13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H.Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for the Interior say whether there is any foundation for the newspaper report that he proposes to establish an elective council, or some other form of legislative body, to control the Northern Territory ? If so, will he outline the proposal in this House before it is put into operation, or must honorable members look for the details in the press if
-I have to-day submitted to the Prime Minister a report covering my observations and conclusions on a recent visit to the Northern Territory. Certain recommendations have been made as to the form of government in the Territory, and after they have been considered by Cabinet a statement of the Government’s intentions will be made to the House. It is not my practice to make known through the press information that should be given direct to honorable members in the House.
-Has the Prime Minister any knowledge that an overseas firm, with branches in the various States and a head office in England, is defrauding the Commonwealth of large sums’ of money through evasions of income tax? If not, willhe institute inquiries as early as possible with a view to making the House conversant with information which may be in the possession of the Taxation Department, so that it may be considered in relation to the Government’s proposal to snatch 2s. 6d. from the old-age and invalid pensioners, and to adopt inquisitorial methods in connexion with the administration of the pensions?
– I shall inquire into the matter and furnish the House with such information as can be given in the circumstances.
Mr.WATSON.- I ask the Prime Minister whether, when a moratorium is proclaimed in relation to the interest on the war debt, such interest is cancelled or forgiven? If payment is merely suspended, and the amount added to the national debt, is it subject to interest, and, if so, at what rate.?
– Under the moratorium in respect of war debts, payments by Australia are merely suspended. Unless war debts be cancelled the full amount will have to be paid eventually. In that event the time allowed for the repayment of the debt will he extended by a period equal to the period of the suspension.
– I ask the Prime
Minister why the Government has suspended the Gold Bounty Act which provided for the grant of assistance to the gold-mining industry for ten years, with out taking counsel of the people engaged in the industry? Does the right honorable gentleman think that such action will help to restore the credit of Australia?
– Before deciding to suspend the payment of the gold bounty the Government made very careful inquiries regarding the possible effect of such action upon the industry. Moreover, as I stated in my budget speech yesterday, the Government even now is prepared to receive representations from those engaged in the industry.
– Does the Government intend to give effect to its policy by ministerial direction or by an amendment of the Gold Bounty Act?
– An amendment of the act will be necessary.
Disallowance of Determinations
– If the motion in the Senate for the disallowance of the Public Service Arbitrator’s determinations,Nos. 6 and 13 of 1932, be carried, the wages of certain adult employees in the Commonwealth Public Service will be reduced below the basic wage. I ask the Prime Minister if the Government will agree not to press for the disallowance of the determinations until this House has had an opportunity to discuss them?
– Those determinations are listed to be dealt with in the Senate to-day, and, therefore, the motion for disallowance must be proceeded with. However, an opportunity will be given to honorable member’s during the budget debate to discuss this and other proposals.
-Will the determinations be varied before this House has an opportunity to discuss them?
– That will depend upon the decision of the Senate.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform the House of the result of the applications for tenders for the leasing of two Government hotels in Canberra ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL Three tenders have been received for the leasing of the Hotel Ainslie and the Hotel Wellington. I understand that a satisfactory offer has been made in respect of the former, but that the tenders for the HotelWellington are not so satisfactory. The Government will come to a decision on the matter within a few days.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will take such action as may be necessary to exempt from taxation petrolused on farms in connexion with tractors, stationary engines, lighting plants, &c. ?
– The Government will be prepared to consider any recommendations on the subject, but I want to make it clear that the Ministry has gone to the limits of its ability to make concessions at the present time.
Mk E. J. HARRISON. - The Prime Minister has announced that the Government intends to remove the primage and sales tax from certain requirements of the primary industries. Having regard to the fact that the building trade is the most prolific source of employment, will the Government consider the abolition of sales tax and primage duties on building requisites?
– If the state of the finances -would permit further concessions to be made, the Government would be delighted to make them, but I am sorry that I can see no possibility of acceding to the honorable member’s request.
– Will the Minister for the Interior lay on the table an audited statement of the accounts of the stores connected with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway?
M!r. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.- I shall consider the honorable member’s request, and let him have a reply later.
– The Prime Minister has intimated that the Government is prepared to receive representations from parties interested in the gold bounty, and to reconsider its determination to suspend payment of the bounty. Will the Government be prepared to hear representations from the invalid and old-age pensioners, and to reconsider its determination to reduce the modest payments to them ?
– I have not stated that the Government is prepared to reconsider its decision to suspend payment of the gold bounty, but it is ready to hear representations from those interested regarding the conditions of such suspension. Similarly, the Government will be prepared to receive representations from any. other parties affected by the Government’s financial policy. All honorable members are to be regarded as representatives of the invalid and old-age pensioners, whose claims no doubt will re ceive due prominence during the debate on the budget.
– So that the variation of old-age and invalid pensions may be placed beyond the province of Parliament, with consequent political implications during elections, will the Government consider introducing a bill providing that such variation shall depend upon fluctuations in the cost of living revealed by the Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics 1
– The Government will bo only too pleased to give the matter consideration.
– The conferences that are convened to voice objections against the incidence of federal land tax are held only on the main routes between capital cities. Will the Treasurer make provision for such conferences to be held in other important centres?
– I shall have the matter investigated to see whether the honorable member’s desire can be given effect.
– According to statements by the Municipal Councils of West Maitland and East Maitland, the Federal Unemployment Council has directed that in the distribution of the Commonwealth grant preference shall be given to individuals in accordance with their domestic responsibilities. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth Government gave any such direction to the Federal Unemployment Council?
– The Commonwealth Government did not prescribe that preference should be given to any section of the community, even to returned soldiers. The grant was made for the relief of unemployment, and the only test of a man’s eligibility to participate was his necessity. Naturally, the Government hopes that those whose need is greatest will receive first consideration, but it imposed no conditions upon the unemployment councils.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that a portion of the moneys granted by the Commonwealth Government to New South Wales municipal councils for unemployment relief has been used to enable people to pay off their rates? Further, is the right honorable gentleman aware that when some unemployed have received a fortnight’s relief work their wages have been garnisheed to meet part of their obligations?
– The statement contained in the first portion of the honorable member’s question is news to me. I shall make inquiries on the subject, although I doubt that grants are used in the way suggested. The second matter is beyond the control of the Commonwealth Government, whose responsibility ends with the granting of the money to enable jobs to be made available.
– Will the Minister for the Interior advise whether any action has been taken to grant assistance to unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory in terms of a promise that was given in this House; if so, what progress has been made?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Some time ago the honorable member suggested that plots of land should be made available to unemployed in the Territory to enable them to grow vegetables. The idea, which was regarded as good, was submitted to the departmental officers concerned. An interim report has been presented by them, which has been returned for further consideration. I hope to be able to announce a decision later.
– Will the Minister for Markets advise what action is being taken to protect wheat-growers against the manufacture and sale of lightweight and inferior cornsacks? It is rumoured that inferior jute is imported in the roll and made up into cornsacks. What action can be taken to prevent those cornsacks being marketed?
– Some time ago this matter was brought before my notice by the honorable member for Echuca and other representatives of the wheatgrowers, and I communicated on the subject with the Customs Department. At present the law contains no provision enabling the Government to prevent the importation of inferior jute in the roll and, once it is imported, the Federal Government has no power to prevent it being manufactured into cornsacks, inferior or otherwise. A little while ago I warned the wheatgrowers that inferior cornsacks were being offered for sale which were probably unsuitable for use for the export of wheat. Action to prevent the sale of those inferior articles can be taken only by the State Government within whose province the bags are made up and sold.
– I have re ceived information regarding the clumping of cotton piece goods from Japan, a practice that affects the preference extended to British manufacturers. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs make inquiries with a view to taking whatever action may be necessary ?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the departmental authorities, and advise the honorable member of the result.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been directed to the statement published in city newspapers to the effect that there is a possibility of the Broadcasting Commission abolishing the broadcasts of race results in the Sydney metropolitan area?
– No such information has been brought to my notice.
– Will the Minister for the Interior consider bringing before the next Premiers Conference the need for introducing uniform State laws governing mining for oil?
– The drawbacks resulting from the absence of uniform oil-mining laws have occupied the attention of the Government for some time. In view of the honorable member’s questions, steps will be taken by the Prime Minister to bring the matter before the next Premiers Conference.
– In view of the vague and disconcerting statements made in the budget speech regarding the wine bounty, will the Minister for Markets make a definite pronouncement regarding its contemplated reduction? If the matter is left indefinite as at present, an attempt may he made to rush quantities of wine out of the country?
– I am at present in touch with the wine-makers’ organization -with a view to determining the best way to apply the reduction, to cause the minimum of dislocation and disturbance in the industry. I do not think that there is any likelihood of quantities of wine being rushed out of the country to take advantage of the old conditions, as the export of wine is carefully controlled by the Wine Export Control Board. Wine can be exported only under licence issued by that authority, whose policy has been to prevent an accumulation of our wines in London.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether a portion of our loans floated in England (either temporary or for a period) was floated on a gold basis of value if so, are we compelled to meet the interest on these loans with gold values, and what is the amount of our loans subject to the above conditions?
– No. All loans floated in England are payable in sterling. The total of the Commonwealth and States public debt outstanding in England is £554,528,000.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whether any action, and, if so, what action, is intended to be taken in respect of certain articles derogatory of the British Empire’, appearing in La Stampa Italiana, a newspaper published in Perth?
– The matter is receiving consideration, and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement thereon at an early date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The whole question of the future of Cockatoo Island Dockyard has for some time been engaging the attention of the Government, and an announcement in regard thereto will be made in due course.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What amount of rent is paid by his department for buildings used by the department in each State of the Commonwealth?
– The following amounts were paid by the Department of the Interior on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department during 1931-32: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it his intention, as reported, to bring under the operation of the Sales Tax Act glass bottles used in the delivery of fresh milk; if so, will he delay such intended action pending full inquiry into the life of such bottles, which has been fixed at seven days?
– There is no intention to alter the incidence of the sales tax on glass bottles used for the delivery of milk. Since the inception of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts, the law has required payment of tax on the sale by a bottle manufacturer, to milk vendors, of bottles for use in delivery of milk, but not to be sold with the milk.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Will he obtain the following information:— 1. In regard to the Postmaster -General’s Department -
Number of officers employed?
Number of officers in receipt of salary of £500 and over, and totalamount paid to such officers?
Number of officers in receipt of £1,000 and over, and total amount paid to such officers? 2. In regard to the Commonwealth Bank -
Number of officers employed?
Number of officers in receipt of salary of £500 and over, and total amount paid to such officers ?
Number of officers in receipt of salary of £1,000 and over, and total amount paid to such officers ?
– - The PostmasterGeneral’s Department arid the Commonwealth Bank are being communicated with, and a reply will be made available as soon as possible.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
The following paper was presented : -
– On the notice-paper three measures which deal with similar matters are set down for second reading. These measures are the South Australia. Grant Bill, the Western Australia Grant Bill, and the Tasmania Grant Bill. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether, on the second-reading debate on the first of these hills, honorable members will be permitted to discuss the provisions of all three.
– The Standing Orders do not provide for debate upon more than one bill at a time; but there are precedents in the procedure of this House for the course which the Prime Minister seeks to follow. In 1910, Mr. Speaker McDonald permitted two bills relating to certain constitutional amendments to be debated simultaneously. The relevant ruling will be found in Hansard. Vol. LVIII, page 4696, in the report of the proceedings of the 18th October, 1910. Mr. Speaker Makin followed that precedent on two “occasions, namely, on the debate on the
Constitutional Alteration Power of Amendment Bill - Hansard, Vol. 123, page 177, and the Sales Tax Amendment Bills, Hansard, Vol. 126, page 4930. Sir Thomas Erskine May, in the tenth edition of his Parliamentary Practice, gives us further guidance where, at page 300, it is stated that - . . when hills, in the charge of the government, dealing with subjects bound together by a common principle, stand in a. series upon the notice-paper, debate on the first, bill may include therein a discussion of the bills of a cognate character.
I, therefore, rule that it is permissible for an honorable member to refer to the Western Australia Grant Bill and the Tasmania Grant Bill during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the South Australia Grant Bill.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
During the last two years the financial assistance of the States by the Commonwealth has assumed special importance because of the increased burden involved on the Commonwealth budget. It is also of great importance to the States concerned, and to those which are not receiving assistance, but are contributing to the help of the others. Until 1929 special grants by the Commonwealth had been limited to the two States with the smallest populations - Western Australia and Tasmania. It. 1923-1924 the payments to those two States combined amounted to approximately £200,000. In 1928-1929 the payments reached £520,000. In “1929-1930 a special grant was made for the first time to South Australia. Since then the total charge on the budget for State grants has increased substantially, as the figures I shall give will indicate. The amounts granted by the Commonwealth in recent years to assist necessitous States have been as follow : -
For 1932-33 the proposed payments amount to £1,830,000. The increase in the last two or three years has been caused by the depression which has resulted in the States concerned having to face extraordinary difficulties. The total charge has now reached such proportions as to be a matter of concern, not only to the States which receive the grants, but also to those upon which the burden really falls. In the last ten years the practice has developed of certain States making almost annual applications to the Commonwealth for financial assistance. In some instances these requests have been referred either to royal commissions or the Public Accounts Committee for inquiry and report. It is unfortunate that, notwithstanding lengthy investigations, these independent bodies have been unable to devise any formula or uniform basis upon which the amount of assistance granted could be calculated with justice to the State concerned, and to all the other States. In each instance the grant recommended appears to have been arrived at in an arbitrary manner. It may be that no such formula or basis can be determined, but the Government does not propose to leave the matter where it is. It feels that some effort should be made to decide upon a more definite and reliable basis for the making of grants to States. The special grants paid to States last year were as follow : -
Each of these States submitted requests to the Commonwealth for greatly increased grants for the current year, the details being a3 follow: South Australia, £2,000,000 a year; Western Australia, £1,000,000 a year for an indefinite period or, alternatively, the right to impose its own customs and excise tariffs; and Tasmania, £440,000 a year, making a total of £3,440,000 for the year. After carefully reviewing the claims the Government proposes that the following grants shall be made this year: - South Australia, £1,000,000, which is the same amount as last year; Western Australia, £500,000, an increase of £200,000; and Tasmania, £330,000, an increase of £S0,000, making a total of £1,88*0,000. Compared with last year these proposals involve an increased ‘ burden on tho budget of £280,000. The bills now before honorable members provide for these proposals. In the case of Tasmania the amount of £80,000 only is provided for in the bill, as £250,000 has already been voted.
As 1 intimated in my budget speech, tlie Government considers that these large grants are justified only because of the special and difficult circumstances now existing. Grants of such magnitude cannot be taken as a basis for permanent or long-term relief. The Government is also of the opinion that it is undesirable that -annual application should be necessary from the States to the Commonwealth for financial assistance of this description, and that some definite plan must be adopted for determining the grants that should be made to States over a period of years. Hitherto the States concerned have been put to the expense and trouble of preparing a case every year. To avoid this, the Government will endeavour during this year to evolve a plan for the making of grants over a period of years.
– Was it not intended that the Premiers plan should make this kind of thing unnecessary?
– The Premiers plan did not attempt to provide for the special difficulties which would have occurred in some States quite apart from the general depression. Grants were being made to two States long before there was any thought of the Premiers plan. For the information of honorable members I shall give some particulars concerning the position of each of the recipient States.
In 1928 South Australia asked for a grant of £750,000 on account of federal disabilities, and a royal commission which in the following year investigated the plan, recommended that a grant of £500,000 a year be made for two years. In December, 1929, Parliament approved of a grant of £1,000,000 spread over three years. In 1930-1931, because of extraordinary budget . difficulties, further special assistance of £850,000 was provided for South Australia by certain other States foregoing their right to grants from the Commonwealth. This meant that the total assistance granted to South Australia in that year amounted to £1,170,000. The other States recognized that South Australia was in the worst position of all, and they agreed to render this additional assistance after the matter had been fully considered in conference. Late in 1930 South Australia made a request to the Commonwealth for a grant of £1,950,000 a year for an indefinite period, but the Public Accounts Committee, which inquired into the matter, recommended that £1,000,000 be granted for 1931-1932 only. This was approved by Parliament on the recommendation of the previous Government. Insubmitting the proposal to Parliament the following statement was made on behalfof the Government: -
In making this recommendation the Government puts forward the view that such assistance should be regarded as of a temporary nature designed to help South Australia towards a readjustment of her financial difficulties.
This year South Australia has asked for £2,000,000; but the Government is proposing that only £1,000,000 shall be granted. The following statement shows the deficits and grants in respectof South Australia in recent years: -
The estimated deficit of £1,215,000 is that which was agreed upon at the’ recent Premiers Conference.
– Is this grant being made on account of federal disabilities?
– No ; the Commonwealth Government has never admitted that the payments to South Australia are in respect of federal disabilities. It has made the grants to assist the State because of the specially difficult circumstances under which it is at present working.
– Does South Australia expect a deficit of £1,215,000 after allowing for a grant of £1,000,000 from the Commonwealth ?
– Yes. No State has done more than South Australia to give full effect to the Premiers plan.
– And what a wonderful result, it has achieved!
– I must insist on honorable members maintaining silence while the Prime Minister is making his secondreading speech in explanation of the three important measures which he is now submitting for the consideration of the House. Every honorable member will have a full opportunity to discuss these measures. Repeated interjections are highly disorderly.
– In regard toWestern Australia I point out that the Commonwealth Parliament in 1926 approved of a grant of £300,000 a year for five years. When this period was nearing expiry in 1930-31 Western Australia asked for a grant of £450,000 a year, but claimed that it was entitled to £1,000,000 a year. It was arranged to continue for 1931-32 the previous grant of £300,000 a year. This year Western Australia has asked for £1,000,000 a year for an indefinite period, or alternatively, the right of tariff autonomy. The Government is proposing a. grant of £500,000 for this year only. Grants and budget results during recent years have been as follow : -
The estimated deficit of £765,000 for this year is the amount agreed upon at the recent Premiers Conference.
Tasmania has been receiving special assistance from the Commonwealth since 1912. The grants and budget results in recent years in that State have been as follow : -
The estimated deficit of £135,000 for this financial year is the amount agreed upon at the recent Premiers Conference.
After careful examination, the Government considers that the grants now proposed, which are not greatly in excess of those recommended by the last Government, are entirely justified. Those States will need this assistance to enable them to carry out the undertakings given by them with regard to the Premiers plan.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That tlie bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. FORDE’ adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means : Consideration resumed from the 1st September (vide page 147), on motion by Mr. Gullett -
That tlie schedule to the Customs Tariff be amended -
Item 113 (Harvesting gloves).
– This item deals with harvesting, driving, housemaids’, and gardening gloves and the duties provided are British, 2s.; intermediate, 2s. Gd.; and general 3s. per dozen pairs; or 25 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent’, ad valorem, whichever rate returns the higher duty. As compared with the 1921-28 tariff the Government’s proposals incorporate fixed rates of 2s., 2s. 6d., and 3s. per dozen pairs as an alternative to the ad valorem rates of 25 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent. The effect of this alteration is increased protection against low-priced gloves. The previous Government’s ad valorem duties of 50 per cent., 60 per cent., and 65 per cent, have been changed to the fixed rates per dozen pairs, or, alternatively, the ad valorem rates that I have already mentioned. The duties obtaining under the previous Government’s tariff are thus* substantially reduced, except in the case: of cheap fabric gloves. The Tariff Board, in recommending the present duties, based its conclusions on the following main grounds : -
The effect of the present proposal is to apply a fixed rate of duty to a very limited range of gloves, principally composed of the kind known as housemaids’ gloves. The fixed rates proposed will tend to equalize imported prices with those of Australian manufacturers. On other kinds of gloves the ad valorem rates will apply, and these rates are the same as those which operated under the 1921-28 tariff.
– The Minister will not contend, I presume, that the manufacturers are quite agreeable to this reduction of the duties.
– No; one could hardly expect that; but in view of the board’s recommendations, the Government is well advised, I think, in submitting the present proposal to the committee. It finds that half-a-dozen companies are concerned about these duties, and from half their capital they are getting a. return of 29 per cent. The other half of their capital has not been invested over a sufficiently long period to enable an estimate of their profit to be formed. I understand that these companies are not wholly engaged in the manufacture of gloves; they also make sporting material, including coats.
– In what year was a profit of 29 per cent, made?
– The report of the board was furnished in the year 1930-31, and, therefore, I presume that it has application to the previous year.
.- This proposal provides another instance, apparently, of the desire of this Government to whittle away the protection given by the last administration. Ministers seem anxious to follow the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but are not so keen about accepting the finding of another statutory authority; I refer to the Public Service Arbitrator.-
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the discussion of the item before the committee.
– Iam entitled, I think, to draw attention to the Government’s inconsistency. In safeguarding the interests of the importers, it is prepared to adopt the suggestions of one statutory authority while ignoring those of another. But I do not intend to pursue that line of argument. If Australia can manufacture enough shirts and pyjamas to meet local requirements, surely it could do the same with regard to gloves. At a time when we must build up production at every opportunity, in order to create employment, there is no justification for smashing down the tariff barrier, and encouraging imports from overseas of these goods which we can readily make in our own country.
– It would assist the committee if the Minister would give an idea of the landed value of the articles concerned. At the present time we are very much in the dark. In some cases the fixed rates seem to have no relation to the optional ad valorem rates. I do not say that that is the case with regard to gloves, but if the Minister could give us some idea of the landed value of imported gloves, we should know what 2s., 2s. 6d., and 3s. per dozen really means on an ad valorem basis.
.- I hope that the Government will immediately abolish the double-barrelled system of imposing customs taxation.
This method has been adopted only in the last four or five years, and its object, it seems to me, is to mislead the committee. [Quorum formed]. It is impossible for honorable members to judge the effect of alternative rates. There should be maximum ad valorem duties, and the Government would be well advised to give consideration to the adoption of a system of single duties.
Question - That item 113 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . 24
Questionso resolved in the affirmative.
Item agreed to.
By omitting the whole sub-item (a) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -
(1) . . .
Dredging and excavating machinery of the shovel, backfiller, skimmer, grab, dragline, or similar types, wholly or partly revolving or self-propelling or wholly or partly revolving and self-propelling - (a.)of a working weight up to and including 45 tons, ad val. - British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 55 per cent.; general, CO per cent.;
of a working weight exceeding 45 tons, but not exceeding 75 tons, ad vals - British, 271/2 per cent:; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.;
of a working weight exceeding 75 tons, ad val. - British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 10 per cent.
.- As compared with the 1921-28 tariff, the present proposal makes the following alterations: - (1) The duty on machines of the navvy type, of a working weight up to 45 tons, has been increased from 271/2 per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, to 45 per cent. British, 55 per cent, intermediate, and 60 per cent, general; (2) the duty on machines of the navvy type, of a working weight exceeding 75 tons, has been reduced from 271/2 per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, to free British, 5 per cent, intermediate, and 10 per cent, general.
As compared with the previous Government’s final proposals, the present proposal alters the duty only on those machines exceeding 75 tons by reducing the rates from 271/2 per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, to free British, 5 per cent, intermediate,and 10 per cent, general. The previous Government had, however, subscribed to a similar reduction in its proposals of the 26th March, 1931, but on the 6th August, 1931, an amendment was introduced making such machines dutiable at 271/2 per cent. British and 40 per cent, general. This amendment was made owing to the possibility of the then wording of the item allowing an evasion of the higher rates by the substitution of a larger sized bucket on the smaller machines. At that stage the machines were dutiable according to the cubic yard capacity of the buckets attached to the machines.
The Tariff Board has submitted two reports on these goods, one dated the 30th June, 1930, and the other the 31st March, 1932, and the present proposals are substantially in agreement with the Tariff Board’s recommendations. The board recommended that, in respect of dredging and excavating machinery other than of the navvy type, the rates of duty be increased from 271/2 per cent. British and 40 per cent, general, to 45 per cent. British and 60 per cent, general tariff. The Government has not adopted this portion of the recommendation, as only £600 worth of these goods were imported during 1930-31. From an administrative point of view great difficulties would also arise in attempting to distinguish between earth- and rock cutting machinery on the one hand, and dredging and excavating machinery on the other.
As regards the necessity for the increased duty on the smaller machines of the navvy type, and the reduced duties on the larger types, the board, in its report, gives the following reasons : -
As regards the smaller machines:
With respect to the larger sized machines of the navvy type exceeding a working weight of 75 tons, the board states -
The item as now worded will prevent the evasion of duty by the importation of machines fitted with larger buckets than the machines can effectively work, and, generally speaking, the rates should ensure the adequate protection of this branch of the engineering industry.
– Will the Minister agree to our taking the item in two parts? The first part involves an increase, while the second proposes a reduction.
– I am prepared to accept that suggestion. Good reasons have been advanced why the increased duties should be imposed. The goods can be manufactured satisfactorily in Australia. In the case of the heavier machinery it is pointed out that the demand is so small that it is not worth while interfering with the present method of supply, especially as increased charges would hamper developmental work.
Paragraph 1 agreed to.
– I understand that in paragraph 2 provision is made for a substantial increase of duty on certain classes of excavating machinery. Therefore, I donot feel that I can support it. The proposed duty is very substantial, and, taken together with primage, exchange, freight, insurance, &c, will make the cost of these articles almost prohibitive. The freight on heavy machinery is a considerable item, and on dredges and similar machinery of a working weight up to, and including, 45 tons, the proposed duty is 45 per cent. British, which with primage duty gives a total protection of 60 per cent, on f.o.b. price, and 85 per cent, when exchange is added. That is withoutcounting freight and marine insurance.
– But that class of machines is not being imported.
– Nevertheless, the price of locally manufactured machines is largely determined by the cost at which the imported machines could be landed in Australia. This duty will prove to be a tremendous impost for an undeveloped country to bear. I move -
That the paragraph be amended by adding the following to sub-paragraph (a) : - “And on and after the 3rd September, 1932-‘
Of a working weight up to and including 45 tons, ad val., British, 271/2 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent. ; general, 40 per cent.”.
– I support the proposal of the Government. It seems strange that the representatives of the Country party are not satisfied with any tariff proposal put before them. In the past they have implored the Government to stand by the recommendations of the Tariff Board. In this instance the Government is acting upon the recommendation of the board; it is admitted that no harm can be done by the increased duties, and yet the Country party is not satisfied. The evidence submitted to the board was sufficient to convince this Government - which cannot be regarded as a high protectionist Government - that these machines are being satisfactorily manufactured in Australia. The only danger that the board feared was that if it increased the duty on the extra large machinery, or allowed the present duty to stand, developmental work would be hampered. The Government has acted wisely in accepting the suggestion of the board, and I consider that the Country party is taking an extraordinary objection to this item.
– It is incumbent upon the Government to make out a case for this increase of duty. The Minister, in his previous statement,’ said a great deal about the third sub-item, which provides a duty of free, British; 5 per cent., intermediate; and 10 per cent., general. That sub-item has yet to be discussed. The object of the Tariff Board was to recommend a duty that would adequately protect the Australian industry in normal times, and, in view of the added protection of primage duty and exchange, I see no reason at present for the proposed increase of duty. The machines covered by this item are essentially for use in the work of making roads and railways and general improvements. If there ever was a time in the history of Australia when it was necessary for improvements to be made at low cost, it is to-day. We are oppressed with an enormous burden of debt which is nonproductive. The railways in every State show huge losses, and cannot even meet the interest bill; yet, on top of that, the Government is proposing to. increase the duty and thereby increase the price of machinery which is urgently needed in Australia, I feel that the Government is making a big mistake, and if it presses this item I shall vote against it.
. j - From the Minister’s remarks it appears that the Government has endeavoured to separate the classes of machinery covered by this item. It proposes a reduction of the duty on large types of machinery which are not made in Australia, and an increase of duty on machinery which can be manufactured here. Apparently, the local industry, which has been established for some years, has satisfied the Tariff Board of its economic value to the country, and the Government is prepared to extend to it at least the protection necessary to enable it to carry on. The honorable’ member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), in opposing this item, referred to the increased protection afforded to the industry because of the primage duty and exchange. It is strange that he should object to a manufacturing industry receiving the additional protection of exchange while at the same time his party is advocating an increase in the exchange to benefit primary industries. He takes a lop-sided view. It appears to me that we have reached a stage in the discussion of matters of importance to this country where each individual member is fighting for his own ends, totally disregarding the interests of any section of the community other than the one he represents. I am prepared to support the Government in its endeavour to give additional protection to the industry concerned.
.- Any one ‘can rest assured that duties which are increased by the present Government are more than justified. The Tariff Board is evidently taking its lead from the Government. It was appointed by the Bruce-Page Government. Since the present Government has taken office one member has been displaced, probably because his views did not coincide with those of the Government, and another member appointed. As the Tariff Board, after careful consideration, has recommended these duties, I am amazed that the Country party has seen fit to cavil at them. The Tariff Board’s report reads -
As tlie result of the additional evidence tendered at the further inquiry held, the board is satisfied that Australian manufacturers are in a position to manufacture machines of the larger capacities in types other than the “ navvy “ type, and that the extension to those machines of the increased duties previously recommended in respect of machines up to and including li cubic yards capacity is justified As regards the “ navvy “ type machines of the greater capacities, it is considered these Should be admitted at tlie lower rates.
Regarding the substitution of the working weight of machines for the bucket capacity, the board is satisfied that such a course is desirable in order to remove the possibility of the intention of the duties being defeated by the importation of machines fitted with buckets of such a capacity as would entitle them to entry at the lower rates of duty, and the replacing of such buckets, after importation by smaller buckets.
It will be seen that the suggestion is that 45 tons shall be substituted for 1£ cubic yards, and 75 tons for 2 cubic yards Evidence would appear to indicate that 45 tons is a fair average working weight for machines of the “ navvy “ type with a normal bucket capacity of li cubic yards, and that 75 tons might reasonably be substituted for 2 cubic yards. The board makes this definite recommendation -
As thu result of the evidence made available at the original inquiry, and at that subsequently held, the hoard considers that the local industry should hu adequately protected by the provision in the customs tariff of an item as under, which item is accordingly recommended for adoption.
The recommendation of the board has been embodied in this schedule. Compared with the financial proposals of the last government, this proposal alters the duty only on machines exceeding 75 tons by reducing the rate from 27-J per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, to free, 5 per cent, and 10 per cent, respectively. The previous government had, however, subscribed to a similar reduction in its tariff proposals of the 26th March, 1931; but on the 6th August, 1931, an amendment was introduced making such machines dutiable at 27£ per cent. British, and 40 per cent, general. That amendment was necessary because- of the possibility of the then wording of the item permitting an evasion of the higher duties as described by the Tariff Board in its report. No one can say that the board has a leaning to Australian manufacturers. It was specially selected by the Bruce-Page Government, and was said to be representative of the various interests of Aus.traliathe freetraders, the farming community, the commercial interests, and the Australian manufacturers. It is extremely difficult for a body of gentlemen holding such diverse fiscal views to come to a unanimous decision, but notwithstanding that, they have all subscribed to this recommendation which has now been adopted by the Government. Only an ardent freetrader would object to it.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), suggests that because I object to this duty I must be an ardent freetrader. At the time of the Bruce-Page Government, the duty on this item was 271/2 per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general. There was then no primage duty or exchange tax on the importer. ‘ I understand that when the duty was 271/2 per cent. British, and 40 per cent, general, this industry started in Australia. If that protection, without primage duty and exchange, were adequate to enable this industry to carry on, surely the added protection of primage and exchange, in addition to the advantage of lower wages, should be more than adequate to-day. Had the Minister brought down a proposal for a duty of 271/2 per cent. British and 40 per cent, general, I should have supported it despite the additional protection of primage and exchange. But this proposal - 45 per cent. British and 60 per cent, general - involves a substantial increase of duty. I have already pointed out that that rate, together with primage duty and exchange, represents a protection of 85 per cent. British, which is increased to over 100 per cent, if we add the natural protection of ocean freight and landing charges, which are heavy on this class of machinery. Yet when I contended that this protection was unreasonably high, the honorable member for Capricornia suggested that I wasa rabid freetrader. I leave it to the committee to decide whether the objection I have raised to this increase of duty is reasonable.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has based his argument almost entirely on the fact that, in addition to the old duties, the local manufacturer has the protection of exchange and primage. I admit that the honorable member’s argument is legitimate in. respect of primage, but I question whether it is in respect of exchange. Assuming that the exchange rate does represent the real rate of exchange - and that might be argued - it must be represented largely by the difference between the cost prices in the various centres with which we are competing. It is quite erroneous to suggest that an exchange rate of 25 per cent, represents so much protection to Australian industry. I admit that the primage duty of 10 per cent, is an added protection, but that duty may be removed at any moment. That view was apparently taken by the Tariff Board. Previously these duties were imposed upon the whole of these classes of machinery. It was then discovered that the manufacturers in Australia were not making the larger machines, and the Government that I led did propose, in respect . of those machines, to make a reduction of duty such as is now proposed. But we further discovered that there was grave danger of advantage being taken of them by the attachment of large buckets which are subject to a low rate of duty, to the smaller dredges which are subject to a higher rate of duty. The difficulty, I understand, has been overcome by an alteration of the wording of the item, and now the rate applies not to the capacity of the bucket but to the weight of the machinery. I am prepared to support the Government’s proposal. The manufacture of this machinery of the smaller size has been proceeding for over five years, and the industry has become efficient.
– The industry started when the duty was 271/2 per cent., without the protection of the primage duty.
– The duty that was to some extent effective in 1927 became ineffective in subsequent years. The world crisis was responsible for that. In recent years there has been a general collapse in trade, and certain countries have been prepared to sell their goods to any other country at cost of production, in some cases at lower than cost of production. Because our tariff was not altered to meet the changed world conditions, wholesale dumping took place. It is true that we have anti-dumping legislation on the statute-book, but dumping is most difficult to prove, and because of the economic depression, manufacturers abroad, in order to keep their industries going, were) landing their wares in Australia almost at the cost of production, to the detriment of local industries. Hence duties which formerly were considered adequate had to be increased. The manufacture of dredging machinery has been established on a sound basis, is utilizing local labour and raw materials, and is being conducted efficiently. Surely the protagonists of low duties should be satisfied at the blow which, has already been struck at Australian industries through other items in this tariff.
.- No greater blow was ever struck at Australian industries than through the unsound tariff proposals of the Scullin Government. The advocates of high duties do not care what harm is done to the community generally so long as they can secure advantages for a few people in sheltered industries. No regard is paid to those who produce the real wealth of the nation. Unfortunately the greatest thieves in Australia are those who are producing the raw materials from which these machines are made. When the cost of raw material is exorbitant, manufacturers cannot compete economically with other countries. On almost every item of plant or raw material required by manufacturers unreasonable charges are imposed through the stupid fiscal legislation of this Parliament. Under fair conditions heavy machinery could be built in Australia in competition with any other country. Canada, although paying higher wages than are paid in Australia, ranks fifth amongst the nations as an. exporter of secondary products. Australia has richer deposits of iron ore, and the iron and steel works have abundant supplies of cheap coal at their very doors. But for the political coddling of a great industrial cormorant, manufacturers using iron and steel as their raw material would be able to compete with their rivals in other countries and still pay wages as high as those paid in corresponding industries in the United States of America and Canada. These enormous duties, in addition to primage and sales tax, are not fair to those who are producing the real wealth of the country. Having regard to the fact that apart from other charges the freight on heavy machinery is in itself a further protection to local industries, there is no justification for imposing a rate of 45 per cent, against British manufacturers. The Government should recognize that the cost of iron and steel and the other raw materials of manufacture must be reduced if our factories are to produce economically.
– Most of the opposition to this item comes from members of the Country party. The budget speech delivered yesterday shows that Mie Government is not unmindful of the welfare of those engaged in primary production, and ‘their interests are dear to my heart as a representative of a country electorate. This dredging and excavating machinery has twice been submitted to the Tariff Board for report, and the recommendation upon which the Government has acted is fair to all concerned. Whilst the consumers are entitled to consideration, we cannot disregard those who have invested capital and labour in the secondary industries. The Tariff Board has declared that this machinery is being manufactured on an economic basis, and that the foundries are well equipped and efficiently managed. If the machinery were imported free of duty the users would not get it Id. cheaper.
– How many dredges and excavators were imported last year?
– The Tariff Board has explained that unless local manufacturers are given adequate protection they cannot keep on hand stocks of spare parts; the result is that the customer may have to wait a considerable time. With the extra protection these establishments will be able to produce the machines at a reasonable price and maintain an adequate stock of spare parts. The Government believes in reasonable protection of industry. There is clamour both for higher and for lower duties, but the Government is adopting an intermediate course based on the report of the Tariff Board.
– In regard to the Minister’s statement that in the absence of higher duties, manufacturers will not be able to keep stocks on hand, surely a person proposing to import a machine will have to wait longer for delivery than if he places an order locally. The Bruce-Page Ministry gave to this industry duties of 271/2 per cent.’, 35 per cent, and 40 per cent. Despite the depression and although the exchange was much lower than it is now, the industry was able to carry on and become efficient. I am astonished at the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that exchange should not be taken into account as a protective factor. The right honorable gentleman stated that exchange is more or less a reflex of the difference between costs in one country and another. Surely tariff protection is given in the first instance only because of such differences in costs. The Tariff Board has recommended certain rates of duty as necessary when the exchange rate is normal. To-day exchange is at the abnormal rate of 251/2 per cent.
– The abnormal rate of exchange expresses the abnormal conditions and makes greater the disparity between production costs in different countries.
– The Tariff Board has not suggested that- the increased duty should be in addition to the protection represented by the high exchange rate: If the Assistant Minister will not agree to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), I hope that he will at least agree that the increase shall operate only when the exchange falls.
– That would not be sound.
– The high exchange rate is of great advantage to the primary producer.
– What is the net benefit to the primary producer? Power shovels are used in the superphosphate works at Geelong. The high duties on such machinery increase the price of manures and raise the cost of production. If the Ministry is wedded to the duty it has proposed, although I see no justification for it, the increase should be subject to the fluctuations of the exchange.
.- Whilst we may be guided to some extent by the report of the Tariff Board, we have to consider it in relation to existing conditions. Since the report was made, the overhead costs of every factory have been lowered through the reduction of the interest rate. In addition wages have fallen. Having regard to these facts, the Government is not justified in increasing the protection, although the industry may be efficient and manufacturing on a commercial basis. Therefore I support the amendment.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Paterson’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority .. ..20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Paragraph agreed to.
Item agreed to.
By omitting the whole item and inserting in its stead the following item: - “172. (a) Mangles and clothes washing machines for household use, ad val. - British, 12½ per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
Clothes wringers for household use, ad val. - British, 40 per cent.; intermediate, 45 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.”
– These articles were not included in- the Scullin Government’s schedule. The importations amount to about £16,000 worth a year, principally from the United States of America. It is considered that there are sufficientfactories in Australia to supply our requirements, particularly in view of the recent development of the manufacture of metal wringers locally, at no increased cost. The reasons actuating the Tariff Board in recommending the increased rates of duty on these goods were that the materials used in the manufacture of household wringers are mostly of Australian origin, that the local factories are equipped with modern plant sufficient to manufacture the whole of the Australian requirements, and that the quality of the Australian wringer is quite satisfactory. The board points out that with increased trade and lower distributing costs, the Australian manufacturer should be able to reduce prices substantially. That aspect will be kept under review, and if it should appear that the manufacturers are exploiting the situation, remedial measures will be immediately applied.
.- When I was Minister for Customs a request was made to me that the duties now proposed should be imposed, but I was not satisfied as to the merit of the claim. The matter was referred to the Tariff Board on the 29th May, 1930, and that body submitted its report on the 21st October, 1931. The board considered the subject thoroughly, taking evidence in Sydney and Melbourne, and it recommended that the duties on clothes wringers for household purposes be increased from 12i per cent, and 25 per cent, to 40 and 50 per cent. Admittedly the industry is a small one, hut the
Tariff Board carefully examined the matter and its report deserves consideration by honorable members. At page 4 it states -
It is estimated that the requirements of wringers in Australia have in the past been about 500 per week. . . . The firm (which is manufacturing these articles) is at present negotiating, with a large British concern for the introduction of fresh capital into the business.
Three firms supported the request, John McGain of Sydney, William Yarwood Cashmore of Victoria, and’ Nicholls and Company of Victoria. At page 5 the report states -
In 1915, Mr. J. McGain, of Marrickville, New South Wales, commenced manufacturing wringers, and during the war, when supplies of overseas wringers were difficult to obtain, he was supplying nearly the whole requirements of New South Wales. On the resumption of normal trading with overseas countries after the war, the business dwindled and in the last three years he has been manufacturing at the rate of only two machines per week. Nicholls and Company, of Hawthorn, Victoria, have made several attempts since 1925 to manufacture wringers in Australia, but have been unable to do so at costs which would enable them to compete with importations admitted at the comparatively low rates of duty in operation.
On the last page it reads -
As to the cheaper wringers, Mr. McGain assured the board that lie would be in a position to execute all orders without delay. The two manufacturers concerned are, in the opinion of the board, quite’ capable between them of supplying wringers to meet Australian requirements as to quantity, quality, and types.
The board confidently anticipates that as the output of the firm increases as the result of the duties now being recommended, they should, by lessening costs of production, be able to reduce their price appreciably. The board understands that the firm is so arranging distribution of its machines as to reduce distributing costs to a minimum. A similar position should also result in the case of the cheaper wringers manufactured by Mr. McGain.
The board then definitely recommended the duties that have been adopted by the Government. These clothes wringers can be manufactured satisfactorily in Australia, although I admit that at present there are sufficient human clothes wringers out of work to do the job manually. I hope that the committee will accept the duties which I support.
.- I am glad to support reasonable duties in respect of any industry which is really valuable to the Commonwealth, and which will create employment ; but the previous speaker, with his usual enthusiasm, makes no qualifications of that kind. I cannot see any justification for the imposition of increased duties on wringers. The statement of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) was not satisfactory to me, and the Tariff Board’s report provides us with quite inadequate information. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that evidence in support of the request for increased duties on wringers was given by three representative witnesses ; but the report of the Tariff Board shows that one of the witnesses was an agent for the Victorian firm which applied for the duties. It states that two enterprises have attempted the manufacture of household clothes-wringers in Australia, and goes on to say that -
The output has been small, and as both manufacturers are also engaged in producing other goods, it is not possible to form an estimate of the capital invested in the industry.
The board also reports that -
Production during the past three years has been at the rate of two machines per week.
The board estimates that the statistical value of wringers alone has averaged about £16,000 per annum during the last four years, and notwithstanding an earlier statement, it says that the capital employed in the industry is £2,000.
– The board estimated that in three or four months one firm would be producing wringers at the rate of 200 per week.
– The capital employed in the industry is less than that represented on one small farm.
– I shall not discuss that aspect of the subject other than to say that there is just as much inefficiency in farming as in manufacturing. One of the strongest arguments advanced by the board in support of this industry was that the Melbourne firm which applied for increased duties was negotiating with a British firm for the introduction of fresh capital into the business. Can the Minister, or any other honorable mem ber, inform me whether these negotiations were successful ? We are told that one wringer was produced and shown to the Tariff Board, which declared that it was a good job. I do not know any of the persons engaged in this- business either in New South Wales or Victoria, but I say, without hesitation, that it would be ridiculous to impose a duty of 40 per cent, against British importations. It must be remembered that our present importations come largely from Scotland, not America. The New South Wales firm interested in this proposal is manufacturing two wringers a week on the average. Surely no more is to be said on the folly of this proposal.
The imposition of this duty is not likely to create any additional work. ‘ It will only make wringers dearer for the people. The many waterside workers, carriers, clerks, and other men in the Melbourne ports who lost their employment because shipping practically ceased with the cutting off of imports into Australia, are not likely to be helped by these duties. The clerk who suffers silently is largely dependent upon commercial houses for his employment. Such sustenance as the labourers receive is often not available to him. I hope, therefore, that we shall not do anything. that will still further reduce his prospects of obtaining employment. It is proposed that an ad’ valorem duty of 40 per cent.
British shall be imposed on wringers. That is equivalent to 45 per cent. The primage duty of 10 percent. works out at 11 per cent.,exchange at 25 per cent., and other charges at approximately 10 per cent. Even allowing that the exchange duty may vary - we know that the Country party desires to have it increased, though I am not favorable to that course - it is apparent that, the effective duty on wringers under existing conditions is ‘over 90 per cent. We surely cannot agree to a continuation of that state of affairs. As the Tariff Board appears to have been somewhat misinformed on this subject, the matter should be referred back to it for further consideration. We should certainly know whether the firm seeking additional capital from overseas was successful, in its efforts.
– I move - –
That the item be amended by adding the following t» sub-item (b) : -
And oil and after 3rd September, .1932 -
No reason has been advanced for an increase in the duties on wringers. The imposition of such duties tends to bring Parliament into ridicule, and the Tariff Board into contempt. The time has arrived when the board should be asked to examine, not merely whether an industry can be established in Australia, but whether it can be established on a sound commercial basis. One of the best features of the report from the Ottawa Conference was the statement that in future the Government will request the Tariff Board, when considering the imposition of duties, to investigate not merely whether they can be established here, but whether they can be established on an economic basis. The wringer manufacturing industry is merely a back yard concern. If the most sanguine expectations of those interested in it are realized it cannot give employment to more than 20 or 25 mon throughout the Commonwealth. The imposition of the higher duties had the immediate effect of increasing the price of wringers by about 20s. Previously they wore selling at something under 30s. As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has shown. the concerns engaged in this industry cannot possibly provide enough locally manufactured wringers to meet our requirements. Recommendations of the Tariff Board, such as that which is now under consideration, tend to throw doubt upon the advisableness of adopting other proposals by the board. We know very well that the best wringers manufactured in the world are the “Acme” type, produced in Glasgow. The company engaged in the manufacture of them supplies the requirements, not only of Great Britain, but of many other countries throughout the world. It sent its representatives to Australia to investigate the possibility of establishing the industry here on a commercial basis, but their report was to the effect that it would be necessary to make 1,000 wringers a day, and to invest capital to the extent of £50,000 to make the business successful. The Australian capacity to purchase wringers is only 10,000 a year, so that if the company had established its works here on a commercial basis, it would have produced all the local requirements in ten days. These facts cannot be_ disputed. Yet because one company is making two or three wringers a week, and another company produced one for inspection by the Tariff Board, and intimated that if it obtained fresh capital it could produce 200 a week, we are asked to impose this prohibitive duty. Under the most favorable conditions this industry cannot possibly be established on a satisfactory footing in Australia. A good deal of the material required would have to be imported, such as springs of a particular kind, and rubber also of a special grade. Even the Tariff Board did not anticipate that these duties would be imposed while the exchange position remained as at present, for it states towards the conclusion of its report that it recognized that -
The proposed selling price of 38s. is higher than the cost at which the competitive imported wringer (“Acme model 50”) can be similarly delivered under .the existing duty of 121 per cent. British preferential tariff, and with normal rate of exchange, and that this being so, the proposed price will represent an added cost to users under normal conditions.
The final part of the report also states that -
The board is of opinion that the industry under consideration is worthy of encouragement, and that the provision in the. customs tariff of duties which will give adequate protection under normal conditions and also when exchange reverts to normal is justified. Such protection would, it is considered by the board, be afforded by the imposition of the flat rate of duty, namely - ad valorem, 40 per cent. British, 45 per cent, intermediate, 50 per cent, general.
The duties now proposed by the Government are therefore not justified by the board under existing conditions. I trust that the Government will not allow the tariff schedule of Australia to retain ridiculous items of this description.
– I support the amendment. I was beginning to form an excellent opinion of the fiscal policy of the Government, but its action in connexion with wringers certainly does not support this improved view. There is no justification whatever for giving extreme protection to this industry. We have been told on good authority that we have tried to establish too many industries in Australia, and that this has been detrimental to the people. The bolstering up of wringer manufacturing will undoubtedly increase the cost of living. When the Government refers a matter to the Tariff Board, it should request it to investigate the economic effect of the setting up of the industry concerned. The purchasing power of the people should also be considered. In my opinion, the Tariff Board should be required to take evidence in country districts. In some respects, our farmers are like Bunyan’s man with the muck rake, for they are obliged to -concentrate their attention on the job they have in hand at the moment. If the Tariff Board were to take evidence in districts like Horsham, in the Wimmera, and Kellerberrin in Western Australia, it would learn something of the capacity of the purchasing power of the people, and it would not bolster up city interests as it has been doing.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Government should cause the Tariff Board to extend the scope of its inquiries. Consideration should be given to the effect of its findings upon all industries and upon the people generally. Evidently the board has been dealing with individual items, without regard to the changed financial circumstances of the people,* whose purchasing powers have been seriously reduced. If the proposed duties are insisted on, the cost of living will be further increased, and a useful labour-saving device placed beyond the reach of a large section of the community. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.
– I support the amendment for several reasons. One of the first things we should do in dealing with any proposal for a tariff increase is to weigh its effect. Will it be an asset to the people, or will it place a burden upon them? It seems to me that the independent evidence, and also that which the Tariff Board itself submits, indicates that these duties will place a burden on the people by increasing the price of a household commodity which is a necessity in every home. One of the matters which the Government should keep constantly in view is the fact that the cost -of living should be reduced whereever possible, and the placing of a duty on wringers that would add considerably to their cost would constitute a departure from that principle. We must also consider whether the employment which would be provided in the industry would justify the proposed extra burden on the people. Here again, the evidence is against the Government’s proposal. This item may be regarded from freetrade, protection, and prohibition points of view. The tariff suggested by the Government is one that would prohibit the importation of wringers, seeing that with primage and exchange the protection would be equivalent to 81 per cent.. Under this proposal, the cost of the article will be increased from 39s. 6d. to 57s. This fact should convince us that the time is not yet ripe for the establishment of the industry in Australia. The total Australian demand for wringers is so small that their manufacture cannot be carried on here upon an economic, mass production basis. Therefore, we should be satisfied with a protective, rather than a prohibitive, tariff.
.- I support the Government’s proposal. The Tariff Board, after hearing evidence on the matter, decided that a certain protective duty was necessary to enable the industry to carry on its operations, and business was reorganized in view of that finding. If the amendment were agreed to,, it would result in the closing down of the industry, and the staff would be thrown out of employment at a time when every effort should be made to keep men at work. The recommendation of the board is decisive and clear, and the Government is merely acting upon it.
Question - That the amendment (Dr. Earle Page’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman- Ma. Bell.)
Majority . . . ‘. 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendmentnegati ved .
Item agreed to.
Item 176 (Machines and machinery n.e.i.).
.- The Tariff Board has recently inquired into the duties on. machines and machinery, n.e.i., and in order that its report may be considered by the committee before this matter is dealt with, I suggest that the item be postponed.
I tem postponed.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (a) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : - “ (a) Electric heating and cooking appli ances -
Radiators and toasters, each -
British, 4s.;. intermediate, 5s.; general, (is.; or ad val. - British. 271/2 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent, (whichever rate returns the higher duty).
– These articles come chiefly from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States of America; but the number imported has declined steadily during the last two years. In 1928-29. the total value of imports was £104,605. In the following year this had increased to £111,035, but in 1930-31 the value fell to £26,678. Importation was prohibited from the 4th April, 1930, to . the 25th February, 1932. In the present item fixed rates of duty have been incorporated in paragraphs 2, 3, and 4, and in paragraph 1 the ad valorem rates have been increased by 5 per cent, in all columns. The ad valorem rates have not been increased, apart from the exception which I have mentioned. The importation of these goods was prohibited by the proclamation issued on the 4th April, 1930, and for that reason no action was taken by the late Ministry to increase the duties.
The rates incorporated in the item now under discussion were recommended by the Tariff Board. The board, in recommending certain fixed rates of duty, worked on the principle that the price of inferior quality electric heating and cooking appliances, which could be landed at lower costs than the Australian manufacturers’ selling price of better quality goods, should be brought into a closer approximation of the price of the Australian article. For this reason, the board, in certain cases, recommended the imposition of fixed rates of duty. These rates are in no sense prohibitory as regards imported goods of reasonable quality. A very substantial market exists in Australia for these electrical goods, and many overseas manufacturers have entered into arrangements with Australian manufacturers for the manufacture of their lines in Australia.
In regard to stoves, ranges, and the like, including elements therefor, the board, after reviewing costs of production, the use of Australian raw materials, and the amount of wages paid in the production of these goods, considered that a 5 per cent, increase was justified. This increase will enable local manufacturers to charge a uniform c.i.f. price to the various States. Previously, although a manufacturer could compete with the imported article in the State in which manufacture was undertaken, he could not compete against the imported Hues in other States. There are at least seven manufacturers of these goods in Australia, and internal competition is a factor which may be relied upon to keep prices at a reasonable level.
The board did not favour the imposition of fixed rates of duty ou elements for stoves, and the Government agrees with this finding. The whole success or otherwise of an electric stove is dependent upon the element, and manufacturers should be allowed to have the choice of paying a reasonable ad valorem duty, instead of a prohibitive fixed rate, on such elements as they consider necessary to bt- imported. The enclosed type of element is not manufactured here, and is at present being admitted under by-law. The “ n.e.i.” rates are the same as those which operated under the 1921-28 tariff.
.- I object to these double-barrelled duties. An ad valorem duty is, in mo3t instances, sufficient, and there should be no need for the imposition of a fixed rate as well. It is very difficult for honorable members to determine just what a fixed duty means in terms ad valorem. Generally, the effect of the fixed duty is to protect Australian industries. The object of imposing duties, we have been given to understand, is to protect Australian industries. In the past we have exceeded by a great deal what should be a reasonable rate of duty, and this has been generally brought about by the imposition of fixed duties. In order to test the feeling of the committee on this matter, I move -
That the item bo amended by adding the following to paragraph (2) : - “ And on and after the Srd September, 1932-
Radiators and toasters, ad val. - British, 274 per cent.;, intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent. “
.- The Assistant Minister (Mr. Perkins) ought to furnish honorable members with better reasons for this proposed increase in duty. He has informed us that, during recent years, the importation of electrical appliances of this nature has fallen continuously, until, at the present time, the quantity imported is negligible. In spite of this, however, the Government proposes to increase the duty. Even- if there were some sound reason for im posing the ad valorem duty suggested,, why should there be a fixed duty as well? Is it imposed in order to prevent, these goods from ever becoming cheaper in Australia? In otherparts of the world, because of the depression, electrical appliances havebecome cheaper, with the result that, in regard to them, at any rate, the enormous gap between the price of primary and manufactured goods has been reduced. In Australia, during the last three years, while farm produce prices have fallen, according to the index figures, from 180 in 1929 to 117 to-day, the prices of industrial goods have actually gone up, until they are over 200 on the same scale of comparison. In a subsequent item, the fixed rate of duty works out at about 300 per cent. The Minister should tell us the actual price of the articles subject to a fixed duty, sothat we may judge for ourselves what percentages the duty represents, and whether it bears any relation whatever to the ad valorem duty. I intend te* oppose this item until the Minister furnishes additional information.
.- I understood the Minister to say that the Tariff Board had recommended increased dutiesbecause it was necessary to protect local industry, having regard to the wages, cost of raw materials, particularly iron, and other charges associated with manufacture in this country. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether the Tariff Board’s report was made before or since the recent reduction of wages in New South “Wales. That reduction has already had the effect ‘of reducing the price of coal, and should, in due course, bring down the cost of iron. If the board’s recommendation were made on the basis of wage rates existing before the reduction, it should now be subject to review.
-The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has made a good point in regard to the recent reduction of wages, but I remind him that it applies to every article listed in the schedule before us. It would not be right to pick out” one item, and readjust the duty on it in accordance with the reduction of wages, when other items have been passed without any such consideration being given to them. There is a possibility that, when my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), returns, and the Ottawa decisions are under review, action may be taken to meet the point raised by the honorable member for Perth.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has taken exception to the imposition of fixed rates of duty. 1 remind him that there is nothing new in this principle. It has been in operation for years, and while it is double-headed in a sense, it has the advantage that it really does protect, which the ad valorem duties alone are not always successful in doing. Moreover, electrical goods of the kind covered in this item are sometimes dangerous to users if the quality is not of the highest. The Tariff Board fears that, unless the import duty is kept at a fairly high level, inferior articles may be imported, to the danger of the Australian public. The increased duty provided for is only 5 per cent. It is true that importations have declined during recent years, but it must be remembered that, for part of that time, there was an actual prohibition.
– What has been the result since the prohibition was lifted?
– While the prohibition was in force, manufacturers were induced to begin operations in this country, with the result that we are now producing articles, not only as good as, but better than those which were formerly imported.
– I agree with the Assistant Minister (Mr. Perkins) that steps should be taken to prevent the importation into this country of cheap low-grade electrical goods, which are a positive menace to the user. The appliances covered in this item are chiefly of a domestic nature, of a kind usually operated by women in the home. Such users, as a rule, have little or no technical knowledge of electrical appliances, and we should do what we can to protect them. From time to time we read of women being electrocuted through handling faulty electrical goods. Therefore, anything that the Government can do to ensure the absolute reliability and safety of such goods should receive the support of every honorable member of this committee.
The second point relating to the quality of goods produced in Australia can also be fully substantiated. For instance, in the Newcastle district the Australian General Electric Company has established a modern plant for the manufacture of many items included in the schedule. It has consistently lowered the price of its- products. The electric iron that it manufactures at its Newcastle works is superior to that which was formerly imported. We should give every encouragement to these industries. Every year a large number of lads leave school, and many of them are inclined to engage in electrical work, a class of employment which is popular. If we do not encourage these industries, we shall be preventing these lads from obtaining work which is congenial and interesting, and has a tendency to develop their faculties. Australia was the first country to develop on proper lines the heating of water by direct contact with electric elements. Honorable members who have installed in their houses the Dux bath heater, or an electric jug, are benefiting because of the discovery by Australian electricians, and I therefore hope that they will give every encouragement to this industry.
.- 1 wish to say a word or two regarding electrical implements on which a flat rate of duty of 8s. has been imposed. Before the new duty was imposed, the imported iron-clad fuse cost 2s. 2d., which included a duty of 7d. I arn not in favour of these double-barrelled duties, and I cannot understand why the Minister should think that we should take no notice of any decrease in wages and in the price of coal.
– I do take notice of the decrease in wages, but not in respect of one particular item alone.
– In Tasmania, Sir George Julius, some years ago, when pointing out the necessity for importing electrical machinery so as to build up our industries, said that it would pay us to pension off every electrical engineer in Australia. At the present time that statement may seem far-reaching. This item may represent an increase of duty of from 200 per cent, to 300 per cent. There is no evidence to the contrary. In one instance the duty on pipe fittings. was increased to 300 per cent. The Government should provide for an ad valorem, duty instead of levying double duties of this kind.
– This industry should be Adequately protected because it shows immense possibilities. The use of electricity is absolutely unlimited. We should not prevent the natural expansion of an industry such as this, which may react to the benefit of Australia generally.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). There is no doubt that this item, like many other items, tends to increase costs and to place this country in an insular position. One of the greatest of our Australians, who is now deceased, when in charge of the Victorian Yallourn scheme, said that had it not been for the protective policy of Australia, and the enormous duties on electrical equipment, the people of Victoria would have been able to enjoy greater conveniences in their homes.
– Who said that?
- Sir John Monash.
– Can the honorable member produce the quotation?
- Sir John Monash informed a body of men, myself among them, that he had hoped to relieve the housewives of Victoria of much strain and discomfort. He expected to supply them with cooking appliances and points of light in every room in their homes. He found that utterly impossible because of the high cost of electrical appliances brought about by the fiscal policy of Australia. People cannot afford to buy these appliances while the prices asked for them remain so high. We must call a halt in our protective policy, otherwise it will be forced upon us later. The people cannot have electrical conveniences if we create artificial prices. The honorable member for Wentworth has said that he believes in natural pro- tection ; but I call this unnatural protection. I certainly oppose the proposal of the Government.
.- I should not have risen to speak had it not been for certain honorable members objecting to anything in the nature of an Australian manufactured article. We cannot hope to encourage our own industries if we rely upon the products of other countries, and any honorable member who refuses to support Australian industries has not the interest of this country at heart. He prefers to buy the products of cheap-labour countries so as to keep our men out of employment. Many developments have taken place in electricity simply because of the protective policy of Australia. The Simplex Company which has been established in Sydney has put on the market one of the most up-to-date heating systems. It is attractive in appearance and takes up no space in the home. It can be used for bath-heating purposes and for heating the home generally. The system can be seen in operation at the Sydney Town Hall. Many electrical appliances are being manufactured in and around Newcastle. I regret that the Country party is opposing this item, although when the tobacco issue was before us they were strong in their advocacy of increased duties. I favour prohibitive duties being imposed against any industry that competes with an Australian industry. I stand for Australia, for the workers of Australia, and not for the workers overseas.
.- I support the Government’s proposal. An important aspect of this item is that it encourages to some extent co-operation in the manufacturing field of the Empire. We should be proud of our electrical manufacturing industry because it is turning out good work. It has made rapid progress in recent years, and its products will stand comparison with those of other parts of the world. We should reserve to ourselves the manufacture of small electrical appliances; such as kettles, irons, radiators, and toasters, and import from Great Britain large electrical machinery such as generators, transformers, and converters, because the consumption of those appliances in this country would never be large and ‘their manufacture here could not be economic because of the lack of turnover. Great Britain should supply our requirements in large electrical machinery for many years ahead. I support this item because it seems to be logical; and in line with the general policy of this Government in regard to not only the protection of Australian industries, but also Empire co-operation.
.- I am as anxious as are other honorable members that electrical goods should be made in Australia, but I fail to see the need for high fixed duties. The figures quoted by the Minister showed a steady decline in importations even prior to the prohibition of imports. If local manufacture could make such progress under the Pratten duties of 27£ per cent, to 40 per cent, without the present additional advantages of primage and exchange, I cannot understand why more protection i3 needed to-day. Twelve months ago, I resented the failure of the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) to let the committee know the actual cost of imported articles on which fixed duties were imposed, so that honorable members might be able to estimate the ad valorem equivalent of such duties. The present Acting Minister is no more communicative in that regard.
– Does the honorable member contend that any injury was done to Australia when the importation of these goods was prohibited?
– I am not in a position to say that ; but I want to know why more protection must be given to an industry which had been steadily overtaking the local market under the Pratten tariff without the help of primage and exchange.
– The simple explanation is that we want to give to the Australian manufacturer the whole of the local market.’
– In time, he would have captured the market under the existing duties. In the absence of information which would disclose the ad valorem equivalent of the high fixed duties, I shall support the amendment.
– The attitude of the Country party would be justified if high duties necessarily meant high prices. Neither the Tariff Board nor the Government would propose increased duties merely out of a desire to enable higher prices to be charged to the community. There must be a fundamental need for the imposition of duties which at first glance appear unnecessarily high. I had the opportunity of conferring on more than one occasion with Sir Hugo Hirst, who was a member of the British Economic Mission to Australia. He is’ the managing director of the British General Electric Company, and he told me that when the commission left England, its members had gained the impression from newspapers and the statements of politicians that Australian industry was wholly inefficient, and that people would be ill-advised to invest capital here. When I asked him if he had been disillusioned in that regard, he stated that although he had not visited half the leading workshops in Australia, he had seen several’ establishments which represented the highest degree of efficiency. He mentioned the Sunshine Harvester Works, and a New South Wales factory engaged in the production of electrical goods. In some lines, the latter could undersell his own big company. He admitted that the British General Electric Company had been forced to ally itself with the Continental and American groups because of the dumping of the excess output. Articles were being sold in some countries at a quarter of their actual cost, although they were the result of the latest methods of mass production. If Australia were the only country in which wages and other production costs had been reduced, the contention of members of the Country party would be entitled to consideration, but international statistics show that the reduction of costs has been universal. British manufacturers complain that they cannot compete against Central European countries, principally Czechoslovakia, whilst France, Germany and Czechoslovakia in turn say that they cannot compete against the cheaper products of Japan. This vicious policy of chasing poverty is ruining the whole world. If high duties are not maintained the goods now being dumped in certain markets, at a quarter of the cost of production, will be dumped in Australia. Of course if prices were to soar- in accordance with each increase of duty, corrective action would be necessary, but if that does not occur, high duties do no harm to the users. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) referred to the Yallourn electricity scheme. Sir John Monash claimed on many occasions that that enterprise was efficient enough to equip every household electrically, and he accused a Labour conference which I attended of not taking sufficient interest in t.he comfort of the housewives and of not trying to lighten the burden of domestic work with mechanical aids. He said that electrical goods were not so cheap as they should be, not because of the cost of production, but because of exploitation by the distributors; and to encourage people to make greater use of electricity he asked that his enterprise should be allowed to establish a distribution system in order to supply electrical appliances direct to the people. That was permitted : the Yallourn works distributed electrical appliances at prices cheaper than had ever been charged before and thereby earned the resentment of the honorable member for Forrest and others who are opposed to any encroachment upon private enterprise. Most of the plant at Yallourn was of Australian origin. The principal exceptions were some dynamos obtained from Sweden, and some boilers manufactured in Great Britain. The latter were guaranteed to have a certain life, but wore out in half that time, and their replacement cost thousands of pounds. The commissioners declared that machinery bought in Australia might have cost more, but would have lasted twice as long, and, therefore, would have been cheaper in the long run. Though the Australian manufacturer may be efficient enough to carry on successfully with lower duties iri normal times, higher rates are essential now because of the abnormal economic conditions abroad. I charged Sir Hugo Hirst with having established an international combine to regulate the prices of electrical ware. He admitted that a conference had been held in Brussels for the purpose of preventing dumping in countries where the prices could not be fixed. An international combine was not formed because of the danger of American shareholders swamping British industry. But an arrangement was made -by (.the British General Electric Company with the American and European groups to apportion the world into three zones, in each of which one group would operate. Because of the danger of dumping, the Australian industry has no hope of prospering unless protected by additional duties.
.- I support these duties because I feel that this is an industry of which we can be justifiably proud. It is not one of those problematical activities like the “making of wringers, about which honorable members are unable to give any precise information. The products of this industry are known to honorable members to be of good quality, and command a greater sale. Moreover, the prices have actually fallen. Besides giving us an excellent article this industry creates healthy internal competition, which is quite different from the case in which a duty sets up a monopoly that exploits the public. The decreased purchasing power which has resulted from decreased wages makes it necessary to keep prices within reasonable bounds. That is being done by this industry.
Some of the criticism which emanated from honorable members of the Country party was wide of the mark, and distinctly unfair. Those honorable members ought to realize that each of these items must be dealt with on its merits. The honorable member for Swan (Mr.. Gregory) must know that it is not practicable to fix a rate of duty for one article and say that that shall be the maximum for all items. What may be appropriate in one industry may be quite inappropriate in another. One concern might employ largely unskilled, juvenile or female labour, with the result that production costs less, and the degree of protection needed is lower. If, on the other hand, the industry is of a highly technical nature, production costs are higher, and the duty must be proportionately higher..
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) was quite inconsistent. When it was urged that sales tax and primage should be lifted from most primary products he asked “ What about binder twine?” He is now strongly objecting to an increase of 5 per cent, in a duty which will result in work being given to hundreds of Australians, though he recently objected because the duty on tobacco was being reduced. He wanted it higher.
– But the honorable member voted for the reduced rate of duty on tobacco.
– He did, after subjecting honorable members to his lamentations on the subject. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) is a little out in his references to Yallourn, and some of “the utterances of the late Sir John Monash. I agree with the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) that one must discriminate in these matters and give protection where it is necessary, but it is necessary to lift duties to enable big electrical undertakings to obtain machinery which cannot be manufactured in Australia. British manufacturers are specialists in particular lines of machinery, and it is folly to endeavour to manufacture only one machine of a certain type. The whole of the briquette machinery at Yallourn was imported from Germany because it could not be economically manufactured here, the Germans at that time being more advanced in the matter. We also imported German operatives to work the machinery.
– We do not want them 0 OW
– They taught Australians how to use that machinery and have returned to Germany. At Yallourn, too, I remind the honorable member, the excavating machinery is British. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was, therefore, a little out in his statements. I heartily approve of these duties. I feel that the industry is a worthwhile one, firmly established, and that there is sufficient local competition to keep prices down.
– I cannot understand the Government bringing forward these proposals at such a time. The Minister said that the date of the Tariff Board report was April, 1931, and that the duty increase sought was 5 per cent, on the ad valorem rate. Some three months after the board made its recommendation the primage duty was raised from 4 per cent, to 10 per cent., a 6 per cent, increase in protection, more than the margin requested. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) said that he believed in making in Australia those things that can be manufactured in great quantity. I am thoroughly in accord with the idea, although I do not place such items as wringers in that category, for they cannot - be made here rs cheaply as elsewhere. The Labourparty should take notice that the effect of manufacturing items uneconomically in Australia is to deprive the average householder of many labour-saving devices. If, instead of 30s. or 35s. being charged for an electric .iron, it could be purchased for 7s. or 10s., those articles would be universally used. I am interested in the Nymboida hydro-electric scheme, an enterprise which endeavoured, to popularize the use of electric appliances in the country as well as in the city. That enterprise reduced the charge for domestic power to as low as one halfpenny a unit, but its efforts were thwarted to a great extent by the excessive price charged for equipment. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) declares that the distributors make all the money. I contend that if the duties were not so high there would be more competition in distribution, and prices would fall. Documentary evidence has been produced in this chamber to the effect that many Australian manufacturers will not sell freely to Australian distributors. I instance the case of barbed wire. Manufacturers were unable to obtain the necessary raw material until they entered a bond not to sell their product below a certain price. Here we have an industry which under the BrucePage tariff was able to cut imports down to a negligible amount, and which kept improving its output and position. Now, when costs have fallen, the Government proposes to raise the duty higher than is necessary, in view of the increase in primage. It is said that that is to defeat dumping. I point out that we have an anti-dumping law, which can be operated if necessary.
– The honorable member knows how difficult that is.
– I have seen the anti-dumping law brought into operation promptly ‘when necessary. It provides the antidote to dumping. ‘The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that when Sir Hugo Hirst was in Australia in 1928, he made reference to the efficiency of our electrical industry. That was under the old duties. Why, then, should we alter them? ,
.- I rise only to draw attention to the inconsistent attitude of certain honorable members. One moment they support their contentions and amendments by referring to the report of the Tariff Board, the next moment they refuse to countenance a Tariff Board report. It has been proved that these electrical articles are being well and cheaply made in Australia. We do not want to come down to the low living standard of less favoured countries. As our markets develop the prices of these articles will fall. It is appalling to anybody who has the interest of Australian production at heart to listen to this continual cry of “ stinking fish.”
– I cannot allow some of the statements of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to go unchallenged. He said that the Labour party might interest itself in popularizing the use of electrical appliances. It did so six years ago, particularly in Sydney. Because the public was being victimized by the high prices charged by retailers, the City Council of that time set itself to supply the demand at reasonable rates, as has been done by the Victorian Electricity Commission. Power rates were cheap, but because of the extortionate prices that the retailers charged for imported accessories, users were unable to make the maximum use of the points installed in their homes. The council inaugurated an efficient sales organization which broke down the ring set up by the retailers. In many cases, the latter regarded the sale of electrical appliances merely as a side line, which supplemented their activities in ironmongery, clothing, &c. The Australian manufacturers of electrical equipment thus had an opportunity of disposing of their products which otherwise would not have come their way. It was the action which I have described that has caused the present situation to develop. ‘ We have done the best we could to popularize the use of electrical appliances, and as the Government is proposing action designed to help the policy which we favour, we shall support it.
.- I vividly recollect that not very long ago the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) visited Newcastle with the object of advocating the establishment of new States. In the course of his addresses he enlarged on the advantages that would follow the electrification of the whole of the Eastern States of Australia. He said that if such a scheme were adopted employment would be provided for many men - makers of electrical appliances, coal-miners and others. But now that the’ Government is proposing to do something to assist the Australian electrical equipment manufacturing industries the right honorable gentleman is opposing it. I should -like to know what he would do and say if an attempt were made to dump Russian wheat in Australia to compete with Australian wheat. The right honorable gentleman would then become exceedingly wrathful. But no one would be so unreasonable as to suggest that Russian wheat should be dumped here. Apparently the right honorable gentleman is quite- prepared to sacrifice the manufacturing industries of Australia so long as he can get some help for the industries in which he is particularly interested. He wants the highest possible duty on primary products, and the lowest possible duty on manufactured goods. Surely the Country party can show a little reasonableness. It is our desire to make Australia a self-reliant and self-contained country, and there is no reason why this objective should not be achieved. It should not be necessary for us to depend upon overseas countries for the supply of goods which we could very well make for ourselves and which, with so much unemployment in our midst, we should be making. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said that competition always tends towards the cutting down of wage’s and standards, but the right honorable member for Cowper believes in competition. In order to permit the Australian manufacturers to compete on an even footing with the overseas manufacturers, particularly those of Japan, we should have to reduce our wage standards practically to the coolie level.
But we are not prepared to do so. I suppose that if we got down to the level of the Japanese we should then be asked to descend to the level of the Chinese. The Country party is agitating all the time for a decrease in production costs; but I find it difficult to believe that even that party would like to see our workers existing on coolie standards. Surely they donot want to see the working men of Australia garbed in a loin cloth and subsisting on a handful of rice. But that would be the logical effect of the policy enunciated by the Country party. I shall support this item because I believe in adequately protecting Australian industries.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Gregory’s.) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
– On the 31st August, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked the following question, without notice : -
I direct the attention of the Treasurer to the action of the Customs Department in imposing sales tax on a consignment of nitrates imported by the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited, for use at their works at NorthGeelong. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the Sales Tax Assessment Act provides that fertilizers and raw materials for use in the manufacture of fertilizers are exempt from sales tax. To-day I received from the manager of the phosphate company the following telegram: -
Customs demanding immediate payment, sales tax on nitrates; paying under protest; sales tax department declines produce regulation, refers company to Canberra.
Will the Treasurer inform me who authorised the collection of this tax, under what act or regulation the claim has been made, and whether the Customs Department has any authority to make the demand? If the tax has been improperly collected, will the right honorable gentleman see that the amount paid - approximately £156 - is refunded immediately, and that instructions are issued which will prevent a recurrence of this experience ?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Inquiry shows that the duty was demanded under a misapprehension by the Sub-Collector of Customs at Geelong, and without reference to the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation, Melbourne. Inquiries are now being made with the object of granting a refund of the tax if the nitrates have been imported as a fertilizer or as a raw material for use.
– On the 31st August, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked for information in regard to the arrangement which has been made by the Commonwealth Government with Burns, Philp and Company for the extension to Auckland of the subsidized Sydney Norfolk Island-New Hebrides shipping service. Considerable attention has been given from time to time to the provision of shipping facilities for Norfolk Island, which is 930 miles from Sydney, and 630 miles from Auckland. In 1930, a service between Norfolk Island and Auckland which had been provided for some years by a New Zealand government steamer was discontinued, not because, as the honorable member has been informed, it became unprofitable, but owing to the necessity to provide more frequent connexions between New Zealand ports and Niue and Samoa, in which trade the steamer had also been employed. Norfolk Island was thus deprived of the tourist traffic with New Zealand, which had been of considerable benefit, to it, and of a favorable market for its bananas, the staple product of the territory, which was greatly needed by the Norfolk Island growers as the requirements of the Sydney market were now being fully met by supplies from the North Coast areas of New South Wales and the South Coast areas of Queensland.
After full inquiry, the arrangement, which is subject to review at any time, was made for Burns, Philp and Company’s steamship Morinda to provide, from July, 1931, a regular service between Norfolk Island and Auckland in the course of its itinerary between Sydney and certain of the Pacific Islands, under the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the company. The matter is being kept under constant observation, with the object of serving the interests of the Commonwealth and of the island territory in the best way which is practicable in the difficult circumstances.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I draw the attention of the House to the inconsistency of the action of the Government when it wishes to make an attack upon the wages of the workers. I understand that a certain decision reached by the Public Service Arbitrator in regard to the wages of men employed in the Public Service of this country has been vetoed by the action of the Government in another place. The Government decided to bring about a reduction of wages in the Public Service by having the work of adults performed for a wage below that fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator by allowing adults to occupy junior positions, on the ground that there were not enough adult positions available. The workers’ organization concerned appealed to the
Public Service Arbitrator, an officer who was appointed by a government of which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) himself was a member. Mr. Westhoven upheld the claim of the Postal Workers Union, and the Prime Minister yesterday, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), said that the Government stood for the principle of adherence to the decisions of legallyconstituted authorities. But, in the case to which I am directing attention, in which the decision of a legally-constituted tribunal did not suit the Government, it has taken action to thwart that decision. It has not done it in this chamber; it has adopted the back-door method of taking action in another place, in order to avoid the greater publicity which would be given to its action if taken in this chamber. This inconsistency on the part of the Government shows how unscrupulous it is in its tactics, when attacking the wages of the workers. In New South Wales the legally-constituted tribunal to determine wages recently decided that the workers would be able to buy more with £3 10s. per week than they could with £4 2s. 6d. This Government was prepared to accept that decision, but in the case in which the Public Service Arbitrator declared that the workers were entitled to a certain wage, the Government used its power of veto by taking action in the matter in the other branch of the legislature.
– And this has been done by a Minister who was formerly a Labour man !
– I have allowed the honorable member a fair amount of latitude, but it is distinctly out of order to refer to the debate? that are now taking place elsewhere. 1 haveno wish to prevent the honorable member from offering the observations which he desires to address to the House; but I ask him not to refer to the debate? in another place.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the House to understand that no member is entitled to discuss a matter that is under consideration in another place, irrespective of the time that elapses after the discussion has been concluded in another place?
– That is not the purport of my ruling. While debates are in progress in another chamber, it is not permissible to refer to them. The Standing Orders also provide that honorable members may not refer to the debates of this chamber during a current session.
– Not even after a debate has been concluded?
– Even then there are restrictions; but every Speaker has placed a liberal interpretation upon .the rule. I ask the honorable member for East Sydney not to make constant reference to a debate now in progress in another place.
– I regret that parliamentary practice does not give members of this House the necessary scope to draw sufficient attention to some of the actions of the present Government. I have shown how inconsistent the Government has been, and if the Prime Minister has any explanation to offer as to the change of front adopted by the Ministry in the action taken by it in another place, I would prefer to give him an opportunity to answer the charge.
– I hope the honorable member has not misunderstood me. t do not desire to curtail his comments on the policy of the Government, provided bis criticism is not in conflict with the rules of debate and parliamentary practice.
– With reference to the matter raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I point out that the law provides that there may be arbitration by the Public Service Arbitrator upon the terms and conditions of employment within the Public Service. The law which confers that right also provides that this Parliament may review, by action by either House, any determination of the Public Service Arbitrator which is inconsistent with a statute of the Commonwealth, or with a regulation made under any statute. The whole system of Public Service arbitration is subject to the ultimate control of Parliament in that respect. It has been devised in such a way that Parliament has the Inst word, and is intended to have it, whenever either House thinks it proper to disallow. It would have been possible to provide in the statute that both Houses must agree in disallowing a determination which alters a law or regulation; but that is not the provision of the statute. Either House has the right to disallow 4 determination which overrides a law or regulation of Parliament, and the C011currence of both Houses is required in making the law. Surely it is proper that where an arbitrator, a single individual, whatever his qualifications may be, makes an award or determination which is inconsistent with the law passed by this Parliament, or with a regulation which has been made and not disallowed by either House, either House should have the right of review. I shall conclude my observations on the general principle by saying that the action complained of has been taken in accordance with the deliberate determination of Parliament, itself, and, therefore, seems sound. In this particular case the application was, in effect, one for the overriding of certain regulations by the Arbitrator, and he gave his decision in substantially this form. He said - “ I am prepared to accede to the application, but this is essentially a matter for Parliament.” The Public Service Arbitrator ended his determination by saying: This is a matter as to which Parliament may exercise its mind, and I make this determination subject to disallowance by Parliament.” He actually referred in his determination to the principle embodied in the statute, and said that, although he granted the application, the matter was one, in the last resort, for the determination of the Parliament. What is being done in this case is not a mere disallowance, as in the past, of a determination, but the exercise of an undoubted, and, I suggest, proper right of both Houses of Parliament in relation to a matter regarding which the Public Service Arbitrator has deliberately called the attention of those concerned, and of Parliament itself, to the right of Parliament to disallow a determination made by him.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has said that an award by the Public Service Arbitrator can always be disallowed by Parliament.
– If it is inconsistent with the law.
– That is true. This morning I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) whether the Government would refrain from insisting on this disallow,ance until the House of Representatives had had an opportunity of discussing the matter. At first, I was asked to give notice of the question, but, subsequently, the Prime Minister said that he was not prepared to do as I suggested.
– I did not at first know that the matter was being discussed, in another place.
– I stated as much in my question. The Prime Minister said that the, matter could be discussed in this House during the budget debate. That will be satisfactory to mc if in the meantime the Government holds its hand, and does not have the award disallowed. There is more than a matter of finance embodied in this; a vital principle is being encroached upon. The matter of financial emergency legislation does not enter into it at all. This is not a general reduction of Public Service salaries. It is a special attack directed against a certain number of public servants, and it violates a principle accepted in every industrial award, namely, that there shall be an adult basic wage, whether or not the employer can provide work of a certain grade. Without going into the merits of the case at this stage, I think that this chamber should be consulted on so vital a matter of principle, instead of it being handed over for decision to another place.
– That was what the right honorable member’s Government did in connexion with the waterside workers’ award.
– That matter was dealt with in both Houses, and, in any case, the initiative in regard to the disallowance did not come from our Government. On so -vital a matter as this, the House of Representatives ought to be prepared to take the responsibility for determining what action is to be followed.
– As the law stands at present, if this House were to approve, that would have no effect if the other House disallowed the award.
– That is true, but this House ought to be considered, and I venture to say that an opinion expressed by this House would receive consideration in another place.
Apart from the merits of the case, we should also consider the privileges of this House. We know that the Senate cannot initiate financial legislation, nor deal with appropriation, except by request. The matter with which we are now concerned affects appropriation; that is the whole gist of the Government’s case. Ye the Senate alone is being called upon to express an opinion on a matter which closely affects appropriation, and this constitutes an encroachment upon the privileges of this House. If the Government is unable to find the money necessary to pay the wages provided for in this award, it should approach Parliament with legislation designed to effect the necessary economy, or raise the necessary revenue. I venture to say that this House would never agree that economies should be made at the expense of the lowest paid officers in the Service. I ask the Government to stay its hand in order that it might itself give further consideration to this matter, and, if it decides to go on with it, then this House should be permitted to express an opinion. If we are not given this opportunity in the manner I suggest, we shall have to take other means of testing the matter in this chamber.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) has dealt with the legal position, and has made it clear that the action taken is constitutional,, and within the power of the Senate. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) charged the Government with inconsistency because it declined to interfere with the decision of an industrial tribunal in New South Wales which reduced the basic wage, and yet interfered with an award of the Public Service Arbitrator. I remind the honorable member that we have no power to interfere with the New South Wales tribunal; we have a definite legal and constitutional power to interfere with the tribunal whose- award is now under consideration. That is the Government’s answer to the charge of inconsistency.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that this chamber should be given an opportunity of discussing the matter. On the merits of the case, this chamber has already had an opportunity of so doing. The right honorable’ member himself asked questions on this very matter earlier in the session, and was informed why the Government had decided to follow the course to which he now objects. The Government was in this position : The men affected by the award were occupying positions that juniors should occupy, and the alternative to taking the action determined on by the Government in regard to salaries was to dismiss them from the Service, because only those junior positions were available for them.
– The Public Service Arbitrator, who heard all the evidence, was not impressed by that consideration.
– The Arbitrator has provided that senior salaries shall be paid for junior work, but he has not the responsibility of finding the salaries. If the award remains unchallenged, the Government will have to dismiss these men. Honorable members on both sides of the House will recognize that it would be much more serious to dismiss them than merely to reduce their salaries in accordance with the positions they occupy.
– It should not be necessary to dismiss them at all.
– Of course, if we are to adopt the practice of paying senior salaries to those occupying junior positions, the finances of the country will soon become chaotic.
– We are merely asking the Government to pay a minimum adult wage.
– The Government proposes that married officers shall receive the minimum adult wage. Only single officers occupying junior positions will receive the reduced wage, and when they are promoted to positions higher than those of messengers, they will receive the full basic wage. The Government felt that reductions were more humane than dismissals. As pointed out by the
Attorney-General in an interjection, the Senate has already disallowed the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator, and no decision of this chamber can alter that position.
– But it would alter the action of the Government. It could still pay the salaries provided for in the award.
– The Government accepts the position. It is within the power of the Senate to disallow a determination, and the Government is not prepared to pay the rates provided for in that determination, in view of the fact that it is the definite policy of the Government not to do so. At an early date opportunity will be afforded to honorable members to discuss the whole issue as if it were being discussed separate from the budget. It may be discussed on the Supply Bill which will be brought down early next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320902_reps_13_135/>.