advantages they have received from the United Kingdom or any other country. Our artisans are as skilled as the workers in any other part of the world, and it would be well if Australian statesmen would realize their duty to their own country and increase the avenues for employment, instead of constantly depreciating the efforts of our people, and declaring that they are unable to produce even their own requirements. I offer no excuse for standing up for the country of my birth. . 1 desire it to progress and prosper, and its people to be peaceful and contented, and enjoy the highest standards of living. That ideal can be realized only if we adequately protect our industries and uphold the existing wages and conditions of employment, which are better than those that obtain elsewhere. I hope that this schedule will receive the earnest and sympathetic consideration of honorable members, and that justice will be done to all interests. Anomalies in the tariff should be rectified. It is the duty of the Minister to add to the schedule new items which will give relief to industries that are sadly in need of furtherprotection. Honorable members should combine to help in every way in the building up of a great and self-reliant nation by the development of our natural resources and the manufacture of our own requirements, thus providing a rich market for those engaged in primary production.
.- I listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and particularly to his eloquent appeal for the building up of our industries, the improving of the standard of living, and the maintaining of an Australian outlook. With those excellent sentiments I cordially agree. I, too, believe in the upbuilding of Australian industries. I, too, believe that it is the duty of every member of this committee, and of every Australian, to do everything he can to help to make his country great and prosperous, and its inhabitants happy. We can pass a resolution unanimously agreeing with those sentiments providing we can hold our own opinions as to the methods to be adopted to reach the goal. It has been said that protection is the settled policy of this country. Those honorable members in this corner who have had the courage to stand up and combat the demand for continued increases of duties, have been referred to as “ foreign traders,” and charged with deliberately endeavouring to lower the standard of living of the workers of this country. I protest against such charges being made, and I think I can speak on behalf of my colleagues in this corner-
– I do not think so.
– I hope I can- although I do not agree with the views they hold on many things - when I say that while honorable members may be entitled to argue that the effect of the fiscal policy we advocate will be to lower the standard of living of the workers, they are unjust in saying that that is our deliberate intention. What do those honorable members mean who claim that protection is the settled policy of this country? Do they mean that the majority of the people of Australia, having declared for a protection policy, have declared for unlimited protection, or the imposition of prohibitive duties ?
– They have declared for fair and adequate protection.
– That is another illustration of what I referred to when the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) was speaking. We can all agree to provide fair and adequate protection if we are allowed to place our own interpretation on the meaning of the words. Therein lies the whole difficulty.
– Protection is protection only when it protects.
– I give the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) credit for being at any rate completely consistent on this question, which is more than I can say for some honorable members on his side of the House.
– What of the inconsistency of honorable members in the Ministerial corner?
– The charge of inconsistency may perhaps be levelled at some members of this corner, but honorable members opposite should not forget, when they are busy hurling charges of inconsistency at others, that many of them, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), are open to the same charge.
– Will the honorable member give a specific instance?
– I answer that interjection in one word - explosives.
– The Leader of the Opposition gave a very satisfactory explanation of that the other evening.
– If he has repented, or if his explanation was satisfactory, I did not hear it.
– Does the honorable member think that one departure on the part of a member of this party merits criticism ?
– There are other instances, but the honorable member asked me for one specifically, and I gave it to him. I wish to quote some resolutions to show that there is a large body of public opinion in this country opposed to the continual increase in Customs duties. At a meeting of the Victorian Farmers Union in Ballarat yesterday these resolutions, as reported in the Argus, were passed on the motions of the Warragul and West Wimmera District Councils of the union -
That the burden of the tariff on argicultural machinery and other necessaries of life make it impossible for Australian farmers to compete in the world’s markets against those who are exempt from this burden, and that the Federal Country party give this matter more attention and treat it as of primary importance, with the object of at present lessening these duties, and finally their total abolition.
That this conference protests against the action of the Tariff Board and the Arbitration Court in continually increasing the cost of living.
Those resolutions were carried at a large conference of delegates of branches of the Victorian Farmers Union from the Murray to the sea. They show that there is a big body of public opinion, right or wrong, which holds views definitely opposed to heavy Customs duties. The agreement between the National party and the Country party in Western Aus tralia for the conduct of the last election has been quoted, but I shall quote it again -
That as the present high tariff is inimical to the best interests of Western Australia, the full strength of the two associations shall be devoted to securing a substantial reduction in the existing tariff.
That as a reduction can only be secured through ourparliamentary representatives, neither party shall give its endorsement to any candidate not in agreement with this policy.
That, subject to the above-mentioned conditions of policy being accepted as the basis of an appeal to the electors, the Primary Producers’ Association is willing to co-operate with the United party of Western Australia in Tunning a joint team, consisting of two representatives of the United party and one representative of the Country party, for the forthcoming Senate elections.The team so selected shall receive the endorsement and support of both associations, and no other candidate shall be nominated, endorsed, or supported by either association.
– That was an immoral compact.
– Whether it was moral or immoral, it was assented to by both political parties. One member of the Cabinet, the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) accepted those conditions, nominated under them, and won his seat under them. He would not have been returned had he not accepted them. On the other hand, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) claims that the election was a victory for the policy of protection. Now let me refer to my own election pledges. From every election platform I said that I was opposed to the continual increase of Customs duties, that I considered they were the prime cause of the increase in the cost of living and the cost of production, that some industries were taking undue advantage of the excessive duties, and that those who continually clamoured for high, and still higher duties, ought to say where the process would end.
– Did the honorable member say that at Mildura?
– I did, and I rereceived a five to one vote against my opponent in Mildura.
– Not on that issue alone.
– No. I shall deal with the question of the dried fruits industry and its relation to the fiscal issue presently, because I wish, to reply to the gibe of the Minister for Trade and Customs when he referred to me as “ the dried fruits protectionist.” No one knows better than he when he is criticizing other people that he is not immune from criticism himself. In introducing this schedule he painted a rosy picture of the effects of it. He stated that it had already had beneficial effects in building up industries, and throughout his speech he seemed to adopt the view that the imposition of duties, by curtailing imports, would build up local industries. It was mainly for that reason that he asked honorable members to support the schedule. My ‘mind went back to his predecessor, Senator Massy Greene, who introduced the tariff schedule of 1920. That schedule provided for substantial increases, and the Minister, in introducing it, painted exactly the same rosy picture as the present Minister painted.
– Since that time have not exchanges depreciated and wages been reduced?
– Now we have the excuses. I shall quote from the speech of the then Minister for Customs when the 1920 tariff was introduced. During the Minister’s speech, Mr. Austin Chapman interjected, ‘“‘Will the Minister say what he expects will be the effect of the tariff on the revenue ? “ To that the Minister replied -
The Treasurer believes that in the immediate future he will probably get a little more revenue than he has been receiving in the past, but my belief is that it will not be very long before there will be a reduced revenue fromCustoms and Excise duties as the result of this tariff.
– The same thing has been, said in every financial statement that has been presented to us during the last five years.
– In that case, I shall give the exact figures which I have obtained from the Customs Department. In 1921-2 - the first year during which the new duties operated - the Customs revenue, apart from excise, was £17,328,310. By the year 1922-3 it had increased to £22,597,306; in the following year it was £25,177,822; it rose to £27,299,864 in 1924-5. For the period from 1«* July, 1925, to 28th January, 1926, the amount received totalled £16,558,138, or £664,638 in excess of the amount received for the same period of the previous year.
– Will the honorable member give the figures for excise ako?
– The receipts from excise have remained practically stationary, the amount being approximately £10,000,000 per annum. There has been no corresponding increase in the excise as compared with the Customs duties.
– Has the honorable member compared the figures for 1920-1, the year before the new duties operated, with those for 1921-2.
– No. The first year for which figures, under the new rates, are obtainable is 1921-2.
– What was the amount before those duties were imposed? That would be a better basis of comparison.
– I think not. The proper way is to show the increase under the tariff schedule which the then Minister predicted would have the effect of reducing the Customs duties. When the present Minister made his rosy prediction of the beneficial effect of this tariff he was only following the example of his predecessor, who spoke similarly regarding a previous tariff. I remember well the eloquent peroration with which Mr. Greene concluded what was admittedly a fine speech. I shall read it for the benefit of honorable members.
We stand on the threshold of great developments. The door of opportunity is open widely for us. The path beyond lies clear and plain if we have only the courage to tread it and put our country’s interest before other considerations, bending to no influence, yielding to no pressure, and refusing to be diverted one hairsbreadth from our purpose, pressing on in our endeavour to lead our country to the goal of national greatness. If we have only the courage to do this, besides rendering a great service to our country, we shall also buttress that Empire of which we form a part, by building up in this great southern land a nation furnished with all that is needed to make it self-contained and truly great.
That was in 1920. What is the position in 1926 ? We are told to-day that our industries are languishing, that our workmen are walking the streets, that foreign imports ‘ are greater than ever. If that is the result of the increase of duty in 1921, what guarantee can the Minister give us that the duties about to be imposed in 1926 will not have the same effect? The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), during the course of this debate, quoted some elaborate statistics, but I have been unable to determine what they had to do with the subject under consideration. He presented figures to show the expansion which had taken place in agriculture since the last tariff came into operation. He referred to the wheat yield, and the number of eggs laid, and quoted figures from the Commonwealth Year-Booh to prove that agriculture had expanded under protection. I shall quote from the same volume to show that it has not. I shall not, however, weary the House with so many details. On page 243 of the Commonwealth Year-Booh for 1925 we find that the total primary produce exported in 1913’ was valued at £72,833,454; that in 1922-3 the amount had increased to £110,636,535, with a further increase to £111,898,488 in 1923-4. That appears to show that progress has been made ; but if we eliminate price changes, an entirely different story is told. The figures from 1913 remain as before, namely, £72,833,454. By 30th June, 1923, the value of the primary produce exported had fallen to £70,146,692 ; and in the following year a further reduction to £64,106,932 took place. .
– What about the expansion of secondary industries, and the- greater local consumption?
– I shall deal with that later.
– Will the honorable member tell us whether the volume of business increased; will he give the number of bushels of wheat, or tons of butter?
– The value of our exports is the best basis of comparison.
– The best test is the total production in volume, not the value of the exports.
– I challenge that as being the best basis of test. A man does not base his agricultural operations upon the number of bushels of wheat that he will grow, but upon the value of that wheat when grown.
– Expansion can be tested by volume, but not by value. We cannot control value.
– Does the right honorable member suggest that overseas prices have not varied since 1913 ?
– It is because they have varied that I suggest that figures showing value are unreliable as a test of the expansion of any industry.
– I have not studied the question from that aspect; but shall do so during the luncheon adjournment, after which I shall be able to reply to the honorable member’s contention. Let me now quote from the same table the figures in connexion with manufactures. In. 1913 the value of the manufactured goods exported- from Australia was £2,304,693. At the end of ten years the value of our manufactured exports had increased to £4,114,774, and during the year 1923-4 there was a further increase to £4,264,057. Eliminating price’ changes in this connexion also, we get the following figures, namely, 1913, as before, £2,304,693; 1922-3, £1,912,959; and for 1923-4, £2,160,110. The figures for 1923-4 exceed those for 1922-3 by £247,151; but as compared with 1913 they show a decrease of £144,583. .
– The best test is not the value of the goods exported, but the quantity produced.
– Those figures also are obtainable from the Commonwealth Year-Booh. My point is that, under a protective tariff, our manufactured exports have not increased, although there has been a tremendous increase in the volume of manufacturing production. The whole of the increased production has been consumed locally; our secondary industries are not competing in the markets of the world.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
– When we adjourned I. was endeavouring, to show that since the imposition of the 1920 tariff, the exportation of primary products had declined; and in support of that contention I quoted certain figures. Instead of quoting those figures, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) suggested that I should quote figures dealing with the volume of trade. I do not know whether I have made myself sufficiently clear, but I might explain that the last figures that I quoted eliminated price changes. This, to my mind, does, in effect, give the volume of trade.
– Will the honorable member now quote figures relating to the home market?
– Why not?
– First of all the home market figures have been quoted not by one speaker, but at least by half a dozen, who have dealt fully with the subject, and proved, at any rate to their own satisfaction, and certainly not to mine, that the primary industries have expanded.
– Does not the honorable member think that it would be fair to place the home market figures alongside the export figures?
– I assure the honorable member that I am not purposely avoiding doing so, but as other speakers have avoided the export trade - this being the first time that these figures have been quoted - I am now putting that side of the case.
– Is not the honorable member merely carefully selecting his facts ?
– If I am, I am following the lead already given, not by one speaker, but by at least a dozen. I am quoting figures to show that by the imposition of higher duties under the 1921 tariff, our export trade in primary produce has been adversely affected.
– Does the honorable member attribute that to the tariff?
– I attribute it to the tariff amongst other things. In view of those figures no advocate of high protection can say that the imposition of the extra duties in 1921 has fostered our export trade in primary produce. The same applies to our manufacturing exports. Taken on the 1913 prices, we are exporting lessto-day thanwe were in that year.
– A Labour Government was in power in 1913.
– There again my honorable friend brings in the old party contention. I have quoted figures to show that importations this year were greater, so far as value of receipts was concerned, than they were in 1920-21. There has been an increase in value during each successive year since 1920-21. I assume that the volume of importations to-day is greater inasmuch as prices for Customs taxation purposes were, owing to the ab normal post-war conditions, higher in 1920-22 than they are to-day. It seems to me that the tariff has failed to develop the manufacturing export trade.
– The tariff was not designed for the export trade.
– That is an important admission by the honorable member. The Minister, when speaking, said that we had to export goods worth between £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 annually. The right honorable member for Balaclava interjected, “ Or else borrow it.” No country can live alone, in spite of all the talk about making Australia a self-contained nation. One country must trade with others. Our position to-day is that we must export between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 worth of goods. I leave alone the question of borrowing, because few honorable members, if any, would advocate the continuance of borrowing overseas as a means of stabilizing our financial position. Therefore, we must export between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 worth of goods from this country. If, as the honorable member for Yarra says, this tariff is not designed to facilitate the export of manufacturing products, then I take it that the primary industries of this country must bear the sole burden of equalizing our financial position. That is a very important admission by the honorable member for Yarra.
– There is nothing wrong with it.
– No tariff in the world is imposed for the purpose of creating export trade.
– Very good; the tariff then, is not designed to facilitate export trade.
– I explained the other night that the purpose of all our reciprocal tariffs was to help the primary industries.
– If this tariff is not designed to facilitate export trade, and does not do it, we must ask ourselves whether it harms our export trade in primary produce. If by increasing duties it increases the cost of living and the cost of production, rendering it more difficult for our primary industries to compete in the markets of the world - and these industries, according to the honorable member for Yarra, have to bear the whole burden of keeping us financially sound, then we have made out a prima facie case that this tariff is not in the best interests of Australia.
– Excepting that the honorable member is assuming that, in protecting our industries and building them up, we increase the cost of living.
– To answer the honorable member, I shall deal with the point raised by the Minister by interjection in regard to the dried-fruits industry. The following is an extract from a speech that I delivered in this chamber . on the 28th August, 1924, comparing the costs of production in the dried-fruits industry in 1912 and 1922-4: -
I shall now read some tables compiled by the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria, which give comparative costs of production in respect of 15-acre blocks; and though I consider that all the figures are on the low side, they are of value, in that they provide a fair basis for comparison. The tables are as follow: -
I then gave figures relating to the cost and value of production, showing that the cost of a 15-acre block in 1912 was £1,025, and in 1922-4 £1,880. In other words, the average cost of development per acre was £68 6s. 8d. in 1912, and £125 6s. 8d. in 1922-4.
– Is that from the time of purchase until the block comes into bearing ?
– The figures relate to the clearing and developing of a virgin block.
– Up to what stage?
– Up to production stage. These are some of the items: - House and outbuilding’s, £150 in 1912, and £250 in 1922-4; racks and harvesting materials, £40 in 1912, and £80 in 1922-4 ; stock and implements, plough cultivator, and tools, £17 in 1912, and £40 in 1922-4; lorry and harness, £25 in 1912, and £60 in 1922-4. Those are the costs of development and, as I have said, the figures were compiled by the Victorian Rivers and Water Supply Commission, which is responsible for the settling of thousands of returned soldiers on dried fruits areas in Victoria, and is in a better position than any other authority I know to give reliable information. Now, as to the costs of production on a 15-acre block for a 1 ton per acre crop in 1912 and 1924. The figures cover expenditure for living, harvesting - additional labour - manure and spraying material, horse feed, repairs, water and shire rates, depreciation on stock, implements, and vineyard, and interest. The total expenditure in 19.12 was £317, and in 1924 it had risen to £555.
– Was that due to the tariff?
– I am showing that the cost of production went up considerably.
– In every part of the world, and not only in Australia. We have to thank the war chiefly for that.
– Prices have gone up too.
– My figures show that the average cost of production per acre was £21 2s. 8d. in 1912, and had increased to £37 in 1924. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) suggests that whilst the cost of production was increased the settlers received an increased price for their dried fruits to compensate them. The average sweatbox price to the grower, which is the price of the fruit in the rough, before being graded and cleaned, was £39 12s. 6d. per ton between 1907 and 1914, to meet a production cost of £21 2s. 8d. The average sweat-box price to the grower was estimated for 1924, though I believe that less was actually received, at £28 6s. 8d. per ton, and that was to meet a production cost of £37.
– The honorable member’s figures show that we need a home market for the growers of dried fruits.
– I am quoting this particular industry because it had a good home market, but under the repatriation activities of the various governments there has been a tremendous expansion of the industry.
– And the party the honorable member supports wishes to put £34,000,000 more into it.
– I am speaking against time, and I should be glad if the honorable gentleman did not further interrupt me. The point I am trying to make is that the so-called expansion of primary production is quoted by advocates of a high tariff in support of high protection. They have carefully omitted to mention that tens of millions sterling have been spent in repatriation operations by the various State Governments of Australia. Just what is the total amount so expended I am not in a position to say, but it could be easily ascertained, and it must reach an enormous sum. That has been a big factor in the increase of production, which has not been due to any alteration of our protective duties. The dried fruits industry bas to meet extra costs of production, which include wages. The growers are exporting from 75 per cent, to 80 per cent, of their total crop, and have to compete in the world’s markets. It has been said again and again, and I do not hesitate to repeat it once more, because it cannot be repeated too often, that whilst the growers’ costs of production are fixed, and cannot be avoided, their receipts are governed by the world’s market rates, and their output is brought into competition with the output of cheap-labour Mediterranean countries. The precarious position of the dried-fruits industry is indicated by the fact that in 1924- this Parliament passed a Dried Fruits Advances Act to help the unfortunate growers. The advances were to be subject to repayment with interest from sales of dried fruits by the growers in 1925 after costs of production had been ascertained. We now have a proposal from the Government that if after costs of production the receipts are shown to be insufficient for the repayment of the advances the repayment is to be extended over the 1926 crop, and, if necessary, over the crop of 1927. I ask the question: Where is all this going to end? The working man is benefited to but a very little extent by the increased costs of production. I admit that there have been some exceptions. His representatives in this House advocate high tariff duties because of their desire to raise the standard of living. They do not in this way raise the standard of living of the worker. What happens is that prices are raised and- then wages are raised. The value of wages is not their amount but what they will buy. To-day we have a vicious circle of rising costs all around, and the only remedy proposed is to put more bricks on our tariff wall. In the circumstances, honorable members are entitled to ask the advocates of high protection: Where is it going to end? We have, been told that high duties are necessary to enable us to develop industries in this country, and when they are developed the duties may be repealed and the industries will be able to compete without protection. The experience of America is quoted.’ We are told that duties which were imposed there on agricultural implements are now being wiped out. What has been our experience in this country? I challenge any one to contradict me when I say that our experience in this country is that when so-called struggling industries grow bigger they ask for higher and
Still higher duties. The Minister made a very important admission. He stated that industries have not only birth pains, but when they are established develop growing pains. That is a very significant admission. It would appear that the Minister has abandoned the old idea that tariff duties are necessary only for the establishment of industries, and that when they are established the duties may be removed. He admits that after industries have become established they develop growing pains, and he considers it the duty of Parliament to relieve those growing pains by more and still more protection. Not only are organized manufacturers in this country using all their influence to raise the tariff wall higher, but we have organized labour joining with them. These are strange bedfellows.
– The honorable member and his friends have the organized importers behind them, who pay out their money, too.
– I have heard honorable members opposite talking about solidarity. There were certain incidents connected with the passing of the 1920 tariff, and I venture to predict that in the ensuing weeks we shall again find representatives of organized labour and organized capital joining together and giving the finest exhibition of solidarity that any honorable member could wish lo see. I ask the representatives of organized labour in this chamber to consider whether they are not making a mistake. When they find the representatives of the combines which they condemn so eloquently, the manufacturers, and waterers of stock, joining solidly together and using their influence inside and outside of this chamber to pile on more duties, are. not the representatives of organized labour in this House making a mistake when they rush to the aid of these people?
– I confess that when we see them finding the funds for the election of honorable members’ opposite we have some doubts about them.
– It is not often that I defend the interests of big business in this country against the charges of honorable members opposite, but I must acquit them of the charge of having supplied me with funds to contest my election. They have not been guilty of that, whatever else they may be guilty of. In addition to the pressure brought to bear by manufacturers to raise our tariff wall still higher, there has developed a position which is significant and highly dangerous. I quote from the Morning Post of the 27th January last -
Imported Material Declared Black
Support for Australian industries was given by the Blacksmiths Union at its annual meeting on Monday night. The union decided to endorse the recommendation of the Iron Trades Council as follows: - “That all imported material for tanks, gas meters, &c., that could be manufactured here be declared black.”
That indicates a very serious state of affairs. If, in addition to the pressure exerted by organized capital to pile up these duties, trade unionists are to resort to a boycott of this character, where will the community land itself? This is a development which all persons who are not blinded by prejudice and self-interest must regard with concern. The continual increasing of duties makes easier the importation of foreign goods in spite of the tariff wall, and makes it more difficult for the secondary industries to compete with them, and for the primary industries to continue.
– The higher duties are designed to increase prices. Inevitably an increase in prices is followed by an increase in wages. The increase of wages means greater cost of production, and that obviously renders it easier for the foreigner to compete in our market.
– The logical development of the honorable member’s argument is “lower the duties and imports will cease.”
– The lower the duties, the lower the cost of living. The lower the cost of living, the cheaper the cost of production. Therefore, the defence against foreign competition is not to be found, in piling higher and still higher the tariff duties, because every addition to the tariff wall is followed by increased cost of living and production. Then up goes the tariff and wages, and the vicious circle starts again.
– This schedule provides for the reduction of many duties.
– It provides for some reductions, but the general tendency is to increase duties.
– If the honorable member’s arguments are true, why put a dutyof 3d. a lb. on butter?
– Until recently, when the dairymen took action in their own defence, the duty on butter did not operate, except in time of drought. It was something like the duty on wheat.
– New Zealand butter was imported at certain seasons.
– Yes. A duty was imposed on wheat many years ago, but the only years in which it could have operated were 1902 and 1914, when Australia experienced droughts, and then the Government removed the duty so that cheap wheat could be obtained from abroad. Therefore, that duty has given no protection to the wheat-growers.
– The honorable member is very logical, but is there any duty on primary products that the honorable member would remove or reduce ?
– That interjection involves a consideration of the general effect of duties on primary products. I turn back to the duties on dried fruits.
– Stick to them; they provide the best case the honorable member can have.
– I am glad to have the admission of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that there are instances in which a good case can be made out for the protection of the primary producer.
– The trouble is that too many people are engaged in the production of dried fruits.
– The producers are asked to pay protectionist prices and Australian fixed rates of wages in respect of 100 per cent. of their production, but having to sell 75 per cent. of their produce in the markets of the world, they receive Australian prices for only 25 per cent. I think that if all the tariff burdens -were removed from their shoulders, or, alternatively they were allowed a rebate of all duties in respect of the 75 percent, of their produce which is exported, those engaged in the industry would be glad to forgo the duties on dried fruits.’
– The whole trouble is that they produce 75 per cent, more than the local market can consume, and they cannot compete in foreign markets with the product of cheap-labour countries. But they cannot expect Australian wages and living standards to come down to the level of those in competing countries.
– All the land industries enjoy a protected home market. Would the honorable member remove any of the duties on primary products?
– The gibe is often hurled at honorable members who sit in this corner of the chamber that they advocate the imposition of duties on what their constituents produce, and oppose protection of the products of other industries.
– There is some truth in that charge.
– There is, for this reason : The duties already imposed have increased the cost of production in primary industries, and two schools of thought have developed amongst the representatives of those industries. That is why we are twitted with having contradictory fiscal views. One school of thought, to which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and Forrest (Mr. Prowse) belong, holds that the piling up of duties on all commodities is wrong, inasmuch as if the duties on butter, meat, and other primary products are increased, and Australian prices are paid for Australian goods, the troubles of the primary producer do not end, because immediately the cost of living rises, wages increase, the cost of production becomes higher, and his second condition becomes worse than the first. The other school of thought contends that if the ‘primary producer is to be required to. pay protectionist prices for the tools -of production, his best means of self-preservation is to make the community pay protectionist prices for butter, meat, wheat, and other products of the- soil.
– A Nationalist government imposed the duties on primary products, and I again ask the honorable member if he wishes to disturb any of them.
– I think the majority of the primary producers would have been prepared to stand pat on the tariff of 1914. They would have said, “ If this represents the limit of the duties on manufactured articles, and we are not to be further burdened in respect of wages, we shall not ask for increased duties on primary products.”
– In other words, they are protectionists at a price.
– The Queensland primary producers do not agree with the honorable member.
– And I do not agree with them. If the duty on butter is increased in order that the local industry may be established, and then Parliament increases the duty on agricultural implements, fertilizers, and other requirements of the dairy farmer - if in return for the increased price he gets for his butter he has to bear additional imposts on his own purchases, the protection afforded him is removed, and he is entitled to resist further impositions. Speaking on the formal motion for adjournment last week, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) referred to the prices of - agricultural implements. He said that a 1,280-acres Mallee farm would have about £600 worth of implements, exclusive of wagons. _ I do not know from what, source the Minister obtained the information. A Mallee farm of 1,280 acres cannot be worked with £600 worth of implements. On my own farm of 600 acres, the plant, although not unnecessarily extensive, is worth more than that sum. Indeed, on occasions I am obliged to hire or borrow implements. The Minister also made a wonderful mathematical calculation that the increased price of £600 worth of implements, because of the operation of the tariff, was equal to only 2s. a week. It was a strange and wonderful calculation, and he based it on an assumed life for implements of fifteen years. I do not know where he obtained his figures, but I suggest that he should carpet the individual who gave them to him. The Tariff Board did not make the same blunder; it had sufficient knowledge to mention only ten years as the life of agricultural implements in the Mallee. If the Minister will go into the rough, stump-jump country of the Mallee and talk to the farmers there about implements like reapers and binders lasting for fifteen years, he will make himself ridiculous. .
– If the honorable member’s view is correct the figure of2s. should be increased to 3s.
– Then why did the Minister make the calculation on the basis of 2s. ?
In committee (Consideration resumed from. 15th January, vide page 134) :
Clause 1 (Short title).
– Upon this clause may be based a few additional remarks relating to the principle of the bill: Honorable members will recollect that this bill was fully discussed about nine months ago, and again in January last. Consideration was then, by mutual consent, deferred until the report of the Public Accounts Committee on this important subject had been made available. The committee has now reported, and its report has been printed, and is in the hands of honorable members.
– No. That is the trouble.
– I can perhaps meet the needs of honorable members by reading those parts of the report that relate to the bill. The report states -
Reviewing the evidence heard concerning the possibilities of various starch-bearing crops, the committee considers that there is room for doubt as to whether such crops can be grown at a price which will permit of their being utilized for the production of alcohol on a commercial basis.
Cassava, however, appears to be the most favorable of these crops, provided it can be successfully cultivated at a reasonable cost in the tropical parts of the Commonwealth. Owing to the fact that the cultivation of this crop has not been hitherto attempted on a commercial scale in Australia, no evidence is yet available on which accurate costs of production, its yield per acre, or the alcohol contents of Australian-grown cassava can be based. The experiments with cassava now being conducted in Queensland will no doubt give useful information, which will form a valuable guide for the future.
The committee also submits valuable information on the production of power alcohol from molasses, and gives a very practical lead to those interested, among them myself, in the manufacture of power alcohol from prickly pear. It recommends -
That a qualified person, unbiased by preconceived ideas as to the possibilities of prickly pear for power alcohol production, should be appointed to fully investigate the process and subject it to a technical and critical examination, with a view to determining the extent to which the project should be helped if the claims are substantiated.
I have done something in this direction already, and assure honorable members, who are all keenly interested in this great national question, that the suggestions of the committee will be followed up so far as my department can do that. The report deals also with the production of shale oil, liquid fuels, and benzol, but the matter now under discussion is the production of power alcohol from starchbearing plants. The committee points to the great potentialities of molasses as a material for the manufacture of power alcohol. Partly, if not wholly, as a result of the committee’s inquiries, I am in the pleasing position of being able to inform the committee that it is most probable that two more distilleries will be erected at an early date, at Babinda and Mulgrave, in northern Queensland, to utilize the waste of the sugar mills of those districts for the production of power alcohol.
– The Minister says “it is most probable.” Can he furnish the committee with anything authentic ?
– I can. I have a cutting from the Sydney Morning Herald of about six weeks ago, which reads -
An important decision regarding the manufacture of power alcohol from the by-products of sugar-cane has been reached by the Northern Power Alcohol Committee. The decision marks a definite step towards the early realization of the project, and, it is understood, will result in a power alcohol distillery being erected at the Mulgrave Mill this year to cope with the molasses output of two orthree local mills. An important feature of the decision is the alliance with the International Sugar and Alcohol Company, a large British firm now operating in the Mackay district for the distillation of power alcohol from cassava and molasses. The distillery at Cairns is expected to be the forerunner of others on the Tully River, the Burdekin River, and other sugar mill centres.
The decision of the Power Alcohol Committee to co-operate with the British company has met with a favorable reception on all sides in local sugar circles. Mr. Board, the representative of the British company, will visit Cairns nest month. It is confidently expected that the growersat the two local mills - Babinda and Mulgrave - will fully endorse the Power Alcohol Committee’s proposals, and agree to finance the first distillery at the Mulgrave Mill.
The main points of the committee’s report are - ‘That no difficulty is anticipated in the manufacture of power alcohol from molasses; that the Northern Power Alcohol Commitee’s scheme for Mulgrave alone would produce 60,000 gallons of power alcohol per week, and, if Babinda joined’ in, this quantity would be doubled; that the consumption of motor spirit in the Cairns district is 100,000 gallons weekly; that, after very careful inquiry and investigation, the committee is convinced that, in view of the diverse and numerous obstacles associated with marketing which would have to be overcome, it is not considered advisable at this stage to risk the ultimate “success of the whole of the northern movement; that the consensus of opinion ‘is that an effort should be made to associate the movement with the International Sugar and Alcohol Company Limited and the Plane Creek Alcohol Company Limited, Mackay; that, with this object in view, arrangements have been made with Mr. Board to visit Cairns in March to discuss details of the proposed arrangements; that, if these arrangements are to be carried through successfully, they will, of course, be connected with a sugar mill, and every opportunity will be afforded to try out Mr. Seymour Howe’s scheme of utilizing syrups, which the committee is convinced merits a proper trial; and that, in view of the foregoing and pending further developments, it has been decided for the present to defer approaching the Federal Government further for its aid by way of bounty or other economic assistance.
That article is confirmed by a telegram I received from Mr. Draper, the chairman of the Northern Power Alcohol Committee. During the debate on this bill several honorable members asked what the Government purposed to do with the scheme evolved by the Northern Power Alcohol Committee. Mr. Draper’s telegram, dated the 12th February, reads -
Northern Power Alcohol Committee withdraw application at present for further extension of bounty. Committee co-operating with Mr. Board.
Mr. Board is the representative of the Distillers’ Company, which is putting machinery into the Plane Creek Mill. As a result of the discussions in this House, and the investigations . of the Public Accounts Committee and the Tariff Board, a definite organization is being created under this bill for growing cassava as a subsidiary raw material for the manufacture of .power alcohol. The Overseas Distillery Company is cooperating with the Plane Creek Mill, to which the Queensland Government has made an advance, and with the Northern Power Alcohol Committee which is erecting distilleries farther north. Should these schemes be given effect, and I believe they will, sufficient power alcohol will eventually be produced in Queensland to largely meet the needs of that State. The Government’s assistance has been called for only in the direction of assisting the growth of cassave on a commercial basis, so as to ascertain, in the large area that is suitable for cassava-growing in Queensland, whether that crop can be grown on a large commercial scale to supply, another material from our own soil for the manufacture of the power alcohol so urgently required in this country. The money has been advanced by the Queensland Government for the building, and the necessary machinery is being installed by the new company which has been formed under Australian direction. Faith will be kept by the committee by the passing of this bill which, in place of its present title, could as well be intituled, “A bill for an act to encourage the cultivation of cassava.” *
– What does the Minister mean by keeping faith ? With whom have we to keep faith?
Mr. PRATTEN.^! should have said that the Government will keep faith.
– Has an undertaking been given ?
– The. bill which the Government has introduced is a considered measure which has as its object the. encouragement of the manufacture of power alcohol in Australia. The Government believes that the principle underlying the bill is sound; that this legislation will mark the beginning of a big national project. I ask the Hou3e to pass the bill as it stands. In order to encourage the growth of cassava, a bounty is necessary. I point out that 6,000,000 tons of cassava are grown in Java annually. If a similar quantity of cassava could be converted into power alcohol in Australia, we should npt have to import one gallon of petrol, except for mixing purposes. I submit the bill with the assurance that, so far as investigation, care in preparation, and the outlook for power alcohol are concerned, it deserves the approval of the House.
.- I am not opposed to this bill, the object of which is to encourage the cultivation of cassava, and the production of liquid fuel ; but I object to the’ manner in which it has been presented. This subject has been before us on former occasions; we dealt with it nine months ago. The debate was then adjourned to enable the Public Accounts Committee to complete its investigations, so that honorable members might have the benefit of their recommendation to assist them, in arriving at a decision. I complain that this measure has been introduced hurriedly today. It was not until after the luncheon adjournment that I was informed by the Minister that he intended to move at 3 o’clock that progress be reported in connection with the debate on the tariff, in order that this bill might be introduced. At that time I anticipated that before the bill came before us copies of the report of the Public Accounts Committee would have been available to all honorable members. That report is not before us, and it is, therefore, unfair to ask us to deal with this measure now. Of what use is it to ask the Public Accounts Committee to advise the House regarding the manufacture of power alcohol from cassava, if we are to deal with this bill before that report is in our hands 1 It is not sufficient for the Minister to read extracts from the findings of the committee.
– I did not know that the report was not in the hands of honorable members. I have had a copy for a week.
– I feel that I have a right to protest. Honorable members should have had the report before this bill was introduced. I, as Leader of the Opposition, should certainly have been supplied with one.
– I am not responsible.
– Who is responsible? When this question was before us formerly there was a difference of opinion among honorable members, and for that reason it was decided to await the report of the Public Accounts Committee. The committee has now presented its report, but it is not yet in the hands of honorable members. In its absence honorable members have nothing to guide them, and they are not justified in passing this measure. Whoever is responsible for introducing this legislation at this juncture has made a mistake. I have .risen only to enter my protest against this bill being dealt with at this stage. Now that the Public Accounts Committee has presented its report there is no reason why we should not wait another two or three days to enable honorable members to peruse it. We have already waited nine months for the report. Although the amount involved in this bill is £25,000 only, there is a distinct difference of opinion regarding the bill. I remember that when it was before us last the debate was keen. I want to assist the Government to establish the power alcohol industry, but I contend that before we deal with this measure the whole of the information available, especially that collected by the Public Accounts Committee, at some expense to the country, should be placed before us.
.- I support the protest made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) against rushing this bill through in this manner. Honorable members are aware that I have taken a keen interest in this subject, and that previously I have discussed it at some length. During the last Parliament I moved for the appointment of a select committee to investigate the many points raised. My motion was not agreed to, as it was understood that the Public Accounts Committee had already inquired into the same matter, and had practically exercised the functions of a select committee. The committee has now completed its investigation and has submitted its report. But, as the Leader of the Opposition has stated, that report is not in the hands of honorable members. At a late hour last night I discovered that a few advanced copies were available.
– I have not received a copy yet.
– Through the courtesy of officers of the House I obtained a copy of the report last night, but I understand that honorable members generally have not seen it. My only opportunity to ascertain its contents would have been to sit up all night to study it. It was my intention to consider the report during the coming week-end. I had no suspicion that the Minister would introduce this bill until honorable members had had an opportunity to peruse the committee’s report. It appears that the Public Accounts Committee has conducted a very wide inquiry. I certainly must inform myself as to the nature of the information contained in the report and the decisions of the committee before I shall feel justified or capable of expressing any further opinion regarding this bill.
– The Government is not trying to force this bill through. The Minister now knows that the members of the committee have not been supplied with copies of the committee’s report. The bill can be dealt with on Wednesday next.
– The Minister thought that the position would be met by reading extracts from the report of the committee. But that I consider to be insufficient. However, I am satisfied with the assurance of the Prime Minister that the bill will be postponed until Wednesday next. I shall therefore say no more at this stage.
Clause agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Consideration resumed from 26th February, 1926 (vide page 1199).
Clause 3 (Validation of refunds).
.- I am again placed at a disadvantage, inasmuch as this bill was discussed during my absence, and since my return I have not had a moment to peruse it. I take exception to the manner in which the business of this House is being carried out. The least the Government could have done was to consult me regarding an alteration of procedure. I was under the impression that we were to continue the discussion of the tariff, and was greatly surprised when other business was called upon. The purpose of this bill is to validate certain refunds of income taxation, I have had no time to study it.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) debated the measure at length.
– Many honorable members have done so. Surely I should know when it is intended to discuss new business. From a sense of fair play alone, the Leader of the Opposition should be notified of any sudden alteration in the order of business. I am always prepared to facilitate the business of the House. I enter my protest against this action, and I hope that it will not occur again.
– I certainly endorse what the Leader of the Opposition has said respecting his preparedness to facilitate the Government’s business so far as possible when due notice has been given to him of the measures with which the Government intends to proceed; but I would point out to him that this, and the preceding measure, are not new business, but have already been discussed at great length. I know that the Leader of the Opposition was not in the House during the whole of the debate on the bill ; but it was discussed at length by members of his own party. It certainly did not occurto me that it was necessary to inform him of the Government’s intention to bring on this measure.
– If the Prime Minister had informed me of his intention, I should have seen that members of my party were here to discuss the bill.
– I want the Leader of the Opposition to free me from any suggestion of discourtesy towards him. When new measures are to be introduced, requiring, perhaps, a second-reading speech by the Leader of the Opposition, I agree that the Government should give him due notice of its intentions. This measure, and the preceding one, were placed on the top of the notice-paper yesterday, with a view to bringing them on to-day. The Government requires their early passage in order to provide another place with work.
– I regret that this was not mentioned before.
– If I had thought that the Leader of the Opposition would have been saved inconvenience and embarrassment, I certainly would have let him know exactly what was to be done. But this measure has been so fully debated that it did not occur to me to tell the Leader of the Opposition that it might come on for discussion this afternoon.
– I accept the explanation given by the Prime Minister. It was my duty to protest against the procedure that was taken, because, after all, we as an Opposition must conserve our rights. In view of the statement by the Prime Minister, we are prepared to continue the discussion of the measure.
.- I regret that at this stage honorable members . should be required to discuss the bill. I feel that some little notice should be given to us when legislation of this description is likely to come before us for consideration. Nevertheless, the valuable information imparted to honorable members by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in his secondreading speech has enabled many bf us to form a definite and accurate opinion concerning this class of legislation. The Government cannot take any pride or satisfaction in the introduction of this measure. Its purpose, at least, demonstrates the ineptitude of previous governments of the same political faith. It is also a reflection upon the counsels upon whose advice the Government acted when the original measure was introduced. It is strange that when refunds of taxation are made .by the Government they invariably benefit the wealthy classes, while the great body of the taxpayers are subjected to the pains and penalties of the law for any attempt to evade their taxes.
– Is that statement fair, considering that we have raised the exemption from £200 to £300?
– That exemption was an insignificant factor in comparison with the liberal and substantial refunds of taxation made to the wealthy classes. This bill is designed to annul legislation that was introduced into this Parliament by a Labour Government in 1915. A change of government took place, and, of course, a change of view. The Labour party, in introducing the original legislation, acted on the advice of learned counsel. This Government has no justification for granting these refunds of taxation. The decision given by the High Court in the Webb case was in respect of one company only, the South Broken Hill Proprietary Limited. That company had been reconstructed, and the point at issue was the taxation of the old company’s profits, which had been distributed as shares to the shareholders in the new company. The Government took the view that the interpretation then given by the High Court governed all bonus shares distributed from profits, and that refunds of taxation on those shares should be made retrospective to 1915. I understand that the Commissioner of Taxation would not accept the responsibility of making the refunds. The Government accepted the doubtful advice of counsel, and made the refunds from revenue. It has refused to divulge the opinion, and also the name, of that counsel. The people of this country have a right to know his name and what advice was tendered by him to the Government. Surely the amount involved under this legislation should be made known to the . committee. A quarter or even three-quarters of a million of money may be involved. The Government has told us that as refunds of taxation were made to certain persons on account of the judgment of the High Court in the “Webb case, it would be unfair to oblige the taxpayers to return the money because of the later High Court decision in the James case. I contend that taxes which are legally imposed ought to be paid. It is quite possible that when we are asked to deal with subsequent legislative proposals by the Treasurer, we shall be asked to discard the premises on which he has based this bill. Personally, I am opposed to retrospective legislation, generally speaking. As a rule it is unpopular - ivery much so when it deals with taxation. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) endeavoured to obtain an assurance from the Treasurer that in the future accumulated or current profits that were distributed in the shape of bonus share’s would be taxed, but the Treasurer evaded the question. His non-committal reply showed the weakness of his case. If profits are distributed in dividends they are taxable, and it seems to me to be undesirable that persons should be able to avoid taxation by the subterfuge of taking profits in the form of bonus shares instead of in dividends. The provisions of this bill are in marked contrast to those of a measure that was recently before us which sought to punish workers who dared to assert their claim to better conditions of living. I protest strongly against the proposal of the Government to allow certain persons to be immune from the law. That is quite inequitable. It appears that prizes, perks, and privileges may be distributed to the wealthy classes of the community, but that imprisonment and banishment must be the lot of the workers. The honorable member for Yarra is to be congratulated upon having explained in such a simple manner the intricate and technical provisions of this bill. But for him it is probable that we would not have known its far-reaching effects. Will the Treasurer assure us that the Government intends, in the future, to tax bonus shares distributed out of the accumulated or current profits, in accordance with the provision of the Income Tax Assessment Bonus Share Act of 1915?
– Honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss that matter when the Income Tax Assessment Bill is introduced later in the year.
– What we want to know is whether the Treasurer will provide in his bill that these shares shall be taxable.
– That is the point; for it must be remembered that the Treasurer is all-powerful in this matter. In a bill of this character we are absolutely subject to his whims and wishes. We want to know what he is prepared to do in the future, in respect to the collection of taxation, which the High Court has decided may be imposed. We require to be informed if companies are to be permitted to avoid their taxation obligations by distributing their profits in the shape of bonus shares instead of as dividends. If they are, the Commonwealth will be so much the poorer. We know that the Treasurer has big company interests to serve, and those with whom he is associated are prepared at all times to give those interests special consideration. It would be well for the people to recognize the partisan nature of the legislation introduced by this Government. It is not long since the Federal elections were held, and the Government declared its policy to be to consider the interests of all sections of the community, to apply the law equitably and fairly, to put down lawlessness, promote the best interests of the country and its prosperity, and make every one, according to his means, contribute equally to the cost of government. But we are now asked to consider class legislation which will not affect any persons receiving incomes of less than £4,000 per annum. Such a concession as is here proposed is not made to other taxpayers. In view of our previous experience of the Treasurer in relation to matters affecting the interests of the wealthy, I am not prepared to accede to his request to allow this measure to pass without further consideration.
– All that we want the Treasurer to do is to “switch on the light.”
– My honorable friend reminds me of an interesting observation for which the Treasurer was himself responsible -prior to his inclusion in the Cabinet. I should like to hear the honorable gentleman, as the private member for Cowper, discussing the merits of this class of legislation from the Country party corner.
– What other steps could be taken to meet the case involved?
– To see that the law is administered without favour. Does the Honorary Minister consider that we have no right to know the amount of revenue that is involved in this legislation, or what the intentions of the Government are for the future? It cannot evade its obligation by the quibbling of the honorable gentleman. I shall have much more to say if it is the intention of the Treasurer to persist with the bill, but I think that it is reasonable atthis stage to ask that progress be reported.
House adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 March 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260312_reps_10_112/>.