13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Gr. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The Government has repeatedly stated that it did not intend to vary its proposals in connexion with t.he wheat industry. What truth, thou, is there in the published announcement that certain alterations of its policy have arisen out of the conference hold yesterday between representatives of wheat interests and the Government? If alterations are projected, what are they?
– The wheat confer-, encc yesterday discussed the proposals of the Government for the implementing of the International Wheat Agreement. That conference endorsed the principles underlying the Government’s scheme, but suggested certain variations of it which were readily assented to. The principal variation relates to the method by which export quotas for licensed exporters shall bo fixed. The proposal of the Government, as outlined in this House, was that the allocation of quotas for exporters this year Should be based on the transactions of exporters during the last three years. The conference suggested that the quantity of wheat received by shippers and pools this year should form the basis, the quota to be fixed at the earliest moment when it was ascertained how the wheat was being received by exporters.
Tariff Hoard’s Report
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received the report of the Tariff Board in connexion with oregon? If he has, when doos hn propose to lay it on the table of the House?
– This report has not yet been received, having been delayed by a big inquiry into cotton yarn. Upon its receipt, no time will be lost in bringing it before the Government and having it printed.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been directed to the cabled report that the Belgian Government has instructed its war office that, in future, contracts for meat supplies are not to be placed with Australia? Are we to understand that this is a retaliatory step against Australia for having placed an embargo upon tho importation of glass? What action doos the Minister propose to take in connexion with it?
– A cablegram has been received within the Last half hour from, the High Commissionerfor Australia in London, After dealing with the importation of barley into Belgium, which is its primary purpose, it also mentions the fact that Australian frozen meat has been eliminated from Belgium’s army contracts. The High Commissioner states that he is about to proceed to Brussels to see what can be done to protect Australia’s interests in this regard.
– In view of the serious import of the cablegram mentioned by the Minister, will the Prime Minister take an early opportunity to advise the House of the action proposed to be taken to protect our export trade?
– The House will be notified as to the steps to be taken to protect Australia’s export trade, but the Government has also to consider the protection of other Australian industries.
– In view of the negotiations which will doubtless be conducted between the Commonwealth Government and the Belgian authorities, will the Minister for Trade and Customs see that no action is taken to injure the sheet glass industry in Australia, which was definitely encouraged by this Parliament ten years ago by the insertion in the tariff schedule of a deferred duty on sheet glass?
– The action of the Government is determined very largely by the terms of the Ottawa agreement, and the recommendations of the Tariff Board. As the honorable member knows, the report of the Tariff Board on sheet glass was referred back to the board.. Further inquiry is being held, and a report is expected shortly.
– Is the Minister aware that the Belgian market for frozen beef is the principal outlet for the cattle industry of the western part of the Northern Territory, and the eastern Kimberley district of Western Australia; and will he, when dealing with any Belgian representations concerning the Government’s delay in dealing with the report of the Tariff Board on glass, bear in mind the fact’ that the cattle industry of North Australia is immensely more essential to the maintenance of a White Australia, and a decent standard of living throughout this continent, than an extra factory in the heart of one of our big cities ?
-I am interested in the honorable member’s comparison -between the cattle and the sheet-glass industries. The Government is endeavouring to make favorable trade agreements with a number of countries, particularly those like Belgium with which Australia has a favorable balance. It is hoped that when the tariff debate is finalized, negotiations will be entered into with Belgium, as well as with Japan,France, Italy, Norway, and other countries, for agreements which will help the cattle industry as well as other primary and secondary industries.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that the l/19th Battalion, Randwick, are requesting public assistance with respect to necessary drill halls, and that the defence vote has been reduced to such an extent that officers are defraying the cost of transport of the battalion bandsmen? Will the honorable gentleman have this serious position inquired into, with a view to the speedy adjustment of it?
– I am unable to believe that the facts are as stated by the honorable member. Provision for the transport of trainees is made under a special vote, and an increased amount is to be appropriated this year. However, I shall institute the inquiries sought by the honorable member, and furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
New Station in Western Australia.
-Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to indicate the location of the new broadcasting station in Western Australia?
– The broadcasting station to which the honorable member refers is one of three stations for which tenders will close on the 15th instant. It will be situated in the WaginKatanning district, but its precise location has not yet been decided upon.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence been drawn to a leading article in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald headed “ Too slow Air Mail”? In view of statements that were made on a recent formal motion for the adjournment of this House, will he consider the alteration of the proposed conditions governing the Australian portion of the England to Australia air mail service, so as to ensure a quicker service than the seventeen days schedule decided upon by the Defence Department ?
– As has been explained on many occasions in this House, the time which it is proposed to allow for the conveyance of mails between Great Britain and Australia was specially arranged to suit the planes that are available in Australia to-day, which have a cruising speed of 95 miles an hour. If a speed of 120 miles or 150 miles an hour were stipulated, Australian pilots would probably be excluded. The Government desires to give those pilots an opportunity to tender for the service. However, when the tenders have been received, that aspect will be considered along with other matters.
– Will the Minister state definitely that 100 per cent. preference will be given to Australian air service organizations?
– The conditions of tender have already been announced. They cover the point raised by the honorable member.
Exemption from Sales Tax.
– Will the Assistant Treasurer state whether it is a fact that, although timber is exempt from sales tax, that tax has to he paid on wooden doors of which timber comprises 98 per cent.?
– Off-hand I cannot say what the position is in regard to the payment of sales tax on doors, but the mere fact that timber is exempt from the tax would not in any event entitle doors to be free from it, because they are fabricated timber, and the granting of this concession” in their case would probably lead to exemption being sought for a wide range of other commodities.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether any report has been received by his department in respect of the proposed Commonwealth building in Adelaidestreet, Brisbane? I understand that the erection of buildings by the State Government is being delayed pending a decision as to whether theCommonwealth building shall be of three or seven stories.
– This subject is now under consideration in the department. Originally, it was intended to construct a three.-storied building ; but, as the result of representations made, it was thought that it might be advisable to construct a seven-storied building, to cost the same amount of money as the proposed threestoried building, but to face a different direction in the square. A letter has lately been received from Brisbane offering the Government a certain building at a considerably lower price than the estimated cost of the new building, and consideration is now being given to the question whether it would be advisable to purchase this building or proceed with the erection of a new building. It seems to me, at this jiuncture, that the Government is committed to the construction of the new building.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether the Government is exercising any supervision over the purchase of this year’s tobacco crop? If so, has he any information as to whether the manufacturers are purchasing a fair proportion of the crop ?
– It is not a responsibility of the Government to see that the tobacco crop is sold ; but, nevertheless, a certain amount of governmental supervision is being exercised in that direction. If the honorable member knows of any unsold tobacco of bright mahogany quality or better, and will notify the department to that effect, inquiries will be made from the manufacturers to ascertain whether it will he purchased. So far as I know, all the tobacco of that quality available in Australia has been sold, and alsoa quantity of inferior grades.
– As this year’s tobacco-buying season is practically over, will the Minister have inquiries made through his department to ascertain the actual amount of tobacco purchased in the various tobacco-growing districts of Australia, and also the average price paid for it?Will he place such information before honorable members as soon as possible?
– I am prepared to consider the honorable member’s request ; but he must be aware that considerable expense would be entailed in ascertaining those details. I point out to him that the tobacco-buying season is not yet finished. Buyers have visited certain districts, and, in many instances, have so far bought tobacco only from growers in difficult circumstances. They are now about to revisit those districts. I urge the honorable member not to press, at this stage, for the information that he desires.Complete figures shouldbe available in about two months’ time.
– Is it a fact that no arrangements have yet been made by the Government with the tobacco manufacturers for buyers to inspect tobacco leaf in country districts this year, similar to the arrangements made last year? If it is necessary for tobacco-growers to make their own arrangements with respect to marketing their leaf, will the Minister convey that information to the growers ?
– I have mentioned before that it is not a responsibility of the Government to arrange for the sale of tobacco leaf; but, whenever complaints have been received that buyers have not visited a district, the companies have not failed to give a satisfactory reply. They have usually advised that their representatives have made a cursory examination with a view to making purchases, and that they intend to call back and buy leaf later in the season. If the honorable member knows of any district which has not yet been visited, the Government will, although it is not within its province to do so, ask the companies to arrange for their representatives to call.
– I ask thePrime Minister what is the present position in regard to the proposed grant to the States to assist in a better method of tobacco cul tivation, and if any conditions are to be imposed in this respect?
– The Government has voted £20,000 for the assistance of tobacco culture. A voluminous and comprehensive report into the subject of. tobacco culture in Queensland has been received from the committee of which Mr. Townsend, of the Customs Department, is a member. The Minister in Charge of Development (Senator McLachlan) has already given full details as to how the grant will be spent, and has also supplied a statement to the press. It is a lengthy document, and, if the honorable member wishes, I shall let him have a copy of it.
– When will we get the report of the committee which inquired into tobacco culttire in Queensland?
– It will come before Cabinet to-morrow, and may be made available next week.
– I remind the Assistant Treasurer that several months ago honorable members were given to understand that, following upon the. World Economic Conference, legislation would be introduced into this House to provide for monetary reform. Can the Assistant Treasurer inform me whether such legislation will be submitted to Parliament before the recess?
– The question involves a matter of Government policy, and it is not usual to make announcements of Government policy in answer to questions.
– Will the Minister for Commerce inform me whether if the total amount of £250,000 provided to assist primary producers to purchase fertilizers has not been fully applied for by the 30th November, the Government will consider extending the period in which applications may be made for this assistance?
– The question involves Government policy. It is not usualto announce Government policy in answer to questions.
– What proportion of the grant of £250,000 has been paid out by the Department of Commerce ?
– The last information I had, which was some weeks ago, was that up to that time £110,000 had been claimed and paid. Many hundreds of claims have yet to be investigated,. and there was then about six weeks remaining of the twelve months during which claims could be made. At this stage it is impossible to determine how much of the £250,000 allocated for the purpose will be claimed.
Transport from Broome to Darwin.
– by leave - On Friday last the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) brought under the notice of the House during the debate on the motion for adjournment, representations that had been made to him concerning alleged inadequacy of accommodation provided for the transport of twelve leprosy patients on the sea journey from Broome to Darwin. I have since reviewed the official file of correspondence in the Prime Minister’s Department on this subject, and desire to supplement the information then given by my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins). For some time an arrangement has existed between the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments, under “which patients suffering from leprosy in the north-west of Western Australia are admitted to the Darwin Leprosarium for treatment. Payment is made by the State to the Commonwealth for the services so rendered. The Government of Western Australia has entered into a contract with ihe Port George Mission, near Broome, Western Australia, under which the mission has undertaken to transport patients from that centre to Darwin.
In July last, when a batch of aboriginal leper patients was about to be transferred from Beagle Bay to the Darwin lazaret in the mission lugger, the Commonwealth navigation authorities pointed out that it was necessary that a certificated master be employed, as the journey extended beyond the waters of the State. The Premier of Western Australia asked that the requirements of the Navigation Act be waived to enable the skipper of the mission lugger, who, he stated, Avas thoroughly competent and experienced but not certificated, to remain in charge of the vessel for the journey from Beagle Bay to Darwin, a distance of 600 miles, in order that the additional cost involved - later stated to be £75 - might be avoided. The Commonwealth Government was unable to see its way to comply with this request.
Statements that the accommodation and sanitary arrangements were unsuitable came to the notice of the Commonwealth navigation authorities, in consequence of which clearance of the vessel from Broome was withheld and the reports were communicated to the State Premier, who replied that the Broome harbourmaster considered that the lugger could carry fifteen native passengers comfortably and that it was intended to convey twelve only. In view of the assurance of the State Government that the accommodation was sufficient and suitable, authority for the clearance of the vessel was granted. Some weeks later, in reply to my telegraphic inquiry in regard to reports published in the press that the conditions under which these lepers were being transported had caused adverse comment, the Premier informed me that a committee composed of the manager of the Harbour Department, who happened to be in. Broome, the manager of the Aborigines. Department Native Station, and the Broome harbourmaster, had made an investigation, as a result of which all were satisfied that the boat was seaworthy and not overcrowded. The Premier added that the captain of the vessel, Captain Scott, was also perfectly satisfied with the equipment.. In a letter to me, dated the 12th August, the Premier stated -
Thu Public Health Department is perfectly satisfied that the vessel Rolland is seaworthy and that she is definitely not overcrowded. The department is also satisfied that it has been made the victim of -a certain section of interests, and that the difficulties and complaints that have been raised have been due, not so much as to the solicitous care for the aboriginal patients as to the fact that the department is pursuing its own policy and transferring these patients to Darwin by means of one of the mission’s luggers.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is a fact that three permanent officers of the Joint House Department were recently transferred to temporary unclassified positions outside the parliamentary service in the Service controlled by the Public Service Board? If so, will you quote verbatim the statutory authority under which those officers were transferred and say how many temporary employees are at present working in Parliament House under the direction of the Joint House Department?
– It is inadvisable that questions relating to the parliamentary staff should be asked in the House. Such inquiries should be made through the Joint House Committee, on which all sections of this House are represented. A meeting of that committee will be held on Thursday of next week. If the honorable member makes his inquiry then, and is not satisfied with the information he obtains, he can bring the matter under notice in the chamber when the parliamentary estimates are being discussed.
– As I am not a member of the Joint House Committee, I should like to know what opportunity I, and others similarly placed, have of obtaining information on behalf of former members of the parliamentary staff, and particularly returned soldiers, who should receive every consideration?
– As the Joint House Committee is representative of allpoli tical parties in the House, the honorable member can make any inquiries he desires through the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), who is the representative of his party on the committee.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make inquiries to see if accommodation can be provided for poor old men and women pensioners, who visit the North Melbourne Post Office to collect their pensions? As there is a splendid hall in the building of which the post office forms a part, it would be a great convenience for these old people if seating accommodation and sanitary conveniences could be made available to them.
– This is a matter which comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Treasury. I may say, however, that, in view of representations previously made on this subject, the Postal Department, which is not desirous of bringing pensioners into the city, where owing to a congestion of traffic they are liable to meet with accidents, has made arrangements for pensioners to be paid at post offices other than those in the city. I promise the honorable member thatI shall look into the matter.
Federal Capital Territory - Christmas Relief
– Is the Minister for the Interior in a position to indicate the programme of relief works to be undertaken in the Federal Capital Territory ?
– No report has yet come to hand. It is not the intention of the Government to provide any special programme of relief work priorto Christmas, and, so far as I am aware, the work which is to be made available will be that for which money was appropriated under the Appropriation Works and Buildings Bill recently passed by Parliament.
– Will the Prime Minister see that such extra work as is possible to be undertaken can be put in hand at an early date in order to afford the utmost relief to the unemployed prior to the Christmas season?
– I have received a communication from the Premier of South Australia, in which he indicates that, there is a definite move in that State to push on with work for the benefit of the unemployed before Christmas, and asks that the commencement of any works proposed to be undertaken by the Commonwealth in South Australia be expedited. The Government is prepared to do that, and it has also issued instructions that the same rule shall apply to the other States in which Commonwealth works are about to be undertaken.
Motion foe Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The administration of the police in connexion with native affairs in the Northern. Territory.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Owing to the limited time at my disposal, I shall be forced to omit a number of details, but I desire to focus the attention of the Government, and the people of Australia, on police matters as affecting native affairs in the Northern Territory. I have received numerous telegrams from settlers in the Gulf of Carpentaria country, beseeching me to request the Government to intercede in order to save them from the natives in the locality who are adopting a threatening attitude. So far the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) has not replied to those telegrams. I shall deal with that later. Honorable members know of the tragic death of Mounted Constable McColl recently at Woodah Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. In the execution of his duty, he was speared through the heart by a native, and other persons in the party escaped death by a mere fraction of an inch, the spears of the natives actually tearing away the _ puggarees from their hats. The survivors of that small, ill-equipped party are lucky to be alive to-day. Those who are in a position to know, attribute the death of Mounted Constable McColl more to the defective ammunition with which the expedition was supplied than to any other cause. The other police in the patrol party were also in the unenviable position of being unable to defend themselves because of the defective ammunition supplied to them in accordance with the suicidal policy of economy followed by the Northern Territory Administration. In other ways, also, the party was badly equipped for the mission on which it was sent. It was not given the services of a sufficient number of native police to carry out the duties expected of it. The expedition asked for twelve policemen, but because of the expense involved, only four were provided. Moreover, the party was split into two sections - a sea party and a land party - against the advice of the patrol officers who knew the country. The land party was forced to take horses - again, contrary to the advice of the officers who knew the country - some of which were police crocks of no value whatever to the expedition, and had to be left by the wayside to perish. The small party had to cart tons of wood to corduroy the tracks to enable the horses to cross over the quagmires and swamps which had to be tra versed. The patrol “foot-slogged” for 300 miles, the horses being more a hindrance than a help. I repeat that all this hardship was due to the Administration having disregarded the protests of the men who were charged with carrying out the mission. The members of the patrol say that the horses supplied to them were about as useless as would be a motor car without petrol, and that because of their horses they had to travel 100 miles to reach an objective only ten miles away.
The sea section of the patrol was sent out similarly ill-equipped. It put to sea in a crazy craft which was unseaworthy, and consequently the lives of all in it were threatened time after time. Had anything happened to the sea party, the land party which was to meet it at an appointed place on the coast, would have fared even worse than it did. At times the launch nearly foundered; it was incapable, under full pressure, of overtaking a canoe dug out of a tree and paddled by a native. The Administration refused the request of those who were competent to give advice on all matters affecting the expedition. I, therefore, charge it with having displayed gross incompetence and a callous disregard for the lives of the members of the patrol, by ignoring the advice of those who knew the conditions and had to execute this dangerous mission. I charge it with having endangered the lives of all the officers of the patrol, as well as the missioners in this hostile area, and with having caused the death of Constable McColl by failing to despatch a properly equipped expedition.
The natives in the area in which the murder took place have been responsible for murdering 21 Europeans and Asiatics over a period of years, besides numerous aboriginals belonging to other tribes. Aboriginals of the kind found in the Gulf of Carpentaria country are not found any where else in Australia. They are a mixture of Japanese and Macassars, and combine the cunning of the Japanese with the strength of the Macassar and the barbaric savagery of the wild aboriginal. They are pursuing their fetish of murder far beyond their tribal boundaries. There are now four policemen stationed at Groote Eylandt to protect the missionaries from the onslaughts of the natives. Telegrams which I have received from settlers in the gulf country have informed me that the friendly natives have advised them that the natives belonging to the Ballamoona tribe, which murdered Constable McColl, have threatened to wipe out the whole of the members of the police party, as well as the missionaries and settlers in the district. The settlers have pleaded with me to make strong representations to the Government in order to protect the white population, but so far I have npt received any advice of the Government’s intention.
– Are the hostile natives numerous?
– Their numbers are not known, because no white man has ever passed through their country. I say that advisedly. The intention of the natives to destroy the mission, and to kill any police who might be sent against them, was known to the authorities twelve months ago, but no action was taken. These natives far exceed in cunning and savagery any of the other tribes on the coast. For a long time past, they have been prepared to receive any parties of missionaries or police who may visit the locality. The foreshores in that area are covered with dense scrub, through which the natives have cut tracks so as to entice parties of white men to- walk intoan ambush and be speared. That is what happened to Constable McColl. Knowing these things, however, theauthorities yet allowed the police party to go out with poor equipment, the whole party consisting only of four white police and four native boys. The cunning of the natives may be realized from the fact that they send their lubras down to” the foreshore to entice unsuspecting strangers into the jungle where they may be speared. I have here a letter from thebrother of Constable McColl, who was murdered by the blacks. It is as follows : -
Dealing with the matter of my brother’s death at Woodah Island, Gulf of Carpentaria, during August last, I, on behalf of the whole of my family (those of the late Albert Stewart McColl), desire yon to bring certain matters connected with the above before the House in order that they might receive attention which wo consider is overdue. I ani aware that my late, brother’s body is still lying’ at Woodah Island. Our desire in this matter has been made known - that we require his body brought into Darwin without delay. Any hesitation in this matter may mean the dismembering of the body for ceremonial purposes by the natives connected with tho murder and finally result in our not being able to locate any of his remains. This is a serious phase of tho matter to our family and one that demands prompt action by the police. It appears that certain members of the Northern Territory force are now stationed at Groote Island and we hope that the authorities can make immediate arrangements for their dispatch on this mission.
I would have spared the family the knowledge of what might happen, but, seeing that they are already aware of the fact that the body will probably be exhumed, and the’ bones used for ceremonial purposes, there is no reason why I should not mention the matter here. I trust that the Government will take immediate action to fulfil the wishes of the murdered man’s family.
As I have said, this tribe has been responsible for the murder of 21 outsiders, apart from numerous tribal murders. I should like honorable members to understand what happens when murders of this kind take place. One can visualize the tribe gathered together for a grand corroboree in celebration of the event. Around the warriors are gathered the lubras and piccaninnies, and all the pantomime of stalking the victim, culminating in the final act of spearing, is realistically gone through. This stage is greeted with a final yell of triumph that rends the night, and every piccaninny in the tribe who witnesses the spectacle is longing for the time to come when he, too, can emulate the. bravery of his elders. For this reason, the Government should not delay too long action designed to place this tribe under control.
Now it is intended to send a peace mission to talk matters over with the members of this tribe, and the expedition has the blessing and approval of the Minister. Experienced patrol officers have had the greatest difficulty in travelling through this country in the dry weather, and, as the wet season is now starting, what chance have the members of the peace mission to achieve anything in the same territory after 50 to 60 inches of rain have fallen? The Minister cannot escape responsibility for the disaster which seems likely to befall this unfortunate party, because he has authorized its despatch.
It is not likely that the mission will be able to inspire confidence in the breasts of the natives ; the memory of the occurrences at the Roper River Mission are too fresh in their minds. At the present time, a police constable is standing his trial on a charge of having ill-treated a native. The authorities say that the law must be vindicated; but they attempt to do so only so long as the accused is not a missioner, or attached to a mission. If he is, the authorities, including those iu Canberra, connive to defeat the ends of justice. That is a strong statement, but I shall give my reasons for making it. A little while ago a committee was set up to inquire into the conduct of the missioner who was in charge of the Roper River Mission. The chairman was the Reverend Nash, and the other members were Mr. Ashe and Dr. Cook. So revolting was the evidence tendered that it was heard in camera, with the exception that Archdeacon Herring, and the secretary of the Church Mission Society, Mr. Long, were present at the hearing for three days. The evidence included charges of rape, immorality, abortion, and the spreading of venereal disease, and evidently the charges were sustained, because the missioner was relieved of his position. I do not know whether the evidence was for.warded to the Governor-General and the Minister for the Interior, but I know that the findings of the committee reached them. Nevertheless, the whole matter was hushed up, and nothing was made public, nor were criminal proceedings instituted.
– Are all the missions like that?
– They are not. .1. must, in fairness, state that the Roman Catholic Mission is one of the best conducted I know of, and I am not a Roman Catholic. I am dealing with a specific case.
It is a fact that all mention of this vile and brutal treatment of the natives by their reputed protector, who professed to be a. disciple of Christ, was suppressed by the Government, and its action in thus suppressing the truth is interpreted in the north as meaning that it condones the offences. Why is the Government discriminating between Constable Stott, who is standing his trial on the charge of having illtreated a native, and representatives of a mission, against whom similar charges have been made? The missioner concerned is the same man who brought tears to the eyes of southern audiences by relating stories of the brutal treatment to which the. natives were subjected by settlers and others. Afterwards concluding, no doubt, with an invitation to his hearers to pray, but, in his own mind, spelling the ‘ word “ prey “. A settler informant, who knows the facts, has likened this man to a maggot feasting on the festering corpse of Christianity. He is worse than Judas Iscariot, because he would work for half the price. He has violated all the laws of the Church and Slate, yet he is allowed to go scot-free, even though the authorities, including this Government, have been informed of his offences. This is the man who drove husbands away from the mission so that he might rape their wives. He laid false information to the police against natives so that he might be afforded opportunity to indulge in an orgy of immorality. This is a man who had devoted mission women sent away from the station because they knew of his criminal doings. The women missioners prayed with his his victims that the latter might be spared by this man, who had violated his sacred trust. While this person is protected by the authorities, other alleged offenders have to experience the rigour of the law. How can people respect an administration which, for political reasons, covers up guilt?
I challenge the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) to lay on the table of the House all the evidence and findings in connexion with this revolting inquiry. What legal and moral grounds can be advanced for the suppression of this degrading evidence? Why did not the Administration prosecute for this diabolical offence, which was committed in the name of the Church by the senior officer of the mission? Knowing these facts, I plead with the Government not to sanction the peace expedition until such time as the mission has rehabilitated itself in the eyes of the natives whom it has betrayed, shown that it is not established for immoral purposes, restored its name, and expiated the shameful conduct of its superintendent. It will be the duty of the Government to protect the mission from the rightful revenge of an outraged people. Let the patrol teach the natives that all white men are not evil, that the Government will protect them against the fiendish immorality to which they have been subjected, that the white man’s law must he respected by them, and also that the Government will protect white settlers against atrocities by aborigines. [ Leave to continue given.
– Which authorities does tho honorable member say have con- nived at conduct of this kind?
– Those in the Northern Territory, with the knowledge of the authorities in Canberra.
– The Northern Territory Administration?
– Yes. I am aware that it is not competent for mc to submit
motion, but I suggest to the Minister that a select committee, comprising a representative of each party in the House, bc appointed to investigate the following matters: -
I also suggest that the committee have power to call evidence and demand the production of all documents bearing ou the charges.
– I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has a wide knowledge of North Australia affairs, and always puts his case fairly and squarely before the House. The matter to which he has directed attention has received the serious consideration of the Government, and the best advice available as to the wisest steps to take in connexion with the unfortunate killing of Constable McColl has been obtained. In September, 1932, five Japanese resident in the Northern Territory were murdered by aborigines in Caledon Bay. The Japanese were engaged in trepang fishing; but whether they were carrying out those operations legally or otherwise, I am at present unable to say. About the time of the murder, the district in which the tragedy occurred was declared a special reserve for the aborigines, and in consequence of the atrocity the authorities in Darwin despatched an expedition consisting of three or four police officers, who were armed in the same way as were thetroopers who followed them later. They returned to Darwin without having arrested the murderers, but they made no complaint regarding their ammunition and equipment, or as to the strength of their party. They returned merely’ for further supplies, and later they set out again for the scene of the atrocity. If these police officers had any complaint to make regarding their equipment, one would naturally think that they would have made it known upon their return. In June, 1933, at the end of the wet season, they continued their search for the murderers. Their number was, probably, augmented by one or two others, and they also had the ‘assistance of a number of aborigines. It is unfortunate that the party was divided when contact was made with the blacks, and Constable McColl was speared. Evidence appears to be forthcoming regarding Constable McColl’s weapon having misfired, because I believe that when his revolver was found it was noted that the cap of a cartridge had been struck by the pin of the weapon but had not been exploded. Yet no complaint was made that the party was too small, or that it was improperly equipped. Of course, it had to take the risk of attack by the natives, because it was searching in jungle country. One or two policemen have told me that the size of the party was ample, it is sheer ill fortune that Constable McColl was not sufficiently experienced in bush life in the Northern Territory to avoid being separated from his companions. The practice adopted in this case was not different from that followed on previous occasions. It must be admitted that, having to go in search of wild natives in scrub country, the members of the expedition took their lives in their hands.
The Administration at Darwin considered that it should send out a bigger expedition, and it then proposed to equip a party of twelve or thirteen white men,, assisted by a similar number of natives. A communication to that effect -was sent to me at Canberra, and the department was asked to forward a further supply of ammunition for the purposes of the expedition; but, as Mr. Brown, the secretary of the department, was then leaving Canberra for Darwin, I requested the Administration not’ to despatch the party until Mr. Brown had arrived and considered the matter on the spot. In the meantime we sent the ammunition *and supplies asked for, so that if it were considered necessary to despatch the party, no delay would occur. When the press was advised of the proposal, it immediately announced that a punitive expedition was to be sent. No such expedition was ever contemplated by the Government. Refutation of the suggestion that a punitive party was being organized was repeatedly denied, and I think that honorable members will agree that in this matter the press blundered in not accepting the Government’s assurance. Careful inquiries were made by the department as to the best course to follow, and in the meantime the missionaries in various parts of the Northern Territory, and former missionaries in other parts of Australia, suggested that a peaceful expedition be sent to Caledon Bay. It was. said that a few missionaries could best undertake the task. A police constable who had lived in the Northern Territory for 20 or 30 years declared that he was prepared to go alone.
– He must have been a fool. Otherwise he would not have undertaken the job.
– I certainly would not have been foolish enough to undertake it. An outcry was raised throughout the Commonwealth, and the press rendered good service, in that it directed public attention to affairs in the Northern Territory. Most people were surprised to know that in that part of Australia are large numbers of aborigines. The Government has received advice from all directions. Many missionaries wrote to the newspapers on the subject, and the following proposal was submitted to the Government by the Victorian branch of the Church Missionary Society -
That with a view to showing to the aborigines the purposes and aims of the Government, and with the further view to the proper execution of justice in connexion with the recent happenings, a small party of experienced missionaries, unarmed, should be invited to approach the natives, thus to seek a better mutual understanding between the parties concerned; and that the Government be requested to take no action pending the result of the embassy.
The suggestion was strongly supported by the Rev. H. E. Warren, who interviewed me in Melbourne. I did not give an immediate answer to the project, pre- ~ferring to make inquiries concerning the capabilities of Mr. Warren. I discovered that he had been instrumental in founding the Groote Eylandt Mission Station, and had had considerable experience of the Caledon Bay aborigines, and that, in every respect, he was a most reliable and experienced man. At the time when the Groote Eylandt Mission was established, the aborigines thereabouts were just as savage as they are at present at Caledon Bay, but, as a result of contact with the mission station, they have become tractable and friendly.
The Government has accepted the proposal of the Victorian branch of the Church Missionary Society, “with certain qualifications. Mr. Dyett, a capable man who has had a long experience of native affairs in the Territory and probably possesses a greater knowledge of the Caledon Bay tribes than does any resident of Darwin, declared that the mission would be successful and offered to accompany Mr. “Warren. The two men were eager to proceed to Caledon Bay immediately, but the Government suggested that it would be advisable to postpone the trip until after the wet season. The Government also kept in mind the fact that “the blacks in the neighbourhood are flushed with their recent victory, and, therefore, are in a more dangerous mood than they will be after a couple of months have elapsed.
– What about the white settlers in the district who are being threatened by the blacks?
– I shall deal with that presently. Mr. Warren and Mr. Dyett declared that they were so familiar with conditions in the territory that the wet season would not interfere in any way with their plans, and that they would set off, provided the Government gave them the necessary permission. They also indicated that they did not want financial assistance from the Government, but would undertake the task as part of their mission work. It has been said by some that if the Government were to send an armed police expedition, blood would be shed, and it is claimed by others that if the peace expedition goes to the territory, blood will also be spilled. In each case, apparently, . the blood’ will be upon my head. As I desire to have as little bloodshed as possible, I approve of the sending of the missionary party.
Undoubtedly, the incident is a regrettable one. As the honorable member has pointed out, there have been no fewer than twenty murders in the territory during the last few years. Consequently, the Government cannot remain idle. But, despite the protestations of the honorable member, I remind him that Mr. H. C. Brown has just visited the Northern Territory and made exhaustive inquiries in respect to this matter, as a result of which he advises that it would meet the wishes of the majority of the people of Darwin and accomplish what the Government desires if the peace expedition were allowed to proceed.
The honorable member has said that settlers have been threatened by the aborigines. Admittedly, settlers at Groote Eylandt have been threatened, but when the Government sent a party to safeguard them its action was condemned. On looking through the departmental files, I find that, twenty years ago, the natives of Caledon- Bay made an attack on settlers at Groote Eylandt, and what happened then can be repeated to-day. The missionaries at Groote Eylandt have protested that the mission needs no protection; that when they undertook mission work, they were prepared to risk their lives. Despite their protests, the Government considers it wise to take the precautionary measure of sending a protection party to the island. Because of their victories, the natives arc in high feather. In addition to killing Constable McColl, they have captured abandoned supplies which belonged to the white man. Their appetites are whetted for further victories. The Government realizes the seriousness of the position, but it is confident that these two experienced men will do nothing foolhardy. They go at their own risk, and I admire them tremendously for their courage. The expedition proposes to leave Sydney on the 6th of this month, and in order that the two men concerned may know the opinion of the Government, they will be enlightened regarding the details of this debate. They go with their eyes open, and with the blessing of the mission and the Government.
As the honorable -member for the Northern Territory has pointed out, the matter of the Roper River Mission is most serious. My department received certain reports regarding happenings at the mission, as a result of which it appointed a board of inquiry to make investigations and report on the general management and operations of that institution. The board consisted of Mr. E. T. Ashe, Crown Law Officer for the Northern Territory, and Dr. Cecil Cook, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Protector of Aborigines ; but when the Church Missionary Society asked that it also should be represented, the Reverend C. H. Nash was added. Inquiries were made, and as the result a report was furnished to the Government, but it is not of so dreadful a character as the honorable member would make out. I do not say that it is a creditable report, but it. is doubtful whether we could take criminal action against the person concerned. The Government has been advised by the Attorney-General, who has seen the report, that the case is not one for criminal prosecution.
– Has the Minister seen the evidence or merely the report?
– I have seen the report. I do not think that even the honorable member could have seen the evidence.
– I know a lot about it.
-The report was confidential and the honorable member would know no more than any one else about it. The honorable member also pointed out that the man concerned has been suspended by the mission. That is a fact, but when I was in Melbourne, Mr. Nash made it perfectly clear to me that this man’s suspension had nothing to do with the result of the inquiry. It is considered that any charge to the contrary would be libellous. Certain decisions which were arrived at by the committee are now receiving the consideration of my department. They have been before the Governor-General and have been presented to me as Minister. I have consulted and am still consulting with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in connexion with this matter.
– Will the Minister lay all the papers on the table?
– Not at this juncture because that would not be fair to those concerned.
– I stand by my charges.
– The charges are so serious that they cannot be allowed to rest, and a further inquiry will be made into the matter. I have already shown that one charge of the honorable member - that this man was suspended as the result of the investigation of the committee of inquiry - is incorrect. We have decided to treat the report as confidential. The committee made certain other recommendations but they do not involve the closing down of the mission at all. The mission has done good work in the past, and I hope that it will continue todo good work in the future. The missionaries who have practically taken their lives in their hands in order to try to make terms with the natives belong to this mission.
– Will the Minister appoint a royal commission or a select committee ?
– Such an appointment would be premature. At this juncture it would be a pity to make the report public. [Leavetocontinue given.]
– Evidence along the lines of my charges was tendered to the committee.
– Negotiations are proceeding with the Church Missionary Society in regard to the future of the Roper River Mission, and I assure the honorable member that the matter which he has brought under thenotice of the Government will be seriously considered.
– In the interests of the mission, the man concerned, and of the general adminstration of the department, it is essential that an open inquiry should bo held.
– I promise to give consideration to that matter. The department, in taking the action that it took considered that it was acting in the interests of all concerned, particularly in view of the fact that the Attorney-General had advised the Government that no criminal prosecution could lie in this case.
.-I sincerely trust that some action will be taken on the lines suggested by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). Soma years ago, when the vessel Douglas Mawson was lost in the Gulf of Carpentaria, it was reported that two women passengers had reached the shore, and were living with the blacks. Although careful investigations were made, no trace of the women could be discovered, but a feeling persists throughout the country that they are still with the blacks. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) has stated that neither he nor the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has seen the evi deuce which was submitted to the committee .of inquiry, and that he is acting on certain decisions contained in this report. If, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory alleges, the evidence discloses a serious state of affairs, the Government should not hesitate to appoint a committee to investigate his charges. I was glad to hear the Minister say that the man concerned was not suspended as a result of the investigations of the committee of inquiry. I know something of the value of mission work, particularly in the Northern Territory. I trust that the Minister will take early action to test the charges of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, so as to prevent any repetition of the delay that took place in respect of the inquiry into the loss of the Douglas Mawson. I do not believe that those women, ever reached land after the boat foundered; iu fact, escape would be impossible, because of the waters in those parts being infested with sharks. I am pleased that the Minister has realized the drastic nature of the charges of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and promised to give them, serious consideration.
.- I have been to Darwin twice. .1 know a good deal of the work of missions, especially in the New Hebrides and the Solomon Islands, and I have nothing but admiration for them. The honorable member foi1 the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has made serious allegations against a man named Langford Smith, who is clothed in the garb of religion, and the Government should not hesitate to take action to investigate them. Some time ago, a native named Neighbor, with three companions, robbed a house in order to obtain food. They were captured by a. constable, chained together, and were proceeding on their way to Darwin. They came to a flooded creek, and the policeman, when endeavouring to cross it,- was thrown from his horse, and rendered senseless by a kick on the head from the horse’s hoof. Neighbor managed to free himself from the chains, dived into the creek, rescued the policeman, and brought him ashore. None of the other natives tried to run away. As the result of the efforts of a Mrs. Bon, with whom I was glad to be associated, Neighbor was awarded the King’s Gold Medal. The authorities in Darwin, did not give that aborigine a dog’s chance. They had him photographed, wearing the medal which had been presented to him. The photograph and medal may be seen among the collection of historical and other records in the basement of this building. They took no interest whatever in his welfare, aud afterwards allowed him to drift away.’ Subsequently, Judge Ewing, of Tasmania, was appointed a commissioner to inquire into charges in regard to the general administration of the Northern Territory. A lady named Mrs. Perau admitted on oath that she had shot a man, and stated further that she was subjected to a great deal of annoyance by Dr. Gilruth, the Administrator, who had police watching her movements. All the evidence taken in connexion with that matter was suppressed by the Administration, and is now hidden in the archives of this Parliament. If all that has been said about Mr. Langford Smith, formerly known as the Reverend Langford Smith, is true, lie must be a sexual maniac, and should be sterilized. All such men ought to be shot. I thank the honorable member for the Northern Territory for having brought up this matter for discussion this afternoon; and I hope that the Minister, whose sincerity is undoubted, will do all that- lies in his power to remove this stigma from the escutcheon of Australia. I am sure that, all honorable members will support, him in any action which he may consider necessary to have the charges cleared up.
.- I emphasize the very serious nature of the charges made this afternoon by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) with reference to certain phases of administration and mission activities. The position cannot possibly be allowed to rest where it is. The charges call for a thorough investigation in order to clear the good name of all mission workers. The honorable member for Northern Territory says that he is in a position to indicate exactly the nature of the horrifying experiences detailed by him this afternoon. For my part, as a representative of the people, I shall not be satisfied, until the charges made have been thoroughly investigated, because they must affect the future of all mission work, and the claim of missioners for the right to go into the remote areas of Australia to render Christian services to the aborigines. It has been stated that the man concerned has not been removed from his present position in the mission. Because of the serious nature of the allegations it is imperative that the fullest inquiry should be made in the interests not only of the mission, but also of the man concerned. The good name of Australia and of the mission is at stake.We must, at the earliest, opportunity, be informed definitely whether or not there is any truth in the charges, If they are proved, definite action should be taken against any person or persons guilty of such revolting conduct.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following paper was presented: -
In committee: Consideration of Senate’s requests resumed from the 31st October (vide page 4112).
Drugsand chemicals, viz.: -
Senate’s request -
Leave out “ per ton British, £5 ; general, £6 10s.”; and insert “ad valorem - British, 50 per cent.; general, 70 per cent.”
Motion (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That the requested amendment be made.
.- I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) will agree to a reconsideration of the duty on this subitem, because I feel sure that, if the Senate’s requested amendment is accepted, we shall do a great injustice to a deserving Australian industry. I, therefore, urge that the item be referred back to the Tariff Board for further investigation. In the 1921-28 tariff the rates of duty were £4 a ton British, and £5 10s. a ton general.
When I was Minister for Trade and Customs I increased the British rate to £5 a ton, and the general rate to £6 10s. a ton, because I believed that the industry had put up a good case for a greater margin of protection. I am informed that 90 per cent. of the trade is in sulphate of alumina, which is alumina combined with sulphuric acid, and is used mainly for water purification and the manufacture of paper. The rates imposed by the Scullin Government were recommended by the Tariff Board in 1926 after a searching inquiry into the industry. That rate was passed by the House of Representatives on the recommendation of the present Minister when the tariff was before us early this year. The Minister then said that a number of items in the schedule would, from time to time, be investigated by the board.I presume this is one of those that were referred back to the board for reconsideration, following the adoption of the Ottawa agreement. When this item was before the Senate, that chamber, on the recommendation of Senate Ministers, adopted the board’s recommendation made this year, to remove the fixed rates of duty, aud substitute ad valorem rates of 50 per cent. British, aud 70 per cent. general. The protection was thereby reduced from £5 to £3 a ton; and it will be further reduced to £2 14s.10d. a ton by the application of the exchange adjustment provisions. The matter caused honorable senators some concern, and at the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in that chamber (Senator O’Halloran), the item was recommitted for further consideration. The representative of the Government in the Senate (Senator McLachlan) undertook that the whole question would be reconsidered by the Tariff Board before it was dealt with in this chamber. Four months have since elapsed, yet Australian manufacturers have not been given the opportunity to present additional evidence to the Tariff Board.
– Is it not a fact that a mistake was made in connexion with landing charges ?
– That has been alleged, but, not proved.
– I understand that a mistake was made in the freight calculations. Ifthe Minister can rebut the evi- dence that; I shall adduce, I shall be pleased. To show that this industry is of some importance to Australia, I shall quote from the report of the Tariff Board dated the 22nd May, 1933. The summary of the evidence given by the secretary of Sulphates Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, contains the following statements : -
The industry is one that claims a degree of national importance, as the products are essential to the paper industry and water supply of the Commonwealth. The basic material bauxite is quarried at Narracan, Victoria, and with the exception of imported foreign potash (at present used iu the manufacture of alum), all other materials used in production are of Australian origin.
Sulphate of alumina (including alum cake and alumina ferric). - The use of sulphate of alumina is in two main fields - (a)Paper-making;
Paper-making. - From 400 to 500 tons of sulphate of alumina are used annually in the various paper mills in Australia, and since 1923 all requirements used have been of local manufacture. Prior to the establishment of this industry in Australia, as much as £40 per ton had been charged for imported material. As the local manufacturer has always charged a fair price, the paper mills have reciprocated by dealing locally, despite the fact that at times they could have bought cheaper overseas.
Water Purification. - At the time of the last Tariff Board inquiry into this industry (1920), Brisbane, Launceston and Rockhampton were treating their water supplies with sulphate of alumina. Since 1920 there have been big developments in this sphere, and Sulphates Proprietary Limited assisted in the formation of a subsidiary engineering company, which specializes in water problems. This company has erected the following filtration plants during the period under review: -
Nine filtration plants for town water supplies, with a total capacity of 8,186,000 gallons daily ;
Twenty-one filtration plants for industrial purposes, with a total capacity of 3,048,000 gallons daily;
Fifteen filtration plants for swimming pools, with a total capacity of 4,720,000 gallons daily; a total of 15,954,000 gallons daily, whilst many other companies have also installed plant for similar purposes.
I stress the point that the reduction of the protection from £5 to £2 14s.10d. a ton makes it lower by 25s. a ton than that granted under the Massy-Greene tariff of 1921.
The committee probably wishes to know whether the protection recommended by the Tariff Board, and’ adopted by the Government is adequate. I have a comparative statement of production costs in Great Britain and Australia. It shows that the price ex-wharf in Australia of sulphate of alumina produced by a British factory with an output of 5,000 tons per annum - which I am assured is a small factory - will be £13 3s. 4d. a ton under the proposed reduced duty, compared with £14 16s. for the Australian product. Therefore, the protection suggested by the Minister on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, will be inadequate, and a great disservice will be done to an industry which has reduced prices, increased its efficiency, and brought local authorities to a realization of the importance of the purification of water supplies.
– Do not the facts suggest that the Australian unit is too small to be economical?
– In my opinion, they do not. The demand for this product has been greatly increased as the result of its availability at short notice, improved methods of handling, the reduction of the price of equipment, and the technical advice that has been given by experts to municipalities throughout Australia. It will not be long before the Australian manufacturers will be able to raise their output to 5,000 tons per annum. When that stage is reached, I believe that they will welcome further consideration of the matter by the Tariff Board. They do not want a higher duty than is adequate to protect the industry to-day. The figures that I have quoted show that the importer can land sulphate of alumina at a price £1 12s. a ton cheaper than that at which the local manufacturer can produce it profitably.No water supply department or municipality in Australia hasobjected that the price of the commodityis too high. I could quote a large number of communications from such bodies expressing complete approval of the efficiency of the industry and of the reasonableness of the price charged. Sulphates Proprietary Limited, and its subsidiary company, have made available technical adviceof considerable value, and have thus rendered service of a higher standard than can be given by importing interests.
Let us examine what the local industry has done for the Australian users of this product. It was established at the end of 1918, and in 1919 commenced supplying sulphate of alumina at £19 10s. a ton. Its only customer at that time was a paper-mill; it was not in a position to meet the whole of the Australian demand. There was then no duty. In 1920, the Brisbane Water Board paid £29 15s. a ton for sulphate of. alumina, the price in Great Britain being £14 a ton, or less than one-half of what was charged in Australia by importing agents. In 1921 .tup Brisbane Water Board paid £28 a ton, and in 1922, approximately £25 15s. a ton. In .the latter year the price in England was £12 10s. a ton. Late in 1921, a duty of £4 a ton had been imposed, but supplies had already been obtained from overseas at the price that I have given. The Australian industry was not yet in a position to supply the whole of the market. Early in 1924, the Brisbane Water Board paid £22 10s. a ton for imported sulphate of alumina. In that year the Australian company made its first sale to that body at £16 a ton. delivered at Brisbane. What was the result? The price of the imported product was immediately dropped to £13 10s. a. ton, a. reduction of almost 50 per cent., to meet the Australian competition. That proves that Australian users of -sulphate of alumina had previously been fleeced, and that they benefited greatly from the establishment of the local industry. From 1925 to 1928, the Brisbane Water Board used the Australian product exclusively, the price charged being £15 10s. a ton. It was thus prepared to give a preference of £2 a ton so that the Australian industry, which had been responsible for the reduction of the price, might be supported and maintained. In 1929, the board bought a consignment of English sulphate of alumina for £12 5s. a ton, but, owing’ to representations made to it that the local industry would not be able to carry on operations “without substantial support in Australia, it agreed to purchase future requirements from the Australian manufacturers for £14 10s. a ton. During 1931, 1932, and 1933, the Australian company has sold to the board a ‘special sulphate for £13 10s. a ton. Its. competition in this product
JAr. Forde. would come from alumina ferric, which, under the amended conditions, could be landed in Australia for about £11 10s. a ton. Every Australian municipality or commercial enterprise using sulphate of alumina has had. its plant started or its operators instructed in the efficient treatment of water by the chemical operators of this company. The following towns are dependent upon the chemicals covered by this item for the purification of their water supply: -
Victoria. - Shepparton, Orbost, Yallourn, Kyabram, Wonthaggi, New Hallam water scheme (for Frankston-Mornington Peninsula).
Tas mania . - La u n custon.
Two South Wales. - Orange, Bowral, Glen Innes, Manilla, Nowra, Broken HiM. Wellington, Tenterfield. “Lake Cargellico, Kyogle, Mittagong, South West Tablelands (supplying towns of Cootamundra, Harden, &c. ).
Twenty municipal baths in the States. and the Canberra swimming pool, need this p’roduct. The Australian paper manufacturing industry need it for both water purification and manufacturing purposes. Many of our most, important woollen, mills and butter factories also need it. The amount of chemical required, to purify water is very small, averaging only 25 parts per 1,000,000 gallons, so that the cost of the chemical is equivalent to only a fraction of Id. per 1,000 gallons.. .It is obvious that local supplies of this important chemical must be available at all times. Not one of the Australian users of alumina sulphate has requested a reduction of duty, or complained of the cost of the Australian product.
– They have, as I shall be able to show the Minister from correspondence that I have received. If the recommendation of the board is agreed to, the duty on sulphate of alumina and alumina ferric will be reduced almost 50 “per cent, below that of the 1921 tariff, lt will be quite impossible to carry on the Australian industry under those conditions. Even the Country party has signified its willingness to accept the rates of’- duty provided in the 1921-2S schedule) and I do not think the Govern- ment should go below them. If this request is agreed to, the duty will be reduced from £5 a ton to £2 14s. a ton, taking exchange into consideration.
I have received the following copy of a letter on this subject from the Kyabram Water Trust, dated the 30th June, 1933 : -
When using alumina ferric in 1930-31, wo paid 25s. per cwt. for same, and obtained it from William Adams and Company, 521-3 Collins-street, Melbourne. No technical assistance or advice was tendered beyond a printed circular as unclosed herewith.
In July, 1931, William Adams and Company, in reply to an inquiry from me for alumina ferric, informed me that they had no stocks of same, but could supply sulphate of alumina at £23 12s.6d. per ton. In the moanlime, I was in communication with your firm, and was quoted by you £15 10s. per ton for sulphate of alumina.
You then took up the question of clearing our water in a very practicable manner by visiting Kyabram and treating the water in our storage basin. The result was so satisfactory that we have used your chemical ever since, and have been very gratified with the results obtained.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) George Clements,
I direct the attention of honorable members tothe difference between the price of the imported sulphate of alumina and the locally-manufactured product. The local industry is thoroughly efficient, and as it is not exploiting the public, it should be protected. If the company were shelter ing behind a high tariff and exploiting the public, the Government would be justified in reducing the duty; but that, is not the case. It is illuminating to note that, although alumina ferric could be landed in Australia in 1930-31 for £.1.2 10s. a ton, including all charges, the sole Australian agent was charging a country water hoard £25 a ton for it, or 100 per cent. on landed cost. A good deal is said at, times about the necessity for throwing a searchlight on the operations of manufacturers. It will be seen from whatI have said that a searchlight should also be thrown on the operations of some importers, who have been fleecing the public. The Australian-made chemical carried a profit of only 15 per cent. to the manufacturers when it was being supplied for £15 10s. a ton ex works. In 1926, the Australian company guaranteed that the price would not go beyond £15 10s. a ton ex works. It has not only carried out, that undertaking, but’ has also improved the product, by making it in a concentrated form, so that less is required. This improvement is equivalent to a reduction in price of £3 a ton.
This item should be referred back to the Tariff Board because the board has made several serious errors. There is an error, for instance, in the board’s table of landing costs on page 7 of its report. Freight has been assessed by the board on a basis of one ton of 40 cubic feet at 45s. a ton, whereas freight can be obtained on heavy chemicals at 32s. 6d. a ton, as the following letter indicates: -
Messrs. Sulphates Proprietary -Limited, 395 Collins-street,
We are pleased to advise that the rate of freight on Soda Ash for shipment from Liverpool has been reduced to 32s.6d. per ton, and you will notice that your shipment per S.S.Clan Macneil has been invoiced at the amended price based on the reduction.
That freight would apply to all heavy chemicals, such as sulphate of alumina, as it does in the case of Australian coastal freights. Another serious error in the board’s report relates to the manner in which this chemical is imported. The board appears to have accepted the statement of a representative of the British manufacturers, that all sulphate of alumina, including alumina ferric, comes to Australia in drums, which occupy 57 cubic feet 9 cubic inches to the ton weight, whereas the fact is that commercial sulphate of alumina, which accounts for 90 per cent. of the Australian market, would be imported in sacks, occupying 40 cubic feet to the ton. The result of these two errors is that, whereas the Tariff Board states that freight and insurance would amount to £3 6s. 9d. a ton, the true figure would be only £1 15s. 6d. a ton, a difference of £111s. 3d. a ton. In view of these very serious errors, the whole subject should be referred back to the board for further consideration.
Another factor that should be considered in connexion with this industry is that the Australian manufacturers of sulphate of alumina are helping water boards and other users of waterpurification equipment to obtain efiicient and cheap plant. For instance, chemical feeders are being sold to-day at £13 10s. each whereas on the 20th July last, similar overseas feeders cost £46 10s. at par and could not be landed here for less than £70 each. Fifteen locally manufactured feeders have recently been sold to the Public Works Department of New South Wales. Chlorinators, which are essential for sterilizing water supplies of towns, public baths, butter factories and other enterprises, are being manufactured and sold in Australia for less than the ruling price of similar equipment in Britain, and America.
For these reasons, I sincerely trust that this item will be referred back to the Tariff Board. If a suitable amendment of that nature is moved, I shall be glad to support it, though I do not desire to move it in my capacity as Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I have made a persoual investigation into the circumstances of this industry, and am satisfied that it is thoroughly deserving of assistance.
– In view of the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) I shall give the reasons why the Government is asking the committee to adhere to the recommendations of the Tariff Board. The honorable gentleman said the subject should be reconsidered because the freight on soda ash was at a certain rate. Unfortunately for his argument soda ash is not sulphate of alumina.
– Soda ash is a heavy chemical and so is sulphate of alumina.
– I am afraid the honorable member has been misled by this enterprising company which, as all honorable members know, has been actively lobbying in the last few weeks. The duty which the Government is now asking the committee to accept is in substitution of an ad valorem duty. The ad valorem rates were British, £5 per ton; general, £6 10s. per ton. The new rates will be 50 per cent. and 70 per cent., respectively, which should be adequate. The Tariff
Board has made a very exhaustive investigation into this industry, and has made it clear that it has no desire whatever to damage the industry in any way. Yet this company has despatched circulars to honorable members in which it says that the Tariff Board’s report contains an inaccurate and incorrect statement in setting out the freight and landing charges on imported sulphate of alumina. Such statements are not only contained in the circular, but have also been made to the Government. The company’s representative interviewed me immediately the board’s report was published, and made a complaint. Thinking that the company might be able to prove its case, I referred the matter back to the hoard, which informed me in definite terms that the freight and insurance charges amounting to £3 6s. 9d. a ton used in its calculations were not selected at random, but were the actual charges on shipments of sulphate of alumina imported at Sydney and Melbourne, and that the freight charge of £1 15s. 6d. quoted by Sulphates Proprietary Limited is based on a quotation for soda ash furnished by the Australian distributors of that commodity. The detailed costs fromthe English factory to clearance from the wharf are -
The landed price under the proposed rates, after exchange adjustment, is £15 3s. 4d., and not £13 3s. 4d. as stated in the circular.This should provide adequate protection to the local manufacturer. The Tariff Board has greater access to the facts than the Minister for Trade and Customs, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, or any honorable member, because it can call for customs house invoices to enable it to come to an accurate decision. The whole matter was returned to the board for further consideration, because the Government does not wish to take any action in connexion with an Australian industry that may jeopardize the employment of
Australian workmen. In very few instances has the board, after reconsidering a recommendation, deviated from its first decision. In connexion with this matter, the board reports - 1 The board feels that in making this recommendation of ad valorem duties of 50 per cent. British, and 70 per cent, foreign, every justifiable effort has been made to conserve and protect the interests of the Australian industry, while still keeping in mind the ultimate cost to the consumer.
Honorable members are aware that for weeks there has been a good deal of lobbying in connexion with these duties, which led some to believe that the Government was doing wrong, and that the Tariff Board was responsible for some injustice. The Tariff Board states further -
Even if tho cost of all’ the materials, direct labour, packing, plant, repairs and depreciation, and factory overhead, were deducted from the Australian selling price, the resultant figure would still exceed the f.o.b. price of sulphate of alumina from the United Kingdom. In other words, profits, administration, distribution, interest, technical and selling expenses represent more than the total cost in the United Kingdom.
Those are the reasons why the Government’ accepted the board’s recommendation after an unbiased inquiry into the industry. In one communication, the company states,” “ It will be impossible to carry oh the industry in Australia under these conditions “. I challenge the accuracy pf that statement, as I believe that in twelve mouths’ time the company will still be conducting its business if the duties recommended by the board are adopted. Similar statements have been made in respect of other industries which are always anxious to retain the highest possible duties. The Government is concerned, with not only the interests of the manufacturers, but abo those of Australian consumers, who should be able to obtain necessary commodities at reasonable prices. The Tariff Board has to ensure that manufacturers are charging reasonable prices, and that the interests of consumers ‘ are not prejudicially affected.
.- Under this item it is proposed to replace a specific duty of £5 a ton British and £6 10s. a ton foreign by ad valorem duties of 50 per cent. British and 70 per cent, foreign. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Forde) told the com mittee that a duty of 50 per cent, ou British importations of sulphate of alumina will mean a reduction of the British duty to £3 a ton, which, after allowing for exchange adjustment, would be further reduced to £2 16s. a ‘ton. At the same time, he said that the price of this commodity is about £14 a ton. I cannot understand how a duty of 50 per cent, is equal to £3 a ton. He also said that the proposed duty i3 20s. a ton less than the duty imposed under the 1921-30 tariff. The party to which I belong is sometimes inaccurately described as the low tariff or freetrade party, but the fiscal policy which we support is that of adequate protection for sound Australian industries. The Tariff Board is a better guide to the committee than the ex parte statement of a company directly concerned in the manufacture of this product. I know nothing of the industry; but it is not worthy of protection, I submit, if an ad valorem duty of 50 per cent. British and 70 per cent, foreign is insufficient. The Deputy. Leader of the Opposition said that, after the local industry became established, there was a sudden drop in the price of the imported article. If that is so, I say, “ All success to the local industry “. In many cases beneficial results have followed the establishment of Australian industries; but, if those controlling them are exploiting the consumers, they must expect to receive the same treatment as importers who are alleged to be guilty of similar practices. The Ottawa agreement provides that Australian manufacturers must expect reasonable competition in the production of many commodities. I am not familiar with the articles mentioned in this item, and I have no knowledge of those concerned in their manufacture, but the committee will agree that the duties recommended by the Tariff Board are liberal, and the local industry should be “satisfied with them.
.- The Tariff Board states that in England there has been a progressive decline in the cost of alum and. sulphate of alumina. From 1925 to 1932, the price of alum has been reduced from £10 10s. to £8 10s. a ton, andthat of sulphate of alumina from £8 5s. to £6 15s. a ton. These reductions are due largely to economic causes, and not to the conditions obtaining in Australia. It is necessary to refer to only one paragraph of the Tariff Board’s report to justify its recommendation that the duty should be reduced. from £5 a ton British to an ad valorem rate of 50 per cent. When reference is made to the price of alum it should be to the price paid in England, and not to that which the people . of Australia pay for alum imported from England. It is quite misleading to make the comparison with the price of English goods after they have been shipped to Australia and subjected to certain charges. The Tariff Board shows that the price of powdered alum f.o.b. England is. £9 13s. 3d. a ton, while the cost landed in Australia is £23 3s. 4d. It is absurd to take the Australian cost as a basis for comparison.
– Of what interest is the English price to water supply authorities who require large quantities of this material?
– We are now considering the duty which should be placed on this material, so that the Australian industry may operate under fair conditions. In order that we may decide what is a fair duty we must compare the price in Australia with the price of similar goods in other countries, such as England. Usually, the English prices are quoted f.o.b., and the Australian prices at the works, thus giving an advantage to the Australian-made article. In order to get a proper comparison the English prices should be written down a little. Powdered alum in England costs £9 13s. 3d. a ton, compared with £16 in Australia. The respective prices of alum in the lump are £8 15s. and £16. If both quotations were on an f.o.b. basis, the Australian price would be about double the English price. Sulphate of alumina is quoted at £7 10s. 9d. a ton f.o.b. English ports ; the Australian price is £14 16s. a- ton. These comparisons show that the people of Australia are being charged unduly high prices for alum and sulphate of alumina. I do not- know, whether the reason is exploitation by Australian manufacturers, in- efficiency in Australian factories, or the possibility of the Australian industry being too small to be carried on economically. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that the people of Australia pay nearly double the English price. Having investigated this matter thoroughly, the Tariff Board recommended a margin of 50 per cent, ad valorem. That should be sufficient. in’ view of the added protection afforded by freight, insurance, primage, landing coStS, cartage, and other charges, amounting to £S 10s. a ton. If the Australian industry cannot, carry on with that measure of protection, it. should go out of existence. I support the Senate’s request that thi* duties be 50 per cent. British and 70 per cent, general.
– When the manufacture of sulphate was commenced in Australia some years ago, the price of this commodity immediately dropped by nearly £10 a ton. Those of us who have watched the operations of manufacturers and importers for a number of years know that if this- Australian industry is destroyed by outside competition, overseas manufacturers will levy toll on Australian consumers. They have done so before. It is well known that as the output of a factory increases, so its overhead charges are proportionately reduced. An increased output from this Australian factory would soon lead to the price being reduced to about £10 a ton. The statement of the Kyabram Water Trust, which was read by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), is evidence of the valuable service rendered by the Australian manufacturers of this commodity. The company’s experts travel throughout the country, and arc available at short notice to give advice to water trusts and other bodies for the purification of their water supplies in the interests of the health of - the people. It may not be generally known that one of the difficulties associated with the manufacture of butter in some parts of Australia is that of the water supply. In order that Australian butter may have,-* a chance of competing with the product’ of other countries in the world’s markets, some of our country water supplies have to- be treated. Previously, expensive filtration processes were employed to purify and clarify the water. Sulphate is also used extensively in the purification of water used in the manufacture of paper, but I see no evidence that the
Tariff Board called any paper manufac turer before it as’ a witness. The board’s report does not contain any evidence by paper manufacturers that the Australian manufacturers of sulphate have charged exorbitant prices for their product. On the other hand, there is voluminous testimony that they have rendered valuable service to the community. The experience of tho authorities controlling the water supply of Brisbane is of interest. The torrential rains which fall on the watershed of the Brisbane water supplies sometimes discolour the water, and make treatment necessary. Before the Australian manufacture of sulphate of alumina was commenced, the authorities at Brisbane paid about £9 a ton more for the purifying material than they did after tho Australian’ competitor entered the field. Moreover, the authorities found that they could obtain from the Australian manufacturers advice which they could not get from importers. Thai, fact, together with the certainty of getting regular supplies of sulphate of alumina of good quality from Australian factories, led to their deciding to use the locally-produced material. In order that the Tariff Board may call further witnesses in support of the claims of this Australian industry, I move -
That the item he postponed.
The chairman of directors of the Australian company which manufactures this material informed me recently that for many years- the company made no profits at, all, and that its profits now are duly about 5 per cent. It is therefore clear that the company has not dipped its hands into the pockets of the consumers in order to make huge profits. I hope that the Minister will agree to the postponement of the consideration of this item pendinga fuller investigation by the Tariff Board. Even if the price were considerably higher, the services rendered would be worth the extra cost. Butter is an important item of primary produce, and we should do everything in our power to (insure that- the best quality of butter is produced, both for home consumption and for export. I appeal to members ofthe Country party, and to -the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Mcnicoll) in particular, to agree that the Tariff Board be given another opportunity to investigate the position. If, after taking all the available evidence, it is still of its present opinion, I shall be prepared to. accept its verdict.
– The question before the Chair is a motion by the Assistant Minister for .Trade and Customs (Mr. Guy) “ That the requested amendment be made “. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has moved that the question be postponed. That is not an amendment. Perhaps the honorable member would achieve his object by voting against the motion.
– I may not wish to voteagainst the motion. The Minister may be perfectly satisfied that the Tariff Board has given all the consideration that is necessary to the matter, but I should like a more extensive inquiry to be made, and, particularly, that evidence should be taken from those persons who have .been using the product over a. number of years.
– Is it not in order for a member of the committee to move for the postponement of any question before the Chair? The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has moved, that consideration of the motion be postponed, and I suggest that his object would not be achieved by his voting against the Minister’s motion.
– I should like to hear just why the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) is not in order. Suppose a motion is- put from the Chair when the House is sitting that a bill be read a second time. It is open to honorable members to vote against that motion, but it is also open to them to move an amendment “ that the bill be read this day six months “. When we arc considering a tariff item, it is surely competent for an honorable member to move that consideration of an item be postponed. Indeed, the Minister frequently moves to that effect. As to whether the precise wording of the honorable member’s amendment is in order. I do not know, but if it is not, the matter can -easily be adjusted. The honorable member for Maribymong said that his reason for moving the amendment was to enable the Tariff Board to inquire further into the matter. Whether that concerns the Chair or not is a matter for the Chair to deter- mine, hut I suggest that any honorable member may move that a debate on any item be adjourned, or thai an item be postponed.
– Having regard to the ruling which you have given, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that the Minister might be allowed temporarily to withdraw his motion so that the honorable member for Maribyrnong mightmove one in its place.
– It is obvious that that course might be followed, but it does not concern the point of order which has been raised. In an ordinary tariff debate, items are brought up for consideration one at a time, and it is competent for the Minister, or for a member, to move that an item be postponed. We are now dealing, however, with a request from the Senate relating to a tariff item, and every such request from the Senate must be dealt with on a motion moved in committee. Thecommittee is now considering a motion which the Ministerhas moved, “ that the requested amendment be made “. No tariff item is beforethe committee at the present moment.
– Cannot the request be postponed ?
– There is a substantive motion before the committee “ that the requested amendment be made “, and to that motion an amendment cannot be moved to the effect that the item or request be postponed. The suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is one for decision by the Minister.
– I should like to know under what Standing Order the committee is deprived of the right to decide for itself whether it shall or shall not come to an immediate decision on any motion before it, whether that motion be for the acceptance of a request from the Senate, or for any other purpose. The business of the committee is in its own hands, and there is no standing order providing that it must here and now dispose of a request from the Senate because the Minister has moved that it shall do so. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has advanced reasons why further consideration should be given to this item, and why the matter should be referred once more to the Tariff Board. Surely it is competent for any member of the committee to move that the debate on the Minister’s motion be adjourned, or that the item be postponed.
– My ruling cannot be further debated except on a motion that it be disagreed to. There cannot be two substantive motions before the committee at the same time.
– Would it be in order to move, by way of amendment to the Minister’s motion, that the Senate’s requested amendment be made, subject to the item being referred back to the Tariff Board for further consideration.
– At the moment I am inclined to think that such an amendment would be in order. If the debate proceeds I shall give it further thought.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) referred to the percentage increase in connexion with the duty on this item, but I cannot follow his calculations.
-I spoke of no increase. I quoted the present rate of £6 10s., and mentioned the reductions which have been recommended.
– After looking through the circular distributed by the company. I am inclined to think that it might be advisable to refer this matter back to the Tariff Board.Certain points have been raised recently which were not before the board when it made its inquiry.
– Was the honorable member in the chamber when I spoke?
– I regret that I was not here all ihe time, because it was necessary for me to be at the Wheat Conference, but I hastened back to hear the latter part of the Minister’s explanation.
– I hope that the committee will act unanimously in this matter. I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “but the item be referred back to the Tariff Board”.
– An amendment in those terms is in order.
.- This duty has been twice considered by the Tariff Board, but if every item were dealt with in that way, an inordinately long time would be occupied in disposing of the tariff schedule. The principals of this company waited upon me, and. I referred their request to the board. The only points raised by them were effectively replied to, and nothing new has emerged during the present debate. If the amend mont is carried, the matter will be referred back to the board, but the Government cannot accept the amendment. Today we have heard complaints about the delay of the board in dealing with cotton yarn andoregon. It is hardly fair that industries that have had two hearings should be given a third chance.
.- The Minister has stated that the interested parties waited upon him as a deputation, and that their case has already been considered by the Tariff Board on two occasions. As I was not aware of that, I withdraw any suggestion made by me that the board should again be asked to consider the matter.
– I urge the Minister to accept the amendment. It is true that the claims of this industry were considered by the Tariff Board in 1926, and the duties which were imposed when I was Minister for Trade and Customs were then recommended. When the rates were reconsidered in the light of the Ottawa agreement, the board suggested a drastic reduction of the protection given to the industry. The company asked the Minister to have the matter further considered, but the board did not conduct the usual public inquiry, at which the company would have had an opportunity to rebut some of the alleged misleading statements made by its competitors, the importers. Personally, I should like the old rate to be approved by the committee; but the policy of the present Government is to accept the board’s recommendations, and that course was adv.ocated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce). The Minister quoted from a statement made by the board regarding the freight on sulphate of alumina from England to Australia, and, in reply to an interjection by me, said that the figures were based on. information dated the 10th March last. Four months have elapsed since then, and further reductions of freight may have occurred. If further inquiries were made, possibly the freight quoted as ruling on the 3rd March for soda ash, another heavy chemical, would be found to apply also to sulphate of alumina. The odour of these chemicals does not affect the freight charges, because the goods are not deleterious. Cheaper freight is obtainable from some of the shipping companies to-day than six or eight months ago, and I believe that if the importers asked for lower freight charges fhan those quoted on the 10th March last, on which the board based its recommendation, the request would be granted. The members of the Tariff Board, as reasonable men, would surely be prepared to reconsider all the. facts, and give the representatives of this Australian factory an opportunity to place before them the latest infprmation regarding freightcharges. The company has reduced prices by 50 per cent., and it is giving excellent service to the community. Its technical advice is available to local authorities, such as water boards, and to butter factories.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Fenton’s) be agreed to- put. The committee divided. (Chairman- Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Guy’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority .. … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Drugs and chemicals, viz. : -
Acetyl-salicylic acid,, ad valorem, British, 25 per cent.; general, 42½ per cent.
Senate’s request -
Make the duty - ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.: general, 30 per cent.
– I move; -
That the requested amendment be made.
This request is the result of a. recommendation by the Tariff Board which furnished a report on the subject in February last. Although the rates contained in the request represent a reduction of the present duties by British 10 per cent., and. general 12½ per cent., they are still higher than the 1921-30 tariff rates by 15 per cent., both British and general.
The main points that were made by the Tariff Board on the subject are as follows : -
The Governmout is quite satisfied that the reduced rates requested by the Senate will provide sufficient protection so long as overseas acid is not quoted at, “ dumped “ prices. The possibili ty of dumping is being closely watched, and suitable action will be taken, if warranted, under the Australian Industries Preservation Act. Complaints have been made in thisregard, and the matter has been referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry.
Motion agreed to.
Item 290- (c)
Withan additional duty if spirituous as follows: -
If containing not more than 20 per cent. of proof spirit, per gallon - British, 4s.; general, 5s.
And for every additional 20 per cent. or fraction thereof of proof spirit, per gallon - British, 4s.; general, 5s.
Senate’s request -
Make the additional duty, per gallon - British 5s.; general,6s.
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The Senate’s request is based on a recommendation of the Tariff Board contained in its report dated the 12th May, 1933. If adopted, the only alteration which the request will make to the item is to increase the duty on spirituous toilet preparations by ls. a gallon for every 20 per cent. spirit content or fraction of 20 per cent.
In. recommending this increase, the board points out that at the present time importers of toilet preparations which contain, say, 100 per cent. proof spirit, pay extra duty on the spirit content of 20s. a proof gallon, British preferential tariff, while local manufacturers of toilet preparations, who do not use a prescribed proportion of Australian products, such, for example) as essential oils, haveto pay excise duty on the spirit used at the rate of 25s. a gallon. [Quorum formed.] Thus the local manufacturer’s ad valorem protection is reduced by the equivalent of 5s. a proof gallon. The board’s recommendation for an increase of the spirit content rate on imported toilet preparations will overcome this anomaly. Local manufacturers whouse a prescribed quantity of Australian raw materials for example, essential oils, will have a. further protection as the result of paying less excise, duty on Australian spirit used. The board has recommended ad valorem rates of British 45 per cent. and general 65 per cent., which are 5 per cent., general tariff, lower than those prescribed in the bill. The Australian delegation at Ottawa undertook to maintain a margin of preference of 25 per cent. ad valorem, hence the retention of the rate of 70 per cent. under the general tariff.
Briefly, the board’s reasons for its recommendation, which relates also to perfumery, item 290c1, are -
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [5.43].- It is so seldom that the Tariff Board recommends an increase of duty that one cannot help feeling that one did the right thing, when Minister for Trade and Customs, in imposing a total prohibition against the import of all toilet preparations. As a result of that prohibition Australian manufacturers were given an opportunity to develop the local industry, and they have obtained additional capital and increased the number of their employees. The interesting speech of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy) indicates that as the result of the prohibition 300 additional persons have been employed in one factory, and hundreds in another. At a time when the almost general practice of the Tariff Board is to make recommendations in a downward direction it is a consolation, even if the case is an isolated one, to deal with a recommendation for an increased duty. The results in this case certainly justify the policy of the Scullin Government in giving protection to Australian industries, as a result of which additional employment has been given to our workers and prices have been reduced to consumers.
Motion agreed to.
Or ad valorem - Br itish,50 per cent.; general,65 per cent. whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Or ad valorem - British, 50 per cent.; general, 65 per cent, whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Senate’s request -
Amend the item to make it - 302. Tool handles, unattached, viz. : -
Or ad valorem -British, 30 per cent.; general, 45 per cent. whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Motion (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That the requested amendment be made.
– This is a Government request which was made in the Senate to bring the item into accord with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. It will be noted that boththe specific duties and the classification have been altered. The Senate’s request reads -
Tool handles, unattached, viz.: -
a ) Axe, adze, hammerover 24 inches, mattock and pick, per dozenBritish, 3s.; general, 4s.6d., or ad val. - British, 30 per cent.; general, 45 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty. (b)N.E.I., ad val. - British, 30 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
The previous Government increased the duties by 25 per cent. British and 30 per cent. general, and also provided alternative fixed rates of1s. 3d. and1s. 6d. a dozen on file and chisel handles and 4s.6d. and 7s. 6d. a dozen on other handles. The ad valorem rates contained in the request are 5 per cent. British and 10 per cent. general higher than the 1921-30 tariff, under which no fixed rates operated. The Australian manufacturers have been gradually capturing a large percentage of the market during the last few years, and at present the larger local handles’, such as pick, mattock, and axe handles which are manufactured from Australian timber, are selling at prices much lower than the landed duty-paid cost of imported handles with present exchange. The Tariff Board considers that the Australian timber is quite suitable for the manufacture of axe handles for ordinary household pur poses, but is not entirely suitable for use with axes used by timber-getters and bushmen. This item has previously been debated in this chamber, and I know that some honorable members contend that Australian axe handles are as good as the imported. The professional timbergetter prefers the imported hickory handle. Of course, the difficulty could be overcome if some of the Australian manufacturers imported hickory in the log, and manufactured hickory handles here. The proposed duties are higher than those which operated under the 1921-30 tariff, and are more than sufficient to bring the overseas costs in line with the Australian selling prices, but the Tariff Board considers that this difference is necessary in order to overcome the prejudice against the local product. The majority of the smaller handles required, such as file and chisel handles, are being produced locally, and the Tariff Board, in recommending the duties of 30 per cent. British and 45 per cent. general on this type of handle, states that the evidence submitted showed that these duties are sufficient to hold the trade in the lines being manufactured . in Australia. While protecting the local manufacturers, they are not so high as to impose an unreasonable burden on the few types not manufactured in Australia.
.- It is true that this item was debated in this chamber earlier in the year, but at that time the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) adhered to the duties in the schedule. Since then the Tariff Board has made a recommendation, which has been adopted by the Senate. I am sorry that that alteration has been made, because the increased duties imposed by the previous Government enabled a useful industry to be established in Australia, It is now to be made vulnerable to imports. No doubt the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) will be able to give us a good deal of information respecting an enterprising industry which is manufacturing tool handles in his electorate. Much of the prejudice which formerly existed against Australian-made tool handles has now disappeared, and the users of tool handles generally are quite satisfied with the quality and price of the local article,
– The honorable member cannot believe that.
– I do believe it. I have made inquiries from not only those who chop wood in the early morning, hut also farmers and professional timber-getters, and, while they were prepared some two years ago to listen to the propaganda of the importers, they are now definitely satisfied that the Australian-made article is quite equal to the imported. The Australian handle-manufacturing in: dustry comprises thirteen principal manufactories in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, and, to show that this is not a backyard industry, let rae state that the capital employed in it is estimated at £82,000, the value of the plant, buildings and machinery is £75,000, the number of hands employed is ‘288, and the value of the output in 1932 was £S6,000. As a result of the high duties that were imposed, there has been a falling off of imports; but that was only to.be expected, because the tariff was increased to compel overseas manufacturers who wanted to exploit the Australian market to establish their factories here. Consequently, there has been a falling off in the value of imports from £58,000 in 1927-2S to £13,000 in 1931-32.
– From what source has the honorable member obtained his figures ?
– From the report of the Tariff Board. Australian timbers are used extensively in the manufacture of tool handles, and in that respect let me quote the opinions of quite a number of experts who gave evidence before the Tariff Board. Mr. M. B. Foley, professional axeman, Limeburners’ Creek, New South Wales, stated -
As a bushman since boyhood, I have been getting my living through the axe. For the past eight or nine months I have been cutting sleepers for the Forestry Commission, and have been using three axes - two squaring axes and an American axe all fitted with Australian spotted gum handles. I have been using spotted gum handles for the last couple of years, and one now in use for. three months. One of the axes in use was for grooving, and a handle that will stand up. to that will stand up to anything.
Mr. N. W. Jolly, Forestry Commissioner, Sydney, stated -
The position with regard to tool handles in New South’ Wales is that there should be no necessity whatever for any importations of handles for picks, mattocks, hoes, rakes, spades, shovels, small hammers, chisels, &c, as there are ample supplies of local timbers suitable for these purposes.
– Axe handles are not mentioned.
- Mr. Jolly did not specifically refer to axe handles, but there is no doubt as to his opinion of the suitability of Australian timbers for that purpose. Mr. G. A. Duffy, Chairman of the Timber Advisory Committee, Brisbane, and representing the Brisbane Handle Factory Limited, Brisbane, and Messrs. C. A. Kruger and Son,” Bundamba, Queensland, supported the duties requested by the New South Wales manufacturers on the ground that Australian timbers were quite suitable for tool handles. About seven or eight other Australian manufacturers gave similar evidence before the Tariff Board, and, so far as I can gather from its report, there is no evidence to the contrary. Two American firms have established branch factories in Canada, and although the handles which they produce are entirely of American timber, they are admitted into Australia under the British preferential tariff. That preferential tariff was never intended to allow American firms which had established factories in Canada, to compete in the Australian market to the. detriment of the local manufacturers, and also of the bona fide British manufacturers in both England and Canada. A very efficient factory has been established at Bateman’s Bay for the manufacture of tool handles, and I should like to hear what the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), who represents that district, has to say with respect to these duties. A number of timbergetters employed by Messrs. Bagot Brothers at Ballina, New South Wales, in the electorate of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), all use Australian-made handles. If the local industry were permitted to develop under protective duties, permanent employment would be provided for a number of our factory workers and timbercutters at a time when we should do everything in our power to help the unemployed. [Quorum formed.]
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Forde) has quoted many opinions as to the suitability of Australian timber for axe and tool handles generally. The following evidence was given before the Tariff Board by Mr.H. J. C. Beer, the President of the Victorian Axemen’s Association, a man who has accurate knowledge of axe handles, and of what is required by expert axemen: -
The association enters protest on behalf of the axemen and bushmen of Victoria against the high rates of duty that are at present in force. The following petition signed by 108 axemen is submitted in support of the protest: -
We, the undersigned axemen or bushmen, consider that the present duty on hickory axe handles should be considerably reduced, as, in our opinion, there is no timber in Australia available in commercial quantities suitable for making axe handles.It is dangerous for us to use Australian handles in our work, because they are not reliable.
The men who signed the petition nearly all come from the country, and earn their living by the use of the axe. They must have an axe handle they can depend upon, and so far the only wood is hickory. They know only too well, after years of experience, that hickory is the only timber grown in commercial quantities that is suitable, and they send to America for their handles. A timber-feller many feet up a tree, standing on a staging or shoe, may possibly lose his life as the result of the breaking of a faulty axe handle.
There is no timber available in commercial quantities in Australia which is suitable for the manufacture of axe handles.
The present f.o.b. costs ofan AmericanNo. 1 quality hickory axe handle in sterling (converted at therate of 3.50 dollars) are 15s. 5d. per dozen, and the c.i.f. cost in sterling 16s. 6d. per dozen. Duties and charges raise the landed cost in Australian currency to 34s. per dozen.
Despite the duty imposed, these men feel that, for their own safety, they must huy American axe handles. Mr. Beer stated further -
Broad axes are used extensively in Australia for squaring sleepers, poles, &c. and the handles used in that type of axe are sold in two styles - right hand and left hand. As far as is known, there is no one in Australia making this type of handle, and yet a duty of 65per cent. is imposed.
Here we have an expert stating definitely what are the qualities required iu an axe handle. The fact that. Mr. Beer’s evidence is supported by a petition signed by 168 axemen of Victoria should convince the committee that expert axemen insist on using hickory axe handles, no matter what the duty may be. Consequently, I welcome the Senate’s requested amendment, and hope that it will be made.
.- I happen to know something about the petition signed by 168 so-called axemen in Victoria, to which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has referred. I am reliably informed that, if it had been required, the people who do not favour the petition could have secured ten times that number of signatures from men who make a living by swinging an axe. The witness quoted by the honorable member for Gippsland knows practically nothing about the timber-getting industry. Broad axes are used only by expert axemen for squaring timber and sleeper-getting. Handles for broad axes must be bent, and as all American handles are straight, they have to be steamed and suitably bent by axemen to meet their individual requirements. The finest timber in the world for use as handles for broad axes is water gum, which is grown in limited areas in the far north coast of New South Wales, and in certain parts of Queensland. Timber grown in southern New South Wales and Victoria is not so suitable for axe handles. As a rule, expert axemen prefer axe handles made from Australian timber. At the last show of the Royal Agricultural Society in Brisbane, every prize-winner in those sections set apart for axemen used Australian-made handles ; and at the last show of the Royal Agricultural Society in Melbourne, every major prize-winner-that is, every championship winner - also, without exception, used handles made from Australian timber, spotted gum, chiefly. Two of the successful competitors used handles made of water gum, which is deep red in colour, and is better than American hickory. Unfortunately, the area upon which it is grown is somewhat limited, but it produces sufficient to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements for high grade axe handles for many years to come. Probably one of the reasons for this opposition to the use of bandies made from Australian timber is the fact that so many country storekeepers are tied to wholesale importers who, naturally, in many cases, dictate the class of goods which the retailers shall offer, especially in hardware.
– Do not the buyers have something to say iu that matter?
Mr.R. GREEN.- For the most part, chey prefer Australian axe handles.
– Was any evidence gi ven before the Tariff Board with regard to water gum foi” axe handles?
– The bulk of the evidence was taken in Melbourne. There iiTe, in my electorate, more professional axemen than in any other division in. the Commonwealth, and . 1. repeat that their preference is for axe handles made from Australian wood. I hope that the committee will not. agree to the requested amendment.
.- The Senate’s requested amendment is really another attack on an Australian industry. It. is surprising that, although the great majority of honorable members favour high duties for the protection of rbt Australian timber industny, the Tariff Board has recommended, and the Government, by accepting its recommendation, approves, a course which is calculated to do serious injury to the industry. . 1. was interested in a report which appeared in thu *WeeklyTimes, Melbourne, last week, of a test which had been, made by Mr. L. Galbraith, B.C.E., of the Melbourne Pui versify Engineering School, of the strength of timbers for axe handles. Knowing that this item would be discussed in this chamber this week, I rang Mr. Galbraith on the telephone to get further information from him about the teat. T. take the following from the report which appeared in the Weekly Times : -
Thu tests were madeonan Amster Universal machine, whieh givesa measureofthestrength and flexibility of the handle. The woods included first nml seecmd grade handles of hickory, blue, gum, oak. leatherwooid, and given olive wood, all having been se-leeled at minium from wholesalers’’ stocks. The olive wm nl handles were growing nine weeks before the test. The final values ill lotted to the various woori* were: - Neetnul’ grade, hickory. 8!) units: first, grade hickory. 8(i: second grade gum, 81: first-grade leatherwood, 78: first grade oak, 75; first grade olivewood, 75: first grade gum, OS: olivewood, fiS.
Sittingsuspendedfrom 6.15to8 p.m.
– The introduction to the conclusions arrived at by M’.r. Galbraith reads -
In view of the controversy that has long been associated with the merits of different woods for axe handles, considerable interest is attached to tests which have been conducted recently by Mr. L. Galbraith, B.C.E., of the University School of Engineering.
Were we to argue this question for months, diverse opinions would still be held as to which wood is the most suitable for axe handles. What I complain of is the prejudice which has largely been responsible for the antipathy to Austraiian woods. Before the merit’s of a number of very fine Australian timbers were recognized, hickory held undisputed sway for many purposes. I know that jinker shafts are a different proposition from axe handles; but I have never forgotten a conversation that I had with a wheelwright in a country district, who, in reply to my query as to whether those who ordered jirikers from him always specified hickory shafts, replied, “No; I keep a good supply of blue gum as well as hickory, and as many persons -choose the one as the other. “ The paragraph concerning. Mr. Galbraith’s tests says that the handles were selected at random from wholesalers’ stocks, and concludes with the following statement : -
The straight-out breaking tests to determine the strength of the handle or its ability to stand up to a wrench proved that secondgrade gum, which broke, with a load of 285 lb. on the free end, was the strongest. The others, in order of their breaking loads, were: Firstgrade oak, 185 lb.; first-grade hickory and first-grade gum, 175 lb.; seeond-grade hickory and first-grade, leatherwood, 145 lb.; olive wood (two samples).. 130 lb. and 100 lb.
Recently I met a gentleman who represents Tasmanian manufacturers. He informed me that front mountain blue gum that firm is turning out one of the finest axe handles offered for sale in the Commonwealth. That that make has met with approval is shown by the fact that large sales of it are made in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, from which centres a big distribution takes place. I saw on his books orders for at least 10,000 axe handles, proving conclusively that merchants are inclining towards the article made from Australian wood. I hope that the time is not far distant when the prejudice against Australian timbers will have been, completely removed, and they will take their rightful place in the front rank of the timbers of the world.
I understand that Mr. Beer, president of the Axemen’s, Association of Victoria, from whose evidence the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) quoted, presented to the Tariff Board a petition signed by a number of axemen. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), on the other hand, showed that practically every winner of a principal prize at the wood-chopping contests, held at Brisbane in August, used an Australian-made handle. I also understand that champion axemen who were among the prizewinners at the last Melbourne show, where the contests include not only chopping on the ground, but also at a height, of from ‘20 to 30 feet, used Australian handles. Mr. Galbraith says that there is no strain on an axe handle in use except when the- heel or toe of the blade first strikes the wood. He declares that more axes are broken by wrenching the blade from the wood than by any other means. It is pleasing to note that tests of this nature are being made at our engineering schools, and that Australian timber, in common with other Australian products, when put to the test, holds its own with the best that the world produces. For this and the other reasons I have given I shall vote against the proposed reduction of the duty.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) stated this afternoon that he had been informed by axemen that danger is associated with the’ use of an Australian handle at some height from the ground, because of the likelihood of its breaking and causing the user to overbalance. That applies with equal force to American- hickory. I have no wish to disparage that timber, but I am totally opposed to importing it while Australia produces -every class of timber from which good axe handles can be made. In ‘Cairns, a handle-making factory, owned by Mr. T. H. Winkworth, -styled the Perfection Handle “Works, turns out 11 11 daises of tool handles. Mr. Winkworth wrote on the 23th June last: -
Cairns hickory is a timber comparable to the American hickory for this work, and cannot be -compared W.ith any other Australian timber. -.It has -been used in attempts to make handles. “Our silver ash is a very’ serviceable timber -for certain classes of handles.
I would like .you to realize that hickory is a timber ‘which “will readily stand up to this class of work, and is comparable only with American hickory. It is not quite as flexible as the American, but is stronger.
I have been for the last twelve months making handles and. experimenting with the various timbers, and jost as I reach a decision to launch out on a large scale, we get the setback in the tariff, which will kill thisindustry entirely. A quantity was sent to Harris Scarfe Limited, of Adelaide. Up to the present I have not had time to get a report. This firm has agreed as to price, and will do their best to push these handles.
It has been contended that wood suitable for axe handles is not grown in the Commonwealth. On this point the Tariff Board publishes the following opinion : -
The tariff, as existing, has been of great benefit to the Queensland manufacturers, as is shown by the following figures: -
In addition, there is the indirect employment of timber-cutters, haulers, railway men, and others.
A lot of timber . is grown in the .Cairns electorate, and much of it is exported. Generally, axe handles are made from spotted gum, but mountain ash also is used for this purpose, its only defeat being that it is subject :to borer. It is a timber that will stand up to any amount of work, and will not break. That applies also bo spotted gum. One objection that may be .urged against it is that it is somewhat heavy; but that its strength is equal to that of either American hickory or any other timber cannot be denied. A large number of bush workers who cut for sawmills use this particular handle. I cannot understand why it should be suggested that American hickory is to be preferred -ou the ground of safety. A handle made from any wood may be broken in -splitting :a block of wood, because -of inability to use’ the axe properly. ‘The prejudice against other Aus- tralian products has been lived down, and time will effect a cure in this case. It would appear that there is a definite intention on the part of some persons) for what reason I cannot assume, to give a setback to this industry, which is of real value to Australia. I commend to honorable members who have any doubts concerning the accuracy of some of my statements about Queensland timbers a work on timbers and* forest products generally by Mr. Swain, who for some years was chairman of the Forestry Board in Queensland, and is a recognized authority on timbers. Mr. Swain makes it plain that timbers grown in Queensland and other parts of Australia are equal to any -produced in the world for the making of axe handles.
.- I support the request of the Senate. I spoke- on this item when it was under consideration in this chamber earlier this session, and subsequently the manufacturers of axe handles in Queensland sent an axe handle to my home. I must admit that it was a good article - far better than I. expected an Australian axe handle to be. I said in my previous speech on this subject that the South Australian people, if convinced that the Queensland products were as good as American hickory handles, would buy them. But, undoubtedly, the American hickory handle is better than the Australianmade handle, and although the latter is now suitable for the work for which it is intended, it is too heavily protected. The honorable member for /Richmond (Mr. R. Green) referred to the broad axe. This implement has a width of 12 inches, and is ground on only one side. Left-handed and right-handed axes are made and these require appropriate handles. If handles are not made for both right and left-handed use they must be bent into the desired shape. Extra good timber is needed for such handles. Even the honorable member had to admit that supplies of suitable Australian timber for the making of handles for broad axes were inadequate to our needs. The honorable gentleman referred to spotted gum, but I think that he would admit that many handles are made from inferior timber. The duty requested by the Senate is British, 3s., and foreign, 4s. 6d. a dozen. There is approximately three quarters of a superficial foot of timber in an axe handle. Taking timber at £2 10s. for 100 superficial- feet, the value of the timber in an axe handle is only a few pence. With the protection of 4£d. foreign now suggested, axe handles could be produced locally for about 5-£d. each, the protection amounting to the cost of manufacture. People who want American handles are compelled ‘ to pay 3s. 6d. each for them. I submit therefore that the protection now suggested is adequate, and I hope that the Senate’s request will be acceded to.
– The arguments of honorable members who seek a reduction of the duty on. axe handles are much more faulty than the timber from which’ Australian axe handles are being made. Honorable gentlemen opposing the existing duty are actuated by a desire to close down Australian industries, increase unemployment and reduce the spending power of the great consuming public of Australia. As a member of the Country party I value every industry that can be established here under reasonable conditions. Each new industry that we establish successfully gives employment to additional people and reduces public expenditure on unemployment relief. We have, timbers in Australia equal to the best in the world.
– Hear, hear!
– In the early stage of the manufacture of any article faults are bound to occur. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has interjected, found that the wooden ships that he bought in America were faulty. The loss that that transaction caused ito the public was far greater- than the loss involved in the purchase of a few faulty axe handles. I am prepared to go to the extent of prohibiting imports from the United States of America, for that country does not assist our primary industries in any way whatever. If food taken on board an American ship at an Australian port is not consumed before the ship reaches American waters, it must be dumped into the -sea outside the three-mile limit. Why, therefore, should we consider American industries. I am not concerned that American axe handles cost 3s. 6d. each, because no one can complain of the price of Australian handles. It has been demonstrated in the various woodchopping contests at the great national shows in Australia that Australian timbers are eminently suitable for the manufacture of axe handles, though I agree that some makers “ are using unsuitable timbers. Those opposing the existing duty undoubtedly hold freetrade views, and are continually seeking to make it difficult for the people of this country to achieve their legitimate industrial and commercial aspirations. We must develop our industries if this country, is to make progress. Unless substantial secondary industries are established here the great war lord who interjected would find it impossible to defend our shores. 1 shall oppose the Senates request because J believe that we should do everything possible to develop the great natural resources of this country.
.- lt, was quite unfair- for the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) to say that honorable members opposed to the existing duties on axe handles, and favoring the Senate’s request, wish to close down industries in this country. Nothing of the kind is desired. We are anxious that our industries shall be developed ou a sound basis. If Australian axe handles are as good as those imported from. America it is not likely that, the American article will be bought, for three Australian axe handles can be obtained for the price of one American handle. As the honorable membur for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has said, our skilled axemen need the best handles, and buy American hickory handles. Although the Tariff Board has reported” that certain Australian timbers are suitable for making axe handles, it has also said .that these timbers are not obtainable in commercial quantities. The honorable member’ for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) suggested that the test of an axe handle is its strength, but that is not so. Some Australian timbers arc among the hardest and strongest in the world. But an axe handle must have lightness combined with toughness. Unfortunately, some Australian axe handles are so heavy that it is hard to tell the end on which the head is fitted. That is a great objection. The following comments were made by the Tariff Board on the evidence submitted to it as to the relative quality of the Australian and American axe handles v -
The prices charged by local manufacturers of handles from native timbers are from onehalf to one-third of the lauded duty paid cost of imported handles. Despite this disparity, importations were at the rate of £19,000 per annum during IH30-31 and 1931-82. This is evidence of a definite demand - at almost any cost - for American hickory handles.
There can be. no question as to the superiority of hickory over other timbers for axe handles, sledge hammer handles, pick handles and the like. Its particular virtue is a combination of resiliency and toughness not found in other timbers which are available in commercial quantities. Timber experts and some of the local manufacturers admit the superiority of hickory; in fact, one local manufacturer is making axe handles from imported hickory.
In reply to the statements of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R’. Green) that Australian timber is available of a proper quality for the manufacture of axe handles, I direct attention to the following statement of the Tariff Board :-
During the last two years the New South Wales Forestry Commission has tested several New South Wales timbers for handle making. Good reports have been obtained in respect of axe handle wood, iron wood, and water gum, but supplies of these timbers are inadequate or inaccessible, except at heavy costs. Mr. N. W. Jolly, Forestry Commissioner, considers that although the species mentioned are not the equal of hickory, they are quite suitable for the manufacture of axe handles. . . . The board is convinced that there is no Australian timber available in commercial quantities to substitute for hickory for axe handles.
In these circumstances, the Government > is taking the right course in recommending acceptance of the Senate’s request. If the Australian handles are as good as the American handles, they will certainly be preferred, because of their comparative cheapness.
.- From the trend of this discussion, it appears to me that the Country party is extremely anxious to grind the freetrade axe even at the risk of destroying the Australian axe handle ‘manufacturing in-, dustry. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) quoted a petition from axemen presented by Mr.H. J. C. Beer, but while he was speaking, another honorable member said truly, that it is always possible to get persons to sign a petition. We should like to know who inspired the petition. Mr. Beer said that -
There is no timber available in commercial quantities in Australia’ which is suitable for thu manufacture of axe handles.
But it is stated in the Tariff Board’s report that -
A manufacturer now installing a plant in thu Dorrigo assures that he will have no difficulty in turning out ample supplies of handles nf water gum and ironwood.
That suggests, therefore, that Mr. Beer’s statement is hardly in accordance with the facts. Although the Tariff Board has said that sufficient quantities of suitable Australian wood are not available for the manufacture of first-class axe handles, it has not adduced any evidence to that effect. The evidence referred to in its report shows that plentiful supplies of suitable timber for this purpose are available. In quoting the evidence tendered by Mr. Beer, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) pointed out that a timber-feller standing on a staging fixed some distance from the ground might lose his life if the axe handle should break. I do not dispute that, but an American handle is as likely to break as is an Australian handle. In the making of axe handles, a great deal depends upon the cutting and quartering of the timber. It is not always profitable to quarter a log to get the grain to the best advantage for making axe and other tool handles; Some Australian axe handles may be faulty, but the same can be said of American handles. A good deal depends upon the nature of the timber; but even the very best of timbers, including hickory, if not cut and quartered in the proper way, will break as easily as pine or any other light timber. Greater risks can be taken with Australian spotted gum, in cutting and quartering it, than with any other tim’ber in the world. Oak and ash timbers have a distinct flat and edge grain, and if quartered iu the wrong way, are very brittle. Spotted gum has an interwoven grain, which makes it more dependable than many other timbers which have been so highly spoken of to-night. In giving evidence before the board, one witness stated that as a professional axeman he had used
Australian axe handles in bush work for the last two years, and had also used Australian handles in all the heats and iu the final of the wood chopping contest, at the Royal Sydney Show, which he won. That man found the Australian spotted gum handle entirely satisfactory. The Railway Department of New ‘South Wales uses large quantities of handles made in Australia, and the Victorian Railway Department finds that Australianmade pick handles meet all its requirements. Orders for large supplies would not be lodged with the Australian manufacturers unless the timber from which the handles are made is serviceable-. The New South Wales and Victorian Railway Departments obtain expert evidence as to the durability of the Australian-made handles, and if they were not up to standard, the local manufacturers would not continue to receive contracts from the New South Wales and. Victorian Governments for the supply of large quantities. It appears to me that the Tariff Board does not always make its recommendations in accordance with the evidence submitted. There are indications that, in regard to supplies of Australian timber, the board has been guided by prejudice against Australian manufacture, rather than by the actual evidence tendered. The board states that in some respects the Australian timbers are not as suitable as are the American timbers for the manufacture of axe handles; bin I see nothing in the evidence to justify its conclusion that suitable timbers are not available in sufficient quantities. In these circumstances, the committee should oppose the Senate’s request in order to afford adequate protection to this Australian industry.
.- Axes are admitted free of duty, but axe handles, which have to be replaced more frequently, are carrying an exorbitant duty. When I was in S’outh Australia two months ago, an axeman whom I have known for years thanked me for putting the case for the axemen to enable them to get cheaper handles. He also said that he had ‘been in hospital for a -fortnight as a result of using an Australian-made axe handle. I refer the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) to the figures quoted by the honorablemember for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), who said that, in spite of the fact that Australian axe handles can be obtained at from one-third to one-half of the price of hickory handles, £19,000 worth of the latter are imported annually. This sum represents nearly 400,000 axe handles. No one denies that Australian axe handles have been used successfully at wood-chopping competitions, but surely we should be guided rather by the fact that the axemen in this country use, each year, 400,000 imported hickory handles in spite of the excessive cost of these handles. We must also remember that in the tests made in Victoria by Mr. Galbraith new handles were used. Most of the Australian handles, even when not in use, deteriorate by drying to a greater extent than a hickory handle. The old duty, exchange, primage and transport costs aggregate 120 per cent. The duty of 45 per cent. recommended by the Tariff Board, which the Government is prepared to accept, will be supplemented by exchange 25 per cent., primage 10 per cent., and transport costs 20 per cent., making a total of 100 per cent. against American handles. If the Australian industry cannot compete under those conditions, those who are supporting its cause must admit that it is inefficient or is lacking in good material. The old rate of duty meant an unnecessary burden of 1s. 6d. to 2s. on each handle, and unduly penalized the users. I support the Senate’s request.
.- I have listened to the arguments adduced by honorable members, but I have not heard anything to cause meto alter the vote I gave when this item was last under consideration. Accidents have occurred to the users of both American and Australian axes, but we must protect those who use axes for domestic work and who probably outnumber all other users. As I believe that the industry is quite capable of carrying on successfully with lower duties, I shall support the Senate’s request.
.- In view of the statements made by some honorable members since I last spoke on thi3 item, I propose to quote from the summary of evidence tendered to the Tariff Board. On page 7 of the board’s report the following paragraph appears : -
Mr. Beer, the President of the Victorian Axemen’s Association, states -
Broad axes are used extensively in Australia for squaring sleepers, poles, &c., and the handles used in that type of axe are sold in two styles - right hand and left hand. As far as is known, there is no one in Australia making this type of handle, and yet a duty of15 per cent. is imposed.
Mr. Beer does not know what he is talking about, because right hand aud left hand axes are made only in Australia. In many instances, sleeper-cutters and timbergetters using imported handles have to steam and bend them to get the shape required. Mr. Gates, giving evidence before the Tariff Board, said that no Australian timber that is available in commercial quantities can compare with hickory for axe handles and with beech for other tool handles. He makes that bald statement and expects us to believe it. On page 10 of its report the Tariff Board comments on the suitability of Australian timbers for tool handles in the following terms : -
During the last two years the New South Wales Forestry Commission has tested several New South Wales timbers for handle making. Good reports have been obtained in respect of axe-handle wood (Pseudomorous brunoniana ) , ironwood(Metrosideros leptopatala) and water gum (Tristama laurina), but supplies of these timbers are inadequate or inaccessible, except at heavy costs.
Had the members of the commission, or its advisers, visited the country between Kyogle and the Queensland border they would have been convinced that sufficient supplies of suitable timber are available, for in that area there are sufficient water gums to supply Australia’s requirements of axe handles for a great many years. Already there is one factory in the district making tool handles and there is scope for many more. A further paragraph on the same page of the Board’s report reads -
Timber -getters and bushmen require axe handles of the highest quality; their occu- pation is hazardous and their safety is endangered by the use of handles of poor or doubtful quality.
All the prize-winners in the woodchopping contests at the last Brisbane national show used axes with Australian handles; and all the major prizes at the last Royal Melbourne show were won by axemen using Australian axe handles.
– Is that not an argument for lowering the duty ?
– No. The main argument used against Australian axe bandies is that they are unsuitable and inferior to those made of American hickory. If we were to prohibit the importation of American hickory for three years, the prejudice against Australian timbers would disappear, and the people would realize the value of some of our own timbers. I hope that the committee will not agree to the Senate’s request.
– Whenever the duties on ‘ timber have been under discussion in this chamber a fight has had to be waged on behalf of our native timbers. Time after time the quality of our pines and other woods has been questioned. Opponents outside this chamber of our native timbers have concentrated on the argument that, whatever their uses, they ara unsuitable for making axe handles. There has been a strong prejudice against Australian timbers. The Tariff Board’s report reveals the gradual breakdown of this prejudice. The reportstates -
Tool handles of wood had been manufactured in Australia for more than 30 years. Particulars of Australian output over a long period are not available, but the inference that local manufacturers- have gradually been capturing the local trade may be drawn from the following table of importations during the last seven years: -
Then follows a table showing that the value of the importations dropped from £84,998 in 1925-26 to £13,853 in 1931-32. This proves that the prejudice against Australian axe handles is gradually disappearing. Unfortunately,, some Australians are biased against any product of their own country; they prefer goods grown or manufactured in other countries. This building itself is proof that Australia has many magnificent and useful timbers. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that Australian axe handles will not endure as well as the imported handles.
– I did not say that; I. said that a protection of 100 per cent, should be. sufficient.
– The honorable member said that local axe handles would not stand the Australian climate. In this connexion it is interesting to read in the Tariff Board’s report the sworn evidence of Mr. M. B. Foley, a professional axeman, of Limeburners’ Creek, New South Wales -
He has used American hickory handles, but did not find them better than the spatted gum handles. He found that the American hickory handle will not stand the weather like the Australian, and, if left out, will be all mildewed and sun-cracked.
Ample evidence was tendered to the board to enable it to judge of the value of Australian timbers. Complaint is also made that suitable timber is not available in . commercial quantities for making axe handles. In this connexion the following extract from the Tariff Board’s report of the evidence of Mr. M. W. Jolly, Forestry Commissioner, Forestry Commission, Sydney, is of interest: -
As regards high-grade handles for axes and sledge hammers, the position is, however, somewhat different, not necessarily because suitable timbers are not available, .but, apparently, because manufacturers have concentrated more on lower-grade handles for domestic use.
Honorable members who believe in protecting industries which are natural to this country should vote for the protection of enterprises which use Australian timbers. We should do what we can to support secondary production which draws on the natural resources of the Commonwealth for its raw materials.
Question - That the requested amendment be made - put. The committee divided. (‘Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Fancy goods, viz.: -
Senates request -
Amend sub-item to make it -
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This is not an important matter. The request made by the Senate affects beads only, and its purpose is to remove certain anomalies, and to facilitate the passage of goods through the customs. Frequently it is necessary for customs officials to open consignments of such goods and examine them in order to determine under which rate of duty they shall be admitted. This occasions delay and irritation to importers.
Motion agreed to.
Fancy goods, viz. : -
Articles for personal wear, not including articles partly or wholly of gold silver or other precious metal or imitations thereof or partly or wholly of pearls or precious stones or imitations thereof, via : - Brooches, bangles, necklets n.e.i., studs, sleeve links and tie clips, ad valorem, British, 35 per cent.; general, 60 per cent.
Senate’s request -
Amend sub-item to make it -
Articles for personal wear, not including articles partly or wholly of gold silver or . other precious metal or imitations thereof or partly or wholly of pearls or precious stones or imitations thereof,, viz. : - Brooches, bangles, studs, sleeve links and tie clips, ad valorem, British, 35 per cent.: general,60 per cent.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This alteration is consequential on the amendment made to sub-item 309 b. Its purpose is to remove anomalies in customs administration, and to permit of simplification, of the schedules and classification.
Motion, agreed to.
Imitation reconstructed and synthetic precious stones and pearls, undrilled and unset; cultured pearls, unset, ad valorem, British, free; general, 20 per cent.
Senate’s request -
Amend item to make it - 310. - Imitation reconstructed and synthetic precious stones and peaids, unset (not being beads) : cultured pearls, unset, ad valorem, British, free; general, 20 per cent.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This is another consequential amendment, and is designed to ensure that certain beads at present admitted under this item shall be dutiable under item 309 b.
Motion agreed to.
Item 318- (a)…..
Senate’s request -
Insert new paragraph - (5). - pigeonflying time recording clocks, ad valorem, British, free; general, free.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
At the present time, these clocks are classified as time registers or detectors, and as such are dutiable. The request is that they be admitted duty free. The matter is not of verygreat importance to either the revenue, local manufacturers, or British manufacturers. The British Senior Trade Commissioner in Australia advisesthat these time recording clocks are manufactured in the United Kingdom, but his department in London does not wish to press for the application of the formula margin of preference stipulated in the Ottawa agreement. The New Zealand tariff specially lists these clocks as free of duty from all countries. They are not made in Australia. The clocks are specially constructed to record automatically the time of arrival of homing pigeons, and the present duty is regarded as an unnecessary impost.
Motion agreed to.
Records for gramophone, phonographs aud other talking machines and materials for use in the manufacture of records: -
Senate’s request. -
Leave out -
(1) - “ or ad valorem, British, 35 per cent.; general 50 per cent. whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Insert new paragraph - ” (a) (2) Discs over six inches in diametereach. British,1s.; general,1s.6d.”. Re-number paragraphs 4, 5, and 6.
Motion (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That the requested amendment be made.
.- This request is in accordance with a recommendation of tho Tariff Board. If the request is agreed to, the effect on item 319 a, as it appears in the schedule will be as follows: -
Paragraph 1. - Alternative ad valorem rates deleted.
Paragraph 2. - Extended to include records at present covered by paragraph 3. Specific rates reduced from1s.9d. to1s. each, British, and from 2s. 3d. to1s.6d. each, general, and alternative advalorem rates deleted.
Paragraph 3. - Paragraph deleted.
Paragraphs 4, 5 and6. -No alteration beyond renumbering the paragraphs to 3, 4 and 5.
In support of its recommendation, the Tariff Board states that, under the duty of ls. recommended under the British preferential rate, with exchange normal and without primage duty, records produced by the English companies associated with Columbia Gramophone (Australia) Limited would land at prices substantially higher than the local manufacturers’ selling prices, while, in the case of the cheapest record mentioned during the board’s inquiry, the landed price would be higher than either the factory or wholesale selling price of similar Australian records. It is believed that the local industry is adequately protected. Records of over 16 inches in diameter are not manufactured in Australia, and are not being produced abroad. A duty of ls. each on records represents an ad valorem rate of 155 per cent. on records priced overseas at 7d. f.o.b., and of 35 per cent. on records with an f.o.b. value of 2s. 7d. each. As the majority of records are priced somewhere between those two figures, there is no necessity to retain the alternative ad valorem rates, and the amendment will make for simplification.
.- I congratulate the Minister upon this amendment, especially as it will make for simplification. Many difficulties such as the counting and valuing of records will now be overcome, because it will not be necessary to determine the value of the records in order to assess them at the duty which will return the greatest revenue.
.- Can the Minister give honorable members any idea of the number of records made in Australia as compared with those imported ? Is he sure that the local industry is receiving sufficient protection?
– I have not the figures relating to the number of records imported and manufactured locally, but I assure the honorable member that the industry is well established in this country, and is efficient and up to date. The records are made from imported steel matrices, and the duties recommended by the Tariff Board should be sufficient to protect the local industry.
Motion agreed to.
Item 320- (c)
Exposed or developed films -
Other negative film and other film imported for purposes of copying, per lineal foot- British, free; general,1s.
Senate’s request -
Make the duty, per lineal foot - general, 4d..
Add new clause to sub-paragraph (c) -
Motion (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That the requested amendment be made with the following modification: -
Instead of “per lineal foot,. 4d.”, read “ per lineal foot, 8d.”, and that, with regard to clause (4), it be made to date on and after 14th October, 1932.
.- The duty oncertain foreign films was increased some time ago from 4d. to1s. a foot. This amendment to the schedule was rejected by a large majority in theSenate, and the item has now been returned to us with the request that the old duty of 4d. a foot be restored. In the meantime, there has been a good deal of propaganda by interests concerned, and not all of it has been quite fair. Letters have been sent to members of Parliament, and articles have appeared in trade journals in which the Government has been subjected to attacks. Anattempt has also been made to exert pressure on the Government through the newspapers. The Government always tries to hold the scales fairly between all interests concerned, to promote the greatest amount of development in Australia, while following, as far as possible, the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and to hold the balance evenly between primary and secondary producers. The duties on films were primarily imposed for revenue purposes. When the duty on foreign feature films was increased to 4d. a foot, the revenue dropped materially, because importers, instead of bringing in six or eight copies of a film, brought in only one, and had the other copies made in Australia. This was all very well for the Australian industry, which flourished under these conditions, but there was a serious loss of revenue to the Commonwealth. In an effort to get back this revenue, the duty was raised to ls. a foot. However, the Senate has refused to accept the increase, and the Government, after considerable thought, proposes a compromise at 8d. a foot.
– It must have been very good propaganda.
– Unlike the honorable member, the Government is not influenced by propaganda, but it has been influenced by the fact that the Senate will not agree to a duty of ls. a foot. Although the Government will not obtain as much revenue as it anticipated, it will receive considerably more than under the rate of “4d. a foot. I am not altogether satisfied with the methods adopted by certain interests in the film world, who caused a panic among small exhibitors by telling them that they would be penalized as the result of the changes proposed by the Government. I believe that action, should te taken to inquire into all the ramifications of the industry. It would be beneficial if the States transferred their powers in this regard to the Commonwealth, so that this Parliament may be able to legislate on all phases of the iudustry, including production, distribution and exhibition. Honorable members may not be aware that the Commonwealth has, on several occasions, invited the States to transfer their powers, but so far that has not been done. The industry is particularly one that lends itself to federal control. It may be possible to introduce a quota system, but I do not recommend it ‘until further investigation has been made. The Government has done its part to assist the industry by admitting British films free, and their increasing use and steady improvement -are tributes to the policy_ of this and of other governments.
I, therefore, urge the committee to agree to the duty of 8d. a foot on foreign feature films. Other foreign films will still be admitted at 4d. a foot, while British films will be free.
.- I have been interested to listen to the Minister’s explanation, particularly having regard to the following passage in a letter which he wrote on the 12th June, 1933 :-
If the objects of the recent amendment are achieved it will merely result in the restoration of the revenue to the former figure, and the burden of duty on film importers will not be greater than it was prior to the change in their practices.
In conclusion, I would add that the whole matter has been very carefully considered, and the duties now in force represent the final decision of the Government.
That letter was written after a deputation had waited on the Minister, and I pre sume that he again placed the matter before Cabinet. I do not blame him for changing his opinion about this duty if further evidence showed that the increase of the rate to ls. a foot was too great, which was what really happened. When he introduced that amendment on the 30th March last, he said it would have the effect of making positive films dutiable at the negative rate, if used for copying purposes. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked what effect the amendment would have on laboratory work, and the Minister replied that it should provide an increased amount of work for the Australian film-printing industry, and bring in revenue that was previously lost. I find, however, that instead of resulting in additional work in the laboratories, it would probably cause reduced importations of films of the cheaper kinds, and unemployment in an industry that was built up under the reasonable measure of protection imposed by. the Scullin’ Government. The Bruce-Page Government increased the rate from l£d. to 3d. a foot in 1929, but I shall not elaborate upon the consequences of that action, and the way in which it was received throughout the Commonwealth. In June, 1930, the Scullin Government, faced with a deficit of £10,000,000, and a prospective deficit for the next year of £20,00,000, increased the duty from 3d. to 4d. a foot for a twofold purpose. It was thought at the time that additional revenue would be obtained and that a local film-printing industry would be established. On the Sth March the Minister referred in these words to the amendment then made -
These are the increases imposed on negative and soft positive cinematograph films. . . . It has recently become the practice to import a negative or soft positive copy only, and to print the whole of the Australian requirements from this. Previously five or six positive copies of a film were imported, but, with the increase in the rate of duty from 2Jd. to 4d. per foot on foreign films, there began the importation of only one negative copy of each film, and revenue returns progressively contracted as this practice grew.
Protective duties usually result in a reduction of imports and a consequent reduction of revenue, but they also lead to the establishment of Australian industries; -In most instances employment is given to large numbers of persons, who, in turn, are able to pay income tax and provide employment for others. When the duty of 4d. a foot was imposed, it resulted in the establishment in Australia of a filmprinting industry, which gives employment to-day to about 150 persons. The Minister has now reconsidered the whole matter, and he thinks that a reasonable compromise will be reached if the duty of ls. a foot is reduced to 8d., but, in my opinion, seeing that the Opposition cannot force the Government to revert to a duty of 4d. a foot, a fair compromise would be 6d. a foot. I move -
That the proposed modification he amended by omitting; the rate “ 8d. “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the rate “’ Od.”.
We should inquire what effect the proposed increase of duty would have on the local film-printing industry. The Minister stated previously that it would lead to increased employment, but I have a letter from Mr. S. J. Bryan, general secretary of the- Queensland branch of the Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees Union, Trades Hall, Brisbane”, as follows : -
I have been directed to request your support of the Senate’s proposed reduction oi duty on films from ] S. to 4d. per foot. The union is of opinion that the higher rate of duty will lead to increased prices of admission and thereby cause a decrease in attendances at picture shows and increase unemployment amongst our members.
– That industry is totally different from that of film printing.
– But the Minister is aware that the distributors pass on to the exhibitors any additional impost which they may have to meet. Bearing on that matter, I have a letter from the Queensland motion picture exhibitors, who state -
In the film contracts used by all the distributors there is a “zero” or “index” date fix,ed as at 31st July, 1030, and it is mentioned in a clause, which is practically a sweeping and comprehensive indemnity in their favour, against any increase of duty, excise, taxes, charges or impositions of any kind that may bc levied by the Federal or any State Government after that date, in connexion with the importation, delivery, lease, hire, exhibition or use of films. The responsibility for these is passed on to the exhibitors.
The exhibitors fear that under this clause in their contract the burden of the extra duty will be passed on to them, as has always been their experience in the past. I am advised that this prac-tie will be followed in the present instance. The picture showmen have had a very lean time. Mr. W. Harrop, the secretary of the Australian Theatrical Employees Union, Sydney, has written to me as follows : -
We hasten to lot you have the union’s considered views on the question of thu Government’s intention to increase the duty of film from 4d. to ls. per foot.
Permit me to point out that since the depression our members have suffered wage reductions amounting to 30 per cent., this in an industry consisting of employers who are always ready to pay fair and reasonable wages. Unfortunately, business has been so bad over the last three years that no profits. have been made by picture proprietors, therefore, they were forced to take advantage of any wage reduction that caine along, and to reduce staff to a minimum. Mention is made of this fact to prove that we have no reason for putting forward .views that are not believed by us.
The union had me visit Canberra to confer with Colonel White, for the purpose of having the duty reduced. Our representations went for naught. We believe that should the Government insist upon the ls. per foot duty, it will have the effect of a .serious reduction in the importation of films into the Commonwealth, with the result that many of the theatres in industrial ureas will reduce the number of their screening nights, thereby lessoning the employment of our members. Then again, thu Minister for Customs, some time back stated through the press that the duty would only mean a difference to the exhibitors of 15s. per feature. As exhibitors use at least 208 films each year, it will seem from the Minister’s own figure!! that it is a considerable sum to place upon theatres that have been showing losses for tinpast three years.
Another point worth mentioning is. when you increased the duty on film up to ‘Id. per foot, it created a duplicating industry which employs about 150 hands. Any falling off in the importation of films will seriously hamper this now industry that has spent many thousands of pounds on machinery, &c.
Our union depends entirely on the picture side of the industry, the legitimate stage having fallen down to a very low ebb. Therefore, it is most essential that Australia should allow to enter as much film as possible, without which, competition will become so keen among the exhibiting combine on the one hand, and suburban and country exhibitors on the other, which must have the effect of closing down many struggling showmen who will not be able to pay the film hire that will be demanded.
To back up my statement that there will bc less’ importation of film if the ls. per foot duty remain, it can be pointed out that certain kinds of films, such as westerns, and gangster pictures which go hig in industrial districts, is of no value to middle-class districts, with the result that they are not booked. The film hire generally received for these pictures throughout Australia is about £1,000, and does not at present show a profit; therefore, if the duty is raised 200 per cent., it will not be profitable to import.
The union, by resolution of a general meeting, directed its officials to co-operate with the exhibitors and distributors in the fight to reduce the duty, believing as we do, any further burdens placed upon picture theatre proprietors will mean a further cutting of the staff to enable them to meet their obligations. During my visits to theatres of late, I discovered in many of them, that the wife and family of the employer have replaced our members. When questioned as to the reason for the move, they proved by their books that even the few shillings saved was necessary to keep the theatre open.
– That has nothing to do with the film-printing industry.
– The printing industry is a very small part of the business; but it has a great deal to do with the cost of the exhibitors’ section, which employs 25,000 persons in different parts of Australia. If the extra 4d. a foot adds to their costs and prevents the screening of the cheaper class of films for which there is a demand in certain areas which cannot afford star features, it will certainly affect the finances of picture theatres in those areas. I place more reliance on what the unions say about employment than I do on what the Minister says on the subject.
. - I feel sure that the committeewill accept the compromise that has been proposed by the Government as perfectly fair and reasonable. Stripped of the extraneous matter that has been imported into the debate by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the facts are that the duty of 4d. a foot on foreign films was designed to bring in a revenue of approximately £177,000 per annum. Honorable members must bear in mind that British films are not affected. In an endeavour to defeat the purpose of the Government, the Australian representatives of American film companies limited their imports to one copy of each film and established a company in this country to reproduce copies from the original. The result was that the, duty collected from the impost was £56.000, instead of £177,000, per annum.
– The reproduction company has provided additional employment to Australians.
– The only defence of the action of the American film companies is that it has provided additional employment. I shall deal with that later. The Scullin Government and the country generally believed that the duty of 4d. a foot on foreign films was a reasonable one. Personally, I am in favour of imposing a duty of 1 s. a foot on imported foreign films ; that would bring in a revenue of some £130,000 per annum,and at the present rates of imports the film organizations would still be £47,000 better off than was originally intended. However, the Government has agreed to a compromise of 8d. a foot, which should produce £95,000 per annum. I suggest that the committee should accept the proposal readily; it will inflict no hardship on American film companies, as it will exact a much smaller revenue than those concerns could reasonably be expected to pay.
A good deal has been said about the company that has been formed for the duplication of films. According to the latest available figures, it is a flourishing concern, having paid its shareholders something like 40 per cent. on their investment last year. That company will not suffer as a result of the suggested impost, particularly in view of the fillip that has recently been given to the production of Australian films.
– Is the company financed with American capital?
– It is an offspring of American companies. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed that the proposed duty will affect picture showmen. Honorable members know that the filmdistributing companies impose the most exacting conditions upon showmen, in some cases demanding 60 per cent. of their gross takings.
– Will the additional duty alter that?
– It will not. That is a matter that might reasonably be dealt with on another occasion. My submission is that a duty of 8d. a foot on foreign films “will provide a fair and reasonable return to thu Consolidated Revenue without inflicting hardship upon what is now a flourishing industry.
No other industry has ever attempted to bring to bear upon this Parliament such pressure as has been exerted by the foreign film companies through the press, the unions,i and the exhibitors’ associations, and by letters to senators. Honorable members should resist such tactics, and prove to the community that they have no effect on this National Parliament, which intends to persist in doing its duty to the people of Australia irrespective of the machinations and intimidatory methods of foreign film companies.
– I endorse the remarks of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) regarding the propaganda which has been indulged in by American film companies. Most of it had an inaccurate basis. These concerns have distributed circulars among country picture showmen claiming that the proposed increase of the duty on films to ls. a foot would ruin them, and i adversely affect the industry generally. The figures circulated were brought under my notice by some country picture show proprietors, and, when I first read them, I felt that the claim was a fail” one. However, I discovered that the American film companies were deliberately misleading picture show proprietors by applying to individual sections figures that rightly applied to the whole industry. I resent such tactics, which are deliberately designed to mislead.
I also resent the statement of the Deputy Leader of t]] e Opposition (Mr. Forde) that the classes of picture most’ desired, by picture-goers in industrial suburbs are the sensational western dramas and gangster films. I sincerely hope that I misinterpreted his remarks.
– I was quoting from a letter written by the secretary of a union stating the experience of picture showmen in different centres. It . was not my opinion.
– It is regrettable that any honorable member should quote, apparently with approval, extracts from a communication that . mis represents the tastes of persons living in industrial suburbs. It is an insult to the intelligence of those who attend picture shows, no matter in what suburb they live, to -claim that they delight in witnessing trashy, distasteful, and destructive films of the “ wild west “ and “ gangster “ variety. “We should be doing a great service to the community, and particularly to the rising generation in industrial suburbs, if we placed a prohibition on the importation of such films. It is a tragedy that they are permitted entry.
– The high duty tended to keep them out.
– Is there not a film censorship board?
– Yes, which deals only with certain features of films. Every honorable member has left picture shows in disgust after witnessing “ wild west “ and “ gangster “ films. I say definitely, if we caused those films to be burnt, instead of merely taxing them, we should be doing a great service to Australia.
– It has been suggested that the imposition of the duty now proposed by the Minister will lead to an increase of the hire charges paid .by the exhibitors, and involve higher charges of admission. I. would point out that when the distributors evaded the payment *of duty to the amount of some £120,000 per annum by importing negatives and having -them copied in Australia, they did not reduce their rates to the exhibitors. What effect will this increased duty have upon the costs of the exhibitors? In the first place, British films enter Australia duty free, and 30 per cent, of all films shown in Australia to-day are British. In addition topical films, scenic films, travel talks,’ serials, and short films of 2,000 feet or less, are exempt from this increased duty. Only foreign feature films of considerable length are affected. In all probability an average of less than one film exhibited at each programme will be affected by this increased duty. The average length’ of a foreign feature film is about 6,000 feet, and in respect of that film the increased duty of 4d. a foot would involve an extra cost to the dis- tributor of £100. The average number of prints or copies made in Australia of one negative is from six to eight. Therefore the increased duty would involve an additional cost of £12 10s. a copy, which cost will be spread over several hundred exhibitors throughout a State. Under those circumstances, is it conceivable that the added cost would be passed on to the exhibitors, particularly in view of the fact that they obtained no benefit whatever from the action of the distributors in evading these duties previously? Is it conceivable .that the added cost of £12 10s. a picture film, spread over three or four hundred theatres - about 6d. a theatre - would lead to increased admission charges? That suggestion is absolutely ridiculous. I consider that the proposal of the Government is entirely fair, because it is merely endeavouring to recoup a small portion - less than half - of the revenue which it lost as a result of foreign negatives being copied in Australia. There is no justification whatever for an increase of the already high rates to the exhibitors, and surely much less ground to assume that these increased duties will lead to higher charges for admission.
.- Unlike the . Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) I am not at all perturbed about the pressure that has been brought to bear by foreign film interests, because pressure is usually exerted on honorable members when fiscal matters are being discussed. I am concerned more with the position of the people who earn their livelihood in the motion picture industry, and I suggest that even at the risk of losing a little revenue we should give every encouragement to a new industry which has been established in Australia for the copying of negatives. Honorable members have been approached, not only by the American film representatives and the exhibitors here, but also by the theatrical employees.
– The honorable member should not forget that the action of the local exhibitor has been prompted by the distributor.
– The honorable member’s statement is not proof of that. The Scullin Government increased the duty on films from lid. to 4d. a- foot, and as a result a new and important section of the motion picture industry - the reproduction of films - was established in Australia. At the present time, the film industry is one of the greatest industries in the United States of America and we should do all in our power to encourage the industry in Australia even if it means the loss of a certain amount of revenue. “We have to decide whether it is of more importance to Australia to regain revenue which has previously been lost because of the establishment of this industry, or to continue to lose that revenue in order to encourage the development of the industry. If an additional sum of £95,000 is extracted from the film interests in Australia, the tax will be passed on to the exhibitors, who will have to bear the additional cost themselves, or pass it on to their patrons. The picture theatres give employment to many thousands of people in Australia. The exhibitors have been hard ‘hit by the depression. The reduced purchasing power of the community has affected their audiences to such an extent as to force them to reduce their admission charges, and as a result their turnover has been considerably reduced. I have received the following communication from the Theatrical Employees Union : -
May we mention the fact that ah industry has been created in Australia for the purpose of duping nlms from negatives and employs about 150 hands. As the negatives are the raw material necessary for the continuation of this new branch of industry created, we can see no justification for a 200 per cent: increase in duty, Should the duty be increased it will mean a considerable decrease of importation of films into the Commonwealth, as the film distributors will not import western and other unprofitable films, which will mean the closing down in some districts of theatres from the usual six screening nights, to one or two each week. It will further have the effect of increasing film hire to the exhibitors who are not in a position to stand any further costs in the running of their theatres. It becomes necessary for the successful running of the picture industry, to import as much film as possible into the Commonwealth, as you will realize pictures that please some’ districts would bc hooted in others, so we are anxious iti the interests at the whole industry that no further burdens be placed upon it.
I have also received from the Exhibitors Association, the following communication in which, they request us to oppose this increased duty on films: -
Yon will be able to ascertain in your particular district just what hardships the picture theatre proprietors are suffering through sadly-depleted attendances caused mainly by the depression, and we can honestly say there is not a suburban or country exhibitor in Ohe business to-day who is making a profit. lt follows, therefore, that any increase in duty which through- the film contracts becomes automatically passed on to the exhibitor, will only serve to further hamper exhibitors in the balancing of their budgets.
As honorable members have professed to be so concerned about the balancing of budgets, they should give some consideration to the unenviable position in which the exhibitors- of films in this country will be placed as a result of this increase of duty. It is generally admitted that this additional impost of £95,000 will be passed on to the exhibitor, and the question is whether he can pass it on any further. If he attempts to do so by an increase of the admission charge, his audiences will become depleted and he will be forced to close down his theatres partially or wholly with a. consequent diminution, of work for the theatrical employees. , Some honorable members have endeavoured to bring into this issue the merits of British films as ‘against those of American films, but I am not particularly concerned about that. I should like to see the film industry established in. Australia on sound commercial lines. Exhibitors have to cater for the public. . We have had no evidence that the exhibitors would not give a preference to British films over American films. The truth is that the British moving picture industry has not developed to anything like the extent of its American rival. Consequently, if the people who patronize picture shows still have a preference for American films then, in the long run, they will get them or will cease to attend picture houses. If the duty on foreign films is raised to such a level that Australian exhibitors will be forced to screen other and cheaper pictures, attendances will dwindle, exhibitors will eventually be driven out of business, and unemployment in the theatrical industry will increase. The duty imposed by the Scullin Government had the effect of bringing into being an important branch of the moving picture industry in Aus- tralia. Let us not, by this attempt to secure a little more revenue from the American film industry, do anything that is likely to injure the Australian end of the moving picture business.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has told the committee that patrons of moving pictures would get what films they wanted ; that Australian exhibitors would give it to them. I doubt that the honorable member was strictly accurate on that point, because, as all who have any knowledge of the industry know, picture patrons of this country have to take what is given to them. Australian exhibitors are so tied up by their contracts that they are not altogether free under their contracts to reject unsuitable films. They are practically forced to screen the pictures sent to them. The position in this respect is so serious that, as the Minister has indicated, it will have to be considered from all its aspects.
– In Victoria exhibitors have the right of rejection.
– In one case the hirer had to agree to sign for the whole of the prod.net of the exchange with which the contract was made for. one year, and if any film was not up to standard he had to pay for it even if he .did not screen it. The honorable member for Dalley spoke of the serious position that has arisen in connexion with the production of Australian films. It is suggested that Australian pictures are being used as a bait to promote the sale of imported films. One exhibitor desiring to show an Australian picture, was informed by the exchange that by contracting for a considerable number of programmes he would gain the advantage of being able to exhibit the special pictures handled by that exchange. The existing form of contracts offers no assurance to the Australian moving picture industry. This is a matter which should bo closely investigated.
– The same thing is happening in Great Britain. Exhibitors there are. being forced to screen English pictures in preference to Australian films.
– I can understand that in Great Britain there is a growing preference for the screening of British pictures.
I mention this iu the hope that, when a further investigation is being made, it will receive attention. If the Government decides to award prizes for the production of Australian films, precautions must be taken to safeguard exhibitors from being hampered in their business by the inclusion in their contracts of any extraneous provisions. They should be given a fair chance to show Australian pictures to Australian people. Then there is the further question of percentages, which presses heavily on country exhibitors. On one picture an exhibitor was asked to pay to the exchange 60 per cent, of his gross takings, leaving only 40 per cent, to the showman. I believe that the Minister is trying to act fairly to all interests concerned, and that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) correctly stated the position to-hight. At all events, he satisfied me that I would be justified in supporting the proposed modification of the Senate’s request.
– The most serious features of the moving-picture industry in Australia have been mentioned by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) and the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom). Judging by what has been said in this discussion, we appear to be in danger of doing the wrong thing in a futile effort to “ get at “ the people who are the real cause of all the trouble. It must be apparent to everybody that American producers are fleecing the people of this country through the film exchanges, and that our efforts to impose taxation on them through the tariff will be absolutely futile because of the rigidity of the contracts made between the distributors and exhibitors. I agree with the Postmaster-General that a searching inquiry should be made into every aspect of the moving-picture business, with a view to making it possible for the Australian industry to compete on reasonable terms with American producers. But the Government proposal will not do this, although I am afraid that many honorable members who will vote for it think that it will. My fear now is that, because our minds are prejudiced against, the American film industry - and I think rightly so, because I believe it is fleecing exhibitors in Australia and destroying all possibility of profit for the local industry - we shall not be able to take effective action against it through the tariff. We may think that we can, iu this way, impose some taxation upon American trusts and combines, but I am afraid we shall not succeed, and that in the meantime we may injure the Australian moving picture industry, which is already in a shocking condition. The number of positives imported will not be affected, no matter how the duty may fluctuate. The increased duty will have to be borrie wholly by the exhibitor, who employs Australian labour, not by the distributor, who, I believe, is allied with the American produce]-. My concern is for the Australian workers in the industry, who, numerically, are the biggest, factor. The employees engaged in the multiplication of films in New South Wales are all members of the typographical association, and their knowledge of the .technical side of the industry is not inferior to that of even the directors of big film corporations. They fear, not a diminution of profits, but the dismissal of a number of hands, or an application to the Arbitration Court for the reduction of award rates. If greater taxation is imposed in the hope that some of it will be passed on to the American producer, and that is not the result, more harm than good will be done. I consider that 6d. a foot would be a fairer duty than Sd., and I shall support it.
– I offer no objection to the dissemination of propaganda among members of Parliament by moving picture distributors. Propaganda is practised in connexion with almost every item of the tariff, and we should adopt an extraordinary attitude were we to take exception to it in this case. That which I have seen appears to me to be harmless.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) spoke of pressure on exhibitors. Some months ago, certain exhibitors in my electorate brought under my notice circular letters that were issued by the distributors, which, in one or two cases, urged that the facts mentioned should be placed before the federal member for the district, and that his support should be enlisted. I cannot see anything objectionable in that. Some years ago when the Bruce-Page Government increased the duty on fibm the methods adopted by the moving picture industry generally were most reprehensible. Tdrere was then a trial of strength between the” Commonwealth Parliament and the- distributors and exhibitors: Many of tlie5 exhibitors employed’ the most undesirable tactics to compass the- defeat of members’who voted for the increased duty;: but the victory that they gained did not benefit them, becatise the succeeding Go^ vernment imposed a still higher duty.. I believe that the moving picture interest’s have now realized that they are not politically powerful, and that they gain nothing by applying coercive measures’ to members of the National Parliament. If it is necessary to- impose duties to obtain revenue, that action will be’taken despite political pressure against it. If- appears to me that the industry is’ approaching the question to-day in a chastened spirit, and I doubt whether it will again attempt to smash a government, or to bring about the defeat of members who do what’ they conceive to be their duty to the whole of the people. In the present instance, my sympathies are entirely with the industry, and I unhesitatingly support the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). To my mind, the Government has not a strong case; and it is largely buttressed with prejudice against ‘the American industry. I admit that, until recently, the American picture interests had practically unchecked freedom in Australia. To-day, however, they are up against worid competition, and particularly from Great Britain, in which country they have practically lost the market. The British picture interests are beginning to regain the position that they formerly held, hot only in the British Empire, but also in many countries in which formerly American interests enjoyed a 95 per cent. dominance. Australia is one of the countries in which British picture interests are now competing strongly with the American; they command approximately 30 per cent. of the market. I contend that the matter should be considered, not only from the amusement, but also from the economic, point of view. I shall not pose as an authority on the merits of moving pictures; but, from what I have seen, I am satisfied’ that’, for all round’ productive merit, British pictures; which are1 sent1 to1 Australia to-day are1 not in the same classas American productions’.- I challen’geany one to prove- thati the British- industry is entitled to receive consideration- from this Parliament on account’ of the serviceit has rendered to Aus’tralia-;
-Bri’tish films enjoy long, runs in the capital cities.
– The booming’ of British films’ gives them & false value, and’ is intended to mislead- the people- in- regard- to their quality. Recently, I- read an- article by a British pictureshow reviewer in the- London Daily Mail, in. which it was stated that, 95’ per cent, ofl the. pictures produced in Great Britain to-day were no credit to the British film industry, and no advertisement to Great Britain if shown in other parts of the world. In the opinion of that reviewer only about 20 or 30 of the 400 or more pictures that he had reviewed were any credit to British producer’s. That bears out my own opinion of the British picture-producing industry. It seems to me that we see very few of the best British pictures. I have seen reviews of many British classical and historical pictures produced in the iast two or three years, but the pictures have never come to Australia. Only the poorest rubbish of the British producers comes here. ‘Apart from pictures produced in the United States of America, very few foreign pictures are shown in Australia. It seems to me, therefore, that by agreeing to the Government’s proposal we shall penalize our own people. The extra duty will, undoubtedly, come out of their pockets. The amusement-loving people of Australia have had a raw deal in the iast three or four years. Many picture houses and theatres have been closed, because the people have not been able to spend as much as formerly on entertainments of this kind. 0ne of the surest indications of the existence of the depression in this country has been the disinclination of the people to spend money on amusements, and one of the surest indications of tie lifting of the depression will be the return of the people to their accustomed habits in this connexion. Undoubtedly, the talking pictures provide 95 per cent. of the enter- tainments which our people enjoy in these days, and we should not, merely through a -vengeful spirit towards the United States of America, make amusements of this kind a half-penny dearer than they need be. The picture industry of that country has involved the expenditure of enormous sums of money. If this monopoly has, in thb past, called for heavy toll from our people, it has undoubtedly “delivered the goods”. The technique of high class American pictures is superior to that of the best pictures produced in other countries, and the people who spend money to see American pictures get good value as a rule. We should not discourage the importation into Australia of the best American pictures. I am glad that the imposition of a heavy duty on these pictures in recent years has led to the building up of a small but valuable industry in this country in the printing of copies from negatives, and has enabled our own people to learn something of the technique of picture production. In my opinion, the American picture interests were quite justified in trying to avoid crushing taxation by establishing a studio in Australia for the printing of pictures from the negatives. I do not agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) that we should heavily tax every American industry doing business in this country. Each industry should be dealt with on its merits. If Ave “flog” the American picture industry there will, undoubtedly, be an unhappy reaction. We shall, in such circumstances, see very few of the be3t American pictures. The concessions granted by Australia to British picture producers’ have not had any very great effect. The people of this country are the best judges of the pictures that come here. They are well able to pick good pictures from bad ones, and they certainly have not been enthusiastic about either British or locally produced pictures.
– If the best British pictures are not being exported to Australia, what is the reason?
– I do not know, unless it is that the British producers are not interested in the Australian market. So far they seem to be quite content te send us their rubbish. 1
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– According to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) the object of the Government in imposing a duty of ls. a foot on imported foreign feature films was to gain revenue to the amount of £177,000 per annum, but foreign picture companies have re-arranged their business methods, to avoid paying ‘this extra tax. It is strange to me that the PostmasterGeneral should complain about an industry taking steps to reduce production costs. I have always understood that the honorable gentleman favoured the conduct of industry on economical lines. He is always talking about the necessity for efficiency and up-to-date methods.
– Legitimate methods.
– Yet the honorable gentleman has complained to-night of the audacity of picture-producing companies in seeking to avoid the payment of extra taxation by limiting their Australian importations to one negative. That, we are told, is quite an improper procedure.
– Hear, hear!
– If - the honorable gentleman, applies that principle to one industry, why not in another? It is surely just as expedient ‘that one industry should be run on economic and efficient , lines as that any other should be so run. Honorable members opposite say that everything possible should be done to reduce costs, and after all capitalism is based on business methods of the nature complained of by the Government. We cannot blame commercial organizations, whether foreign or local, which adopt such a logical policy, and I should imagine that any industry which did not keep its costs at the lowest possible level would receive the strongest condemnation of honorable members opposite.
– The foreign “ companies cannot get away. with it in this case.
– There is nothing to show that with this added duty they will not. The Postmaster-General said that we should deal with one thing at a time. We can deal only with the aspect now before the committee, and we may later attempt to deal with the methods of distribution; but Government supporters have given no indication as to the way in which that can be done. It is questionable whether we have the power to deal with the aspect mentioned by the Postmaster-General. So far as we can see there is nothing to prevent the picture distributors passing on any additional impost to exhibitors and through them to picture patrons. The Government is justified in endeavouring to secure revenue from every reasonable source, and, if it feels that the picture distributors should render a greater service to the country than at present, they should be made to do so; but not at the expense of the picture patrons. The picture theatre is the only form of amusement available to the poor man at a reasonable price, and we are totally opposed to any direct or indirect, methods that may be employed to increase the cost of this form of entertainment.
– Will the honorable member reply to the argument of the” honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) on that point?
– The arguments advanced by that honorable member do not disprove that foreign companies have the power to pass on any additional expense in which they may he involved.
– According ,to the figures quoted by the honorable member for Macquarie, the amount would be infinitesimal.
– The honorable member will agree that, even if the amount involved is small, picture patrons will not, benefit. For instance, if the sales tax is increased by only 1 per cent., some retailers increase their prices disproportionately.
– They derive the benefit themselves.
– They always do, and in most cases of that nature the increase, of such taxes is a profitable proposition to .the trader. If the duty on films is increased, the prices of admission to picture theatres may be raised to a greater extent than is necessary to cover the extra impost. If the Government requires additional revenue from this industry, it should show the tax will be obtained from those concerning whom complaints have been made to-night. There is no question as to their power in this country. The Postmaster-General has rightly said that the picture distributors impose exacting conditions upon the exhibitors, and there is nothing to prevent them from evading this increased tax. As they have the matter entirely in their own hands, we feel that the additional revenue will not be obtained from the picture distributors, but from the lecture patrons and exhibitors who, being already overburdened, should not be asked to carry more. The Postmaster-General endeavoured to discredit the views expressed by the Secretary of the Theatrical Employees Union (Mr. Harrop), on the ground that the members of the union are not associated with the moving-picture industry. The fact, is that the greater number of the members of the organization mentioned work in picture theatres, owing to the dearth of employment, in other theatres. Many of them are living at present from hand to mouth. In visiting many suburban and country theatres, Mr. Harrop found that, struggling picture show proprietors are conducting their businesses with the aid of their wives ‘and members of their families instead of employing labour. The Government may secure £95,000 in revenue-
– But the same number of films may not come into the country.
– That is so. The number of screenings each week in some theatres may be reduced and fewer films will be required. Under its original proposal the Government 3et out to obtain £177,000, but the foreign companies devised means of evading the tax and so reduced their costs. The Government now proposes to- raise £95,000 from this source, but the companies may still continue to reduce costs. If a compromise of 6d. a foot is accepted the film importers may carry the impost, which I think they reasonably could. They may feel that the additional expenditure involved, when spread over a large number of exhibitors, will be ‘too small to be passed on. We should not, make the position of exhibitors more difficult? than it is at present.
– Would not that also apply to the duty of 8d. a foot?
– The higher the amount, the less likely will the distributors be to bear the burden. The film importers may be prepared to accept a duty of 6d. a foot, and not pass it on. The question of the effect of duties on unemployment has been mentioned. I should like to refrain from discussing this item from that angle, as my colleagues have already dealt with that aspect of the matter. Bather would I stress the fact that picture shows are the chief entertainment of the poorer sections of the community, and that we should not make it more difficult for them to have this enjoyment. We, in this party, believe that these duties would deprive them of this pleasure, and therefore we shall vote against the Government’s proposal.
– Those uugaged in the film business have indulged in a good deal of propaganda. In the publication before me - the Film Weekly - there is a statement that apparently the Government has forgotten “ the lesson of 1929 “. It is clear that the exhibitors were influenced to write as they did to members of this Parliament; but I shall not go further into that, as the bitterness may only have been passing. I have signed scores of letters to members and picture theatre proprietors stating that the impost was not so heavy as they had been led to believe, which, I think, confirms my view that they had. been influenced to write as they did. I propose to supplement the figures given by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) in an endeavour to convince the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the impost will not press heavily on the small exhibitors. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) confused what I said on a previous occasion with another matter. I said that the increased duty would give increased employment in film printing, in which industry about 150 employees are said to be engaged.
– Their employment is tho result of action taken by the Scullin Government.
– The honorable member said that unemployment was being created among theatre proprietors, which is a totally different matter. The unemployment argument was used by those engaged in the film-printing industry when the duty was raised, but their fears proved groundless. The exhibitors should be able to absorb the extra duty, and not have to pass it on, because the removal of the federal entertainments tax, and the granting of other concessions should increase their turnover. In a number of ways, the Government has assisted the industry, aud, in addition, exchange between the United States of America and Australia has eased considerably. The exhibitors should have borne the whole ls. duty without complaint, but, instead, they have chosen to scare the picture show proprietors. I shall show how tinfounded is that alarm. It has been ascertained that 70 per cent. of the Tentals received from exhibitors is paid by city and suburban exhibitors, and 30 per cent. by those in country districts. There are 310 suburban picture theatres, and 630 in the country. The average length of a feature film is approximately 6,000 feet. An increase of the duty by 4d. a foot - the difference between the rate of 8d. now proposed by the Government, and the 4d. which operated prior to March last - would mean an additional duty of £100 on each film, but, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), that would be further reduced by printing copies. On the basis of a week’s screening in one city theatre in each capital city, 21 screenings in each city theatre each week, three screenings each week in half the number of suburban theatres, and two screenings in each week in half the number of country theatres, the increased charge would be 2s. 4½d. for each screening in city and suburban theatres, or11½d. for each screening in country theatres. In the case of double feature programmes, the additional cost would be 4s. 9d., and 1s.11d., respectively. These calculations are based on an average film screened in a city theatre for one week. In the case of the better-class films, the charge would be much less for each programme, because such films are screened for as long as twelve, or even sixteen weeks, in Sydney and Melbourne. In! view of all the changed conditions which have operated to the advantage of distributors, the higher duties should not be passed on to- the exhibitors. I, therefore, ask the committee to accept the Senate’s request.
.- I shall deal with this subject from the financial point of view, but, in passing, I must remark on the unique event which has occurred here to-night - the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) moving for a reduction of an existing duty. I do not know whether the Government has given serious consideration to the proposal that there should be no duty whatever on films entering Australia, that not more than one copy of any film be admitted, and that an excise duty be placed on all copies made in Australia. Under that proposal a film would contribute to the revenue of the Commonwealth, not on the basis of its length as at present, but according to its acceptance by the people. A good feature film like Tall Me To-night, or Cavalcade, which has had a long run iu some theatres, pays no more duty than another film which is not so great a box office attraction. We should endeavour to tax each film according to its earning capacity.,
– That proposal was considered by the Government, but was found to be unworkable.
– The system is operating in New Zealand.
– There are not six States in New Zealand. ‘ ,
– It appears to be a way of getting out of the difficulty without having to .effect any compromise. When the Senate refused to agree to the duty of ls. a foot, the Government compromised by fixing the rate at 8d. a foot. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) performed what must have been a miracle for him, by moving that the duty be reduced to 6d. In fixing this figure, he was probably guessing just as much as the Minister. Each proposed a lower figure haphazard, and without any ‘ attempt to base ‘ the duty on science or reason. If my suggestion were adopted, those nauseating films, which one is compelled “to see almost every time one visits a picture theatre, would not be exhibited, because the exhibitors would lose money by having to pay excise on them.
.- I listened with interest to what the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) had to say, but I take exception to his statement that I was guided by guesswork when proposing 6d. a foot as a fair rate of duty. The Queensland Motion Picture Exhibitors Association, in a letter written some time ago in answer to various questions asked by members of the Senate, stated -
Distributors say that if ls. a foot ia imposed the extra 8d. must be passed on to the exhibitors, but if the duty is fixed at not more .than (id., they will carry it themselves.
I am not concerned with making out a case for the American subsidiary companies engaged in the distribution of films in Australia. They can look after themselves; but I am concerned with the exhibitors and their employees, and with those engaged in printing films in this country. I submit that an increase of the rate from 4d. lo 6d. would be fair, in view of the fact that the duty was only 1 1/2 d. in 1928. It was next increased to lid., and later to 3d. The Scullin Government increased the duty to 4d., and the present Government raised it to ls. The Minister said that he was anxious to help the industry, and that the Government proposed to give money prizes with this end in view. Is it expected that the giving of these prizes will benefit the exhibitors ?
– I said that it would assist the industry.
– There are no money prizes given to assist the exhibitors. I wa3 a member of a royal commission which inquired into the motion picture ‘industry, and I think that I know as much about the subject as any other honorable member of this committee. There has been a tremendous slump in the industry in recent years. It has felt the depression to a greater .extent than most other industries. The prizes to which the Minister referred are for the encouragement of the production of motion pictures in Australia by local companies; that is an altogether different matter from the duty on imported films. The producing companies will not be assisted by the imposition of a duty of oven ls. a foot, as may be seen from the following telegram received by a senator from EffteeFilms Limited, Melbourne, probably the most enterprising of the local producing companies: -
Replying to your telegram, do not consider the imposition of1s. per foot duty any material assistance to local production.
The Australianproducers benefited to some extent from the money prizes given by the last Government, but the matter of prizes should not bo introduced by the Minister when we are considering the effect of an import duty on distributors and exhibitors, and upon the employees in the industry. I have already quoted from the contract which exhibitors have to sign, to show that the distributor has power to pass on duty charges to the exhibitors, who iu turn pass them on to those who patronize the theatres. It has been said that relief will be given to the exhibitors by the remission of entertainment tax, but in. very few picture theatres is the price of admission as high as 2s. 6d., below which the Commonwealth tax did not operate.
There has been a tremendous falling off in the footage of imported films, including films from the United Kingdom. The quantity has declined from 35,971,000 feet in 1930 to 16,000,000 feet in 1932. The customs tariff rate varied from1½d. a foot to 4d. a foot between 192S and 1932, and the amount of revenue collected declined from £296,273 in 1930 to £58,101 in 1932. The number of admissions to theatres was 6,671,646 in 1930, but this number declined to 2,142,734 iu 1932. The amount collected in amusement tax was £76,670 in 1930, but was only £28,543 in 1932. The gross film sales amounted to £2,095,077 in 1930, but, to only £1,391,059 in 1932. According to an audited statement issued by Messrs. Flack and Flack, public accountants, of Sydney, eight Australian branches of American distributing companies made net profits amounting to £170,000 in 1930, but experienced losses amounting to £22,000 in 1931. £41,000 in 1932, and £27,000 in 1933. When the royal commission inquired into the position of the industry, from 1,200 to 1,500 country showmen throughout Australia werehaving a lean time, and any additional tariff impost will increase their difficulties and reduce the number of the workers in the industry. I hold no brief for the American distributing companies. When the royal commission took evidence, I stated that Commonwealth legislation was required to deal with quotas and contracts between American branch distributing companies and the Australian exhibitors, According to their association, the exhibitors have been experiencing bad treatment at the hands of the American companies, but this is not the time to investigate that matter. No attempt should be made to prejudice the minds of honorable members by an attack on those companies.
Question - That the amount proposed to be omitted (Mr. Fordes amendment) stand part of the proposed modification - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion put and division called for.
The division bells having been rung,
– I understand that the call for a division has been withdrawn. I therefore declare carried the motion by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy) -
That the requested amendment be made with the following modification: - Instead of “per lineal foot, 4d.,” read “per lineal foot, 8d.”; and that, with regard to clause (4) it be made todate on and after 14th October, 1933.
– The division was not called off by those honorable members who asked that it should be taken.
– On a point of order. I should like to know whether, if the motion of the Government had been defeated duty would have been chargeable at 4d.. or at1s. a foot?
– It is not the task of the Chair to answer a hypothetical question. If honorable members are in doubt as to whether the division was called off, it is within the discretion of the Chair to have the division taken.
– As there appears to be confusion of thought among honorable members on the subject, I respectfully ask that you direct the committee as to what would have been the outcome of the division had it been taken.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The committee has accepted the Minister’s proposal. I do not feel called upon to state what would have been the effect of a different decision.
Senate’s request- -
Amend sub-item to make it -
Motion (by Mr. Guy) agreed to -
That the requested amendment be made with the following modification : -
Letter clips, papers ruled or bordered by waterline or likewise; date cases; ink bottles.: ink wells; ink stands; paper knives; memo. slates and tablets; sealing and bottling wax: Christmas and similar cards;scraps; post cards n.e.i.; book markers; writing desks (not being furniture) ; writing eases; paper binders; card hangers; pen racks; bookbinders’ staples, ad valorem, British, 30 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.
Stationery, manufactured, n.e.i., including bill and box files; date cards; albums of all kinds; cards and booklets, viz., printers’, menu and similar kinds: stationery cases, including note paper and/or envelopes boxed, packed or in compendiums, and the like, ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general,65 per cent.
Vehicle parts, viz.: -
Parts of vehicles with self-contained power propelled by petrol, steam, electricity, oil, gas, or alcohol, n.e.i., whether incorporated in the complete vehicle or separate, viz.: -
Chassis, but not including rubber tyresand tubes, storage batteries, shock absorbers, steering dampers, bumper bars, sparking plugs, springs, spring hangers, shackle bolts pins and assemblies,U bolts, king pins, tie rod pins, tie rod ball pins, tie rod ball studs, high tension ignition coils, bonnets, instrument boards, and radiator shells - (a) Unassembled, ad valorem, British, free; general, 32½ per cent,
Assembled, ad valorem, British, 5 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
Vehicle ports, whether imported separately or incorporated in or forming part of any goods covered by sub-item (d) of item 359, viz.: -
Bonnets; instrument boards, each, British, 7s.6d. ; general, 10s.
Radiator shells -
Plated, each, British, £2; general, £3.
Other, British, free; general, free.
Steering dampers, ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general,65 per cent.
And on and after 12th May, 1933-
Shock absorbers, each, British, 5s.; general, 12s.6d., or ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general,65 per cent. whichever rate returns the higher duty.
(4) Leave out comma after “ absorbers,” and insert “excepting”; after “studs” insert “and”; leave out “bonnets, instrument boards, and radiator shells “.
. . . .
Leave out -
Bonnets; . instrument boards, each, British, 7s.6d. ; geueral, 10s.
Radiator shells -
Plated, each, British, £2; general, £3.
Other, British, free; general, free.
Steering dampers, ad valorem,. British, 45 per cent.; general,65 per cent.
Insert after “absorbers” paragraph (S) “but not including steering dampers”.
Motion (by Mr. Guy) proposed -
That the requested amendment be made with a modification that paragraph (8) of sub-item
) be renumbered ( 5 ) .
.- This items deals with radiator shells, plated. The Senate’s request is that the duties of £2 British, and £3 foreign on radiator shells be abolished. This request, although in accordance with the Tariff Board’s report, should not be supported by honorable members. The board has not made a proper investigation of the whole of the industry. In Victoria are five electroplating firms who specialize in tho chromium-plating of motor car fittings, and four of them knew nothing whatever of the inquiry.
– The inquiry was properly advertised in the newspapers.
– These firms do not have a special staff for the examination of newspaper files, and if they can satisfy the Minister that they were unaware of the inquiry, he should be prepared to re-open the case and refer the matter back to the Tariff Board.
– I will refer the matter back to the Tariff Board provided that the committee accepts the rate.
– It will be a great injustice to the manufacturers concerned if the duties on radiator shells are withdrawn. They ask that the Minister postpone the consideration of this item until the matter has again been investigated by the board. Surely that is not an unreasonable request.
– This item which relates to motor car fittings is really a simplification of the tariff which all honorable members will agree is overdue. The only vehicle part in dispute is radiator shells. Certain manufacturers have written to honorable members stating that they did not know that the inquiry was taking place.That, of course, was their own fault and not the fault of the Parliament. The position is not so serious as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has suggested, because radiator shells form only one of numerous lines of nickeland chromium-plating. Motor cars are imported with radiator shells unplated. The shells are greased to prevent erosion. They have to be taken off the cars, sent to the local factories to be plated, and then reassembled. The labour entailed in that operation is worth as much as the chromium-plating. The withdrawal of tha duty on radiator shells would not affect the manufacturers greatly, because they have other plating work. The motor trade is undoubtedly increasing as the result of better times. If the committee will accept the proposed rates, I promise I shall refer the item back to the Tariff Board.
Mr.Scullin. - In the meantime, radiator shells will be imported free of duty.
– We cannot hold up the schedule on account of a minor item like this. I ask the committee to be reasonable and to accept the Senate’s request.
– This item concerns many people in the industry who are specializing in chromium-plating. I know of one firm at Carlton and two others at South Melbourne which have installed special plants for this class of work. About 90 per cent. of the radiator shells imported into this country during the last few years have been plated in Australia, and there are 300 adults and 50 apprentices employed in this branch of the industry.
– The manufacturers admittedly do the work very well.
– They have had many repeat orders from leading firms in Australia. There is no doubt about the quality and the price of their work. During the last three years they have reduced their prices by 50 per cent. Until recently the firms in Victoria were plating the whole of the radiator shells imported by tho Ford company, but that company has altered its policy in recent years, and now wishes to see the duties lowered. One member of the Government, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) has, quite legitimately, I admit, held a brief for if since it changed its policy. If the Senate’s request is adopted, five firms in Victoria will be seriously affected, as will also firms in the other States. I speak from a personal knowledge of the five Victorian factories, the Edson Plating Company and the Modern Plating Works, South Melbourne; the Nella Enamelling and Elec’troplating Proprietary Limited, South Yarra, I’. R. Quintin Proprietary Limited, North Melbourne, and the Walhalla Plating Works, Carlton. If, pending the promised inquiry by the Tariff Board, the present duties are allowed to stand, these Australian firms will be able to carry out orders already received, and perhaps no harm will be done ; if, on the other hand, the Senate’s request for the removal of the duty on radiator shells is accepted, they will be seriously injured in their business. I have been specially asked by the Engineers Society in Victoria, as well as the firms which do this class of work, to mention this matter to-night. The Walhalla Plating Works has been doing plating for the Ford Company for the last five or six years, and has been complimented upon the quality of its work. It is also claimed that Australian firms engaged in this particular work have reduced their prices by 50 per cent.
– The quality of the work is not in question. The board states that the” advantages to the industry’ are outweighed by the disadvantages.
– The board may have had in mind the interests of the :motor importers. But I have always understood that, in fiscal matters, the interests of Australian firms should receive first consideration, and it seems to me quite wrong that, in respect of this particular item, they should be ignored. 1 see no reason why we should change our fiscal policy merely because some Australian firms, which are really offshoots of American manufacturing companies, have altered their business practice during the last few years. If the board’s inquiry should disclose that the work done by these Australian firms was faulty in any respect, or that they had not reduced their prices, there might be some reason for an alteration of the duty ; but that is not the case. This proposal is not for a minor reduction of the duty. The Senate’s request is to remove it altogether, and thus do a great injustice to the Victorian firms I have mentioned, as well as companies in all the other capital cities, which went to considerable expenditure to install special plant and train men to do the work. If the Senate’s reque’st is adopted much of that plant, will be scrapped, and a considerable number of men will lose their employment. Altogether it will be a scandalous and anti-Australian act. I urge the Government to postpone consideration of the item until further inquiry has been made.
House adjourned at 11.37 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
son asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the fact that it is officially, admitted that an entry was made on the records of Captain T. P. Conway in 1917, and expunged in I93l_. because it was injurious and unjustifiable, is it proposed to make any amends to this officer; if so, what is proposed?
– As has been explained on several occasions, a certain entry was made in the records of Captain Conway in 1917. The truth of this entry is unquestioned. Whether it was justifiable is a matter of opinion. Upon a report by Major-General Bruche, it was expunged in 1931 by direction of the then Minister for Defence. There is noevidence of the entry having been injurious, and it is not proposed to take any further action in the matter.
Duty on Iron and Steel Plates.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable; member’s questions are as follow : -
s. - Inquiries are being made and replies will -be furnished as soon as possible to questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in regard to the gold reserve.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
During each of the financial years 1930-31, 1981-32 and 1932-33, how many returned soldiers (not including dependants) - (a)have had their pensions reduced;
have had their pensions discontinued ;
have had their pensions increased; (d) have been granted new pensions?
r. - The following figures of soldiers’ warpensions are supplied : -
figures . relating to increases and reductions of soldiers’ pensions cannotbe made available without searching the records throughout the Commonwealth.
Mr.Mask. - Information isbeing obtained,and will besupplied to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green)inreply to a question, upon notice, regarding supplies of insulin from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.
en asked the Ministerfor the Interior, upon notice -
Whetherthatofficer will proceed to Broome at an early date?
– As the Commonwealth has no control over the pearling industry at either Thursday Island or Broome, it isnot consideredthat any good purpose would be served by sending Mr. H. C. Brown to Broome. As some months would be occupied in visiting the three pearling bases in order to obtain all the data necessary to furnish a complete report on the industry, it is not proposed to ask Mr. Brown to furnish such report.
s. - On the 24th October, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley)asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
A reply to question 1 was furnished on the 24th October.
In regard to question 2, the following information has been supplied by tbe Repatriation Commission: -
The soldiers’ committee appointed by the previous Government recommended savings and economies in repatriation expenditure totalling £1,300,000, including reductions approximating £1,100,000 in war pensions. The operationof these recommendationsas embodied in the FinancialEmergency Act 1931 effected savings in war pensions in the year 1931-32, of approximately £834,000 (the savings in 1931-32 did not operate for the full year), and in 1932-33 of approximately £1,070,000. Owing to the operation of various factors, which affect the normal pensions expenditure, it is not possible to estimate, exactly the savings due to the Financial Emergency Act, The figures quoted are therefore only an approximate estimate.
McCrudden Machine Gun
Mr.Francis. - On the 31st October, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, without notice, if a report had yet been submitted on the merits of the McCrudden machine gun. I am now in a position to inform ihe honorable member ns follows : -
The Inventions Board in Sydney has investigated the claims of Mr. McCrudden, and has submitteda report on them. The board reports, inter alia -
That Mr. McCrudden is not able, at present, to produce or test a full size service weapon embodying his latest proposal. The only progresstowards completinga weapon for service trials is in the formof drawings not yetin all details actually finalized.
That the final lest must be actual tiring anil handling under service conditions, and in competition with other models of the weapon itself.
That Mr. McCrudden has taken note of the criticism (of previous models) and that he has prepared drawings for a design intended to eliminate faults and the inclusion of the new features required.
The board, however, isunable to give any indication of the efficiency of a weapon constructed to these drawings, or of the extent to which it would be able to compete with other such weapons now under process of trial in England.
It might be mentioned that during the last few years a mim her of newlydesigned machine guns have been submitted to the War Office;, where competent committees are continually investigating their possibilities. Several such weapons have been developed recently and carried into advanced stages of service trials. It must be borne in mind that a first essential is that a complete weapon should be forthcoming for comparative trials in competition with other types. Even if an experimental weapon were constructed to Mr. McCrudden’s latest design, there is no evidence to indicate that it would prove to be equal or superior to the others now under trial in England.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331101_reps_13_142/>.