13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Maekay) took thechair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Government definite proposals to place before the next meeting of the Loan Council with the object of substantially reducing the number of persons who will be unemployed during the coming winter?
– The relief of unemployment is a subject under the consideration of the Government, but, so far, no proposals have been worked out in precise terms. The particulars of any proposals for submission to the Loan Council which the Commonwealth Government may submit to the Loan Council will not be made public until they have actually been placed before that body. The position is being carefully watched, and the Government is gratified to know that the programmes adopted by the various governments of Australia have already resulted in a decided reduction in the volume of unemployment.
-Will the Government make funds available for the purchase of blankets and clothing for the unemployed during the coming winter?
– Any announcement of any Government decision in that matter will be made at the proper time, and not in answer to a question.
– Will the Government consider the provision of clothing and blankets for the unemployed during the forthcoming winter months? The unemployment relief schemes now operating in the States barely supply the food requirements of the unemployed ; they donot provide for the supply of clothes and bedding. Will the Government bring this matter before the Loan Council, or the next Premiers Conference?
– I think that I am right in saying that no Federal Government has ever endeavoured to provide directly for the distribution of food or clothing throughout Australia otherwise than by making available certain defence material. In regard to the territories of the Commonwealth, successive Federal Governments have recognized their responsibility in this matter. All the Governments of Australia consider - and I think, rightly - that such activities in the States are more efficiently conducted by the States than by the Commonwealth. It is unlikely that theFederal Government will consider any Australian-wide scheme, to be controlled by the federal authorities, as suggested by the honorable member.
– In October last you, Mr. Speaker, stated in this
House that the Public Service Commissioner had been asked to make a report on the expenditure of this Parliament. Are you able to say whether his report has yet been received, and, if so, what action it is proposed to take in connexion with it?
– The report has been received. It is a very complete document, .and deals with ‘every department of the Parliament. It contains many important suggestions for the reorganization of the parliamentary staffs. Since many of the recommendations apply to the departments associated with both Houses of the Parliament, I have communicated with the President of the Senate, and on his return full consideration will be given to the report.
Examinations - Returned SOLDIERS
– In view of the obvious unfairness of the Government’s decision that the examinations of persons seeking employment on clerical work in connexion with the forthcoming census shall be held only in the capital cities of the States, and at Canberra, will the Government consider the possibility of conducting examinations by post so that intending applicants who live in country districts may be able to sit for the examination ?
– Several honorable members have suggested that examinations should be held in various country centres, but, for reasons which, on consideration, will appear obvious, it has not been found possible to adopt that suggestion. I am afraid that the proposal of the honorable member for New England (Mi’. Thompson) is impracticable. The essence of an examination is that each examinee shall be under observation and control during the holding of it. It would, of course, be possible to despatch the papers to various country centres, and to require candidates to work under the control of an observer, but that would mean the holding of examinations at a large number of centres. The number of positions to be filled is so small, and the difficulties associated with the organization of such, a scheme so many, that the procedure would be quite disproportionate to the end sought to be achieved.
– I have received a communication from a man, who informs me that, after being rejected fourteen times for active service during the war, he was accepted for service in home defence, and holds a certificate to that effect. He has made application for employment in the work of collecting the census this year, but has been refused. Will the Acting Prime Minister give an undertaking that men who can produce such certificates will be eligible for employment in the work referred to ?
– The Public Service Act contains a definition of “ returned soldier “, which, doubtless, was adopted by Parliament after a great deal of discussion, and, I should think - I was not in the Parliament at the time - after a full consideration of the position of such men as that mentioned by the honorable member. Any departure from it now would involve an amendment of the act, and this would raise . difficult questions, affecting all sorts of cases. . The Administration must pay regard to the definition in the act.
– Has the Government issued instructions to divisional returning officers, advising them that only returned soldiers may be employed in collecting the census?
– I think not; but I shall make precise inquiries into the matter. I assume that the honorable member is referring to collectors of the census, as distinct from persons employed on the clerical staff at Canberra.
– As a means of aiding the establishment of the shale oil industry in Australia, will the Minister give an undertaking that all machinery required for the development of the Newnes shale oil deposits shall be admitted free of duty ?
– Already large quantities of mining machinery are admitted free of duty under the tariff schedule. If those who are concerned with the development of the Newnes field will indicate the machinery which they desire to get in free of duty, the department will consider its admission under by-law.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that dire poverty exists in Canberra; that many people in the Federal Capital are in need of clothing, including boots and shoes; that children are attending the schools in Canberra inadequately clothed; that winter is approaching, when these conditions will become more acute, and the position of a large number of women and children will be worse? If so, will the honorable member take steps to relieve the Commonwealth Government of the stigma which attaches to it, because of its refusal to do the fair thing by the unemployed in its territories?
– I know that winter is approaching, but I doubt that the other statements of the honorable member are in accordance with facts. This Government has spent more on the relief of unemployment in Canberra than did the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member.
– That is a misrepresentation of facts.
– The Government regrets that, owing to financial stringency, it is unable to do more for the unemployed; but I assure the House that no person in Canberra will be allowed to starve or to be without adequate clothing. Cases brought under the notice of the department have received, and will continue to receive, consideration.
– Is the Minister aware that, during the regime of the Scullin Government, adequate financial arrangements were made for the almost complete absorption of the unemployed of Canberra, and that over a period of twelve months the amount of work available, permitted of employment ranging from half time to full time? Also, is he aware that the amount of relief work at Canberra provided by the present Government allows men to earn only sufficient to purchase dole rations? If this is correct, will the Minister, in view of his statement that this Government is making available more money for unemployment relief than was provided by the previous Administration, make further inquiries as to the actual position, and the amount of work given to the unemployed in this city?
– I am aware that the previous Administration, of which the honorable gentleman was a member, did what it considered best for the unemployed of Canberra. But, I repeat that the figures show that this Government is doing more. Consequently there is no need to make further inquiries. The position was fully discussed when the Estimates were being considered.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of the Tariff Board dealing with the protective incidence of exchange and primage ?
– The report has not yet been received.
– Last week, in reply to a question, I was informed that the Government would consider making available the military camp at Eutherford for the use of the unemployed during the coming winter. Has a decision yet been reached in this matter?
– The honorable member on a previous occasion asked whether certain returned soldiers had been evicted from the Eutherford military camp, and I replied that negotiations had taken place, not with the relief workers, but with the State Government, and that that Government was satisfied with what had been done. The question asked by the honorable member to-day is entirely different, and consideration will be given to it.
– Can the Minister for the Interior furnish a satisfactory reason for the use, by the department, of bitumen imported from the United States of America, as a surfacing material for roads in the Federal Capital Territory, instead of “ Trinidad”, an Empire product ?
– As I stated yesterday, in reply to the honorable member’s question on the same subject, very little imported bitumen has been used on the roads in the Federal Capital Territory, the quantity being about 4,000 gallons, as against 53,000 gallons of oven tar produced at Newcastle. Hitherto “ Trinidad “ has been used here only for the roofing of buildings, including Parliament House; but the department intends to experiment with this material on the roads.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any information to give the House in connexion with the conversion of our overseas indebtedness into securities bearing a lower rate of interest, or has the suggestion been abandoned ?
– The suggestion has not been abandoned ; but it would not be advisable, from any point of view, to make a public statement on the matter at the moment.
– It is announced in this morning’s press that the telephone department has made arrangements, when requested, to give subscribers an early morning call for a specified fee. Can the Postmaster -General say if, in the event of a telephone attendant who has been on duty all night, failing, through sleepiness or for some other reason, to make the call, the department will be in any way responsible for the negligence of its servant?
– The responsibility of the department would depend on the circumstances, all of which would be inquired into.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state when the Tariff Board’s reports dealing with gum boots, elastic webbing and handkerchiefs, will be made available?
– The reports are expected any day now.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say if the Government has considered the introduction of amending banking legislation to encourage the establishment of long term mortgage banks in Australia?
– The Government has under consideration certain aspects of banking legislation ; but I am not aware if the Treasury has given any attention to the particular subject mentioned by the honorable member. I shall make inquiries, and let him know.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for the Interior that the unemployment situation has improved since this Government took office, will he endeavour to persuade the Cabinet to consider the advisability of restoring the invalid and old-age payments to the original amount of £1 a week?
– The honorable member’s question deals with a matter of Government policy, and should be addressed to the Minister representing the Treasury.
The following paper was presented: -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 17.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 547), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 1167) (Volume 135)-
And on motionby Mr. White (vide page 29) -
Group 2. - Items which have been amended in accordance with the Ottawa agreement - but not otherwise amended.
Division 6 - Metals and Machinery. item 173, sub-items (a) (b) (“Weighing machines, balances, &c.).
.- Before continuing the discussion of the tariff, I should like to offer a few words of congratulation to the former Minister for Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Henty (Sir .Henry Gullett), who has been absent from his place in this chamber for several months owing to illness, but is, this morning, in his accustomed seat. Although I disagree with many of the decisions of the Ottawa Conference, I freely acknowledge that the Very strenuous work which the exMinister was called upon to do at that gathering was largely responsible for the undermining of his health. I therefore take this opportunity of expressing my personal pleasure at seeing him again in this committee.
These sub-items deal with the duties on weighing machines, including computing and weighing machines which are not made in Australia. The duties are 27$ per cent, in the British preferential tariff, and 45 per cent, in the general tariff. Under domestic legislation of the various States, it is ‘compulsory for all storekeepers to have weighing machines that are examined and properly stamped from year to year. This is deemed necessary in the interests of the general public. As computing and weighing machines are not made in Australia, I fail to see the need for the continuance of these duties on them merely for the purpose of extracting revenue from importers or users. If the Minister can assure me that these machines are to ‘be made in Australia, I shall be prepared to allow the sub-items to go through as they stand. Otherwise, they should be reviewed, and the duties removed from machines which are essential for the protection of the community.
.- It is quite refreshing to hear the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) who, hitherto, has always been a champion of prohibitive duties, suggest the removal. of the duties in these sub-items. The general tariff has been increased in conformity with the Ottawa agreement. Sub-item a covers all classes of computing and weighing machines, and includes some that are not manufactured in Australia. But the sub-item also covers other weighing machines, such as platform scales and weighbridges which are made in this country. However, the honorable member’s protest is quite pertinent, and I shall inquire whether it is possible to dissect the sub-item so that computing machines used by storekeepers may be imported at lower duties and, at the same time, give reasonable protection to Australian manufacturers of other kinds of weighing machines. If, on inquiry, I find that the subject should be referred to the Tariff Board, I shall submit it to them.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 176 (a) (b), 177 (a1), 178 (a), 179 (d3c), 180 (f), 181 (aa) (c), 185 (c), 186, 187 (c), 189 (a) (b) (c) (d) (o), 190 (a), 195, 201, 203 (b), 206 (a) (d), 210, 212, 216 (a) and 217 agreed to.
Items 224; 225 (b) , ‘231 (Al) (e) (f) agreed to.
Items 240 (B2) , 242 (f) , 243 (a), 250 (a) (d), 252 (b), 253 (e) , 254 (b) (c), 256, 261, and 263 agreed to.
Items 264 (d1, 2) 265 and 266 (c2), (d) agreed to.
Item 267, sub-items (a) (tj) (Wood and coal tar ; pitch, petroleum and bone pitch ; natural pitch, bitumen and asphalt).
– I direct the attention of the Minister to sub-item b which provides that the duty on. bitumen shall be ad valorem British, free, and general, 10 per cent. I understand that this 10 per cent, has been imposed in consequence of the Ottawa agreement. I regret the imposition of the duty, because it will undoubtedly hamper municipalities and district councils throughout Australia in their road construction work. A duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem on foreign bitumen will add an extra cost of 14s. a ton to the bitumen used in Australia. Many thousand tons of bitumen are used in this country in a year, and the imposition of this duty will add £700 to the cost of every 1,000 tons of it. Honorable members should realize that all the road work done by municipalities is paid for in the form of a tax which Ave know as rates. It has been necessary to lower the rates in almost every State in the last few years on account of the depression. If we increase the price of bitumen to local governing bodies, road-making work- will be restricted, and less employment will be available. In addition to the duty of 10 per cent., local governing bodies have to pay sales tax of 6 per cent, on their bitumen. I understand that the reason for the imposition of this 10 per cent, duty is that the Government desires to provide a preference for a British product known as “ Trinidad “ bitumen.
I gathered from, an answer to a question this morning, that “ Trinidad “ had not yet been tested in Canberra. “We are therefore, being asked to endorse the duty of 10 per cent, for purely experimental purposes. I do not think that the experiment will be a success. I understand that the price of “ Trinidad “ is very much in excess of the price of American bitumen. An Australian product known as Coalas has been used as a substitute for bitumen, but it has not been satisfactory. Thousands of miles of roads in Australia have been treated with bitumen, either by spraying or penetration, to the vast improvement of their surface, and it would be regrettable if we were to penalize our road-making authorities by approving ‘ of this duty. I remember when the first piece of bitumen road in Australia was made in the St. Peters municipality of Adelaide. That was many years ago. The penetration system was used. That’ road is as good to-day as when it was first put down, and the cost of maintaining it has been nil. I have had the honour to sit on the St. Peters Council as councillor and alderman for many years, and have also been mayor of the municipality. I, therefore, know how important it is to our local governing bodies that road-making material shall be made available at the lowest possible price. It is also being suggested that an extra duty of- 30 per cent, be placed on the containers of imported bitumen. It would be a mistake for us to approve of this proposal. Inview of the fact that the substitutes that we have tried for American bitumen have been unsatisfactory I appeal to the Minister to agree to the withdrawal of this duty. I have had communications from many municipalities and district councils throughout my own State to the effect that this duty will hamper their ope actions; and it is on their behalf that I ask for the removal of it.
.- I support the request- of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) up to a point. Until about twenty years ago; there was not the same need to use bitumen for our road work. I would gladly support the proposal of the Government if the Australian tar available to us were’ as good now as it was twenty years ago ; but; unfortunately, with the exception of New. castle tar, which, is still fairly satisfactory, it is not suitable for our need.
– The Newcastle tar is getting better every day. .
– I am glad to hear iti ‘ The Melbourne tar is most unsatisfactory. I understand that there is good demand for all the Newcastle tar that is, available. Certainly there is not enough of it available for the requirements of all municipalities, and it is necessary for many municipalities to use some other suitable material. I am glad that cement is coining into its own in these days, and I am anxious that it should be used to the fullest possible extent, in order that we may avoid the importation of American products. We have been experimenting with the use of cement by penetration and otherwise, and have found it very satisfactory, but unfortunately, the cost of road-making with cement is excessive. Concrete roads cost, probably, six times as much as ordinary bitumen roads. The concrete roads we have in Canberra are satisfactory, but too expensive for ordinary use. I have asked several questions in the last two days in regard to “ Trinidad,” which is a wonderful material, and makes a splendid road when used in certain ways; but I say definitely that it is not suitable for spraying purposes. We made a road iri Melbourne with this material a considerable time ago, and it is not yet showing any sign of wear. I am very anxious that we shall not spend money on American road-making material if we can get suitable material within the Empire, but at present, material suitable for spraying does not seem to be available elsewhere. I except, of course, the Newcastle tar. It is manifestly unwise for road-making authorities to spray a material on the roads which will last for only six or twelve months if they can spray with bitumen which will last from two to five years, even if the initial cost of the tar is only half the cost of the bitumen. I suggest to the Minister that he look into this subject with the object of trying to meet the wishes of the municipalities in regard ‘ to the provision of less costly road-making material. I venture the opinion that, because of the multitude of matters presented to the Ottawa Conference, delegates were not fully conversant with the details when they decided that a 10 per cent, duty should be placed on foreign bitumen. I was glad to hear the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) say that his department intends to experiment with “ Trinidad “ for road-spraying purposes. He will find that, because of its characteristics, it does not liquefy satisfactorily for road spraying. I arn sure that all honorable members are anxious that as much money as is possible should be spent on our roads, because of the resultant benefit to the community. I commend the matter to the serious consideration of the Minister.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis), particularly the sentiments that move them to patronize dominion goods rather than those coming from the United States of America. Hitherto both honorable gentlemen have been consistent supporters of every protected item upon which there has been a division in this chamber. However, this item touches interests with which they are closely concerned, for both have occupied high municipal offices, and realize the influence of tariff on municipal costs. I appeal to them and all other honorable members similarly placed, to express like views on items affecting country interests. Municipal authorities are doing useful work providing amenities for the cities, therefore I support the request of honorable members, but I maintain that their attitude now is in strong contrast with that adopted by them in regard to industries which closely concern country communities.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in making such comparisons.
– It is desirable that we should assist those who deal with us, and exclude, so far as is possible, goods from such countries as the United States of America, which trade with Australia as little as they can.
– Only one request has been made by the various speakers, namely, that the Minister should look into this subject. That, he will do in any circumstances. I hope that when doing so he will endeavour to ensure that Australian interests are conserved. Generally speaking, the complaint has been that we have unduly protected Australian industries. In this instance we are going a little further by imposing a 10 per cent, duty against foreigners, which will give an advantage to the product of Trinidad and other sections of the British Empire.
We have almost unlimited surplus stocks of coal in Australia, and experiments are continually being conducted with coal products in order to improve roadmaking methods. I know, from my experience as a member of the Public Works Committee, that the administration in the Federal Capital Territory experimented successfully with Newcastle tar, a product which has since been much improved. The Minister would do well to consider that aspect of the matter, and avoid doing anything that will check the progress of local development. My experience is that we make good roads in Australia with 90 per cent. Australian products. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) referred to roads in his State. When a member of the Public Works
CommitteeI travelled over many of these roads, which were in the process of being made or re-made.I found everywhere a tendency to use more and more Australian products, with advantage. I am certain that the Minister will safeguard the position. If, aided by this 10 per cent. protection, “Trinidad “ cannot do the job, we must ensure that more and more of the products of Newcastle and other parts of Australia are used.
– I sincerely hope that, when making inquiries into the relative value of road materials, the Minister will see that the qualities of the Newcastle product are given every consideration, It has beenused on many roads in and about Sydney, and has proved eminently satisfactory. If, as suggested by one or two honorable members, municipalities desire to have roads with a bituminous surface, they might go further and investigate the qualities of concrete, an all-Australian product, which costs only 25 per cent. more on the pre-duty price. However, if a good tar product is to be used, it is unnecessary to go beyond that which comes from Newcastle.
.- The discussion has centred about that portion of the item which relates to the relative qualities of bitumen from the United States of America and “ Trinidad.” As tar from Newcastle and other parts of Australia is extensively used for roadmaking puposes, as also is our concrete, it is evident that the Australian industry is well protected by existing duties.
Regarding the difference between bitumen and “ Trinidad,” I point out that bitumen has been inaccurately termed asphalt, and I shall quote extracts from literature issued by the Trinidad concern in support of that statement. There has been a widely-organized campaign against the imposition of duty on American bitumen, letters of protest having come from a number of councils, urging that it should be removed. The very nature of those protests, together with the wording employed, which is identical in some of the communications, suggests that the opposition has been organisedby certain oil interests. Iremind the committee that the imposition of the duty of 10 per cent. under the general tariff directly arises out of the Ottawa agreement. It was decided to give this preference only after the matter had been carefully considered by the Australian delegation at Ottawa. The British West Indies were requested to grant to Australian products a wide preferential margin under their tariffs. As most of those colonies have acceded to that request, the Australian Government gladly extended a margin of preference on “ Trinidad,” one of the few products in regard to which we could reciprocate. For the information of the committee, I mention the following preferences which the West Indies colonies have agreed to grant in respect of Australian products : -
Butter-1½d. per lb.
Wine - 15 per cent.
Brandy -5s. a gallon, or proof gallon.
Condensed or powdered milk - 10 per cent.
Canned fruit and vegetables - 15 per cent.
Biscuits, unsweetened, in bulk - 2s.1d. per lb. Biscuits, unsweetened, otherwise packed- 1s.1d. per lb.
Dried fruits - 15 per cent.
Jams, jellies, and preserved fruit - 15 per cent.
It will be realized that these preferences are substantial, and that, with an improvement in shipping facilities between Australia and the West Indies, Australia will be in a better position to take advantage of them. In addition to considering the benefits to trade between the British West Indies and Australia, we must also consider the possibility of benefiting trade between Australia and the United Kingdom. In considering our request for new and increased margins of preference, the delegation from the United Kingdom intimated that any preference given to the colonies would be taken into consideration by Great Britain, and it is not disclosing any official secretto say that that delegation attached a good deal of importance to the giving of preference by Australia to Trinidad asphalt.
It is true that there is a marked disparity between the price of the American by-product and Trinidad natural asphalt. This only emphasizes the need for the preference, and the Government is determined to honour its obligation in the matter.
The annual levy upon the whole of Australia, which will be imposed if the. 10 per cent, foreign duty on bitumen is agreed to, is £9,270, assuming that imports from foreign sources will be of the same value as those which came in during 1931-32. But-with the increased output from the Trinidad lake, which will result in lower handling costs, and the very probable adjustment downward in the price of foreign bitumen to meet the Trinidad competition, I do not think that even this increase will eventuate. As the American companies find that they are losing business, they will probably reduce the price of what is, after all, a by-product. Of course, they do not want to reduce prices, and they will mislead honorable members if possible with their propaganda. Besides, as I previously stated, a good deal of our road-making is done with Australian concrete and tar. I know that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis) are authorities on road-making, on the technicalities of which I would not challenge them. However, they must take all pertinent factors into consideration.
– Does the amount of £9,270 include the extra cost that would result from the purchase of “ Trinidad “ as against American bitumen, also the 10 per cent, duty?
– I have the statistics, which are available to honorable members. This duty should assist in diverting into Umpire channels a portion of the trade previously done with the United States of America, a country which has shown little consideration for Australia when making its tariffs. No doubt, honorable members have been circularized regarding the duty on foreign bitumen. Many exaggerated statements are made to the effect that the Trinidad product is unsuitable for all roadconstruction purposes. So serious were these representations that the local agents for the Trinidad bitumen were forced to publish a full statement concerning the history and uses of Trinidad bitumen in road-making. The following extract on the subject is taken from the Australian Municipal Journal of the 15th December, 1932 :-
Trinidad is in reality a binding agency which holds together particles of the road wearing surface, hence is a “bitumen,” and as such complies generally with any standard specification. Actually, due to its well-recognized characteristics, Trinidad is regarded by road engineers as a sort of standard to which other bituminous binders are compared.
The article goes on -
Bitumen from the Pitch Lake was the chief binding agency in this early work, and it is significant that many of these pioneer asphalt surfaces, built 30 to 40 years ago, are still in use, notwithstanding the complete revolution in road transport which has occurred since their completion.
When honorable members who pose as authorities challenge this slight duty against a foreign article - a by-product of American oil works - other honorable members may be influenced to vote against the item. The weight of evidence is in favour of our accepting this proposal because of the preferences we are to gain, apart altogether from the fact that it is a part of the Ottawa agreement.
This article is moderately worded, and honorable members should read it. They have read the propaganda from the other side; let them now read the reply. The statement that thousands of men at present engaged in road repair and construction works will be placed on the unemployed list because of the imposition of a duty on foreign bitumen is most misleading.
This is one of the items arising directly out of the Ottawa agreement, and I ask, therefore, that it be agreed to. The whole position was very carefully examined by the Australian delegation at Ottawa, and our representatives were satisfied that Trinidad bitumen could be used for practically all road repair and construction purposes. I shall watch the operation of this impost to see whether the claims of the opponents of the duty are justified.
.- The Minister made no reference to the 30 per cent, duty on containers of imported bitumen. The existence of that duty is, in my opinion, an anomaly.
– There is no reference in this item to the duty on containers.
– It is impossible to purchase the one without the other. As I cannot find any other reference in the schedule to containers, may I not discuss them on this, item?
– Such a discussion would be out of order.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 268, sub-item (b), agreed to.
.- These commodities are essential for the destruction of pests, and the duty on them should be as low as possible. The industries engaged in their manufacture have been established in Australia for years, and the raw materials, including arsenic, are mostly produced in this country. Some of the weed killers are manufactured from tobacco extract, and tobacco is cheap enough in Australia today. I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 25th March, 1933 - 269. (a) Sheep, cattle, and horse washes, in liquid or powder form, ad valorem, British, 10 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.;
I know that it is useless to argue the matter unless the Minister is prepared to agree to my amendment.
.- The articles listed in item 269 are pest destroyers. They do not create wealth by their application; they merely preserve wealth. It is singular that, in this instance as in others, there are those who would batten on the primary producer even when he is merely seeking to destroy pests which injure his crop. There are parasitical secondary industries which are prepared to thrive, even on the misfortunes of the primary producer. The killing and clearing of timber is necessary for the proper cultivation of the. soil, but the work of the farmer is made more difficult and more costly by the in creased charges imposed on the material he must use. Surely the Minister will take notice of the recommendation made to him. The duties ought tobe lower, but they will conform to the formula contained in the Ottawa agreement if the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is accepted. It should be unthinkable for the national Parliament to impose a levy on the misfortunes of the primary producers.
– I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr: Gregory). It appears to me that we are unduly increasing the price of articles that are necessary to those in country districts. These weed killers, germicides and insecticides are notused in the cities to the same extent as in the country. The demand for such materials in fruit growing areas is very great. They are of enormous economic importance to the primary producers, and should be made available at the cheapest price. Many of these commodities are not manufactured in Australia to any extent. For instance, sodium chlorate, used in the destruction of- ragwort and even the common Yankee thistle, is not made in Australia at all so far as I know. I trust that the Minister will give favorable consideration to the honorable member’s amendment.
– Honorable members rightly protest against duties which, from their point of view, adversely affect primary industries, but the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), like the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), sometimes goes beyond thebounds of fair criticism. I suggest that, before he says that parasitical secondary industries are battening on the misfortunes of the primary producer, he should acquaint himself with the facts. I can show him that some of our local manufacturers are producing these commodities at prices lower than those at which they could be imported duty free. The Government has shown every consideration for the primary producers by removing the primage duty on the imported articles, so that the duty is actually less than it appears. This subject was inquired into by the Tariff Board in 1925 upon the application of the central council of the Producers Association for the reduction of the duties to, British free, general 10 per cent. The request, however, was made on a general principle that no tax should be levied on the primary producer to support a manufacturing industry, and the applicants admitted that they had not considered the respective prices of imported and Australian dips. The board’s inquiries showed that sheep and cattle dip are being manufactured in Australia on a large scale, and that most of the materials used in. manufacture are Australian. These include phenol - a distilled pro- duet of tar - caustic soda and arsenic. The only imported materials used are sulphur in sheep dips, and Stockholm tar in cattle dips. The disadvantage of dependance on outside sources for supplies of sheep dip was amply illustrated during the war, when great difficulty was experienced in obtaining adequate supplies. The position was such that the Government requested a company to commence the manufacture of sheep dip in Australia, and granted it special facilities to do so. It might be instructive to honorable members to quote the prices at which locally manufactured dips may be obtained as compared with the prices of the imported article. For instance, the price of imported liquid sheep dip in 5 gallon containers, c.i.f. and e, is 40s. whereas the locally manufactured article sells at 42s. 6d. The cost of importing the dip in its powdered form in 10-lb. packets per case, c.i.f. and e., is 67s. Id.; but the price at which it is distributed here is 50s. 6d. If the duty had to be paid, the cost of the imported article would be 82s. 4d.
– “What is the object of the duty?
– The industry is established here, and it is asking for increased duties. The success of the Wiluna mine depends largely on its output of arsenic, and if the industry were not protected it would go out of existence as a result of the importation of Japanese and Swedish arsenic. The local selling prices are reasonable, and members of the Country party should desire to keep this industry going. The matter was investigated in 1925 by the Tariff Board; but in view of the request now made, the Government will ask the board again to consider these duties.
– The Minister has just stated, as on previous occasions, that the position is exactly the same now as it has been for years; but I point out that this is not so. The general duty has been increased, and the local manufacturers have a currency protection of 25 per cent. Further, the man on the land who uses this material is now in a very different position from that occupied by him a few years ago. He receives greatly reduced returns from his wool, wheat, butter, meat, fruit - from practically everything that he sends overseas.
– I think that the Minister has made out an unanswerable case. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has spoken over and over again of the plight of the primary producers; but, with all due respect to members of the Country party, it seems to me that they are making a grave blunder. What the primary producer is concerned about is whether’ he is receiving a fair deal from those who supply him with the materials that he requires for his work on the land. The Minister has shown conclusively that the local manufacturers are supplying an article at a cheaper rate than that at which this material was previously imported. It does not matter whether the duty is 1,000 per cent, or 6,000 per cent., if the users are obtaining an article of as good a quality as formerly, and yet at a cheaper rate than when it was imported under almost freetrade conditions. At the commencement of the war, and before some honorable members were returned to this House, I played a prominent part in endeavouring to get a suitable sheep dip made in Australia. Owing to the scarcity of shipping, the British Government expressed the desire that Australia should do all it could for itself, because every available ship was required for the conveyance of troops, and food and munition supplies. It is well known that some of our leading local firms had their chemists at work, and the outcome was that thousands, if not millions, of sheep were saved. The British firm of Cooper and Nephews, although it protested against its goods being excluded from Australia, established works in this country, and now it is turning out a sheep dip which is made for the most part out of Australian materials, and gives employment to our own people. In quality the dip is quite as good, if not better, than thatpreviously provided, and the price is far cheaper. This firm has also supplied experts, who visit the fruit orchards, and are prepared to give technical advice to the orchardists. In these circumstances, why do we hear these frequent protests from members of the Country party? Over and over again, primary producers have admitted to me that they desire the protectionist policy of this country to be maintained. By means of the tariff, this Parliament has obtained a better deal for the primary producers than they have ever had before in regard to many of their requirements.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 270 agreed to.
Ammonia, viz.: - Acetate, carbonate, anhydrous, liquid, chloride, and sulphate, ad valorem, British, 15 per cent; general, 30 per cent.
.- I move -
That the item be amended by omitting the word “sulphate” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ refined sulphate of ammonia.”
If the Government desires to place a duty on fertilizers, and if the committee is agreeable, we must abide by its decision. After nitrogenous fertilizers had been allowed to come in duty free, and representations had been made by the manufacturers of sulphate of ammonia, the department declared that nitrogenous fertilizers came into competition with sulphate of ammonia, which was then classified as a chemical. It should be made clear that this duty applies only to drugs and chemicals.
.- I support the amendment. The crude sulphate of ammonia which is used as a fertilizer should not be dutiable. The press yesterday referred to the large extent to which sulphate of ammonia is used as a manure on the rice areas in the irrigated parts of New SouthWales, and pointed out that the colour, density, and prospective yield of the rice crops were much better this year than usual, as the result of the use of this fertilizer. We should do all we can to reduce the price of this expensive manure, and should not impose a duty on sulphate of ammonia when used as a manure.
Tariff Board’s report on fertilizers, dated the 5th December, 1929, states -
Nitrogen as a fertilizer is used in various forms, the principal of which are -
Sulphate of ammonia which is obtained -
by direct manufacture and in this report termed direct sulphate of am monia;
as a by-product from coal, and called in this report by-product sulphate of ammonia.
I suggest that we might well have those two classes of sulphate of ammonia defined in the tariff schedule, so that the by-product would be admitted free.
.- This matter Was thoroughly threshed out a day or two ago. I then told the committee that I would send it back to the Tariff Board for further inquiry, and it was referred to the board immediately. Why are honorable members so impatient? The amendment which has been submitted would completely upset what the honorable member previously set out to do. Sulphate of ammonia is a by-product of coke ovens and gas works, and is made in every State. It is also produced by the steel works at Broken Hill and elsewhere. If the amendment were agreed to, the ordinary sulphate of ammonia would be unsaleable. Previously the quantity produced in Australia was in excess of requirements, and a certain quantity was available for export. That the heading of the division is “Drugs and Chemicals “, does not imply that the whole of the items in it are drugs and chemicals. There could not be a heading that would accurately specify the nature of every item. The duty is rated in conformity with a previous recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– Surely this material should come under the heading “ Superphosphates “.
– That might be a better heading; but, doubtless, this has been found the most convenient place in which to insert the item. I ask the honorable member to withdraw the amendment, and to await the completion of the inquiry by the Tariff Board. In the light of the different circumstances that exist, it may submit a more favorable report.
Item agreed to.
Items 274 (b), 279 (a) and 2S0 (b) agreed to.
Item 281, sub-items (a1) (b2)
.- The present rate of duty on arsenic is 25 per cent. British and 42$ per cent, general. The general ad valorem rate prior to the increase of 7$ per cent, in pursuance of the Ottawa agreement, was 35 per cent. That rate was imposed by the 1921 tariff. I ask the Minister to consider the advisability of imposing an alternative fixed rate in the general tariff of £10 a. ton. That would not really involve an increase in the duty. My object is to ensure the Australian industry against fluctuations in the protection due to any big slump in the price of arsenic abroad, notably in Sweden, where very large works are now in course of construction. It is very difficult to detect dumping in the case of a product of this kind. When the Swedish plant is completed it will be possible for that country to land arsenic in Australia at a price at which it would be impossible for the Australian works to compete. Australia and Canada are the only dominions in the British Empire which produce appreciable quantities of arsenic. Great Britain herself produces only a small quantity, which is absorbed locally; Australia, fortunately, has plentiful deposits of arsenic ore. If worked to their full capacity, the Australian arsenic plants are capable of meeting the whole of our requirements. There are arsenic ore deposits in practically every
State of the Commonwealth. Australia’s requirements are between 1,500 and 1,800 tons per annum. This product is extensively used, and it is absolutely necessary for us to be able to supply our own requirements, as the time might come when we should not be able to procure supplies from abroad. The pastoral and agricultural industries are dependent upon arsenic for the eradication of pests. It is also used for a number of purposes, such as the manufacture of glass and the production of insecticides, orchard sprays, and sheep dips. The bulk of the world’s production is in foreign countries. The United States of America is the largest producer, but even so her output is only half of what she requires. Every copper or tin-producing country turns out arsenic. Our importations are mainly from Japan, and from Mexico, via the United States of America. We have quite a number of well known arsenic works, including the Primary Producers Chemical Company, Ballarat, A. Victor Leggo and Company, and the Australian Chemical and Metallurgical Works, Bendigo, t’he Valla Gold Mines at Urunga, New South Wales, O. C. Roberts, Mole River, near Tenterfield, New South Wales, and the new and most modern plant that has been erected by A. Victor .Leggo and Company at the Wiluna Mine, Western Australia, which has already cost about £50,000, and, when completed, will have cost approximately £70,000., This is a new industry in Western Australia, and it can be developed to give a return on the capital outlay only if the Australian market is retained for those who supply the arsenic. According to official statistics, the importations of arsenic into Australia within recent years have been as follows : -
These figures show that, on an average, approximately one-third of Australia’s requirements was imported. Now there is “ a threatened invasion of the market by the new foreign concern to which I have referred. Extensive gold copper arsenic deposits are being worked on the Continent of Europe, and there is evidence that silos have been erected on this particular mine to hold 120,000 tons of crude arsenic. Thus Australian enterprises are in danger of being swamped by importations. If the price of arsenic drops by one-half in Sweden, I fear that an ad valorem rate of duty will not be sufficient to protect the Australian industry.
– Is there evidence that the Swedish company has made any arsenic ?
– Photographs of the completed plant have been published in a mining journal. I understand that the product of this concern is about to be placed on the market.
– Is not the honorable member’s suggestion a little premature?
Mr.Scullin. - The ore mined by this company is very much richer in arsenic than the ores found in any other mine.
– There is now a duty of 421/2 per cent.
– A fixed rate of duty of £10 a ton would be no greater than that.
– It is not desired that the British rate should be increased. The Tariff Board, it is true, recommended against a fixed rate of duty. But in its report it made the following statement: -
The Tariff Board appreciates that it would undoubtedly be an advantage if Australia could be independent of outside sources for its supplies of arsenic. It has also not been overlooked that the users of arsenic in the manufacture of arsenate of lead and other arsenical compounds who were represented at the inquiry undertook not to increase their selling prices in the event of the duty on arsenic being increased as desired. However, as much as the Tariff Board would have liked to have been in the position to make a recommendation favorable to the applicant, it is forced to the conclusion that the circumstances do not justify such a recommendation.
There is no doubt that strong competition from abroad will place the Australian industry in jeopardy. The company to which I have referred is already seeking to enter the Australian market. By stabilizing the existing protection with a fixed rate of. duty against foreign countries, the Minister would protect the local industry. I ask the honorable gentleman to postpone the item, if necessary. I know that he is sympathetic towards the industry, and that he has given the matter some consideration. This is an important question to Australian industries.
Leggo’s works alone could to-day supply the whole of Australia’s requirements; but there are also the works at Wiluna and in New South Wales, aswell as rich deposits of arsenic in Queensland. Thus there is no need to import this commodity. Those who have had the courage and the enterprise to invest capital in the industry should be given the whole of the Australian market. The Tariff Board admits havingreceived an assurance that existing prices would not be increased.
– I endorse the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). A fixed rate of £10 a ton would be just about equal to the general rate of 421/2 per cent. It might be a little more.
– It would be. The f.o.b. price is approximately £20 a ton; therefore, a duty of £10 a ton would be equal to an ad valorem rate of 50 per cent.
– The main point is, that we are striving to develop and support industries within the British Empire. That was the spirit which actuated the Ottawa Conference. All that is asked is that a fixed rate shall be applied to importations from foreign countries. It is well known that arsenic plays a very considerable part in warfare.’ I invite honorable members to consider that aspect of the matter. I hope that, out of the troubles through which the world is passing to-day, there will emerge a widespread desire for a general peace. But we cannot be sure that that desirable state of affairs will come about. Sometimes the slightest friction between nations causes a world-wide conflict. Whether we be primary or secondary producers, it is essential that, in time of war, we should be as nearly as possible self-contained. Although I cannot speak authoritatively, I believe that Great Britain herself desires to have produced within the Empire supplies of those commodities that would be essential if we were engaged in a conflict. Her requirements of arsenic are comparatively small, and she is able to supply them herself ; but I believe I am safe in saying that she does not export a single pound. In Canada and Australia, however, but particularly in Australia, there are ores which have a very considerable arsenical content, and arsenic is being extracted from them. I am reminded of what occurred during the discussion of the mining industry which took place only yesterday. This is a proposition to make use of a mining by-product which is produced at Wiluna. There has been erected atWiluna a plant for extracting arsenic from certain products of the mine. Our mining operations are providing employment, not only in the actual mining of the ore, but also in the making of by-products as well. Already £50,000 has been expended on the erection of this plant at Wiluna. About £400 a week is being paid in wages to 50 employees engaged on work in connexion with by-products. By permanently establishing the arsenic industry in Australia, we shall be giving an excellent bounty to the mining industry. If this industry is given proper encouragement and protection it will be ultimately of great benefit to the primary producers, because the local product will be available to them at. a price much lower than that now charged for the imported product.
– In that case, there is no need for the duty.
– That cry is often used in this chamber. The honorable member would not invest his money in any industry unless he thought there was a degree of permanency in it. The arsenic industry in relation to primary production is of considerable importance. We have an opportunity to establish this industry on a commercial basis, and to make ourselves absolutely independent of foreign supplies. Arsenic is an important munition of war. As the bulk of the world’s production is in foreign hands, any British dominion that can produce arsenic in quantity should obviously be given every encouragement. It is vital that the Empire should be independent of foreign sources of supply, in case of hostilities. A number of firms in Australia are engaged in the manufacture of arsenic. The internal consumption is considerable, and there is no likelihood of a monopoly being established. Australia should play its part with Canada in trying to supply the requirements of the British Empire. From information that I have received, I believe that there are markets overseas that will be available to us for the disposal of this product. I hope that the
Minister will see his way clear to accede to the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to make a slight variation of the duty. I hope that further consideration will be given to this item, and that if the industry is later threatened with overwhelming opposition, it will be referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. [ Quorum formed.]
.- This item has a bearing on another item which was discussed earlier this morning, and in respect of which I have already said that it is being referred to the Tariff Board. Yesterday afternoon, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton) introduced a deputation to me on this matter, and I promised to give it consideration. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has suggested that the Government substitute a fixed rate of ditty of £10 for the present duties of 25 per cent. British preferential, and 421/2 per cent. general. The board inquired into this item as recently as 1929, and it would be quite contrary to the Government’s policy to impose a fixed rate of duty without reference to the board. In any case, the suggested duty may represent a higher impost than that” now operating. Arsenic is a by-product of gold-mining, and it is a product which the primary producers require at low cost. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested that arsenic from Sweden may be dumped into Australia. It is premature to suggest that, because no one can tell whether that country has yet reached the stage of production. We are informed that it has good ore and certain plant, but I think that it will be soon enough to take steps to prevent dumping when it actually takes place. The duty is adequate, and as the item has recently been inquired into, and is to be investigated again by the Tariff Board, I do not think that there is anything more to say on the subject.
.- The assurance of the Minister that this item will be referred back to the Tariff Board is at least encouraging. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) have placed all the facts before the chamber. The Minister made one remark the seriousness of which I would ask him to consider. He said that the Swedish works are not yet producing arsenic, and that it will be time enough to deal with dumping when it actually takes place. The Minister knows that Parliament is often a slowworking machine, and that if dumping were to take place during a recess, we would not belikely to be called together for the purpose of passing a new schedule to alter the duties in respect of arsenic. Defence is better than attack, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed. If the Swedish works start to dump their products in Australia, irreparable damage will be done to the Australian industry before this Parliament has time to act. The Swedish works will undoubtedly become a serious competitor with our own. I understand that the ore that is being worked in Sweden is more prolific in arsenic than the ore which is at present being mined elsewhere. Sweden will manufacture this by-product and be able to dump it at any time at a price with whichwe shall be unable to compete. Our own people have invested money in the Australian industry. The request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not extravagant. He asks that a flat rate , of duty shall be imposed equivalent to the present foreign rate. If, as the Minister suggests, a flat rate of £10 a ton represents more than a duty of 421/2 per cent., that will have to be taken into consideration. But the point is that the ad valorem duty is valueless when dumping takes place.. It is easy to say that we can apply the anti-dumping duties, but they cannot operate effectively, because it is impossible to obtain proof of dumping when the price charged for the goods in question is not lower than that at which they are sold in the country of origin. In such a case, although the price may be ridiculously low, dumping, according to the customs law, does not actually take place.
The process of producing arsenic absorbs mining fumes that would otherwise disperse in the atmosphere. We know the effect that such fumes have had upon mining areas. They destroy the vegetation for miles around.
– That will make little difference at Wiluna.
– A large number of workers and others are living at Wiluna, and if the fumes were circulating in the atmosphere they would be unable to cultivate flower and vegetable gardens. We must adopt modern conditions of living. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has said, it would be serious, indeed, if one of the large producers of this commodity within the Empire were forced out of business because of foreign competition. I, therefore, ask the Government not to close its mind to the suggestion that a flat rate of duty be imposed, because frequently that is the only method of providing effective protection for an Australian industry.
– The Minister has consented to refer to the Tariff Board this item, which provides for a foreign duty of 421/2 per cent. I hope that the Minister will be equally ready to provide facilities for reference to the Tariff Board of items in respect of which a request is made for a reduction of duty.
– I shall certainly take that action if the facts are sufficient to warrant it.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) contended that we should give a greater preference to Great Britain under this item. I do not know whether he has overlooked the point that in this particular schedule Great Britain is receiving a preference of 171/2 per cent. as compared with the preference of 10 per cent. which she enjoyed before the Ottawa treaty was ratified, due to the increase in the foreign duty. The duty, which was 25 per cent. British and 35 per cent. foreign, is now 25 per cent. British and 421/2 per cent. foreign, so that a wider discrimination is being shown in favour of Empire goods. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred to the courage of those who had put their money into this industry, and said that they should be rewarded for their enterprise. An enterprise which is fortified by a duty which, with f.o.b. charges, is equivalent to 47 per cent., must be very faltering and timid if it is not capable ofcarrying on without even greater protection. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that the request for an increase of duty was not extravagant. I suggest that the request for a duty in excess of 421/2 per cent. cannot be described as anything but extravagant.
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) spoke of assisting British enterprise by a wider margin of preference, but he had already stated that the United Kingdom did not produce arsenic in excess of its own requirements. The honorable member pleads for the observance of the Ottawa agreement, when by so doing, he can further his desire to raise duties, although normally he is ready to destroy the agreement, and he even resigned from the Ministry as a protest against it. The duty on arsenic is of interest to “Western Australia, but if an industry cannot compete successfully with the aid of a protective duty of 421/2 per cent., plus all the other charges that have to be borne by importers, it is not worth having. We must consider the interests of the users. If cheaper arsenic should be available from othercountries, users in Australia should not be required to pay a price much in excess of that of the imported article merely for the purpose of supporting a few workers in this country. A duty of 421/2 per cent. is surely sufficient to protect any industry which can fairly be described as economic.
.- One wonders how much further some secondary producers will go to display their inferiority complex. As the result of the Ottawa ageement, the duty on arsenic has been increased by 71/2 per cent., and on f.o.b. cost is now equivalent to 47 per cent. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has stated that arsenic is imported mainly from Japan and Mexico. If we add to the duty, exchange and transport costs, the local industry is enjoying a protection of over 100 per cent. How such protection can be regarded as moderate and insufficient is beyond my comprehension ; it is an outrage. Even the statements made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition warrant us in opposing any increase in duty. He pointed out that this commodity is used in the manufacture of fruit sprays, glass, and sheep dip. An article that is the basis of manufacture in other industries should not be unduly taxed. Another attempt is being made to weight the saddle of the jockey who is riding on the primary producer. The statement that an increase of duty would not increase prices is a fallacy. If Sweden should be able to supply arsenic at a cheaper price any attempt to prevent importations from that country by a fixed duty would maintain existing prices of arsenic here, thereby preventing a reduction in the cost of primary production to which this commodity is essential.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) . said that a fixed duty of £10 a ton would be merely equivalent to the present ad valorem duty. That is not correct. The present f.o.b. price of arsenic is approximately £20 a ton. A fixed duty of £10 a ton would be equivalent to an ad valorem duty of 50 per cent., and £12 a ton to an ad valorem duty of 60 per cent. The fears regarding possible Swedish competition are unfounded as yet. In the absence of any knowledge of the price at which Sweden will be able to export we should not at this stage be concerning ourselves about problematical dumping. Any person interested who has information on this subject should submit it to the Tariff Board. As the result of its inquiry in 1929, the board was disposed to remove the duty on arsenic, but feared the effect upon the Australian industry, which was then in its infancy. The enterprise in New South Wales to which reference has been made is not producing arsenic, but’ has asked for higher duties in order that it might be encouraged to recommence production. The Wiluna mine is engaged principally in gold production. I understand that its equipment is up to date, and that the people connected with the enterprise are not living under those conditions of hardship which the Leader of the Opposition has pictured. However, the facts that the board was disposed to remove the duties in 1929, and that the local production has since increased, warrant a further investigation. Certainly, the Government would not consider the imposition of a flat-rate duty without a preliminary inquiry by the board.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz.: - Items 287, 288, 289 (b2), and 290 (d) (e1, 2) agreed to.
Items 310 (a), 312 (a) (b), 319 (c), and 321 (b) (c), agreed to.
Items 3.24 (c 2, 3, 4), 325 (b) and 326 agreed to.
Item 331, sub-item (c2) -
Rubber and rubber manufactures, viz.: -
(2) Rubber thread; boot and apparel elastics, ad valorem, British, free; general, 15 per cent.
– I move -
That that portion of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 8th March, 1933, relating to paragraph 2 of sub-itemb of tariff item 331 be incorporated in the present proposals as on and from the 9th March, 1933, in lieu of paragraph 2 of sub-item c of item 331 of the tariff resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1932.
The reason for this amendment is that the goods covered by item 331, sub-item c 2 of the tariff resolution of the 13th October, 1932, are now covered by item 331,. sub-item b 2 of the resolution of March, 1933. The wording and rates are unaltered.
Amendment agreed to.
.- Two companies in Australia, namely, the Dunlop Rubber Company, and Elastic Webbings Proprietary Limited, of Melbourne, are engaged in the manufacture of elastic webbing.I understand that the Tariff Board has inquired into this sub-item, and I would like to know whether the Ministerhas yet given consideration to its report. Wherever possible, the Minister should lay on the table the reports of the Tariff Board before the items affected are considered. If the Minister has received the report of the Tariff Board, will he inform the committee of its contents? The urgency of the matter is indicated by a telegram I have received. I had made some inquiries as to how this industry was progressing, and from Elastic Webbings Pro prietary Limited I have received the following reply: -
Anxiously awaiting decision regarding application protective duty elastic. Through Japanese competition sales down £2,300 monthly. Two hundred and fifty-two machines idle six months. Sufficient plant for. over 200 employees; at present employing 103. Reluctantly selling under cost to keep trained employees. Failing protection will compel us to close factory June. Japanese elastic selling at cost of our raw material.
This factory was established while I was Minister for Trade and Customs, and its employees are threatened with dismissal unless increased protection is afforded the industry. The Dunlop Rubber Company is, of course, a very much bigger concern, and is producing elastic webbing at its factory in Sydney. Elastic Webbings Proprietary Limited, not only invested a considerable sum of money in the erection of a factory and the importation of machinery, but also brought experts from abroad to train the Australian operatives. These experts have found that our men and women quickly become highly efficient operatives. The company does not wish to dismiss its experienced employees, but will be obliged to discontinue operations unless the Government comes to its assistance. Yet we are told that nothing can be done without reference to the Tariff Board.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Those responsible for the establishment of this Australian industry placed before the Tariff Board such convincing arguments that it willbe difficult for thatbody, notwithstanding its present-day tendency to recommend reductions of duty, to report against the request for higher duties on this subitem. I do not know whether the “Minister has yet received the board’s report; if he has it, he should not keep it to himself, but should make its contents available to honorable members. In my opinion, this Parliament should accept full responsibility in tariff matters, and not delegate its authority to any outside body like the Tariff Board. In the Customs Department are competent officers, capable of investigating this industry and deciding whether or not it is worthy of further assistance. Only to-day, an urgent telegram has been received from those engaged in the industry to the effect that, unless granted protection, the industry will have to close down, resulting in 100 employees being thrown out of work. To some honorable members, that may not seem of much im.portance; but if that should happen in 20 industries, each employing 100 persons, the addition to the ranks of the unemployed would be 2,000. Already about 350,000 of our people are unable to find employment, and if this Government’s tariff-smashing policy is continued, more and more of the Australian people will be added to the number, for it has been stated that what the Government has done so far in the way of reducing duties is only a slight indication of what it intends to do in the future. One has only to compare the value of our importations during the last six or eight months with the figures for the corresponding period of last year to realize the difficulties confronting our secondary industries. The outstanding feature of our overseas trade figures is the recent growth of imports from Japan. We, on this side, are prepared to facilitate the passing of this tariff schedule provided we are given ample opportunities to express our ‘ views on important items. The request that this sub-item be postponed is reasonable. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I postponed the consideration of many items at the request of the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill). This industry is not carried on in my electorate, but I am none the less concerned about its future. The policy of the Government may injure workers in my electorate to-morrow. Surely it is only reasonable that we should postpone our consideration of this sub-item until the Tariff Board’s report has been received and considered, which will probably be next week. The consideration of this tariff schedule will not be completed, for a month or two, so that there is no need to put this sub-item through to-day.
.- Had the honorable gentleman asked a question this morning regarding the Tariff Board’s report on this sub-item, he could have saved himself the making of a long speech, for I could have told him then that the Tariff Board’s report was- expected at any moment. I have since received the report, although I have not had an- opportunity to consider it. This industry was established without any protective duty whatever, and since the duty on foreign goods is fixed at 15 per cent, by the schedule before us, there should be ample protection against Japanese manufacturers. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) spoke of Japanese competition. It may interest him to know that Australia has a favorable trade balance with Japan ; our sales to that country are valued at approximately £7,000,000 per annum in wool alone, whereas we purchase from Japan in return goods to the value of only about £2,500,000, much of which is for the purchase of silk, which is not produced in Australia. There is no necessity to postpone the item”. The board’s report will be considered next week, and, if it is then thought necessary to make any change, an amendment will be introduced for that purpose.
.- The Minister’s statement is the strongest argument we could have in support of the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). It cannot be said that there has been any obstruction by honorable members on this side during this tariff debate. The request that honorable members should be given an opportunity to see the report, which, the Minister says, he has just to hand, i.s the limit of reasonableness. ‘Since the Government professes to pin its faith to action only after the Tariff Board’s report has been received, its refusal to postpone the consideration of this subitem is incomprehensible. No reasonable request from either side of the House should be treated in the cavalier manner that this request has been. I warn the Minister that he will not gain by adopting such tactics. If he gives the committee his assurance that the sub-item will be postponed, we can then proceed to discuss the next item; hut, if not, the sub-item now before the Chair will be further discussed. If the Tariff Board’s report were laid on the table this afternoon, honorable members could come prepared to discuss this sub-item on Tuesday. Unless the Minister is prepared to agree to the reasonable request made of him, I shall ask honorable members to support me in further discussing this sub-item. Is it that the Minister is acting in this way because he knows that the Tariff Board favours an increase of duty? It is true that this is an item that has not been protected hitherto ; but it is equally true that those engaged in the industry submitted a request for an import duty, and that the Tariff Board conducted a fairly lengthy examination in regard to their request. The Tariff Board’s report is with the Minister, and yet, before he or any other honorable member has read it, we are asked to rush this sub-item through. That comes with ill grace from a government which professes not to move in tariff matters until it has had reports from the Tariff Board. Where is the Government’s consistency? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked that consideration of this sub-item be postponed, as has been done on scores of other occasions when the tariff has been under discussion. Apparently the Minister is determined to rush this subitem through, but I tell the Minister, as plainly as I can, that he will make more progress if he adopts a reasonable attitude towards reasonable requests. Since he refuses to postpone the subitem we intend to discuss it, and we object to its adoption on the ground that as the Government’s declared policy in tariff matters is to follow recommendations of the Tariff Board, we should have the report before us. The Minister’s reluctance to postpone the sub-item entitles us to assume that the board has recommended a higher duty to protect this . industry which is being threatened by importations from a foreign country. His only defence, apparently, is that the country in question is buying more from us than we are buying from it.
– I did not advance that as a defence of this particular sub-item.
– That argument was advanced, but when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a similar statement upon the sub-item dealing with tapioca, it was brushed aside, although in that case the tariff was not imposed for the protection of an Australian industry as in this sub-item. This is an industry which gives employment to a considerable number of Australian people. My information is that, unless adequate protection is given to it against importations from Japan, it will be forced to close down, and a large number of employees will be thrown out of work. The industry made application to the Tariff Board, which inquired into the position and has presented its report to the Minister. All we now ask is that the consideration of this sub-item be postponed until we have had. an opportunity to read that report If the Minister wishes to be fair ‘ he will accede to the request. At the moment I am not in a position to discuss the various aspects of the industry concerned. Nor for that matter is the Minister or any other honorable member ? But. we do know that a report dealing with it has been handed to the Minister, and we make the very reasonable request that it be made available to us before we vote upon this sub-item.
– The request made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is a reasonable one. If we follow the usual course this afternoon, the committee will report progress in about an hour’s time, so postponement of the sub-item will not. mean serious delay, because if the report is made available to honorable members promptly, they will be in a position to discuss this sub-item when the committee resumeson Tuesday next.
.- There is really no necessity at all for postponing the sub-item. I have already told the committee that the Tariff Board’s report dealing with this subject was received this morning, but I have not yet had an opportunity to read it. I wish to do so.
– We also want to read it before voting on this sub-item.
– In the circumstances, the obvious thing to do is to proceed with the debate. If an amendment is deemed necessary, it will be brought down at the earliest opportunity. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has referred to the practice of tabling reports as they are received from the Tariff Board. He did not always table reports on the day that they were received.
It is not feasible that these reports should be tabled immediately they are received, and while the Government is still ignorant of their contents. Almost every day that Parliament has sat since it re-assembled, I have tabled reports of the Tariff Board. Nothing will be gained by postponing this sub-item.
– And nothing will be lost by it.
– I assure the committee that if after the Government has considered the report of the Tariff Board it thinks that an alteration should be made in these duties, it will be made immediately’. I shall examine the report during the week-end, and take immediate steps to make any alteration in the duties that may be deemed necessary.
.- If nothing will be gained by the postponement of this sub-item, it is equally true that nothing will be lost by it. For once I. find myself in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). I do not know that such a unique happening will ever occur again. I do not think that the duties are likely to be affected very greatly by the report of the board, but as the report has so recently come into the hands of the Minister it is reasonable to ask for the postponement of the item until it has been considered.
.- I endorse the remarks of the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). A perfectly reasonable request has been made. Nothing is to be gained by forcing this item through immediately.
.- I hope that the Minister will give earnest consideration to the industry that is affected by this sub-item. This is a matter of serious importance in every capital city of the Commonwealth. I know that the fate of a large number of female employees is dependent upon the action of Parliament in relation to this sub-item. It is not likely that anything, that we may do in this connexion will adversely affect the primary producers. The amount of money involved in this industry is, I suggest, too small to justify the bringing of the industry within the purview of the Ottawa agree ment. We are dealing with what is really a side line of the clothing and textile trades, and an auxiliary branch of the rubber industry. These rubber goods have been placed on the market at a reasonable price by the local manufacturers. Most of the people employed in this industry are fitted only for light work. They cannot undertake manual labour, such as the State Governments are providing almost exclusively for the relief of unemployment. The establishment of this industry has made available an avenue of employment for female workers which is of considerable importance. If these people are dismissed in consequence of the removal of protection which the industry at present enjoys, I doubt whether it will be possible for them to obtain employment elsewhere. It cannot be said that our rubber manufacturers are exploiting the community by charging unduly high prices, for their goods. I have discussed this subject with many honorable members outside this chamber, and I have never once heard them complain of the prices charged for these goods. I hope that the Government will agree to the postponement of the consideration of the sub-item.
– This sub-item is in a different class from almost any other item that has come before the committee for consideration, owing to the fact that a report of the Tariff Board has just come to hand. If the item is dealt with at the moment, a reconsideration of it might be necessary at an early date. If it will suit the convenience of the committee to postpone further consideration of the sub-item until after the items in group 6 have been considered, the Government will agree to the adoption of that course. Group 6 contains the items in respect of which amendments are being made by the present Government in consequence of the receipt of reports from the Tariff Board. If an amendment is needed to this item because of the receipt of the board’s report, it could be made appropriately when the items in group 6 are under consideration, and that may avoid certain difficulties that would ‘be involved in an ordinary postponement of the item.
Sub-item, as amended, postponed until after consideration of group 6.
Item 333, sub-items (a2) (b) (Pneumatic rubber tyres and tubes).
.- I call attention to the extent of the protection provided by this item. The only inference we can draw from the remarks of the Minister to-day is that, irrespective of the fall in the price of raw materials and wages, and therefore of the purchasing power of the people, no reduction can be made in any of these items. Do honorable members realize that the falling off in the volume of our manufactured goods is due to the fact that the people have no money to purchase them? There has been a big reduction of wages, and also in the price of raw materials. The arguments of the Minister would lead one to believe that because these duties were imposed some years ago, no objection should be raised to their continuance. I always thought that the idea of protection was to impose duties with a view to establishing industries in Australia; that when those industries were firmly established the duties should be reduced. If honorable members examine the report of the Economic Committee that was appointed in 1929 by the Bruce-Page Government, and was presided over by Professor Copland, they will see that the wages paid in this industry for the year under consideration amounted to £1,300,000, while £2,100,000 was collected in duty on rubber tyres and tubes - £800,000 more than the whole of the salaries and wages paid in the Australian industry. Since then there has been a considerable reduction of wages and raw material costs. Are these manufacturers to be allowed to combine and penalize the community ?
– The honorable member must remember that present-day tyres wear three times as long as did those produced three years ago.
– It would be more to the point if the honorable member explained why ‘tyres cost so much more in Australia than in Great Britain. I shall not move that the duties be reduced, because I have not gone exhaustively into the matter, nor seen the report of the Tariff Board. However, if the Government persists in continuing duties merely because they have been in operation for a few years, it will discover that, after a time, the people will have received such a lesson in regard to our tariff policy that they will insist on drastic changes, such as are taking place in the United States of America.
.- I believe that this item is due for review. When the duty Avas first imposed in 1921, or a little later, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) definitely stated that it Avas not introduced for its protective incidence, but for the purpose of raising revenue for road-building. I should like to know from the Minister whether the revenue collected under this item is still being used solely for the maintenance of main roads.
– It goes into Consolidated Revenue, as such moneys are not earmarked for special purposes.
– The Minister will find that the then Prime Minister gave the promise to which I have referred. The duty on a tyre .imported to Australia is greater than the price of the article in the United States of America. It is time that the Government thought of the users. It should bear in mind the big fall in wages and in the price of rubber. Surely this duty is not to be likened to “ the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not “ ? I hope the Government will postpone the item, so that the Tariff Board may have an opportunity to review it and place its recommendation before Parliament.
Sub-items agreed to.
DIVISION 13. - Paper and Stationery.
Items 334 (c3) (nl, 2) (k) (l1, 2), (m2) (n) (01, 2, 3) (r) (q) (si) (w), 335, 336 (a) (b), 337 (b), and 346 (b) (c) (d) (f) agreed to.
DIVISION 14.- Vehicles.
Items 350, 351 (a) (b), 352 (a1) (b) and 353 agreed to. “Item 354, sub-item (a) (Side cars, motor tricycles and similar vehicles n.e.i.).
– Does the Minister consider that the duty of £10, which is provided in the preferential column, is a competitive one? I understand that ‘ side cars can be bought for that price.
– There is a well developed Australian industry which supplies every side car used in the country. The duty was imposed to develop the industry. The Tariff Board has not reported on the subject, but if there are those who think that the price of side cars is too high or that the duty is prohibitive, they should make representations so that the matter may be referred to the board.
– I asked whether’ the Minister considered this to be a competitive duty which afforded United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition, in conformity with article 10 of the Ottawa agreement.
– That would be a matter for inquiry. There has been no protest from Great Britain on- the subject. I am confident that if the duties were considered prohibitive we should hear of it.
– Have we to wait for a protest to be made by Great Britain before a matter is placed before the Tariff Board for consideration?
– The Tariff Board is considering the whole of the schedule, but is at present dealing with major items. Minor items such as this might well wait until the more important are dealt with.
– The Minister said that no protest had been received from Great Britain in this regard. Surely the Government does not wait until a protest is made before it gives an interpretation to article 10 of the ‘Ottawa agreement?
Sub-item agreed to.
Items 356 and 358 (b) (c) agreed to.
Item 359, sub-items (a) (c2) (f1) (g-2) (Vehicle parts).
– Item 359 f covers vehicle parts n.e.i., including axles. I have here figures showing the difference between the cost of English axles and those manufactured in Australia. They furnish a striking reply to those honorable members who are always saying that the imposition of high duties have so aided the’ development of Australian industry that the Australianmade goods are actually cheaper than those imported. The duty shown in this item is 40 per cent. British and 60 per cent, general. When on other occasions I have compared English and Australian prices, I have been twitted with the fact that I compared prices in sterling with prices in Australian currency. Therefore, on this occasion, I propose to convert the English prices into sterling in all instances. For half patent axles the English price ‘f.o.b. is 22s. 2d. sterling, or 27s. Sd. in Australian currency, while the price of the Australian article is 45s. 7d. For the 1^-in. size the English price in Australian currency is 41s. lOd. as against 74s. Id. for the Australian article. For mail patent axles the English article costs 25s. Id. as against 42s. 7d. for the Australianmade axle. For the 1-J-in. size the English price is 32s. lOd. compared with 54s. 7d. If we take the nut end axle, the English price for lj-in. axles is 38s. 6d. in sterling, or 46s. 8d. in Australian currency, as compared with 72s. for Australian axles. For the 1^-in. size the English price in Australian currency is 63s., while the Australian article costs 94s. 3d.
– Does the price of 94s. 3d. represent’ the last, sale?
– That is the wholesale price after the discount has been taken off. It is evident, therefore, that there is an enormous difference between the price of the English and the Australian article. We may gather from this difference some idea of the extent to which the cost of transport is increased by high duties.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has mentioned certain facts which are certainly important, arid relevant to this item. He has, however, touched upon only one phase of the matter, important though that may be. I presume that he intends his remarks to have some relation to the terms of the Ottawa agreement with respect to reasonable competition between British and Australian manufacturers, as well as to the price which the public is charged for the commodity under discussion. It is important to bear in mind that the terms of the agreement, which this Parliament has accepted, provide that there shall be reasonable competition on the basis of relative costs of economical and efficient production. Therefore, provided production in Australia is economical and efficient, one is justified in comparing costs in Australia with those in a country where perhaps lower wages are paid, and different industrial conditions obtain. It isnot conveyed in the provisions of the Ottawa agreement that Australian standards of wages and Australian industrial conditions are to be ignored. In fact, specific provision is made for taking thorn into account. I admit that any responsible body charged with the duty of determining wages and industrial conditions would be justified in taking into consideration their effect upon costs and prices, but wages and industrial conditions have not been made an issue by the Ottawa agreement. Therefore, though the honorable member might have been successful in pointing out differences in price in favour of the British manufacturer, he has not thereby determined or concluded the question. Even though the Ottawa agreement were left out of consideration, there would still be a case for the protection of this industry in Australia. It is difficult to consider the item isolated from the trade with which it is associated. We must consider the position of the engineering trade as a whole, and the importance of that industry to Australia. The industry must be maintained, and the necessary plant kept in operation for repairs and maintenance. Some of the axles covered by this item probably are of a relatively simple kind which might be made by an ordinary blacksmith. I am able to assure honorable members that this subject is being sent forward for investigation by the Tariff Board.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 361 to 364, 365 (d) (e), and 366 (a) agreed to.
Items 374 (b) (c) (dl),375 (b) and 371 (c) (d) agreed to.
Item380, sub-items (a1) (b) (Brooms, whisks and mops, and vacuum cleaners).
.- Sub-item (a), paragraph 1, will require some consideration. The manufacture of brooms, &c, has increased greatly in Australia under the protection afforded by the surcharge duty imposed by the last Government. Certain overseas manufacturers, instead of continuing to ship their products to Australia, have been compelled by the high duty to get inside the Australian tariff wall.
– They have established factories in this country.
– That is so, because they found that otherwise they could not compete. The total capital invested in the industry amounts to £250,000, and employment is given to about 1,200 men. Anybody who has taken an interest in this kind of trade will have noticed that tooth brushes and general brushware with xylonite backs and handles are turned out in Australian factories to-day equal to any that were imported a few years ago, and they are sold at greatly reduced prices in all the big retail houses such as Woolworth’s and Cole’s. These goods were previously sold in chemists’ shops at high prices. The 50 per cent. surcharge gave the Australian factories the whole of the local market; but with the low prices ruling in Eastern countries, and in some European countries, there is a danger that the Australian market will be again invaded. 1 am glad to notice that there is a slight increase of the general rate under the Ottawa agreement; but I hope that the Minister will later give sympathetic consideration to a request for a higher rate of duty, if it is found necessary, because the surcharges have not been removed for a sufficiently long period for us to see what the effect will be. Of course, if the exchange rate remains at its present level, the present protection will probably be ample for the time being; but if the exchange rate should drop to anything like the normal figure, I am afraid that this is one of the industries that will not be able to carry on without additional protection.
.- The situation is being carefully watched by the Government, and if there is any danger of these industries going out of existence, these duties will be referred back to the Tariff. Board. The British Xylonite Company has come to Australia, and some companies, which have problems much greater possibly than the honorable member imagines, are complaining that they cannot get supplies of raw material except from it.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 381 (d) (e1, 2, 3), 384 (a1 to 5), 386 and 388 (b) agreed to.
Item 392, sub-items (a1, 2, 3) (d) (g) (h) (Yarns).
.-I am aware that the Minister has had this matter under consideration. The duties on mercerized cotton yarns are - British preferential, free; and general, 171/2 per cent., ad valorem. The cotton-spinners in Australia find that partially mercerized cotton yarns have been brought into this country to the detriment of their industry. This time last year, before the Government made any changes in the tariff schedule in relation to cotton, the spinning industry was in a very healthy state. Bonds Limited were working four shifts a day, and part of their plant was kept going on Saturdays and Sundays. The Australian Silk and Cotton Mills Limited were working full time, and, at periods, 24 hours a day. Davies, Coop Proprietary Limited were in a similarly happy position.
– That was before the bounty expired.
– If they could obtain the whole of the market to-day, they could carry on without a bounty, provided they received adequate protection in regard to the lines for which they were prepared to meet the Australian demand; but, at the present time, Bond’s are working only one shift four days a week, and the Australian Silk and Cotton Mills are in operation for slightly less than one shift a week, while Davies, Coop Proprietary Limited are working five-eighths of their plant for one shift a week. The Bradford Cotton Spinning Mills, Sydney, which has 9,500 spindles, will be dependent upon some of the business now enjoyed by other mills that are already slack. This company is in the fortunate position of having its own weaving mill, and makes cotton tweeds. Its efficient organization was transferred from Bradford, and the company will now spin cotton yarns for the manufacture of cotton tweed, supplying a big demand by the knitters for cotton yarns. The other large spinning mills which I have mentioned, were twelve or eighteen months ago working at full pressure, are now working only four six-hour shifts a week; and as the Bradford Cotton Spinning Mills will be getting some of their orders it will result in their having to put off additional employees. This is regrettable when it is desirablethat as much employment as possible should be provided.
– It is an instance of an over-done industry.
– I suppose that the labour market is over-supplied. Some persons will tell us that there are too many doctors, lawyers, wheat-growers, fruit-growers, and even members of Parliament..
The imports of mercerized cotton yarns for the six months ended the 31st December, 1932, amounted to 940,000 lb., valued at £145,000, and for the previous six months the importations totalled 758,000 lb., valued at £122,000, a difference of approximately 200,000 lb., or £23,000, so that there had been a substantial increase. The trade contends that a big proportion of these yarns is partially mercerized, and takes the place of the ordinary cotton yarns that enjoy a protection of 4d. and 7d. per lb., plus the ad valorem rates provided under another group in this schedule. The imports of yarns n.e.i. increased to 3,400,000 lb. for the six months ended the 31st December, 1932, and were valued at £191,000, while for the six months ended the 31st December, 1931, the imports amounted to 1,900,000 lb., valued at £110,000, showing an increase of 1,500,000 lb., or £81,000 in value. Those engaged in the cottonspinning industry contend that the trouble is that tens of thousands of pounds of partially-mercerized cotton yarns are being imported into the Commonwealth weeklyat rates of British, free, and general, 15 per cent., and are used in lieu of the ordinary soft cotton yarns.
– I shall show that that is not happening.
– I am presenting the case asstated by the spinning mills. They say that they are putting off hundreds of employees, because of the substitutes which are being imported. The partiallymercerized yarn is not put through the expensive treatment to which the mercerized yarn is subjected. It is submitted to a simpler process, and it lacks the lustre of the mercerized yarn. If importers are evading the intention of Parliament, which was to protect the Australian cotton-growing and cottonspinning industries, the Minister should take some action in the matter. I have received a copy of a communication that was sent to the department by Davies, Coop Proprietary Limited. It reads -
We wish to state that we are having orders cancelled and buyers are requesting to return yarn, because they are able to import this partially mercerized yarn, approximately 10 per cent. cheaper than the soft cotton, and are using it as soft cotton for the purpose of making underwear. We earnestly request -
a proposed amendment to Item 392
tobring mercerized cotton yarn under l/50s or finer, under the present duties, the same as on soft cotton, or, alternatively,
that any cotton which is not wholly 100 per cent. mercerized be classified as n.e.i.
There is no question whatsoever that the importation of this partially mercerized cotton yarn is a deliberate evasion of the tariff, and we fear that our new cottonspinning mill, which is completed and the plant more than half installed and running, will be forced into idleness, and many employees dismissed if something is not done to assist the spinners to maintain the present business.
It goes on to say -
We might mention in passing, that our company has made an outstanding success of its spinning operations to-day, as has been shown by your department’s investigations of our accounts. Our new mill contains the most modern machinery in the world, with an additional capacity of 2,500,000 lb. per annum on one shift.
Another company makes the following points : -
The Vice-Chairman of the Austral Silk and Cotton Mills Limited, addressing the annual meeting of shareholders, said -
It is with grave concern I have to state that the sales of cotton yarns produced by our mill have been affected seriously by the action or rather inaction of the Federal Government during recent months. Most unfortunately this has led also to short time at the mill, and the dismissal of employees.
The Queensland Cotton Board is, naturally, keenly interested in this matter, because it sells to Australian cottonspinners the Queensland-grown cotton lint. It is well known that, as the result of the bounty legislation that was passed while I was Minister for Trade and Customs, the cotton growing-industry was stabilized to the end of 1936. At a conference, over which I presided in Canberra, the spinners agreed to pay a fixed price to the growers for cotton lint up to the end of 1936, with slight variations when’ the price on the world’s market dropped below an agreed level. For many years the cotton-growing industry in Queensland was in a struggling condition, because the growers had to export their cotton lint to the Liverpool market, there to be sold in competition with the product of black labour countries. It was only when adequate protection was given against the imports of yarns from other countries, that there was a big development in the cotton-spinning industry in Australia, and the whole of the crop was purchased. The Queensland Cotton Board, I understand, has already made representations to the Minister on this matter. It has forwarded to me a copy of a telegram it has received from one of the Melbourne spinners, setting out their views in regard to the coming season’s requirements of cotton. It reads -
To-day’s estimation merely conjecture stop future of spinning industry precarious uncertain owing effects Ottawa agreement and existing Government’s general attitude stop protection guaranteed May last by Federal Cabinet already partially ineffective owing concessions and importations various yarns free of duty for use as substitutes for those dutiable stop such position affects question of price spinners can pay growers stop cannot see beyond five hundred bales highest grades and five hundred low grades delivery spread March December and even this cannot be assumed committal.
The other spinners, according to the board, explained the unsatisfactory nature of the position in similar terms. Last year, when the planting season was approaching, the spinners informed the board that they estimated that their requirements would be approximately 25,000 bales of cotton for the ensuing season. The board carried on a good deal of propaganda among the growers, urging them to increase their acreage, so as to supply the whole of the Australian demand. To a large extent it was successful in these efforts, and its estimate of the crop for the present year was approximately 20,000 bales of lint, an increase of 100 per cent, on the previous largest production of cotton in Queensland. Unfortunately, however, the spinners, in the circumstances in which they find themselves to-day, have cut down their demand for Queenslandgrown cotton, in some instances to almost nothing. The board contends that this will result in its having to export 50 per cent, of the crop, if its estimate of 20,000 hales of cotton lint should be realized. As has been the case with all other commodities, cotton values throughout the world have dropped to such a level that the Queensland Cotton Board, and the cotton-growers of that State, will be substantial losers if they are obliged to export cotton lint to the other side of the world. I urge the Minister to give the matter very careful consideration. He claims that there is nothing in the contention of the Queensland Cotton Board and the cotton-spinners. He says that the spinners have ample protection, and that partially mercerized cotton yarns are not being used as a substitute for the ordinary soft cotton yarns manufactured in Australia. But the facts are clear. There have been very substantial increases in the importations of cotton yarns, as there have been in the importations of textiles. Wherever the protectionist policy is whittled away, wherever the tariff wall is lowered, in a time like the present, when the factories of at least one great eastern nation are paralysing secondary industries in many of the countries of the world, Australian manufacturers cannot hope to combat such severe competition. We are told that secondary industries for which raw products have to be imported are uneconomic. Just as the woollen industry is a great natural industry, so the cotton-growing, spinning, and weaving industry should be a natural industry in Australia, which is largely tropical, and in which cotton underwear has to be extensively worn. We hear everywhere the cry, “ Back to the land.” We are told that the people should not flock to the cities and live on the dole, but that they should go on the land and produce. It is of no use to put men on the land to produce if they are not ensured the Australian market for their products. In this instance, the manufacturers on the secondary side, and the Queensland Cotton Board on the primary side, complain that the tariff protection intended by Parliament for the cotton industry is being evaded, with the result that the cotton-growers will he forced to export their product at great loss, and to compete in the overseas market with blacklabour countries.
– A similar position exist? in respect of the wool industry.
– The honorable member does not want every industry to be in the same boat. I am extremely sorry for the wool producers, because they are experiencing bad conditions. The cotton producers are enjoying a protection which is more or less afforded to the butter and other primary producers, and which has been strongly advocated by the Acting Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson). Unfortunately, all industries cannot enjoy tariff protection, but those which are should not he robbed of the protection which is theirs as a right. I hope that the Government, sympathetic as it is with the importer, will check this tide of imported yarns which is to the detriment of the Australian cottongrowers and the local manufacturers of ordinary soft cotton yarns.
.- I urge the Minister to give the most earnest and speedy consideration to all matters involved in this item. ‘The Bradford Cotton Spinning Mills, which is operating in my electorate, and which has one of the finest mills of its kind in Australia, consists of a group of English gentlemen who have much more enterprise than have the majority of honorable members in this chamber. They should be given every encouragement and assistance as a reward for investing their capital in an industry of this country. I understand that certain classes of yarns are being imported - such as partially mercerized yarns - with the idea of defeating the object of the tariff. I do not know whether that is true or not, but it is denied by the Minister. We know that the importers, at every favorable opportunity, resort to subterfuge in order to defeat the intention of Parliament.
– That is not fair.
– It is quite true. The Bradford Cotton Spinning Mills has a dyeing plant which is the only one of its kind in Australia, and with that plant it proposes to dye yarn suitable for the manufacture of cotton tweed. At present, imported cotton tweed yarns enter this country free of duty. In view of the difficult position of the cotton spinning industry, I urge the Minister to give this item and other allied items, such as drills and denims, his earnest consideration, so that when the report of the Tariff Board is furnished to him, he will be able to place it immediately before Parliament.
– Much has been said recently with regard to competition, which local manufacturers claim to be experiencing from imported mercerized cotton yarns, single ply yarns spun in count No. 50 or finer, and yarns of two or more ply containing one or more ply spun in count No. 50 or finer. It has been represented by the spinners that partially mercerized yarns are being imported and landed at a price below that at which local manufacturers can supply soft cotton yarns of similar count. A statement to that effect was made in a press interview with the chairman of the Cotton Board when in Melbourne, and also with the Premier of Queensland. I have had inquiries made, and I find that the quantity of partially mercerized yarn which is being imported is insignificant. The majority of the users of mercerized yarn, representing such important industries as the knitting, hosiery, and weaving industries, demand the wholly mercerized product, and accordingly pay a price in excess of that usually paid for locally manufactured soft cotton yarn.
– Does the department keep a separate record of partially mercerized cotton yarn?
– According to the Commonwealth analyst, there is no such yarn.
– That is the name given to it by the trade.
– The term is misleading. The yarn is either mercerized or not mercerized. The importation of mercerized yarns in the past few years does not justify the claim that a vast increase of imports has taken place. The figures, which include partially mercerized yarns, are as follow: -
– Is the Minister quoting figures to show that there has been a decline of the imports of mercerized yarn ?
– I am quoting figures relating to mercerized yarn.
– I communicated with the Commonwealth Statistician by telephone, and he supplied me with figures showing a substantial increase of imports for the six months ending the 31st September, 1932, compared with the corresponding period of the previous year.
– That may have been so. I have quoted the figures for 1930-31, 1931-32, and for the first seven mouths of 1932-33, which show a gradual’ decline. A comparison of the imports of mercerized cotton yarns during the first seven months of 1931-32 and 1932-33 shows that an increase has taken place in the quantity imported in the latter period by 25^ per cent. The figures show, however, that the average value of imported mercerized yarn was higher in the seven months of 1932-33 than during the corresponding period of the previous financial year, the relative values being 37.35d. per lb., and 34.56d. per lb.,- respectively. This definitely indicates that partially mercerized yarns form a mere fraction of the total imports of mercerized yarn. The increase of imports of mercerized yarn is not out of proportion to the general improvement in trade. A complaint is also made by the spinners that certain overseas manufacturers are deliberately manufacturing yarns of two or more count containing a single-ply yarn of 50 count, with the object of escaping the high duty payable under paragraph 4 of sub-item a. The Collectors of Customs in the various States have extracted the import figures for the first six months of the present financial year with respect to those types of yarn which are covered by paragraph 3 of sub-item a. The relative figures for 1931-32 and for the first six months of 1932-33 are -
If the rate of imports during the first six months of the present financial year were maintained, the quantity imported during 1932-33 would exceed the 1931-32 imports by 58 per cent. Here, again, allowance must be made for the improvement in trade.
– If there was an improvement in the knitting trade, would not the spinning mills also be busy ?
– Not necessarily. The mills worked long hours while the bounty was payable, and have a considerable amount of stock on hand. It is significant that the average price of this type of yarns imported in the first half of 1932-33 is much higher than for 1931-32, the values being 2s. 3Jd. and ls. 9Jd. per lb. respectively. Immediately the probability of avoiding the protective duties under the other portion of the item was recognized, inquiries were instituted to ascertain the facts. The figures I have quoted show definitely thai the, facts complained of” have not resulted in an unreasonable increase of imports. The Tariff Board is at present inquiring into the duties on cotton yarn, and doubtless the points I have mentioned will receive consideration by it.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) referred to cotton yarns for the manufacture of cotton tweeds. These yarns are at present admitted under paragraph 2 of sub-item a, the rates of duty being - British, free; general, 15 per cent. An application was made to the department some time ago that such yarns be eliminated from paragraph 2, and that duties equal to those payable on cotton yarns n.e.i., under paragraph 4, be imposed. The applicant firm is interested also in the manufacture of cotton tweeds. Careful consideration was given to the desirability of cancelling the bylawregarding cotton tweed yarns, and automatically making them dutiable at the high rates under paragraph 4. It was realized, however, that c . 3h action would be precipitate. The company had not then commenced the production of yarns, and its costs were unknown. These yarns are used in the manufacture of a fabric from which apparel largely bought by workmen is made. The imposition of heavy duties on the yarns, without proper inquiry, might have resulted in an unfair tax being placed on the poorer classes. Accordingly, the duties on cotton tweed yarns were referred to the Tariff Board for public inquiry and report.
– I hope that the Minister will expedite the inquiry.
– By protection of the cotton-spinning industry, the Government is aiding also the development of cottongrowing. Indeed, the expansion of the primary side of the industry was an important phase of the Government’s policy. But extensive development was impracticable unless a market for the primary product was created.
– That was the Scullin Government’s policy, and the present Government is destroying all that was done.
– That remark is typical of the wild statements made by the honorable member. The Government has done everything in its power to develop both branches of the industry, and the admission at low rates of duty of certain types of yarn not manufactured locally does not justify the inference that the industry is being sacrificed. Any importations of raw cotton permitted by the department were made with the cognizance and acquiescence of the Queensland Cotton Board. The troubles arising in this industry are not due to government policy. The Queensland cotton crop has been abnormally great, and the spinners are not prepared to pay the price which the growers are demanding. I have given a great deal of attention to this matter, and many conferences have been held. Recently Mr. Townsend, whose knowledge honorable members respect, was sent to Queensland, and there and later in Sydney he presided over a conference of representatives of the growers and spinners. I am advised that the cotton was offered to the spinners at last year’s price, and the spinners refused to sign any contract on those terms. The spinners would prefer to see portion of the crop exported, and they would buy the balance at their own price. The negotiations continued with the Government endeavouring to bring about a settlement of the dispute. My latest information is that one spinner and one weaver have agreed to purchase cotton at last year’s price. The allegation that very large quantities of mercerized cotton yarn are being substituted for Australian soft cotton yarns is not borne out by the exhaustive inquiries made by my department. This complaint comes only from the Melbourne spinners, the New South “Wales spinners not experiencing any such competition. The Government will take care that if the growers are forced by the action of the spinners to export their crop, no admissions under by-law will be allowed. This means that the spinners will have to pay 3d. per lb. on any cotton imported. I make that statement for the information of the spinners and others. The facts I have related are an answer to the propaganda of the Opposition and the attacks made upon the Government in regard to the ‘ cotton industry.
.- The speech of the Minister contained a good deal of misrepresentation. He stated that the Queensland Cotton Board had no objection to the importation of mercerized yarn.
– I referred to raw cotton.
– When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, the Queensland Cotton Board asked me to impose a duty of 3d. per lb. on raw- cotton from other countries. I went into the matter and agreed that it was only fair that the primary producers of Australia should be protected against importations of raw cotton from foreign countries. Consequently, I agreed to a duty of 3d. per lb: on raw cotton and cotton lint. That duty protects the cotton-growing industry because the spinners buy their lint from the Queensland Cotton Board. Although I believe that . the Australian cottonspinners are good Australians - when I was Minister they were always ready to co-operate with the Queensland growers - they would probably be glad to get cotton lint more cheaply than they can buy it from the Queensland Cotton
Board. In saying that he will not allow cotton lint to enter Australia free of duty from other countries, the Minister is only carrying out the intention of Parliament that the Australian cottongrowers shall be given a protection of 3d. per lb. I remind the committee that that protection was inserted in the tariff, not by the present Government, but by the Scullin Government, in which I was Minister for Trade and Customs. The present Minister talks of the Government’s desire to stabilize this industry. Its stabilization was brought about as the result of legislation introduced by the Scullin Government in the early part of 1930. In January of that year I presided over a conference representative of the Queensland Cotton Board and the spinners. At that conference a stabilization scheme, which would carry the industry to the end of 1936, was decided upon. Under that scheme the cottongrowers were to receive approximately 5d. per lb. for their cotton lint. Naturally, the spinners were somewhat reluctant to enter into this arrangement, because they would have liked a lower price; but, eventually, they agreed. I insisted, that a fair return should be paid to the growers. The price of 5d. per lb. varies as the price of cotton on the Liverpool market fluctuates over or below 9d. per lb.
– Why will they not sign that agreement now?
– I am not now handling the situation, but I should say that it i3 because of importations of yarns. The present Government has knocked the bottom out of the cotton industry by varying the duties imposed by the last Government. The Australian spinners had practically the whole of the Australian market for the yarns which they were manufacturing, and, consequently, they could not object to pay a fair price to the cotton growers for their cotton lint. The present Government changed the whole situation by wiping out the fixed rate of duty on cotton yarns. There was consternation in the cotton industry, and a telegram was despatched to the Minister of the day by the Queensland Cotton Board and by the cotton spinners that the industry could not hope to survive unless something were done immediately by the Government. The present Government lias taken about four different steps in connexion with the cotton .industry. First, the Minister for Trade and Customs took off the fixed rate of duty, only to realize that that would wipe out the industry. He thereupon again put on a fixed duty, which he altered on two subsequent occasions. Now the matter has been referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. The trouble is that the present Government has been tinkering with this industry as with other industries. Every interference with industry has led to further unemployment. The Minister quoted figures to show that there had been a decrease in the importations of mercerized yarns over a specific period. The importations of mercerized cotton yarns for the six months ended the 31st December, 1932, were 940,405 lb., valued at £145,000, compared with 758,000 lb. valued at £122,000 for the previous six months. That shows an increase of nearly 200,000 lb., valued at £23,000, in six months. The imports of yarns, n.e.i. for the six months ended the 31st December last, amounted to 3,400,000 lb., the value being £191,000. That shows an increase of 1,500.000 lb., or £81,000 over the figures for the corresponding six months of. the previous year. Those figures bear out what the Queensland Cotton Board and the cotton-spinners say, namely, that they are losing the market for the Australian-spun yarn by reason of these importations. According to the Minister, these people do not know their own business as well as he does. I ask him why certain Melbourne spinners despatched a telegram to the Queensland Cotton Board stating that they were unable to say, with any degree of certainty, what their purchases next year would be. The telegram reads -
To-day’s estimation merely conjecture.’ Future of spinning industry precarious uncertain owing effects Ottawa agreement and existing Government’s general attitude. Protection guaranteed May last by Federal Cabinet already partially ineffective owing concessions mid importations various yarns free of duty for rise as substitutes for those dutiable. Such position affects question of price spinners can pay growers. Cannot see beyond 500 bales highest grades and 500 low grades delivery spread March-December, and even this cannot bc assumed committal.
The Minister says that the Queensland Cotton Board agrees to what the Govern- ment has done; but the board itself has advised me that the whole future of the cotton industry in Australia will be jeopardized unless effective protection is given against the importation of cheap cotton yarns from other countries. The cotton industry of Australia is not a “ tin-pot “ or “ backyard “ industry, but is one which is both a primary industry and a secondary industry of considerable magnitude. Some of the closer settlement schemes of Queensland depend largely on the success or otherwise of the . cotton-growing industry.. The cotton-growers have had a very difficult time, because of seasonal uncertainties, and have been seriously embarrassed by the interference of this Government with the protection which I gave to the industry. [Quorum formed.] I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Progress reported. ‘
House adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In determining what proportion of the amount paid by children for board is to be regarded as the income of an old-age pensioner, what is considered by the departmentasa “ reasonable allowance “ to be made for the cost of the board?
am). - I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to a somewhat similar question asked by the honorable member on the 22nd March.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
am). - The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
s asked the Assistant
Minister for Defence, upon notice -
When framing next year’s Estimates for defence purposes, will he favorably consider increasing the vote for establishing new rifle clubs, and giving more liberal financial assistance to clubs already in existence?
– These matters will receive full consideration when the Estimates are being prepared.
w asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the limited nature of the geophysical survey recently carriedout on the west coast of Tasmania by Dr. Woolnough, and. in view of the fact that this survey showed promise of great mineral wealth, probably the richest field for investigation in the Commonwealth, will the Minister consider a continuation of this survey this autumn so as to complete the work already commenced?
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Latham). - Dr. “Woolnough is engaged primarily to advise in regard to matters relating to the search for oil. The aerial surveys recently made by. that officer were in the nature of an experiment to ascertain the value of such surveys as an aid to the search for oil. The matter of geophysical surveys or aerial surveys for minerals is one for consideration by the State governments, which control minerals and mining in their respective States. A request was made recently by the Government of Tasmania for an aerial survey to be made of a tract of country on the west coast of that State. The matter is now receiving consideration. importationof Kerosene and Petroleum.
– Information is being obtained in reply to a question asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) in regard to importations of kerosene and petroleum products.
e. - On the 15th March, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
These tariff items include well over 1,000 different classes of goods which are in the standing by-laws, most of which have been there for many years. The following information is compiled from various sources, and must be regarded as somewhat approximate: -
Value ofgoods cleared -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 March 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330324_reps_13_138/>.