3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, if it is the intention of the Government to obtain the sanction of both Houses of the Parliament before committing the Commonwealth to any definite and binding action regarding the acquisition of property in London for Federal purposes ?
– Undoubtedly. There is an item for that purpose in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill which will be brought before the Senate in the usual way.
– I desire to ask the Minister whether it is true that the option in regard to a lease of the site will expire to-morrow?
– An option is tentatively fixed to expire to-morrow, but I think I can give my honorable friend an assurance that it will be extended to permit of the sanction of the Senate being obtained.
– I desire again to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether inquiries have been made into the report that the starch manufacturers have arranged to raise the price of their commodity, and if so, with what result?
– The ComptrollerGeneral of Customs has furnished the following report : -
The price of Australian-made starch has been considerably increased recently, but prior to the introduction of the new Tariff proposals. For instance, bulk starch rose from 31s. per cwt. tn 33s., then to 38s. 6d. All manufacturers acted in unison in the matter of increase of price. The rise is attributed locally to the award of the Wages Board. It will be remembered that the Lone Hani (Sydney Bulletin publication) published a rather severe article in June or July issue on “ Robert Harper,” not attacking him individually, but as a good example of the starch manufacturing industry, laying a charge of sweating. In the following issue the Lone Hand stated that the condition of the laborers had commenced to improve. Retail prices have not gone up.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, if he can say. when he will be able to lay before the Senate the nature of the evidence gathered by the Government in respect to the charges made here against the Tobacco Combine?
– I believe that the investigation is still proceeding in the Department. When I get the report I shall be happy to inform my honorable friend.
– It will be in the recollection of honorable senators that recently a motion was passed thanking the Honorable Sir Richard Baker for his services to the Senate. A copy of the resolution was communicated by me to Sir Richard Baker, as requested, and he has sent to me a reply which I ask the ActingClerk to read.
Reply read by the Acting-Clerk as follows : -
Adelaide, 20th September, 1907.
To the Honorable A. J. Gould,
President of the Senate, Melbourne.
My dear Mr. President, i have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the r8th September and extracts from the Journals of the Senate therein enclosed.
I need hardly say how grateful I am to the Senate and yourself for your generous acknowledgment of any services I have been able to render to the Commonwealth. I thank you both most heartily.
As to your own expressions concerning myself, 1 can only say that although I am afraid they are too flattering, I always did my best.
I have the honour to remain,
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Papua - Appropriation Ordinance - No. 8 of 1907.
Census and Statistics Act 1905 -
Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue of the Commonwealth of Australia for the year 1906. - Part II.
Defence Acts 1903-1904 -
Regulations for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. - Amendment of Regulation 67. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 95.
Financial and Allowance Regulations for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. - Amendment of Regulation 154A - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 96.
Alleged Coal Combine.
– I have received an intimation from Senator Millen that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing an urgent matter of public importance, namely, “ The alleged existence of a Coal Combine in New South Wales, acting in contravention of the Preservation of Industries Act.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
– I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 10 a.m. to-morrow.
I am moving in this matter not in a hostile spirit to the Australian Industries Preservation Act, or, indeed, to the Government, but because, in common with every other senator whatever shade his political opinions may be, I have recognised as one of the developments of latter-day commerce the growing aggregation of capital, or a tendency of capital to work in larger bodies with the. natural consequence that, as unionism in capital begins to develop, there is a tendency to eliminate competition. I wish briefly to remind the Government of their declaration of a whole-hearted belief in the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, and their strenuous affirmation that so far as they could they would see that both the letter and the spint of. the measure, if enacted, were adhered to. It will be recollected that both at the general election and since then the Government have re-affirmed their belief in the principles of that law, and have taken no little credit to themselves for having the temerity to grapple with one of the admittedly great problems which have to be faced today. I shall now refer briefly to the incidents connected with the alleged coal combination, and then submit to the Government suggestions for their consideration. Honorable senators probably have read in the press a report that a firm styled Scott Fell& Co. had applied to one of the colliery proprietors, who are included in the Coal Vend, for coal to be shipped to New Zealand in a steam-ship called the Ennerdale, and that the application was refused. The statement made by Mr. Scott Fell, and published in the Sydney press, was that he was refused coal, and that a member of the Coal Vend told him that Scott Fell & Co. were not in the
Shipping Combine, and that for that reason a cargo of coal would not be supplied to him. That statement has been amplifier! by one or two others to which I shall refer. But, first of all, in order to make that point quite clear, I shall take the liberty of reading from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 2 1 st September, an extract in which the Sydney agents for the vessel make a statement, and, of course, the persons named can be called upon to substantiate the remarks which apparently they volunteered to the press. The extract reads as follows: -
The Ennerdale, which belongs to the Maoriland Steam-ship Company, a New Zealand corporation, which has no connexion with the “ vend,” brought a cargo of timber from Kaipa’ra to Sydney, and was under charter to the Ii rin of S. Brown, of Wellington, to return coal laden. This firm has been a regular customer for Newcastle coal for some years. In the case of the Ennerdale , there was no question of short notice with respect to the coal cargo required. At least three months’ notice was given of the intention to despatch the steamer. The cargo, however, was absolutely refused. The agents were told distinctly that as the vessel was outside the “ vend,” it was no use trying to get a cargo, and the Union Company, when asked to accept the charter, had plenty of bottoms of their own. “We can, of course,” said the agents, “ get coal at any time from the vend, provided we ship it through the Union Steam-ship Company, or we can get it from some of the collieries that are outside the Combine ; but it so happens that in the present instance, other coal would not suit the firm which gave the charter. They had certain contracts to fill, and required the coal, which they had been accustomed to. get. Arrangements have now been made to ship certain quantities through the Union Company. ‘
That statement amounts to a double affirmation. One affirmation is that the steamship was refused coal merely because it was outside the Coal Vend and the Shipping Combine, and the other affirmation is that the coal, which was refused when it was to be carried in the Ennerdale , was supplied when the Union Steam-ship Company was to have the carrying of it. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the same date appears an interview with Mr. Scott Fell, who makes the following statements -
There is no denying the fact that the Ennerdale has been refused coal. The’ vend objects to any one getting coal for New Zealand, except the Union Steam-ship Company and a few sailing vesels which have been trading for years to that country. I would not be surprised if in the course of time these sailers will get the kick-out. Our firm has applied for coal over and over again, and we cannot get it. They want to know why we should expect coal. And for coasting requirements, they refer us to some of the steam-ship owners - members of the Com bine. These owners say they cannot supplyus, or that they have sold out. Or they ask us a price or stipulate conditions which make it impossible for people to trade. “You claim to be practically boycotted?” “ You have just struck it. Some of the proprietors are working in with the shipping ring to endeavour to drive us out.” “ The Inter-State Shipping Combine should now have a large amount of money invested in the collieries,” he went on. “ The- object is the controlling of the whole of the Australasian trade, and the prevention of any opposition while the people have to pay the piper. That, indeed, is the boast of the Combine.”
There is a great deal more which I do not propose to read.
– Does Mr. Scott Fell mention in that interview the contract that he had with the Wallaroo Smelting Works ?
– No. Here is another statement on the same transaction made by Nelson and Robertson, of Sydney, who are apparently agents for the shin in question, and whose remarks, made to the Daily Telegraph, I have previously read. According to the Sydney Morning Herald they go a little more into detail, saying that -
Mr. Brown, of the firm of Samuel Brown and Company Limited, coal merchants, of Wellington, New Zealand, who is now in Sydney, was refused coal in. their presence by several of the colliery companies. One company said he (Mr. Brown) could not obtain coal because he was not in the vend.
The agents produced a letter from New Zealand, showing that the vessel in question was chartered by Brown and Son Limited. Thev repeat that the coal charter has been cancelled, and that the vessel has been ordered to Port Stephens to take in a shipment of hardwood from New Zealand. “ This Combine,” added Messrs. Nelson and Robertson, “ is worse than the American trusts. It does not allow outsiders to live; that is what it means.”
In the Daily Telegraph of the 23rd;. without any other authority than that of the journal itself, appears the following statement -
It is stated by several people in” Sydney that they have actually seen the agreement under which the Combine is working, and that it ought not to be a very troublesome task for the Commonwealth authorities to secure a copy and satisfy themselves as to whether or not any breach of the law has been committed.
– Is it a breach of the Anti-Trust Act to refuse to sell?
– I am not here to give an interpretation of what the law provides or means, but I am quite certain that my honorable friend agrees with me that if the law does not make provision to deal with any combinations in restriction of trade, we ought to have a law that will. So long as my honorablefriends opposite will keep this matter free from the question of nationalization, they will find no stronger supporters than those on this side of the House, who wish to prevent unfair trade operations.
– The honorable member must be speaking personally.
– I am speaking more than personally, and I believe that I am entitled to do so, knowing the opinions of my friends on this side. In the Daily Telegraph of the 23rd the manager, Mr. Wheeler, of the Newcastle-Wallsend Colliery, which is outside the Vend, was interviewed. He was asked if he had any objection to state the reasons why the company remained outside of it, and said - “ We believe in freedom of contract. We object to being bound down to supply only certain vessels with coal.”
If the statement that that company remains outside the Vend because it objects to being bound to supply only certain vessels with coal, means anything, it is a fair inference that those who are inside the Vend are so bound. I admit that it is not conclusive, but to my mind a very strong inference to be drawn from the statement is that one of the conditions of the Vend is that they are only to supply to certain people, and under certain conditions. I wish to make it quite clear that in reading these extracts I am not affirming anything other than the fact that these statements have been made publicly. It is not competent for me to vouch for the accuracy or inaccuracy of any one of them, but they appear in public print, as made by men with some standing in the commercial world, men who are get-at-able, and who can be called upon if necessary to substantiate or withdraw their remarks. The sole object of the action I am taking to-day is to bring them under notice, in order to point out to the Government that to my mind, at any rate - and I trust that I shall have the sympathy of the Senate in this matter - sufficient has been disclosed to show that there is a very serious obligation upon the Government to probe this matter to the bottom. If there has been no harm done, and no infringement of. the law, no one, not even the members of the Vend themselves, will have any cause of complaint, or be in any way injured. On ‘ the other hand, if there is something being done - it may be only in its initial stages - which is to the detriment of Australian trade, the sooner we discover the whole truth of the matter the sooner shall we be in a position, if the present law is not strong enough, to arm the Administration with a more effective legislative enactment. It isnot at all necessary to remind honorable senators of the great importance which the coal trade is, and always must be, to Australia. It is one of our big lines of export, and we should watch very carefully that no firm or combination of firms shall? be allowed to take any action which may, perhaps not immediately, but in thefuture, tend to the serious diminution or restriction of the export of one of our staple lines of industry. I should like tosummarise the statements which can reasonably be founded upon the newspaper extracts that I have read. They are, first of” all, that a Vend exists. Upon that I do not: think there can be the slightest possible doubt. The second is that this Vend works with, and in the interests of, a Shipping. Combine. The statements are clear that it will only allow certain trade to pass through certain shipping people. The third point is, that it will not sell coal unless it first ascertains the destination. The fourth is that it will not sell for coastal purposes or to New Zealand unless through theShipping Combine, thus securing a monopoly of freight to that combination. Theseare all definite statements which, if borne out by further inquiry, to my mind bring the people responsible for this conditionof affairs clearly within the fourcorners of that Act, or, to put it in another way, clearly within the four corners of what this Senate, when it was passing that Act, thought it to be.
– That is more like it.
– If there is a doubt as to the efficacy of the measure, then the honorable senator will see with me hownecessary it is for us first of all to ascertain what is taking place, and the methods by which this combination, if it exists, is carrying on its operations, and then for the Government to recognise the responsibility which rests upon them of bringing in a Bill to make the Act more effective.
– Would not the honorable senator try the Act that exists first?
– That is for the Government to do. If the Government contend that the Act is effective for the purpose and that under its provisions they are fully competent to reach any injurious combinations, then the Government must themselves take action or admit that they only passed the Act for the mere purpose of making a little political capital. I am. not going to make that accusation against the Government at this stage, but the obligation is upon the Government to justify their action in passing that piece of legislation. I recognise that it is necessary to prove something more than a combination. It must be proved also that that combination is ‘acting in a way injurious to the general public or in restriction of trade.
– I think it must be injurious to some Australian industry.
– I believe that those ;are the terms of’ the Act, but speaking generally my phrase “ in restriction of trade “ describes it.
– It has to be something more than that, according to the Act.
– Then if the Act does not provide for operations which tend to restrict trade to the detriment of Australia, we ought to have a law that will. I am not affirming anything more than that, to my mind, a case has been made out for complete, minute, and instant inquiry. I am mot at all satisfied, and I doubt if the Senate is, with the nature of the inquiries which the Government have been making in similar matters. We had an instance of that to-day. I brought under the notice of the Government the evidence given on oath by a witness before one of the Victorian Wages Boards that -certain things had taken place, and inquiry was promised. That inquiry appeared to proceed from the Attorney-General’s office and Ave get back the reassuring statement that the Bulletin Proprietary, which at one lime made an accusation against a certain firm, had later on modified it.
– Did they receive an advertisement in the meantime?
– I think it highly probable. An inquiry of that kind would be scouted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council as a lawyer if he were conducting a case before the Courts. An admission is made that the articles have been raised in price, that the- proprietors had raised them in combination, but absolutely, so far as one can judge from that reply7 there has ‘been no inquiry to determine whether that rise was justified or not. We want some further inquiry than that; “but whenever the Government have been pressed, in the matter they always .plead - and’ I can understand and sympathize with the plea - the difficulties! of obtaining information. Naturally, if people are working in contravention of the law, we do not expect them to come forward and volunteer the information upon which they might be indicted. I doubt whether even the Government, when they framed the law, expected to get much assistance from those against whose operations the law was directed.
– When the people accused offer the Government facilities for an inquiry, the Government will not accept the offer.
– I should be rather inclined to say that the Government were in - the right there. I have pointed out that there are certain specific statements made by individuals who are well known, and with whom the Government can get into touch at once. I admit freely and fully the difficulty of getting information which would entitle the Government to take any legal proceedings. I do not know that there is even any need for legal proceedings, but I do say that, with that Act in force, and with a Government and Parliament which . profess to be anxious to enforce its provisions, to conserve trade in all its branches against the unfair operations of any combination, it is impossible to pass this matter over in silence. If the Government are unable to get information in the ordinary ‘ course of events, I will make a suggestion to them-. I am not at all favorable to the) indiscriminate appointment of Royal Commissions, nor do I believe that Parliament is. Certainly in suggesting the appointment of a Royal Commission I do not for one moment advocate that it should include any members of Parliament. The Royal Commission I speak of, would be of a different character, such as was appointed in New South Wales to deal with ‘ the land troubles, or the one which conducted an inquiry into the administration of the railways of that State.
– The Victorian Butter Commission did good work.
– I am . not so familiar with the .personnel of that Commission, as with that of the Commissions appointed in my own State. But I put the suggestion forward, if the Government repeat the plea as to the difficulty of obtaining information. A Royal Commission of that kind might consist of one gentleman of the rank of a Judge, or if thought desirable’ there -might be associated with him men of commercial training, whose reputation would be a guarantee that the Commission would discharge its duties .faithfully and without bias. The Royal Commission would do two things, if information was not obtainable otherwise. It would enable us to determine how far this combine is or is not acting detrimentally to the public interest, and it would enable us to ascertain whether the present law is sufficient or not.
– Would not the honorable senator include other combines in the scope of its inquiries?
– Certainly. I am not limiting my remarks to the operations of this one combine. If a Commission were to be appointed, it should certainly inquire into the operations of these alleged combines.
– Including the Shipping Combine.
– I have specifically referred to the Shipping Combine, because it almost appears to me that it makes no secret of the fact that it is allowing rebates. Judging by American experience, the granting of rebates is there regarded as the worst of offences.
– I ask the honorable senator not to pursue that question.
– I am’ not at this stage advocating the appointment of a Royal Commission, but I point out that the Government should not be permitted indefinitely to shelter themselves under the plea that there is difficulty in obtaining information in these cases. It is competent for the Government, if they experience difficulty in obtaining the necessary information through the ordinary channel of inquiry by their officers, to constitute a body possessing ample powers to obtain the information we seek. If a Royal Commission should be appointed, and should determine that no infringement of the spirit or letter of the Act has taken place, I suppose every one will be .well pleased. I think, further, that it is quite probable that such a Commission would, if a weak spot exists in the law, be able to indicate the way in which it should be strengthened or recast. I repeat- my assurance that I have taken this action without any feeling of hostility to. the spirit of the Act, because I am a believer in its principle, and in no sense with any feeling of hostility to the Government. I believe that if it be proved that an evil does exist, the Government would receive the support of. every political party in making an honest, fearless, and impartial effort to give effect to the law which is to-day on our statute-book.
– No exception can be taken- to the manner in which Senator Millen has brought this matter under the attention of the Senate. At the outset, I frankly state that I am im full sympathy with the object he has in view, but I must remind the honorable senator and other honorable senators that there is very much more difficulty than can be readily foreseen in taking effective action in connexion with these matters. The experience so far has been that whenever an attempt has been made to prosecute inquiries and obtain reliable information from those who are most interested in a prosecution-
– Or who make the charges ?
– It is discovered that, while they are prepared to tell us certain things privately, they are not prepared, to come forward and give evidence in the usual way.
– - But in this case the charges have been made publicly.
– That is not sufficient. We must secure direct evidence to produce before a Court in order to establish a case. That’ may seem somewhat anomalous to a number of honorable senators.
– I think that some one said that when the Bill was being considered.
– That may be so, but it is one of those difficulties which cannot be readily met by legislation. The termsof the Act itself are wide and comprehensive enough. Section 7 provides that -
Any person who monopolizes, or attempts to monopolize, or combines or conspires with any other person to monopolize, any part of the trade or commerce with other countries, or amongst the’ States, with intent to control, to the detriment of the public, the supply or price of any service, merchandise, or commodity is guilty of an offence.
Every contract made or entered into in contravention of this section shall be absolutely illegal and void.
– Sections 8 and 9 still further amplify that provision.
– That is true. The Act further provides that the AttorneyGeneral or any person authorized , by him shall be at liberty to prosecute. So that if there are persons who are injured by this manifest evil which we are all anxious to put down, and they think that there is a lack of energy or action on the part of the Government in dealing with the matter it is competent for them to come forward, if they have valuable evidence, procure the consent of the Attorney -General, and prosecute themselves.
– The honorable senator will see that the general public who may be most seriously injured could not do that.
– That is so, but I am now dealing with those who are directly interested. For instance, Senator Millen mentioned certain names - Mr. Brown, Scott Fell, and one or two others - in dealing with this matter, and if those gentlemen have direct evidence of the existence of this Combine or of a monopoly detrimental to the public, it is competent for them either to proceed themselves in the manner to which I have referred, or to procure the necessary direct evidence for the Government who, in the circumstances, would only be too glad to prosecute.
– Am I to understand the honorable senator as saying that the Government will not move in these matters unless some persons make a case for them ?
– No, I do not say so, but I point out that those who are directly injured have the matter, to some extent in their own hands, and can prosecute themselves in theway I have mentioned, or display a little activity in assisting to secure the necessary evidence to enable the Government to undertake a prosecution. There may, in this case, be better opportunities to secure the evidence required than in others, but I am giving the Senate the experience which the Government Departments have already had in connexion with inquiries atpresent proceeding. It is all very well to say that a charge would lie, and to point to the general statements appearing in the press as showing that an evil does exist, but honorable senators will realize that something more direct is required. For instance, it is necessary, in the operation of the law, that in certain circumstances evidence of a contract should be secured, and will honorable senators believe me when I state that, in certain notorious cases, we have found the greatest difficulty in procuring an original contract, and then in obtaining the necessary evidence to prove the signatures to the contract? While people admit that there are certain contracts, they will not give them up, and, what is more, they are unwilling to come forward and prove the signatures to a contract.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that they could not be compelled to do that in a Court of. law ?
– I should say that we would have very grave difficulty indeed in securing such proof where a man was unwilling to offer it. More than that, when people are asked to produce contracts, they say, “ We do not mind showing you soandso, but you must understand - - “
– The honorable senator is speaking of departmental inquiries.
– They wish to protect themselves.
– Precisely. It is only in such circumstances and under such conditions that they will show a contract, and very much more than that is required. I quite admit that in some of the cases that have been referred to, there might be better opportunities of securing direct evidence; and the case brought under our notice by Senator Millen may be one. I think this matter has already been mentioned to the Acting Prime Minister, and. that he has promised consultations with the AttorneyGeneral to see whether, under the present law, the necessary evidence can be procured and a prosecution take place. I am in full accord with Senator Millen to this extent: that if it is found that the present law is not sufficient and effective to achieve the object for which it was passed, we have a clear duty cast upon us to make it effective.
– We cannot determine that question until we apply the law.
– I admit that; but, so far, our difficulty has been in securing direct evidence, and I do not know that any amendment of the law which we could make would help us very greatly in that respect.
– They manage to deal with these things in America.
– They have better opportunities to deal with them in America, for reasons which I need not here discuss. In connexion with rebates, for instance, a matter of aKindred character, in some cases there is no direct contract entered into in writing. But, ifcertain things are done, there is an understanding that rebates will be given.
– In America they have a special law dealing; with rebates.
– Our law is founded upon it.
– We have not that law in the Commonwealth.
– Our law is founded on the Sharman law.
– That is not the law under which the Standard Oil Trust were fined some£6, 000,000.
– I speak subject to correction; but I think the honorable senator will find that it is exactly the same law. But, in America, the authorities were able to secure a conviction in the case referred to by reason of the fact that the Combine controlled the transit by certain companies, and, by procuring the books of various railway companies, they were able to prove the case.
– We could do the same here.
– I do not think so. I put the case of a Trust granting re- bates.
– I ask the honorable senator not to pursue the question of rebates.
– I was referring to rebates only by way of illustration; but I do not desire to transgress by discussing that question at length, Where a contract is entered into, and it must be proved as the essenceof the charge, the whole thing is evaded by having no contract in writing, but simply an understanding that if certain thingsare done, certain consequences will follow.
– Does the honorable senator think that men on oath would deny the existence of such an understanding?
– I do indeed. I have referred to this matter as indicating the difficulties experienced in thisconnexion. I admit that such difficulties exist only to be overcome. To return to the case immediately under notice, there can be no doubt that the evils complained of are distinctly detrimental to the public, and are such as we should seek to remedy by some means. -I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Attorney-General, and will ask him to exercise every activity for the purpose of procuring evidence’, with the object of initiating a prosecution if it is consideredthat an offence has been’ committed.
– What the Government desire is that some one should turn informer.
– We desire that someone should give us direct evidence, and I admit that if we could get some one to turn informer he would be very useful and. helpful to us. Where the public suffer in the manner represented, it is our duty to endeavour, as far as possible, to probe the matter to the bottom, and if it is found that an offence has been committed, a prosecution should follow.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [3.44]. - I rather deprecate the suggestion involved in the discussion that our recent legislation on this subject hasbeen without avail. First of all; Senator Millen suggests that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into these matters. If, whenever we pass a law with a view to prohibit some public evil, and complaint is made that it is being evaded, it is necessary that we should have a Royal Commission in order to make inquiry into the matter, that would make a farce of legislation.
– I made that suggestion, only in the event of the Government re-affirming their impotence to obtain the necessary evidence.
– I quite understand that. To appoint a: Royal Commission would,I think, be not merely an admission of Executive impotence, but also of legislative impotence. In the second place, the view that my honorable friendthe Vice-President of the Executive Council takes is that this matter is surrounded with such, serious difficulties that although we have placed on the statute-book a law to prevent such troubles, it is practically ineffective. I do not take that view at all.
– The Government will not test the efficacy of the law.
– My honorable friend has laid his finger on the real point. Why do not the Government test the matter? When we were discussing the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, my objection to part of it was that it would be very difficult to put it into operation, and that so far as regarded a certain class of corporations - those formed within the States - we were interfering with the rights of the States to provide for the transaction of their own’ business. But I always held the view- and I adhere to’ it most strongly - that monopolies of this character, which are supposed to be struck at by theAustralian Industries Preservation Act, are of a most dangerous and iniquitous description, and ought to be put down as public nuisances and public evils.
– They were once regarded as public evils under the common law.
– I am not sure that they could be dealt with by the common law now. But we have passed an Act specifically dealing with them. There are three sections in that Act which are of a most drastic description. Sections 4, 7, 8, and 9 seem to me to meet every possible case. I join - with my honorable friend, Senator Millen, in notliking to reflect in the slightest degree upon the conduct of the Ministry of the day. I would not do such a thing on any account ! I think my honorable friend was even more tender than I am in that regard. But still I think that the Government are neglecting their duty in not bringing into operation or trying to bring into operation the provisions of the Act. There is nothing so mischievous as timidity in legal proceedings. The Government are neglecting their duty when they fail to make an effort at all events to deal with this public evil. At least it is said to be an evil ; we have no right to prejudge it.
– Should we deal with it even if we have no evidence?
– If my honorable friend continues to sit there and to say that there is no evidence, there can be no prosecution. But Senator Millen in the discharge of his public duty has made statements which are available to Ministers.
– They have been printed in the public press.
– They have been. In the face of testimony like that the Government ought to make an effort to do something in the mutter.
– Hear, hear. I said so.
– An honorable senator made an interjection relating to the discovery of documents, the obtaining of information and all that sort of thing. Honorable senators will recollect that there is a section in this Act of the most drastic description which not merely enables every possible information to be obtained and documents to be procured, but which prevents any one, who is concerned in a matter of this kind, from refusing to discover all documents or to answer questions that may be put to him in respect to the matters at issue on the. ground that they are likely to incriminate him. Everybody concerned in any proceedings that may be brought in respect . of an infringement of the Act is liable in respect to the discovery of documents, and is compelled to reply to all questions, even if the result of his answers may be to render him liable to a criminal prosecution. It is themost absolute and unrestricted power of discovery that can be given in any form of legal procedure.
– Would that form apply to witnesses for the prosecution.
– Yes. I am referring to section 11, sub-section 2 -
No person shall -
That is, not merely one of the parties, but anybody - in any proceeding under this section be excused from answering any question put whether viva voce or by interrogatory, or from making any discovery of documents, on the ground that the answer or discovery may criminate or tend to criminatehim; but his answer shall not be admissible in evidence against him in any criminal proceeding other than a prosecution for perjury.
My honorable friend the Vice-President of the Executive Council, very properly said that members of the public who are interested, can take proceedings. But there is this great difficulty : . Under this Act, no one can take proceedings without the written consent of the Attorney-General. A barrier is imposed to any member of the public taking proceedings - the barrier of: the consent of the Attorney-General having to be obtained. Therefore, I was gladto hear the Vice-President of the Executive Council say that he would bring the matter under the notice of the AttorneyGeneral. So far as I can judge, under that Act, which we framed with the greatest possible care to bring everything within it, there is no reason in the wide world why proceedings should not be instituted by the Government at the earliest opportunity, if there is such evidence as Senator Millen has brought forward, on which they can frame a prosecution.
– Was not the proviso regarding obtaining the consent of the Attorney-General put in the Act at the instance of members of the Opposition?
– Certainly, as to criminal proceedings, it was. I should say that the Attorney-Genera! ought not to hesitate for a moment to proceed upon the material now placed before him.
– That provision was not in the Bill as originally introduced.
– I think not. No one knows better than the Vice-President of the Executive Council that if a man who is thinking of goingto law waits until he has such absolute evidence as to give a guarantee of success, he will never go to law at all. A number of most estimable and deserving members of the community would obtain no occupation whatever if such a doctrine as that were to be propounded.
– It would be better to give employment to half a dozen lawyers rather than see the public and the’ trade of the Commonwealth injured.
– That is so. It would be better to double the number of successfullawyers, who are very few at present, rather than that the community should be victimized.
.- SenatorMillen has done a valu able public service in bringing this matter forward, because there is no industry that has such a direct bearing upon everyother industry in the community as has the coal industry. It affects the whole of our manufactures, and every other industry we possess is wrapt up in it. Most of us have had some knowledge of transactions which have been going on in the coal industry for some time past. We have known that its proprietary was gradually becoming a trust, and was adopting the methods with ‘ which we have become familiar in connexion with trusts in America. I agree with Senator Symon that the Government may rightly be accused of timidity in this matter. Those of us who have watched the. history of trust transactions in the United States must recognise that the American Government have had to take a good deal “on trust,” if I may use that term, in regard to some prosecutions whichthey have instituted. They have had to start prosecutions in most cases practically without any direct evidence. . It would be extremely valuable if the Crown Law officers of the Commonwealth would study the methods that have been adopted in connexion with the successful prosecution of trusts in the United States within recent years.
– And within recent months.
– The American authorities have had the legal experience which we have not yet had of this class of legislation.
– They have a special Department of Investigation.
– In the case of some trusts, the method adopted has been this : The United States Government practically have taken over the trust for the time being. That is to say, they appointed receivers who actually entered the office of the trust, took control of the whole of the books and papers, and made their investigation at their leisure.
– They got an injunction first.
– They got an injunction, and then the receivers entered the office and took control.
– Do they frequently appoint receivers in the United States?
– I think they have done so in connexion with all the recent successful prosecutions. This method gives am opportunity of obtaining evidence which could not be procured otherwise. But the Government of the Commonwealth do not make use of the evidence that is placed before them. Senator Findley brought under the notice of the Government last week the case of the Confectionery Combine. If Ministers look at the Age to-day they will see there a letter signed by a. firm in Melbourne, in which they make this statement-
– I must ask the honorable senator not to mention that at length. He may allude to another case incidentally, but the matter which we have to discuss is that of the Coal Combine in New South Wales. It will be in order to refer to matters bearing upon it, or to methods that ought to be pursued in order to deal with the case, but it will not be in order to refer to other matters at length.
– I refer to this case to show that the evidence is available if the Government will make use of it: The writers of the letter in theAge say that they were asked to sign a document - under threat of being refused local goods. In this document was embodied a clause binding those who signed to procure all their requirements for the confectionery trade only through members of the Victorian Manufacturers Confectionery Association.
The letter goes on to say_ that the writers were forbidden to buy confectionery from Sydney, and they mention that a document was actually submitted to them for their signature. Surely there is evidence of restraint of trade- by a firm being asked to sign a document of this character.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss that question. He can point out that such a case has occurred to show that there is evidence upon which the Government can take action, but he will not be in order in discussing another case at length.
– I will not pursue that point further, except to say that there is sufficient evidence to show the methods being pursued by these trusts. In the case brought under notice by Senator Millen, a statement has been made by Mr. Scott Fell, of Scott Fell and Co., which is a well-known firm of ship-owners. I take it that that gentleman was sure of his facts before he made such assertions for publication in the press. If the Government are hesitating about instituting a prosecution because they think that the Australian Industries Preservation Act is not sufficiently stringent, it will be far better in the public interest to state frankly that that is the reason, and then Parliament can alter the law.
– The difficulty is with regard to getting evidence if the people directly concerned are not prepared to give it.
-. - If newspaper reporters can get evidence why cannot the Government do the same? If firms write to the newspapers making such statements as I have read and those statements are false, the writers will be liable to prosecution for libel. Surely firms would not be prepared to make such statements and to sign their names to them if they were false.
– They are a limited company.
– I am referring particularly to the letter of Messrs. Bennett and Taylor, published in the Age.
– I was speaking of Scott Fell and Co.
– In that case the information was given to a newspaper reporter by the head of a well-known firm. It seems to me that the case of the Coal Combine is infinitely more pressing than any other that has been mentioned, because the coal industry affects so many other industries. I urge upon the Government that the Crown law authorities should be. instructed to undertake a little bit of experimental prosecution. It will be very valuable to take advantage of the opportunity to test the efficacy of the Australian Industries Preservation Act as enabling us to ascertain whether an amendment of the law- is required.
– I am very pleased that the Opposition have moved in this matter. If ever the Government are to be justified in trying an experiment with the Act, it ought to be when it has the almost unanimous support of the Sena’te. There seems to be little doubt that even if the Government were to fail in attempting to locate the business which this combine is doing, they would not be humiliated if they did not meet with success. I believe that the Senate, as a whole, would indorse their action. At all events, it would show whether the legislation was effective or not. If it were found to be ineffective, I believe that the Opposition would be ready to co-operate with the Government in taking even more drastic steps to deal with the situation.
– Suppose that, as the result of a prosecution, it was proved that there was no combine?
– I think we should all be quite satisfied.
– No ; honorable senators would say that the Government had prosecuted on insufficient information.
– I do not think that even a. member of the Government will rise here and say that there is not reasonable ground for suspecting that there are more than half-a-dozen trusts in Australia. The Senate unanimously desires the Government to make an attempt to deal effectively with the existing combines, and particularly with the Coal Trust.
– If they are doing an injury.
– I believe that if the Coal Combine succeeds in its object - to increase the price of coal, and thereby extract a larger profit from the public - it will be not only detrimental to the best interests of the Commonwealth, but absolutely injurious to every citizen.
– If it is unfair.
– Can any one imagine that a combine which was formed for the purpose of raising the price of an article, and extracting more than a fair profit on its capital, is not unfair in its operations ? I understand that the explanation of the Government is that they have not been able to get sufficient evidence to bring the Coal Combine under the Australian Industries Preservation Act.
– Not this Combine.
– Well, the other Combine. I do not think that any one will question that a combine is formed with a distinct object. It seems to be quite clear that there are thirty-seven collieries in the Coal Vend. What is their object? I take it that their object is to secure a larger profit, which, of course, can only be gained by forcing down wages or by increasing the price of coal. The Combine have not been altogether successful in reducing wages. On the contrary, they have, been inclined to grant a slight increase, which. I interpret to foe the affirmation of a principle.
– It is a sliding-scale agreement.
– Will any honorable senator on the other side say that under the sliding-scale agreement wages are increased in the same proportion as the price of coal is increased to the consumer?
– Certainly not.
– That is the basis.
– Any one who works out the figures will ascertain that for every increase of is. in the price of coal the colliery proprietor gets an additional advantage ais against the miner. I desire to refer to some statements which are rather remarkable, particularly from at Victorian point of view. In an interview with a representative of the Age, Mr. York Syme said the reason that agreements had been come to with Howard Smith Company Limited, the Adelaide Steamship Company, and Mcllwraith, McEacharn, and Company, by the Vend granting them exclusive rights of carriage for certain States, was probably that those three companies are very large shareholders in some of the Vend collieries.
– Does the article go on to say that Huddart, Parker, and Company are also concerned?
– There seems to be a doubt about the position of that firm, and I do not wish to quote anything that is doubtful. Mr. Hugh R. Reid, who, I understand, is chairman of the Melbourne Steam-ship Company, informed the Age that of forty collieries in Newcastle all, were in the Vend except the Wallsend Colliery. He mentioned that they had an annual output of 6,000,000 tons, of which 1,000,000 tons were used in Victoria, and about 2,000,000’ tons in the rest of the Commonwealth. He added that, computing Victoria’s 1,000,000 tons at an increase of 2s. per ton - with every prospect of the price being much higher - it meant an additional expenditure of £100,000 in coal per year.
– Is Mr. Hugh Reid the gentleman who was present at the meeting in the Town Hall recently?
– Yes, he was against an increase in the parliamentary allowance, but not against an increase in the shipping charges. We have every reason to believe that the Coal Combine will extract ‘the ‘ highest ! possible price which they can get from the consumers. Assuming that it is equivalent to a tax of not less than ,£100,000 upon the manufacturers of Victoria, it means that many a small manufacturer, not only in that State, but in other States, will be absolutely crushed, or forced to relinquish his industry.
– No, he will pass the increased charge on.
– Who will suffer then?
– The public, of course.
– So far as I know the condition of the consumers’ wages are so low that they cannot pass anything on.
– What about the Tariff, then?
– Another remarkable thing is that Mr. Hugh R. Reid affirmed the fact that if he were to ask the Coal Vend to quote a price for 150,000 or 250,000 tons of coal, they would not make a quotation until he named the destination of the coal. What does that mean ? It means that if the coal is required, for delivery at a port which is under the control of the monopoly, it will not be supplied. Otherwise they will offer to supply the coal at a price which is so high that it will not pay a steam -ship to handle it. It seems to be quite clear that the only object of the Coal Combine is to gain a profit, no matter who may suffer. There is more than one interest in the Commonwealth at stake. The very success of the manufactories depends upon a cheap, as well as plentiful, supply of coal. What is the good of a Tariff if the Combine is to come along and, by a peculiar method, secure the benefit of that protection?
– If cheap coal, why not cheap clothes too?
– Did the honorable senator ever hear me object to cheap clothes?
– Only a duty of 49J per cent.
– I want coal to be as cheap as possible, but not as the result of low wages and degrading conditions for the miners. I desire coal to be produced in Australia at the lowest possible price provided that reasonable conditions obtain in the industry and that the owners get a reasonable profit. Will any one affirm that the Coal Combine was only formed for the purpose of securing a fair profit on its invested capital ? I believe that if they could extract a profit of 100 per cent, on their capital they would do so.
– Is that the case in the honorable senator’s union?
– It was stated by Senator Millen that the Coal Combine is a form of unionism, but if I understand unionism the Coal Combine is not a union. ‘ A union is formed for the purpose of defending a weak individual or a weak section of the community against such institutions as the Coal Combine. Now the Coal Combine was formed, not to protect any one, but to extract all the additional profit which it could secure from the users of coal. In my opinion, the Government have every justification for taking action. If they are not willing to move thev ought to announce that, under existing legislation, there is no method of dealing with Trusts. If the Government would only make that admission or prove by an experiment that the law is a failure, I think that the Opposition would co-operate with them in passing a satisfactory amending measure. I feel, however, that the* only remedy lies in the nationalization of the coal industry.
– I feel somewhat diffident in approaching this question. As the discussion has proceeded it has almost made me wonder where my experience of the last twenty-two years has been obtained. I feel that if the Scott Fell case is a reflection of what may be- termed reality, there may be a very great necessity for the Government to take immediate action, that is, if it is a fact that a firm has to announce to the Coal Combine the destination of a cargo which it wants to buy. Apart from that, I do not regard the .combination of the coal owners as the dire evil which has been depicted by some speakers. Foi twentytwo years I had as close a connexion with the coal trade of New South Wales as has any man who is now connected with it. If ever an industry has been bled to the very, core for the welfare of the public of Australia, and probably to the advantage of other parts of the world, it has been the coal industry of New South Wales. For years I advocated the formation of just such a. combination of the coal trade as exists in that State to-day.
– Against the action of the combination in obtaining a fair price I said nothing. I complained of their action in restricting the channels through which the product could be obtained.
– I have already indorsed the position which my honorable friend took up in that respect. I do not want honorable senators to be goaded into a false position by the influence or cry of the manufacturers in connexion with this matter. vW,he Coal Combine of New South Wales has done, up to the present moment, a laudable work. It has already very materially increased the output of New South Wales. It has f materially increased, not only its selling H price, which I candidly believe it was entitled to do, but also the -wages paid to the men who are producing the coal.
– And the number of men employed.
– It has also materially increased the number of men employed.
– That is possible under any circumstances when they exploit the public.
– For the last twenty-two years the public have been exploiting the coal trade.
– I suppose .that is how some of the mining magnates are able to live in luxury abroad.
– I am talking about the miners. The Coal Combine has done very great service up to the present moment Whether it has also done the injury that is indicated by the Scott Fell case I am not prepared to say. That matter is certainly worthy of every man’s inquiry. I have seen the time when it was the prayer of every man working in’ the mines that the employers would come together and deal honestly with one another in the selling of their coal, in order that they - the men who were producing it. - might obtain an honest livelihood. For years the practice was for one coal-owner to go to a ship and offer coal at 8s. a ton, and then for another to come along two hours afterwards and say, “ I will load you for 8s. too, and give you 500 tons for taking the load.” That condition of things existed in New South Wales for years to my knowledge. When the produce of a hard-working man is being trafficked with in this way, and he is not obtaining sufficient wages to keep body and soul together, it is the precursor of a happier condition of things when a combination takes place to raise the price of coal to a fair figure. From my life’s experience, I will not say for a moment that the Newcastle Combine has raised the price of coal one penny higher than its fair value. My complaint has always been that the coal has been sold far below its market value, as can be easily proved by statistics from other parts of the world, and by a comparison of the quality of the different coals. I do not oppose a careful inquiry into anything that is wrong, but, up to the present moment, apart from the evidence given in the press of the one act complained of , I am with the Coal Combine, and will only exercise my best endeavours towards getting the highest distribution of wages possible to the men who are producing the coal.
– I can largely agree with what has just fallen from Senator Henderson. The Navigation Commission inquired as fully as possible into the question of shipping rebates. In their report they said, “ We recommend that the Government should take action to abolish the giving of rebates,” but on the other hand they also recommended that the Australian shipowners should have a right to the Austra- , lian coastal trade. They practically said to the ship-owners, “ On the one hand we will give you the right to the Australian coastal trade, but on the other we prohibit you from giving rebates.” The position in the past was that the very cheapest labour that could be found in the world was brought into competition with Australian seamen on the Australian coast. The manufacturer was protected right up to the hilt, but the shipping industry was left to paddle its own canoe, and, as Australia would not give them any protection, the Australian ship-owners, as business men, naturally decided that they must take means to protect their own trade, with the result that they agreed to give rebates to people who shipped by their vessels, and who refused to ship by the cheap lascar and Chinese manned steamers. I believe that the operation of that scheme has been absolutely in the interests of the people of this Commonwealth.
– That applies to other ships besides those employing Chinamen and lascars.
– It applies to no other ships that were paying the same fair wages, and giving the same fair conditions as the Australian ship-owners. Every ship which came into competition with them was paying wages 50 per cent. at the very least less than they were paying. I remember, very much to my loss, when the six companies in Australia to-day were cutting one another’s throats by running in competition. They included the Australian United Steamship Navigation Company, the Howard Smith Company, the Adelaide Steamship Company, the Melbourne Steamship Company, and Huddart, Parker and Company. One firm would advertise a boat to leave the Melbourne wharfs at 12 o’clock. Another would advertise a vessel to leave at 2, and a third would fix 4. The result was that those ships often went away with less than a third of a cargo. They had to be fully manned. The result was that in 1893-4, not a shipping company in Australia was paying a single shilling in dividends to its shareholders. Wages were reduced to the extent of 33 per cent. to the whole of the men manning those ships.
– And the public were getting picnics.
– The public were not gaining a single penny. Freights were as high then as they are to-day. On one day, because three boats were leaving, and the companies were anxious for cargo, the public might be able to get cheaper freights, but the next day, when only oneboat was going, freights were doubled, and passenger fares were in exactly the same position. I agree absolutely with Senator Millen that we should have the most thorough investigation into the questionhe has brought forward. There may be Trusts or Combines that are detrimental to the public interests. The way to secure the fullest investigation, however, is not by the Government dropping down on one poor individual and making him bear all the expense of a defence, while leaving some rich combination alone, when evidence can be got to prove that it is acting detrimentally. I disagree with Senator Millen’s contention that the inquiry ought to be made by some person or persons outside Parliament. We who have been elected on the votes of the people have no right to delegate our duties to any one outside.
– We do it every day.
– It has been done, but that does not prove that it is right. The inquiry ought to be made by Parliament itself, and I shall support any proposal for a thorough investigation as to which of the combines or trusts are detrimental to the public. I believe that there is room for an investigation. The position taken up bv the Government is absolutely right in this regard - that if a firm feels itself aggrieved at being cut out of the trade, it and not the Government should start an action against those of whose conduct it complains.
– What about the little man who gets shut out of the trade? Would the honorable senator pit him against a big combination?
– If the Government took action, they might proceed against some little combination that could not afford the law costs necessary to defend itself. It is all very well for members of the legal profession, which is the closest combination on God’s earth, to “ sool “ us on to give them employment, and to fight what they consider are detrimental combinations, while they do not care twopence whether the action is successful or not.
– Do not blame Senator Millen for that.
– I am not blaming Senator Millen, but other members of the legal profession have spoken. The Royal Commission on Navigation, reported to Parliament, after investigating the whole question of the rebate system on the Australian coast.
– That is a party report.
– The report regarding rebates is absolutely unanimous.
– Senator Macfarlane dissented.
– He was the only dissentient. The Commission was appointed by the Labour Government. Such a Government will always be absolutelv fair. Free-traders and protectionists were equally represented. Only Senator Macfarlane dissented on the question of the abolition of rebates.
– Thehonorable senator may not discuss the whole of the report of the Navigation Commission. The complaint before the Senate is not so much a matter of rebates as of a refusal to supply coal to people who are outside the Vend. I have allowed the honorable senator and others a great deal of latitude, because I understand that certain shipping companies form portion of the Vend whose action is complained of.
SenatorGUTHRIE. - I simply wish to explain that althoughSenator Macfarlane dissented from the report regarding the abolition of rebates, he also dissented from the recommendation that the Australian shipping companies should have the right to the Australian coastal trade, so that the one counter-balances the other. I shall support an inquiry into this matter, but not in the way indicated by Senator Millen. It should be an inquiry by Parliament. I will agree to the appointment of a Judge of the High Court to preside over the inquiry for the purpose of having some one to hold the balance. I shall strongly oppose any proposal to go outside Parliament to secure a Commission of business men, or any outside persons. When a Royal Commission is appointed, its members have a right within their Commission to do as they please, and thev are independent of Parliament and of the people.
– It is desirable that those conducting such inquiries should be absolutely impartial in all cases.
– Is it not possible for men who have been elected to Parliament by the people to be quite as impartial as persons outside of Parliament who may happen to have the ear of the Government in power for the time beinn? I say that if any inquiry is to be made it should be by representatives of the people.
– And free of charge.
– And free of charge if honorable senators please.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.32]. - I seconded the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, and I own that I did so with some feeling of curiosity to know what the Government was prepared to do in connexion with yet another inquiry. For months past thev have had their hands pretty full with inquiries of a somewhat similar character. It is only the other day that we had from the Vice-President of the Executive Council another promise of the most prompt action by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. We have had such promises so often that I should imagine that the Ministerial reply to such requests has become stereotyped in the brain of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. We have had promises from the Government to supply information with reference to matters relating to starch, tobacco, a secret society, the coal combination, and I think we are on the brink of another promise in connexion with matters relating to shipping.
– We had a promise about kerosene oil.
– That is so. I thank the honorable senator for reminding me. We are getting along at the rate of about one promise a week, and I do not know what is to become of the AttorneyGeneral. With the exception of one case connected with a certain witness in the tobacco trade, no result has followed the promised Government action in these matters, and in the case referred to the Government took care to make no inquiry, and to furnish a report evolved from the inner consciousness of the gentleman who wrote it, or of some one who wrote it for a certain gentleman to sign. That is the only result we have so far had from the multitude of Ministerial promises. I own that I am interested in adding a few more to the list of unfulfilled obligations on the part of the Government. I seconded Senator Millen’s motion for that reason, and for the further reason that if there is anything wrong in this matter it should be inquired into speedily. I beg that the Government will not allow charges based apparently on fair grounds to remain open indefinitely, as they have done in every other case. I beg that there may be a change in the policv of referring matters to the AttorneyGeneral, and then letting them “ rip “ because in colloquial phrase that is just about what has happened in every other case. Senator Henderson has added to the respect entertained for him by every member of the Senate by the speech he has made on this question. Senator E. J. Russell would appear to be unaware of the fact that in the Newcastle district of New South Wales, the great opal mining district of Australia and of the southern hemisphere, there is an agreement that when the price of coal goes Up the wages of coal miners are increased’ proportionately. When the honorable senator makes an eloquent address in favour of cutting down the priceof coal to the lowest possible limit he clearly overlooks the fact that wages in the coal mining industry would have to be reduced in the same wav.
– I did not advocate the cutting down of the price of coal to the lowest limit.
– I made a noteof the honorable member’s statement at the time, and what he said was that the priceof coal should be reduced to the lowest possible limit.
– With reasonable wages and a fair return on the capital invested.
– The wagesquestion in this connexion is a very important one, because there is a very large number of men engaged in the industry. Although coal is an article of the greatest consequence to the manufacturers of Australia, a living wage is a matter of equal importance to those engaged in the industry. As for the capitalists, I do not think that coal mines in Australia have for many years paid sufficient dividends to make themmore than a subject of keen interest to see whether it is possible to get any dividend from them. I support the request for a speedy inquiry into this matter with pleasure, but I agree with Senator Guthrie inthinking that, if an inquiry is to be made by a Commission or a Committee it is the duty of Parliament to do its own work. We should not eternally abrogate the functions of responsible Government by handing everything over to Commissions. InNew South Wales government by Commission has been far too rampant for many a year, and State Ministers and members have, I am afraid, very largely lost the sense of responsibility that should attach to those intrusted with the duties of responsible government. If we are to make aninquiry, we should be able to do the work ourselves. It is absurd to suppose that we cannot have an honest and unprejudiced* inquiry by members of the Legislature. No more severe reflection could be cast uponthe Legislature than to say that its members are incapable of conducting an honest and unprejudiced inquiry.
.- I should not have risen were it not for thefact that Senator Henderson has made a speech which from the labour point of view, is hardly understandable. Perhaps the one thing which the labour man is most strongly opposed to in any part, not only of the Commonwealth, but of the world, is a monopolistic institution or combine operating for the purpose of exploiting the common weal.
– Every one agrees with that.
– Such combinations exist for one reason only, and that is to economize in every conceivable direction, to eliminate all competitors, and to secure the market entirely for themselves. Having the market at their own disposal, they can charge the public whatever price they please for their wares. The Combine with which we are now dealing h’as already brought about the result that increased prices ar,e being charged for coal.
– Who are charging them ?
– Not the public. It is the public who are being charged the increased prices.
– It is a number of Victorian middlemen who are charging the increased prices.
– I shall deal with that. The Combine, now that it has been formed, will eliminate the middlemen, because they mean less profit for the Combine. The middlemen could not exist twenty-four hours if the Combine said, “ We do not want you.” Senator Henderson, as a practical miner, must know that many of the expenses incidental to the working of collieries in the Newcastle district might be, and will - in the course of a very short period of time - be considerably minimized unless action be taken by the Government to curb the operations of the Combine that has been formed. The mining companies could dispense with the services of numbers of the miners to-morrow, because they could limit the output.
– What benefit would that be to them ?
– Why did they combine ?
– Why does labour combine?
– We are dealing, with the Coal Combine for the moment, but if I am permitted to reply to Senator Gray’s interjection, ‘ I would say that the doors are open to all workers to come into their combination, whilst the doors of the Coal Combine are closed. They will not admit all and sundry, and they have all-ready closed their doors against certain shipowners, and will not permit certain ships to be loaded at Newcastle with coal. It is mainly because of these facts that Senator Millen has brought this matter under the notice of the Government. From the labour point of view, combines are inimical and hurtful, not only to the workers, but to the general community. The companies in the Combine will economize in every conceivable direction, and in a very short period will eliminate the middlemen. They will pick their own boats to load with coal, and, as a matter of fact, we know that certain shipping companies are working in conjunction with the Combine. They will boycott those who will not be prepared to come within their fold, and when they have done this, what position will the miners be in? They will be no better placed after the combination has been perfected than they were before.
– They are considerably’ advantaged by the Combine now.
– Every combination in business means a reduction in the number of employes engaged in that business.
– That does not always follow.
– Every business formed into a combine in any part of the world up to the present time has involved a diminution in the number of employes.
– The honorable senator is absolutely wrong.
– ‘A short time ago many of the collieries in the Newcastle district were being worked as independent concerns, and there was engaged in them a number of overseers arid foremen whose services can be dispensed with by the Combine. I should not be at all concerned about mining magnates, who have plenty of friends inside Parliament and outside.
– They can look after themselves.
– None of the mineowners are living in benevolent asylums as many old miners are. They are not carrying on the coal industry for philanthropic purposes. Many of them are living abroad in luxury. In regard to the miners, the probabilities are that they are gaining an advantage momentarily on account of the action of the Combine, but the Combine will have no more considera-> tion for them in the future than has been the case in the past. But there is another aspect of the case, and that is the public aspect. .Are we to sit quietly by and not take into consideration what the Combine is attempting in regard to our manufacturers, and in regard to shippers? This consideration affects not one State only, but the whole Commonwealth. It is a very serious matter indeed. I have yet to learn that high prices for coal mean high wages for the workmen. In Victoria, for a considerable time, a coal industry was carried on successfully from the mine-owners’ point of view. As a matter of fact, considerably more was paid away in dividends than the shareholders originally paid on their shares. For some time the men were working under fair conditions.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to pursue the question of the conditions under which men were working in Victoria unless he can connect their case with the matter of the Coal Combine.
– Surely, I shall be in order in pointing out that high wages are not the result of high prices for coal?
– The debate is limited by the motion itself which alludes to the alleged existence of a Coal Combine in New South Wales in contravention of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. It may be perfectly true that other combines are undesirable, but that is not the question that we have now to consider. The question is the existence of the Coal Combine in New South Wales. While I am willing to give honorable senators the fullest possible latitude in debate, there must be some limit. The honorable senator is now transgressing that limit.
– I bow to your ruling. Evidently the line of argument that I intended to pursue would be out of order. I am not here to speak approvingly of the coal-owners. Oh the contrary, while I have been a member of the Senate, I have not shown any consideration for combines, whether in the coal industry or any other industry. I believe them to be injurious to the public interest. It was because we desired to prevent such evils as have sprung up in America that we passed the Australian Industries Preservation Act. If the Act cannot be made operative in regard to the subject brought under notice by Senator Millen, the sooner it is amended the better for all concerned. In my opinion, stringent inquiries should be made as to the operation of the Coal Trust, and matters incidental to it. The evidence elicited should be submitted to the Attorney-General. I was told on a former occasion, when I raised a similar point, that if I would procure evidence the Government would inititate a prosecution. But I think that my duty begins and ends when I bring such a matter under the notice of the Government. It is for the Government, not for an individual, to take action. I trust that the subject which Senator Millen has brought under our notice will receive full and serious consideration. If these companies are carrying on their business in contravention of the Act, I hope that the Government will not hesitate to put the law in motion.
– Irise to express the greatest pleasure at the action that has been taken bv Senator Millen. If any combination of manufacturers or any trust that is acting against the interests of the Commonwealth of Australia exists, we on this side of the Senate are as anxious that the law should be set in motion as honorable senators opposite can be.
– The honorable senator was opposed to the passing of the law affecting trusts.
– I confess to a feeling of curiosity regarding the change of opinion of some of my honorable friends opposite regarding combines. About two years ago Senator McGregor stated that he hoped the time would come when the manufacturers of Australia would combine on the one hand, and the workers would combine on the other, and he expressed the opinion that conditions of prosperity would thus be. brought about throughout the Commonwealth. I interjected that they would “ crush the public between them.” Senator Henderson, in my opinion, has justly and fairly explained that trusts are not in themselves necessarily an evil. Nay, I will go further and say, that if what is going on at present in regard to legislation affecting trade continues, it will be almost a necessity for combinations in some shape or form to be brought into existence to a greater extent than is now the case, or than has been the case in. the past. I emphatically protest against Senator Findley’s assertion that combines are necessarily evils and are unjust to the public at large.
– They are social cancers.
– I contend that just as. workmen combine in unions to defend themselves against the difficulties they would have to contend with if they had tofight singly, so manufacturers have a right to combine to protect themselves against what they regard as unfair competition. As to the coal industry, 1 feel that it is the duty of the Government to institute an inquiry. It may be found that the Combine is conducting its business on legitimate lines and is acting equitably to the public. In that case there would be no need for further proceedings to be taken. But at all events there is sufficient reason for the Government to institute an inquiry so as to ascertain what the Vend has done. We shall then at all events be satisfied that the Government have done their best to put the Act into operation.
– It is a matter of great satisfaction that honorable senators in discussing this question, which has been very properly raised by Senator Millen, have treated it from a non-party point of view. I say that not only because of the opinions expressed on this side of the Chamber, but also because of those enunciated by honorable senators opposite Honorable senators hold various opinions in reference to combines. Some contend that they are good up to a certain point, and that then they become social pests. Others may consider that they are not good at any time. I am not one of those who think that thev are nol: good at any time; but I do think that whenever they become social pests it is time not only for Parliament to talk about them, but for the Government to take steps to put in force the law that was passed for the protection of the public, which is generally known as the Anti-Trust Act. In the course of the debate I interjected “ What about the sma I man ? “ and an honorable senator replied, “The small man has to go.”’ I venture to think that the small man has not to go to such an extent as some honorable senators think. I shall connect these remarks with the matter that has been brought under the notice of the Senate by Senator Millen. We know something about a Shipping Combine on the coast of Queensland. It may not be absolutely the same Combine, or on all fours, with that which operates in other parts of Australia, but it is based upon the same principle of action ; and the matter to which I refer should be carefully inquired into. Not so very long ago - I think within the last two years - an attempt was ‘made by the shipping trading companies along the Queensland coast, or on a certain part of the coast in the vicinity of Mackay, absolutely to debar their cus tomers from employing the small cutters which they had been utilizing. This maybe said not to have anything to do with the Coal Combine, or the Coal Vend, as it is called, but I use the case to show how the perfectly legitimate trade of small men may be cut into by a combine.
– The competition was not fair in that case.
– lt was not fair because the ship-owners refused to pay certain rebates to people who used these cutters. That case goes to illustrate what can be done by a combination to the detriment of the public. I agree with Senator Millen that this matter should be dealt with promptly, thoroughly, and at once. The least that the Government can do is to take every energetic step in their power to make investigations and obtain information, even going to the cruxial point of putting the Combine on their defence in ‘the law Courts. The power is conferred by the Act, and I ask the Government why they do not use it. Why should we have to come forward and urge the Government to enforce the Act which they themselves asked Parliament to pass ! The Government did not then say, “ If you pass an amendment we will drop the Bill, because that would make it useless.” On the contrary, they accepted such amendments as were carried, and the Bill became law. The least the Government can do now is to take every possible step to make full inquiry, and if they find that any combines are operating to the detriment of either traders or the general public to immediately intervene. It is more than ever necessary that this action should be taken in connexion with shipping, in view of the fact that before long we shall be asked to extend a monopoly to a certain class of ship-owners.
– - I can quite realize the difficulty which confronts the Government, because I have had some experience in endeavouring to prove infractions of the Arbitration Act in my State. We could a’lways get statements concerning infractions of the law in various directions, but when we asked men to make out a. concrete case, Dy which they would be prepared to stand, we invariably experienced very great’ difficulty. I can quite realize the position of Senator Best.
– Can the honorable senator prove that he has ever made an attempt ?
– No. This, is the first occasion on which the Coal Combine has’ been mentioned here. I presume that in other cases, where it was thought that the law could be invoked, the Government have found a difficulty in getting men to substantiate their statements. Senator Symon stated that under one section of the Australian ‘Industries Preservation Act ‘the Court has power to compel men to divulge information, and in reply to my interjection, he added that the section applied to -witnesses for the prosecution. It is an extraordinary thing to me if the Act contains that power. If witnesses for a prosecution can be compelled to come forward and give evidence, we are breaking fresh ground in legal procedure. In reference to the Coal Combine, I can fully appreciate the remarks of Senator Henderson, although they may have surprised certain honorable senators. I can quite realize that in Australia there has been such a thing ais suicidal ‘ competition amongst companies engaged in carrying on industries. Np doubt that competition has been carried on to the absolute detriment of the people engaged in the industries, especially to the workers. +-I can remember the competition which prevailed in the maritime carrying trade fifteen years ago. The shipping companies were running against each other in every direction, contending in an unfair and unwarrantable way for a small trade. Ultimately they were forced to reduce wages-. Our standing counsel to them was to wipe out the suicidal competition. They could not do that unless they combined. ^1 can understand circumstances arising which would warrant the formation of a combination of coal-owners for the purpose of putting an end to suicidal competition. That brings me to the point that if combination amongst the workers is necessary and justifiable, it is equally necessary and justifiable so far as the employers are concerned. In season and out of season it was pointed out that in the maritime carrying trade it was owing to suicidal competition that the steam-ship companies were unable to pay a decent living wage. We urged them to combine, and they were very tardy in taking our advice. I do not care if certain persons wonder at my remarks. I can see as great a necessity for combination amongst employer’s as amongst employes. That brings me to a point mentioned by Senator Findley, and that is that it is only through combines that evil can exist. Take our experience in Melbourne in connexion with the production of coal and its use. We find that the evil steps in immediately the Combine has finished its contact with the product. Although coal can be delivered on’ the Melbourne wharf at 15s. per ton, yet it costs “ 28s. or 30s. a ton to the consumer in a suburb. The price of the product is doubled for the mere purpose of conveying it from the ship’s side to the “consumer’s premises.
– How does the honorable senator know- that the Combine had a hand in fixing that price?
– The Coal Combine delivers the coal to the ship in Newcastle; the Shipping Combine delivers the coal on the Melbourne wharf at 15s. per ton, and there competition is supposed to set in in the guise of small traders in Melbourne, in consequence of which the consumer has to pay 30s. a ton.
– Because only certain persons can get the coal.
– The retailers have to pay the price fixed by the Combine.
– It causes a person to reflect seriously where the evil really lies. The Coal Combine is not getting that fat slice of profit from the supply of coal to the consumer which we are led to believe it gets. The lion’s share goes to those who are distributing the product in Melbourne, who are apparently making a profit of 100 per cent. I cordially support the action of Senator Millen, and I think that a Royal Commission, if appointed, might devote their labours - not without some benefit to the community - in ascertaining why 15s. is added to the price of coal after it is landed on the Melbourne wharf.
– I agree in the main with Senator Millen’s object, and. would not have risen to speak to-day only that Senator Gray directly referred to opinions expressed by me some time ago. He might have mentioned that I had expressed the opinions frequently some time ago. I have always held that if ‘the workers combined in any direction, the employers also should combine in that direction, and for the same purpose - that is, to protect their own and their common interest.
– Oh ! the lion and the lamb.
– The honorable senator is wrong, as usual, in expressing an opinion with respect to either “ the lion or the lamb. He ought to know that his most treasured ideal cannot be accomplished without combination. I have always maintained that up to a certain point, combination is in the interest of the workers, the employers, and the public, but when it becomes monopoly, it is in the public interests that drastic action should be taken. If Senator Gray had listened to the debates on the Australian . Industries Preservation Bill when it was before the Senate, he would know that 1, with many other members of the Labour Party, repeatedly declared that it would be of no use, and that other action would have to be taken in order to protect all sections of the community. Senator Findley ought to keep his mind easy, and should not object to combines. When, however, a combine becomes a monopoly, then is the time for the honorable senator to act, and I am sure he will always find me ready to co-operate with him.
– What is the object of a combine if it is not for the purpose of getting a monopoly ?
– I ask the honorable senator whether there would be any chance of nationalizing the coal industry if it were in the hands of small coal miners or master miners ? He knows well that there would be no chance. It is only when a combination becomes injurious to the general weal that honorable senators on the other side will join with us in taking action to protect the public. If the Government can indicate any direction in which the Act can be amended so as to protect the interests of the public, we shall always be willing to assist them to achieve that object; but, as we have alreadv indicated, we have very little faith in legislation of that description. Until something is done to bring about the scheme which Senator Findley has advocated, we must put up to some extent with the combines.
SenatornTURLEY (Queensland) [5.15]. I understand that the motion is moved for the purpose of calling attention not so much to the fact that a Combine exists in New South Wales among the coal owners, as to the fact that they decline to supply certain people other than those with whom they have an understanding.
– That would not be possible unless “it was a Combine.
– Quite so. I remember that when the Australian Industries Preservation Bill was before the Senate two years ago, Senator Henderson and a number of others said that they did not regard Combines as altogether an evil.
– Not necessarily so.
– They indicated that Combines were not necessarily an evil, and asserted that they often did, in connexion with industrial production and distribution, work that was absolutely necessary. Some honorable senators on the. other side denounced on that occasion all Government interference from every point of view. I have here quite a number of quotations from the speeches they made. Senator Gray said the Bill was an unjustifiable interference with freedom of trade, and should be called “ a Bill for the suppression of commerce,” or something of that description.
– The Bill contained within its four corners two very different subjects - one the power to prohibit imports.’
– Those honorable senators to whom I am referring dealt, not with one particular portion of the Bill, but with both.
– The honorable senator may be making a mistake by applying their remarks regarding one portion of the Bill to the other portion.
– I am making nomistake. I will mention one speech as an example - that delivered by yourself, Mr. President. You pointed out at that timethat the Bill was not in demand by anybody, and that all the Chambers of Commerce in Australia, who, I. take it, represented pretty well the commercial opinion of Austrafia, were absolutely opposed to the measure, lock, stock, and barrel, as introduced. Therefore, what I am saying does not refer only to one particular aspect of it. I myself am not opposed to combination. I think it is absolutely necessary. But when a number of men like the coal owners, who control a natural product, get into such a position that they are able to say, either to those whom they employ. “ You will have to work for so-and-so,” or to the public “ You will have to pay somuch for this commodity,” it is the greatest possible argument that can be advanced to forward the platform of the party with which I am associated. There can be no stronger argument for what we advocate than to say “ These people are a menace, not only to the commerce of the community, but also to the interests of the community as a whole.” We have an object lesson inthis matter in what has taken place in New
Zealand. A few years ago the coal magnates there were in exactly the same position as the coal owners in New South Wales are in to-day. They . were able to combine to regulate the output, to say to the public, “You shall pay a certain price for your coal,” and to say to the miners whom they employed ‘ ‘ Your wages shall be so much, ‘ ‘ thereby victimising on the one side the men whom they employed, and on the other the consumer. The only means by which it was found possible to deal with those people was for the Government of New Zealand to step in and open up coal mines of their own. The Government did so, employed the men at a fair wage, put the commodity on the market at a fair price to themselves-
– And charged the loss to the Consolidated Revenue.
– There was never any loss.
– They have never got an honest balance-sheet from it yet.
– There has been an honest profit on the enterprise. What the honorable senator is probably thinking of is the fact that two mines were opened up in different centres, one of which did not pay, but the other paid more than sufficient to “cover the loss on the other. By means of that undertaking the Government were able to control or regulate the price which the private coal-owner could obtain for the coal he produced in New Zealand.
– And they never received any credit for that in the balance- sheet.
– The Government received no credit for it. In fact, in Australia, the press were interested in suppressing everything which was calculated to state the position fairly. I can easily recognise that the honorable senator has obtained his information from the press.
– No ; from the New Zealand Hansard.
– I have not read that, but I have read the report submitted to the New Zealand Parliament regarding the amount of money invested, the loss made on the one coal mine, and the profit made on the other.
– The accuracy of that report was called in question, and it is the report of that debate in Hansard to which T refer.
– I did not read the debate, but the report laid on the table of the New Zealand Parliament I did see, and I have stated the impression which it conveyed to me. 1 say nothing about honorable senators opposite seeking to get protection from the Australian Industries Preservation Act, the passage of which” they opposed. I think it is a fair thing that they should. They were honestly of the opinion that the passing of that law would be detrimental to the interests of the people of Australia. Since then they have wakened up, and have come to the conclusion that the Government were perfectly justified in asking Parliament to pass that kind of legislation. They hold now the reasonable opinion that the law was passed, not to do any injury to the commerce of Australia, but with the object of protecting the interests of the producer, the wage earner, and, possibly, the consumer. I congratulate honorable senators opposite on at last arriving at the conclusion that the law, to which they were so strongly opposed, is a fairly good one to have on the statute-book. They go further, and say that, if it is not sufficiently strong in its present form, they will be only too glad to join with honorable senators on this side in having it amended and made effective enough to deal with any case like the one before us. I understand that Senator Millen, like myself, does not object to Combines, but he does object to a Combine who say, “We fix the price of the commodity that we produce at 10s. per ton, but we will not supply it to every person who comes along.” . So long as the Combine which is the subject of this motion has coal, it should supply it to every person, to the utmost extent to which it is able to produce it, at the price which it has fixed. I think that the Combine is doing good, for the reasons pointed out by Senator Henderson.
– I did not raise the question of the price at all. I have not affirmed that the Vend are charging too high a price.
– But the honorable senator’s grievance is that they will not supply coal to every person who comes along, even although they have it to supply, at -the price. Even if they have the commodity in stock, it is alleged that they say, “We decline to supply you at any price.” From the common-sense point of view, especiaily as pointed out by Senator Henderson, combination is necessary, because for years, on account of the low price of coal, the miners were practically starving, and could get only two and three days’ work per week.
– And they starved in Victoria, where the mines were getting high prices for their coal.
– That was probably because the miners’ organization was net sufficiently strong, and had no power to demand that a fair portion of the price which the coal was bringing should go to pay those who hewed it. The same condition as obtained in New South Wales also obtained to a very great extent in Queensland. Men at’ the Bundamba collieries were living a life, in many cases, which was not fit for a decent man to live, because the price at which the coal was being sold was so low that there was always friction between the men and the mine-owners regarding the wages. For the last four months we have had men out on the Queensland coast for the very same reason, the coal-owners contending that they are not able to pay more, and the miners saying that they aTe not able to obtain a decent living at the rates at which, they were paid. I am in sympathy with the object which Senator Millen seeks to attain, but, at the same time, like Senator Henderson and a number of other honorable senators belonging to the party which sits on this side, I had no particular faith in the Australian Industries Preservation Act when it was passed. I shall have no particular faith in it even if the honorable senator succeeds in making it as strong again as it is, but what has been stated by honorable senators opposite is the strongest argument in favour of the control of the trade by an authority which will see that a fair thing is done to the consumer, and also to those who are employed in obtaining the commodity. The party which will bring that about, so far as I understand it, is the State, and the State only.
– I have every reason to be thankful to honorable senators for the way in which they have received the motion, and I am pleased also that they have, apparently, in no sense misunderstood my object in bringing it forward. Senator Henderson has referred to the beneficial action of the Combine in keeping up prices at what he says, and probably rightly, is only a fair rate to enable reasonable wages to be paid. I wish to remind him, as T have already done by interjection, that I in no sense question that aspect of the. doings of the Combine. I did not wish to raise it. I did not wish to complicate the question which I brought before the Senate. I simply dismiss it now with the remark that I am not affirming that the Vend itself is injurious. The only matter which I brought under the notice of the Senate was that the Vend was alleged to be doing something injurious. All the good acts of that combination will secure approval. If the allegations are right, it was one of their wrong-doings to which I directed ‘ attention. I ask the Senate to consider the two matters as quite distinct and separate. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in his reply to my opening remarks, practically told the Senate that the Government had, in similar cases, made many inquiries, and that the information obtainable was quite useless. But he promised the Senate, in all sincerity, that further inquiries would be made. If he believes that such inquiries are useless and ineffective, and lead us nowhere, there is not much satisfaction in his saying that the Government will again go through the performance. Inquiries such as the Department is in a position to ma’ke will always end, as those have ended, in nothing more than a repetition of a. very tame farce. What is the nature of them ? The information which the VicePresident of the Executive Council read to me this afternoon has been largely obtained from interested parties, who are the only parties that appear on the surface. The tone and character of that reply showed that it was instigated by somebody connected with the industry which was nominally on its trial. That is not the sort of inquiry we want. I affirm the opinion, expressed by several honorable senators, that there is only one form of inquiry which will enable us to get at the truth of the matter, and that is’ an inquiry before the common law courts of the country. If the Government find that they are unable to secure sufficient evidence to bring an action of that kind1, I repeat my suggestion that a Commission should be appointed to ascertain the facts of the case, and to discover wherein our law is defective. I need hardly remind the Vice-President of the Executive Council that for the purposes of such an inquiry a Royal Commission has a better chance of obtaining information than a court restricted by the laws qf evidence which do not apply to an inquiry by a Royal Commission. I hope that the appointment of a Commission will not be necessary, and I believe the law should be given a fair chance that its efficacy may be proved. But if it is found necessary to have an inquiry by a Royal Commission, I do repeat my very fervent hope that it will not be constituted of politicians. Nothing has served to bring the work of Royal Commissions into discredit more than the fact that there have been appointed to them men whose views have been known, and have been strongly expressed. It should not be necessary to say that in suggesting that the appointments to such a Commission should be confined to persons outside Parliament, I do not reflect in anyway on the honesty and capacity of members of Parliament. I take the Tariff Commission as an example in point. It was constituted of four gentlemen holding one fiscal view and four holding the opposite fiscal view. They were all equally honorable men, and perhaps of equal intelligence, and, after listening to evidence, they arrived at directly opposite conclusions.
– The evidence did not alter a solitary opinion.
– That is so; and, so far as that is concerned, the different sections of the Commission might just as well have written their reports before they heard the evidence.
-The Commission was not constituted entirely of members of Parliament.
– One of the members of the Commission had never fallen to the depth or risen to the height of such a position, but of the rest, one was an exmember of Parliament, and the others, at the time of their appointment, were members of the existing Parliament.
– They were eight most obstinate men, apparently.
– They were. It is impossible for any one to believe that politicians engaged in the fighting ranks of a political army, when called upon to conduct an inquiry of the kind, will not be influenced more or less by political bias or opinions.
– That would apply to persons outside as well.
– I think that in a matter of this kind it would be possible to get men outside Parliament possessed of judicially trained minds who would be less liable to be influenced by preconceived opinions than are members of Parliament in the fighting ranks of a political army.
– But in the case of the Tariff Commission the witnesses were just as bad as the members of the Commission.
– That points to the hopelessness of doing anything, but I do not believe that our civilization is going to be so easily defeated. I make the suggestion, not because I think the Act is ineffective, but because I say that if it is ineffective we cannot stop where we are today. Unless it is clearly shown that it is the intention of Parliament to prevent them taking action injurious to the public interest, these combinations will multiply and will extend their ramifications. I hold the opinion that it is not in the public interest that we should allow that to take place. I believe that public sentiment is strongly opposed to it, and that Parliament is determined to take all necessary action to protect the interests of the public. It is for that reason, and for that alone, that I have brought this matter forward. I now ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Best) read a first time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In view of the fact, as stated in the Senate on19th September, that the State Premier of Western Australia had refused to sanctionany further expenditure on the cadet forces in that State, are any such increases being - proceeded with?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
The Government has made provision on the Estimates for an increase in the Cadets in Western Australia on the same lines as in other States. When the Estimates are passed the increases will be proceeded with.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 20th September, vide page 3585) :
First Schedule -
Coffee, Raw ; (period) eight years ; (rate of bounty)1d. per lb. ; (maximum payable in any one year)£1,500.
Upon which Senator Needham had moved by way of amendment-
That the words “ Coffee, Raw,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Sponges.”
– As .Senator Chataway desires to move the omission of the word “ raw “ and the insertion of certain words after the word “ Coffee,” I shall in the first instance put the question that the word “Coffee” be left out.
– On the second reading of the Bill I said that I thought it quite consistent with free-trade principles, in certain circumstances, to be in favour of a bounty for an industry which, with slight assistance, might be likely to become a success. I have listened to the arguments for and against this particular item, and have given a. good deal of consideration to it during the last few days. I propose to read a few extracts from an article appearing in the Queensland Agricultural Journal for August of this year. This publication is issued by direction of the Secretary for Agriculture of Queensland, and is edited by Mr. A. J. Boyd, a gentleman whom I have the pleasure of knowing as a very old Queenslander and a man of great intelligence. I, therefore, listen to what he has to say with a good deal of interest, and I propose to quote from an article appearing in this journal to show why I think there is something to be said in favour of this bounty. The bounty proposed is id. per lb. for eight years, and the maximum amount to be payable in any one year is ?1,500. Should the maximum be paid in each of the eight years, the total amount involved would be ?12,000. Mr. Boyd, in his article respecting coffee-growing, makes the following remarks -
Why do so few farmers, especially in North Queensland, take up coffee growing, not as their only crop, but as subsidiary to a main crop ? Is it because other crops pay better, or because they are deterred by the supposed scientific methods adopted in rearing the plants? No doubt every agriculturist will agree that the quicker a crop can be raised the sooner it can be put on the market, and the less handling required to put it in marketable condition the better it will pay. There are some crops which can be sold straight from the field, such as sugar cane, potatoes and root crops, lucerne, arid oaten hay, Sec. Others, again, require a certain amount of preparation before they can be sold. Grain crops, for instance, rubber, tea, coffee, cacao, or fibre plants, &c. Sugar cane has to be crushed, but the farmer has nothing to do with that. All he has to do is to grow the cane and cut it at maturity when it is a saleable commodity. Now, it is the same with coffee. When the berries are picked they can be taken to the State pulper at Kamerunga, and there they are reduced to a marketable article, when the farmer has nothing more to do with it except receiving the value of his crop when sold. As far as growing the coffee trees is concerned, there is no more difficulty about it than there is in growing orange or apple trees. Furthermore, wherever frost is absent coffee will thrive, given, of course, a reasonably good soil and rainfall. Some of the best coffee in Queensland is grown at the Buderim Mountain in the Maroochie district, and from one end of the State to the other the plant thrives luxuriantly on the warm coast lands.
I may say that the Buderim Mountain is situated between Gympie and BrisbaneI see, also, by reference to debates elsewhere, that coffee can be grown in thecoastal districts of New South Wales, as far south, I believe, as Grafton. With regard to prices, the writer of this article quotes Mr. Newport, who is an Instructor in Tropical Agriculture, as follows - “It is difficult to arrive at the cost of producing coffee in Queensland, but it is a great deal more than ‘ it ought to be. To get proper statistics on the industry it must first be firmly established ; and secondly, well organised, and exact accounts must be kept by the growers. Ir? Queensland the industry is still young, and in, very few instances are accounts kept at all.”
Mr. Newport writes further “ I can say that coffee ought not to cost more than 4d. per lb. (in parchment) to produce here. I do not think coffee can be or ever will be produced at 24d. to 3d. per lb., as Americancoffee is, but we have in our favour the protective Tariff, and the quality of the article.”
The protective Tariff may have that effect,, but I understand that hitherto the Tariff has been imposed for revenue purposes, and, unfortunately, on this occa’sion the Government have not brought forward their Tariff Bill before the introduction of a Bounties Bill. I am one of those who prefer to give a bounty on the production of coffee to increasing the Customs duty on the article, because we should know what the bounty will cost. I am not in favour of increasing the duty on coffee, whilst I am prepared to support the small bounty hereproposed. The article continues -
Mr.- Newport goes on to point out that Santos, Mexican, and American coffees are low grade, and fetch a very low price in bulk.
Mr. F. Hepburn, who grew coffee on the Hambledon Estate, near Cairns, set down the cost of picking at ?d. per lb. of cherry. At this rate, the dry parchment would cost under 24d per lb., and when milled - parchment and silver skin removed - the cost is brought up lo 3d. per lb. on the commercial coffee bean.
Some planters, says Mr. Hepburn, plant I,000trees per acre, and he gives the average production at 2d. per parchment cured coffee pe.r tree. From this it is to be deduced that at /d. per lb., the price obtained by Mr. R. D. Lewis, Cairns, for his parchment coffee, each tree would? yield is. 2d., or at the rate of ^58 6s. Sd. per acre. The cost of production, irrespective of planting, and care of trees, thus amounts to $d. per, tree, leaving a profit of gd. per tree, from which to deduct working expenses up to the time of harvesting the crop. These figures are, of course, of old date, and we have not at hand any very late similar particulars from Mr. Newport. The latter puts the cost of picking, however, at id. per lb. In a’ later article (1900) Ml Newport says that “ In Queensland we have a- very possible (and frequently reached) 20 cwt. per acre, a probable 15 to 16 cwt., as an aver age, and an easy and ordinary 10 to 12 cwt. per acre, with very little attempt at cultivation. . . . Now, as to paying : Picking a 10-acre block, giving 10 cwt. or 5 tons, means some 15 tons of cherry, which, spread over three months or so, would keep two men or boys hard at it. This 5 tons, off 10 acres, if sold at ^’50 Per ton (I am purposely quoting figures so low that even the most pessimistic cannot cavil at on the score of over-sanguiness), would give a gross income °f £25°- Deducting, say, £2 per week for the owner’s living, a balance of about ^150 remains, out of which to pay for the two helping hands for a few months, transport of crop to town, and interest on or part repayment of the initial cost, spread over the first three or four years - surely a fair margin, lt will thus be seen that whilst coffee is practically an ‘ impossibility as an industry for a large capitalist with thousands of acres, it undoubtedly offers a very comfortable living for the working farmer, precise! v ft was, is, and will be to a still greater extent, in the case of small areas of cotton.
Queensland, as we all recognise, has had to endure certain disadvantages by reason of Federation, and the people of that State feel it so much that I, for one, have every desire to encourage them in .some direction. They think that coffee can be grown successfully in some parts of Queensland. Indeed, I hold in my hand an illustration showing coffee growing in West Moreton. It is largely cultivated by Germans. If coffee will grow in such luxuriance in West Moreton, there is an excellent reason why this assistance should be given. At the end of the eight years coffee producing will probably be ah established industry. It gives employment to families, and will do a great deal to bring about the settlement of the country in one of our most northerly centres.
– The honorable senator is gradually becoming a protectionist.
– No, I am not.
. Personally, I know very little about coffee cultivation, but after listening to the discission, I am somewhat surprised that one or two honorable senators who have expressed their intention of voting against the item should do so. Senator Henderson’s objection to it is that, so far, coffee has only been cultivated in Australia in small areas. But we have been looking for industries capable of profitable application to small areas. This appears to be such an industry. Senator Henderson is also opposed to the item because, he said, cottongrowing is merely an amusement for those engaged in it. Surely the complaint of those interested in labour is in that, in many instances, the work of the labourer is painful, arduous, and disagreeable. If we can establish an industry that will give profitable employment to our people, and which is in itself interesting and almost delightful, that is an argument for establishing it. Again, Senator Henderson objected to the item on the ground that children are employed in coffee cultivation. He very properly objects to the exploitation of child labour. If the child labour used in coffee production were of an arduous, continuous, and painful kind, I certainly should protest against it. But there are some industries in connexion with which the family of a cultivator can be profitably, helpfully, and unobjectionably. employed. In most small orchards the orchardist avails himself of the services of his children for a few weeks in the yea.r. Their work is not at all disagreeable or injurious. It is rather beneficial.
– The labour of children in an orchard is usually voluntary.
– It is very often. In an amusing book which I once read, Mr. Midshipman Easy, the hero was told by his mother to run out into the garden and pick some cherries for himself, and after giving him the order she turned round to a friend and said, “ What an obedient little fellow he is !” This industry is one which, if it be successful, will be an agreeable and pleasant one for our people. There is nothing arduous about it. Further, coffee is an article of commerce which we in the Commonwealth use somewhat extensively. It is not used here so extensively as in some other countries, but still a considerable quantity is consumed.
– The industry has had an excellent chance.
– It has had a great deal of assistance, and has achieved some degree of development. The probability is that coffee has not been extensively cultivated, because many of our people have not thought of growing it. Their attention has been directed to other crops. One of the special advantages of bounties is that they direct public attention to the desirableness of cultivating the products for which the bounties are given. Very often it happens that an industry to which a bounty is given would have been successful if the bounty had not been paid. Indeed, I should say that an industry that would not succeed if some person applied capital to it without a bounty, would probably not succeed with a bounty. But the object of bounties is to tide over the difficulties attendant upon the initial stages of an industry. The more we direct public attention to industries which we seek to develop, the more likelihood there is of their being successful. I trust that the item will be agreed to, in order that coffee may be grown here on White Australia principles. Nearly all the coffee that we now consume is grown outside Australia by coloured labour. We object to coloured labour entering into competition with us internally; and we ought to object to its competition with an article which we can successfully grow within our borders. It may be proved that the bounty will not develop the growth of coffee to any large extent, and that we shall still have to import a considerable quantity.
– Spend the money and have no industry established.
– If the industry does not succeed, the Government will not pay the bounty, and therefore we shall be none the worse off. But, although the industry may not succeed, the bounty will direct public attention to coffee growing, and it is probable that through its means much more coffee will be grown in the future than has been grown in the past. It is a light, cleanly occupation. If our efforts do not succeed, the money will not be wasted, but if they do succeed, we shall establish the production by white Australian labour of a commodity that is consumed in considerable quantities by our people. We shall thus be doing a good thing for Australia.
– I wish to draw attention to one or two facts, in reply to an interjection made by Senator Henderson. That interjection, I venture to think, really embraces the whole of the objections to this item. which come mainly from honorable senators from Western Australia. The ordinary coffee that is chiefly imported into Australia now under a duty of 3d. per lb. costs1s. 6d. per lb. That is not Mocha coffee, the best quality, which would probably cost about 2s. per lb. It is a coffee which any person who understands that commodity will admit to be, if anything, inferior to the coffee that is now being produced in Queensland. The Queensland coffee is now being sold in Australia at the rate of is. 31/2d. per lb. net, as against1s. 6d. per lb. for coffee from abroad.
– That is the retail price ?
– Yes. The business of roasting coffee is practically an expert one. At present the coffee growers, operating on a comparatively small scale, roast their coffee on their own plantations. At all events, a large number of them do. The coffee is roasted on a comparatively small scale, with the result that we get various qualities. I believe that if the coffee which is grown in Queensland and elsewhere, and sold in the bean green, after it has been hulled, were sent to Melbourne and roasted on a large scale, the green coffee would realize about1s. 11/2d. per lb. to the grower. The cost of roasting is estimated at1d. per lb. when it is done on a reasonably large scale. If Australian coffee can be sold in a populous centre at not more than1s. 3d. per lb., it will compete on level terms with imported coffee. The industry only requires the assistance of a bounty to be able to compete with the imported article. If the method I suggested for carrying on the industry be adopted, as I believe it will be, then in every large centre factories will be established where coffee will be roasted, ground, tinned, and labelled. In that way a large quantity of work will be given to men or women, as the case may be, in every large centre as an absolute corollary to the establishment of the coffee industry in other parts of Australia. That will be additional to the benefit which will be derived from carrying out our policy of settling white people in the tropics. That is a point which honorable senators should bear in mind. I hope that in voting on the item they will not be carried away with the idea that it will be the means of suddenly raising the price of coffee to the poor man. There is every reason to” suppose that Australian-grown coffee will be able to compete with imported coffee on the terms I have mentioned.
– The purchaser of imported coffee may get boots and crusts.
– I do not understand the interjection. I trust that the Committee will not carry the amendment. I fail to see that sponges can be looked upon as a reasonable substitute for coffee.
– -Does not the honorable senator believe in encouraging the establishment of new industries in the Commonwealth ?
– That is exactly why I intend to vote for this item. lt appears to me that if sponges should come under any head in the schedule, it should come under the head of fish. I believe that a sponge is a variety of fish.
– -I remind the honorable senator that the only question before the Committee is that the word “ Coffee “ be left out.
– If that is omitted, what word do honorable senators propose to insert in its place? Is it intended to leave an absolute blank?
– No, to strike out the item.
– I hope that honorable senators will not delete the item. Certainly if they omit the item, I cannot think of a more valuable item in the schedule.
.- It is refreshing to hear Senator Chataway become so warm in his advocacy of the coffee industry. He desired that the Committee should not agree to the passage of one or two other items on the ground that Papua is more suitable than Australia for the encouragement of those particular industries; as a matter of fact, on the ground that they were natural industries to that Territory. Now, coffee “nas been a natural industry to Papua for the last four or five years.
– In Queensland we have been growing coffee for the last twenty years.
– In the Age of Saturday last there is an interesting article, with the heading “ Resources of New Guinea,” and the sub-heading “The Work of Mr. Staniforth Smith.” The interview is with a gentleman named Mr. W. F. Langdon, of the firm of Thompson, Fraser, Ramsay, Pty. Ltd. He mentions that Mr. Staniforth Smith is sanguine enough to think that this year’s production of coffee .beans in Papua will fetch 6d. per lb. That, I believe, is considered to be a very high price.
– Is that green coffee, pulped, unpulped, or hulled?
– It means in the green state, I presume. The article says -
The coffee beans have not yet been tested, soit is impossible to give an estimate of their market value. Mr. Staniforth Smith is sanguine enough to think they should reach an. average of 6d. per lb.
It is evident that the industry is being, successfully carried on in Papua. But, apart from that statement, we have each received a return showing the imports from the Pacific Islands during 1905-6 and 1906-7. In the former year, no coffee was. imported from Papua, but in the later year we imported 44,656 lbs. of coffee, valued at £1,197. According to the expertsand the reports which have been placed at our disposal, Papua is more suitable than any part of Australia for the coffeeindustry. My first consideration, however, is for the Commonwealth. I am not seriously concerned whether the coffee industry is a success in Papua or not. I am aware that for a considerable time coffee has been grown successfully in some parts of Queensland. As a matter of fact, the industry has passed the experimental* stage in that State. I also learn from experts that the Northern Territory- is very suitable for coffee cultivation. Last year, we imported- 1,693,990 lbs. of raw coffee, valued at £46,780; and roasted, ground, and liquid coffee to the value of £17,835 > making a total value of nearly £65,000. If we encourage the growth of coffee for consumption in the Commonwealth alone, we shall be doing a good work in its interests. It is .said that there is a Customsduty of 3d. per lb. on coffee, and that that is sufficient encouragement.
– Is it not?
– No. If it cannot succeed with that protection, let the dutybe increased until the industry becomes a profitable one.
– It has succeeded in Queensland.
– According to the evidence that we have to guide us, it has not succeeded there. Prior to Federation, Queensland levied a duty of 4d. per lb.. on coffee, and I am reliably informed that with- that measure of protection the industry was making very great progress.
– It was falling off wholesale.
– Why ? Because, since Federation, the Customs duty has been reduced from 4d. to 3d. per ib.
– Is not a duty of 3d. per lb. enough, protection for the coffee industry anywhere?
– If the industry was succeeding with a duty of 4d. per lb., and is not succeeding with a duty of 3d. per lb., there is no doubt that the latter ;does not give enough protection.
– That is not the reason why the industry is not increasing.
– That is the evidence which has been placed before honorable senators. I believe that the item, if passed, will give new life to the industry. From the Australian point of view, it certainly deserves encouragement. Those who argue that coffee can be produced more cheaply abroad than in Australia take a very narrow view of local affairs, and have a very restricted vision from the protectionist point of view.
– The honorable senator said recently’ that he would not allow any article to be imported in any circum- ‘Stances.
– I am a protectionist out and out: I have never adopted the argument that, because other parts of the world can supply all Australia’s needs and requirements, Australia should not embark in any industry.. I am concerned, not about what is being done abroad, but with what we ought to do and are doing in Australia. There is nothing that we consume that cannot Le either grown or produced in Australia.
– Then why not advocate a bounty on tea?
– Because tea is not included in the schedule. If it was, I should be a warm-hearted supporter of a bounty on tea, because I am satisfied that tea can be grown in Australia. I hope that those who have expressed themselves as against this item, but have not absolutely committed themselves to vote against it, will reconsider their position. I know that some honorable senators would like to see coffee eliminated from the schedule for the purpose of substituting another item. I ask them not to be carried away by their own false reasoning, because two or three of them art protectionists.
– I arn one, and I am going to do it again.
– The honorable, senator, as a protectionist, ought to support a bounty to encourage’ the coffee industry.
– In addition to a duty of 100 per cent. ?
– The duty is not before the Committee. Coffee and tea are largely consumed in the Commonwealth, particularly tea, and I remember that when the first Tariff- was before the Senate, Senator Dobson strongly advocated the imposition of a tax on tea, on no other ground than that everybody drank tea. It was not because he was desirous of encouraging the tea industry in Australia. We were told that the coffee industry was on the decline in Queensland.
– Who said that ? What was said was that it had not increased in accordance with the protection it received.
– I stated that evidence had been submitted to show that the industry was on a fair way to success in Queensland some time anterior to Federation, under a State import duty of 4d. per lb., but that, with the inauguration of the Commonwealth, the duty was reduced from 4<i. to 3d. Senator Lynch interjected that the industry was on the decline in Queensland, and my reply was that the decline was due to the reduction in the duty. These are the figures : In 1897 there were 311 acres under coffee cultivation in Queensland.
– What was the duty at that date?
– 4d. a lb. In 1898 the area under cultivation was 432 acres; in 1899, 495 acres; in 1900, 537 acres; in 1901, 547 acres. The latter was the year of Federation. Let honorable senators listen now to these figures, because they confirm my statement: In 1902, 396 acres; in 1903, 394 acres; in 1904, 342 acres; and in. 1905, 279 acres. Consequently to-day, mainly because of the reduction of the duty to 3d., there is only half the area under coffee cultivation in Queensland that there was when the duty was 4d. The industry can be carried on successfully bv a man in a small way. It ‘can be conducted as a subsidiary industry, while those who desire to devote their whole time and attention to it can also make a success of it. It is said that the returns per acre amount to about £10. If that be true, it can be made a profitable industry.
– And, therefore, requires no bounty.
– I know that the honorable senator is opposed to every item in the schedule.
– Senator Gray’s interjection is a logical deduction from the honorable senator’s statement.
– I had not concluded what I was about to say : that it has been stated that £10 an acre can be obtained from the coffee industry in New Guinea, where labour is cheaper than in the Commonwealth. I am not in a position to say what the net results have been in Queensland. That they have not been satisfactory is evidenced by the figures I have just quoted.
– The bounty only restores the protection to what it was before Federation - 4d. a lb. - at the time when the industry was successful.
– Then we are not going to do anything out of the way. I dare say the argument will be used that in Brazil enough coffee is produced to supply the needs of the world.
– It is a fact, not an argument.
– There are reasons even for that. They wanted to limit the output and control the price.
– They must have had a combine.
– There is a disposition in every part of the world for producers and manufacturers to come together to make their own arrangements and fix their own prices for certain commodities. That may have happened in Brazil, but whether it did or not ought not seriously to concern us in discussing this proposed bounty.
– What about raisins ?
– That reminds me that in Victoria some years ago the Government gave a bounty for the encouragement of the raisin industry, although at that time - and as a matter of fact the same is true now - sufficient raisins were grown in parts of the Mediterranean and’ elsewhere to supply the markets of the world. But the Victorian Government were not concerned about what was being done abroad. They gave a bounty of, I think, £5 a ton for the encouragement of the industry in this State, and to-day it is one of the most successful of the industries that have been brought into existence by a bounties system. The raisins grown at Mildura find a market abroad. They have brought the highest price in the London market against all competitors. That instance shows that the arguments with regard to the coffee industry in Brazil are not sound. I hope that one or two honorable senators who have not absolutely committed themselves against this item will reconsider their position, because, as protectionists, they are in duty bound to support the Bill.
– Should not the necessaries of life be considered?
– They have not gone mad on protection.
– It is not possible to go mad on protection. Those who favour free-trade are already mad. As when the Bill went into Committee I expressed my intention to vote for every item in the schedule, I shall unhesitatingly support this item, and I trust that those who are now in a state of indecision will see their way to support it also.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.45 p.m.
– I should not have risen at this stage if I had not desired to convey a different impression to the Committee as to my own attitude, and that of other honorable senators, from that which must have been conveyed by Senator Findley’s reference to the fact that some secondreading speeches were made on this Bill. I am correct in salvingthat coffee growing in Queensland was referred to at some length in those second-reading speeches. Senator Findley attributed the decline in the industry in Queensland to the reduction in the Federal Tariff of the duty on coffee, which had previously been imposed by the Queensland Tariff. But at least one Queensland senator gave us a history of the growth, the very small rise, and the decline in the coffee crowing industry in that State, and he certainly did not attribute its decline to the reasons to which Senator Findley referred as responsible for it. Senator Turley gave us to understand that coffee growing in Queensland declined because sugar growing was found to be more profitable.
– Sugar growing became more profitable because the Federal Parliament made coffee growing less profitable.
– Whateverma y be said of this industry it has, according to Senator Chataway’s statement, existed in Queensland now for a period of over twenty years, and it has been nursed and coddled in such a way under the State or the Federal Tariff that it must Have succeeded if there were any reasonable prospect of its success. I have no objection to a moderate Tariff, but I am not prepared to say blindly, as Senator Findley does, that if coffee cannot be grown with the assistance of a duty of 1:50 per cent, ad valorem, we should make the duty 300 per cent. I am not so blind as that. If I can see a reasonable prospect for the success of an industry on fair lines, I am prepared to encourage its development. Senator Chataway, in dealing with the question of prices, quoted coffee imported at is. 6d. per lb., but Senator Findley, reading, I think, from the Customs returns, stated that 44,000 lbs. of the same quality of coffee had been imported at a cost of £i>i97, or at the rate of 6Jd. per lb. That, I presume, is the average value of the coffee imported, reckoning the importations for the whole of the year.
– .Then why does the honorable senator pay is. 6d. per lb. for coffee ?
– I’ wish to correct the honorable senator on that point. I never pay is. ‘6d. per lb. for coffee. I get excellent coffee in Melbourne for very much less.
– The honorable senator does not get pure coffee, but coffee adulterated with chicory.
– I ‘ get good coffee.
– Has the honorable senator moved an amendment?
– No ; but I am opposing the item, and giving reasons for’ my opposition. I am satisfied that no evidence has been produced which would justify the Committee in retaining this item in the schedule.
– One or two honorable senators have spoken on the amendment I have moved, and Senator Trenwith, in his effort to justify the retention of the item has apologized for the. industry. The honorable senator admitted that despite the high protection afforded to the industry during past years it has not thriven. He further ‘ admitted that he doubted whether, even if this bounty were granted it would be sufficient to cause the industry to thrive. Senator Findley has supported the item in a very able speech, in which he has accused honorable senators who are opposed to it of acting contrary to their fiscal opinions. It is not the business of the Committee just now to discuss the fiscal issue; but let me say, as one who is opposed to the item, that I do not give way, even to Senator Findley, in my desire to encourage and foster the development of Australian industries. When I spoke on the item on Friday afternoon, Senator Findley interjected that what I said showed that if the outside world could supply Australia with iron there was no reason why we should give a bounty to the iron industry ; but I point out that the coffee industry in Australia has received ample protection in the past, and yet has failed to thrive. I find from the Customs returns that in’ 1906 we imported 1,677,853 lbs. of raw and kiln-dried coffee the duty on which was 3d”, per lb. The people of the Commonwealth consequently paid during that year £20,973 on the importations of raw coffee. On roasted or ground coffee and coffee in a liquid form, the importation was 342,999 lbs., and the duty received at the rate of sd. per lb. amounted to £7,146. So that on the total, importation of coffee during 1.906, a sum amounting to £28,119 was paid by the people of the Commonwealth in order to protect and foster this industry. If the payment of such a sum in one year has not been sufficient to encourage a further development of “the industry, I should like Senator Chataway or Senator Findley to tell me whether a bounty of £1,500 a year is likely to save the industry from ruin. Will this bounty represent the difference between success and failure in this industry? I say that it will not. Senator Henderson has referred to reasons for the decline in the coffee growing industry since the inauguration of Federation. The industry has received ample protection under the Tariff prior to and since Federation. I suggest as another factor in the decline of the coffee industry that when the duty imposed by the Queensland Tariff was reduced by id. per lb. under the Federal Tariff, tea was at the same time placed on the free list, and, consequently, since that time more tea and less coffee has been drunk in Australia.
– The Customs returns do not show a decline in the importations of coffee, although I admit that they do show an increase in the importations of tea.
– The figures placed before the Committee by Senator Sf . Ledger with respect to the acreage under cultivation for coffee in each year from 1901 to 1904 prove conclusively that, not- withstanding the ample protection given to the industry it has failed to thrive.
– The protection has not been ample or the industry would have succeeded.
– It must ‘be admitted that the proposed bounty of £1,500 a year represents but a very feeble attempt to develop an industry which has not been successful with the aid of a duty representing £28,119 a year. Whilst I make these statements I can say that I have been fairly consistent in my support to the Bill, since this is only the second item I have opposed. If we are to encourage industries they should be such as have a fair chance of success. We should not forget that the object of the Bill is not merely to foster industries already in existence, but to create new industries.1 Speaking as a protectionist, and one who, when the Tariff Bill is before the Senate, will prove his right to be so called, I say that this industry has received ample protection and has failed to thrive, and I am, therefore, opposed to this item, as likely to be of no use whatever.
– I took the opportunity on Friday to explain why .1 shall oppose the bounty on coffee. As my attitude has been called in question, I will now give further reasons. I have, in every division on the Bill, stood by the Government, Having no practical knowledge of the items which we have been discussing, I was content to be guided by the report of the experts. I now intend to follow the course set by Senator Chataway when he was leading the opposition to previous items. I shall not . oppose the item because . it concerns’ the State of Queensland, but I shall quote from the report of the experts.
– The Queensland experts are in favour of the bounty.
– I ‘am not going to allow Senator Findley to sit in judgment on me as to what a protectionist should do. There is reason in all things, and a duty of 3d. per lb. on coffee ought to be quite enough. Coffee must be regarded as a necessary of life, and it is possible to go too far in protecting such commodities. I noticed that Senator Keating, who is in charge of the Bill, did not quote from the report of the experts on this item. I presume that he had read it, but that it did not suit his purpose to quo’te it. They say -
It is undeniable that coffee of a good qua-lily can be produced over large areas of- the tropical* and sub-tropical areas of the Commonwealth. The returns, however, of the plantations are not alluring, while the consumption of coffee by the people of the Commonwealth is on a- very slender scale. The experience of the chief coffee producing countries of the world, and these are countries where an abundance of cheap labour is obtainable, does not afford much hope for the extensive and successful exploitation of the industry under Australian conditions. In Brazil, for instance, sufficient coffee is produced to meet, the requirements of the whole world, the figures being as under - Year, 1901-2, world’s consumption, 15,500,000 sacks; year, 1901-2, Brazilian production, 15,496,000 sacks. It is also an ominous fact that according to the Tropenflanzer, a recognised authority on all tropical matters the planters of Brazil have not only destroyed large quantities of coffee berry because of the low prices prevailing, but have also pulled up the bushes growing on large areas of coffee plantations, and are using the land for other purposes.
These producers must have been a little bit “off their chumps” to pull up the bushes if they we’re producing a payable commodity. They pulled them up because coffee production did not pay. We have heard a great deal about risky enterprises, but’ could anything be riskier than this? I hope honorable senators will not think that I object to this item because it principally concerns Queensland. I have no prejudice against Queensland. But coffee has been grown for years in that State, and the experiment has failed.’ At one time, there were 500 acres under coffee. The production has been on the decrease ever’ since. The fact that it did not pay to cultivate coffee is a proof that it is a risky industry. I am certainly a protectionist, but when it comes to taxing the people’s food in this way, it is quite another matter.
– What about sugar?
– The honorable senator wants to get me into collision with the Chairman. If I were to refer to sugar,* I should be out of order.
– What about barley?
– Excellent whisky is made from barley, and whisky to a Scotchman is a grand thing. The experts also say -
The records available of Australian experience in coffee growing are by ‘ no means encouraging. In the year 1903 there were 318 acres under coffee in Queensland, the total yield being 83,632 lbs. Valuing this at gd. per lb., which is allowed to be a fair average price, the return would not be more than £10 per acre. Considering the labour involved in clearing and preparing the land, in picking and cleaning for market, and bearing in mind the fact that the plantation does not become productive until it is four years old, this return appears totally inadequate.
Yet the experts - I do not know whether by order of the Government or not - recommend a bounty of id. per lb. There is nothing in this report to encourage any one to go into the industry. The fact that there is already a duty of 3d. per lb. ought to be sufficient if coffee growing in Queensland were capable of being conducted successfully. But the fact is that those who have engaged in coffee, growing have found the experiment unremunerative. Looking at the matter from a broad point of view, can we say that the industry is a promising one? Can we recommend it to the working classes, who have to earn their living by the sweat of their brow?
– There is no obligation upon them to go into it.
– But wa have heard the argument from honorable senators opposite that we should not mislead working people into going into unremunerative enterprises. I would not say for a moment that Senator Chataway is supporting this item because he is a representative of Queensland, but he was the leader of the opposition in objecting to previous items. There is nothing in the experts report to justify the establishment of the industry by a bounty. I follow nobody’s lead in this matter. I have read in the Adelaide press that we Labour men are not allowed to think for ourselves, but have to do just what our leaders tell us. We are referred to as though we were mere machines. But 1 dare to differ from any Labour man, or from any other members of this Parliament, when I think proper. On this occasion, I shall vote according to my conscience; and as my best judgment dictates.
– It is extremely difficult to account for the aberration of intellect to which the discussion on the item “Coffee” appears to give rise. We have honorable senators getting up and protesting in words of the strongest character that they are protectionists and are desirous of encouraging Australian industries. But when we put them to the test they draw the line at coffee. If there is any plant which can be grown profitably in the northern portions of Aus- tralia - and in that term I include the Northern Territory, the north-western portion of Western Australia, as well as the northern portion -of Queensland - it is coffee. Both the climate and the soil are suitable for its production. Coffee is an extremely healthy beverage. I recomend it to Senator Needham as being much better than tea, which is a nerve-racking beverage. If it has been over-boiled and the tannin extracted, it gives rise to a great deal of indigestion. It is also the product of coloured labour. That is a kind of labour which honorable senators who are so strongly opposed to this item are always decrying. Yet when they have the opportunity of assisting in the production of a better beverage than tea in their own country by means of white labour they fail to avail themselves of it. I am at a loss to account for the extraordinary twisting which seems to have taken place in the minds of some honorable senators in connexion with this subject. Again, we find honorable senators pouring ridicule .on the reports of the experts. “ What do these experts,” they ask, “ know about the subject?” - that is, of course, when, the experts do not agree with their own ideas. But now we find them getting up and treating the’ report of the experts with all the reverence which is usually accorded to Holy Writ. The last speaker actually trembled when he read their report.
– I did not.
– The honorable senator seemed so much impressed by the truth ‘and strength of the report that it shook in his hand while he was quoting from it. It seems to me that honorable senators quite lose sight of the object of this Bill. The object is to encourage local industries, more especially industries which have their habitat in the tropical and the sub-tropical portions of Australia. I ask every honorable senator who poses as an Australian to support the items in. the schedule. I doubly ask every one who says he believes in protection to support them.
– Does not the honorable senator think that a protection which ranges from 3d. to 6d. per lb. is sufficient?
– The fact that the duty fails to protect is to me overwhelming evidence that it is not high enough. If it protected “we would not be importing annually 2,000,000 lbs. of coffee, raw and liquid. If coffee were an article like tea, which could not be grown in Australia, commercially speaking, I would not be at all surprised. But it has been proved that coffee of the best quality can be grown here. I am not sure that it is not superior to Arabian coffee. In Queensland the industry was flourishing until Federation was accomplished, and the duty was reduced from 4d. to 3d. per lb. There maybe something in Senator Turley’s claim that a number of persons deserted coffeegrowing for sugar-growing when the sugar boom was on. Federation gave a much wider market than previously existed, and the consequence was that men rushed into the sugar industry until now we are producing almost enough for our own requirements, and will speedily, unless something happens, be placing that commodity on the world’s market and competing with the cheap coloured labour of other sugar countries. In face of that fact is it not desirable that the Commonwealth should) do something to establish a new industry ? Here are we importing annually 2,000,000 lbs. of coffee value.d at £64,000, and yielding a duty of £28,000, so that in all our coffee costs us £92,000. I claim that it would be much better to grant a bounty of 6d. or 7d., or even 8d., per lb. upon the production of coffee than to continue to import it in such large quantities. Every one who votes against the bounty for coffee must, if he wishes to be consistent byandby, vote for the abolition of the Customs duty of 3d. per lb. on coffee. Why ? Because it has been proved incontestibly that it isa revenue and not a protective duty.
– Why does not the honorable senator leave the, protectionists alone and turn his guns upon the revenue tarifflsts ?
– We do not expect honorable senators to get up and in one breath declare themselves to be protectionists, and in the next breath to refuse to assist in the development of an Australianindustry.
– There is protection and protection, as the honorable senator knows.
– If it does not protect it is not protection. If a tank is not large enough to hold one’s water supply, then he needs a larger tank; and if the wall of protection round this country is not high” enough to keep out the products of cheap labour, especially black labour, then let us raise the wall by a brick or two. That is the advice I give to honorable senators.
– To adopt prohibition.
– I am not ashamed of that word. How are we going to develop the Northern Territory if the ideas so freely ventilated here by honorable senators are to be carried out? Let us seize every opportunity of establishing industries. Whatever we can grow for the use of our own people let us grow it, that is, if it can be done without paying too high a price. We can grow coffee.
– We have to pay a price if we want Australia to be a white nation.
-Yes, we must have industries in which our people are to be employed. Why shouldwe, who believe so fervently in a White Australia, drink coffee produced by coloured labour when we could be growing that commodity ourselves ? I find that when a prejudice gets lodged in a man’s mind it needs all the dynamite or cordite or lyddite in Australia to blast it out. I realize that in many cases men are not swayed by reason or justice, but by-
– By geography.
– By pure prejudice and largely by geography. I hope that we have some regard to the position and geography of Australia. A great portion of our continent is tropical and sub-tropical. If that is to be settled we must not only encourage industries which are native to the tropics, but also be prepared to pay something towards their establishment.
– Whether they are worth it or not?
– I believe that they are worth it. Every Australian industry has been assisted in one way or another. Even the industry which supports Western Australia has received large subsidies in one way or other from the various State Governments, and that is all we ask on behalf of the coffee industry. Some honorable senators seem to run away with the idea that I am “ barracking “ for this item simply because coffee is a Queensland commodity. That is not the reason. I believe that we ought to try to develop the northern portion of Australia. Here is one commodity which will grow there, and why should we not assist its production ?
– It will not pay.
– We have heard it said of thousands of things that they would not pay. Those people who know beforehand what will pay and what will not, are, like the poor, always with us. To sit down and say in a feeble-minded fashion that a particular thing cannot be clone, or is not worth doing, is a habit which’ it is extremely undesirable to foster in Australia. We want here men who do not see difficulties, who go out into the wilderness to blaze the track of progress, prospect the country, establish industries, and increase our population - men who have some faith in their country. Some honorable senators have said that it is not possible to grow coffee profitably in Queensland. In the Queensland Agricultural Journal of 1st August, 1898, there was published a paper read by Mr. Bromiley at an Agricultural Conference held in Queensland in that year. He was a coffee grower, and said -
I thought, perhaps, the experience gained in six years by myself might be of use, particularly as I started feeling very gently into it. I did not invest a very great amount of money in it because I was not at all sure how it would do as a plantation. I had seen it grow under all sorts of conditions. I had seen it grow in all aspects, in various qualities of soil, and at various altitudes above the sea ; from just a little above the tide water to where I am now, and so far as I know I have the highest point growing coffee in our district. I have seen it doing well on hungry granite. I have seen it growing on almost a stone quarry, where fifteen or sixteen year old trees gave splendid crops ; only in one case have I seen it fail, and in that case it was right on the sea-beach, or nearly in the sea-sand, but certainly not more than twenty feel above tide water, and exposed all the time to the northerly winds.
That shows that coffee can be grown almost anywhere along the coast in Queensland.
– Did that man make a fortune out of it?
– He did not.
– Why ?
– I suppose for various reasons. Why have men failed in potato growing in Tasmania? Every man who tackles that industry in Tasmania does not make a fortune. It took some time to establish even apple growing in Tasmania. I ‘believe that the foundation of every Tasmanian industry was laid in the convict days, when, if they had not bounties, they had very cheap labour. I do not propose at this stage to read any more from this article. I do not think that anything I might quote from it would influence honorable senators, because they appear to have made up their minds. But I would make this last appeal : We are trying to establish industries in the tropical portions of Australia. It may be admitted at once that coffee growing is not a big industry. We spend only £64.000 on the 2,000,000 lbs. of coffee that we import, but, small as that quantity is, if we were producing it here, the expenditure of that amount of money within our own boundaries would give employment to quite a number of families. Coffee growing is eminently a family industry. It can be more advantageously carried on by a man with a young family, than by any other kind of settler. Those are the very people we want to encourage in the northern parts of the continent. We hear a great deal about the empty north, and about the need to populate it, but when the Government, in good faith, bring in a proposal which, if carried, will encourage the settlement of men with families there, a number of socalled protectionists - they must be a new brand of protectionists - bitterly oppose the idea.
– But there are com pensations.
– They must be doing so under a misconception. I am not sure about the compensations. I never expect from Senator Millen any assistance to new industries in Australia, but I did expect assistance from some of those who have expressed themselves as strongly opposed to this item. Senator W. Russell told us why he opposed it. I listened very carefully to his statements.
– The honorable senator has not met my arguments.
– I did not hear any. The honorable senator cannot reply to the fact that the object of the Bill is to encourage tropical industries, and that coffee is a sub- tropical or tropical industry.
– It is not solely a Bill to encourage tropical industries.
– It is almost absolutely so.
– It is protection gone mad.
– It is protection that does not protect. We pay £64,000 for the coffee we import, and £28,000 in duty on it, or almost so per cent. It is protection run mad, because it is not- protection at all. If it were protection, we should probably pay only £2,000 or £3,000 in duty. I shall never be satisfied until the whole of the coffee consumed in Australia is grown upon Australian soil. The arguments for this item have been sufficiently strong to induce any man who is truly Australian in sentiment, who desires to see the north populated, andwho above all, is a protectionist and not a revenue tariffist, to vote for it. I hope that even atthis eleventh hour, some of our friends will find grace, and return to the protectionist fold.
– I support this item for the most practical reasons. I am not going to say that I do so for patriotic-
– Or businesslike.
– Or businesslike reasons, but I shall tell honorable senators a few facts that are within my own knowledge, and that have convinced me that coffee can be grown in Australia, that it is better for the people of Australia that it should be grown in Australia, and that even if we have to impose a higher duty and give a bounty as well, we ought to grow it in Australia. I intend to give some reasons why coffee growing in Australia is not so successful as it ought to be. I do not need to go to experts or statistics for proof that coffee can be grown here. While living in Melbourne, I thought, on account of the various statements I have heard about the adulteration of so-called coffee, that it would be better to get the coffee beans, have them roasted, and grind the coffee myself. I thought that I would then be sure to get the real, genuine article. I went to a shop, and found that I had to pay at least1s.5d. per lb. for raw coffee, and1s. 7d. for another kind. I asked for Queensland coffee, and they had not such a thing in the place. I have gone to the same kind of shop and found that they have not Australian currants, raisins, or dried fruits. I asked for South Australian cheese, and some of them did not know that such a thing was made in South Australia.
– They did not know much.
– They did not want to know. Anything Australian has never received the encouragement in Australia that it ought to receive, because the people connected with these businesses are not as patriotic as some honorable senators appear to be at the present time. I thought the best thing to do was to consult a Queensland senator, and I spoke to Senator Givens on the subject. He got me some green coffee beans from Cairns, and some roasted coffee beans from the same place. According to his statement, this coffee was worth1s. 2d. per lb. It would appear from the prices which havebeen quoted, that that is a sufficiently high price to pay for coffee on the plantations, but it is much below the price at which other coffee could be bought here. I can assure honorable senators that the coffee made from the beans supplied to me by Senator Givens was good coffee, and was the genuine article. I can tell the Committee why coffee is not so largely used as it ought to be. When Senator Chataway was1 speaking, I interjected something about boots and crusts. It is a well-known fact - and I heard the statement made from the platform of the Adelaide Town Hall by a gentleman in the business - that coffee is very often adulterated with sawdust. I know that at the present time a very large proportion of the coffee that is consumed by the people of Australia is. more than 50 per cent. chicory. It is well known that chicory has no beneficial qualities whatever, and gives only a bitter taste and a colour to the liquor.
– And to the liver also.
– I was going to add that it injures the stomach and other internal organs, as do all other adulterants of coffee. It is because of these cheap adulterants, and the laxity in the administration of laws for the preservation of the public health and the purity of food, that the Australian people are being gradually injured in their health, and are consuming what is called coffee, but what is not coffee.
– The adulterants could be mixed with coffee here.
– It is better that we should be poisoned by our own people than by somebody else. At all events, it would be much easier to get at persons attempting to poison us here than at the poisoners elsewhere. I have stated the principal reason why the consumption of Australian coffee is retarded and the industry is not as profitable as it ought to be. With reference to Senator W. Russell’s statements as to the production in Brazil-
– I read what was in the report.
– I do not care either about the report or the statement. There are many other things produced in Australia to the production of which the same argument has been applied. When we began to grow wheat in South Australia it was confidently declared by interested parties that the wheat industry could never be profitably carried on in that State Senator Russell must be aware of that fact.. The same argument applies to the production of sugar. If we should not grow coffee because it can be grown in abundance in.
Brazil, we should not grow sugar, because in Java and portions of China, and in Jamaica, all the sugar necessary for the world’s consumption couldbe grown. We can grow anything if we care to pay for it, and I say that since we commenced to grow sugar in Australia the consumers of the article have not been called upon to pay an appreciably increased price for it. It is the same with coffee. If we give sufficient encouragement to the industry by means of a protective duty, a bounty, and the effective administration of our Foods and Drugs Acts and the Commerce Act, we shall find in a very short time that we will be able to get genuine coffee grown in Australia, that will be beneficial to the consumers and profitable to those engaged in producing it. If we desire to populate this country and make it worth living in, we shall not ask ourselves what articles can be produced in other parts of the world where cheap labour can be obtained. The people of Great Britain could manufacture a sufficient number of boots to pave the whole world, but that is no reason why we should not establish the boot industry in Australia. The same thing applies to the manufacture of iron, steel, woollens, and everything else. There are other parts of the world, the inhabitants of which could supply the world’s consumption of these commodities; but it is to our advantage tp establish these industries in Australia, open up avenues of employment, and secure the settlement of the country. It is better that we should do that than that we should be always considering what can be done profitably or unprofitable in other parts of the globe. I hope that honorable senators will support this item, and many others.
– There was not one argument used by Senator McGregor which might not be applied with greater force to the production of tea. No one can doubt that with the wide variety of climate and soil we have, the production of tea is possible in Australia.
– Tea is not in the schedule.
– That does not affect the argument in the slightest degree. No argument can overcome the stern logic of facts, and it is a fact that, notwithstanding the imposition of a duty of 40 per cent, on this article during the “last five or six years, and of a still higher duty prior to that period in the State which is sup posed to be specially adapted to the cultivation of coffee, there were imported to the Commonwealth last year 2,000,000 lbs. of coffee.
– How does the honorable senator make out that the duty is 40 per cent. ?
– I have taken the figures quoted by Senator Stewart, and 2,000,000 lbs. of coffee, valued at £64,000, works out as nearly as possible to 71/2d. per lb., and a duty of 3d. per lb. on an article valued at 71/2d. per lb. is equal to 40 per cent. ad valorem. Notwithstanding the imposition of such a duty during the last five years, and a higher duty before the Commonwealth took charge of the Customs Department, we have the incontestable fact that 2,000,000 lbs. of this article were imported last year.
– The honorable senator has got the import prices all wrong. Coffee is worth 90s. to 102s. per cwt. in London.
– I have taken the figures quoted by Senator Stewart and have shown that they work out at almost exactly 71/2d. per lb.
– Coffee at 71/2d. per lb. is not marketable coffee.
– The honorable senator cannot get over the fact that 2,000,000 lbs. of coffee were imported last year, and duty was paid upon it at the rate of 3d. per lb. I have said that this is a small industry which is not worthy of the consideration of Parliament at all.
– Would not the honorable senator like to see the 2,000,000 lbs. of coffee produced in this country ?
– I should, and I should also like to see all the tea we consume produced in Australia. We could produce tea in Australia iust as readily as coffee if we chose to commit the economic blunder of trying to produce locally that which we can get with greater advantage from elsewhere. The coffee industry is one which has been tried, and has not come up to the expectations of those who imposed a high duty to give it a chance to succeed.
– The honorable senator has referred to an importation of 2,000,000 lbs. of coffee. Much of that was raw coffee, whilst a good deal was roasted and ground coffee, which would not be imported at the same price.
– That still further strengthens my argument Something like 300,000 lbs. of roasted coffee was imported, and the duty imposed on that was 5d. per lb. I have stated facts which cannot be disputed. Now we are being asked not to increase the duty, but to add to the advantage conferred upon the local grower of coffee by taxing the community to the extent, not of 40 per cent., but of about 60 per cent, on the cost of the raw article. All the facts are decidedly against the retention of this item, however strong the protectionist proclivities of honorable senators may be.
– I wish briefly to intimate that when Senator Needham’s amendment is disposed of I intend to move an amendment substituting for “Coffee, Raw,” “ Phosphatic Deposits,” which I have already endeavoured to substitute for other items which honorable senators have been foolish enough to pass.
– A strong argument against that proposal, according to some honorable senators, is that phosphatic manures can be much more cheaply pro.dused in Japan than in Australia.
– Nothing of the kind. With respect to the support which this article has already received from the taxpayers of Australia, it has been urged that, owing to the reduction of the Queensland duty under the Commonwealth Tariff, the coffee-growing industry has been very seriously affected. But those who favour the item have not informed the Committee of the effect upon the industry in Queensland of the imposition by the State Parliament of the duty of 4d. per lb. We have not been told what was- the consequent increase in the acreage devoted to the crop, or how long the duty of 4d. per lb. on coffee was enforced in Queensland. That duty was reduced by id. per lb. under the Federal Tariff, but since the local “producers have not been able to supply the local demand for coffee, it must be granted that the assistance afforded in the shape of the import duty has “been added to the price of the product. It can be relied upon as an axiom that if a country cannot supply its consumption of the dutiable article, the amount of the duty is added to the value of the article.
– And the consumers pay it, although protectionists frequently deny the fact.
– It has been proved over and over again that where the local production is equal to the local consumption the duty upon an article does not affect its price.
– It affects the quality.
– It may affect the quality. I think that every supporter of the item will agree with me that whereas in Australia we have only been able to produce 80,000 lbs. a year, and require something like 2,000,000 lbs. from abroad, it is safe to lay it down that the amount of the duty has been added to the price of the product.
– At one time we were producing 200,000 lbs. a year.
– According to this report,, the imports for last year were 1,693,000 lbs. At 3d. per lb. the bounty paid amounted to’ £21,162. That is to say, that amount of money was paid by the taxpayers of Australia by reason of the enhanced price of the article. Multiplied by six - because the Commonwealth has been established six years. - we find that the total amount of £126,000 has been paid in bounties to enable the industry to be carried on. If, after the payment of this amount of money, which is equivalent to a 50 per cent, import duty - we have no prospect of coffee cultivation being’ successfully established, it is idle for us to think that a paltry £12,000 will enable the industry to be resuscitated.
– Let us increase the duty.
– It is utterly hopeless for any sane person to expect success to be achieved. I think that we ought to substitute a bounty for the discovery of phosphatic deposits.
– I do not propose to detain the Committee very long, because so much has been said on both sides of this question. But I was struck by the remarks just- made bv Senator Lynch, who seems to be under the impression that the coffee industry has languished, notwithstanding strenuous efforts that have been made to maintain it in a state of solid prosperity, since the establishment of Federation. Although I think that the figures have been quoted by a previous speaker, I wish to point out that from 1895 to 1905 the cultivation of coffee was carried on successfully in Queensland. In 1895 there were 60 acres under cultivation; in 1896. 138 acres; in 1897, 311 acres; in 1898, 432 acres; in 1899, 495 acres; in 1900, 537 acres; in 1 901, 547 acres. Honorable senators will observe the steady increase from 1895 to 1901.
– Does the honorable senator consider that that is a good development in view of the protection the industry has had?
– I consider it very good indeed. In 1902, the first year in which the reduced duty was in operation, . the acreage dropped from 547 to 396. In 1903, there were 394 acres under cultivation ; in 1904, the acreage dropped still further to 342 ; and in 1905 it dropped again to 279. Small though the acreage may seem in comparison with the area under cultivation for coffee in other countries, I think it is abundantly evident that the reduction of the duty by id. per lb. under the Commonwealth Tariff made all the difference.
– It was putting tea on the free list that made the difference.
– No, because the consumption of tea in the Commonwealth has always been disproportionate to the consumption of coffee. It is abundantly evident that though the industry started in Queensland in a small way the acreage under the. duty of 4d. per lb. from 1895 to 1901 was steadily increasing. It increased in the progression indicated by the figures T have quoted. But from 1901 the acreage has gone steadily down. Under these circumstances, we can rightly ask ourselves whether any reasonable area of the Commonwealth is capable of economically producing this requirement of our people, granted that the growers receive some stimulus and encouragement in the early days of the industry of the nature proposed in this Bill. I think honorable senators will see that there is every hope that we can establish an industry that- will gradually overtake the requirements of the Commonwealth.
– What are we going to do with the tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia unless we establish such industries ?
– That is a point which I submitted in moving the second reading of this Bill. The same argument applies to many articles in the schedule in respect of which it is proposed to grant bounties. The production of these commodities is connected with the settlement of the tropical portions of this Commonwealth, where we are most open to attack from coloured races - attack by force of arms or attack industrially. It is our bounden duty to see that, having formally laid down the principle that Australia is to be a white man’s country, we shall use every possible means of diversifying the employment of our people, securing increased population, and giving that population an opportunity to cultivate the soil of this country . profitably to themselves, thus enabling them to work out their own individual destiny, whilst conserving the interest of the Commonwealth at large. We may safely rely upon that increased population to aid in defending our White- Australia policy, and to defend the Commonwealth from attacks from abroad, whether they be military, naval, or industrial. It has been stated in the course of the debate that in Brazil many of the planters of coffee have rooted up their plantations. But one has to recollect what has taken place in that country. A reference to the Statesman’s Y ear-Book shows that within the last few years there have been some extraordinary political developments in relation to this crop in Brazil. It is stated that -
The Taubate Agreement signed by the Presidents of San Paulo, Minas Geraes, and Rio de Janeiro, February 26th, 1906, provides for the purchase of coffee. by Government at a minimum, price, the floating of a loan of ^15,000,000 guaranteed by surtax of 3 francs per bag of coffee exported, and the issue of currency convertible at a fixed rate irrespective of the currency now in circulation.
That means that a loan has been floated, and the Government of Brazil have actually put a tax on the export of coffee to guarantee it. Naturally the coffee-growers would say, “Why should we be singled out to bear a tax on the product of our industry to guarantee a loan for general purposes?” Is there any wonder that the growers of coffee in Brazil should in many instances have uprooted their plants? With regard to European Turkey, which has been a source of supply for coffee, the Statesman’s Year-Book for the same year, 1907, says -
In I002 the coffee exports from Hoddida, the chief port of the Yemen, amounted to 67,905 bags, in T903 to 70,508 bags, in 1904 to 49,026 bags. The coffee output of the region is falling off both in quantity and quality.
The question naturally ‘arises - considering the policy that has been pursued in Brazil, and that the output from Turkey has depreciated, both in quality and quantity-^ is it not time for us to consider whether we cannot produce coffee for ourselves in
Australia?. Senator Needham has suggested that tea, having been placed on the free list, has largely displaced coffee as an article of consumption in Australia. But honorable senators will see, if they consult the report of the experts, that our consumption of coffee relatively to other countries in the world is very small. I see no reason, any more than Senator Stewart and Senator McGregor do, why more coffee should not be consumed in Australia. I believe the small consumption is largely due to the fact that many people realize only too strongly that they cannot get honestly pure coffee in this Commonwealth unless they pay a very high price for it. Various honorable senators have made reference to their experience in purchasing coffee. I believe that there is a strong impression amongst very many people that it is almost hopeless to expect to get absolutely pure coffee from the ordinary retail establishments.
-Why is that?
– It may be that some people prefer not to have pure coffee. At any rate, the impression is strongly entertained that pure coffee is almost unobtainable.
– Does not that apply to tea also?
– It may, but it is generally understood that if you pay a higher price you do get pure tea, but that there is more adulteration , in connexion with coffee. Our consumption of coffee in Australia is very small.Coghlan shows that in Great Britain the consumption is only . 07 lb. per head of the population. In some other countries, the consumption is very much greater. In France, the people drink 3.25 lbs. per head; in Germany, 5.25 lbs. ; the “United States, 9.95 lbs. ; in Belgium, 11 lbs. ; in Denmark, 15 lbs. ; and in Holland, 23 lbs. per head. ‘ The consumption in Australia is about1/2lb. per head of the population. Reference has been made to the amount of coffee imported. In 1906, we imported into Australia 1,693,990 lbs. I believe that in the future Australia will take to this beverage to a far greater extent when the people believe that they can get pure coffee. Having regard to the fact that the production has fallen off in Brazil, for the reasons that I have stated, and that it has fallen off both in quality and’ quantity in Turkey, there is. every reason why we should hope that by means of a bounty our people will be encouraged to grow coffee to a greater extent, and that our consumers, when they are assured that coffee is grown in the Commonwealth, and that there is a guarantee that it is pure, will consume it in far greater quantities. The production of this article will increase the employment of our people, and will turn the lands of our tropical areas to profitable uses, so tending to increase not only the productiveness of our soil but also our population to our industrial and military advantage.
Question- That the word “Coffee” be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the word “Raw” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ as prescribed.”
From the President of the Buderim Fruit and Coffee Growers’ Association, I have received the following telegram -
Growers sell coffee in parchment; merchants hull it, and weight is lost. Get bounty on parchment coffee, not on hulled.
I have already explained that in some parts of Queensland the growers pulp the coffee on the plantation, and sell it in the pulped condition, that is without the cherry to the merchants, who afterwards do the hulling. In other places, the growers both pulp and hull on the ground. In order to meet the position as nearly as possible, I ask the Committee to alter the wording of the item so as to enable the Government by regulations to meet the varying conditions of those who sell pulped coffee and those who sell hulled coffee. This is very largely a technical question, and I understand that the Minister will offer no objection to the amendment. Its. object is to give the Government a discretionary power to enable them to meet the different conditions in the coffee districts.
– Will it not practically give the Government power to increase the bounty?
– In his speech on the second reading of theBill, Senator Chataway indicated his intention to move this amendment. Since then, I have been in consultation with my colleagues, particularly with the AttorneyGeneral, who had charge of the Bill in the other House. I believe that there is some force in what Senator Chataway has said The coffee is treated differently, and, if we simply use the word “ raw “ to characterize the article, the item may be somewhat ambiguous. Both this evening, and on previous occasions, the honorable senator has referred to the pulping and the hulling of the coffee, and given some information about the parchment coffee. I do not see any objection to the amendment. In regard to the interjection of Senator Mulcahy, I would point out that the words “ as prescribed “ have reference only to the describing of the coffee. The period for which the bounty would be operative, the rate of the bounty, and the total amount are not affected by the amendment.
– Would not1d. per lb. on coffee in the shell, or whatever it is in, be a higher bounty than1d. per lb. on coffee in the bean?
– The object of Senator Chataway is to insure that the bounty shall go to the grower, and that is the principle of the Bill. What particular treatment the bean will have to be subjected to will be a matter for regulation so that at the proper stage, and in accordance with the general principle of the Bill, the grower of the bean, and nobody else, shall receive the bounty. The amendment only affects the stage at which the grower will be entitled to claim payment of it.
– The interjection of Senator Mulcahy raises a very interesting point, which honorable senators will see has no bearing upon the principle underlying the bounty. The point is : At what stage in the preparation of coffee is an account to be taken of the weight on which the bounty is to be paid. Senator Chataway, who appears to have a large fund of information, may be able to answer my query.
– In the parchment stage.
– That appears to be left vague by the amendment.
– That will have to be prescribed by regulation.
– I think that the Committee should indicate at what stage the weight is to be ascertained, and the bounty paid. That will not in any way affect the principle of the bounty which the Committee, by its recent vote, has practically affirmed.
– Ordinary coffee, as it is taken off the tree is known as “cherry,” and has a coating of pulp like a plum. In the pulping process that pulp is taken off, and a large number of farmers then sell the coffee clean with a very thin skin. That is known as parchment coffee, and is sent to the towns. In many cases, it is sent to a merchant who has a hulling machine. He may hold that coffee in hand perhaps for months before he hulls it. It is dry, but it has a parchment skin on it. If we decide that the bounty is only to be paid after the merchant has taken off the parchment skin, the grower, who will want the bounty as soon as possible after he has put his crop on the market, will obviously have to wait until the coffee has been hulled. The object of the amendment is to enable the Government to provide by regulation that the grower shall be paid on the coffee in the parchment. As soon as ever the parchment weight of the coffee can be ascertained, the grower can get his bounty.
– On that weight?
– Yes. I did not propose the substitution of the word “parchment” for the word “ raw,” because I thought that there might be a difficulty in getting the Government to accept the amendment. That is the way in which I, and I may add the growers, think that the bounty ought to be paid. I do not suggest that they shall be paid on the weight of the cherry, because that would include a lot of pulp, which would afterwards be thrown away as useless.
– The honorable senator proposes that the grower shall be paid on the parchment cover?
– Certainly. That is nothing like the weight of the berry.
– Does the honorable senator estimate “that it is a fiftieth part of the weight of the berry?
– It may add o per cent, to the weight of the coffee ; it is very light. My object in moving the amendment is to “enable the Government to make the necessary arrangements to ascertain the parchment weight, so that the grower can get his bounty straight away
– Under the amendment, it will be possible for the Government, if they like, to pay the bounty when the coffee is in the cherry stage. That is not the desire of Senator Chataway. He is quite content that the bounty shall be payable when the coffee is in the parchment stage, in order that the grower may get the benefit of it. It is quite obvious, however, that if the amendment is made the Government can prescribe that’ the bounty shall .be paid on the coffee when it is in the cherry stage. Does the Committee want that to be done? I do not believe that those who voted for the bounty in the division just taken intend that it shall be paid upon the coffee when it is in that initial stage, but we leave it optional with the Government to prescribe that if they like. I make that suggestion, and it is for .the Ministry and those who are supporting the bounty, to act on it. The Ministry naturally have ample confidence in themselves, because that is a very necessary preliminary to inviting other people to have confidence in them. But such a thing as the downfall of a Ministry has occurred, and another Ministry might take their place. I protest, in the interests of good sound legislation, against’ leaving to be prescribed by Ministers those things which ought to be set out by Parliament.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Min
Chataway has said, after the coffee cherry has been grown, it has to pass through certain processes before what may be called the ‘ordinary coffee of commerce is obtained. It is desirable that the bounty shall be paid only in respect of the actual coffee produced, and at such a time in the process of manufacture, under such conditions, and in such circumstances, that it must necessarily go to the grower and not to any subsequent manipulator. It will probably be necessary to make half-a-dozen regulations to insure that result. I take it that that is the object of Senator Chataway’s proposal to insert the words “ as prescribed.” He has probably been motived by the item, “Fish, Preserved as prescribed,” which appears lower in the schedule, where somewhat analagous conditions would prevail, because, when the fish has been caught, various operations have to be gone through before it is preserved, and it is desirable that there should be regulations as to the particular stage and circumstances at and under which the bounty shall be paid. No doubt that would be left to the Government in the first instance to prescribe, by providing regulations, but I need only remind honorable, senators that whenever any Act of Parliament provides that anything may be prescribed, the regulations must be tabled in Parliament within a certain time after they have been made,’ if Parliament is sitting, and, if Parliament is not then sitting, then within a limited period after Parliament next assembles. It is perfectly competent for either House to veto all or any of the regulations. We had an experience of that in the Senate a few weeks ago, when a Public Service regulation was amended on the motion of Senator Findley. The Public Service Commissioner has since brought down a regulation amended in accordance with the wishes of the Senate. Even if Parliament were sitting, and exception was not taken in time to the regulations after they were tabled, it would be quite possible for the Minister, on his owninitiative, or on representations to which he considered that proper weight should be attached from those conversant with the industry, to amend them.
– Provided that no claims had arisen in the meanwhile.
– Any such claimswould, of course, have to be safeguarded. But in the circumstances, it is highly desirable that there should be some elastic provision of this character. I see no ob jection to Senator Chataway’s amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the item “Coffee.” as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Tobacco leaf for the manufacture of cigars, high grade, of a quality to be prescribed; (period) 5 years; (rate of bounty) 2d. per lb , (maximum payable in any one year)£4,000.
– I move -
That the words “ for the manufacture of cigars, high grade,” be left out.
The effect of the amendment, if carried, will be to give a bounty not only on tobacco leaf for the manufacture of cigars, but on tobacco leaf generally, as prescribed.
– It may be of low or high grade.
– It may be. The item as at present worded limits the payment of the bounty to high grade cigar leaf. My intention is very simple.
– Under the amendment, the bounty would be payable on all sorts of tobacco leaf.
– As prescribed. But. the present proposal limits the bounty to cigar leaf, and high grade cigar leaf at that. It is to be assumed that the object of the bounty is to stimulate the growing of tobacco leaf. In proposing to assist the industry, we say to the growers, according to the Bill, “ You must start right off by producing the very highest grade of tobacco leaf. Instead of starting at the bottom of the ladder, you must start at the top. We can only give you a bounty when you have reached a stage that it has taken other countries, which produced at first leaf suitable for plug tobacco, a long period of tobacco-growing to reach.” Leaf suitable for making plug tobacco will not do for making cigars. There may be hundreds of localities where tobacco leaf good enough for plug tobacco can . be produced, but where people would not succeed in growing leaf good enough for cigars.
– Why pay a bounty for the other tobacco?
– It is quite another question whether there should be a bounty for any kind of tobacco. But if we intend to give a bounty, it ought to be for that kind of leaf in producing which growers have the best chance of succeeding, and for which there are the greatest numberof suitable localities. Australia has many districts suitable for growing leaf for plug tobacco, and there are in Australia people who can cure that leaf successfully.
– It will grow in almost any part of Australia.
– I should not like to say that, because it requires peculiar conditions of soil and climate. But in the Wangaratta district in Victoria, the Tumut district in New South Wales, and the Texas district in Queensland., we know for a fact that there are the soil and climate conditions for growing leaf for plug tobacco, but not for cigars. The evidence given before the Tobacco Commission convinced me that you narrow the district very much when you come to cigar leaf, which requires certain conditions not only of soil but also of climate, that do not obtain anything like so generally as the conditions suitable for the production of leaf for plug tobacco. It is of plug tobacco that there is a great consumption, and surely that is the article of which weought to encourage the growth. If we are going to encourage theindustryby means of abounty, surely we should select that article inthe production of which our people have the greatest chance of success. If they cannot succeed in growing leaf suitable for plug tobacco, they have no earthly chance of growing leaf suitable for cigar making. The curing of cigar leaf is eminently more difficult and delicate a process than the curing of leaf for plug tobacco. The trouble in Australia has been that they have not thoroughly succeeded’ even in the latter. This bounty, if the amendment is agreed to, might stimulate them to try to a greater extent than they have in the past to succeed, but surely we ought to endeavour first to encourage them in the A B C of tobacco leaf growing, before we ask them to pass the university course.
– The “ABC” would be sheep-wash tobacco.
– Sheep-wash tobacco is only tobacco of a low or inferior grade and refuse tobacco. I can inform the honorable senator that the very best plug tobacco leaf is grown on the same plant which produces the leaf from which sheep-wash tobacco is made.
– But the honorable senator proposes to pay bounty on it all.
– Not necessarily. I presume that the leaf on which the bounty will be paid will be required to pass a certain standard, and will have to be a good plug tobacco leaf.
– I make the suggestion that the honorable senator should leave the words “high-grade.” in, and move to strike out the reference to cigars. That would mean that the bounty would be paid on all tobacco leaf of a good standard.
– The honorable senator might accept the recommendation of the Conference of Experts, and provide that the bounty should be paid on leaf worth10d. per lb.
– No. I shall give reasons why I think that should not be proposed. I should like to ask the consent of the Committee to amend my amendment. I propose to leave in the words “high-grade” and to move to strike out the reference to cigar leaf. I direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Government in this matter have not followed the recommendations of the Conference of Experts. At page 16 of the report, it will be found that they say -
As there appears to be a good opening in Australia for the production of the higher grade qualities of tobacco the members of the Conference gave this matter careful attention.
Industrial conditions in the Commonwealth seem to indicate “the wisdom of encouraging the production of the various raw materials in their most valuable form. Some of the best qualities of leaf have a value as high as 5s. per lb., while over twenty years ago some Northern
Territory tobacco sold by auction at Hamburg at the rate of 2s.11d. per lb. Against this, we have the fact that the tobacco at present being produced in the Commonwealth has a merchantable value of only about 4d. to 6d. per lb.
The imports of unmanufactured tobacco are then stated, and I may say that they comprised principally leaf for plug tobacco. The experts further say -
As tobacco can successfully be produced in all the States, there should be no justification for these large importations.
I venture to say that no expert in the Commonwealth will contend that cigar leaf can be successfully produced in all the States, but I believe the statement made by the experts is correct with respect to leaf suitable for plug tobacco. They further say -
The following fact is of interest. In 1902 Cuba exported29,800,000 lbs. of tobacco, worth 121/2 million dollars, or an average of1s.9d. per lb.
That price, of course, was paid for cigar leaf, for which Cuba has a special reputation. The United States of America, I suppose, produce a greater quantity of tobacco leaf than any other country in the world, and whilst in many of the States a good cigar leaf can be grown, there is no place in the United States where a cigar leaf can be grown equal to the best leaf produced in Cuba. The experts further report -
The Conference therefore recommend that a bonus of 2d. per lb. be given for the production of tobacco bringing10d. per lb. and upwards.
I shall tell the Committee why we should not support that recommendation. If we limit the bounty to leaf bringing10d. per lb., we shall never, under existing conditions, give any bounty at all. Under existing conditions there is practically only one buyer - the Tobacco Combine - and they have been unwilling to give a higher price for Australian leaf than 8d. per lb.
– They would get the benefit of the bounty.
– I am afraid they will get the benefit of the bounty in any case.
– They would not get the bounty if they paid only 8d. per lb.
– They say, whether rightly or wrongly, that it does not pay them to give more than 8d. per lb. for the best leaf produced in Australia at the present time.
– They have paid1s. per lb. only lately.
– That was for a small parcel grown on the State farm in Victoria. We could get no evidence to show that as high a price as1s. per lb. had been paid for leaf for plug tobacco for several years.
– That price has been paid recently.
– I should like the honorable senator to give his. authority for that statement. I have watched the business very closely for some time past, and I may say that 8d. per lb. is not the average price paid for Australian leaf, but the price paid for the highest grade of Australian leaf. Therefore to limit the bounty to leaf bringing10d. per lb. would mean that we should pay no bounty at all. Mr. Temple Smith and Mr. Neville, who are tobacco experts, the one in his evidence before the Tobacco Commission, and the other in evidence given before the Tariff Commission, directed their remarks principally, and in the case of Mr. Temple Smith almost wholly, to the question of encouraging the growth of leaf for plug tobacco. They both drew attention to the necessity for the adoption of proper methods in the curing of the leaf. I take it that the payment of this bounty is intended to encourage not so much the growth of tobacco leaf as the adoption of proper methods of curing the leaf grown. It seems to be comparatively easy to grow tobacco, but very often when a good leaf has been grown it is spoiled as the result of ignorance of the proper method of curing it. I have moved my amendment with the object, if possible, of giving the growers of tobacco an opportunity to obtain the bounty. My amendment, as I now desire to submit it, will read -
That the words “ for the manufacture of cigars “ be left out.
I point out that, whilst cigar leaf would not then be shut out from participation in the bounty, the bounty would not be confined solely to leaf of that quality. I ask the Committee for leave to amend my amendment in the way I have stated.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
– I am very glad that Senator Pearce has seen His way to adopt the suggestion I threw out by way of interjection. It seemed to me that the. object aimed at in offering this bounty is to promote the cultivation of tobacco leaf superior in quality to that which is being grown to-day. Senator Pearce will remember that he has himself informed the Senate on various occasions that there is a considerable quantity of leaf grown in Australia, which is practically a drug on the market, since it is a low-grade tobacco. We do not desire to offer a bounty to stimulate the production of an article w hich.it is already difficult to sell. We should therefore offer a bounty, if at all, for a more highly-priced article. By adopting the suggestion I made, and making the bounty payable only in respect of the higher grade leaf for plug tobacco, we shall stimulate the production of that particular quality of leaf which will pay the growers best, and which we should all desire to see cultivated in Australia. There is a very serious objection to making the bounty payable in proportion to the price obtained for the commodity. I point out that leaf which this year might be worth10d. per lb. might only bring 8d. per lb. next year. Quite apart from the difficulty to which Senator Pearce has referred as to the limited number of buyers, it is possible that if we had a dozen buyers the fluctuation of the market outside of Australia would necessarily affect prices here, and a man who had grown tobacco this year in anticipation of the bounty might fail to get it because of some slump in the world’s market. He might have honestly earned thebounty, and through some cause over which he would have no control he would not be entitled to receive it. For this reason I think it would be better to pass the item as Senator Pearce now proposes, making the bounty payable for a high-grade tobacco leaf, but irrespective of the price which the commodity would bring. Whilst I propose to support the amendment, I need hardly inform honorable senators that I shall vote against the item as amended should the amendment be accepted.
– I hope the item will be allowed to remain as it appears in the schedule. I do not care anything about the production of leaf for plug tobacco, because it can be made from almost any kindof leaf. If Senator Pearce had dealt with leaf for strand tobacco there mighthave been something in his proposal. I have seen strand tobacco made from Australian leaf, which was pronounced by an experienced twister to be as good leaf as he ever saw. The greatest difficulty experienced in Australia up to the present time has been to get our tobacco growers to go in for the cultivation of a leaf suitable for the manufacture of cigars.
– My Amendment would not shut out that class of leaf.
– No, but it would include so much more that the amount left over for cigar leaf would not be sufficient to encourage its cultivation. There is a great quantity of leaf used in the manufacture of cigars that is not of the quality intended to be encouraged by this bounty. It is only the leaf that is used for cigar wrappers that we need to encourage the production of.
– And it is not grown in Australia at all.
– It is grown, but only to a very limited extent. To encourage the production of a leaf suitable for the manufacture of cigars the United States imposed a duty of 9s. per lb. on imported cigar leaf. As a result, growers of tobacco in the United States produced large quantities of cigar leaf of avery excellent quality, but they did not produce’ a sufficient variety of dear leaf, and in order that the manufacturers might avail themselves of the resources of every part of the world for the manufacture of first-class cigars, the duty of 9s. per lb. on cigar leaf’ was reduced to 4s. 6d. per lb. That should give sufficient encouragement, but I am afraid we are not enterprising enough in Australia to do anything of that kind. Under the item as it stands in the schedule we are offering a bounty of only 2d. per lb. for the production of. a superior class of leaf suitable for the manufacture of cigars. I point out that the great difficulty here has been that all our growers planted their tobacco in the richest soil, and thus produced a gross quality of leaf. Much of the leaf thus produced was more like cabbage leaf than cigar leaf.
– That is because of the varieties of leaf planted.
– No ; a leaf suitable for the manufacture of cigars grown in a very rich soil will assume this character of grossness. Senators Story, Guthrie, and myself interviewed Dr. Holtze on this particular question, and he informed us that, to produce a leaf suitable for the manufacture of cigars, the plants should be grown in a moresandy soil, and in soil of a poorer character than that usually devoted to the cultivation of tobacco. He further said that, instead of growing a whole bunch of leaves, only three or four should be left on each plant, and particular attention should be given to them to secure the production of a leaf suitable for cigar wrappers.
– Has he grown this tobacco himself in any quantity ?
– He has grown it in experimental quantities. That is the gentleman who informed us that in the Northern Territory 8 tons of this tobacco were grown by twoGermans, who could not get a price for it in Australia. They sent it to Hamburg and got 2s.11d. per lb. for it at auction.
– How many years ago?
– About twenty years ago.
– Did they not repeat the experiment ?
– One of the gentlemen connected with the venture died, and as he was the principal man, the enterprise fell through. What was the use of producing such a commodity when they could not get a market for it in Australia ? They could not get one now without some encouragement We ought to encourage the growth of a superior leaf. Several honorable senators can bear testimony to the fact that some cigar-makersbrought cigar leaf to us at Parliament House, Adelaide, the price of which ranged from 11s. to 21s. per lb. in the raw state. That is the sort of thing that we want to grow in Australia.
– Where was that grown ?
– Some of it was grown in Sumatra. It was shown in evidence before the Tariff Commission in Western Australia, that cigar leaf can be grown successfully in that State and in SouthAustralia. A Mr. Schmidt in Western Australia gave evidence to that effect. But high-grade leaf requires very careful treatment both in cultivation and curing, and the yield per acre is not onetenth theyield of tobacco for pipe smoking. If we extend the bounty to the production of black or twist tobacco, we shall distribute the amount to such an extent that nothing will be left for the high class of tobacco which we ought to do everything possible to induce the growers to produce. That high-grade leaf can be produced in Australia was testified to by Mr. Schmidt, whohad had experience, notonly in Australia but also in Germany, United States, and the Philippines.
– Did he grow any in Australia himself?
– Yes. he did. He grew it in Western Australia, but the
Government did not give him the assistance to which he was entitled. His explanation was quite reasonable. In Australia, if you clear land and plant tobacco, the leaf produced will be tainted with the eucalyptus flavour, and consequently it will not be so good as it ought to be. The land has to be cultivated for a number of years before it produces a high class of tobacco. For these reasons., we ought to confine the bounty to the very highest class of cigar leaf. Other tobaccos can be grown under present conditions with the protection afforded by the Tariff. The increased duties on imported leaf stemmed and unstemmed and cut into strips will be quite sufficient to encourage the. growth of tobacco for the manufacture of plug and twist. We wish to encourage the cultivation of cigar leaf - that is to say, not of the leaf that is used for filling cigars, but for wrappers, after the filling has been finished. If we are wise, we shall leave the item as it is, and leave the encouragement of other classes of tobacco to the Tariff.
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) Jio.7].~I agree very largely with what has fallen from Senator McGregor. But it appears to me that we shall do quite, a nonsensical thing if we give a bounty for the production of high-grade tobacco without in some way defining what we mean. The schedule says that the bounty shall be given on tobacco leaf -
For the manufacture of cigars, high grade of a quality to be prescribed.
That does not go far enough. The minimum quality should be defined in some way. As to the ability and willingness of the cultivators in New South Wales and Queensland to grow good cigar leaf, if the necessary inducement is held out to them, I draw attention to the fact that in the Tariff Commission’s report a “letter is printed from Mr. Neville, a tobacco expert in Queensland, who has been residing there for some years, and has successfully conducted a tobacco experiment station. The letter, which is dated 12th Tune, 190?. was originally written to the Department of Agriculture in Queensland. Mr. Neville said -
There is a disposition among the farmers of the New South Wales and Queensland coastal districts to take up the growing of cigar ‘ leaf and a few experimental plots give promise of good quality ; but the present excise prevents the opening of small factories such as would en courage the industry ; hence all cigars in the Commonwealth are either imported or made from imported tobacco.
Later on he states -
We can grow good cigar leaf such as brings good prices in the European markets; prices that are remunerative to ordinary labour,- and it is a pity and a wrong that tins valuable industry should be lost to the farmers of the State because of adverse legislation. This industry would be especially valuable to outlying districts, as it will stand transportation to shipping ports.
Those two paragraphs indicate the opinion of a man competent to judge that there is an ample opening for the growing of good cigar tobacco, if the necessary encouragement can be given. It is not necessary to discuss what- may be the effect upon the growing of cigar leaf if the suggestions put forward by Mr. Neville are given effect to. But we have sufficient evidence to show that good cigar leaf can be grown. I direct attention to the following paragraph, which I took from the Bowen Independent, a newspaper published between Mackay and Townsville -
Mr. H. Teitzel (Mount Dangar) informs us that he has received a cheque of ^27 4s. for a consignment of cigar leaf recently shipped to Sydney, the price being is. per lb., which is the highest price yet paid for tobacco grown in the Colonies.
I do not know whether, as a matter of fact, is. per lb. is the highest price ever paid for Australian-grown tobacco, but one thing is perfectly clear. Here is a man who has grown 544 lbs. of cigar leaf, for which he received in Sydney is. per lb.
– The growers got the same price for leaf grown in Wangaratta.
– It would be a mistake to pay a bounty for tobacco that was not high grade. The other tobaccoes will be amply protected bv means of the Tariff. In any case, the). Government do not propose to give bounties on all tobaccoes. We should require to have a very much larger sum at our disposal to give any effective inducement to growing high-grade tobaccoes if any portion of the sum allocated were to be applied to ordinary tobacco. Later on, if an opportunity occurs, I shall submit an amendment to the effect that the words “of 1 quality to be prescribed “ be omitted, with a view to inserting the words “of a market value to be prescribed, not less than is. per lb.” Even that is too little. An excellent cigar leaf will fetch a very much higher price than is. per lb. I suppose there is no product in the world for -which prices are higher than cigar leaf. The prices range from1s. per lb. to10s. in parts of the world where good leaf is required for making the most expensive cigars, such as are smoked by my honorable friends opposite. I therefore strongly urge that the bounty may be left applicable to cigar leaf, and later on, feeling very strongly that we should establish a high standard of quality, I shall submit, if I can get the opportunity, an amendment to prevent the Government from lowering the standard.
– I cannot see any reason why we should interfere with the item as proposed by Senator Pearce. We are invited to approve the grant of an annual bounty of 2d. per lb. for a period of five years upon the production of - tobacco leaf for the manufacture of cigars, high grade, of a quality to be prescribed.
If we turn to the report of the experts we find that while in 1888 the production of tobacco leaf in the Commonwealth amounted to 7,868,112 lbs., in 1890 it had fallen away to 1,874,946 lbs.
– That was not cigar leaf.
– No; the honorable senator’s amendment does not limit the payment of the bounty to cigar leaf, but applies to any sortof tobacco leaf.
– In view of those figures, does not the honorable senator think that it needs encouragement?
– No, because it will get encouragement under the protectionist Tariff. Fromthat timethere was a gradual increase in the production of tobacco leaf until 1896, when 4,925,544 lbs. were produced. Then there was a gradual decrease in the quantity produced, and for the period from 1900 to 1903 the average production was 710,344 lbs. In 1904 it was 1,479,680 lbs.; in 1905, 2,090,824 lbs. ; and in 1906,1,387,500 lbs. According to the item as it stands, the maximum amount which may be paid in any one year is £4,000. We can only pay abounty on 560,000 lbs. of tobacco leaf. In other words, we shall not be able to subsidize the production of more than that quantity in any one year. It is provided that we pay the bounty which is considered necessary to induce persons to grow high grade tobacco leaf.
– Does the honorable senator know what proportion of the leaf grown in Australia is high grade? Not one-third.
– I know that the proportion is small. The aim of the experts has been to induce persons to engage in the industry with the object of growing a tobacco leaf of high value, which will be suitable for the making of cigars. They have also been teaching people, as far as possible, the best methods of curing the tobacco leaf when grown. Lately I came down from Sydney with the Queensland expert, from whom I learned that last year there had been paid to a man at Bower* 1s. per lb. for tobacco leaf which he had grown, and which was really cigar leaf. I know that for some years past attempts have been made to induce persons at Cardwell, Bowen, and the southern part of the State, to go in for growing high-grade tobacco leaf. I was given to understand by the expert that a considerable amount of success has been attained, and that not only in Coomera, but also in Bowen, persons are prepared to engage in the industry with the object of producing a tobacco leaf which can be used in making the wrappers of cigars. I think that the Committee will be acting rightly in rejecting the amendment of Senator Pearce, because what is sought to be attained is to induce persons to grow tobacco which will take the place, to a very large extent, of the tobacco which is mentioned in the report. The experts say that the importations into the Commonwealth are already very heavy. They give the figures for the manufactured and unmanufactured tobacco, and state that as regards cigars £108,000 worth - cigars and cigar leaf, I take it - was imported. These must be tobaccos of fairly high grade. If we can induce persons to engage in the industry with the knowledge that they will get some assistance from the State in addition to the education which is being imparted, we shall be proceeding in the right direction if the payment of the bounty is limited, as I think Senator Chataway pointed out, to tobacco leaf of high grade; that is, not below the standard which is recommended by the experts in their report.
Order of Business- Commonwealth Offices in London.
Motion (by Senator Best) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [10.23]. - I desire to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether it is proposed to proceed with the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill tomorrow ?
– This afternoon I put a question to the Vice-President of the Executive Council with reference to a proposal which has been dealt with elsewhere to apply the sum of ?1,000 for the purpose of securing an option over certain land in London, and the reply I received was that no action would be taken by the Government without the concurrence ofboth Houses, or words to that effect.
– That no contract would be entered into without the concurrence of both Houses.
– The question I asked was whether the Government would secure the sanction of both Houses of the Parliament before committing the Commonwealth to any definite and binding action in that regard, and I was informed that no such action would be taken by the Government. I learn, however, from the Herald of this evening that a question was put in another place to-day -
Mr. Johnson asked whether the Minister would not give the Senate an opportunity to deal with the matter before he proceeded to negotiate as with the authority of Parliament.
Sir William Lyne said that he would have done so had there been time ; but the option would expire to-morrow, and a cable had already been sent in connexion with the matter.
It will be seen that that answer is totally different from the one which I received this afternoon from the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I do not invite a general debate on the subject this evening, but it is a matter of the most urgent importance, and one which I hope the Senate will see fit to take into its consideration at the earliest possible moment.
– It is treating the Senate with absolute contempt.
– I do not wish to make anyobservations on that point at the present time. It is a matter of very great importance indeed, and the answers of the two Ministers - one leading the Senate and the other the House of Representatives - are totally divergent, and we are running the risk of having the Senate degradedin its position in regard to the government of Australia.
– I adhere to the reply which I gave to my honorable friend this afternoon, that the Commonwealth is not going to be committed to the purchase of a site in London except with the consent of both Houses. I do not pretend to say whether the report in the press is accurate or otherwise ; but, according to the information which I have since obtained, the only cablegram which has been sent has been . one to Captain Collins to secure further information which it is desirable we should have to enable us to proceed with negotiations. That is the position of the matter. The Senate will, of course, have an opportunity of dealing with this item in the usual way when the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill comes on. I am anxious, if possible, to proceed with that Bill first to-morrow. I admit that in the very limited time at my disposal, I shall have very great difficulty in securing as much information as I should like. If, however, I can get a reasonable amount of information to enable me to submit the matter to the Senate I shall do so. There isa degree of urgency about it, and I simply mention that incidentally. Of course, the Senate will have the fullest opportunity of discussing every item, and securing all the information which is available.
– What did the Minister’s colleague mean, then?
– It is a question of what the newspaper means.
– It isnotorious that that was the answer given.
– I am assured by my honorable colleague that all that he has done has been to send a cablegram to London asking for further information, and I am justified in repeating the. answer which I gave to my honorable friend earlier in the day.
– Then there was no need for Sir William Lyne to be sorry that he could not consult the Senate?
– Certainly not.
– It was a gratuitous sorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 September 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070925_senate_3_39/>.