13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H.Mackay) took thechair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - Several of the companies engaged in the oil business, and particularly in the distribution and sale of petrol in Australia, have informed the Government that they are not prepared to give the undertakings which the Government required in regard to making available certain information to the Honorable John Gunn, who is at present conducting an investigation into this matter. The Government has therefore decided to appoint a royal commission for the purpose of inquiring into the petrol industry. The commission will consist of Mr. Sydney Ernest Lamb, K.C., barrister at law, of Sydney; the Honorable John Gunn, Director of Development; and Mr. Albert Edward Barton, consulting chartered accountant, of Sydney. A secretary will be appointed from the Development Branch, and counsel will be briefed to assist the commission.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether, if the terms of reference have not yet been drawn up, it is proposed to invite the commission to inquire into certain phases of oil production in Australiaat Newnes and elsewhere ? Is Mr. Barton, the public accountant who has been appointed to the commission, associated in any way with the company likely to take over operations at theNewnes shale oil-field ?
– The terms of reference to the commission are under consideration at the present time, and it would be undesirable to make an announcement regarding them before they have been adopted.I hope that it may be possible to make a statement on the subject to-morrow or the next day. Before he was asked to accept appointment, inquiry was made regarding Mr. Barton’s commercial associations, and it is understood that he is not connected with any oil interests whatever.
– Will the Government consider broadening the scope of the inquiry to embrace the development of our own oil resources, including the extraction of oil from shale and coal ? Will the commission inquire regarding the extent to which the various oil companies have “ sabotaged” development in this direction in the past ?
– Consideration will be given to that matter ; but the principal concern of the Government is the price of petrol. We wish to ascertain whether the public of Australia is being charged a reasonable or an unreasonable price. I doubt whether this commission would be qualified to inquire into the possible further development of the oil industry in Australia, its personnel not having been selected with the idea that it should make tin inquiry into technical and scientific methods associated with the production of oil. The terms of reference will certainly include inquiry into the whole of the trade in oil.
– Having regard to the undoubted power which the foreign oil trusts exercise in this country, isthe Government prepared seriously toconsider the development of our own resources in the way of oil production from coal as mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), so that we may throw off this foreign yoke, and make ourselves independent?
– The honorable member’s question raises a large issue. As he is aware, efforts are being made to develop our shale oil resources at Newnes and other places. The Government has examined proposals for the production of oil from coal by thehydrogenation process. During the last interview I had in regard to this matter, I was informed by those well qualified to speak that the plant necessary to carry on this work by the latest process would cost £12,000,000 to erect in Australia. The Government is certainly not in a position at the present time even to contemplate expenditure of that magnitude, and we shall have toawait further developments. If the developments should be such us to make it likely that the treatment of coal for the production of oil will be commercially successful, I hope that, it may be found possible for private enterprise to enter the field rather than that the industry should become a government- undertaking.
-In view of thefact that a committee set up by the Government of New SouthWales to inquire into the possibilities of the extraction of oil from coal has reported in favour of the low temperature carbonization process that has been operated by the Lyon Brothers at Wallsend, and recommended that those gentlemen should be assisted to the extent of £5,000, is it not advisable that the Government should extend the scope of the royal commission with a view to its embracing such an important matter as the making of Australia selfcontained in regard to oil supplies?
– I have already stated that, as a present advised, it appears to me that, to be of any use, an inquiry into the question raised by the honorable member would have to be conducted by men possessing special technical knowledge.
– Technical witnesses could be summoned to give evidence.
– The judgment of non-technical men, whatever witnesses might be examined, would probably not be of any considerable value. It is hoped that the commission which is to-be appointed will inquire into the trading and dealing in oil and petrol, and procure useful information. The subject to which the honorable gentleman has referred is quite distinct from that; namely, the possible development of the industry. Judgment upon that would have to be arrived at after a consideration of facts and opinions, and that would require special scientific knowledge and skill.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House lay on the table the substance of the cablegrams that have passed between the British and Commonwealth Governments, and between the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) and the Commonwealth Government, in regard to the proposed restriction of the exportation of butter to the United Kingdom? Will he also indicate the nature of the negotiation between the Commonwealth Government and the Dairy Produce Export Control Board, so that honorable members may have an accurate idea of what is occurring?
– Certain portions of the cables which have passed between the Commonwealth Government arid London contain highly confidential information and expressions of views regarding the probable attitude of some of the parties concerned. It would be quite improper to make such information public, but I shall inquire to what extent, if at all, the material sought by the Deputy Leader of theOpposition can be made available to the House.
– We have been informed that the British Government did not make representations to the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) regarding the butter quota. Will the Acting Prime Minister say what interests in London are responsible for making the representations on which the Resident Minister’s cablegrams on the subject were based ?
– The. High Commissioner for New Zealand raised the question with the British Government,which, quite rightly, I think, took the view that Australia was interested in the subject, and arranged a conference, the proceedings of which were reported to the Aus tralian Government by our Resident Minister, who attended on behalf of Australia.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether a re-arrangement of Common wealth electoral boundaries is contemplated before the date of the next general election ?
– It is hoped that the next general election will be held subsequent to the taking of the census. “When the census has been completed, the Government of the day will have an opportunity to consider the matter, and I have little doubt that some electoral redistribution will be found to be essential.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position to reply to the representations made by the postal workers regarding the noise and bad ventilation in connexion with the mail handling plant at the General Post Office, Sydney.
– A depuration interviewed me with regard to the conditions under which the mail handling plant of the General Post Office. Sydney, is being operated. A thorough investigation of the complaints is being made, and, before a reply is sent to the unions interested, I desire personally to inspect the premises and plant.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state what progress is being made in the provision of a new wireless broadcasting station in Tasmania?
– The preparation of the plans and specifications for additional broadcasting stations in each ofthe States, including Tasmania, is being expedited. It is intended that Tasmania shall receive special attention.
-Having regard to the many statements published in the press in reference to contemplated elaborate and expensive additions tothe Australian naval and military forces, and the further newspaper statement published yesterday that the Prime Minister intends to make a. bargain with the Government of Western Australia which will involve an alteration of the Constitution, will the Acting Leader of the Housestate whether it is the policy of the Government to make known drastic changes of Government policy from the public platform and in the press before this Parliament is advised or afforded an opportunity to discuss such proposals?
– There is no founda tion for a number of the press statements published recently regarding the defence policy of the Government. On the face of them, several of the statements are absurd, and would not mislead anybody who understands the cost involved in the provisions which the Government is said to be contemplating. None of the statements can be regarded as authoritative in any degree. That applies, also, to the report that, the Prime Minister is proposing to make a constitutional bargain with the Premier of Western Australia. Announcements of government policy will be made in a formal and appropriate manner, and, if Parliament is sitting, it will be informed promptly.
– In June, 1930, the Tariff Board submitted a report on timber. I understand that the duties on
Oregon have been again referred to the board for investigation and report. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain whether this report will be available before the items affected are reached in the consideration of the tariff schedule ?
– The inquiry by the Tariff Board has not yet been held ; but it is hoped that, before the item relating to Oregon is reached, the report of the board will be available.
-Is the Minister for the Interior aware that, before an unemployed person in the Northern Territory can receive relief work, he must have resided in the territory for at least twelve months prior to December, 1931? Is he aware that a number of the unemployed to whom sustenance has been refused have resided in the territory for ten months, and others for nine months? As the ruling to which I have referred has served the. purpose for which it was promulgated by the Government, will the Minister issue an instruction that all bona fide unemployed persons in the Northern Territory shall be granted ordinary sustenance?
– I am aware that there has been some trouble in the Northern Territory regarding unemployment and the sharing of work at Port Darwin. The matter is now receiving the consideration of the Government.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inquire whether a conference of bodies representing citizens of the Federal Capital Territory made an offer to the Federal Capital Commission that it would provide £3,000 a year towards the maintenance of the local hospital, the money to be raised by means of a levy, and that the Crown Solicitor’s Office gave a ruling at the time that no legal provision existed for the imposition and collection of such a. levy? If such a ruling was given, will the right honorable gentleman inform us why there is at present a hospital tax ordinance in force in the Federal Capital Territory?
– In this morning’s Canberra Times it is reported that Dr. Frederick Watson had made a statement of the nature referred to by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). I am aware that Dr. Watson has, on other occasions, stated that opinions of a particular kind had been given, whereas, in fact, the opinions were of a directly contrary kind. I made inquiries into this matter this morning, and found that neither in the Crown Solicitor’s Office nor in the office of the Attorney-General is there an opinion of the nature mentioned. Speaking as Attorney-General, I find it difficult to understand that any such opinion should he given, but a search has been made, and no indication of any opinion of that nature or, indeed, on that subject, has been discovered.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Electric Fans of the household type.
Ordered to be printed.
– Before an invalid pension is granted, the department must be satisfied that the applicant is totally and permanently incapacitated. It sometimes happens that although the medical officer is satisfied of the total incapacity, he is unwilling to give a certificate as to its permanency. Will the Government issue aninstruction to the Deputy Commissioners in the various States to liberalize the interpretation of that provision to the extent of granting an invalid pension in cases in which the medical officer is satisfied that the applicant is totally incapacitated, and will remain so for a stated period.
– Both the inspecting and the reporting medical officers, as well as the Government, are bound by the terms of the act, and until that is altered by Parliament - if Parliament is prepared to make an alteration that would be so far reaching in practice - it would be improper for the Government to give the instruction, and, indeed, for officers to obey it, that due weight should not be given to the term “ permanent “, in relation to the incapacity of an applicant for an invalid pension.
– Is the Government satisfied that the correct interpretation is being placed on the act by the department ?
– I know of no facts that would suggest that this provision is not being correctly interpreted and applied.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service Act) - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 30 of 1932 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 31 of 1932 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
No. 32 of 1932 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 33 of 1932 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descrip tions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 38.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1933, No. 39.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 21st March (vide page 433), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167) (Volume 135)-
And on motion by Mr.White ( vide page 29) -
Group 1. - Items under which the rates are the same as those operating under the 1921-30 Tariff.
Item 240, sub-item (a) (Tiles).
.-I rose last night to seek an assurance from the Minister that the consideration of this item would he postponed until the report of the Tariff Board on the matter was in the hands of honorable members. I know that the Minister invariably follows the recommendations of that body. I was of the opinion that the case submitted by those who are interested in this industry was so strong that the recommendation of the board would he a favorable one. The Minister to-day tabled the report of the board on flooring and wall tiles. There has not been much time to scan that report, but I have read the recommendation of the board. Doubtless, having in mind the fiscal views of the present Government, and the opposition of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to any increases of duties that can be avoided in these times, the board has recommended against an increase of the existing duty of 3s. a square yard British preferential, and 5s. a square yard general, imposed in 1926 by the Pratten tariff, prior to which the rates were 25 per cent. and 35 per cent. respectively.
– The honorable member is most unfair to theboard, which is totally disinterested.
– The request submitted to the Tariff Board, as finally amended by the applicants in the case that has just been considered, was for an increase in the general rate to 12s. 6d. a square yard, or 65 per cent. ad valorem, the British rate to remain at 3s. a square yard, or 25 per cent. ad valorem. This request had the support, not only of the Australian, but also of the British manufacturers, whose views were expressed by Mr. C. E. Mayo, representative of the Glazed Wall and Floor Tile Manufacturers Association, Tunstall, Staffordshire, England; also chairman of the tile section of the Association of British Manufacturers, Sydney, and representative in Australia of Maw and Company Limited, tile manufacturers, Jackfield, Ironbridge, Shropshire, England. Unfortunately, the request was turned down by the board. This is one of the industries which benefited under the prohibition proclamation that I, as Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, made in April, 1930. It was necessary to stem the tide of imports and shut out lines that we could do without. The Government was confident that industry would not stop, and construction would not be prevented, if we had to depend upon Australian tile manufacturers for supplies. The prohibition of the importation of tiles lasted for approximately two years from April, 1930, and, during that period, the local industry made great progress. There are two Australian manufacturers actively engaged in- making tiles - the Australian Tesselated Tile Company Limited, Mitcham, Victoria, and E. Fowler Limited, Marrickville, Sydney. Anybody who has taken an interest in the industry will appreciate the great improvement that has been made in the quality of the locally-produced article during the past three or four years. To-day only the most fastidious would object to using Australian tiles. The following table gives the importations of tiles for the year 1928-29, the last year before the prohibition was enforced : -
The aggregate was 337,289 square yards, valued at £180,842. This industry has great possibilities in Australia, because there is a growing tendency to use tiles when building, with improved hygienic results. Taking the year 1928-29 as an average year, it is estimated that the volume of the importations of coloured tiles to Australia from foreign sources equalled about two-thirds of the total importations of coloured tiles from the United Kingdom. British manufacturers are similarly placed to our own in respect of competition from foreign sources, and in Great Britain it has been found necessary to impose a duty on imported tiles to protect the local industry. During the year 1929-30 the Australian Tesselated Tile Company Limited employed 269 operatives. To-day they employ only 104. Our two Australian factories now employ an aggregate of approximately 200 persons, as against 400 two and a half years ago.
– Obviously, the reason is the decline in the building trade.
– That, is not so. We were told in 1929-30, when things were at their worst in Australia, that the trouble was due to a Labour government having control in the Federal Parliament. Only a few weeks ago the Prime Minister (Mr, Lyons) said that there were general indications of a growing confidence in the stability and future of the country, and he instanced the building trade as a remarkable example of the return of that prosperity which, allegedly, is just around the corner. Yet the Minister now declares that the. trouble is due to the decline in the building trade. It is evident that it, is due to the lifting of the prohibition on the importation of tiles. Price levels in European countries have fallen to such an extent that importers are able to land tiles in Australia at a price against which our own manufacturers cannot successfully compete. Further, the local manufacturer has to contend against the prejudice which still persists against many locally-made products. Importers disseminate all sorts of attractive propaganda in favour of the articles which they. handle, claiming that scientists and engineers have proved that the imported commodity is better than the local tile. One is sometimes asked to name any manufacturing industry that is employing fewer hands to-day than when the Scullin Government was in office. The tile industry is such a one. It is true that the work now going on in these factories is infinitesimal in comparison with what would be possible in boom construction days. Here is an opportunity to restrict our tile purchases to Australian and British products, and keep the trade within the Empire. That, I thought, is what the Minister and. his Government stand for. The plant and equipment are already in existence, and these well-known companies have given an assurance that they are ready to extend their works if necessary. We have suitable clay in Australia for the manufacture of tiles, and 90 per cent, of the raw materials used in the process are obtained locally, the remaining 10 per cent, representing finishing materials imported from the United Kingdom.
One of the arguments used by certain honorable members opposite, when criticizing Australian industries, is -that they are uneconomic, because they have to import from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, of the raw materials required. This is not such an industry.- The necessary equipment has been installed at Fowlers Limited to produce 2,000 yards of glazed tiles . and 1,000. yards of flooring tiles a week, which gives employment to at least 100 male operatives. This firm also has a tunnel oven, which is not being used at present, because of the decline in the demand for its product. The Government cannot turn down the industry on the ground that the quality of the article is not up to standard. Here is what the Tariff Board has to say on the subject -
The quality of the local product is considered good, but the range in design is limited, and the cost of production is greatly in excess of the f.o.b. price of continental tiles of comparable type and quality. . . In the board’s opinion the imposition of theincreased general rate suggested by the applicant company would have the effect of transferring much of the continental business to the United Kingdom; thus the local manufacturer would not reap any appreciable benefit.
That is in accordance with the Government’s view, and the principle underlying the Ottawa agreement, that we should buy from the Mother Country instead of from European countries. The Australian manufacturers were not unreasonable. Recognizing the Government’s view that British manufacturers should be given a share of the Australian market, they requested that the increased duty should apply only to foreign importations.
– Is not the Tariff Board breaking the Ottawa agreement?
– Probably its report was written before it had received the text of articles 9 to 14 of the Ottawa agreement.
– The margin is wider than the Ottawa agreement requires.
– It is remarkable that the Government should be so concerned about the importation of foreign tiles. Its solicitude for the foreign manufacturer will assist the workers in foreign countries to the detriment of Australian workers as well as of British and Australian manufacturers. The board’s recommendation, which will no doubt be adopted by the Government, will deprive this Australian industry of the necessary increased output to make its business economically sound. In order that a business may be established on an economically sound basis in this country, it must be given a protection sufficiently high to enable it to obtain the preponderating share of the Australian market. An industry which all the time is struggling against the competition of low- wage products from other countries cannot succeed. Apparently, the fight between Australian industries and foreign industries is to continue to the detriment of the former. The Minister says that if we exclude foreign manufactures, the range of tiles available will be limited. I remind him that for over two years the importation of tiles from foreign countries was prohibited without any great inconvenience. It, should be sufficient to have, in addition to the Australian product, the product of British factories.
Mr.White. - During the period of the prohibition, tiles to the value of £18,000 were admitted into Australia.
– That sum represented the importation of tiles not manufactured in Australia. In the case of articles which can be manufactured in Australia, it is only right that preference should be given to the Australian product. If the imposition of higher duties restricts the volume of foreign imports, surely the Australian manufacturers are entitled to the benefit. They have shown courage, enterprise and initiative in the establishment of this industry, and have given employment to hundreds of workmen. In asking for protection, they are asking only for what the primary producers of Britain are seeking in connexion with meat and butter and other primary products which are imported from the dominions. Are Australian employers who have had the courage to open up new fields of employment for Australians to be forced to apply for further reductions of wages and longer hours of employment, thus bringing their employees down to the level of the coolies, in order that they may compete with the products of cheaplabour countries? The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) should remember the time when he was a member of the Develop Australia League in Melbourne, and used his eloquence to urge adequate protection for Australian industries, even to the extent of prohibition.
– I have never advocated prohibition.
– When the honorable member was a political fledgling, flapping his wings, he was one of the evangelists of the Develop Australia League, which advocated the total prohibition of certain importations.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– Since that time, lie appears to have forgotten his high ideals. It is too much to ask that he go against the recommendations of the Tariff Board ; but I hope that he will refer this matter back to the board for further investigation and report, with a view to keeping in employment the maximum number of people in this country. Unfortunately, this industry employs to-day only about half the number of workers that it’ employed two years ago.
– Only this afternoon, I tabled the report of the Tariff Board on flooring and wall tiles. The board’s inquiry was held as recently as January of this year. This industry, which is well established and working efficiently, does not need the eulogy of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). Evidently the honorable member has not read the report, or he would know that the request of the Australian Tesselated Tile Company Proprietary Limited referred solely to coloured. glazed tiles of foreign origin. In his evidence before the Tariff Board, Mr. E. E. Walker, the governing director of the company, stated -
For the purpose of this case, I ask the board to disregard the importations of white glazed tiles, as our request will not affect such imports, which are all of British origin. Our application in effect applies therefore solely to coloured glazed tiles of foreign production.
– I said that.
– The honorable member said that Australian manufacturers could produce these goods, and that therefore the importation of tiles was not necessary. I shall show how much reliance can be placed on his utterances, In its report, the Tariff Board stated its opinion that an increase of duty is not justified for the following reasons: -
Australian factories do not cover the whole range -
They are looking for other lines to manufacture at any cost. The Tariff Board took into consideration all the factors, and then reported against increased duties -
Any one acquainted with the building trade knows that there is a tendency to face city buildings with tiles. That practice has encouraged the tile-making industry. To raise the cost of tiles would discourage their use for building purposes -
Those who want special tiles should be able- to obtain them provided that they are willing to pay for them. If the importation of tiles is prohibited, the result will merely be that tiles will not be used for building purposes. During the Scullin Government’s regime, the importation of tiles was prohibited, except with the consent of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The fact that considerable importations were permitted shows that Australian manufacturers were not in a position to meet requirements. During the year 1929-30, when the embargo had been in operation for only a short period, the imports were valued at £180,000. These goods had to be admitted despite the embargo.
– From what country did they come?
– Mostly from Britain. In 1930-31, British tiles were imported into Australia to the value of £15,805; those imported from Germany were valued at £1,717 ; and others were valued at £263. In the following years, the importations were smaller, but the ratio was preserved. Even with the reduced demand for tiles in 1930-31, when building in the cities was practically at a standstill, causing great unemployment, the importation of tiles to the value of £18,500 was permitted. The Tariff Board estimated that the local manufacturers are producing slightly less than 20 per cent, of the normal requirements of the Commonwealth in coloured glazed tiles, which were the only lines upon which the local tile company requested duties. It is apparent, therefore, that much of the eloquence of the honorable member for Capricornia has been wasted. A perusal of the Tariff Board’s report shows clearly that the present duty adequately safeguards the interests of Aus-, tralian manufacturers. It is a highly protective duty, and the Government is against making it a prohibitive one. I say emphatically, that I have never approved of prohibition. I was formerly a member of the Develop Australia League, and I have spoken on its behalf.
– That body stood for prohibition, and the Minister must have subscribed to it3 platform.
– No ; it had no set platform, and I challenge any statement that I ever supported prohibition. I made it dear that I stood for protection, but. not prohibition. That is why I was not long associated with that organization. The building trade offers an immediate prospect of absorbing a large number of unemployed tradesmen. In Victoria, there are indications of building activity in connexion with city properties and suburban buildings and renovations; the 1932 figures in each case are double those of 1931.
– The Minister said that the falling off in the number of workmen employed in the tile industry wa3 due to the slackness in the building trade.
– I pointed out that the fact that the building trade generally had slumped, accounted for the reduced number of employees in the tile factories; but we are now “ turning the corner,” and building is increasing. Men are slowly getting back into the trade, but, of course, the country is still convalescent. In this matter we have an opportunity to reduce unemployment, and, since the duty is a reasonable one, and the inquiry by the Tariff Board is of quite recent date, the Government will not refer the duty back to the board, but will oppose the imposition of a higher duty.
Sub-item agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., -241 (a), 242 (a) (») (e) (o), 243 (b), 244 (a) (c), 245 to 249, 251 (n), 252 (a), 253 (a) (b) (c) (d), 254 (a), 257, 258, 260, and 262 (a) (b2) (f) (a), agreed to.
Items 264 (a) (b) (c). 266 (a) (b), 268 (a), 269 (d), 272 and 274 (a) agreed to.
Item 275, sub-items (a) (b) (c) (Sulphur).
.- The duties on pyrites under sub-item (b) are: British preferential, 15s. per ton; general tariff, 25s. per ton. I hope to convince the committee that it would be in the interests of Australia to admit pyrites duty free. This matter was referred to the Tariff Board, but, owing to representations made to it, particularly with regard to the Captain Cook mine in New South Wales, it was thought advisable that a duty should be imposed. When the Scullin Government was in power, it provided that pyrites might be admitted duty free under departmental by-law; but that made anything in the nature of a lasting contract for the importation of this commodity impossible, unless there was no doubt that during the term of the contract this article would be admitted free of duty. It is provided that a bounty shall be paid on the sulphur contents of the pyrites produced in Australia, and this results in the payment of a fairly large sum to the Broken Hill mines for the sulphur that is won from their zinc concentrates. The bounty is abo payable to any other mine that begins the production of pyrites in Australia; but I can hardly conceive that its production would be profitable unless carried out on a large scale. In the early days the Mount Lyell Company used the pyrites obtained from its copper mine for the production of sulphuric acid; but it afterwards gave up that method of manufacture and obtained sulphur from the United States of America. The manufacturers of superphosphates arn dependent almost entirely on sulphur imported from the United- States of America, and this results in a considerable adverse trade between Australia and that country. The Rio. Tinto mine, in Spain, supplies from 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 tons of pyrites every year.
The pyrites is imported intoFrance, Germany, Italy and Great Britain, and from 200,000 to 300,000 tons are imported annually even by the United States of America. Although the United States of America and Italy are the only suppliers of sulphur in the world, they admit pyrites duty free. It is estimated that 40,000 tons of sulphur are required annually in Western Australia; but we should need88,000 tons of pyrites. Evidence was given before the Tariff Board that contracts would be entered into for the supply of pyrites, if we could guarantee continuity of supply for ten years. It was estimated that if pyrites were used instead of sulphur, there would be a reduction of1s.6da ton in the price of superphosphate. The treatment of the pyrites would be more expensive than the handling of the sulphur, and would give employment to a much larger number of men. At present, and for a long time past, the Australian manufacturers of superphosphate have been entirely in the hands of the American exporters. When we made our proposal to the Tariff Board, and the matter was brought under the notice of the Government, a reduction of a dollar a ton was made in the price of sulphur. I point out also, that if we could enter into contracts for the supply of this88,000 tons of pyrites for Western Australia, it would mean that there would be88,000 tons of shipping available on the return trip, which would be a valuable consideration to our wheat and wool producers. It would also have a considerable effect upon our adverse trade balance. The importation of this pyrites would give employment to a considerably larger number of men on the wharfs and railways, and in the manufacture of sulphuric acid from the pyrites, and would make the price of the superphosphates a little lower to the producer. The importation of the pyrites would not affect any mining company in Australia, because a bounty is payable on the production of sulphuric acid from zinc concentrates. Even if the Captain Cook mine were in operation, and were producing pyrites for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, the bounty would be payable to it. As honorable members will realize, it is impossible to ship sulphuric acid from, say, New South Wales to other parts of theCommonwealth, and pyrites could not be shipped even from New South Wales to Victoria, for the cost would be too great. I trust, therefore, that the Government will realize the reasonableness of my suggestion that Western Australia, at least, should be permitted to import pyrites for the manufacture of superphosphates in that State. Every one realizes the value of superphosphates in a country like Australia. From the point of view of production, it is desirable that we should make the highest grade of fertilizer available to our producers at the lowest possible price. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) knows something about this proposal, for it was submitted to him when he was Prime Minister a couple of years ago. The pyrites would come from Spain, where it hasbeen produced from the Rio Tinto mine for, I suppose, about a thousand years; but the mine is a British property. If pyrites could be admitted free, it would be of advantage to the producers, and to a considerable number of people who would obtain employment in this country manufacturing sulphuric acid from it, and no injury would be done to any section of the people.
– There is a good deal to be said in favour of the proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I remind him that the duty was originally imposed in the interests of the Lake George mine, in the Federal Capital Territory, which was then producing pyrites; the situation has since altered, for that mine has now almost ceased to produce pyrites. Regard must be paid, however, to the possible effect of the importation of pyrites on the Australian industries now engaged in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. I point out to the honorable member that pyrites can be admitted under item 275 (n), in group 5, as prescribed by departmental by-laws.
– I hope the Minister realizes that our difficulty is that we cannot make contracts over an extended period.
– I realize that. I anticipated the request of the honorable member for Swan, and called for a report upon this subject, and I assure him that favorable consideration will be givento any request that is made for the admission of pyrites intoWestern Australia under departmental by-law. The honorable member may advise the Western Australian importers to make an application, under the item that I have mentioned. A satisfactory arrangement could, doubtless, be made with regard to the contract period. It would, however, be inadvisable to delete the item now under consideration, because it might cause uncertainty in the minds of those who areat present interested in the sulphuric acid industry.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 276, 277, 278 (a1), (b) (c) (d), 279 (c), 280 (a) (c) (d), 281 (e) (h) (i) (j) (k) (l), 282, 283, 284 (a) (b), 285 (b), 286 (a) (b1) (c), and 290 (a) (b) agreed to.
Item 291 (a) (b) (c1) (e) (g) (Timber).
.- In view of the fact that most of the handles of implements such as picks, ma wls, axes, and so on, are made of hickory, and that the price of it is 400 per cent. higher than in 1914, and the further fact that we have no timber in Australia so efficient or durable as hickory for this purpose, the Government should favorably consider the removal of this duty altogether.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 296 (b), 297, 298 (a), 299 (a), 300 (a to j), 301 (a) (d) (c), 303 (b) (d), and 304 agreed to.
Items 307, 308, 310 (b), 311, 316, 317, 3.18 (c), 319 (b2), 320 (a), (c1, 2a, b), 321 (a), and 322 agreed to.
Items 323 (a) (b), 324 (b) (c1) (d), and 327 agreed to.
Item 331, sub-item (b1) -
Rubber and rubber manufactures, viz.: -
(1) Hard rubber in sheets, free.
– I move -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to paragraph (1) of sub-item (b) of tariff item 331 be incorporated in the present proposal as on and from the 9th March, 1933. in lieu ofparagraph ( 1 ) of sub-item (c) of item 331 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
No change is being made in the tariff by this amendment. It is merely for drafting purposes, and has been necessitated because of the re-arrangement of the item.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 332 (d) agreed to.
Item 334, sub-items (a) (b) (e) (g2. 3), (h) (i) (j) (o4) (r) (s2) (t) (u) (Paper).
.- Has the Minister any anouncement to make regarding the present position of the great paper pulp industry for Tasmania, about which, during the last election campaign, we heard so many eloquent speeches from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy) ?
– The industry was to be started a week after the elections.
– That is so. The people were told that if the Scullin Government were returned to power the industry would be given no opportunity to start. The present Prime Minister, speaking at Launceston, on the8th December, 1931, was reported in the Examiner as follows : -
The great paper pulp industry could be establishedat once if those who control the necessary capital had sufficient confidence to invest it in an industry which had over and over again been shown to be a good proposition for the investor, the worker and the community generally. I tell you plainly, Mr. Lyons said impressively, andI warn you now that if the Scullin-Theodore Government is returned to power on December 19, you will have no earthly chance of getting that wealthbringing industry established in Tasmania.
I speak with some feeling on this subject, because when I was Minister for Trade and Customs, the representatives of the two companies concerned waited. upon me, and stated that if this industry were established it would require protection. The present Prime Minister wa3 then a member of the Cabinet, and he took an interest in the question. Unfortunately, these companies could not agree between themselves. They had two different propositions to put forward. Several Ministers interviewed them and tried to persuade them to merge into one company. Ju3t before the elections, it was stated that all that was necessary to enable this industry to be established was a change of government. That change of government took place, and yet the establishment of the industry is as far off as ever. There ave 350,000 people unemployed in Australia. There are thousands of unemployed in the island State of Tasmania. This industry, if established, would provide employment for approximately 4,000 people. What is the Government doing about it? Has the Minister any message of hope for those people who were absolutely misled by the statement of the Prime Minister that so soon as the Scullin Government were defeated this great industry would be established ? Has the Government been in communication with the representatives of these companies? Has it submitted the question ro the Tariff Board for inquiry and report - a board which it has placed above Parliament, and without which it is not prepared to act? I should like to know whether some concrete proposal will, in the near future, be placed before this Parliament, and whether adequate protection will be given to this new secondary industry when it is established. We should encourage any industry which will give employment to some of our workless people. This industry would benefit the workers not only of Tasmania, but also of the mainland, because it would attract to it scientists and skilled mechanics from various parts of Australia. Interstate shipping would benefit, and we should keep within Australia money that . would otherwise be sent abroad. We want from the Prime Minister something more tangible than his mere statement that the matter is still tinder consideration.
.-^- Some honorable members seem to take the view that when an industry is to be started, the first step necessary is to ask the Government for assistance. 1 know something about the paper pulp industry, and let me inform honorable members opposite that there is no suggestion that the companies concerned are asking for favours from this Government. There has been no application for tariff protection or anything else to assist in establishing the industry.
– There was an understanding throughout the negotiations that if the industry were established this Parliament would assist it.
– I do not think that that was the position. I do know that the statement of the Prime Minister, as quoted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), to the effect that there would be no opportunity for the industry to be established unless a change of government took place, was perfectly true. But since the last election, another group has become interested in this project. It has put up a substantial sum of money, and has been granted timber concessions by the Tasmanian Government on the definite understanding that it will make a start before the 30th June next.
– Does not the honorable member know that a bounty on paper pulp was promised many years ago?
– That proposal was dropped over three years ago. At the present time, two powerful groups interested in the scheme are in touch with each other, and I am confident that an agreement will be reached to establish the industry at an early date.
– The honorable member is an optimist.
– In this matter, I am; it is much better to be an optimist than a confirmed protectionist pessimist. I believe that this year will see something tangible done in connexion with the big scheme for the manufacture of paper pulp.
.- I support the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), that the Minister should inform the committee of the exact position in connexion with the establishment of the paper pulp industry in Tasmania. It was alleged during the régime of the Scullin Government that failure to start the industry was due to lack of confidence. Obviously, that was not the real reason, because this Government has been in office for some time now, and nothing tangible has been done. Apparently, the delay is now due to a lack of co-operation between the two financial groups interested in the enterprise. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) has just told us that these groups are not looking for financial assistance from this Parliament. That is not so, because for some nine years or more successive Commonwealth Governments have promised a bounty for the manufacture of paper pulp, but it has been recognized that it is not economically possible for two financial groups to engage in the enterprise. They must come together with a view to reducing initial costs and overhead charges. When this is done, the necessary financial assistance will be forthcoming. For the honorable member for Denison to suggest that the financial interests associated with both enterprises are not expecting government assistance is too absurd for words. It is well known that wealthy newspaper interests in this country are associated with the proposal, and they would be the last people in the world to risk hundreds of thousands of pounds of capital in a. venture of this description without first having a definite assurance from the Commonwealth that financial aid would be given to them. This scheme has been dragging on since the present Government took office a little over fifteen months ago, and, as far as I can gather from the information given to honorable members, there is now less likelihood of the rival groups coming together than in any previous stage of the negotiations. I should like to know from the Minister precisely what financial assistance this Government proposes to provide for this industry. Unless we encourage the establishment of important secondary enterprises such as the manufacture of paper pulp, the fish industry, the extraction of oil from shale, and others, I can see no hope of a reduction of unemployment in this country.
.-Itis amazing how readily the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) can work up an argument about an abstract subject such as the item before the committee. Some years ago Tasmanian interests approached the Bruce-Page Administration, and, later, the Scullin Government, for financial assistance to establish the paper pulp industry in that State. But soon there were two rival groups in the field, and up to the present time they have not come to an agreement for the pooling of their resources, and consequently have not submitted to the Government a proposal that is acceptable. The development branch is now making the necessary investigations. Work cannot be started until the parties reconcile their interests, and can show that they have command of the necessary capital.
– That is what we said, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) told a different story during the last election campaign.
– I suppose the Prime Minister expressed the hope that many new industries would be established in this country. Undoubtedly, it would be a good thing for Australia if paper pulp could be manufactured from eucalypts, which was the original proposal. This industry has reached a highly productive stage in other countries, and, because of the technical difficulties involved, the interests concerned in the Tasmanian project are going slowly in the matter. Although it is not the Government’s province to put these people into business, it will give careful consideration to a tangible scheme when it is submitted for consideration.
.- I understand that the Minister in control of development has this matter in hand. It has occurred to me that, possibly, the wealthy newspaper interests in this country are indulging in a sham fight against one another, so that the establishment of the industry may be delayed. The Government should not tolerate undue delay. This proposal has been under consideration for at least ten years. I have seen paper and printing material, produced by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research from Australian timber, equal to any paper in the world. There is not theslightest doubt that, if this industry is developed along right lines, we shall be able to meet our own requirements in newsprint and other papers, and as the industry will provide a great deal of employment, those who are contemplating its establishment should be told plainly that it is about time some definite action was taken.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 337 (a), 338 (n)_, 339, 340 (n), 344 (a) (b) (c), and 345 agreed to.
Item 346, sub-items (a) (e) (Pencils of wood).
.- I should like some information with regard to this sub-item (a). A Sydney company is now manufacturing lead pencils, using Australian timbers, Australian glue, and Australian paint. Although it may not be an important industry, it is desirable that we should give encouragement to all enterprises that provide employment for our people. I understand that this item was submitted to the Tariff Board some considerable time ago; but, as the Minister has since referred other matters to the board, at the behest of representatives from the Country party, I am afraid that its report concerning this particular industry may be unduly delayed. As this industry has asked for tariff protection, it is not right that the board’s inquiry should be further delayed. Although it may be a small industry, it uses Australian materials, with the exception of graphite, and its successful development will keep out many trashy pencils that are imported from Japan and elsewhere.
– This is by no means a sin all»in dustry. The importations in 1931-32 were valued at £28,865. The duties on pencils will be referred to the Tariff Board at an early date.
– But will the investigation be held up by other inquiries that are being expedited at the request, of the Country party?
– I can only give my assurance that, the matter will be dealt with by the board as early as practicable. Both my department and the board are working at high pressure. The industry of pencil-making has received generous consideration through the free entry of its requisites under by-laws. t .
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder, of division, viz., items 347 to 349 agreed to.
DIVISION 14. - Vehicles.
Items 352 (a2) (c), 354 (ii), and 358 (a) agreed to.
Item 359, sub-items (el) (nl, 2), and (e1, 2, 3) (Vehicle parts).
.- Sub-item (e) relates to metal panels for motor bodies and provides for duties of £15 per set for single-seated bodies; £?5 per set for double-seated bodies, and £32 10s. per set for bodies with fixed or movable canopy tops and bodies. Panels for cars are provided either by moulding with dies, beating by hand, or the substitution of leather for steel to avoid the high duty and capital cost of dies. I understand that the cost of a set of dies varies from £6,000 upwards. If there is a demand for, say, 6,000 sets of panels of one kind, the die cost per car is only £1, but if the demand should be limited to 300 sets of panels, the die cost per car is £20. Even when the motor car business was booming, only a few popular makes were sold in sufficient numbers ro justify the provision of dies at such tremendous cost. Cars of which the sale is restricted - and that applies to many makes of British cars - cannot afford the prohibitive cost of dies, and have to choose between hand-beaten panels and leather. Some honorable members may imagine that leather bodies are provided in accordance with the desire of the purchasers.
– That is so.
– Only sometimes. In many cases leather bodies are used because of the impossibility of providing steel panels at a reasonable price. Many of the makers of the less popular cars have fitted the bodies with hand-beaten panels, but I understand that the manual product is inferior to that made with dies. When the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was Minister for Trade and Customs, the associated’ agents for British cars suggested a sliding scale of duties on sets pf panels’ imported from the United Kingdom, so that the duty would he low when comparatively few panels were required, and would increase in- proportion to the importations, until, eventually, through the growth of output, it would pay local agents better to incur the capital cost of dies than to pay the duty on imported panels. That was a reasonable proposal which I hope the present Minister for Trade and Customs will investigate. To-day it is doubtful if any make of car is selling in numbers sufficient to warrant the body-makers incurring the expense of dies.
– Nevertheless dies are being used.
– Yes, but if a capital cost of £6,000 is spread over a relatively small number of cars the cost per car is unreasonable. I believe that if the importation of panels were permitted at a low rate of duty, thus cheapening the cos~t of cars, more cars would be sold, and a greater volume of work would be provided for body builders. At present, the British cars are undoubtedly penalized because the makes which are selling in large numbers -are principally of American origin. The disparity between the sales of British and American cars would be reduced if the suggested relief from the present tremendous duty were granted.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has made out a prima facie case, judgment upon which must depend upon the accuracy of the figures he has given to the committee. I can hardly believe that a set of dies for, say, a 7 horse-power Austin car, would cost £6.000. In 1929 or 1930, Holdens, of Adelaide, turned out 43,000 motor, bodies.
– Using many different patterns of dies.
– Subsequently, there was a considerable slump in the motor trade, and the output fell, so I was told, to little more than 1,000 a year, but trade has now improved considerably, and this firm, now linked up with General Motors Limited, is again employing large numbers of men and producing bodies for all the chassis imported by that large company. The panels required cover a wide range of patterns. I am inclined to think that no substantial increase in the demand for cars would follow a reduction in the duties on panels, which represent only a small proportion of “the cost of a car. I have been under the impression that leather-covered motor bodies were the most advanced development in the trade, but the honorable member for Gippsland has told the committee that resort to leather has been dictated by our poverty. Unless the Minister has information which will set at rest the doubts raised by the honorable member’s speech, this item should be postponed until such information is available. The motor car is now an integral part of our lives, and it is vitally important that its cost be reduced as low as possible; but equally important is the encouragement of the manufacture of motor bodies and parts in Australia. The honorable member for Gippsland will probably be surprised at learning the extent to which the production of motor bodies and parts has developed.
– “What about the small manufacturer who cannot afford a set of dies?
– What about him?’ The answer is suggested in the interjection. He dies.
.- I. suggest that the Government walk very warily before allowing itself to becaptured by the suggestion that has been made by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). When I was Prime Minister, I received an influential deputation which discussed this very subject with me. I do not deny that they made out, from their point of view, a strong case; but there is a stronger case against it. Their case, on the whole, was very similar to that presented to us this afternoon by the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). Some small body-builders desire to import, panels with which to make motorcarbodies, because they are unable to afford! to buy or make the dies which large-scale: production alone justifies.
– How many of thesesmall builders are there?
– There may be a largenumber of such builders, but the number of bodies they make is small. We have encouraged the .manufacture of motorcarbodies in Australia until we have reached the stage at which practically all the bodies used are made locally. There are in Australia firms which have had sufficient enterprise to install expensive plants, complete with, dies, for the manufacture of panels. If the honorable member’s proposal is accepted, and competition from imported panels is permitted, the local firms which have installed their own dies may he put out of business, and a large amount of capital lost. Holden’s, in South Australia, is a striking example of the way in which the industry has developed. This firm has spent a large sum of money in equipping its factory. It may, of course, be said that, if the importation of panels is prohibited, a monopoly will be given to the- Australian body-builders; .but we must remember that, so expensive is the machinery which the Australian body-building firms have installed, that its use- is justified only on a mass production basis. If we permit imported panels to come into this country, they will eat into the volume of trade offering, and the big firms will not be able to carry on successfully. I admit that the honorable member’s proposal looks fair enough, and that by his scheme for a sliding rate of duty the big manufacturers are apparently protected. He suggests that if panels are required in small quantities only, they should he allowed in at a lower rate of duty, which rate would rise as the number imported increased, so that firms using a large number of panels would be encouraged to install their own dies. I remind honorable members, however, that if the number of designs is large enough, the number of panels of any given description imported at one time may be so small as completely to defeat the protective purpose of the tariff.
The honorable member for Gippsland raised one important point, namely, that the present system penalizes the British car manufacturer in competition with the American manufacturer. The multitude of the varieties of British cars in comparison with the small number of standardized makes usually imported from the United States of America renders it more difficult to build bodies for them in this country. That was one of the points I emphasized in England when discussing the subject with British car manufacturers. I pointed out that we gave them a preference of, I think, 21 per cent, on cars, and that notwithstanding this, they were unable to take advantage of it to the extent of displacing the American cars. I am convinced, as a layman, that the reason why British manufacturers do not succeed, is that they will not standardize their products for the Australian market. They are too individualistic, too proud of their own product, with the result that it is impossible to get a group of them to cooperate in the production of a few standard cars which would he acceptable in this country. If they are not prepared to do that, we cannot be expected, to upset our local industry in order to help them. I was told, when in England, that if the British Government would alter its system of motor taxation, British car manufacturers would be able to build at a cheaper price cars for the Australian market. That is their business. We can point out to them what ought to ‘be done ; it is for them to adopt the suggestion. In the circumstances, I do not think that we are justified in departing from the present system. There is something to
Be “said for the case put forward by the honorable member for Gippsland, hut, on the whole, the weight of evidence is against it.
.- I am surprised to hear any honorable member in this House assert that motor-body panels cannot be made in Australia.
– Nobody said that.
– I was also surprised at the tone of the debate on this subject. We have not many secondary industries in South Australia, but among them are two large motor body.building works which press their own panels. The only factory in my electorate is that of T. J. Richards, which is engaged in the manufacture of motor ‘bodies. I trust that nothing will be done by means of tariff alteration to injure these industries. In the early stages of the body-building industry in this country, .bodies were made only for touring cars and roadsters. They can now manufacture all kinds of bodies for cars. The investments in Holden’s pressed ‘ metal department alone run into approximately £600,000.- .This firm employs 600 men, and Richards employs between 300 and 400. In South Australia, we suffer a. good deal as a result of the tariff :; let us, at least, continue to enjoy, this benefit from duty on pressed panels.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was correct when he said that the British manufacturers persisted in producing freak motor cars for which it was impossible to build bodies in Australia at a reasonable cost. So few of them are sold here that it is not worth while installing the machinery necessary for making the bodies. England appears to be specializing in the manufacture of such cars, and at the annual exhibitions, is able to sell many of them to continental and even American buyers; but the demand in Australia is so limited that it would not pay to install dies for the manufacture of panels used in making the bodies.
– There are some skilled hand beaters in Australia.
– Possibly ; but the use of hand beaten panels would probably increase the cost of the bodies. Those British manufacturers who produce standard cars such as the Austin, Vauxhall, and a few others, are able to compete in the Australian market, because the bodies can be manufactured here. As for the other manufacturers, nothing can be done to help them, except to reduce the tariff on imported panels, and that would injure the Australian industry. I do not know why Australia need bother about the British freak motor cars, when there are already on the market British cars of standard makes which can compete with the best America sends us. I should be loth to do anything to hurt the body-building industry in this country.
– I want to help it.
– The honorable member’s suggestion for helping it would be particularly injurious to Holden’s and the other large body-building firms.
.- I am reluctant to hurt the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) by expressing sentiments of which he does not approve, but I am compelled to give my unqualified support to the proposal of the honorable member for Gippsland. I have, for years, taken an amateur’s interest in the motor industry, and I am convinced that the case presented by the honorable member for Gippsland is sound. I have in mind a certain make of car for which body panels could be manufactured in this country only with the use of dies costing about £7,000. The estimate of £6,000 for a set of dies is, I consider, conservative. Although .there are some hundreds of thousands of cars sold annually in Australia, this number includes a great variety of makes, and it would be impossible to manufacture ‘body panels for them here on a mass-production basis. Because of the number of different models of all makes of cars involving different sets of dies, the cost of motor bodies has risen enormously.’ I was informed in Melbourne, by a man upon- whose word I can implicitly rely, that in some cases the cost of a motor body in Australia is equal to that of the fully equipped car in the country of origin. “If that statement is correct, or even approximately so, the price to the Australian purchaser is out of all reason. The people of this country definitely demand individuality in motor car appearance. I have no wish to possess the same make of car as that which is possessed by other persons, or to have on that car a body similar to that on other makes; bodies must conform to make of car; and that feeling is general in the community. Where there is a demand for individuality, the manufacturer will meet it. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) suspects that Great Britain has not moved in the direction of completely standardizing and modernizing its cars. I deny that that is so. Particularly within recent years, very considerable strides have been made by British manufacturers in the direction of meeting the Australian demand, and, in my opinion, it will not be very long before the English car will supplant the American. The question of the labour employed has been raised. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition would create in Australia a monopoly in motorbody building, with, possibly, a’ limited number of body types being sold for different makes of cars. It would be absolutely impossible to divide the industry into groups, or to expect reasonable competition so long as the huge overhead cost of dies continued. I wish to see costs reduced, if possible. The effect of that would be to expand the industry, and enable’ a greater number of persons to be employed. If it is correct that the cost of a motor body in Australia to-day is equal to the total cost of the car in the country of origin, it stands to reason that the demand for cars must be restricted. I maintain that the motor car is a big factor in decentralization, particularly in the back country districts. I hope that the Minister will pay heed to the suggestion that has been made, and that a thorough inquiry will be held into the cost of motor panels. While the demand for individuality in body design persists - and I hope that it will persist - the cost of dies will have a mitigating influence upon body building, and the sale of ears. I wish body building to expand, not only in South Australia, but also in the other States. I also desire costs to be so reduced that a large number of persons will be able to avail themselves of the undoubted advantages of the motor car.
– I support the views of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). I have spoken to the gentleman who interviewed the former Prime Minis ter (Mr. Scullin), and have also made a number of inquiries concerning the building in Australia of bodies for English cars. Very few persons are employed in the stamping of the panels, the greater number being engaged in the making of the bodies. In the former capacity, probably no more than ten men are employed. In olden days, when the English manufacturers first placed their cars on the Australian market, there were many motor bodybuilding establishments. I know of two that were engaged in that business in South Brisbane, and of several in North Brisbane. The tariff has had the effect of closing down every one of those establishments. The number of men thus thrown out of employment far exceeds the additional hands engaged by Holden’s.
– Does not that apply to all industries, not only in Australia, but all over the world?
– I am not referring particularly to present conditions, but am dealing with the result of the practical prohibition of the importation of motor body panels. With individual cars we have no concern, because the persons who purchase them can afford to import the complete car and to bear the burden of the duty on every part of it.
– So they should.
– I agree with the honorable member. I have not seen any freak English cars. The Austin and Morris ears that one sees in Sydney are suitable for men of ordinary tastes. At one time there was an establishment in Brisbane at which bodies for English cars were made, but now the manufacturers are practically forced to give their business to Holden’s, who are the representatives in Australia of the General Motors Corporation.
– What firm turned out the full body in Brisbane?
– Peel’s was one firm, and theC.C.M. Agency another. They imported the panels, and put them on the bodies. The English car manufacturers are now compelled to have their bodies made by the largest American concern, consequently they are absolutely in the hands of their principal opponent, which constitutes the biggest monopoly in motor car manufacturing in the world - a monopoly that has crushed out competition wherever it has been met. When Sir Henry Morris was in Australia, I asked him why he did not establish works in this country, and his reply was, “ In a short time General Motors would do to me what they have done to every other company that has attempted to establish motor-car works; with their huge capital they would crush me out completely.” The admission of motor panels would lead to a greater volume of employment than at present exists, and cars would be’ cheaper than they are to-day. Much has been said concerning mass production. What is the good of mass production unless the manufacturers can dispense with human labour? This aspect of the matter ought to appeal to the Labour party. Under the old method, more men were employed, and the bodies were considerably cheaper than they are to-day.
– Imported bodies are made by mass production methods.
– I agree that that is so.
– The imposition of the duty enables work to be provided in Australia for hand beaters.
– For very few. The Minister would do well if he would postpone the item, and give further consideration to the matter from all its aspects.
.- 1 hope that the committee will allow this item to stand. It has been stated that Holden’s employ in South Australia in the vicinity of 600 men. I believe that, even during the depression, as many as 1,000 were employed by that firm. Any person who has visited its works knows that the capital invested in them must exceed £1,000,000. They cover many acres of ground, and are the best equipped, as well as the largest, works of their kind in the southern hemisphere. Holden’s have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in the purchase of the plant and machinery necessary for motor-body building, including the making of panels, and, in addition, during the depression, they concentrated on other work with the object of absorbing as much labour as possible. At one time they employed upwards of 3,000 or 4,000 men, and turned out a large number of bodies each week. I do not believe in protection being made too high, but I sincerely hope that the committee will give what is necessary to a company such as this, which we really cannot do without. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) stated that mass production resulted in the dismissal of a certain number of nien. That is not borne out in the case of Holden’s, who employ thousands of men despite the fact that they produce in the mass. I hope that the item will .not be altered. I believe that British car manufacturers have not catered adequately for Australian needs. I am a loyal British subject, but I own and drive an American car, and am not ashamed to make the acknowledgment. I know that if I wanted to purchase a British car of the same class as the Buick for which I paid £400, I should have to pay over £1,000. I think that, at last, British car manufacturers are making special efforts to cater for our requirements. When they have done that to our satisfaction, we can think of lowering the duty in their favour.
– This is not altogether a matter of British industry versus that of the
United States of America, but of what we can do for Australia. I am surprised that some honorable members should attempt to belittle the value of this industry to the Commonwealth. It is not fair to gauge that value on a depression basis. The motor body industry has been carried on successfully in this country, and it is not at all uncommon for representatives of American car manufacturers who visit Australia to declare that Australian-built bodies are equal to those constructed in the United States of America. Thousands of bodies built by Holden’s, and other concerns, have been fitted on American chassis, including such well known makes as Chrysler, Studebaker and Buick. Hundreds of metal workers and beaters have been specially trained for the- purpose, and it would be improper if we did anything to hamper the growth of the industry.
Every part of a panel for the body of a motor car can be made well in Australia. There is not very much difference between the cost of the local and that of the imported article. It certainly would not be possible to land a motor car equipped with an imported body as cheaply as the same chassis could be purchased if fitted with an Australian body.
– My reference was to the cost in the country of origin.
– Motor bodies will not swim to Australia; they have to bc freighted across. One indication that our motor body industry is successfully established is that the money invested in it is, largely, American. For years most of the popular cars have been fitted with bodies built in the Commonwealth, to the great satisfaction of their owners.
During this debate; and on other occasions, members of the Country party have claimed that the cost of production in Australia is high because there is a multiplicity of workshops trying to carry on. They contend that the only way in which to place our industries on a sound economic -basis is to evolve a rational scheme of grouping these small concerns in one big, comprehensive, efficient plant. That is the tendency all over the world. Yet, when their wishes are met in the motor body industry, honorable members raise the cry of “ monopoly “. It is wrong to become biased against a large well-established plant, for monopolies produce commodities more cheaply than oan small industries, and, at the same time, they give the public better results. If it became evident that Holden’s or any other company was exploiting the community, this Parliament has power to protect the people. It is unwise to prejudice the minds of others in these matters. The Government is selecting a jury to inquire into the transactions of the oil companies, yet we are prejudicing the minds of all by saying that those companies are a monopoly robbing the community. It is not wrong to be a monopoly; it is wrong to use monopolistic powers improperly. I hope that this item will not be altered, because the Australian motor body-building industry has proved satisfactory and efficient, and it deserves a proper measure of protection.
.- I venture to say a few words on this item, because a considerable amount of motor bodymaking is done in the Ford Motor Company’s works, and these are in the Corio electorate. Some honorable members are
Slightly in error regarding the cost of dies. In the United States of America and Great Britain, where many thousands of bodies of one design are manufactured, steel dies are used by the manufacturers; but in Australia, where there is a market for a relatively few bodies of the same design, the necessity for economy has prompted research into cheaper forms of dies, such as cast-iron dies, and even hardwood and reinforced concrete dies, the first downward thrust of the die block forming a steel plate which acts as a shoe to protect the relatively soft body of the die from being deformed by subsequent use.
– Does not that result in the production of inferior panels?
– No; because relatively few panels of the same design are manufactured. It is essential that we should keep faith with -the big organizations which have invested money in Australia, not only in dies, hut in enormous and expensive presses, for the making of panels for motor car bodies. We must also consider the interests of small bodybuilders, the scope of whose operations does not warrant repetition machinery.
I cannot support the proposal of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), because, in my opinion, it would work against the interests of mass production in body-building, and would not appreciably assist the small man.
As to the cost of Australian car bodies, I think that this community has paid, and is paying, a very heavy price for the establishment and maintenance of the body-building industry in this country. I say that in spite of the fact that the second biggest body-making factory in Australia is in my electorate. I believe it to be true in general to say that wo pay several times as much for a body as we should pay for an imported body if these did not carry a heavy duty. The car which I use costs £430 in Australia, whereas its price in the United States of America and Canada -is only 700 dollars. I admit that these figures are not directly comparable, and I give them merely to indicate in general terms the spectacular difference. The biggest single item of difference between ‘the price here and in America is, I am given to understand, due to the cost of the body. Because’ of the limited market, it does not pay Holden’s Limited, the Ford Company, or any other company to market more than the minimum range of bodies. Because of that, we are denied the advantage enjoyed in other countries of a wide choice of body types. The “ Sunshine “ body that has been developed, particularly in Great Britain, is wind proof, rattle proof, and weather proof, and makes it possible to give a closed car the characteristics of an open car by the flick of a finger. We are denied the enjoyment of bodies such as that, because it would be too costly to install the necessary dies and machinery for the number of bodies that would be sold here. We are also denied, in perpetuity, the chance of exporting car bodies, because we could not possibly compete with the American or Canadian makers. _ It may be possible one of these days, not by any arbitrary action of this Parliament, but by negotiation with the representatives of the industry to prevent the whole country having to pay a toll that is not justified by the number of men. employed in the industry.
.- The adoption of the suggestion of the honor- able member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) would, I believe, undermine the motor body-building industry in Australia.
– It would not affect the industry adversely.
– It is claimed that by lowering the duty on small parcels of panels and increasing the duty according to the number of panels imported for the more popular cars, preference would be given to some make of English cars. In my opinion, that would lead to a number of new types of cars being placed on the market, and to increased numbers of applications for the importation at low rates of duty of small batches of panels, and would, in the aggregate, throw out of employment large numbers of Australian workmen now employed in the wellestablished body-building factories in this country.
– How does the honorable member make that out?
– It is obvious that if, say, twelve different types of English cars were brought here, and application made for 40 sets of panels for each type at a low rate of duty, they would displace a number of cars fitted with Australian bodies. Every set of panels which entered at the low rate of duty would displace a set of panels made in the Australian factories, and reduce still further the number of their employees.
– The number of employees would be increased.
– It is contended that the adoption of the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland would increase the number of cars sold. It may be that more of certain makes of cars would be sold; but I submit that there would be a corresponding decrease in the sale of other cars, the panels of which are made in Australia. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, representatives of British manufacturers and importers of British cars waited on me and on the then Prime Minister, and presented what, from their point of view, was a strong case. Then, in an interview which I arranged with Mr. Holden and other Australian motor body-builders, the1 latter pointed out that they had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in establishing plants and in importing dies, and that if the concession asked for were granted to British’ manufacturers,, the effect on already well-established industries in this country would be prejudicial. Had the British manufacturers accepted the advice of the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), and decided to concentrate on a limited number of makes of British cars for the Australian market, and to establish their own plant and dies in Australia, they would have overcome the difficulty. The Australian motor body-builders were only too willing to meet the British car manufacturers by turning out as far as practicable exclusive body types for them. The British car manufacturers wanted something entirely different from the bodies on American
Gars. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) claimed that Australians demand an opportunity to show their individuality, and stated that he would not like to drive the same kind of car that every other person on the road drove. Yet it would not do the honorable member any harm to do that. If he were to carry his fastidiousness further, he might object to using the same road as his constituents, or, carrying it still further, he might” demand a special train for himself, and so avoid the dust of the. road. If motor car manufacturers abroad want exclusive types of panels, let them establish their own works in Australia, as the Ford organization has done. That organization is not obliged to go to Holden’s, or Richards’, or other Australian motor car ‘Body-builders for its dies panels, or motor car bodies.
– I hope that this item will not be disturbed. One of the causes of our financial difficulties in this country is that we have spent so much of our money overseas to pay for motor cars and accessories. The experience of Holden’s and other motor body-builders in this country is similar to that of others who have established industries in Australia. If we push this policy of lowering duties too far, we shall imperil many of our manufacturing industries, and affect the revenue from which bounties on wheat and other export primary products are paid. It is diffi- cult to compare manufacturing costs in Australia with those in other countries, because our exclusive arbitration laws tend to raise the cost of production in Australia. In considering the tariff that fact should not be overlooked. I hope that, in the interests of this large secondary industry, the item will be allowed to stand unaltered.
.- Some honorable members have taken an extraordinary view of my suggestion. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) appears to think that the motor body-building industry would be jeopardized if this item were referred to the Tariff Board for investigation. I am proud that so many of the motor car bodies in use in Australia are made in this country. I drive a British car which has an Australian body. I believe that if the Tariff Board investigated this subject it would decide that it would be to the advantage of the Australian motor body-building industry to admit a limited number of imported panels at reasonable rates of duty for those makes of cars which are not sold in large numbers; it would stimulate rather than hinder motor car body-building in Australia, because it would reduce the cost of cars. In a book which he has written, Henry Ford, whose name has been mentioned during this debate, says that every time he succeeded in reducing the price of his car by 10, 20, or 30 dollars, lie reached a new stratum of buyers. He succeeded in getting as purchasers people who were unable to afford a car before the price was reduced. Every reduction in price enabled him to catch more buyers, make more cars, and employ more workmen. If we can reduce the cost of the motor bodies built in Australia - and I stress that we would still build them here - we would sell more of them, and thereby give employment to more of our people. I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) that we need not concern ourselves about freak cars, .but I submit that a make of car which requires, say, 400 sets of panels from a set of dies has its price increased by from £15 to £20 owing to the cost of the dies. Where the order for panels is a large one, running into thousands, the cost of the dies is not very much per set of panels; but where the order is for only 200 or 300 sets of panels, the cost per set is greater. In that way the cost of the car is raised, with the result that fewer of them are sold, and consequently not so many workers are employed in making the Bodies. There is really not a great deal of labour employed in pressing these panels. The bodies would still be built here, and, I submit, in greater numbers, if my suggestion were accepted. Let “us consider the position of an English car which sells in hundreds rather than in thousands. There exist in Great Britain dies suitable for the moulding of the panels of that car. We have to choose between obtaining panels from those dies, and incurring the expense of making dies here. It is both unreasonable and uneconomic to make dies in Australia for only a few hundred cars. In order to test the feeling of the committee on this item, I move -
That sub-item (e) be postponed.
I do so in order that the item may be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation.
.- It may interest the committee to know that in 1927 the interstate sales of Holden’s General Motors Limited were valued at £2,191,274. In that year the company paid £764,239 in wages, and £53,320 in salaries. Unfortunately, the figures dropped considerably for the year ended June last, when the sales amounted to £312,015, and wages and salaries together to £152,534. For the last five years the company’s aggregate sales have amounted to £7,360,137, and salaries and wages to £2,868,405. It will be admitted that the establishments of Holden’s Limited and T. J. Richards Limited are the ‘best equipped body-building establishments in Australia. I . hope that there will be no display of interstate jealousy in this matter. South Australia has not many big industries, but the motor bodybuilding industry is established there on a sound footing. The duty on a complete motor car is about £90, and as a Chevrolet body can be built in Australia for less than £40, there is every justification for encouraging this industry.
– That particular make of car is so popular that the use of dies in body-building is justified.
– The cost of the dies is not a particularly heavy item, once the plant is installed.
– Different dies must be used for different makes of cars.
– Of course it would be of great advantage if only a few standard types of bodies were in use; but the public decrees otherwise, and its requirements have to be met. I hope that the duty, will be passed as it stands.
– I have had little experience of motor cars, and I have received but slight enlightenment from the contribution to this debate that has come from the Country party. I remind the members of that party that Holden’s are not the only motor body manufacturers in Australia. There are six well-equipped firms in Melbourne, and in these troublous times I am unwilling to cast a vote that would help to throw men out of work.
– In my opinion, the Melbourne body-makers would support my suggestion.
– I do not believe that they would. Members of the Country party talk about duties that should be reduced; but I find that these duties were introduced by a ministry of which the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) were members. Those duties have been in operation since 1921 without protest from those members. I admit that we have had protests from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), but the other honorable members to whom I have referred were content to let the duties stand, so long as they remained in office. Because the late member for Wimmera, Mr. P. G. Stewart, would not be a party to such a policy, he walked out of the Ministry with which the Country party was associated.
– I have already proved myself capable of similar action.
– Whatever the honorable member did in cabinet, I do not know; but the public generally believes that he stood behind these duties from 1921 to 1933, without a protest. Now members of the Country party are seek ing to make political capital out of this matter, and to injure this Ministry by advocating a policy of freetrade.
.- If small manufacturers are looking for the entry of panels for motor bodies at lower rates of duty than are now imposed, they should write to the Minister, and ask for the entry of these panels under bylaw.
– Does the Minister say that panels would be admitted under bylaw?
– I do not promise that the request would be complied with. So far as my knowledge goes, no manufacturer has ever made such an application. The post-war industry of motor bodybuilding is an efficient one. It was promised adequate protection in 1921, and in 1925 it got it. The duties now proposed were recommended by the Tariff Board, which reported -
One of the disquieting facts in connexion with the motor car industry is found in the heavy importations of bodies last year, i.e., 1923-24. There is no apparent need to import bodies into Australia.
In that year £1,163,138 worth of bodies came from abroad, and three-fourths of them were from the United States of America. In view of our adverse trade with that country, it was thought advisable that the work of building the bodies should be done in Australia, rather than that the- trade should be allowed to become still more adverse. The board further stated -
The success which lias attended mass production in Australia of touring bodies leaves no doubt that the closed type can also be produced with equal success, if the demand grows.
The truth of that statement has been proved. The local firms were previously making touring cars, and now they have made a success of the manufacture of closed bodies as well. The report of the board continued -
The weather conditions in Australia are very different from those in America, and the demand will undoubtedly be affected in each country by these conditions.
– The duty penalizes Great Britain.
– Great- Britain has been invited to make representations in this regard, but she has made none. Although this matter was discussed at Ottawa, no concrete proposition has been put forward. Anybody who has witnessed the manufacture of motor cars in Detroit, and hasseen more than 1,000 cars a day coming off the conveyors at factories such as the Ford Works - those were the figures when I was there in 1919, but I believe that they have been trebled since then - will realize that the Australian industry must be protected if it is to succeed. It is certainly being conducted on efficient lines to-day. Holden’s have adopted the conveyor system, and other body works, such as the Ruskin, are turning out efficient bodies on a mass production basis. If the small manufacturers are wanting cheap panels, let them apply to the department for their admission under bylaw. But there are few small bodymakers in Australia. Owing to the depressed condition of the motor industry, both the large and the small companies are suffering. Therefore, I ask that the duty be retained.
.- I desire the further elucidation of this matter before I vote. I think that there is still some misconception in regard to it. Nearly every make of motor car has a different design of panel, and the makers are anxious that their car shall be placed on the Australian market with exactly the same finish as that given to it in the country of origin. The wishes of the Australian buyers are similar in that respect. Suppose an importer secures from overseas 100 cars, comprising 25 each of four different models. I understand that there would have to be separate dies for the panelling of each model, because the die suitable for the panelling of the largest model would obviously be unsuitable for that of the smallest. If a set of dies for one model cost, say, £7,000, a capital outlay of £28,000 would be required to enable a manufacturer to be in a position to supply panels for the four different models. Such a heavy expenditure upon dies alone would be unthinkable, and the purchaser in Australia would not be able to obtain the same kind of body and the same panelling as that provided on cars of the same make in the country of origin. Under those circumstances, could a body builder who had contracted for the supply of bodies for that particular make of car apply to the Minister for admission of the requisite panels under by-law with any reasonable hope of success ?
– I submit that as these panels could be made in Australia, it would be unnecessary to import them. In my opinion, the cost of the dies has been over-stressed and considerably exaggerated. No doubt a manufacturer would consider the number of panels that he was likely to require before deciding to procure dies. If only a few cars of a particular model had to be made, the panels would be beaten by hand ; the services of panel-beaters can beobtained for that particular class of work. But if it happened that certain dies were required, and their cost was prohibitive, consideration would be given to their admission under by-law, in order to help an Australian industry. The motor body-building industry also uses a large quantity of Australian steel and a certain amount of imported steel, and also a large quantity of Australian leather-cloth. As I . have already remarked, if any request by a manufacturer for admission of those panels under by-law were refused, mention of the fact could be made in this chamber.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 360 agreed to.
Item 366, sub-item (b) agreed to.
Items 368 and 370 agreed to.
Articles imported or purchased in bond for the official use of the Governor-General, and declared as being for such official use, free.
.- If we should have a Governor-General who would not consent to buy Australian whisky, sparkling wines, or brandy, I think we ought to oblige him to pay the usual duties on imported goods that he purchases. For that reason I suggest that this item should be reviewed by the Minister. The salary of the Governor-General is £10,000 per annum, plus a substantial allowance for entertainment purposes.
– But we shall not he having any more imported GovernorsGeneral.
– It is the fear that this Government may revert to the practice of overseas appointments to the office of Governor-General that causes me to ask that this item should be reviewed. Seeing that our Governors-General are paid with money provided by the taxpayers, I think they should buy Australian goods, or, if they are not prepared to do so, they should pay the ordinary duties on the imported goods that they use. The least that imported Governors-General should do is to support our Australian industries by using local products.
– I regret that the honorable member has introduced this subject. The provision to which he has objected has been in our tariff schedules since the tariff was first introduced. It is really an international courtesy, and it has been extended to foreign consuls and certain other people by even the Labour governments which have been in power from time to time. I emphatically decline to make any examination to ascertain the country of origin of the goods used by consulsgeneral
– I did not mention consulsgeneral; I confined my remarks to Governors-General.
– As the honorable member has referred specifically to GovernorsGeneral I remind him that one of the greatest advocates of Australian-made goods that we have had in our midst was Lord Northcote, who was Governor-General from 1904 to 1908, while the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) held ministerial office. It is unnecessary to pursue the honorable member’s remarks any further. If he will read items 371 and 373 in conjunction with an amendment which I shall move in a moment he will see that the object of them is to make this privilege uniform.
Item agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new itembe inserted: -
On and after 23rd March, 1933. 37lA. Articles imported, or purchased in bond, for the official use of the Representative in the Commonwealth of Australia of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and declared as being for such official use; Articles and personal effects owned and imported by Officers of the British Civil Service onthe staff of the Representative in the Commonwealth of Australia of His Majesty’s Government inthe United Kingdom, provided such goods are imported within sixmonths of the arrival of such official or within such further time as the Minister may allow, free.
This amendment has been rendered necessary in consequence of the new status of the British representative in Australia. It is really an act of courtesy to the British representative and his staff. Australian official representatives abroad are granted a similar concession.
.- I support the amendment. Upon the completion of my term as Agent-General for South Australia in London, I was given a banquet and presented for services rendered with a silver tea and coffee service which, I understand, cost £111. When I returned to Australia I was called upon to pay more than £38 in customs duties in respect of it. I objected to this, and after a long fight with the Customs Department, I was able to secure the reduction of the duty to about £12. I do not think that any duty should be imposed in think that any duty should be imposed in such cases, especially when the gift was made for services rendered for Australia.
New item 371a agreed to.
Item 372 agreed to.
Items 373, 374 (a), 375 (a), 376 (g), 377, 378, 379, 380 (a2), 381 (a) (b) (c), 382, 383, 384 (b), 385, 387, 388 (a), 389, 390 (b), 391, 392 (b), 394 (a) (b), 395, 396, 397 (c) (d) (e), 399, 400 (a), 401, and 402 agreed to.
Item 403, sub-items (a) (b) (c) -
.- Ever sinceour tariff hasbeen in operation, superphosphates manufactured within the
Empire have been admitted free, and superphosphates from foreign countries have been subject to a duty ; but all other manures have been admitted free. I do not think that any country in the world except Australia puts a duty on fertilizers, or the ingredients required in the manufacture of them. Usually, the authorities who deal with customs duties realize the enormous value of manures as a factor in the wealth production of a country. I desire that Australia shall follow the example of these other countries. In 1901, when our first tariff schedule was under » consideration, manures were on the free list, but sulphate of ammonia, which was not then used for the manufacture of fertilizers, was made dutiable to the extent of 15 per cent. British and 25 per cent, foreign, and it was placed in the chemical division of the schedule. During the war, when the Germans found it impossible to get nitrates, owing to the blockade, their scientists discovered a method of obtaining nitrate from the atmosphere, which, after the war, was’ exploited to a very large extent for the manufacture of fertilizers, and fertilizers were used with such great success that, within a couple of years, the areas which had been devastated by the war were restored to their former fertility. The Germans pointed out in certain circulars they issued, that the use of fertilizers was essential, and that they should be made available at the lowest possible price to those who had to use thom. They then placed all their cards upon the table, and asked both England and the United States of America to allow these nitrogenous fertilizers free entry until such time as those countries could develop plants for the purpose of making similar fertilizers.
– I point out to the honorable member that sulphate of ammonia is covered by item 271 in group 2.
– I intend to move .an amendment to this item to provide that nitrates and nitrogenous and other fertilizers be admitted free from both British and foreign countries. These fertilizers are being manufactured in Great Britain to-day, but a big change has occurred in the process of manufacture.
Originally, enormous power was required to obtain nitrate from the atmosphere. I believe that recently the process has been altered to lower the power required. We should encourage the importation into Australia of nitrogenous fertilizers. The time will come when we shall realize the enormous value of these high grade fertilizers, and at our wonderful hydroelectric power plant in Tasmania it would be easy to have these nitrate fertilizers manufactured, or the nitrate necessary for the purpose could be obtained by the operation of those plants. I wish to strike out the words “ n.e.i.” and to insert the words “ nitrogenous and other fertilizers - free “. I do that under the assumption that the amendment will include sulphate of ammonia used as a fertilizer. I am not- including in the amendment the words “ sulphate of ammonia “ because that product is necessary as a chemical, and, as such, I do not wish to interfere with it. .There is a distinction between sulphate of ammonia used as a chemical and sulphate of ammonia used as a fertilizer. Sulphate of ammonia is a by-product from the coke ovens at the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle, and from the gas works. It is merely a by-product, and its value as a fertilizer is created by an admixture of sulphuric acid, a mixture now classified by the Minister as a chemical, and subject to duty as such. Although the duty on nitrogenous fertilizers as a result of this ministerial ukase is 25 per cent., the method adopted by the Customs Department of adding 10 per cent, to the value, makes the impost really 29 per cent. That, together with freight and other charges, makes these manures very expensive, lt should not be necessary to emphasize the wonderful benefits that will accrue from the use of these fertilizers, particularly in the sugar-growing areas of Queensland. Some years ago the Tariff Board in its report on fertilizers pointed out that the charge for sulphate of ammonia in Queensland was £18 or £19 a” ton, whereas the price in New Zealand was £12 12s., and in Western Australia £17 or £18 a ton. This fertilizer is an expensive item in orchards, where it is extensively used. It is an expense that is hardly justified, particularly at the present time.
– Would not the words “ n.e.i.” cover the amendment of the honorable member?
– No. The first shipment of nitrogenous fertilizers was landed in Western Australia in 1926, duty free, the Customs Department realizing that, according to the tariff, these manures were not dutiable. Then vested interests brought influence to bear upon the department and a by-law was issued to the effect that as these nitrogenous fertilizers came into competition with sulphate of ammonia, which was classified as a chemical, they would be subject to the same duty. I am satisfied that that by-law was illegal, and that the decision of the department could have been upset had the persons concerned with the importation of these nitrogenous fertilizers dared to fight it. I ask honorable members to realize what these nitrogenousfertilizers mean to the sugar and apple-growers. There is now in Australia a big movement on foot to settle people on small areas for intense cultivation. That movement would be greatly assisted if high grade fertilizers, not superphosphates, but sulphate of ammonia and nitrate fertilizers, were made nondutiable. I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following sub-item: - “ And on and after 3rd March, 1933 -
Nitrogenous and other fertilizers - British, free; general, free.”
– I rise to a point of order. While I support, to a large extent, the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I suggest that his amendment is entirely out of order, because ammonia sulphate is included in item 271, division 9 of group 2. The item with which we are now dealing relates entirely to superphosphates.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is not sustained. The words used in the amendment “ nitrogenous and other fertilizers “ do not relate particularly to sulphate of ammonia, which, as the honorable member has pointed out, is included in another item.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I am afraid that the honorable member for Echuca is under some misapprehen sion. He has been referring to a chemical which is carrying a duty of 30s. Item 271 of group 2 specifically includes sulphate of ammonia as a chemical. The honorable member for Swan wishes to include sulphate of ammonia with manures which are non-dutiable. As the honorable member pointed out, this manure is used by small settlers. It is used by orchardists, market gardeners and others who have small holdings suitable for intense culture. These men, when their crops are being sown, use immense quantities of superphosphates. After the crops have germinated and become established, they should be top-dressed with sulphate of ammonia. Many settlers are precluded from using sulphate of ammonia because of the high prices charged for it, and, if the prices were reasonable, I am sure that immense quantities of sulphate of ammonia would be used. The honorable member for Swan has referred to the manufacture of nitrogenous manures in Australia. As a matter of fact, I know of one company which is willing to manufacture these manures when the quantity used is sufficientto warrant the establishment of the industry. At present, the company is carrying out organizing work in the country in an endeavour to persuade producers to use these manures, and thus hasten the day when their manufacture in Australia will be possible. It is an anomaly to class sulphate of ammonia as a chemical, subject to a high duty, when it can be largely used as a manure.
– I support the contention of the honorable member for Echuca. We are now dealing with an item relating to superphosphates. The matter which the honorable member for Swan has raised relates to item 271 of group 2.
– It does not. I referred to fertilizers and manures.
– The honorable member referred to sulphate of ammonia. I have already requested the Tariff Board to investigate and report upon sulphate of ammonia and other substitutes for manures. I therefore suggest that the honorable member withdraw his amendment at this stage, and move it when the item relating to sulphate of ammonia is under discussion.
– My amendment has nothing to do with chemicals.
– I do not think that the Minister has grasped the position. Sulphate of ammonia has been classified as a chemical, although Parliament really intended that it should be treated as a manure. We have now an opportunity to take a broad view of the tariff. We must recognize that fertilizers play an important part in primary production in Australia. Why should we refuse to place sulphate of ammonia on the free list when, by its unrestricted use, we can increase the wealth of this country to the benefit of the people generally. The Minister should differentiate between sulphate of ammonia as a chemical, and sulphate of ammonia as a fertilizer. I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan.
– We cannot, at this stage, afford to make blunders respecting the tariff, and the committee should have further information with respect to this item. The Minister has already stated that sulphate of ammonia and other substitutes for manures have been referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report, and before taking any action to amend this item, we should, at least, wait until we have the views of the board before us. If a division on this item is taken at this stage, honorable members will vote without having a proper knowledge of the item under discussion. These chemical aids to production are used in various ways; but experience has shown that their application to the soil in orchards or openfields can be overdone. I do not know in what way sulphate of ammonia comes into competition with superphosphates, but I do know that this country is interested in the manufacture of superphosphate, because, in conjunction with Great Britain and New Zealand, it controls Nauru and Ocean Island, where there are immense deposits of the raw material. I hope that the honorable member for Swan will accept the suggestion made by the Minister. I am not one of those who would be bound by the say-so of the Tariff Board in respect of this or any other item in the schedule. The electorate which I represent is vitally interested in the welfare of our primary producers, -because in it is located the largest fertilizer manufacturing concerns in the Commonwealth. The committee is entitled to the fullest information from the Minister or the Tariff Board, so that honorable members may be in a better position to come to a decision.
– Like other honorable members on this side, I am interested in the prosperity of our primary producers, and I think that, if it is possible to discriminate, chemical manures required for their use should be free in the British tariff. If this item is submitted to the Tariff Board, that body should be informed of the views of honorable members on the subject.
.- It seems to me that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has rather confused the issue by linking up this item, relating to superphosphates, with the proposed duties on ammonium sulphate under item 171 in the second group. I am prepared to support him to the full with regard to the latter item, but I had hoped that the matter would be allowed to stand over until we had reached that item. I understand, however, that the Chairman has decided that the two must he discussed together. If I am right in this assumption, it will be difficult to get a clear expression of opinion from the committee.
– The two items are not being discussed together.
– I was certainly under that impression. Honorable members may be aware that I am interested in a company, known as the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited, which is deeply concerned by the duties on artificial manures. It first took up this matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs several months ago, and on the 31st October, 1932, addressed the following letter to him: - 31st October, 1932.
According to press statements, the new tariff will give a substantial preference to importers of ammonium sulphate of British origin. To this no objection could be taken if complete freedom of trade were assured.
The present position is that the Nitrogen Fertilizers Proprietary Limited (with which is allied, in England, Imperial Chemicals Limited, and, in Australia, the Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited) is in control in Australia, both as regards supplies of ammonium sulphate of local origin - which are sufficient only for portion of the demand - and imports from Britain. My company has recently been unable to obtain its requirements of ammonium sulphate in time for the spring season, and I enclose copy of letter to the Nitrogen Fertilizers Proprietary Limited, dated the 19th instant. The complete file is at your service.
This company calls your attention to the fact that the nitrogen syndicate did not modify its statement that it could give pretty prompt delivery, while it is a reasonable inference that the fertilizer company allied with the nitrogen syndicate must have been made aware that there was going to be a shortage, and imported accordingly through the nitrogen syndicate.
My company, being purely co-operative, has as its object the supply of fertilizers at the cost of production as nearly as possible. By “ trading without profit,” it not only has reduced prices, but has distributed its surplus annually amongst its purchasing members. It pays no dividends on share capital.
There being no control over the ingredients of superphosphate, the company has had a free hand in keeping its price to a reasonable figure. Mixed fertilizers will not be on such an assured basis if anything in the nature of a “ corner “ in ammonium sulphate (an essential ingredient) becomes possible. Any artificial inflation of price would particularly affect growers of fruit, root crops, &c.
It may be mentioned that we were not prepared to compete seriously in the mixed fertilizer market until November last. Up to then mixed fertilizer prices had actually risen during the time that superphosphate was coming down. Now, as a result of our competition, these prices are lower than they have ever been.
It is respectfully requested that provision should be made in the new tariff to enable the Minister to suspend the increased duty on ammonium sulphate of foreign origin where there are grounds for assuming that the tariff operates in favour of any monopoly, Australian or British.
On the 3rd February, 1933, the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited again wrote to the Minister in the following terms: - 3rd February, 1933.
Re Increase in Price of Sulphate of Ammonia.
Confirming to-day’s interview, which you were good enough to afford to Messrs. Scott, Murphy and Morgan, of this company, the following is a copy of the letter received from the Metropolitan Gas Company announcing aa increase in price: - “ The Metropolitan Gas Company, 196 Flinders-street,
The Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited.
I have to advise you that on and from the 1st February, 1933, and until further notice, the price of sulphate of ammonia will be increased to £10 12s. 6d. net per ton ex the company’s works, West Melbourne, or £10 15s. 3d. net per ton delivered to rail, Melbourne.
The increase referred to amounts to £1 per ton. The previous prices were £9 12s. 6d. and £9 15s. 3d. per ton respectively. Before 29th June, 1932, the f.o.r. price was £10 4s. per ton.
As a result of this action the cost of complete manures and superphosphate and ammonia mixtures will go up from 3s. to 10s. per ton according to the strength of the mixture. These fertilizers are prepared exclusively for the production of primary produce other than wheat. The Gas Company will, therefore, take considerable toll of the amount (15s. per ton) which the Commonwealth Government is making available as financial relief to the hard-pressed producers engaged in this class of production.
The lack of justification for the increase is made apparent by the almost simultaneous announcement of a decrease in the price of gas. The Metropolitan Gas Company at the present time is receiving the benefit of lowered wages, cheaper coal and a high tariff, and are the sole distributors of sulphate of ammonia in Victoria.
It is submitted that the Minister should retain the power to suspend the duties to cope with cases such as this.
The present position was anticipated in this company’s letter of 31st October, 1932, to your predecessor (copy enclosed). In particular, your attention is respectfully directed to the last three paragraphs thereof.
The chief point made by this company in its letters was that power should be retained by the Minister to suspend the duty in cases where the tariff was being misused. The manufacture of ammonium sulphate in England is mainly in the hands of a combine, which is linked up with the Australian combine. Australia in any case can only produce about one-half of its requirements, and the effect of the 30 per cent. general tariff, plus the present exchange, freight and other charges, is to compel Australian users to pay practically double the price charged for the article in England. If the Minister had the power to suspend the duty, as is suggested, there would be some control over the Australian combine; but under existing conditions it is at liberty to do practically what it likes. Under the present arrangement, exchange, duty, freight and other charges are added to the price of the half which is produced in Australia and the whole is sold at what is claimed to be world’s parity. I feel keenly in this matter, because it so vitally concerns our primary producers, the great majority of whom are in such grave financial difficulties. Sulphate of ammonia is used extensively for orchard purposes, for the cultivation of potatoes, and for top-dressing in many districts, and the Phosphate Co-operative Company hoped to be able to make mixed fertilizers available at a reasonable price. But as soon as it started operations it found itself in the hands of the combine, and was unable to obtain a fair proportion of the sulphate of ammonia that is manufactured in Australia except at the price demanded which, as I have explained, was the British price plus freight, duty, exchange and other charges. The Minister should give this matter his immediate attention. I was under the impression that this item and that relating to ammonium sulphate were being taken together. Apparently, I was in error. However, I intend to vote for a reduction of duties on superphosphates in sub-item b, to show my bona fides and also as an indication that the Phosphate Cooperative Company, with which I am associated, is not afraid of competition, whether British or foreign.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Sulphate of ammonia is a highly important requisite of agriculture. The Tariff Board in its report on fertilizers, in 1929, said -
The cost of sulphate of ammonia is highest in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, but the position is most serious in Queensland, for in that State nitrogen is the essential need. The situation is aggravated by reason of the fact that the superphosphate as well as the sulphate of ammonia has to be railed from New South Wales. It has already been pointed out that superphosphate was quoted in store, Brisbane, at £8 per ton, while the price of sulphate of ammonia was £18 10s. per ton. When to these prices was added the cost allowed by the Price Fixing Board for the operation of mixing, the ultimate fertilizer was extremely costly.
The reduction of the price of mixed fertilizers is essential. Movements are already being made in this direction. During the compilation of this report advice was received that the price for sulphate of ammonia had been reduced by £1 3s. 9d. per ton in Queensland, and£3 per ton in Western Australia. This is a move in the right direction. The prices for superphosphate have also fallen, and a further reduction in keeping with the board’s recommendation should be forthcoming at an early date. With superphosphate at £46s.6d. per ton in the mainland States, and the lower prices of sulphate of ammonia, reduction in the cost of mixed fertilizers is certain.
If the reduction of the price of sulphate of ammonia was a move in the right direction in 1929, a further reduction now would be of immense benefit to agriculture generally. The Tariff Board pointed out that at the outset of the production of sulphate of ammonia in Australia, the supply exceeded the demand, but gradually the demand grew until extra supplies had to be obtained from abroad. In the near future coke ovens will be operating at Bowen to produce coke for the Mount Isa mine. The local output of sulphate of ammonia will thus be increased, but that will probably be offset by a decrease of the quantity of sulphate of ammonia produced at Newcastle from which Mount Isa at present draws its coke supplies. The Government should do everything that is reasonably possible to assist agriculture, and the removal of this duty would be a definite boon to the man on the land. On the sugar-fields one-third of the laud is allowed to lie fallow each year and nitrogen and humus are added to the soil by sowing broadcast the mauritius bean, cow pea, or maize, and ploughing in the green crop. The Tariff Board has pointed out that in Queensland a nitrogenous manure is essential. Whilst I am not prepared to be bound by every report made by the board, I am convinced that, in this instance, the Government should be influenced by the advice of that body.
– This item is before the boardnow. Is the honorable member prepared to wait for its report ?
– No ; the report made by the board in 1929 is sufficiently illuminating, and the Government should agree to take definite action now. Sulphate of ammonia Ls essential to the market gardener. Before the use of motor vehicles became so general, stable manure was available for adding ammonia to the soil. Under modern conditions of transport, the supply of stable manure is very much reduced, and even the domestic garden has to be reconditioned with sulphate of ammonia in the ordinary commercial form. The Government should not hesitate to provide that sulphate of ammonia imported solely for use as a manure should be admitted free of duty, like superphosphates and other fertilizers. The Tariff Board’s report stressed the importance of other manures, and I regret that they are not included in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan.
.- Nitrogenous manures are essential to various forms of primary production, and I hope that the Government will pay serious heed to the representations that have been made during this discussion. These manures are employed to a large extent by growers of potatoes and fruit in Tasmania. Sulphate of ammonia is one of the most important fertilizers in use. We look ‘to the export and sale of our primary produce to help Australia to meet its obligations abroad. These manures enable greater and more economic production, and it is strange that the primary . producer should be required to support monopolistic gus companies, which manufacture sulphate of ammonia as a profitable by-product. Do I understand that the Minister has promised to refer this matter to the Tariff Board and ask that it be dealt with urgently?
– I anticipate that the report of the board will be available before the Senate deals with the item.
– The board reported on the matter fully so recently as 1929.
– That being the case, I hope that the Minister will seriously consider the needs of the primary producers. The Tariff Board is often guided by the policy of the government of the day. I understand that the policy of the present Government is to enable Australia to meet its overseas obligations. To that end, increased and more economical primary production is essential, and any impost that interferes with that is bad policy.
.- I support the amendment. If the Government realized the importance of sulphate of ammonia to the primary industries, it would not hesitate to accept the proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Although this fertilizer is not used extensively in wheat production, it is essential in the raising of many other crops.
.- Superphosphate is admitted duty free from countries within the Empire, and I have not suggested any alteration of that. But I do desire that” nitrogenous fertilizers be placed on the same footing. Unfortunately, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has, by by-law, treated nitrogenous fertilizers entering Australia as if they competed with superphosphate, and has imposed duties of 15 per cent. British and 25 per cent, general. The Minister has suggested that this sub-item may be dealt with later, but there is no other item in the schedule on which it can be discussed. Nothing will increase the production of wealth in Australia so much as an adequate supply of cheap fertilizers. Parliament, in 1901 decided that fertilizers should be admitted free of duty. That policy has been continued, except for the imposition of a. low rate of duty on superphosphates imported from outside the British Empire. ‘ In practically every other country in the world all fertilizers are admitted duty free. Australia should not be the exception, particularly in view of the report of the Tariff Board in 1929. On that occasion the board was not unanimous. The chairman and Mr. Guy favoured a duty on fertilizers; the other two members held that they should be admitted free of duty. Sulphate of ammonia ‘is a by-product of the coke ovens, mixed with sulphuric acid. The general report of the full board stated -
One of the chief items of cost in the marni.facture of sulphate is sulphuric acid, of which li tons are used to produce one ton of sulphate of ammonia. The cost of acid in the figures furnished range from £3 12s. 6d. to £6 Ss. a ton. Superphosphate manufacturers, however, can produce acid at £2 15s. per ton at their works. In cases where they purchased acid, £3 Gs. per ton was paid. It is difficult, therefore, .to see why a price like £0 Ss. should have been paid.
The gas companies are making such large profits that their shares, as a rule, are quoted at a premium. The Broken Hill Company has received very favorable treatment under the tariff. The first consideration of this Parliament should be to allow the farmers to obtain fertilizers at the cheapest price possible. In another part, the report states -
It is remarkable that while only 16,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia were consumed in Australia during 1927-28, Great Britain and the Channel Islands consumed 167,000 tons.
That has been explained in the minority report of the board. where it is stated that the price of sulphate of ammonia ranges from £14 7s. a ton in Sydney to £16 a ton in Perth, whereas, during the same period, New Zealand users were able to buy it from selected depots at £12 12s. a ton, while the price in England was £10 12s. It was further pointed out that Australian manufacturers were sending this product to New Zealand, and selling it there at a lower price than that at which they supplied the Australian users. I trust that when we come to consider the chemical division of the tariff, it will be made clear by the Minister that sulphate of ammonia, as a chemical, will be subject to a duty, but that, as a fertilizer, it will be duty free.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) proposes,” in his amendment, to put nitrogenous fertilizers on - the free list. Special mention has been made of sulphate of ammonia, ‘but on this subject, the last report of the Tariff Board shows that the board itself was divided regarding it. The duty on this commodity, shown in group 2, item 271, of the tariff, has been the same for the British product since 1926, but an increase of 5 per cent, is shown on foreign products in order to bring the duties into line with the Ottawa agreement. The duty originally was 15 per cent. British and 25 per cent, general. I do not underestimate the value of top-dressing and of fertilizers, particularly nitrogenous fertilizers. I have seen experiments conducted, and have learned to realize the value of these manures. I. remind honorable members, however, that the present duty is not a heavy one. There are industries in Australia which would be adversely affected if these commodities were admitted duty free, and it would be wrong, I think, for this committee, in a slap-dash way, to wipe out duties that have been in existence for years. In the circumstances, I think it might be well if honorable members, who have always professed to attach so much importance of tariff board reports, were to wait until the board is able to report on this matter.
– The duty was imposed when the commodity was used purely as a chemical, not as a fertilizer.
– The duty has been in force for years, including the period while the Country party had an important say in the government of the country.
– This commodity has come into use as a fertilizer only during recent years.
– It has been in use since long before the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) was a Minister. Evidently, he has not followed the progress of this fertilizer in other parts of the world. It is true that it has not been used in Australia in large quantities until recently, but for many years it has been in general use in England, New Zealand, and other countries.
– There is not the same deficiency of “nitrogen in Australian soils as there is in those of other countries.
– I do not accept that as a general proposition. There may be areas where nitrogenous manures are not required, but they are most valuable in other parts. Honorable members know that I have not been a slave to Tariff Board reports, nor should this committee follow them slavishly; but I have always said that there is value in having an investigation made, and in getting the facts. Parliament should then weigh the board’s reports, and determine their value. Evidently the Tariff Board recognized that there was much to be said on each side of this question, because members were equally divided on it. This commodity is a by-product of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works, and of the various gas works. While the gas companies may be looked upon as monopolies which have shown themselves to be reluctant to reduce their prices, the Tariff Board may be relied upon to investigate that aspect of the matter, and to deal with the subject 01 its merits. I urge the committee to leave the duties as they are for the time being until we are in possession of all t Jig i* facts
– I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has shown a disposition to evade the issue. He must know, as did the Bruce-Page Government during its concluding days, that this commodity is coming into increasing use in Australia. Any delay now will be fraught with serious consequences because the time is close at hand when this fertilizer should be applied to be of value during the forthcoming season. Other countries recognize the importance of placing cheap fertilizers in the hands of the farmers, and admit them duty free. The Leader of the Opposition asks that no action be taken until the Tariff Board has reported on the matter, but we have before us a report dated the 5th Septem-ber, 1929, which is a comparatively recent one. The report contains this statement -
The rather strange argument was put forward by a representative of the sellers of sulphate of ammonia that the matter of price was not of very great moment in governing the amount of fertilizer consumed. The suggestion is that, given plenty of good propaganda, the price does not matter much. We arc unable to subscribe to that view. The illustration regarding the reduction of consumption of sulphate of ammonia in Great Britain, in spite of a fall in price, is not convincing for the following reasons-: -
A satisfactory comparison cannot be made between a country such as the United Kingdom, in which a very high consumption has been reached, and Australia, where the consumption is very much lower. In the former, the demand is sure to fluctuate, whilst in the latter it must tend to increase. It is remarkable that while only 10,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia were consumed in Australia during 1927-28, Great Britain and the Channel Islands consumed 107i000 tons.
– Is the honorable member quoting from what is called the minority report?
– Yes. T remind honorable members that this commodity is a by-product which previously was wasted. Whatever the companies sell it for repre sents a profit which formerly they did without. But why should an excessive price be permitted for a commodity the output of which is not equal to half the requirements of Australia? Supplies of the local product cannot be obtained ,by Western Australia or other outlying parts of the Commonwealth. The position has been described as “ unfortunate “ by the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), when Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who, as Prime Minister, told a deputation that the Constitution prevented his Government from allowing supplies to go free into Western Australia.
– I allowed a certain quantity to be sent there.
– The honorable member allowed one consignment to be sent, and then the strings were pulled on him by big city interests.
– That is not so.
– This is an important basic commodity in the development of Australia. Advantage should be taken of anything that will increase and cheapen production in this country. It is not necessary to leave the Federal Capital Territory to learn what has happened since the depression began. Returned soldiers were placed on land that it was estimated would carry from 1,000 to 2,000 sheep. At the price which ruled for wool at the time, it was considered that that would give them a fair living. At present prices there is not a living in it, and there is no opportunity for these men to extend their holdings. All that they can do is to increase the carrying capacity of their land by greater fertilization. That is the case throughout Australia. Surely the development of these great industries along competitive lines is of more importance than the desires of those who produce sulphate of ammonia as a byproduct. The time for the application of fertilizers for this year is now approaching, and if it is not carried out, the process will have to be postponed until next year. I, therefore, urge the committee to make it possible for supplies of this fertilizer to be obtained at a lower cost.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has stated that this item carries a low tariff, and that it is only a trifling matter. As the difference is between £1 and £1 10s. a ton on imports from Great Britain, and twice that- rate on imports, from the Continent, the committee will realize that it is not a trifling matter to those who have to purchase sulphate of ammonia. This is an item upon which it is most difficult for the Tariff Board to obtain reliable information. It is a by-product, and those who manufacture it can debit against it costs which rightly belong to other sections of their production, thus showing against it in their books a particularly high rate. Figures are then submitted to the Tariff Board which suggest that a high tariff is necessary to retain the industry; whereas, if costs were equitably adjusted, they would not be so high in regard to this commodity.
– The situation has been well explained by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). The Tariff Board inquired into the industry in 1929, when there was a division of opinion among its members. The report of the minority has been quoted. Let me give the other, side of the case. The members of the board who recommended the retention of the duties of 15 per cent, and 25 per cent, considered that advantages were to be pained by encouraging manufacture within Australia. As protective duties, the rates were low. The board rarely, if ever, found that duties of 15 per cent., British, arid 25 per cent., general, were sufficient to meet the difference between costs in Australia and those in Great Britain and foreign countries. It considered that those rates afforded a reasonable and, probably, low measure of protection, and held the view that the continuance of the protection would act as an encouragement to the manufacture of sulphate in Australia by the direct process. As this is a by-product of steel works and gas works, it is a factor in reducing the cost of steel, barbed wire, wire netting, and gas in city areas. The allegation has been made that there has been profiteering by a metropolitan gas company.
– Particulars of that have been furnished in writing.
– That letter furnished one of the reasons which actuated me in again referring the matter to the Tariff Board, which now has it under consideration. As the last report of the board was as late as 1929, ordinarily, a further inquiry would not have been considered at the moment. I emphasize the fact that the Government does not stand behind monopolies. It has given evidence of its sympathetic consideration for the man on the land by lifting the sales tax in certain cases, and by the reduction of duties on commodities that, affect him. When the board makes its report-
– When is it expected?
– I believe that it will be received before the Senate is called upon to deal with this item. If the board says that there is good reason for the lifting of this low duty, an amendment to that effect can be moved in the Senate, and afterwards dealt with in this committee. If, in a slap-dash way, we removed the duty now,- and the Tariff Board afterwards recommended the retention of a small duty, we might find that thousands of tons of sulphate of ammonia had been dumped in Australia -from foreign countries. The imports in 1931-32, notwithstanding the duty, amounted to 88,000 cwt., of a value of £29,651. They came principally from the United Kingdom.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has stated that sulphate of ammonia cannot be sent from the eastern States -to Western Australia. I point out, however, that it is produced by gas companies in his State. As the Government wishes to ensure to the man on the land supplies of sulphate of ammonia, and of other nitrogenous fertilizers at the lowest possible price, I suggest that the committee should not agree to the removal of the duty until the report of the Tariff Board has come to hand. In any event, the amendment would be a violation of the Ottawa agreement, under which there cannot be freedom of entry to goods from foreign countries. The Government cannot accept the amendment, and I urge the committee to reject it.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Gregory’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 405, 406, 407, 408 (b), 409, 410 (b) (c) (d), 411, 412, 414, 415, 415 (a1), 416, 417, 418, 419 (b), 421, 422, and 423 agreed to.
Item 424, sub-items (c) (e) (f1, 2), (g)-
Vessels, including all fittings imported therewith, viz.: -
(1) Vessels not exceeding 500 tons gross register owned and registered in Australia on the 30th November, mil - British, free; general, free.
– I move -
That sub-item (f) be amended by adding the following words: - “And on and after 9th March, 1933-
The purpose of the amendment is to permit the incorporation in the present proposals of the sub-item as set out in the 8th March, 1933, resolution. The rates are the same as those provided both in the schedule of October last and in the 1921-30 tariff. It is purely for drafting purposes.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-items, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 4.26 (a), 427 (a) (b) (d), 428 to 431, and 432 (c) agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That the consideration of the remaining items other than those specified in group 2 in the Customs Tariff memorandum (showing rates of duty under various tariff proposals) circulated by the Minister for Trade and Customs be postponed until after the consideration of the items specified in group 2.
Group 2. - Items which have been amended in accordancewith the Ottawa Agreement, but not otherwise amended.
– This group comprises 240 sets of duty and covers only those items which have been amended in accordance with the Ottawa agreement, but not otherwise amended. The duties under the items included in this group conform to the principles embodied in the United KingdomAustralia trade agreement. This being so, I suggest to the committee that it is only logical to accept the group. Certain honorable members may disagree with the method of applying these principles, but, as this aspect was fully discussed and voted upon by the present Parliament when it had the Ottawa agreement before it, the committee should be satisfied with thedetermination then arrived at.
In applying the formula margin of preference the general tariff rate has been increased, except in a few instances of revenue duties, where the British preferential tariff rate has been reduced. None of the items was affected by the Customs Tariff Bill which the last Government passed through this chamber and presented to the Senate in 1931.
Item 11, sub-item (a) -
Amyl acetate and ethyl acetate, nonspirituous, ad valorem - British, 35 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
Motion (by Mr. Guy) agreed to -
That that portion of the Tariff Resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on 8th March, 1933, relating to sub-item (a) of Item 11 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of sub-item (a) of Item 11 of the Tariff Resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
Sub-dtem, as amended, agreed to.
Item 23 agreed to.
Items 44 (a) (c1) and 51 (c3) (d) agreed to.
Item 52, sub-item (a) -
Fruits, fresh, viz.: -
.- This item reduces the rate of duty on bananas under the British preferential tariff from 8s. 4d. to 2s. 6d. per cental. It does not specify any given quantity of bananas that is to be admitted at the new rate.
– That is specified in the Ottawa agreement.
– According to the schedule, any quantity of bananas grown in a British possession could be imported at the rate of duty of 2s. 6d. per cental. I take it that if the Ottawa agreement is varied at any time, and Fiji is permitted to export more than 40,000 centals of bananas to Australia, this tariff schedule contains nothing to pre vent even 100,000 centals being imported at the reduced rate of 2s. 6d.
The banana industry is of particular importance to Queensland and New South Wales, and of general importance to the remaining states of the Commonwealth. When discussing the Ottawa agreement, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) said, “ This agreement has been drawn up in aid of the man on the land.” It has been demonstratedthat the agreement is a washout so far as our wool, meat, butter, banana and canned pineapple industries are concerned. We shall need to search with a magnifying glass to find any merit at all in it.
– The British Government will have to do likewise with regard to British manufacturers.
– That Government gives preference to Britishmanufacturers. We give, first, preference to Australian manufacturers, and then preference to British manufacturers.
– We have a reciprocal obligation.
– Honorable members opposite have contended that the agreement was designed to help the primary producers of Australia. I shall show that it has given a decided set-back to our banana industry.
– Since this arrangement came into force we have been able to purchase good bananas.
– I am sure that the honorable member would not suggest that the duty on rice grown in the Riverina district should be lifted in order that grain may be imported from China. When the duty of 8s. 4d. a cental was placed upon imported bananas in 1921, growers thought that it was to continue for all time. Enjoying a new sense of security in the future of their industry, many of them placed their sons on virgin land and had it planted with bananas in order to meet the demand of the market, which previously had been partially supplied by Fiji. They entered into contractual obligations of various kinds that they otherwise would not have contemplated. Then, like a bolt from the blue, came the Ottawa agreement, which made provision for the importation from Fiji of 40,000 centals, or 4,000,000 lb. of bananas yearly.
– It represents but 2.7 of our production.
– -Even shipments of 1,000 cases a week of black-grown bananas are enough to depress the market. The two last shipments of Fijian bananas cost the Australian banana industry £1,800; and it must be remembered that these shipments are to come in weekly for the term of the Ottawa agreement, five years. There are approximately 8,000 banana-growers in New South Wales and Queensland, and each year they use nearly 1,000,000 cases which are made from Australian timbers’. Any injury done to the banana industry will adversely affect associated industries. In rail freight each year, the Queensland banana-growers pay £134,000, and those of New South Wales £70,000. The total area under banana cultivation in those States is 27,226 acres. The estimated planting for 1932-33 is 6,000 acres, which makes a total of 33,226, from which must be deducted 7,000 acres which are going out of cultivation, leaving ‘a net acreage for the current year of 26,226.
For years the Australian bananagrowers have striven to improve the quality of their product. In this respect they have incurred a great deal of expense in sending experts to practically every country where bananas are grown. As the result, they have achieved a substantial measure of success, and have produced a worth-while article.. The Australian consumption of bananas is between 900,000 and 1,000,000 cases per annum. This year the estimated production is 1,400,000 cases, so that there will be a surplus pf approximately 400,000 cases, and the Government chooses such a time to countenance the importation of 40,000 centals or 4,000,000 lb. of bananas from Fiji. Naturally, that will reduce the price of the Australian product, and have a most damaging effect on the industry, as I shall demonstrate. When confronted by his irate electors in 1932, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) said that negotiations were in progress between the Commonwealth and British Governments for a variation of the Ottawa agreement regarding bananas. I should like to know the result of those negotiations. Probably the Minister will be able to offer us some explanation. Article 16 of the Ottawa agreement should give the Commonwealth the power to negotiate for a variation in regard to this item. It reads - . . In tho event of circumstances arising which, in the judgment of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom or of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia as the case may be, necessitate a variation in the terms of the agreement, the proposal to vary those terms shall form the subject of consultation between the two governments.
The Assistant Minister for Defence told the irate banana-growers that the Government was taking action along those lines, and that they could look for the most sympathetic consideration being given to their representations. They want to know what progress has been made. Has any definite action been taken along the lines suggested by the Minister?
It has been said that the banana industry of Fiji is conducted by whites as in Australia. I find, however, that the European white plantation owners in Fiji represent only 6.6 per cent, of the owners; Fijians, 75.9 per cent. ; Indians, 9.8 per cent.,’ and Chinese, 7.7 per cent. There are twelve times as many Fijian banana plantation owners in Fiji as whites, and there are more Indians and more Chinese than white growers. Those figures dispose of the argument that the Fijian banana industry is conducted chiefly by whites. I am sorry that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) is not in the chamber. In 1921, when this subject was before Parliament, he urged that the duty on Fijian bananas should be increased not merely to what it is at present but to as much as 13s. 4d. per cental. To-day, he stands behind a government which -accepts a duty of 2s. 6d. per cental under the Ottawa agreement, and also under that agreement permits the entry of Fijian bananas to the extent of 40,000 centals per annum, or approximately 1,000 cases per week. Speaking in this chamber in 1921, the honorable member for Lilley said -
I have already demonstrated to the committee that the increased production in Queensland and New South Wales justifies the growers in asking for the whole of the Australian market.
At that time, the Australian growers could not supply the whole of the Aus.tralian market; but because of the definite statements made by public men at that time, they planted additional areas, with the result that this year it is estimated that there will be a production of 400,000 cases in excess of the Australian demand.
– Yet the Australian price is still rising.
– Senator Greene, when Minister for Trade and Customs in 1921, said -
Australian growers will be able to supply the whole of the Australian market. It would not make the slightest difference to our trade with Fiji if we imported no bananas from the island, because all the sugar grown there comes to Sydney to be refined and that is the real source of Australia’s’ substantial trade with Fiji.
It has been stated that the recent importation of bananas from Fiji has not resulted in any loss to the Australian banana industry. So far, according to the figures supplied to me, only four shipments of bananas from Fiji have arrived in Australia. The manager for the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing in Queensland, which controls the marketing of bananas, has informed me that 314 cases of Fijian bananas were consigned to Sydney, and 675 cases to Melbourne by the SS. Niagara, and that the SS. Mariposa carried 171 cases to Melbourne. The manager, in his letter, states -
The first consignments were small and our supplies were light at the time, so that we were not adversely affected. The newspapers, particularly in Melbourne, gave a lot of publicity to the shipments, with the result that the fruit sold at high prices, the Mariposa shipment selling at 35s. per case, and the fruit being sold retail at 3d. each upwards. Naturally, prices like this could not last and they were only paid for the novelty.
The other two shipments comprised 600 cases delivered in Sydney, and 1,407 cases in Melbourne ex. SS. Aorangi, and 700 cases and 1,000 cases for Sydney and Melbourne respectively ex. SS. Monterey. The letter continues -
The next consignment arrived in bad order, 1 and it is doubtful if the Fijian exporters would realize about 10s. per ca£e. Unfortunately, the fruit had to be cleared very quickly so that our prices were affected adversely. After a’ careful survey of the position, we consider that in Melbourne, the prices of Australian bananas were affected by about 2s. per case as a result of the Fijian importations. There were about 18,000 cases of Australian bananas affected, so that the estimated loss as a result of the Fijian importation was about £1,800.
The letter also stated that a further consignment of about 1,378 cases of Fijian bananas was due to arrive in Sydney on the ‘ 25th February, and a further consignment in Melbourne on the 6th March. At the time of writing, it was not known how those shipments would affect the market. The statements contained in that letter make it clear that all the talk of Fijian bananas not, adversely affecting the Australian price is so much moonshine. With the prospect of a huge surplus production in Australia this year, it is obvious that further supplies from Fiji must adversely affect the price which the Australian producers of bananas will receive for their product.
– Is it not a fact that some of the Fijian bananas arrive here in vessels belonging to the Matson Line?
– That is so. It has been stated that the sources of criticism of the Ottawa agreement in respect of bananas are prejudiced. That charge cannot be laid against the Brisbane Courier, the chief Nationalist newspaper in Queensland. Commenting on the blow which the Australian fruit industry has been struck by the Ottawa agreement, that newspaper says -
Yesterday it was announced by Mr. Gullett in his speech on the Ottawa agreement, that the Federal Government had decided to reduce the duty on Fiji bananas from 8s. 4d. per cental to 2s. (id. per cental, and to allow the importation of 40,000 centals a year. The attacks on Queensland’s agricultural industries have become so frequent that one is forced to the conclusion that the Federal Government is absolutely ignorant of Queensland conditions. It does not realize that Queensland is the only State which is carrying on tropical agriculture to any great extent. That ignorance has led the Federal Government to believe that “ Queensland’s industries dp not count,” and that whether that hurts the State or not does not matter, so long as the south is appeased.
The representative of Queensland in the Cabinet will probably have something to say regarding his attitude to the banana industry. Professor Goddard, of the Queensland University, speaking in the City Hall, Brisbane, in October last, said -
Many growers have been fearing for some time past that there will be over production, and if their fears are realized, then the problem will become a most serious one, with the admission of Fiji bananas on terms that will enable that product, grown under native labour conditions, to compete with the Australian product on terms disadvantageous to thu latter.
That is the statement, not of a political partisan, but of one who, by his efforts towards the eradication of bunchy top, has done more for the banana industry than has any other man in Australia. In a special article in the Queensland Producer which represents the farmers of Queensland, it was stated -
It is not alone the Western Australian members of the Country party that subscribe to this inherently selfish sectional view. As a matter of fact, it is not confined to the members of the United Country or United Australia Party in the other States, as witness the peculiar attitude of two of Queensland’s representatives in the Federal Parliament. We refer, particularly, to the very belated announcement made by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis), and the Speaker (Mr. Mackay), as to where they stand. Despite their specious and unconvincing arguments, it is now clear that whatever the consequences to two of the States’ important tropical industries, it 13 their fixed intention to support the Federal Government’s action, in having callously bartered them away at the behest of vested importing interests . . . Seeing that they have chosen the ignoble part of placing the interests of party before those of Queensland, and that they have failed her in her hour qf need, their wanton betrayal carries its own condemnation.
That newspaper, which represents the banana-growers, has a right to criticize, not only the Federal Government, but also the representatives of Queensland constituencies in the Federal Parliament who stand behind a government which does these things. This matter has already engaged the attention of the Queensland Parliament, the members of which, irrespective of party, were unanimous in their condemnation of the action of the Federal Government.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to a discussion of the item before the Chair.
– Two years from now there will not be one member of this chamber who will not admit that the Ottawa agreement has been a dismal failure. The reduction of the duty on bananas from Fiji strikes a blow at a great Australian primary industry in which thousands of returned soldiers are engaged. This action on the part of the Government, following their losses through bunchy top and other diseases, adds to the difficulties of these men. Hundreds have been forced off their holdings, having lost everything; others have held on only to meet this new trouble. The importations allowed from Fiji will depress the ‘prices received by Australian primary producers. Does the Government intend to follow up the negotiations which we were told by the Assistant Minister for Defence were being carried out under article 16 of the agreement, and is there any hope of the growers obtaining redress of their grievance?
– The honorable member (Mr. Forde) who has just resumed his seat after a Queensland speech directed against his fellow members, and of a kind to which we are very accustomed, first referred to the provision in the tariff of a British preferential duty on bananas of 2s. 6d. per cental, and a general rate of 8s. 4d. per cental, and asked where the provision was which confined the rate of 2s. 6d. per cental to 40,000 centals of bananas from Fiji in accordance with the Ottawa agreement. If honorable members refer to the terms of the resolution under which the tariff was introduced, they will see that in the second paragraph, it is provided that the British preferential rate may be applied to goods specified in a proclamation, and it is well known that no bananas are’, in fact, imported into Australia from Great Britain. It is true that if they were, they would be entitled to come in at 2s. 6d. per cental, and the honorable member would be able to make another speech upon that grave risk to the Queensland industry. But a proclamation has been made which extends the 2s. 6d. rate to 40,000 centals of Fijian bananas, to he landed at Sydney and Melbourne in accordance with the Ottawa agreement. Therefore, honorable, members should entertain no apprehension on the first point made by the honorable member. Members are aware that the concession which has been made in the reduction of the duty on this limited quantity of bananas from Fiji is a condition of the Ottawa agreement because of the special terms on which Australian goods may enter all the British colonies. I look forward to a considerable extension of Australia’s trade with the Crown colonies, particularly those to the north of Australia, on the continent of Asia, as well as those in the Pacific. The concession is also a condition of the Ottawa, agreement with respect to the concessions granted to Australian products entering Great Britain.
The honorable member for Capricornia has spoken in generally unfavorable terms of the Ottawa agreement. No agreement, of course, could.be made without regard to economic conditions, as they may exist from time to time. I ask honorable members, however, to consider what would be the position of many of our principal exporting industries at the present time if goods came into Britain from the rest of the Empire upon the favorable conditions granted under the Ottawa agreement, and Australian goods were admitted on the same basis as goods imported from countries outside of the Empire? The honorable, member has spoken of the fact that some of the Fijian bananas are grown by Chinese and Indians. It is quite hopeless for Australia to expect always to sell and never to buy. The people of this country would hardly ‘be able to exist to-day if it were not for the purchase of Australian wool, wheat, flour, and minerals in the East by Chinese and Japanese. Apart altogether from the question of what we can afford, it ill becomes us to speak in derogatory terms of people who are now important and, indeed, vital buyers of our goods. For confirmation of my statement that without our Eastern trade we could hardly exist, it is only necessary to consult any man who knows anything about the Eastern trade in wheat and flour alone.
– There is wool also.
– Of course. We should remember, too, what our eastern trade in minerals means to us. One result of the Ottawa agreement has been that some nineteen countries have sought trade agreements with Great Britain. As Minister for External Affairs, and. dealing, in the first instance, with these matters, in the last fortnight I have seen the representatives of five or six countries which are seeking special trade agree ments with Australia, on the basis of trying to offer us something in return for something that we are prepared to give them. It is quite impossible for us to organize our tariff on the assumption that we are to sell to everybody, but to buy from nobody. One must have a certain sense of proportion in relation to these matters.
When one realizes that the quantity of bananas to be admitted from Fiji in an average season is less than 3 per cent, of Australia’s total production, one sees at once that the ordinary seasonal variations of production often exceed that proportion. In fact, I am informed by. my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has the precise figures, that, as it happens, the price of Australian bananas has several times increased since Fijian bananas have been admitted into Australia.
– That is denied by the Committee of Fruit Direction in Queensland.
– But I have been informed of the facts. I have seldom seen a more misguided and unfortunate effort at publicity than that made by the Committee of Fruit Direction in Queensland. The methods which it adopted gave the greatest . publicity to Fijian bananas that could possibly have been desired by the Fijian growers, and also prepared the public of Australia for a remarkably high standard of quality in the Fijian bananas. There are other ways of promoting the interests of the . growers of bananas in Queensland and in northern New South Wales, and I .am glad to say that other and wiser methods are now being followed, to that end; but the attempted boycott of Fijian bananas .aroused the resentment’ of a large section of the Australian people. Consequently, these bananas were in strong demand, and they were sold at astounding prices. It is already realized that the admission of a small quantity of them is probably the. best thing that ever happened to the banana industry in Australia.
– It has improved the quality.
– The growers are already setting to work to improve their methods of cultivation, ripening and distribution.
– They needed the lesson.
– I think that the industry recognizes that fact. Since the importation of bananas from Fiji has been permitted, I have had the pleasure, through the courtesy of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis), of sampling a few Queensland bananas that he sent to me, and I am glad to be able to say that they are of as fine a quality as any bananas that I have eaten in any part of the world. It is pleasing to note that the growers have been stimulated to greater energy and efficiency in their own industry. I believe that this admission of Fijian bananas, apart from its important bearing on the Ottawa agreement - because if this duty disappears the Ottawa agreement goes - will be of the greatest value to the banana industry of Australia, and I am sure that, at no distant date, that opinion will be shared by the bananagrowers themselves. I have no hesitation in asking the committee to accept the Government’s proposal.
.- Pursuing the argument advanced by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that the importation of bananas from Fiji has resulted in an improvement in the quality and price of the Queensland bananas, will the Minister . say that if we admitted twice the quantity of Fijian bananas that is coming in under the Ottawa agreement, the price to the Australian grower would be doubled, and the quality of the Queensland fruit would show a further improvement. It is surprising that there, is not a clamour from the bananagrowers’ organization for the doubling of the number of centals allowed in from Fiji. The Minister argued that’ this importation of bananas was necessary in accordance with the Ottawa agreement, and he attempted to establish his case by referring to the importance of Australia’s trade with eastern’ countries such as China and Japan. But the Ottawa agreement has nothing to do with foreign countries, and, therefore, our trade with the East is of no concern in dealing with the position of the banana industry of Australia. The growers will lose, on a conservative estimate, £50,000 a year, as the result of the importation of 40,000 centals a year from Fiji. That is a fairly big loss, considering that 30 per cent, of our people are on the dole, and that the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales, in order to relieve unemployment, are sending married folk out to grow morebananas. When our soldiers returned from the war they were given preference in the allotment of banana lands; but we find that, under the Ottawa agreement, a preference has been given to Fijian natives and Indian coolies, which moans a loss to the Australian bananagrowers of £50,000 a year. The AttorneyGeneral’s statement that the price of bananas to the Australian growers has increased since importations from Fiji have been permitted is not based on’ facts. The price has not improved; it has fallen. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) may pick out a certain class of banana, such as that given to his friend the Attorney-General, and assure him that the price has increased; but that is a very different thing from a general increase of prices for all classes of bananas. The Queensland Producer, in a review of the banana market in Melbourne on the 10th March, says- -
The banana market was very unsettled in the early part of the week and prices receded again about ls. per case. However, after the fruit trade’s holiday on Wednesday, things brightened up again and values picked up, prices now being: - Nines and eights, 15s. to 10s.; sevens, 13s. to 14s.; and sixes, lis. to 12s. per case with a few specials in each grade higher and rusty fruit a shade lower. Supplies from Queensland decreased about 1,000 cases compared with last week, while consignments from the Tweed totalled approximately 4,000 cases, this being a decrease of about GOO cases.
– No bananas came in from Fiji that week.
– The Minister is in error, for this report proceeds as follows : -
In addition, approximately 800 cases came to hand from Fiji on the Mariposa on Monday. This fruit arrived in good green condition and sold at prices ranging from 21s. to 25s. per case. Naturally the effect on the market was not good, as it has undoubtedly displaced a similar quantity of Australian bananas. The price paid for Fiji was ridiculously high, in view of the quality of the Queensland and New South Wales bananas on the market, and it is doubtful whether retailers will make a great deal of profit on it.
That report was made, not by the Committee of Fruit Direction in Queensland, but by the organ of the primary producers of Queensland, and I believe that it is unbiased. It goes to show, however, that my complaint of a few weeks ago that Queensland had received a raw deal from the Australian representatives at Ottawa and also from this Government, was amply justified. It appears that when there are Ministers in the Cabinet who are willing to make a stand in the interests of the State they represent, the State concerned gets a fair deal. I remind honorable members that the hop industry of Tasmania has been treated very differently from the banana industry of Queensland. A proclamation was issued by the Government on the 12th May, 1932, prohibiting the importation of hops into Australia on the ground that it might lead to “downy mildew “ attacking the Australian hops.
– I remind the honorable member that I have already ruled that an embargo on imports issued by the Minister for Health cannot be discussed under the tariff.
– I merely quoted that incident to show that when Ministers are prepared to make a stand in the Cabinet in the interests of the industries of their State, they can do effective work. There is no justification for differentiating between one State and another. When the banana industry was being discussed in this chamber some time ago, we were informed by the Government that the Fijian bananas which came into Australia would be marketed only in Sydney and Melbourne - I do not know why those two cities were selected - yet part of the second shipment was dumped in Queensland. The Assistant Minister for Defence was in Queensland at the time. I do not desire to make a personal attack upon him, but the honorable gentleman said on that occasion, “ I will see that no more bananas come into Queensland “.
– How many of the bananas went to Queensland?
– I do not know, nor does it affect my argument. The point is that the Fijian bananas went to
Queensland ‘ despite the assurance of the Cabinet to the contrary. What power has the Assistant Minister to control the marketing of these bananas after they have been landed? If I go to New South Wales from Queensland and buy a whole shipment of Fijian bananas, I have yet to learn that I can be prevented from marketing them in Queensland or anywhere else. I understand that there must be no restriction of trade between States. Yet the Assistant Minister said that he could prevent imported bananas from entering Queensland.
– Is the honorable member desirous that they should go to Queensland ?
– I am desirous that the ‘Assistant Minister should discuss this subject with the Queensland bananagrowers, and not endeavour to mislead them as to his power under the Constitution. A hearty welcome is awaiting him in Queensland from those who wish to discuss with him two slippery subjects, namely, butter and bananas. While the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham) was speaking this evening, an honorable member interjected that our banana-growers should be taught a lesson. I should like to see that gentleman on a banana farm. How would he feel if, on the promise of the Government that the banana industry would be protected, he had taken his wife and family into the banana country and had done ten years’ pioneering work of the most arduous nature, only to find at the end of the time that the protection of 8s. 4d. which had been granted him had been reduced by 6s., and that he was being left to the mercy of Indian coolies and Fijian natives? The Acting Leader of the House said that the Government’s policy would result in an increase of the price paid for bananas. I should like him to discuss that subject with Mr. Ranger, of the Queensland fruitmarketing organization, and Mr. Anthony, the president of the New South Wales. Banana-growers Association. According to the Queensland Producer, the importation of 40,000 centals of bananas will mean the loss of £50,000 a year to the Australian banana industry. I assure honorable members that I am not participating in this discussion because I hope to catch a few votes. There are people who, in my electorate, live so far away from the banana-growing districts that they would hardly know a banana if they saw one. Dr. Vickers, of the Australian Inland Mission, told us this morning that many people in this great continent never see fresh fruit. I have no desire to curry political favour with any section of the people. I am discussing this subject because I believe that it is better for us to protect the banana industry than to pay doles to the unemployed. The banana industry could absorb a good many of the unemployed if it were adequately protected. Many Australian primary-producing industries have been adversely affected by the policy of this Government. I mention, in passing, the tobacco and cotton industries. If the Government would adequately protect these industries, we could profitably employ many additional people in them. The question has been asked : What effect will the importation of 40,000 centals of bananas have on the Australian banana industry? My reply is that it will mean a loss of £1,250 a week to it. I sincerely hope that the Assistant Minister for Defence will be able to exercise the same influence on the Cabinet in regard to the Queensland banana industry as some of his colleagues have exercised on it in regard to the Tasmanian hop industry. It is just as necessary to protect our banana industry from bunchytop as it is to protect our hop industry from downy mildew. What can be done by the Government for hops can also be done for bananas.
– My opposition to the importation of Fijian bananas, which come under this item, is on the ground that the products of black people should not be allowed to come into competition with the products of white people who live on small and closelysettled areas in Australia. That was really the essence of the opposition to the Government’s proposal, when the Ottawa agreement was under consideration, that 40,000 centals of Fijian bananas should be admitted to Australia annually. The Acting Leader of the House (Mr.
Latham) said this evening that it was necessary to pass this item in order to give effect to the Ottawa agreement. That is quite true. But why was that provision included in the Ottawa agreement in the first place? Many representations were made to the Government on behalf of the banana-growers of Australia against its inclusion. The Acting Leader of the House has also told us that, in order to engage in reciprocal trade with the East and the islands of. the Pacific, it is essential that there should be trade both ways. If it were absolutely necessary for the Government to concede this concession to Fiji, and if it is unreasonable for me to object to such action, why did the Cabinet, when the banana-growers of Queensland, the Committee of Fruit Direction in Queensland, and honorable members representing Queensland con.stituencies, approached the Minister and expressed their opposition to the granting of this concession, immediately communicate with the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce), asking him to ascertain whether the British Government would agree to some other concession being made. Although the British Government would not agree to an alteration of the agreement, nevertheless, the action of this Government showed that there was some justification for the request of the bananagrowers. I admit that it is necessary that we should enter into trade agreements with countries that will trade with us, but when we trade with blacklabour countries, surely we can take from them commodities which are not produced in Australia.
– What commodities could we take?
– Sago, spices and other products which are grown in the islands. The objection raised by the Queensland growers to the concession given to Fiji was timely, and no doubt will be taken into consideration when the Government is receiving delegations from, black-labour countries which wish to enter into trade agreements with us. It is unfortunate that the concessions which were made under the Ottawa agreement affected only Queensland products. 1 refer to pineapples, rum and bananas. The concession given to Fiji was made at the expense only of Queensland industries.
– Is not there room in Australia for a large increase of the consumption of bananas?
– An endeavour is being made to popularize the consumption of bananas in Australia. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government has agreed to spend portion of the duties collected on Fijian bananas in conducting a campaign to increase the consumption of bananas in Australia. I sincerely hope that that campaign will be successful. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) said that because of the introduction of Fijian bananas the Australian industry had been stimulated and better bananas were now being placed on the market. It is ‘ admitted that the Australian bananas are better to-day than they were six months ago, but surely no honorable member would be foolish enough to imagine that six months ago the banana producer was burying his good fruit and marketing his inferior product. About SO per cent of the bananas sold in the Sydney market are grown in New South Wales. Six months ago many of the young plantations were producing their first crop, and, therefore, the bananas were of inferior quality, but today excellent bananas from Coff’s Harbour and the Tweed are being sold in Sydney. The right honorable gentleman also said that the introduction of Fijian bananas had brought about greater efficiency in the Australian industry, and that better ripening systems and transport facilities had been provided. Let me inform him that there has been no alteration in respect of the efficiency of the Queensland industry. The Queensland growers sent experts all over the world in order to perfect the system under which they were operating. That system has for some time been 100 per cent, efficient. The New South Wales growers do not operate under the same system. The largest market for Queensland bananas is Melbourne. The Queensland banana organization has established a scientific ripening process in Sydney; but for some time, because of the opposition of the marketing authorities of Melbourne, it has been unable to establish a similar process in that city. It is only now, with the introduction of black-grown bananas, that the importers are prepared to allow this ripening process to be established in Melbourne. The concession to Fiji has been embodied in the Ottawa agreement, and will, no doubt, be agreed to by this Parliament, but the Queensland growers have justification for their opposition to the granting of it. It is not likely that Australian workmen would agree to allow 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, of the workmen of this country to be imported from Fiji or some other black-labour country. I hope that the Government will profit by its experience, and that, when future negotiations are taking place for trade agreements with black-labour countries, it will encourage only the importation of commodities which are not produced in Australia.
– I rise to support the item before the committee. One would imagine -from the remarks of some honorable members that the sales of Australian bananas had ceased altogether. I have information to the effect that, from the 1st to the 25th February, 23,561 cases of Queensland bananas were despatched to Melbourne, and only 4,051 cases to Sydney. It is idle to contend that the importation of 1,000 cases of Fijian bananas a week is likely to interfere with the Queensland growers, who have placed on the local market in one month nearly 30,000 cases of bananas. The sooner the growers cease their objections to the importation of 40,000 cases of Fijian bananas per annum into Australia the better it will be for them. The treatment that Queensland has meted out to the southern States has been anything but of a friendly character. At a recent conference which met to discuss the need to expand our trade with the East, I interviewed one of the leading millers of New South Wales, who said that the granting of freight rebates to the millers of Queensland had stopped the carriage of flour from New South Wales to that State. Yet the Queensland producers are complaining to the southern States that they are being dealt with unfairly. The honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has said that the method of packing and distributing bananas is no different to-day from what it was six months ago. One can hardly believe that, in view of the fact that the producers of bananas in Queensland have been repeatedly urged in the columns of leading journals to improve their methods of packing. The other day I spent a holiday at Katoomba, and, while there, I saw a. fruiterer unpacking a case of bananas. I said to him, “ Those bananas are packed very nicely.” He replied, “ Yes ; since the Fijian bananas have been introduced into this country the Queensland and New South “Wales producers are adopting more businesslike methods, and they can well afford to do it in view of the increased prices that they are receiving for their bananas.”
– They do not like competition.
– That is . quite correct. The Queensland producers seem to think that the people of the southern States should buy all their products, and that there is no obligation on their part to buy the goods of the southern States in return. ‘
– Order ! The honorable member is continually digressing from the question before the Chair.
– I submit that I have a perfect right to show that, in respect of other matters, Queensland has not been so ready to engage in reciprocal trade.
– If the honorable member does not obey the Chair, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am not antagonistic to Queensland industries. On the contrary, I do all I can to encourage them personally. But I contend that Queensland members have not been quite fair to this Government and the rest of Australia over these banana duties, because they practically forced the Government to earmark £5,000, the revenue estimated under this item, for the improvement of the marketing of Queensland bananas. The whole business appears to have been in the nature of a governmental exchange of favours which I consider unworthy of this Ministry. I entirely agree with the reported comment by the Associated
Chambers of Commerce, meeting in Tasmania, that this sum should not be handed over to the Queensland banana industry; but, as has been explained, the Government has made this arrangement because of complaints by Queensland members that the banana-growers of their State would almost be forced on the dole because, under the Ottawa agreement, the introduction annually of 40,000 cases of Fijian bananas is to be permitted. The honorable member for Wide Bay in his speech to-night suggested that the great influx of Queensland banana-growers to protest against this provision in the Ottawa agreement, “rattled “ the Cabinet, with the result that it has offered £5,000 to pacify its Queensland supporters. It is safe to assume that only the speeches delivered to-night by Queensland members will be published in Queensland newspapers to-morrow morning, thus giving the people in that State the ‘ impression that other honorable members are not interested in the welfare of the Queensland industry. That, of course, is not true. The speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) was characteristic of the honorable member. He sought to make as much political capital as possible out of this business. But he and his Queensland colleagues have really “ slipped “ on bananas; they have attempted to intimidate the Government and the committee by statements that are not strictly accurate. For example, the honorable member for Wide Bay conveyed the impression to-night that, because 3,000 or 4,000 cases of Fijian bananas were marketed in Australia last month, the Queensland industry was on the verge of bankruptcy. That there is no foundation for such a fear is apparent from the figures published in the Queensland Producer, the official organ of the farmers of Queensland, showing that last month 23,561 cases of Queensland bananas were marketed in Melbourne, and over 4,000 cases in Sydney. The honorable gentleman also knows that the introduction of Fijian bananas into Australia resulted in an increase by nearly 100 per cent, of the price paid for the Queensland product. Obviously, the story told to-night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was inspired by Queensland banana interests which are affected by the partial lifting of the embargo on Fijian bananas. Recently, Sir George Julius, Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, stated that, of the £5,000 to be provided by the Government for the banana industry - £2,000 for experiments in cultivation, and £3,000 for publicity - a sum of £3,000 was to be made available immediately. Is it not extraordinary that an industry that has been in existence for 50 years should now require government aid in the marketing of its product? Instead of making this provision for the Queensland banana-growers, the Government should have distributed the money among unemployed returned soldiers who are in occupation of war service homes. It is absurd for Queensland members to suggest that the introduction of such a small quota of Fijian bananas will destroy the equilibrium of the Australian banana industry. I speak feelingly on the matter, because I consider that the interests of Queensland have, for some years, been receiving too much consideration at the hands of the Commonwealth. Concessions given to that State have imposed a heavy burden on people living in the southern States. Nearly all the industries of Queensland are supported by embargoes which prevent competition from the outside world, and, as a consequence, people living in the southern States have to pay increased prices for sugar, and nearly every other commodity produced in Queensland.
– I propose to honour the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) by replying first to his criticism. At the outset, I would remind him that if he had any knowledge of the trade relations of Queensland and the southern States he would know that, for the last financial year, the trade balance was at least £2,000,000 in favour of the southern States. It would, therefore, appear either that he has no knowledge of the trade position, or that his memory is faulty.
– Possibly the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is right. But lest the honorable member for Barton be unaware of the facts, I tell him now that the Government’s decision to make available £5,000 for the assistance of the banana industry was made long before the debate took place in this House on the Ottawa agreement. The observation* of the honorable member on this subject do not represent the true position. He also said that most Queensland industries are helped by embargoes. Probably he has been reading the Daily Standard, of Brisbane, which, a few days ago, stated that a Labour government had imposed an embargo on imported bananas, which a Nationalist government, supported by the Country party, had removed. There never has been an embargo on bananas from abroad, and consequently no government, Nationalist or other, could have removed it. A duty of 8s. 4d. per cental was imposed on imported bananas, when the present Assistant Treasurer, Senator Greene, was Minister for Trade and Customs in the Hughes Government. That was, to a considerable extent, the result of the activities of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). That honorable gentleman was attacked to-night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) ; but few honorable members of this Parliament have done so much as he to help the banana industry. One remark by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was apparently intended to cause the committee to infer that the importation of bananas from Fiji was responsible for the recent spread of bunchy top in New South Wales.
– I said nothing about the outbreak in New South Wales. 1 said that the importation of bananas from Fiji, where bunchy top is prevalent, exposed the Australian plantations to risk.
– When the importation of a limited quantity of bananas from Fiji was first discussed in connexion with the Ottawa agreement, I took the precaution to communicate with Professor Goddard, a recognized expert, and he assured me that there was no risk of the introduction of bunchy top through the importation of bananas from Fiji. In order to assist the banana-growing industry, the honorable member for Lilley and I have done much, while other Queensland members, who to-night have professed to . champion the cause of tho growers, have done nothing. The importation of 40,000 centals of Fijian bananas in accordance with the Ottawa agreement was approved by this Parliament only recently ; and as the personnel of the House has not been changed since that date, the former decision will certainly be re-affirmed. In the consideration of this tariff schedule those who supported the Ottawa agreement when the bill for its ratification was before the House have consistently voted for the duties imposed in accordance with it, and the discussion initiated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to-night can serve no useful purpose. Certain honorable members may be endeavouring to make a little political capital out of the subject, but they will render no service to the banana industry, which should be our only consideration. Throughout the discussion on this matter those honorable gentlemen have endeavoured to create in the hearts of the growers ill feeling and hatred; they have not made one constructive suggestion or one helpful proposal. Instead of striving to assist the industry, they have by their speeches in the country and in this chamber done much unnecessarily to depress the growers. On the other hand, the Government policy has been constructive and helpful. I was not prepared to disclose Cabinet secrets; but the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has been generous enough to do so by stating publicly that in Cabinet I resisted strenuously the proposed admission of Fijian bananas at a reduced rate of duty.
– Then why condemn those who oppose the proposal in this* chamber?
– I have not condemned those who opposed the Ottawa agreement; but I do condemn them for reviving the banana issue to-night, when they know that there is no hope of the duty being altered, and that no advantage to the industry could result from their attitude. The Government has done everything possible to prevail on the British Government, to reconsider this arrangement, and I may claim, without egotism, that I have secured an undertaking that there will be no importation of Fijian bananas at the concession rate in excess of 40,000 centals. To ease the market in Queensland, where the bulk of Australian bananas is produced, the 40,000 centals from Fiji are to be admitted in. equal monthly instalments, equally, divided between the ports of Melbourne and Sydney. Moreover, the Government has made available a sum of £5,000 for the assistance of the local industry, because the market will to some extent be affected by the importations. The Government’s sympathetic attitude is illustrated by the fact that, although to the 16th March only £700 had been collected in duty, £3,000 of the £5,000, which is the amount of duty estimated to be collected on. 40,000 centals, was made available at once for expenditure in accordance with the recommendations of an organization brought into being on my suggestion.
The provision of this £3,000 is an advance against the amount of £5,000 to be made available to assist the industry. I have already made clear the circumstances under which the £5,000 is to be made available to the Banana Industry Committee. This committee which is composed of the Hon. John Gunn, Director of Development; Sir George Julius, chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; Dr. Rivett, and two representatives each from Queensland and New South Wales, one nominated by the growers and one by the Government in each State, has already been considering how the Commonwealth grant can be most advantageously expended in the interests of the industry. So successful have its efforts been that Mr. Anthony, president of the New South Wales banana-growers, has intimated to the Director of Development that he is prepared to recommend to the growers in his State a levy of a certain amount per case to provide a fund for the continuation of the good work which the committee has initiated. To the scientific work, including transport, packing, maturation, and diseases of handling and transport, £1,450 of the £5,000 has been allocated. Transport has been always one of the major problems of the industry, and has seriously affected the marketing of the fruit in good condition. This vote will do much to help the industry to raise the standard of its fruit.
An amount of £300 is being made available to the Department of Agriculture in Queensland for investigation of the thrips pest, and £250 will be handed to the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales for research into the beetle borer. These amounts total £2,000. The other £3,000 will be applied to publicity. Posters will be prepared at an estimated cost of £400, and poster boards will be hired in all the important cities on the eastern coast, and possibly also in South Australia, in. order to call the attention of the public to the merits of the Australian bananas. Booklets will be distributed, and suitable displays will be arranged in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, so that the public will be able to see the fruit to its best advantage, and an atmosphere will be created suitable to the development of the industry. Publicity officers will be appointed in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.
– By the Government?
– No ; by the committee. Certain funds will be made available for this purpose. I feel sure that, as a result of the special efforts that have been made to improve the ripening of the fruit, which has always been a problem, Australian bananas will, in future, be infinitely better than in, the past. I am informed that, as the result of the installation in Brisbane and Sydney of ripening plants, designed by the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the sales of fruit have materially increased in those centres. Mr. Ranger, of the Committee of Fruit Direction in Queensland, has informed me that the sales have increased in Brisbane by 1,000 cases a week.
– That system was introduced long before the committee was appointed.
– I admit that the problem in Victoria is different. There we have met with opposition from the Melbourne City Council, which has objected to the establishment of ripening chambers in the city markets. The committee is now making special representations to the Lord Mayor, and I have made personal representations to him. As a result, we hope that’ he will be made to appreciate the needs of the industry, and that facilities will be provided for carrying on the work of the committee in his city so as to ensure that the consumer in Victoria will be able to obtain properly ripened fruit, and that our sales in that State will be improved. I believe that much of the misunderstanding in Melbourne is due to the propaganda which was carried on by certain interests prior to the importation of Fijian bananas.
The honorable member for Kennedy mentioned bunchy top. I admit that this disease has proved difficult to handle.
– It first came from Fiji.
– It appears that the importation of plants from Fiji several years ago was first responsible for the establishment of the disease in this country. The honorable member for Lilley and I, together with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) made representations to the then Government, I think, in 1923, with a view to having measures taken to combat the disease. . We interviewed Sir Austin Chapman, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, and invited his assistance in the campaign for the eradication of bunchy top. As the result of our representations a sum of £5,000”was made available for carrying out investigations, on condition that the Queensland and New South Wales Governments each made available £2,500 for the same purpose. On the representations of the honorable member for Richmond in New South Wales, and of the honorable member for Lilley and myself in Queensland, this proposal was agreed to. The sum of £10,000 was devoted to research work in which Professor Goddard and a young scientist named McGee collaborated. As the result of this research work, the disease was practically eradicated, although I am sorry to say, that there has recently been a recurrence of it in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. There is no justification, however, for saying that this is in any way due to ‘the importation of bananas from Fiji.
– What is the Minister’s authority for that assertion?
– Professor Goddard is my authority, and he is one of the very few men who really know anything about the disease. This important industry owes much to his wonderful work and that of his assistant in connexion with the hunchy top investigation. He has assured me, both in correspondence and verbally, that there is no chance of the disease being brought to this country in fruit.
Sufficient has been said to make it clear that the Government has done a great deal to help the banana-growing industry, which, I admit, has had to bear some of the disadvantages incidental to the Ottawa agreement. As the honorable member for Capricornia has chosen to read certain paragraphs from the Courier newspaper, I shall conclude my remarks by also reading an extract from a sub-leader in that journal. In the issue dated the 11th November, 1932, the following appears : -
Undoubtedly Mr. Jos. Francis (Assistant Minister for Defence), who returned to Brisbane on Wednesday to open the “ Queenslandmade Exhibition “, lias done everything he could possibly do to assist tho banana-growers ; and it is satisfactory to know, that he has been able to obtain such a definite understanding as that in no circumstances will the Fijian supply of bananas be increased. . . . The understanding mentioned by Mr. Francis should go far towards allaying that fear. Growers will be grateful to him for what he has done. . . .
This important industry should now be allowed to expand, as it may well do with the, assistance it is receiving from the Government, and - honorable members should refrain from inflaming the minds of the growers or filling them with false ideas. I regret that the debate has taken its present trend, and I trust that in this committee we have now heard the last, of bananas. If the industry avails itself of the assistance offered, it should enjoy even greater prosperity than has hitherto been its lot.
.- The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) tried to convey the impression that I had made a statement that Fijian bananas were responsible for the introduction of bunchy top into New South Wales. I said nothing of the kind. I said that the industry had been subjected to the danger of disease, owing to the introduction of fruit from Fiji, and I went on to say that the Government might have given the same consideration to the banana industry as was given to the hop industry.
A miracle has happened during the last four or five months; according to the Government and its supporters there has been a marvellous improvement in the quality of Australian bananas. This improvement has staggered, not only members of this committee, but even the growers themselves. We have been told that the admission of 40,000 centals from Fiji is a mere nothing, but I remind honorable members that a little crack in the wall of a dam, if left long enough, will eventually destroy the dam. The Assistant Minister claimed to have dismissed the matter with Professor Goddard, with a view to protecting the industry, before Fijian bananas were admitted to Australia. How is it, then, that no man in Australia was more surprised than Professor Goddard when the terms of the Ottawa agreement in regard to bananas were made known? I cannot do better than quote Professor Goddard himself, in a statement that he made when the protection was lifted from the Australian industry. The following appeared in the Brisbane Courier of the 4th October, 1932 :-
It is very difficult to make any definite statement on this matter until one hears the reasons advanced for the decision, which, I must admit, comes as a very great surprise,” commented Professor E. J. Goddard, when told of the Federal Government’s decision yesterday.
If Professor Goddard’s statement is correct, that of the Assistant Minister must be contrary to fact, and the interview to which he referred must have taken place only recently. The report goes on to state -
It is well known that for many years past, and until recently, there has been a certain section in the south clamouring for the admission of Fiji bananas. But the wonderful improvement in the quality of the fruit from New South Wales and Queensland in recent years, and the great advance made in connexion with transport and ripening, appear, within recent years, to have considerably won favour for the Australian product. One had come to consider that the great extensions in banana planting, notably in the Tweed River area of New South Wales, and in southeastern Queensland, would be rewarded by an increasing amount of popularity for a product locally grown, and more efficiently handled. Many growers have been fearing for some time past that there will be over-production, and if their fears are realized then the problem will become a most- serious one with the admission of Fiji bananas on terms that will enable that product, grown under nativelabour conditions, to compete with the Australian product on terms disadvantageous to the latter.
The action taken in connexion with bananas, continued Professor Goddard, whatever may be the actual reasons - and I await the learning of such - will surely be accompanied by other changes insofar as imports are concerned. In short, this action is only comprehensible to me on the assumption that, within the next 24 hours we will learn of fundamental changes in the whole outlook of Australia in respect of imports. For one can hardly imagine that a local primary industry will be singled out for special disadvantageous treatment at this stage.
The Assistant Minister also claimed to have received the plaudits of the bananagrowers for the action that he had taken on behalf of the industry’. I remind him that the 6,000 banana-growers from the Tweed River district and the southern portion of Queensland, who met in the Town Hall, Brisbane, did not sing the Government’s praises. At a meeting held at Coolangatta, in the honorable gentleman’s electorate, the growers entered a vigorous protest against the removal of the duty and severely criticized the Assistant Minister. Wires inviting co-operation were sent by that meeting to every Federal Nationalist and Country party member in Queensland, including the Assistant Minister, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) ; but, according to the information that we have, only the last-named member replied to the communication and offered his support. The question was asked, “ What has become of our member?” to which the reply was, “ We shall find him on next polling day”. Yet the honorable gentleman informed the committee to-night that he was applauded for the manner in which he had supported the local industry, and then proceeded to quote from a newspaper supposedly congratulatory references to the action he had taken in the interests of the bananagrower. He took to task the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). and asserted that the decision to .make a grant of £5,000 to the banana industry was reached long before the Ottawa agreement was discussed in this chamber. In that respect he did not do himself justice, because the £5,000 made available for research, advertising, fertilizing, and other purposes, was to come out of the duty received on the importation of Fijian bananas, and so far only £2,000 of that amount has been handed over to the Banana Committee.
– The fact remains that it comes out of the duty which is paid on imports of Fijian bananas. How, then, can the honorable gentleman claim to have prevailed on the Cabinet to make this ‘sum available prior to the admission of Fijian bananas? He has’ recounted what he and the honorable member for Lilley have done for the grower. I hope that they do no more, because all that they have so far done has been to rob him of £50,000 a year. That loss has to be borne by 6,000 persons, who will not be helped very considerably by the granting of £3,000 a year for advertising purposes. Had Australian growers been left with the protection previously afforded them, their position would be much more favorable. Professor Goddard has declared that the Australian banana industry is in every way efficient, and it may safely be taken for granted that at least 90 per cent, of the growers desire to produce economically and efficiently, and to market their product to the advantage of themselves and the consumers. In return they desire a market which will afford them a reasonable return for their labours. They do not expect to have to compete with black-grown products. I have here a newspaper which, in referring to this matter, sets out the following in bold head-lines: -
Vicious Vendetta or Just Sheer Stupidity - Federal Cabineteers Declare War, and Seek to Cripple or Kill Queensland Industries - Series of Smashing Onslaughts may drive us into Secession Camp.
– Order ! The matter to which the honorable member has referred is irrelevant to the debate. I shall not again call him to order for departing from the question before the Chair.
– I submit that the newspaper deals specifically with the action of the Government in regard to bananas. Even the journals which support the Assistant Minister - the Brisbane Courier and Daily Mail - made attacks on him. Yet the honorable gentleman declares that all is well, that he and the honorable member for Lilley have made appeals to the Government, and accomplished something in favour of the growers by getting what might be termed £3,000 in blood money. Is that any compensation for driving growers and their families off their holdings and putting them on the dole? If that is the sort of assistance this Government gives to producers, steps will have to be taken to remove it from office.
The Assistant Minister says that he hopes that this will be the last that he will hear of bananas. I assure him that it will not. Bananas will haunt him for the next eighteen months, and then he will hear no more of them - at least in this chamber. He will hear much on the subject about the end of November, 1934, or before, if there is an election prior to that.
– The honorable member has always been a false prophet.
– I- beg to differ. I prophesied that the honorable gentleman was not game to go before the bananagrowers of Queensland, and my forecast was correct. The honorable gentleman said that Fijian bananas would not go to Queensland. I said that they would. My prophecy was correct. The honorable gentleman happened to be in Queensland at the time, and he could not get out of the State quickly enough. He said that he would rush back to Canberra, and get the Government to stop the importation of Fijian bananas into Queensland. I also prophesied that the honorable gentleman would never attain full Cabinet rank. He is still an Assistant Minister. I cannot resist prophesying that this business will have a boomerang effect upon him. He can thank Cabinet for bringing about his undoing, in which he has assisted by sitting idly by while it wrought the destruction of the Australian banana industry.
.- It is evident that this is an item that the . Government should reconsider, and with1* a view to the restoration of the whole of the local market to Australian bananagrowers, and as an instruction to the Government to reconsider the whole matter, I move -
That the sub-item be postponed.
The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) has claimed a great deal of credit for the “ fight “ which he allegedly put up in Cabinet on behalf of Australian bananagrowers. He condemned honorable members who advocated the cause of those growers and who pointed out that the reduction of duty would adversely affect them. He said that their purpose was a political one. That I deny, but I ask him was not that the purpose of his so-called “ fight “ in Cabinet ? When the late honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. P. G. Stewart) had -a disagreement with the Cabinet of which he was a member, he resigned, as others have done in like circumstances. I resent the insinuation that honorable members have failed in their duty. That the Assistant Minister has failed miserably is certain. Had honorable members not ventilated the grievances of the banana-growers they certainly could have been accused of failing in their duty. The grant of £5,000 will undoubtedly be helpful in carrying out research work, but it is poor compensation for the £50,000 which our banana-growers will lose every year. We are told that the banana ripening process, which has been referred to, was introduced as a result of the Ottawa agreement. Actually, it was in operation six months before that agreement was framed. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) claimed that, the importation of Fijian bananas improved the price of the local product.. On the other hand, the Assistant Minister declared, “ I believe that the importation of even 40,000 centals will be disturbing to the Australian market “. That has certainly proved to be the case. Already it has resulted in our growers being involved in a loss of £50,000 per annum. I have waited in vain for some explanation from the Assistant Minister as to the result of the negotiations between the Commonwealth and British Government for a review of this matter under- article 16 of,; the Ottawa agreement, which I’ regard as one of the blackest patches in our history.
We have not been told what was the reply of the British Government to that request, or whether the matter is still being considered.
. - The debate that has taken place on this item is one of the most unedifying ever heard in this chamber. Some honorable members opposite have exhibited the worst possible taste, although, after all, the subject-matter under consideration is of comparatively small importance. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) described the Ottawa agreement as one of the blackest patches in Australian or Empire history.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear !
– Honorable members opposite who say “ Hear, hear “ areexpressing, not their opposition to the Ottawa agreement, but their anti-British sentiments. It may interest them to know that in 1930 Australia exported to Fiji goods to the value of £449,845, . and in return bought from Fiji goods valued at £23,751. In the following year the figures were respectively £372,284 and £16,264. In the light of those figures, what is a concession of even £50,000? It is not to be expected that we shall continue to get the trade of Fiji if in return we buy nothing from that possession. The inroad on the banana trade of Australia which this concession represents is merely 2.7 per cent. of the Australian production. What is that compared with the numerous benefits which the primary producers of this country, particularly Queensland, will derive from the Ottawa agreement? Every one realizes that in the early stages of the operation of that agreement there must be re-adjustments here and there.
– At our expense.
– No. It has yet to be shown to what extent Australia is carrying out the agreement in relation to allowing British industries to compete in the Australian market.
– Is it intended to grant still further concessions?
– I ana thinking only of the carrying out of what we have agreed to do.
-Isthat another original thoughtof the honorable gentleman ?
– It is a thought which would not occur to the honorable member.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Relevant interjections are permitted by the Chair; but noisy and irrelevant interjections must cease.
– I protest emphatically against the unfair attack on the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis). No representative of Queensland has fought more disinterestedly, or more successfully, for the banana industry than has the Assistant Minister. The efforts of Opposition members do not amount to a tithe of what he has done. I am convinced that the reasonable people of Queensland - not those who applaud the sentiments of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) - will recognize what the Assistant Minister has done on their behalf. One of the conditions upon which Great Britain granted us other substantial benefits is this concession on bananas in which the island of Fiji, by reason of the richness of its soil and the profusion of its production, will be a participant. I remind the committee that the British market is practically the only market in the world of any great value to us, and that Great Britain, has stood by us in the past, and is standing by us now. I hope that the committee will pass the item.
.- I sup port the amendment. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have been charged with not having done what they could to assist the banana-growers of Australia. Their criticism has, however, been so effective that three Ministers, led by the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham), have risen to defend the Government’s action in this connexion. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) gave expression to another of his original thoughts when he said that we on this side were fighting this item only because of our anti-British sentiments. Surely it is a peculiarly twisted form of reasoning to contend that, because we are patriotic enough to believe in our own country, and to put Australia first, we are unpatriotic and anti-British. I am reminded of the statement of Dr. John son, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, that “ Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. The Labour party believes that the banana-growers of Australia should be protected from the product of cheap labour in other countries. In a typical speech to-night, the Acting Leader of the House selected his own false premises, and then built plausible arguments on them. He really made out a strong case against the Ottawa agreement. In effect, he contended that we should not advocate protection with respect to our own goods, or even with respect to goods produced in countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations. He said that we should remember that we had to trade with Japan and China, and should not build up any tariff wall against the products of those countries. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) had merely pointed out that only a small percentage of the banana-growers of Fiji were white men, the great majority being Chinese, Indians and Fijians, and had argued that we should not prefer their goods to the products of our own country. But the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) spoke as though the honorable member was opposed to Australian trade with China and J apan. It is now easy to understand why the Prime Minister said at a deputation in the Cabinet room, in answer to a question put by a representative of the banana-growers’ organization, that the White Australia policy was intended not to protect Australian industries against the products of coloured labour overseas, but. to protect white labour against the products of coloured labour within Australia. Judging from the tenor of the speeches of some Ministers, they pretend to expect the banana-growers to be most grateful to them. Apparently those Ministers would have the people believe that they had assisted the industry by allowing £50,000 worth of bananas from overseas to take the place of our own products on the Australian market-; but that argument will not be convincing to the Australian growers who are suffering as the result of the Government’s action. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) spoke mainly about the sum of £5,000 which had been obtained for the banana-growers. The Government seems to consider that to be the strongest argument that can be advanced in its favour, despite the fact that it endeavoured to avoid carrying out its promise in that regard, and avoided answering questions about this matter until it was brought prominently before the House. I raised the matter when speaking on the adjournment of the House, and the Prime Minister then made a statement; but his reply was so unsatisfactory and ambiguous that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) inquired whether or not the Government intended to give the growers the £5,000. Eventually the promise was forced from the Government.
– The Cabinet decision was made long before that statement.
– Then why did not the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General answer my repeated questions about the £5,000? I asked whether the matter had been decided, and the answer of the Prime Minister was that it was not the custom of the Government to state matters of policy in reply to questions. Credit has also been given to the Assistant Minister for Defence for the great fight he is supposed to have put up on behalf of the banana-growers. From whatever angle we may view this matter, no credit can possibly redound to this Government. In the first place, we have no proof whatever that the Assistant Minister has done anything on behalf of the growers, though he said to-night that the Prime Minister had given away a Cabinet secret in saying thathe had put up a great fight.
– The honorable member is digressing from the question before the committee.
– If it is correct that the Assistant Minister did all these things, he was fighting against his own Cabinet, and, therefore, the Cabinet itself stands condemned for its anti-Australian action. Whichever way we look at the matter,the Government must be condemned, and that is why the Opposition is resisting the present proposal. We have been charged with not putting forward any suggestion to assist the banana industry; but we have advanced the only proposal that is worth while - that this duty he removed, even at the risk of jettisoning the Ottawa agreement. The British Government seems to be able to obtain alterations of the agreement whenever it desires them. We, also, should be able to effect alterations. This is the last opportunity that members will have to deal with this matter, and by supporting the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition we can remedy the previous mistake.
Question - That item 52, sub-item (a), be postponed (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr.bell.)
Majority .. ‘.. 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question-That the item 52, sub-item
Ayes . . . . . . 29
Noes . . . . . . 15
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) one or two matters arising out of the recent amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In Queensland, and, I take it, in the other States as well, the old-age pensioners have been unjustly treated by the Government. Yesterday, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) endeavoured to obtain from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) certain information, which, unfortunately, was not forthcoming. However, I understand that the honorable member for Oxley has now received a reply from the Prime Minister in similar terms to one which I received in February last, which was that the Government had decided that pensioners who surrendered their pensions prior to the 31st December, 1932, would not be called upon to pay back moneys received up to that date. Quite a number of pensioners were misled by certain press statements to the effect that the Government had given pensioners until the 31st December to surrender their pensions or otherwise, and at the same time it was pointed out that the pensioners would receive certain forms on or before the last pension payday in December. A number of pensioners did not receive those forms until the first pension pay-day in January, and immediately they received them they decided to surrender their pensions. Upon notifying the department to that’ effect, they received word that, as they had not surrendered their pensions on or before the 31st December, they would have to repay the money that they had .received in pensions as from the 12th October, otherwise the Government would take a lien over their homes to the extent of the money owing. That decision of the Government is unjust to the unfortunate pensioners concerned. I understand that the act is to be amended to enable the dato of surrender to be extended to the 3’J.st December, and when the act is . being amended I hope that consideration will be given to these unfortunate pensioners who, through no fault of their own, but through ignorance of the law, are now being called upon to repay the amount of pension received from the 12th October, to avoid the Government taking a lien over their property. If the Government cannot extend the time of surrender, say, to April next, I suggest as an alternative that it asks these pensioners to repay” the amount of pension as from the 31st December instead of from the 12 th October. .
.- I wish to refer to a matter concerning which I have written to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and have not received a reply. I questioned him about it yesterday, and was ‘informed that consideration would be given to my request. I asked that in connexion with the charge upon the estate of a deceased pensioner, the same privilege be extended to the widow or beneficiary under the will of a pensioner who died between the 12th October and- the 31st Dec-ember, as was extended to the pensioner himself of drawing the pension up to the 31st December. Four pensioners have recently died in my constituency, and claims have been made upon their estates ranging from 35s. to £7. In one case, the claim is for £3 10s., and the department has asked the widow to make this payment within 30 days. Form 47, which has been sent to the widow, states that this action has been taken in conformity with section 52e of the act. The widow is afraid that she will be taken before the court and an order made for the disposal of her property. One can quite understand the frame of mind of these people.
Attention called to the state of the House. The bells having been rung and a quorum not being present,
Mr. Speaker adjourned the House at 11.30 p.m.
The -following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Upon what basis docs the Pensions Department determine profit made arising out of board received from the children and counted as income when assessing the rate of pension received by the parents?
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - Payments by way of gift or allowance from the children of a pensioner are not regarded as income when assessing the rate of pension. Section 24 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, however, specifically provides that such payments must be taken into account when determining the eligibility of a person to receive a pension in excess of 15s. per week. Each’ case’ is dealt with on its merits when calculating what proportion, if any, of the amount paid by the children for board is to be regarded as income of the pensioner. Reasonable allowance is made for the cost of the board, and the balance, if any, is regarded as income.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When amending the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, will the Government make provision that persons surrendering their pensions prior to 30th April next, shall not have to refund any amount received ?
am). - This question has already, received the consideration of the Government, and, as previously announced, it has been decided that, where pensioners surrendered their pensions before 31st December, 1932, they would not be required to repay any pension received by them after 12th October, 1932, the date upon which the pensions provisions of- the- amending Financial Emergency Act came into operation.
Yesterday the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked the following question, without notice: -
In view of the fact that the Government has promised that the miners’ phthisis allowance and sustenance received by the relatives of pensioners will not be treated as income for the purpose of assessing pensions, will the Prime Minister anticipate the passage of the necessary legislation, and give instructions to that effect?
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: -
Instructions have already been issued that the rates of pensions are to he immediately increased in those cases where pensioners are in receipt of food relief and/or miners’ phthisis allowances. This involves the anticipation of the necessary amendments in the law, but such amendments will be made retrospective to validate the action taken.
r asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount is paid by the Commonwealth Government annually in pensions, other than old-age, invalid and war pensions?
Mr. Lyons (through Mr, Latham). - Excluding the proportion recouped by the States of pensions granted under section * 84 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, the annual liability of the Commonwealth ‘for pensions other than invalid, old-age, and war pensions is £373,294. Of this sum, £115,290 represents pensions and retiring allowances payable under section 84 of the Constitution, and £251,970 represents payments under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House the actual report of the Tariff Board, including its recommendation that wire netting should be proclaimed as subject to the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act?
– This report, which was furnished some years ago, has been made available to the honorable member on at least two occasions, and as a fresh report is expected at an early date from the Tariff Board, it is not proposed to lay the report referred to by the honorable member on, the table’ of the House; but, if the ^Honorable member so desires, it will’ again be made available to him.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 March 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330322_reps_13_138/>.